Pastor’s Newsletter Articles
St. Luke, The Evangelist
I decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:3-4
October 18th is a church holiday, the Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist. On that day, we give thanks to God for Luke’s faithfulness in writing the gospel which bears his name. It is a carefully researched and orderly account of the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Luke continued his orderly account in the book of Acts where he described the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and how the good news of salvation in Christ made its way across the Roman Empire.
Martin Luther, the Reformer whose work we also celebrate this month, wrote about Acts, by this book St. Luke teaches the whole of Christendom, even to the end of the world, that the true and chief article of Christian doctrine is this: We must all be justified alone by faith in Jesus Christ, without any contribution… from our works. Martin Luther rightly saw in Luke’s writings the theme of all Scripture and the doctrine on which the church stands or falls ~ justification by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith.
Thanks be to God that the good news of Christ crucified and risen has made its way into our hearts. Praise be to the God of all mercy that missionaries and evangelists continue to proclaim this good news to all the earth.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
The Lord is My Banner
Moses built an altar and called it “The Lord Is My Banner.” Exodus 17:15
In Exodus 17, Joshua successfully led the Israelites into battle and defeated the Amalekites. Aaron and Hur held up Moses arms until the conflict was ended, and Joshua prevailed only because they did so. God ordained it this way to show clearly that He was the one who gave them the victory. In response to the Lord’s giving of the Amalekites into Israel’s hand, Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord Is My Banner.
In Biblical times, banners were raised up prominently for all to see and were used to identify, unify, and encourage God’s people. For Moses to say The Lord Is My Banner is to acknowledge that the Israelites are God’s people, who find their unity and encouragement in Him.
In Numbers 2, the Twelve Tribes of Israel used banners to arrange themselves around God’s glorious presence with them at the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle. In Psalm 20, King David praised God’s goodness and mercy toward His people writing, May we shout for joy… and lift up our banners in the name of our God. Isaiah wrote this about the promised Savior in chapter 11 of his book: He will stand as a Banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
The Lord Jesus Christ continues to be the church’s Banner, that is, our prominent reminder that we belong to the One True God, are unified by our faith in Him, and encouraged by His love for us. We rally around Him.
C.F.W. Walther’s Easter hymn proclaims this about our Lord’s victory over death and the grave: But short was their triumph; the Savior arose,
And death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes.
The conquering Lord lifts his banner on high;
He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die. LSB 480:3
We belong to our resurrected Savior, are united as His church, and encouraged by His victorious promise that because He lives, we shall live also. The Lord Is Our Banner.
Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for raising up from the tomb Your Son and rallying us to Him, our Banner. We praise You for the many banners, both old and new, that adorn Trinity’s sanctuary, chapel, and narthex. May they and their message continue to help identify, unify, and encourage us as God’s people who have been redeemed by the Savior’s love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
Sheep Without a Shepherd
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38
Who do you know that is like a sheep without a shepherd? Who do you know that is harassed and helpless and needs the compassionate Jesus in their lives?
At last month’s Central Illinois District Convention in Springfield, delegates passed Resolution R2022-01 To Encourage Inviting People to Church Services. The resolution reads, in part, There is still a group of people who would come to church – or come back to church – if someone invited them. The resolution is a reminder to us at Trinity that the world is full of people who are like sheep without a shepherd. It is a reminder that our world is full of people that are harassed and helpless and need the compassionate Jesus in their lives.
Who do you know that lives unconnected to Jesus and needs Him and His compassion? Keep on believing that Jesus died for their sins on the cross. Keep on loving them and caring about them. Keep on praying for them. Keep on looking for the next opportunity to invite them to church. Keep on praying that they will soon return to the Shepherd and Overseer of [their] souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25
Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, You desire not the death of a sinner but that all would repent and live. Hear our prayers for those outside the Church. Take away their iniquity, and turn them from their false gods to You, the living and true God. Gather them into Your holy Church to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. Acts 15:6
In Acts 15, leaders of the New Testament church gathered in Jerusalem to discuss an important question: How does God save the Gentiles from sin and death? Other related issues also arose and were addressed such as: Are Gentile believers required to obey the ceremonial laws of Moses? Must Gentile believers abstain from food sacrificed to idols?
In a similar way, about 200 church leaders from our Central Illinois District – LCMS, including two from Trinity, will soon gather in Springfield to discuss important issues for the church. Likely topics include: fostering evangelism and the growth of the church; questioning the validity of “internet communion;” and reaffirming the God-given distinctions between the two sexes. Convention delegates will discuss what the Bible says on these and other topics, seeking to apply God’s wisdom to the life of the church.
Delegates will also elect a new District President and ratify the updated list of 17 pastors who will serve the district for the next three years as Circuit Visitors. Godspeed to Pastor Hagen as he steps down from that responsibility. For a more complete description of all that’s happening in Springfield, July 17-19, the 202-page convention workbook is available to everyone online at the district website.
In Acts 15, after much fruitful discussion, God’s will was done by the church leaders who had gathered in Jerusalem. Please pray for similar results in Springfield on July 17-19. Please pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Happy 175th Anniversary!
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
In the late 1830s, a group of about 700 faithful Lutherans left Saxony in Germany. They sailed to America on 5 ships seeking religious freedom. One of the ships with 55 souls on board, the Amalia, was lost at sea. It’s likely they sank in a storm or were the victims of pirates.
Undaunted, the surviving members of the group settled near St. Louis, Missouri. There they found religious freedom. On April 26, 1847, they helped organize the denomination that Trinity, Coal Valley, is a part of: the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. From such humble beginnings, the Synod is blessed today with nearly 2 million members. The Synod is a world leader among Confessional Lutherans with missionaries serving in many foreign lands.
Last April, a yearlong celebration of our Synod’s 175th Anniversary began. You can learn much more about the Synod’s history and how the Synod is marking this milestone at: lcms.org/175
The theme verse our Synod has chosen for this joyful celebration is from the book of Acts: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Commenting on the theme verse, Synod President Matthew Harrison wrote: For 175 years, the LCMS has believed, taught and confessed Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father. He alone is the atonement for sins…. As we celebrate 175 years as a Synod, we praise God for His faithfulness and pray for His strength to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified until He returns.
Happy Anniversary to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod!
Let us pray. Almighty God, You have called Your Church to witness that in Christ You have reconciled us to Yourself. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may proclaim the good news of Your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for Peace and Mercy During a Time of War
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a haunting reminder of the devastation warfare can inflict on a nation and its citizens. In the United States we observe two important holidays in May that remind us to give thanks to God that, in our day, he has spared our nation from the calamities we see happening in Ukraine.
May 21st is Armed Forces Day. When it was created in 1949, President Truman said that the holiday recognizes that the U.S. military is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.
May 30th is Memorial Day. It’s a day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. We remember with gratitude those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.
Thanks be to God for the strength, peace, and prosperity with which he has blessed our nation.
For those nations now enduring the ruin caused by warfare, the following is part of a prayer written a generation ago by one of the LCMS’ sainted theologians, Rev. Dr. George R. Kraus. It is a prayer to the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort. It is a prayer for peace and mercy during a time of war.
Lord of all creation… I pray this day for the nations and peoples of the earth who in any place suffer the horror of war in any form or degree. For those who must fight, who must kill and be killed, show Your eternal compassion and bring Your healing grace and peace. May Your chosen people, those called to a living faith in Christ, demonstrate our Savior’s concern and forgiving love. For the civilians and bystanders, for children and women, for the aged and infirm, for all humanity who are wounded, killed, maimed, for those who suffer the indignities of pain, of looting, sexual assault, imprisonment, enemy occupation, for those who have lost their sanity and ability to be human, even, Lord, for those who have lost their faith in You through their suffering; have mercy on them all and remind them that You can bind up all wounds and heal all the divisions and hurts of men. Bring peace, both temporal and spiritual, O Lord. Amen.
A Candle that Proclaims “He Is Risen!”
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5
This is the feast of victory for our God…. For the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia. Liturgical text drawn from Revelation 5 and 19
[The resurrected Jesus] gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. Acts 1
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The Paschal candle is the large, freestanding candle in our sanctuary. It’s lit at church services for the first forty days of the Easter season to commemorate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. When lit, the candle is meant to proclaim: Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Paschal is another word for Passover. So, when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, one may also say that our Paschal lamb has been sacrificed. When lit, the candle is meant to proclaim: The [Passover] Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia! It proclaims: The [Paschal] Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia!
The Paschal candle is extinguished after the reading of the Holy Gospel on Ascension Day to mark the end of Jesus’ forty days of convincing proofs that he was alive. However, the candle is usually lit during baptisms and funerals even when those rites do not take place during the forty days of convincing proofs. This is done to commemorate the truth that Paul taught in Romans 6: Our baptism unites us with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Thanks be to God that Jesus willingly sacrificed his life on the cross as payment for our sins. Thanks be to God that he was raised from death on the first Easter Sunday. Thanks be to God that although we will die and decay, like Jesus we will be raised from death.
Jesus said in John 14: Because I live, you also will live. Jesus said in John 6: For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.
May God bless his church with faith and courage to boldly proclaim the message symbolized by the Paschal candle: Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
A Crown that will Last Forever
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9
This year the Lenten season begins on March 2nd, Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season is a time of repentance and renewed devotion to holy living. It is a time of sorrow over our sin followed by faith in Christ and a renewed devotion to bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.
Repentance and renewed devotion to holy living is one of the things the Apostle Paul is encouraging in the Corinthian congregation with his illustration from 1 Corinthians 9 about an athlete. An Olympian actively seeking the prize will keep on looking for ways to shave a little more time off of their race around the track. In a similar way, Paul encourages the congregation at Corinth and Christians everywhere to keep on looking for meaningful ways to leave the sinful life behind and draw closer to God; keep on looking for meaningful ways to better love and serve others; keep on looking for meaningful ways to be more like Jesus in your thoughts, words, and actions.
As followers and imitators of Christ, we are urged to go into strict training. What meaningful improvements can you make today to your ways of thinking that would make you more like him? What meaningful improvements can you make today to your ways of speaking that would make you more like him? What meaningful improvements can you make today to your ways of serving others that would make you more like him?
What meaningful improvements can you make to your devotional life? Your prayer life? Your worship life?
What sinful thoughts, words, and actions do you need to strike a blow to so that you will not be disqualified for the prize?
The Lenten season is a time of repentance and renewed devotion to holy living. It is a time of sorrow over our sin followed by faith in Christ and a renewed devotion to bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. Thanks be to God that the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross covers all our failed attempts at self-improvement and self-discipline. Thanks be to God that at our Baptism we were clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Thanks be to God that because of our Savior we are holy in God’s sight. Because of Christ we are forgiven and saved eternally, we wear a crown that will last forever.
Times of Refreshing
Peter said…, You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life…. Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3
Do you ever get tired of winter with its snowy weather and long, cold nights? Maybe you’re someone who watches for the first robin of the year as a sure sign of spring. Or perhaps you watched to see what Punxsutawney Phil has predicted about our winter weather.
Although the season of winter persists, be assured that times of refreshing will come from the Lord. God will be good to us and send us an increase of abundant sunshine, warmer days, and greener scenery. He promised after the great flood, As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8
In the above reading from Acts 3, Peter told the sorrowful crowds in Jerusalem to look to the Lord for times of refreshing. But it wasn’t wintertime that had people feeling sad. Instead, in ignorance, they chose Barabbas and rejected Jesus, and they now felt the guilt of their foolish choice.
Although they acted senselessly, Peter pointed them to God’s mercy. He said to them, Repent, then, and turn to God, so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Peter assured them that God was ready to be merciful to them and bless them with forgiveness and remove their guilt. Through repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Messiah, God was ready to forgive their trespasses and bring about a time of refreshing for them.
The same is true for you. The world is often a difficult place for many reasons. Sometimes that reason is, like the sorrowful crowd in Jerusalem, our foolishness. Repent, turn to God, and be refreshed by his mercy. Remember you are baptized. Seek him out in his holy Word. Sing to the Lord with hymns and songs of praise. God is ready to pour out on you a time of refreshing as often as you need one.
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30
The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5
Thanks be to God for his times of refreshing!
The Love of God
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8
Happy New Year! Another year has arrived and time keeps marching on. Can the passing of the years and the passage of time ever separate a Christian from the love God has for us in Christ Jesus our Lord? No. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, neither the present nor future can do such a thing.
Last year brought us the Delta variant and the Omicron variant. Can the next variant, or the one after that, or the one after that, ever separate a Christian from the love God has for us in Christ Jesus our Lord? No. Even when a sickness leads to death, our relationship with God does not end. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, death cannot do such a thing. Sickness may kill, but it does not separate us from God’s love.
This year will likely see episodes of violent and disastrous weather. There may be times of political turmoil and unrest. A dollar may not go as far in December 2022 as it does today. Thanks be to God that none of these things nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Through ongoing repentance and faith, you remain in the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Through ongoing sorrow over sin and trust in the cross of Christ, you remain in the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Through remembering that you are a baptized child of our Heavenly Father, you remain in the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As you live out your Christian life in 2022, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1
Let us pray:
Eternal God, we commit to Your mercy and forgiveness the year now ending and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come. In the new year, abide among us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
To Share the Truth
You picked a lowly virgin
You picked a crowded town
You picked the dark of night
A stable, a manger, no crown
Fulfilled was your promise
So long ago proclaimed
A Savior from sin and death arrived
Born humble, this holy babe
The angels saw the moment
They rejoiced with voices clear
They picked lowly shepherds
To share the news, ever so dear
Like wildfire this message spread
Not one could contain their joy
Faith, forgiveness, and salvation
Granted to all from this baby boy
You ordained His humble start
You inspired His life of service
You insisted on His cruel death
So that You could keep a promise
You empowered His resurrection
A victory no others could ever claim
And by His sinless, perfect sacrifice
We sinners are free from blame
Even as we stand forgiven
We know salvation is at hand
We live to die and rise again
And enter heaven’s Promised Land
Please help us to share this message
To pick the right people, time, and place
Give us the words and actions
So others may learn of your grace
Use us to be your messengers
Even as we write, speak, or sing
To share the truth of Jesus’ purpose:
The world’s Redeemer, Lord, and King.
In His name we offer this prayer
Heavenly Father to You ascend
By faith, and with hope in Your enduring love,
We rejoice and say, “Amen.
All Saints’ Day
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. Philippians 1
Lutherans celebrate All Saints’ Day every November 1st. On that day we remember all those who have gone before us in the faith and give thanks to God for the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives. Equipped with the Spirit’s gift of faith in Christ, they endured this world’s tribulations. They then departed to be with Christ in heaven, which is better by far.
We praise God for the faithfully departed in the hymn For All the Saints:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light. Alleluia! Alleluia! LSB 677:1-2
The Apostle Paul who wrote the Bible passage quoted above is forever one of God’s eternal saints; he has departed this vale of tears to be with Christ. William Walsham How (1823-97) who wrote the noble hymn verses quoted above is forever one of God’s eternal saints; he has departed and now rests with Christ from his earthly labors.
You also are now and will be forever one of God’s eternal saints. God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Instead, in our Holy Baptism God has cleansed us with the blood of Christ and clothed us in his righteousness. The resurrected Jesus has opened the gates of heaven for us. Because of the cross and empty tomb, you too will one day depart this world and be with Christ, which is better by far. Let us pray the Collect for All Saints’ Day:
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7)
Lutherans celebrate Reformation Day every October 31st. One of the blessings of the Reformation was Martin Luther’s translating the Bible into the German language. This made the Scriptures more easily available to people. Luther began translating the New Testament in December of 1521 while he was living in the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach, Germany. To create an accurate translation, Luther also needed to improve and standardize the rules of German grammar. His successful translation of the living and active Word means that some of those in heaven standing before the Lamb are German. Thanks be to God for the faithful Reformer, Martin Luther!
Michael Agricola did a similar thing in Finland. Born about 1510, he studied under Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg. He then introduced Reformation theology to his native Finland, in part, by translating the Bible into the Finnish language. Because of the needed improvements he made to their written language, he is known as the father of Finnish literature. His successful translation of the living and active Word means that some of those in heaven standing before the Lamb are Finnish. Thanks be to God for the faithful reformer, Michael Agricola!
The process of putting the Word of God into the hands of people in a language they can understand continues to this day all over the globe. For example, Lutheran Bible Translators makes God’s Word accessible to those who do not yet have it in the language of their hearts, according to their mission statement. They are involved with 102 language communities. The Lutheran Heritage Foundation gives books of the Lutheran faith to people around the world in their own languages, according to their website. They are at work in almost 100 different countries. These translations of the living and active Word mean that those in heaven standing before the Lamb are from dozens and dozens of nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. Here on earth, they were able to hear and read in their own language the message of Christ crucified and risen for them. Thanks be to God for the ongoing work of the Reformation and its goal of making the Scriptures more easily available to all!
As I pray, dear Jesus, hear me; Let Your words in me take root.
May Your Spirit e’er be near me That I bear abundant fruit.
May I daily sing Your praise, From my heart glad anthems raise,
Till my highest praise is given In the endless joy of heaven. LSB 589:4
Jesus answered,… “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6)
Do you remember the kind of work the Apostle Paul did in addition to being a teacher to the Gentiles? He was a tentmaker. Do you remember the kinds of work other Biblical saints sometimes did? Luke was a physician. Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth. Peter was a fisherman. Rebekah managed a household as a wife to Isaac and mother of twin boys. Joseph was a husband to Mary and built things with his hands out of wood and/or stone. Amos was a shepherd and also tended to sycamore-fig trees. Cornelius was a centurion in the Italian Regiment. Zacchaeus was a tax-collector.
Thanks be to God for all the work these saints did to provide themselves and others with daily bread! But all these did more than simply labor for food that perishes. Each in their own way labored also in the kingdom of God. Like Jesus in John 6, they were concerned about food for the soul that endures to eternal life ~ the message of Christ crucified and risen.
In a similar way, prior to His baptism and the beginning of His ministry Jesus was known as a carpenter (Mark 6). That’s how He earned His daily bread. But our Savior also labored faithfully and selflessly to provide us with food that endures to eternal life. To provide us with that blessing, He took our guilt upon Himself at the cross. Death was then defeated by Him on Easter as He rose from the tomb. That’s Jesus laboring to supply us with forgiveness, life, and salvation, and working for food that endures to eternal life ~ the message of Him crucified and risen for us.
May God look with favor upon all those who labor diligently to supply us with daily bread. May he also give every Christian a lifetime of opportunities to help supply the world with food that endures to eternal life ~ the message of Christ crucified and risen.
Happy Labor Day!
God’s Inclined Ear
I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116)
Psalm 116 describes the Lord as a God leaning in toward you and your voice, inclining his ear to you and listening to your every word. Because the almighty and compassionate Lord is paying close attention, the author of the Psalm then comes to this sensible conclusion: He pledges lifelong loyalty to the Lord saying, I will call on him as long as I live. We and the Psalmist have learned to pray without ceasing because the Lord listens without ceasing.
Jesus taught a similar thing about God’s inclined ear in Luke 18. Do you remember the parable of the persistent widow? Jesus told it to His disciples so that they would always pray and not lose heart. He was reminding them that God’s ear is inclined to them and their pleas.
Our Heavenly Father’s ear is also inclined to the voice of the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus who serves us eternally as our Great High Priest. Jesus is our Advocate, someone who speaks to the Father in our defense. The sins we confess are forgiven through the Savior’s blood as God leans in and listens to Jesus’ pleas for mercy spoken on our behalf.
May God strengthen you, the Baptized, this day as you imitate Him and incline your ear to the voices of those around you, especially the weary, the struggling, the stressed, the despairing. May the Spirit fill you with His wisdom as you reply with words of encouragement and hope. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29)
Let us pray. Faithful God, we thank you for inclining Your ear to us and listening to our pleas for mercy. Fill us always with Your Spirit as we seek to bring Your aid and comfort to others; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
|Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5)|
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8)
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3)
The Lord has anointed Me to proclaim freedom for the captives. (Isaiah 61)
July 4th, Independence Day, is a national holiday in the United States commemorating the 13 American colonies’ Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The colonies asserted that they were free from, and no longer subject to, King George III and the British monarchy. We give thanks to God for the many blessings He has bestowed on our nation since that historic day. We also give thanks to God for an even greater freedom, a freedom highlighted in the Bible passages listed above.
By His death and resurrection Christ has set us free from our bondage to sin, death, and the devil. At your Holy Baptism you were set free from these evils and made a citizen of God’s eternal kingdom. You were filled with His Spirit. You are no longer subject to a life ruled by sin, the looming threat of eternal death, and hopeless captivity to the devil’s will.
The Christian life is often a struggle because sin, death, and the devil want to draw you back into bondage to them. Every temptation you face is an invitation to return to their bondage. So remember each day that you belong to Christ, your Liberator. Trust in His heavenly wisdom as He leads you and guides you in the way you should go.
He teaches us how to live a life of true freedom as we serve God and others from a loving heart. Remember also that God has marvelous things planned for you and all he has made, as St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8 when he wrote this about Jesus’ return in glory on the Last Day: The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Let us pray. Faithful God, we thank you for the blessings You have bestowed on this nation. We praise You for the freedom that we have in Christ crucified and risen for us. Fill us always with Your Spirit as we anticipate our eternal life in the renewed and restored creation You have promised; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Happy Father’s Day!
| Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him. (2 Kings 18) |
Have you been blessed with a good father? If so, thanks be to God for that wondrous gift! King Hezekiah was not blessed with a good father. Hezekiah’s father was King Ahaz, a man well-known for doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. Ahaz was especially enticed by the wickedness of idolatry, and he even murdered one of his own children in an attempt to win the favor of false gods.
King Hezekiah was not blessed with a good father. Yet he learned how to serve God faithfully in his generation anyway. His 28-year reign was a tremendous benefit to the nation of Judah. Some of the ways Hezekiah learned faithfulness included: having a repentant heart, listening to the guidance of his counselor the Prophet Isaiah, talking to God in prayer, and witnessing his Heavenly Father’s miracles. Thanks be to God for the faith of Hezekiah!
In addition to living without the guidance of a good father, there can be many other things that we lack in this world. What are you struggling with today? Is there anything you lack in body, mind, soul, or spirit? Like Hezekiah, have a repentant heart, listen to the counsel of God’s Holy Word, talk to God in prayer, remember He made you His child in the miracle of Holy Baptism. God is ready to bless you with all things truly needful.
You have a kind, wise, Heavenly Father who loves you and cares about you. His Son Jesus has defeated sin and death for you, and He has prepared a place in heaven for you. You are a part of God’s family forever. You have been blessed with a good Father. Thanks be to Him for the gift of His love!
Let us pray. Faithful God, we remember with thanksgiving the many sacrifices fathers make for their children and families. Help all fathers to reflect the love and compassion that You have for Your children. Bless fathers with strength and wisdom, tenderness and patience. Support them in the kind things they do; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me…. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26)
As Jesus prophesied, we still remember this woman and her sacrifice. With love and devotion to her Savior, she poured out on Him an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume to prepare His body for burial. She started what Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea would continue, a proper burial for Jesus. We give thanks to God for her sacrifice.
Later this month our nation will celebrate Memorial Day. It’s a day to remember all those military personnel who, with love and devotion to their country, poured out their lives to keep us free. We give thanks to God for their sacrifice.
Continue to remember and give thanks to God also for the many other ways that He has blessed our nation, especially for the freedom to teach our Biblical faith and live it out. We praise God for all those willing to sacrifice so that the gospel of Christ crucified can be preached throughout this country and the world.
And take comfort in the knowledge that it’s with love and compassion that God remembers you, His baptized. Just as He remembered Noah during the dangers of the flood, just as He remembered the thief on the cross as death drew near, so He remembers you. According to Your love remember me, for You, Lord, are good (Psalm 25).
Let us pray. Lord, we thank You that in kindness You remember Your Church. Remember this nation also and keep it under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we, Your Church, may serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel…. Joshua read all the words of the law…just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them (Joshua 8).
Joshua was leading God’s Old Testament people into the Promised Land. One successful military campaign had just ended; there were many more battles to fight. Yet Joshua stopped and took the time to build an altar to the Lord on Mount Ebal. He then read the Book of the Law, that is, the Bible, to all the people.
It may seem like a poorly chosen time for Bible study, but in reality Joshua was preparing the people for the next battle. He was encouraging them to be faithful to the One True God. He was reminding them that they belonged to Him. He was reminding them of God’s plan for them; they were the people from whom would come the Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ. Joshua knew that time spent in God’s Word was always time well-spent.
After Jesus’ victory over the grave on Easter Sunday, He walked with 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus and later met with a larger group of followers in Jerusalem (Luke 24). He took the time to study the Bible with them. He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself (verse 27). Jesus knew that in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead there would be many battles for them to fight. So, by studying God’s Word with them He was encouraging them to be faithful. He was reminding them that they belonged to Him. He was reminding them of God’s plan for them; they were to spread the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection to the whole world. Jesus knew that time spent in God’s Word was always time well-spent.
Every day is not too often to spend some time in God’s Word, especially if you have battles to fight. As we learn from Joshua and Jesus, time spent in God’s Word is always time well-spent. Amen.
Appreciating Worship: Part Two
Last month we took a look at the first 6 parts of the liturgy that we use during regular worship services. This month we’ll touch upon parts 7-13. You may access more information about the parts of worship at our Synod’s website by following this link: https://www.lcms.org/worship/liturgy-parts#invocation
Part seven is the Offertory. What could we even possibly give to God when we consider what He has given to us? Yet during this portion of worship we are able to put into action the Biblical idea that God delights in a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9). Our offering helps support the church here and around the world.
Part eight is the Sanctus. We learn from the angels to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory,” (Isaiah 6). We welcome the Sacramental presence of our Savior with the words of the Palm Sunday pilgrims. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” (Matthew 21; Psalm 118).
The ninth part of our liturgy includes the Words of Institution. Jesus clearly and plainly spoke a grace-filled promise for His Church on earth when He gave us the gift of Holy Communion: “Take and eat. This is My body, which is given for you. Take and drink. This is My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this often, as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” It’s manna from heaven that sustains us in this wilderness.
Part ten is the Agnus Dei, which means “Lamb of God”. Jesus is the One and Only sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Once again we humbly ask for His mercy as we prepare to take part in Holy Communion and receive forgiveness from Him.
This leads us to the eleventh part of our liturgy called The Distribution. As congregation members receive this Sacrament, they acknowledge a common confession of faith: we are one in Christ. As Christ offers Himself to us in this holy meal, He strengthens the unity and binds members of the congregation together in Christian love.
Part twelve is called the Nunc Dimittis in which we sing the ancient song of Simeon, “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace.” We, like Simeon, acknowledge that we have been in the merciful presence of the Savior. Therefore, with faith and confidence we declare our readiness to depart in peace.
The final part of the liturgy is called the Benediction. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace,” (Numbers 6). Forgiven and refreshed by all that has taken place in worship, we leave with His blessing. We go out ready to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The pattern of worship is repeated throughout the years until that day we join all who have gone before us in the faith in the eternal praises of heaven.
Appreciating Worship: Part One
When we gather for worship in church we get to experience a meeting between heaven and earth. It’s a beautiful moment when our Lord joins with His people to provide grace, mercy, and salvation. The service is arranged and guided by our use of an outline called the liturgy. Liturgies have been used for many generations and still hold the same value today that they did in the early Church. The five liturgies called “Divine Services” in our Lutheran Service Book vary somewhat in form, but they each include 13 basic parts. This month I will touch upon Parts 1-6.
Part one is called the Invocation. The Pastor stands before the congregation and makes the sign of the cross saying, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” With these words we are remembering our baptism where the Triune God made us His children.
Part two is called Confession and Absolution. On this side of heaven, we live as sinful human beings. This part of the liturgy is putting into practice the words from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We confess our sins, and in the words of absolution our guilt is removed from us as far as the east is from the west.
Part three is called the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy.” We commend ourselves and the whole world to a merciful God.
Part four is a Hymn of Praise, a hymn glorifying God for His saving work in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Part five is the Word of God and the Sermon. After God’s Holy Word is read, the pastor addresses the congregation with a special message called the sermon. In this message, he expands on the truths of the Bible readings and points us to our Savior Jesus Christ.
Part six is the Creed. There are three creeds in the hymnal: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. With them, the pastor and congregation boldly and confidently make a confession of faith in the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is an opportunity for Christians to act upon the encouragement of Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You can find more information about these six parts of liturgy by following this link: https://www.lcms.org/worship/liturgy-parts
May God bless our nation with renewed health and strength so that Christians everywhere may be able to gather together for worship to the glory of His Name.
The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” –Matthew 3:13-17
Despite John’s attempt to deter Jesus, Jesus was baptized by him in the Jordan River. Even though John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins, Jesus entered the river. Even though Jesus was the Greater and John was the lesser, Jesus entered the river. Even though John is not worthy to carry Jesus’ sandals, Jesus entered the river. Why?
Hurting sinners from every walk of life came to John to be inspired, baptized, forgiven, and made ready to meet the Messiah. Jesus entered the river with them because he is a friend of hurting sinners everywhere. He bathed in solidarity with them, elbow to elbow in the same water as prostitutes, tax collectors, and all manner of religious rejects.
Jesus demonstrated his solidarity with sinners each time he ate and drank with them. His solidarity with sinners continued at the cross where He hung between two thieves. He who knew no sin, became Sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). His ministry began with water; now water and blood flowed from His side. At His baptism, the heavens were opened to Him; at His cross the heavens are opened to us.
In Jesus’ baptism, He is joined in solidarity with us. In our baptism, we are joined in solidarity with Jesus – in His righteous life, His sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection. Remember and rejoice in the precious gift of your baptism. The Spirit descended upon you there marking you as a child of God, uniting you with the resurrection of Jesus, and bestowing on you an eternal inheritance. Amen.
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Psalm 149
One of Martin Luther’s Reformation colleagues was Johann Walter. Johann was a gifted musician whose original version of the hymn The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us had an impressive thirty-four stanzas. The shortened version of this hymn that’s found in our hymnal includes a stanza that describes heaven in this way:
In that fair home shall never
Be silent music’s voice;
With hearts and lips forever
We shall in God rejoice,
While angel hosts are raising
With saints from great to least
A mighty hymn for praising
The Giver of the feast. LSB 514:4
As I write this newsletter article, music’s voice has once more fallen silent in Trinity’s sanctuary. All in-person church services have been cancelled indefinitely. Thank you again to all those who helped us make that unpleasant decision.
Trinity’s musical voice has temporarily fallen silent, yet this Advent Season remains a time of godly hope and anticipation. Continue getting ready for your celebration of Christmas; December 25th is a day to rejoice because Christ our Savior is born.
Also, continue recalling, humming, and even singing your favorite hymns, doing so with godly hope and anticipation. Look forward to the day when Trinity’s musical voice once more echoes throughout the sanctuary. And remember that in your heavenly home music’s majestic voice is never silent. Amen.
Patience and Mercy
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
As our study of the book of Revelation on Sunday mornings reminds us, some of the Biblical descriptions of Judgement Day are harsh and unpleasant. These descriptions are included in the Scriptures to help lead people to see their sins and be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ shed on the cross.
The above verse from 2 Peter is about Judgement Day. It reflects God’s true, compassionate nature as well as His reasons for the long delay in returning for judgement.
He is patient with you. God fully sees the wickedness, hurt, and injustice in our world and knows that only He can restore His creation. Yet He demonstrates His patient endurance by delaying Judgement Day.
He is not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. The delay in judgement demonstrates God’s merciful heart. He waited so that the first generation of Christian missionaries could spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. He waited so that there was time for us to be born and baptized and be made a part of His church for eternity.
The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah sums up God’s patience and mercy like this: Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him. Isaiah 30:18
A prayer: We thank You, O Lord, for Your great patience and mercy. We thank You for calling us to faith and cleansing us through the sacrifice of Jesus. We thank you for the ongoing proclamation of the gospel all over the world, so that the courts of heaven may be full. Amen.
Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save …. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. Psalm 146
Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior, is King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him. He hears and answers prayer. Therefore, please continue to pray for our nation as the November elections draw near.
In addition to prayer, Lutherans believe that we may participate in our country’s political process as much as our conscience allows us to. Faithful Christians may do things such as vote, attend a peaceful rally, serve military, and hold political office.
The sanctuary at Trinity is open most mornings if you’d like to use it for prayer and meditation. You may use the following resources as a guide:
Read these passages from the Bible: Matthew 22:15-22. Jesus encourages payment of taxes to the government. Romans 13:1-7. Paul encourages obedience to governing authorities. I Peter 2:13-17. Peter encourages obedience to governing authorities. I Timothy 2:1-2. Paul encourages prayers for governing authorities.
Read or sing these hymns from the Lutheran Service Book: 525 797 850 852 861 965 966
Pray the prayers for the Civil Realm on pages 313–14 of the Lutheran Service Book.
Pray this and similar prayers: Heavenly Father, continue to bless our whole country and all our citizen, rich and poor, learned and uneducated, of all races and cultures. May no segment of our community fail because we have failed in our duty to You and to them. For all those areas of our nation that suffer from injustice and deprivation send us wise and compassionate leaders who bring integrity and healing to broken lives and degraded existences. Grant that the people I meet today may see Your beloved Son in me and see His love in my words and actions; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
For more information visit and explore these two sites:
The Blessing of Labor
Labor Day was first celebrated in New York in 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894. In the 19th century, working conditions were strenuous and even deadly with grueling hours and small pay for many of America’s poor citizens and immigrants who came to this nation looking for a better way of life. Ever since then, Labor Day has symbolized the celebration of the working man’s toil by granting him a day off to relax with family and friends as summer draws to a close.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Labor Day may have a whole different emphasis. Words like “essential employee”; “work/study from home”; “online ministry”; “reduced hours”; “lay-offs”; “shuttered businesses”; and “unemployment” have become part of regular conversation as our nation has dealt with the Covid pandemic. I imagine that this Labor Day, almost everyone has a renewed appreciation for the blessing and value of employment.
The Holy Scriptures also have a lot to say about our cycles of work and rest. Let’s take a look at some verses:
Genesis 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
Exodus 20:9-10 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
Proverbs 14:23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
Revelation 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.
In each of these verses we are reminded of the wisdom of God. Any work that we set out to do should be for His glory and for the good of others. Through our various vocations, He provides for us in body, mind, and soul. He gives to us exactly what we need so we may always trust in Him regardless of the unusual season of labor in which we may find ourselves. We pray that He continues to bless our nation with meaningful work.
And keep on finding everlasting comfort in the saving work Jesus did for us on the cross. His glorious resurrection followed His three day rest in the tomb. He now works for our eternal good as our Prophet, Priest, and King. May we always be ready to commit all our works to Him. Amen.
Training the Next Generation
As we turn the calendar to August, thoughts about school come to mind. Parents, teachers, and students may have mixed feelings about heading back to the classroom, yet families are gearing up for that all-important first day. This year nothing looks the same as the Covid pandemic has forced school districts to change their routines nationwide. Regardless, parents and teachers are still trying to collaborate for another year of academia. But the method, routine, and organization of it all are not the same.
All of this raises many questions about what’s truly needed and what’s simply optional when it comes to a child’s education. What kind of an education do these students of the pandemic year(s) need to succeed in life? What do they need to know in order to be good citizens of our nation? What will the future look like for them? May God’s plan for His baptized children be carried forth regardless of the changes the pandemic may make to our society.
That being said, it is our prayer that families keep Christ and Him crucified as the central most important source of all wisdom. Perhaps the uniqueness of this school year will give Christian families new opportunities to set before their kids this one thing needful (Luke 10:42). In many places the Holy Scriptures offer encouragement regarding the education of our children. Let’s consider some of them:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Psalm 32:8-10
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4
The Apostle Paul expands on true wisdom in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 27-31 when he writes:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
As the 2020-2021 school year begins, may our thoughts, prayers, and encouragement for families and students support a Christ-centered education so the younger generation may grow in true wisdom and in faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you ever felt trapped? Many situations in life can make us feel that way. We may feel trapped because of an injury or illness or chronic health condition; especially if they interfere with our life and may even isolate us from everyone else for an extended period. We may feel trapped in a thankless or grueling work situation. Or, on the flipside, we may feel trapped in unemployment with no hope for work on the horizon. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a toxic home life and felt unsure about how to escape. Debt can lead to a feeling of entrapment, too, especially if it’s from foolish choices or tragic circumstances. Since the fall, humans have been guided by Satan and their own sinful flesh to slip into addictions, commit crimes of all kinds, tell lies, spread gossip, all of which cause hurt and bring about a prison of guilt and shame. Indeed, there’s a long list of situations we could tally where we may feel trapped.
Being stuck in a circumstance that doesn’t seem to have an easy escape can be debilitating to our spirit. It can eliminate hope, fuel anxiety, and lead to depression. It can also lead us to make poor choices out of desperation. But if we remember who we are ~ redeemed children of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus ~ then the truth is, we are not trapped. We are blessed. We are blessed because He is with us in our worst moments and He promises to guide us to our best. As God’s children any situation we encounter is temporary and our freedom in Christ is permanent. Consider these verses and find comfort in them:
Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.
John 8:31 Jesus said to those who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
1 Peter 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Whether you feel trapped by circumstances out of your control or ones that you caused by your choices know this: Jesus fixed it all on the cross. In your baptism you were called to belong to Jesus forever. Trust in His promises. Put your hope in Him and don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. Call and confide in a Christian you trust for advice and help if needed.
Also, be a person of comfort for others if you’re able. Spread love, reclaim joy, center yourself with peace, endure hardships with forbearance, be kind, be good, stay faithful to God and gentle with others. Control what you can in your personal circle of responsibility and trust God with the rest. These are the fruits you have to give to others regardless of your temporary circumstance because the Spirit of Christ lives in you and He lives in you forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A Letter to the Church
The Apostle Paul visited the Greek town of Thessalonica during one of his missionary journeys. While there, he helped to build and fashion the workings of the young Christian Church. Due to persecution, described in Acts 17, he was forced out of the area and had to leave sooner than planned. As a result, he wrote two letters to the Thessalonians to encourage them and guide them. How thankful are we today to still be able to read, apply, and share these words with our fellow Christians. Let’s take a look at what Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28:
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Paul’s words were timely and important for the Church to receive back then. It is also easy to see that they are timely and important for the Church today. By God’s grace may we ever strive to honor Him, love our neighbor, and hold fast to the truths taught to us in these precious sections of Holy Scripture. As we endeavor to rejoin as a group for worship in our sanctuary, may we be inspired to rejoice, pray, and give thanks for the opportunities set before us to share the Good News of Christ and Him crucified for the salvation of all people. In His Name. Amen.
God Cares About You
“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John 21:3-6
Does God truly care about the problems we face? Is He genuinely concerned about the trials and troubles we go through? It’s not uncommon for Christians to seek answers to questions like these. Thankfully, God is happy to supply them.
Look at what the resurrected Jesus did for His disciples in Galilee. They had spent a long night fishing and had caught nothing. Now, early in the morning, they were returning to the shore, exhausted and frustrated. Jesus saw them and demonstrated His concern for them by telling them to cast their nets once again. The large number of fish they miraculously harvested revealed an amazing God who cared about them.
The care Jesus showed to His disciples He also shows to you. In the miracle of Baptism He gathered you into His church for eternity. He daily cleanses our repentant souls with the blood of His cross. He is concerned about every aspect of your life: body, mind, soul, and spirit; today, tomorrow, and forever. He has even prepared a place for you in heaven. Here are some verses that are good to remember:
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. Psalm 55:22
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1
The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does. Psalm 145:13
The wondrous care Jesus showed to His disciples He also graciously shows to you. Knowing that Jesus makes our burdens His own, we are better prepared to shoulder the problems of others. In doing so, we reflect our Savior’s concern for their lives.
Thank you for the kindness you show to others, especially during these difficult times!
He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Do you remember Job? Do you remember how God allowed Satan to wreak havoc in his life? Do you remember how his friends often gave no real counsel but hurled accusations at him? Do you remember how he lamented his life, questioned God, and decided it would have been better if he had not been born? Through it all, however, Job was blessed. Not only did God have a plan to protect and restore Job on earth, He also had a plan to bring Job into the heavenly realms where he would reap the joys of salvation for all eternity. In the darkest moments of Job’s trials, he knew by faith this was true.
In chapter 19 verses 23-27 he said:
Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
What a blessing for us that Job’s words were indeed written down. Even though he didn’t know it at the time, Job’s challenges, faith, and testimony would be shared in the pages of Holy Scripture for all to see. His belief in a Redeemer was fulfilled in the arrival of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose again for the salvation of all people. The same Jesus who, before He took His rightful place at the right hand of God, said in John 14:1-3:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, so that you may also be where I am.
It is my prayer that during times of earthly challenges, you may find peace and joy knowing that your Redeemer, Jesus Christ, lives. He is on His throne and He is in our hearts. Let us trust Him and let us praise Him through the tests and trials this life brings us. Like Job, we will join the saints in the heavenly realms for all eternity. Like Job, we will one day behold our Redeemer with our flesh restored. Hymn 461 in our LSB was inspired by Job’s words and is a familiar Easter hymn. Let us offer our praise through some verses.
I know that my Redeemer lives: what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living head. Vs 1.
He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart. Vs. 5
He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there. Vs. 7
He lives, all glory to His name! He lives, my Jesus, still the same; Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives! Vs. 8
Resurrection peace and joy to you now and always!
Commandments 1 & 2: A Closer Look
In this month’s newsletter, we take a closer look at the first two commandments and the Catechism’s explanation of them. Remember that the commandments play two important roles in the life of a Christian: Like a mirror they show us our sin and our need for a Savior; As a guide they teach how to live a God-pleasing life.
The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
The only true God is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one divine being with three distinct persons. We are to revere Him alone as the highest being, honor Him with our lives, and avoid what displeases Him. We dishonor God and break this commandment when we fear, love, or trust any person, place, thing, or event more than Him. We love God above all things when we cling to Him alone as our God and devote our lives to His service.
The Second Commandment: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
God forbids us to misuse His name by verbalizing it uselessly or carelessly to curse, swear, and deceive. Satanic arts include witchcraft, fortune-telling, and trusting in horoscopes. Speaking evil of God or mocking Him is blaspheming His name. We are permitted to take an oath in a handful of circumstances such as promising to tell the truth in a court of law. However, making thoughtless oaths or breaking important ones goes against this commandment. Teaching false doctrine is a misuse of His name. Calling upon God’s name in every trouble and seeking His help and guidance is a right use of His name. So is offering Him our prayers, praises, and thanks.
Prayer: Oh Lord, Your Name is above every name, and we desire to honor only You as our God. Forgive us for the times we allow the things of this world to take the place of You. Forgive us for dishonoring Your name when we are overcome with temptations. Cleanse us anew with the blood Christ shed for us. Strengthen us with the presence of Your Holy Spirit in our hearts, homes, and lives. We lay this petition before You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The 10 Commandments: A Closer Look
On Mount Sinai, God presented the Ten Commandments to Moses. Moses carried the two tablets of stone down the mountain to God’s chosen people, the Israelites. The first three commandments are about serving God. Jesus summarized those by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” The other seven commandments are about serving God by way of serving our neighbor. Jesus summarized those by saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In future newsletters, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Ten Commandments. If you have Luther’s Small Catechism, I encourage you to continue using it to meditate on them. The Ten Commandments are not an outdated list of recommendations given to a generation long gone. Instead, they are God’s moral requirements for all people of all times. Jesus explained in Matthew chapter 5:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
In the Catechism, Martin Luther described the three main uses of God’s Law, the Ten Commandments. The first use of the Law is that of a curb. Through fear of punishment, the Law keeps the sinful nature of both Christians and non-Christians in check. The second use is that of a mirror. The Law serves as a perfect reflection of what God created the human heart and life to be. It shows the Christian who compares their life to God’s requirements for perfection that they are sinful. The third use of the Law is that of a guide. The Law becomes the believer’s helper. Empowered by the gospel truth of forgiveness and righteousness in Christ, the believer’s new self eagerly desires to live to please the Triune God.
It is my prayer that our life of faith matures as we take a closer look at the Ten Commandments in this new decade. Despite the societal and legal shifts going on around us, let us hold fast to the truths of Scripture. I pray that we remain steadfast in honoring God and loving our neighbor through our church’s mission to Teach Christ, Preach Christ, and Share Christ.
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Wishing on Stars, Acting on Faith
There’s an inspirational quote going around that says, “Why wish upon a star when you can pray to the One who created it?” It’s a nice sentiment. I wonder how many times people have made wishes upon a star, or birthday candles, or coins tossed into fountains.
Regardless of what we wish for or what we wish upon, there is only one Source who controls our destiny on earth and beyond. The wise men written about in the Gospel of Matthew knew this. For they, who spent time studying stars, acted on faith. They didn’t wish upon the star when it appeared. Rather, they packed up their belongings and made a long, arduous journey to meet the Creator of this star.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.Matthew 2:10-12
In faith, these Magi from the East gave gifts to the One who came into the world to grant more than temporal wishes. This Child is the One who by His cross would deliver them from sin, death, and the devil. He came to give them salvation and eternal life.
Our loving God still pours out faith and salvation upon His Church today. His Holy Word is the means by which He guides us each step of our journey to our heavenly home. It is my prayer for this new year that we, as members of His Church, study the Scriptures often so that we may hold fast to the faith planted in our hearts. It is also my prayer that we continually act upon our faith even as we pray to the One who set the starts in place for us.
Holy Jesus, every day keep us in the narrow way; and when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last where they need no star to guide, where no clouds Thy glory hide.
In the heavenly country bright need they no created light; Thou its light, its joy, its crown, Thou its sun which goes not down; there forever may we sing Alleluias to our King.
–LSB 397 vs 4 & 5