Putting Forgiveness into Practice

September 26, 2011

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker… I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him – who is my very heart – back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good – no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back – not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. – Philemon 1, 10-21

The Apostle Paul was a prisoner in Rome. Onesimus was a slave who ran away from Colosse to Rome. Philemon was the master of Onesimus who lived in Colosse. The one unifying factor that brought these three men together was the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul preached the good news of Jesus throughout the Mediterranean world. On one of his journeys he preached in the city of Colosse where Philemon came to believe in Jesus Christ as his Savior. Onesimus was not a Christian when he ran away from Philemon. He ran to Rome, the city in which Paul was under house arrest, and crossed paths with Paul. He listened to Paul’s message of forgiveness and became a Christian. He became very close with Paul and admitted how he had wronged his master by running away. Paul assured Onesimus that God had forgiven him, but where was Onesimus to go from this point forward? Should he ask Philemon for his release? Should he stay with Paul in Rome? Should he go back home where Philemon would be within his legal right to put him to death?

Paul’s letter to Philemon gives the answer to this question. Paul made an earnest appeal to Philemon: “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.” Paul was asking Philemon to have mercy on Onesimus in the same way that Jesus had shown mercy and forgiveness to him.

What a great lesson for us to learn as followers of Jesus! In our lives there are going to be times when people wrong or hurt us. It may be necessary for wrongdoers to bear the forms of punishment that fit their crimes. Yet always, like Paul encouraged Philemon, our attitude toward them will be merciful.

Don’t let sin and a vengeful spirit destroy relationships. Instead, motivated by the forgiveness you have been freely given through Christ, use the message of forgiveness in Jesus to restore and save them.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, lead me to treasure ever more deeply the forgiveness you have won for me. And in my appreciation for your mercy, help me be a forgiving person toward others. Amen.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 25, 2011

Matins, Page 208, Lutheran Worship

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Brandi Alyss Ratliff & Douglas Alan Brune

September 24, 2011

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Thankful for What’s Most Important

September 19, 2011

 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. Henamed it Ebenezer,saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” – I Samuel 7:12

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” – Luke 12:15

This Sunday we celebrated the 165th Anniversary of our Congregation. Please read our history on this website and look over our September Newsletter also on this page. We have much to be thankful for over these past 165 years. The message of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection has been boldly proclaimed and the grace of God through His Son Jesus and for His sake gave us forgiveness of sins is preached every week. Countless people have been baptized, confirmed, married and were given Christian burial.  Yes we have much to be thankful for, the “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” He will continue to do so. We give thanks for the important things not only for our congregation but individually as well.

Have you ever cleaned out your basement or garage and discovered many things that you forgot you even had? While you may be amused at rediscovering something you forgot about, perhaps you ask yourself: “Why do I have all this stuff?”

God truly blesses us with many physical blessings. Everything we have comes from him. He provides all the necessary things for life and is generous to give us many more things than we really “need.” His blessings abundantly fill our lives.

Yet we must be careful that we do not begin to love the gifts more than God who gives them. It is easy for our hearts to become greedy and not be happy with what we have. It is so easy to continually want MORE … money… toys… houses… boats… cars… without end.

Yet none of these things can ever satisfy us completely or fill the place in our life and heart that can only belong to Jesus Christ. Our Lord warns us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus teaches us that there is more to life and more to us than earthly possessions. He is the source of all that we need spiritually and eternally.

So the Lord Jesus instructs our hearts to focus on what’s really important. Money and the things money can buy are benefits that God graciously gives us, but money cannot buy a relationship with God. Jesus is the only way for us to know God and be with God.

For all the reasons that you are thankful today, Jesus is the most important.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank  you for your continued care, providing all that I need for my life. Most importantly, thank you for sending Jesus through whom I have the peace of the forgiveness of sins and the joy of an eternal relationship with you. Amen.

Ebenezer Congregation’s 165th Anniversary

September 18, 2011

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Guest Preacher: Rev. Dr. James Kalthoff

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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Let God do the Exalting

September 12, 2011

Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman. – Proverbs 25:6-7

While these words might sound like nothing more than ancient advice for dining with royalty, they reflect a deeper truth of Scripture. It’s better for us to humbly wait to be exalted than to exalt ourselves. Unfortunately, that’s not always so easy for us to do. If we are good at something, we want everyone else to notice and give us the proper recognition. If we put a lot of work into a task or project, we want to be praised. Sadly, at times this attitude can even infect our spiritual lives. “Lord, you sure are lucky to have me working in your kingdom!”

We see the exact opposite in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even though he was the King of the universe, he didn’t come into our world to seek praise and honor. Instead he came to serve and to give his life for our sins, even for our sins of pride and arrogance. Jesus didn’t need to be exalted by men, because he knew that he had the approval of the only one that mattered—his Father in heaven.

It is through our Savior’s perfect life and sacrifice that we can be certain that we have the approval of our Father in heaven. Jesus did everything necessary to make us God’s dearly beloved children, so we don’t need to constantly strive to put ourselves above others. Love for Christ moves us to use our God-given talents to the best of our ability, not to be praised and honored by others, but to glorify our Father in heaven. Even when no one thanks us, or notices our hard work, we can look forward to the day when our heavenly Father will exalt us in heaven and say, “Come up here. Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, every good and perfect gift comes from you. Help us to humbly use the gifts that you have given us and to rejoice that we already have your approval through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 11, 2011

Matins, Page 208, Lutheran Worship

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