Return to the Shepherd

April 30, 2012

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:25

From time to time, the Bible calls us “sheep.” That isn’t very flattering, is it! If a wolf is bearing down and baring its teeth, how could a single sheep protect itself? The score every time is: Wolf 1, Sheep 0. If there is a drought, where would the sheep find decent water and grass? Sheep might eat paint chips for all they know. And the very worst? If sheep could talk, as they are going astray into real but invisible danger, they’d say, “No problem.  I can handle it.”

But a sheep can’t handle it. Ever!

How incriminating to hear, You were like sheep going astray. You thought you could handle a little temptation on the computer. You thought you could get drunk just once and then get behind the wheel. You thought you deserved the right to stay angry at so-and-so, for everyone can easily see that it was the other person’s fault and not yours. The danger became oh-so-real, oh-so-fast.

It’s time to return to the Shepherd. No more excuses. No more wandering. No more thinking you can stare temptation in the eye and handle it alone. No more thinking you can solve all your problems. No more being deceived that you’re in control when you are not. Return to the Shepherd! Let him be your Overseer. Let his promises guide your way. Listen to him as he tells you, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28.” There you are safe for eternity.

Prayer: Dear Shepherd, I don’t want to wander from you. I beg you, please watch over me that I might never go astray and be safe under your promises. Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2012

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

Today’s Readings

Today’s Adult Bible Class Slides

Questioning of the confirmands takes the place of the sermon today. Read Saturday’s Sermon

Someone You Can Trust

April 23, 2012

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” – John 11:25-27

Jesus asked Martha a very pointed question, and it came at a most difficult time. Lazarus, her brother, had just died. Emotionally she was conflicted. Physically she was drained. Mentally she was confused. Although Jesus did offer her words of promise and assurance, he also added that key question, “Do you believe this?” In reality, the question was even more direct, “Do you trust me?” Martha’s answer is a testimony to her confidence in Jesus and an example for me.

Every day I face many challenges. Some are easy to overcome. Others are more difficult. Still, with persistence I manage. There are even times when I find a source of strength I didn’t know I had. Throughout these times I am able to say with some certainty, “I believe.”

This certainty will be seriously challenged in extreme situations. How will I respond if someone close to me dies? How will I respond if I am diagnosed with a disease that will permanently alter my life? How will I find a new source of strength when emotionally, physically, and mentally I am empty? Will I still say with certainty, “I believe?”

This is where Martha becomes a wonderful example. When Jesus asked her, “Do you believe this?” she gave a resounding and inspiring answer. More than saying, “I believe this,” she said, “I trust you.”

Here is where I need to re-examine and reinforce my faith. At the worse possible time, Martha said, “I can trust you, Jesus.” I need that same unshakable trust. What is reassuring is that Jesus goes to great lengths to provide that trust. Certainly his loving promise to be with me always tells me I can trust him. He offers me more. By his death on the cross, Jesus rescued me from the punishment for sin. As my Savior, he offers me the great assurance of forgiveness and the gift of God’s peace. And by his resurrection, Jesus proved his victory over the devil, my greatest enemy, and he takes away my fear of eternal death. I have every reason to trust him for this life, and for the life to come in heaven.

In this life there will be many disappointments, and many people will prove to be disappointing, so it is often difficult to find someone or something I can always trust. There remains one bright hope that will never fail to shine even in the darkest of times, and that is Jesus. He is someone I can always trust.

Prayer: O dearest Jesus, work in me through your never-failing presence and your precious promises. Give me the strength of faith to trust you in this life, and to trust you for the life to come. Amen!

Third Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2012

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

Today’s Readings

Today’s Adult Bible Class Slides

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Set Your Heart on Things Above

April 16, 2012

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-4

What is your heart set on? Are you set on getting outside with the warmer weather and doing some springtime planting? Are you perhaps just itching to get out fishing? When your heart is set on something, notice how much of your life revolves around your mindset. If you can’t wait to plant, you are now getting all the things prepared and purchased. If it’s fishing, you’re working to prepare gear and tackle so that everything is ready to go.

We are just a few days removed from Easter Sunday. Do you remember what Christ’s heart was set on? He made it his entire life’s goal and passion to win our eternal salvation by crushing the head of Satan, giving up his life, and then rising in three days. If Christ would have been distracted by the things of this world – power, prestige, earthly wealth, he would not have won our salvation and we would still be dead in our sins. Praise God that Jesus set his heart on things above – on doing his Father’s will, so that we might now have forgiveness, life and peace.

The apostle Paul shares with us what it means to have our minds set on things above. He says that we died. That is to say that the controlling power of the sinful nature inside each of us is now dead. Christ has set us free and truly made us alive, just as Christ Jesus is alive and alive in us by faith. No longer does the sinful nature rule, but Christ lives and rules in us. What is more, we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Jesus lives in us to preserve us to the end. When Christ appears in glory on the last day, then we will be with him in glory where we will be free from all sin, sadness and suffering!

May our hearts and minds always be set on these things above. In the same way, may we also reflect what’s in our hearts and on our minds as we speak to one another about Christ’s victory sin, death and hell. It’s the best mindset to have and an even better one to share!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me a heart that filled with love for you and a mind that is focused on all that you have accomplished for my salvation. Preserve me in saving faith and finally bring me to share in the glory that you have prepared for me and all believers in heaven. Amen.

Second Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2012

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

Today’s Readings

Today’s Adult Bible Class Slides

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Words That Changed Everything

April 9, 2012

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” – Matthew 28:1-10

In times of shock and grief sometimes the only thing a person can do is just go through the motions. This seems to have been the case with the women as they journeyed to the tomb. It’s hard to even imagine everything that was going through their heads. Just days earlier their world had been turned upside down when their dear Lord was arrested, sentenced to death, and violently executed. They witnessed the intense hatred of his tormentors; they saw the blood running down his body; they heard his cry of anguish, and probably even saw the Roman spear pierce Jesus’ already lifeless body. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had quickly prepared his body for burial, but now the women wanted to perform this one last act of love for their dear Savior.

But the stone was removed. The tomb was empty! What thoughts rushed through their heads in the seconds before the angel spoke? Is this the wrong tomb? Did someone steal his body? Can it get any worse than this? First Jesus is wrongly condemned to death, and now he won’t even get the dignity of a proper burial? But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Those words changed everything.

He has risen, just as he said. You can imagine all of the times that Jesus predicted his resurrection replaying in their minds like flashbacks in a movie. Could it really be? The truth was almost too much for them to digest at once. Is this what he meant? While it was too much to digest all at once, the Spirit would slowly help them understand. The joy that began that morning would fill their hearts and lives as they proclaimed the good news to others.

The angel’s words have changed everything for us as well. Jesus is risen! Your sin is gone! Death has been destroyed! Don’t stop looking into the empty tomb, and don’t stop telling others what you have seen!

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to continue to ponder the truth of Easter and cause our hearts to be filled with joy and peace. In your name we pray. Amen.