We Have the Right Connections

April 25, 2016

In [Christ Jesus our Lord] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. – Ephesians 3:12

It seems that there is a direct correlation between how high a position of a government official and how accessible that individual is to regular citizens. The higher the position, the less accessibility there is.

Living in a free country like the United States of America, regular citizens should theoretically be able to reach out to their elected representatives and provide input on how they would like certain issues handled. However, if you try to communicate with someone in a very high position, for example the President, chances are not very good for you to get a response from him. He has staff members that read and respond to letters sent to him. A regular, ordinary citizen cannot expect to be able to call and have the President answer. You certainly could never barge into his office unannounced and expect to talk with him.

How then can we ever expect to communicate with God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords? He has far more authority than the President, and he is perfectly holy. How can we, imperfect sinners, possibly think that we can step into God’s throne room and ask him for anything?

We shouldn’t be able to. By all rights we should be destroyed the moment we set foot in his presence. Yet, the apostle Paul tells us that we may approach God with freedom and confidence – all because of Jesus.

Jesus took on all our sinfulness. He gave up his life and was cast out of the presence of God because that is what you and I deserve for our sins. His blood was shed to wash away our sin forever. Now those who believe that to be true – who believe in him as their Savior from sin – are free to approach God because the perfection of Jesus is theirs through faith.

Faith in Jesus means that you can step into the throne room of God fully confident that you will not be cast from his presence and destroyed. Even more, you can come before God and pray to him fully confident that he will hear your prayer and answer for the sake of his Son, Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to take away my sins. Thank you for giving me free access to you through faith in him. Forgive me for the times I have neglected your command to pray. Motivate me to pour my heart out to you and pray with confidence through Jesus my Savior. Amen.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 24, 2016

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Getting Rid of the Aliens

April 18, 2016

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. – Colossians 1:21-22

Illegal alien. Perhaps those two words leave a bad taste in your mouth because you find it demeaning to talk that way about another human being. Maybe, though, you feel those words form an appropriately descriptive phrase for a person who has improperly entered or lingered in a country not their own. There are heated debates about what a country’s immigration policy should be and how it should be enforced. Starting or continuing that discussion is not the reason for calling our attention to those words.

Today let’s focus on a truth that we can all agree upon: There is a big difference between aliens and citizens. Citizens have rights and privileges that are not granted to aliens. Aliens are surrounded by a language and customs that are foreign to them, things that are altogether familiar to citizens. Aliens do not look like or sound like citizens. They often feel out of place, unwanted, and vulnerable. If they are from a nation that is openly hostile to their new home, they may feel hated and may fear for their safety.

The life of aliens can be difficult. But a far more grave situation is the one in which all people find themselves by nature: we are aliens and enemies of God “because of … evil behavior.” We sometimes reserve such terminology for the worst of the worst in our society. But the Bible clearly says that all sin, every breaking of God’s commands, is evil in his sight. Lying and lusting, hating and hurting, gossiping and grudge-holding, abuse and abdication of responsibility, drunkenness and dirty looks are all sin. Sin alienates us from God and his kingdom. Enemies of God rightly fear for their eternal safety.

But now listen carefully to what the apostle Paul says: “You were alienated from God … now [God] has reconciled you.” God stepped in to change our status with him. When we wanted and knew only hostility and war with God, he answered with a peace-making treaty. When we were the enemies of God, he acted towards us as a friend. When we were far from knowing and trusting God, he brought us near and gave us the full rights of citizenship. He did it by sending his only Son as Savior. Christ went to his own death with our sins on his soul to reconcile us to God, to make peace between the holy God and sinful people. Jesus rose again to secure our standing as first-class citizens. Through faith in him we stand without any blemishes that would mark us as unworthy of that status. In Christ we appear with the holiness that gives us a rightful place beside God. We need not fear any angry accusation from the King of heaven because Christ took every accusation warranted by our sin and removed it from his sight forever. What a change! What a gift from a gracious God! Rejoice, citizens of the kingdom of God, and live joyfully in the freedom and fullness of citizenship.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for making me a citizen in the kingdom of God because of the work of Jesus. Help me live confidently and joyfully as a citizen of your kingdom even as I live out my life on this earth. Amen.


Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 17, 2016

Guest Preacher: Rev. Ed Engelbrecht

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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To God be the Glory

April 11, 2016

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

When evil strikes and kills, when people are terrorized and suffer unjustly, they are often united in a patriotic cause to bring the perpetrators to justice and defeat those who oppose them. For many there is a renewed appreciation for the freedom they have and the desire to combat anything that would threaten it.

About 1,000 years before Jesus was born, a young man’s blood started to boil when he heard the challenge of Goliath that terrorized his nation (1 Samuel 17). Young David didn’t even consider his own comfort and safety but only thought of the cause. No one was going to slander the true God and defy his power and get away with it. So he went into combat with Goliath knowing the battle was the Lord’s and the victory would be for God’s people. Gigantic Goliath fell dead at the hands of the small, courageous David.

Does your blood boil when God is defied and slandered with the lives and comments of others (or yourself)? Do you forget yourself in order to meet the many challenges to have God’s glory reflected in your life?

Realize that the glory of God has shown itself brightly in sending his Son to fight for us. We are the ones who have defied God’s glory with our sinful attitudes and actions. But Jesus put aside his heavenly glory and died on the cross to keep us from being terrorized by God’s justice and sin’s power. When we truly comprehend that wonderful truth and come to appreciate all that Jesus did for us, we are inspired to take up our Christian cause of living for the glory of God in whatever we do—both in the small and big things of our lives.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to always live to your glory showing my great appreciation for all my Savior Jesus accomplished for me. Amen.


Third Sunday of Easter

April 10, 2016

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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Easter Reflections

April 4, 2016

He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in GalileeLuke 24:6

“Are you confident that, if you died tonight, you would go to heaven?” So goes a typical evangelistic lead in to the gospel. I have heard a version of this phrase used often. Yet I wonder how appropriate it really is as a motivation for responding to the gospel centered on Christ’s death and resurrection. While the Bible gives ample evidence for the reality of heaven, the place where Christ is seated (Eph. 1:20) and where we will be with Him at death, the Bible is equally clear that heaven is not our final destination. And the death and resurrection of Christ proves it.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a reminder of the physical nature of God’s plan for redemption and our own future existence. Paul puts it most clearly in 1 Corinthians 15, where he argues for the absolute necessity of not only Christ’s resurrection, but also our own. In this chapter, Paul argues that Christ’s resurrection did far more than prove Jesus was who He said He was: the Son of God. It also guarantees the future resurrection of our own physical bodies. Christ’s resurrection is the “firstfruits” (v. 28) of the resurrection of all who are in Christ.

This is more than a nice bonus we get for enduring our earthly suffering. Our resurrection is necessary. In verse 26, Paul reminds us that the last enemy Christ will destroy is death. But if we are not raised physically, then death still has the final word. Death still has its sting (v. 55). Only when we are raised physically will death finally be “swallowed up in victory” (v. 54). If we are not raised in the future, death wins. But Christ’s resurrection guarantees our future resurrection, and that one day death will meet its demise!

I have the privilege of living on the beautiful setting of Ebenezer Lutheran Church. But I often find myself thinking, Can you imagine a world stripped of all the effects of sin and death? The resurrection of Christ reminds us that we look forward to such a world. And that is a future worth sacrificing this present world to reach!

Prayer: 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! Amen.