The Fight Worth Fighting

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2 Timothy 4:6-11 New International Version
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

All Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

The Lord will Rescue Me

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Reformation Sunday
2 Timothy 4:16-18

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.” So Martin Luther said as he stood before the Holy Roman Emperor and faced being excommunicated and declared an outlaw and at risk of his life should he not recant the truth of God’s Word which he rediscovered. Where did it start? 500 years ago this little known monk and German pastor nailed 95 theses or statements to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These statements were translated and spread and printed on the newly invented printing press. One thing led to another so Luther stood here before the emperor and was ordered to recant, retract, take back everything he had written or face excommunication, being called a heretic, being declared an outlaw, his books banned and burned, and his life at stake anywhere, anytime, by anyone. How did he do it?

And it was all for what? He saw the problems and the abuses there were going on in the Catholic Church at the time. Worst of all, he saw the false teachings with which Satan had infiltrated the Christian church. And all those false teachings really boil down to this: that there’s something that YOU must do into order to earn salvation. And there are only two directions you can go when you believe that: either you will become a Pharisee thinking you’ve earned something from God or you will fall into despair because it’s entirely impossible to earn or deserve anything from God. Luther was the latter. His conscience bothered him, no matter how hard or how much he did, there was no way he could live up to God’s demands. But then by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God he came to understand that we are saved completely by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus alone revealed in the scripture alone. Then and there he found true peace. But what did that get him? Opposition. He was labeled a heretic, excommunicated, outlawed and a death sentence was placed on his head. He didn’t know where it would all go, he didn’t know what would happen, he didn’t know the end of the story. So what kept him going?

Take someone else. His name was Daniel. He lived and worked under several corrupt governments. The last of which had a group of self-centered glory-seekers who devised a plan to play on the king’s egocentricity and have a decree published that people could only pray to the king for 30 days. What does Daniel do? Obeys God. Trusts in God. Continues to pray to the Lord just like he always did. Which led to what? Being arrested, condemned to death and thrown into a den of hungry lions to be eaten alive. For all he knew he was about to be viciously torn apart and devoured! How did he do it? How did he get through? He didn’t know what was going to happen to him.

Take someone else. His name was Paul. He, too, lived at a precarious time and under a corrupt government. At one time he was a Pharisee who thought that God was pleased with all the good things he did like persecute these Christians. But then the Lord brought him to faith. The Lord showed him that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast.” The Lord taught him that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Paul’s entire life became a mission to share this grace of God with others, but what did it get him? He was pursued, persecuted, beaten, flogged, stoned, constantly maligned and accused and abandoned. Here in our text from 2 Timothy he’s writing from a dark, dank, damp dungeon. He’s cold- he wants his cloak. He’s expecting death at any time for proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. How did he do it? How did he get through? He didn’t know what was going to happen.

Take someone else. Not Martin Luther, not Daniel, not Paul, but you and me. Are there times in your life when you’re left wondering why God would allow something to come into your life? Are there times when you’re frustrated or confused because something happened in your life? Are there times in life when you face just one obstacle after another and your sinful nature leads you to doubt God’s care, God’s concern, God’s love for you? Perhaps none of us will face a condemning edict from the emperor or a den of hungry lions or a dark, dank dungeon, but what do we face? Day-to-day trials, times that leave us lying flat on our backs, an upcoming surgery or health scare, a financial loss, a relationship conflict. What does the future hold? What is going to happen? What is weighing on you? What difficulty in life are you facing? How do you get through?

You know what would be really nice? It would be really nice to know the ending before the beginning, right? Imagine if you were going to take a very difficult test, but you knew before the test began that you would ace it? Do you think you’d be anxious or worried? Or, what if you had a very serious health examination to find out whether or not you had a serious incurable illness, but you knew beforehand that the tests would come back showing you to be completely healthy? Do you think you’d be concerned to take that test? If you were going in for an important job interview, but you knew beforehand that you already had the job, would you be nervous and scared? No! Wouldn’t it be nice to know the ending before the beginning?

How do you think Luther did it? Or Daniel? Or the apostle Paul? Daniel may not have known how this whole ordeal was going to work out, but he trusted in God and “no wound was found on him because he trusted in his God.” He knew that his days, his times were all in the hands of our gracious God. No flippant king, no wicked official, no hungry lion could do anything to disrupt God’s plans to work out all things for the good of his believers. How did the apostle Paul do it? What did he know? “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” No wicked king, no plot, no executioner’s sword would separate Paul from the love of God in Christ Jesus. How did Luther do it? How did he keep going in the midst of threats, hate, violence? “The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain with his good gifts and Spirit. And do what they will – hate, steal, hurt or kill – though all may be gone, our victory is won; the kingdom’s ours forever.”

All of our days, our times, our lives rest in the hands of our loving, faithful, compassionate, gracious God.  The God who can shut the mouths of hungry lions, the God who made sure that the “Message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it,” the God who made sure that no emperor, pope, or corrupt church could silence the message of the gospel, is the God who has all the power to rescue you from every evil attack and bring you safely to His heavenly kingdom!  Trust in Him!!

Luther spent his whole life pointing to one person.  So did Daniel, so did Paul.  It wasn’t Daniel or Paul or Luther, but someone else who prayed to God regularly, who had a group of malicious accusers seeking to entrap him because of his faithfulness to God’s Word, a group of unruly people brought Him to the ruler accusing him of breaking the law, the ruler finding him innocent eventually appeased the crowd and condemned him to death, a rock was placed over the enclosure and sealed with the kings own ring, but at dawn it isn’t the king hurrying to the tomb, but a few ladies.  And what they find is shocking.  Who is it?  Jesus who was dead, is alive and lives!  Jesus is the living one, the one who has conquered our greatest enemies: sin, death, and hell forever!

And since Jesus lives and since you know the end of that true story, that of Jesus, then you also know the end of your own story as well.  So, what opposes you today?  What is it that causes your faith to tremble?  What is it that causes your trust to shake?  Look to the Author of your story, who’s written not only the beginning of your story but also the ending, look to your Savior who has cleansed you in His holiness, taken your every sin away as far as the east is from the west, who has removed your guilt forever.  You know the end of your story, heaven is your home and that is where you’re headed, keep your eyes on the end of your story, the one written with the blood of Jesus, and that will make all the difference!  The Lord will rescue you and bring you safely to His heavenly kingdom. Now that’s a happy ending!  Amen.

The Lord will Rescue Me

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Reformation Sunday
2 Timothy 4:16-18

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.” So Martin Luther said as he stood before the Holy Roman Emperor and faced being excommunicated and declared an outlaw and at risk of his life should he not recant the truth of God’s Word which he rediscovered. Where did it start? 500 years ago this little known monk and German pastor nailed 95 theses or statements to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These statements were translated and spread and printed on the newly invented printing press. One thing led to another so Luther stood here before the emperor and was ordered to recant, retract, take back everything he had written or face excommunication, being called a heretic, being declared an outlaw, his books banned and burned, and his life at stake anywhere, anytime, by anyone. How did he do it?

And it was all for what? He saw the problems and the abuses there were going on in the Catholic Church at the time. Worst of all, he saw the false teachings with which Satan had infiltrated the Christian church. And all those false teachings really boil down to this: that there’s something that YOU must do into order to earn salvation. And there are only two directions you can go when you believe that: either you will become a Pharisee thinking you’ve earned something from God or you will fall into despair because it’s entirely impossible to earn or deserve anything from God. Luther was the latter. His conscience bothered him, no matter how hard or how much he did, there was no way he could live up to God’s demands. But then by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God he came to understand that we are saved completely by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus alone revealed in the scripture alone. Then and there he found true peace. But what did that get him? Opposition. He was labeled a heretic, excommunicated, outlawed and a death sentence was placed on his head. He didn’t know where it would all go, he didn’t know what would happen, he didn’t know the end of the story. So what kept him going?

Take someone else. His name was Daniel. He lived and worked under several corrupt governments. The last of which had a group of self-centered glory-seekers who devised a plan to play on the king’s egocentricity and have a decree published that people could only pray to the king for 30 days. What does Daniel do? Obeys God. Trusts in God. Continues to pray to the Lord just like he always did. Which led to what? Being arrested, condemned to death and thrown into a den of hungry lions to be eaten alive. For all he knew he was about to be viciously torn apart and devoured! How did he do it? How did he get through? He didn’t know what was going to happen to him.

Take someone else. His name was Paul. He, too, lived at a precarious time and under a corrupt government. At one time he was a Pharisee who thought that God was pleased with all the good things he did like persecute these Christians. But then the Lord brought him to faith. The Lord showed him that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast.” The Lord taught him that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Paul’s entire life became a mission to share this grace of God with others, but what did it get him? He was pursued, persecuted, beaten, flogged, stoned, constantly maligned and accused and abandoned. Here in our text from 2 Timothy he’s writing from a dark, dank, damp dungeon. He’s cold- he wants his cloak. He’s expecting death at any time for proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. How did he do it? How did he get through? He didn’t know what was going to happen.

Take someone else. Not Martin Luther, not Daniel, not Paul, but you and me. Are there times in your life when you’re left wondering why God would allow something to come into your life? Are there times when you’re frustrated or confused because something happened in your life? Are there times in life when you face just one obstacle after another and your sinful nature leads you to doubt God’s care, God’s concern, God’s love for you? Perhaps none of us will face a condemning edict from the emperor or a den of hungry lions or a dark, dank dungeon, but what do we face? Day-to-day trials, times that leave us lying flat on our backs, an upcoming surgery or health scare, a financial loss, a relationship conflict. What does the future hold? What is going to happen? What is weighing on you? What difficulty in life are you facing? How do you get through?

You know what would be really nice? It would be really nice to know the ending before the beginning, right? Imagine if you were going to take a very difficult test, but you knew before the test began that you would ace it? Do you think you’d be anxious or worried? Or, what if you had a very serious health examination to find out whether or not you had a serious incurable illness, but you knew beforehand that the tests would come back showing you to be completely healthy? Do you think you’d be concerned to take that test? If you were going in for an important job interview, but you knew beforehand that you already had the job, would you be nervous and scared? No! Wouldn’t it be nice to know the ending before the beginning?

How do you think Luther did it? Or Daniel? Or the apostle Paul? Daniel may not have known how this whole ordeal was going to work out, but he trusted in God and “no wound was found on him because he trusted in his God.” He knew that his days, his times were all in the hands of our gracious God. No flippant king, no wicked official, no hungry lion could do anything to disrupt God’s plans to work out all things for the good of his believers. How did the apostle Paul do it? What did he know? “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” No wicked king, no plot, no executioner’s sword would separate Paul from the love of God in Christ Jesus. How did Luther do it? How did he keep going in the midst of threats, hate, violence? “The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain with his good gifts and Spirit. And do what they will – hate, steal, hurt or kill – though all may be gone, our victory is won; the kingdom’s ours forever.”

All of our days, our times, our lives rest in the hands of our loving, faithful, compassionate, gracious God.  The God who can shut the mouths of hungry lions, the God who made sure that the “Message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it,” the God who made sure that no emperor, pope, or corrupt church could silence the message of the gospel, is the God who has all the power to rescue you from every evil attack and bring you safely to His heavenly kingdom!  Trust in Him!!

Luther spent his whole life pointing to one person.  So did Daniel, so did Paul.  It wasn’t Daniel or Paul or Luther, but someone else who prayed to God regularly, who had a group of malicious accusers seeking to entrap him because of his faithfulness to God’s Word, a group of unruly people brought Him to the ruler accusing him of breaking the law, the ruler finding him innocent eventually appeased the crowd and condemned him to death, a rock was placed over the enclosure and sealed with the kings own ring, but at dawn it isn’t the king hurrying to the tomb, but a few ladies.  And what they find is shocking.  Who is it?  Jesus who was dead, is alive and lives!  Jesus is the living one, the one who has conquered our greatest enemies: sin, death, and hell forever!

And since Jesus lives and since you know the end of that true story, that of Jesus, then you also know the end of your own story as well.  So, what opposes you today?  What is it that causes your faith to tremble?  What is it that causes your trust to shake?  Look to the Author of your story, who’s written not only the beginning of your story but also the ending, look to your Savior who has cleansed you in His holiness, taken your every sin away as far as the east is from the west, who has removed your guilt forever.  You know the end of your story, heaven is your home and that is where you’re headed, keep your eyes on the end of your story, the one written with the blood of Jesus, and that will make all the difference!  The Lord will rescue you and bring you safely to His heavenly kingdom. Now that’s a happy ending!  Amen.

Godly Resolutions for the New Year

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New Year’s Eve 2015

2 Timothy 3:12-17; Joshua 1:8; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Matthew 26:26-29 – Make More Use of the Means of Grace

Earlier this week my family and I were in the Cities visiting family. I spent a little time with my brother Adam there and I helped him change the brakes on his car. My brother doesn’t have that many mechanic tools, so we spent quite a bit of time searching for the right sockets and wrenches to get the job done. And in the process we broke a couple of tools because they weren’t of the right quality to get the rusted bolts off. As we were working in his cold garage I was reminded of an important truth: In order to get a job done, you need to have the right tools.

Well, the truth is, each one of us is a broken project needing to be worked on by God. We have broken thoughts that are so often selfishly directed on ourselves and attempt to justify our sinful behavior, we have broken words that are horribly lacking in building up and encouraging others or praising God, but are filled with the opposite, we have broken actions that give in to temptation. Each of us is in desperate need of God’s repair.

And the truth is, God can do anything. However, when it comes to working on us, God has chosen to work through His tools: the means of grace. Why do we call them “the means of grace”? Because God could have left us on our own, but He graciously chooses to use beautiful ways to bring His grace to us over and over again.

First, God’s Word. God has chosen to speak to us not through premonitions, not through visions in the night, not through whispering in our ears, but through His own inspired Word. Do you want to hear what God has to say to you? He speaks to you through the Bible. And what message do we hear from God in the Bible? In thousands of different ways God tells us about His grace and love for you and me that found a way to rescue us from our brokenness with His Son Jesus who was born to die on a cross to forgive our sins. There on the cross God restored the broken relationship that we had with Him.

Yet, that’s not all! God then brings us everything that Jesus has won for us through the waters of baptism. In baptism God saves you. He saves you by connecting you personally to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through baptism God works faith in your heart. There are times in life when you can feel your sins most severely and Satan is right there pointing his bony finger at you, “How do you know you’re saved? How do you know God loves you? How do you know you’re going to heaven?” There’s one thing that no one can take from you and that’s your baptism. It’s part of your own personal history. In it, as we’re told, God saved you!

And that’s not all! God uses another tool: the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper time and again you receive not just bread and wine, but Jesus’ own body and blood. And for what purpose? The forgiveness of sins. What assurance! What peace! What joy! To receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Through the Lord’s Supper God assures you of His love for you and repairs your relationship with Him!

So, do you want more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control in the New Year? We all need those things because we all need to be repaired by God. How about this resolution for the New Year: Make More Use of the Means of Grace. Amen.

Psalm 63:2-8; Philippians 4:6 – Persistently Practice Praise and Prayer

Attitude makes all the difference, doesn’t it? In my past jobs I’ve worked with quite a few people who ended up being fired. And some of them, it wasn’t because they weren’t hard workers –some were very hard workers, it wasn’t because they weren’t dedicated to our company, it wasn’t because they lost the company money, they were fired because of their bad attitude.

And you know what that’s like. I’m sure you’ve seen it in other people, I’m sure you’ve seen it in yourself. You can wake up in the morning grumpy, angry, sullen, expecting everything to go poorly in the day. And how does the day go for you? Not only is the day miserable for you, you also end up making the day miserable for everyone around you.

Is that right? Is that good? Is that really who we are? Are we really people who have reason to be upset, angry, grumpy and grouchy? No way! If we are, what are we really saying about the gospel? Are we saying it doesn’t affect us? Are we saying it only matters on Sunday morning? Are we saying it doesn’t really change our lives?

You see, we have every reason to praise God…all the time! You have a God who doesn’t treat you like your sins deserve! You have a God who tells you that as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for you! You have a God who reminds you that in Christ Jesus He has cast your sins into the depths of the see where they will never ever be found! You have a God who has won you eternal life! That’s just scratching the surface!

Now, yes, bad stuff happens in our lives. And we can choose to react angrily or we can choose to react to it in view of the gospel. God has restored the relationship between you and Him that means you can go to Him, approach Him, talk to Him in prayer- even when you’re confused, anxious, or troubled and leave it in His hands.

So, looking for another New Year’s resolution? How about this: Praise Him. Wake up in the morning praising your God and Savior who’s rescued you and blessed you in incredible ways and pray to Him. Pray to Him in everything.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 – Live in Light of the Last Day

New Year’s Eve. We’re closing out 2015, another year done and another year lies ahead of us. One thing that we can say is that although we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do know that His return is nearer than it was yesterday. Might Jesus return in 2016? He could, we don’t know. And why don’t we know? So we’re constantly ready. And how are we ready? We’re ready as we believe in Jesus as our Savior and live each day like Jesus could return at any moment.

As you notice in your bulletin, this isn’t the only place where the Apostle Paul wrote about the Last Day. It was something that was constantly on His mind and something He was constantly reminding people about. So, what’s the lesson for us? The Last Day puts our lives in the proper perspective.

Jesus could return at any moment. And it’s going to be great! It’s nothing to fear, it’s something to look forward to. Jesus is coming to take us to our real home, our heavenly home –that’s great!

Here’s a  New Year’s resolution for you: Live in Light of the Last Day. Live like Jesus is returning tomorrow and this is your Last Day. If you do that, your relationships with others will be stronger- you’ll be more willing to repair any wrongs and express your love to your loved ones, you’ll have less stress – God might just take care of everything tomorrow by returning, and you’ll have more joy and probably more energy – Jesus is coming! What could possibly be better than that? Amen.