Victory!

He is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!!  Easter 2020, now COVID-19 Free!

Revelation 19:11-16 New International Version (NIV)

The Heavenly Warrior Defeats the Beast

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rideris called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on himthat no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

King of kings and Lord of lords.

Full Service – Easter 2020

Revelation 19:11-16 New International Version (NIV)

The Heavenly Warrior Defeats the Beast

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rideris called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on himthat no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The Open Door

Revelation 3:8 New International Version (NIV)

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Jesus Cares Sunday: Each person should have the opportunity to worship God in a way that he or she understands. The “Worship at the Cross” service is designed to make each part of a worship service have special meaning, especially for people with cognitive impairments.

Repeat the battle cry of the Archangel

16th Sunday of Pentecost, the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels. Why celebrate this festival of St. Michael and all angels? And why if Michael is an angel do we call him a saint?
What we are doing is not teetering into Catholicism by worshiping angels. Rather this service is a distinctly Christian thing to do. We are reminded today that our Lord Jesus commands his angels concerning us. Calling the archangel Michael a “saint” is not worshiping him. Rather, this fits well the definition of what a saint is, namely someone who is forever in God’s holy presence in heaven. It is in His presence we all will be one day with all the saints of God. There we will dwell and serve our God with his angels forever in glory!

Hold Fast to Jesus!

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3rd Tuesday of Advent
Revelation 12:13-17

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, We don’t like losing, do we? We all know that in life there are wins and there are losses. And while we can be a good loser and take the high road and complement the winner, deep down, I’m guessing that none of likes to lose. We would much rather like to win. But what would it be like to lose at everything and to know that in the end you will lose completely? That’s where Satan is at. He battles against God and His Church, loses time and after time and faces total loss in the end. But what about us? As we live in this sinful world, yes, we experience many losses, some wins, but in the end we know that the victory is ours.

We’ve been working our way through Revelation chapter 12 in our midweek Advent services. Today we’re looking at the final verses. But let’s take a moment to review where we’ve been. Revelation 12 is about a dragon, a woman, and a child. We have an enormous red dragon- this represents Satan or the devil. He’s red, he’s bent on war and blood. And this dragon stands in front of a woman. The woman is clothed with the sun and wears a crown of 12 stars. And the woman is pregnant and about to give birth. The child whom she is about to give birth to is a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. The child is a picture of Jesus, the Messiah. So who is the mother? We talked about the truth that the woman isn’t just the virgin Mary, but is representative of the whole people of God, the Church, through whom God brought the Savior into the world. The child was born and although Satan tried in numerous ways leading up to even inciting Judas to betray Jesus, the Jewish leaders to sentence him to death, and the Romans to carry out the crucifixion- the devil’s scheme backfired when God used Jesus’ death on the cross to actually save humans from their sin. Then the child, Jesus, was snatched up to heaven – he ascended in all glory and Satan can never touch him anymore. But the woman fled into the wilderness for 1,260 days to be taken care of by God. In other words, the church remains on the earth for the whole NT era, until Jesus returns.

Then last week we heard about a war that broke out. It seems that this war took place in the spiritual realm between the good angels led by Michael and the devil or the dragon and his angels. The dragon was hurled to the earth and was no longer able to accuse our brothers and sisters. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God. The devil was no longer able to accuse. What took away the devil’s ability to accuse God’s people? It happened when Jesus died on the cross. Since all sins were paid for and forgiven by Jesus, the devil can’t accuse us anymore. But that doesn’t mean the devil doesn’t try. He’s a defeated enemy but he’s fighting hard to take down as many as he can before he’s doomed forever.

Now we’re on the verses for tonight. He sees that he’s hurled down and so he pursues the woman. He’s after the Church, God’s people, you and me. But the woman we see is given two wings of a great eagle, “so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times, and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.” Now, an eagle is used often as a symbol of God’s protection of his people, we sing, “He will raise you up on eagles’ wings.” So, while the devil is bent on destroying, God provides supernatural means to save His people. Some suggest that these two wings are the two sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s Supper- that could be, but we really can’t pinpoint it that specifically based on the text. The time, times and half a time are again 3 ½ years, the same time as 1,260 days, half of 7, which symbolizes the NT era from Jesus’ first coming to his second coming.

Then we’re told that the serpent spewed water like a river out of his mouth to overtake the woman, but the earth swallowed the water up and it wasn’t able to destroy the woman. In other words, the devil will try any means in order to destroy God’s Church, but God remains to protect her. It’s most likely that this river spewing out of Satan’s mouth are the plethora of false teachings that he spreads in order to lead people away from Jesus. But false teachings come and go, they have a way of going away after time. God’s people remain.

The devil continues his rage. Continues to try to lead people away from God, doubt God, stray away from God. He wages his war, but in the end he knows he loses. The warning remains: The devil continues to try to distract us, lead us away from God. He tries to get us to focus on everything else this Christmas season rather than the real, glorious meaning of Christmas.

But here’s the comfort: The reason we rejoice at Christmas is that the Christ child came. He came in order to crush the serpent’s head. He did so with His perfect life and innocent death and glorious resurrection from the dead. Our sins are forgiven. Satan can’t accuse us any more.

We cling in faith to Jesus, we keep Him close to our hearts and lives through His Word and Sacrament. Then come what may – Satan and all his demonic forces – he can’t win, he will always lose. And our comfort remains as Martin Luther composed it in his great hymn: “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none. He’s judged, the deed is done! One little word can fell him.” Because of this Christ child born in Bethlehem we know that ultimately “our victory is won; the kingdom’s ours forever.” Hold fast to Jesus. Amen

The War in the Sky

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2nd Wednesday of Advent
Revelation 12:7-12

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, dear friends in Christ, things aren’t always what they seem to be, are they? What we see with our eyes is not the full reality, is it? What we are able to see with our eyes is only a small section of what really exists. For example, we can’t see radio waves around us, but they are there. We can’t see air or wind, but we know it’s there. We can’t see atomic particles, but we know they are all around us. We can’t see gravity, we can’t see oxygen, but we know we need it in order to live. There’s a reality beyond that which our eyes are able to detect. That’s also true about something else that is going on around us that we can’t see with our eyes, but God can and has told us about in the Bible. God tells us that there was a war and there continues to be a war in the spiritual realm around us that our eyes do not have the ability to see.

Last week we looked at the first 6 verses of Revelation 12 and were told about this great dragon which represented Satan, a woman which represented the church- all believers, and this child who would rule with an iron scepter- the child represented Christ. The dragon wanted to devour the child, but the child was taken up to heaven out of the dragon’s grasp. The woman, the church, fled into the wilderness to be taken care of by God for the rest of the NT era, until Jesus returns. Now we’re told about a war that took place. And the translation that is used says that it took place “in heaven.” But in the Greek the word for “heaven” and the word for “sky” are the same word. Some commentators immediately assume that this war that took place between the good angels and the dragon and his angels was what took place shortly after creation when Satan rebelled against God. That’s possible, but there seems to be a better explanation of this. The defeat of this dragon we’re told later on was that he was no longer able to accuse God’s people. That seems to imply that for a time he could, but not any more. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. When did that happen? That happened on Calvary. The defeat of the devil happened with the death of Christ. In John 12 just before Jesus’ death on the cross, Jesus said, “Now the prince of this world will be driven out.” When Jesus died on the cross, the prince of the world, Satan, the dragon, was cast down. This fight seems to be one that took place when Jesus died on the cross.

Michael is called in the Bible an archangel and the name means “Who is like God?” Michael and the good angels fought against Satan and his evil angels. And the battle is over the souls of people. The devil was cast down, hurled down, defeated and he was hurled to the earth. He lost the battle, lost the war, but he’s still fighting, he’s still trying to take as many with him as he can. And how does he do that? We’re told here that his name is the “devil” and “Satan.” Those names are very instructive on the devil’s tactics. The devil’s number one goal is to lead you and me away from God. His number one goal is to try to get as many people to suffer misery in hell with him. He wants to lead people into unbelief. So what does he do? He hates the fact that you are here tonight to worship God and hear his Word. He hates it when you open up your Bible at home. He hates it when you pray to God. He hates it when you reject temptation and don’t sin. He loves it when you’re too busy for God. He loves it when God’s Word becomes less and less a priority for you. He loves it when you doubt God. He loves it when you think sin is pleasurable. He loves it when you break God’s commands. And what does it do to get you to do those things? He lies. That’s what the name “devil” means. He’s a liar. He will try to get you to believe lies. But, he doesn’t stop there. He’s also “Satan.” Satan means that he’s the accuser. Not only does he lie to get your to sin, but he’s also the prosecuting attorney before God. “God, you need to punish those awful people, look at their shameful sins, your justice demands that you send those sinners to hell.” “How could God love such a wicked, immoral, worthless sinner such as yourself?” Satan accuses to drive us into despair. He’ll fight anyway he can to lead you and me away from God.

But what do we see here? Jesus came as a little baby, lived a perfect life in our place, died on the cross satisfying God’s justice that demands that our sins be paid, and rose from the dead winning our full forgiveness. “Now have come the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ, the accuser…has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” The devil will always fight a losing battle. You see, he can’t accuse you anymore. Jesus already died for all your sins, you are forgiven by God Himself. Every time the devil accuses, God says, “What sins? I don’t see any sins anymore. They have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.” The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sins. The devil can’t say anything anymore. The devil lies, he tries to accuse, because he knows that his time is short.

Our eyes can’t see everything. There’s right now a battle waging all around us between the forces of light and the spiritual forces of darkness, good angels and the evil angels. God calls on us to be vigilant, to stay close to the word of testimony, God’s Word, the gospel message. Why so? Because through it God strengthens our faith and assures us that salvation is already ours, the battle has already been won, Satan stands defeated, and we look forward to ultimate triumph in heaven. Why? Because it’s been won for us by our Champion, our Victor, our Savior who came born into our world and placed in a manger. Amen.

The Dragon, The Woman, The Child

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1st Wed of Advent
Revelation 12:1-6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden they took fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Ever since then there has been this battle between good and evil raging in the world and even inside of us. I think that perhaps this is portrayed to a certain extent in various forms of entertainment. It seems to me that most shows or movies or novels or books have this good and evil opposition. There’s the good person whom we identify with, who we want to win, to triumph, but then there’s the antagonist, the wicked witch, the evil villain, the enemy who wants to destroy the good person. I’m always amazed – whether it’s a children’s movie or a grown-up drama – how they can make the bad guy out so bad, that you just detest him, can’t stand him, want nothing less than for him to lose and be destroyed. What’s the worst villain, the scariest enemy you picture in your mind?

Well, the worst enemy that the world tries to picture is only the slightest glimmer of the arch enemy, the worst enemy, Satan. Satan wants nothing less than to tear you and me down, to make us suffer, to laugh at our misery. The entertainment industry – no matter how awful of an enemy they can picture – doesn’t even come close to evil and wickedness of our real worst enemy and that’s Satan.

Here, in our text this this evening, God pictures Satan in a way that helps us understand just how evil and wicked he is. He’s pictured as an “enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.” The number 7 in the Bible is often used as the covenant number that represents God’s interaction with the earth. The fact that Satan has seven heads and seven crowns perhaps indicates that Satan tries to set himself up in place of God. The word “crown” in the Greek is “diadem” and it was the crown that the Roman emperor wore to claim that he was “Deus et Dominus” “God and Lord.” The horns indicate strength to hurt and harm. His tail swept 1/3 of the stars out of the sky. That probably is talking about how when Satan rebelled against God he took a bunch of evil angels with him and now are his demon minions.

Well, then we have this woman. She’s clothed with the sun, has the moon under her feet and wears a crown of 12 stars on her head. 12 is used throughout Revelation as the number of the Church, the sum total of all believers, 12 tribes in the OT, 12 apostles in the NT. We’re also told that the woman is pregnant and cries out in pain as she is about to give birth. Immediately our minds might take us to the Virgin Mary. She’s is included, but this woman is really the Church, all who believed in the coming Savior. The Savior would be brought into the world through the Church, God’s people, believers. But they endured many hardships leading up to the Savior’s birth.

Well, then we have this dragon, Satan, who stands in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. It looks very precarious doesn’t it? An enormous red dragon who’s about to devour a little baby. That was Satan’s intention. So what did he do? He instigated Herod to make an order for all baby boys in Bethlehem to be murdered, Satan tempted Jesus for 40 days in the desert, Satan caused all kinds of demon possession during Jesus’ ministry, Satan tried to even use Peter to dissuade Jesus from completing his mission. But what happened? “Her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” After Jesus lived perfectly, died innocently on the cross, and rose gloriously from the dead, he ascended into heaven and Satan is no longer able to touch or tempt Him.

But the woman is still here. The woman, again, the church, the believers, fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. As the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land, so we believers will wander in a place, this world, which isn’t our home, until God takes us to the Promised Land of heaven. 1,260 days is also 42 months is also 3 ½ years. In Revelation that number is used over and over again to represent the time of the NT, the time from Christ’s first coming to His second coming on the Last day.

So what does this all mean for us? As we watch, as we wait, as we prepare for Christ’s coming, we face this enormous red dragon, Satan. He wants nothing less than for us to be distracted, for us to be caught up with this life, for us to be captivated by fear of him, every day he wages a battle in this world and even on us in order to lead us away from God and His Word.

But the reality is, he’s a doomed enemy. It’s almost comical: This enormous red dragon and he can’t devour a little child.

I don’t know what kind of movies you like to watch, but I always enjoy a happy ending. Satan is a powerful red dragon, he’s not a pet kitty to play with, he’s not a harmless being you don’t have to worry about, he’s a ferocious lion looking for someone to devour. Don’t toy with temptation, don’t see how close you can get to sin before you’re burned. Satan wants to devour you.

But also, be relieved, be at peace, God has won the battle, Satan stands defeated, God is your protector from the evil one, your provider, he promises to take care of you and to bring you safely into the heavenly Promised Land. Be at peace, because of Jesus, we already know the ending and it’s a happy ending. Amen.

Begin with the End in Mind

2nd Sunday of End Time
Revelation 22:1-5

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus dear fellow redeemed by the blood of Christ, Stephen Covey is the author of a famous book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I don’t agree with his theology at all because he is not a Christian, he is a Mormon, but his book gives some very helpful and practical advice to people looking to improve their performance. Well, Covey’s 2nd habit of effectiveness is “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words, before you begin a task, know your goal, know where it is you want to end up. When you know where it is you want to go it will shape your decisions in order to get there. If you don’t take the time to think about your end goal, you’ll undoubtedly make many poor decisions that distract you. He even applies this to life and gives a powerful little exercise where he pictures you attending your own funeral and asking what you want people to be saying about you. It’s unlikely that you want them to be saying: He was so successful, so rich, so powerful, but that you were a good person, loving, good father, good husband, etc. That’s what’s important. Begin with the end in mind. But guess what…God is way ahead of Stephen Covey . God thought of this way before Stephen Covey.
God wants us to “begin” with the end in mind. God wants us to live our lives with the end in mind. So, He tells us what His goal is for each of us and what our goal in life should be as well: Heaven. Eternal life. That’s the goal. But what is heaven like? How do you picture something that you’ve never seen? How do you think about something that is so far beyond our understanding that we can’t imagine how awesome and incredible it is? In 2 Corinthians we’re told about an experience the apostle Paul had – he got to see a vision of heaven. And he says that he saw things that “man is not permitted to tell.” That probably doesn’t mean that God had forbidden him from speaking about it, but that there just simply weren’t words to describe it!
When the Bible describes heaven it often describes heaven not so much as to what heaven is, but what it isn’t. No more tears, no more mourning, no more hunger, crying or pain. Here in our text we’re told that there will be no more curse- no more sin, it’s effects, or death. Think about that. What would it be like to live without any sin? We can’t even imagine life with perfect relationships with all the people around us. We’ve never experienced that. We can’t imagine life without any disappointments, struggles, difficulties, frustrations. We can’t picture it, we can’t imagine it. But hopefully it whets our appetites! There’s all kinds of different things that we anticipate and look forward to in life. Children look forward to Christmas or their birthday, some looked forward many years to seeing the Cubs win the world series, some look forward to retirement or vacation or hunting season.
You’re going to heaven! Can you imagine? You’re going to see God face-to-face! You’re going to get to eat from the tree of life! You’re going to see the most beautiful scenery ever! Think of the most satisfying and joyful day you’ve had here on earth and multiply that sense of satisfaction over and over again. That’s heaven! If we can get excited about purchasing a new car, taking a vacation, or retiring, etc, We have something absolutely incredible, absolutely amazing, absolutely spectacular that we will experience forever!
But how we get distracted from the end goal! How we cling to this world, we get caught up with the things that are here, we lose sight of the glories ahead of us! We throw ourselves headlong into sin and temptation that endanger our faith and jeopardize our eternity! We feed our bodies but we fail to feed our immortal souls. We get depressed and frustrated with life forgetting that our real citizenship is in heaven.
But what if, just what if, God had shown us heaven first, then we were born into this world and could remember what heaven is like? Do think that might change our priorities? Would that change our ideas of what is really important? Would that change our approach to life? Or our approach to death?
But what God has done is given us pictures of heaven so that we can begin with the end in mind. Here in our text we have that imagery. First, we have a river of the water of life pouring out from the throne. It’s a river – a constant supply of water. Water is an essential to our lives. Without water we die very quickly. Water refreshes, reinvigorates, it gives us life. It’s a river that gives us constantly that which is needed for life- this is life, abundant life!
What else is in heaven? The tree of life- from which we will eat. Remember that in the garden of Eden the tree of life was there, yet God had to block access to it after the fall into sin so that humans would not eat from it and live forever in their sinful condition. But in heaven we will eat from the tree of life! Gone is every problem and difficulty, no more arthritis, no more eyeglasses, no more hospitals, no more medications, no more bad knees, no more surgeries. All will be healed.
We’re also told that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No more conflicts, no more wars, no more fighting, there won’t be any more nations for everyone will be the people of God as one family, all will be perfectly united. No more elections, no more campaigning, no more corrupt governments, no more sinful human leaders! Can you imagine a perfect society where everyone loves and serves God and loves and serves each other? It’s going to be awesome! And we will rule forever and ever!
And why can we be confident of this? Because of the Lamb. Notice that the “Lamb” is referenced twice here. Why will we be in heaven one day? Because the love of God is seen most clearly in the Lamb of God, Jesus, the Son of God, who laid His life down, sacrificed Himself on the altar of the cross to rescue and free us from all sin to win eternal life for me and for you! Because of the Lamb heaven is your home, you will see God face-to-face, you will be healed, you will be in paradise. That’s the goal, that’s where you’re headed!
So, yes, begin with the end in mind. That’s not just a piece of advice for earthly effectiveness, it’s shapes your life. Heaven is your home. Think about that this week when new leaders are elected in our country. Heaven is your home. Think about that when Satan’s temptations come alluring and distracting. Heaven is your home. Think about that when problems, difficulties, and struggles of life come. Heaven is your home. Think about that when believing loved ones get sick and face death. Heaven is your home. Think about that when death approaches fast. Heaven is your home. So begin this week with the end in mind: heaven is your home. Amen.