Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe


Almighty God, You stirred to compassion the hearts of Your dear servants Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe to uphold and sustain Your Church by their devoted and charitable deeds. Give us the same will to love You, open our eyes to see you in the least ones, and strengthen our hands to serve You in others, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reformation



Reformation
26 October 2014
Romans 3:19-28
Living By Works or Faith?

Upon reading St. Paul’s letter to the Romans Martin Luther finally got it. He discovered the answer for which he had been searching. How does a person get right with God? Is it by works? Or by faith? Let’s see how Luther was drawn to the Gospel message of grace as Paul speaks to us this morning.

The quest of getting right with God is a timeless question. It’s an issue with which each generation must wrestle. How can the sinner approach God?  St. Paul addresses this important question.

1. The whole world is involved - Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God V. 23
A.    All have sinned. No one is exempt.  There is not a single religion known to man which states that man is somehow perfect, or that he is exempt from sin. Each will readily admit that man is far from perfect. But in trying to justify himself the people of the world will conclude one of two possibilities - either God will make up for the bad or he will somehow close His eyes to your sin. Yet this kind of religion will not stand the test of every man.  We therefore must come to God through Christ who, as Paul explains to us, has freed us from the punishment of which our sin has brought us.   (but) being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; V.24

B.    Redemption is a free gift! It is given to us by God’s free favor, - with no strings attached. If it were anything else but a gift, we would have an obligation to God - which we could never repay. The Lord lavishes upon us His mercy and grace. As an offering of His love.

2. The whole world stands accountable to God. - Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; V.19
A.    The Law speaks to us in three ways.

1.    Curb – which checks our sin – where we fear punishment, retribution, and payback. The emotion which is employed is fear. When an exasperated and frustrated mother says to her children “just wait until your father gets home!” that’s the 1st use of the Law at work – fear.

2.    Mirror - Here we feel guilt. The Law shows us our sin. It shows us what we have done and what we have left undone.  It shows us our failing and our flaws. Embarrassment is a byproduct of the 2nd use of the Law.

3.    Ruler – Here we feel joy – as we can measure our faith – gladly doing those things, which the Lord would have us do. Only the Christian can experience this 3rd use – for only the Christian desires to please God.

B.    The Law condemns us before God.

1.    We are all under its curse. And it is a dreadful curse; it is the curse of death. “The souls which sins it will die” the Scriptures remind us and “The wages of sin is death.”
2.    It crushes us. Under the weight of sin no one can bear. Unless that burden and load is removed, we will be eternally devastated.  

3. We need Christ to bear our sin because of the inability of the Law to reconcile – Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law {comes} the knowledge of sin. V.20
A.    The Law shows us the knowledge of sin; which always condemns, and always destroys. There is no saving power in the Law. The Law can only charge, prosecute, and indict us. The Law always accuses. 

B.    No one can be justified by means of following the Law. If all it can do is charge us as guilt, there is nothing the Law can do to free us from its curse.

4. In answering the question – how do we get right with God we must conclude reconciliation therefore is a gift. – Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; V. 24
A.    To be reconciled with God – to be at one with Him - comes through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ. The Gospel message is at the same time so simple and yet so significant. It is so straightforward that a mere child can know and accept it.  Yet, at the same time, it challenges us.     

B.    It is a gift given freely by God. The hymn writer put it so clearly – “not the labors of my hands could fulfill Thy law’s demands…”  What we are unable to do the Savior does for us. He forgives our sins and credits our account.

5.    This gift of God is made possible only by grace. – Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. {This was} to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; V. 25

A.    God passed over sins previously committed. This was demonstrated in the Passover event in the Old Testament. When the Lord saw the blood splattered on the doorpost He bypassed that house and spared those who remained inside. They were safe because of the mark. What He did in Egypt he does in your life.

God’s mark was placed on you on the day you were baptized. You received the sign of the a cross upon your forehead and upon your heart as a sign that you have been redeemed by Christ the crucified. When you make the sign of the cross {as a devotional aid} you are reminding yourself of this reality. Because of the cross – your sins are forgiven. The Father has passed them over.  

B.    Likewise, Christ’s sacrifice for sin is a sacrifice that satisfies and angry and offended God. What good news. “There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

C.    God is now appeased – Christ has compensated for us. There is nothing left to be done.

Christ has accomplished everything we need to be in a right relationship with God. Christ has done it all. He has done all things well.

D.   Saving faith looks to Jesus Christ in His sacrificial death for us. When we say there is “faith in his blood” we simply mean there is faith in what Jesus’ blood has purchased and won for us, for “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”

6.    It is necessary for faith to appropriate the gifts. Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law V. 28

A.    When Luther translated this verse into German, he added the word “alone”.  It’s not faith plus works. Not faith plus my prayers. Not faith plus my co-operation. Not faith plus my pious behavior, actions and activities. It is faith and faith alone which saves. 

B.    Faith is not man’s contribution or decision, but a gift of God. Even your faith is a gift, which comes from God. The Scriptures are quite clear on the matter. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.” Even your faith, which clings only to merits of Jesus Christ, is a good and gracious gift of God.



What more could be said then to add what Paul has stated in Ephesians 2:8-9  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

Words – 1,286
Passive Sentences – 10%
Readability –83%
Reading Level – 4.4



Thursday, October 23, 2014

James the Brother of our Lord

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people. You raised up James the Just, the brother of our Lord, to guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Luke




Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of souls. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of the soul that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Proper 24



Proper 24
19 October 2014
Matthew 22:15-22



O God, the protector of all who trust in you. Have mercy on us that with You as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal;

These words of Jesus were spoken at the temple in Jerusalem. It's Wednesday of Holy Week -



The Pharisees took counsel on how to trip Jesus up. Jesus had been destroying them. Now there is a time of grace. But not for long. The end will come.

There was no inconsistency in Jesus' words. They wanted to find fault with Him.

Pharisees began to plot against Jesus in response to His actions in healing on the Sabbath day, and drew the Herodians into their conspiracy.

These Pharisees.  They send their disciples along with the Herodians to confront Jesus. Yes!  Pharisees and Herodians in bed together. These Herodians were considered unclean. Pharisees and Herodians were mortal enemies. They  did not like each other. These Herodians.  Were and had been sincerely friendly to Herod the Great, and to his dynasty. They would refer to Herod as, "The King of the Jews!"

They begin by complementing Him. Be aware when they serve desert before dinner.

They flattered Jesus for His honesty and impartiality, then questioning Him politically in relation to His attitude to paying Roman taxes. Jesus did appear to have impressed the Herodians with his reply: "... they marveled (εθαυμασαν) at Him".

What do you think? We know you teach the way of God and truth. It doesn't matter to you nor does it concern you. You do not look into the face of men. Is it lawful to pay tribute, to participate in the census    to Caesar? (And what were His parents doing?) Is it permissible to participate in government?

Jesus knowing their evil asks them, "Why do you tempt me?" Remember the warning of the apostle James, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations." (James 1:2)

"Show me the tribute'" Jesus responds. They displayed  a denarius.

"Whose image portrait is on it?"
"Caesar," they reply.
"Give to CAESAR what belongs to Caesar. And to GOD what belongs to God."

Jesus has no desire to get into a political debate. Especially when He knows their heart and their intent.

There are more pressing matters. Its Holy Week! It's Wednesday! In 48 hours Jesus will be dead. The cross is coming into view. It can't be avoided. It compels Him.

Jesus is content for His followers to render loyalty to Caesar , who is an earthly King. Render to Caesar what he is due;  taxes, revenue, respect. But to Christ, the King of Kings, we owe Him our lives.

“When they heard it they left Him.”  Literally, they let it go. Is this not the definition of forgiveness? Your sin, it's gone. It's been nailed to Jesus' cross. He bore your sin in His own body on the bloody cross of Calvary. That you might die to sin. And live to Him.

There at the cross we fund a great exchange. Your flaws and failures. Given in exchange for Christ's perfection. He renders you to God...offering His own body as the payment for your sin. 

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus; the Christ, the King of Kings, you owe Him everything. For Caesar there is an obligation. Try to evade paying taxes. You won't go far. Run afoul of law, and you must pay the consequences. For King Jesus, the debt you owe for your sin, the bill is marked, "paid in full!"

Jesus gives you NOT religion. Religion says, "If you change first, you may join us." Jesus invites you. He simply says, "Come, join and follow Me, and you'll be changed."

So, what's your obligation to Jesus?

"For all which it is my duty to thank and praise and serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true!
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Words – 679
Passive Sentences – 5%
Readability – 79%

Reading Level – 4.0

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Proper 23

October 12
Proper 23
Matthew 22:1-14


Enlighten our minds, we pray, O God, by the Spirit who proceeds from You that, as Your Son has promised, we may be led into all through truth;

Yet another parable of Jesus –

God in His mercy desires all to be saved. He wants all to be included into the family. Yet each guest must have the proper clothes. The King Himself provides everything. Even the necessary garments.

To refuse to wear it is to show contempt to the host. To insult the king. Refusing to sit at the banquet on the king’s terms is to become self-righteous. Discarding, Eliminating. Denying. Refusing. Rejecting the righteousness God offers through Jesus Christ.


Anyone who thinks he does not need the garment of righteousness Jesus secured for him must suffer the consequences. Everyone is welcome at the wedding feast. All have been invited. Yet you can be a guest only on the King’s terms. So take seriously the Father’s offer of grace. No excuses allowed. Your King not only invites all to come. He provides them with the necessary garments.

The Father calls, “Come…for all things are now ready!” The Father has prepared a dinner – salvation, forgiveness, life. That’s quite an offer. This invitation has been ready for a long time.

1.       The Father sends His invitation.

He doesn’t command people to come. He simply invites. He presupposed they would be there. This is salvation’s history. It was given to them. When the King invites, you to come - you go! It’s crazy to say no.

He doesn’t demand that we first make ourselves worthy. He simply invites. He won’t force us to eat.  He offers without cost. Yet many refuse the invitation. They allow activities acceptable in themselves to become more important than the Father’s invitation. We need to watch that we do not put off accepting this invitation. The consequences of such procrastination can be drastic.


2.       The Father invites all.

He sends His messengers out again.  He sent others. Everything has been made ready. Come to the feast! He keeps sending servants. His single desire is for them to be with Him. He won’t let the rejection by some prevent the banquet from taking place. He wants the food to be eaten. Now He advertises the menu. He’s giving them His best.

God shows no partiality or prejudice. When the respectable people refuse, He invites the lowly and the despised. He sends His servants to the off ramps and overpasses inviting all to come. There’s still room in the banquet hall!


3.       The Father invites on His own terms.
He provides for each guest the needed wedding garment. Not only has He prepared salvation, but He also makes it possible for all to partake of salvation. The wedding garment is the righteousness Christ earned for you. Which alone make you acceptable to God. This alone qualifies you to be a guest at the wedding feast.

You receive this garment by faith in Jesus. It was given to you personally when you were baptized. St. Paul puts it this way; “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-6)

Without Christ’s righteousness, you are doomed. For your unrighteousness condemns you. While Christ’s righteousness cover our sins. We must be on guard lest we continue to love and practice sin. That would be as if I were to say, “Tammy is as fantastic chef. She’s the best cook in northeast Indiana. Her cooking skills are so good that I will prove to her by eating nothing but garbage and fast food for the next two months. And, if she tries to cook me something, I’ll throw it in the trash.  I choose to act this way so that come Thanksgiving, I’ll have a greater appreciation for her.”  Not a good plan! That would make no sense!   We come to Christ neither on our own terms nor by living a life of hypocrisy. The price of salvation came at a tremendous price. The price of Christ’s life. There are no other options.   

That would amount to playing games with the grace of God. That would mean that we are e no better off than the blatant unbeliever.  The hypocrite insists on making it on his own terms. Doing this his own way. Playing by his own rules. Refusing to trust in the merits of Christ.

The Father Himself has prepared a wedding dinner. What joy to hear “All things are ready!” To hear Him invite us and to receive from Him the beautiful garment of Christ’s righteousness is the mystery of His mercy and grace.

Words – 851
Passive Sentences – 8%
Reading Ease – 77.8%
Reading Level – 4.5

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Abraham

Lord God. heavenly Father, Your promised Abraham that he would be the Father of many nations. You lead him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him the the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your holy Church, sealed with Jesus' blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.