Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mid-week Lent #6

Mid-Week Lent 6
March 28, 2007
Zachariah 9:9-10
The Savior leads in times of opportunity

INTRODUCTION: What sort of king do we want to rule over us? Twenty-eight years ago; in the year 1979 the people of Iran banished the Shah for an Islamic holy man. Are we content with the ruler of our lives? Who shall govern us in the years to come? Although the next national election is a year and a half away people still ask – who shall lead us? As we close out our mid-week Lenten meditations we need to ask this pressing question - who then shall lead us? 

On Palm Sunday came to lead His people. There He was hailed as Lord and King. Yet His popularity would last but a season. By the end of the week He would be tortured and killed.

1. Your King comes to you humbly – “humble and riding on an ass” -  

The Messiah comes on an ass, not on a mighty horse. As ass is a humble animal and symbolizes peace. The ass carried the Christ to the people.

Today He gives us opportunity to be a witness; as we observe the Savior’s Passion He gives us an excellent opportunity to tell our friends and neighbors “we are eye-witnesses of these things”   

2. A victorious king – “triumphant and victorious is He” –

Here is a “sacramental” view of God’s dealing with us. We do not come to the King. To the contrary, the King comes to us to bless us. We do not “decide” to follow Christ – Christ decides for us. We do not choose Christ – Christ chooses us. God initiates the act of grace.  He bids us to come – thus He gives us the opportunity to be received into His eternal kingdom. The Lord’s greatest triumph was in His death – His victory came in the scandal of the cross.

3. A peaceful king – “he shall command peace to the nations” –

Holy Week with its horrors and tragedies begins this Sunday – Palm Sunday – with a shout of joy – “Rejoice”…”Shout aloud for your King comes to you!

Even in the depth of pain and gore there is joy. Jesus endured the cross for joy that was set before Him. The joy is that the Savior came to die for me and my sins – to assume kingship over our lives.

CONCLUSION:  Our Savior leads in times of opportunity – This night He has given us the opportunity to hail Him as Lord and King. This is cause for loud rejoicing.  

In fulfilling the prophet Zechariah’s foretelling of the coming Holy One of God Jesus rides into Jerusalem on an ass and presents Himself to the nation as their king to the waving of palms and to the tune of hosannas. Tonight is an opportunity to rejoice as the Lord’s holy one comes to us.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mid-week Lent 5

Mid-Week Lent 5
March 21, 2007
Jeremiah 31:31-34
The Savior leads in times of sacrifice

INTRODUCTION:  “The Days are coming” when God will make a new covenant with His people. If this is only a promise of a future new relationship with God, where is the good news other than hope for the future? Christians have more than a promise; they have the fulfillment in Christ who affected the new covenant. The days are not coming; they have come in Christ. This is the good news for this day!

Because of Christ and His sacrifice…

1.                  A new covenant has been made v. 31 "I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah and with the house of Israel."

What is new about a covenant between God and man?  After all, there had been a number of covenants made in the past between God and His people. There was Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. 

The making of a covenant is nothing new, but this promised covenant would be new - brand new! 

This covenant would not be one like those of the past.  The covenants of the past were only renewals. Here is a whole new deal. God is going to give Israel another chance to be His own people. This new covenant will be made through the blood of God's own Son Jesus Christ.

2.                  A covenant in which we know God in Christ v. 34  " And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother saying 'Know the Lord' for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them says the Lord…"

The people are told you will know God. When God is loved with the whole heart, there is no longer any more need to teach someone who God is or anything about God.  They will know Him intimately. That person will know God instinctively.  To know God is not a mere intellectual exercise or a mere understanding of the concept of God. To know God is to have a relationship with Him, a personal, deep, personal experience with God, which is based on trust. This new covenant is what brings us back to God when God instructed us to fear, love and trust in God above all things.  This knowledge of God comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

3.                  We experience forgiveness through Christ v. 34 “…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Here we find the effect of this new covenant.  God must forgive the people past sins that they may begin anew in their relationship with God.  To have this new relationship with God there must be the forgiveness of sins. The sins and misgivings of the past must be removed so that God and man can begin anew in their relationship with God as though nothing had happened.

God not only promises to forgive but to forget!  He tells us that He will remember our sins no more. This is wonderful news!  This good news is that when we confess our sins and are forgiven, those sins are blotted out and will no longer be brought up at judgment day.  God keeps no record of wrong. There are no tapes for playing back all of our sins.  He buries them in the sea of forgetfulness and remembers our sins no more!

Conclusion; This new covenant is given to us in Baptism, and is lived each and every day our lives. We live under this new covenant; it's based on trust, on love and on hope. It's God's final word to us.  It is a word that He will not break.  Thank God for this amazing mercy and grace.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mid-week Lent 4

Mid-Week Lent 4
March 14, 2007
Numbers 21:4-9
The Savior leads in times of believing

INTRODUCTION:  Our lesson for today gives the ingredients of a people’s fall and their restoration.  It all happened by the grace of God.  Our lesson is not merely the pattern for a nation; but it also serves as a model for an individual.

True, we may be tempted to look down our nose at the children of Israel and think to ourselves that we would never fall for such a pitiful attitude as Israel. But if we would be honest with ourselves we might find a lot in common with these restless folk.  If the truth were known the children of Israel haven't quit cornered the market on complaining against God…it keeps happening all the time!  Thanks be to God that He always restores us as His people.  In contrast to man’s impatience, we have the amazing patience of God with sinful humanity. That's what we see in this amazing story of God's people.

 Today, let's consider the pattern of man’s fall and his restoration.

1.      Sin – impatience and rebellion v. 5 "And the people spoke against God and against Moses.  'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? There is no bread, neither is there any water and our souls loathe this light bread'."

Under Moses the children of Israel left the comforts and the conveniences and the luxury of Egypt.  Although they were slaves, conditions were not half bad compared with the hardships of wilderness living, or so they thought.  They soon forgot about their sufferings, the hard service, and the oppression that they felt under the yoke of oppression. Yet, that was all soon forgotten once they encountered life in the open wilderness.

They complained about the food, they got tired of eating the same food month after month and cried to Moses "if only we had died in Egypt!" Their sin was their complaining, which not necessarily pointed at Moses, it was directed at God. Their complaining insinuated that they deserved something better; in effect they questioned the sovereignty and the providence of God. This showed a lack of faith and confidence in God, which is at the heart of sin. They could no longer trust the promise of life in a Promised Land.  When we complain, or show lack of respect for God we are doing one in the same thing. We are showing a lack of faith and confidence in God our provider. We are demonstrating a lack of confidence in Him who has given us a much better promise and a much better Promised Land.

In this season of Lent we are called to return back to the Savior who has promised to direct and sustain us. His providence will surly lead us.

2.      Suffering – snakes of punishment v. 6 "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people; and many died."

It was a serpent that beguiled the human race way back in the Garden of Eden. Likewise, it is a serpent, which inflicts the children of Israel as punishment for their sin of rebellion. This should not surprise us.  The Scriptures clearly remind us that "the wages of sin is death".  But the passage goes on to say "but the free gift of God is eternal life".  By a serpent death came to the children of Israel. But by a serpent risen up on a pole came life.

As strange as the command must have appeared all those who looked in faith to the raised brazen serpent were spared. Likewise, at the cross, the Son of God, Jesus Christ was raised up, and all who looked to Him in faith are spared of a far more serious and most lethal and fatal sickness…that is the sickness of sin. And as we know with this sickness the condition is always terminal! As by one-man sin entered the world, so likewise, by one man came life everlasting. Jesus came to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel.  "Today Thy mercy calls us to wash away our sin" the old, old, hymn reminds us. In faith turn to Him to live!

3.      Salvation – confession, prayer, deliverance. Vv. 7-9 "The people came to Moses and said; 'we have sinned for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us…The Lord said unto Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall be that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live'. Moses made a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole; and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."

The healing of forgiveness comes simply in a look at the upraised serpent and at the cross. True, preceding the look was a confession of sin and a request for prayer to be relieved of the punishment - the two go hand in hand - you can't have one without the other! You can't have absolution without first having confession and without one you can't have the other!

The people were saved when they looked at the snake on the standard. People today are redeemed from sin when they look in faith to the cross. Just a look is all it takes - that is, if it is the look of faith.  This is what this week's emphasis of Lent is all about. Lent is an attitude of believing. We are made right with God; we are healed of our brokenness with God; we are forgiven our sin by simply look to God for mercy. By grace, and grace alone we are save through Jesus Christ our Savior.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Mid-week Lent 3

Mid-week Lent #3
March 7, 2007
Genesis 28:10-17
The Savior leads us through times if suffering
The story of Jacob  & Esau
“Surprised by God”

INTRODUCTION:  Jacob was surprised that God was present. He thought he was alone and far from God because God, he thought, was restricted to his geographical area. Are we surprised to find God in places other than in a church?  Would you be surprised to find God in a cocktail lounge, in a jail, in nature, in a hospital?  God comes to people wherever they are in need, regardless of the place.

When God comes to you…

I.        Be aware of His presence v. 16  “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."

A.     God is truly with us always! I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.  I am with you always.

B.     Especially at those times when we did not expect it or recognize God’s presence in our lives.  He comes in Word & Sacrament to sustain and forgive.

II.     Be reverent v. 17 “And he was afraid and said, How awesome is this place!”

A.     Are we respectful of the holy?  What is our reaction once we have encountered God? Are we changed? Are we different?

B.     This was a life changing moment for Jacob.  What are those life-changing moments in our lives? They ought to be awesome for us as they were for him.

III.   Be cognizant of its significance v. 17 “ This is the house of God… the gate of heaven”

A.     Jacob grasped what God was doing in his life. He would never be the same.

B.     Likewise, in those encounters with God may we walk away changed and different people.

Conclusion:  “Let us ever walk with Jesus, Follow His example pure Flee the world which would deceive us, And to sin our souls allure. Ever in His footsteps treading, Body here, yet soul above. Full of faith and hope and love, Let us do the Father’s bidding, Faithful Lord, abide with me; Savior, lead, I follow Thee.” {TLH #409 stanza 1}

+ Soli Deo Gloria +