Wednesday, February 27, 2008

mid week Lent 4 - mid-day

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Mid-Week Lenten 4-Mid day
February 27, 2008
John 19:5
Jesus I will Ponder Now

When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, Behold the man!

Introduction: “Behold the man!” That’s what Pilate said. Who is this Jesus? How will you perceive Him? How will you react to Him? What has He done to deserve all this? Our chorale for this evening penned by Johan Sebastian Bach gives us much to contemplate.

I.     Behold, the Savior of the world. Jesu, who for me didst die, Livest now forever.

A.  Christ died –

1.   He died for every sinner.

2.   He died for me!

B.  But now He lives –

1.   Death could not hold Him.

2.   He now lives and reigns through all eternity.

II.  Behold Him who will hold us in death. When my hour of death draws nigh, Let me waver never.

A.  Each must face death.

1.   It is appointed for man once to die and after that face judgment. -Hebrews 9:72

2.   Death is a curse which sinful humans have brought upon themselves. “The soul that sins it shall die.” - Ezekiel 18;4,20

B.  Yet we can face death confidently in Jesus.

1.   Because Christ defeated death by His own death we can now see death as a gate which leads to eternal life.

2.   When facing our own demise terrors of conscience may seize us. Only Christ can keep us faithful. “Be Thou faithful until death and I will give Thee the crown of life.” - Revelation 2:10

III.   Behold Him who will keep us. May I e’er to Thee be turned, O my faithful Savior.

A.   By our own reason or strength we can not come to Him.

1.   We are blind, dead and enemies of God.

2.   Our sin prevents us.

B.  Thus He sends us His Holy Spirit who…

1.   Calls us  - by the Gospel

2.   Gathers us – into His body the Church

3.   Enlightens us – with His gifts

4.   Sanctifies us – keeps us holy

5.   Keeps us – in the one true faith

IV.  Behold him who will receive us into His glory. Give me but what Thou has earned, More I do not pray for.

A.  What has Christ earned?

1.   We now have peace with God.

2.   We are given access to the Father’s throne - room of grace.

3.   We have received forgiveness from all sin.

4.   We’ve been given the hope of heaven with mansions glorious.

B.  With all these gifts what more do we need?

1.   The Christian can now be content.

2.   There is nothing lacking for Christ has the sufficiency to supply us with all that we may ever need.


I am content my Jesus liveth still
In whom my heart is pleased.
He hath fulfilled the Law of God for me,
God’s Wrath He hath appeased.
Since He in death could perish never
I also shall not die forever.
I am content! I am content!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Lent mid-week 4

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Mid-Week Lent 4
February 27, 2008
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Samuel anoints David as king - God selects our leader
The light for vision

 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD'S anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Introduction: From day to day we are constantly in need of forming opinions of people as prospective employee, spouse, friend, or ruler. As a national election looms in front of us, what leadership qualities are we looking for in our leaders on the national, sate and local level? Bringing it closer to home, you may ask yourself, what do I see in a person that I would choose that person to work for, or to marry, or to be a good friend? How do you know a person has what it takes? Is the person really what he/she appears to be? In our text, Samuel was making the wrong choices until God told him whom to anoint as king. We continue under the theme God’s dealing with people. In selecting a leader the Lord gives both vision and direction. 

What do you see in a person?

1.      Observe the person’s appearance — v. 12; “So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” 

When God wants a servant, what does He look for? What is the true measure of a potential leader? Because of his physical appearance, Samuel thought Eliab was God’s choice, but God told Samuel not to look at the outward appearance.  

Our first impressions are usually deceptive and incomplete. We tend to judge people based on their appearance, their mannerisms (smile, handshake, liveliness, etc.) and their tone. However, reality runs deeper than what is visible at the surface.  Yet, most people would believe your appearance says who you are just as your clothes tell others who you are.

Eliab.  whose name means “God is Father.” Appeared to be the heir apparent.  He is a fine physical specimen, and Samuel thinks that he is surely the chosen one.  But, God says, “I have refused him.” The word “refuse” simply means to “reject.”  Eliab might have looked pleasing outwardly, but something in his character disqualified him from being the king. 

Transition: Observing the person’s appearance might be important to some. Better yet, look at the person’s occupation.

2.      Consider the person’s occupation — v. 11; “So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

David’s occupation could have quickly disqualified him. He was only a shepherd who was not even at home at the time - but in the fields watching over his sheep. In that day, a shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of occupations. In our world today students can spend years preparing themselves for a marketable career.

A question could be asked, do we judge a person based on their occupation?   Do we give preference to people based on their income?   Are there certain jobs we might consider to be “beneath us”?  

"When we pray the Lord's Prayer," observed Luther, "we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal." We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers, agricultural scientists, mechanical engineers, and every other player in the nation's economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bread. [1]

Occupations are important in our world yet their importance goes far beyond what is often seen on the surface.

Transition: Considering a person’s occupation is important in choosing a leader better yet observe the person’s background.

3.      Look at the person’s background — v. 3; “Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

A person’s background, his upbringing, his schooling, and his family are often important factors in determining a person’s ability to rule. Samuel was to go to a certain family - the family of Jesse. From this family a certain member was to be selected as the future king. Yet it was the Lord Himself who would elect that person who would be king. We can only judge what is available to us lying on the surface. It is the Lord Himself who alone judges the heart.  

Transition: Considering a person’s background is critical in choosing a leader. Better yet, examine the person’s heart.  

4.      Examine the person’s heart and spirit — vv. 7, 13;“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.” -the very best!

Says the Lord God, I don't see things how you see things, Samuel look again.  What humans consider unworthy, unacceptable, undesirable God counts as extremely important. Samuel was about to overlook David, and his father did not consider him a prospect, because he was the youngest of eight sons. Moreover, he was only a shepherd who was not even at home at the time but in the fields watching over his sheep. In that day, a shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of occupations. David’s youth was against him, for a king needed experience and maturity.

Compare the Son of David; he, too, was of humble parents and was born in a stable and laid in a manger. He lived a life of suffering, rejection, betrayal and scorn. His was not a noble death applauded by the religious elite. Yet our Lord Jesus in His suffering, humiliation, agony, and bloody sweat; and at a cross where He took our sins upon Himself. His death which He died on a cross - it was this miserable death which has saved us.   

Conclusion: When looking for the marks of greatness and the qualities for leadership do not be fooled by what appears on the surface. They are but a fa├žade. The Lord, He judges the heart. He saw in David a man after His own heart. His own Son, a Second David, bore your sins in His own body that you might die unto sin and live unto righteousness.  In these precious wounds we find peace with God and clemency for your sins and offenses.   

 +Soli Deo Gloria+

[1] introduction by Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Institute director and World Magazine editor:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lent 3

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 170th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Lent 3
February 24, 2008
John 4:5-26
“I am the Water of Life”
Who is the Man Going to the Cross?

Eternal Lord, Your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. Help us to hear Your word and obey it, so that we become instruments of Your redeeming love.”

Today is an import day in the life of our congregation. We commemorate this day 170 years of mission and ministry. Today is a day for us to recall and remember and for us to consider the sacrifices our fathers in the faith made for us. Milestones of faith happened here. People will say in this coming year, “This is the place where I was baptized, confirmed, and reared in the faith.”

This is the place where it all started – where the seeds of faith were planted and nurtured - by faithful pastors and teachers – kingdom workers – servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we have dedicated the new Lutheran Service Book this day we pray that this resource will be a blessing to us and that our worship would remain Christ centered.  Our Savior addresses the true roots of worship in our Gospel lesson for today. Worship according to our Savior does not depend on vestments, settings, or liturgies. The only two requirements are that our worship be rooted in spirit and truth. Thus, in our worship, may Jesus Christ be glorified. May He remain at the center of all that we do.   

In Lent we ask the question, “Who is this man going to the cross”? Jesus is known as a friend of sinners. He associated with them because He knew they needed Him for a fuller life. In our Gospel lesson, we find Him talking with a loose woman of a despised race.

It is interesting to see how Jesus deals with this woman as He desires to bring her to faith in Him.  As the Messiah His desire is to change her life. The power of life-giving water is given to a Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at a well.  As Jesus has an encounter with this woman He offers to her a changed life as she exchanges her life for His. On this Anniversary day – this is our story too, experiencing that great exchange – God‘s mercy and forgiveness purchased at the cost of His own Son. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  

Today we witness and hear the dialogue between Jesus and a woman at the well.

I.        What Jesus might have done — He could have had a monologue.

A.     Jesus could very well have refused to speak to this Samaritan woman. Such was the custom of the day. Samaritans and Jews had little to do with each other. Each viewed the other as having compromised the faith.    

B.     Jesus could have condemned her for her immoral life and nationalism. He chooses however to deal differently. He breaks through the moral problem by accepting a woman of doubtful character. He does not isolate Himself from a sinner. He addresses her sin and calls her to repentance.

Transition: Jesus in dealing with this woman illustrates how He chooses to deal with each of us. On this day in which we thank the Lord for the many blessings He has showered down upon our Friedheim family may we be especially thankful for the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation which each of us receive as a gift.

II.     Notice how Jesus guides the conversation.

A.     He begins on common ground: water  (Vv. 7-9.)  

The passage gives an insight into the human-divine Jesus. We see His humanity: He is tired from walking and thirsty from the noonday heat. Like any of us, He asks for a drink of water. On the other hand, His divinity shows: He offers living water of eternal life, as He teaches about true worship of God, and admits that He is the Messiah.

B.     A transition to spiritual water (Vv. 10-15.)  

The woman’s respect for her past prevented her from seeing the great opportunity of the present. She asks, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?”  Yet, the Savior offers her the greatest gift of all – the Father’s grace through Christ. Jesus gave us His life and He gave it freely that any who comes to Him He will certainly not cast out.

C.     Next, the moral question (Vv. 16-19.) 

We can not longer hide or equivocate.  We can’t quibble or fudge. We are dead to rights. Our own sin condemns us, especially when Jesus through the preaching of the Law shows us our sin. “Sir, the woman said, “I can see that You are a prophet.” Thus, what is wrong in our life must be made right if we are to have satisfaction. 
Jesus stimulates in us a desire for the gift of God. “But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (V. 14)

D.     Religious questions (Vv. 20-24.)

Jesus shows us where to find God’s gift. We may be perplexed as to which church is right.  “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 

Both Samaritans and Jews claimed to know the perfect will of God yet they argued as to where He was to be found.  The true church is present where God’s Word is taught purely and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command.  There we find the gift of God – salvation.

True worshipers are not bound to any particular place or ritual. Jesus declares, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.’ (V. 21) The worship of God is in spirit and in truth. He is not bound to any outward group or building. Church organizations can cease to exist. What a wonderful promise – on this our 170th anniversary – True worshipers, who make up the church, will continue throughout time.

E.      Jesus reveals Himself - The Messiah (Vv. 25-26.)

Jesus reveals Himself to us in the Word. “I who speak to you am He!” We can have Him now, as we are, in our emptiness and thirst, for He is the gift that satisfies.

Conclusion:  John reminds us, “Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Our meditation begins with the woman’s question. “Could this Jesus be the Christ?  Do you know the gift of God? As He spoke to the woman so He speaks to you this day. “I who speak to you am He.”

 +Soli Deo Gloria+

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mid-week Lent 3 Mid-day

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Mid-Week Lenten 3-Mid day
February 20, 2008
John 18:15-27
Jesus I will Ponder Now

Introduction:  The story of Peter is your story. It is also my story. Peter is so strong; so sure of himself, so bold – yet so often he stumbles, fumbles, flops and falls. Johan Sebastian Bach in a beautiful chorale tells a powerful account concerning Peter’s failure. Let’s see how the story unfolds.

I.   “Peter gave it scarce a thought when he God rejected.”

A.   Peter was so sure of himself. He felt secure in his faith.

1.    After all, he was one of the twelve and of the twelve, one of the three whom Jesus gathered together to be part of His inner circle.

2.    He was fixed firmly in his own ability to stand confidently with the Savior. Just hours before Jesus’ arrest in the garden Peter had pledged his loyalty to the Savior.  “And [Simon Peter] said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death. But Jesus said, I tell you, Peter, before a [single] cock shall crow this day, you will three times [utterly] deny that you know Me.” - Luke 22:33-34

B.   When he would eventually deny the Savior he thought he was only finding a limb on which to climb. It was for him a way of “saving face.” “I wasn’t really denying my Lord,” he could argue, “It was merely a case of “mistaken identity.” Peter said to the crowd, “You’re talking to the wrong man!”

1.  What happens in our life? – Do we give a “false witness” when we, for example, compromise clear Biblical principles in order to fit in at work, or at school?  What price will we pay to acquire acceptance, approval, acquiescence?

2.   Every time we sin willfully we are doing nothing short of what Peter did on that fateful night.

3.    Like Peter we often “give it scarce a thought” when we compromise principle for convenience or for what is expedient at the time.

C.   We too are tempted.

1.    In the beginning we are tempted [by the Devil] - to think - “it’s nothing.”

2.    In the end we are told [again, by the Devil] - “it can’t be forgiven.”

Transition: It was bad enough for Peter to deny his Lord. But upon looking into the eyes of the Savior Peter was seized with guilt. Luke reminds us: “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord how He had said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice.” (Luke 22:61) With one look Peter’s world crumbled!

II.     “At Christ’s look he fled distraught, weeping and dejected.”

A.   Confronted by his denial Peter was crushed.

1.    This is what the Law does to us.

2.    It is a necessary ingredient in preaching!

B.   We too are crushed when confronted with the Law.

1.    Nathan said to David “Thou art the man”   - 2 Samuel 12:7

2.    Contrition and repentance are necessary   for restoration and forgiveness.

Transition: As Jesus fixed His gaze on Peter thus He must look on us.

III.   We ask Jesus to “look on me” – “Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” – Psalm 51:11

A.   “Jesus fix Thy gaze on me

1.    Press me, pursue me.

2.    Never let me go! “I will never leave Thee nor forsake Thee” -Hebrews 13:5

B.   “True repentance teach me” Remember the 5 “R’s” of repentance…

1.    Responsibility – we own up to our sin.

2.    Remorse – we are heart sorry.

3.    Repair – we attempt to fix what we’ve broken - inasmuch as we are able.

4.    Repeat not! – We don’t return to visit!

Note: These four steps; leading to repentance, come from Dr. Laura Schlesinger, she’s a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. She suggests; quite convincingly, that this is all we need to right a wrong. Yet, one component is missing. A 5th step is necessary; the final step, which separates Christians from the rest of the world; a step, which turns from following rules to establishing a relationship with God Himself. The 5th step necessary: 

5.    Reconciliation - through Christ alone!

Transition: Repentance is not merely a one time act – it must be a daily process. Thus we pray…

IV.  “When Thou evil there doest see through my conscience reach me.”

A.   Jiminy Cricket from Disney’s ‘Pinocchio’ would suggest to us; “let your conscience be your guide”

B.   Our text would suggest even stronger let your conscience and the cruel and bloody cross of Calvary be your guide!

Conclusion: After the resurrection Peter and Jesus had another heart to heart meeting. Three times Jesus would ask Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” John would remind us in his gospel account, “Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him for a third time do you love Me?” – John 21:17

Roman Catholics maintain that Peter was the first Pope.  To this day Protestant parishes in Europe will place a rooster instead of a cross on the top of their spires as a not so friendly reminder of Peter’s seedy past. Not much has changed over the years. Have there been instances in our lives when we have not acted as becomes a child of God? Have you had to be reminded of that moment only to relive it once again?  

Each of us can recall those moments in our lives in which we are not proud! Peter’s’ denial crushed him – but what he found was restoration by the Savior! 

Peter’s freedom came at a price – the price of Jesus’ life. To be crushed by conscience and the Law is never a pleasant thing. But Christ’s redemption leads to recovery – to be reconciled to the Father and also to each other – all has been made possible by the Savior’s amazing grace!

 +Soli Deo Gloria+

Mid-week Lent 3

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Mid-Week Lenten 3
February 20, 2008
Exodus 17:1-17
Moses brings water out of a rock - God supplies our needs

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”  Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?” But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Eternal Lord, Your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son. Help us to hear Your word and obey it, so that we become instruments of Your redeeming love.

Upon the Lord’s direction, Moses brings water out of a rock for the wilderness people. God’s people are in the wilderness and they are thirsty. This is one of a series of complaints of the Israelites during their forty-year stay in the wilderness. This episode follows the pattern of all the others. The people first complain to Moses, Moses takes the complaint to the Lord, and our heavenly Father graciously answers their need always according to His mist gracious will. In this case, Moses is directed to strike a rock, out of which comes water. The account points out the faithlessness of the people by threatening Moses and by putting God to the test. The obedience of Moses and the goodness of God are demonstrated in addressing and answering the need. In this instance, there was the sin of putting God to the test:  they demand and answer. Is God with us or not?

Introduction: Are we a God-abandoned people? When needs are not met, when adversity strikes, when God is silent and apparently absent, we might question whether God is with us or not.

That was the question of the thirsty Israelites at Massah. They were desperate to know. Has the Lord left us?

Their lives depended on the answer. If God had indeed left them then why should they continue on their journey?  Why not simply give up or at least return back to Egypt.  If God was with them, then they would have to answer a deeper question - why is there no end of our suffering?

As long as we have tribulation, we will be asking this question. Why does God respond in this manner?  There are right and wrong ways in finding the answer to this question, this question of suffering.  As we continue with our theme throughout this year’s Lenten journey - of God’s dealings with His people - we discover this night that God supplies our needs for He is the source of our life even in the midst of pain and suffering.

Tonight we ponder: Is God with us or not?

I.        There is the wrong way of testing God.

A.     The children of Israel came to Moses with demands for proof of God’s presence. Surely there was no sin in needing or asking for water. Why should they die of thirst? The sin of the people was putting God to the test, of proving whether He was with them or not. They wanted concrete, physical proof in terms of water. In another wilderness, Jesus told Satan, “You shall not tempt (test) the Lord thy God.” To demand a sign or proof of God’s care discloses a lack of faith. Faith trusts in the Lord providence regardless of circumstance

B.     The children of Israel came to Moses insisting that the Lord act on their request, give us water. On the surface this doesn’t appear to be alarming. After all we are to take our needs to the Lord. Israel fell into sin when the demanded that the Lord act at their beckoned call.  We do not have the right to summon the Lord and demand that He do as we command. The children of Israel acted presumptuously. We dare not come to the Savior with on our own terms. We dare not come demanding for Him to act as we see fit. Our petitions must be presented with the qualifier “Thy will be done, Lord, Thy will be done.”  Thus we hear in the book of Deuteronomy 4:2 what the Lord says, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”  This moved Martin Luther to pray, Dear God, I am Your creature. You have sent me a cross and suffering and say to me: Suffer a little for My sake and I will reward you well. Dear God, because it is Your will I will gladly suffer. Amen.

Transition:  We know that the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature oppose the good and gracious will of God. We look to Jesus who has clearly spoken, My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)

II.     The right way of trusting God; is in finding the God who is with us —

A.     We find God clearly in His Word, whether it is proclaimed, taught, read, studied, or shared. We should therefore call upon Jesus’ name in every trouble, as we pray, praise, and give thanks. The Psalmist reminds us, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1) and again, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.” (Psalm 103:1)  The Bible gives us countless examples, the ten lepers called upon Jesus in their trouble. (Luke 17:L11-13) The grateful stranger thanked Jesus and glorified God for his healing (Luke 17:15-16) Hannah petitioned and thanked God for the gift of a son (1 Samuel 1-2)     

B.     We find Christ clearly in the Sacraments.  St. Paul would remind us, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?...If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” (Romans 6:3,5) We are called to be living in our baptism, recalling that we truly are children of God because of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Thus you and I are called to pray, “O Lord, I am Your sin; You are my righteousness. Therefore I triumph and am secure; for my sin cannot overpower Your righteousness, not can Your righteousness let me be or remain a sinner!  Blessed Lord God of mine, my Mercy and my Redeemer, in You only do I trust, never let me be ashamed! (M Luther 1483-1546)  

You come on a regular basis to this altar to receive the gifts of God rejoicing in your inheritance which can not be taken from you. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy...where these [sins] have been forgiven, there is n longer any sacrifice for sin!” (Hebrews 10:14, 18) The body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament are the one perfect sacrifice offered to God once and for all on the cross and are now given to us in the Sacrament together with all the blessings and benefits which this sacrifice has won for us. We call it ‘the Sacrament of the Altar’ because an altar is a place of sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed His body and blood on the cross for the sins of the world once for all. In the Sacrament of the Altar, He distributes this same body and blood until the end of time.

C.     According to the Father’s perfect will He answers our prayers. What a privilege it is to take our burdens, cares, joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace, bearing the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ. And then - being thankful as the Savior answers each petition according to His gracious will.

Conclusion:  The right way of trusting God; is in finding the God who is with us — in His Word, in His blessed Sacraments, in prayer.

Lord Jesus, this I ask of Thee, Deny me not this favor; When Satan sorely troubles me, Then do not let me waver. Keep watch and ward, O gracious Lord, Fulfill Thy faithful saying: Who doth believe He shall receive An answer to His praying.  [The Will of God Is Always Best - The Lutheran Hymnal © 1942 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis]

 +Soli Deo Gloria+

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lent 2

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Lent 2
February 17, 2008
John 3:1-17
“I am the Son of Man”
Who is this man going to the cross?

The power of faith is demonstrated as Jesus has an Encounter with a professor: new birth is the result.

Who is this man going to the cross? When it comes to understanding spiritual truth, some can become like Nicodemus in our Gospel lesson for this morning. They just do not understand the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was amazed that Nicodemus, a teacher, did not understand the need for and method of spiritual rebirth. What we need to understand is that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works of the Law.  In our Gospel lesson for this morning we see the power of faith as Jesus has an Encounter with a professor. The result is new birth and a new relationship with God.

Do you understand —

I.        That God the Father loves you? — “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (Vv. 16-17).

A.     The Father truly loves you.

B.     Because of His great love – He sent His only Son into our world. John will remind us, “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”[1] He came into this world both in time and space.

1.      He entered this world – in time – “in those days when Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)[2]

2.      He was born in space – “In Bethlehem in Judea,- for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’[3]  

Transition: Do you understand that the Father loves you? Do you understand that Christ died for your sins?

II.     That Christ died for your sins? —  “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”  (Vv. 13-15).

A.     All our good intentions. All our resolutions to do better. All of our efforts could offer what the Son accomplished.

B.     Faith must look to Christ and Him alone to be our one redeemer.

Transition: Do you understand that the Father loves you?  Do you understand that Christ died for your sins? Do you understand that faith brings eternal life?

III.   That faith brings eternal life? —   “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Vv. 15, 16).

A.     Faith is nothing more then trust.

B.     Faith is nothing more then taking God at His Word.

Conclusion:  What must you know to have this new birth in God? Only three points are necessary. On this day know and believe that the Father loves you. Know and believe that Christ died for your sins. Know and believe that faith brings eternal life. Know and believe!  Who is this man going to the cross?

 +Soli Deo Gloria+

[1] John 1:14

[2] Luke 2:1-2

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mid-week Lent 1 mid-day

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Mid-Week Lenten 2-Mid day
February 13, 2008
John 18:15
“Simon Peter also followed in Jesus’ path and another disciple”

Introduction: Following Jesus’ arrest in the garden Peter and John follow behind the soldiers as Jesus is lead to Annas. Annas just so happened to be the father-in-law of Caiaphas – who had been appointed to serve as high priest.

It wasn’t left to chance that Jesus was sent to have an audience with Annas. Annas was the principle player within the Jewish Council. He made sure to keep a power hold within the court, keeping tight control within his family power base.

History tells us that four of Annas's sons were among those who succeeded him. His son-in-law, Caiaphas, held office from A.D. 18 until 36, during the time of Jesus' active ministry.

Although others held the priestly office, Annas seems to have been the elder statesman and the power behind the throne.

Together these two men; Annas and Caiaphas, brokered much influence within the temple and the court - It was Caiaphas who had given counsel and warning to the Sanhedrin that it was expedient that one man should die for the sake of the people.            -John 18:14

Peter and John follow behind – they desire to see what will occur next.

I.        With Peter and John we view Christ’s Passion.

A.     “Yet, O Lord, not thus alone make me see Thy Passion.”

1.      During this holy season we meditate on what Christ did and endured to earn our salvation.

2.      We mark His arrest, trial, suffering and crucifixion.

B.     “But its cause to me make known and its termination.”

1.      The cause for which Christ was arrested, tried, scourged and crucified was to win for me salvation.

2.      When Christ died – all of our sin died. Our sins, with all evil lusts were all drowned and killed.

Transition: But we do more then merely observe Christ’s action. We recall, affirm and believe what Christ has done. He suffered and died that I may receive salvation and life.

II.     We also recall the impact of Christ’s suffering.

A.     “Ah! I also and my sin wrought Thy deep affliction.”

1.      It was my sin and mine alone which caused Jesus to suffer and die.

2.      It is my sin which caused me to be separated from the Father, from Christ, and my neighbor.

B.     “This indeed the cause has been of Thy crucifixion.”

1.      Christ suffered for me because I can do nothing to earn my salvation. My sin robs me of fellowship with God or with my neighbor. “Lord if You should mark iniquity who shall stand…”   Psalm 130:3

2.      Because Christ has suffered for me and on my behalf I now enjoy the blessings that come from Christ’s bloody cross; salvation, forgiveness, life eternal.

Conclusion: Peter and John remain in the wings to see what will transpire next. What happens is that Jesus is abandoned by God and by men to take on our sin to Himself and thus win for us salvation. “Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood be for my soul the highest good.”*

 +Soli Deo Gloria+

*I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table” from The Lutheran Hymnal © 1940 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO

Mid-week Lent 1

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Mid-Week Lent 1
February 13, 2008
Genesis 12:1-4a
The call of Abraham
God chooses a people - The power of faith

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

Prayer of the Day

Heavenly Father, it is Your glory always to have mercy. Bring back all who have erred and strayed from Your ways; lead them again to embrace in faith the truth of Your Word and to hold it fast.

Introduction: The Bible makes great claims of what faith can do. Jesus taught that faith can move mountains. The average person of faith often wonders why he cannot do great things by his faith.  Often our faith is battered and weak. We question; we question the motives of others, we question the Lord or His timing, sometimes we question ourselves. Often we struggle with fear and doubt.  Our text for this evening shows us what faith can do. As we continue our Lenten pilgrimage we focus on God’s dealings with His people. Tonight, we will focus on the power of faith as the Lord chooses a special people; although, at the time, this people was weak, frightened and of little importance.

Tonight we answer the question of what faith can do as we consider the call of Abraham.

I.     Faith trusts in God’s promise for the unknown future — vv. 2, 3. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

A.  To Believe is simply another word for faith. Faith is nothing less then taking God at His Word. Taking God at His Word means we trust in all of His promises.     

B.   Do we count on the promises of God? Do we rely upon them?  Or, are they a burden for us? At times trusting in God’s promises was difficult for the wandering children of Israel and especially for Abraham. He learned obedience as he was forced by necessity to rely more and more on Him, especially in difficult and troubling times.

C.  How so for you? Do you trust in the Almighty only when things are going well?  Where is He leading you? Do you trust Him? Abraham had nothing to go by except for one thing; the Lord’s promise to direct his life. Faith calls for us to trust His Word no matter what the circumstance might be.   

II.   Faith acts upon the promise for the unknown future — v. 4.  “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.”

A.   The Lord said for him to go and Abram left. Abraham was asked of God to leave comforts and home and family and everything he was familiar at the age of 75 when most people are thinking of a simpler life. He did not know where he was headed. Yet he walked by faith. There are countless people in the Scriptures who traveled a similar path. The Shepherds outside of Bethlehem, the Wise men, the Savior’s disciples, all traveled as the Lord directed them even though they only had a promise, “there you will find Him.”

B.   Where is the Lord directing you this night? Do you know the future? We too walk by faith and not always by sight. Yet, the Lord has given us His promise, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

1.    God’s Word is a lamp - directing you. At times we can see God’s hand of direction clearly. In such circumstances His light is as bright as a halogen light bulb. There is no room for doubt. We can see God’s hand of direction clearly. Making a decision when the Lord’s direction is clearly seen is easy.

2.    In other circumstances we can not always know in what direction we should go. The future is unknown.  The prospects are uncertain. Yet, God’s Word remains a lamp – directing you.  In these situations His light is a flashlight. You can’t see but for a few feet in front of you. Yet, it is enough light to keep you moving along the journey the Lord is directing.

3.   The point is clear. To the extent we avail ourselves to God’s Holy Word will we be directed by the Lord. We need His Word for direction in every circumstance; when the future is certain and especially when it is unclear at the time.

III. Faith brings blessings — vv. 3, “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

A.  This is the one passage which ties the entire Old Testament Scriptures into one promise. On this promise hinge all of the other promises of God. It is the one verse by which we can know that the Savior is serious concerning all of the thousands of other promises found in the Scriptures of old.

B.  The Lord gave Abraham a wonderful promise that through him all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. In the fullness of time God’s Son Jesus Christ, - a direct descendent of Abraham - was sent to this earth. He entered our world in time to be our substitute. He carried for you the burden of your sin. As He suffered, was crucified, and died He was buried. And there, in His own tomb He buried your sins and offenses and sealed them forever. He has separated them as far as the east is from the west and He remembers your sins no more! 

C.  Now the Lord has promised “grace and every blessing” to you and to me. Not based on our work or merit. Rather based on the merits of His own Son who went to a bloody cross to suffer and die there. He has removed your guilt and became your substitute, exchanging your wretched life for His perfect life.

IV.  Finally faith erects altars to God — vv. 7, 8, “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.  From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.”

A.   Abraham centered his life in God. Wherever Abraham traveled, he built an altar. It was a sign of his God centered life. What he was and where he was going resulted from God’s directives. An altar is a symbol of God’s presence and the place where God and people meet for conversation. A person of faith builds an altar wherever he goes that he might maintain his relationship with God.

B.   Your prayer life is an altar to God.  He calls us to join with Him in prayer. In prayer we have a conversation with the Almighty. In prayer we take our needs burdens joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace and we are thankful as He answers each petition and intercession according to His perfect will.

C.   Where do we erect our altars? Sacred Scripture reminds us, Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.  Where does man center his priorities? Look at the ledger of your check book. What does it reveal? It’s more then an accounting of where the money goes. It gives you a reference point of where your priorities lie. Where a man’s money goes there is where his heart (is at). As we ask the Lord for direction we sometimes need to look at our past to determine where we have come from…

Conclusion:  By definition faith is simple trust. It is taking the Father at His word and trusting that He will give direction in your life. We do not know the future yet we know of Him who will direct our steps as He has the past. In full and complete confidence we submit to Him placing our body and soul and all things into His care. In this confidence be assured that He will direct your path. You are a sheep of His fold, a lamb of His flock, a sinner of His own redeeming. Fare thee well child of God. Fare thee well as He directs you, on this journey of faith.  

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lent 1

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Lent 1
February 10, 2008
Matthew 4:1-11
“I am the Son of God”
Who is this man going to the cross?

The power to overcome temptation as Jesus has an Encounter with Satan: victory

Introduction:  Today we find ourselves in a 40 day time - period - called the season of Lent. For the next four Sundays we will be asking the question, “Who is this man going to the cross?”  Jesus will answer this question Himself with convincing proof as we see that He is the Son of God. As we come to know Him we will receive power to overcome temptation as Jesus has an encounter with Satan. What does He offer? He offers victory over temptation.  

Few people today stop to think about temptation. Some may not recognize temptation when it comes to them. People today are in need of knowledge and understanding about this whole issue concerning temptation. Our Gospel lesson for this morning tells us all we need to know about the whole topic of temptation.  The point of our text is clear. If we know about temptation, we will be equipped to confront it. As we examine Jesus’ confrontation with the Devil and His dealing with temptation we will know all we need to know about the subject of temptation.

What you need to know about temptation.

I.        Who tempts you — “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”  (V.1)

A.     It is the Devil himself who tempts you. He is known as the father of lies.

1.      He puts a little truth in every lie. Consider the temptations he offered the Savior. He tempted the Savior, “After all, You are the Son of God! Turn these stones into bread.”  The temptations continue. “Jump from the summit of the temple” – The final temptation – “Fall down and worship me.”      

2.      He puts many lies in every truth. On the surface they appear to satisfy. Notice how his lies are deceiving. His promises ring hollow. Jesus could have lived for the moment. He could have taken His kingdom by force and enjoy instant success. He could have exchanged His soul. Yet in so doing the hope of every man and every woman every boy and every girl would be lost eternally.  

B.     His desire is to trip you up and lead you astray.  His methods are numerous.

1.      In the beginning he tempts you to think, “this is nothing…” He tempts us to think that our sins are but a trifle. For example, we’re all heard that little phrase, “find a penny pick it up all day long you’ll have good luck”  Is that true? That penny which you found. Is it yours? Did you earn it? No, you picked it up. You took it. It wasn’t yours. You took possession of it – at the expense of your neighbor. But some might argue. “It’s just a penny!” and besides, “finders keepers…losers weepers” But should you take advantage of your neighbor? At what cost? At what price? Even if it is “just a penny”, or “just an e-mail”, or “just an off handed comment”, or “just a little white lie”, or “just an innocent kiss”.  See how he is so good at minimizing sin.

2.      Satan will go at great lengths to minimize and diminish our sin. In the end he tries to convince you, “the Father won’t forgive!” Judas Iscariot is the prime example. He confessed his faults. He returned the thirty pieces of silver, and vowed in his heart never to act in such a matter. Yet the Devil had convinced him that he could never be forgiven. How sad! How terribly sad! He was so close only to loose everything.  He lost his soul. What burdens, what pains, what afflictions, are people today carrying by themselves thinking that the Father could not or will not forgive them? In this world in which “anything goes” seems to be the common phrase we need to hear the severity of the Law. Yet, at the same time, we need to hear the clear message of the Gospel that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting our sins against us and has given us this message of reconciliation.”

II.     What tempts you —

A.     The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (V.3)  Jesus is the Son of God, so why not take the easy way out – forget the spiritual struggle – focus on temporal needs, live for the moment.

B.     Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ (5-6) Take Your kingdom by force Jesus. They will be impressed and applaud such a feat. Then nothing will be beyond Your capability.  You’ll have instant success.

C.     Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (8-9) Buy into the Devil’s tricks and illusions. Give him his due – what’s to loose – after all, you still are the Son of God – nothing’s changed, or has it?    

III.   How you can overcome it —

A.     Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (V.4) The only thing the Savior has at His disposal is the Word. The only thing He can used to defeat the Devil are the promises the Father has spoken clearly through His Word.

B.     Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ (V.7)  As the Son of God Jesus can speak to the Devil with much authority.  We are not looking at two equal forces at work against each other. As the Son of God Jesus speaks with authority – authority He received from His Father. As He addresses His enemy the Devil must submit to the Savior. 

C.     Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ (V.10)  If Jesus were to give homage to the Devil your salvation would be lost. His work would be in vein and you would still be lost in sin. Jesus will not buy into the Devil’s lies.  

IV.  Why are you tempted — God our heavenly Father allows temptation as a test of our faith and love for Him.

A.     “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”  (V.1)  The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted. As He is confronted the Savior enters the fray and the war begins.

So likewise when you are tempted you are engaging in this same battle. How will you fare? By yourself you can not win. You will but fail. That is why we look to Christ and Christ alone to give us the strength in the midst of temptation to resist the Devil.

This is why we pray “and lead us not into temptation.” “God indeed tempts no one. But we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory!” [Explanation to the 6th   Petition of the Lord’s Prayer from Luther’s Small Catechism]

B.     Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’  (V.10)  By your own reason or strength you can not overcome the Devil. So we pray “But deliver us [Lord] from evil. We pray, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. [Explanation to the 7th and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer from Luther’s Small Catechism]

Conclusion: Our victory over temptation leaves us stronger with angels ministering to us. There is only one tool left for us to use – the Word of the Lord. Use it well for we struggle not against flesh and blood but against principalities… Put on the full armor of God that you might be able to fight against the Devil and his agents.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday mid-day

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Ash Wednesday-Mid day
February 6, 2008
Luke 18:31-34
Jesus I Will Ponder Now

Introduction: Today we begin a six week process of observing our Savior’s Passion, suffering and death during the discipline of Lent. Under the theme: “Jesus I will Ponder Now” we will focus on six aspects of the Savior’s Passion as rendered and presented in six beautiful Chorales – four of which were penned by Johan Sebastian Bach. It is my prayer that as we focus on Jesus’ suffering through Scripture and song we will grow in a deeper appreciation of what Jesus has won for us on the bloody and cruel cross of Calvary.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, Jesus explains to His disciples, “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” {V.31}

As we consider Jesus’ Passion we observe His work in terms of sin and grace.

I.        If my sins give me alarm and My conscience grieve me.

A.     It is sin which causes us to be alarmed

1.      Sin of commission –committed and  done by

a.       Thoughts

b.      Words

c.       Actions

2.      Sins of omission

a.       When we had opportunity to do good but failed.

b.      When we could have prevented sin but failed to act or didn’t want to get involved, or the time was not convenient.

B.     Our conscience is troubled when we consider past wrongs, failures, and the nagging question, “What will God do to me at the end of my days?”

Transition: How do we receive a clean conscience and peace of mind? Our hymn verse gives us a clear answer.

II.     Let Thy cross, my fear disarm peace of conscience give me.

A.     The cross of Christ disarms our fears.

1.      At The cross the wrath of an offended God was poured out on Jesus Christ God’s own Son.

2.      Paul puts it this way; “God was in Christ reconciling us to the Father not counting our sins against us…”  2 Corinthians 5:19

3.      As Christ has taken our sin there is nothing for us to fear.

B.     Peace of conscience is what Christ alone can give.

1.      He gives us His peace – “Peace I leave thee, My peace I give thee…” John 14:27

2.      This is the only peace which will sustain us – all other forms or attempts at peace - pale in comparison.

Transition: Christ suffered for us once for all. Yet the Devil will attempt to trip us up reminding us again and again of past failings. He will quote for us chapter and verse where we have sinned. That’s why we need a continued reminder of Christ’s work.

III.   Grant that I may trust in Thee and Thy holy Passion.

A.     All Jesus asks of us is to trust Him.

1.      Trust is nothing more then another word for faith.

2.      Faith is nothing more then taking God at His word.

B.     We trust that what Christ accomplished at the cross is all that is needed to win for us salvation.

1.      Jesus’ words: “It is finished!” says it all!

a.       There is nothing left to be done. Jesus did it all at the cross.

b.      Trusting in Jesus’ work and merit is what our faith must focus.

Transition: As we focus on what Jesus has done we learn an eternal truth – the love and compassion of Christ.  

IV.  If His Son so loveth me God must have compassion.

A.     Smile - God loves you! Best summed up by Christ Himself in John 3:16-18

B.     He has had compassion. The Passion of the Christ is motivated by the Father’s compassion for a fallen world. When He gave up His own Son He did the very best. The Father shows that;

1.      He cares for us

2.      He loves us

3.      He sent us His own Son who redeemed this world to save us.

Conclusion: As we begin the discipline of Lent we focus on Jesus’ Passion. He has redeemed us lost and condemned creatures and has purchased and won us from sin, from death and from the power of the devil. A great and mighty wonder is to unfold during this Lenten season we watch in awe and wonderment.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Ash Wednesday

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church-Friedheim
Celebrating our 169th Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Ash Wednesday
February 6, 2008
Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17; 3:1-7
The fall of humankind
The problem of sin

Lord God, our strength, the battle of good and evil rages within and around us, and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your word, and, when we fall, raise us up again and restore us through Your Son.

Introduction: People, as they are want, ask these days, “What, is sin?” or, they will place themselves into any number of given scenarios, putting forward the question, “Under these conditions…is it a sin if I were to ...”?  As we can well guess, we already know the answer, clearly. Yet, we as humans are always trying to create for ourselves a way to justify ourselves.  

Is it a sin for one set of circumstances and not for another? People ask and ponder.  [Hence the obsession with situation ethics of our day, in which certain conditions determine the correctness or the incorrectness of any particular position]

Some may ask “Is it a sin, for example, if you feel good in doing it? As if to say, if I find pleasure in a certain activity, it can be justified as being legitimate.  Is it a sin, some might ask, if both parties consent or participate in a particular activity? As if to say, if you can justify the activity - it might be correct.  Such issues, raised in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s were expressed most vividly in the words of the hit song which simply said, “If loving you is wrong – I don’t wanna be right.”[1]

Our text for this evening gives us the biblical outline for the guidance of God’s people today. Throughout our Lenten journey in which we will ask the Savior to walk with us; this year we will focus on God’s dealings with His people in the Old Testament. Tonight, we focus on man’s plight and his problem with sin. And, as we shall see, although sin would always hurt us God is able to give life to man.

What does the Bible, or, for that matter, what does God Himself consider to be sin? According to the Biblical account of man’s fall, the Bible describes sin in three specific terms.

I. By definition sin is - Disobedience to God’s law

II. By definition sin is - Doubting God’s Word

III. By definition sin is - Desiring to be like God

I.    By definition sin is Disobedience to God’s Law — vv. 1-4. “Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. Genesis 3:1-4   Eve believed the lie the devil was telling her.

A.  Satan, “the father of lies”, continues this tactic to this very hour. He puts a little truth in every lie, and a little lie in every truth so that we become convinced that his fibs are worth believing. 

1.  He does this subtly. “The serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” Give the devil his due, he works in cunning and scheming ways.

2.  He does this judiciously. 

a.    He uses the wisdom of this world.

b.   He judges in a way the world accepts as fair.

c.    He asks us to trust our own “good judgment.”

B.  How can we defeat the devil’s wiles?

1.   Stay connected to God’s Word – this is where He speaks today.

2.   Listen only to your shepherd’s voice. “My sheep hear My voice…” says Jesus, our shepherd. “…and they follow Me…”

3.   Do not be misled by imposters. They are hirelings; they care nothing about and for the sheep.

II.  By definition sin is Doubting God’s Word — v. 1. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 Eve’s yielding was the result of Satan’s causing doubt in her mind.

A.  Doubt causes us to hesitate.

1.   Doubt causes us to become suspicions of the Father’s clear word.

2.   Doubt causes us to become skeptical of the Savior’s clear words.

3.   Doubt causes us to question what the Spirit has clearly inspired the holy writers to speak.

B.     How can we defeat the devil’s wiles?

1.   Remember, the Savior’s Words are both valid and certain.

2.   Have faith in God’s promises, which is nothing short of taking God seriously – taking Him at His Word. 

III.   By definition sin is Desiring to be like God — v. 5. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” –Geneses 3:5 This is nothing more then appealing to pride.

A.  Pride says, “I can make my own decisions”, the self-made person becomes confident in one’s own actions and has the will to do so.

1.   This is the downside of this focus and fascination on the self-when we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on. We have become our own gods…expressed by the individual who simply explained, “I pray…to myself!”

2.    Our world speaks. For so long we have been taught to expect more out of life at the very time when good jobs, nice houses and a sufficient retirement fund are increasingly difficult to obtain. All too often, the result is crippling anxiety and crushing depression.[2]  That, my friends is the best our world can give us – crippling anxiety and crushing depression! We must turn to Christ who offers us a peace this world simply cannot give.  

B.  How can we defeat the devil’s wiles?

1.   Trust not in your own self, rather trust only in Him.  Thus writes the hymn writer when he says, “Trust not in rulers; they are but mortal; earth-born they are and soon decay.  Vain are their counsels at life’s last portal.  When the dark grave engulfs its prey. Since mortals cannot help afford. Place all your trust in Christ, our Lord.”[3]

2.   Learn humbleness of heart as we come broken before the Father’s throne, and plead for mercy, clemency, compassion and pity. 

Conclusion: This is why today is called “Ash Wednesday” for we come in our brokenness and plead for the Lord to have mercy. Adam’s fall is the fall of every man. In Adam we are all one. Adam fell because of himself. If we are to live, with God and for God, we must look to a second Adam – Jesus Christ our Savior - for salvation, rescue, and life.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

[1] Song written by Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson. It has been performed by many singers, most notably the late Luther Ingram, whose version topped the R&B chart. Ingram's version rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1972.

[2] From Generation Me Jean Twenge, PhD © 2006 Simon & Schuster

[3]  Praise the Almighty LSB 797 stanza 2

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Our Coming Lenten Pilgrimage
Matthew 17:1-9

Introduction: We have now come to the end of the Epiphany season, a season in which we have witnessed Jesus’ glory made manifest. Jesus demonstrates His glory so that we might believe in Him. As we witness His might acts, as we follow His teaching, we come to this conclusion –“ Jesus, You are my Lord and my God!” {John 20:28}

Now we set our sights on Jerusalem and that green hill far away outside the city wall – where our dear Lord was crucified, He died to save us all.  In just three days we will begin our Lenten pilgrimage where we will walk with the Savior to the cruel and bloody cross and we will stand at the mouth of an open tomb. How shall we describe this journey?

Our coming Lenten pilgrimage

It is a going up.
It is a going back.
It is a going down.
I.    Our coming Lenten pilgrimage is a going us. After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. Matthew 17:1

A.   We go to be with Christ for guidance. He has promised to be with us. He has commanded us to pray. God would by these words tenderly invite us to ask as His true children ask their dear Father. We pray because of His command – “Call upon Me in the day of trouble...” Yet we also pray because of His promise. “…I will deliver you and you will honor Me.” {Psalm 50:15} He has promised to answer every prayer. His desire is that we call to Him in our time of need.

B.   We go to be with Christ for assurance. His assurance to us is that He will act on our behalf and always for our good. The hymn writer reminds us, “The will of God is always best, and shall be done forever; And they who trust in Him are blest; He will forsake them never. He helps indeed. In every need; He chastens with forbearing. They who depend On God, their friend, Shall not be left despairing.” [LSB #758]

Transition: Our coming Lenten pilgrimage is a going up. It is also a going back.

II.     It is a going back. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Matthew 17:3 

A.  We go back to Moses and Elijah to get to our roots. Moses and Elijah are the chief spokesmen of the Old Testament. Jesus will tell us Moses and Elijah and all of the Old Testament speaks clearly of Himself “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me,”- John 5:39   

B.  These two prophets of old served God’s people at two important points in the history of God’s people. Under Moses the Lord led His people from the hand of bondage to a promised land flowing with milk and honey. Elijah, on the other hand, had become convinced that he was the only one left. Still the Lord reminded him that he had reserved 7,000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal. In both instances the Father was with them.

C.   As we recall the stories of these prophets of God we remember that the cross is grounded in the Father’s ancient promises of deliverance. Isaiah the prophet writes, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2  David reminds us, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

Transition: Our coming Lenten pilgrimage is a going up. It is a going back. It is a going down.

III.   It is a going down. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  Mtathew17:9

A.  It’s a going down to witness. Let is a time of reflection.  It’s an excellent time to share your faith with a friend. In Lent our focus is turned squarely on the cross. St. Paul encourages us when he writes, For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2  During Lent we fix our focus on Christ and His cross. Share that message with a friend.

B.  Our Lenten pilgrimage is a going down to service. During Lent as we focus on Christ’s sacrifice. We respond in service toward our neighbor. Jesus died for you so that you can now love and serve your neighbor. Jesus is the stone the builders rejected so you now become living stones in His structure the Church.

C.  In our going down our pilgrimage through Lent allows us to carry the cross. What burdens, what trials would the Savior have you carry?  Do not carry them too long. Deposit them into His hands. He will bear them for there we find strength and endurance as we focus on what He endured for you and for me on that cross of Calvary.

Conclusion:  How shall we describe this journey on which we will embark in three day?  Our coming Lenten pilgrimage is a going up. It is a going back. It is a going down. We walk with Jesus to the bloody and cruel cross and the mouth of the empty tomb. There we shall find peace with God, absolution for our sin, and salvation for our souls.

+Soli Deo Gloria+