Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Morning!

It's Easter! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! What a glorious greeting it truly is. And what a wonderful morning it is. I sit here in the dark wondering - will there be sunshine? Will there be a beautiful sunrise? And then I stop, and realize, that doesn't matter. What matters is that Jesus is risen from the dead, just as He said he would!

Jesus lives! The Victory's won! Death no longer can appall me. That is what today means. It means life and salvation to all. Do you believe that? Do you believe that your salvation is tied completely and totally to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? I rejoice, not that I believe it, but that it is real. I rejoice that Jesus DID rise from the dead. I rejoice that He is my Savior from sin, death and the power of the devil.

And I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring that faith, that assurance and that message of life into your heart and life. Rejoice this morning. Jesus is risen! That alone changes everything.

He is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Today things hit a "lull." There are no major events recorded in the Gospels about what Jesus did on this day. It is like the calm before the storm. Indeed, for those of you who are church workers (especially pastors), today is the calm before the storm. The flurry of activity that will take place starting tomorrow and running through Sunday can be overwhelming. For those of you who are active members in a church, you may well be busy too, attending services while also preparing for family celebrations and community activities. The calm before the storm.

But it isn't the activities and all that we must do that is what is on my mind. Instead, I look at the calm before the storm in the Lord's life. Sitting in Mary and Martha's house on this Wednesday so many years ago, I can't imagine what must have been going through His mind. As the Son of God, He knew what was about to take place. He knew what He was going to go through in the next 48 hours. More importantly, He knew why He was going to go through all these things.

He could well have had the year 2013 in His mind as He sat quietly, contemplating His Passion. The sin of the people - shown as the United States Supreme Court justices try to decide if marriage is between one man and one women or between two people of any sex. How He must have shook His head and shed a tear! Then He probably thought about the heterosexual sexual activity taking place outside of marriage between one man and one woman and He again shook His head and shed a tear! Then He thought about those sitting and looking at pornography at the computers, and He shook His head and shed a tear! He probably thought about all the ways that mankind in 2013 misuses the wonderful gift of sexuality and tries to justify their sin by couching it in words of "love" and "compassion" and "understanding," and He shook His head and shed a tear.

Then I can just imagine that Jesus bowed His head in prayer and said to His Father, "It is for all these sins that I must sacrifice My sinless life upon the cross. Without My death and resurrection, there would be no hope, no forgiveness, no heaven for any of them. Father, Your will be done." The calm before the storm and He goes into the storm for you and me and for each sinner. He goes to the cross for the heterosexual who engages in sex outside of marriage. He goes to the cross for the homosexual who engages in any sex. He goes to the cross for the heterosexual who is involved in the perverse sexual activity that is disgusting to God. He goes to the cross for the sinner.

Things will break lose in less than 24 hours. The events that took place on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday (our terms, not His) will roll quickly through our days and our lives. The question I ask you, "Will they make a difference in your life? Will those events change you? Or will you continue in your sin like nothing happened?"

I doubt that our nation will change. There will be the debate if same sex marriage is acceptable. Some will say yes and some will say no. The one question not being asked (and I don't expect it to be asked) is, "What does God say?" And then the debate begins anew as each side argues their point of view. In the end, God had already spoken on this issue (and on all sexuality issues) in the the 6th Commandment. Redefine marriage? Does that change God's view? Not at all. It just makes it all the more important to remember that Jesus died on the cross for all sinners.

Yes, the calm before the storm.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week

We are int he midst of Holy Week. That thought might have been lost due to the snowstorm that hit the area on Palm Sunday. The palms were covered in snow and with the snow coming and coming, especially in the St. Louis area, it is easy to forget that this is such a special week. Satan likes to do things like that - use the normal everyday things to get our eyes off that which God is doing in our midst.

Holy Week is God working in our midst. 2000 years ago there were events unfolding in Jerusalem that would impact the history of the world and would bring eternal life to all who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That is truly what this week is about - the revelation of the Savior of the world. Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, taken to Pilate, tried again, found INNOCENT and then sentenced to death on the cross. Notice that very fact: Pilate found Jesus innocent of any crime that deserved death. Jesus was innocent. He had not done anything wrong. More than that, He had not sinned at all in His life. Let's go even further, He was also free from original sin. Not only was He innocent of any crime deserving death, He was totally and completely innocent of sin and did not have to die at all. Sinless! Remember: The wages of sin is death. Without having sinned, he did not have to die.

But He did! Why? To save you, me and all sinners. He died for the sins of all mankind. He gave His life for each and every person who has lived, who is living and who will live. His once for all death was amazing! It was life changing. It was world changing. It was eternity changing!

That is the message that we see here during Holy Week. The Savior has come. And that the message that Satan wants to obscure in our lives. He uses every tool in his toolbox - worry, fear, weather, work, busyness of life, family visits, and a whole host of other tools (some of which are not sinful at all but are used by him to cause us to take our eyes off the real reason for this week). Jesus is the way, the only way, to enter into eternal life in heaven.

It is time to remember the institution of the Lord's Supper, the giving of that special meal in which we receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ in, with and under the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sin, strength to live the daily life and assurance of salvation. It is is time to remember the crucifixion, when Jesus gave up His life upon the cross (it wasn't taken from Him but he gave it willingly for you and me!). It is time to remember the burial, for it reminds us that we too shall one day die and be buried. And it is time to remember His resurrection - for there it all comes together. Jesus rose from the dead! Death and the grave couldn't hold Him. The devil couldn't defeat Him. He rose victorious from the dead. He lives even now and will come again on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.

That, my friends, is Holy Week. I have to stay focused because it is easy to get lost in the preparations of the various services and forget that this is for ME too. I can get lost in the sermons and forget the message is for ME! Jesus is my Savior, just like He is yours. Together, you and me, we will walk through this week. Perhaps we will trudge through snow or wander in the warmth of sunshine, maybe we will stop to look at the blooming crocus or daffodils or we will stroll right on by in our hurry to get home. However we go through this week, remember what it means for you - this is the week that changed all history. It is the week that changed your future and the future of the world. It is the week that the only-begotten Son of God suffered, died and ROSE again for the salvation of all who believe in Him.

See in you worship as we celebrate the wonder of Holy Week.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Psalm for the Day

"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so..." (Psalm 107:2a ESV) I was reading this Psalm this morning and it struck a chord with me that it hadn't struck before. I had the Psalm marked up pretty good in my Bible. I had this verse underlined. But it just hadn't hit me like it did this morning. The Psalm starts with the words, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1 ESV) Not earth shattering words by a long shot, for they are words that are part of a prayer that is often offered. But the next verse states, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so..." We are to tell others that the Lord is good, that His love endures forever. We are to spend our days telling those around us about the love of God, the steadfastness of the only One who can help us in our times of need.

Then the Psalm goes on to speak in the most practical fashion, in  way that makes it really clear that the Lord is the One who helps us, even when we mess things up by our own fault, our own actions. "Some wandered into desert wastes..." (vs. 4) "Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God." (vs. 10) "Some were foolish through their sinful ways and because of their iniquities suffered afflictions." (vs. 17) "Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters." (vs. 23) Their lives were going well and then were messed up, they were living contrary to the way of God...they all had the same need. They needed help, guidance, strength, rescuing from the tragedy of life, the destruction they had sown or the basic things that life brings to every person. No one could help them. They couldn't help themselves. And then the steadfast love of the love found them, helped them and they were rescued from the prisons, the terrors of their situation and the consequences of their sins.

This Psalm is talking and me! This is our Psalm. It tells the story of our lives. It shows our need. And it shows who it is that rescues us. It isn't ourselves. It isn't another person. It isn't the government. It is God Himself that rescues us from the situations that we find ourselves facing. "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress." (vs. 8) He delivers us. Isn't that the message of the Gospel? Isn't that the great proclamation of Scripture? God rescues us! How?

Through His Son Jesus Christ, who comes to suffer and die on the cross and to rise victorious from the dead on the third day! Alleluia! Christ Jesus rescues us! He saves us from the distress of our lives, from the destruction of our sins, from the consequences of our actions and from ourselves. Over and over in this Psalm we are told that God saves.

We are told, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so..." (vs. 2a) Speak up! You and I are called to tell others what the Lord has done for us. Over and over it says in this Psalm that the we have need, God rescues us, and we are to tell that wondrous news. We are called to action. That action flows from the salvation, the relief, the help, the steadfast love of the Lord. Our lips are opened in praise. God has rescued us! He has given us relief! He has saved us from the terrors of the day!

"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so..." As you go through this day, remember one thing, "The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever." Wherever you are and whatever you are facing, don't go it alone. Don't "man up" and try to make it alone. It will crush you. Instead cry out to the Lord. Know that His steadfast love endures forever, for you, to be with you. He will rescue you. And when He does, respond. Say so! Speak up! Let others know that you are not making it on your own. Let them know it is the steadfast love of the Lord that rescues you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lutheran Schools Week - Day 2

"Wild Wednesday" - that's today! What does Wild Wednesday mean? It means that the students will be dressing in some outlandish fashion as they come to school today. They will do their best to be "wild." There will mismatched socks and shirts that don't match the pants. Shoes will be mismatched. Hair might even be on the "wild' side.  We will celebrate our faith together as we have chapel today at 9:00 a.m. The 5/6 grade will present a skit on the importance of the Word of God during chapel today. The preschool 3s and 4s will also have chapel at 1:00 p.m. The Word of God is the focus of all that we do at St. Paul's School. We are seeing that as we go through Lutheran Schools Week.

This is Day #2 of Lutheran Schools Week at St. Paul's. Day #1 was a great success. Grandparents and other significant care gives came to the Goodies with Grands yesterday. Here are a few pictures of the students and their grands.


There were around 200 people at the Goodies with Grands! Lots of children, lots of GRANDS, lots of fun, and lots of sharing of Jesus Christ with one another. That's what makes it such a "grand" day - we were sharing Christ's love with one another. And once again, that is what makes Lutheran Education such a wonderful thing to support. We need to realize what a jewel we have in St.Paul's School, giving children form Preschool 3 through 8th grade a strong, Lutheran foundation for their lives.
You and I need to support the work that is done at our school. It is a vital link to the spiritual future for our children and grandchildren. Lutheran Schools Week! A good time by all!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lutheran Schools Week at St. Paul's

This is a special week at St.Paul's, Troy. We are celebrating Lutheran Schools Week. (The LC-MS had moved the date for National Lutheran Schools Week to January but left it open to the school to decide when to celebrate it for themselves. In the past it has always been the 1st week in March. Here at St. Paul's, we decided that we liked it at this time for a variety of reasons. So we left it as it was, the 1st week in March.) This is an opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness of Lutheran education.

What makes it so unique? The education portion of the school is strong, with a good teaching staff, a solid curriculum and a mindset that says, "We want the best education for our students." But then again, the public school has that same thing. So that doesn't make us unique.

Lutheran education is just that. It is education that is distinctively Lutheran. It focuses the attention of the student and the families upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, working very diligently to stay focused in the Word of God and its application to the life of the student. Don't all Christian churches focus upon that? No they don't. What makes us Lutheran is the focus upon the Word and its application in Law and Gospel. All life is guided by the Word of God as applied through the Law and Gospel, knowing that salvation is a gift from God and not something we claim for ourselves or that we work out on our own, and the daily life is a reflection of that gift from God. The focus is upon God and what He does in our lives and not upon ourselves and what we can do for or with God. He is the One who empowers our lives.

We teach the children the importance of relying upon the power of God and not upon their own power or strength, which will always fail them. God's power never fails. God's will is always good. God's love lasts forever.

Our teachers continue to teach as Lutherans. Baptism is a Sacrament that saves the person. It is a work of the Holy Spirit and not of the individual. The Word is the means through which the Holy Spirit works faith and continues to keep faith alive. The Lord's Supper is a gift from God which brings the body and blood of Christ in, with and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of faith and the assurance of forgiveness of sins. The life of the Christian is guided not by their desire but by the working of the Holy Spirit through these Means of Grace.

In all our classrooms, from preschool through grade 8, we focus the children upon the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives to guide them to live as children of God. We do not use the Law to beat the children into submission, but allow the Word of God to show them the way they are called to live each day. Over and over again they hear of the love of Christ for them, the need of forgiveness in their lives and the power of God to work in many and various ways.

So this is Lutheran Schools Week. We celebrate Lutheran education in many and various ways. Today is Dress Your Best Day. The children will dress in their best clothes. The GRANDS - grandparents, relatives, aunts/uncles, neighbors and dependable caregivers - will be coming at 9:00 a.m. for goodies and a program put on by the all the children. It will be an exciting morning. Then Tuesday evening the Science Center will be here for two 1/2 hour presentations on the wonders of science. All the while the Scholastic Book Fair will be taking place. Should be a fun day!

Come and join us for the wonder of Lutheran Schools Week. We are going to have a great week!