April 27, 2008

God the Father's Will and Testament - Apr 27, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Do you have a “will”? Although most people recognize the need for a “last will and testament”, Consumer Reports says that only about a third of all Americans have one. A will allows a person to express their final words and decide where their stuff goes - after they’ve died. My wife and I have talked about arranging a will so that our children would be raised in a Christian home were we to die before they were grown up.

A will usually remains filed away until a person dies. But God also has a will and testament. And since the Living God is eternal, His will cannot wait to be read. God expresses His final words in the Bible. His words are not final because they are His last words. God’s words are called final because they are truth and put an end to all argument. Through the Bible God also expresses who gets the riches and treasures of His eternal estate.

The portion of God’s word that we consider today is found in 1 John 5:11-15. In these words is expressed God the Father’s Will and Testament.

1 John 5:11-15 (NIV)

11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

These are the words of God. May God the Spirit open our minds to their message.

The shortest will on record was written by an Indian man in 1995. Written in Hindi, the will was only four characters long and clearly stated, “all to son”.

God has also clearly stated His will in the Scriptures. First He tells us that all human beings are sinners doomed to die and on their way to eternal punishment in Hell. But God also tells us that though these are the facts, He doesn’t want this to happen.

“…As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live…” (Ezekiel 33:11 NIV).

In First Timothy it says,

3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV).

These passages make it clear. God wants sinners to be saved from the punishment heading their way. The first verse of our sermon text is clear also. God has saved sinners from the punishment heading their way. God has gifted eternal life to us. This eternal life comes wrapped up in God’s Son.

11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11 NIV).

It’s hard to express the Good News of Jesus clearer than that! But just to make sure everyone understands, God has John write on,

12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12 NIV).

About a week ago, on the plane ride back from pastoral conference, I was talking with the woman in the seat next to me. She said that she was Catholic, but as we talked it became clear that she wasn’t Catholic, and she wasn’t Christian either. When I asked about how much she read the Bible she said not very much. It became clear through our conversation that she considered the Bible a book authored by men, about God - not a book authored by God to reveal Himself to man. She considered Christianity to be just another religion that a person could get some good life lessons from, but not much more. She clearly expressed her belief that all religions are paths to the same God.

I had to disagree, because God’s testimony disagrees with that kind of thinking. Eternal life is a gift that God has prepared for all people, but that gift is found in Jesus Christ. If you don’t have Him, you don’t have eternal life.

When John wrote the words we’re considering He was writing to Christians. These simple statements about Jesus and eternal life were meant to bring joy and reassurance to the Christians who heard them. It must have been a source of joy to the first Christians it reached, and it is a joyful message to us now.

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13 NIV).

Perhaps in the information age we move to quickly over words. Perhaps we don’t consider the implications of the simple and clear statements presented here.

If you believe in the name of the Son of God, you will live forever.

If you trust in who Jesus is and what He has done, you will actually, physically live in glory throughout eternity.

If He is in you, so is eternal life.

It’s a very simple message, but profound as well. It reminds us of the words Jesus spoke to His disciples in the upper room before His arrest and crucifixion.

19“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:19-20 NKJV).

My fellow Christians, He is in you. The same Great three-in-one God who Created the universe in six days dwells in your heart. The same Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Galilee goes with you when you walk the asphalt streets of Western Washington. The same Holy Spirit who filled the apostles with speech on Pentecost keep s the fire of faith alive in your spirit. With the Living God in you, life is in you. Eternal life. Cast away the worries, cares, sins and other distractions that keep you from enjoying God’s presence. Let Him fill your hearts with joy and power. You who know and believe that Jesus is the Savior who died to take away your sins– know that you have a connection to the Living God, forever. Therefore, you have eternal life.

Often when a person with a sizable fortune dies, some of their fortune is directed into an endowment fund. Instead of just being a piece of the left over pie that gets spent, this part of their estate is invested. Only the interest earn by this fund is spent for the benefit of whoever the deceased indicates.

It’s a good idea. Money invested can benefit people for ages to come instead of being wasted by a one or two lucky ones. I know it’s sounds cliché, but monies directed to an endowment are really gifts that keep on giving.

In God’s will and testament He also gives a gift that is of continual use to Christians. Along with eternal life, God gives Christians the confidence to approach Him in prayer and the sweet knowledge that He hears our every word and gives us every good thing.

14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 15:11-15 NIV).

If we were still covered in sin, we could not approach the eternal God in confident prayer. But because Jesus has suffered in our place and removed the record of our guilt. We now stand cleansed as we approach the Father’s throne. We can confidently speak to our Creator knowing we will not receive anger in return but loving care! The apostle Paul said it like this,

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32 NKJV).

God says, “I’ve given you the best, why would I not give you the rest? Ask with confidence.”

Thankfully God promises only to grant us our requests when they fall in line with His wise plan for our lives. What a blessing this is. For we may often ask for things that seem like good things to us, but in fact would hurt us. But our caring, heavenly Father, withholds these things from us in wisdom and love.

11If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 NKJV).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t pray as much as I should. Actually, I should say it a little different, I don’t pray as much as I want to.

Sometimes I find myself wanting to get started with whatever I’m working on instead of praying for God’s help in doing it. I want to start pondering over how to handle the situation instead of praying for God’s insight and direction. This is not good.

How arrogant to think that I can do anything apart from the gracious will of my loving God and Savior. How foolish to think that any time spent in prayer is time that could be better spent on my own thoughts.

Sometimes our prayers are neglected because our confidence is not in the LORD, but in our selves.

Or think about when we spend our energies worrying instead of talking to God about something. Then our prayers are neglected because we have replaced our confidence in God with human anxiety. There’s a foolish exchange if there ever was one. So much better it is to put the matter in God’s hands by prayer, and know that He will make it good as we walk by His side hearing His direction.

In order to have confidence to ask, we must have trust that we will receive. For that trust we must go again to the source of all spiritual energy, the cross of Christ.

32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32 NKJV).

In the book of James it also says,

17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:17-18 NIV).

Every good gift comes from the same God who chose us and caused us to be born into His family through faith in His Son. We must expect that He who does not change will continue to give us every good thing .

A human last will and testament is important, but not fool-proof. A will can be lost. Or destroyed. The executor can fail to carry out the wishes of the deceased. The inheritance can lose it’s value, or be spent foolishly. In all these things, the last will and testament of a person can come to nothing.

But God’s will and testament is different. For His will expressed in Scripture does not fail. When He expresses His will, it happens. In the beginning God spoke and matter and energy came into being. He spoke and life was created in it’s many different forms. When God’s Son spoke some 2000 years ago, the Creation recognized its maker and obeyed His voice. The storm was stilled. The dead were raised. The sick were healed and the spiritually dead came to faith in Jesus, receiving in Him the gift of eternal life and an open door to receive every good gift from God above.

I’d like to end our meditation with a reading from the book of Isaiah that expresses the power of God’s expressed will in our lives.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the LORD.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow

come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy

and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills

will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field

will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:8-12 NIV).

May your mind always remember: Eternal life is yours for Christ is in you. And this gift comes from Him who still lives to give you every good gift.


The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

April 20, 2008

How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time - Apr 20, 2008

How to be in the Right Place at the Right Time

Acts 8:26-40 (NKJV)

26Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

30So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;

And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

So He opened not His mouth.

33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away,

And who will declare His generation?

For His life is taken from the earth.”

34So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”

37Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

38So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

In the name of our ever-present Lord, dear fellow Christians:

Have you ever been in the right place at just the right time? I was on a certain summer day. The whole neighborhood was having a garage sale, so I walked from house to house looking for bargains. But the stacks of clothes had already been picked over by others, and the household goods were not things I could use or even wanted. Then in one garage I spotted among all the other odds and ends what looked like a laptop computer. I opened it up, checked it out, plugged it in, and found it worked perfectly. I bought it for $20, and have used it ever since.

It’s exciting to be in the right place at the right time: to be in the right spot in the outfield bleachers to catch the homerun ball, to be at the grocery checkout just as a new line is opened, or to pull into a busy parking lot just as some else is backing out of a spot. But things don’t always work out that way, and it often seems to be only a matter of chance.

What if we could learn the secret of how to always be in the right place at the right time, and not just with the minor circumstances of everyday life, but with what is most important—the mission the Lord Jesus entrusts to us? He tells us that He has left us here on earth to go into all the world and preach the good news that He is risen from the dead as the Savior of all. To be in the right place at the right time to do that is truly exciting! The Lord shows us how to do this through the example of Philip.


Philip was one of seven deacons appointed by the church at Jerusalem to help the apostles. As a result of persecution, Philip ended up in Samaria and preached the Word there. He was blessed with phenomenal success. He cast out evil spirits, healed people, and many were brought to faith. There was so much to do, he couldn't keep up, so Peter and John came to help. Every night Philip must have drifted off into peaceful and happy sleep eager to continue with the work in the morning. He was in the right place at the right time.

But then came the startling message of the angel: “Leave here and head south along the road through the desert between Jerusalem and Gaza.” [cf. v.26] Philip must have wondered, “why?” From an earthly perspective it seemed all wrong: Why leave a bustling, thriving congregation with countless mission prospects and go off to the middle of nowhere?

This teaches us about God’s priorities. His first concern is not impressive numbers and statistics. Each and every sinner is precious to Him. He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. He loved the crowds of Samaria, but He also loved the Ethiopian eunuch, the woman at the well, and the robber on the cross. So when Philip found himself on that desolate stretch of road, contrary to all appearances, he was still in the right place at the right time.

Today, church growth groups say that the way to carry on mission work is to study the demographics of an area, look at the potential for population increase, and then target a specific segment of people, for example, young middle class families. That may well be a way to quickly build up numbers, but it is not God's way. Instead, like Philip, we are to follow the Spirit's direction wherever He may lead. He doesn't contact us directly through an angel, but He does guide the course of our entire life. David says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16 NIV).

We don’t know for sure where we will be tomorrow or ten years from now. We don’t know what situation we will be in, but the Lord knows. It may be completely different than what we might expect, but wherever we are or whatever the situation, we can be sure that with the Spirit's direction, we are in the right place at the right time to spread His Word.

Parents are in the right place to teach the Word to their children. Children can reach their friends and classmates. e have opportunities to speak to relatives and co-workers. A confirmation class may be in the right place to speak of their faith as they canvass a neighborhood around the church. Even the seemingly most unlikely places and times can be the right time and place for the Spirit. Look at Philip on the desert road. Look at Joseph when he was in prison and how he spoke to Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker.

I once ministered to an elderly Christian who was discouraged. He had been very active in the congregation’s outreach efforts, as well as on a personal level. Then he became seriously ill, was homebound, and eventually had to be hospitalized. He felt that he might as well be dead because in his view there was nothing he could do to serve the Lord any longer. I assured him that the Lord would certainly give him opportunities even in the hospital. A day or two later I visited him again, and he could hardly wait to tell me how he had been able to have several conversations with nurses and others about the Savior. He didn't think so at first, but by the Spirit's direction, he was in the right place at the right time.

Do you know someone who needs to hear the Word? Have you been intending to do it for some time, but just haven't gotten around to it? Why not do it this week? Have you looked at the people you know and meet with that goal in mind? Don’t write off anyone as a lost cause. The Lord doesn’t!


But when the Lord gives us the opportunities, what should we say? Notice that in Philip’s case, before he said too much, he listened. He listened as the eunuch expressed confusion over what God was saying in Isaiah about someone being led to slaughter as a lamb. The man wanted to know whether the prophet was referring to himself or someone else and what that meant then for the eunuch’s life. The eunuch had worshiped God in Jerusalem. Yet, he must have felt somewhat disconnected from God because, according to the Jewish religion, he was a second class citizen and wasn't allowed to enter the temple. He had to remain in an outer courtyard.

How did Philip respond? He didn't sidestep the man’s question or give his own opinions and philosophy on life. He didn’t even quote the respected rabbis of the time. He preached Jesus to him. Literally, the Greek says, “He preached the good news of Jesus.” He explained that the Lamb is the holy Son of God and that He was led to death on the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind. By His death He paid the penalty for all sin and reconciled the world to God. Philip assured this foreigner that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. He urged him to trust in Jesus as his Savior too, and he spoke about God’s seal of salvation in baptism. It was the same message Jesus Himself preached. While the Pharisees loaded people down with rules and obligations and dire threats of punishment if they would disobey, the Lord simply said, “Repent and follow me. I am the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

When the Spirit puts us in the right place at the right time, what are we going to say? May we learn from Philip and first listen. Listen to the troubles, fears, and longings of others with a caring heart. Listen to the questions others have about God and their relationship with Him. Listen and then preach the good news of Jesus. That is what the words evangelize and evangelical mean.

Evangelism is not giving someone a self-help program and saying, “Here are the commandments and here is how God wants you to live. Turn your life around and live like a Christian and you are saved.” Evangelizing is not saying, “What would Jesus do? Now you do it!” It is saying, “Look at Christ alone and all He did for you. He fulfilled the whole Law for you. He paid for all your sins on the cross. He rose from the dead so you can be sure of eternal life. He did it all! Believe it! It is a free gift from Him! When the Spirit puts us in the right place at the right time, let’s say the right thing. May the Lord open our mouths to speak the good news of Jesus.


Does the Gospel work? It doesn’t seem to at times. We speak about Jesus and invite someone to church and he doesn’t come. We bring the Word to someone, and we see no response at all in his life. We preach Jesus together as a church body, and yet we don’t see mass conversions and packed stadiums.

But just because we don’t see immediate, dramatic, visible results doesn’t mean the Gospel isn’t working. It is. It must, just as the rain causes our lawns and gardens to grow. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV).

That gospel Word completely changed the life of the Ethiopian eunuch. Outwardly, things remained the same. He went back home to his job in the royal court. But inwardly, everything was different. He was filled with joy, for now he was a baptized child of God and heir of heaven. No matter what would happen, he was safe and secure with the Lord. With his having been evangelized, we can be sure he became an evangelist himself who preached Jesus wherever and whenever he could. History tells us that a very strong Christian community developed in the area of northern Africa where the eunuch was from, and it could well have begun with him. Preaching Jesus is the ongoing mission of all believers. The Word spreads out from them like the ripples from stones thrown into a lake.

Where will we be a week from now, next year, or ten years down the road? We might have an idea or a plan, but we don't know for sure. But we can be positive of one thing: By following the Spirit’s direction we can be sure that wherever we are, we will be in the right place at the right time to tell the good news of a Savior from sin; and that life-changing, soul-saving results will certainly follow. God bless you in that most vital mission! Amen.

Lord, gather all your children
Wherever they may be
And lead them on to heaven
To live eternally.
With You, our loving Father,
And Christ, our brother dear,
Whose Spirit guards and gives us
The joy to persevere.

[Worship Supplement 2000, 772:5]

—Pastor Michael M. Eichstadt

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

April 13, 2008

The Radiance of the Resurrection Gospel - Apr 13, 2008

The portion of God’s Word that we meditate on this morning comes from…

Luke 11:29-36 (NKJV)

29And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. 32The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

33“No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

Dear fellow-redeemed in Christ Jesus—the Light in the eyes of those who know the power of His resurrection:

Two middle-aged sisters were looking at a bundle of photographs they had just received from a niece who had been recently married. They hadn’t been able to attend so the sisters were excited to see the pictures. When they saw their niece in her wedding gown gazing at her groom, one of the sisters commented, “Oh, Shelly is positively radiant, isn’t she?”

There are times in our human experience when people are said to look “positively radiant” as if there were a million-watt light source shining out from within. As we consider the risen Christ in this post-Easter season, we come to realize that there is a source of power and light that can shine from within—a power to transform us in marvelous ways. It is the radiance of the resurrection Gospel I. The Gospel proclaimed is a radiance among us, and II. The Gospel believed is a radiance in us.


In the Old Testament book of Jonah, we hear about the amazing experience of Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a fish. Jesus Himself stated that Jonah was a sign of His three days in the belly of the earth. Jonah experienced a figurative death and resurrection, Jesus would suffer a true death and become the firstfruits of the resurrection.

Today, Jesus again makes reference to Jonah, but this time He distinguished Himself from Jonah and also from Solomon. Solomon and Jonah were great in God’s order of things, but He, Jesus, was greater. What that means for us is that the resurrection Gospel proclaimed is a great, radiant thing among us.

When Jonah turned back to God in repentance and the Lord caused him to be deposited back on the beach, Jonah knew what he had to do. He went back to preach in Nineveh, that wicked city of the Assyrians, who were known for their godless brutality. It probably didn’t hurt his image or credibility for the people to be aware of what had just happened. Anybody who is cast into an angry sea, swallowed up by a fish, and then lives to tell about it is going to have my attention!

Jonah also knew what he was to preach. Beginning at one end of the city, he walked through it to the other, warning “Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be over thrown.” (Jonah 3:4). Jonah’s preaching called upon the wicked and the godless, the proud and the heartless to turn from evil and genuinely humble themselves before God. His preaching was amazingly successful. From greatest to least the entire city turned out in repentance. The king, apparently in utter seriousness, even had the animals dressed in sackcloth and ashes, and God spared the city. The people of Nineveh knew that they had a great prophet of God in their midst, and they didn’t squander the opportunity to respond to God’s messenger.

Now, why did Jesus mention Jonah? If Jonah who came back from a figurative death and preached a message of doom to a foreign people was great, how about Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Son of Man who would not bring punishment, but forgiveness, life and salvation to God’s own people. He would lay down His life as the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world. He would take it up again in victory. He was “delivered up for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4.25).

There was a great crowd in front of Jesus and He took the opportunity to expose the false religious spirit of the day. Just because Jesus was popular at that point didn’t mean that He was successful in reaching the hearts of many people. It didn’t mean that there was a spiritual “revival” sweeping through the land that would save them from God’s judgment. Quite the opposite was the case. A “greater than Jonah” [v.32] was here, but would the people respond in the necessary way?

Jesus went on with another example. The Queen of Sheba, from the south of Arabia, had heard of King Solomon’s great breadth of knowledge and depth of wisdom. Intrigued by it she came and “tested him with hard questions.” She listened to his observations and pondered his judgments. Finally, we’re told, “there was no more spirit in her.” She told him, “Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom!...Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness” (I Kings 10.1ff). Because the Lord God loved Israel, He made Solomon their king.

If that was the case in Solomon’s day, what about Jesus’ day? “A greater than Solomon is here” [v. 31] — Jesus, the king of Glory. This is Jesus through whom God Himself visited His people; Jesus, the Seed of the Woman who crushed the head of the serpent liberating all men from the curse of sin; Jesus, who would rise from the dead as the firstfruits of God’s people in His everlasting Kingdom. If Solomon was great, Jesus was greater still.

The Queen of Sheba’s glory and pride was humbled and broken at the sight of Solomon’s glory, but the generation of Jesus’ day was quite different. They did not humble themselves and embrace Jesus’ message. They did not seek the true wisdom even though One who was greater than Solomon was among them.

Now the message of the Gospel: Jesus, our Lord and Savior, lives, and reigns at the right hand of God. Jesus said, “whoever believes and is baptized into His name and faith, shall be saved. Whoever does not believe, shall be damned” (Mark 16.16). How does the world react to that? Is a savior from sin the main desire of today’s man? Is that the overarching influence on American culture? Is the true, pure, doctrine of Holy Scripture the main concern of modern Christianity? I fear the answer is, “no” on all accounts. Relatively few people are hungry for the Christ of the Gospel, but that doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t among us with His resurrection power—He is! He is among us and here in this world right now through the Gospel. He is here and He is powerful to save and willing to receive all who come to Him in repentance and faith.

But as for those who dismiss the true Gospel of His salvation, He has the same thing to say to this generation that He had for His own: the men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with those of this generation and condemn them! The Queen of Sheba will rise up in the judgment with our era. Will she condemn us because One greater than Sheba was among us? Who listened? Who repented? Who believed?


The Gospel proclaimed is a radiance among us, but the mere proclamation will not save us or anyone else. The Gospel believed—that becomes a radiance within us. That is what we now need to consider.

Part of our text is a little illustration that Jesus makes in connection with what He said before. He first made an obvious point: If you light a lamp it is to give light for those who are around. No one lights a lamp and then covers it up or hides it. It was meant to give light.

Then Jesus goes on to make the point that the lamp of the body is the eye. A person’s eye tends to shine out with whatever is going on inside. A person can make an effort to be different on the outside than on the inside, but the eyes will generally give it away. If you look at a person’s eyes you can often see lying, love, hatred, joy, coldness, or compassion.

In His ministry Jesus turned no one away. He was constantly surrounded by crowds. He freely associated with religious professionals and filth-ridden outcasts and nothing in their hearts came as much of a surprise to Him. If they believed in Him He could see it. If they were plotting against Him He saw that too. He saw it all and could see it in their eyes better than they could see it in themselves. He could see the self-righteous glare of Caiaphas with all the other priests. He could see the crafty conniving in the eyes of the scribes who tried to trap Him in His words. He could also see the jealousy simmering among His twelve disciples. He spotted the great swelling pride of Simon Peter and the lurking covetousness of Judas. He saw the insatiable hunger of the faithless crowds who followed Him for just another loaf of bread, seeking just another spectacle of divine power.

But Jesus also saw the haunted, weary look of thousands who came longing for something true. He knew their yearning for something real that could not be provided by the Pharisees’ and scribes’ tradition and speculation, human reason, and technical solutions. He saw the timid trust of the woman who reached out and touched the hem of His garment and was healed. He saw the light of understanding go on in the eyes of the Samaritan woman who forgot her water jar at the well in her haste to go share the Savior with the townspeople. He saw the sweeping relief in the thief on the cross to whom He promised a place in the eternal kingdom.

Psalm 34 speaks of people who come to know and believe in the salvation of the Lord: “They looked to Him and were radiant” (v.5). What happened to the people who saw Jesus risen from the dead? After that first moment’s shock you know what sort of look they had in their eyes: Radiance, unspeakable joy, profound relief, sincere love. Mary Magdalene at the tomb, the Emmaus disciples at their table, the apostles’ in the closed room, and Thomas a week later after seeing Jesus—the resurrection radiance shone forth from all of these.

Do you know what these people did? They believed in the risen Lord. They saw the radiance of God’s peace shining on their lives, despite their faults and guilt, and they believed that that radiance was meant for them. Then it began to shine outward and they turned the world upside down with the Gospel. They did it by foot, sailing vessel, and oxcart. They told the story by word of mouth, preached it from the rooftops, and wrote it on parchment. They proclaimed it in every language, and spoke of the risen Lord in Philippi’s prison and Athens’ Areopagus. They told it with lives that refused to back down before the world’s hatred and refused to give in to the temptations of the flesh. They loved their Savior and it showed brightly in the eyes of their faith. And it was in their eyes because that was who they were. The resurrection Gospel shone in them from the inside out.

Who are we, and what light is in our eyes? Paul told the Philippians: “Be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Christ has come among us in the Gospel. For God has given us that Gospel and preserved a commitment to God’s Word among us. So the light is here in our midst. But is it under a basket somewhere? Is it hidden in a cupboard? Is it kept out of view? Or is it shining in our eyes? Does the living Christ truly shine out from our eyes and speak out in our words and become evident in our deeds? May the risen Christ be the radiance that people see in our eyes. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

—Pastor Peter E. Reim

April 5, 2008

The Master Shepherd Tends His Flock - Apr 6, 2008

The people of Jesus’ day knew what it was like to shepherd sheep. Every day at the Temple in Jerusalem a sacrificial lamb was offered both in the morning and in the evening. Throughout the day, many other sheep were offered by the worshipers who came to God’s house.

This required many flocks around Jerusalem. In fact, it is quite likely that the shepherds, whom the Christmas angels appeared to, were tending sheep destined to be offered at God’s Temple.

Because the people were familiar with the occupation of shepherding sheep, Jesus often used shepherds and sheep to explain spiritual truths.

Jesus once described how a worker hired to tend the flock will abandon the flock when the wolf comes because the flock is not his, and he cares little for them.

But God does not abandon His people when Satan’s wolves come hunting. God owns these sheep. They are His and He cares for them like a Master Shepherd diligently keeping watch over His flocks by night, or day.

The theme of our meditation today is, “The Master Shepherd Tends His Flock”.

The portion of God’s Word which our meditation springs from is found in the closing words of the book of Micah. May the Holy Spirit who authored these words open our hearts and minds to their message.

Micah 7:14-20 (NIV)

14 Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
which lives by itself in a forest,
in fertile pasturelands.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead
as in days long ago.

15 “As in the days when you came out of Egypt,
I will show them my wonders.”

16 Nations will see and be ashamed,
deprived of all their power.
They will lay their hands on their mouths
and their ears will become deaf.
17 They will lick dust like a snake,
like creatures that crawl on the ground.
They will come trembling out of their dens;
they will turn in fear to the LORD our God
and will be afraid of you.

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be true to Jacob,
and show mercy to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our fathers
in days long ago.

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Risen and Living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

One of the tools that shepherds used when caring for their sheep was the sheep pen. Sometimes this pen was called the “Sheepfold”. It might be made of wood, or more likely in Palestine, of stone. It would have one door through which the sheep could be herded in and out.

After herding his sheep in for the night, a shepherd could sit himself down in the doorway, making sure that any wild animals hunting his sheep could only reach them over his dead body.

With His opening words, Micah asks Jehovah God to be a Shepherd to His people. Micah calls God’s flock, God’s “inheritance” because they are the portion of the world’s people whose hearts belong to Him through faith.

With his words Micah describes how God has already herded His flock into a place separated from the dangers of the world. Micah says God’s flock lives by itself, in a forest, in fertile pasturelands.

God has separated His people from the world, but not by taking them out of the world. Nor has He closed us up in monasteries and convents to keep us away from spiritual danger.

God needs His people to be in the world so that they can reach out and bring other sinners to Christ. So, instead of physically taking us out of the world, God separates us from the evil world around us by His Word.

Jesus once prayed,

15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17 NIV).

As the Spirit teaches us to live life according to God’s commands, our lifestyle also shows that we are separate from the world around us. We are only passing through this spiritually dark and barren world on the way to wide open and lush valleys.

Micah asks God to let His flock feed in Bashan and Gilead as they had in days long ago. Bashan and Gilead were famously rich places to graze livestock just east of the Jordan river. The animals that grazed in those pastures were healthy and strong.

The pasture lands that God has provided for us to feed in, are the books of the Bible. Through God’s Holy Word we feed our souls and become healthier. Through the message of Jesus’ cross we know our sins are forgiven and our peace increases. Through the wise words of the Proverbs we grow in wisdom, and the right decisions in life become more clear. Through the guiding words of the New Testament letters we learn how to function among our brothers and sisters in Christ. How to encourage. How to forgive. How to know true joy in this life through fellowship with God and fellowship with God’s flock.

Through the green grass of God’s Word, we sheep are being built stronger for the journey through this life. God does this because the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. In heaven, we will find pastures that need no hedge. Green valleys that have no sheep pens. God wants us to reach that land of safety, so He draws His protective circle around us now by faith, and feeds us for life’s journey by His Word.

Micah asked God to Shepherd His people. In verse fifteen God answered Micah’s request by saying,

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt,
I will show them my wonders.” (Micah 7:15 NIV).

God says, “I have been Shepherding my people, and I will continue to do so in wondrous ways that all will see and acknowledge in the end.”

With verses 16-17, God points Micah’s eyes forward to the Last Day, the Day of Judgment when all of God’s enemies will be drawn out to face Him.

16 Nations will see and be ashamed,
deprived of all their power.
They will lay their hands on their mouths
and their ears will become deaf.
17 They will lick dust like a snake,
like creatures that crawl on the ground.
They will come trembling out of their dens;
they will turn in fear to the LORD our God
and will be afraid of you (Micah 7:16-17 NIV).

As it says in Romans 14:11

"'…As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God'" (Romans 14:11 NIV).

As Jesus told the woman at the well,

“…a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29 NIV).

As the book of Revelation declares,

"Look, he is coming with the clouds,

and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen.” (Revelation 1:7 NIV).

The enemies of God and His people may not seem very frightened right now. They rage and shout out their opposition to God on TV and in movies. They proclaim their wisdom higher than God’s in books and in newspapers.

They aren’t afraid of the almighty because they can’t see Him. They attack the flock of God as if the Shepherd is gone. But the Shepherd sees what they do. And He is not gone from His flock. He allows the wolves to cruise the edges of the flock, all the while monitoring and limiting their actions from just beyond their view.

From the shadows the Shepherd watches His flock graze, and the wolf sneak. The wolf thinks himself clever, but the Shepherd is in control at every moment. And when the wolf attacks, the Shepherd takes action – striking with strength just at the right time.

The Devil likes to darken our days with grim thoughts. He points us to our failings and our sins. He directs us to the failings and sins of our fellow Christians. He leads us to dwell on the evil that is in the world, instead of the good that comes from God. He attempts to make us a somber and hopeless people.

By pointing us to the final judgment of the wicked, God reminds us that the Devil is the one who should be somber and hopeless. His fate is dark and sealed.

Our fate is bright and sealed. Through Baptism we have been joined to Christ! Through faith we walk forgiven in His ways. God lightens our days and makes us into a laidback people, confident in our God. By His Spirit God makes us a joyful people, courageous in His service and patient with each other. Our bright Christian outlook springs from trusting that our Shepherd is wise in His tending, strong in His guarding and always alert.

Earlier we talked about how a shepherd would put his sheep into a pen for the night. This was not only to protect them from predators, it was also to protect them from themselves. Sheep aren’t the brightest of animals. They wander. And when they wander, the shepherd goes to find them.

God’s people aren’t that bright either. We allow ourselves to start the worst of habits. We charge into places we shouldn’t go. We neglect God’s Word, or fail to consider it with our hearts. We don’t take our Savior’s Words seriously at times, explaining them in a way that is convenient for our agenda.

When we start to wander from God, then the Shepherd goes to find us.

Sometimes we feel the painful thump of the Shepherd’s staff on our side. Following our little hoof-prints God finds us in a tangle of problems, or on the edge of a cliff. Smack. He gets our attention. Prod, prod. He moves us away from the danger.

Preachers sometimes emphasize that the Good Shepherd leads the way, instead of smacking the sheep from behind. But there are also times when our Savior’s rebuke is painful.

Think about after Jesus’ resurrection when He spoke to Peter by the Sea of Galilee. He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” three times. Peter was humbled. It was a painful conversation. But it was for His good. Peter’s arrogance and pride had to be leveled if He was going to properly feed God’s flock with God’s Word.

Or think about the resurrected Jesus’ Word to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. When those two disciples expressed puzzlement over Jesus’ death, He said to them,

How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 NIV).

Those are some tough words. But they were meant to help. Starting from Moses and the prophets, Jesus explained to them what the Scriptures said about Him.

In every rebuke, our Good Shepherd seeks to draw us away from foolishness and sin, back to His side.

While His rebuke may come accompanied with His anger, the Good Shepherd does not stay angry with His sheep forever. Anger is a strange thing for Him. He much prefers mercy, for mercy permeates His character. When He has delivered the necessary blows of correction, He turns to assure His sheep of His love.

Micah wrote,

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.

19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19 NIV).

When we feel the painful thump of God’s correction in the words of our fellow Christians, we can know that correction is from God, for the LORD corrects those He loves. After His rebuke, God’s tender forgiveness follows. He binds up the wounds He has made. He wipes away the tears He has caused.

He does this because He is the Master Shepherd. The sheep are His, and He loves them. He purchased them with His own blood as the hymn says,

“What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!

The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;

The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,

Who would not know Him” (The Lutheran Hymnal, 143).

Jesus is our Master Shepherd. Live joyfully in His care, feeding on His Word. Fear not the enemies that slink along in the darkness, He sees them, and will protect. And be conscious of His rebuke and His tender forgiveness and guidance in your life.


The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.