September 28, 2008

Precious Unity in Christ - Sep 28, 2008

Thematic Introduction

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 NKJV).

Our Bible readings for today focus on Christian unity. Listen for how God Himself describes this precious unity.


In our first reading we hear how God established marriage in the beginning. Man had not yet sinned, and was therefore still enjoying a perfect relationship with God. Yet God wanted to bless Adam further.

The gift of marriage came as quite a surprise to Adam. Few relationships can surpass the unity that marriage can give. In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit uses marriage as a picture of the intimate relationship that exists between Jesus Christ and His Church.

old testament................... Genesis 2:15-24 (NIV)

15The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

18The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

for she was taken out of man.”

24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Psalm intro:

In the Psalm of the Day some unusual images are used to describe the blessings of Christian unity.

The first image is oil. The special olive oil that was ceremonially poured on Aaron’s head signified that God had chosen him for the priesthood. In the same way, the words and actions that accompany Christians show that they have been chosen by God.

The second picture is dew. If Mount Zion, where the temple stood, were to received the amount of moisture that Mt. Hermon received, Mt. Zion would have burst forth with green growth and colorful blossoms. When Christians dwell in true unity with one another God does not fail to bless them with spiritual growth and beauty.

psalm of the day...................... Psalm 133 (NIV)

A song of ascents. Of David.

P: How good and pleasant it is

When brothers live together in unity!

C: It is like precious oil poured on the head,

running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard,

down upon the collar of his robes.

P: It is as if the dew of Hermon

were falling on Mount Zion.

C: For there the LORD bestows his blessing,

even life forevermore.

Letter intro:

True Christian unity is more than sharing the name “Christian”. Christians are unified by the sincere preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ. When they speak the message of Jesus, Christians invite other sinners to experience the joy of unity with God, through faith in the Savior He sent.

Letter reading....... 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NIV)

14But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.


“A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four” (Aesop’s Fables, The Harvard Classics, 1909-14).

It is from this fable, from the pen of the famous Aesop, that we get the phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

But unity can offer much more than strength. Through union with Christ our sins are forgiven and eternal life becomes our own possession.

Through our union with other Christians we receive companionship, camaraderie, insight, correction and love.

The unity that we have with Christ and with fellow Christians is truly precious. We read about this precious unity in Christ in…

Sermon reading................ Mark 9:36-50 (NASB)

36Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37"Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."

38John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us."

39But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40For he who is not against us is for us. 41For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.

42"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

43"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 45If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 47If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49For everyone will be salted with fire.

50"Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

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

Jesus and his twelve apostles were in the town of Capernaum, most likely at Peter and Andrew’s house. There Jesus sat talking with the apostles. Molding them with His wise conversation and training them for future work in His kingdom.

There were children about and Jesus reached out and drew one of them into his arms. He playfully pulled the child up onto His lap and wrapped His arms around him. With the child held in His loving embrace He explained to the disciples that if they did the same thing in His name, they were actually embracing Him. And if they embraced Jesus they were also embracing God the Father.

Unity with Jesus produces loving acts done in His name. These actions are deceptively valuable because of the invisible connection that a Christian has with Christ.

You’d think that hugging a little child wouldn’t be all that remarkable. But done in Jesus’ name that small act of love is actually an expression of the love that a Christian has for Jesus. And love of God’s Son is at the same time love of the Father.

Loving acts done because of Jesus, are loving acts done to God.

This teaching made the apostle John uncomfortable. He and the rest of the apostles had recently tried to stop a person from doing loving acts toward God.

They had met someone who was casting demons out of people in the name of Jesus. This someone was a stranger to the apostles. He wasn’t part of their group. He hadn’t been sent out by Jesus to do these miracles. He had simply heard Jesus’ message, and through faith had obtained the power to cast out demons in Jesus’ name!

But since he wasn’t part of the apostles’ group, they told him to stop. Apparently the man hadn’t listened, and rightfully so. When John brought it up to Jesus, Jesus rebuked the apostles saying,

"Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40For he who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40 NASB).

There are only two groups: those for Jesus and those not for Jesus. People who declare their faith in Christ by their actions and their mouths should not be opposed by other followers of Christ.

The mistake that John and the other apostles had made was assuming that this miracle worker wasn’t united to Christ because he wasn’t familiar to them. When the apostles acted on their false assumption they were actually trying to stop God’s work!

Hindering Christian work is hindering Christ’s work.

The opposite is also true. Helping Christian work is helping Christ’s work. The person who helps Christ’s workers because he loves Christ will be rewarded by God.

Jesus said,

…whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41 NASB).

Unity in Christ leads us to love Christ’s people, not get in their way, even if they are not part of our group.

Because we love Christ, we don’t want to get in the way of the work other Christians are doing. And because we understand how precious our own connection to Jesus is, we certainly don’t want to do anything to damage the faith of other Christians.

With His next words Jesus draws the attention of the apostles back to the child in His arms, and to the serious matter of damaging a little child’s faith.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42 NASB).

Medical doctors must carefully weigh the risks that accompany their interventions. Ultimately, whatever a doctor does will either help, or hurt the patient. Therefore, one of the fundamental principles taught to all medical students is, “Do no harm”.

Adult Christians must also carefully weigh the risks that accompany their words and actions. Everything that we do has the potential to either help, or hurt our youngest fellow Christians. We must take care to “Do no harm”.

In his letter to the Christians of Galatia, Paul said,

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13 NIV).

To the Christians of Corinth, Paul wrote,

23“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 NIV).

The apostle Peter wrote,

16Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:16-17 NIV).

We must take great care not to cause little Christians to stumble in their walk with Christ. A spiritual stumble causes spiritual injury. More seriously, a spiritual stumble may cause the faith of a little one to be extinguished.

In the Greek, the word translated “cause to stumble” is “Scandalizo”. It comes from the word for a bent stick, but not just any bent stick. The bent stick that “Scandalizo” is talking about is stick that holds the bait in an animal trap.

Imagine of one end of a huge log propped up precariously on a smaller stick. On the bottom of the stick is tied scrap of meat to attract some animal. When the animal tries to free the bait, the bent stick slips free and the huge log comes crashing down.

To lead someone to into a sin by your example, is a very serious matter. It may cause them pain and sadness. It may even cause their connection to Christ to be severed.

Jesus says, it is better to die the terrible death of drowning than to cause the spiritual death of a child.

A child’s unity with Christ is precious. Take care that your life does no harm to the faith of the children who know you.

Satan also seeks to damage our own personal union with Christ. Satan does this through leading us to sin.

Sin is like acid, it damages and erodes our faith. When we confess our sins to Jesus, He neutralizes the acid of sin, washing it away with His blood. Then He repairs the damage that sin has done to our relationship with Him.

If we stay away from Jesus and indulge in sin, the acid of sin will eventually eat through our faith and destroy the our union with Christ. That’s why we keep coming back to hear Christ speak the words of forgiveness to us through His Word. That’s also why Satan seeks to keep us away from Christ and our fellow Christians.

Jesus told His apostles to do everything within their power to avoid being lured into the death trap of sin. Listen to His words again:

43"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 45If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 47If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49For everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:43-49 NASB).

Jesus is not exaggerating here. He is making a very serious point.

Jesus just got done telling the apostles that it would be better to DIE A TERRIBLE DEATH than to cause a child’s faith to be crushed. Now Jesus tells the disciples that if great pain and limitation in this life will enable you to avoid the eternal fires of hell – then by all means do it! Who cares if you’re comfortable in this life if you burn in hell forever!

Three times hell is describes as the place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” This is a nasty picture of the complete punishment which happens in hell. Inner suffering is pictured by the worms. Outer suffering by the flames. Both are described as being eternal.

Some are quick to point out that cutting off your hand will not prevent you from being a thief, because stealing begins in the heart. Just because you can’t do the outward sin doesn’t mean that the inner sin has gone away. Therefore, amputating a limb is not an effective way to avoid temptation and hell.

This is true enough. We cannot amputate our sinfulness by cutting away parts of our body. Only Christ can remove our sins by His blood.

Jesus knows this. He’s not saying mutilate your body and then you’ll be able to avoid sin. He’s saying do what you need to do to avoid the sin traps that Satan is laying out for you. Do whatever it takes to avoid them, even if it brings you pain and limits what you can do in this life.

Jesus further helps us understand when He says,

For everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49 NASB).

The Greek word for “fire” is sometimes used to signify “difficulties”. Kinda like we say a person is in the “hot seat”. Like salt sprinkling out of a salt shaker and down onto your food, fiery difficulties fall into the lives of everyone. Everyone faces difficulties in life.

Since we will all experience difficulties in our lives, we shouldn’t hesitate to impose difficulties on ourselves if those self imposed difficulties will serve a good spiritual purpose. If the temporary sacrifice of personal freedom here on earth will help you to avoid temptation, remain in Christ and avoid the fires of hell – then by all means limit yourself! This may mean avoiding something that you like because it puts you in a position to be tempted to sin.

Unity with Christ is so precious, we are willing to suffer anything to avoid damaging our faith in Christ.

Jesus sure likes to use vivid images to teach. Think of the images He’s used in just this one conversation with His apostles. A loving and tender hug for a child. Drowning with a millstone around your neck. Amputating a hand, a foot or an eye. The eternal worms and fires of hell. Troubles sprinkled into our lives like salt on a meal.

Jesus closes our reading with one more vivid image having to do with salt. He says,

"Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another" (Mark 9:50 NASB).

Salt is used to preserve food, and also to make it taste better. But if salt were to lose its qualities of preservative and spice, it would be useless. Unsalty salt would just be grainy white dirt.

I saw a comedian once who said, “I went to the store today and picked up some powdered water. But I didn’t know what to add.” It’s funny, but it’s also Jesus’ point. If water wasn’t wet, how could you make it wet? If salt wasn’t salty, how could you make it salty? And what could you possibly use to fix it? There is no salt for salt. If a Christian severs their connection with Christ, how can they restore that unity?

Jesus says, “Don’t do that. Remain one with me by faith. Come confess your sins and remain one with me. Have salt in yourselves. Salt that preserves your life forever. Salt that is faith in me.”

Unity with Jesus not only preserves our relationship with God, it also purifies our relationship with each other. Unity with Jesus enables us to be at peace with one another.

Jesus forgives us. In turn we forgive one another. Strife with each other is overcome. Disagreements are solved or forgiven. Peace settles between the forgiven sinners who are Christ’s people because they are one in Christ. And then the work of bringing the preservative of Jesus Christ to others can move forward.

Unity with Christ Jesus makes us a valuable commodity. Unity with Christ Jesus draws us together as one, at peace with each other.

United we stand, divided we fall.

United to Christ, we are forgiven and will live forever. United to one another in Christ we receive companionship, camaraderie, insight, correction and love.

Let us take care to preserve our unity with Christ and in Christ, for it is precious. Yes, more precious than much fine gold. Amen.

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

September 21, 2008

The Power of Abiding in Jesus - Sep 21, 2008

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

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”.

“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Have you read any of these? Maybe you know some other books that might fit in the genre.

Self-help books are great sellers. There are a lot of them out there. It seems that they go to seed right on the shelves. If one is successful a crop of sequels spring up, often under the same author. The “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” spawns “The Eighth Habit of Highly Effective People”. And then “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens”. And the accompanying workbook. The daily calendar. The DVD. The class.

As I was scanning the shelves of self-help books I had to snicker when I saw one entitled, “Self-Help Books: Why America Keeps Reading Them.” And then I saw one called “Writing Successful Self-Help and How-to Books”. A self help book on writing self-help books. In my cynical mind I couldn’t help but wonder how many authors of “self-help” books are really only interested in helping themselves.

Sometimes what a person needs is simpler than a book. Simpler than seven habits. Sometimes the help we need doesn’t have much to do with “self” at all.

The apostle John wrote the book we call “John” later than the other Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke. You can tell that John had read their words. He skips over many of the accounts that the other Gospels record.

Each of the Gospels were written with the same purpose - to show people that Jesus is the Savior sent from God to take away the sins of the world and open the gates of heaven for all people. But each Gospel was also written with other purposes in mind.

At the time John wrote his Gospel, there was a group of people called the Gnostics who were attempting to mix the message of Christ with pagan philosophy. The Gnostics taught that Jesus was only a man. This robbed Jesus of His power as the divine Savior. The Gnostics went further, saying that they had the answer to opening heaven’s gates. You needed to have a special knowledge, or “Gnosis” in the Greek, and only they could teach you what that was.

The Gnostics were the self-appointed self-help authors for the followers of Jesus.

But their message wasn’t God’s message, so the Holy Spirit caused John to write the Gospel of John that emphasizes the truth that Jesus is both Man and God. And that He alone has the power to cleanse people of sin and place them in a real relationship with the God of the Universe.

John also wrote some small letters that were preserved by the Holy Spirit for our learning. In the letter we call First John, John wrote to Christians about the real power that exists in simply trusting in Jesus.

The theme for our mediation today is, “The Power of Abiding in Jesus”.

SERMON READING: 1 John 2:24-29 (NASB)

24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
26These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
28Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

Many self help books start with a number of principles. Seven habits. Five fundamentals. Three attitudes. Whatever. The plan that the author sets forth can be somewhat simple or highly complex.

John wrote to Christians because they already knew the message of Jesus, and were under attack from people trying to trick them into putting their hope somewhere else. John says, “Don’t do it!” He reminded the Christians of the original message that they had heard, and how it doesn’t change.

Here’s what John said right before what we just read.

1 John 2:20-24 (NASB)

20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

The message that they heard from the beginning was simple. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus the man was also Jesus the eternal Son of God. Jesus the carpenter was also the Holy One of God on through whom the sins of the world were taken away.

The people John wrote to had believed this message when they heard it. And their faith connected them to God the Son and God the Father making eternal life theirs.

It was a simple message, but a powerful one. There were no steps to follow. Just faith. He did it for me.

The simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus is powerful in itself. To tell someone that they need to do something isn’t all that powerful. To honestly say that what was needed has already been done, that’s revolutionary.

If Jesus were to write a “self-help” book for sinners, it would be really short. It would read, “I did it. Your sins are forgiven.”

Like the Christians that John wrote to, we are very familiar with this message. So well perhaps, that we fail to recognize its power. When we come to God and honestly confess our sins to Him, He forgives them. He says our sins are gone. Earlier in his letter John wrote:

1 John 1:9 (NIV)

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Even if other people don’t or won’t forgive us, God does, and we can move on knowing we are forgiven before our Creator.

When we feel angry at someone who has sinned against us, Jesus reminds us, “I didn’t just die for you, I died for them too. Now forgive them like I forgave them, and like I forgave you.”

When we feel lonely, Jesus says, “I’m here. Speak to me. I’m alive from the dead, remember? After I died on the cross for you, I rose from the tomb for you too. I’m alive to listen. I’m alive to talk to you.”

It’s all to easy for Christians to think that nobody wants to hear us tell them that “Jesus died for their sins”. They already know that’s what we Christians believe. But what we need to show them is what that really means for them.

One thing that John reminds us is that being in Christ means having eternal life. If we think that this life is all there is, then it’s easy for this life to take on more weight than it deserves on our minds. Midlife crises kick in. Money and pleasure become more important than they really are.

But when this life is laid on the supersized ruler of never ending life with God, then we see things in the right perspective. Abiding in Christ alters the way we view our whole lifetime. It alters our whole way of thinking. Abiding in Christ frees us up to live in ways that are impossible without Him. We are free to live our lives with our eyes on the greater prize of heaven. Our feet are freed up to move with energy and our hands with generosity.

Imagine for a moment that you are enrolled in a college physics class. On the day of the first lecture, out walks your professor, and you recognize him. It’s Albert Einstein! But for some reason nobody else recognizes him but you. Maybe his hair wasn’t quite so crazy or something. As the semester moves along you pay attention. You study hard. You do the assignments. You ask lots of questions. You try to help the other students to understand how important this guy really is! How smart he really is! How they should pay attention to what he’s lecturing about because he knows his stuff!

That’s you Christian. You know the eternal Son of God. He’s smarter than Einstein, and more important too! He actually makes a real difference in people’s lives. He offers them forgiveness of sins that opens the doors of heaven. He offers them forgiveness of sins that opens the doors to a really meaningful life in the here and now.

There is power in Jesus my friends. Power that Satan wants us to forget about. Power that flows from a simple message, not a nine step process or a five step attitude adjustment. Jesus is the Christ! And wrapped up in Him is the answer to every one of life’s problems.

Some of the more popular self-help gurus go on tour. They have their own workbooks, DVD’s and even local coaches who will teach you how to use their methods for a price. Their advice is so important, but it’s complex, so it helps to have a teacher to teach you how to use it.

That’s what the Gnostic teachers were saying to the Christians of John’s time. They were saying, “You Christians have Jesus, and that’s great – wonderful teacher that Jesus – but He didn’t tell you everything. Let us fill you in with the “special knowledge” that will really get give you a meaningful life and a ticket to heaven.”

But John says, “You don’t need anyone to teach you! You’ve got already got teacher who lives in your heart!”

The Christians that John wrote to had been baptized with more than just water. Through the word of God they had been anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is the “Anointing” that John was talking about when he wrote:

1 John 2:20 (NASB)

20But you have an anointing from the Holy One…

This Anointing was from Jesus because it was Jesus who gave the command for the apostles to baptize people in the Name of the Triune God when they went out to share the Savior with the world. The Anointing that John’s readers had experienced was an anointing with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit had never left them.

The Gnostic teachers said, “You need our insight”. John said, “What for? We’ve got the Holy Spirit inside us.” You have been baptized also. You have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. Daily He’s seeking to show you how to use what God tells you on Sunday. Constantly He’s speaking from within your heart. Continually He’s helping you understand what you read in the Bible and how to live what you read in the Word of the True God. The Holy Spirit is teaching you how to put on the teachings of Christ like clothing.

Back in Martin Luther’s time, the Roman Catholic church taught that ordinary people should not read the Bible because they are not capable of understanding the things of God properly. Without the Holy Spirit that’s true. We wouldn’t be able to understand the Bible properly. But the Holy Spirit is alive and active both in the Bible and in the hearts of those who are trusting in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the permanent personal teacher who dwells in the hearts of Jesus’ followers.

Do we learn from pastors? Sure. Do we benefit from fellowship with other believers? Definitely. Because the Holy Spirit works in these people too! Do we need the deep wisdom that comes from man’s imagination? Not really. What we need is the Holy Spirit working through His Word.

The Holy Spirit knows what He is doing. He continually draws us back to one thing. The Old Message. The message that doesn’t change. The Holy Spirit always brings us back to the Jesus Message. To the Gospel. The Good News of sins forgiven full and free, because of God’s crucified and risen Son. Because Jesus is the Christ.

1 John 2:27 (NASB)

27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

The Holy Spirit brings us back to the cross because there our guilt is washed away. There we see God’s love for us in action. There we learn what grace really means. There we both receive forgiveness freely, and there we receive the power to give forgiveness freely to those we know.

The power of abiding in Jesus comes to us through the simple message that Jesus is the Christ. But all that message means for our daily life is taught to us through the Holy Spirit in an ongoing way. Theologians are nice and all, but the Holy Spirit shines brighter.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying that I would rather you pour over the Word of God for an hour every day of the week and skip church on Sunday. Okay, I don’t really want you to skip church on Sunday, but I know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t need ME to communicate to you effectively. The more raw time you have with the Word of Jesus coursing over your mind and ears, the more the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the power of Jesus, and the path that He has laid out for you to walk in this life.

When I prepare for Sunday worship, I usually try to find the threads of teaching that are woven through the readings that are preselected for our worship. This week it seemed to me that the common thread in our readings was God a the All-powerful Judge and destroyer.

In Nahum (Old Testament reading: Nahum 1:1-8) God raged against Nineveh. In the Psalm (Psalm of the Day: Psalm 138) David said that God stretches out His hand against the enemies of His people. Even in the Gospel reading (Gospel reading: Luke 6:17-19) where Jesus was healing people He was destroying. He was casting out demons and destroying the sicknesses of the people. And that thread of God as the All-mighty destroyer is woven into our Sermon reading too.

1 John 2:28 (NASB)

28Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

One of the things that self-help books sometimes offer is instant results. If you only follow their seven rules you’ll see changes in your life almost immediately. It shouldn’t surprise us that we actually do see immediate results from abiding in Jesus. As we trust in Him we experience results that really matter.

The first of the results of abiding in Jesus is confidence. When Christians are conscious of the fact that they are resting in the bomb shelter of God’s own Son, that gives us confidence! When Jesus returns to judge the world, He’d not going to turn on His own! Those who are abiding in Jesus will rise up with confidence to meet Jesus! The Bible says that we’ll be changed in an instant and we’ll actually rise up into the sky with all the resurrected believers to meet Jesus in the sky!

The unbelievers, however, are described in a much different way. In visions of the end they are portrayed as calling on the hills and mountains to fall on them and hide them from Jesus. They are full of shame and fear.

John tells the believers that he’s writing to, “Take it serious folks! There are people trying to fool you into walking away from Christ. Don’t do it. Look to the future. Remain in Christ. Trust in the One who shed sweat, tears and blood for you. Jesus is the Christ. Abide in Him. Have confidence in His promises now, so that you’ll have confidence when He appears then.

The other immediate results of abiding in Christ are shown in our last verse.

1 John 2:29 (NASB)

29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

The power of abiding in Jesus is seen in the lives of those who abide in Him. Those who trust in Him. Those who look to Jesus for all things. Christians are Christ-like. Yeah, they’re sinners. No doubt few of them would openly toot their own horn and say, “Look at me, I’m so Christ-like”. But they are. Their righteousness shines in their daily living. In their refusal to gossip. In their patience with others. In their willingness to share. In their willingness to help. In their constant prayer. In their dedication to hearing God’s Word.

Maybe you’re feeling a little guilty right now because you haven’t been doing so great in these areas lately. If that’s the case, remember the thing that not only shines in the Christian’s life, but DEFINES the Christian’s life. Remember the power of abiding in Jesus. The power that courses down us and takes all our sins away as we kneel before His wooden throne, utterly humbled by our failures to be like Him.

The power of abiding in Jesus is found in four words. Jesus is the Christ. He’s the Holy One of God. He’s the Savior. We’re just the saved. We’re the saved.

There’s power in abiding in Jesus, because Jesus is the Christ.


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

September 14, 2008

The LORD Prepares You to God Out into the World - Sep 14, 2008

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

Matthew 10:16-22

[Jesus said], “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Dear fellow-redeemed in Christ:

There are many situations in which we may have heartache when we send our children off into the new and unknown. At the same time there may be much trepidation on the part of those who are being sent off. Some examples are: dropping your child off at school or putting him on the bus for the first day of kindergarten, saying goodbye as your children leave for summer camp, and turning to go back to your house after you have dropped your children off for college—or even high school if they are going to Immanuel Lutheran High School n Eau Claire. At the same time we would not willingly put our children in harm’s way. Even if our children balk or even throw a tantrum at a new situation, deep down they know that we wouldn’t want to hurt them. In fact, if we let go of them it is for the very reason that we’re putting them into a situation that’s helpful to them, and we will do what we can to prepare them for it.

As children of God we can have even more confidence than children have in their earthly parents. The Lord will not put us or lead us into situations that are harmful to our souls. That is not to say that we won’t find ourselves in dangerous situations. After all, we are still in this sinful world. We are in an environment that is hostile to the Christian. We’ve heard Jesus say that He is sending us as sheep into the midst of wolves. However, He prepares us for that very thing. He warns us of the danger. He equips us so that we will not be harmed and He lets us know the final outcome so that we have courage and hope. May the Holy Spirit renew hope within us today as we study His Word.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as Christians is to think that the unbelieving world is our friend. If we think in those terms than we will think differently and we will act differently. We will cozy up to what is dangerous for our souls. Jesus says in verse 16, “Behold, I send out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” The description of wolves and sheep is to draw our attention to the predatory nature of the world. It’s not like a workplace setting where the idea is to claw and scratch your way to the top. It’s more than a dysfunctional family setting that affects us adversely. We are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves. In some cases it’s more obvious than others. There are Muslims and others who have the stated goal of killing Christians, but there are also those who would subtly lure us away from our Savior with the misuse of alcohol, with the misuse of our bodies, with hatred, with dedicating ourselves to the pursuit of material things, and must more. But whether or intentional and obvious or not, the result is the same. If you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of God.

Jesus warns in verse 17, “Beware of men.” Do not put your confidence in people. After Pentecost when the persecutions began, Christians were handed over to the authorities to be arrested. Family members betrayed each other out of hatred for Christ, or even to save their own skins. The world is not your friend. Expect animosity from it. Be prepared for the dangerous situations that exist.

Yet even though we are made to realize what a dangerous place this world is, Jesus says, “Get out there.” There is an emphasis in the original language in verse 16, “I Myself am sending you…” Make no mistake about it, Jesus does not want you living in a compound set apart from unbelievers. Jesus does not want you to avoid talking and working with unbelievers. He says I want you to go out. I Myself am sending you.

The purpose of this is not to toughen us up, or that we should lose our faith and our connection to Christ. It is not because Jesus doesn’t love us. It is because He even loves the wolves. He wants them to be changed through His message of love. He doesn’t send us out with weapons in order to destroy. Rather He sends us armed with the Word of God which has the power to save. He doesn’t want us to conquer the world by force. In His Kingdom He wants hearts to be conquered by love. This is so important to Him that He’s sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. He doesn’t want the world’s sinfulness and wickedness brought into His Kingdom, rather He has sent us to take the message of salvation out into the world.

It is not that Jesus tells us of the danger and then sends us out to fend for ourselves. He equips us and prepares us for the danger that we face. We go back to verse 16, “Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

You would not think that being like a serpent would be a Christian attribute. But let us think about what qualities we’d be looking to imitate. The serpent is wise in that it is a survivor. It does not put itself into a position where the odds are stacked against it. Jesus wants you to use the knowledge and the common sense that He’s given you and don’t go looking to become a martyr. If God wants to you use you to die because you are a Christian, it will become apparent as it did when Stephen was stoned. There were many times when Paul used his Roman citizenship to his advantage to avoid being punished or even put to death. He used his knowledge of customs and knew when to open his mouth and when to keep it shut. The Lord does not want us to be abrasive sheep looking for trouble. You don’t need to come down on a co-worker in regard to live-in situation in front of twenty other people, but at the same time He wants us to be bold in proclaiming all of His Word where it is needed.

If we are as innocent (harmless) as doves, we will be cautious not to give anybody any reason to say negative things about us. There were many times when the apostles went peaceably to prison and were well behaved while they were there. There is the obvious example of Christ Himself who gave no cause for complaint. The goal is not to get people angry at you. The goal is to present God’s Word—to show people their sin and to show them their Savior.

Jesus also said in verse 19, “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Jesus had told His apostles that they would appear before governors and kings, but not for the purpose of being honored. They would be on trial. Consider what you might be thinking about if you were put on trial because of your faith, or if the governor called you in for questioning. I think that each one of us would be preparing a case. We’d look into hiring a lawyer, and make sure that we had a good argument. Jesus says, “Don’t worry. The Holy Spirit will provide you answers.” What a relief that must have been! The apostles had more than a high-priced defense attorney in their corner, they had the Holy Spirit Himself providing them answers, and giving them a testimony.

This is not lost on us today either. Many times I recall in seminary that we would bring up hypothetical cases to our professors and ask them, “What do you do or say in this situation?” Their answers were very helpful, but in no way could every situation be covered. There’s no predicting what situations a pastor might face. Those situations multiply considerably when you add pastors and laymen together. When you start out the day you don’t know exactly what opportunities you’ll have to witness. Sometimes you do know and worry about what you might say. Pray to the Holy Spirit for the words to say. Be familiar with the words that He’s already given you in the Bible. You are sent out and put into situations so that you may give testimony of what you know and that you may speak for God about the sin and grace.

Finally, Jesus prepares us by giving a preview of the final results of our time in enemy territory: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” [v.22]

If you are watching a live football game, you fret and stew about every mistake. But if you are watching the game on tape and already know that your team has won, you don’t worry about interceptions and fumbles. Knowing the outcome makes the journey easier. Jesus has already given you the end result of your life here on this earth—salvation.

Salvation makes it all worthwhile. You will put up with problems because you are a Christian. You will feel left out and feel isolated. You feel restricted. You feel different. There will be times that hatred will come your way and not even because of anything you’ve done, but simply because you believe in Jesus as your Savior. There are sacrifices that are made because we’re Christians.

This thought is nothing new to us. If we want to lose weight we need to eat less and exercise more. If we want to save money then we can’t spend as much. We endure such things because of the goal. What greater goal is there than Heaven itself? Jesus has given us the promise of eternal life. He endured the way of the cross for the joy that was set before Him—the joy of saving you and I. He took on the taunts and jeers and the whip. He took on no less than Hell itself so that we might have a home in Heaven.

What a promise Jesus has given us: “He who endures to the end will be saved.” In heaven you won’t remember hatred and heartache. You won’t be concerned about what you’ve given up. You will simply enjoy what God has given to you. You won’t have the emotional scars of being a sheep among wolves. You will have peace and joy with your Savior and your fellow Christians.

It’s not time to give up and become one of the wolves. You might say, “I don’t want to become a wolf. I’m just tired of being a sheep.” The truth is you are either one or the other. Endure for the sake of the name of Jesus. It is in Jesus’ name that we can pray. It is that name of Jesus that alone saves us. It is because of that name that we’re hated. People hate Jesus so much that it spills out upon His followers. While it is tempting to say, “I give up,” or “I don’t want to do this anymore,” keep on enduring for the joy that is coming. It is a joy that will surpass any hardship.

If you are a sheep in God’s flock, Jesus is sending you out with a purpose. But He doesn’t send you out alone, nor does He send you out unprepared. Jesus sends you so He Himself will equips you for the task. Amen.

—Pastor Michael M. Schierenbeck

Sermon provided through Ministry by Mail. For more go to

September 7, 2008

Nothing Sacred in God's Restoration Project - Sep 7, 2008


Restoration. Whether it’s restoring a classic corvette, a Victorian style house, or a trash littered park, restoration means making something the way that it used to be. Restoration means making something beautiful once again. Making something functional. Making something the way it was meant to be.

Today, our readings from God’s Holy Word focus on how God restores people.

LETTER READING: 1 Corinthians 8:1-6 (NIV)

1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.
4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

God the Father created the human race to live for Him. But through sin the human race died to God.

But the Father’s Son, who was also there at the beginning, became human in order to take our sins away and restore our life. All who trust in Jesus are forgiven their sins and are restored to life through Him.

GOSPEL READING: Mark 8:22-26 (NIV)

22They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
24He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
25Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

Jesus could have restored this man’s eyesight without touching his eyes. But Jesus wanted to restore more than the man’s eyesight. Jesus wanted to restore spiritual life to this man’s soul. Jesus wanted to make this man come to faith in Him.

Jesus takes the blind man out of town and away from the busy crowds so that the blind man can concentrate on Him. Jesus then uses a two step process to heal Him. It wasn’t that Jesus failed the first time and had to take another shot at it. Jesus restored this man’s sight slowly so that he could understand that Jesus was the one doing the healing here. The power was in Jesus!

Jesus was able to restore his eyesight and allow him to see the world once again. But what Jesus wanted most of all was for this man to see that He was the Savior sent from God, who is able to restores spiritual life through the removal of sins.

Our Old Testament reading for today comes from Second Kings. A little historical context will help us to understand this story better.

The prophet Elisha occasionally travelled through the town of Shunem. A woman there recognized that Elisha was a man of God, and invited him to eat with her and her family. Eventually the Shunammite woman convinced her husband that they should build a little room on the roof of the house for Elisha. That way whenever he was travelling through Shunem he could stay there comfortably.

Elisha was thankful, and wanted to do something for her. But when asked she said she didn’t need anything. It was brought to Elisha’s attention that she did not have any children. Elisha promised her that by that time next year a child would be born to the Shunammite woman and her husband. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

OLD TESTAMENT: 2 Kings 4:18-37 (NIV)

18The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19“My head! My head!” he said to his father.
His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.
22She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”
23“Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”
“It’s all right,” she said.
24She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” 25So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”
“Everything is all right,” she said.
27When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”
28“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”
29Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”
30But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.
31Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”
32When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
36Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” 37She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

It was the LORD who had given life to the Shunammite’s son when he was conceived. It was also the LORD who restored his physical life through the prophet Elisha.

God could have worked this miracle through Elisha’s staff. But God didn’t. God could have immediately answered Elisha’s prayer in the closed room. But God waited. God could have breathed life back into the boy after Elisha had laid down on him once. But God didn’t.

Elisha had said,

“…Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why” (2 Kings 4:27 NIV).

In delaying the restoration of this boy’s life, God was apparently teaching Elisha something. Or teaching the Shunammite woman. Or teaching Gehazi. I do not know what the lesson was that God was seeking to teach.

One thing I do know, God is capable of doing whatever we ask of Him. When He doesn’t, it is not because He cannot do it, so it must be for another reason. When our prayers seem to go unanswered, we must continue to trust in Him. We must continue to pray to Him. We must continue to listen to Him speak to us through the Bible. Eventually we will understand why God does the things He does. If not in this world, then in heaven when all things have been restored (Revelation 21:5).

SERMON READING: Ezekiel 24:15-27 (NIV)

15The word of the LORD came to me: 16“Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. 17Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners.”
18So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.
19Then the people asked me, “Won’t you tell us what these things have to do with us?”
20So I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me: 21Say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. 22And you will do as I have done. You will not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners. 23You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. 24Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.’
25“And you, son of man, on the day I take away their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart’s desire, and their sons and daughters as well—26on that day a fugitive will come to tell you the news. 27At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD.”

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

Is nothing sacred?

I don’t know where this phrase comes from originally, but I’m sure we’ve all heard it at one time or another. When a person says, “Is nothing sacred?” they are usually expressing disgust that something that was supposed to be special has been used in an un-special way.

You don’t use the United States flag to wipe off your hands when you’re working on the car. You don’t use your Bible to prop up that end of the couch that has lost its leg. Certain things are sacred. They are special because of what they represent, or because of what they are associated with. At least, that’s what most people would say.

But when it comes to God and His project to restore life to dead sinners, it appears that nothing is sacred. God will use anything and anyone to make sure that fallen sinners are restored to the status of saints.

Ezekiel was deported to Babylon earlier than when Jerusalem fell. About ten years before Jerusalem was destroyed, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar took ten thousand prominent Jews to Babylon. Ezekiel had been one of these.

In Babylon God called Ezekiel to the hard job of preaching to the exiled Jews. The exiled Jews had heard that the people who remained in Jerusalem had been allowed to keep their property and were living in peace. When they heard that, they didn’t believe that God was really going to level Jerusalem in judgment over their idol worship.

But God had made up His mind. Jerusalem would fall.

Ezekiel had the difficult job of preaching to a hardened people. Many of the exiled Jews were hardened against the LORD but open to worshipping idols. Back home they had taken pride in the beautiful Temple of Jehovah, while continuing to worship at the shines of false gods as well.

So, God would desecrate that beautiful Temple that they loved so much. He would burn His own Temple to the ground. The outward beauty of the God’s Temple was nothing if it was not being used to worship the true God. And if by leveling the Temple God could cause some of the unbelieving Jews to repent and turn back to Him, than it would be well worth it in God’s eyes.

Jehovah God would use every resource that He had to turn the Jews back to Him. He would even use the believers who living among the unbelieving exiles.

Ezekiel’s wife was the love of his life. God calls her the delight of his eyes. But she would suddenly be taken away from Ezekiel in death. The horrible void in Ezekiel’s life would have filled in with mourning, but God commanded Ezekiel not to express his sorrow except by moaning quietly.

Ezekiel was to be a sign to the exiled Jews. They would mourn in the same way when they learned that the glorious Temple that they loved had been burned to the ground and their children who had remained there had been slain.

It doesn’t seem that the LORD is trying to restore anything here. It seems like the LORD is destroying instead of restoring. But in these events God was seeking to restore the unbelieving Jews to faith through a dramatic thing. God was foretelling the future with both words and with events in the life of Ezekiel.

How hard this must have been for Ezekiel. And yet it was his lot in life. It was what God had chosen for Him to do. As Christ Jesus had THE cross, all of God’s followers have their own crosses to carry. We are God’s forgiven children, but we are also His servants. It is God working through us that brings His precious message of sins forgiven through Jesus to people who don’t know it yet. Or don’t understand it. Or don’t care.

What is your burden? What cross has God given you? What responsibility is it that you carry so that others might know their Savior? If it feels heavy, remember that God doesn’t place burdens on His people without also placing His all-powerful hand underneath to support us. Pray to Him. And persevere in the promises that He speaks to you through His word.

In college I worked one summer at a printing factory in Milwaukee, WI. Since we were only working for the summer months we packed in as much as work as we could. We did as many twelve hour shifts back to back as was legally possible.

The work was physically demanding, tedious and often aggravating. We all had our different ways of coping with it. One of my friends said that whenever he was really thinking of walking out the door he would remind himself that the factory only had him for 12 hours. That was it. No more. It was a finite number, and he could make it.

In a way the suffering Christian can apply this same idea. This world only has us for this lifetime. That’s it. No more. There are a finite number of days that we have to spend in this broken world. The eternal weekend is closer with every day we live. Soon we will rest with Jesus in heaven.

God’s people can bear the crosses that God gives them in this life for another reason too. They know that God has done the same.

The Father took away the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes, his beloved wife, as a sign to the Jews. But the Father would know what that felt like in the years to come. When His Son was crucified and taken away from Him God the Father would know sorrow like no one has ever known. And He would bear the sorrow of losing His Son so that people who hated Him could be redeemed, restored and forgiven.

The events surrounding the death of Ezekiel’s wife were meant to jar the Jews into seeing the seriousness of their sin. The events surrounding the death of Jesus do the same thing on much greater scale.

For the Jews, Ezekiel was meant to be a sign that said, “Wake up! You’re sliding down the slope to hell! Turn back to God before it’s too late.”

For the whole human race Jesus is a sign that says, “Wake up! This is what your sins deserve! They earned you suffering, hell and death! But now God has rescued you through His Son!”

We were broken down cars, dilapidated old houses, polluted fields. Through Jesus we are restored! God has cleansed and restored us through Jesus’ sacrifice in our place. Believe it! And watch as God continues His work of restoring you through His Holy Word and the power of His Son.

God told Ezekiel that when all these things happened the people would know that He was the Sovereign LORD. In the Hebrew you could translate that, the “Master Jehovah”. He is the powerful promise keeper. Jehovah promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior for them and their children, and He has delivered.

The LORD has been able to restore us sinners because He considered nothing above using to get the job done. Not his Temple, not His people, not even His Son.

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing special to God? Yes. We are. For He used everything to make us His own. Let us walk then as His people, that He may never need to wake us up to His love with great tragedy and sorrow.

In Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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