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Clinging to the Promises of God

If you were a farmer, the list of failures in Habakkuk 3:17-18 would be devastating. The business faced utter failure.

Habakkuk 3:17–18 (NIV): 

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."

To one degree or another, we all face those moments. Life is filled with failures – failures that hurt, frighten, and change the direction of one’s life.

With defiance in his voice, Habakkuk concludes, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” The experiences of life do not deter or change the love of God. God’s love was carved in stone when Jesus died and rose for us. His proclamation to all who believe in that Savior is unending and eternal love.

Often times, faith is looking past the experiences of life that are disappointing and difficult and clinging to the promises of God to be with and bless his people. The hurt and failure may not disappear, but the love of God and the assurance of his love never change! In the moments you face, God grant you the defiant faith of Habakkuk to rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in the confidence of goodness for you.

 

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God is in Charge

In Romans we read, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (13:1 NIV). As we celebrate our freedom as Americans, we must always remember that all governments are established by God. He uses our leaders to protect and bless us. He can also use government as an instrument of punishment against sin (think of the empires in the Old Testament used to punish the Israelites who had turned away from God.) Whatever the case, we must remember that God is in charge! Martin Luther said it this way:

God looks upon kings as children look upon playing cards. While they are playing, they hold the cards in their hands; thereafter they fling them into a corner, under the bench, or into the rubbish. God also acts in this way with rulers. While they rule, He considers them good; but as soon as they overdo it, He ‘puts down the mighty from their seats’ (Luke 1:52) and lets them lie as discards.” (What Luther Says, page 579)

 

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God Makes Us New

“Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.” Hosea 7:8 (NIV)
The verse might sound silly. It was actually spoken in anger.

Imagine cooking pancakes, but never flipping them. One side would be done, even burned, while the other side was soft and inedible.

In Hosea 7, that’s how God saw the people in Israel. They were only half done. Their words and actions were inconsistent. They professed to believe in God; they even followed some of his ceremonial laws in their outward worship. But God saw their hearts and their unwillingness to live according to his will.

God has never been satisfied with or fooled by an outward show of Christianity. He has worked in our lives to make us new. We are new through faith in Jesus and the peace that comes from trusting in him for complete forgiveness. This peace washes over us and offers us relief and hope. It shapes our view of God.

We are made new so that we can live as God’s people. The line immediately before the verse above says, “Ephraim mixes with the nations.” The people in Hosea’s day were living like unbelievers, even as they claimed to be God’s people.

Christ Jesus has set you free from sin so that you can live the full life of serving him and putting him first. This will be seen in your faith that rest on Christ alone. This new life will also be seen in your desire to live a holy life and to struggle against sin.

Christ has called you out of the world’s way of thinking and acting. Make time to grow in God’s Word and in his grace so that you can see the joy of a full life – a life of believing in Jesus and serving him.

 

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Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV)

The words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30 are beloved by all who believe in him. They should be.

Have you read what led up to Jesus saying these words?

At the beginning of Matthew 11, Jesus answered a question sent to him by John the Baptist, who was in prison. John wondered if Jesus was the One or if someone else would be the Messiah. In talking about John the Baptist, Jesus spoke of how the people of his day could not be pleased and would not believe. They rejected John for being too stern and rejected Jesus for being too eager to be a friend of sinners. This led Jesus to speak some harsh words against cities in Galilee that rejected him. He said that Sodom and Gomorrah, the godless cities destroyed by fire from heaven in Genesis, would find Judgment Day more bearable than the cities that rejected Jesus. That’s harsh!! Then, Jesus thanked his Father for the faith that lived in his disciples.

Then suddenly the words of Matthew 11:28-30 came out of Jesus’ mouth.

Of course, we rightly find rest in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus freely gives to all who believe in him. These sins make us “weary and burdened,” but his grace comforts and renews us.

But aren’t we also burdened, as Jesus was, by the unbelieving world. So many reject him and openly live contrary to his will. Aren’t we, like John the Baptist, burdened by doubts as the events we see around us do not match up to our expectations? Doesn’t the relative “doom and gloom” of most of Matthew 11 match what we see going on in a sinful world?

Jesus’ words thunder to those who live in this sinful world. In him is rest. No, the problems of life may not disappear – his “yoke” may not (will not!) go away. But in the midst of whatever today brings or tomorrow threatens, “you will find rest for your souls” in Jesus. His love has not stopped and will never stop. His plan for you, carried out when he died and rose for you, is that you be with him forever in heaven. You may face burdens today, but by faith, you know the rest of a Savior who will not leave you. Trust in him and know the true rest that your Lord wants you to have.

 

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Pastor Kneser

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Facing Dangers

The Christian constantly faces two opposite, but deadly, dangers. Read the following from Martin Luther:

“Without the Holy Spirit hearts are either hardened in sins or they despair. But both are contrary to the will of God. By the Holy Spirit the godly navigate between the satanic Scylla and Charybdis [see explanation below, if needed] and cast themselves upon the superabundant and infinite mercy of God. They confess their sins, but at the same time they also confess the immeasurable mercy of God.” (What Luther Says, p. 662)

[Scylla and Charybdis were sea monster in Greek mythology. Scylla was a six-headed monster on a rocky cliff and Charybdis spit out water that created a giant whirlpool. They were located so close to each other that to avoid one meant getting too close to the other. The myth is probably the origin of the English phrase “between a rock and a hard place.”]

Luther used Scylla and Charybdis to picture the two deadly temptations we constantly face: hardened heart or despair — God doesn’t want either of those attitudes in us.

Pride causes hearts to become hardened. I do my best. I’m better than most people. I go to church or went to a Lutheran grade school and/or high school. Pick the reason, the heart that is proud is looking at itself, not at Jesus!

Despair overcomes hearts that focus on their failures, sins, and troubles. With this focus, a person feels unworthy and views their situation as hopeless. In the end, this heart is not looking at Jesus either.

Look at Jesus and see God’s grace for you. Do not look at Jesus so you can ignore and indulge your sins. Confess your sins; wrestle against them as you grow into Christ. But never stop looking at Jesus as your source of hope and strength. In him you will always find forgiveness. In him, you are righteous before God. Let this be your comfort and strength as you daily focus your faith on his love for you.

Lamentations 3:22–24 "Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

 

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Comfort and Strength

The Bible is an endless source of comfort and strength for new believers and life-long believers alike. Read the following section from 1 Peter. The verses teach us about what Jesus has done for us; what this means for our Christian living; conversion; the Word of God; and other doctrines. With these relatively few verses you will find plenty to feed your faith and guide your life of service. 

1 Peter 1:13–2:3 (NIV):
"Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.


And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.


By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again —not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.

And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you.


So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good."

 

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Such a Hope

"Since we have such a hope, we are very bold."
2 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV)

You have the glorious hope – such a hope – of knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior. He has purified you and made you to be his child. You live in the peace of perfect forgiveness and love that is yours though faith in Jesus.

This hope makes us bold. We are bold to face the troubles of life with the confidence that God’s love is without limit. We are bold to face ourselves – including the guilt of our own sins – and know that God has removed every spot of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus and he considers us his very own. We are bold to live as God’s people – guided by his Word and will – in a world that often rejects the things of God. We are bold to love and to forgive and to give.

We are bold because we know Jesus . . . and Jesus knows us!

 

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Work of the Holy Spirit

We celebrated the Festival of Pentecost. In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote about the work of the Holy Spirit in his explanation of the 3rd Article of the Creed:

"Now this is the article of the Creed that must always be and remain in use. For we have already received creation. Redemption, too, is finished. But the Holy Spirit carries on His work without ceasing to the Last Day. For that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church or granted all forgiveness. Therefore, we believe in Him who daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church through the Word. Through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins He bestows, increases, and strengthens faith. So when He has done it all, and we abide in this and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy. Even now we expect this in faith through the Word."
(paragraphs 61-62)

The work of the Holy Spirit continues even today as he strengthens your faith and creates faith in the hearts of new believers. He carries this work out through the church and as the gospel message is proclaimed. You continue to enjoy the blessings of Pentecost as you hear God’s Word, recall the blessings of your baptism, and receive the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit is truly at work in these to strengthen you in faith and empower you to live as God’s child – whether you feel it or not. Make time in your life – both personally and as a member of our congregation – to regularly hear the Word of God so that the Spirit’s ongoing work comforts you by pointing you to Jesus.

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”  John 15:26  (NIV)

 

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Wait for the Lord

Wait for the Lord;be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14 NIV)

At one time or another we have all struggled with waiting for the Lord. His timetable isn’t always the same as ours. Faith, however, is the solution to our impatience. King David, who wrote Psalm 27, also wrote Psalm 62. There we read:
One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God are strong,
and that you, O Lord are loving.
(vs. 11-12)

The One who is strong enough to do anything, is also filled with love for us. Guided by love, God’s actions are always perfect for us.

So wait. Wait for his timing and his ways. They are always right!

Martin Luther said it this way in a sermon:
We should learn to praise and thank God even though He does not come to our aid when we would like to have Him come. We should accustom ourselves to His way and be patient even though He delays. For it is a trifling achievement to praise and thank Him for giving what we desire and allowing matters to go as want them to go. But real praising and thanking must be done by being still, holding on, and patiently waiting for His help; for the nature of God is such that He does not permit us to determine the person, the time, and the place, the what, the when and the how, of his giving. (What Luther Says, p. 629)

 

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Remain Faithful

Confirmation Sunday is important for the newly confirmed, but is also a good reminder for all Christians of the commitment we have made to Christ. The confirmation vows should not be taken lightly, not when first spoken or for the rest of life.  Paul wrote to Timothy about making an effort to remain faithful to God:

"But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will bring this about in His own time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, the only One who has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; no one has seen or can see Him, to Him be honor and eternal might. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:11–16 NIV)

He’s worth it! The Lord is the only true God. He is the only Savior. And he is more committed to you than you could ever be committed to him! Trust in the goodness, grace, and promised salvation of God. Make the effort to fight the good fight against the influences of sin, but above all, stand firm on his unchanging promises to you!

Pastor Aufdemberge

Pastor Kneser

Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling



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he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. ~ TITUS 3:5