February 21, 2021

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Feb 212021
 

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Psalm 3

Few, if any of us, can even imagine being in David’s shoes. His own son, Absalom, had secretly been working against him. He convinced many that David was uncaring and incompetent and that, if he were king, he would do a much better job than his father. When he had drawn even some of David’s most trusted advisors and military leaders to his side, Absalom attempted a military coup. The forces of Absalom were so strong that David had to flee for his life. As he fled, he prayed, O LORD, how my foes are multiplying!  Many are rising up against me!

As he fled, he knew what some people were saying. He realized that he was partly to blame for what was happening, he had lost the respect of Absalom and others because of his sin with Bathsheba. People were saying that he was getting what he deserved, that there was no salvation for him, that God had abandon him because of his sin.

Although none of us knows what it’s like to have a whole army chasing us, there has probably been a time or two in our lives when it seemed like everyone was against us. Maybe there was a time in school when it seemed like everyone, even your closest friends, had turned against you, even if it was something as minor as giving a wrong answer and having everyone laugh at you, or making a basket, or a goal, for the other team.

Maybe you were the one who was wronged or deserted by a spouse, but it seemed like everyone blamed and turned against you.

Maybe you realized that the reason family or others turned against you was because of a sin you committed. Maybe you gave them reason to gloat over trouble you were experiencing thinking that you were getting what you deserved.

Even if you can’t think of a time when it seemed that everyone was against you, the fact is that there are foes multiplying against us all the time.  As Christians, our number one enemy is Satan, and he has an army of demons that he would love to unleash on us. As we have experienced recently, our enemies in the world are multiplying against us as well. People in the media rarely have anything good to say about Christians. Politicians suggest that, although you might have the right to worship, you should do it in private and keep your weird, dangerous ideas to yourself. Expressing your faith, or some truths of Scripture on social media could get you suspended, or at least unfriended or ridiculed. As we experience trouble in our lives, often as a result of our own sinful actions, we might be tempted to think, “my enemies are right, there is no reason the Lord should deliver me. I deserve to have him forsake me, to let my enemies have their way, and then send me off to suffer forever in Hell.”

How did David respond to being chased by an army led by his rebellious son while being reminded of his sins? He turned to the Lord for help. He says, you, O LORD, are a shield for me.  You are my glory and the one who lifts up my head. With a loud voice I cry out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down, and I sleep. I awake, because the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of the thousands of people who line up against me on all sides.

How could he say that! He was guilty of adultery and murder, the murder of one of his most faithful soldiers who had been with him from the beginning when Saul was chasing him and trying to kill him. How could he think that God would be his shield? How could he expect to have God answer his prayers? Because when he confessed his sin, Nathan, the prophet of God said, God has put away your sin. By the word of God’s prophet, he knew that God had forgiven his sin.

Do you realize that you are in the same place as David was? In most of our worship services we join each other in confessing that we are not only by nature sinful, but that we, like David, have sinned against God and our neighbor in our thoughts, words, and actions. We admit that we deserve nothing but punishment from God. All we can say is, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.  And then, like David, we hear a spokesman of God tell us, God has put away your sin. Your sins are forgiven. They have been paid for in full by Jesus.

O Lord, you are my shield. You extinguish the flaming arrows of the Enemy’s accusations against me. You are my glory, I have none of my own. You are the one who lifts up my head, who lifts me up from the shame I have brought on myself because of my sins. Because of what Jesus has done for me I can sleep peacefully because I know that no matter how many people oppose me, no matter how vehemently the Enemy Satan accuses me, you have already given me the glory of eternal life with you in heaven.” As we heard Paul say, if God is for us, who can be against us?

  But the Enemy says, “how can you be so sure? How do you know that God is for you? Paul answers, If God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him? The proof that God is for us is that he sacrificed Jesus in our place.

Paul continues, who will bring an accusation against God’s elect? Oh, the enemy Satan will try. His name means accuser.  God is the one who justifies! Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus, who died and, more than that, was raised to life, is the one who is at God’s right hand and who is also interceding for us!

  Yes, even if thousands of people are pursuing us and Satan himself is accusing us, we can rest in peace because Jesus is interceding for us. He is pointing to what happened in the wilderness when Satan tempted him for 40 days. He defeated every one of Satan’s temptations, not only for himself, but as our substitute. He is pointing to the garden where his friends fell asleep, and when they saw him surrounded by a mob, deserted him and ran, yet he had prayed not my will, but thine be done, and submitted to the mob knowing that it would lead to the cross. He is pointing to the darkness that indicated that he had been forsaken by the father, not because of anything he had done, but because he accepted the punishment we deserve. He is pointing to his resurrection, his appearance in Hell where he proclaimed his victory over our Enemy Satan. Because of what Jesus has done for us and still is doing for us, we need not fear any enemy, not even Satan himself.

By defeating all of Satan’s temptations, by his death in our place and his resurrection from the dead, Jesus has struck all our enemies on the jaw. He has given them a knockout punch. He has broken the teeth of the wicked one, the roaring lion Satan who wants to devour us, but now is toothless. Yes, salvation belongs to the Lord. Jesus has won it for all. In grace God has brought us to faith and made us his own. Through faith all the blessings Jesus purchased for us have become ours. God’s blessing rests on his people.

Whether we always recognize it or not, you and I have some very powerful enemies surrounding us. When friends or family turn against you, either because you have sinned against them or because you are standing on the truth of God’s word; when the world turns against you and you are ridiculed or even canceled by the world because you have taken a stand on the truth of God’s word; when Satan holds your sins before your eyes and tells you that there is no hope for you, God is not going to deliver you; turn to this Psalm. Let the situation in which David found himself, and the faith the Holy Spirit gave him to express give you comfort, hope and peace. In fact, let’s read this Psalm together right now.

1O Lord, how my foes are multiplying!

Many are rising up against me!

2Many are saying about my life,

“There is no salvation for him in God.”

3But you, O Lord, are a shield for me.

You are my glory and the one who lifts up my head.

4With a loud voice I cry out to the Lord,

and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5I lie down, and I sleep.

I awake, because the Lord sustains me.

6I will not be afraid of the thousands of people

who line up against me on all sides.

7Rise up, O Lord! Save me, my God!

Yes, you will strike all my enemies on the jaw.

The teeth of the wicked you will break.

8Salvation belongs to the Lord.

Your blessing rests on your people.

 

If God is for us – and Jesus proves he is- who can be against us.

 

 

Sermon from February 14, 2021

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Feb 142021
 

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Mark 9:2-9

Do you remember what happened six days before the transfiguration? Jesus had asked his disciples what they were hearing. What were people saying about him? They told him that some were saying that he was Elijah, or some other Old Testament prophet come back to life, or maybe John the Baptist come back to life. Then he asked them what they had to say about him. Did they agree with the crowds? No. Peter confessed that he believed that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God.

As a teacher, Jesus might have thought, “Yes! They have been listening. They finally get it. They know the truth about who I am!” But any excitement he may have had over Peter’s confession quickly disappeared. As he explained to them that being the Christ meant suffering, rejection, death and resurrection, Peter, as boldly as he had confessed, now boldly argued with Jesus that this could not be.

We get it. We know how easy it is to be just like Peter. By God’s grace we have come to know the truth about Jesus. We know and confess that he is not just a prophet. We know and confess with Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God. But it’s so easy to interpret what that means through the lens of our selfish sinful nature.

That’s what Peter did. Selfishly he didn’t want to think about anything bad happening to Jesus because then, what would he do? He didn’t want to think about being without the company of Jesus. When he saw Moses and Elijah in glory talking with Jesus, he selfishly wanted to have them stay, and to continue to enjoy this glimpse of heaven on earth as long as possible. Who wouldn’t? But, as Jesus pointed out, he was looking at things only from a human point of view, selfishly. He was missing the big picture, the things of God, the real reason that Jesus came.

When you confess that Jesus is the Christ, what selfish thoughts are you tempted to have? Are you tempted to think of him as the one who should solve all your earthly problems? And, if he doesn’t, are you tempted to wonder if he’s really the kind of Messiah you want? Are you tempted, like Peter, to want to set up a little piece of heaven on earth and avoid all suffering or trouble that might come as a result of your confession that Jesus is the Christ? It’s so easy for us to let selfish, earthly thoughts drown out the things of God.

Peter had another problem we often have. He sometimes spoke or acted on emotions, without really thinking through what the consequences of his words or actions would be. If Jesus followed his suggestion, if they built shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah and spent the rest of their days on that mountain with them, there would be no salvation. If Jesus didn’t hide his glory again, and come back down the mountain to go up to Jerusalem to suffer; if he didn’t willingly submit himself to betrayal, capture, injustice and finally crucifixion, then how would the sins of the world be paid for?

We are told that Peter, James and John heard Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah about his departure, about his suffering and death, and also about his resurrection and ascension, his departure from life on this earth. He was talking with the representatives of the two major parts of Old Testament Scripture, the Law and the Prophets. He was discussing with Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet, about how he was going to fulfill every prophecy that was recorded in the Law and the Prophets about the Messiah.

How blessed these disciples were and would be to see the prophecies fulfilled right before their eyes. As Jesus told them on another occasion, blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Yes, it was good for Peter, James, and John to be there and to see Jesus in glory talking with Moses and Elijah. Yes, it is good for us to be here today to see these things through their eyes and to be assured that Jesus is truly the Christ, the Son of God. But our faith is not to be based on experience or emotional highs. The Father made sure to remind Peter and us of that. He reminded Peter and us that there is something much more important than experience or emotional highs. The Father spoke from the cloud, this is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.

Keep listening to Jesus. That was going to be very important for these disciples as they came down the mountain, traveled to Jerusalem and watched Jesus ascend Golgotha, not shining in glory but covered in blood, experiencing the darkness of bearing the sins of the world and being forsaken by the father in our place. Keep listening to Jesus even when the noise of the world tries to drown out what he has said. Keep listening, remembering what he said would happen – On the third day I will rise again!

It’s not easy for us to keep listening to Jesus. The noise of the world is very loud. It tries to drown out his voice.

The noise of ungodly music that promotes hatred of authority, abuse of women, promiscuity and racism tries to drown the word of God that says honor those in authority, flee from immorality, love others the way God loves you, right out of our heads. It tries to keep us from listening to Jesus.

The noise of division and finger pointing, the noise of woke-ism, the noise of what claims to be science but is really only unproven theory like Evolution, the noise of the LGBTQ movement and abortion as women’s health, all these things and more bombard us, and especially our teens, constantly day in and day out. They try to keep us from hearing the voice of Jesus who says, let the one without sin cast the first stone, who says that in the beginning, when God created all that exists, he made people male and female. It tries to drown out the voice of Jesus who says Let the little children come to me; and things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied round his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

How do we overcome the noise of the world so that we can listen to Jesus? A lot of the noise can be turned off. You really do have control over the kind of music you listen to, the kind of TV and Movies you watch. You really do have control over what you look at on social media, or if you turn it off completely. Parents set an example for your kids. When something objectionable comes on, don’t be lazy. Turn it off. Then explain why. Let your children listen to Jesus through you by telling them what Jesus says. Don’t be lazy and let them listen to whatever they want. Their eternal life may be at stake.

There have been a lot of reports lately about what is being taught in some schools. Children have received assignments that blatantly contradict what Jesus says in his word. Parents be aware of what is being taught to your children. Be aware of what is in their textbooks. Be aware of what’s in their homework and what they might have been told not to tell you. Do all you can to keep the noise of the world from drowning out the voice of Jesus in their lives.

Those who attend Christian schools are not immune. The noise of the world reaches them too. But by God’s grace there are daily opportunities to listen to Jesus in devotions and chapels and discussions in class. But there is another danger in a Christian school. It’s the danger of taking the opportunity to listen to Jesus for granted. It’s the danger of thinking, “I’ve heard that already. I already know about Jesus.” That attitude of complacency leads to hearing the words, but not really listening to Jesus.

Our Christian schools like NELHS have been a great blessing for many. NELHS has and continues to offer a great opportunity for young people to turn down the noise of the world and listen to Jesus. But not everyone is able to make use of such schools, and the need to listen to Jesus doesn’t end with high school. No matter what our age or stage of life, we all need to continue to listen to Jesus. We need that daily reminder that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We need the daily reminder that he came to live and die in our place. We need the daily reminder that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven so that we could join Moses and Elijah in glory when Jesus comes again shining like the sun to take us to the kingdom he is preparing for us. What better thing could there be than to listen to Jesus say, I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me has eternal life.

Parents, it’s your responsibility to help your children turn down the noise of the world and listen to Jesus. There are lots of ways to do that. NELHS is one of those ways. But in order to help your children you need to take the Father’s admonition and apply it to yourself. Think about how much the noise of the world might be drowning out Jesus’ voice in your life. As you are reminded of the fact that there is nothing more important than Jesus and his word, make every effort to make more time to listen to Jesus yourself, and then talk about his words with your children when you get up, when you lie down, and every opportunity that presents itself.

Keep listening to Jesus.

Sermon from February 7, 2021

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Feb 072021
 

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Mark 1:29-39

After Herod beheaded John the Baptist, Jesus left Judea and went north to Galilee. He walked along the sea of Galilee and called Peter, Andrew, James and John to be fishers of men along with him. On the next Sabbath, Jesus and his newly called disciples went to worship in the Synagogue in Capernaum- Peter’s hometown Synagogue. The people there had heard about Jesus and they asked him to speak. They were amazed at his teaching because he didn’t quote the famous Rabbis. He taught with authority. He said, “This is the word of the Lord.”

As Jesus was teaching, Satan tried to disrupt and distract. A man in the Synagogue who had an unclean spirit, a demon, cried out. The spirit correctly identified Jesus as the Holy One of God. But Jesus did not allow the distraction. He didn’t allow the demon to speak another word. He showed the authority that was his as the Holy One of God by commanding the demon to leave and the demon had to obey. Jesus backed up his authoritative teaching with authoritative actions.

Of course, word about what Jesus had said and done in the Synagogue spread quickly through the whole region. What effect would this have on Jesus’ ministry? All the free, word-of-mouth advertising would bring a lot of attention, everyone would want to at least catch a glimpse of the Jesus who not only taught with authority but, just by the power of his word, without any incantations or hocus pocus, cast out demons. And, if you had a family member or a friend who was sick, or you suspected they might have a demon, you would search him out hoping to be healed by him.

Why had Jesus come? What was the primary purpose of his ministry? That’s the question Mark is answering for us today.

When the service at the Synagogue was over, Jesus and his four new disciples headed to Peter’s house for a Sabbath meal. When they arrived, they discovered that Peter’s mother-in-law had suddenly fallen ill. She was bed-ridden with a fever. (In case you missed it, Peter was married. Jesus didn’t require his Apostles to be celibate.) Could Jesus help? He had cast out a demon, could he heal illness? Would he heal this unnamed woman in a private home away from the crowds or were his miracles only intended for well-known people? Were they only done in front of crowds where a large number of people would see them?

When they told Jesus about her, he went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began to serve them. Yes, Jesus also had authority over illness. No, he didn’t heal just for show, only in front of crowds. He had not come to serve only the rich and famous, or to make a name for himself. He had come to serve anyone and everyone in need.

Before we move on, we should take a moment to note what it says about Peter’s mother-in-law. The healing Jesus provided was complete and immediate. She didn’t need time to regain her strength after the fever left. The impression Mark gives is that she jumped up and immediately got to work preparing the Sabbath meal. We know that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, but that’s what he wants for us also. Whatever gifts he gives us, whatever blessings we receive, if we are healed of an illness, it’s not so that we can focus more on ourselves and complete our bucket list before it’s too late. It’s so that we can do what Peter’s mother-in-law did. It’s so that we can devote ourselves to serving others, starting with our families.

Wouldn’t you have liked to have been at Peter’s house that day and enjoyed a Sabbath meal with Jesus? What a wonderful discussion there must have been as these new disciples asked Jesus about what he had said and done in the Synagogue and asked for more details about what it meant that he would make them fishers of men. I pray that you make an opportunity sometime during your week, if not a Sunday dinner, maybe an evening meal where you can sit down as a family and discuss the things that Jesus said and did and what they mean for you personally and for the mission of the church and for the world in which we live. Jesus may not be present physically as he was at Peter’s house, but he promises to be present at your house as you gather in his name around his word. He still speaks with authority through his word about all the issues we face today.

When the sun set and the Sabbath was over, the calm enjoyment of Jesus’ presence came to an end. The whole town gathered at Peter’s door. They kept bringing all the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus so that he could heal them. And they were not disappointed. Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons.

The Bible lets us know that there wasn’t any sickness or disease that Jesus was unable to heal. Whether it was a fever or leprosy, or diseases that didn’t even have a name, he healed them. He gave sight to the blind, even those who were blind from birth. He enabled the mute to speak, without speech therapy. He enabled the lame not just to walk, but to run and jump, without any physical therapy. The healing he provided was immediate and complete. When it came to demons, there weren’t any that could refuse to obey him, even in cases where there were multiple demons, like Mary Magdalene, or the Gadarene man.

We might imagine that it was getting quite late by the time Jesus had healed all those who had come to Peter’s door. But, early in the morning, before dawn, Jesus was up. He withdrew to a solitary place and was praying there. Even as true God and true man, an hour or two spent with God in the Synagogue once a week was not enough. He spent time talking with the father in prayer often. He chose to go to a place where he wouldn’t be interrupted or distracted. He wanted some alone time with God.

What about you? Do you think that the fact that you are here today spending an hour hearing God’s word and giving him worship and praise is enough? Do you think you have now done your duty and the rest of the week is yours to do with as you please? Obviously, that’s a legalistic, sinful way of looking at things. Paul reminds us that we are not our own. We have been bought at a price. Jesus gave himself 100% for us. Should our response be that spending an hour a week for him, if we have time, is more than enough? Jesus redeemed us from sin, death, and Satan so that we would be his own and live under him in his kingdom, not just for an hour on Sunday, but every day. He wants all of us. He wants our hearts, hearts that want to hear what he has to say to us in his word daily, and that want to talk with him daily about that word and about everything that is happening in our lives. Even if that means getting up before the sun each day, or turning off the TV right after the news, or taking your lunch and going off by yourself, making time to listen to what Jesus says and to talk to God in prayer is what keeps our relationship with God strong. If it was important for Jesus, how much more important is it for us?

What did Jesus say in his prayer? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but the circumstances might suggest something. The night before, the whole town had just showed up at the door looking for physical healing. When Peter found where he had gone to pray, he said, Jesus, everyone is looking for you! Why? What did they want from him? More healing? Did they want to make him king as many did after the feeding of the 5000? Satan had offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world, all their glory, power and riches, if he would just bow down and worship him. Jesus had resisted that temptation, but was that temptation rearing its ugly head again with everyone looking for him? Was his prayer that he would resist the temptation to become a physical healer who set up shop in Capernaum? There certainly was an endless amount of physical need and he had the power and authority to take care of those needs. But is that why he had come?

After his prayer Jesus answered Peter and those with him who were encouraging him to come back to Capernaum and set up shop there, Let’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so that I can preach there too. In fact, that is why I have come.

   Jesus didn’t come to earth just to heal people, or just for one city. In another place he makes his mission clear. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Sickness, disease, demon possession were only symptoms of a deeper problem. They all exist because of sin. They all exist because we are born in sin, in Adam’s sinful image. As the God-Man, Jesus had the power to take care of the symptoms of sin. He could heal the sick, but that didn’t solve the real problem. At some point in the future those people who had been healed would get sick again and they, like everyone, would face death. He could cast out a demon, but there would still be demons looking for opportunities to disrupt families and society and to distract people from the one thing they really need. Jesus came to preach. He came to proclaim the good news that his miracles were just a foretaste of what is in store for all who believe in him. He came to proclaim the good news that he is the promised Messiah, that came to destroy the devil’s work. He came to redeem all people. He came to provide a cure for sin, his blood shed on the cross that purifies us from sin. He came to win a place for us in heaven, a place where all the effects of sin are gone, where there is no sickness, no disease, no crime, no Satan, no death. Jesus came to let us know that he is the way, the truth and the life, our only way of salvation.

The one who teaches with authority and has authority over every sickness and disease, over death and Satan, says with the absolute authority as God- whoever believes in me has eternal life.

Trust that authoritative word and serve him with gladness every day.

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