Sunday, November 30, 2008

In the Hands of the Potter (Is.64:8)

S‑1082 11/30/2008 1SIA/3B Hymns: (O)#57 vv 1-4; (S) 56; L.S. #58; #59; #95; #57 vv 5-7

Texts: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10

Theme: “In the Hands of the Potter” (Isaiah 64:8)


Question: “How artistic are you?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Old Testament Lesson: “But now, O LORD, You are our Father;
we are the clay, and You are our POTTER; we are all the work of Your hand”
(Isaiah 64:8).

Saints in Christ, I love to work with my hands. I love to go to the shop and take either wood or metal and create something beautiful out of it. Creating something is truly an art that makes you feel good and proud to accomplish it. And then it is even more blessed when you give that special creation to someone you love.

You too, are gifted by God. As your pastor I have seen some of your handy works. Some of you do wonderful things with many different items—building, sowing, painting, writing poetry, cooking and crocheting. We use our hands to do many things that bring us pleasure. And some of us love to give these things away.

More often than not though, we are too proud of what we have done. We say look at my accomplishments. In itself this is not bad. It is good to take pride in the work you are doing. But to be truthful pride gets in the way and we think we can do anything and that we can take the place of God.

In today’s text Isaiah confronts us with a wonderful message that we need to hear and heed. Listen again to Isaiah “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our POTTER; we are all the work of Your hand”

You and I are the works of God’s hands. He is the Potter, and we are the clay. He is not just any kind of Potter, but He is our Father—a loving and enduring Father that wants what is best for us. He is our Creator who created the world and everything in it. He is the One who stooped low and fashioned man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. He is the One who set the sun, moon and stars in the heavens. He is the One who made the dry land. But let us not forget that we are the work of Master’s hands. He is the One who formed us with His loving hands. This is how David tells us about this marvelous Potter: “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

So why did the Potter make us? What is the reason for keeping us? Let us look at another portion of the Word of God also by Isaiah. “…Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I might be glorified” (Is. 60:21). Did you hear it? We are the work of God’s own hands to bring the glory and the splendor due His name. Yes, you and I are called as His beloved children to use our hands to let the whole world know what Christ has done for us and continue to do for us our Potter Father. PAUSE.

But the problem is we don’t. We use our hands to kill and destroy. We use our hands to rob and hurt others. (Case in point) In New York on Black Friday 11/28 a Wal-mart worker was killed Friday when “out of-control” shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors at a 5:a.m. sale. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said. A shopper said, “I can’t believe humans can be so savage”.

We use our hands to build our own gods in our imaginations. As Isaiah says, “Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made” (Is. 2:8). These gods can’t save us. They have mouth but don’t speak. They have ears but don’t hear. They have eyes but don’t see. These are the idols we make. We fashion out of wood, copper, metal or any other items. We rely on these gods to save us and make us happy but they don’t. PAUSE.

It’s easy to desire power and prestige. We like to be recognized and to think we are in control. We want to do the work—even the work of God—and get the credit for it. Do we try to control God’s hands? Absolutely!

How sad that we fall into thinking that we can save ourselves and we don’t need God any longer. We try to make ourselves righteous before God. But all our righteous acts are like filthy rags in the sight of God. We have reached such technological heights that we put God on a shelf and attempt to make our salvation the work of our hands. We even pride ourselves in our accomplishments.

I am reminded of a story that I read sometimes back. Some scientists came to God one day and said, “We don’t need you anymore God! We can do everything that You have done and even better. We can even make man now a day!” “Interesting!” God said. Then God said, “Show me.” The scientist went to the laboratory and began to assemble some of the materials they have. God interrupted them and said, “You make your own stuff!”

Let us not forget dear friends that we are the clay He is the Potter. He is our Father. He rules and reigns as He pleases. He is our Creator. He is the Master Craftsman. He is the One who does all things for us even today.

Where would we be without God’s hands that formed man from the ground, that held back the waters of the Red Sea, that buried Moses on the mountain, that wrote messages on walls? What could we do without His hands that touched deaf ears so they could hear His name and hope-filled message; hands that blessed bread, fish and children; hands that wiped away the tears of others as well as His own; and hands that were nailed down and three days later rolled away a boulder that covered His grave of death and turning it into a place of life and light.

Where would we be without Him or His hands? We wouldn’t have hands or hand-outs, hand-me-downs or handfuls of blessings. Without our glorious God, we wouldn’t be handy with tools or handily with games.

It is these hands of the Potter/Father who began the new work in us by the sending of His Son, Jesus into the flesh to redeem us with His hands. With these hands He washed the feet of the disciples. With these hands He reached out and healed a woman from sickness and on the night of His betrayal He reached out with His hands and instituted a covenant of forgives in the Holy meal and on that same night He allowed His hands to be nailed to a cross. These are the hands of the Potter Your Father whose love embraces you, humbles you so that you may not experience His wrath but His love, not the punishment of hell, but the pleasures of heaven.

What kind of Father do you have? He is the Potter who molds you, fashions you and blesses you to be a blessing to others. Amen.

Now the peace…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Shall I Render Unto the Lord?

S‑1080 11/23/2008 LSIC/3A Hymns: (O) #15; (S) #441; L.S. #39; #457; #315; (C) #442

Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

Theme: “What Shall I Render Unto the Lord” (Psalm 116:2-14).


Question: “What happens to you when you hear the word “Stewardship”?

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Stewardship Sunday is from Psalm 116 “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people” (Ps. 116:12-14).

Saints in Christ, what I am about to say I sometimes don’t like to hear. But it needs to be said, because it is God’s Word. And it is ONLY the Word of God that will guide us on our journey to eternity.

Today, we are dealing with a subject that many people begin to squirm about as soon as the word is mentioned. Mention “Stewardship” and people begin to think, here he goes again! He is talking about money. Yes! Stewardship is about money. But it is much more than just money. It is the whole life of the redeemed child of God as a way of thanking God.

The Psalmist in this prayer of thanksgiving challenges us with these thoughts: “How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?” (v. 12). It is a rhetorical question that demands an answer. It reminds me of Christina Rosetti’s “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man, I’d do my part. What can I give Him? Give Him my heart!”

It also reminds me of the little girl who was in the doctor’s office for a check-up. Shining light in the girl’s eyes, the doctor asked “Am I going to see Big Bird in there?” No response. Putting the scope in her ears, he said “Am I going to hear Elmo in here?” No response. Placing the depressor on her tongue “Am I going to see Cookie Monster?” Still, no response. Putting the stethoscope on her heart, he asked “Am I going to hear Barney?” Finally responding, the little girl said “No! Barney’s on my underpants. Jesus is in my heart!” The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. “Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”

The word for “goodness” can actually be translated “graces.” I like that! It’s all grace—everything we have. When we stop to count ALL of God’s goodness|benefits|graces to us—even if only the blessing of Christ our LORD—we don’t have enough time to count the things we consider less than blessed; and even in those things God works together for good

“How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?” Its payback time—in the most positive sense! We give God everything from our hearts. We do so as the Psalmist answered this rhetorical question. I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

Four cups of wine are consumed at the Passover Seder meal. All of them indicate salvation of sorts--in Abraham's time and beyond, salvation from idolatry; at the Exodus, salvation from the Egyptians and slavery; later, salvation from Babylonia and The Exile; and, lastly, salvation to come at the end of the age.

We believe in God for salvation. We believe that His salvation cup is not half empty. We believe that His salvation cup is not half full. Instead, it’s overflowing!—like Niagara Falls.  As Psalm 23 reminds, our cups overflow. Lift them up! A toast to God! Cheers for all the years! Cheers for no more fears! Cheers for no more tears!

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people.   This morning you will fulfill this verse when you open your wallets, purses, hands and hearts and give to the Lord that which you told Him you would. It is not a mandatory thing, but a joyful thing. Stewardship is not just the giving of money, but all of you into the service of the King, Jesus Christ.

Some people will say, I can’t give much! Fine, give what you can. Serve where you can. Share what you can. Honor God with what you have. Think of the woman who gave two mites—she gave it to her Lord from her heart. She gave all as a way of thanking Her God for all of His goodness to her.

How did you do this past year financial offering wise? Did you fulfill your pledge? Did you give as much as you were able to or should have? If not, the good news is that now that’s past history. Today we begin anew. Today, I pray that the Lord will open your eyes and hearts to see His desires for YOUR life—a whole life of stewardship.

It was Thursday afternoon Mrs. Silbaugh and her first graders were coming out of the Church just as I was coming in. I asked what they were doing. “Warming up” was the response. I asked Mrs. Silbaugh if I could give them something? “Yes.” I went to my office, and brought the candy dish. Gave each a candy including Mrs. Silbaugh. Then she reminded them of two special words to say—Thank You.

The Psalmist reminds us of our Thank you to God is living for Him and doing what we said we would do. The problem is not that my neighbor doesn’t give enough, serve enough, share enough or love enough. But the problem is the guy I look at in the mirror every day.

The Christian life of stewardship is not a spectator’s sport; but rather an active life of giving, sharing, serving and witnessing. That is how we live out our faith. But who do we live it for? Does God need our good works? NO! Does God need our faithful stewardship of time? NO! Does God need our faithful sharing of the Gospel? NO! Is God dependent on you being faithful with your tithes and offerings to the Lord’s House? NO! God needs none of these. But your neighbor does. The child that hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a result of Redeemer’s ministry needs your good works that flow from your faith in Christ. That neighbor that is open to you telling your faith story because you made sure they had food to eat or clothes to wear needs your good works flowing from your faith in Christ. The person on the other side of the world who hears the Gospel from a Lutheran missionary supported by Redeemer’s offerings to district and synod needs the good works of your faithful financial stewardship. PAUSE.

Christians don’t look for praise when they serve the Lord. They serve the Lord as a response to all of the goodness His has given them. We do it because we know Christ’s love and share in the hope of eternal life. But God does indeed notice the good things we do. And one way God has of encouraging His discouraged people is to prompt our fellow believers to take notice of the fruits of our faith.

We don’t keep records of the offering to see who gives more, or to praise the person. No, we do it to praise the Lord. Our world loves to bring attention to what sinful humans do. We, His beloved children do it all for the glory of God alone. After all, God produces those good works. The Bible says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

God is glorified when His people speak about the financial gifts others have brought to the Lord, whether those gifts are regular first-fruit offerings or large, onetime gifts. God is glorified when a congregation or a synod publicly calls attention to people who are serving Jesus in some way. God is glorified when a congregation celebrates a pastor’s 25 years in the ministry or a teacher’s 40 years teaching or an organist’s 50 years of leading services. Nor do we keep track only of big works of service or important milestones. In how we talk, we praise God for every act of service, whether big or small. We do it ALL for the Glory of God Alone.

Why do we live a life of stewardship? Because it is a response of giving back to God for all the good He has given me—a sinner. Why give? First, Christ died for us, gave His life for us, suffered hell for us and rose for us defeating death for us. His love from Calvary constrains us.

Why give? Second, because on top of this, He gives to us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper, incorporates us into His body in Baptism, and sends His Holy Spirit to us even now to dwell within us, pray for us, and comfort us with precious promises.

Why give? Third, the great unfathomable gifts yet to come: forever young bodies, reconciliation with loved ones in heaven, new heaven and new earth, seeing Jesus face to face, and so much more. Other reasons one can gather...we are planting seeds in time for a rich harvest in eternity.

So what is our response to the goodness of the Lord? I shall fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Not selfish living, but selfless living. Not selfish giving, but selfless giving. God grant us the joy, privilege and blessings to live as faithful stewards, sharing, serving, caring, loving and giving ALL for the glory of God. Amen.

Now the peace…

REMEMBER Deut. 8:2

S‑1081 11/27/2008 Thanksgiving Day Hymns: (O)568; (S) 36; 54 S.O.D. 574; L.S. 313; #572; 577

Texts: Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Philippians 4:6-20; Luke 17:11-19

Theme: “REMEMBER” (Deut. 8:2).


Question: “Remember when?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Thanksgiving Day is from the Old Testament Lesson: “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD Your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deut. 8:1-2).

Saints in Christ, on this National Thanksgiving Day, we take time to be in the Lord’s house for one purpose and one purpose only—to give thanks to our Father, Creator and Provider for all of His blessings for us.

One of those blessings is the gift of memory. Oh how precious that gift is and what a tragedy when we loose our memories. Sometimes, we kid ourselves by saying: “I am having a senior moment—I forgot!” Memory is indeed a gift, and we don’t realize what a gift it is unless we loose it.

Perhaps you know a loved one—grandpa or grandma, father or mother who lost their memory to Alzheimer. You visit them in the hospital or the nursing home, but they don’t know you. It breaks your heart when that happens.

But as bad as that loss is, it is not as bad as when we choose not to remember the blessings from God. It is a sad day when the child of God forgets the commands of God to remember all of His goodness and graces to us. In the text before us today, Moses as God’s spokesperson speaks to the Israelites saying: And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD Your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut. 9:2).

Moses is asking the people of Israel to REMEMBER all along the way, how with a mighty arm and with an outstretched hand what the Lord of heaven and earth has done for them—delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh and the slavery in Egypt, and how He led them for 40 years in the wilderness. Remember His goodness to you and the promises He fulfilled in caring for all of your needs. Remember His loving-kindness to you by not keeping you where you were, but getting you out of that place. Remember! Don’t forget that you have a Father who loves you and cares for you. The more you remember, the more you are apt to give thanks for what has taken place.

Many parents teach their children to say “thank you” as they receive a gift from someone. Sometimes they also have to remind them to say thank you too. That is a good thing. When we do we acknowledge the giver of the gift.

Memory is a special gift from God. We often find ourselves saying to one, Remember when… “Remember when we went on this vacation? Remember when grandma came to visit? Remember when God answered our prayers? Remember when she said yes? Remember when our children were born?”

Oh, how thankful we are for our memories. They allow us to look back and give thanks to God. But they also allow us to look ahead realizing that God is continuing to lead us into the future. PAUSE.

We live in an electronic age that many people can’t live without, because of the many conveniences they provide us. Consider the computer. It has a memory chip that allows it to remember the last activity and store information. But sometimes the computer gets to much information and it needs a bigger memory chip to hold all of the information.

So it is with us the beloved saints of Christ. We have our memory also. The more we spend time around God’s Word and His Sacrament, the more we are filled with awe at God’s mercy and grace for all He does for us. And even though we don’t have a memory chip that you can add to because of the many information we have stored, we have a chip in someone who cares to remind us of the blessings of God—a brother or a sister in the Lord. For those who care enough to remind us of God’s goodness we should be thankful.

As sinners, sometimes we forget that we are God’s beloved children, that He provides for us all things, that He cares for us in all situations, and that He wants us to remember His love and compassion always. PAUSE.

It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean... For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long. 

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie's own words, “Cherry,” that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”

“Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it.  And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eye browed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a manna in the wilderness. 

We, today, gather in this place to remember a great deliverance that took place. Not of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, not the deliverance of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker from the sea by a sea gull, but the living Christ who gave His life as ransom for all. We remember our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ on Thanksgiving Day and every day for all of His abundant and undeserved blessings for us. We remember as we gather in His presence around His Word and precious Sacrament. In gratitude we remember His goodness always. We remember His suffering at the hands of the Romans. Remember the crown of thorns. Remember the pierced hands. Remember the parched lips. Remember His death. And rejoice in His resurrection. Jesus even exhorts us as we gather around His table to do it all in remembrance of Him. PAUSE.

Beloved in Christ today in gratitude to the Savior’s gift to us, we are in His house. And we remember the many blessings. Therefore remember your baptism. It is your greatest Treasure! It is a ship that shall never be wrecked, which leads you into a heavenly harbor. Remember the Sacrament of the Altar it is your heavenly manna along the way to eternity. Remember that your sins are forgiven. Remember that you are blood-bought and heaven-bound. Remember this day, because today in gratitude to the God of all grace; you and I lift our eyes heaven-ward and declare all that we have is but a gift from the merciful Father of all grace.

Please, Lord, never let me forget the basis for such a blessed hope. Jesus died in payment for my sins. He rose again to show sin’s payment was complete. Those of us who remember this wonderful and blessed news and by faith live and die in Him shall stand at His side in heaven forever.

Thank God for your memory today. Blessed Thanksgiving Day. Amen.

Now the peace…

Thursday, November 20, 2008


image As of today, we have received $11,439.13 All praise be to God alone. We have surpassed last year’s amount. Thank you one and all. If you want to donate towards the Bike for Life, it is not too late.

A Letter from A Nour Tour Traveler


"...So thank you so much for being one of the greatest instruments of God's love...

My  mind and heart for some reason goes back to the Legacy Hotel. After a wonderful day of God's deeply illuminating Word; being read and sung (at the sights of Jesus' life), that hotel was like heaven. It seemed safe and welcoming. I could see the city from our balcony and reflect...

I could sleep so sweetly knowing I was in Jerusalem, the city Jesus wept over. I could wake in the morning knowing you were preparing to feed us again, the "manna" from heaven. I ate, to me heavenly food, laced with prayer and ate with my brothers and sister in Christ, (wonderful prepared food).

I sat on the patio and laughed with everyone. I know this trip has been truly a gift from my heavenly Father. I truly feel His love. His is a Rich, Generous, Gracious God. Constantly pursuing me with blessings...."


  • My sister Soumia is slowly gaining. Continue to pray for her healing. It has been a long year. She is now home and walks with the aid of a walker. She is on a lot of medication.
  • My cousin Bassem Nour. He was diagnosed with Brain tumor and it is cancerous. Has been in the hospital for the last 3 weeks. He also had stroke that has affected his right side (can’t use it) and can’t speak any more. Pray for him and his family.
  • The upcoming Advent/Christmas Season’s preparation in feeding the saints.
  • The upcoming Nour Tour in May.
  • The continual preparation for the Doctorate of the Ministry Program. I am taking my final independent study and then the dissertation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Encouragement Words Part II

S‑1079 11/16/2008 27SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #446; (S) #611; (C) #508

Texts: Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Theme: “Encouraging Words ‘B’” (1 Thess. 5:11).


Question: “Are there any words you never get tired of hearing?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Epistle Lesson: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:9-11).

Saints in Christ, some times a movie is so good, that the producer and director decide to have a follow up. Movies such as: Back to the Future, Rocky, Jaws and others. These producers and directors know they have a good script and people would come and watch them. Paul, too, the producer and director of this Epistle, has great news to share, a follow up from the previous chapter to give to the Saints at Thessalonica with a Script that will help them with their lives. This news is the reason to speak of Encouraging Word Part II.

During my years of seminary training and the fifteen years I have been a pastor, I have never had the same title for same sermon back to back. Remember last week’s sermon title was “Encouraging Words ‘A’” and today’s title is “Encouraging Words ‘B’”. Why? Because the text demands it. The text of Paul highlights the emphases of encouraging one another and building each other up.

What a privilege the Lord of the Church gives us His followers to share such encouraging Words with those around us. What an honor to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others. What a blessing when we can be used by God to encourage another person to walk in the walk of faith and to know their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ better.

It is such a critical thing among Christians to be an encourager to those around us. The reason, there are so many things that just drag us down. So many things that take our eyes from the end prize, the 2nd Coming of our Savior to earth to take us with Him to heaven again. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul emphasizes these words for us: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Paul doesn’t want us to lose focus of this encouraging aspect. He knows the world and its enticements on the believer’s life. He knows the challenges we face. So many discouraging events going on in our world that we forget that God is STILL in total control and that God is working in these events to bring us to a closer walk with Him.

Watch TV, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, and all you get is but bad news. It is better if you shut the TV, radio, and quit reading the newspaper so that you don’t feel as badly. Because every time you watch, listen and read about the events in our world, we get discouraged. The stock market is in shambles, our economy is in disarray, our world’s situation is unbalanced to say the least, and we find ourselves anxious about these situations and not knowing what we need to do, or what to say.

On the one hand there are many people who are discussing the end of the world. They spend so much emphasizing this aspect that they forget about the rest of the News God has in His Word. Paul, however, highlights the implications of Christ’s Second Coming for daily living. Since we know who we are and whose we are, let us seize the day in being always prepared for the Master’s return as mentioned in our Gospel reading (Mt. 25:14-30), let us be self-controlled (5:8), and not controlled by things.

Paul admonishes us to be awake and sober. Does the world tranquilize us with its vanities and pleasures? How easy to get wrapped up in hunting, (here I am applying the law to myself), TV programs, sports, shopping, work and travel. These activities in and of themselves are fine. However, they can divert us from God’s plan for us. Satan tempts us to succumb to the sins of the night—partying, drunkenness, sexual sins and the like.

Not only that, but Paul also encourages us to put on the whole armor of God. The breastplate of faith enables us by the Holy Spirit’s power to trust God with each day’s problem and afflictions. The breastplate of love flows from faith. Love penetrates the darkness as nothing else can. The helmet of hope equips us to live soberly each day. No matter how dark the day, the hope of Christ’s return keeps the light burning.

Finally, Paul asks us, invites us and bids us to “… encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (5:11). The world discourages us and tears us down. But we have the precious Gospel message to share with one another. We know that Good News! By the grace of God we have heard it a 1000 times before. We know from Holy Scriptures that Christ died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him (5:10).

You and I as believers are blessed indeed. We are blessed more than we even know or desire; all on account of Christ’s death and resurrection. This is why Paul wants us with these words to encourage others and build them up as we have been doing. PAUSE.

On Thursday evening, I got a phone call from my son David. He said, “Dad, I have something to share with you! Today, we had ‘Parents/teacher conference.’ In his school there are two fifth grade classes. A father of child in the fifth grade not his own came to David and said: ‘Mr. Nour, are you by any chance related to Nabil Nour?’ David smiled and responded, “you bet, he is my pops!’ The gentleman then proceeded to tell David saying, “I want you to know that your father was my youth counselor at Redeemer, Sioux Falls (this is over 20 years ago) for five years. He has really had a greatest influence on my life to bring me to a closer walk with my Lord and Savior.’”

David related that story and said, “You know dad, I had goose bumps and a lump in my throat.” When David told me that story, I had wet eye and a lump in my throat too.

Those were encouraging words to me. They affirmed again what the Apostle Paul exhorts us to do in this text “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Encourage them with the message of the Good News of our salvation. Encourage them to realize that they have a God who loves them that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die and rise for them. Encourage them to know what is written in God’s holy book. Encourage them to come often to the Lord’s house and kneel at His table and receive from His hands the Good News in, with and under the bread and the wine.

Why should we do what Paul tells us? Because we are the hands and feet of Christ in this world. The message of the world is gloom and doom, pain and problems, trials and temptations. But the message of the producer and director of our text tells us otherwise. We are a people of hope. Hope anchored in the cross and the empty of Christ. Salvation given in the name of Jesus to all who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. Victory earned to by Jesus death on the cross and the empty tomb and the spoils are given to those who bow the knees before Him.

The movies producers and directors know when they have something good. When they do, they follow it up with another. So, too, does our message. We have the greatest news the world needs to hear—the salvation of our souls. PAUSE.

Beloved in Christ, as we face the end times, whether it is the end of our life in death or the end of all time, we face it with the encouraging Word that is Jesus Christ. And here is the best part; these encouraging words are here for us all the time. We hear the encouraging words of the forgiveness of sins in Holy Absolution. Encouraging words are read and proclaimed from pulpit and lectern. We taste those encouraging words as we feed on the foretaste of the eternal feast that is the Lord’s Supper.

We are awash in this encouragement. We live and breathe and pray and sing in this HOPE. And hope does not disappoint. Life will be full of things that will challenge our comfort zones, steal our peace and even raise serious doubts. But we have the answer. It comes in the Encouraging WORD that is Jesus. He is the ultimate answer to everything that would frighten us, scare us and even seek us to doubt God.

Hear these encouraging words. Take them to heart. Taste them and see. In Christ, the crucified and risen One, we have all the encouragement and hope we need. AMEN

Now the peace of God…

Encouragment Words Part I

S‑1078 11/09/2008 26SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #1; (S) #370; L.S.# 199; #206; #201; (C) #57 S.O.B.

Texts: Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Theme: “Encouraging Words A” (1 Thes. 4:18).


Question: “When in your life could you have really used a word of encouragement“?

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Epistle Lesson: “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).

Saints in Christ, Tuesday night was a sad day for SD. After the election was over, it was clear that many in SD don’t regard life as precious. Initiated Measure 11 was voted down by the biggest lie that I have ever heard from the opponents, who said, “The people have spoken for healthy families.” Now tell me what is “healthy” about killing an innocent baby in the womb? What is “healthy” about the destruction of lives of mothers and babies? Yes, the people of SD have spoken, but be assured that the fight is not over, because life is very precious in the sight of God and should be to us also.

On Wednesday I was in Sioux Falls. While there I stopped at the Alpha Center (pregnancy Crisis Center the leader of Initiative 11 campaign). When my wife and I stopped at the office, the ladies had sullen and downcast faces. I told them, “Not to lose heart, because God is in control even if we don’t like the end results!”

On Thursday, I got an e-mail from the Alpha Center. Here is a snippet of the message: “I am writing you today with truth and courage on my heart. I am feeling extremely disappointed about the results of Initiated Measure 11 in South Dakota, as I am sure many of you do, too. This Measure would have eliminated 97% of abortions being used as birth control in South Dakota and would have protected hundreds of unborn children and their mothers. But it lost at a margin of 55 to 45.” (By Kimberly Martiniz via e-mail).

These ladies and the many volunteers, who have worked very hard for two years, needed an encouraging word during this sad time in our State. While with them at the office, we all held hands and began to pray together for God’s guidance and direction for what He would have us do.

Encouraging words are very important because they change our outlook on things. Encouraging words are essential to help us on our journey. Encouraging words are valuable for both the head and the heart. Encouraging words, we all need to hear daily.

In the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, we read of the Jewish people’s return to the land of Israel and their attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Many opponents rose up and attempted to distract them from their labor. But the Prophet Nehemiah, would not allow anything to get in the way of finishing the project—the building of the walls. He kept encouraging those who were working hard not to give up. As the walls were getting closer to completion, the opposition grew louder and stronger and began to do everything to thwart Nehemiah’s efforts. But to no avail. Finally, Nehemiah spoke and said: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). These words of Nehemiah were sufficient encouragement for the workers to complete the wall.

In the text before us today, Paul gives us an encouraging Word. Not a word about the outcome of an election, or the building of a wall; but rather an encouraging Word about the Eternal Life, that Christ has given us through His resurrection from the dead. This is not just any encouraging Word, but the Word that speaks clearly and completely about what happens to those who die in the Lord.

In the beginning of the text, Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes these words: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13). Paul wants to encourage his readers and his listeners not to be discouraged, but to be encouraged in the reality that on account of Christ we have hope that we will rise again.

Paul told the believers in Thessalonica that on account of Christ, those who die in Him have fallen asleep. What comfort that is! What rest that is! What encouragement that is! Those who fall asleep in the Lord will rest from the temptations of the devil and the trials of this world. They will experience no more pain or sin. They will experience no more the afflictions and agonies of the world we live in. This hope that Paul wants to encourage in other believers is also our hope.

Today, as believers in Christ, we speak that encouraging Word to others as Paul has done in the past. We speak it because it is the ONLY Word that will help us keep on going when our lives and nation are falling apart. We speak an encouraging Word so that others may know the same loving Father, who sent His Son to relieve us, deliver us, and rescue us from the eternal damnation of hell. The encouraging Words we speak are… PAUSE

Take time to read and study the Scriptures and you will find many authors who speak an encouraging Word to us. Consider this: In Peter’s first epistle he writes these Words; “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Chris” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Peter is speaking from first hand experience. He knows disappointment and discouragement and even fear. His life is an encouragement to me who has fallen into sin. We meet Peter as a prisoner of the Lord in Rome not long before his execution under Nero. It is Peter’s final exam in the school of faith. His faith in Jesus enables Peter to face death. The memory of Jesus’ revelation at the Sea of Galilee enables Peter to encourage other believers. Peter holds out to them the hope that is ours in Christ’s empty grave and beyond our own grave.

Our faith may be tried in different ways. We may be in our own prison, hospitalized with an incurable disease, or awaiting the outcome of major surgery. Peter, Paul, and Nehemiah encourage us to realize that even in these trials and temptations there is a divine purpose that God will mold us and fashion us to be a light to Him and His Gospel.

To encourage others is a blessing for us Christians, even when we least think we should be doing so. But to encourage others is so important. PAUSE

A mother was preparing to go to her father’s house to help him celebrate his birthday. Her 15-year-old daughter Kathleen wanted to go with her boyfriend to pick up his brother from school. The mother agreed but said, “Go straight to Grandpa’s house.” Before the mother went to her dad, she picked up her husband and went to the grocery store. While at the store she heard the sirens of police, ambulance, and fire trucks. She said to her husband, “Someone is in need, let us pray.”

As they got to her dad’s house, her father met them at the door and said, “There was a terrible accident and someone lost his life,” and that they needed to get to the hospital as fast as possible.” Her heart sank as she thought about her daughter Kathleen. As they pulled into the parking lot, one of the paramedics, someone they have known for years, met them at their car.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he said with tears streaming down his face. They quickly walked into the hospital and began to talk to the doctor in the hallway of the ER. He asked them if they believed in God, and with that the mother’s knees gave way. “No,” he said, “You don’t understand, do you believe in divine intervention?” “Yes,” was their response; not having a clue what he was talking about. The doctor smiled and asked, “Do you know what shirt your daughter was wearing, tonight?” Shaking their heads no. The doctor replied, “Go down the hall and look. Your daughter is blessed with angels and so are you. From what the emergency personnel told me, there is no way that your daughter should be alive, let alone only have a few scratches.” When her parents got to her, they hugged and sobbed. As they checked their daughter’s shirt, they read these words, “JESUS SAVES.”

Yes, Friends it is Jesus who saves. He saves us not from car accidents, not from fires, not from tragedies; but He saves us from the eternal fires of hell. It is Jesus who wipes away our sins by His blood. It is Jesus the Savior whom Paul wants us to know about and what He has accomplished for us through His death and resurrection from the grave. There are no greater words of encouragement that we can speak to others about today, than what the Apostle Paul has shared with us in this text. And what an encouraging message God gives us—we are forgiven! We are saved! And we are heaven-bound! For this reason Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another with these words. God grant us the grace to encourage others with these Words. Amen.

Now the peace…