Thursday, November 28, 2013

“Giving Thanks to God” (Psalm 100)

S-1394 TD/C 11/28/2013 Hymns: (O) #568; (S) #36; L.S. #313; #572(C) #577

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

Theme: “Giving Thanks to God” (Psalm 100)

Question: “Why Should You be Thankful?” Armour, SD

Blessed Thanksgiving Day to each and every one of you faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for this Thanksgiving Day is from Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100).


Most precious people of the Resurrection this past Sunday we were in Sioux Falls having supper at our oldest son’s (Tony) house. At the table my oldest grandson’s wanted me to sit by them, so I sat between them. As the food was dished, Myles asks his mother to help him cut the lasagna. I said, “Grandpa will cut it for you.” After I cut it Myles said, “Thank you grandpa!” I was impressed. He then wanted to have some Mozzarella cheese sprinkled on it. Again, I said, “Grandpa will help you.” He, again said, “Thanks grandpa!” I said to him, “Myles that is so nice of you to say thank you. You are so sweet! Then his mother (Jody) said, “At the daycare, they have been learning about manners. So Myles wanted to make a ‘politeness plan’ where we made a chart that listed manners and nice things to do, and then a chore or a consequence for not doing it.”

It is indeed beautiful to hear a young child who wants to have a politeness plan in place to learn the art of saying thank you and please. Out of the mouth of children the truth is told. Even from the mouth of a child, we are reminded that we need a plan to be polite towards God. And to help us with this plan, the author of the Psalm has the perfect plan in the words of the text for our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.

Did you know that in the Hebrew Scripture the title of this Psalm is “A Psalm of Thanksgiving”? In this Psalm, we truly have the perfect politeness plan. In the opening words we are exhorted and encouraged to: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” But why should we? Why does it matter? Because it is fitting for us who have been touched by the saving hands of God Almighty to thank Him, serve Him and sing His praises daily. PAUSE.

In a book titled Reading the Psalms with Luther, Luther states this regarding this Psalm: The 100th psalm is a prophecy of Christ. It calls on the entire world to be joyful, to praise, and to give thanks, that is, to worship God and come to His throne and His courts, and to call on Him with all confidence. For His grace is an eternal kingdom, which truly remains forever and ever. Yes, indeed it is about our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. The whole wide world is called to be thankful for the mercy He gives undeservedly, for the love He pours unconditionally, the forgiveness He offers freely and the promised eternal life and salvation that is ours because of His Hesed—His grace..

We are taught and exhorted in the words of this Psalm to say thank You Lord for Your mercies which are new every morning. Every day we have opportunities and privileges to say thank You Lord for Your goodness to me a sinner who deserves nothing but wrath and punishment. Because of Your faithfulness towards me I have the blessings of knowing You intimately and bask in Your saving grace.

The Psalmist goes on to say: Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! That is part of the politeness plan to worship, pray and praise the Lord God Almighty. We are to make it a habit to enter His place of worship and give thanks to Him daily and praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness. For in this place we are constantly reminded of our need for a Savior and how the mercies of that Savior are delivered to us. In this place we are immersed with His goodness, faithfulness and love. In this place we get to dine not on turkey and stuffing, but on the precious Word and Life-Giving Sacrament. PAUSE.

But tragically, because of our sinful human nature we don’t worship our Savior often or give Him thanks always. We need to be taught as my grandson Myles was to be polite and say thank you. But that is not in our sinful and self-centered nature. We often think we are the ones who have it made. We think that by our own might and power, we make our own future plans and our dreams come true; but that is not the case. It is always a gift from the Lord Himself.

We are reminded of this truth in the Gospel lesson for Thanksgiving. One out of Ten lepers came back to say thank you to Jesus for being healed. But why was he the only one who said, “Thank you Lord!”? Because he knew what he needed and what was at stake for him without it. He needed the healing touch of the Savior to make him whole and let him live among his family and family of faith. This leper understood that before, he was head­ing for hell; afterward, he was readied for heaven. No wonder he knelt before Jesus with his humble thank you.

Why do we so often forget to say our thank-yous? Why do we have to be reminded to say thank you, just like we do for the little children? Could it be that, unlike that leper, we forget what we deserve and how much we’ve received? Thanksgiving is a time to remember that the only thing we deserve from God is damnation in hell. We don’t deserve the Savior He has sent or a bit of the forgiveness of sins He brings. Neither do we have the rights to the lesser gifts in life. We have a slice of bread to butter, a stitch of clothing to wear, fresh air to inhale, a loved one to enjoy, only because He is our merci­ful Father. Gratitude begins with remembering our unworthiness and His abundant HESED—His GRACE and mercy.

Genuine gratitude colors not only this Thanksgiving Day, but each day of our lives. The Psalmist reminds us of that with the words of the text. And even the Apostle Paul said it this way, Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

Therefore, by the power of the Holy Spirit let us develop and execute today and everyday a politeness plan. In this plan let us review the blessings the Savior gives us daily. Let us sing, praise, pray and worship Him for being so faithful to us sinners. By the Spirit’s power as we are gathered in His house to hear His Word and receive His precious Sacrament, we know what precious gifts He gives us and are moved in humility and joy to say THANK YOU JESUS FOR LOVING ME A SINNER.

On this Thanksgiving Day, it is fitting for us, to say with Luther as he teaches us in the explanation of the First Article of the Creed saying: “for all which is my duty to thank and praise him, this is most certainly true!” Therefore, we boldly confess and say: “Thanks be to God for every blessed gift He bestows on us.” Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“FOREVER Abiding” (John 15:4-5)

S-RUTH 26SAP/C 11/22/2013 Hymns: (O) #32 SOD; #457 (S) ##552; (C) #533

Texts: Isaiah 41:8-10; Rev. 21:1-7; John 11:

Theme: “FOREVER Abiding” (John 15:4-5)

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed Alleluia! The text for the celebration of the new life promised to our departed sister Ruth is her confirmation verses Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I Am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).


To you most precious children of the resurrection, let this day be of great comfort and joy though you are in the midst of sorrow and pain. Let it be a day of light and not of darkness. Let it be a day of blessing rather than a burden. Why? Why? Because, today, by the power of the Resurrected Christ we celebrate life not death! Today we rejoice in God keeping His promises to His beloved daughter in the faith—Ruth! Today we thank the Lord that your mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-great-grandmother is in the arms of the crucified and risen Christ. Today we declare to the world that Ruth is FOREVER abiding with Her faithful Good Shepherd Jesus.

I say this with great confidence because these are not my words, but the Words of the Author of Life—Jesus Christ our ONLY Lord and Savior. The sermon hymns we just sang “Abide With Me Fast Falls the Eventide” was written by Henry Lyte in 1847. Lyte was in­spired to write this hymn as he was dy­ing of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis; he fin­ished it the Sun­day he gave his fare­well ser­mon in the par­ish he served so ma­ny years. Here are some of his farewell words to his beloved congregation: “O breth­ren, I stand here among you to­day, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to im­press it upon you, and in­duce you to pre­pare for that sol­emn hour which must come to all, by a time­ly ac­quaint­ance with the death of Christ.” With these last words spoken by this preacher, he gave his congregation and us joy that fills our hearts.

The opening stanza of the hymn is this: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. What is the goal of this hymn? To abide forever with Jesus. For this reason I have titled the sermon FOREVER abiding. I can say for certainty that our departed sister Ruth even now is abiding FOREVER in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When she was only 27 days old (Baptized Feb. 29, 1920) her parents brought her to the font at St. Peter’s Lutheran church and the minister of the Gospel spoke these precious words over her, “Ruth, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That day, by that majestic water connected to the Word she was grafted into the eternal Vine, Jesus Christ.

Thirteen years later on her confirmation day June 4, 1933 she was given these verses from the Gospel of St. John Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I Am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. These words were of great comfort and strength for her in her earthly pilgrimage. By the grace of God she remained connected to the Vine not by her own works, but only by the grace of God her Savior.

She remained connected to the Vine as she gathered often in His house to hear His Word and dine at His table. She bore fruit of repentance and joy as she confessed her sins and received absolution. Even when she was unable to be in the Lord’s house, the Lord went to see her and give her His precious body and blood often.

Even until her final days the Holy Spirit used her to bear fruits of faith, love, compassion and kindness to others. As I visited with many of you—family members and friends you would say: “Mom loved people. Treated me like her own daughter from the day I was married into the family. She helped many who were in need. She is a great aunt. Not only by name, but truly a GREAT AUNT!

But there is more, not sure how many of you know this. Ruth paid out of her own pocket for the oil to keep the Eternity Light burning in this house of worship. I don’t share this because by these acts she earned points in the sight of God to let her into heaven. No, I share these thoughts with you because she lived the life of one who knows that to abide in Christ is to live for Christ; to declare His praises and shout to the world that I am marked forever to be His own as His very little lamb. PAUSE.

Remember that her name RUTH means “friendship” And she was a friend to many. And now she has unending friendship, only now she beholds face to face her dearest FRIEND of whom we sang “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”. I will use her name as an acrostic

R = Remained called by gospel, she was fed and led by W & S. She cherished the time she got to spend around His Word growing and maturing in that Word. She never cut herself off that vine, but was forever abiding in Him.

U = Unending existence in paradise that began when she left this world.    She is part of the unending Alleluia Chorus of the saints who are by the throne of Grace in heaven who shout saying: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen (Rev. 7:10b-12).

T = Trusting Jesus she was not disappointed. She knew that this Jesus has kept every promise ever made. He defeated satan, destroyed death and done away with the punishment of sin. Sin has no hold on us. The grave can’t keep us and the devil can’t accuse us. Jesus has paid the payment of our redemption.

H = Hope, her hope, now realized is our hope to which we look forward too, and which often I read to her from 1 Peter “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”, (1:3-9). Hope is faith looking towards the future based on Jesus perfect keeping promises in the past. How do we remain in Him? “To obtain such faith, God instituted the Office of the Ministry, that is provide by the Gospel and Sacraments.” In this Jesus gives us a BIG promises.       

In the Gospel of St. John 15 the word “Abide or “Remain” is mentioned nine times. Jesus uses this word for a reason to assure us that He is the Vine and we are the branches without Him we can’t do anything.     

Abide with Me and I will abide with you.” Jesus said. He has done that to our departed sister Ruth. As we heard in our Gospel reading today from John: “I Am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:25-26).

Ruth by the power of the Holy Spirit has believed this and therefore is FOREVER ABIDING with her Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.

My prayers for you as well are these: that you too, would remain and abide in Him. Amen.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Now the peace of God…


“Costly Peace” (Colossians 1:19-20)

S-1393 LSOCY/C 11/24/2013 Hymns: (O) #2; (S) #356; L.S. #311; #308(C) #354

Texts: Malachi 3:13-18; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43

Theme: “Costly Peace” (Colossians 1:19-20)

Question: “How much do you value peace?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Epistle lesson: “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).


Saints in Christ, in an article written by Bob Greene titled: “The Cost of Peace” he states: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

Through history, peace in the world has often, of necessity, been attained by the most brutal means available during military conflict. There is a dichotomy intrinsic to wars waged in pursuit of peace—an uneasy divide between lightness and shadows. Tranquility born of bloodshed; happiness the end result of horror. We don’t like to think too much about that, and no wonder. The truth behind it goes against our better nature.

What is the most beloved image celebrating the joyous end of World War II? It’s the Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of the sailor and the nurse embracing in Times Square. Even now, more than 60 years later, that photo makes people weep with glad emotion, makes them grin with across-the-generations exultation. That photo, it is often declared, says it all.

But there would be no photo of the sailor and the nurse were it not for scenes no one likes to see in photographs: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that brought the awful years of war to a close. It is perfectly explicable that we much prefer bathing ourselves in exuberant images of the first hours of peace, rather than the gruesome images of the last hours of war.

This is so true. We love living in the USA because it provides us peace of mind and peace of heart. We cherish our military personnel especially as they are decked with their military uniforms, but we don’t like the images of maimed, in a wheel chair or in a casket. Likewise, we love the image of the Peace-Maker, Jesus Christ as the Good and Faithful Shepherd who carries the lamb on His shoulder, but we don’t like the gruesome image of the beaten, bruised and bleeding Savior on the cross. We like Him as the One who brings comfort and joy and peace, but we don’t like to hear of judgment, punishment and condemnation. We like Jesus talking about heaven and eternal life and forgiveness. But when we hear of the wages of sin, hell and God’s wrath, it is totally another story. PAUSE.

According to a 2009 Harris Poll many people around the country and the world do not believe in hell or that it even exist. Why not? Because they say, “God is love”. That is absolutely true. God’s very nature is love. Love flows from God to us; and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the gruesome tree of the cross is the ULTIMATE evidence of that love.

The message of the Bible is that God is also fair and just and if people disobey Him there is punishment and condemnation. Paul said it this way: “The wages of sin is death” and he went on to say, “but the GIFT God is eternal life”.

God’s gift to humanity was the sending of His only begotten Son—Jesus Christ. Christ’s Gift to humanity was His suffering, death and resurrection from the grave. By that gift we have received the gift of peace. That is costly indeed. It cost Jesus His own precious blood shed to cover all of our sins and clothes us in His white robes of righteousness.

As believers and followers of His teaching we know what it cost our Savior to win our peace. His life was spent in the selfless sacrifice pouring out His blood-every drop of it for you and for me. For this reason, today and every day we stand beneath the cross of Christ covered with His blood and bask in the forgiveness which He earned for US on Calvary’s cross! PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, there is an African Proverb that says: Peace is costly but it is worth the expense. How true that is in relation to our salvation and eternal life. The Apostle Peter spoke of the cost of our peace with these words: “…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The price of this peace wasn’t paid in gold, silver or US currency, NO, it was the precious, spotless, holy, innocent blood of the Lamb—Jesus.

Because of this cost, the Blood-shedding Christ gives us peace with God and with our neighbors. Therefore, as a child of God through faith in Jesus, His Son, you enjoy a peaceful relationship with God right now. Through faith in Jesus you enjoy all the blessings of peace, life, and forgiveness that Jesus won with His holy life and sacrificial death.

Know this truth beloved saints, God redeemed us (that is He bought us back). He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. This is how we get the costly peace.

On this Last Sunday of the Church Year-the Sunday of the Fulfillment may we always remember that peace is costly—it carries a price tag that we could never imagine or hope to pay on our own. It is costly because it cost our Savior Jesus His life. Christ gave us this peace by living the holy life we are unable to live, suffering and dying the penalty for the sins we daily commit, and rising from the dead in the victory over sin, satan and death itself all for our forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.

Because of this great act of mercy and compassion we have peace with God for today and always. God embraces all who know He forgives through Jesus’ blood hurled on them after being thrown onto the cross. This demonstrates the COSTLY PEACE, and the glorious case of the depth of God’s underserved grace that makes God’s love unconditional and unbeatable.

This peace is yours today, not because of anything that you have done, but on account of the Peace-Maker, and the Mediator, and the Redeemer of mankind—the heaven-sent Savior, the Son of God. Oh, that you and I would bask in this peace and praise Him daily for all He has done and continues to do for us.

To be sure, it is for more than just us! Our Lord who has paid such a high price for our peace sends us out to be peace-makers in His world. We do this by introducing people of every tongue, language, tribe and nation to Jesus! We do this as instruments of the Holy Spirit that is calling, gathering and enlightening the entire Church on earth. In this we lead others to see the gruesome images of the cross as the sign of eternal peace! And this peace can never be taken from them or us!

To that end, we celebrate on this Last Sunday of the Church Year—the Sunday of Fulfillment and say all praise be to God the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Turning Hearts” (Malachi 4:5-6)

S-1392 26SAP/C 11/17/2013 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #323; (C) #52

Texts: Malachi 4:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-28

Theme: “Turning Hearts” (Malachi 4:5-6)

Question: “What causes your heart to turn?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction (Malachi 4:5-6).


Most beloved of the Lord, it is easy to turn heads. The fleeting glimpse of beauty or ugliness can turn heads. A magnificent mountain or a mangled accident can turn heads. A stunning woman or a hideous injury can turn heads. But a heart is not turned so easily. Heads are distractible. Hearts not so much. That is because the heart is central to who we are. Your heart just keeps beating away. To be distracted from this task is to die. This is the way it is for the body. It is the way for faith. That which is your heart is central to who you are. This is great if we are talking about the heart of faith. But what if your heart is set on false things? It is also difficult to take your heart from that. That is what Jesus has come to do. Incarnation and crucifixion, Jesus comes to invade your heart. He doesn’t come to cajole your heart. He seizes it. He turns it from death to life. He takes possession of it. He buys it not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Your heart is now His. You are not your own. You belong to him. Your heart has been turned. This is not something you can do. It is an act of grace not decision.

Therefore, as the precious children of the resurrection be prepared for the working of the Holy Spirit upon your hearts today. Today, there will be a surgical procedure on your hearts and mine that will turn us again to the Great Divine Physician of mercy, grace, and love—Jesus the Christ. Today in this place you will hear the mind-boggling work of God on your heart and mine that causes you to know with certainty and confidence that our hearts belong to Him not only for a while but forever. PAUSE.

In God’s inspired and inerrant Word, God uses the term “heart(s)” at least 867 times. Much of His Word is instruction about the care and keeping of our hearts pure from sin and filth. So what does it take to turn our hearts back to Him? How does His Word affect this heart of ours to believe the pure and simple teaching of truth found in Scripture? How do we not let the devil rob us of the joy that fills our hearts because of what Christ has accomplished on Calvary’s cross, so that we may not experience the Dreadful Day of Judgment?

Certainly it is not easy to turn the heart back to God. For that matter, it is impossible for us to do so, on our own; but there are certain things that cause our hearts to skip a beat, or churn with anxiety.

Case in point, when you are in love and you see the person you love, it causes your heart to dance and be filled with joy. But at other times, the heart is aching, broken and filled with sorrow as you see the one you love is laying in a casket ready to be lowered into the darkness of the grave. When the doctor says to you, “Its malignant, we need to operate!” Or when a pastor receives a call to serve another congregation his heart turns and becomes unsettled and so does the congregation.

But the turning of the heart is the work of God. As we come in contact with the Word, that Word does its work of cleaning every evil, impurity, falsehood and inequity from us and fill it with the knowledge of the truth—that our redemption has taken place, our reconciliation has been completed and our rejoicing has begun.

That is precisely what Malachi teaches the people of Israel and us through these words: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. The Lord is sending Elijah so that he may teach us the truth that sets our hearts free. Free to worship, serve, honor, love Him and be with Him.

Elijah did come. He pointed others to the coming of the Kingdom that they should repent and believe in Jesus Christ. He came with such a voice that it rang in the wilderness, in the cities and even in the king’s palace calling all to follow the Heaven-Sent Messenger—who would die for them and rise again to give them eternal life and turn their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

It is impossible to avoid the power of God’s Word when you come in contact with it. That Word changes you forever and makes you a follower of Jesus. The Word of God we are told is: “…living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12), and Isaiah says, “…[the Word] shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (55:10-11). The Word of God was sent to turn the hearts of men and women to be hearts that believe in the Savior Jesus for salvation and forgiveness of sins. PAUSE.

That turning of heart was worked out in the life of any enemy of the cross who upon coming in contact with the Word his life was changed forever. This is his story.

In 1980 as a young Muslim man I had a very dear friend, who happened to be my brother. We did everything together. My brother was killed by Christian militia. I vowed revenge for his life. In the day time I went to college and at night I would roam the streets to kill the “enemies of Islam” as I called them. I led a double life: assassin at night and student in the daytime.

As a student at the American University, I had to take a course in cultural studies, for which I had to read selections from the Bible. I knew the Quran well, but the Bible I never held in my hands or even looked at. I read the Sermon on the Mount at the climax of my hate and thirsts for vengeance. Christ’s exhortation: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45) struck me with a full force. I felt that I had heard the voice of God in stereo. I knew what an enemy is, and sought to kill my enemies. But, in this strange, new and life-giving Word he felt that Jesus’ exhortation was superhuman and cannot emanate from an ordinary human being, but from a divine source. Though many of my religious leaders taught that the Bible was distorted by Rabbis and bishops, Christ’s words “Love God from all your heart, and love your neighbor” sounded authentically divine. Even through the loss of my brother, I thought: “There is another way, a way of forgiveness.” And there was! PAUSE.

Jesus the Divine Surgeon touched his heart and turned it around so that he became a follower of the Crucified One. He came to America, studied in one of our Seminaries and today, thanks to Jesus who talked to him in Beirut, Lebanon he is a Pastor of Kanisat Al Salam = The church of peace (Chicago, IL); and he speaks often to other Arabs and Muslims so that they may meet the same Savior who turned his heart from hatred to love, from death to life and from darkness to light. You have heard me speak of him many times. He is Pastor Hicham Chehab a dear friend and a brother in Christ.

By the grace of God, we, too, have been touched by that Word. In our Baptism as the splash of water was connected to the Word of promise our hearts were made alive and turned from death to life, and from darkness to light. And our hearts continue to be turned as we come in contact with the living Word offered on the Altar in Body and Blood—in, with and under the bread and wine. Here in this place, today Christ continues to turn your hearts to know Him, serve Him and follow Him forever.

Oh, the joy that fills our hearts to know that they have been turned simply by the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ. To Him Alone Be ALL the Glory now and always, amen.

Now the peace…


Monday, November 11, 2013

“What’s the Question Behind the Qusetion” (Luke 20:27-31)

S-1391 25SAP/C 11/10/2013 Hymns: (O) #465; (S) #461; L.S. #487; #628; (C) #477

Texts: Exodus 3:1-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17; Luke 20:27-40

Theme: “What’s the Question Behind the Qusetion” (Luke 20:27-31)

Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: “There came to Him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked Him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife’” (Luke 20:27-31).


Beloved in the Lord, while I was at the seminary, our professor of Systematic Theology, the Rev. Dr. Jack Preus the 3rd would always say in class: “What’s the question behind the question?” Why are you raising such a question? What is the hidden agenda behind the question?

That is really what is going on here in the Gospel lesson before us. There is more than meets the eye. It behooves us to dig deeper into this inquiry that has been posed to Jesus by the Sadducees.

The Sadducees pose a question to Jesus about which, if any, of the woman’s seven earthly husbands would be her husband after death. Please notice how Luke describes the encounter between Jesus and this group of leaders. They don’t believe in the Resurrection from the dead. Therefore, there is more to their question than what is on the surface. And what is the question they ask? They want to know to whom this woman will belong, since she has had 7 husbands.

What you behold here, is that these Sadducees are attempting to mock Jesus and His teaching. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They attempt to ridicule this belief by using a far-fetched example to make nonsense of it. The question is really not about to whom will she belong, but do you really believe there is life after death? Do you really believe in the Resurrection? If so, Jesus, You are out of Your mind.

Jesus takes the opportunity in teaching these mistaken leaders about the truth that frees and fills the heart with peace and joy; He instructs them about the Resurrection. He tells them in the books of Matthew (22:29ff) and Mark (12:24ff) on the same subject these words: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I Am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living’”. Jesus affirms with certainty there is Resurrection from the dead. PAUSE.

After all, is this not why He came to earth, was born like us in the flesh, lived the perfect life and died our death so that we may have life and have it abundantly? Is this not why He endured God’s wrath, tasted hell, suffered the punishment we deserve was crucified on the gallows of the cross? Absolutely! Positively! He came to do away with the power of the grave. To free us from the slavery of satan and wipe our hearts clean from sin. His death on the cross and His rising from the dead is both the promise of and the guarantee of our resurrection!

While the lies of our world might lead you to see and believe that there is only an end in death, Jesus gives us so much more! Jesus taught that when someone dies, there’s still more to come. And He wasn’t talking about just going to be with Him on death, wonderful as that may be. No, He was talking about the end of time, the Last Day, the day the dead, our bodies, will rise out of the graves, whatever that grave may be—a casket, an urn, the deep sea, or simply bones turned to dust in a desert. There’s still more.

Think of it this way. There’s life—the life we live right now, day by day. Then we die, and there’s life after death— when the souls of those who believe in Jesus go to be with Him, while their bodies are left behind. Then there’s “life after life after death.” (Note: The phrase "life after life after death" comes from an interview with N. T. Wright conducted by Preaching Today at the 2008 National Pas­tors Conference.) That’s the Last Day resurrection of the body when it’s reunited with the soul. That’s what Jesus was talking about: There’s still more. There’s a final day resurrection of the body. And that Final Day will know that there is no end.

The Sadducees said they didn’t believe in the Resurrection, but Jesus said, ‘THERE CERTAINLY IS!” In the Gospel of John we even hear Him say these words: “I Am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will NEVER (emphases mine) die (11:25-26).

The Sadducees didn’t get it, because they were “Sad you see.” But the sons and daughters of God believe in this wonderful gift of love and life, hope and heaven. We believe that because Jesus suffered on the cursed tree we don’t have too. Because He was put in a cold grave, we will too some day; but because He rose victoriously on the Third day, we SHALL ALSO. We shall live and be happy, not like the Sadducees who were Sad you see because they have no hope or joy or peace.

To be sure there is more to life than just what we live day by day. Now, we may not be those who deny the resurrection or are so spiritually apathetic, but the Sadducees’ spirit still lives on, even in our own hearts, our own minds. Have you ever felt that way, that there’s no more, that this life is all there is? Sometimes, the doubts are so real. You look at a body in a casket. You see it doesn’t move. The grave looks so final. You wonder, “Is this all there is? Could this be it? There’s no more than what our eyes behold.”

Or perhaps you’re so caught up in everyday life that you’re more like many who have apathy towards Christ and His Word that you care to admit it. Too busy to think about the Last Day of the Resurrection. Too connected to TV, movies, cell phones, Facebook the Internet to give much thought to what more there may be. Too worried about the bills or a family member or your retirement to get excited about. If you are like this, then the spirit an attitude of the Sadducees lives in you.

But we know better. We have studied the Words of Christ. We have heard His promises. We have been baptized into His name. We have dined at His table. We have been fed, nourished and cherished. We have been blessed and by the power of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are filled with pure joy in knowing for certain that there is more than meets the eye. That the God we have is the God of the LIVING and not the Dead.

This truth is also highlighted in our O.T. reading. “God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:15). Did you hear it, did you get it, though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been dead, the Lord spoke of them as living.

Therefore, I speak to you today the same message of love and life, hope and salvation given to people of old and people of today, we are the sons of the Resurrection. So what’s the question behind the question? It is this: We believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ’s death on Calvary’s cross and His rising from the dead guarantees my Resurrection and yours. That there is an eternal, physical, redeemed and resurrected life awaiting us! We have our Lord Jesus’ promise on that! Amen

Now the peace…


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

“An Enlarged Heart” (Psalm 119:32)

S-1390, RS/C 11/03/2013 Hymns: (O) #907; (S) #708; L.S. #783; #623; #629; (C) #878

Texts: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Philemon 1:-21; Luke 14:25-35

Theme: “An Enlarged Heart” (Psalm 119:32)

Reformation Sunday preached at Clarinda, IA

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! What an honor privilege to be with you on this Reformation Day. I would like to take a moment and thank my congregation for granting me the blessing to be God’s mouth piece and for you for the kind invitation to share with you the marvelous Word of our only God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The text is from the Introit: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:32).


Beloved in the Lord, in January of this year, I had open heart surgery to fix my descending aorta’s aneurysm. After 7 days in the hospital and over a ¼ million dollars I became bionic and was sent home. I recovered well and announced that I will be returning to the pulpit the Sunday after Easter to proclaim God’s precious truth.

However, beginning of Holy week, I began to cough and get weaker by the minute. On Maundy Thursday I went to church but shouldn’t have because I was indeed sick. That night, I couldn’t sleep because breathing was difficult and I prayed earnestly for the Lord to give me comfort and sleep. Sleep never came. I spent the whole night in my recliner chair and prayed like David, for the morning to come (Ps. 130:6).

I headed to the clinic to visit my doctor. After some tests, he informed me of the bad news “That I have an enlarged heart and need to head to the emergency room of the heart hospital in Sioux Falls.” I was rushed to the emergency room on Good Friday; after further testing they determined that my heart was suffocating and I’m in need of another surgery. I was told I don’t have an enlarged heart but fluid wrapping the sack of my heart, causing my heart to function only at 50% capacity. I’m thankful that the doctors were able to put me back together and I’m feeling well again to serve my Lord and His Church. PAUSE.

To be sure we don’t normally think of our hearts unless there is something wrong as was the case with me. Add to that when we hear of an “enlarged heart” then we think of it negatively. However, today, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit David tells us in Psalm 119 that God is in the business of enlarging hearts. Yes, you heard me correct an ENLARGED HEART!

Remember people of God, that when the writers in the O.T. spoke of the heart that was the seat of understanding and knowledge. The heart is the center of our being. David has good news for us about hearts today, because of what God is doing—He is enlarging our hearts to fill them with wisdom and God’s Word.

This is what David is sharing with us today saying: “I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!” To fill the heart with wisdom is God work. To fill the heart with discernment is God’s work. To fill the heart with joy, love and peace is God’s work is totally. The Holy Spirit continues to work on our hearts that they may be enlarged. Our hearts are enlarged so that we may gain the insights and blessings of knowing who this God is and what He does to save sinners like us.

Think of how God enlarged Solomon’s heart—filled it with wisdom so that when two prostitutes came to him to solve the problem of a dead and living son; he was able to do it by the grace of God. Think of Dr. Martin Luther who was given a large heart to know that what was being taught by the Catholic Church was contrary to the teachings of Scripture.

That is why the Reformation matters—because it enlarges our hearts to know this Amazing, Awesome and Almighty God who save us by grace alone, through faith alone, by Scripture alone and on account of Christ alone. Our churches are known for teaching the truth as revealed in Holy Scripture, nothing more and nothing less. We stand on the enlarged hearts of the lay people who stood before Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Augsburg of June 25, 1530 which resulted in the Augsburg Confession.

Today, our Lutheran churches have, as your church does in front of your building a “ceremonial stone” with these inscriptions UAC (show the picture). These three letters stand for the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.” And anyone who enters here knows what this church is all about. There is no confusion. We hold that whole Bible from the opening words, “In the beginning God… till the final words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

Like David and Solomon, Luther and Melanchthon and thousand others, we have an enlarged heart to know the wisdom of God that leads to eternal life. Because of what Christ Jesus endured—on Calvary’s cross—a broken heart; we receive an enlarged heart. This heart is different from the old one. This heart loves Him, serves Him and obeys Him. An enlarged heart that knows the Commandments and lives by them faithfully.

This enlarged heart has been given us the by the Master Surgeon who performs the greatest surgery of exchanging our hearts of stone to a heart of flesh. This He has done in our Baptism. In Him we have the large heart that leads to eternal life. PAUSE.

But there are many who don’t have an enlarged hearts yet. Therefore, God calls us again as His baptized, redeemed, forgiven, blood-bought and heaven-bound children to introduce people to the Master Surgeon—Jesus Christ so He can change their hearts and enlarge them too. Reformation matters because we are privileged to share the hope of eternal life with others daily.

David understood the work of God in His life. By the working of the Holy Spirit, he pinned these words for us to exhort us and encourage us to remain faithful as the God of the Church works on our hearts. David stated, “I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!” David’s purpose of running towards God is that he may know the commandments well. He ran so that nothing can hinder him from reaching the great knowledge of what God is doing in his life.

To be sure, God’s commandments enlarge one’s heart. This heart has more understanding. Through this understanding, the commandments give us more room to roam, more freedom to travel. Nations and cultures that reject or distain God’s commandments have less freedom, less understanding, less progress, more war. They run to the extremes of lawlessness or legalism both which God commands to avoid. Don’t go too far to the right and left commanded God to Moses in Deut. 5. The Ten Words are the Ten Commandments that lead our footsteps into freedom. They enlarge one’s understanding on the boundaries of love, God’s mercy and grace provided in His Son, Jesus Christ.

We should heed and hear the command of God as Paul teaches his son Timothy in the faith and us saying God’s words frees us from the slavery of false teachings which shrink our understanding of God, love, freedom, (1Timothy 6). The Word of God enlightens our hearts and expands our mind to know the truth that sets us free to serve and love Him above all else.

Because of the enlarged hearts we have, we are blessed and privileged to gain the message of the Gospel. Through that Gospel message our understanding is enlarged to know the will and command of Christ for our lives. Through this Gospel, we hear of the Divine declaration that the whole world has been declared not guilty for Jesus sake.

All of God’s commands enlarge our hearts to grasp the beauty and blessings of who this God is, who loved us by sending His Son to be the propitiation of our souls. Because of His mighty miracle as the Chief Heart Surgeon we get more understanding about Him and His message and Ministry.

We see this playing out in Luther, how God’s commands enlarged his understanding, also C.S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal, of mammoth minds whose thoughts soared on the heels of God’s commands and especially the evangelical commands where God gives what he commands.

Since my surgery, I need to take pills daily @ 6:30 a.m. and p.m. These pills help my heart run smoothly. Likewise it is for us. We need to take into our hearts and mouth daily the Word of God and His precious Sacrament. Through these means, God continues to enlarge our hearts as we digest and chew on His gifts.

Oh, what joy to know that I have an enlarged heart and so do you. Oh, thank God with me for the blessed surgery He has done on our hearts of stones to give us a heart of flesh that loves Him, obeys Him, serve Him and our neighbor.

Today, we join the many saints who have had heart procedures to make their hearts alive again through the Gospel of Jesus Christ forever. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“God’s Unbelievable Love!” (1 John 3:1)

S-1389 All Saints Day/3C11/03/13 Hymns: (O) #463 vv. 1-5; (S) #351; (C) #463 vv. 6-8

Text: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Theme: “God’s Unbelievable Love!” (1 John 3:1)

Question: “What is the most expensive gift have you gotten?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for All Saints Day is a portion of the Epistle lesson: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1).


Precious children of the heavenly Father, gifts are always special and even more special when they are thoughtful. Gifts are usually a token of love, affection, and appreciation. But at times we are challenged in the way we express love. They say love makes the world go around; love also makes you give the most extravagant things to the one you love, be that your partner, your friend, your child or parent. People tend to spend more when it comes to buying gifts for the ones they love. History is a witness to this fact. Here’s a list of some of the most expensive gifts given in the name of love.

In 1632 Shah Jahan commissioned workers to build a mausoleum to house the remains of his beloved wife—Mumatz. It took workers over 22 years to complete the Taj Mahal. By today’s standard, it would have cost $1 billion to build.

In 1972 Richard Burton gifted his wife Elizabeth Taylor a 69.42 carat pear shaped diamond for her 40th birthday and it was estimated to be around $1,050,000 in worth at that time.

On November 2, 2007 Mukesh Ambani (India’s richest man) gave his wife Nita, a jet plane worth $60 million on her 44th birthday. This jet has all the comfort and luxury of home you desire and more.

David Beckham (world soccer player) gifted his wife (Victoria) a rare diamond-studded purse. The Silver Himalayan bag was his Christmas present in 2009. The bag cost Beckham a whopping $129,000. PAUSE.

It is amazing to reflect on such extravagant gifts given in the name of love. And perhaps we wish to receive such gifts too from someone who loves us. But as lavish as these gifts are, they pale in comparison to the Unbelievable gift of love God has given to us. This is what John tells us in today’s Epistle reading: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” In the original language, the word “kind” can be translated, “how great, how wonderful, how awesome, how lavish, how fabulous…” is God’s love towards us. It is an unbelievable love that is more costly than a building project of 22 years, more precious than a pear shaped diamond, more valuable than a $60 million jet and a Himalayan bag. The gift of love we have gotten is none other than the eternal Son of God Jesus Christ.

In his Spirit-inspired Gospel, John in his Gospel teaches us this wonderful truth: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Yes, this is the reality of the matter for us. That God the Father gave us more than all of the gifts of love combined.

He didn’t send workers to build a great empire. He didn’t spend money to purchase a jet, a diamond necklace or a diamond studded purse. No, He gave us His most precious and lavish gift the world has ever known. He gave us His Son to be our Savior and Lord. He gave us Jesus to win our lives back to Him. He gave us the Jewel of heaven to redeem us. He gave us the Morning Star to forgive us our sins.

Indeed, this is an unbelievable love demonstrated not by human ingenuity, but by a Divine plan to make us His children for ever. Because of Christ coming to earth, His willingness to go to the cross, suffer, die and rise again on the third day, we receive the gift of becoming part of the family of God forever. You can try to wrap your head around this if you like, but you can’t! As unbelievable as this love is, it is REAL and FOR YOU today and every day! PAUSE.

In October of this year, a 15 year old orphan boy Davion Henry Only, stood in a church in St. Petersburg, FL and asked to be adopted. He was seeking a family to call his own and who would love him until he dies. This is how he announced it: “My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born…I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either. I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.” And it appears that Only will get his wish.

It takes someone with a special heart to love a child that is not his/her own. It takes lots of money to adopt. And it takes time to become part of the family.

That is precisely what God has done for us in Christ His Son. John tells us how we became part of the great family of believers. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” In this act of love displayed on Calvary’s cross we have been made part of this grand family. In the waters of Baptism, we were adopted and the proper papers drawn saying, you belong to this family as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit claimed you. This love-driven adoption gives you a name and a place, a present and a future, a family and an inheritance! At His altar He feeds your soul with the heavenly manna. In His house of worship He smiles upon you and covers your filthy body with His white robes of righteousness. And He gives you His Word to remind you of His unbelievable love for you.

In fact, you can’t ask the Father to adopt you. That is what makes this love that much more unbelievable! The loving Father knew what you and I needed. And for that reason He gave us His Son to make us His own. Oh, what an unbelievable love we have. And what a privilege to tell our story to the world around us!

May you and I, by the power of the Holy Spirit tell the world that we are God’s precious children and loved with an unbelievable love forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace…


“A Little Bit of Heaven!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

This sermon was preached at the Small Town Rural Ministry in Kansas City, Mo

S-1388 All Saints Day/3C11/01/13 Hymns LSB(O) #510; (S) #677; LS. #554; #678; #676; (C) #770

Text: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Theme: “A Little Bit of Heaven!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

RSTM National Conference Kansas City, Kansas

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for All Saints Day is a portion of the Epistle lesson: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen, cherished, loved and adored in His sight and mine; in April of 2008, I was privileged to travel on behalf of the South Dakota District to Detroit, MI., for The Friendship of Jesus and Muslims Conference. After I arrived in my hotel I went to register for the conference. What a day that was. There were over 188 people registered for this conference. There were many Synodical representatives, along with the Mission Board, and the POBLO (People Of the Book Lutheran Outreach) servants of Detroit.

As the evening waned I felt I was experiencing heaven on earth and the fulfillment of Revelation 7, which states: “After this I saw a large number of people that no one could count, from all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues standing before the throne and the Lamb, dressed in white garments and holding in their hands palm branches.” (Rev. 7:9). This day to me was a mini Pentecost, a microcosm of eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a moment in time when I literally saw a glimpse of heaven before my very own eyes. At the evening banquet there were Muslim converts to the Christian faith, from these different nations—Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kosovo. Tears ran down my cheeks, as I sat at the conference and heard of the power of the Gospel in the lives of these people who have come to KNOW Jesus as the FRIEND of sinners. They spoke of the freedom of being burdened to earn God’s favor, or not certain of their salvation. They rejoiced when they came to know that their friends introduced them to the True Friend, Jesus Christ who won their freedom by the shedding of His blood on the cross. They spoke of the joy that filled their hearts because they knew this love that they have never experienced in the Muslim religion.

This is the scene here in our reading for this All Saints Day. It is righty called Saints Day, because these are the Saints that St. John on the Island of Patmos declares he saw. And what he saw is an amazing sight. Can you envision the sight?

It will be a beauty to behold. There will be billions of believers—a huge heavenly crowd far too great for any human eye to count. People from all nations and tribes, all races and languages will be there. These saints who have gone through any number of great tribulations, martyrdoms, persecutions, violent deaths and violent crimes, painful surgeries, setbacks, sorrow supreme, and Pauline perils will be perfectly united. They will be standing, dressed in white robes, waving palm branches, singing a heavenly salvation by grace song. They will be singing this heavenly hymn before the Throne of the Father and the Throne of the Lamb, heartily sing:

Salvation to our God on His Throne!

Salvation is from the Lamb, the eternal I Am!

This is a marvelous picture to behold and reflect on. All Saints Day helps us to think of those loved one who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb and have gone ahead of us to be with Him who loved us and gave Himself for us on that cruel and cursed tree. PAUSE.

On this day, let me remind you that you are precious in the sight of the Lord, you are loved, you are adored and you are blood-bought by the precious blood of the innocent Lamb—Jesus the Friend of sinners. And because of what the Savior has done for us, we have become saints—holy unto the Lord, washed from every stain of sin, and live under His grace now and look forward to the day we will be numbered among the throngs waiving our Palm branches with other saints from other places, and peoples and nations.

In order to be wholesome leaven we need a little bit of heaven—to enter our heart so that we can impart salt and light, love and life, help and hope to those who don’t know the Savior as their FRIEND.

The paradox here is that this little bit of heaven is quite a bit of heaven, even now. The often quoted, or should I say misquoted 1 Cor. 2:9 is speaking of how even now the Lord has blessed us with gargantuan gospel lifts. For example, we have been blessed with the gift of sainthood. Holiness, righteousness, sainthood are genuine gifts we have even now. Very few Christians grasp such a great gift as this.

In Romans 8 it declares we are already glorified. Paul uses a Greek tense to emphasize how much of the glory of God that has already come to us. A little bit of heaven turns out to be a lot of heaven even now, when we consider the rich resurrection realities that are already ours. Even now Jesus dwells within us as God and man. Even now The Holy Spirit has made us His temple. Even now we are incorporated into the body of Christ. Even now we are already saints. Even now we receive the very body and blood of the Savior. Even now holy angels surround us. We also sojourn through life knowing that God is working everything together for the good of the church—everything. We have been sanctified through the Word via our second birth—baptism. A little bit of heaven comes to us big time every time we receive Christ’s true body and blood.

This little bit of heaven, or more accurately a lot of heaven is yours today, because of Jesus our true Lamb who suffered our punishment. This little bit of heaven is yours not because of heritage, inheritance, position or possessions, but simply because someone washed you clean. Someone loved you enough to die for you on the cross (if there is a cross turn and point to it). On that cruel instrument, you and I have been made saints by your FRIEND and mine—Jesus the Christ—OUR ONLY SAVIOR. PAUSE.

At the Conference in Detroit, we were reminded that 90% of all who come to church come because of a friend who has invited them or told them about Jesus. Many of the Muslim converts spoke of the friend who cared and spoke about this Jesus who loved them by dying their death and rose again to give them life and salvation. One friend cared. One friend shared, and one friend told the truth that apart from Jesus Christ there is no salvation (Acts 4:12).

I further learned that in (2008) there were 350.000 Muslims who have gone through the on-line course provided by The Lutheran Hour Ministries about Christianity. What a blessing to witness and to behold how our Church body is reaching out in the name of the Friend of sinners to others, especially to the Muslims.

I like to inform you that there were 23 nations represented at the Conference. Here are the nations: Jordan, Syria, Togo, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Iraq, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Ireland/Scotland, Russia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, India, Philippines, Malaysia, and USA. THIS IS A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN FOR SURE.

What a blessing to have attended this conference. What a blessing to have heard former enemies of the Cross speak of their FRIEND Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What a blessing to know that our church body is reaching out to others in the name of Jesus Christ.

On this All Saints Day, I encourage you to remain steadfast in the faith that is yours. And remember this little bit of heaven is a lot of heaven for today and forever. And soon, very, very soon, we, ALL BELIEVERS will be before the Throne and the Lamb shouting and saying: ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”Amen.

Now the peace…