Wednesday, February 26, 2014

“I Can’t Do It!” (Leviticus 19:1-2)

S-1413 7SAE/3A 2/23/2014 Hymns: (O) #388; (S) #276; L.S. #324; #307; #246; (C) #54

Texts: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Theme: “I Can’t Do It!” (Leviticus 19:1-2)

Question: “Have you ever said, ‘I CAN’T do it!?’” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany is from the O.T. lesson “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD Your God Am holy’” (Leviticus 19:1-2).


Children of the heavenly Father today’s text is a hard pill to swallow. The Lord God Almighty asks a hard thing of us mortals. He asks us to be holy as He is holy. He asks us to love Him with our whole heart, mind, body and soul. Love our neighbors, our enemies, not to lie, not to gossip, not hurt or cheat others. This is not only hard, challenging, difficult, but it is downright IMPOSSIBLE.

Certainly it is harder said than done. I don’t have to tell you the difficulties that we face daily as sinful human beings who want to serve God always but can’t. I don’t have to remind you of the burden of being obedient to the command and will of God. All you have to do is look into the mirror of God’s Law. Though it is hard, God’s request is not a laughing matter. He is not kidding with His request of us. He is serious. He asks us to be holy, perfect, righteous and blameless. But how can we be when we daily sin much in thought, word and deed.

“I can’t do it!” You have said it too. Last year after my open heart surgery, I had many health and physical challenges. There were many days when I couldn’t do what I wanted. Oh, I tried, but eventually, I cried and said, “Lord, I just can’t do it.” The older I get the more I realize I can’t do what I once was able to do. It is true. If you are honest you would admit that you, too, have limitations and can’t do what once you use to do. Even Ann Lander’s once joked about an elderly lady who had bent down to get an item of the ground, and said, “Lord, what else can I do while I am still down here?” PAUSE.

We have a major problem on our hands. God is asking us to do the impossible, yet we fail miserably because we can’t stop sinning. We often joke saying, “I am not perfect!” But God demands perfection. Know this: if you are NOT perfect you can’t enter the Kingdom of God. The problem is we daily fail to do the will of God. And if we haven’t done it completely, we haven’t done it at all. (James 2).

But we are not alone. When God asked Moses to go to Egypt and free the Israelite, he cried out saying: “Lord, I can’t do it. Send someone else.” (Ex. 4:13). When Jeremiah was asked to be a prophet to Israel, he complained to God saying: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jer. 1:6). Elijah, the mighty prophet of Israel, who challenged with courage the prophets of Baal and put them to death ran for his life from queen Jezebel saying “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4). And Jonah when God called him to go to Nineveh ran away from God and the responsibilities to preach repentance. (Jonah 1) All of these great men of God in essence said, “I can’t do it!”

But wait there are more men of God who said the same thing. When Mark John had joined Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey, he too cried out, “I can’t do it!” Mark wasn’t prepared for the work, and when the going got tough the young John Mark got going (Acts 13). And let us not forget Paul, that great preacher who traveled the world over proclaiming that salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through Christ alone. In his letter to the church at Rome cried out, “I can’t do it.” I try not to sin, but can’t. (Romans 7) PAUSE.

Let’s not forget Luther, the great Augustinian Monk and theologian before he understood the grace of God and the sweet Gospel cried out, “I HATE GOD! I HATE GOD!” Listen to Luther’s own voice saying: “I could not believe that He was placated by my satisfaction. I did not live, indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. Secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.” Luther in essence was saying: “I can’t do it!”

Luther got this so well that when he was writing the Catechism in his explanation of the 3rd Article of the Creed wrote, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

As you can see, there is not one of us who has kept the Law of God perfectly. None of us are holy like God demands. Indeed, can a mortal be in the right before God? Can anyone be pure before His or her Maker? No, not one of us is guiltless, not one has true integrity, not one is without sin; no not one. Who then can stand before the presence of a holy God (Psalm 24)? Who then can survive His punishment and wrath? Who then can live without fear of destruction?

What a dilemma we have. God demands perfection, and we can’t enter the Kingdom of God without being perfect. But we are far from it. This causes us troubled hearts and guilty consciences. I know the truth and at times I want to throw my hands up and cry out, “Lord, I CAN’T DO IT!” But wait. Before you throw the towel in the ring, listen to the Rabbi from Nazareth as He invites you saying:Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

But don’t stop there, lift your eyes up and see the shadow in the distance. Look and see the bloody body barely moving. Look and see the hunched body carrying a heavy cross. Look and see Him drag one foot after another as He climbs up crucifixion Hill. Look and see His eyes reaching out to those who are hurting on account of sin. Look and see as Roman soldiers strip Him naked, lay Him on the wooden beam and with a huge mallet drive 6 inch spikes into His hands and feet. Look and see the God Man hanging on the cursed tree. Look up and see…and hear Him say, “I CAN! I WILL! I HAVE! I AM GIVING MY LIFE FOR YOU!”

Hear Your Savior say “I lived the perfect life for you. I have fulfilled the Law of God in your place. I have washed you from every stain of sin. I have redeemed you by my shed blood and glorious resurrection. Remember though, I stood before Pilate who covered Me with a robe to mock and humiliate Me. But today, I in love and joy put on you My robe of righteousness and holiness to present you perfect in the presence of My Father. I AM THE ONE WHO MAKES YOU HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, BLAMELESS AND PERFECT NOW AND FOREVER.”

As stated above, we can’t enter the Kingdom of God unless we are perfect. Well, I have good news for you today. You are perfect because Christ has made you perfect through His suffering, death and resurrection. Yes, you can’t do it, but He can, He has and He will. Take comfort then because you are perfect and you will be in the presence of the PERFECT Savior, Jesus Christ. FOREVER. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Oh The Choices Before Us!” (Deut. 30:19-20)

S-1412 6SAE/3A 2/16/2014 Hymns: (O) #234; (S) #134; (C) #416

Texts: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

Theme: “Oh The Choices Before Us!” (Deut. 30:19-20)

Question: “What choice did you make today?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 6th Sunday After the Epiphany is from the O.T. lesson “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord Your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deut. 30:19-20).


Saints in Christ there are so many choices in life it isn’t even funny—it is downright stressful. Have you gone to a restaurant lately and looked at the menu. You get so confused that you don’t know what you want. You look at all of the choices only to come back to that which you are so comfortable with.

Not long ago, someone had gone to a restaurant to eat breakfast. The man ordered two eggs, sausage and bread. The waitress asked “Do you like your eggs sunny side up, scrambled, or flipped over?” He said “sunny side up”. Then she asked “do you want link or patty,” he said, “link.” “Would you like beef, turkey or pork?” “Pork!” Was his answer. She went on to the bread. “Do you want whole wheat, Rye, Cinnamon raison or white?” “Wheat.”Do you want it as is or toasted?“Toast it.”Do you want butter or margarine?” “Butter.” “Do you want it on the bread or on the side.” In exasperation he said, “I don’t care I just want to eat!”

Choices are not limited to restaurants. Have you been to the grocery store lately? Walk through the isles and see the varieties of soups. Just the various “cream ofs” (chicken, celery, asparagus, mushroom, onion, potatoes and Broccoli) to fixa casserole. PAUSE.

Our world has also become a “Canaan” of moral choices. Alternative and optional life­styles connected with a growing lack of morals introduce a catalog of personal choices and individualistic decisions that are advocated as acceptable. Thrivent have chosen to be neutral rather than take a stand on life issues.

Sure, it is nice to have choices; in fact, many would probably propose that having choices is a divine right. Honestly, we can propose that choices are truly God given. Except we quickly discover that God offers only two choices.

This morning’s text clearly states what God has placed before us: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (v 15). The choice of life and good, is char­acterized by obedience to God’s Commandments. But as God places these Commandments before us, He also cre­ates in us the new life that enables us to be obedient to them.

Today, the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth. In reality we don’t have too many choices. No, there are only two choices: Obey and live, disobey and die. Simple yet profound! God’s Word is true without exceptions, exemptions or exclusions. His Word is the final authority. PAUSE.

With these Words of farewell, Moses states, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Please be clear in this truth, in matters of salvation, there is nothing that you can do. It is all the work of God. He has chosen us before the foundation of the world in Christ. In John 15, Jesus states, “You didn’t choose me, BUT, I have chosen you and appointed you to bear fruit” (15:16). However, in matters of sanctification, we have choices that the Holy Spirit helps us carry out, not to earn salvation but in thanksgiving to what He has done for us.

Today, we hear Moses pleading with the people of Israel before they enter the Promise Land to do the right thing—chose life and live in obedience to the will of God. They said they would. But Scripture paints another picture.

You know they disobeyed God when He told them to go and fight their enemies. They grumbled and wanted to return to Egypt and live under slavery. They complained about everything God gave them including the daily provisions. At last, God was fed up with them and sent the snakes that brought death and caused them to fall on their knees seeking forgiveness and repentance.

But before we start pointing the finger at others saying those bad Israelites, look at our lives, how often have we made the wrong choices? We haven’t been faithful in being obedient to the will of God. We have choices to come to church or not. We have choices to attend Bible Study or go downtown for coffee. We have choices to pray, to serve, to give our offering, and be a messenger of God’s grace or do none of these things. Ultimately there are only two choices. Live by serving Christ or die by serving yourself.

In verse 20 of our text Moses states: “…Loving the Lord Your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is Your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” In the original language the words “holding fast to Him” can be translated glued to God. We, who would choose death, if left to ourselves, are given new life now in Baptism. Now we are glued to Christ through His choosing us so that our faith choices are pleasing to Him. Yet, we don’t always remain glued to Him or obey His will in our lives. Instead, we chose to do our will.

But while Jesus was on earth, He too, had choices to make. Listen to His earthly parents or not. Obey the will of God or not. Serve God or not. We know that He chose always the best—doing that which God has asked Him too.

While growing up under the watchful eyes of His foster father Joseph and mother, He was obedient to them. As He grew up in years, He was obedient to the will of the heavenly Father. While He was in the Garden of Gethsemane He had a choice to let Himself be taken to be crucified or run away. He chose to stay for our sake. His prayer was this: Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Lk. 22:42). Yes, that was His prayer and He carried it out.

Like us, Jesus had two choices, Live under God’s grace or die at the hands of murderers. And He chose death, so that you and I will live. He chose to obey the will of God, because of our disobedience. He chose to be holy and perfect in the presence of God, because we have been and remain unholy and disobedient. He chose to suffer the punishment of hell, so that you and I will experience the grace of God.

What a blessing to know that which we couldn’t do, Christ has done for us. He was obedient to the point of death—death on the cross for us. But He also chose to be with us and for us.

Therefore, today, join me in giving thanks to God that He is the One who has “glued” Himself to us by baptism! He has “glued” Himself to us through His Son, Jesus. Because of His choice, death for our life, we who often choose the expedient and the foolish have the grace of that Cross to call us to repentance.  Repentance is God’s gift for the Israelites as they enter Canaan and for you and me as we live among the many worldly choices of today.  Trust that this call to repent is the call of Him who glued Himself to you, even so, Amen.

Now the peace…


“Making a Difference” (Isaiah 58:3-6)

S-1411 5SAE/3A 2/09/2014 Hymns: (O) #7; (S) #412; L.S. #310; #377; (C) #48

Texts: Isaiah 58:3-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 5:12-20

Theme: “Making a Difference” (Isaiah 58:3-6)

Question: “What gifts are you using to make a difference?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 5th Sunday After the Epiphany is from the O.T. lesson “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I Am’” (Isaiah 58:3-6).


Beloved in Christ, we live in a world where it seems that almost everyone does something to get noticed. It happens at home all the time. The husdand or the kids on one occasion want to score points with mom so they make sure the dishes are done, the beds are made, the laundry is washed, dried and put away and the house is generally set in order when mom is at work, or away at the store. I know when this happens at my house, my dear wife’s response falls into one of three categories. 1). What did you buy? 2) What did you break? Or 3) what do you want? If it isn’t actually said, it is most likely thought because this is not the normal program. Mom is often stuck doing the work almost all the time. But on the few occasions when dad or the kids pitch in, it is often to manipulate something to their advantage.

And this just doesn’t happen at the home. It happens in the workplace when the employees work extra hard when the boss is watching because they might want that pat on the back that could lead to the big promotion and the big raise. It happens in school too when the kids are extra well behaved when they think the teacher is looking but when they think the teacher isn’t, they are plotting their next caper. It even happens in the Church. People make sure they are seen in worship and in serving in the hopes of making an impression on people rather than on falling on their knees in confession before the Lord, seeking forgiveness for all their sins and experiencing that sweet forgiveness in the Divine Service.

Why does this happen? Well, ever since the fall into sin our human nature only seeks to serve ourselves, our appetites and our desires. We look out for ourselves. Being selfless doesn’t achieve those goals. Other people cease to be people and are simply a means to an end. There is great truth in a saying that is going around that goes like this. “God made us to love people and use things. In our world today, we use people and love things.” That is how backward the sinful life is.

This even relates to our relationship with God. Reflect on your prayer life. How often do we use our prayers in a thinly veiled attempt to manipulate God into doing the things that we want when we want them done, rather than praying as Jesus did “Thy will be done.” This is what was happening in the Old Testament lesson for today. Israel trusted in their fast days as a means of motivating God to answer their prayers and petitions. But while they sought God’s favor, what they actually received was a bust in the chops! God is not too pleased and He responds, “Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the lord?” (v 5c), and of course the answer is absolutely NO! God labels Israel’s “days of fasting” as unacceptable to Him.

Why doesn’t Yahweh accept these contrived acts of fasting? It is because they are manipulative and fake! They did all the right things in all the right ways. They made a really good show of it. You could say the music was catchy and the liturgy was perfect! But the problem was it was not the kind of worship that the Lord was seeking. In fact, according to the Laws of God there was only one required day of fasting—the Day of Atonement. But these people tried to outdo God by fasting more and covering themselves in sackcloth and ashes—all for show. However, God was not impressed.

God sees through the false worship, the false motivation and even the false piety. So He bursts their bubble in complete fashion! He sends Isaiah to tell them all of these externals means nothing to Him. What God desires is that we make a difference in the lives of those around us—being little Christ’s to the world—sharing the Gospel, caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, reaching out to the needy and inviting the homeless to our homes.

God does not call His people to put on a show of repentance. God calls His people to do something much more meaningful, much more selfless, and much less manipulative. He calls His people to bring light and healing. The Hebrew word that is used to bring relief to those in need and let them see the light of day can be translated as “a long bandage” such as applied by surgeons to heal a wound. This ministry is carried out to make a difference in someone’s life by restoring them and bringing about healing. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, at John Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore, Maryland) is a man by the name of Benjamin Carson. He is the renowned Pediatric Neurosurgeon. Someone made a difference in His life that turned this poor financially and academically young man to be the best in his field—his mother. Though undereducated, she pushed her sons to read and to believe in themselves. Carson went from being a poor student to receiving honor and he eventually attended medical school. As a doctor, he became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33, and became famous for his ground-breaking work separating conjoined twins.

This man is not only a doctor but He is a believer in Jesus Christ. Dr. Carson has made a difference in many families and brought hope and help when it seemed impossible. He made a difference because he applied the gifts the Lord has given him for the Lord’s glory and help of others.

Today, by the power of the Holy Spirit we can relate that story of one Benjamin that is Dr. Carson, to another Benjamin. Well He isn’t really named Benjamin, but He is One who comes to work out the meaning of the word. Benjamin in Hebrew means “son of my right hand.” This One Who acts as a Benjamin didn’t go to an Ivy League school. Instead He was educated in a carpenter’s shop. He became a healer of both body and soul. This Son of the Right Hand and great Physician is none other than Jesus who makes the greatest difference in our lives!

The Son of God—who is seated at the right hand made a difference in the lives of many by willingly going the way of the cross without retribution or revenge, He offered up to our heavenly Father the different Day—acceptable in God’s sight—the Day He would be crucified on Calvary’s brutal block of wood and become our righteousness. He makes a difference in us that we don’t rely on our self-righteousness or good works, but on Him alone. For on the cross is all the difference in the world. We become healed. Our eyes are opened, our hearts are cleansed and our souls filled with faith.

Jesus makes a GREAT Difference through His redemptive work and also through the Body of Christ. Again it was Christ’s love that gave birth to the technology of science to advance medicine and His love that inspired the modern day hospital movement. Look at the names of the hospitals in the past: St. Luke, Lutheran Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and on and on.

And now, this local hospital known as Redeemer Lutheran Church (Armour, SD) is called upon to make a difference. Yes, you heard me right. God by grace has called us to be like His Son the Divine Physician and reach out to others in His name. It is not easy. At times it is not pleasant, but God calls us to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Look around to those you can touch with the power of the Gospel of Christ. Look around to those you can restore with a Word of hope from Scripture. Look around to those you can restore with the grace of God. And you will see them. Then ask the Divine Physician to use you in a special way to make a difference in the lives of those around you. To make a difference is indeed an honor and a privilege. PAUSE.

A woman was enthusiastically telling some friends about the value of a first-aid class she had recently completed. “Just yesterday,” she said, “I was driving down 52nd Street when I heard this awful crash. I jammed on the brakes, ran back, and found a car wrapped around a telephone pole. When I got to the injured driver, I saw a horrible sight. My knees went limp, and I didn’t know what to do. But all at once I remembered something from my first-aid training. Immediately I bent down and put my head between my knees, and it worked! I didn’t faint!”

That’s not the conclusion you expected, is it? In a similar way, the Israelites had failed to grasp the wider implications of their spiritual training. The prophet Isaiah charged them with looking after their own interests but disregarding the needs of others. Their enthusiasm for God was nothing more than hollow ritual. The condemning evidence of their sinful neglect was the poor, hungry, and afflicted among them who remained oppressed and unassisted.

True religion doesn’t end with a love for Sound Doctrine and proper worship. It DOES BEGIN THERE, but is doesn’t end there. It moves beyond this place and out into the world. It includes first aid to our neighbor. That’s the strongest evidence that our spiritual training is not being misapplied. To that end, we call on the Divine Physician, Benjamin to use us for our neighbors benefit and for His glory. Because this Divine Physician has never stopped healing us from the deadly disease of SIN and He will continue to do so always. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Appointed, Anointed and Sent” (1 Samuel 1:26-28)

S-1410 4SAE/3A 2/02/2014 Hymns: (O) #336; (S) #506; (C) #49

Texts: 1 Samuel 1:21-28; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-32

Theme: “Appointed, Anointed and Sent” (1 Samuel 1:26-28)

Question: “Have you been selected to represent a group?” Armour, SD Lutheran Hour Sunday Observance

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the LH Sunday is from the O.T. lesson “And she said, ‘Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord’” (1 Samuel 1:26-28).


Most precious people of God, every week I begin my sermon saying, “Christ is Risen!”, and you respond saying, “He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” Today as we observe LHM Sunday is no different. And thus, I repeat Christ is Risen because in HIM is the power, the purpose and the privilege of Living Eternal Lives for others as ones sent out in His name! Amen! Pause.

You know the fact well. Our world has changed, right? We live in a messed up and confused world…right? Now, if I were to tell you that people need Jesus Christ as their Savior, more than ever….that’s a no brainer, right? BUT…what if I were also to tell you that you and I, as Christian people are truly appointed, anointed and sent out into this world to tell those very same people about Jesus. What would you say? Pause.

Well, if we are like most believers, looking at all the “forces that seem to be set against the message of Jesus Christ,” and the challenges of being God’s messengers, it seems like this would not only be a difficult task, it would seem to be downright impossible. And we wouldn’t want to touch this topic with a 10’ pole. Pause.

Yet today, as we listen to the inspired Word in the book of Samuel, we see the appointing, anointing and sending of Samuel to be God’s mouth-piece all the days of his life. Today we see Hanna the once barren woman, now by the grace of God given birth to a son whom she called Samuel, meaning God heard me. Yes, God heard her pleas and petitions. God heard the cries of a woman who wanted a child desperately. He heard the ache and pain of her empty womb and bosom and fulfilled her desires. For this reason she dedicate this child to God’s service.

What a heartwarming story of a woman who loved God so much that she was willing to dedicate her son to spend the rest of his life sharing the love of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What a woman of faith, who prayed for a child so that she could give him up for the sole purpose of his life’s mission is serving the King of glory. What a woman with a vision to see the needs of faithful servants in God’s kingdom. PAUSE.

Certainly, Samuel was appointed, anointed and sent to preach and teach the Israelites about the gracious God who is mighty in power, whose mercy is freely given, and whose knows no limits. In the next chapter, the author tells us that every year his mother went up to see him and made him a new robe to minister in the presence of God Almighty. (1 Samuel 2:18-19).

Did you know that same practice is carried out today in my old country? As a matter of fact my older brother Saeed and his wife (Salwa) were unable to conceive. For many years they prayed to God to give them a child. After 12 years of marriage the Lord heard their prayers, my sister-in-law dressed my nephew Sharbel (whose name means good news) with a priestly garment (for 5 years), indicating to all who saw him, this child is dedicated to the Lord because He is a gift from the Lord.

Likewise, we are dressed with the garment that tells the world that we are dedicated in the service of the Lord to the world. No, you don’t see us parading with a priestly garment. But we have been dressed with the garments of salvation through the gift of baptism. We have the garment of Christ’s holiness. We are, after all, just like Samuel, appointed, anointed and sent to a world that desperately needs to hear the message of the cross and the empty tomb.

This is not simply the work of few people, pastors, missionaries, evangelists and teachers. No, this is our great privilege as His redeemed people. This is our great honor to be Christ-like to the world. This is our joy to be sent and tell the world what the Savior has done for us.

But why is so difficult for us to do? Why don’t we take it to heart? Why are we not involved more in spreading the good news of Christ saving us? Why? Because we think of our time as mine alone to do with it as I please. We think I don’t have time for this nonsense. I am busy working, raising a family and putting food on the table. This is not what God called me to be. He truly has called us to be His light in this dark world of ours that is confused about who He is and what He has done for them.

Therefore hear the story of another mother who had a Son who was appointed, anointed and sent. He was not born to a barren woman but a virgin. Her name was Mary. Her long-promised Son is Jesus. He was appointed to this task of ministry already in the fall into Sin in the Garden. It was there that the Lord promised that a Savior would come. Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary was to be that Savior. He was anointed for that priestly office in the waters of the Jordan by His cousin John. There under the testimony of the Father and Spirit, Jesus the Son of God was anointed for this work. He would be both a prophet declaring God’s Word and also the Priest who would make the ultimate sacrifice. It was for this sacrifice Jesus was sent. He was sent to die. The cross is where the work is done. Jesus, the very Son of God and Son of Man, appointed Savoir, Anointed Prophet and Priest and sent to sacrifice all of this for us and more! He is like us so that we may be like Him. This is more than a cute story of a young girl and a baby. It is the story of our Salvation! Of A virgin and a Son who would do exactly what the Father commands for the sake of all Humanity! PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, I pray that you would be among those appointed, anointed and sent. What if each person in this house of worship remembered the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus that they hear about weekly, His loving sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection from the grave, and His blessing of new life for each of us through His Word and the blessing of baptism. And if each of us believer share that blessed Gospel story with five people in his or her life this week. What if each of these people who heard the story of salvation was changed by that powerful message? And what if those five people share the Gospel with five other people? Love others as Christ has indeed loved them! Share His compassion as He gave it for them. Go to others as Jesus had come for them! PAUSE.

You, who have been appointed, anointed and sent to be a voice to the world. I like to ask you few questions: Have you ever been selected to represent a group? Perhaps you were the top scholar in your high school class and received the honor to speak at your graduation. Maybe you were chosen to represent your congregation at a District function. Maybe you were selected to be on a committee at your church to study and plan the ministry of your con­gregation. Maybe it was something as simple as being told by your mom when you were little to tell your family that dinner was ready. No matter how big or small, being selected to speak for a group or an individual is an honor.

When you are chosen to speak for someone, it happens because you are trusted. And that trust carries with it a great responsibil­ity. You receive a message, and you speak with the authority of whoever sent you. It's a job you take seriously. That sort of honor and responsi­bility was given to us as the redeemed and blood-bought children of God to serve Him all the days of our lives, just like Samuel was. As members of Christ’s family, we have responsibilities too. These are our privileges. They are efforts we put forward in willing, grateful response to what the Savior has done for our salvation. Of course, such actions cover our whole lives. We want everything in word and deed to be done to His glory. But one privilege stands out above all others. That’s the work the risen Savior has given us—to be His witnesses. We who have seen His cross and empty tomb tell others. We share with the needy the good news of the forgiveness of sins.

Perhaps you can’t become a pastor or a teacher. Per­haps you can’t fly to distant continents or move to expanding areas of our country. But you can still witness. You can tell the child on your lap, the neighbor down the street, the coworker on the job about the Jesus who loves them. You can speak your prayers and bring your offerings for the gospel-spreading efforts of this body of believers. PAUSE.

I know it is a challenge for us. Yes, I know that it is difficult at times. But that is what our Savior has called us to be. And it is the greatest honor and privilege bestowed upon us. Anointed with His gracious Word, appointed to His mission, we are sent into this world as His agents of grace….and He can get the job done with people just like you and me.

That’s what we’re celebrating today on this Lutheran Hour Sunday….we love being partners in this grand mission, being your public voice of grace, in the US, Canada and in over 33 countries around the world. Christ to the nations, the nations to the church, through appointed, anointed and sent messengers of His eternal good news, now and forever! Amen!

Now the peace of God…


“Increase My Joy!” (Isaiah 9:2-3)

S-1409 3SAE/3A 1/26/2014 Hymns: (O) #106; (S) #574; LS #87; #315; (C) #512

Texts: Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-25

Theme: “Increase My Joy!” (Isaiah 9:2-3)

Question: “What fills your heart with joy?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany is from the O.T. lesson “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil” (Isaiah 9:2-3).


Beloved in the Lord, it happens when you least expect it. At times you are despondent, disappointed and discouraged and don’t know what to do. Then something out of the ordinary happens. You get a phone call, a card in the mail or someone stops over and the dark cloud is lifted and your heart is joyful. You are at the hospital for tests and are expecting the worst. Then the doctor comes in and says, “All is well!” This has happened to me numerous times. On January 3rd after picking up the mail and going through it, I was dumbfounded with two letters. The first contained $250.00 check for the roof project and the second almost caused me to fall to the ground. In it was a check for $2500.00 to be used in any manner for the church without any stipulation. The irony was that these gifts were neither sought out nor expected. They were a gift from the Lord and He certainly increased my joy that day. I was so joyful I couldn’t help but call someone and tell them.

To be sure, the increase of my joy is not because of the funds that came in; but because they came in when least expected from the most unlikely people. This incident shows again how God uses people to lift the burdens from our hearts and fill it with joy. To Him Alone Be All the Glory.

Today, the prophet Isaiah tells us what God is going to do for His people of old and us. He will increase the nations and fill them with Joy. This joy is brought about by the One who causes salvation—God Almighty. Isaiah describes this joy as of a farmer harvesting his crops and a warrior dividing the spoil. This joy is tangible, touchable and true. This joy is rooted in an activity that brought about a change in one’s life. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, what causes you joy? What causes you to be happy? What changes need to take place in your life to fill your heart with joy and happiness? By the power of the Holy Spirit, listen to Isaiah describing the God who is on a mission of increasing the joy in our lives. Isaiah proclaimed to the people of Israel, that God is the active agent in doing this. Isaiah states God is behind the scenes demolishing and destroying the enemy of Israel. Isaiah confesses His God is a warrior God who crushes and crumbles every force that attacks His precious children.

The message of Isaiah is not only to the people of Israel but also to us here living in Armour, SD. Isaiah’s message is one that increases our joy because it shows our God is fighting our enemies —Satan, the world and our sinful nature. This God gets involved in our lives by sending someone to fight our battles. Few verses after our text (For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.) it tells us that a special Warrior will come forth. Under His reign, peace and joy will be evident. His kingdom will have no end and He will rule over the nations in justice and righteousness. Through this special Warrior, the people have won a great military victory over their oppressors and therefore have every reason to be joyful. Through His grace He increased their joy.

It is hard for us to understand this kind of joy, because we often allow the events around us to rob us of the joy that God provides through the special Warrior—His Son—Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus our joy has increased and multiplied and will continue to increase. PAUSE.

Yet, yet, we don’t always believe this message. It isn’t that the Heavenly Father is angry with us any longer. Oh, no. It is much more than that. It is much greater than we know. We are His children through faith in the salvific work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, what a caring father is ever angry enough at His children to hate them? Rather it is the old man left in us whose desires is to sin against God. the advocate of satan seeks to rob us of the full joy our Good Shepherd gives us.

Perhaps we fell short this past week and got into an argument with a friend or family member. It could be we had some kind of financial dealings where we sought to get more money than we deserved. Maybe we’ve been lax in our duties (huh) and we feel a little guilty about it. Whatever the transgression be it against God or neighbor, it often causes us to feel like we come short in the sight of God…and we do.

Grasping this, Satan comes into our conscience and accuses us before God—you can’t be serious about being joyful. Look at your life and see what a terrible sinner you have been. Satan is right you know. But because of the Warrior and Champion Jesus, we can take God at His Word that He is the active Agent behind this joy. Satan can’t accuse us. Our sins can’t condemn us. The world can’t enslave us because Christ has paid the payment on our behalf in giving His all and forgives our every sin.

We Christians have real joy in spite of living in this sin-polluted world. Only a life that is faith- filled, love-filled and hope-filled can be joyous. Such a joyous life is found only in Christ our Savior. For this Warrior Champion has increased the joy of many through His earthly life. He increased the joy of the couple who invited to their wedding in Cana. He increased the joy of the parents whose daughter lay dead but was raised. He increased the joy of the crippled man who waited 38 years to be free. He increased the joy of Bartimaeus when He opened His blind eyes to see the Son of God in person.

For this reason, God’s promise is true—He has increased our joy. Our joy is increased on account of the Warrior God who fought our fight against the evil one—satan and demolished him, destroyed his domain and once and for all removed his bite of death from us. Our joy is increased in knowing Christ has done everything to save us and redeem us through His death and resurrection. Our joy has increased in knowing there is not a sin that I or you have ever committed that is not forgiven.

My joy is increased as I visit other Districts and see the gracious work of God carried out by many. My joy is increased when I hear of the blessings God is doing in your lives. My joy is increased when I see some of you living the faith, inviting a friend and forgiving others. The fruits of the spirit are wonderful and they are mighty in the lives of the saints. What a blessing for me to see them in all of you. PAUSE.

Yes, our joy has increased because of the Savior who made us His very own in the waters of Baptism. Today, our joy is increased at the blessings of being in His house, hearing His Word, receiving His forgiveness and dinning at His table. Today, our joy is increased on account of the grace of God being poured upon us.

Oh, the joy that fills the heart of God’s people. Paul could even be joyful while in jail and facing death. He rejoiced as he remembered the saints at Philippi and the fellowship he had with them. Likewise our joy increased on account of the fellowship we have with Christ and one another.

Indeed, God in mercy and compassion has increased our joy no matter what our situation in life and status before the world. It is my fervent prayer and I might say the wish of the Savior...that you go forth this week and through His Spirit be able to take your joy to others; while remembering that Satan is wrong, he cannot take the joy which you have received from CHRIST. Amen!

Now the peace…