Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“He Restores Me!” (Psalm 23:3)

S-1443 7SAP/3A 7/27/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #32; L.S. #633; #775(C) #725 LSB

Texts: Deuteronomy 7:6-9; Romans 8:28-39; Matthew 13:44-52

Theme: “He Restores Me!” (Psalm 23:3)

Question: “Have you ever restored an item?” 4th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3)

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: Have you ever restored an item? Such as an heirloom rocking chair, roll-a-desk, and china cupboard? A car, an old photo or even a crashed computer?

You know how difficult it is to restore an old item that has seen its better days or a broken relationship. It takes time, money and lots of hard work to restore it back to the way it was, and even greater efforts to restore a broken relationship.

David knows first hands of broken relationships—with King Saul who tried to murder him, his son Absalom who tried to overthrow him from his throne and His God over his sin with Bathsheba.

David, the author of this beloved Psalm states: “Yahweh, my loving Shepherd will restore me.” He has this confidence that God’s anger will not last forever because He is compassionate and slow to anger. David knows that His Shepherd is the One who comes to His aid and restores His life from the pit of despair.

You see David is like every other sinner who walked on the face of the earth, needs God’s forgiveness to restore the relationship we had with Him—from the first Adam to the last Adam who will walk on the face of the earth. PAUSE.

David needed to be restored. In Psalm 51 he cries out to God “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (12). Having sinned with Bathsheba, God sent the Prophet Nathan to tell him you are the man. David didn’t try to blame someone else, or make excuses; he acknowledged that he had sinned against God saying to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die (2 Samuel 12:13). Restoration was done and hope given immediately.

For this reason David in this Psalm uses the word “Shuv” which often means repent or turn. He uses a verb form that means Yahweh IS super-restorer—completely—my life. This is to say, he is not only thinking of restoration only here on earth, but this of the final restoration at the resurrection. This is nothing but pure Gospel.

Holy Scripture is littered with stories of broken relationships, broken bodies and broken lives. We meet Joseph as his brothers sold him to slavery for 20 pieces of silver but later on their relationship was restored as Joseph forgave them their sin.

Naaman the commander of the army of Syria was restored from his leprosy by the servant of the most High God—Elisha (2 Kings 5). We can’t forget the restoration of the Prodigal son by his loving and caring father. And Luke tells us of Barnabas and Paul the great missionaries to the Gentiles who had a falling out over wanting to Mark-John with them. It was so severe that they parted way. But later on God restored their relationship.

Likewise, we the sinners—who are members of this body of believers have had falling out with our brothers and sisters. Sometime our falling out is so severe that we part way just Paul and Barnabas. But when we come to the throne of Grace in mercy, seeking forgiveness; He restores. When we confess that we have sinned against Him in word and deed, He restores us. When we let the devil get the best of us by disobeying God, and come crawling in repentant hear; the faithful God Shepherd, hears our confession and restores us through His gift of absolution. PAUSE.

Beloved lambs of the Good Shepherd, Jesus—daily we need to be restored and only He of whom David spoke can do that that in our lives. Restoration takes a lot of work. When restoring those old pieces of furniture that have all that detail to make the restoration complete requires great attention to detail. 

If restoring an inanimate object is this hard, imagine how hard it is to restore a soul. A human soul, corrupted by sin and stained with guilt and destined for death is a much more difficult process for restoration. It is much more than a matter of a little sanding, some elbow grease and a new coat of varnish. No, the restoration of a soul is a serious matter that takes hard work.

Nowhere was the work of restoration harder than the work that the Great Shepherd our Lord Jesus Christ did at the cross. It was more than a cut at the cross. It was more than just a layer of lacquer. Your restoration took the ultimate work of Christ’s life and death to make you whole. And it is that hard because this restoration was not about your outside. It was about your whole being. The restoration that the Good Shepherd did on you was a matter of taking you from death to life!

Our restoration by Christ the heaven-sent Savior reached its height on Calvary’s hewn cross, the tomb and its mighty resurrection. So precious did Jesus consider each sinner; that He was willing to pay the maximum price for each one—His own holy, precious and crimson blood.

The faithful Shepherd Jesus, restores the sinner to his right standing with the Father by taking the place of the sinner and making the sinner holy and righteous. He does all of this through His gracious mercy shown to us on Calvary’s cross.

Our faithful and caring Good Shepherd comes to battle the forces of sin, death and satan on our behalf. He comes to free us from the bondage and slavery of sin and restores our souls. He comes with healing in His wings, and He pours out water and blood to cleanse us from every evil desire and thought.

Paul the former murder and persecutor who became the greatest messenger and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks of the restoration of the sinner in this way: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:16-17).

Our restoration is a miracle brought about by the Good Shepherd Jesus. We know this because of one certain moment in history that was the darkest. There was no greater moment in the history of humanity that deserved to be told and retold—it is the moment on the cross when Jesus echoed the words of Psalm 22 and said “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” It was that moment when the greatest injustice of all time was happening. There is no greater injustice than for the innocent to suffer death for the sake of the guilty and condemned. But on the cross of Calvary the sinless Son of God was suffering all of the torment and agony that our sins deserved. This horrible moment of great evil was endured for the lost, least and last—you and me.

No wonder David says: Yahweh, my loving Shepherd will restore me.” He knew that His loving and caring Shepherd indeed will restore Him. And so do we! This restoration takes lots of work, expense and time.

For six long hours Christ hung on the cross. For six long hours He endured suffering, shame and humiliation. For six long hours He stood strong and was willing to endure all of God’s wrath. For six hours in the heat of the day, with lips cracked and chapped He stayed on the cross to restore you, and you, and you (point the finger at the saints) to the loving Father who day after day waits for us—His prodigal children to bless us and fill us with His joy and peace.

Today, we remember the words of David “that the Lord restores my soul” And He has and He does. By the grace of God the Holy Spirit has brought us here today to be restored. We have been and therefore we praise our Restorer—our faithful Good Shepherd for His mighty work in our lives. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Elegantly Bound!” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

S-1442 7SAP/3A 7/26/2014 Hymns:

Texts: Genesis 2:19-25; 1 John 4:7-11,19; Matthew 22:36-39

Theme: “Elegantly Bound!” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)


Bryant and Elaina, family and friends, in the name of Him who is love Jesus Christ. Amen. They tell me that you folks are here to get married. Is that true? (Wait for response). Are you folks sure this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? (Wait for response). Is there any doubt about it? (Wait for response). Well then, if that is your answer, then let me speak to those who have come to celebrate your special day with you. I want you to know that this message is specifically written for Bryant and Elaina, but if you want to eavesdrop, I can’t stop you. PAUSE.

Well, here we are. No more counting down the days. No more practicing to write Soulek instead of Deadrick. No more single life, but hello married life. Today by the grace of God you will be joined as husband and wife in His sight. Therefore, it is fitting that we would call upon the Lord God Almighty, to let His life-giving Word guide and guard your hearts throughout your blessed Journey of life together.

On this joyful day, we stand in God’s house and in His Presence asking Him to be the honored guest and to bless you as you begin this chapter in your lives called marriage. The text I have chosen for this wonderful celebration is tested, tried and true. The author of this book knows what he is speaking about. He is speaking from personal experience. Listen to Solomon as he gives you a golden nugget that will help you throughout your married life: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (4:12b).

What a wonderful text along with the others you have chosen to be part of God’s loving wisdom as a lamp to your feet and a light to your path in your married life. Solomon says: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” How true that is and I pray that you will remember this for the rest of your lives. Not sure if you have ever tried this exercise, but if you took a single rope, and tried to cut it, you can do so easily. But if you bound three (3) together, it will be more difficult indeed.

That is why I title your message Elegantly Bound. The title was born out of the initials of your names E for Elaina and B for Bryant and thus Elegantly Bound. This binding is taking two of God’s children—a man and woman and joined them to Christ through the gift of Baptism. When Christ is the One binding you, the devil and all other temptations in the world would have a hard time breaking you apart. Today, by the grace of God you will be Elegantly Bound together as husband and wife. PAUSE.

Elaina, I have known you for almost 19 years. I watched you from when you were a little girl running around the church in Sunday School, VBS, midweek classes, confirmation classes, and as you grew up you began teaching Sunday School and VBS; then on to college. I have seen the wonderful transformation God has worked in you to become the lovely and beautiful godly woman you are.

I even asked your father to describe his thoughts of you his little princess. This is what he said. “When I see Elaina I see a child of God, full of love.  A young lady who knows God and knows that God knows her.   I see my daughter who at one time woke in the night crying for her father looking for comfort and now knows that if she needs to cry out I am there, but more importantly, it is God to whom the petition for help and thanksgiving ultimately needs to be given…I see a young lady who is ready to take the next step in life, giving all whom she is to Bryant, the young man she loves.” That is a wonderful commentary and I agree wholeheartedly.

I asked the same of your mother and these are her thoughts: “…Elaina is my Sweet Pea she loves Jesus and knows how much the Savior loves her. As a parent, I loved going into her bedroom and seeing how she wrote her favorite Bible verses on sticky notes that she posted all over her walls.” Now that is a lady who is bound to Christ and His Word.

Bryant, I have not known you that long nor do I know your parents. But I have had the pleasure of getting to know you through the pre-marriage counseling sessions. I want to thank you for being the godly man that you are. As we visited throughout the course of our sessions few things came through loud and clear. 1. You know the Lord Jesus Christ and He knows you as His own blood-bought child. 2. You love Elaina and want to be a good husband to her. And 3, you want to be a good provider for her and in time for the children the Lord will give you in the future. That is a great testimony to your relationship to the One who bound you to Him, Jesus the Christ.

I did however, go behind your back and asked your parents for their thoughts. Here is what your mom said: “Bryant has become an amazing man, kind, caring, responsible, yet witty and funny when he wants to be.  As he’s matured, he has become more than just our son - he’s also become our friend and companion!  And I am so very proud of the wonderful person he is, and thank God for him every day!” and your father added these words: “Bryant is responsible… who can work easily with others.  He is also hardworking and committed. He is also a good cook—his ribs are awesome!

I pray that you two remember this message that it is Christ alone who Elegantly Binds you together in holy matrimony. Remember that it is Christ that first bound Himself to you through His death on Calvary’s cross, in the tomb and out of the tomb. He bound you to Him when you were baptized into His name—Father, Son and Holy Spirit and He will continue to bind you both to Him as you hear His Word and feed on His life-giving Sacrament.

Elaina and Bryant know this and remember it well as you go on in life. Three (3) things you will need to make your marriage happy and blessed. Waiting, trusting and hoping.

Waiting, trusting, and hoping are intricately connected, like golden strands interwoven to form a strong chain. Trusting is the central strand, because it is the response that God desires most of His blood-bought and baptized children. Waiting and hoping embellish the central strand and strengthen the chain that connects you to Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Waiting upon the Lord’s timing will help you to put your trust in Him and not in yourself. Hoping is the joy of knowing that God will work in your lives for good in every situation. As you wait, trust and hope in Him, know He will not abandon or forsake you. Look to the cross and you will know that His words are golden and they can be trusted. He has proved His worthiness by giving His life for you to be with Him forever in heaven. Hoping is future-directed, connecting you to your inheritance in heaven.

Jesus says to you today as you will become Elegantly Bound together as husband and wife—you are Mine! Don’t just pass time in your waiting. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, you can wait expectantly, in hopeful trust. Keep your “antennae” out to pick up even the faintest glimmer of His Presence.

To help you remember His presence in your lives, I have made you something for your wedding gift. It is a stressed cross with a heart on it. I made it to help you remember that you are indeed Elegantly Bound.

First, notice the golden color heart. If you look closely, you will notice the heart is bound by 3 wires. I bound it together as I formed the heart to remind you that you are bound to Christ. The heart is pointing to Your Savior who loved you first. The heart reminds you of the loving sacrifice of Jesus for your souls. The heart is to keep you focused on the love of Christ that has been planted in your hearts and that will help you love each other. The golden color of the heart is a reminder of the joy and blessings Christ has in store for you in your married life together.

Second, notice the cross it is crooked. I call it, “The stressed cross.” That is to remind you that though you think you have married the greatest woman or the greatest man in the world. Know this, there will be days when you wonder what in the world was I thinking when I married this person. You will get angry with one another and might even get mad at each other. But as we talked during our counseling sessions, never go to bed angry. Never turn your buts to each other and attempt to go to sleep, because you can’t. Instead, work at it long and hard. Go to the Lord in prayers remembering that you are not perfect, your partner is not perfect and your marriage will not be perfect—and ask your partner and Your Lord’s forgiveness and then hug and make up. DON’T YOU EVER, I MEAN THAT, GO TO BED ANGRY!

In this broken world, you will have pain, difficulties, hardships and trials. It is not if you will, but when you will. And when this happens, you go back to the promises of Christ who in love has Elegantly Bound you together and will see you through these challenges. Go to Him who has bound you in love and mercy. Go to Him and pray for His guidance and directions. Go to Him and know that He will be with you all the time and will work through these hardships for your good and for His glory.

The cross is Elegantly Bound, as He binds Himself to us in the incarnation... in His Cross... in His empty tomb!  Yes this is the elegant binding that brings the two cords of Elaine and Bryant together into the unbreakable strand of three.

Elaina and Bryant, by the grace of God soon you will be Elegantly Bound. Therefore, accept this humble gift made specifically for you. Place it in your home someplace and remember through Christ you have been Elegantly Bound to one another until death do you part. May the Lord bless this Elegant Binding now and always. Amen.

“He Leads Me!” (Psalm 23:2-3)

S-1441 6SAP/3A 7/20/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #711; (C) #718 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Theme: “He Leads Me!” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Question: “Have you ever been led?” 3rd in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Precious little lambs let me ask you: Have you ever been led before? There are leaders all around us. They can either lead us for good or for bad. Has anyone ever held your hand and led you across the street? Has anyone led you astray, like daring you to take your first drink, smoke your first cigarette, shoplift, lie or cuss? There are so many things that can lead us astray and we need to be careful who we follow as our leader.

When David wrote Psalm 23 about 3,000 years ago, he was probably thinking about his own life as a shepherd.  He was having exactly the same experience as the shepherds in Palestine today. With the words of our text, David helps us to look at our caring, gentle, loving and faithful Good Shepherd who leads us to where we need to go. He is the One who guides our every step and direct our every move. He is the One who knows the way that leads to eternal life.

This Shepherd leads us gently, lovingly and joyfully. He is not oppressive or demanding. He leads both by word and by action. He is not One who pushes or drives into submission but in humility calls our names to follow Him. He never demands His way He just teaches us the truth.

Few years back, a group of tourists were traveling in the Holy Land. The tour guide was speaking and said, “You should know that many Palestinians are shepherds and if you are lucky you may get to see a shepherd with his flock. Please pay attention. You will notice that a shepherd never drives his sheep he always leads them!

No sooner had he finished talking and the people began to look outside the bus at a shepherd with a big stick behind some sheep. Every tourist had a big grin on their faces. When the guide noticed what they were looking at, said, “Folks, there is something wrong here! This can’t be.” He requested the bus driver to pull over and the guide got out to speak with the shepherd. Few moments later and the guide came back to the bus with a smile on his face and said: “Well, I was right. He is not a shepherd. He is the butcher taking the sheep to the slaughter!PAUSE.

The devil wants to lead us to the slaughter, and the prison of hell. But, Jesus, the faithful Good Shepherd does not drive us with a big stick; no He leads us in tenderness and gentleness. Jesus the Good Shepherd is not like many other leaders who demand that they be respected and followed. No, He in love cares for us so much that He leads gently and lovingly.

As His little lambs, we need God the Good Shepherd to watch out for us because we can get ourselves into trouble. Just like sheep needs to be watched and guided; so do we. Our God, the faithful Good Shepherd, leads us to green pastures and still waters.  On our own, we have no idea where those things are:  Green pastures and still waters are the spiritual food and water we need to have to live in this dry and dreary desert.  By faith, the Holy Spirit grants us the will to trust the Good Shepherd who leads us to those places because He knows where they are.

In the Northern part of Palestine/Israel, it’s easy to see where the food and water is, it’s so green and lush. However, the farther south you travel, the more you wonder, how do sheep and shepherds cope in the desert?  There is not much food or water there.  There is not much of anything there but rocks!  But since you and I are not shepherds, we don’t know where to look.  But the shepherds do. There are springs of water in the desert, sometimes cisterns where the shepherds have collected rainwater in the winter, little patches of grass near these places, and the shepherds lead their flocks to these location to give them what they need—water and food to quench their thirst and fill their stomachs.

Our Faithful Good Shepherd knows where to take us.  He has shown us the path. He has said, “I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). By the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit we follow Him because He has gone before us; and will lead us to the living water and the green pastures. Without the caring, loving and faithful Shepherd, we would be in big trouble.  But God in mercy and love will take you to the place where you can be refreshed and supplied.

The faithful Good Shepherd does not lead us year by year, or day by day; but step by step. He shows us the path to follow. Our Lord directs our steps. We don’t know tomorrow’s plans. We only know this minute. But He says to each and every one of us, “This is the way by faith follow Me and know I am leading you to a far better place than you can imagine!” And I, as His little lamb, am so thankful that He does with gentleness and tenderness. PAUSE.

What a beautiful image David paints for us of the leading Good Shepherd. He put it this way: He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. David uses two different Hebrew words for lead. In verse 3 he uses a word that has the sense of gently helping along the weak, disabled, or sick; and in verse 4 he uses a different word, which means to lead or guide.  Though they are different words they both have the care, love and gentleness of the faithful shepherd. It is the same word used in Exodus as the Lord leads the Israelites out of bondage to the Promised Land.

This Shepherd—the Good One, Jesus Christ, knows all too well about being led. Isaiah said it this way: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:7). He knows about being led all too well. He was led from the Garden of Gethsemane by the High Priest’s soldiers. He was led in the middle of the night to the kangaroo court. He was led the next morning to see Pilate. He was led a little later to see King Herod. He was led back to Pilate and then He was led carrying the heavy cross to Calvary. And from the cross of Calvary He was led to the burial site. Yes, He knows what it means to be led.

All of this Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep did for you and me—His little lambs. He could have stopped them from leading Him, but He chose not to, to fulfill God’s promise to deliver all of God’s little lambs from the eternal punishment of hell. He didn’t have to be led, but with joyful heart, He allowed others to lead Him as the author to the Hebrew put it: “… looking to Jesus, the founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame… He permitted all of this to happen to Him, to spare your life and mine from the one who wants to slaughter us and imprison us in hell forever.

But why is this leading done? David gives us the answer: He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. For His name’s sake He leads us, tenderly, lovingly and faithfully. Now the adventure starts – God is taking us somewhere.  It would have been nice to stay in the green pastures by the still waters, but we’re moving.  There are forces out to get us that we have no control over – and may not even know about.  Nature is full of predators, and humans are no different from any other animal.  We need protection!  Maybe even from each other!  So God leads us in the right paths… for His name’s sake – not for our name’s sake, but for His.  God has to be known as the One who will take care of us – God has a reputation to uphold, for the sake of His name.

That is why, we, His little lamb should know His voice and heed it. And that is why while Jesus was on the earth taught us in the Lord’s Prayer saying: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil one.” Because there are many who would lead us astray, and even us.

I am reminded of the preacher and the little boy: The story goes like this: A pastor was riding his bike downtown. On the way he meets a young boy riding a mower and the pastor asked “What are you doing?” The boy responded, “I’m trying to get some mowing jobs so I can buy a bicycle.” The preacher said, “I tell you what. I am in the market for a mower and you need a bike, how about if we trade?” The boy said that is a good deal. The preacher took the mower home and went into the house. When he came out to mow the lawn, the mower wouldn’t start. So he called the boy and said, “The mower doesn’t run!” The boy responded, “You will have to cuss at it.” The pastor said, “I don’t cuss!” The boy giggled and said, “You pull on that string long enough and you will cuss!” PAUSE.

The world, our sinful flesh, the devil and even some churches are out to lead us astray. But Jesus the caring, gentle, loving and faithful Good Shepherd leads us by the still waters and to the green pastures of His Word. By faith, He takes our hands and leads us to where we need to be—with Him forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Friday, July 18, 2014

“What Do You Want?” (Psalm 23:1b)

S-1440 5SAP/3A 7/13/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #710; LS. #618; #625(C) #790 vv. 1,3,5 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Theme: “What Do You Want?” (Psalm 23:1b)

Question: “What is one thing you want?” 2nd in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: The Lord is My shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1b).

Precious little lambs let me ask you: Have you ever been in jail? I don’t mean to visit but behind closed bars. It is an eerie feeling when you hear the door click shut behind you and there is no way out.

Today, I invite you to come with me and visit one of the largest and most inhumane prisons on the face of the planet—the Gaza Strip and West Bank. There are no metal bars, but there is a sea on one hand and the Israeli soldiers on the other. There are checkpoints and a huge wall that keeps the populations inside. Though they have cars and busses to travel, they can’t leave. Though they have beds and houses to sleep and eat in, they do it with fear and trepidation. Life for these prisoners is harsh and difficult.

But as bad as this prison is, there is a worse one with a higher population—of over 7 billion inmates. It is overcrowded, the conditions are terrible and it is a lifelong sentence. Which prison is it you ask? It is the prison of Want. From the moment a person is born he enters this prison wall seeking only what he wants. No matter how old or young the person is, there is always a want.

Every prisoner is always crying “I WANT!” A baby wants to be fed, a young child wants another toy, a teen wants a car, an adult wants a job and an elderly wants enough funds to retire. The prison of want is as real as it gets. We want something—something bigger, faster, nicer, and shinier. None-the-less we want something.

We often want one thing more: One more job, one more promotion, one more vacation, one more outing, one new car, one new house, one more dollar, one more meal, and one new spouse. Our appetite is greedy. Just one more thing will satisfy us; or so we think.

David, the author of the text declares: “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” But we say it this way: “The Lord is my Shepherd and I still WANT!” We can’t deny this truth. No matter who we are, what is our vocation and what is our station in life, we want more. I remember few years back while on my Holy Land Nour Tour, we stopped at the Sea level for a camel ride. The man who owns the camel is nice and kind. While he and I were visiting, he whispers in my ear: “Pastor, do you have a woman on the bus that I could marry?” I responded, “I thought you are married!” He smiled and said, “Oh, I am married! I have three (3) wives, but I want one more!” Just one more thing!

Again, beloved, no matter where you are in life, or where you live the prison of want is as real as it gets. It affects all people throughout the whole world, whether poor or rich, male or female. Few years back a missionary came home on furlough from Africa’s bush country. During the Q/A session, a person asked the missionary “What is the biggest challenge the people you witness to have?” The missionary responded, “Greed.” The man said, “How can it be, they have nothing?” The missionary answered, “If they have a straw roof hut they want a wooden roof.” PAUSE.

It is indeed a travesty that we are all in this prison of want. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. We do get out occasionally when we get what we want. But as soon as the newness wears off, we go back to jail again. We want something different. The human appetite is never satisfied.

Even when we are attempting to live the Christian life by praying, our prayers are still the prayers of want. More often our prayers are like this: Lord, give me success, a new job, a new car, a new bike. And if you have been following the World Cup, you have seen the players and fans praying for their team to win. However, we don’t often pray Father use me to spread Your kingdom. Lord Jesus, help me to seek the lost. Holy Spirit, equip me to be about the Mission work of the Church by sharing the Good News. This is the life of the prisoners of want.

You see it is not only humans who are prisoners of want but even the animals and the world we live in wants more. In the book of Proverbs the author highlights these wants: “The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry. “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” (Proverbs 30:15-16).

We are all guilty of this. How often we go to other pastures and follow other shepherds. Even Paul, the author of the Epistle lesson struggled with the desire of want saying: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20). Oh the challenge of being prisoners. We all go to the pastures of want and shepherds of desire. And the cycle starts all over. The cycle continues. It begins again, from age to age and day to day. Still we stay, still we seek other pastures and other shepherds—the pastures of want and shepherds of desire. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, I have good news for you. Though we are all prisoners of WANT, there is someone who has freed us from this prison cell. David teaches us today, this absolute truth: “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” The Lord who is our Good Shepherd is the One who frees us from the bondage of this prison. The faithful Shepherd is the One who opens the gates of the prison and sets us free. He did it as He swapped places with us—He became the prisoner and we became free men. He died a cruel death to make this swap a reality and remove once and for all the bars and chains that hold us captives. On the cross of Calvary after Jesus had taken all our sins of want and greed into His sinless flesh He was crucified. Our wants were crucified too! They died with Him even as we die with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. When Jesus said “It is finished” it was as if His powerful voice exclaimed ENOUGH! In Christ we have all we can ever want or need. The call of faith is a call to contentment.

David learned the art of being content. When He announced to the world that “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want,” he meant it. When Jesus is the anchor of your soul, you will be content. When Jesus is the hope of your life there is hopefulness and there is salvation. When Jesus is Your Savior, then You have a God who will supply your EVERY need. You have a God who listens to every plea for mercy. You have a God who answers your every prayer with His grace. You have a God who opens the gates of heaven for you.

What David is teaching us is that when Jesus is YOUR Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a light for the path and an anchor for every storm. When you have Jesus you have everything.

Paul learned that too as he wrote to the Philippians congregation saying: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil. 4:11). Like Paul, when we keep our eyes on the Good Shepherd who died for us and rose again, we have life and have it abundantly.

Beloved in the Lord, the people of the Gaza and West Bank want freedom from oppression. The camel owner wants another wife, the African people want a wooden roof hut; and we want more of the world’s goods—stuff. But know this truth. All of these are given us in the One whom David said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

But did you know dear friends that God also has a WANT list? Paul put it this way: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). And in His Son, the faithful Good Shepherd we have come to know the God as the One who gets us out of the prison of want and into the blessed life of His green pasture unto an eternity with Him. Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“MY Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)

S-1439 4SAP/3A 7/06/2014 Hymns: (O) #431; (S) #740 LSB; (C) #370

Texts: Zechariah 9:9-12; Romans 7:14-25; Matthew 11:25-30

Theme: “MY Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)

Question: “Have you ever worked with sheep?” Armour, SD 1st in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).

Precious little lambs let me ask you: what is your favorite verse of Scripture? You probably would highlight more than one. In a recent Pew Research Poll, these three (3) verses were the top vote getters: #3 Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” #2 John 3:16; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” and the last but not the least is Psalm 23 which is the text that we will look at for the next two months.

The 23rd Psalm is a favorite to many because it brings comfort and peace. This Psalm is beloved by many and is often alluded to in popular media and has been set to music over the years. Many Jews and Christians have memorized it and is often used at funeral services. The writer David describes God as His Shepherd. But why is it such a beloved and comforting Psalm? Listen to David as he paints a most beloved picture of God—a picture that draws us ever closer to this God who is My Shepherd.

The first two words in Hebrew and five words in English tell us clearly that “God is My Shepherd.”The author, David, who himself was a shepherd conveys the image of God as His personal Shepherd. A Shepherd is one who cares for you, is concerned about you and considers your every need. Yahweh the Lord was this for great King David. He is this for us too! Thus He is your Shepherd as well. For this reason I titled the sermon “MY Shepherd!” David’s pen had scarcely touched the papyrus and he urges us to see this God in a different way; a God whom you can trust completely and put your hopes in.

David wants us to have a clear and concrete picture of who God is—He is not a God of our making. But He is tangible, touchable and true. He is comforting, consoling and committed to you. He is not like the gods of this earth—the ones we envision like a Genie in a bottle or like a sweet old grandpa sitting in his rocking chair. No, the God we have is above all gods. But as powerful and mighty as He is, yet, He is a Shepherd who touches with His hands of love and mercy the downtrodden, downcast and disheartened—that is you. He is as real as it gets.

In this Psalm David devotes 55 words in Hebrew to explaining the first two “The Lord.” This Lord is the One who made Himself known to Moses; another shepherd in the burning bush and in the splitting of the Red Sea as Yahweh-the GREAT I AM. Samuel heard the voice of Yahweh as a little lad serving in the Temple. David spent time with Him while he fought the lion, bear, Goliath and as he served and was chased by King Saul. Jeremiah was comforted by Him in a prison cell and Isaiah saw His glory as the Temple shook by His presence. PAUSE.

David knew Him intimately and desired to spend every moment with His Shepherd-God. That is why you hear him say: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps. 122:1). That is why he teaches us about His Shepherd-God who brings and offers peace, saying: “But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared” (Ps. 130:4). For this reason David spoke of God’s salvation stating: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Ps. 51:12a). David emphatically declares the power of His Shepherd-God who heals declaring: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have broken rejoice” (Ps. 51:8).

The Lord is my shepherd David proclaims. And that is our proclamation as well not just today but every day of our lives. Yahweh is the Shepherd who cares for the sheep because they need caring. You see, sheep are finicky and fussy. A sheep will not lie down if it is uneasy, fearful or restless. When the shepherd causes the sheep to relax it will be willing to lie down. The Lord wants us to rest and enjoy His peace; and the Gospel lesson tells us of this truth: “Come unto Me ALL ye that labor and I shall give you rest” (Mat.11:28). He will lead us in green pastures of rich nourishment for our lives and leads us beside still waters of serenity and peace. A sheep will not drink if the water is not still. The Lord wants us to experience this deep peace in our soul, in our heart and in our home.

But sheep are obstinate and dumb. They are of all God’s creatures the least able to take care of themselves. They have no way to defend themselves-with claws to scratch, or fangs to bite. They can’t outrun their attackers, and can’t fend or clean themselves. They often get themselves in predicaments that they can’t get out of.

Doesn’t that remind you of us—His sheep? How often we try to do it our way or tell God we know better. Many of us though we don’t admit it are like Frank Sinatra who sang: “I Did It My Way!” Listen to him boast: “And now, the end is near; And so I face the final curtain. My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case, of which I'm certain. I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and ev'ry highway; But more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

Yes, we humans want to do things our way. Forget the easy way. Forget the common way. Forget the best way. Forget God’s way. We want to do things our way. And the Bible is very clear that this is our downfall and demise: Isaiah put it this way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…” (Is. 53:6a). Oh how often we have wondered from the fold. But the faithful Shepherd comes to the rescue. He comes to bail us out of our own way that leads to death. PAUSE.

That is why David calls Him MY SHEPHERD! Yahweh is the Faithful Shepherd who will come to the aid of the one in need. And David needed a lot of help! He murdered a man, took his wife and sinned greatly. David needed healing, forgiveness and peace, just like you and I. For we too, have willfully and intentionally sinned against God. Maybe we haven’t murdered anyone literally, but we are all guilty of doing so through hatred and envy. Maybe we haven’t had sexual liaison with another, but we have all lusted after another. Maybe we haven’t robbed a bank or gas station, but we have been jealous of what others have.

That is why today you need to remember your Shepherd who from day one has been ready and waiting to come to your aid and rescue. He came to the lost sheep in the Garden of Eden and promised deliverance. He told Moses He would send a Prophet from among His people (Deut. 18:15) who will bring salvation. That God Himself would be the Shepherd who will be faithful and true to His people. He sent His Son Jesus to be the Eternal Shepherd who will care for all of humanity and deliver them from the power of death and the devil.

The author of the Gospel lesson this morning said this: “When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36) In John 10 Jesus taught the multitude: “I Am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This faithful Good Shepherd did lay His life down for the sheep—you and me on the splinter of Calvary’s wood. He died for the sake of the obstinate and stubborn sheep, by permitting others to nail Him to the cross. He gave His life for you—His sheep by laying in a cold, dark grave.

But He rose from that dark cold prison of death on Sunday morning to give you—His sheep forgiveness of sins, peace, joy, salvation and eternal life with Him who is our Shepherd.

David got it right when He said, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” And so do we! As we confess and declare the same, “JESUS IS MY SHEPHERD!”

That is why we can shout, say and sing our sermon hymn with gusto: I am Jesus’ little lamb, Ever glad at heart I am; For my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my need, and well provides me, Loves me every day the same, Even calls me by my name.

Now the peace God…


Thursday, July 3, 2014

“Sent Out” (Matthew 10:5, 27-28)

S-1438 2SAP/3A 6/22/2014 Hymns: (O) #123 1-4; (S) #506; LS. #370; #304; #310 (C) #123 5-8

Texts: Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

Theme: “Sent Out” (Matthew 10:5, 27-28)

Question: “Have you been sent out on an errand?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel Lesson: “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them…‘What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell’” (Matthew 10:5, 27-28).

Saints in Christ, legend has it that in 490 BC, a young messenger named Pheidippidies, after fighting in a fierce battle with the Persians, was sent on a 26.2 mile run from the battlefield of Marathon back to Athens. His task was to announce that the Athenians had defeated Persians who threatened the very way of life they knew and cherished. According to the legend, he ran the entire distance without stopping. When he arrived in Athens, he burst into the assembly of the leaders and proudly blurted out the greatest news of that day—WE HAVE WON! Then upon making this announcement, he collapsed and died! (

Now if that isn’t enough to keep you from ever strapping on your cross-trainers and running 26.2 miles just for fun, then nothing will! I can assure you that when I contemplate traveling 26.2 miles, roughly the distance from here to Parkston, the LAST thing I think about is running. I personally just don’t get the draw of running like this! Running great distances is hard work! I have played soccer and I know after running for a long time, my joints and body aches. While I have never felt it, I hear that there is something called “the Wall” that runners hit where their bodies start to rebel against them. With what limited running I do, I am absolutely certain that if I even tried to run HALF a marathon right now, I would meet the same end as old Pheidippidies. PAUSE.

As we look at the text before us today, we see that our Lord Jesus is sending His Disciples out on a mission. While the mission that He sends them on doesn’t sound like Pheidippidies run from Marathon to Athens, the trip that Jesus sends them on will be every bit as grueling! Jesus sends them out on this journey because of the condition of the world. Earlier in Chapter 9 in Matthew’s Gospel account we hear Jesus point out that there is indeed much work to be done in the world. We are told that When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” What the Disciples didn’t know at that point was that they would be the initial answer to the prayer. The 12 would be the ones that were sent out, running from town to town on a mission to deliver a message: the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

What is most amazing with this blessed charge by Jesus is this. That God in mercy and compassion is in the ministry of sending. In Holy Scripture we see God’s care for the lost as He sends out His messengers to share the good news. The sending begins soon after the Fall in the Garden. God promised to send a Savior who will crush the serpent’s head. Even as time passes the promise of the One being sent does not diminish. Noah was sent with instruction to build an Arc. He was sent to bring comfort (as his names states) from the burdens that were going on in his world. Through Moses Yahweh sends a message of seeking to Pharaoh saying “let my people go! The sending continues through the prophets.

Isaiah the prophet of God, in midst of disaster speaks gracious words that God will send the “Shiloh” 8:6 (the sent One) to bring about deliverance and hope (vv. 11ff). The sent One will accomplish much for the benefit of the people and on their behalf.

The Shiloah is fulfilled in the life of the heaven-sent Savior, Jesus Christ. In the book of Hebrews Jesus Himself is called an “Apostle” (3:1) that is the “Sent one.” He is the One promised by God and sent by God to bring deliverance and hope. He is the One who will bring comfort and consolation. He is the One who will bring joy and peace. He is the One who will accomplish what no man has ever been able to accomplish—saving their souls and receiving forgiveness.

In love the Father had compassion on His people and sent His Son. Jesus in mercy and compassion for the lost, in obedience to God’s will goes to Jerusalem, to Calvary, to the cross and ultimately to death for the whole world. By His rising from the grave, He announces the victory over our enemies. He declares the Good News of sins forgiven and life with God is given.

Today’s text reminds us of Jesus compassion that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore, He commissions His disciples and sends them out into the world to tell, teach and testify of His grace for them. These twelve were sent on a mission to go to the whole house of Israel and speak of Jesus—the sent One who has come to earth to be with us and deliver us from the eternal punishment of hell and His great accomplishments.

The Sent One in last week’s Gospel account sent out His disciples to carry out the ministry that will bring us into the fold—the ministry of baptizing and teaching. By the mercy of God we have the Word and water that makes us alive. Through this gift we become apostles sent out one to tell the world Christ’s Good News.

We are sent out to confess the name of Jesus boldly and fearlessly. We, as His 21st century apostles are sent out in the same kind of way to go out to every place and share the sweet message of our redemption.

As God’s people by the working of the Holy Spirit we take up our cross and follow Him so that we seek to share the Good News of His love with those who do not yet know Him. This is our privilege and honor to speak of what we know of our salvation.

As the ones who are sent by Jesus, we are called to be on the front lines telling of the victory we have on account of His death and glorious resurrection. We are sent out to give hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless through the only Savior Jesus Christ. We are sent out to tell the enemies of the cross of the love of the One who died and rose for them. We are sent out to tell the loveless, that they are loved. PAUSE.

In truth there really isn’t any special training you need for this marathon. You don’t need a doctorate in theology or even be ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry. The only training you need is what the 12 had in the text: time with Jesus in His word and at His table. Then, as you are going about running the marathon of your everyday life, you get to tell others about Jesus with both your words and your actions! And know that you don’t run alone. Jesus runs with you. The Holy Spirit runs within you and there are over one billion others across this planet that are running the same race you are running; and by the Grace of God are sharing the message of victory in Jesus!

This good news that we share is more than just a story. It is not the story that Jesus ran 26.2 miles of Marathon to Athens and then dying. But it is about delivering the news of a great marathon and the One who ran it for us. This marathon is about One that brought Him from heaven to earth. He continued to run this race all the way to Jerusalem and ultimately to the cross. He didn’t burst into the assembly announcing that He won the battle and then died. No! He died first on the cross of Calvary and then burst forth from the grave saying, I have won! The battle is over. I have overcome the world! The victory is real and forever.

Because of the Cross and empty tomb we have all that we need to run the marathon the Lord has called us. There we have the life we need to run. In the Resurrection, the dead are made alive. This is the free gift of God! It is ours to live in and ours to share. St. Paul expresses it well when he reminds the Romans and us But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

In Christ and His cross we are free. Free to live. Free to run the marathon of the Christian life. And we run because we have the great news of a victory won. And this victory is not mythological like the story around the first marathon. In this assembly I can tell you the victory is ours! This victory is no myth. No, in Jesus this victory is real and it is ours for now and forever! Amen

Now the peace…