Sunday, September 14, 2014

“Forgiveness Needed” (Genesis 50:15-17)

S-1450 14SAP/3A 9/14/2014 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #32; LS #312; #315; (C) #416

Texts: Genesis 50:15-20; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Theme: “Forgiveness Needed” (Genesis 50:15-17)

Question: “How badly do you need forgiveness?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died: Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him” (Genesis 50:15-17).

Precious children of the heavenly Father, it often happens between siblings—fights break out, evil things are done and harsh words are spoken. These evil things and harsh words break up relationships and wound hearts and sometimes forever. However, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of this sin, and we come to our senses; acknowledging our wrong doing, seeking peace, crawl back and ask for forgiveness, we find that forgiveness is waiting there for us in an inexhaustible supply! Forgiveness is a gift we all need. Yet sometimes we don’t think we deserve or can be forgiven because of how bad we have been and the evil we have done.

A week ago Saturday, I attended (in Huron, SD) my 40th high school class reunion. After greeting many of my classmates and catching up with some of them, I settled down and sat across one of my classmates (Roger) who I wasn’t really close to in high school.

As the evening progressed I visited with him about what he has been doing. He introduced me to his wife who happened to be sitting right next to me. I then asked, “Roger, how long have you been married?” He answered, “Since last November.” I followed with another question. “Is this your first marriage?”No!” was his response. I asked, “What happened, do you care to share?” He then proceeded to tell me “of the many mistakes he has done. How terrible he was and how sorry he was to do what he has done to himself and her. He took ownership of sins and mistakes.” I reached out to him and said, “You know Roger, there is forgiveness with the Lord for ALL sins!”

At that moment Roger started to weep—tears were running down his cheeks. He said, “You know Nabil, the hardest thing to do is to forgive yourself of the stupidity and foolishness of living to please yourself.” At that moment, I held his hands and said, “Roger, listen to me carefully, with Jesus there is no limit to His forgiveness and His grace; with Jesus you can go to Him anytime and seek His touch of forgiveness.” I went on saying, “Roger, when you get home, I would like you to do this for me: take a piece of paper (I took a napkin at this time) and write on it every sin you have ever committed. Then take a couple of pieces of 2 X 4’s and make a cross out of them (as I have done here. The cross is sitting in the center of the sanctuary) then take a hammer and nail the piece of paper to the cross (as I will do during my preaching) and walk away knowing full well that Jesus’ death has removed every stain of sin from you and you are redeemed, restored, and forgiven.

John the beloved disciple of Jesus wrote this for our benefit: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). At that moment Roger said while still weeping, “Nabil, you got me with this one.” I said, “No Roger, I don’t have you, but Jesus has you in His loving and pierced hands!” PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, “forgiveness” is the gift my friend Roger needed and that is the gift the brothers’ of Joseph needed—for they too had done many evil things to him. They tore his special coat of many colors, put him in a well, desired to kill him, sold him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28) and lied about it to their father! From there on his life went down the drain. He was purchased by Potiphar, accused by Potiphar’s wife of rape, which landed him in prison for many years. But the God of His fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t forget him, but redeemed and restored him for the purpose of saving many lives.

Now the conscience of the brothers’ is troubling them. Though they have seen the kindness of Joseph in providing for them and their families, yet they weren’t sure if this is real or not. Add to this, their father Jacob has been called home and they are terrified that Joseph will take vengeance on them since their father is no longer alive.

So they sent a messenger telling Joseph that their father (another lie) had asked that he would forgive them the evil they had done to him. These troubled brothers needed a gift—the GIFT of forgiveness and they found it in the man they had done wrong too. Joseph was a gracious and loving brother. He wept when he heard them ask for his forgiveness and he offered them the assurance and confidence that he holds no grudges against them with these words: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:19-20).

With these words Joseph was giving them a message of hope and help. You are forgiven. You and your families are loved. What you did to me, you did to harm me, but God used your wickedness and evil to save many people. This again demonstrates the awesome power of at using everything for our good. PAUSE.

Precious children of the heavenly Father, it is not only Roger and Joseph’s brothers’ that need this gift, but so do WE. For we have done many evil and wicked things in life. We have done evil and hurtful things to others, but more importantly to Christ Himself. We have denied Him, we have forsaken Him, and we have lived to please ourselves.

But take heart, I have good news for you. For there is another who was sold into the hands of the Jewish leaders for 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:14-16), so that He might be put to death. Like Joseph, Jesus was betrayed and sold by one of His closest companions—Judas. Judas being greedy sold Jesus for the price of a slave. Jesus was put into prison overnight, stripped of all of His clothing, whipped, beaten, flogged, His beard plucked and eventually drove nails into His hands and feet and hung Him on a cross like a common criminal to die.

On a far grander scale than Joseph, Jesus uttered these words before anyone asked for forgiveness saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). From the parched lips of Jesus we receive the most blessed gift that we need—forgiveness of sins. This is the greatest gift we sinners need to hear and receive from the gracious Savior who died and rose for all of our sins.

Mankind meant evil by the cross, but God used this instrument of torture and death to bring about the saving of the human race from spending an eternity in hell. Only through the cross there is redemption. Only through the cross there is restoration. Only through the cross does the Lord deliver His peace, mercy, love and FORGIVENESS.

Know this, precious children, with God there is no limit to His forgiveness, mercy, love and grace! Jesus takes all of our sins to the cross. He invites us to bring all of our hideous, evil deeds, wicked things and sins we have ever committed and give it to Him. And He with His shed blood removes that sin away from you and me.

By the grace of God we have received the gift that we need—His forgiveness. If you doubt that you are worthy to be forgiven, or don’t think that you can forgive yourself, I encourage you to do the same as I told Roger, take a piece of paper and write on it all of your sins, and come up here (you can do it now or when no one is here) and nail it to the cross and know for a fact that all of your sins have been washed by the Holy innocent blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ who takes away the sin of the world—YOURS.

Today, you have received a marvelous gift from Christ Himself—the gift of forgiveness. But He is not done blessing you—through this gift; comes many other gifts—His love, peace, joy and eternal life. On top of that, He has prepared a table for you to dine with Him as Your host and servant to remind you He holds no grudges against you, but loves you and wants you to know you are indeed, Redeemed, Restored and Forgiven.

Thanks be to Jesus for His GIFT of forgiveness now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

“Love the Children!” (Matthew 18:1-4)

S-1449 13SAP/3A 9/07/2014 Hymns: (O) #593; (S) #594; (C) #744 LSB

Texts: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 18:1-20

Theme: “Love the Children!” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Question: “How do you show love to children?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:1-4).

Precious children of the heavenly Father, a long time ago I heard this statement: “Children are to be seen but not heard.” How sad that statement is. This is not what Jesus said and taught in the text before us. On the contrary, He emphasizes the fact that we can be taught by children’s examples to be humble and trusting of our heavenly Father.  He teaches us to have the heart of a child and to know how much children are valued and loved by Him. Therefore, as we welcome a little child, as we show love to a child, we are indeed welcoming the One who loves the little children—all of them, Jesus Himself. 

In this text, the disciples ask a very important question. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” That question is still being asked today: “Who is the greatest basketball, football, baseball, soccer player in the world. Who is the greatest golfer, Tennis player, car racer, swimmer or sharp shooter in the world? This is what the world is concerned with—looking to themselves for glory and power.

But again, this is not what this text is about. This text digs deeper than what you see on the surface. It demonstrates through the teaching example of Jesus taking a child into His bosom, how much children trust those who love them and care for their needs. This text shows us how highly the Lord God Almighty cherishes children and loves them. By taking the child into His bosom, He foretells His heart’s desire to hold in His loving and pierced arms every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve.

Oh, that we would learn to love the children and care for them as Jesus cared for His children and still does. Oh, that we would pour into their hearts the love that will carry them as they travel through this journey we call life. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, in ancient days children were not valued as Christians value them today. In many cultures they were sacrificed to the make-believe gods of pagans. We think of the god in the OT called Molech. Jesus commanded Moses to tell God’s people to have nothing to do with this false god.

In the days of Jesus often children, especially if they were baby girls were thrown into the streets to die. In Rome this was a common practice where sons were esteemed but women were considered property. It is the same today in the Arab world and these girls are sold to the highest bidder.

Today, all across this land and the world, children are sold into sexual slavery or their parts are harvested by wicked people who have lost all sense of right and wrong. Add to that the many children who are being sacrificed on the altar of the pagan god of choice through abortion.

Even though we may not do these wicked and horrific things, or sacrifice our children through abortion or sell them into slavery; in our own way, we don’t love them like we should. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that you don’t love your child[ren] but we don’t love them in the right away and we don’t teach them of the love of Jesus and His everlasting truth that leads to eternal life.

I know we do love our children. I have seen you show love to your children. But loving children is not sitting them in front of the TV, giving them a video game, cash, or letting them loose. Loving the children is so much more than what the world offers. To love the children is to be a godly parent to them. It is NOT only protecting them from harm, providing shelter or giving them food to eat or closing to wear; it is feeding their souls with the heavenly manna as they sit at the feet of Jesus to hear His Word and receive His blessings daily, weekly and yearly.

To love the children is to be a responsible parent who will in word and deed show them the way to church—to spend time in His Word, on your knees and in His presence. To love the children is teaching them that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.

The biggest damage we do for children is when we lie about our relationship to and with God. We often stand here as these folks have done this morning around the baptismal font and promise to bring them up in the fear and admonition of God. But as soon as the service is over, many children don’t enter His house and they grow up without any spiritual food and they are dying on the inside. How tragic that is. Someday all of us parents will have to stand before the judge eternal and will have to answer to our negligence. PAUSE.

Today, by the grace of God you have come to His house to hear His Word. Today, through the Spirit working through the Word you have heard of the Love of Jesus who picks up a child and puts Him in His bosom to show in what manner He loves them to the end.

After all, is this not why Jesus became a little child that He might be not just an example but in fact the Savior of the world? So that all who place their trust in Him might be saved. Jesus died for all the children of the world—all of them—including you and me. Jesus the once child of Bethlehem gives to infants a miracle—Holy Baptism whereby our all powerful, all loving Lord, grants great gospel gifts. God so loved the world—implies that He has a way to save little children. And He does it through the majestic gift of Baptism as you witnessed today not only one miracle—but three—Anna Sue, Rylee Grace and Audrey Marie became children of Him who loves the children—Jesus the Christ.

Beloved in the Lord, we are all God’s children whether we are 10 days old or a hundred years old. It doesn’t make any difference. In the sight of God we all become His children and receive His Amazing Grace and Love. Know this truth and hold it dear, God has no grandchildren—only children (here point out to the congregation). PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, “During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb.  In the front yard, was a shell hole.  Seeking shelter as soon as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow.

Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied; “I can’t see you!” The father, looking up against the sky, tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son; “But, I can see you…Jump!”

The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. Likewise, the Christian faith enables you to face life, or meet death; not because you can see—but with the certainty of knowing you are seen by the One who made the eye and looks after us in all situations. The prophet Isaiah wrote “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

In Jesus Christ, fear is out, and His peace is in….Jesus saidPeace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Because of the love and kindness of Jesus—demonstrated on the hewn tree of the cross, we all have become His children. As such we enjoy all of the riches of God’s Kingdom—pardon for sins, peace with God, promise of eternal life and faith to make us strong.

In the world’s eyes children are nothing, but in God’s eyes we are part and parcel of His Kingdom—that has no end. Our God in His grace through the Child Jesus our Savior has made us His beloved and precious children forever. Now that is loving the children. Thanks be to God for His love to us—His CHILDREN. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“Forever in the LORD’s House!” (Psalm 23:6b)

S-1448 12SAP/3A 8/31/2014 Hymns: (O) 740; (S) 618 TLH; LS 680; 675; (C) #725 LSB

Texts: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Theme: “Forever in the LORD’s House!” (Psalm 23:6b)

Question: “Do you know of any earthly thing that lasts forever?” 9th 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: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”” (Psalm 23:6a).

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: “What is your house address?” I am sure most of you know it by heart and hopefully the young children have learned their house address in case they get lost. But I am asking a deeper question here. Think again please. “What is your house address?” PAUSE.

It is indeed amazing how we live in this world—we plant deep foundations and deep roots thinking that this house is mine. We think this body is mine, this car is mine and everything we have is MINE. But truth be told, none of it is ours. The homes we live in now someday will be vacant, destroyed and ruined. The body we have now will begin to deteriorate if it hasn’t yet. You know the changes that has taken over your body—arthritis, pain in the joint, hearing loss, eye sight dimed, cancer and a multitude of other ailments. We see and feel the grip of death approaching. We experience its claws digging deep into this clay body and we can’t stop it or accept it. And yet, we don’t get it that we are simply passing through this world and nothing lasts forever. This is not our permanent resident, but a temporary one—a broken up shack that is filled with aches and pains.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20). You see this is not our home. This is the life we are living until we enter the home built not by human hands, but by the hands of Him who died and rose again—Jesus the Christ. For Christ Himself said:In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I Am you may be also” (John 14:6).

Though we know this truth, we don’t believe it or act on it. We still ignore this truth and believe we know better than what God has done for us. Let me ask you few other questions. “Would you set up your bed on a moving bus? Would you pitch your tent in a train? Would you dig foundations on a plane?” Of course not! They are all moving. Yet that is what we do when we think we are going to live on this earth forever and not going to die.

The sermon hymn for today said this: “Jerusalem, my happy home! Name ever dear to me; When shall my labors have an end, In joy, and peace, and thee? When shall these eyes thy heaven built walls And pearly gates behold? Thy bulwarks, with salvation strong, And streets of shining gold?” (TLH 618 vs. 1-2).

Our home address is not an earthly number like 403 3rd St. Armour, SD. Rather it is a heavenly address marked with the blood of Jesus and built by His pierced hands, not with wood and mortar but with flesh and blood. Our home is not here below but with Him who is our Immanuel—the God of the Universe; The Faithful and Good Shepherd Jesus. PAUSE.

Throughout the last two months as we have gone through this Psalm I have had a greater appreciation of David’s great theology. The Psalm begins and ends with these wonderful promises. The Lord is MY shepherd; I shall not want…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1, 6). David reminds us that truly, God is our Shepherd and we are so happy, content and satisfied with Him that we don’t want to leave His presence.

This familiar shepherd Psalm sandwiches between these two book ends the great blessings the Good Shepherd has for us. He leads us to the green pastures, gives us quiet water to quench our thirst, walks with us in danger, protects us from every enemy especially Satan; prepares a table for us, anoints our heads with oil and pursues us with the hounds of heaven. This is for the here and now. These are the Great Shepherd’s promises to you and to me. But there is more to this promise than the here and now. These golden jewels remind us again and again of the great mission of God our Savior, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). And proved them with an eternal home.

The faithful Good Shepherd came to seek and save the lost. What a wonderful truth this is. I am reminded of this when my middle son David was lost. I am sure I have shared this story with you before. David must have been about 4-5 years old. We lived in Sioux Falls on a very busy street. I came home from work for lunch at noon, and as I parked my pickup, I noticed my son’s bike in the middle of the side walk and he was nowhere to be found.

I ran to the house looking for him but he wasn’t there. I ran out again and started calling his name. There was no answer. Franticly I ran to the neighbors and began asking them if David was with them, and no one had seen him or heard him. Fear had struck a chord.

Quickly I called my pastor and requested the prayer chain. Called the police to say we have a lost child. Called my brothers and friends asking them to keep us in prayers and come help us look for him. Many came and we searched and searched. We walked the streets hoping to find him but the minutes kept ticking away. After what seemed like an eternity an 1 ½ one of our neighbor boys came and said, “David is playing in a pond!” You don’t know the sweet joy that filled our hearts and the tears that rolled down our cheeks. He was found and brought home where he belonged. I picked him up hugged and kissed him and didn’t want him out of my sight.

Likewise our faithful Good Shepherd comes seeking us we who are lost and don’t know it. Just like my son was. He was lost and didn’t know it. The Lord not only comes to seek us, but He comes to save us—and this saving took place on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem and in a borrowed grave. There the Lord Jesus, like a Good Shepherd would, faced the barren plain of the wrath of God, the rushing waters of judgment, the famine of separation from the Father and was anointed with the spittle of those who rejected and reviled Him. All of that which should have been ours, the Shepherd endured for us. But He didn’t only endure, but was victorious over them! And because of Him defeating death and the grave, He is building for us an eternal home that will have our names on it.

With a home like this prepared for us, with its protection and provision, its bounty and its blessing, as people of the Good Shepherd we raise our eyes from this world that will pass away and long for an eternity that will never pass away. We dwell here for a time. There we will dwell forever. The eternal presence of the Good Shepherd is our TRUE home!

You see your home address is not an earthly number or street. But heaven is your home. There is a room prepared for you and one day, very, very soon you will be welcomed home by the One who is Your faithful Good Shepherd Jesus. Then you will say with David, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Yes, forever in the Lord’s house. Amen and Amen!

Now the peace…