Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Numbers of Hope-144 000” (Revelation 7:4; 14:1)

S-1487 6MIL/3B 3/25/2015 Hymns: (O) #140 vv 4-6; (S) #370; (C) #144

Texts: Psalm 33:13-22; Galatians 3:23-29; Revelation 7:4, 9-17; 14:1

Theme: “Numbers of Hope-144 000 (Revelation 7:4; 14:1)

6th sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope

Question: How can you be certain you are part of the 144,000

And I heard the number of the SEALED, 144,000, SEALED from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Revelation 7:4)

Dear sons of Israel, sons of God, sons through the merits of Jesus by way of the cosmic miracle of holy baptism. If you are a son of God, you are part of the 144,000 that Saint John writes about! And, you ARE all sons of God says St. Paul through faith in Christ and Holy Baptism.

Precious, precious children of the heavenly Father, if you leave the cross out, you have nothing. Without the cross of Jesus Christ—we have no hope, no help and no heaven. Without Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, this book we hold sacred is nothing but the biggest lie and sham the world has ever known. Without the cross and empty tomb the church becomes nothing more than a country club without the golf course and swimming pool.

But the eternal Word of Jesus is our anchor, comfort and hope. The promises of Jesus confer on us the gift of Baptism, which makes us holy unto the Lord; clothed with the white garment of salvation, purchased by the blood of the Lamb—HIS sons forever. This is why with great joy, the Holy Spirit in haste leads us to come here, to hear Jesus give us hope, help and heaven. This is the place where your hearts are comforted, your souls are soothed and your minds are at peace.

Sadly, that is not always the case. Let me sight an example. A Lutheran gentleman went to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall for the funeral of his friend and neighbor—Fred. The anti-gospel pastor who was preaching the funeral began with these words: “We can be certain that Fred didn’t make it to the highest level of heaven, because he is not part of the 144,000 since they have been sealed.” How would you like to be sitting in that funeral and hear these words? Where is the comfort? Where is the hope? Where is the help in the hour of sorrow? Isn’t that sad? How cruel. I am sure the devil enjoyed that sermon but the holy angels likely wept.

If that is not bad enough, consider this. A Jehovah Witness couple (husband/wife) visited my colleague, Peter Kurowski. The conversation centered about the 144,000. The man was telling Pastor Pete, “You have no hope or help in making it to heaven, because you are not part of this multitude.” My friend Peter smiled, looked at his wife and said to her, I am so sorry that you too will not make it to heaven, since you are a woman. According to the teachings of Jehovah Witnesses only men are part of the 144,000. The woman with anger in her eyes and veins bulging in her neck looked at her husband and said, “You never told me that I can’t be part of 144, 000, and can’t be in heaven!” They walked out of the office arguing. PAUSE.

But thank God we have His promise that we are part of the 144,000—part of the unnumbered number of people from every nation, tribe, language and people. Thank God that Jesus gives us the certainty we will be with Him in heaven. As He spoke to the thief on the cross saying, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise!” My spiritual father, Dr. Louis Brighton speaking on these number states: “The Lord knows those who belong to him. That is, the Christian can be absolutely certain {emphasis mine} and sure of his salvation and faith because it rests on the truth of God’s Word and God’s seal within that Word: ‘The Lord knows who are his.’” (Revelation, Concordia Commentary, CPH p. 185).

Oh, the joy that fills our hearts of this certainty. We know we belong to Him and have been marked on our foreheads. We have been marked with the splash of water and the Word of promise: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” By that cosmic miracle we become sons of the living God. We are part of this number of throng. We can be certain of it. We have hope in the midst of hopelessness. We have help in the midst of helplessness and we have heaven because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

These are not pie in the sky words flying out of the wild visions of a small-town gospel preacher. These words are true and real because the Holy Spirit inspired John on the Island of Patmos to write them for all of the sons of Israel—believes in Yeshua of every age—including you and me. PAUSE.

Sons of God, here is the key question that the Holy Spirit will guide us in answering on this final midweek Divine Worship Service. How do we know whether to take the 144,000 as literal or figurative? How do we unlock this profound question?

We do it by going to an ancient principle of Biblical interpretation: Scripture interprets Scripture. Scripture is its own interpreter. As a rule we will attempt to take every passage literal except when Scripture elsewhere forces us to take a given passage figuratively.

John the apostle in this section gives a clear indication that the 144,000 is not to be taken literally. After speaking about the 144,000 sealed from every tribe of Israel he gives us more details. Five verses later he describes this number in this manner: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9-10)

In typical Hebrew poetry style, John speaks of the 144,000 Israelites. Then in parallel fashion he describes them as a great multitude and number that no one could number—they are the unnumbered number. In the Old Testament alone you had 2 million Israelite slaves who went through the Red Sea and today in the world you have over 2 billion people who confess that Jesus is Lord. This does not even begin to take into account the millions upon millions of people in the days of the flood that believed in the coming Savior—before the great apostasy that took place just prior to the flood.

The point: John makes abundantly clear that the 144,000 is a number no one can count. We are talking billions of believers throughout the ages. And John later defines those who are part of this huge number as those who follow the Lamb, the Lamb who in chapter five IS worshipped by all believers in heaven. All over the place John defines these figurative phrases if we just read this book like it is meant to be—Hebrew parallel poetry.

Oh, the tender care and mercy this Sacred book offers us. Oh, the joy we have as we hear, read, mark and learn the Sacred Scripture that reveal to us the Lamb who would be crucified for us on Calvary’s cross and rise again to give us eternal hope. For only the gospel helps us to see clearly the love of God for all people be they male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile. No other religion lifts women up as much as the Bible and what Jesus did for them as well as children as well as outcasts bringing them into the 144,000 by grace through faith.

In short, the 144,000 is a number of the 12 tribes x 12 Disciples x 1,000. (12x12 is 144 to the 10th degree). That 1,000, is a number that symbolizes completeness. Twelve is the number of followers of Messiah Jesus completed! Clearly, powerfully, wonderfully, amazingly and eternally, the Bible teaches that being a member of Israel is by grace not race, by faith not force, through trust in the Lamb not sacrificing human lambs.

Fellow members of the 144,000, baptized Israelites, descendants of Abraham, citizens of a vast number that no man can number, rejoice! You have heard the voice “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” You are part of a countless host worshipping Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Rejoice galore as part of the 144...thousand, millions, billions! In the name of Jesus—the faithful Lamb, and God’s people said: Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Willing to be a Slave” (Mark 10:43-45)

S-1486 5SIL/3B 3/22/2015 Hymns: (O) #149; (S) #390; L.S. #155; #314; #55; (C) #158

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Theme: “Willing to be a Slave” (Mark 10:43-45)

Question: “How do you want people to remember you?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

People of the Cross, you, who have been purchased with the crimson blood of the Savior, there is no denying it. This text deals with two big important words that show who we really are. Both begin with letter “S” and both have a result with a word that begins with “S.” The first word is “SELFISHNESS” and the second “SELFLESNESS”. Selfishness separates us from one another but more importantly, it separates us from God. Selflessness draws us into the service of others and more importantly into the service of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, which word rule and reigns in our hearts? Because we are born sinful, our tendencies are to be SELFISH. That is just the way the old Adam is. We see it clearly in the Gospel reading this morning not only in James and John, but in all 12 of the Disciples. But we see selflessness in the response of Jesus the greatest teacher as He takes the opportunity to teach them and us about serving and being slaves.

In the text we find 10 of Jesus’ twelve disciples were hot under the collar. Their anger was aimed at James and John. Why? Because James and John had just asked Jesus to give them the top two spots in His cabinet when His Kingdom came into power. But they were most likely mad that they didn’t think to ask first!

These two Sons of Thunder wanted to sit, one at the right and left hand of Jesus. They asked because they had a warped view of the Kingdom of God. They thought it would be ushered in by conflict and conquest. We see this in the word they use for left in the original Greek. The word has military overtones. They wanted in on the action of winning salvation. But that’s not what Jesus had in mind. In response, Jesus uses a word that is different. His word flows from the sweet Gospel. Jesus wants to build something that will last for eternity—and it is something that flows out of God’s eternal promises to save humanity.

After three years of learning from history’s greatest teacher, it didn’t appear that any of them had learned much. Even as the disciples draw closer and closer and closer to the dark Day of Judgment—Good Friday, they are missing the point on life, love, and liberty. They are still slaves to their passions. PAUSE.

To want to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus IS a selfishness and self-centered request. It does not take into consideration the other ten or the Kingdom which Christ is building. But worse, they are clueless regarding the depth of suffering, sacrifice, and sorrow Jesus will need to go through to save not just Judah and Israel but the world—including you and me.

Sitting at the Right and Left Hand of Jesus doesn’t mean power. It means being willing to be staked to a cross. Ironically, the position James and John were asking for will be reserved for two thieves on Good Friday who are nailed to the cross; one on Jesus’ left and the other on His right. This King and His court will be enthroned on roughhewn wooden crosses, with bodies draped with robes of blood beholding a King whose head is embedded with a crown of thorns and scepter—a spear in the side—to give birth to His bride.

The Kingdom of the Messiah takes furious form with a terrible, towering tortuous cross. On that cross Jesus will drink humanity’s full cup of suffering; and God’s wrath. He also will be plunged into the waters of a baptism where He will take the weight of the world’s sins into the depths of the ocean...upon His sinless that we don’t drown in our sin of selfishness and self-centeredness that separates us from God and others.

Beautiful people of God, Jesus uses this opportunity to teach the 12 saying: “Listen, you are not to be thinking like the power brokers of this world. Yes, for the pagan Gentiles ‘power,’ ‘control,’ and ‘dominance’ are the watchwords. BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. BUT WHOEVER WOULD BE GREAT AMONG YOU MUST BE YOUR SERVANT, AND WHOEVER WOULD BE FIRST AMONG YOU MUST BE SLAVE OF ALL”.

Here Jesus identifies the purpose of life. Those who are saved through His death and resurrection are called to serve with love. The surface reasons so many people do not want to follow Christ vary. However, so often people reject Christ like the religious leaders of His day—in favor of power. They want to rule over people. They want things done their way. Selfishness is their creed. Control is their deed.

Remember, Jesus had just told the disciples He was going up to Jerusalem, be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and be condemned to death. While Jesus is talking about giving Himself up for others—the ten are wrangling with the two brothers—about power, fame, and wealth. PAUSE.

The disciples had forgotten one of the most profound stories of love, sacrifice, and selflessness in the Bible. Remember how Israel’s sons were sent to Egypt to buy grain because of a famine, only to come face to face with their brother Joseph who they had sold into slavery for 20 pieces of silver who was now the right hand man of Pharaoh? They thought he was dead. But by God’s grace Joseph went through struggles, from Potiphar’s house, to prison, only to end up in a place where he could save His family.

With his brothers at his mercy, Joseph devises a bit of a scheme to see where their hearts are. He set up the youngest brother Benjamin. They planted evidence on him in the form of a royal chalice. When it is discovered that Benjamin would be arrested and detained, Judah selflessly volunteers to take his brother’s place for the sake of his father. They had seen the effects of supposedly losing Joseph on their father. Judah could not allow that kind of grief that comes from separation to come to his father again. So breaking ranks with his brothers, Judah confesses their earlier deceit as he pleads with this supposed foreign leader for the sake of his now elderly father. Judah’s contrite, selfless and impassioned plea breaks Joseph’s cover and the brothers are reunited! It is shown how God overcame their evil intent for the sake of good!

Judah whose name is, “Praise the Lord” was willing to become a slave for the sake of his brother. To save Benjamin, which means “Son of my right hand,” Judah would give up everything. Compare that with what the 12 were bickering about! The Disciples were bickering about a position of power all the while that Jesus was talking about the posture of a slave! Add to that what we hear in Philippians 2 about having the mind of Christ and enduring suffering and death for others and we see just how ridiculous the 12 look and sound!

Judah was not able to pull off the exchange that he proposed. But One of His descendants did. In fact, that descendant is the One lecturing the Disciples on what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God!

For us, out of SELFLESSNESS, Jesus became history’s greatest SLAVE. No slave in history was ever treated more terribly than our Lord. No slave in history was ever subject to more pain than Jesus our Lord. No slave in history ever endured the shameful treatment that Jesus endured in order to free us—yes US, from a life of selfishness and self-centeredness to engage in a life of Good Friday selflessness.

To be sure, daily the Holy Spirit calls us in humility to exercise the gift of repentance. The kindness of the King on the cross alone can give us power to put to death those impulses to rule over others. A little Stalin, a little Hitler, a little Mao, a little ISIS drone, dwells in every one of our hearts. Daily, on our trip back to baptism’s font, we need to crucify the little dictator within, so that sin does not cause us to get drunk on power. Only the pardoning love of Christ who became a SLAVE for us can cast out the universal sin to want to rule over others with pomp, power, and pride.

Beautiful people of God, a planted chalice in a sack on the back of the donkey of Benjamin—son of my right hand, moved Judah to become willing to be a slave to save his brother. Jesus, the perfect Son of God’s right hand—drank from the Chalice the cup of wrath for our selfishness on the cross. Today in that amazing way of selflessness the greatest SLAVE, gives to us in His chalice, His body and blood to enrich our love. To serve with love out of love for Him who served up His life for us—is the essence of a life worth living. We have been saved to serve!

In this way, called by grace through faith, we are slaves of Christ. We serve at His direction and in His pattern. But we are not ordinary slaves. No, we are God’s workmanship, created by God to do good works! This slavery is not a position of power, but a position of service. This service is not done to justify us. No, it is rendered to glorify the very One who has given everything and more for our sake!

To sit at the right and left of Jesus is not an honor reserved for us. No, those spots are taken. But our greatest honor is not to be recognized for all that we do for Jesus, but to selflessly and confidently share Him with others. Amen

Now the peace…


Saturday, March 21, 2015

“Numbers of Hope-969” (Genesis 5:27)

S-1485 5MIL/3B 3/11/2015 Hymns: (O) #140 vv 3-4; (S) #370; (C) #141

Texts: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Genesis 5:21-27; Matthew 5:17-20

Theme: “Numbers of Hope-969 (Genesis 5:27)

5th sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope

Beloved children of the heavenly Father, this evening we find ourselves once more in the presence of the One who gives us the Numbers of Hope—Christ our Suffering Servant, who would go to Calvary’s cross and the tomb to give us living hope.

Moses tells us: “Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech. THEN Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years after he became the father of Lamech, and he had other sons and daughters. SO ALL the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, AND HE DIED!

To be sure, THAT’S a number of hope! After the fall and before the flood people lived long, long lives. The Lord Jesus enabled Adam to live to be 930 years old, Jared 962 years old, and Noah 950 years old. In a strange way these lives of longevity points us to the lively hope Jesus brings, namely, of having a forever young new body that will live forever! That is coming because Jesus was kind enough to take on a human body for us and absorb all our sin in His body and now takes us into His body through the majestic miracle of baptism.

As the Holy Spirit guides our Lenten journey, He reveals to us these blessed connections...all kinds of threads of hope come forth. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves. It is necessary that before we look at the oldest man who ever lived namely, Methuselah, that we back up to his father—Enoch.

Enoch was a huge example of hope in the Old Testament—because by the grace of God in Christ Enoch conquered death. In fact, Jesus and Enoch walked together in a very close communion. For 365 years Enoch walked with Christ and suddenly was taken out of this fallen world into heaven without seeing death! What a blessing that was! Now that is a trip I would love to see. Walking one day with Jesus and the next you are with Him forever. Woof he is gone!

Isn’t that interesting? Enoch lived to be 365 years old, walked with Jesus, and was taken to heaven. Here is encouragement for us—as the Children of the heavenly Father; to walk with Jesus every day of our 365 days each year until we too by grace are translated into the Kingdom above. PAUSE.

Now bear in mind that this Enoch was not the first Enoch of the Bible—Cain’s son, an unbeliever. This Enoch descended from Seth and preached about the gift of righteousness Jesus brings and how God’s people are moved by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to live righteous lives. They are to walk with God in holiness, love, and kindness.

Also, we should note that Enoch, the believing Enoch of the 7th generation, like Noah, was a great preacher of righteousness. He preached how God’s people are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and saved by grace through the eternal promise of salvation. In the Book of Jude, one of the last books of the Bible, we get the impression that Enoch lived at a time which was awful, lawless, cutthroats to the max. It was Sodom and Gomorrah on steroids! The people were boastful and bigots; always grabbing for the biggest piece of pie, stepping on the little guy, and lusting after the pretty gal.

In the midst of this, Enoch walked by faith not sight; in the midst of this, Enoch lived a life of repentance. In the midst of this, Enoch set his eyes on Jesus and the eternal big picture. When Enoch is taken to heaven it is a beautiful picture of hope showing once more how the Old and New Testament message of life after death through God’s grace in Jesus is central and foundational. Moreover, Enoch walked with the God who walks on earth, Jesus our Lord!

Now the name of Methuselah is important to ponder. It means “His death shall bring.” Okay...his death shall bring what? It will take 969 years before Methuselah, son of Enoch dies. But when he does, his death will bring forth one of the most spectacular events in the world’s history—a worldwide flood.

Now in Genesis 5 there are ten patriarchs listed in the Genealogy of Adam. From Adam to Noah there is a huge gospel message set forth. Listen to the genealogy and the meaning of the names:

Adam means “man/dirt”

Seth means “appointed.”

Enosh means “mortal.”

Kenan means “sorrow.”

Mahalael means “the blessed God.”

Jared means “shall come down.”

Enoch means “teaching.”

Methuselah means “His death shall bring.”

Lamech means “the despairing.”

Noah means “Comfort or rest.”

What happens when we put the meaning of the words of the TEN generations together? We get a picture of how God is working everything in history together for the good of His redeemed. Here is the message of the ten generations when spliced together.

Starting with “Adam” which means man/dirt: Man was appointed (Seth) “to be mortal” (Enosh). This was very “sorrowful” (Kenan). However, “the blessed God” (Mahalael) “shall come down” (Jared) “teaching” (Enoch) that “his death shall bring” (Methuselah) “the despairing” (Lamech) “comfort and rest” (Noah) PAUSE.

God created a genealogical billboard (like ones on the interstates) with a John 3:16 like message upon it for people to see for hundreds and hundreds of years. Perhaps the people were badly distracted for a number of reasons. Sinful desires, pleasures of the worlds and love of self. Flood was never on their mind, because rainfall never came before. Why? The water came from artesian springs and heavenly dews.

The God who provided all this lush and plush, green and serene, comparatively stunning landscape was the God who said in the beginning “Let US make man in OUR image.” It was the Three-in-One God, the Triune God. For 969 years the message had gone forth that the Spirit of God would not continually strive with man and put up with the rank wickedness of humanity. The Father spoke to Noah and the Son walked with his grandfather Enoch in a most personal matter. The three in one revelation is there already in Genesis.

So here we are with the number of hope: 9-6-9. The number nine is prominent in the Bible. There are nine fruit of the Spirit—a gift of Jesus’ love. There are nine gifts that St. Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. There were 9 widows, 9 blind people as well as 9 people stoned. There are key words like lightning, ungodly, and bottomless pit used 9 times connected with “judgment.”

The 9-6-9 speaks of a double judgment with the two nines. The six in between signifies the number of sin and imperfection. Methuselah’s name, meaning, “his death shall bring,” judgment—in this case to a world out of control. God’s wrath is poured upon this world that is ruthless and lawless. This is a picture of how the world will be before the glorious return of our Lord. PAUSE.

When Methuselah was 850 years old God appeared to Noah (his grandson) to tell him to build the ark, and Noah was busily constructing a vessel that will save him and his family. For 120 years Noah faithfully built the ark, while enduring mockery, humiliation, and bore his cross for Christ’s sake with faith—like Abraham believing in the seemingly impossible. Methuselah who means “His death shall bring” dies 7 days prior to God closing the door of the ark. The flood came as God unleashes His judgment against sin, the world and the evil Foe.

Methuselah’s 969 years is a testimony to the profound patience of God. It is also a testimony of His grace. His longevity was no accident. He is not in the Bible simply to show that his age was the oldest recorded in the Bible but to show the incomparable grace, patience, and mercy of God to put up with a world so evil, so turned inward. Methuselah is a picture of the grace of God at work in the life of this man who was faithful unto death. Be thou faithful unto death—even 969 years and I will give you a crown of life.

God calls us by faith to live our lives like the patriarchs to trust the God of all grace and mercy. But how often are we truly caring and loving? Do we always live our lives as today could be our last day on earth? Do our words and actions glorify God? Do the people we come in contact know that we are Christians? How many times do we live like the people of Methuselah’s and Noah’s day—in lawlessness and looseness, chaos and confusion? More often than we care to mention.

But thank God, the God who took Enoch sent us a Savior who lives in righteousness and holiness. This Savior would teach us how to live and how to die. He reveals to us the intimate love He has for us—sinners.

You, who are the royal priests, remember that Jesus our beloved Lord would die at age 33, an age and set of numbers from which the numbers 969 all get their character. It shows that in the end the only judgment that counts is the 777 judgment of the One who was 33, namely, “there is now therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Rom. 12:1).This is the hope that Christ’s suffering and passion brings. On Good Friday Jesus suffered a severe judgment for 9 hours. He was sentenced to die at 6:00 am during the time of the morning sacrifice. He was nailed to the cross at 9:00 am and willed to die at 3:00 pm. NINE hours of agony in love for you and me. Jesus suffers the perfect nine for all time to overcome the imperfect 666 ways of mankind. What a Suffering Servant and Savior He is. In His death He brings life eternal. In His Suffering He brings salvation; and His empty tomb, He brings hope—living hope—resurrection hope, preached two thousand years ago and this evening.

In this house of worship this evening, the Holy Spirit takes this number 969 and gives us hope, eternal hope—resurrection hope for us and for our children. What joy fills our hearts because through the merit, mercy and message of the Christ of the Bible we have hope in the Numbers of Hope! Amen!

Now the peace


“Love Lifts” (John 2:15-17)

S-1484 4SIL/3B 3/15/2015 Hymns: (O) #175; (S) #245; (C) #394

Texts: Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Theme: “Love Lifts” (John 2:15-17)

Question: “What lifts your spirit?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 2:14-15).

Saints and beautiful people of the Cross who have been purchased with the crimson blood of the Savior, Chuck Swindoll tells about a young man who was determined to win the affection of a lady who refused to even talk to him anymore. He decided the way to her heart was to woo her through the mail. Thus, he began writing her love letters. He wrote a love letter every day to this young lady. Five, six, seven times a week she received a love letter from pursuer.

When she did not respond, he increased his output to three notes every twenty-four hours. In all, he wrote her more than 700 letters. He finally stopped when she ended up marrying the postman.

It was not very uplifting for the young woman to receive all those love letters. Unwittingly, the young man was forcing himself upon the young lady. He thought he could manipulate her, wear her down, and verbally force her to consent to his will.

Real and endearing love does not do this. It draws a person by an affection that is thoughtful not forceful, that is in step with the Golden Rule not a desire to rule, that is uplifting not intent on getting the upper hand. Real and endearing love lifts. It is healing not harmful. It has beautiful boundaries and it is unconditional in scope because it flows from a heart that thinks of the other person first.

Such was the love of the God of all grace in the Old Testament. In unconditional love He took a nation of slaves and made them His treasured people. He then outlined for them the boundaries of love in the Ten words or Ten Commandments. He miraculously provided them water from the Rock, manna and quail from heaven, protection (from the ISIS) enemies all over the place, shoes that would not wear out, and much more.

And how did the people respond—for the most part? They grumbled. They belly-ached. They whined. It got so bad as they fed off each other that all of Israel was at a tipping [point]. They were about ready to rebel against Moses, explode in rage, and go back to slavery in Egypt.

We see this kind of behavior in life all too often. Just think about what took place in Ferguson Missouri this past week. Two police officers were shot. Paid outsiders came into the area once more to rile people. So hateful have people become—and hopefully it is only a minority--that they were writing murderous notes on the Internet, “How happy they were the policemen were shot by an assassin.”

But we don’t have to look at the people of Ferguson, or the Israelites who rebelled against God [to see this kind of behavior]. How often do we act in a manner just like the rest of sinful humanity with greed and malice? Rather than loving our brother in the pew we hold a grudge. Rather than forgiving our sister in the pew we shun them and shut them off. We don’t have [in mind] the well being of the other children of God, we are concerned only of what makes us (joyful and) happy, even and because it will hurt another person. PAUSE.

The same kind of murderous, miserable mindset was at work among the Israelites ready to take out Moses and lead the people back to the slavery of Egypt. To bring them back to their senses, The God of all grace and mercy; uses a stern word of Law and an uplifting word of Gospel—together, in tandem, back to back.

The Word of Law to show the people they were spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins? Knowing the old Serpent, the devil, was behind this insurrection, this mob rule, this hideous hatred...God sent venomous snakes among the people. They bit the people and many died. Blessedly, the majority of the people saw their sin, realized their hatred, and became aware of their rebellion. Representatives of these now contrite people came to Moses. They said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us."

So Moses prayed. God heard Moses’ prayer. He gave to Moses a strange solution to pave the way once more for the strange solution of the cross. God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

So Moses made a bronze snake. He put it up on a pole. Then, when anyone was bitten by a snake, and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. Forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation were wrapped around that pole with the promise of God rooted in Christ’s Good Friday love.

Jesus told people in His day, especially Nicodemus, that the ultimate purpose of that bronze pole in the wilderness was to point to the wood of cross on Good Friday. Jesus said, Just as Moses was lifted up in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life! (John 3:14, 15). This is love par excellence. This is love in action, thinking of the other first.

Here is the Divine pattern throughout Scripture: God lifts up Moses and Israel out of slavery to make good on His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God lifts up the people in the wilderness through this death and resurrection story to come to their senses and live not as rebels but as His royal priest, not as (murderess)[murderers] but as His messengers of grace and hope, not as tormentors but as His treasured possession.

The whole journey of Lent shows the humility and love of Christ who permits Himself to be lifted up on the cross to suffer for our sins and then three days later lifted up to conquer death and our arch enemy the vile Serpent. PAUSE.

There is nothing in history that lifts up humanity like the love story of Jesus wooing fallen humanity back to His bosom. Why is that? It is because only the story of Jesus provides solutions for mankind’s woes.

The only thing that gives the world a decisive lift, a true lift, and eternal life is the story of how Jesus allowed Himself to be lifted up on Golgotha—on Good Friday. There in love He was lifted up on that hill on top of the mountain called Zion, lifted up for all history to see. Shamefully humanity nailed Him to the cross. Shamefully Adam’s brightest and best, both Jew and Gentile, conspired to crucify the holy One of God. But somehow on that doleful, dark, depressing, depraved Day, God would turn it into His most spectacular display of love for mankind and one effective solution in history to death, alienation, and sin.

Apart from Good Friday and Easter there are no solutions in history for the madness of humanity, the death of mankind, and selfishness of human nature. Moreover, the deepest and widest inspirations for good will, find life at the foot of the pole of the cross. Take this event away from history and the most uplifting story in history is gone, along with, all its noble fruit.

Apart from Good Friday the world lacks the inspiration, the motivation, the transformation[al] love necessary to move forward with hope. Most people today live between haplessness and hopelessness. Listen to the news for few minutes and you will know why. We are bombarded by bad news from front to finish.

That is why the Holy Spirit beckons us, as people of the cross to come to God’s House—to hear the good news that Jesus brings in order to know we are loved, to grow in love, and to receive love in the Lord’s Supper—a real lifter upper! Reflect for a moment upon the good news, salvation by grace character of all three readings for this Sunday.

The Holy Spirit uses all these readings to show us of the awesome, amazing and awe-inspiring God who loves us unconditionally. His Words imbibes with the undeserved grace of calling us sinners to receive an over abundance of His mercy and compassion for the sake of the One who will hang on the cross for everyone—including you and me, Jesus the Christ. Whose love lifts! PAUSE.

It is an old story but a good one to be heard repeatedly. The story is told about a man who fell into a snake pit of rattlers. His body his feet were broken along with his arms. He was unable to move. Moreover, the poisonous snakes were coiled ready to strike him at the slightest move.

A series of religious men happen to come by. The first is Mohammed. He tells the man that he must work his way out of the pit by following the five pillars of the faith Mohammed invented. By your works you must save yourself. It is Allah's will you are in this mess. The next prophet is Buddha. Buddha tells the man life is the pits. He tells the man the suffering and sorrow is his lot. And perhaps his death will bring some form enlightenment. The third prophet is Confucius. “Man who is wise keeps open his eyes and does not fall into this kind of pit. Learn from your mistakes and better luck next time.” He leaves providing no salvation.

The four Prophet is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus sees the poor man and his predicament. He is moved with compassion and love. Without hesitation Jesus descends into the perilous pit loaded with poisonous snakes. Not thinking of Himself Jesus lifts up the man even as the snakes bit Jesus nonstop. As the man is lifted out of the pit he finds himself not only saved, but also healed. However, Christ Jesus the Lord dies in the pit for him.

That love made known by Jesus uplifts that man making him a new creation, filled with dignity, joyful having been healed, and now finding himself with even more hope. Why? On the third day this Man who died for Him is alive and well. Death has been defeated. The serpents silenced.

Only Jesus with love in His heart and holes in His hands gives mankind the gift of salvation, the lift we need, and the shift from false hope to real hope. Today, by the grace of God, I say to you, rejoice in this good news. You have in baptism already been lifted up into the heavenliness as St. Paul wrote in our Epistle Reading. What good news to put into our shoes so that we walk in hope today, tomorrow, till heaven because we have been lifted up; lifted up spiritually, emotionally and physically. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“Numbers of Hope-7” (Luke 2:42)

S-1483 4MIL/3B 3/11/2015 Hymns: (O) #154; (S) #370; (C) #153

Texts: Psalm 6 or119:161-168; Genesis 2:1-3; Mark 8:1-10

Theme: “Numbers of Hope-7 (Luke 2:42)

4th sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope

Beautiful people of God—His SEGOULA, we are a little over the half way mark through our Lenten journey to Golgotha, to see with eyes of faith; the King of glory crucified on a cross for us—sinners and raised on the third day.

Tonight, my prayers are two-folds: One, that we would always make sure as members of the priesthood of all believers that in God’s House the message of grace, would fill our time and space. There is absolutely no room for any message that would ever say or imply what Jesus did for us was not sufficient. And,

Two, that we, as the baptized and blood-bought children; would rejoice in our time in His house of grace—to learn of the Giver of numbers—Jesus the Christ who gives hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and heaven to the heaven-less. Our weekly gatherings with Him, should give us resolve to see how these numbers fit so perfectly in our lives that hope springs eternal.

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Moses tells us, Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished His work. God blessed the seventh day. Consecrated it and made it Holy.

The day the Creator rested from His work, all the creating He had done was perfect and beautiful. We are told again by Moses, “And God saw that it was Very good. This is the glorious story of how it all started, in the beginning of creation. (Genesis 2:1-4). And after the 4,000 plus people ate, the twelve disciples picked up seven LARGE baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces! (Mark 8:8). PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, there are 483 references to the number Seven in the Bible. If I were to preach on each one—a sermon for each time it appeared—that would take 483 weeks. Another way of looking at this—it would take 9.2 years. (But don’t be afraid I am not keeping you here this long). For this reason, to wade into this number of Hope this evening will require some sanctified selectivity. May the Holy Spirit, the One who reveals the lively Hope we have in the 777 Son of God, Jesus, grant us grace for our modest effort to whet your appetite, soothe your soul, and bring you added joy.

Seven is the Biblical number of perfection. We see the Holy Spirit recruiting it in both the Old and New Testament to lead us to the perfect One, Jesus Christ. In our two texts for tonight the common denominator for the seven day creation and the seven baskets of leftovers, is Jesus Christ. St. Paul tells us how all things were created by Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:15) As the go-between and Mediator between God and man, Jesus sets the world into motion in seven days and makes sure there are seven baskets after He feeds thousands of hungry people.

In both cases, whether Genesis chapter 2 or Mark chapter 8, the Holy Spirit is declaring then and now, “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In love, for you and me, Jesus finished creating the cosmos and on the seventh day rested. In so doing, He was setting a vital pattern for you and me—the need we have each week to rest our body, soul, and spirit. When Jesus rested after creating all the light, all the stars, all the land, all the water, all the plants, all the animals from dinosaurs to donkeys, mules to monkeys, and to the crowning creation with man, He rested. The Hebrew here means “He ceased creating.” It doesn’t mean that God was tired. Rather, for our sake He rested to remind us and invite us with the sweet gospel hope, “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”

In the Old Testament Jesus was very fond of the number seven. We see this in Genesis when Jesus provided seven years of outstanding weather for bumper crops to fulfill a prophecy Joseph interpreted by way of a dream. Jesus then provided a measure of global warming for seven years in order to get Jacob and family reunited into a group of seventy. Those seven good years and seven bad years were also to teach God’s people to save money for a rainy day...or as was the case here....for non rainy days. But seven was the number to give another facet of hope. PAUSE.

At another critical time in the salvation history of God’s people, Jesus used the number seven to give the stamp of approval of how He saves His people in strange ways. The story is told in Joshua 5 and 6. The children of Israel had just celebrated for seven days Passover. Fortified by this sacred meal, they were not ready to take on a military battle with the people inside the fortress city of Jericho.

Joshua was pacing back and forth the night before. Out of nowhere, very much like the Man who came and wrestled with Jacob, who appeared out of nowhere in the upper room after the resurrection, Jesus appears. Joshua looks up and there Jesus is standing right in front of him. He does not know this at first—it is night, dark, just like it was when Jacob encountered Him. Joshua sees the majestic Man holding a is drawn...but Joshua does not flinch. He asks this impressive looking Person, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies?” The Man says, “Neither, I’m The Commander of God’s army!” (Josh. 6:14). Instantly, Joshua realizes this Man is the God-Man, the Messenger of HOPE, who appeared to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. Joshua hits the ground and worships Jesus, asking, “What orders does My Master have for His servant?

“Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Wherever Jesus is Holy ground...baptism, Lord’s Supper, the hearing of the gospel...holy, holy, holy!” In a nutshell, Jesus lays out the battle plan for Joshua. He tells him to enlist seven priests with seven trumpets of ram’s horns and for seven days march around Jericho. On the seventh day have the seven priests blow the seven horns and watch the walls come down!

What a strange way for Israel to take down this fortress. The seven horns by the seven priests on the seven days was to point people ultimately to the 777 work of Jesus upon the cross. There, the Lord of the Sabbath, the One who brings rest, would take on all the unrest of the world, all the sin of the world, all the evil of the world, on His sinless 777 shoulders—for us. On that 666 day, Good Friday, the 777 Son of God in the strangest of ways, would accomplish salvation for us and reveal to mankind the one love that alone would bring salvation, convert hearts, and bring mankind hope—living HOPE.

In the New Testament Jesus would recruit the number seven in salvation at work style. Peter in the Gospel of Mark tells the story of how Jesus as the Bread of Life miraculously fed two large crowds of starving people. In chapter six Jesus fed 5,000 plus people multiplying fish and bread leaving 12 baskets to signify His love, His Lordship, and the Link between the 12 tribes and 12 apostles. A little later Jesus feeds 4,000 plus people hungering for the life and salvation Jesus brings. This time Jesus with precision leaves 7 baskets of leftovers to show the perfect nature of His salvation work. Here before them was the One from heaven, the 777 Son of God, who would later that night walk on water, taming a 666 storm and turning it into a 777 moment—for us—to give us a future and HOPE. PAUSE.

The Apostle John saw the 777 pattern of Jesus quite well and brings this out in both of the books he authored—his Gospel and book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is loaded with all kinds of hidden sevens as well as ones we can readily see. Thus in the first book and the last book of the Bible like book-end the number seven is paramount.

The disciple John in His Gospel shares with us the seven great I AMs that Jesus speaks. Remember at the Burning Bush Jesus when asked by Moses what is God’s name, He said, I AM.” In the Gospel of John Jesus says:

1. I AM the Bread of life.

2. I AM the Good Shepherd

3. I AM the Door to heaven

4. I Am the Vine

5. I Am the Light of the World

6. I Am the Way, the Truth, the Life

7. I Am the Resurrection and the Life

But there is more. Travel with me to the cross upon which Christ was extended and eaves drop to the 7 words from the cross…from Father forgive them, to Today you will be with Me in paradise, to it is finished, to Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.

There is still more. Another aspect of this number of hope is that Jacob was smitten by Rachel that he served his uncle Laban seven years, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. On a far greater scale, the Savior was smitten for us, because He loved us unconditionally. He endured the pain, the punishment, the profanity and the beating and ultimately the cross for us—because we were the love of His life as our opening hymn reminded us: “Alas! and did my Savior bleed And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?

Saints in Christ, in the Gospel reading we learn that Christ has compassion, knows our need, feels our hunger and lives in our pain. He has experienced all of these things for us. But that is not all. He does so much more. He fulfills what we need. He has compassion and satisfies our hunger physically and spiritually. He reaches out to us through our tummies—He gives us bread-which is His flesh and blood. This is Christ’s foolish generosity. That is rest in the midst of restlessness, gives us hope in the midst of hopelessness and gives us eternal life in the midst of death. This is our great I Am who gives us the perfect hope now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…


Testimony about the tour

Below you’ll find the info Pastor Nour sent of his trip to Israel  & Jordan this fall.  The question I get asked most often is “did you feel safe”?, The answer is “YES”, I did.  Here’s what I thought about a year ago when I signed up.

** I’d rather go to a place where there are a lot of guns than no guns.  Where are most of the schools etc. where there aren’t any guns!!!

** If it’s my time to die, it’s going to happen no matter what country I’m in.

** If something would break out when I was in Israel I’d be better off with Pastor Nour who has family over there and being a native of that country he knows what’s going on than just a sitting duck tourist not knowing where to go!!!  Believe me, Pastor Nour takes GREAT care of you!!!

Hope it works for you all to go!!  It truly is the trip of a lifetime.  You’ll never read the Bible the same again after going the places that Jesus was!!  To use Pastor Nour.s words, “up until now you’ve read the Bible in black & white and after the tour you’ll read it in color”!  How true!!   Now when I read about the Sea of Galilee, I can picture it, just exactly how it looks, a couple weeks ago I was reading in Matthew that Jesus was in the synagogue of Capernaum and I stood on those very stones in the floor that Jesus stood on!!  Did you know that Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac is the same Mt. where Jesus hung on the cross?  Names change over time.  I never realized so many Old & New Testament events happened the exact same places.   We saw the Valley of Gahanna, we visited the Garden of Gethsemane and so many things that on some days Maxine and I had to look at our notes as we couldn’t remember all the places we had been and things we had seen!!

Sign up b/f the bus is full and they leave w/o you!!!Smile  Marjo

Monday, March 9, 2015

“Zeal For THIS House” (John 2:15-17)

S-1482 3SIL/3B 3/08/2015 Hymns: (O) #139; (S) #175; L.S. #20; #500; #307; (C) #416

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 4:1-6; John 2:13-22

Theme: “Zeal For THIS House” (John 2:15-17)

Question: “What is it that upsets you in Church?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And He told those who sold the pigeons, Take these things away; do not make My Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me” (John 2:15-17).

Saints in Christ, today’s text rattles us and catches us off-guard, with what Jesus says and does. It must have been quite a scene the way John describe it. It is not the gentle, meek and mild Jesus of greeting cards and figurines. Jesus has a temper. Jesus is cracking a homemade whip. Jesus is chasing out people and animals, as coins roll around and tables are flipped over. We must understand what is taking place here and why is Jesus angry that even the disciples state: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Come along with me and get a better picture of what is taking place to understand the actions of the faithful Good Shepherd—Jesus. The text reveals Jesus attending the Passover Festival with His disciples. This was the custom of all Jewish men over the age of twelve, to attended the annual seven-day festival –in remembrance of the mighty deliverance of God’s people from the hands of the Egyptians through the Red Sea miracle of long ago. Something happens, though, as the very Paschal Lamb—Jesus, the heaven sent Savior enters into the Holy Temple. It is what He sees with His eyes, hears with His ears and enters His nose that gets His blood pressure up. In the temple Jesus found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. (14)

As the Lord Jesus enters the Temple, it is important for us to remember what the Temple was all about. The Temple was where God’s forgiveness and mercy was located, and where grace was supposed to be dished out. But what Jesus is greeted with is not the sound of the prayers and praise of the repentant faithful. Instead the sounds of bartering and bickering over animals for sacrifice, exchange of coins, and the bleating of sheep assaults His ears. It is not the pleasant smell of the burnt offerings that fills His nostrils. Rather the smell of manure and the sweat of crowds of people that enter Jesus nostrils. It is not the congregation of the faithful in worship rather the teeming crowds of bystanders and traders all shouting for attention that enters Jesus ears. Jesus burns with anger. He is downright mad. His house supposed to be a house of worship—A Grace Place. His house is supposed to be for all people. But these merchants are bickering and bartering between the sanctuary and the courts of Gentiles. They are hindering the Gentiles from hearing the message and receiving the treasures from the loving hands of the God of Israel.

The Zeal for His house consumes Him. He is angry. He is mad. He is upset and drives these people out—because they have taken His house—A Grace Place and blocked this grace from being dished out and served to broken hearts that need to hear the message of 70 times 7—forgiveness and mercy He offers. PAUSE.

Jesus has had it. He comes to this place because it is a Grace Place—but there is no grace being dished out, no mercy is extended and no hope given. Instead, He sees and hears and smells the spiritual noise and stink – idolatry, stealing and taking advantage of pilgrims who have come to worship from thousands of miles away. Thus, Jesus with Zeal for THIS house comes to the defense of the Temple and the treasures God gives out freely. He comes to the defense of the faithful who are being kept from the gifts of God and their worship and praise. He comes in order to awaken those mislead and lost in Sin.

John gives us a picture of Jesus responding to what has been allowed to happen in the Temple. He could not stand back and watch – Jesus, in compassion had to act and act He does. Those who have blocked the treasures of God—forgiveness, grace and mercy had to be removed. Jesus literally cleanses the temple of anything that would come between God’s people and God’s merciful free gifts.

This was not without consequences either. When Jesus acted, those who were destroying the Temple with their greed then sought to destroy Jesus. From this point on they would seek to rid the world of this Man who would steal from them. But to cleanse the Temple is why Jesus came. He came to allow the Temple of His body to be destroyed so that we would no longer need sheep and goats and bulls and pigeons. He shed His blood once and for all to be that ultimate act of grace! Jesus cleansed the Temple truly and finally at the cross and empty tomb!

Seeing Jesus in action through the images of overturned tables and loosed animals in this text, God’s Word forces us today to ask the question, Are there things that we expect, things that we say and things that we do that, like those merchants in the Temple, get in the way of the Lord’s house being a place of Grace? Is it our quest for a message that scratches our itching ears? The longing for a particular sound? What are we doing TODAY that destroys this Temple?

The fact is we don’t tell God what should take place here. This is God’s Temple. This is holy ground—a very sacred place. The Church is not a coffee shop. The Church is not an entertainment venue. No, the Church is where God dwells – where He meets personally with His people in His Preached and taught Word and Faithfully given Sacraments. The Church is where our prayers rise to Him as pleasant offerings. The Church is where we in repentant faith confess our sins and acknowledge our dependence on Him and in mercy received the gift of forgiveness offered through the Paschal Lamb slain on the altar of the cross. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, this house of God—this holy Temple—this sacred place is not about what we think the church should be or should allow – it is all about what God has declared His church to be – A Grace Place; where His treasures are given freely, where mercy is dished out and where compassion is offered. Here in this house of worship through Word and Sacraments sinners receive forgiveness, broken hearts are mended, guilty consciences are lifted, hope is given, and souls are healed.

If a person deeply loves the Lord, they will say with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” If we remember what it is that the Lord is doing here in this place week in and week out, we would beat down the doors every week to get in this place. We need the grace that is freely given here EVERY week! How could any trip, any tournament, any task outweigh what the Lord is doing in this place? It is never a good sign when a person does not want to go to God’s house. Something is not right. They are not listening to the voice of Jesus. They, and far too often WE ourselves, lose sight of how God’s House and regular worship is to be a staple of a life of rich fellowship in Christ. You and I have been called in the waters of Holy baptism to the same kind of zeal for the Lord’s house that Jesus has. Zeal for God’s house marked the life of Jesus. It is to be the mark our lives also.

The good news this place offers is this: Nothing can destroy this place of Grace! Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees that it will stand forever! Wherever Jesus and His Word is there you will find the Temple of God’s grace!

When you wake up tomorrow morning, grace will be there for you. When you are in your worst moment this week, grace will meet you there. When you are at your highest peak, grace will meet you there. When you are running as fast as you can, grace will pace your every step. When you are resting, grace will rest by your side. This is the zeal Jesus has for His house—the Grace Place. Here Jesus removes your burdens. Here in His house, your sins are forgiven. Here, Jesus touches you on your lips with a morsel of bread and cup of wine—His body and blood. And Here He sends you out forgiven, redeemed and restored.

His Zeal is for THIS house, because His Zeal is for YOU Amen.

Now the peace…


“Numbers of Hope-70” (Luke 2:42)

S-1481 3MIL/3B 3/04/2015 Hymns: (O) #140 vv 2, 4; (S) #370; (C) #157

Texts: Psalm 42, Exodus 1:1-7; Luke 2:41-51

Theme: “Numbers of Hope-70 (Luke 2:42)

3rd sermon in sermon series on “Numbers of Hope

You who are numbered among the saints, I am so thankful that the gracious Lord and Giver of numbers has brought you to His house of hope this evening. I am praying that you have brought with you the needed tools for this long journey. A journey that will take us from Egypt to Galilee, from the desert to the mountains, from crossing valleys to crossing rivers and ultimately standing on a small but very significant mountain—Golgotha. The tools you need are these: good boots for walking, binocular to see, and stamina to jump from one place to another as we will look deeply into the gold mine of God’s promises, and search faithfully in His life-giving Word that gives hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and heaven to the heaven-less.

Beloved in Christ, tonight, I beg you to dust the lenses of your binoculars and come along with me, to see with eyes of faith more that meets the eye as we continue with: the Numbers of Hope! These numbers, like all the revelation in the Bible are given for the sake of the gospel and for our good. They are given by the Holy Spirit to lead us to see more intimately the goodness of God in Jesus Christ—who is the Lord of lords!

Jesus IS the hope of history. Before His incarnation the world overwhelmingly could be summed up in one word: DESPAIR! In Roman literature, before the time of Christ, the poets wrote that the best thing that could happen to a person after birth is that a person would die and go back to the place where he or she came.

Gloom and doom, despair and death, pessimism and hopelessness shrouded the world, draped over a barbaric planet, much like it is today in the Middle East.

How crucial and pivotal hope is. As we have said before, a person can live 60 days without food, 8 days without water, a few minutes without air, but not a second without hope. The hope we examine tonight is a lively hope, resting on... the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Tonight we probe the number of seventy and see how it leads to the king of Kings, who dwells in our hearts, and brings to us the 70 times 7, forgiveness we daily need—indeed. Seventy is a sacred number. It is a Jesus’ number. Within this number we have the multiplication of two perfect numbers. There is ten—the number of completeness and seven the number of perfect. For us, Jesus completed all that was necessary for our salvation perfectly through His death and glorious resurrection!

It was Jesus—the Giver of numbers who arranged Joseph in the Old Testament to rise in power in Egypt. He took all the bad breaks that occurred in Joseph’s life—being betrayed for 20 pieces of silver, being falsely imprisoned—and worked them together for good. How good? After the reunion, Jacob learned that his “resurrected” son was alive and well and functionally the most powerful person in the world. Jacob and his family are reunited to live in Egypt. Guess how many were part of Jacob’s family including Joseph, his wife, and two children? If you said seventy members you are correct. PAUSE.

Precious children of the heavenly Father know this truth. That is not by accident or chance that God would advance the Kingdom of God in this fashion. The God who wrestled with Jacob—Jesus, was posting the number seventy all the way throughout the story of redemption at crucial moments. For the sake of our salvation God unfolds this numerical pattern.

As we continue to journey across the desert, valleys, mountains and oceans, we see another sweet seventy at work. For example, after the Lord saved His people by water and the Word through the splitting of the Red Sea, He led them to Mount Sinai. On Mount Sinai God took Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel (Exodus 24) they climbed this mountain AND “saw the God of Israel. He was standing on a pavement of something like sapphires—pure, clear sky-blue. He didn’t hurt these pillar-leaders of the Israelites. They saw God; they ate, and they drank!” (24:9--11), how awesome was that moment in the lives of these men. (Are you getting tired)

Later in Israel’s journey there was a need for more elders to be spiritually lifted by the Holy Spirit to help Moses lead these great numbers. So God told Moses in Numbers 11:16 to gather seventy respected men to receive a pre-Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit to proclaim the Word of God.

This seventy would be a foreshadowing of how Jesus would in His ministry call seventy men to serve as disciples to teach and preach, grow and sow, and help and heal as helpers of hope! These seventy were not only to heal the sick and suffering, but tell people that the Kingdom of God was on their doorstep in the person of Jesus—the Messenger of Hope. And again, it was Jesus whom the seventy saw on the Mount with Moses. In both instances Jesus was the hinge of hope for the Kingdom of God to advance—the same Jesus who dwells in our hearts even today!

One of the most unlikely persons to be a hero in the Old Testament was a man named Gideon. He has been dubbed by one of our professors as the Barney Fife of the Old Testament. His credentials were minimal. He was a nervous, shaky sort of a fellow. However, Jesus appears to him as the Messenger of the Lord and tells Gideon that he was going to lead the children of Israel over those miserable, monstrous, Midianites—ISIS like people in BC times. Gideon has, guess how many, sons? Seventy. What an amazing God we have.

At the end of the year we often read the Psalm of Moses that speaks of how if a person lives seventy years—back then as well as today, that is a good life span. If you live eighty years...that is even more mercy and grace. Once again, seventy is an interesting marker.

Certainly in the Old Testament when we think of seventy we cannot forget how the children of Israel, after rank unbelief and terrible cruelty were taken into Babylonian Captivity for seventy years. In a way God had to send His treasured possessions into captivity to protect them from themselves. After seventy years people woke up and saw what they were missing—what they had taken for granted—the grace of God and His unconditional love for His treasured possession not only Israel, but you too. PAUSE.

Am hoping that the binoculars are not getting heavy on your shoulders and the boots are not worn out, for we have much to travel yet. Oh, the beauty of this number. On Monday I was visiting with Saint Judy (who made the banner), about it and asked, “What is the banner number”? She responds #70! No, not what I am preaching on, but the book number? With a smile she said, #70! How ironic is that? 70 is the number of hope given to us by Jesus. But there is still more.

This seventy times seven number is so intriguing. Multiplied, it adds up to 490. From the time the angel appeared to Zacharias to tell of the miracle birth of John the Baptizer and the time of Gabriel appeared to Mary to the time of Jesus’ birth and then 40 days later the presentation we have a seventy times seven moment. From the annunciation of John to the presentation of Jesus that is 490 days.

In the Gospel of Matthew our Lord Jesus Christ enlists the number seventy to get to the heart of the gospel. The gospel is the good news of forgiveness of sins that Jesus brings. Where this gift goes life and salvation flows. It is the most towering, therapeutic, restorative gift to us from the Father through His Son.

In Matthew 18 Peter musters up the nerve to ask Jesus, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”

Seventy times seven is code language for googolplexes! God wants us to forgive again and again and again just as we have been forgiven again and again and again and again and again and again and again! After all, “the blood of Jesus Christ constantly, continually forgives us all our sins.” (1 John 1:7) [present tense]

From the cross on Good Friday Jesus spoke these words: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” They are the sweet melody by which He forgave the whole world seventy times seven (Luke 23:34). That seventy times seven perfect and complete absolution stunned one of the thieves on a cross next to Jesus. This man confessed through the power of that absolution from Christ, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” To that man Jesus said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise!” Another message of hope!

That is where the seventy times seven gift of forgiveness brings us in the end—paradise, heaven, a right relationship with God, the knowledge that we are loved, and so much more. Tonight, as we have been privileged by the Holy Spirit, to travel from east to west, north to south, we have reasons to celebrate how God has forgiven us seventy times seven and we are heirs of heaven and now wholesome leaven here on earth. Seventy times seven breathes into our hearts heavenly hope knowing that the loving Lord who hung on the cross to pay for our sins—all of them, is the One eternal Lord who dwells within us and intercedes for us—having accomplished for us the complete work of salvation (10) times the perfect work of salvation (7)! Amen.

Now the peace of God...


Thursday, March 5, 2015

You are invited to join me, a native of Israel, born in Nazareth on a Journey to the Holy Land–Israel and Jordan for the spiritual experience of a lifetimeOctober 12-October 24...walk where Jesus walked...where every page of the Bible comes the Sea of Galilee...climb the Mount of Olives and view the Old City of Jerusalem...visit Tabgha, scene of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes...the Mount of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount and where Jesus chose His Twelve Apostles...walk the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher...stroll in the Garden of Gethsemane...visit Bethlehem...the Church of the Nativity and in Jordan...Madaba...Nebo... and Petra
What to expect: During this 13-day tour, you will experience the sounds, smells and sights of two civilizations the old and the new. You will stand at the cross roads of history and feel the vibrant influence of how this land shapes all other lands.
We will do more than just visit sights. We will go off the beaten path and have personal and daily devotions. The Bible will be our map and guide. Experience the Holy Land–a place like no other. Please join me on this pilgrimage.
The price is $4199.00 includes: air fair from Minneapolis to Tel Aviv and back to Minneapolis, hotel accommodations (for double occupancy)  tips, entry fees and all meals.
For further information contact:
Pastor Nabil Nour
P. O. Box 158
Armour, SD 57313-0158
605-201-6998 (Cell)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

“Kings Will Come From You?” (Genesis 17:3b-6)

S-1480 2SIL/3B 2/15/2015 Hymns: (O) #145; (S) #130; (C) #149

Texts: 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:12-13; 4:1-6; Mark 9:2-9

Theme: “Kings Will Come From You?” (Genesis 17:3b-6)

Question: “Do you have any royalty blood in your veins?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the O. T. lesson: “And God said to him, ‘Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you’” (Genesis 17:3b-6).

Saints in Christ, Moses, the author of the text before us today reveals to us, the God we serve, is the God of the impossible! He creates out of nothing. He brings light to a dark world and He even opens wombs to be a blessing for generations to come.

The truth of the matter is that every problem of faith humans have regarding the living God, how He works, and what He does is a result of people forgetting aspects of His infinite love, His infinite compassion, His infinite care and His infinite involvement in our lives. The story of Abram today reaffirms this blessed truth.

At the time of our text Abram was now ninety-nine years old. By the standards of his day the time for him and Sarah to pro-create had passed them. Although Abram had fathered Ishmael, this wild son with warring children was not the son of the promise. As a couple with the promise of a child Abram and Sarah were over the hill and from finite human standards...hopeless.

But, God had given a promise. He promised them a child from Sarah’s womb and Abram’s seed. For this promise to be fulfilled a miracle was necessary. The God of the impossible would have to show His hand to fulfill His plan.

Now, bear in mind that the name Abram means “The exalted father.” Abram was seventy years old when the God of all grace called him out of the darkness of polytheism. The gracious splendid call was so moving that Abram and his family packed up their belongings and walked a thousand miles to the land of promise.

Keep in mind also that Abram had all kinds of servants, wealth, was rich in cattle, in silver, and gold. He was the head of a caravan. He was a rich merchant. This is the man Jesus called out of darkness into the marvelous light of grace. Yet he has no sons out of Sarah’s womb. PAUSE

Into this life of heartache, empty arms and even emptier womb, God intervenes. Now after decades the God of the impossible comes to Abram and reveals to him another promise. Notice it is God coming to Abram—this is the movement of grace. His salvation was by Grace—God calling him out of the darkness of worshipping false gods. Now God amps up the promise—amplify the promise—add to the promise.

“Abram, I want you to change your name!” God said,

“Oh?” Abraham answered.

“Yes, I want you to change your name from Abram “The exalted father” to Abraham something more spectacular “father of many nations or father of great multitudes.” From a human point of view, this promise to Abraham and Sarah to see and hold their own offspring, and this child to multitudes of nations and people... seemed impossible. It was as challenging as a salvation by works, camel going through the eye of a needle. However, the same Person saying, “With man this is impossible,” said Jesus, “But with almighty God all things are possible.PAUSE

By the Spirit's power through a Christ-centered promise Abraham is given a new lease, added joy, increased hope. He took God at His Word and put that promise in His heart. But God in His infinite love and power had more to give. God promised Him saying: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.”

Whether incarnation, salvation, or the birth of a nation, the God of the impossible would bring grace, almighty power, and powerful promises to bear.

Out of this man and his wife who were as good as dead, God will raise nations, multitudes and kings. You can still see the effect of this promise even today and even here. We have the story of Abraham’s descendants in Scripture. We have read of some of these nations, multitudes and kings who have come from Him. The history of these kings can be summed up under the title of a Clint Eastwood movie: the good, the bad and the ugly. The Scriptures share with us the fame and the infamy of these kings: the Good—David, the bad-Manasseh, and the Ugly—Ahab; who was constantly pouting. But the promise is real and certain. Through all of the good, the bad and the ugly, by the power and promise of God, kings came from this faithful, former pagan, elderly Chaldean and His wife.

This line of kings ran through those offspring. Generation after generation they were born, they reigned and they died. And by God’s promise this line was leading to an ultimate king. Finally, that king was born. In all royalty, the King of Kings robed Himself in flesh descended from Abraham. This King, Jesus, born to what looked like peasants, grew to wear a crown, not of gold but of thorns. He would be enthroned not on a golden chair, but on a rough-hewn cross. Instead of being hailed, this king would be heckled! Instead of being cheered, this King would be crucified. And it was all part of the promise! For through this King that came from the promise of God to an old man and his wife, all nations of the world would be blessed! AND WE ARE!!!

In fact we are blessed by this line AND we are part of this great and glorious promise. By virtue of our adoption through Holy Baptism WE are part of that Royal priesthood. We are part of that great line of kings, part of the Kingdom of God, by way of King Jesus.

Every child of God baptized into the body of Christ is a fellow Israelite, royalty, forgiven, an heir of eternal life, and a member of a Kingdom that will last forever. The Apostle Peter put it this way as a reminder of this great promise: “But you (every one of you seated here) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). PAUSE.

This promise is ours even when we look back on our life as princes and princesses and realize that we have not always lived like it. When we think on our sin, we find ourselves much more like the old person at the end of life that is full of regret and remorse. Even as the baptized, where we should be seeing and realizing our potential, it is clear that we daily fall short in sin. As kings, we would be more likely listed with Manasseh and Ahab than David, let alone Jesus! It might well seem impossible for you to be a faithful part of this noble line of royalty! But our God does the impossible! We have His word of promise on it!

This glorious promise is ours today because God in His infinite love and mercy made an eternal Covenant with Abraham. By the Spirit’s leading, like Father Abraham, we are able to take God’s Word at face value! Because of this grace we can rejoice with St. Paul who said: … in Messiah Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ—the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-28).

This promise, given to Abraham 3,900 plus years ago is for you! You are in Messiah Jesus through baptism. You are made part of Abraham’s seed. You have been purchased with the treasury of the Kingdom—Christ’s crimson blood. You have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus which He earned through His suffering, death and glorious resurrection. In God’s sight you are children of God and you are princes and princesses, members of the Royal Kingdom of Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords!

Let this be your identity.

Let this be your serenity.

Let this be your foundation for eternity.

This connection to Christ in baptism brings us joy today and always! It is a joy we feel here in the Lord’s house. It is a joy we feast on in the Holy Supper. Fellow princes and princesses of the King of kings hear again and taste again the joy of a promise made and kept to Abraham and Sarah and YOU! May it ring and make your heart sing! The God of all grace is the God of the impossible. He spoke creation into being. He gave life through and old man and woman and He gives life in Christ to you for this world and for eternity! Amen and Amen.

Now the peace of God…