Tag Archives: faithful

God’s promises to us in prayer

The last Tuesday of the month is out monthly prayer breakfast at First Saint Johns Lutheran Church. It is a time to lift up prayer for each other, for the church that God has put us in, for our community, any other needs that people bring up. Everyone is welcome, it’s a great breakfast and a really great time of fellowship in prayer.

It is also a time for a little teaching. We can all always use a little more guidance in our prayer/devotional life and I found he following is from Martin Luther which will be a topic of conversation:

“Good prayer that is heard by God has two prerequisites. First, we must consider God’s promise that he will hear us. By reminding him of his promise, we can dare to pray confidently. For God hadn’t asked us to pray and hadn’t promised to hear us, then all people praying their requests together wouldn’t be able to receive even the smallest item.

So no one receives anything from God because of the quality of the prayer, but only because of God’s goodness. God anticipates all of our requests and desires. With his promise, he prompts us to pray and desire these things so that we will learn how much he cares for us. He cares for us so much that he is prepared to give us even more than we are ready to receive or to ask for. Because he is offering us so much, we can pray with confidence.

Second, we must not doubt what the true and faithful God promises to do. He promises to hear our prayers – yes, he even commands us to pray. He promises this so that we might firmly believe that our prayers will be answered. As Christ says, ‘That’s why I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24; Matthew 21:22). Christ also says, ‘So I tell you to ask and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find, and for the person who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Luke 11:9-10). By trusting in these promises and obeying thee commands, we can pray with confidence.” (Through Faith Alone  365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther October 30)

As in everything in our relationship with God it is about Him guiding us in prayer, it is about Him leading us in everything. We can certainly lift up inspired, high prose in our prayer, but that’s not really the point. Often we would do well to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to move us to understand what we really should be praying for and get on God’s track for us instead of us trying to force our prayer and struggle. God truly is waiting to God us in all parts of our life. That is faith, trusting His leading instead of fussing about what we’re supposed to do.

A Spirit Not of Fear but of Power Matthew June 25, 2017 First St Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who trust Jesus and are overcomers said … AMEN!

I’m sure many of you have had this discussion with your parent, to the effect, “But dad I don’t want to because I’m afraid of this person”. The response was to the effect “you have more to be afraid of me, then of aforementioned person.” I’m sure you’ve had the same thoughts in terms of “I don’t want to do this because I’m afraid of the reaction I’m going to get from someone else” and then come to the realization, I’d better be a lot more afraid of what God is going to think or do then the big monster I’m afraid of will do. I was afraid, [Rodney voice] I grew up in a tough neighborhood, the local restaurant only had broken leg of lamb on the menu.[1] On my street, the kids take hubcaps – from moving cars.”

Jesus makes it pretty plain, sure bad things can happen if you get someone in the world angry, but that’s not going to be anything compared to making God angry from failing to be faithful to His will. In fact whenever I’m in that quandary, after all is said and done, when I look back, I realize that the person/ thing/situation that I was afraid of, was nowhere near as big, bad or ugly as I thought. Furthermore, trusting in God usually results in an outcome I never expected, would never planned. I’m not giving you a Harry Potter incantation or Joel Osteen everything’s going to work out because God has a great plan for your life. He does, but not some Osteen formula. It’s according to the only words that matter, Holy Scripture.

Jesus talks about the one who has “endured to the end who will be saved.” While too many “Christians” have a rainbow and unicorn perception of Jesus, as we see in this passage, through the Gospels and particularly the Book of Revelation, to quote another writer: “The Bible teaches Christians to recognize that the world is a battleground, not a playground.”[2] To take Mr Dangerfield’s quotes, we all grow up in a tough neighborhood. We certainly have the assurance that Jesus will be faithful, that when we trust in Him we will be delivered. It might not seem like it, people do die, people do suffer tragedy, or, at least what we perceive as death or tragedy. We know many cases where we might think that someone has been treated unfairly, but what God has lead that person to do in that trial, that tragedy has, in fact, resulted in genuine blessing for that person, for others that they have served, have inspired, have reached. As Christians we know the ultimate tragedy is to be lost for eternity. While we may suffer in this life, and the reality is that we all suffer in one form or another. That we all have a cross to bear, ESV Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Arthur Just explains: “These are catechumens who have heard the Word, have left family and understand the costs of discipleship. But as they travel with Jesus to Jerusalem, they begin to encounter rejection and persecution…[this] corresponds to the seed that fell on the rock and withered because of lack of moisture, like those who receive the Word with joy but have no roots and fall away in times of temptation, which can include persecution.”[3]

It’s never my intention to, create fear in people. The words we see in the Bible emphasize being aware and faithful. Jesus told His disciples in this passage; “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We are saved, we are protected, we are baptized, we eat the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of Christ, we are very much a part of Him, in the sacraments, in the Keys of the Church, His Body that we are very much a part of. We don’t, ultimately, have anything to fear. The same writer: “The Greek word most often translated “overcomer” stems from the word nike which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “to carry off the victory. The verb implies a battle.” You probably remember the Nike missile, Nike sports gear. Needless to say in war and in sports, the point is victory. To take the simile a little further, the Nike slogan is “just do it”. I wish we, as Christians, understood that motto in terms of our witness to Christ instead of being fearful of rejection and embarrassment. Embarrassed for Jesus? hmmm, sort of where He says: “ESV Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” When we are unfaithful, and put our trust in the world, and the things around us, just chose to punt, to give in to the world, Jesus is under no obligation to be faithful to us. If by our lives and our witness we demonstrate that Jesus is not important in our lives, why would we have the idea that we should be important to Jesus? Why should He stand up for us for eternity, when we won’t stand up for Him for just a moment in a world that is so temporary, so fleeting, so transitory? I have seen it so often, I chose not to stand up, I chose not to bravely confront and deal with a fraudulent world, but then expect someone to stand up for me and they are outraged that they’ve been left completely exposed. The world loves to set people up, as false witnesses, as Paul writes “to be slaves to sin … for the end of those things is death” (Rom 6: 20..21)

The real emphasis in the real language Jesus uses over and over again, is very much in terms of one who stays faithful, the one who endures, the one who while they are afraid, still endures. Many have the idea that the “brave man” has no fear going into danger. That would infer a really high level of stupid. I’ve seen plenty of brave men and women, people who’ve had to face actual, physical danger. They are acutely aware of the danger, and they are by no means stupid people. By the same token, they realize that they have to overcome and trust their fear because others are relying on them, trusting them to do what is necessary. As Christians we should always trust Christ in the face of danger. We have the guarantees, we have the lock, we know how the story ends, we are going to feel fear, BUT, we are certainly called to overcome. How do we overcome, do we overcome in our own strength? NO! We know the Holy Spirit is with us to strengthen us in those times when we face any challenge and certainly that includes up to and including death. Our trust is this, that what we do for Christ will never be wasted. Too often people talk about someone they perceive dying prematurely or being seriously injured as waste. They only see the here and now and don’t wait in faith for how Christ will use this. If that person has rejected Christ, has actually wasted their life, then we can see the reason why they might have died. I’m sure you can imagine many who simply wasted what they were given. By the same token those who have endured, stayed strong, overcome the trials that were given and still pointed to Christ as the reason, we certainly know and will witness to others and we know the Holy Spirit will use that to glorify Jesus and bring others to Jesus. The Christian church in China will be the largest church in the entire world in about 15 years. This in spite of horrendous persecution and suffering. Those who suffer are very real witnesses to others of the truth of Jesus’ church, of the Christian church and that it does save and they become Christians because they know that they have the promises of Christ of their resurrection to eternal, real life, life and life more abundant! The world cannot come close to such a promise, but takes those who fail to persevere, who will not stand in the strength of Jesus and the world toys with those people, gives them empty promises, kicks them to the curb and walks away laughing. “Overcomers are promised that they will eat from the Tree of Life (2:7), be unharmed by the second death (2:11), eat from hidden manna and be given a new name (2:17), have authority over the nations (2:26), be clothed in white garments (3:5), be made a permanent pillar in the house of God (3:12), and sit with Jesus on His throne (3:21). Jesus warned that holding fast to Him would not be easy, but it would be well worth it.”[4]

Jeremiah’s words have to lift you and inspire you, the promise of who God is and what He will most certainly do: “ESV Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.”

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] source: http://www.jokes4us.com/peoplejokes/comedianjokes/rodneydangerfieldjokes.html


[3] Arthur Just Concordia Commentary Luke 9-24 p 581

[4] https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-overcomer.html0

Acting Audaciously

Audacity will usually be rewarded. We started here at First St Johns at what was probably its lowest point in a history that dated back to 1875. We still have a long way to go and it’s certainly all about God’s will. The question remains as to how we may or may not end up, we could still very well not make it, but this church would be missed.
There is no doubt that we have made a mark, the test is, will the church be missed if it closes tomorrow? Without qualification I would say yes, that FSJ would be missed. Jim McClure the editor of the York Daily Record identified FSJ as a community outreach church, we have made a mark with the Food bank, employment group, Grief Share, NA, AA, prayer breakfast, workout area and of course the radio station has garnered an immense amount of attention.
Regardless, God has used us for His purposes, but it doesn’t mean He has to keep us here. I have learned that acting audaciously, doing things that appear to be over your capacity does get attention and does generate support. When things are happening, people will notice. They’re not going to notice a church that is just hiding behind its walls. When I started at FSJ I started walking around the neighborhood. When I told our neighbors who I was, they told me they thought FSJs had closed. Who is going to respond to a place they think is closed? But if they see activity, they see involvement, there’s at least a chance they will respond with physical and financial support. We’ve seen that happen at FSJs. If you are doing things to serve, to be a Christian disciple, people will provide money when they see that things are happening, that there is a level of excitement and we’ve seen that happening at FSJ.

It does make me wonder what so many churches are thinking when they seem to chose to passively conduct Christian ministry. Remember the “Parable of the Talents”? (Matthew 25:15-28 ESV) The “Master”, clearly God; Father, Son and or Holy Spirit (Matthew Henry says the Master was Jesus). The Master gives His servants 5, 2, and 1 talents to be used to enrich Him. A “talent” was about a 100 pounds of silver, in today’s value that would be about $2,000., certainly not an inconsequential amount, especially for the first servant who is given about $10,000. The first servant takes the $10,000, entrusted to him and what does he do? Brings another $10,000. Good job! Right? “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21)
The second servant takes the two talents he’s given, brings back $4,000. Not too shabby, I’d sure like to find out what they invested in. But the third servant just returns the one talent he was entrusted with???? Wha…. What’s the point? What good is that? And yet there are plenty of churches out there who somehow think that they are serving the Lord. They’re not, they’re just serving each other. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: “You wicked and slothful servant!” Pretty strong! But was the servant there just to hide the money and return it to his Master? Anyone can do that, he was there to serve his Master and he was “afraid” and chose to just run away from his responsibility. So it is with so many of these dying churches.
There are the churches that are dying, the churches that aren’t going to burn out, but rust out. They sit around bemoan their fate, maybe do some bake sales, or find a few children to have a VBS for, then they go back, carefully count their pennies, agree that if they’re careful and no serious problems they may make it another year and then go and do the same uninspired, unexciting things they’ve been doing and only that. They sit around and wonder why no one else is interested in being a part of their church. How do they really expect that God is calling to call them “good and faithful servants”? Why on earth would God send someone there to be discipled? Discipled to what? Sitting around with a lack of faith and service and hope that you can hide from reality?  How are they really serving, except, maybe, each other, just returning to God what He gave them, in fact if anything, not even what they were given. Why on earth would anyone think that God is going to bless and encourage that kind of attitude?
The flip side, so it appears to me now, is that you do things that do attract attention, you get people involved in things. Sure they may not work out or are as successful as they should be. Servant 3 would take that as a reason not to do that activity, or anything else for the duration. FSJ takes that and says, “ok, how do we make it better? What should we have done before…” and we start again.
Now, the radio station thing? Pure nuts, right? But it has generated attention and even given us entree to people and groups that we would never have had any opportunity to go to otherwise. People have seen what’s happened, they have moved on faith to support us, encouragement, prayers, financially etc. They have been a part of something they’re proud of, that their neighbors see in the newspaper, hear about in other places, they hear exciting plans and opportunities. Hopefully they get involved and of course it generates more interest, support and activity in the church.
You know what? We may not be around in another year, wouldn’t be the first, won’t be the last organization not to make it. But if we don’t make it, there will be a lot of people who will say; “what a shame, they did a lot of good stuff… hmmm, what could we do to help them get back into the game?…”
Conversely Servant 3 closes the door and not with a bang, but with a whimper and nary a person notices. No one was served, no one grew or was encouraged. Nothing was done to get people excited or involved, just poof, no one showed up for worship the next Sunday and really no one else noticed or cared.
Could be compared to a human, the one who slowly kills themselves through selfishness and bad habits and the bad habits; cancer, obesity, cardio, pulmonary, diabetes, liver disease on and on and they finally die. And the person who pushes themselves in one more triathlon and gloriously just drops right there on the course. Both knew they had a chance to die and one chose to just keep to himself and die a lonely, miserable death. The other one decided, one quick blaze of glory. Who wouldn’t want the blaze of glory? You’ve served others, you’ve made yourself a better person for your spouse, children, family, friends and they will remember you and may even live by your example. You’ve lived and served as a true disciple of Jesus. There are plenty of Christian servants who maybe didn’t “succeed”, but the results of their service will be, is, known by God and will be rewarded. The other? Doesn’t inspire in the least, is really seen as just miserable and even pathetic and no one misses them for an instant.
When we are being Servant 1 and are doing great things for the Kingdom, being faithful, being audacious, faithful to God’s will but crazy to the world, we may not be around next year, but we will be missed. Yea I’d rather do it the FSJ’s way.

My God why have You forsaken Me

From Words of Life from the Cross  – The Faithful Word

From Concordia Publishing House Wednesday Night Lenten worship

Sermon: The Faithful Word (Matthew 27:45–46)

 The third word of the cross is an entirely different word. It is a word directed to the Father, a cry of abandonment in the God-forsakenness of our sin. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” spoken in Jesus’ native tongue, Aramaic. This emanates from the very depths of His soul.

Onlookers would have recognized the opening verses of Psalm 22, the desperate cries of King David in his time of trial. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (v. 1). If they had the psalm committed to memory, and many did, they would have remembered David’s vividly prophetic portrayal of a crucifixion long before crucifixions were even invented. “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (vv. 16–18). Jesus is living and dying this psalm.

With His cry of dereliction, Jesus underscores the prophetic nature of His death. This is no accident, no simple miscarriage of justice, no quirk of history. His death in the darkness between noon and three is written large into every page of the Old Testament. It is the thread that connects the Torah and the Prophets and the Psalms into a unified whole. David’s sufferings are a picture, a type, of the Davidic King in His time of trial, of Jesus on the cross. The sentences are no coincidences; they are the plan of God from all eternity that the world should find its redemption in the death of the Son of David, the Son of God.

This is an easily misunderstood cry. Those who heard Jesus misheard Him and thought He was calling out for Elijah to save Him. They offer Jesus a drink of sour wine and wait to see if Elijah comes.

But Jesus has no need for Elijah’s services. He has come to fulfill Elijah and all of the prophets. His cry is not a call for help, but a cry out of the depths of our fallen humanity, out of our own death and despair. This is your abandonment, your darkness, your sin, your death that Jesus is experiencing in His own flesh.

He became the Sinner, damned under God’s wrath, cursed on the tree. He is the adulterer, the thief, the murderer, the idolater. He is you. He willingly, knowingly, freely offers Himself on the altar of God’s justice, taking on Adam’s sin and rebellion and yours and making it His own. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sin is alienating. It drives a wedge between God and us and between each of us. Because of sin, Adam and Eve were driven from the garden and barred from the tree of life. Because of sin, we are driven into the isolation of self, the solitary confinement of our own selves curved inward. Sin would shut us from God and from one another, leaving us permanently warped inward in a prison locked from the inside. In our time of darkness and despair, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” but the truth of the matter is we have forsaken God. We have turned from Him. We like sheep have gone astray, each in his or her own way. We have turned from God; God has not turned from us.

Jesus, as the perfect Substitute, takes our place. He puts Himself where we are, and in so doing, experiences the silence and darkness and despair, the “dark night” of our collective human soul. He places Himself into our killing fields, our death camps, our concentration camps, our abortion clinics, our prisons and gulags. He enters into all the God-forsaken places where we cry out in despair, “Where are You, God? Why have You forsaken us?” Jesus utters the “why” question on behalf of all of us. Why does God permit this to happen? Why do the innocent suffer? Why does a just God permit suffering and a merciful God not prevent it?

There is paradox in this cry. Jesus prays to a Father who appears to have abandoned Him in His time of need; the God who is absent and silent. He cries out into the darkness from His cross, and His cries trail off into the silence of space. And still, like David who prayed these words before Him, He prays. Here is the paradox of faith. Faith prays to the God who is silent, who appears to have withdrawn, whose hand of blessing has shut tightly, who appears not to be there. Faith calls out “my God” and will not let God off the hook. This is faith that clings to the promise of God, when all that you have is the promise of God. Like the centurion who said to Jesus, “Only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8), faith trusts that the word of Jesus is sufficient.

This is the faith of Jesus that is at the heart of our faith. He trusts for us. He prays for us. He cries out for us. He suffers for us. He dies for us. He embraces us so that we will never be forsaken in our time of need; we will never be alone in the hour of our death; we will not be abandoned in the Day of Judgment. Jesus is there, joined to us and we to Him in baptismal faith. He is with us, always, promising never to leave or forsake us.

Remember this faithful word when God seems to have forsaken you, on your dark Good Friday afternoon. Remember this cry of the Son of God calling out to heaven in your place, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, and know that God has vindicated Jesus in His death, and He vindicates you in Jesus. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). You are reconciled to God in Jesus. You are justified in Jesus. You are safe in Jesus. And you are never forsaken.


For Your suffering in the darkness, for Your cry of abandonment, for Your becoming our sin so that we in You might become the righteousness of God, for Your taking upon Yourself our alienation, our division, our estrangement, our death, we give You thanks, most holy Jesus. Amen.