Monday, April 2, 2018

April 1, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Peter 3:18-19 “ONLY JESUS COULD GET UP SO EARLY!”


EASTER SUNRISE


April 1, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 1 Peter 3:18-19



“ONLY JESUS COULD GET UP SO EARLY!”



1 Peter 3:18-19 (NIV) For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.”



          For our Lenten and Holy Week worship services this year we have been looking at things only Jesus could or would do. We understand that with things like being worth enough to pay for sins or cleansing His Father’s Temple. Today’s theme you might want to challenge. Only Jesus could get up so early. Lots of people get up early. Many don’t like to. What time did you have to get up to be ready for a Sunrise service? For you children, did you really want to? I remember the days with dread when I had an early morning paper route and some show shoveling jobs. Oh the dread when you went to bed with it snowing knowing how much earlier you would have to get up. But dairy farmers do that every day. So do bakers and anyone else with a job that needs to be done before normal folk are getting out of bed.

          So what’s so special about Jesus that we would be forced to exclaim only Jesus could get up so early? And He did get up early that first Easter. The women who went to the tomb to give Jesus’ body a proper burial got up early but when they got to Jesus’ tomb, they were too late. Jesus was gone. He beat them. But the women were not the only ones who got beat on Easter morn, the Devil and demons did. In the Apostles’ Creed we profess, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.”  We want to focus on one of the truths proclaimed in it. Jesus descended into Hell. When did He do that? If you believe the Apostles Creed was set up to be chronological you would say His descent took place after His burial but before His resurrection. The truth of the matter is we don’t know. The Bible does not say. The second truth of the matter is, the exact time Jesus did this does not matter. Why and what Jesus was doing does.

          Why did Jesus get up so early? It was because He had defeated Satan. Now I’m not sure if there can be any such thing as glee in Hell. If there is it must certainly be classified as unholy glee. But have you ever stopped to think about what was going on in Hell the day Jesus died? Remember this is the Devil and the demons who tried to kill Jesus as a baby boy, using Herod’s paranoia to cause the death of so many baby boys at Bethlehem. This is the Devil and demons who tempted Jesus throughout His life trying to get Him to disqualify Himself as Savior by sinning. This is the Devil and the demons who coordinated the chief priests’ jealousy with Judas’ greed and Pilate’s wimpiness thinking that by to killing Jesus they would get rid of the Savior of the world. Their plot seemed to work to perfection and Jesus died. What were they thinking? I’m sure they were thinking they won. I’m sure they were thinking they got rid of  the world’s only chance for salvation. And they were wrong.

          On a day like today some newspapers and TV stations like to try to have some fun with some headlines that people are likely to believe but aren’t true. Like in 1933 when The Madison Capital Times ran a headline and picture about the collapse of the state Capitol building due to a buildup of hot air. Many people fell for that April Fool’s joke. But the Bible defines a fool as one who says there is no God. We could add to that definition someone who thinks he can take God on and win. That definition fits the Devil who thought he could beat God’s plan to save people. But the joke was on Satan. Jesus got up early on Easter morn because he defeated Satan. As Peter reminds us, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Jesus’s death was God’s plan, not the Devil’s. His once and for all sacrifice brought us back to God. The Devil no longer has any claim on sinners. Jesus got up so early because He won.

          And to proclaim that victory. Our text is one of the few places in the Bible that references Jesus’ descent into Hell. The time frame is after He died to pay for sins, after He was put to death in the body and after He was made alive by the Spirit. But what did He do? He went and preached to the spirits in prison. The real key to understanding this verse is the word translated “preached.” That word can be confusing because normally we hear that word and think of what I’m doing now and what my goal is. I am preaching God’s words and God’s truths with the goal that anyone who does not yet believe in Jesus will repent and be saved and that those who are already believers will be built up by God’s Word to have the comfort of faith and the will and desire to be more useful in service to God.

          If that’s what Jesus were doing we would by quite confused. The devil and the demons who follow him cannot be converted. God’s Word makes it clear that Hell is their eternity. The souls of those who have died rejecting Jesus are also in Hell. They don’t get any second chances. God’s Word is clear in that area too. It’s given a man once to die, then, right then, you face judgment. It would have been better if the Bible translators had used the first meaning of the word translated here, “preached.” The first meaning is “proclaimed.” Jesus descended to Hell to proclaim to the devils in Hell.

          What did He proclaim? Victory! We don’t know the words Jesus used to proclaim the victory. Did He remind them of when He said, “No one takes my life from me rather I lay it down of my own accord.” Did He say, “What do you think I meant when I said I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep?” Did He remind them that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, even the evil plotted by the Devil? Did He show them how His resurrection was the proof to all the world that Jesus had won the victory? Did their unholy glee turn to hisses, boos, gnashing of teeth and uttering curses that they been foiled again? We don’t know. We’ve not been told. But we do know that by His descent into Hell after sin had been paid for Jesus proclaimed His victory over sin death and Hell. He triumphed over them.

          Remember that. Remember that when your enemy the Devil has tricked you into falling into sin. It’s never too late to go to Jesus in repentance. He will not push you away. He will love you and forgive you and remind you that it was for the unrighteous that He died. Remember that when in your struggle against sin you fall in weakness and feel like it’s no use, you’ll never get it right. You triumphed with Jesus. His victory is already yours and He has the power to turn the Devil on his head. Remember that when it looks like evil is triumphing in your country, your place of work, your family, your own life. God really does know how to work all things for the good of those who love Him. He even used plotting, jealousy and greed to bring about the salvation of the world. Don’t let your chin drop when things don’t seem to be going God’s way. Don’t give up and God forbid we switch sides. Triumph with Jesus! Let the victory He won power your faith no matter what you are facing.

          And let the victory Jesus won continue to be proclaimed. When the NCAA tournament is all said and done a certain group of fans will, if permitted, fill the playing floor to celebrate their team’s victory. They will spend lots of  money on  hats, T-shirts and other things that proclaim their championship. They will have a year of bragging rights in the college basketball ranks. The victory we have with Jesus is better. It’s once and for all. Never again will the Devil have a chance to beat Jesus. Since we belong to Jesus we have bragging rights forever, but not for ourselves. For Him. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. We do that when we wear His victory in our lives, fighting against sin because Jesus already beat it for us. Getting right back up every time we fall, confident of forgiveness because Jesus already won it for us. Refusing to be pessimistic despairing people because God takes even the worst looking circumstances, the death of His Son, and turns them into great victories.   We do that when we consider it an honor to hear that victory and proclaim that victory. Isn’t that why you got up so early? Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

March 21, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Matthew 26:36-46 “ONLY JESUS WOULD LET SOMEONE ELSE DETERMINE HIS DESTINY!”


MIDWEEK LENTEN SERVICE #6

March 21, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Matthew 26:36-46



“ONLY JESUS WOULD LET SOMEONE ELSE DETERMINE HIS DESTINY!”



Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)  “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." (37) He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (38) Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (39) Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (40) Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. (41)  "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (42) He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (43) When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. (44) So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (45) Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (46) Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"



          Giving up your independence, letting someone else be in control is not something we like by nature. Senior saints deal with those feelings when it comes time to give up the home you raised your family in to go to assisted living or maybe even bigger when it’s time to give up the car. You feel it at a job interview for a job you desperately want and think you need when you hear the interviewer say, “We’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what we decide.” It’s out of your control. Wouldn’t you much rather have the job offer and then you decide whether to take it or not? Of course you would. The fact of the matter is we all like to be in control or at least think that we are. Even as we mouth the words, “Let go and let God,” or pray “Your will be done,” there is a part of us that rebels and screams against it or really means “As long as it is what I want.” We don’t like it when we are not the ones in control when someone else makes decisions for us. Perhaps that is why Americans struggle so much with the Bible’s beautiful teaching of submission. But Jesus didn’t. Only Jesus would let someone else determine His destiny. He let someone else do that even though doing so meant He would have to go through Hell--literally.

          Why? The first reason was His love for His heavenly Father. Did you know that the Book of Revelation, which looks not only to the future but also to the past calls Jesus, “the lamb that was slain from the Creation of the world?” (Revelation 13:8) What do you think that means that He was slain, killed, already at the Creation of the world? It means dear friends, that our all knowing, all loving God had a plan. He knew Adam and Eve would blow it and we would be no better. Yet He loved them and us so much He went ahead with Creation even though the only way He could redeem them and us was for His Son to die. God had a plan.

          It was Jesus’ plan too. He also wanted to crush Satan and win you and me for God. That’s why something we heard Jesus say tonight might have surprised you. Jesus said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (39) Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."  Jesus was in agony as he looked to what would happen on the next day—beatings, torture, thorns, dried and cracked lips, thirst, pain. Remember, Jesus was human too. And just like none of us look forward to pain, especially the closer it gets, neither did Jesus. None of us tell the dentist, “Don’t use pain killer. Please drill closer to the nerve. Yeah that’s it. Really grind it.” Jesus didn’t look forward to the pain. We can understand that.

          But there was more pain in store for Jesus. Pain we can’t understand. We can’t understand what it means to be holy and pure and sinless and then have the vileness of sin piled on you. Think of the agony the Holy and pure Son of God felt when the guilt burden of rape and murder and blasphemy was tied to Him on the cross. We understand why He pleads that there be some other way. And yet how does He close His prayer? “Not as I will but as you will.” Jesus was willing to let someone else determine His destiny. He loved His Father so much He was willing to submit to His will.

          And He loved us too. We can see that in the progression of Jesus’ prayer. The first time Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Then he went back to His disciples, His friends, Peter James and John, the three He was counting on for support. The three He had asked to watch with him for one little hour. And what were they doing? Sleeping! Can you imagine Jesus’ disappointment when He had to say to them, "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. (41)  "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." How weak they were!

          But let’s not blame them too much. It was late. They’d had a full meal. They’d had the Passover wine. From our Thanksgiving Dinners we know how they felt. And we’ve been weak too, haven’t we? It is a display of our weakness when we start praying in the morning and before we’re two minutes in our mind has wandered. It’s a display of our weakness when we proclaim with our lips that Jesus is the Lord of our lives but can’t even live the 16 waking hours of one day in a way that proves it. It’s weakness when we let our children watch a few more minutes of TV rather than read them a Bible Story. It’s weakness when we spend two hours a  night watching sitcoms but can’t find the time or energy for God’s Word. It’s weakness when can only complain to God about the things we don’t have rather than thank Him for what we do.

          When Jesus saw the weakness in His disciples what did He do? He went back to praying. Now look at how this second prayer differs from the first. This time Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Do you hear the difference? It’s as though Jesus were saying, “I see this is the only way. I see the weakness of these ones I love. I’m still not looking forward to it but I’ll submit, not just because I love you, Father. I love them too.” Could it be that Our Savior saw the sleeping disciples and said, “If I leave it to them they’ll never make it.” Could it be He saw us with our minds wandering prayer? Did He see our misplaced priorities, our short sightedness, our doubts? He did. And He loved us. And His love for us gave Him the resolve to let someone else determine His destiny. And willingly suffer in our place. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (46) Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

          Sometimes love gives you no choice, doesn’t it? Ask the father who dashes into the burning home to save his baby daughter from the flames. Does he think of the pain? Does he think of the scarring, the endless hours of agonizing recovery? Does he ask if someone else will go? NO. Love determined his destiny. Just like love determined Jesus. Roman soldiers did not force Jesus Christ to the cross. Nails did not hold Him there. Love did. Love for the Father. And love for you and me. A type of love only Jesus has! Amen.

Monday, March 12, 2018

March 10-12, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Ephesians 2:1-10 AMAZING GRACE!


LENT 4

March 10-12, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Ephesians 2:1-10



AMAZING GRACE!

1. The Reason We’re Saved.

2. The Reason We Serve.



Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV 1984) “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”



          So how many times do you think you have sung or heard that hymn we just sang, Amazing Grace? A hundred, a thousand? Depends on your age. It’s been around a long time. Its simplicity and catchy or haunting in a good way tune is hard to forget. It’s difficult to avoid an emotional reaction when your hear the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace at the funeral of a police officer or fireman. Amazing Grace, a great hymn. My question for you today is “Are you?” Amazed at God’s grace that is. In the Bible we hear a common reaction to a great thing God has done, a miracle or a teaching of Jesus as this, “And the people were amazed.” Are we? Are we amazed at God’s grace? Today as we dig into a word of God that highlights God’s Amazing Grace we do so with the prayer that the Holy Spirit would build up or restore if necessary our appreciation for God’s Amazing Grace.

          Amazing grace is first of all the reason we are saved. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”  Do you consider yourself a wretch? One online dictionary uses this definition: “a base, despicable, or vile person.” Do you own that description? I’m reminded of one of the corporate confessions of sins we used when I was younger. Some of you will recognize it. “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor miserable sinner confess all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserve Thy temporal and eternal punishment.” Do you consider yourself a poor miserable sinner, a wretch that has offended God? Those are powerful words. And they describe me to a T. You too.

          God put it this way. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”  God uses powerful words here. Dead. Helpless. Unable to do anything for ourselves spiritually. Dead in another way. Dead to God like when you say someone is dead to you. We’ve offended him. By nature, objects of wrath. We’ve all seen the pictures of our military with the laser sights on the target, the house, the tank, the truck and then boom. God’s laser sight is on us, targeted for wrath, anger over sin. And just in case we are smirking instead of squirming who would you say has a greater degree of culpability, guilt? Someone who breaks a law they didn’t know about, out of ignorance, or someone who breaks a law they know very well. Of all the people on this planet most of us in this building know far better than most what they ways of the world are and that Devil is behind it. We know that the cravings or our sinful natures are wrong. And yet I’m guessing we would consider a drug addicted prostitute who has never known Jesus Christ to be a worse sinner than we are. Do you think she would be amazed to know that Jesus wanted her in heaven so much He died for her?

          And yet even though we have greater guilt than a drug addicted prostitute who has never known Christ we are saved. God says so! “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9not by works, so that no one can boast.” Did you hear that? It’s grace, all grace. Note the adjectives. Because of God’s great love. Rich in mercy. That’s why. We were dead. Needed faith is not our decision, not our work. It’s a gift from God, a grace. Something given to someone who has not earned it and does not deserve it. That’s not how we act. Think of what you would do with someone in your life who made promises but broke them often, who repeatedly did the opposite of what was right even though they expected others to do right, who hurt you, mistreated you, offended you, daily? And instead of letting us remain objects of his wrath, pushing us out of His life as we deserve, God saves us. That’s amazing. That’s how great His Grace is.

Grace goes on. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Did you hear what it moved God to do? He raised, (past tense, done deal), us and seated us with Jesus to share in heavenly riches. Picture it this way. At the heavenly banquet that has joy beyond all measure there is a seat reserved with your name on it. Some day you will take your place. What do you do now? Some of you may remember me talking about my farmer friends, the Eberts, that I worked for growing up. Dairy farmers, hard daily work. I remember times when they had to go to an event for their grown daughter who lived in town. But first we have to do the chores. They understood that as dairy farmers before the fun there was a responsibility and purpose.

That’s us too. No we are not dairy farmers but before we get the glory and joy of a heaven we don’t deserve as ones saved by grace we have responsibility and purpose. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That little word “for” connects what God is about to say to what he just said. Because grace is the reason we are saved, it’s also the reason we serve. Have received the gift of faith, having been made alive with Christ, until we take the place that Christ reserved for us have responsibility and purpose. Grace is the gas in our tank. It’s the reason we want to do what we are created to do, good works. We’ll get to them in a minute but before we do savor the fact that you are God’s workmanship, think handiwork or hand crafted. God in grace has made each one of us just like he wants and knows is best. He has given to each one of us the right gifts and abilities and circumstances for what He has planned for us.

What has he planned? Good works prepared in advance. God knows, shapes and directs our lives. He does that daily for each one of us. Good works are things God says are good. They are done out of love for Him appreciation of grace. They serve God and help others. Don’t think about big things like ending world hunger or establishing world peace. Think of things Jesus pointed to as great. Giving a cup of cold water to a fellow believer who was thirsty. Taking care of those who can’t care for themselves, like babies or aged parents, like the widow’s mite. What will it be today, tomorrow? A hug for mom when she’s said? Inviting a classmate to play at recess? A kind word to a down co-worker? These and more each according to the way God hand crafted you, all prepared in advance, just waiting for you. “Do or do not, there is no try,” someone once said. Grace leads us to do.

God’s grace is amazing. It’s the reason He saves us. Nothing we do helps or contributes. It’s the reason we serve, our motivation. Grace is unearned. There are two things people tend to do with what they have not earned. They will either consider them worthless or an entitlement or they will cherish them as a precious gift. What’s your plan for God’s amazing grace? Amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

March 7, 2018 Midweek Lenten Worship


Only Jesus Can Tell Us To Look Up On The Last Day
Luke 21:25-28 "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Experts in body language will say you can tell a lot about a person by their chin.  They say that the neutral position of the chin is the horizontal position. If the chin is lifted above the horizontal, it means the person is displaying superiority maybe even arrogance. Some say that by lifting the chin up, the person is trying to increase their height so that they can ‘look down through their nose’ at someone. 
When the chin is positioned down below the horizontal, it can signal that the person is sad or dejected. It's an unconscious attempt to lower one’s height and status. This is why our heads 'hang' in shame and don't 'rise' in shame.   Tonight in God’s Word Jesus tells us to lift our chins- to lift up our heads when we see the signs of the end of the world around up.  Sadly there will be plenty of people hanging their heads on Judgment Day. Only Jesus can tell us to lift up our heads on the last day. 
I have to say that my alarm sounds pretty harsh when it goes off in the morning.  But it is telling me that it is time to wake up.  Jesus’ words to those who were making plans to kill him might sound harsh to us but they are meant to say wake up!  On the Tuesday of Holy week, Jesus announced the judgment to come for those who were lifting up their chins to look down their noses at Jesus and at other people.  Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! . . . You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" Jesus wanted them to wake up. Jesus made it clear that a day is coming when chins raised in rejection of Jesus and noses in the air to look down on others would come crashing down.   If they remained in their unbelief, there would be no escape from condemnation.
After sounding the warning to the religious leaders, Jesus and his disciples left the temple. As they were walking away from Jerusalem to go back to Bethany for the night, they must have come to a spot where they could take in the beauty of Jerusalem and the temple. His disciples marveled at the beauty of the and the architecture of the temple.  Jesus chose this moment to tell his disciples about some traumatic days ahead included in His words was comfort for Jesus about the Last Day.  They could and should keep their heads up. 
"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”   But Jesus has given us signs to watch for. Those signs can be put into three categories. First, there are signs which remind us that Jesus IS coming. Second, there are signs which remind us he is coming SOON, and finally, there are signs which will tell us HE'S HERE.
Jesus gives us the signs that remind us he is coming in Luke 21, "When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away"  The Lord Jesus also speaks of earthquakes, famines, terrible plagues, and fearful events in nature.  Reading history books and watching the news tells us that all of these prophecies have been taking place-from the time Jesus ascended into heaven down to the very present.
So if things things have been happening right along we might ask ourselves, “Why did Jesus speak of these signs?” He gave us these signs so that when we see these terrible things happening in the world, not only to others but also to us, that we wouldn't lose hope and despair. "Stand firm!" Jesus says. "Hang on!" Jesus says. "Because I will not forget you. I will come again. I will come for you."
These signs certainly tell us Jesus will come, but they don't tell us when- in other words Jesus does not give us a timetable. There are other signs that tell us he will come soon. Matthew 24:14 says, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." ls there a continent or nation where Christ has not been preached? On our WELS connection videos, we hear about the good news of Jesus being preached all around the world.  Again in Matthew 24, Jesus says, "Then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. "  Some days we might wonder if the world can get any worse.  Perhaps it will.   But it sures seems like God will not put up with the evil much longer and Jesus must be coming soon.  All these signs say Jesus is coming soon.
Then there is the third set of signs in our text- signs that will say, “Jesus is back!   "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (vv.25-27). I cannot point to these signs, because we have not seen them. Those alive on earth will see them on that last day, when Jesus comes again in all his glory.
      Have you ever thought about what you want to be doing when Jesus comes again?  Will I be able to lift up my head?  Or will it be like that time when mom told you she did not want you eating cookies before dinner and when came walking back up the stairs unexpectedly there you munching cookies with cookie crumbs on your shirt?  I’m not able to say, “I will lift up my head when Jesus comes because I’m always in the right place or always doing the right thing or always thinking the right thing or always saying the right thing.”  I can’t lift up my head because I know the truth about me and the truth about you.  God’s law forces our chins down to look at our dreadful sinful hearts where bitterness too often simmers, it forces our chins down to see the hearts we have stepped on by careless sinful words and actions.  We heads would rightly hang in shame when Jesus comes again.
      But Jesus who knows all of these things says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." He knows our sins because he carried them-carried.  The Bible says, “"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed."  Jesus bowed His head in death so that we could lift up our heads on the last day.  Our own actions, our own righteousness brought us nothing but “chins down” on the last day.  Only Jesus could do that only Jesus could tell us to lift up our heads on the last day.
     What a comfort!  We don’t have to worry about what will happen to us on Judgement Day!  "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him". Our Jesus has made things right with God, so Judgment Day will be a chin up day for us rather than a chin down.  So now what do you want to be doing when Jesus comes again?  Let’s lift up our heads.  See the people God has put into our lives- our friends, our families. Let’s be about serving them when Jesus comes again.  Let’s lift up our heads and see the work God has given us to do and when Jesus comes again let’s be about “Serving wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”  Let’s lift up our heads to look above this wicked world, remembering the words of the little songs we learned long ago, “be careful little feet where you go, be careful little feet where you go cause the Father up above is looking down in love, o be careful little feet where you go.” 
     Are there gloomy things in your world right now that have you down?   Chin up!  Only Jesus can make us look up on the Last Day. Jesus and only Jesus shed his blood to wash us from sin. Live today aware that he is coming soon.  Carry in your hearts his forgiveness and his righteousness and give it away to others.   And be ready-ready to look up when he comes! Amen.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 28, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Matthew 21:18-22 “ONLY JESUS COULD CHALLENGE US TO MOVE MOUNTAINS!”


MIDWEEK LENT

February 28, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Matthew 21:18-22



“ONLY JESUS COULD CHALLENGE US TO MOVE MOUNTAINS!”



Matthew 21:18-22 (NIV 1984) “Early in the morning, as He was on his way back to the city, He was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. 20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”



          I’d like you to try to think of all the different miracles that Jesus did. The first one was to change water into wine. There were many more. He did healing miracles causing the blind to see, the lame, to walk, the deaf to hear, the leprous to be cured. He did feeding miracles, providing food for thousands of hungry people though they only had a few loaves or fish. He brought people back to life, Lazarus, the widow of Nain’s son, Jairus’ daughter. He cast out demons and walked on water to calm fearful disciples. All of Jesus’ miracles prove He is the Son of God and did good to help people. And then there is this one, the cursing of the fig tree. In this miracle Jesus made a fig tree wither and die. What good is there in that? What is the meaning of this? With the Holy Spirit’s help we see a needed lesson on faith.

          This happened during Holy Week. It’s Passover week in Jerusalem. Jesus, loving His disciples to the end continues to teach them even though His earthly end is very near. So far the disciples have seen Jesus welcomed triumphantly as king. They have seen him cleanse the Temple of those who were distracting other from worship. They would see their religious leaders, those considered the most spiritual and holy, those who looked the most religious and seemed to care most about what God said, question Jesus and challenge him. They needed a lesson about the true nature of saving faith. And a fig tree provided it. “Early in the morning, as He was on his way back to the city, He was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.”

          Poor fig tree! That might be our first reaction. Every other miracle Jesus helps someone but here He kills the fig tree. Ah but Jesus is helping someone. The disciples. Us. And don’t feel sorry for the fig tree. All creation exists to serve its Creator. The non human created world seems to understand better than people its purpose. And just like Passover lambs and sin offerings in Old Testament times were honored to be pictures that pointed to Jesus. This fig tree gets the honor of serving the Savior in His role as Savior. This isn’t the first time we’ve run into a fig tree. Jesus used one in a parable in Luke 13. Do you remember? Let me refresh you.  “Then He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

          The lesson of the fig tree is clear. The owner expects fruit. If it is not fruitful it loses its place. But Jesus is not talking about trees but people. If someone really is a believer, a member of Jesus’ church, it will show. There will be fruits of faith, evidence of a life changed by Christ. Anyone who claims to believe but has no actions that flow from faith is not a believer. Faith without deeds is dead. No faith at all. What did that look like in Jesus’ day? The Pharisees. The chief priests. The teachers of the law. They talked religion all the time but they rejected what their religion proclaimed, the Savior Jesus, and so their lives were marked by a singular lack of love for people and souls. What might it look like today? We come to church, at least once in a while, or only do it so we don’t get in trouble. We speak God speak and pray with our mouths but then go home to curse our spouse, sass our parents and post filthy words on Facebook. Question. When is a fig tree not a fig tree? Answer. When it has no figs. When is a believer not a believer? When there is no evidence. No fruits of faith. And just like the fig tree that had no figs withered and died at Jesus’ judgment those who look like believers but are not can expect the same sentence of eternal death come Judgment Day. Jesus’ miracle helps us because it forces us to examine our own lives. Do actions match words? Is there a desire to obey Christ’s commands? The owner expects fruit.

          And thanks be to God we can produce it! “When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” I’m not sure I get it. The disciples have seen Jesus walk on water, raise the dead and heal all kinds of serious conditions and they are amazed that a tree could wither so quickly! I guess we aren’t the only ones who are slow to learn, huh? You notice Jesus doesn’t answer the question how but rather helps the disciples to see what a connection to Jesus can do. See faith itself actually does nothing. It’s what you have faith in that matters. I can trust my ability to dunk a basketball all I want but if I don’t have springs in my legs (which I don’t) my faith can’t do anything. But our faith is in Jesus who can do so much more than dry up useless fig trees. Jesus can move mountains and greater things than that. Only Jesus can challenge us to ask Him to move mountains. But like with the fig tree moving mountains isn’t really the point. Seriously what good gets accomplished by moving mountains around? There is a lot of good that can be accomplished through faith in Jesus. You can for instance forgive. You can let go of that mountain of hurt and pain another has caused you and give it to Jesus so you stop hurting people in your lives. Have you asked Him to help you? You can overcome addictive sins which can seem like impossible to climb mountains, sins like pornography, alcohol or drug abuse. You’re connected to Jesus. Have you asked Him?

          Brothers and sisters, today is not a today to look back with regret at all the things in your life you wish you would have done differently. Every past sin that has shaped your present, every squandered opportunity to do good that you left undone, every unkind word and act has been fully paid for by the miracle Jesus did on the cross, a miracle only Jesus could do. Today is a day to look ahead and to realize that your Lord Jesus is challenging you to use Him for your present and your future. Only Jesus could challenge us to move mountains because only Jesus has the power to back it up. And you are connected to Jesus. Amen!

Monday, February 19, 2018

February 17-19, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Romans 8:31-39 “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!”


LENT 1

February 17-19, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Romans 8:31-39



“WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!”

1.     God is for us.

2.     Who can be against us?



Romans 8:31-39 (NIV 1984) What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”



          Just in case you don’t watch the news and have not heard the theme song or seen the torch or five rings on a flag it is Olympics time across the world. The winter Olympics that is. With a competition that is held only once every four years the stakes are high as athletes from across the world who have dedicated their existence to their sport all come together with the same goal: Olympic gold, to be the champion. Many will dream. Few will be. The chances of any of us here becoming Olympic champions ranges from slim to none but God’s word tells us we are champions none the less. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” More than conquerors, literally super victors is what that means. We are the champions. Let’s find out why.

          The words of God before us serve as a kind of a crescendo, a culmination of the great things the Holy Spirit had Paul write down in the first 8 chapters of Romans. How man’s efforts could never make things right with God, how God had always then dealt with people on the basis of faith, trusting the promises of God to make things right through His Son Jesus, how all these things had been planned before the creation of the world so that we would know God works on the basis of grace. And then pondering all these great truths Paul points us back to them saying, What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” And then better than Perry Mason, in a lawyer like fashion with rapid fire questions that have obvious answers he makes it clear why we are the champions. God is for us.

          If you ever need proof in your life how valuable you are to God, if you need reassurance that He really loves you, yes even you, if your back is up against a wall and you are wondering if it will work out in any way at all, then take a Lenten journey with Jesus. Paul puts it this way. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” For you, God did not spare His own Son. For you. The first lesson today from Genesis showed us a man who did not spare his own Son when it came to showing his love and commitment to God. With Abraham and Isaac you can’t help but see a picture of God’s love for us, not sparing His own Son. In the Gospel lesson we heard the Spirit led Jesus out to be tempted making things worse with forty days without food. No, God did not spare his own Son and this is proof that God is for us. Follow Jesus during Holy Week and see the opposition, the cruel treatment and t mocking. No God did not spare His own Son. To understand the enormity of that one only needs to think of the lengths that parents go to spare their children heartache and disappointment and then ponder anew that while Jesus was tempted by the Devil God did nothing. He let it happen and when His Son was mocked and tortured God did nothing. When His Son was suffering the pangs of Hell the necessary price to pay for our sins God let it happen, He did not spare His own son but gave Him up for us all. There is the proof God is for us and since God is for us we are the champions. We win.

          That’s good news because there will be times we don’t feel like it, time when our opponents will look like they are winning, times when it looks like we are down for the count physically, spiritually, emotionally. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Who can be against us? Satan will try. He will go against us. His name means accuser, finger pointer. He reminds us of our sin. He charges us. “You are a champion all right, a champion at sinning. Why should God help you when you win gold medals in gossiping, bronze in back biting and silvers in selfishness.” But God is for us. Jesus is for us. He died to pay for sin. He was raised to life to prove his payment was accepted. He is at the right hand of God sticking up for us. Satan our enemy bites the dust. He can’t stand against us.

          Others will try to be against us. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Into the lives of champions trials come. Did you see that at one of the first events in this year’s Olympics? The Norwegians are calling it the miracle on snow. At the very beginning of a 30K cross country ski event first time Olympian Simen Krueger crashed. Other skiers fell on top of him. One of his poles broke. By the time he recovered he was in last place out of 68 skiers…and yet came back to win to be the champion and it was not even close.

          In our lives as believers we will have trials. The “as it is written” is a quotation of the Psalms reminding the Roman Christians and us that it has always been that way. Troubles and hardships happen in the lives of all believers. Paul had them. Shipwrecks. Unjust jailing. Concerns for sick co workers. You and I have them. Some of you have had to deal with cancer. Some of you have gone through the fears and worries of job loss. Some of you have dealt with the death of a child. Some with the ongoing heartache of family strife. And yet who can be against us? We are the champions. Eventually like with Simen Krueger those trials and hardships and heartaches are in the rearview mirror. With God for us we were brought through each and every one of them even though Satan threw his best at us He can’t stand against us.

          We are forced to accept the conclusion we want anyway. We are the champions. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With God for us death can’t keep us from heaven. Nothing life has either. Angels won’t try, demons will and will fail. Nothing going on right now, nothing that will happen in our future nothing in the skies above, nothing in the depths of the oceans below, nothing else can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus. Every opponent bites the dust and we are left standing, in Christ we are the Champions.

          In Christ. Good for us to remember. Olympic athletes can spend four years between Olympics training. They will compete and hope to win. In our case Jesus spent thirty three years for us, perfectly obeying to give us the status as righteous before God. Jesus went the grueling way of the cross and we are the champions. Very shortly the Olympics will go away. No more theme music, the torch will go out. Athletes will try to parley their medals into endorsements. Their championship glory will fade. Ours is yet to come when we reign with Christ in heaven. What shall we say in response to all this? How about, “Thank You Jesus.” And then let’s live lives that show it. Amen. 


Monday, February 5, 2018

February 3-5, 2018 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Deuteronomy 18:14-20 “WE’VE GOT IT SO MUCH BETTER!”


EPIPHANY 4

February 3-5, 2018

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Deuteronomy 18:14-20



“WE’VE GOT IT SO MUCH BETTER!”

1.     A better prophet.

2.     A better message.

3.     Are we any better?



Deuteronomy 18:14-20 (NIV 1984) “The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. 15The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him. 16For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I command Him. 19If anyone does not listen to My words that the Prophet speaks in My name, I Myself will call him to account. 20But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.”



          It seems the older I get the more I find myself longing for the “good old days.” Does that happen with you? It seems our minds have this ability to forget the hardships and struggles of the past and remember with longing simpler and easier times. Sometimes we are right. The good old days were better. Think of things like national unity and family time. But don’t forget war protests and gas rationing and fewer conveniences and not as good health care. The word of God before us today gives us a chance to compare God’s dealing with people in the good old days of the Old Testament to how God deals with us today. What we’ll find is those good old days weren’t so good at all. We’ve got it so much better!

          We join God’s people as their 40 years of wandering in the desert was nearing its end. If you recall, after God had freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them to their new home they had refused to enter it, refusing to trust God’s promise to fight for them and remove the people living there. As a consequence, to help them learn, God prescribed 40 years of wandering in the desert area to teach them to trust. Now as the time came for them to enter their promised land Moses gave them encouragements and warnings to keep them spiritually safe. “The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.” Garbage in, garbage out. You are what you eat. Be careful who you listen to. It will have an effect on you. God’s people were not to be like others who got their information, their beliefs and morals ultimately from the Devil. A good warning for us today. Who are you letting shape your opinions and beliefs? The people around us listen to polls and public opinion. God expects His people to listen to his prophets. The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him. 16For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

          Moses had been the prophet for God’s people. And the people were terrified. Moses had received the law from God on Mt. Sinai. The mountain shook. There was smoke and fire as God impressed on the people that He was serious about his laws. The people got it. They understood. They were rightfully scared of God’s anger and intimidated by what they heard. They didn’t want to hear from God directly. They wanted a go between, a mediator, a prophet. That had been Moses. But he would die. So God promised a better prophet. He would be like Moses in that God would speak directly to Him. He would also be a man. You and I know Him as Jesus. And you can see why we have it so much better. Jesus is better than Moses. Moses sinned. Moses lost his temper with the people. Moses fell into sinful pride. Jesus, our prophet, our spokesman for God, is God and man. He’s perfect. His love for us deeper than we can know. We have it so much better. We have a better prophet.

          We also have a better message. “The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in His mouth, and He will tell them everything I command Him.”  As God’s Old Testament prophet Moses told the people what God said. He delivered to them a two sided covenant. God gave the people laws to obey. God promised that if they obeyed them all unfailingly He would fight their battles for them. He would bless their crops and their herds. They would be healthy, wealthy and wise. Wow! The good old days. Obey God and become prosperous. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that set up where we as the obeyers of  God would get special earthly blessings? But it is important to remember that the promises of God extended only to perfect keepers of His law.

          We have it so much better. If you read only half of the Old Testament laws you know you would not want to live back then. All those laws in addition to the moral laws summarized in the 10 Commandments are impossible to keep. And that’s the point. God was helping the people see they could not do it. They could not keep a 2 way covenant. Only a one way covenant would work and it would all have to be done by God. That’ s what Jesus was commanded to say. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one, absolutely no one, comes to the Father except through me. I am the Resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. If you love me obey my commandments. Don’t obey because you are scared that the mountain is quaking and trembling obey because you came to me weary and burdened with sin and I cleansed you and gave you rest and now you love me in return.” We have is so much better. We have the full Gospel message straight from the lips of Jesus Christ.

          We’ve got it so much better. So, are we any better? That’s a soul searching question we each have to ask ourself. A quick read through the Old Testament will show you a people who were quick to abandon the God who loved them. They were like kids going through an idol candy store. Ooh, I’ll try this one. Baal looks fun. Ooh Asherah worshippers they seem to have it better let’s try Asherah now. Ooh, the Egyptians seem to prosper maybe their gods are better let me have  dozen of those.” The strict law message and the two sided covenant did not work. It was never going to work as long as sinful people were part of it. And God never wanted only outward obedience to begin with. He wants His peoples’ hearts. He set us up to be better to respond to Him because we love Him so He gave us a better prophet, His own son, God in flesh, with a better message. I love you! I forgive you. Love me in return.

          Are we any better? Are we doing better at giving God obedience that comes from love? In the good old days of the Old Testament if you didn’t worship each week you got stoned to death. People showed up in droves. But not always out of love for God. If you misused God’s name, if you committed adultery, if you were a persistently rebellious child you got stoned to death. But that didn’t mean obedience came from love. God said, “If anyone does not listen to My words that the Prophet speaks in My name, I Myself will call him to account.” God loves His Son. In the book of Hebrews we are told, “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Brothers and sisters, using the language of the unbeliever, dressing like the unbelievers, despising the Word and Lord’s Supper by putting other things, pursuit, hobbies ahead of them is a trampling of  the Son underfoot, and an insult to the Spirit of grace. We’ve got it so much better. Let’s each one of us today, commit ourselves to being better as our way to say, “Thank God for dealing with us through Jesus. Amen.