Monday, February 20, 2017

February 18-20, 2017 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Matthew 5:20-37 “SQUIRMIN’ ON THE MOUNT”


EPIPHANY

February 18-20, 2017

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Matthew 5:20-37



“SQUIRMIN’ ON THE MOUNT”

1.     Your hatred is murder.

2.     Your marriage harming is adultery.

3.     Your mouth is evil.



Matthew 5:20-37 (NIV 1984) “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.    27“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.      31“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.      33“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

          Have you ever been hit hard, right in the face? I have, by that wall right over there. Sometimes when I come home at night after a meeting and the north wind is blowing I like to take a “warm cut” through the church. Because I’m familiar with the layout of our church and don’t want to waste electricity turning on the lights I walk through in the dark trusting my instincts. One time though I misjudged. I don’t know if I subconsciously shortened my long legged stride or what but all of the sudden, Wham! Smack into the wall. My eyes were tearing.  I saw lights. I learned something that night. I learned that I’m not as good as I think I am at navigating like a bat. I learned I need the light. Well, brothers and sisters as hard as that wall is and is much as it hurt to run into it, the Law of God is harder and it hurts more when you run into it. Today we take up a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that I like to call Squirmin’ on the Mount. For if you listen with honest ears and read with honest eyes and think about yourself and not others, you will be squirmin’!

          Jesus is talking to people who had been taught that an outward keeping of God’s laws was good enough and that even then there were loopholes, justifications, for breaking God’s laws so that you weren’t sinning. Kind of like how we like to get righteously offended at murder and same sex marriage but maybe not quite so righteously offended at sins common to us. In the Squirmin’ on the Mount Jesus makes clear that the outward righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law was not good enough. In fact it was sin.

          “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” As I look out I see murderers. Remember the last time you got mad at someone and wished them harmed or out of your life? Murder. Or the time you got mad because someone else blew it, conveniently forgetting all your mistakes?  “Yes, but that’s not sinful,” you say. Anger might not be, but do you mean to tell me those angry thoughts came out of love? Only one other choice. Hatred. You are a murderer. Are you squirmin yet? Children, you murderers, you call names and make fun of a classmate because of their teeth or their hair or their clothes or how they act? You think it’s funny. God calls that hatred. You are a murderer. Are you squirmin yet? You think it’s OK to yell at your parents or get mad at your teachers and call them names when they discipline you? Hatred. Murder. Are you squirmin’ yet? Your hatred is murder.

          And your marriage harming is adultery. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Technically the word adultery refers to a married person sharing their sexuality with someone other than their spouse. Jesus points out that the law of God is much harsher than that. Any harming of God’s gift of the blessed joining of one man and one woman for life is adultery. Husbands who speak harshly to your wives you are adulterers. Wives who nag husbands are adulterers. Are you squirmin’ yet? Guys whose eyes linger at the models pictures in the checkout line, aduleterers. Porn on the computer, on the phone. Adultery. Are you squirmin’ yet? Friends with benefits. Sexting, suggestive text messages. Are you squirmin’ yet? I’ve never watched the Bachelor or Bachelorette so forgive me if I’m wrong but isn’t the goal there to have attractive men and women showing of their stuff with multiple makeout sessions and portray that as love. How does that uphold marriage? Adultery. Are you squirmin’ yet? I remember in the congregation I served in San Antonio a sweet little old southern belle asking in a Bible Class, “Pastor, just what is lust anyway?” I felt my face flush as I started to explain and think of appropriate examples and then stopped and finally just blurted out, “Well you know what it is!” Yes, we know what it is. Adultery. Are you squirmin’ yet?

          If the realization that you are a murdering adulterer doesn’t do it maybe the fact that you have an evil tongue will. “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Before this Jesus had talked about phrases that people use to try to get others to believe them. Let’s think about our phrases. “Oh my…” then you use God’s name. No big deal. It’s so common. It’s also blasphemy and comes from the evil one. Parents should I ask the kids to reveal how many of  you say that? Are you squirmin’ yet? Any other choice words?  What about the way we tell stories that make ourselves look good but others not so much or pass on the gossip not to get anyone in trouble but to do good. That’s evil. Are you squirmin’ yet? We like to think of child molesters as perverts but in the book of proverbs you know who God labels a pervert? A person who uses words to cause division and separate friends. (Proverbs 16:28) Are you squirmin’ yet?

          Now what’s the point? Why did Jesus get so harsh? Why does He tear away from us any pretense that we are good people and expose our sinfulness with such sharp words? Why does He make us squirm? He does it out of love. Like that wall with me the true law of God shows us we are not as good as we think we are. And we need the light of the world, Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn’t just expose us and leave us hanging out to dry like we do to others. He left Himself hanging and squirming on the Mount of Calvary when He paid in full for all the sins His words just exposed. All of our murder, all of our adultery, all of our evil and everything else Jesus took on Himself  and was punished for in full. And Jesus gives us His own righteousness that far surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law because Jesus is perfect.

Sometimes it takes a good hard smack in the face for us to learn. I walk much more carefully in here now. Still too cheap to turn the lights on. My prayer for all of us here today is that we learn to walk a little more carefully out of love for Jesus. Yes, our sins our paid for but that’s no reason to keep doing them. It’s reason to stop and fight and show Jesus we appreciate what He has done for us by being more careful with our words, more careful with what we let our eyes see and more careful with what we let into our hearts.  Ours is not to walk in the ways of the world but in the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ. Living by that higher standard is a privilege, not a right. Amen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 21-23, 2017 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: John 1:29-41 “ON LIVING LIVES THAT SAY, “LOOK!”


EPIPHANY 2

January 21-23, 2017

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: John 1:29-41



“ON LIVING LIVES THAT SAY, “LOOK!”

1.     Lives that attract.

2.     Lives that inform.

3.     Lives that connect.



John 1:29-41 (NIV 1984) “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the One I meant when I said, ‘A Man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ 31I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” 32Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. 33I would not have known Him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The Man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” 39“Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him. It was about the tenth hour. 40Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).”



          “Why am I here?” I’m guessing that most of you haven’t asked that question about yourself recently even though it’s a very important one. The question of individual and collective purpose has kept philosophers busy and employed for centuries. More recently a presentation I saw pointed to having a purpose in life as one of the key components of wellness. Perhaps if you are up there in years and your body isn’t working well you have asked, “Lord, why am I still here?” If you are wondering I have some Good News from God’s word for you today. As a redeemed and baptized child of God you are here to live a life that says “Look!”

          John the Baptist certainly understood his purpose. I’ve always wondered if John the Baptist and Jesus had any interactions as kids. They were close in age and related. Did they get to play together? Did John see Jesus when He went up to Jerusalem and stayed in the Temple at age twelve? I don’t know. At what point in life did John the Baptist know his God given purpose? We are simply told in all the Gospels that John appeared on the scene, that the word of the Lord came to him and he began preparing the way for the Lord by baptizing and preaching repentance. Take a look at a picture of what John might have looked like—out in the desert, wearing clothing of camels’ hair with a leather belt around his waist, eating a diet of locusts and wild honey, baptizing in the desert. Think about it. By appearance, diet and action John lived a life that said, “Look!” a life that attracted people to Jesus.

          How attractive are you? When you look in the mirror what do you see? Not the mirror in the bathroom at home but the mirror of God’s Word? Do you attract people to Jesus in your appearance, your diet, your actions? Let’s start with appearance, what you wear. Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Does that look like you? A Christian who goes around looking grumpy or mad or angry, a Christian who tears others down and uses foul language, does not attract anyone to Jesus. But as one of God’s chosen people you can dress each day with those characteristics that will. How about diet? What are you eating? Are you taking in God’s Words on a daily basis so they change you and shape you and strengthen you? What about actions? Do people see that you prioritize worship, that you pray, that you are a God dependent person? Professor Bivens in our Bible Class has reminded us of the importance of being authentic and transparent. Like John. People look for that and your purpose, like John the Baptist’s purpose, is to a live a life that says Look! Not look at me, but look at the one who changes me. Jesus.

          Attract, then you can inform.  “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the One I meant when I said, ‘A Man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ 31I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” 32Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. 33I would not have known Him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The Man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” When John the Baptist got the chance he informed. He made sure the people knew the purpose of Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

          You and I can do the same thing. When our lives attract people we get the chance to inform. It might be when they notice you are a church goer or when you tell them where your kids go to school or when you are wearing your soon to be released St. Jacobi wear, don’t just tell them wear, tell them why. Because Jesus takes away the sin of the world. It’s OK to let them know you sin. They already do! Tell them how good it feels to be forgiven. Always. Because of Jesus. You don’t have to answer every question others have or try to make Jesus appealing by hinting that the lives of believers are trouble free—they are not. Live a life like John’s that says “Look! It’s Jesus. He came to take away the sin of the world.” And He did just that when He gave His life, sacrificed like a lamb on the cross. We live lives that inform.

          And then hopefully lives that connect. “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” 39“Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him. It was about the tenth hour. 40Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).” You need to know your purpose. John understood his. He wasn’t interested in having people follow him. They were supposed to follow Jesus. Notice how he connected them. Look! He said. Follow Jesus. It continued with Andrew. He found his brother Simon. He made the connection to Jesus.

          That’s my purpose and your purpose, to live lives that say “Look!” so we can connect people to Jesus. I think that’s pretty obvious for someone who is called Pastor. It’s obvious for a family of people like our family at St. Jacobi. Why our budget is important and our work, how we look to the community. We exist to connect people to Jesus. But it’s your purpose individually and for your families too. It may not be so obvious because you aren’t called Pastor or named after an Apostle but it is just as true. You are here to live a life that says, “Look!” As a worker to your co-workers, parent to a child, children to parents, no matter what role God has a playing we’re here to say Look! Look at Jesus. Because when it comes right down to it, when the buzzer sounds at the end of a life or the end of this world the only thing that matters is Jesus who has taken away the sin of the world. Living lives that attract, inform and connect people to Him is the most important reason you are here. Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 7-9, 2017 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 17:11-19 UNCOMMON MERCY LEADS TO UNCOMMON GRATITUDE!


EPIPHANY/364 Days of Thanksgiving Sermon Series

January 7-9, 2017

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 17:11-19



UNCOMMON MERCY LEADS TO UNCOMMON GRATITUDE!



Luke 17:11-19 (NIV 1984) “Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14When He saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. 17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”



          Today we begin the Church Year season of Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates and focuses on the many ways Jesus was made known to be the true Savior, especially to Gentiles or non Jews. We are also joining with many of ours sister WELS congregations across the nation in a year long emphasis called 364 Days of Thanksgiving. Both come together today as God’s word has already pointed out how people would be drawn to the light of Jesus, how that message needed to revealed and proclaimed to Gentiles and how Gentile wise men brought gifts for Jesus and his family to use. The message of Jesus still needs to be proclaimed here at St. Jacobi, through our high school and our synod. And that happens when modern Gentile wise men bring their gifts. But something we can never overlook when it comes to Christian living and giving is motive. God wants it to come from a thankful heart. So that we have thankful hearts let’s focus on two things you don’t see every day: 1. uncommon mercy and 2. uncommon gratitude.

As we join Jesus he is heading to Jerusalem to complete His mission as Savior of the world. He came to a village near the border between Galilee and Samaria. Just as he is about to enter the village, ten men suffering from leprosy call out to him from a distance. Leprosy is uncommon today. Cases in the United States are extremely rare. But in Jesus’ day, it was more common. Since untreated leprosy can be spread by contact,  in Jesus’ day, a person who suffered from leprosy would be forced to live far away from other people in what were called leper colonies.

These lepers, though, had heard about Jesus. From a distance they yell out to him.  “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:13). It would not be uncommon for someone to feel sorry for those who have leprosy. What was uncommon was the mercy Jesus showed. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus actually reached out and touched a man with leprosy to heal him. That was unheard of. They were considered unclean. No one would go near them, let alone touch them. Who wants to look like that? But that didn’t stop Jesus. He told the ten lepers to show themselves to the priest. In those days, the priest was the one who would declare a person clean (or healthy) from leprosy. The priest would declare that person able to return to family, worship at the temple, and rejoin life in society. On the way to the priest, Jesus again showed He was the Messiah as He miraculously healed them. He didn’t just give them a few dollars or say a few sympathetic platitudes. He changed their lives forever. He gave them a new life—a new beginning. The mercy he showed them was uncommon.

Care to differ? Well let’s think about the mercy we show today. We may feel sorry for those who suffer, but what steps do we take to alleviate their suffering? Maybe we will send a few dollars to help those suffering from Ebola in Africa. Few if any of us, would leave our home and job and then fly to Africa to volunteer to be in the middle of the action being with and touching those people. That kind of mercy is uncommon. Maybe we will give a few dollars or some food to a person who is down and out, but how many of us will invite that one into our homes, provide a job, or spend a significant amount of time helping turn that person’s life around? That kind of mercy is uncommon. But that is the kind of mercy Jesus showed—to us. Remember why Jesus came. It was to live with the sin sick that repulsed His holy nature and then to be infected with the sins of the whole world on the cross! Jesus’ mercy is uncommon!

I heard of a church recently that stopped its giving tree. It used to put up a tree where members could bring gifts and toys to be donated to those in need. But they don’t do that anymore. Do you want to know why? The church members got frustrated because the gift recipients weren’t very grateful. Some of them would actually complain about what they received. Can you believe people would be like that?

You better, because we do the same thing--to God.  Jesus showed us the greatest act of love ever by sacrificing everything to win for us forgiveness and heaven. He suffered the whippings and beatings and mocking. He suffered the hellish punishment of his heavenly Father for all of our selfish sins that are all too common in each of us. And how do we so often respond? We fall into the same stupid and selfish sins. We seldom thank Jesus like we should. Yes, there are times we remember to say or sing a quick, “Thank you.” But most of the time we take his love and mercy for granted. And then we have the gall to get upset and frustrated when he doesn’t give us everything we want, when we want it. In spite of all that, our God continues to forgive us, to love us.

Wouldn’t it be better to respond to the Lord’s uncommon mercy with our own uncommon gratitude? After Jesus told the lepers to show themselves to the priest, all ten of the lepers left. Can’t you just picture what it must have been like as the lepers went to the priest? They noticed their joints no longer hurt. Their skin cleared up. They were healed. Can’t you just see them pick up the pace and begin to run? Their lives were completely changed. All ten had won the leprosy lottery! But then one of them stopped in his tracks. He turned around and ran back to Jesus, praising God in a loud voice. He fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. We aren’t told anything more about the other nine. We can only assume that they too were thankful. They just didn’t show it. That kind of gratitude is all too common.

Yes, even with us. For example we hear about a 16 year old girl tragically killed as she drove to school after Christmas break. It makes us realize how blessed we are to have people in our lives. We think to ourselves, “As soon as I get home, I am going to tell my children, my husband, my wife how much I love them. From now on, I am going to live each day as if it were their last.” But then a couple of hours pass. We get busy with our lives. By the time we get home, we forget to tell our family how much we love them. Nothing significantly changes. Or sometimes we come to church and the message of Christ’s uncommon mercy moves us. We feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God. We may even say a prayer of thanks to him. We think to ourselves about how we are going to change our lives—how from now on we are going to live for God. We imagine all the changes we are going to make. But then we get home and are distracted—by the TV or the bills or housework—and those feelings and thoughts quickly drift away. Nothing really changes.

Look again at the uncommon gratitude of that lone leper. He didn’t even make it to the priest. He could have been arrested for that, but he couldn’t help it. He had to go back to the source. He had to thank his Savior and God in an uncommon way. We can do the same. In 2017 let’s not be content with one day of Thanksgiving. Let’s add another 364! 364 days where we will strive for uncommon gratitude, showing our thanks to Jesus in ways that are above and beyond what everyone else does.  Don’t miss worship. Don’t just give what’s easy and won’t be missed. Don’t be like the millions of Christians who don’t bother to have the daily conversation with God in Word and prayer. Jesus showed He was the Messiah by word and deed. He has labeled us His Epiphany lights to in our time and our community by word and deed show that Jesus is our Messiah. We have a lot of things to be thankful for. We are recipients of uncommon mercy. We can now show uncommon gratitude. What ways will you pick? Amen.

Monday, January 2, 2017

December 31, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude “GLORIFY YOUR NAME!”


NEW YEAR’S EVE

December 31, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude



“GLORIFY YOUR NAME!”

1.     Can a child presume to choose?

2.     Can a Father’s love refuse?

3.     This alone shall be my prayer!



Have you ever had it happen that you get a song just stuck in your head, you keep coming back to it? Maybe you have some Christmas ones there right now. Well for the past year I’ve had the hymn we just sang stuck in my head. We sang it as the opening hymn for New Year’s Eve last year and the words, the meaning, the closing phrase just kept coming back to me. Glorify your name! What an honorable motto for us Christians to have stuck in our heads! Indulge me then as we use the hymn “Father, Let me Dedicate,” as our sermon text today.

Verse two begins, “Can a child presume to choose, where or how to live?” And now every parent here goes, “Bah! Yes, they can and do!”  Oftentimes against the advice and rules of parents children will presume that they know better than their parents. They will do their own thing. Yes a child can presume to choose where and how to live. But they shouldn’t, should we? You see the child alluded to in our hymn is not my child or your child but every child of God. Us!

Can we, have we presumed where and how to live? The sad answer is “Yes.” As we look back at 2016 we can all remember some of the times we presumed how to live. Our normal word for that is sin. We the children, told the Father, we knew best. He said, “Do not covet. Be content.” But we presumed to know better. We were dissatisfied. We let our eyes wander. The Father said, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,” but we presumed to know better. We talked how we wanted, perhaps with foul words to fit in, or stinging words to hurt. Father said, “Respect, obey, honor the authorities I put over you,” and again we knew better than Him. We had the right because they were wrong.

So what do you think our chances are for 2017 of fully following the Father? When after Communion we commit in our hearts to following what God says, of turning away from this sin or that one that we continually fight in our weakness, will we really be able to do it? Sometimes the answer is “Yes.” With the help of the Lord we can cut off and out of our lives some sins. Then others pop up. How can we glorify God’s name with our sin? Listen to a portion of God’s word from Joshua 7:19. “Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”

Some of you may recognize that verse from a portion of the story of the conquest of the Promised Land. When God led the Israelites to the Promised Land, their new home, the first time they refused to go in and conquer it. They did not trust God to keep His promise to fight for them. They presumed where and how to live. Their consequence for that sin was wandering around in the desert for 40 years. Moses died. God put General Joshua is in charge and told them to take the land. He would fight for them. The first test of their trust was the great city of Jericho with insurmountable walls. God made Jericho’s impregnable walls pregnable as they fell at His command. God’s command to the Israelites was that they devote everything in the city to the Lord, take nothing for themselves. But a certain child of God named Achan presumed to choose how to live and took some of the plunder of Jericho for himself. He tried to hide his sin. It did not work. Joshua told Achan how he could glorify God’s name after his sin. Confess it.

That’s what we can do in 2017. Our chances of living a sin free 2017 are exactly 0. We are going to fall into sin sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of weakness. Sometimes we’ll go running and screaming toward it like we are taking a polar bear plunge! Glorify God’s name. When He lets you know through your conscience or the voice of the Spirit in His word or through a truly loving friend or parent don’t pull an Achan and try to deny or hide. Give glory to God. Glorify His name and freely admit your sin.

Then what. Our theme hymn goes on to say in verse two, “Can a father’s love refuse all the best to give?” Now some who are children here are saying, “Yes, yes they do!” Some are nodding to that to tease their dad who while he is not perfect tries to do his best. Some sadly have experienced a human father who was not just a poor imitation of our heavenly Father, but no imitation at all. An earthly father’s love is supposed to lead him to provide the best for his children. Earthly fathers can’t always do that.

But the heavenly Father can and does. Listen to a portion of God’s word from John 12:23-24.  Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus spoke these words during Holy Week. He was going to be glorified. How? By His death. He used an interesting picture. For a kernel of wheat to give life it must die. But then it gives life to many. That’s our Lord Jesus. Can a Father’s love refuse all the best to give? Not when it’s the heavenly Father we are talking about. In His great love for us He gave His best, Jesus. Jesus was glorified as the Savior of the world. By His death He gave us life. Our Father gave us His best and His giving continues.

In Romans 8:32 we read, “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?” It’s simply heavenly logic. Since God has already given us the best in His own Son Jesus we can count on Him to give us all the rest of the things we need as well. Our hymn writer penned those truths. “Not from sorrow, pain or care, freedom dare I claim.” Sometimes God graciously gives us sorrow, pains and cares because they are good for us. They make or keep us God dependent. They help us let go something we are holding on to too tightly. They make us stronger or purer. Again to our hymn.  ”If in mercy you prolong, joys that now are mine, if on life serene and fair brighter rays may shine, let my glad heart while it sings, you in all proclaim and whate’er the future brings, Glorify your name. If you have for me a cross and its shadow come, turning all my gain to loss, shrouding heart and home, let me think you your dear Son to his glory came and in deepest woe pray on, Glorify your name.” In meaningful words the hymn writer sums up 2017. Our God may pour into our lives all the things that have brought joy so far and many more. He may have a hard road for us to walk just as He let Jesus walk a hard road. No matter what we can glorify God’s name by continuing to trust when things are hard and acknowledging the source when things go well. Glorify your name.

The final phrase that kept running through my head comes from the last part of the first verse. “This alone shall be my prayer: Glorify your name.” Now I don’t know about you but I can say for myself that I did a lot of praying in 2016. I can’t say that my only prayer was “Glorify your name!” There were some “Thank you”s and “I’m sorrys” and a lot of “Helps!” I suspect my prayer life in 2017 will sound similar. And I don’t think the hymn writer meant that “Glorify your name” would be the only prayer prayed but would be the desired year long attitude. What a great resolution to take into our new year. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) The Apostle Paul reminded us, “So whether you eat, drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) With every decision we make we can glorify the Lord, from what we eat and drink or refuse to, how we dress and won’t. The words we choose to use and refuse to use. All of them are opportunities to glorify God’s name. Look for them in 2017.

That’s why I hope the words of this hymn continue to stick in my head. They serve as a great reminder of why I am still here and so are you, to give glory to God. One added bonus for 2016. I recently learned there is going to be an extra second tonight. To keep up with the slowing of the earth’s rotation the official time keepers have added one second to the last minute of 2016. Any ideas on what to do with it? Glorify God’s name! Amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 25, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Galatians 4:4-5 “JESUS: GOD’S GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING!”


CHRISTMAS DAY

December 25, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Galatians 4:4-5



“JESUS: GOD’S GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING!”

1.     Jesus gives patience.

2.     Jesus gives trust.

3.     Jesus gives blessings that last.



Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV 1984) “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”



          This year the Christmas service prepared by our Early Childhood students was titled “The Best Gift of All.” To introduce the service I asked those present what would make something the best gift, what makes some gifts better than others? I ask you that today. Think of gifts you received. What about them makes some better than others? Well one reason might be the joy that a particular gift gives you. As a child I remember going through the Sears and Penney’s Christmas catalog and circling my favorites. I remember the joy when I got what I wanted. Maybe, though, you are more on the pragmatic side. So for you it is when you get a useful gift, something you really need, that tool or kitchen appliance that will make your work easier. This year a snowblower! Socks or underwear usually don’t make that list but I remember a time when they did. When you are a grade school boy going to school at a time when you have to change in the locker room with all the other boys for every gym class and practice and your mom accidently washes your white underwear with a deep maroon fringed bedspread with the result that all your whitey tighties  have now turned pink there is great joy in getting some useful new white underwear for Christmas. I guess the best gifts that we receive are the ones that bring joy and are useful. Today I’d like to add one more characteristic for a great gift. It’s one that keeps on giving, that doesn’t wear out, that lasts and keeps providing more and more joy. The only gift that fits is Jesus.

          Brothers and sisters, if we ponder Christmas all year long we’ll see that Jesus keeps giving us patience. Paul reminded the Galatians, “But when the time had fully come.” What made the time when Jesus was born the right time? Some people have looked back at history and tried to get into God’s mind and guess a little bit. For instance they note it was a time in history where there was a common language. After Alexander the Great had conquered much of the western world it became cool to be like the Greeks. Greek influence spread and Greek became the common language of commerce. That would make it easier to communicate the good news of great joy that would be for all people. They also note that at that time the Roman Empire was in charge and they built good roads and were ruthless in stamping out crime so there was relative peace and safety for travel. That all may be part of the big picture looking back but the real answer to why it was the right time was God said so. He knew. He knows all things.

          He knows all things in your life too. There are some things in life that God puts into our control, some timing issues we are in charge of. If you get an assignment at school like a research paper you are expected to get it done. Deadlines at work are like that too. But there are many things in life that are out of our control. God has reserved control of those things for Himself. Don’t sweat the timing. You don’t have to stress out about what is out of your control like when a job you wanted falls through or someone else buys the house you wanted. You don’t have to get all upset if some of your plans don’t happen because something out of your control stopped it. When the time had fully come, Jesus was sent. God knows for the big things and little things. Remember that about Jesus and get patience. Jesus keeps giving.

          The gift of Jesus also keeps giving us trust. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law 5to redeem those under law.” But why? Have any of you ever gotten into one of those discussions with a younger child? The one where no matter how you answer or what you explain they just keep asking why? Did you ever do that with God’s plan of salvation? But why? Why did God do it that way? Why did God’s Son become a man? Why did He have to die? In the few words I just read to you from Galatians 4 we get that glimpse of the glory and wisdom and power of God. He sent His Son. His one and only Son. While there are and have been billions of people there is only one true Son of God. Value. Born of a woman, born under law. That one and only Son of God became also fully truly human. This was no fake, no shell game. Jesus started in the womb and by natural birth saw the world outside the womb for the first time, drew his first breath, ate and grew like every other human being. By so doing Jesus was under law, that means subject to the law, obligated to obey God’s laws for mankind just like every other human being. And to what the Devil thought was his delight able to die like every other human being.

          What was God doing here? To the Devil this didn’t make sense. But God’s plan was perfect. He is God and one aspect of being God is that He is just. When He says something, He means it. The guilty get punished. The innocent go free. How could God remain just about the soul that sins shall die and in love spare the people He loves so much? A substitute. Someone would have to be punished to maintain God’s justice. Someone would have to be perfect. In a brilliant exhibition of His love and wisdom God came up with a plan to redeem those under the law. He wrapped His Son in human flesh and lay Him in a manger so that He could live a perfect life as our substitute and then get wrapped in cloths and laid in a tomb after giving his life as our substitute. Brilliant. God knows what He’s doing.

          And that’s another way that Jesus is God’s gift that keeps on giving. As we look at what God did with Him we keep getting trust. How will this ever work out? A loved one falls and breaks a hip. A loved one is diagnosed with cancer. The layoff notice comes. Look at Jesus. Learn to trust. See the helpless baby lying in a manger. Do you doubt God’s wisdom? He is so vulnerable. No, He’s part of God’s plan. See He walk to the cross. Watch Him suffer in silence and refuse to come down. Look at Jesus. Learn to trust. God’s plans are perfect and they always work out for the good of those who love Him just as He promised.

          Jesus is God’s gift that keeps on giving. He provides blessings that last. Most gifts we receive don’t last. Clothes wear out and don’t fit anymore. I asked the 8th grade students about how long a new video game that just came out and every had to have would hold their attention. Answers ranged from a couple of months to a week. They don’t last. Even if you got that brand new Lexus with the red bow on top, it wouldn’t last. Door dings, corrosion from salt all take their toll. Eventually that new car smell goes away and even the new car air freshener can’t really match it.

In Jesus we receive gifts that last. Paul put it this way:  that we might receive the full rights of sons.” To the ears that first heard this people who thought they could never inherit and could never be any more than slaves or third class citizens this was exciting news. Full rights of sons meant protection, legal rights, inheritance. God is pointing out that by giving the gift of Jesus we have blessings that last. We have the right given by God to call him Father, Abba, and to know that he hears and answers our prayers always and only for our good. We have the right to the protection of his guardian angels, ministering spirit sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. We have the inheritance of heaven awaiting us. Heaven where the best this earth has to offer pales. What are gold and diamonds worth in heaven? Who needs a new car or money? Heaven where nothing wears out and our bodies work perfectly and where we enjoy eternity with all be believers around the throne. Heaven where we see Jesus face to face and we won’t have to ask “But why?” because we’ll know.

Our gift giving at Christmas is meant to be a reminder of what God gave us. I hope you receive some things that you need and things that you want. Some things that will give you joy and that joy will last beyond a day or two. But when you are saying or writing your thank yous, remember to thank God for Jesus, His gift that tops them all, His gift of which the others are just pale reminders, His gift that keeps on giving. Amen.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November 30, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 1:46-55 “GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS!” LIKE MARY DID WITH MEANINGFUL PRAISE.


MIDWEEK ADVENT 1

November 30, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 1:46-55



“GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS!”

LIKE MARY DID WITH MEANINGFUL PRAISE.

1.     It comes from a humble heart.

2.     It focuses on the great things God has done.



Luke 1:46-55 (NIV 1984) “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name. 50His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.”



          Important events require preparation. If you hosted the Thanksgiving meal this year you just went through it. If you are planning on getting married you are in the midst of it. Even all the secular or extras of Christmas, the parties, the presents, the decorating calls for proper preparation. It’s even more true when it comes to celebrating the real message of Christmas. This year for our Midweek  Advent services we will focus on getting ready for Christmas by looking at the ways some of our more well known fellow believers did so in the past: Zechariah, Joseph and today we begin with Mary.

          Mary had something to get ready for, the birth of her first child. I’m guessing there were no gift registries for her to fill out, no prenatal doctor’s visits. I wonder if they didn’t have something like a baby shower. But Mary’s preparations for Jesus’ birth were very meaningful. When the angel Gabriel had told Mary she would be the mother of the Savior, he also told her that her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary hurried to see her. When Elizabeth saw Mary by the Holy Spirit’s power Elizabeth recognized the Mary would give birth to the Savior and greeted her that way.

          That’s when Mary responded with the words of our text. They are more well known as the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. Now when the Holy Spirit chooses to write down a song of praise in Scripture we should take note. It’s important and God pleasing.  All praise is not. For instance one strategy to help children and adults alike to learn to speak nicely to each other is to require what are called three build ups for every one put down. So if a child says to another, “Your hair looks funny.” That is a put down. Next would come three build ups, three praises. A child who wasn’t really into the spirit of things might say, “You’re lucky to have me in your class.” Yeah, that doesn’t really cut it. It’s not meaningful praise.

          What does Mary’s song of praise teach us about meaningful praise? First for praise to be meaningful it needs to come from a humble heart. Mary had one. “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name.” Mary knew who she was. She was a sinner. She needed God to save her from her sins and so she calls Him Savior. She realized she deserved nothing good from God. She calls herself His servant. She realized that every good thing she received from God was a privilege, not earned or deserved. Certainly being chosen to be the mother of the Lord was a great privilege and honor. This praise from God that flowed from her mouth started in a humble heart.

          Brothers and sisters, this is how we can get ready for Christmas. Make sure we have humble hearts. Like Mary let’s understand who we are, sinners deserving God’s punishment whose only chance to avoid that punishment is the Savior, Jesus. And that we are servants whose very relationship to God is a privilege. Now apply that to worship. Why are you here? Did you have to go to church? Do you really think that God can’t keep church pews warm without your behinds on them? Does God need your worship? Will He die without it? During Holy Week Jesus reminded the Pharisees who wanted Jesus to stop people from praising Him that the very stones would cry out. No, God doesn’t need us. We need Him. Our heartfelt praise pleases Him. A humble heart is grateful that God accepts our presence in His house. It doesn’t “have” to be here. It sees the extra worship of God this time of year as blessing not burden. As you do all your other preparations get ready for Christmas with a humble heart. Know yourself. A sinner deserving punishment. A sinner who sees that every good think in life is a privilege, not an entitlement. Meaningful praise comes from a humble heart.

          Now let’s move on to the content of our praise. Mary shows us that meaningful praise focuses on what God has done. “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.” What has God done? He extends mercy. He brings down those with arrogant hearts who think they run things. He lifts up those who are humble. Those who are hungry, in this context it means those who realize they lack what God requires, he blesses. But the rich, those who think they don’t need God, go empty. He remembers His mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever. Here is the heart of the matter. It revolves around the Savior, the promise made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and to the rest of the descendants all the way down now to Mary. A Savior would be born, the one through whom all the nations of the world are blessed.

          Mary’s meaningful praise focused on what God had and would do through Jesus. This is a big book. There is a lot in it. It tells us very clearly what God expects from us. It helps us see where we sin. It instructs us on holy living. But it’s first and foremost focus is on Jesus, on what and why God did what He did. As Mary’s meaningful praise reminds us it begins with God’s mercy. God sent Jesus because He is so good not because we are so good. He loves us in spite of our sins. God sent Jesus because He is faithful to all His promises even though we are not. He sent Jesus because we need His help. He doesn’t need ours.

          But He loves our meaningful praise. As you get ready for Christmas keep making the time to focus on what God has done in Jesus. Focusing on ourselves is kind of like the kid whose build up is “You’re lucky to have me!” Doesn’t cut it. “God, I’m blessed to have you!” does. Whether this is your first Christmas focusing on the real meaning of Christmas or your 91st, like Mary, savor what God has done for you. Then you can praise Him for it. You’ll be ready for Christmas. Amen.


Monday, November 21, 2016

November 19-21, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 23:35-43 “JESUS IS THE KING!


CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY

November 19-21, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 23:35-43



“JESUS IS THE KING!

1.     Even though many reject Him.

2.     Even though it may not look like it.

3.     Great news for those in need of mercy.



Luke 23:35-43 (NIV 1984) The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” 36The soldiers also came up and mocked Him. They offered Him wine vinegar 37and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” 38There was a written notice above Him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39One of the criminals who hung there blasphemed Him: “Aren’t You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”



          We’ve come to the last Sunday of the church year, the last Sunday of what’s called End Times. It’s fitting that the words of God we focus on today direct our attention to what comes last and will last. Jesus is the King. When He comes at the end of the world He will be recognized by all as the king. Every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is how it will be because Jesus is the King. But that’s not how it is now. Nor is it the way it has been, is it? Today we go to a portion of God’s Word that is often read during the season of Lent that help us to keep believing, keep rejoicing in and keep trusting Christ the King.

          He is king even though many reject Him. Now rejecting something good and valuable is not uncommon or unique. Any of you who have watched the Antique Road show know that they regularly ask people where they got their prize. Many buy them at garage sales for a few dollars and are delighted to find out their find is worth thousands. Just consider these whoppers: In 1999, a Wisconsin man paid only $29 for a painting by Martin Johnson Heade that gave him an $882,500 payout. Teri Horton, a truck driver, bought a painting for only $5 that she claimed was “ugly” that she was going to use for a dartboard. The painting turned out to be by famed abstract painter Jackson Pollock. She has been offered $9 million. But this could be the biggest. A man paid $45 for a collection of negative photographs. The photographs are said to be by Ansel Adams and if they really are they could be worth up to $200 million dollars. One man’s trash is another’s treasure.

          Sounds odd to apply that to Jesus but that’s how many treat Him. As trash. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” 36The soldiers also came up and mocked Him. They offered Him wine vinegar 37and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” 38There was a written notice above Him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39One of the criminals who hung there blasphemed Him: “Aren’t You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” Many people were there when Jesus was crucified. The people of Jerusalem, the religious rulers of the Jewish people, the soldiers whose job it was to carry out the crucifixion. The criminals who were also being crucified. What was the most common reaction to Jesus? He was rejected. It didn’t make any difference that the sign was partially right. Jesus is the king of the Jews and everyone else. They still rejected Him. He was trash. Not worth anymore to them than cruel entertainment as an object of mockery. But even though they rejected Him Jesus is still King.

          Let’s flash forward to today. How do many view Jesus? Some at least call Him a good teacher. Some wonder if there was a real Jesus. Some kind of make up their own Jesus taking all the loving parts but ignoring the parts where Jesus talks very plainly about the reality of Hell. But viewing Him as the King of kings? Not many see Him that way or treat Him that way. He is rejected. But just like selling a Jackson Pollock painting for $5 does not make it only worth $5 but rather exposes the foolishness and ignorance of the seller the fact that Jesus is rejected by many as King does not change the fact that He is the King. For He is!

          Even though it may not look like it. What do you think a king should do? Clearly the people gathered around Jesus at His crucifixion had in their minds what a king should do. “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” “Aren’t You the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” Did you pick it out? What a king should do, what Jesus should do to prove He was king was save Himself. That’s what people in power do. They think of themselves.  If Jesus were a king he would come down from that cross. But Jesus didn’t do that. It didn’t look like He was in charge.

          But Jesus didn’t come down because He is the real King. He thinks of the good of others first. He stayed on the cross because the King had come to give His life to atone for the sins of all people, even those who mocked him here. Even those who are clueless about what Jesus, the Messiah, the Chosen one, the King was sent to do.

          Remember that the next time you are tempted to ask Jesus to come down and prove He is king to you. Oh, we don’t do that blatantly but subtly in our complaining. How long will you let those people get away with it? Come down and take care of it! Why don’t you help me the way I think is best? If you love me you will do as I ask. Jesus is the King even though it may not look like it or his actions and decisions for our world don’t seem to be right in our eyes. Jesus is the King and He does not owe us explanation for why he lets terrorists get away for a short time with their evil or lets Christians be martyred. He is the King and is ruling for our good even when it doesn’t look like it.

          Jesus is the King and this is Great News for those in need of mercy. One person at the crucifixion is different from the others. “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” We aren’t told how or when the Holy Spirit worked in this man’s heart. He was a criminal and to have earned crucifixion he was not a nice or first time criminal. Perhaps his stay in jail or his impending death caused him to remember what he had learned in Sabbath school about the Messiah. This man knew who he was, a criminal who deserved punishment. He knew who Jesus was, the King. And he asked for mercy. “Jesus, remember me.” And he got it. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” You see that’s what the full revelation of Jesus’ kingdom is, it’s paradise and in the famous words of Handel’s Messiah, “And he shall reign forever and ever.” What great news for that criminal.

          And what great news for other criminals. That man next to Jesus on the bench may not look like a criminal, but he is. Look around you. You are probably not sitting near any murderers or bank robbers, maybe a speeder or two. But you are surrounded by criminals and are one yourself. So am I. Criminals do crimes. A crime is breaking of the law. And we have all broken God’s laws many times. Have you sassed your parents? Do you make them threaten you before you obey? You are breaking God’s laws. You are a criminal. Are we really putting God first? Do we really care just as much about the other guy as we do ourselves? Are other people’s children just as important to us as are own? We’ve broken the law. That makes us criminals. We deserve whatever punishment we get.     But because Jesus is the King we don’t get what we deserved. He stayed on the cross. He took our punishment. We get mercy and the day is coming for each one of us that He will say, “Today is your day. Welcome to Paradise!” So says the King. Amen.