Thursday, February 18, 2021

February 17, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Luke 18:9-14 “HANDS OF REPENTANCE”

 

ASH WEDNESDAY

February 17, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Luke 18:9-14

 

          Our hands. They are super important. Think of the many, many ways we use our hands each and every day. Brushing your teeth. Using a spoon. Opening a door. Turning a page. Communicating. Actually our hands communicate a lot more than with typing. They can welcome or accuse. They can say victory or surrender. They tell you something about a person. If you shake my hand now you will get the softer hand of a man who does very little manual labor. If you had shaken my hand at the end of the summer I worked construction working with sun heated steel all day they would feel quite different. Because of the way our hands talk, for this year’s Lenten series we look at the Hands of the Passion. We begin with some hands that talk to us about the attitude of the entire Lenten season.

 

“HANDS OF REPENTANCE”

 

Luke 18:9-14 (EHV) “Jesus told this parable to certain people who trusted in themselves (that they were righteous) and looked down on others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple courts to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 “However the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but was beating his chest and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went home justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

          Jesus told a story. Two men were at the Temple in Jerusalem. They were there to pray. One was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the religiously elite of Jewish society. They looked to be more reverent, more obedient and more zealous that God’s law be obeyed than their fellow Jewish people. His prayer starts, “God, I thank you!” Ah this is going to be good we think. “Thank you, God,” is a great way to pray. Immediately we feel convicted remembering all the times we began our prayers with a gimme please! “God, I thank you.” If only, if only he had stopped right there. I’m reminded of the proverb “When words are many, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19). His prayer went on. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Now we are not told exactly what the Pharisees hands were doing at the time. Likely if he followed the cultural custom Paul described in his letter to Timothy he would have been looking up with hands extended up to communicate he was talking to God in prayer. I think we can tell though by his words what his hands were really doing—patting himself on the back. Thank you God that I, by my own power, am better than others. I do not steal. I do not do evil. I do not commit adultery. I do not extort money. The way the Pharisee saw it he had kept all the Commandments.

          Actually that’s not totally true. The Pharisee didn’t believe he had just kept the commandments, he blew them out of the water. He was extra. He went over and above and he reminded God of that. “I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of all my income.” The Law of Moses required faithful Jews to fast just one day a year. He was doing twice a week. He didn’t just give 10% of what he earned but 10% of what he received. We are not told why he prayed this way. Was it just following the normal sinful nature inclination to say, “Look at me! It’s all about me!?” Or was he maybe trying to convince himself he was as good as he was saying? We don’t know.

          Now our eyes turn to the hands of the other man. “However the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but was beating his chest and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” The tax collectors of Jesus day often used their position of authority to extort money from those who owed taxes. When the people heard Jesus mention a tax collector they would want to boo and hiss. If a Pharisee was considered to be religiously elite, a tax collector would be considered religiously undesirable. We aren’t told if this particular tax collector was one of those who extorted from the people. But we are told what his hands were doing. Beating his chest. No hands upheld in prayer. No eyes up to heaven to indicated talking to God. Eyes downcast. I’m not worthy. Hands saying the same. And a prayer to match. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” He knew who he was. A sinner. He did not deserve anything from God. He pleaded for mercy. That God in love would not treat him as his sins deserved.

          God be merciful to me a sinner. It’s a short prayer. Just 7 words in our language. But a powerful prayer. It was prayed to the almighty God and it came from a heart of faith, the kind God looks for. A broken and contrite heart he does not despise. Jesus tells us, “I tell you, this man went home justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

          Now remember when Jesus tells one of his stories called a parable, it’s important you know why he told it. He tells us why. Jesus wasn’t talking to a specific person or group of people. It was not a parable just for the benefit of tax collectors and Pharisees. “Jesus told this parable to certain people who trusted in themselves (that they were righteous) and looked down on others.” Do you know anyone like that? Parables with people kind of push you to look at yourself and say which one am I? Pharisee or Tax collector. Is the honest answer a little of both? How easy it is when we’ve gotten good at controlling the outward actions to look down on and despise the brothers and sisters who are weak in the outward things like worship or giving. As we advocate for God’s moral high ground how easy to wish people were more like us. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit and something like the Church Year season of Lent that whispers to us again, “But unless you repent you too shall perish.” How good it is to be reminded that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and the only one who has the right to look down is God and when He does what does He see? He sees me. And all my sins. God have mercy on me, a sinner.

          Now let’s shift our eyes to the third person in the parable. Wait. What? There’s no 3rd person. Yes, there is! The teller. Jesus. Look at his hands. His hands worshipped God perfectly all the time. His hands were used in obedience to his parents. His hands were used to keep every commandment perfectly not for his sake but for ours, for you. His hands were stretched out on a cross so he could receive punishment for the sins of the whole world, for you. His hands plead for you and me before our Father in heaven. Because of his hands we know that our prayer, “God have mercy on me a sinner,” is answered with an “Absolutely yes. I have had mercy on you and I want you to know it.” That’s why Jesus commissioned His followers1 to have hands that proclaim forgiveness. That’s why Jesus used His hands to put the power of mercy and forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper so our hands can take and eat and take and drink. And that’s why I can tell you that you will go home justified of your sins. God grant that we continue to humble ourselves before Him as we look forward to the time He will exalt us to heaven. Amen.

Monday, February 1, 2021

anuary 30-Feb. 1, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Hebrews 3:1-6 “JESUS IS BETTER!”

 

EPIPHANY 4

January 30-Feb. 1, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Hebrews 3:1-6

 

“JESUS IS BETTER!”

1.     Better than Moses.

2.     Better than ______.

3.     Better for you!

 

Hebrews 3:1-6 (EHV) Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, focus your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in God’s whole house. 3In fact, Jesus is worthy of greater glory than Moses, in the same way that the builder of a house has more honor than the house. 4For every house is built by someone, and God is the one who built everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant within God’s whole house by testifying to the things that would be spoken. 6But Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house. We are his house, if we hold on firmly to our confidence and the hope about which we boast until the end.”

 

          So there is this thing called “Mission Creep.” It’s when an organization, or a person, loses sight of their main goal or purpose in life by slowly focusing on other goals that aren’t their real purpose so that over time they go off mission and eventually become what they are not. An obvious example might be if a hospital emergency room department would say, “You know it’s good that we provide emergency medical care for people. They need that. But you know what they also need? A good oil change for their cars. So let’s put up an oil change shop and when people drive up we can ask what they are here for, direct them the right way. Who knows? Maybe they can come for one and stay for the other!” I think you can see that you probably don’t want to go there for medical care or an oil change. Mission creep has set in. They lost their focus.

          It gets a little more insidious if you have an enemy trying to help you lose focus. One of the silly kids’ movies my girls and I liked to watch and re watch when they were young, and still now, is called Labyrinth. For a teaser to lead you to watch it I’ll just throw out there it has a “Bog of Eternal Stench” in it. In that movie a girl needs to find her lost baby brother. But someone does not want her to. So this enemy keeps trying to divert her attention to her old favorite doll or teddy bear, anything but her baby brother. And friends we have an enemy who has been trying hard to get us to lose focus and I fear he has had some success.

          I’m talking about the Devil and of course this is nothing new. The Word of God we are looking at comes from the letter written to the Hebrews, specifically to Jewish Christians who were living sometime before 70 AD. They were experiencing mission creep, loss of focus, helped along by the Devil who was using government persecution of Christians to try to get believers to give up on Jesus. Just in this section of the letter look at the appeal to every Christian to avoid mission creep and to stay focused. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, focus your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 6But Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house. We are his house, if we hold on firmly to our confidence and the hope about which we boast until the end.” The words are addressed to the believers individually.

          They were tending to focus more on Moses. Now if you were an Old Testament believer Moses was your hero and for good reason. You read about his leadership of Israel out of slavery. You heard how God used him to establish the nation of Israel. You know how God used him to give the Old Testament law. How could Moses not be your hero? But God had the writer make it clear. Jesus is better, better than Moses. “He (Jesus) was faithful to the one who appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in God’s whole house. 3In fact, Jesus is worthy of greater glory than Moses, in the same way that the builder of a house has more honor than the house. 4For every house is built by someone, and God is the one who built everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant within God’s whole house by testifying to the things that would be spoken. 6But Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house.” It wasn’t that their passion for Moses was bad or wrong. It’s just Jesus is better! Moses faithfully served God. He did his job. God used him as a servant. He pointed to what was coming. Bu the greater prophet he spoke of was Jesus. The one the Law of Moses showed was necessary and pictured was Jesus. Moses was a servant. Jesus is the Son. Moses gave the Law. Jesus gave salvation. Watch out for mission creep, Hebrews. Don’t be more passionate about Moses than you are Jesus. Keep your focus on Jesus. Jesus is better.

          Now I seriously doubt that any of us have Moses as our hero or that we are so enamored with the Old Testament laws we want to go back to living like that. And yet the enemy, the Devil is still working in our hearts and lives to lead us off mission, to get us to lose our focus. Please don’t misunderstand me with what we talk about next.  I’m not saying it is wrong to rally around other people or to have causes that are important to us for one reason or another. It’s just that those we rally around or the mission we take up dare not, can not, better not have a bigger place in our hearts and lives than Jesus and the mission He laid out for us. To do so is idolatry. And we are letting the Devil lead us around by the nose.

Just consider this past year. Was President Trump your hero or President Biden? Depending on what issues were most important to you one or the other may have been. And it is good for Christians to care about politics and to serve our country by being active and informed voters but if our passion for a man is greater than our passion for Jesus that is a problem. It is sin. “No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said. Whose mission gets the lead story on your social media? Or how about social issues like feeding the poor or that all people be treated as people with respect and not prejudged by a skin tone or the job they do? It’s great for us to care about the physical well being of others and to do something about it if we can, but we have lost focus, we are off mission, if we let those causes supersede people’s real need for Jesus and the mission Jesus gave us. “Be my witnesses,” Jesus told you. I was reminded of that recently when I heard a quote from atheist entertainer Penn Jillete of the famous illusionist duo Penn and Teller. He has no time for the Bible and Christians. But you know what he said? He said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” So if some social issue is getting all your attention and time and money and you are not doing more to warn sinners against Hell and to tell them about Jesus don’t sit there thinking you are such a loving person. You are not. You are a hater. Even an avowed atheist recognizes that.

Again, do not misunderstand. It’s great for us to have passion for helping others in all sorts of ways. It just cannot be greater than our passion for Jesus and His mission because Jesus is better. And he told us “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” Where is your treasure? What does God see as he looks at your money budget, your time budget, the content of your social media? Think about all the talk time and money that has been spent on Coronavirus. What if the good God intended this virus to be a worldwide call to repentance before the end comes? Makes you think. Repentance is sorely needed. It was nice to see at the Presidential Inauguration a moment of silence taken to remember the some 400,000 lives of mostly elderly Americans whose deaths are listed as Covid related. But you know what I missed? A moment of silence for estimated 600,000 American babies who were murdered through abortion last year. I say estimated. You know why? Because while you can fairly easily find on the CDC website the number of deaths that are Covid related in 2020 you know what you can’t find? Abortion deaths. Their last estimate was 620,000 abortion deaths in 2018. Apparently those deaths are not important enough to be tracked. What does that say about a society and a government that does not actively protect its youngest and most vulnerable citizens? It needs to repent.

You know a good example of how to be involved socially and stay on mission is WELS Lutherans for Life. Several Jacobi ladies volunteer there. In our school that is the 3rd quarter mission project. This group not only provides pregnancy counseling and physical support for women who are in such desperate straits that they are contemplating abortion but they also do what they can to tell them about Jesus. They get it! They are on mission. Both/and but most importantly Jesus. For if we save a life for earth that is great. But to save one for eternity is better! Or don’t we believe what Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

          Jesus is better! Better for you. Because only Jesus takes you to heaven. You know those babies we save from the abortionist’s knife? Eventually they will die from something. If you get Covid and recover, you’re still going to die from something. Those whose earthly lives we make better by fighting poverty or hatred? Still going to die. Because the wages of sin is death and all have sinned. Only Jesus takes away sin so whatever you come up with to fill your heart, Jesus is better. He’s better for you because He takes you to heaven. He’s better for everyone else as well. He’s their only way to heaven. You know that. Others need to know that. You are a walking talking witness for Jesus.  No wonder the Devil works so hard to distract us with lesser good causes and to lose focus1. No wonder the Holy Spirit warned against mission creep. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, focus your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Amen.

Monday, January 18, 2021

January 16-18, 2021 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 “GOD’S STILL SPEAKING!”

 

EPIPHANY 2

January 16-18, 2021

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

 

“GOD’S STILL SPEAKING!”

1.     In the midst of a mess.

2.     Seeking those who are listening.

3.     Empowering those who will make a difference.

 

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (EHV) The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days. Prophetic vision was not common. 2Now it happened that Eli’s eyes had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see. Once when Eli was lying down in his place 3and God’s lamp had not yet gone out, Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s ark was. 4The Lord called Samuel, and Samuel said, “I am here.” 5He ran to Eli, and said, “I am here, sinc100e you called me.” Eli said, “I did not call. Lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6Then the Lord called once more, “Samuel!” So Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “I am here, since you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son. Lie down again.” 7Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord’s presence, that is, the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel for the third time. So he got up and went to Eli and said, “I am here, since you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the young man. 9So Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and once again lay down in his place. 10The Lord came and stood there and called as he had the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

 

SILENCE! UNCOMFORTABLY LONG SILENCE!

 

          Silence can be deadly. School kids know that when they have angered their teacher to the point of silence it is not good. Silence can be uncomfortable. Were you wondering if I was OK? Did it scare you a bit? Those types of silences are not good. But there is a far worse one. Silence from God. Listen to this judgment that God pronounced on Old Testament Israel through the prophet Amos. “Look, the days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine into the land—not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but rather a famine of hearing the Words of the Lord. 12 People will stumble from sea to sea and from north to east. They will roam back and forth seeking the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12 EHV) Why did that happen? The people of Israel consistently and persistently refused to listen to God’s Word. So He took it away. That’s a horrible judgment. No word. No faith. No faith. No salvation.

          But that is not the time we live in, is it? God’s still speaking. Just like He was still speaking at the time of Samuel even though it was a messy time for a believer to live. Samuel lived at the end of the time of the Judges. Do you remember how that was described? “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” There is some pretty nasty stuff described in the book of Judges. Idolatry. Adultery. Dismembering a body. Morally a mess. Spiritually too. At the beginning of 1 Samuel Eli the priest saw Samuel’s mother silently praying at the Tabernacle and thought she was drunk. From that reaction you get the idea that happened a lot. People showing up drunk for church. Eli’s two sons, also priests, stole people’s offerings and seduced or sexually assaulted women who came to church. I remind you of this telling description of the times. The boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days. Prophetic vision was not common.” The word was rare, but not gone. God was still speaking in those messy times.

          As He is still speaking in our messy times. Someone passed on to me the prayer that was used to open the brand new session of Congress this year. Here is how it ended. “And dare I ask, oh Lord, peace even in this chamber now and evermore. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic god, Brahma, and god known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.” (Rep. Emanuel Cleaver D-MO). We should be so proud! You know what we got here? We got a stinkin’ spiritual pile o poo. What a mess! That got some negative publicity. More people loved it. It is representative of the spirit in our nation where many people are saying (and I hope this hurts your ears as much as it hurts my mouth to say it) “Shut up Lord. We’re talking now. We’ll tell you who you are and we make the rules of right and wrong.” How sad. And yet in our country, God’s still speaking!

          We might wonder why. Because He’s seeking those who are listening. At least one person was listening at the time of Samuel. Not the priests. Samuel. A boy, 10, 12, 14 years old. We’re not sure exactly. Remember his mom, Hannah, had prayed for him and promised that if the Lord would give her a son, she would dedicate him in service to the Lord. God did and she did and he did. When he was just a child, he began serving the priest Eli at the Tabernacle. He would serve God more. “Samuel!” he heard in the middle of the night. Samuel ran to serve Eli’s needs thinking he had called. But Eli hadn’t. A little later. “Samuel!” Up he went again to see what Eli needed. Again Eli had not called. And Samuel hadn’t yet had God communicate to him in this special way. A third time. God’s number. “Samuel!” Now Eli caught on. The LORD was talking. “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the young man. 9So Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” God was speaking seeking those who would listen and He found one in Samuel.

          God’s still speaking today. We have His word in book form, podcasts, devotions, services in person or online, Bible classes. He’s still speaking. And still seeking those who will listen. You are listening. First I have to urge you to take it to heart. God’s words are true. They will never lead you astray. Whatever He says, hard for you or easy, listen to it. And keep listening. You might feel like rolling your eyes and saying, “Pastor, we are not the ones you need to encourage to listen. It’s the ones who aren’t here, who aren’t watching online. They need to hear this.” True but you know I’ve seen some sad things. I’ve seen folks who at one time were listening just like you gradually become folks who stopped listening. It wasn’t that they got mad about something or liked some other church better. They aren’t listening anywhere. What happened? As far as I can tell when the Lord called, when the Lord invited the response was “Not now, Lord. I’m busy. I’ll listen later.” And then later never comes and if you and I think that same thing cannot happen to us we are fools. Today, God’s still speaking. So today is the day to be listening. That’s what God is seeking, those who will listen.

          And it is so important that we do because the Lord is seeking those who will make a difference. Samuel had a servant’s heart. But he was just a boy! Never say “just” when God is involved. God used Samuel to make a difference. He appointed kings and advised kings. This one little boy guided the course of the entire nation of Israel returning them to the Lord. He was directly involved in God’s plan to bring the Savior Jesus into the word. In God’s hands Samuel was a difference maker. That’s why God spoke to him.

          And why God’s still speaking to you. I know some of you are getting a little discouraged. You don’t like what you see happening in our country. Maybe you feel like giving up. Don’t listen. God is empowering you to make a difference. You make the difference simply by being a believer. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? For the sake of only 10 believers God would have spared those wicked cities. Kids, do you see what God did with Samuel? You are not too young. Your words matter. Who knows what God has planned for your future? And if we can make a difference in our country, make it a better place to live that’s great. But it’s not what’s most important. Everything on earth passes. Eternity remains. You are the ones God is using to make a difference in people’s eternities. You are proclaiming Jesus. You are doing that personally and through our work together. You are teaching little ones and adults. You are snatching souls from Hell. God’s word has made you a difference maker. You are not just an old lady or little girl, just high school kid or an electrician. You are feet and hands and voice of God.

It's no wonder the Devil does not want people listening. He has seen what God has done through His people. We have plenty of work to do and time to make a difference. So we won’t give up or give in to discouragement. You’ve heard it said, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.” They get that from opera. Not true. It’s actually not over until God goes silent. But He isn’t. God’s still speaking. So we will keep listening and He will use us to make the differences that matter most. Amen.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

December 31, 2020 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Job 1:20-2:10 2020: MAY THE NAME OF THE LORD BE PRAISED!

 

NEW YEAR’S EVE

December 31, 2020

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Job 1:20-2:10

 

2020: MAY THE NAME OF THE LORD BE PRAISED!

 

Job 1:20-2:10 (NIV 1984) At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth, going back and forth in it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

 

          I’ve heard a lot of sentiment about 2020 expressed as we’ve gotten closer and closer to a new year. Some of the TV New Year’s Eve shows ask you to join them in saying “Good-bye and Good Riddance to 2020” or “Let’s close the door on 2020 and never look at it again!” It’s cliché but you have probably heard it too. “2020: Worst Year Ever!” or “I can’t wait for this year to over.” To be sure there were plenty of negative aspects to 2020 that people complained about, maybe we complained about as well. With the coming of the coronavirus we went through shutdowns of businesses, in person church and school. People lost jobs and their businesses. Students lost graduation ceremonies. Sporting events ended. Mask mandates became the norm. Mental health has taken a huge hit. Then there were the race issues and everything that accompanied them. Protests, some peaceful, some not. Friends becoming enemies as they became as polarized on issues as the rest of the country. And of course politics in America did not get any nicer or more civil. It’s no wonder folks want to close the book on 2020.

          But brothers and sisters, our purpose tonight is not to complain but rather to worship and praise God for 2020 and to look forward with confidence. As Paul reminded us “If God is for us, who can be against us?” As Jesus urged us, “Stop worrying about your life.” That gives us a different perspective on 2020 than most Americans. We say “2020 May the name of the Lord be praised.” To see why we look at the life of one our brothers in faith, our brother Job.

          When we first meet Job in the 1st chapter of the book that bears his name “he had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants.” On one single day Job got the following news.  His oxen and donkeys were stolen and the servants guarding them killed, fire fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and killed the servants watching them, his camels were also stolen by raiders with more servants killed and then the worst news of all, his seven sons and three daughters were all killed when the house they were in collapsed. And we want to complain about a bad year?

Job’s response? “He fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” No way Job is going to get a newscasting or entertaining job in America today with an attitude like that! Where did that come from? Job is described as a man who feared God and shunned evil. Job respected God. He knew and trusted God’s wisdom and power. So when bad things by anyone’s standard happened to him he worshipped and praised God, trusting that everything God did or allowed had not just a reason but a good reason.

His troubles continued. Some things we don’t know a lot about. Angels presenting themselves before God. Satan also allowed. Satan given permission to try Job’s faith some more. “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” You all know how it is. It is easier to deal with setback and hard times when you are rested and feel good. But when your health is bad, and you can’t sleep…How do you sleep with sores all over your body? And then your closest companion encourages you to turn on God. Job’s response. “He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” What no “Good riddance 2020 BC!?

          Now there are some truths here we can take directly over into our own lives. We know where Job’s troubles came from, Satan. At the time Job didn’t. And yet they were allowed by God. And that gives us an insight into what was really going on here. This is a battle between God and the Devil. The Devil trying to make God look bad. The Devil trying to get God’s people to turn on Him and turn away from Him. God defeating the Devil’s plots and working good.

          I’ve heard the theories on coronavirus. No dispute it came from China. Was it by worker accident or a part of a much bigger sinister Chinese government plot? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out some day. You can pretty easily identify the nastiness in America over elections and race issues as stemming from people’s sinful natures, no doubt egged on by bad old Satan. But can you see the bigger picture, brothers and sisters? Did Satan present himself before God talking about you and me. “You’ve made their life so easy, no wonder they follow you. But take those things away and you will find out who their real god is. Will they be more upset over cancelled sporting events than worship services? Will their eyes be glued to their screens when sports return but not to their screens for online worship? Watch them turn on each other instead of showing love for one another.”

          Troubles are a test and a chance for us to show the Devil and others we trust what God sends our way because He’s already sent His Son our way. Just look at all the good God brought out of the troubles of 2020. Many churches, ours included, got a whole lot better at getting God’s word out through technology. Many Christians, us included, got better at devoting ourselves daily to God’s word  and taking the time to pray. Many Christians, including many Jacobians found extra ways to show love to others and help in time of need. I have never seen the level of donation to our Almoners Fund which helps members in need. People stepped up at church and school to keep the mission going online. People spent more time with family. Kids learned to appreciate school. Parents learned to appreciate teachers. We also were taught that box office hits and professional sports really aren’t essential. You can come up with many more. What do we say to that? 2020 May the name of the Lord be praised.

          And 2021 too. The difference between one year and the next temporally is really just one second. Some of you will be awake when that happens, some not. But while we sleep or countdown God will continue to be where He has always been and doing what He always does. He will watch over us and protect us. He will only allow what He knows and plans to work for good. He will continue to pour out on us His love. He will continue to thwart the Devil’s plans. And because, like Job, we respect God and his goodness and trust His wisdom and power, our view of years old and new is the same: May the name of the Lord be praised. Amen.