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John Part Thirteen

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Lament But Hold God to His Promises

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Pentecost 6                                              Trinity Lutheran Church

1 July 2018                                                Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Lamentations 3:22-33

 

What word do you hear in “Lamentations”? Yes, that’s right: “lament.” A lament is a sad song. A hymn or prayer full of deep grief. A dirge. A requiem if you will. As you sing and pray it you cry. Weep. Wail. There is the outburst of incredible heartache, angst and pain. Like when a precious loved one or a good friend dies. You lament in the face of death, pain or some other trial. So too the Old Testament nation of Israel! Israel has experienced a single tragic event: the fall of Jerusalem.

 

In the Book of Lamentations teardrops stain line after line. Choked-up sobs and unrestrained wailing echo and reecho from stanza to stanza. Sustained laments and almost endless cries of anguish and pain. Israel has suffered the devastatingly cruel ravages of war. All is in shambles. Shattered. Israel is as good as dead. Can she go on? Can you? No doubt you’ve suffered immense woe when you’ve lost a dear loved one or when some illness or other kind of tragedy ruins your life. If you haven’t yet, you will.

 

In these troubled times it feels like you’re locked up in a dark, tightly sealed chamber of horrors. You feel like the Lord Himself is tearing you apart like a grizzly bear or eating you alive like a great white shark. You feel like God is never-endingly shooting arrow after arrow into your back. You feel like everyone’s laughing at you, mocking you and judging you. In fact, when you’re at your lowest, you’re tempted to believe that God’s existence and gracious help is only a delusion, a mirage. And you feel like the biggest nimrod in the world.

 

St. Paul, however, in Romans 15:4 tells us that all Old Testament Scripture “was written for our instruction.” Written for our instruction! So learn from Lamentations today. Indeed! Learn what to do when you face an overwhelming illness, catastrophe, trial, tribulation or death. Learn what to do when it appears that God is silent, that God isn’t listening or that perhaps God is even standing against you and not for you.

 

I’ll cut right to the chase and give you the answer. Here’s what you do. Do not drown in despair. Instead, depend on God all the more. Trust God’s Word of promise! Especially from today’s text: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.”  

 

Did you hear that? With those words you get in God’s face and say with all boldness and confidence: “But you promised!” You stick like a cockle burr in God’s hair and cry out: “But you promised! You said your love is steadfast! It never ceases! You said your mercies are forever!”

 

With the Lamentation promissory sermon in your ears and heart you wrestle with God like Jacob did in Genesis 32 and you don’t let go until God blesses you according to His Word of promise. You get in God’s grill just like childless Anna did when she cried profusely as she prayed from the heart from a child (1 Samuel 1:12-13). Be like the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 who refused to be silent even when Jesus wouldn’t even say a word. Be like Jairus whose daughter was at death’s door and died. Be like the woman that had been subject to bleeding for 12 years and was getting worse (Mark 5). You cry out! You lament. But included in your lament is faith that prays and holds God to His promise. Prayer that prevails! Upon God! Again, be like Jairus who fell at Jesus’ feet and “pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him.” And even when Jesus finally arrived, finding Jairus’ twelve-year old daughter dead, when all seemed lost, Jesus said, “‘Talitha koumi!’” He raised her from the sleep of death. That’s His cup of tea you know: raising the dead!

 

Now, I’d better get back to Lamentations. It’s incredible. It joyfully blows my mind! In the face of utter destruction and bitter death FAITH does not despair but pursues God. Faith does not give up but insists. Faith does not let go but clings. Faith insists on God’s generosity. Faith doggedly hopes and cries out for what appears to be unexpected and impossible. Since “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; [since] His mercies never come to an end,” … “I will hope in him.” Since “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; [since] His mercies never come to an end” I will “wait for him”; “seek him.” I will “wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

 

In fact, and this is really joyfully mind-blowing, “it is good for a man that he bear the yoke [of disaster/catastrophe/trial/tribulation/even death] in his youth.” Why? Here’s why. As you “sit alone in silence,” as you “put your mouth in the dust,” as you “give your cheek to the one who strikes,” and as you are insulted, YOU LEARN TO REPENT OF YOUR SINS AND MOST IMPORTANTLY TO TRUST IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST who “has compassion” and gives you the “abundance” of His Good Friday “steadfast love.”

 

Israel experienced the utter disaster of Jerusalem’s destruction. It was heart wrenching.   However, it was God’s way of teaching Israel to repent of her idolatry and then learn to trust in Him all the more. So also with you His new Israel! For your good God uses disease, disaster, calamity, heartaches, pains, trials and even death. You too must learn to repent of your idolatry in order to trust Jesus alone for forgiveness, life and salvation.

 

Jesus has sent me to tell you that you have His forgiveness. That you have life. That you have salvation. Proof is His all- atoning-for-sin-and-for-every-sinner-death-on-the-Good-Friday-cross. Proof is that you bear His divine and saving Name / His brand from holy baptism and His own divine promise that goes with it: “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16). Proof is that you eat and drink Christ’s crucified, risen and ascended Body and Blood believing His divine promise “given and shed for you for the remission of your sins.”

 

So, in every tragedy, adversity, hardship, difficulty or death (someone else’s or even yours) “wait for him [the LORD].” “Seek Him.” Where? In His Word of promise to you and for you. There, in His Word, He promises to be God FOR YOU.

 

“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Waiting and seeking spells

F-A-I-T-H. Clinging to Jesus. Being His hanger on. Just ask Jairus, the woman healed from the incessant bleeding or the lassie who was just 12. They were His hangers on! Jesus saved them. He has saved you too.

 

So go ahead. In all your adversity and pain lament away. The tears will flow. The heart will ache. However, in the midst of your lamentations hold the Lord to His gospel promises! Namely, that you are His died for and redeemed son or daughter. That because you are forgiven for Jesus’ sake your body (as well as all believers) will be raised from the dead on the Last Day. In your lamenting dare Jesus to speak another “Talitha koumi” to you when He appears to judge the living and the dead! In your lamenting dare to demand from Jesus what He promises, that, “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.”

 

In the Name of Jesus.

July 1, 2018 Bible Class / Mark 11

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John Part Twelve

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John Part Eleven

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Sandra L. Ross Funeral

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Thursday of Pentecost 4                            Trinity Lutheran Church

21 June 2018                                                Murdock, NE

Sandra Lee Ross Funeral

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

 

Confirmation texts. Pastors give those out because they usually say what’s most important. Sandy’s certainly does! Jesus doesn’t mince words. So it’s time to pay attention. It’s time to trust His words and Him. Not only when Sandy was confirmed. But most especially now as the Lord’s gathered us together here at Trinity for her funeral!

 

It’s at times like this that we need a John 14:6 sermon from the Lord. A promise from the One that answered for all sin and for every sinner in His Good Friday death. Who went deep, deep, deep into the valley of the shadow of death and came out victorious as the Firstfruits of those that sleep. Listen. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

 

Jesus is the way. Thomas, however, wasn’t so sure. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Are you like Thomas? Thomas needed to know where he was going before he could know the way. That’s how it works when we navigate. We need to know where we’re going before we can determine the route to take in order to get where we are going. Determine the destination first. Then plan the way to get there.

 

Now, when there is the resurrection of the body to eternal life with God, things are different. Only Jesus has a clear view of the destination. He alone Good Friday-ly died and He alone Easter Sunday-ly rose from the dead. There is no one else like Jesus. On our own we don’t know the way to eternal life. Only Jesus does! And He reveals the way to all of us today by way of His suffering, death, resurrection!

 

It’s at this point that I have to give you the highest of pastoral care. So I warn you. Are you ready? Here goes. We’re not in control – we are not in the driver’s seat of our lives. What happened to Sandy on Monday proves that. The stroke was out of her control. But I’m here to tell you that Jesus was in the driver’s seat of hers and your life! He knows exactly where He wants to take you. Jesus knows the way to eternal life. Again, He’s in the driver’s seat. Left on our own, we’d wind up in the ditch or spin around in circles. We’re all born headed in the wrong direction – hell bound children of wrath instead of heaven bound children of God.

 

Now, Jesus does more than just show you the way. He is the Way! He and He only is the path to the Father. Jesus is the highway to heaven. His perfect life, His holiness, His prayers, His suffering, death and resurrection are the way! Jesus is the Way! Jesus is the only bridge across the gap from death to life, the only path through the wilderness to pastures of green grass, the only ladder that spans earth and heaven. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man.

 

There is something that joins heaven and earth together so that there is now a new and living way to God. That’s the crucified Good Friday body of Jesus. Because of Jesus and only because of Jesus, Sandy and you have access to the Father. Through faith in Jesus Sandy and all of you have eternal life with God. That’s what it means for Jesus to be the Way.

 

I want to comfort you with one more point from the Sandy’s confirmation verse. It’s this. Jesus says He is the Life. Life is the destination of Jesus being the Way and the Truth. Jesus brings you to the end of your life and gives you His eternal life. Jesus came that Sandy and all of you might have life.

 

To believe in Jesus is to have life even though we die. Jesus speaks the words of eternal life.

 

I’ll let you in on a little secret: You’ve already begun to die in holy baptism and already you live in Jesus through holy baptism. Remember Romans 6? You continue to die daily to sin until you reach your earthly grave. And yet you already live – having been raised with Jesus for a new life spelled

F-A-I-T-H.

 

Life is what we want more than anything. Sadly, we chase things that promise life but can’t deliver. Jesus, however, with Sandy’s confirmation verse would tear and turn our hearts from everything that promises life and pin them entirely on Him alone! Only Jesus is the Life. Only His death conquers sin, death and the grave. He wants to overcome your death with His life. He did for Sandy!

 

Jesus is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. He is the only Way from death to life, from hell to heaven, from the devil to God. He is the only Truth that overcomes the lies that kill us. He is the only Life that is eternal life. Only Jesus leads to eternal life with God. He has the Good Friday scars to prove it.

 

Trust only in Him. Learn Him. Live Him. He is your Way, your truth and your Life just as He was for Sandy.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

God’s Good Gift of Fatherhood

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Pentecost 4                                              Trinity Lutheran Church

17 June 2018                                            Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

 

Equal time. Today a sermon regarding fatherhood. To give God thanks for our father. For the good God gift has given us through our father. To repent of our neglect, abuse or even rejection of God’s good gift of fatherhood, to use Jesus properly for forgiveness, and for a desire to honor our father and to be better fathers for the sake of helping and caring for our family.

 

God expects men to be fathers. God uses a husband to have children with his wife in the estate of holy marriage. God insists on Dad to be the head of the family. God’s will is that fatherhood be about order. Discipline. Structure. Headship. God sets Dad at the head of the family. It is how He matrixes life from the very good beginning in Genesis. A headless family is a family in deep trouble and headed for disaster.

 

Gentlemen, being the head of the family certainly doesn’t mean being the boss or ruthless dictator. It doesn’t mean you are to bully, intimidate or torment your children. That’s a complete and total perversion of true manhood and fatherhood. If you act like a tyrant, I guarantee you will “exasperate” them. Frustrate them. Infuriate them. They’ll come to me and tell me, like I’ve heard many times over the years as a pastor: “I couldn’t do anything right in my father’s eyes! Everything I did was wrong! I can’t stand my father!”

 

Consequently, headship in the family doesn’t mean always getting your way. Brothers, being the head of the family as father means being the source of life. When I say source of life I don’t mean just getting your wife or some other woman pregnant. Good grief! Donating sperm is real easy! Any man can do that! Lots of deadbeats and doofuses have perfected it! A father, however, is most especially a man that provides for, cares for and protects the life of his family. He lives not to be served but to serve and to give his life in many demanding and sacrificial ways for the sake of the well being of his family. Sometimes he’ll take a second job to pay the bills. Stay up late to help with homework. Pick up the sick child from school. Help coach his son’s basketball team.

 

He also exercises headship by taking care of his family’s spiritual life. Making sure his children and wife are baptized and taught in the way the Lord Jesus mandates in Matthew 28 so that they believe only in Jesus for salvation. Seeing to it that they regularly receive the Lord’s Supper and that they believe that Jesus gives what He says: body – blood – for their forgiveness, life and salvation. Deuteronomy 6:7 tells you to impress God’s Word “on your children.” Proverbs 22:6 promises that if you, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

 

Gentlemen, today’s text categorically tells you: “Fathers, bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” That’s God’s will and Word for you FATHERS, not mothers! Did you hear that? Dad is the pastor or bishop of his house. His pulpit can be the dining room table or the living room chair. His ordination papers are his marriage certificate and birth certificates of his children. Dad’s household is his congregation!

 

Gentlemen, I want you to listen very carefully. I have more high pastoral care for you, if you have ears to hear. I hope you’ll take it to heart and thank God that I said it today. It’s this. Do not delegate or farm out the duties of your call as father to your wife, to the grandparents, to the Sunday School or parochial school teachers or to Pastor Kuhlman! Seriously! For God’s sake and for your family’s sake stop it! Your wife, parents and others will help and support you. You know they will. Nevertheless, the spiritual care of your family is your responsibility! It’s time for all the men in our congregation to start doing it! Your family’s salvation and spiritual wellness are at stake! This has to be your utmost priority.

 

There is a time and a place for everything. Being a father means setting the family’s life in order. Prioritizing. Arranging. Ranking what’s most important and what really isn’t. What is most important for a Christian father is that he provide the spiritual discipline needed in the family for the life of repentance, faith, and holy living. Brothers, as your pastor I do not give you permission to do otherwise. On Judgment Day you’ll never be able to say: “Pastor Kuhlman gave me permission to disobey God’s Word,” BECAUSE I HAVEN’T and I won’t! It’s time to step up and be fathers who are men! Which means exercising your headship by taking care of and providing for your family’s spiritual health in all the ways available to you. Don’t you dare pit parochial school against Sunday School or the divine service. Don’t you dare pit devotions at home against worship at church. It all goes together.

 

For those of you fathers who are faithful in your vocation, thanks be to God! You’re doing holy and God-pleasing work! I want to encourage you to continue and to remain faithful in doing it. If you’re not, then I beg you to repent, use Jesus for forgiveness and then intend to do better. You know better. It’s time to do better! God requires it and expects it from you. For your family’s sake! You want to take care of your children, don’t you? Of course you do! Your children crave it. So does your wife. Do it then relying on God’s help and in obedience to the text: “Fathers, bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

 

Experience and the soft social studies all reveal that when Dad takes the lead and exercises proper headship by bringing his family to church on a regular basis 80% of the kids stick with it. When Mom has to take the lead because Dad is spiritually MIA only 40% of the children stick with going to church. The kids get it loud and clear. They can be like Dad for better or for worse. “When I grow up I’ll be like Dad.” So, brothers, I beg and exhort you. By word and example bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord – the Ephesians 6 way. And kids honor your father for doing this. Thank God for him.

 

I want to make a few more points today if you’ll let me. Will you? Ok. Hang on tight. Here goes.

 

True fatherhood is defined by God Himself. As our Father in heaven, He is the source, generator and sustainer of life. Through your earthly father your heavenly Father daily and richly provides you with all that you need to support your body and life – Levis, Converse high tops, cowboy boots, a side of beef in the freezer, a bed to sleep in, a car to drive, some spending money at ball games, etc., etc., etc. Through your earthly father your heavenly Father defends you from all kinds of danger. He guards and protects you from all sorts of evil. Why? Only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy. Not because you deserve it but only because God is your heavenly Father.

 

God gives us many kinds of fathers. Men that have inspired us, shaped us, disciplined us and taught us. Teachers. Coaches. Bosses. Uncles. Grandfathers. Men who taught Sunday School like Wayne Kupke, Bible classes or who helped with the church youth group. I remember Mr. Fred Witt at Our Redeemer, Glenrock, WY where I grew up. He always took a keen interest in me. Always talked theology and baseball with me. Then there is my father. He took us to church. He owned and operated his own business. However, he never used work as an excuse to stay away from hearing God’s Word and eating and drinking the Lord’s body and blood. Nothing, including youth practices or youth sports, kept us from going to church. Attending the divine service was just a given. It’s what Christians do! It’s what Christians want to do. They worship Jesus! In the way He mandates: third commandment and His words of Matthew 26 to eat and drink. My Dad’s example, along with Mr. Witt’s had a tremendous impact on me going to the seminary and becoming a pastor. You have them to thank … or to blame.

 

Other men who shape our lives like fathers are pastors. St. Paul called Timothy “my true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2)  The Large Catechism teaches us that a pastor is a father for his congregation. That’s just a family way of talking about the church. In 1 Corinthians 4:15 St. Paul told the Christian church at Corinth that, “even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many father, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”  Think of how much we lose when we only view the pastor as a hire or fire employee, coach, equipper, CEO, or CFO instead of a spiritual father of a family. It’s one of the reasons why hardly anyone boy wants to be a pastor anymore and why most pastors are vocationally muddled and don’t know what it means to be a pastor.

 

Finally, as I have noted over the years with Father’s Day sermons, some of our fathers have been broken men. Some lived only for themselves. Perhaps your father was a deadbeat loser. Perhaps he was unfaithful to your mother. Possibly he hurt you deeply with harmful words or deeds for years or decades. Maybe your father abandoned you. Abused you. Neglected you. Drank way too much. Got hooked on drugs. Never at home, school events, balls games, graduations or other life events when it mattered most. Perhaps your father didn’t even bother to attend your confirmation, wedding or your child’s baptism.

 

So today, for many, is a bittersweet day. In whatever way or ways your father sinned against you I am here to tell you that the “blood of Jesus,” God’s own Good Friday Son “cleanses / purifies you from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Yes, that’s right! The divine crucified and risen blood of Jesus cleanses and purifies you not only from the sin that you have committed against others – including your father — but also the sins that people have committed against you – including your father!

 

So, if you’re picking up what I’m throwing down today is a day for reconciliation and healing. It is time for you to let Jesus get between you and your father. Jesus died FOR YOU. Jesus forgives you! Of everything! There’s no sin or sinner He didn’t die for! That includes your father. For those of you that have been deeply hurt by your father I tell you that Good Friday Jesus bore your pain, your suffering, your abandonment — your abuse.

 

Tell me – the cursing, anger, bitterness, grudge holding and hatred toward Dad – how’s all that been working for you? How does all that edify your life or anyone’s life? It doesn’t. It doesn’t help or heal any relationship. Cursing your father also brings curses on you. Curse your Dad and you are committing social and emotional suicide. Those that curse or damn their father not only destroy their own family, they also have difficulty in making their own marriage work properly and most of the time the marriage ends in divorce. In addition, father cursers have an extremely hard time having a normal family. Usually the family is quite dysfunctional among Dad cursers. You’ve all seen this or experienced this, haven’t you?

 

Well, the Lord Jesus has sent me to give you good news. It’s this: THE GOOD FRIDAY WOUNDS OF JESUS bring healing and reconciliation! Bury the wounds of the past in the healing wounds of Jesus. Forgive your father as God the Father has forgiven you through His Son Jesus Christ. Father’s Day, then, is a day to forgive, to receive the gift of fatherhood with thanksgiving and to use this gift for the physical and spiritual wellness of our families.

 

Happy Father’s Day.

 

In the Name of Jesus.