It happened to my neighbors while they were on vacation. It started as just a small drip in some old plumbing. Pretty soon, the water had made a large hole for itself and soon there was a steady stream of water flowing under an upstairs sink. When my neighbors finally returned home, they found six inches of water in their basement. Floors, walls, and furniture on the upstairs level, main level, and basement would all need to be thrown out and replaced.
Like the leak in my neighbors’ plumbing, sin started out small. In a moment, Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God. So, they disobeyed him. They did their own thing. Pretty soon the effects of sin had spread. Adam and Eve felt shame and wanted to run from God. Things that were once enjoyable were now filled with pain. And, eventually, their lives ended in death. The curse of sin caused so much damage.
It took a little longer than expected, but eventually, my neighbor got his house repaired better than new. All the big problems caused by the small leak were finally fixed and things were as they should be.
God promises that he will put things back the way they should be. We are not told how long it will be but we are promised that God will do it. He will do it because he has already taken care of sin when his Son was sacrificed on a cross two thousand years ago. He will do it by creating a new heaven and a new earth where the effects of sin will be entirely taken away and everything will be as God designed it to be. No longer will we be chased by guilt and shame. Temptation and sin will be a thing of the past. There will be no more pain and suffering. Even death will be a forgotten memory.
At long last, the curse will be gone for all of those who relied on Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and trusted his promise to remove the curse sin caused. No longer will there be any curse!
Gracious God, here and now I struggle under the curse of sin. When those struggles seem to overwhelm me, turn my eyes toward the sacrifice of your Son and toward the day when you will remove sin’s curse forever. Amen.
From the time we are young, we are told to “plan ahead.” It was part of the knowledge given to us by our parents. It was drummed into us in school. It was something we learned by experience, usually when we did not do it.
The Bible tells us that God is the perfect planner. Before he even created this world, God knew that the perfection of mankind would be lost because of sin. The perfect fellowship between God and his creation would be destroyed. It was not the condition that God wanted for us.
So, God planned. He planned a way to win us back from our separation from him. In time, he carried out his plan by sending Jesus to take our place in two ways. Jesus lived a perfect life in our place. Then he was punished, yes killed, even though innocent as payment for our sins. Then Jesus rose to show that he had conquered the death we deserved. He took our sinfulness on himself and totally paid for it. Now, we have the fellowship with God that he always intended. We are not dead in sins, but alive!
Dear Father, thank you for your plan, the gift of Jesus who took my sins on himself and brought me back into fellowship with you. Amen.
Welcome! Thank you for joining us for worship this morning. In our service we gather before our almighty God to offer him our worship and praise. We also gather to strengthen ourselves through the study of God’s holy and powerful Word.
Restroomsare located in the link way (through the Information Room and down the stairs) at St. John’s and lower level at Emmanuel.
NurseryIn the lower level of both churches, the service is available to watch on TV and children have space for their needs. At St. John’s exiting church, it is located down the stairs to the left, to the link way, and down the stairs again to the left. At Emmanuel exiting church, it is located down the hallway to the right.
The Season of End TimeThe Church Year comes a close in November with the season of End Time. In this season, we are reminded that we are living in the “last days” between Christ’s first coming at Christmas and his second coming on Judgment Day. The world could end at any time. For a believer, the end of his life or the end of the world is a wonderful thing! It means the beginning of a new and better existence in a much more glorious world than this one.
Our Worship Series: Welcome Home
The Holy Spirit wants believers to think of each other as family. Having a spiritual family is essential to our well-being. In this worship series, we look at how our Father knits us together in love and unity. We see the benefits of being part of this family. In the Church, Christ has given us a better home.
Our Theme for Today: You Have an Everlasting Family
Our Need for Christian Community
The Lost Are Now Found
You Are Free to Be Yourself
You Are Perfectly Safe Here
You Have an Everlasting Family
You are Part of Christ’s Glorious Kingdom
Death is ugly. It does not matter if someone dies after a long, protracted fight with some illness or if they die peacefully in their sleep. Either way, the body goes into the ground and begins to decay. Either way, that person is gone, and their absence is constantly noticed.
Death would be overwhelming were it not for the fact that, for the believer, Christ has completely transformed death. Death is not the end. For those who are part of Christ’s family, death is the beginning of a new and better life, one where the deceased has triumphed over sin and all its consequences.
We thank God for this beautiful gospel truth—that Christians have an everlasting family. When Christian loved ones die, they are not “lost.” Something is lost when: a) you don’t know where it is, and therefore b) you will not see it again. We know exactly where our deceased Christian loved ones are. We look forward to being reunited with them soon.
Today, we celebrate the Saints Triumphant—those believers who have died and been welcomed into their true home with Jesus.
OPENING HYMN— 551: verses 1, 2, & 3For All the Saints
M: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:13
C:And also with you.
M: I heard a voice from heaven say,
“Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”
C:“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor,
for their deeds will follow them.”Revelation 14:13
M: For the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom
and will possess it forever —
C:yes, for ever and ever! Daniel 7:18
CONFESSION OF SINS
M: Beloved in the Lord,
we desire to one day join the saints triumphant in heaven.
Yet we have disobeyed God, and deserve only his wrath and punishment.
Therefore, let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father,
asking him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.
C: Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful,
and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions.
I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.
For this I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity.
But I am truly sorry for my sins, and trusting in my Savior Jesus Christ, I pray:
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
M: God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us
and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Therefore, as a called servant of Christ and by his authority,
I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
M: In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.
After a brief musical introduction, the congregation sings:
ALL (sung):Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle; they in glory shine,
Yet all are one within your grand design. Alleluia! Alleluia!
And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph-song,
And hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon, to faithful warriors comes their rest.
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!
PRAYER OF THE DAY
M: Almighty God and Savior,
you have set the final day and hour
when we shall be delivered from this world of sin and death.
Keep us ever watchful for the coming of your Son
that we may sit with him
and all your holy ones at the marriage feast in heaven;
through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
FIRST LESSONIsaiah 65:17-25
In the New Jerusalem we will not experience the “former things” like death, crying, and pain. We will enjoy the company of our Christian family for all eternity.
17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
PSALM OF THE DAYPsalm 150
M: Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary;
C:praise him in his mighty heavens.
M: Praise him for his acts of power;
C:praise him for his surpassing greatness.
M: Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
C:praise him with the harp and lyre,
M: praise him with timbrel and dancing,
C:praise him with the strings and pipe,
M: praise him with the clash of cymbals,
C:praise him with resounding cymbals.
M: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
C:Praise the Lord.
After a brief musical introduction, the congregation sings:
ALL (sung):But then there breaks a yet more glorious day:
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia! Alleluia!
SECOND LESSONRevelation 22:1-5
The vastness of our heavenly home is beyond our comprehension. We will live in our new home “for ever and ever.”
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
VERSE OF THE DAYRevelation 7:15
M: Alleluia. They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple. Alleluia.
After a brief musical introduction, the congregation sings:
ALL (sung):From earth’s wide bounds to ocean’s farthest coast
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia! Alleluia!
GOSPELLuke 20:27-38 (today’s sermon text)
Through a parable Jesus teaches that on Judgment Day those who wasted their God-given gifts will have to give an account. Fortunately, when judging us, the Master will look at what Christ has done as our Savior.
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless.30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
M: This is the Gospel of our Lord.
C:Praise be to you, O Christ!
HYMN OF THE DAY — 728Jerusalem the Golden
SERMONLuke 20: 27-38 – “You Have Something to Look Forward To”
CONFESSION OF FAITHApostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Members of this congregation have joined together in love and faith to do the Lord’s work in this community and around the world. Visitors need not feel obligated to participate in this offering which supports our ministry. Please greet one another, sign our friendship register and enjoy the WELS Connection DVD.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCHwith commemoration for the faithfully departed
M: With thanksgiving and praise, O Lord, we remember all your faithful servants who throughout the ages have witnessed to your name: the mighty and the lowly, great leaders and humble men and women, those who have served you in prosperity and those who in the day of trouble have not failed. We rejoice that they now rest from their labors in your presence.
C:You are the rest of the blessed dead. We thank you for all who have died in the peace of Christ. We thank you for those whom you gave to our congregation for a time as a blessing but have now called home. We remember their names before you.
M: Joel Jaster, age 57, called home on December 19, 2018.
Gordon Fabian, age 90, called home on February 14, 2019.
I am resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.
C:And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.John 11:25-26
M: Penny Brennecke, age 65, called home on February 20, 2019.
Frieda Otto, age 98, called home March 18, 2019.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
C:“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor.”Revelation 13:14
M: Ardis Henning, age 78, called home May 26, 2019.
Harley Crown, age 98, called home on July 14, 2019.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
C:Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.Colossians 3:1-2
M: Carol Schumann, age 76, called home July 26, 2019.
Delores Peterson, age 82, called home August 22, 2019.
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
C:And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.Job 19:25-26
M: Karl Whitrock, age 79, called home October 6, 2019.
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
C:the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.1 Corinthians 15:20
M: Lyndsay Lynch, age 26, called home October 25, 2019.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
C:I will come again and will take you to myself.John 14:3
M: Raymond Zacharias, age 75, called home on November 7, 2019.
Thanks be to God.
C:He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:57
Silent prayer as we remember other members of the saints triumphant
M: Heavenly Father, we recall with gratitude what you have done for us and for your Church through these saints. May their good works, which were prompted by your love in Christ and performed to your glory while here on earth, encourage us to live for you. As we join our worship and work with theirs, may we acknowledge ourselves to be part of that great cloud of witnesses from every age and place.
C:Unite all your people in the true faith, in the hope of an eternity at your side, and in the love that reveals us to be your children.
M: Through your Word, remind us who have not yet reached heaven that we remain part of the saints militant. Fill us with your Spirit, so that we continue to wage war for you, as our Christian forefathers did—battling against our sinful flesh, winning souls for Christ, and combating the deadly influence of Satan in this world.
C:Uphold your promise to use your Word and Sacraments to keep us in the faith so that, when our work on earth is done, we may join the saints triumphant.
Special prayers and petitions may follow
M: Lord, remember us in your kingdom, and teach us to pray:
C:Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
M: Brothers and sisters, go in peace. Live in harmony with one another. Serve the Lord with gladness.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.
CLOSING HYMN — 417I’m But a Stranger Here
After today’s service, please give your friendship registers to an usher or pastor.
The following items are reprinted under OneLicense.net #A-000000
Activities for the week of November 17 – November 23
St. John’s Sunday School
St. John’s Adult Bible Study
St. John’s Worship
Choir at St. John’s
Men’s Bible Study at St. John’s
St. John’s School Chapel
St. John’s School/Little Lambs Early Release
Women’s Bible Study at St. John’s
St. John’s Worship
Griefshare at St. John’s lower level (10 of 13 weeks)
St. John’s School Grandparents Day
9:00A.M. – 4:00P.M.
Holiday Trail (Scholastic Book Fair & Thai Village)
Theme for Next Sunday November 24 , 2019End Times 4: “Christ the King–Welcome Home #6: You are Part of Christ’s Glorious Kingdom”
St. John’s Sunday School
St. John’s Adult Bible Study
9:30 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.
Scholastic Book Fair in St. John’s gym
St. John’s Worship with communion
INTERCESSORY PRAYERS – For those hospitalized, ill, shut-in and facing trials: Wyatt Beahm (William and Alyssa Beahm’s infant son), Ron Blada, Liola Crown & son Terry, Agnes Dassow, Don Ebert, Reinold Eckelberg, Harold Fandrey, Lilah Farrell, Xzander Jahr, Chris Krause (Gordy and Linda’s son), Shirley Krueger, Robert Lederer (Jackie and Jeanne Buchholz’ father), Delvin Mittelsteadt, Mark and Peggy Russell (Elsa’s son and daughter in-law), Katie Segrist (Pastor Gary & Orlene Johnson’s daughter), Doris Smith, Jennifer Strauss – (added this week: Don Ebert)
THANK YOU Emmanuel received a $100 donation from Paul and LuAnn Weldon in honor of their 45th wedding anniversary on November 9th. It is to be used for the parish hall flooring project. Thank for the donation.
ADVENT BY CANDLELIGHT WOMEN’S PROGRAM hosted by Emmanuel will be held Sunday December 8, 2019 at 4:30 at Emmanuel Parish Hall. This year’s program “An Evening With Isaiah” will be part of our inspirational readings and songs of the season. This year along with refreshments and desserts we will be serving appetizers. Signup sheets are out today in St. John’ information room and Emmanuel’s Parish Hall. We hope you can join us. Any questions contact Sue Stelter (608) 297-2761.
LADIES AID INVITES YOU TO OUR PARISH CHRISTMAS DINNER: DECEMBER 5TH , 2019 5:30pm Punch and Fellowship, 6:00pm Dinner. The cost is $17.65 per person. What’s on the menu? roast beef, southern fried chicken, baked Virginian ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed veggies and full salad bar. The deadline to sign up is Sunday, November 24th. Please pay either Kay Maass or Bernice Wegner or drop your payment off at the school/church office. Checks should be made out to St. John’s Ladies Aid. Hope to see you there!
AMMO BOX In honor of Veterans Day, our congregation’s Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG) is asking for donations (for one more Sunday) in support of our military men, women and their families. LMSG, a partnership of ELS and WELS veterans, is working to grow awareness of and bring Christian support to military members and their families in our congregations and beyond. By placing your gift in the AMMO can located in the front entry of both churches, you are supporting the work of local congregations that are ministering to nearby military families, the WELS European chaplain program and global broadcasts of Time of Grace to our military. Questions? See LMSG Congregational Liaison Mark Emond or visit www.lutheranmilitary.org. THANK YOU for standing shoulder to shoulder with those serving our nation!!
WOMEN’S BIBLE STUDY: RUTH Join us on Wednesday at 6:30pm in St. John’s lower level for women fellowship, snacks and growing in God’s grace through the book of Ruth. Please contact Rachel Naumann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847.913.2135 with any questions.
“A short story masterpiece that showcases steadfast love and the kind of selfless humility that God rewards.” ~People’s Bible
MEN’S BIBLE STUDY See you on November 19th!
UPDATE on CARDS FOR PRISON MINISTRY Thanks to all who picked up packs of cards to write for the prison ministry. All the cards are out. Please return completed cards by Thanksgiving Day, November 28, to the collection box in the linkway or to the church office.
SUNDAY MORNING BIBLE STUDY A “Sneak Peek at the Gospel” for the day is the topic of the Sunday morning Bible study every week. It’s from 9:00-9:45am – come anytime. We meet in the church. All are welcomed. All are encouraged to attend.
GRIEFSHARE The 13-week session of Griefshare takes place every Thursday. Sessions are held at 6:00p.m. in the lower level of St. John’s. Join us for week #11, November 21. If you have any questions or concerns, please call Mark Emond (608) 697-1600.
ACH What is ACH? Automated Clearing House. Interested in having your church offering automatically deposited? Stop by the office or Information Room and fill out your application today.
MEDITATIONS & FORWARD IN CHRIST New “Meditations” and “Forward in Christ” WELS daily devotional booklets and WELS monthly devotional magazine are available in the church entry (many thanks to our generous members for donating!)
OUTREACH OPPORTUNITIES IN AFRICA Opportunities for gospel connections are flourishing across the African continent. Christian groups in Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique, and more are learning about WELS and Lutheran doctrine and reaching out for fellowship and doctrinal instruction. To follow what’s happening with WELS mission work across Africa, visit wels.net/missions or follow Missions on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions.
EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN WITNESSES Equipping Christian Witnesses, the new campaign from Martin Luther College, focuses on recruitment, financial aid, and facilities. By enrolling more future ministry workers, helping them fund their Christian education, and enhancing their learning environments across the campus, WELS strengthens the foundation for its future. Learn more at mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.
WELS NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LUTHERAN LEADERSHIP WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregation. Twenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministry, equipping members for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more. Learn more at register at lutheranleadership.com.
INFORMATION. INSPIRATION. FORWARD IN CHRIST Read Forward in Christ, the official magazine of WELS, and you will receive the latest news from the synod, gain a Lutheran perspective on current events, hear uplifting stories of faith from across the world, and much more every single month. Both print and digital subscriptions are available. Learn more at wels.net/fic.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN WELS? Subscribe to the WELS Together e-newsletter to stay connected with the people of your synod and the ministry they serve. Also, don’t miss the twice-monthly videos, expanding on important and exciting synod news. Go to wels.net/together to read more and subscribe today.
FOLLOW MISSIONS ON FACEBOOK Like the new WELS Missions Facebook page to stay up to date on news from Home and World Mission fields, read inspiring stories of the gospel at work, and take advantage of the many resources WELS Missions has to offer. Visit facebook.com/WELSMissions to get started.
CHRISTIAN ONE-LINERS (from a WELS pastor): “The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.”
Emm DuWayne Sommerfeld, Warren Buchholz, Don Stelter
SJ Cal Kapp; Chief, Jerre Duerr, Robin Smith, Joe Zauner Sr.,
Joe Zauner Jr.
Emm Wayne Stelter, Bob Ferber, Gary Wegner
SJ (comm) James Wachholz; Chief, Jon Vote, Joe Vote, Jesse Schable, Richard Freitag
November 27 Thanksgiving Eve
SJ Jack Yates; Chief, Ben Jaster, Jacob Jaster, Jeff Reimer,
November 28 Thanksgiving
Emm Darrell Buchholz, Don Stelter, Gary Wegner
Emm (comm) Lucas Stelter, Jim Stuempges, Paul Dahlke
comm. assist. Brian Ninnemann
SJ Don Smith; Chief, Gerhardt Voigt, Mitch Simon, Gordon Krause,
Emm Wayne Stelter, Don Stelter, Joe Heller
SJ Kenon Smith; Chief, Al Rosenthal, Christopher Smith, Calvin Wojtalewicz, Thomas Wojtalewicz
Emm Don Stelter, Noah Buchholz, Joe Heller
SJ (comm) James Wachholz; Chief, Kenny Wojtalewicz, Zeb Zuehls,
Mark Emond, Ben Emond
Emm Wayne Stelter, Don Stelter, Joe Heller
SJ James Wachholz, Chief, Ben Emond, Kevin Kaul, Corey Kaul,
Christian writer Michael Horton recounts the time he agreed to be a part of a discussion panel composed of people of various religious faiths. The topic of discussion was: “What is the greatest spiritual need you believe your religion fills in your life?” Others on the panel believed the main purpose of religion was to help individuals become better people.
Horton’s answer was different. In fact, his answer made virtually everyone else on the panel feel uncomfortable. In answer to the question, “What is the greatest spiritual need you believe your religion fills in your life?” Horton said: “An immediate relief from the guilt and tyranny of my sin, and peace with God.” The other panelists felt uncomfortable for good reason. Horton was refusing to agree that the purpose of Christianity was to help individuals become better people. Instead, he was saying that the main purpose of Christianity was to rescue lost souls from the curse of sin through faith alone in Jesus Christ. The other panelists also understood Horton’s implication. He was saying that Christ was the only way to escape the judgment of a just God; that apart from Jesus, your soul is lost.
It is easy for us to forget that, isn’t it? It is easy to slide into thinking that we go to church because it’s “good for us,” or we send our kids to Sunday School because we want them to learn good morals, or we attend a worship service because it gives us a good feeling that we’re doing the right thing?
Christianity is not a self-help plan for becoming a nicer person. Each time you and I flirt with that notion, we are flirting with the very fires of hell.
Thank God for what Christianity truly is. It’s the Good News. It’s the announcement that God has purchased forgiveness of sins for the entire world; that this forgiveness of sins comes through faith in Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death on our behalf. It’s the promise that, in Jesus, all is well.
Lord Jesus, my focus on you sometimes wanders. Forgive me. Renew me by your Spirit. Refresh me with the beauty of what Christianity is. Amen.
[Jesus] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10
“No fair!” That’s a pretty typical response from those who believe they’re receiving the short end of the stick. “No fair!” will be the go-to response for unbelievers on the day Jesus returns in judgment. They won’t like what Jesus has to say to them. They’ll fight it, but their arguments won’t win the day. Jesus’ judgment is always fair and always right. His justice is perfect.
This is why we might be surprised at who faces his judgment on that epic day. Jesus once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23) Jesus isn’t fooled by outward good deeds. Those can be faked. He searches people’s hearts and looks for a humble faith that trusts in what he has done to save them, not in what they have done to save themselves. His perfect life and sacrificial death are what make people right with God and what will allow them to spend their eternity with him. No truer words have been spoken than these: believers will enjoy eternal life in heaven because they are riding on Jesus’ coattails.
But here’s the thing: Jesus hasn’t just won salvation for a select few. He is everyone’s Savior. He is your Savior. Take a ride on his coattails.
Jesus, help me put my trust in you alone. Amen.
Second thoughts. We’ve all had them. If we have them soon enough, we still have a chance to change our minds, to go in a different direction, to make a better choice.
But sometimes there’s no turning back. Like when you decide to take your first-ever trip on a roller coaster, and you reach the pinnacle of the steepest drop. You can’t raise your hand at that point and ask the ride operator to hit the reverse button. You’ve made your choice. There’s no turning back. Second thoughts are of no help.
Second thoughts won’t help on the day Jesus returns either. When he appears in all his glory and majesty, no stubborn denier of his saving Word and work will have the chance to add, “On second thought …” It will be too late. There will be no turning back. “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
But that day of judgment is still in the future. Which means what? It means we all have the opportunity now to take a different posture toward Jesus and his life-giving Word. Rather than showing disregard for his saving Word, we can regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. Instead of running from his strong arms of salvation, we can jump into them without hesitation.
Jesus has graciously thrown us an eternal lifeline. No second thoughts; grab it!
Jesus, grant me your Spirit that I might confidently trust your everlasting promises and live as your child now and forever. Amen.
Many Christians have heard, and perhaps have even told, the fictional story of the man who finds himself on a deserted island. He prays asking God to save him. A boat suddenly appears, and the captain invites the castaway to safety. But he refuses the offer because he’s waiting for God to save him. When a rescue helicopter and airplane pilot issue the same invitation, both times the man refuses. He’s waiting for God to save him. When the man inevitably dies, he is heard complaining that God didn’t save him, to which the Almighty replies, “What do you mean? I sent a boat, a helicopter, and an airplane. What more did you want?”
The story is a bit corny but also insightful because it teaches an important biblical truth. God saves through means.
What does that mean? It means that God doesn’t normally save people in flashy, miraculous ways. Instead, he saves us through the gospel, the good news of salvation communicated by ordinary people through his ordinary Word and simple sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. No lightning. No thunder. Not even a boat, helicopter, or airplane! Just simple means of grace—Word, water, bread, and wine—all vehicles of his saving love. If you’re waiting for something else, don’t hold your breath. Nothing else is coming.
But what more could we want or need? In his Word, God assures us of his perfect and unconditional love and forgiveness in Jesus (John 3:16). In baptism he washes us with water and his Word, making us holy and perfect in his sight, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). Through the Lord’s Supper, he feeds our faith under bread and wine with the body and blood Jesus offered on the cross “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). These are God’s rescue vehicles, sent in abundance to ensure our salvation, now and forever.
So, don’t miss the boat—the boat of God’s Word and sacraments. They are here to save you.
Jesus, open my eyes to recognize the work of your everlasting salvation. Amen.
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 2 Thessalonians 1:6,7
Most of us hate to wait. Patience is going out of style in our fast-paced world. We want it all, and we want it now.
But some things are worth the wait, aren’t they? Like that newborn baby that takes nine months to grow in mommy’s belly. A pregnant mother might have days when she wants that baby out—now! But when she finally holds her little baby in her arms, she has to admit it was worth the wait.
That’s also true of God’s salvation and his judgment, both of which will be seen in their final, perfect form on the day Jesus returns from heaven.
If you are suffering like the people to whom Saint Paul was writing, that day can’t come soon enough. They were suffering unfairly, not because of what they had done but because of who they were: simple Christians who had placed their faith in Jesus’ saving love. Nothing more. Paul promised them that someday God would “give relief to you who are troubled.” But for now, they needed to wait.
We sometimes suffer unjustly, too. We wonder where God is with his salvation and judgment. Doesn’t he see? Isn’t he just? Won’t he rescue me?
God’s reasons for waiting aren’t always clear. But this much we know, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Did you notice who God is waiting for? He’s waiting for you and me! The good news is “he is patient with you” and with me. He doesn’t want to see anyone perish. He “wants all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).
But that often means we need to wait because to God’s way of thinking, saving people from sin and death forever through Jesus is worth the wait.
Jesus, help me patiently endure the wait for your perfect salvation and judgment, as I cling forever to your saving promises. Amen.
Things aren’t always what they seem. The Antiques Roadshow proves it.
If you’ve ever watched that show, you’ll know that people often bring an item that looks like junk for appraisal. I wouldn’t give them a dime for it, but the expert tells the owner, “You could expect to fetch at least $20,000 for this at auction.”
Often these appraisals are not based on the intrinsic value of the object itself. No one needs a $20,000 flower vase! Instead, the value is found in the object’s story: Where and when it was made, who owned it, etc. In order to know something’s value, you need to know the story behind it.
That’s also true when it comes to God’s judgment. People are tempted to make snap judgments about his judgment. They conclude his judgment is unfair, unloving, and unconcerned for those who stand under it. But they don’t know the full story.
Consider a comparison from everyday life. When a concerned father promises to punish his son if he does something dangerous, it has nothing to do with craving revenge. The father takes no joy in the thought of having to hand down punishment. Instead, his words proceed from a loving heart. On the outside, he may seem unfair, unloving, and unconcerned. But that’s because you don’t know the full story. The father loves his son and wants to keep him safe.
So it is with God’s judgment—even his promise of eternal punishment—springs from a heart of love and concern for sinners. He wants to get our attention because, the truth is, he also “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He sent his Son to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13). In his heart of hearts, he is our loving Savior, not a cold-hearted judge. And that is the full story.
Jesus, help me recognize your love even in your judgment. Amen.
I was studying in my dorm room at the seminary when one of my roommates walked in with a stunned look on his face. He asked if I could drive him to the hospital. He explained that his fiancée had been in a car accident. She and her younger sister had been driving to the hospital to visit their father who was dying of cancer when the accident occurred. Her sister did not survive. It is difficult to imagine a more tragic situation.
After a few hours at the hospital, I dropped my friend off at his future in-laws’ house. He was exhausted. I will never forget what he said to me. “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Holy Spirit had brought these powerful words from Psalm 46 to his mind in the hour of his greatest need. He could not possibly imagine why the Lord would have allowed such a tragedy to occur. He was completely powerless to fix it or make it all better for his fiancée and her family. All he could do is be still…and remember that God was in control.
What a difficult thing to do! We are so convinced that we are in control of our lives, that we are masters of our own fates. But…we…are…not. There is only One who is in control. There is only One who is God. And we are not he.
But that is alright. It is better than alright. It is a sigh of relief to our anxious hearts. Who better to be in control than the One who loved us enough to give his one and only Son to live and die for our sins? Who better to be in control than the One who conquered death when he rose from the grave?
Whatever burdens your heart this day, whatever causes you anxiety or worry or stress—be still, and know that the LORD Almighty is God. And he loves you; he forgives you; he cares about you. And he is all the God you will ever need.
Heavenly Father, when I begin to believe that I am the master of my own fate, remind me that my times are in your hands. Give me the courage to be still and know that you are God. Amen.