March 2019

Behold the Man!

          So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” (John 19:5).

          As the Holy Spirit enlightens Christians, we realize that Pilate was partly correct. Jesus is “true Man, born of the Virgin Mary” (SC). However, Christ is also “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity” (SC). In Jesus, we “Behold the God-Man!” He is the eternal God inhabiting a human body.

          This Lenten season the Wednesday evening services will expound on some of Christ’s human characteristics: Ash Wednesday, March 6: “A God Who Hungers”; March 13: “A God Who Prays”; March 20: “A God Beaten”; March 27:  “A God Exposed”; April 3: “A God with a Mother”; April 10: “A God Who Thirsts”; Maundy Thursday, April 18: “A God Who Loves”; and Good Friday Tenebrae Service, April 19: “A God Who Dies.”

          Jesus had a human body that died, and He resides in that body which is now resurrected. For forty days, in His resurrected body, He was seen, touched, and heard. He talked, He ate, and He comforted people. All this He did in the same, recognizable body that had been crucified and pierced. He continues to inhabit that resurrected body. This is beyond human comprehension, a 2000 plus year-old body still inhabited! This is okay, for this is a God thing, and His ways and thoughts are above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nevertheless, I find it helpful in thinking to contemplate details of the resurrected body in 1 Corinthians 15:42ff: “Sown” is Christ’s, and the believers’, bodies while going through this existence. “Raised” is Christ’s, and the believers’, resurrected bodies. “Sown perishable…raised imperishable…sown in dishonor…raised in glory…sown in weakness…raised in power…sown natural…raised spiritual” I Corinthians 15:23 tells us, “Each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then, at His coming, those who belong to Him” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

          As we approach the Day of Resurrection (Easter), we focus on Jesus Christ who lived in a human body, like ours, with nose and knees, toes and bones, and the like. He had human sensations of hunger and thirst. He desired fellowship with God the Father and mankind. He had a mother, He drank wine, He ate, and the like. With all this God Almighty confirms that He knows about the human condition. Now, of course, He is and has always been, omniscient, but in His incarnation He verifies for us, so we know that He knows. It is comforting to have it confirmed that God Almighty can have empathy. He has walked for miles in our shoes. Mankind’s compassion is enhanced when we empathize with others. We are delighted to be on either end of compassionate, gentle care as we empathize. We also are enriched, matured, and loved when others have used words and actions that are prodding and demanding passion as we received corrective measures. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son (or daughter) whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). God knows us. He is compassionate and passionate for our good and for His pleasure, in order that He will have us with Him forevermore.

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman



February 2019

God-Yes Indeed!

          Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:1-2).

          Job was challenged with many hardships.  Things had not gone the way he would have liked. He finally expressed some of his frustrations. The following is an excerpt from Echo: Unbroken Truth Worth Repeating Again by Jonathan Fisk, page 14.

“Think back to the last time life didn’t go the way you thought that it should….think of the last time you got annoyed, you were frustrated. You got angry. It doesn’t matter what caused it or if it was justified…. On that day, during that moment, you were less than perfectly happy, and the reason you weren’t perfectly happy was that for a single moment the world around you gave you an experience that made abundantly clear this obvious fact: ‘You are not in charge. You aren’t in control everything. You don’t rule the universe. You are not God.’ There was nothing you could do about it, and that is why you got mad.”

          Job had this truth made perfectly clear to him. Previously God had high compliments for Job, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). However, after turmoil with loss of resources, family, and his own health, Job wavered, lamenting his own life: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’” (Job: 3:3a). What followed were accusations from people close him. Job drifts away from the teachings and behavior that had received compliments. Job was frustrated. Life did not go the way he thought it should. So he spoke against his antagonists; he laid out numerous examples of how “righteous” he saw himself. He was not in charge. He struggled, for he was not God.

          Job needed to be reminded, instructed again in the things he already knew: an echo of God’s truth. God sent a faithful servant, Elihu, to instruct him and then God’s direct word continued to subdue Job.

          We learn the summary of our church’s teaching in Luther’s Small Catechism.  We are guided to memorize forty-five questions and answers. When we have completed the lessons, there is a celebration for the church, family, and the person who confessed Biblical truths before God and man. 

          This confession is wonderful; however, and battle rages. Our flesh strives toward its natural ways, which gives our sinful inclinations another chance to take root. The world entices us, and Satan works his woe of deceiving mankind. Satan’s original and continual deception is “Did God really say….?” (Genesis 3:1).

          Echoing the Catechism’s teaching is a healthy practice to keep us at peace with God, even when all our vices (flesh, world, and Satan) throw turmoil in our paths, and we dare not get too relaxed when things seem so smooth.  Starting in February, the Sunday morning Bible study will be using the above quoted book. In this study, Luther’s Small Catechism’s points are “echoed” from a unique angle, worthy to be discussed.

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman

January 2019

Biblical Hope

“My soul longs for Your salvation: I hope in Your Word” (Psalm 119:81).

          The Psalmist’s hope was concerning what had already been revealed. God had given His Word. It was good, right, and salutary that the Psalmist and all people hope in God’s Word. This hope is a sure hope, a hope that will be; actually, a hope that is--we just have not yet fully obtained it. Hope is part of our Christian life: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13); we will deal more on this concept later in this article.

          Biblical hope is not the hope mankind lives with outside of Scripture; that hope is dependent on many variables.  Hope outside of Scripture has a chance of not being accomplished. For example, a person mixes together a batch of cookie dough. The dough is formed into balls and placed on a cookie sheet, and set in the oven at 375 degrees. The cook and others in the house who smell the aroma can rightly hope for a tasty cookie. This fits Webster’s definition for hope: “a desire with expectation of obtainment.” The cookie pan is in the oven, we can smell the cookies cooking; therefore, the odds are definitely in favor of obtaining the cookie. However, there is a chance, ever so slight, that the house catches fire or a meteorite crashes through the roof. A tornado or an earthquake could hit. Or someone has some intense medical emergency keeping them from obtaining a cookie. Things that we hope for outside of Scripture have a multitude of variables that we try to control in order that our expected desire is obtained.

          Back to “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest is love.” Why is love the greatest? First, the Bible says so. Further thought is that love stays love when it matures. Love is love. Faith and hope become knowledge when they mature. The desire is obtained. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of thing not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The Holy Spirit generates faith that is for this side of glory.  When Christ gathers us up to His Kingdom of Glory, everlasting life, there is no more waiting, and we will fully see our Savior; herein faith has been matured.  This is also true of hope. Hope in obtaining a cookie no longer remains, but is matured when the cookie is eaten.  Biblical hope in God’s Word matures into knowledge of something fully obtained, such as, residing in the room Christ went to prepare for us (John 14:2) or living in an imperishable, glorified, and powerful spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

          The prophet Samuel lived with Biblical hope that David would be king. God had revealed this to Samuel (1 Samuel 16:12-13). Samuel lived years witnessing David not being the king. Samuel actually died before David was on the throne. However, Samuel’s hope matured for many others to witness. God said David would be king and that Word matured; it was fulfilled. For the things of our everlasting life (prepared room and resurrected body) we can have sure Biblical hope that we will obtain the hope, but like Samuel, we will die before that is matured. In this temporary life, the Christian is to receive hope fulfilled with God’s grace of forgiveness.  God’s Word has established methods to mature that hope to knowledge, thus obtaining forgiveness in His Word and Sacraments. Enjoy!          

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman

December

Desperate Need

  Out of the depths I cry to You, Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy” (Psalm 130:1-2).   

          For a children’s message in October I had a rope and three scenarios of someone hanging over a cliff on the rope. This article is going to expound on that concept.

          The first scenario was a young child who was tied securely to the rope with four strong people on the other end ready to pull. The child was in a desperate need (hanging over a cliff) but he could cry out “for mercy” that the four strong people would pull him to safety. Christians have a never-ending Great Commission to “Go…and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). To neglect that commission (God’s desires, God’s command) is not right; that is a sin. “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6;23a). Individual Christians are in a desperate need for their church body to send, equip, support strong people, whom they are attached to, to pursue the Great Commission. Praise God for those who are willing to be sent and those who support them.

          The second scenario had a slightly older child holding onto the rope with both hands and the rope was tied to a rock.  The child was in desperate need and the “pleas for mercy” would include a large, secure, immovable rock, a good rope, and personal strength in order to pull himself up. Christians have a variety of commands for Godly living that we are in desperate need for secure, immovable teachings, good mentors, and strength in order that we can pursue God’s will.  Consider the Fourth Commandment; “Honor your father and mother.” A person shall not (cannot) passively let others fulfill that for them. Effort and discipline must come from the person. If someone does not show honor to parents and other authorities, it is a sin. “The wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a). Christians are in desperate need of God’s direction, guidance, and discipline to have us follow through on showing honor to authorities in our lives.

          The third scenario had a child with broken legs, a bad arm, and the other arm with only the “pinky” finger able to grasp the rope. The rope this time was attached to a piece of grass. The “pleas for mercy” in this situation are extreme. The child has nothing he can do, nor that others could do for him. People are continually in this extreme desperate condition because Christians know and confess that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We have Jesus words, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  The bar is set exceedingly high, and we are mere humans.  “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). All people are in desperate need for Divine forgiveness.  Like the child holding onto the poorly secured rope with only a “pinky” finger, there is nothing we can do but “plea for mercy.” We cannot work for, buy, or get ourselves out of the situation, nor can others do it for us. God has given the “free gift…in Christ Jesus our Lord” which is the forgiveness of sins.

          God’s “free gift” (grace) is the only answer and that grace is generously distributed through the Word and Sacraments. Praise be to God!

The Lord be with you,  

Pastor Wiseman

Novemver

Not My Own Hand

  The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2).          

          The Lord then had Gideon’s resources of 32,000 people greatly diminished. First 22,000 of the “fearful and trembling” people went home at the prospect of war. Then another 9,700 were sent home, leaving Gideon with 300 men to take on “…the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East (who) lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number” (Judges 7:12). The Lord was with Gideon as the enemy was defeated. Their victory was surely not by their own hand.

          Gideon had not rushed into this situation. He had been led by the Lord through events in his life. Gideon set a fleece of wool out twice with stipulations concerning water in the fleece or not. This took patience; this took time; and this took trust in God. The Lord revealed His will for Gideon to move forward with the huge task of war. That is when the Lord reduced Gideon’s resources from 32,000 to 300 men. Gideon and his people were not going to trust in themselves, their abilities, nor their accomplishments. God would have detested them if they said, “My own hand has saved me.”

          The Lord reminds us many times not to boast in ourselves. The Lord confused the people’s language as the boastfully proclaimed, “Come; let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4). We are taught proper ways of approaching challenges with David as he stood up to Goliath. David proclaimed, “You come to me with sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…” (1 Samuel 17:45).

          These examples are to be applied for challenges in our lives as well as with the impossible challenge of earning salvation. We are plainly taught in the Word, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3b). From the Gospels we learn “…to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Born as believing children of God is God’s work. Therefore all Christianity shall join in the Common Doxology, “Praise God from Whom all blessing flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

          Christian teachings continually pursue making it clear that we shall not say, “My own hand has saved me.” Gideon was depleted beyond military standards, yet succeeded by God’s deliverance as he used trumpets and jars with torches—visible tools in his life.  David was depleted of armor anhe took up five smooth stones and a sling—visible tools in his life. You and I are given “a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). The Lord lifts us up to salvation as we hold on to His Word including His visible tools applied specifically to us in the life giving water of Baptism and bread and wine which are His body and blood in His Supper. 

The Lord be with you,  

Pastor Wiseman