Home

Stones Cry Out …

1 Comment

[Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

PA & Mom – picture taken at Redeemer October, 2017

Unfortunately, I spent the bulk of February in Buffalo, New York with my mom who is suffering from complications from a relatively straightforward surgery that went wrong.   She’s 83 and a strong-willed woman with great faith.  It’s those things that have enabled her to endure almost a month of being confined to bed in a hospital with tubes and wires vexing her body; and she has handled this with grace and patience.  In so doing however, she’s witnessed to our family (near and extended) as well as a boatload of caregivers, doctors and custodial workers, that even when we’re down, Christians cry out to God.  And we don’t just cry out in our need, we cry out in praise!

Family, friends and hospital workers have witnessed groups of loved ones circled around my mom in prayer multiple times a day – not just keeping vigil over my mom – but praying with her.  And they have seen her holding hands and making the sign of the cross after every prayer.  She cannot speak because of breathing tubes and ventilators obstructing her vocal cords … but she has done everything within her power to witness to God’s unfailing love, reminding herself and all of us where our only hope lies – in Jesus, our Lord, and His saving work on the cross.

As we round the corner into March, soon it will be Palm Sunday.  And my mom’s predicament reminds me of something Jesus said when He entered Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, as crowds were gathered to celebrate the Passover.  People were shouting and singing joyfully “Hosanna” – which means “save us!”  They couldn’t help it.  Their deepest need, and their greatest joy, was welling up in a song of hope!  But there were some religious leaders who heard this shouting and they reprimanded Jesus saying, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (Luke 19:39).  To which Jesus answered,  “I tell you, … if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40).

Jesus says that even those with the inability to speak … would praise Jesus anyway! My mom can’t speak, but she is crying out to Jesus anyway – in both her need, and also in thanksgiving and joy, trusting Him to graciously provide for her as He has always done.

So often we feel as though we can only proclaim Jesus when things are going well.  And in some ways, that’s what the Palm Sunday crowd did. They praised Him for all the miracles they had seen Him do.  They cried out to Him when they were hopeful that He would show His power and might in the ways they wanted Him to do.   But as the prospects turned grim and the horizon turned dark, they one by one fled.  And instead of crying out to Jesus, they only cried.

And yet, the stones did cry out in their place as it were.  There was a great earthquake as Jesus was crucified.  The earth shook and the rocks split (Matthew 27:51). Even the tombs broke open, and the dead were raised to life! (Matthew 27:52).  And then after three days, the stones cried out again as Jesus rose from the dead! There was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolled back the stone that covered Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 28:2).  Even when the outlook was bleak …  even those things that couldn’t speak … found a way to cry out praise to the Lord!

There are many times when I find that I keep my mouth – my very able-bodied mouth – shut, when I should be crying out to God.  I keep my mouth shut when I should be crying out “Save us, dear Jesus!”  I keep my mouth shut when I should be singing “Great are you Lord!” I keep my mouth shut when I should be shouting “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”  Oh that you and I would cry out with our very capable voices while we are able to speak.

Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.
– Isaiah 52:8

Perhaps this Holy Week and Easter, which is only a few weeks away, would be a good time for you to speak up and witness to the Lord with your friends and family.  They too have much to be thankful for, and many needs to bring to God.  They too have mouths which were created to cry out to God.  Perhaps use this Newsletter as a tool with which to shout for Joy and sing God’s praises?

Joyfully proclaiming Jesus with you!

 Pastor Augie

Feasting and Fasting

Leave a comment

“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4

“Feasting and Fasting” … sounds like some of my diet plans! 🙂 … however, it’s not a diet plan.  It’s an approach to your spiritual journey I’d like to suggest you consider for this season of Lent.  “Feasting” on God’s Word, and “Fasting” for spiritual growth and closeness to the Lord.   In this article, I will give you some tools and ideas for each.

Feasting

The season of Lent is one of thoughtful reflection. During this time of the church calendar, Christians ponder the unfolding events that led to Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion: His triumphal march into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; His firm words of warning about the events to come; His sham trial, brutal scourging, and horrific crucifixion. No day could be any darker; no travesty more calamitous than the slaying of God’s own Beloved Son. And yet, that’s what we find on Golgotha: our sins demanding His death on a cross to satisfy the Father’s righteous judgment.

Taken from the cross, the lifeless form of Christ was placed in another man’s tomb. With that action the world thought the ordeal complete, the savagery it had witnessed something it could now put behind it. But God’s work wasn’t quite done. Three days later, out of a sealed tomb—guarded to prevent theft—Jesus rose from the dead. And with that thunderous crescendo, mankind’s disgrace and ruin, which had destined it for eternal slaughter, is forgiven through the blood of Christ.

Lent is when we turn our eyes to the cross. It is there where Jesus, the sinless Son of God, suffered the indignity and shame of dying for our sins. And it is there where God’s wrath was satisfied by His Beloved Son’s supreme sacrifice, winning salvation for all who call Him their Savior.  I’d like to suggest that you Feast on God’s Word each day as you let the Scriptures walk you with Jesus as He goes to the cross.  Lutheran Hour Ministries makes a great daily devotional available for free.   It’s called “from the cradle to the empty grave.”  You can read it online, get it in your email, listen to it as a podcast, or get it on your phone in the free phone app.  Just visit www.LHM.org/lent/.

Fasting

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that has been practiced for centuries.  In the Bible we learn that it was practiced by prophets, kings and apostles.  Many significant Biblical characters were blessed by God through fasting – Moses, David, Elijah, Nehemiah, Ester, Daniel and Paul, for example.  Even our Lord Jesus used fasting as a way to draw closer to the Father while He was being tempted by the devil in the desert (see Matthew 4).

What is fasting?  But first, what is it not? Fasting is not a diet program. If you need to lose weight, a fast is not the way to do it.  Fasting is not for personal glory; it’s something that’s between you and God.  In fact, Jesus spoke out against those who drew attention to themselves when they were fasting. So what is fasting?  A simple definition of fasting is abstaining from something for spiritual purposes.  Usually it’s food that we forgo when fasting, but really anything that we give our attention to is something that could be removed in order to create more room for God in your life.  When you fast, your desire is to draw closer to God and to ask God to reveal himself to you.  Sometimes our lives get so full of the blessings of God, that we crowd out the One that is doing the blessing – God Himself.  Sometimes we have so much going on that if God wanted to speak to us there is so much noise and so much activity in our life that we couldn’t hear Him if He said something to us.  Remember, God often speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12).  The purpose of fasting is to increase your awareness of and dependence upon God.

So, how might you fast this Lent?  One way is to simply give up something that you frequently crave, but is non-essential.  Chocolate is a popular choice since, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need chocolate to live!  Every time you forgo the pleasure of chocolate, it reminds you of Christ’s sacrifice for you and allows you to depend on God to get you through that craving.  All our cravings are something that only God can satisfy anyway.  You might give up something that is sapping your available time – television, video games or surfing the internet.  Consider spending the time that you free up, not with some other distracting activity, but with family, or doing devotions, or enjoying God’s creation while meditating on His greatness!

There are many ways you can fast. This year, I am going to encourage you to join me in doing a simple “juice fast.”  It’s a light fast and an easy way to start if you’ve never fasted before, yet it has the spiritual benefits of drawing closer to the Lord through abstaining from something.  How you do a juice fast is to simply skip a meal or two and replace that meal with some liquid or juice.  This will help you to keep your energy up (diabetics and others, please consult your physician if you have any concerns about this diet change) but it still represents a sacrifice.  I suggest doing this fast each week during Lent.  For example: have a good meal for dinner on Tuesday, then have juices for breakfast and lunch on Wednesday, breaking your fast with dinner (perhaps soup supper at church?) on Wednesday. That’s a 24-hour juice fast!

Considering the challenging Spiritual work that our congregation is doing in preparing to reach many in our community with the Gospel, shouldn’t we draw close to the Lord through fasting and prayer?  And won’t we each individually benefit from the time spent seeking the Lord? Let’s do what we hear spoken of in Scripture, but seldom do – fast and pray.

Feasting and Fasting … May they strengthen your faith and draw you nearer to Jesus as He draws nearer to the cross.

To God alone be the glory,

Pastor Augie

Easter – Living the Victory!

Leave a comment

Easter Victory

Of all the things in life, one is number one. Of all the teachings in the Bible, one is primary. Of all the things in the world, one is prime. The apostle Paul names what this is in His letter to the Corinthians. He calls it “of first importance” when he says: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). The Gospel of Jesus, our Savior, is what is of first importance. This Easter, we celebrate that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is of first importance.  Knowledge of this one thing changes our perspective on everything else.  What could be more important to know?

May you live in victory – with Christ!

Were You There …

1 Comment

our sins have died with Christ ...

our sins have died with Christ … Good Friday at Redeemer’s “Crosses of Calvary” display

At last night’s Good Friday service, we all “laid our sins” on the cross of Jesus Christ.  There they were put to death with Him!

His blood became your blood as He died to take the punishment you deserved … and I deserved … and the whole world deserved.  Why? … Because He loves you.  How? … Because He is the Son of God.  Only His Blood has this power – to do what no other blood could ever do.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Now as we wait for Easter Sunday, we wait patiently with hope – because we know the end of the story!  Jesus does not stay dead …

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime” – Martin Luther

… and neither will you and I!  Look around you – flowers are coming to bloom.  Seeds are sprouting to life.  They were lying dormant in the ground, only to burst forth in beauty and splendor!

It is so fitting that Easter is in Spring.  What a great reminder that Christ’s death … and our death too! … only looks like it’s the end.

May you be filled with hope as you await the Resurrection!

Only by God’s grace,

Pastor Augie.

“I Have Done No Wrong … “

Leave a comment

Since we are in Holy Week, the Psalm reading in the Life Journal for April 17th, struck me to be applicable to Jesus’ Passion (i.e. His suffering and journey to the cross) …

I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
  (Psalm 59:4)

Doesn’t this remind us of Our Lord, Jesus?  In His perfection, He was attacked and sent to the cross for our sins.

And the Psalmist’s crying out in anguish, “Arise to help me; look on my plight!” sounds much like Jesus’ plea in the Garden at Gethsemane, “if it be your will, Father, may this cup pass me by” (Luke 22:41-43) … and again from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

May your “triduum” (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter) be filled with thoughts of reflection, penitence, and ultimately … joy!

Contemplating Christ’s sacrifice with you,

Pastor Augie.

John 3:16 – The Greatest Story Ever Told

1 Comment

For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,
So loved – and longed to see forgiven,
The world – in sin and pleasure mad,
That he gave – the only Son he had,
His only Son – to take our place,
That whosoever – Oh, what grace,
Believeth – placing simple trust,
In Him – the righteous and the just,
Should not perish – lost in sin,
But have everlasting life – in HIM.

I referenced this poem in a recent sermon.  It is very fitting for our Lenten contemplation and preparation.  Not only is it poetic, but it captures the simplicity and essence, and yet the power and profound nature of each phrase within the well known, and much loved, John 3:16.  I do not know who the original author is, but I found it in a sermon entitled “John 3:16 – The Greatest Story Ever Told” by preacher Joseph Wallis.

May we recognize and appreciate the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus, which opened to us the gates and glory of Heaven!

In Christ’s Name,

Pastor Augie.

Does the Bible Say There’s Life After Death?

Leave a comment

Q: A loved one, who is nearing death, asked me if the Bible actually says there is life after death. Where in the Bible does it say that we will live forever after our death on earth?

A: The first is perhaps the most obvious and well known John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 5:13 is probably my favorite: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Not just because it tells of eternal life, but it gives the confidence in salvation not based on our works, but simply believing in the name of the Son of God!
The 23rd Psalm is really popular at funerals, not just because of the wonderful imagery of green pastures and quiet waters, but because of the last verse (23:6) which reads, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

We’re in the season of Lent right now, so these words of Jesus from the cross, as he was dying, to the thief dying at his side, state very strongly that there is life after death: “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23:43)

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he told Lazarus’ sister Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

So you see, the Bible speaks very clearly about the reality of life after death.  It holds out MUCH PROMISE for those who believe in Jesus. (Not just that they’ve been good, or tried really hard, or are a “spiritual person.”)  Because it is also very direct about the fate of those who reject Jesus:

Right after John 3:16 & 17 which give hope, comes this stern warning in verse 18: “but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

People mistakenly think that when you die, that’s the end.  But that is not the case.  1 Thessalonians 4 16-17 tells us “for the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. “

This was meant to be an encouragement to the disciples, because of their faith.  But Jesus himself warns in Matthew 25 that after we meet the Lord in the air, comes judgment …

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.…  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Jesus also says in John 14:6“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So there is much hope for the believer in eternal life, but a warning for those who do not believe in Jesus to put their trust in Him!  You might ask your family member if he has been baptized, and then simply give him this promise from the Bible: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).  If he believes, but doubts His faith, remind him that even weak faith isn’t no faith.  And to let Jesus be his strength when he is weak.  And to put his trust in Jesus.  Even the thief on the cross was received into heaven with a life of sin, but a repentant heart!

May God bless you as you minister to others with the clear hope from Scripture that we are promised eternal life with God through Jesus Christ!

In His Name,

Pastor Augie.

Older Entries