Living Hope

Our Victory

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

“‘O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He came down from heaven to win the war for us.

Jesus Christ, born of Mary, the incarnate Son of the Heavenly Father, took the field for us and defeated the enemies of God and His people. He did it willingly so we could be brought back into the family of God. And when our enemies thought they defeated Him when they killed Him on the Roman cross, Jesus walks from three days later from the tomb.

The empty tomb symbolizes the great victory Jesus won for us.

Death no longer has control over us. Jesus victoriously walked free since death’s grip was overcome when He rose from the dead.

The victory over death is our victory, imparted to us because our Lord wants us to be with Him forever. He did it all on our behalf so we can stand as victors over death, sin, and Satan and gain eternity with our God. Jesus won the war for us.

It is a great feeling to know that our God has done this all for us and has given us the fruits of His victory. Though we may feel like we don’t deserve it, He gave it to us any way because our God loves us.

As we go through this time of immeasurable struggles with the coronavirus and see so many people lose their lives, we know that our redeemer lives and that all of God’s people will stand with Him for eternity. Though we cry today, our tears are wiped away by our Savior who redeemed us from eternal death.

Living Hope Morning Coffee

More Than Seeing

John 20:29

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

When we think about believing in things that you can’t see, it takes a lot of trust, doesn’t it? 

There are so many people who believe in UFOs and intelligent life on other planets. Have they seen an alien from a far away planet walking around the streets? No, but they still believe that somewhere in space there is intelligent life on some planet we haven’t discovered yet – life they believe is more intelligent than anyone of us – and one day their space ship is going land here on earth wanting to speak to our President.

There are some who believe the narrative in the “War of the Worlds” novel, movies, and television shows, that these intelligent beings are going to arrive here one day and try to kill all of us.

How much real evidence do they have to prove their beliefs? None.

They haven’t been privy to any real evidence, only conjecture and imagination, yet they believe.

To believe in God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is a completely different understanding of seeing is believing. Historical and archeological evidence has proven that the stories of Holy Scripture are accurate. 

The evidence is there. No need to dream that this evidence exists.

The question of faith and believing in Jesus is a deeper spiritual topic. Proving faith is not possible; it is all about believing and trusting in something greater than what we can see. And at the core of this faith is a deep-rooted living hope that the Creator of the world wants us to be with Him forever and He will do and has done everything to make this a reality. 

Faith is not touching the man Jesus and believing. Faith is believing the story of God that He loves us. And by the Holy Spirit, we say we believe and trust the God who created us, redeemed us, and sets us apart to be His own. 

We Christians who believe in Jesus don’t need to see the nail marks in His hands or the spear mark in His side to believe. We trust Him that when He said He came to fulfill the Law of God on our behalf and redeem us, He did just as He promised.

It is a wonderful feeling to live my life by my faith in Jesus Christ. Seeing this world through the prism that things can get better if all people come to faith in our resurrected world is a great feeling. So all of us work in tandem to bring this living hope of Jesus to all people on this blue ball floating in space. 

Church Gospel Life LCMS

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Some Lutheran pastors I know weren’t thrilled with the theology espoused by the Rev. Billy Graham, America’s pastor who was called to his eternal rest at age 99 this week. They viewed his preaching as being filled with ‘works righteousness,’ namely that faith in Jesus isn’t enough and one needs to “do something good” to earn salvation. It is the earning that riled them up.

I, too, wasn’t thrilled with Rev. Graham’s works’ centered theology.

But you can’t deny that there are a lot more Christians in America today because of Billy Graham. They may not receive the Lord’s Supper regularly or they may have been baptized in a pool instead of at a font, but in the end, they all believe that Jesus died for them. In the whole scheme of things labeled ‘eternal life,’ it is faith in Jesus that counts. And for that, we Lutherans should be grateful for all the work that Billy Graham did to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

See, when Lutherans from the LCMS get to heaven, there are going to a lot of people there who weren’t followers of the church that bears Martin Luther’s name. We aren’t going to be subjected to a theology test at the pearly gates.There isn’t going to be a quiz about what is the true understanding of the Lord’s Supper or whether it is good to chant the Gospel on Sunday mornings. Believers in Jesus Christ are going to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Rev. Billy Graham was a good and faithful servant. May he rest in peace.

Church Gospel Life

Day One

When I came downstairs to start my January 1, 2018, Alexa proudly showed off this morning’s temperature: 7 degrees. This cold snap is getting extensive coverage by the local news organizations, notable due to the thousands upon thousands of people who spent their New Year’s Eve penned in outside in Times Square in single-digit temperatures with real feel values much colder than those 9’s on thermometers.

Local news organizations have discussed the issues that these freezing temperatures bring to homeless populations, those living in substandard housing, seniors who may not be able to pay the heating bill, and even to animals.

While we here in northern New Jersey are at 7, many other places around the US are even colder. As my mother would remind my brother and I when we’d complain about the cold, “What do you want? It’s winter.”

Today starts 2018. I have never met anyone who goes into a new year without some optimistic outlook. The blank canvas of the new year provides everyone, especially those of us in the church, with a high chance to make a difference in the lives of people. We can show the righteousness of God in our lives by letting our faith’s lead us, not the gremlins of negativity that can cloud our thoughts and actions.

While not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, I feel that all Christians should challenge themselves to be faithful, courageous, and more trusting in 2018. We should look forward and not back. The light of Jesus Christ must be at the heart of all our goals.

At St. Matthew’s, we’ve challenged ourselves to grow in faith and show our lives in Christ throughout 2018. We want to touch more people with the Gospel, improve our worship life, and provide more people with opportunities to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We plan to just “do the faith” in words and actions.

A cornerstone of “doing” my part is writing. We, pastors, ask the members of our congregations to use their talents from God to make the church a stronger place. For some reason, God has blessed me with a love of writing. It may not be Ernest Hemmingway or Danielle Steele writing, but God has given me a passion for expressing myself in words. I’m not promising a daily recitation of living the faith or a devotional to spark one’s journey in the Christian life. I’ll just write – mostly good posts about life, posting stories that shine a good light on people. Of course, the New Yorker in me will pop up now and then, where sarcasm will be the norm of that particular day. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum, though I can’t promise anything.

May our Lord bless you as you enter this new year.

Remember – it’s all about faith in Jesus.