Aug 21, 2017

Word of the Week - Education

The beginning of the school year is upon us once again, and so in our Word of the Week this week, Pastor Sam Rodebaugh leads us through a discussion of the word "education."

The word itself is not actually found in the Bible, but this certainly does not mean that education is not spoken of - far from it. We see the emphasis the Bible puts on educating children from a young age in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."

A wonderful example of Christian Education is seen in the person of Timothy, who was raised in the faith from his youth by his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:14-15). 

Christian Education does not end in early childhood. We see the example of Jesus learning in the temple in Luke 2 at the age of twelve. Even the prophets themselves committed themselves to lifelong Christian Education. 1 Peter 1:10-11 says, "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories." Through these examples, we too are encouraged to dedicate ourselves to lifelong instruction in the Christian faith as we allow God to guide our ways and direct our paths.

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Aug 14, 2017

Word of the Week - Baptism

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Rob Sauers leads us through a study of the word Baptism. Baptism in a Means of Grace. Along with the Lord’s Supper, it is one of the two sacraments that we celebrate. There is a lot that can be said about baptism; entire books have been written on this topic. We will limit our study to a few of key points – 1) What is baptism? 2) Who is baptism for? 3) What does baptism mean for our daily lives? May the Lord bless our study!

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Aug 7, 2017

Word of the Week: KINGDOM

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew, goes back to the Bible to define and explain the word Kingdom as it is used in the Bible.  While it can and does refer to kingdoms of earthly powers and rulers, it has a deeper and more important meaning.  It is used to describe the KINGDOM of God which is open to sinners through the life and death of Jesus, the Christ.  We inherit a part in this kingdom through faith.  It is not our work, but the gift of God.  Listen and grow in your knowledge of this important Biblical word.

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Jul 31, 2017

Word of the Week - Sponsor

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us through the word "sponsor." The most common usage of the word in our world today refers to a person or organization that pays for or plans and carries out a project or activity. You hear it on a radio or TV program that such and such program is sponsored by whatever advertiser is paying for part of the program in exchange for advertising time during the course of the program. The word sponsor is all used for one who assumes responsibility for some other person or thing. We have an example of this in Acts where Barnabas vouches for Saul before the Christians in Jerusalem just after Saul’s conversion. In Acts 9:27-28 we read, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”

As Lutherans, when we hear the word “sponsor” in the context of church, probably the first thing we think about is Baptismal sponsors, or what is sometimes referred to as godparents. Now, we never find the word “sponsor” in the Scriptures, and we don’t have an example of this role in connection with Baptism in Scripture. God does not tell us that we need to have sponsors so having them or not having them does not make a baptism more or less valid.

The church tradition of having sponsors seems to have started back in the second century and did not originate with infant baptism, but with adult converts to the faith. In that time when Christianity was heavily persecuted, an adult convert who offered himself for baptism would be accompanied by a Christian who could vouch for the applicant and undertake his supervision. As this tradition continued with the Baptism of infants, early on, it was often simply the parents who served as sponsors. In the following centuries, it became more common to have someone who was not one of the child’s parents serve as a sponsor and by the 9th century, it was prohibited for the natural parents to act as sponsors.

In the early church, one sponsor seems to have been the norm, but in the early Middle Ages, it became common to have two sponsors, one from each sex, and this is most often how this is done today.

In the Sydow version of Luther’s Small Catechism, three roles of sponsors are laid out – 1) to watch the baptism take place, 2) to speak for the child at his or her baptism, 3) to be concerned about the child’s spiritual well-being with their prayers and encouragement, especially if the child should lose his or her parents. As described in our Baptism liturgy, the role of sponsors is to make sure that the child learns the Scriptures, attends services in church, and is provided with further instruction in the Christians faith. Since we ask sponsors to share our concern for a child’s spiritual well-being, it is important that a sponsor has the same Christian confession as the child’s parents. This is why we ask only members of our congregation or church body to be sponsors.

Now again, having baptismal sponsors or godparents is not something that is commanded by Scripture. Some parents choose not to have sponsors at all for their children. Some parents choose people of a different Christian confession to stand and serve simply as witnesses that the baptism has taken place. But I would encourage parents to consider the benefits of having sponsors for their children.

As every Christian parent knows, one of their most important responsibilities is to raise their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is primarily the parents’ responsibility, but especially in our age when raising children in the faith has become increasingly more difficult, it really can be a great blessings to have sponsors who will help in the process, be especially praying for the child’s growth in the faith, and promise to be there for the children in case something should happen to the parents.

For these reasons, I would encourage having sponsors for children at baptism. If this is something you’re currently considering, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider who you would like to choose as sponsors, and talk to them about the important role they will serve in your child’s life. If you are a sponsor, I would encourage you to take this role seriously – to regularly pray for your godchild and to encourage his or her growth in the faith.

Though not commanded in Scripture, the tradition of having sponsors for children at their baptism can certainly be a great blessing.

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Jul 24, 2017

Word of the Week: PARENTING

Following the holiday of "Parent's Day" yesterday, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew takes a look at the concept of parenting in our Word of the Week.  The word "parenting" will not be found in your Bible, but the concepts surrounding parenting are found from beginning to end of God's Word.  Children are a wonderful gift from the LORD and raising those children that God has given is a serious responisbility and privildge.  As parents our chief goal is to instruct our children.  Yes can and should teach them about reading, writing and arithmetic, but more importantly, we are to teach our children the "Fear of the LORD, which is the beginning of wisdom."  We also are called to discipline our children.  Foolishness is bound into them by nature, and the LORD has given parents the responsibility of disciplining them to teach them what is right and what is wrong.  Finally, the LORD reminds us that as parents we are to serve as an example to our children of what a godly life is, and how Christ has redeemed us from sin and death.  May the LORD give us strength and wisdom in our parenting, that we may raise up godly children who know and fear the LORD!

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Jul 19, 2017

Word of the Week: TRUTH

This week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew discusses the word truth and its importance in our world today.  The world has largely rejected the idea of truth in our society, and swallowed the lie that it is relative, or that there is no such thing as truth.  Both are foolish ideas!  Truth is real and can be known.  Truth is given by God to our world for its benefit, both now in time (by the harmonious running of society) and in eternity (through the knowledge of who God is and what He has done to save us from our sin).  When a society rejects truth, bad things result.  We can see the effects of rejecting truth as we look at the world around us.  Abortion, euthenasia, Dr. assisted suicide, homosexual "marriage", and gender change surgeries are only the beginning.  Thanks be to God, in this world of sin, that Jesus remains "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" for those who believe!

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Jul 11, 2017

Word of the Week: Prayer

In this week's Word of the Week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew takes us through a study of the word "prayer." 

The word “prayer” describes the act of coming before God and speaking to Him as a child would speak to his/her father. God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). Prayer is, by its nature, the communication of one who is less to one who is greater. We are sinful, and God is all powerful. Yet, God has invited us to come before Him in prayer, with our needs and concerns, with our praise and adoration, with our thanksgiving for His many blessings, and also with humble confession of our sins and admitting that we deserve nothing from His powerful hand.

Prayer is a wonderful blessing and privilege from God. It also comes with God’s promise that He will hear and answer our prayer. Imagine! As Christians, we have the ear of the Creator of all the Universe! Believers in Christ throughout the history of the world have made use of God’s gift of prayer, and have had their prayers heard and answered. Job prayed for his friends, Moses prayed to the LORD on behalf of the people of Israel and Miriam his sister. Samson prayed for strength, and Hannah prayed for a son. King David prayed for forgiveness, and King Hezekiah prayed for healing. Elisha prayed that his servant could see the angels of the LORD protecting Jerusalem, and Daniel and Nehemiah prayed for the LORD’s blessing on requests made to their superiors. Paul prayed for his fellow believers, Stephen prayed for those who were murdering him. The LORD heard and answered each one of those prayers. James assures us: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

Believers since the time of the apostles have continued to know the great blessing the LORD has given to us in prayer. The famous hymn-writer, John Newton penned these verses concerning the power and privilege of prayer: “Come, my soul, thy suit prepare: Jesus loves to answer prayer; He Himself has bid thee pray, Therefore will not say thee nay. Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much” (459:1-2).

Prayer is a gift from God to us. It comes with His promise to hear us and to grant what is best for us. With such great promises, it is a shame that we do not make more use of prayer, isn’t it? Paul encourages us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In addition, most of our prayers are all too often focused on our physical needs instead of our spiritual needs. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us the opposite example. Yes, we can and should pray for our “daily bread” and the things of this life, but more importantly, our prayers should be directed to His name, kingdom and will, the forgiveness of our sins, and deliverance from temptation and the evil that surrounds us in this world of sin.

Thank you, Father, for the blessing You have given us in prayer. We do not deserve this gift of Your love but ask You to help us learn from the example of other believers in the Your Word as well as our Savior, and teach us to make use of this precious gift continually in our lives. Strengthen our faith in You, and use us to bring Your light of salvation to others that they to may know You and Your salvation in Jesus Christ. In His name we pray, Amen.

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Jul 3, 2017

Word of the Week: Independence

This week as we celebrate Independence Day, Pastor Rob Sauers takes a look at the word "independence." 

The word independent means simply “not dependent,” not subject to the control of others, not requiring or relying on someone or something else, showing a desire for freedom. Freedom and liberty are related words and these are often the goals of independence. We want to be independent so that we have the freedom to do what we want.

Now, a certain degree of independence is a good thing and something we want to encourage. We want to raise our children with a certain amount of independence so that they will be prepared for the time when they go out and live on their own. We want to have jobs so that we are not dependent on family or the government or someone else financially. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul is warning against idleness when he says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” So, we have that encouragement to be independent of the help of others when it comes to making a living.

But, like so many things, our sinful nature takes this idea of independence too far. Our sinful nature tells us that we are independent creatures on a lifelong journey to deeper independence. We believe that life is about “finding ourselves.” We believe that the way to reach happiness is to follow our independent hearts wherever they desire, often forgetting about God along the way.

So, how does that work out for us? I’m afraid our desire for independence often doesn’t work out the way we hope it will. Think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal son wanted his independence from his father, no doubt thinking that his life of independence would be great. And how did that turn out? He ended up broke and eating the same food as the pigs. We often have that same sinful desire to be independent of God. We want to be independent of all of His rules that our sinful nature believes are there just to keep us from being happy. And so we live as if God doesn’t exist. And how often does that get us into all sorts of trouble?

The truth is, ultimately, we are not independent. God alone is. God alone is completely self-sufficient. We see it in his name: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). His existence is independent. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” All of the world is His. In Job 41:11 the Lord says, “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.”

By contrast, we are completely dependent upon Him. First of all, we’re dependent on Him for our physical lives. Paul says in Acts 17:28, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And, we are also completely dependent on God for our salvation. Romans 3:23 makes it clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 8:7 tells us that “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (There are our attempts to be independent at work – not wanting to be subject to God and thereby making ourselves His enemies). Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” There are some who would say that we can independently make a decision to be Christians, but these passages and others make it clear that we cannot. No, our salvation is totally dependent on God.

The good news is that we certainly can depend on Him for our salvation. We can depend on Him because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). We can depend on him because, as Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We can also depend on God to keep us in the faith. 1 Peter 1:5 says, “[we] are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And we can depend on God to be with us as we go through the various trials we face in this world. 1 Peter 5:7 invites you to “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

It certainly is a good thing to celebrate the independence of our country and the freedoms that we enjoy because of our independence as a nation. And it certainly is God-pleasing to be independent in some aspects of life. But perhaps, we should also take the time to celebrate our dependence on God – celebrating the fact that He sustains our physical life, He has given us new life, He keeps us in the faith, and we can depend on Him to be with us in whatever we face in this word.

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Jun 26, 2017

Word of the Week: Sacrament

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Rob Sauers takes a look at the sacraments - what they are, and what their meaning is for us today. The word is not found in any English Bible. It comes from the Latin word Sacramentum which was used in a number of places in the Latin Vulgate (the Bible used in the Roman Catholic Church for many years) to translate the Greek word mystērion. This is where we get our English word “mystery” and, in fact, in the Eastern Orthodox churches, the sacraments are often called mysteries. The word mystērion is often used in the NT to describe the unseen things of God. The word has this general application to “signs” of grace – dreams, visions, miracles, the prophetic word, and ultimately, the Incarnate Word. In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” It is in connection with the Incarnation – the Word made flesh – that the sacraments were defined by the early church. The 4th Century Church Father Augustine referred to the sacraments as visible grace. By the 12th century, the Catholic Church defined the sacraments as those things that were either explicitly or implicitly instituted by Christ and came up with 7 – Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, confirmation, penance, ordination, matrimony, and extreme unction (anointing with oil). However, it is clear from Scripture that two of these rites stand out from the rest as special means of grace and so in the Lutheran Church, we celebrate two sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

When we talk about the sacraments in the Lutheran Church we speak of those sacred acts that have three characteristics: (1) A sacrament is instituted by Christ. (2) A sacrament has earthly elements – that is, Christ tells us to use something on the earth. For example: water, bread, wine. (3) A sacrament gives spiritual blessings – like forgiveness of sins, spiritual life, and eternal salvation. We can see how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper each have these characteristics as described in Scripture. Baptism was instituted by Christ in Matthew 28:19 - “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It has the earthly element of water and it is a means of grace that gives spiritual blessings. In Acts 22:16 we read “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name." And so we see that Baptism washes away our sins. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper has all of these characteristics. We see all of these present in Matthew 26:26-28 - "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." So we see that the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ, we see the earthly elements of bread and wine mentioned, and we see that it is for the forgiveness of sins.

Now, for many of you listening, you probably learned this definition of the Sacraments when you were in Catechism classes. You’ve probably been baptized and you receive the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. But how often to you stop and really think of what special blessings these means of grace really are? If you’re like me, probably not often enough, and so I want to conclude our study of this word by talking a little about the wonderful blessings we have in the sacraments. Think of your Baptism. It’s so much more than just an event that happened at one point in time – for many of you, at a time when you were just an infant and can’t even remember it. You Baptism has a lasting effect on your entire life. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Like a college basketball player at NBA draft time, the Lord has selected us to be a part of His team. Those of us who have been Baptized are wearing His uniform. That uniform gives us an identity. We are children of God whom He made members of His team not because of our playing ability, but solely because of His grace - because He has clothed us in His uniform. Think of what a difference that makes in our lives. We can awaken every day and tell ourselves, “I am baptized!” And Paul tells us what a meaningful reality that is in Romans 6:3-5 - "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Because Christ has made us His own in Baptism, we have eternal life to look forward to. What a blessing! Now unlike Baptism which is done once with that lasting effect we’ve just talked about, the Lord’s Supper is done repeatedly throughout our lives. When we receive this Sacrament, we can focus on those words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Our Savior is coming close and getting personal with us. It’s more intimate than our corporate confession and absolution. In the Lord’s Supper, our Savior whispers the sweet words of forgiveness in our ears. He says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Life in this world is a struggle. Our faith needs the strengthening which the Lord’s Supper gives. So let us receive our Lord’s Supper often and remember His blood shed on the cross for us and receive that forgiveness of sins. In the world in which we live today, we are tempted at times to ask, “Where in the world are you, God?” Many people look for an inner voice or to their feelings and emotions to find God. But we have something more sure than that. We have His means of grace. We have His Word. And we have His Sacraments which show us that Jesus has kept His promise to us when He said in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And so, we give thank to our God for the wonderful gifts He gives us in His Sacraments.

 

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Jun 19, 2017

Word of the Week: MISSION

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew discusses the word "mission" as it relates to the work of Jesus, and the mission He has given to His church.  The word "mission" means to "send or be sent for some duty or purpose".  The word itself is not used often in many Bible translations, but the concept is.  Jesus was given a mission.  He was sent for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil and by His life and death delivering sinners from death and the curse of sin.  Jesus accomplished that mission when He died on the cross.  He also sends His followers out with the mission of serving as witnesses of that accomplished fact.  He sends those who know and believe in Him out to "teach all things that He has commanded."  We don't have to cross the globe to carry out this mission.  It begins in our own homes with our families, with our neighbors and friends.  Father's play a vital role in that mission, as they are to teach their children the truths of God's Word, and bring them up in the "instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4).  Thanks be to Jesus for accomplishing His mission of saving us sinners of which we are missionaries!

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