AMAZING ESCAPES | 8 OCTOBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Hebrews 2:3 shares, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?  It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.”  Escape was Harry Houdini’s specialty; at least it was until October 31, 1926.  On that day the great Houdini died.  Before he breathed his last, if you sealed Houdini in a coffin, he got out.  If you locked him in a safe, bolted him into a boiler, sewed him in a sack, or threw him in a river, he got out.

But on October 31st of that year, he died.  Shortly before that date, and thinking about his departure, he said to his wife, “If there is any way out, I will find it.  If there is any way out, I will find you and make contact with you on the anniversary of my death.”  In short, Houdini said he would try to come back.

His widow Bess trusted her husband.  For the next ten years, she kept a light burning underneath his picture.  But after those ten years, after numerous attempts at trying to reach him, she turned out that light and said, “Houdini did not come through.  My last hope is gone.  I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me or to anyone…”  So much for escape.  People simply don’t escape death.

On the other hand, I do know Someone who defeated death.  According to prophecy, according to His own promise, Jesus of Nazareth defeated death.  Forget the silly ideas that He was placed in the tomb in a comatose condition.  Jesus was dead.  The Romans knew it.  The Jews knew it.  The disciples knew it.

Still, in spite of what everyone knew, on the third day, Jesus was seen alive and well.  Through His open tomb, we have been given a Savior – a Savior who forgives our sins, who carries out burdens, who died our death, who has promised to take all believers to be with Him in heaven.  It is a wonderful promise and one which has already been kept by the Savior who came back as He said He would.

 

From one who celebrates the Lord’s escape from death for me,

Pastor Steve



LIGHT OF THE WORLD | 25 SEPTEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

A young boy was standing in front of the congregation with his Sunday School class.  They had finished singing their song.  Each now shared a Bible verse they had memorized.  Understandably, placed in such a high stress situation, one of the boys forgot his passage.  It was John 8:12. “I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

Thankfully his mother, who had rehearsed with him, had come to church early.  In a most un-Lutheran-like action, she sat towards the front of the church J .  Seeing her son’s panic, she got his attention by leaning forward.  When he was looking at her, she silently mouthed the words, “I am the Light of the world.”  She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him nod his head and smile.  He remembered.  Sort of.  The boy stood up, took a deep breath, and loudly proclaimed, “My mother is the light of the world.”

I would not, for a moment, detract from the wonderful qualities of the boy’s mom.  She was raising her son to know his Savior.  Still, even though she is a most blessed woman, she is not the light of the world.

That title can only go to one Person:  the Lord Jesus Christ.  Seeing us caught in the darkness of our sins, knowing that a dark and everlasting grave awaited all of us, Jesus came to change things.  He came to bring light and be the Light that would scatter the darkness.  Has He succeeded?

Ask the disciples who courageously faced terrible deaths rather than step out of the light.  Talk to the parent who has stood by the grave of a child or the widow as she says an earthly farewell to her life’s partner.  During such times of deep darkness, it is only the light given by the crucified and risen Lord Jesus that can bring hope and life and light.

 

From one who seeks and stays with the Light of the world,

Pastor Steve



THINKING BIG | 19 SEPTEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Sometimes nations, countries, churches, or individuals think too small.  That is not a criticism that can be leveled against Domino’s Pizza.  Several years ago, they employed a construction firm, Maeda Corporation, to figure out what it would cost to put a Domino’s Pizza place on the moon.  Maeda came up with an estimate of $14 billion.  Most of that money would go to purchase fifteen rockets which will deliver seventy tons of building materials and pizza-making equipment to the moon.  Domino’s thought it could cut some costs by using the moon’s natural mineral deposits to make concrete for its two story restaurant.  Just about the only thing Domino’s hasn’t figured out is when this venture could begin.  Nobody can accuse Domino’s of thinking too small.

Nobody can accuse the Lord of thinking small either.  Imagine yourself standing with Jesus near the Mount of Ascension.  You have seen Him do miracles and rise from the dead.  He has done spectacular things to bring about our life and eternal salvation.  Now, shortly before He is going to leave He says in Luke 24:46-47, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  Or put another way, “Fellows, you knew I had to suffer, die, and rise.  That’s done.  Now I want you to tell people to repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness I have won.  Oh, one more thing.  I’d like you to start here in Jerusalem and take that Good News to every nation in the entire world.”  That’s a pretty tall order for a handful of fishermen and friends.

That’s how God works.  When Jesus came to this world, He came to carry everyone’s sins.  When He died, He died to save everyone.  Now He wants everyone to know they can be saved.  Thinking big.  That’s the way God thinks.  I pray we think big as well.

 

From one who thinks big as the Lord lays opportunities before me,

Pastor Steve



A BUNCH | 11 SEPTEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Compared to our national debt, 65,000 isn’t a big number.  On the other hand, when you realize that a 42-year-old woman from Rotterdam called her ex-boyfriend that many times in one year, well, that’s a bunch.  That would be almost eight phone calls an hour, twenty-four hours a day, every day, for an entire year.  When the lady was arrested for being a stalker she said, “He and I have a relationship and I don’t think that number of calls is excessive.”  He says they don’t have a relationship.

Back to that 65,000 number.  I imagine the fellow being called probably didn’t mind when his phone rang the first few times.  But when the number hit ten – or fifty – I think he might have been upset.  By the time the phone had gone off the 190th time, he was probably frustrated beyond belief.  It is impossible for me to imagine how he must have felt in the seventh or eighth month of the woman’s barrage.

All of this made me wonder.  How many times a day do you think the Lord forgives our sins?  Yes, there are times when we do fairly well – usually when we’re sleeping or under an anesthetic.  On the other hand, our waking hours more than make up for our short breaks from open brokenness.  How many times a day do we sin?  And how many times does the Lord forgive?  I don’t know the number.  But it’s a bunch.

This is why the words of Psalm 130:3-4 are significant.  “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness.  Therefore, You are feared (meaning “respected and honored.)”  Living in the grace of God, the psalmist is confident the Lord does not mark our sin.  He isn’t making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.  He already knows that.

The Lord, because of the forgiveness won for us on the cross, doesn’t keep a record of our guilt.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, He forgives, a bunch.  Because He does, we can stand before Him innocent.

 

From one who lives in the bunches of forgiveness our Lord offers,

Pastor Steve



LAUGHING | 4 SEPTEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Researchers at the University of Oxford discovered that a snicker just won’t do the job.  Even a smile wasn’t enough.  Only a hearty, sustained belly laugh will release the endorphins and chemicals that enable people to better deal with pain in their lives.  They found out that laughter is indeed one of the best medicines.

And so is Jesus.  OK, the term “belly laugh” is never used in Scripture.  Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John spoke of how they got together and traded good, old-fashioned, knee-slappers.  But if we look at Ecclesiastes 3:4, back in Old Testament times, we will find that laughter is an important part of our lives.  “(There is) a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Jesus’ Name and presence is often connected with the idea of joy.  I’d like to share a few examples of this from the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 1:14- The Savior’s forerunner, John, will bring joy and gladness.

Luke 1:44- Unborn John leaps with joy at the approach of Mary and the Savior.

Luke 2:10- The angel says that Jesus is good news of great joy for all people.

Luke 15:10- There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents.

Luke 24:41- It is joy at the risen Savior which overwhelms the two disciples from Emmaus.

Luke 24:52- After Jesus ascends, the disciples return to Jerusalem with great joy.

Our Savior has carried our sins and removed them.  He has done all that was necessary to move us from hell to heaven.  He has adopted us into the family of faith.  He promised to bring us into a place where there is no pain, tears, or sorrow.  If these things are not reasons to be joyful, I don’t know what would be.  Over and over again in the Bible, you can see the wonderful things the Savior did, said, and promised for you.

 

From one who sees the Lord at work in the laughter He provides in my life,

Pastor Steve