Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

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Come to Our Rededication Service!

Did you get one of these in the mail?

Postcard 1Postcard 2

Well, even if you didn’t, that doesn’t mean you aren’t invited.

Please come to our Celebration, Sunday, November 1st, 1:30 p.m.  Our worship space has been completely refurbished inside and out, to make us feel more comfortable, to open the space up for better utilization, but mostly, to assist us in the worship of our almighty God.

We’d love for you to join us!

Feasting with God #22 – A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

Feasting with God #22

A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

Text: Psalm 23:5-6

5You prepare a table before me
     in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
     my cup overflows.
6
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
     all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
     forever.

This psalm is in our culture today among the most beloved, because of the great comfort it gives.  It begins with the personal care and comfort we claim from God, stating, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (23:1).  The very sick or the dying have found comfort in the passage, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (23:4).  God is present to the one who speaks this psalm, very close and providing comfort and care and guidance, and it moves us to let go of any reliance on ourselves and to yield to God’s caring arms, like a tired child in the arms of his parent.

The verses cited above are no different from the rest of the psalm; they speak of the same great comfort, but there’s something new: our comfort comes “in the presence of my enemies.”  It seems as though we mean to gloat: that we’re showing off to our enemies, proving the riches we have and letting them starve or eat dirt.  If we take that picture too far, it seems like we’re turning ourselves into the rich man who denied help to poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

This devotional series is called Feasting with God for a reason.  We are moved by these passages of Scripture to see the great blessings God provides for us, often spoken of metaphorically as a great banquet or feast.  God feeds his people, so that we never go hungry.  And the blessings of this food are explained in the passage above: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  The blessings that God feeds us with are goodness and mercy in this life, and dwelling in God’s house in eternal life.  We have two sorts of blessings: blessings now, and blessings hereafter.  These blessings are so great, and move us to such wonderful appreciation and thanksgiving to God, that we want to show them off, we want to share them.

Perhaps this means we share them with our friends, showing them what great blessings we have, as Peter writes encourages Christians to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  Notice, they are the ones asking us.  So they have to see the evidence of our hope.  We hope in the blessings which we receive now, and which we will receive hereafter.  That ought to be visible.

But the text speaks specifically of enemies.  Christians have plenty of enemies.  The whole world is full of sin, and sometimes it is our own sin which is our enemy.  Sometimes it is the author of evil, the devil himself, seeking to tear us down.  Sometimes it is other people, who see the things we teach and believe that we are close-minded, old-fashioned, bigoted.  We can have courage in the face of all these troubles, however, because God provides a table of blessings before us, even before them.  Even when these enemies are gnashing their teeth at us the worst, we have God’s blessings.  And sometimes that means that those enemies will see our blessings as well.  Sometimes those enemies will notice that our spirit is not broken despite their best efforts.  Perhaps that will make those enemies lose heart, or perhaps it will cause those enemies to become jealous of our hope and blessings, and perhaps they’ll want to have some of those same blessings.

It’s always a good thing for our blessings to show.  No, these blessings aren’t physical things—perhaps we’re blessed with a good job, a happy family, a nice house, fine toys and things—the real blessings that we show, though, are the spiritual blessings we have received: faith in the one true God, in his Son Jesus Christ who died to win us eternal life.  Let the joy of that show on our faces.  Trust the Holy Spirit to keep us safe and secure in that faith.  And notice, it’s not up to us to try really hard to show it off.  It’s God who prepares this table before us.  Our faith rests fully and securely in him.

Dear Lord, our Good Shepherd, guide us as you have promised in green pastures and beside still waters.  Restore our souls and lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.  When we face death or deep darkness, help us to fear no evil, knowing that you are with us, comforting us with your Word.  Prepare before us a table of sweet blessings that all our enemies may see.  Confirm your election of us by keeping us in faith, making us sure of the goodness and mercy that follow us in this life, and of the hope of our eternal life, dwelling in your house forever.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #21 – I Am the Bread of Life

Feasting with God #21

I Am the Bread of Life

Text: John 6:35-40

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

We have seen Jesus rise.  No, our physical eyes weren’t there 2,000 years ago, but with our eyes of faith we look on the Son who was killed for our trespasses and who was raised again for our justification, and in that belief, we have eternal life.

It’s sometimes hard to think about all the people in the world who are starving.  We think of the third-world countries in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, some even here in the United States.  We picture so easily the sad children of those places, who never know where their next meal will come from, or even if they’ll have a next meal.  Our hearts can’t help but go out to them, and often we wish there was more we could do.

As Christians, we ought to do what we can to help those in need.  Sometimes that does mean donating money to charity, or even providing literal bread to someone in need.  Truly noble acts, but how much do we think about the long run?  A loaf of bread may feed several children for a week, but they need more than that.  They need the means to have food for the rest of their lives.  But they need even more than that.  They need access to food that will keep them from ever going hungry.

In the text today, Jesus provides the access to that very food.  “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger,” he says.  He’s not speaking about a loaf of baked bread.  He’s speaking about eternal, spiritual food.  Any earthly bread will keep our earthly bodies alive, but what about our souls?  Our spiritual bodies will need nourishing as well, and this we get by faith in Christ.  This Jesus states clearly: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  By faith we take part in the nourishing bread that is Christ.  By believing in him, we have access to the true feast of God, that nourishment that will give us life eternal.  Because of that holy bread, we will never die—not really.

Jesus came from heaven with that mission, to share eternal life with us.  That way, whoever dies in faith can be described as only sleeping, because on the last day their bodies will wake up to new life, to full life, to eternal life.  Jesus’ resurrection on Easter gives us a picture of what that will be like for the rest of us.  Our bodies are frail and breakable and living only in shadow now.  But when we are glorified in him, our bodies will be pure, whole, and really living.

So we look to Jesus to have that pure food, to have that eternal life.  And this is a food that is easy to share with others.  We direct their eyes to the same Jesus.  We tell them his Word.  We declare that it is free, that we don’t need to do anything to get this heavenly bread, but it is given to us by God’s grace.  God loves a cheerful giver.  We can give earthly bread, earthly money to support those in need—and those things are important.  But don’t forget the most important thing: the bread that feeds our souls for eternal life, Jesus Christ.

Direct our eyes of faith, O heavenly Father, to your Son, and the great gift you have given us through him.  We often feel so harshly the temporary nature of this earthly life.  Yet as you give us our daily bread to nourish this life, do not leave us without the bread we need for eternal life.  Strengthen our faith which looks constantly to Jesus Christ as our Savior, and through him, grant us forgiveness, life, and salvation, all that we need to never go hungry.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #20 – See My Hands and My Feet

Feasting with God #20

See My Hands and My Feet

Text: Luke 24:36-43

36As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”  37But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  38And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  39See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate before them

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Easter Sunday we Christians rejoice in our risen Savior, because he not only died to take the punishment that our sins deserved, but he rose to life to prove that God had set his seal of approval on Jesus’ sacrifice.  Therefore we know that we, too, will rise again to new life through our faith in him.

Of course, that fact means little if we never heard about it.  It could have easily been left as a mystery in the ages what happened to Christ’s body.  He could easily have become just one more idealist who died for his beliefs.  But the plain fact is that he didn’t stay dead.  And we know this because he appeared to his disciples alive again, proving to them that their sins were paid for.

Think of the progression: Jesus rose from the dead, then he appeared to a few on Easter Sunday.  Those few told others, and Jesus himself appeared to others in the days that followed.  Then the message spread from those who saw him to others, who told others, who told others, until, 2,000 years later, you and I heard about it.  Hearing this message should bring us such joy!  Hearing that our Savior rose from the dead should give us confidence to go through life, because we know that only joy and blessing await on the other side.

At Jesus’ resurrection we commonly talk about the beginning of his “exaltation.”  While he lived on earth, from his conception until his death and burial, we speak of his “humiliation.”  That was the time that Jesus humbled himself, brought himself down to our level, was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:5).  But at his resurrection he returned fully to his Godly power.  Now that the work of redemption and salvation was complete, he could come into his power once again to attend to the work of preserving the world, of exercising God’s power and authority in heaven.  And yet, even after his humiliation was complete, Jesus demonstrated some of that humiliation again.

The almighty God needs no food.  The Creator of the universe doesn’t need something cooked up by men in order to survive.  And yet, Jesus asked, “Have you anything here to eat?”  He ate not for his own nourishment, but for the benefit of his disciples.  He showed a little bit of humility once again, stooping down to do something as simple and base as eating.  By this he proved two things: 1) He wasn’t a ghost, but real, flesh-and-blood, alive; and 2) He is still a human being.  This is comforting to us on two accounts.  First of all, we see the proof that our Savior has really risen from the dead!  He has come back to life so we know that the price he paid has been accepted, and there’s nothing more we need to add.  Second, that Savior, our God, who sits in heaven, shares still in our human nature.  He still eats and drinks with us, and he understands the weaknesses, frailties, sorrows, and even joys of our humanity.  We have a God and a mediator who knows all we go through in life, and he promises to hear us and care for us through it all.

As the season of Easter progresses, rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord, and see what it means for our comfort and our salvation!

Dear Jesus, who suffered even the torments of hell in our place, we rejoice today in your resurrection.  Help us to rejoice in that event ever after.  Keep us from growing bored or tired of hearing the message of your resurrection, and lead us to acknowledge its truth.  Each time we sit to eat, remind us that you are there as well, as a human being the same as we are, and that you are also true God who hears our prayers and works for our benefit.  In your name and on account of the pure merits of your life, give us those blessings you have promised us of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #17 – A Sacrifice with a Pleasing Aroma

Feasting with God #17

A Sacrifice with a Pleasing Aroma

Text: Leviticus 1:3-9

3If [a man’s] offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish.  He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.  4He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.  5Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  6Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.  8And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water.  And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

This reading from Leviticus makes it sound as though, to appease an angry God, the people of Israel had to throw him a barbeque, so that he would smell the sweet meat as it cooked and not be angry anymore.  But that’s not quite what this burnt offering means.

The first fact to realize is that God is an angry God.  But that’s not a fault in him: mankind, from the very first human beings to walk the planet, made our God angry.  Rather than obey his guidelines for a peaceful and wonderful paradise, from the very beginning we have all tried to destroy that harmony, taking the wrecking ball of our selfishness, our ignorance, and our sinfulness to God’s perfect creation.  God established a pristine paradise, and we do nothing but daily throw mud on it.

To demonstrate what our sins meant, God told the ancient Israelites to begin making various sacrifices, and this burnt offering was one sort of sacrifice that they were to make.  For our sins, we deserve to be destroyed in fire as this bull was.  We deserve to be slaughtered, have our blood strewn about, be flayed and chopped in pieces.  So the sacrifice of a young bull in this way serves as a gruesome – but accurate – picture of what our sins earn us.

And yet it is more than this.  This sacrifice, as all sacrifices made in ancient Israel, served as a picture of something greater.  The key to this understanding comes in verse 4, where it says, “and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”  This bull is sacrificed in place of the man making the sacrifice.  Because this bull was sacrificed, it’s as though the payment for this man’s sacrifice was paid.  And the blood of the bull that is thrown against the sides of the altar should make us think of the blood of the lamb that was thrown against the doorposts in ancient Egypt – of that blood God said, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13).

Sin demands to be paid for, and it must be paid in blood.  The lamb’s blood stood as a sign that the payment had been made, so the angel of death would not harm the firstborn of those houses.  The bull’s blood stood as a sign that the payment of the man who made the sacrifice had been made, so that his sins were forgiven and he was atoned for.  And just as the lamb and the bull to be sacrificed was to be “without blemish,” this will direct our eyes to the greatest sacrifice of blood that was made, when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, lived his perfect life, unblemished, and then died and shed his blood on the ground.  Jesus’ blood now stands on the doorposts of the whole world, on the altar of the cross, so that once and for all has atonement been made for all humanity.

When God says that the offering would have a pleasing aroma, he means that it will be acceptable to him.  The pleasant smell of the burning meat would direct the ancient Israelites to that understanding, so that as they found the aroma sweet, they knew that they were giving that up to God, who himself would forgive them on account of that sacrifice.  If a bull without blemish would be sweet and acceptable to God, how much more isn’t the One without blemish, the very Son of God who was perfect and sinless, who gave himself of his own free will to pay for all mankind’s sins?  Be certain that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted by God, so that all our sins have now been paid for.

Dear Lord, we have sinned against you, in countless ways and at countless times.  For all these offenses we deserve your wrath and eternal punishment, but we thank you that out of your grace you yourself have made the payment for our sins, offering your own Son up as a sacrifice of blood.  Now that all our sins have been paid for, O Lord, guide us in our lives now to live as people who are thankful to you.  In the name of your Son, that One who was slain for us, we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #16 – Eating Abominations

Feasting with God #16

Eating Abominations

Text: Deuteronomy 14:3

3You shall not eat any abomination.

Has it ever struck you how strict the diet was for the Israelites?  Sure, today we see things labeled “Kosher,” and we know that Jewish people don’t eat pork.  But I suspect that unless we’re a part of that demographic, the restrictions of their meal plans don’t really stand out.

This verse today from the book of Deuteronomy serves as the overarching theme of what the nation of Israel was not to eat: no “abomination.”  The meaning of this word depends exclusively on the perspective of the person who speaks it, so as God is the one speaking it, what he means is that the Israelites were forbidden to eat anything that God would deem offensive.  Maybe his rules on their food were a little bit arbitrary, but he was grooming this nation to be one that was exclusively his, one to be separate from all the pagan nations of the earth.  The nation of Israel would have the true God, while all these other nations would have false gods.  One way this distinction was to be outwardly shown was through diet.  In worshiping the true God, the Israelites would obey God’s commands for what they were and were not to eat.

Now why don’t Christians follow these dietary laws?  It’s fairly common for Christians to eat things like pork and shellfish, but since we believe and follow the whole Bible, including the Old Testament, it seems we ought to make ourselves aware of these laws and do our best to follow them, so that we can be God’s pious people just as ancient Israel was.  But the answer comes in Acts 10:13-15.  Peter was given a vision of animals, all kinds of animals that would be called unclean or abominations.  “And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.’  And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’”

This new church of which Peter was now a part was no longer restricted to the nation of Israel.  The Gospel message was to be taken to all nations, and disciples made of all the people throughout the world.  There was no need for a diet to distinguish the people of God’s nation from all the heathen nations, because all nations were to be God’s.  And more than this, these laws of diet were given as a requirement to enhance the holiness of God’s people.  But because of what Jesus had done – keeping all the law perfectly, and dying for the sake of all uncleanness and abomination – there is no need for us to try to save ourselves by any law.  We are saved by grace and faith.  This is given to us freely, and that sets us free.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Paul writes (Gal. 5:1).  No laws can burden us, no special diets are required.  Instead, now, we are free to live and act in love – free to “eat or drink, or whatever you do,” but in every case, whatever we do, to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Yes, there are still things that will distinguish the Christian Church from the rest of the unbelieving world, but it’s not obedience to any law.  Instead, what set Christians apart are the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).  We live free from all laws, so we live in love toward God and one another, and that – not what foods we eat or don’t eat – marks us as God’s people.

Lord, guide us to a greater understanding of our Christian freedom, and to an appreciation for what a great gift it is you have given us.  Although we are no longer bound by any laws, O Lord, lead us to submit ourselves to the law of love, in which we can share the Gospel message of your Son who set us free, that others might also rejoice in this freedom.  In your Son’s name we ask it.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

“Finding Christ in the Psalms” Lesson 1

Missed the first class for our “Finding Christ in the Psalms” Bible Study? Never fear! The PowerPoint presentation, along with an audio file of the class, is available to you now.

Instructions:
  1. Download the file: Finding Christ in the Psalms – Lesson 1 – Watch
  2. Start the slideshow: 
  3. Let the presentation do its work (the slides and animations will transition automatically on a timer).
  4. Let us know your questions and thoughts in the “Comments” section on this page.

This class will continue every Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 125 North St., Iola, WI 54945.  Hope to see you there!

Redeemer Report 1.6 (February 2015)

Read the Church Newsletter Feb 2015 here!

Redeemer Report 1.5 (January 2015)

Read the Church Newsletter Jan 2015 here!

Redeemer Report 1.4 (December 2014)

Read the Church Newsletter Dec 2014 here!