Find Comfort.

“And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:24)
Ezekiel presents us a prophecy of the Messiah. This prophecy follows a condemnation of the people of Judah for their unfaithfulness and wickedness. When the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar led the leading people of Jerusalem off into exile, he left Zedekiah as his puppet ruler. Although Zedekiah was in a place where he had opportunity to look to the Lord and lead the nation in repentance, he sought help from other nations for support and aid, but received nothing.

So it is with the unbeliever and all who fail to look to the Lord for help and comfort. They receive nothing, at least nothing of substance that will provide lasting comfort or strength. The plain fact is, man always thinks he knows better than God even though the lessons of history prove that we really have no clue. The Lord, however, promises to provide help and security to His people, if only they look to Him and enter into covenant and keep faith with Him. He will provide help, strength, guidance and mercy to those who come seeking Him even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Those who look to human ways and ideas and strength for answers to life’s problems will always be disillusioned, but those who trust in God will not be disappointed.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

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The Hope of Glory.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

As I write this I have just heard of the suicide of yet another celebrity. When we hear such things we tend to wonder why such successful, wealthy, popular, and famous people kill themselves. Didn’t they have all they could want? Didn’t they have everything to live for?
While they and God alone know the reasons for such self destructive behavior, one answer may lie in our cultural attitudes toward life and death, that is if you leave God and faith out of consideration. Without God, life is filled with despair. Death seems often to be a pointless waste that calls into question everything we have done in our lives, all that we have ever hoped for as well as all the physical suffering we have endured. If death is the end, then what was the value and purpose of all we did and experienced? People make up their own meaning and purpose for life based on cultural values or philosphical and religious systems which, in the end, tend to fall apart in the face of suffering and death.

Saint Paul, however, gives us real hope. He tells us that our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin gives purpose to our lives. And that same faith tells us that all the pain and afflictions, sorrow and loss we endure seem, in the light of eternity, as nothing. What we hold on to so dearly is vulnerable, weak and susceptible to dangers of all sorts. Eternal life is like a building that is strong, beautiful and permanent. When we die, we lose the tent but we are left homeless. The tent, our body we call home now, will be destroyed only to be replaced by our heavenly home, our glorified body, infinitely superior to what we cherish so strongly now. Therefore we can persevere by God’s grace knowing that we will live forever in glory.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Jars of Clay.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthian 4:7)
With the phase “jars of clay” Paul gives us a great image of the Christian life. This image proclaims the glory of weakness, a metaphor foreign to modern living. Our world treasures power, wealth and fame. All must stand up and be strong and control their own destiny. Weakness and self-doubt are vilified except when the powerful use the weak as tools to achieve their own agendas. But Paul’s metaphor tells us that the Lord demonstrates His glory and power through those who are weak. The self-sufficient autonomous person is not the one the Lord can use. These often reject God’s grace to seek inner harmony by means of human methods. They accept a glory that comes from human achievement, human physical strength, and human intellect. Such glory though popular today and praised throughout out culture cannot compare with the glory of God.

The great light of God’s glory is contained in jars of clay, our unattractive and frail humanity. This is great news for it tells us how we are to live. As jars of clay we have no reason to boast in our abilities, our attractiveness or any other reason. Any glory that we receive in carrying out the work of God belongs to the Lord. We are his servants. Like these clay jars, we are useful to contain the precious items of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. The contents are important, the vessel is not. Thus the most appropriate attitude for us humble gratitude for the privilege of serving a function in God’s kingdom. Such words so troubling to a world that seeks glory and celebrity are extremely comforting to the believer for they strengthen us in times of suffering and deprivation.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Spiritual Life in Jesus!

“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’  Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:3-4)

The Valley of Dry Bones is an image which represents spiritual deadness. As the prophet Ezekiel first saw the image he interpreted it as the spiritual death of Judah, of all Israel. Israel and her people had become as useless, dead, defiled and unclean as these dry human bones. Their deadness merited God’s punishment which they were then enduring as exiles and slaves in Babylon. Nevertheless, the bones are restored to life by the word of God spoken by the Holy Spirit through the prophet. 
The dead bones also represent the spiritual deadness of every human being, the deadness and decay brought about by sin. Each person is dead in his or her sins and yet the Lord comes and breathes new life into us by His Holy Spirit. Only the Lord God has the power to create spiritual life out of what is spiritually dead. This is accomplished by the good news of Jesus spoken through the prophets, apostles and the church by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. 
The Lord commanded Ezekiel to speak His words that accomplished the resurrection of those dead bones. And He commands us to do the same. We speak the truth of God’s word in Christ Jesus to those in our world who are spiritually dead, so that the Lord may raise them into His eternal life.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Absolutely True.“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. ” (1 John 5:11-12)

John assures his audience of the authenticity of their faith. He reminds them that they know God on an intimate and personal level. This relationship is not reserved for a few spiritual elite. It is their right by virtue of their standing in Christ. Consequently, believers have the right to pray with audacious boldness. They can approach God in prayer with a confidence that allows an openness in which they can freely speak their mind without fear. Such boldness is improper for nonbelievers and also false ones: it is the privilege of the believer. 

In addition we believers can be bold about stating that our faith is the absolute truth in this world where truth is relative and subjective, where people compose their spirituality and religion based on emotions, desires and philosophy. We who have faith can be bold in sharing our faith as well, though this will lead to anger, disharmony, and persecution. We can and should be bold because those who reject faith in Jesus are doomed to eternal separation from God.
Our relationship with Jesus is not a product of human striving or effort. It is made possible only by means of the blood which Christ shed on the cross. His blood is the means whereby God has reconciled man to Himself. Man approaches Him not on his own merits but through Christ Himself, who alone acts as our intercessor and High Priest. Salvation and unity with God Almighty is found only in and through Jesus. 
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

One Church.

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'” (Acts 10:34-35)
The 10th chapter of the Book of Acts is one of the most thrilling in the Bible as it depicts the salvation of the first Gentiles. Up to this point Christianity was little more than a sect of the Jews. All those who had believed in Jesus had been Jews or proselytes, converts to Judaism, all under the Mosaic covenant, all conforming to the Jewish religious traditions, feasts, rituals and laws of what was clean and unclean. They considered uncircumcised Gentiles to be unclean and tried to avoid all association with them, this despite the fact that the Lord had called Abram and his descendants to be a blessing to them (Gen. 12:1-3). Yet the Lord wanted to give the gift of salvation to all men and he used Peter to effect it. 
He prepared the apostle with a vision that ripped to shreds all the dietary and ceremonial laws of clean and unclean which marked the Jews as God’s people. Not only did God bless all food, but He also did away with the separation between Jew and Gentile. This all became clear to Peter when he went to Cornelius, and in response to the message of the gospel, he, and all those gathered believed and were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Now all men can become one in Jesus and are made righteous through the love and mercy of God.
The Church in America is undergoing a similar dramatic change in this new millennium. We are experiencing the influx of people of languages, cultures, and races that are quite different than ours. We may resent this and find it disconcerting, but we should accept it as a great opportunity to preach the gospel. God Himself has placed us where we are and called us to do His work. He often works in us to upset our biases and preconceived notions. Now He is exposing us to people of races ethnic groups that differ from our own, people we may not like, people we may think unclean. Yet the Lord extends His love and grace to all for He desires that all come to repentance and faith. Those who have faith in Him, regardless of where they come from or what they look like are our brethren. We must love them as we love Christ Himself.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

The Boldness of the Holy Spirit.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The early church expanded rapidly due to the action of the Holy Spirit through the disciples. His work convicted people of sin, healed people of sickness and disability, and created a compassionate and loving community. The Jews who were brought to faith in Christ experienced the power and love of God as never before. Naturally the religious leaders of the Jews did not like what they saw. They viewed these apostles of Jesus as unschooled troublemakers who threatened their power.

The apostles nevertheless received great courage from the Holy Spirit to confront these rulers and remind them of the part they played in the death of Jesus. They proclaimed that Jesus is God. And, in addition, they maintained that not only had Jesus risen from the dead, but that salvation was to be found in Him alone. This was an incredible and dangerous statement to make to a person of any other religion or belief system.

Such a statement in our current culture is still a dangerous one to make. This great truth of salvation through Jesus alone proclaims that all other religions are worthless, ineffective and hopeless because they are essentially lies. In the spiritual pluralism that existed in the ancient world and exists in our own this is quite a radical and dangerous claim, one which many find annoying or offensive. Consequently, many would label Christians as intolerant. Therefore, many so-called Christians attempt to soften this dynamic claim by allowing for truth in other faiths and stating that God speaks to different cultures in differing ways. They fear antagonizing people or making them feel bad about themselves. But the fact is they ought to feel bad, they ought to feel guilt, because we all are sinners. Unless we feel guilt over our sins we will never know we need a savior. We will never be led to faith in Jesus alone. So, therefore, we ought to pray for the boldness of the Holy Spirit who can enable us to speak the truth in love.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville