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

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Our Need for God.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
Isaiah was overwhelmed with terror when he beheld the Lord God Almighty in all His glorious splendor. He feared to stand in the presence of our Holy God because he knew he was an unclean sinner unworthy to be in the presence of Divine holiness.

I have felt that terror myself. Many years ago, I came to a point where I was totally overwhelmed by my sinfulness. I knew I was a sinner filled with all sorts of evil habits and desires. I knew that I could not go before God the way I was because He was so Holy and I was not. I knew that there was a huge unbridgeable gap between me and Him. I despaired because I could not understand how to bridge that gap. I saw it as an abyss, a bottomless pit, the entry to hell. I felt like I was about to fall in and be lost for eternity. Even though I knew the truth from reading the Scripture and hearing the gospel proclaimed, I could not figure out how to earn God’s grace and mercy.
The Lord used that terror to impart faith in me. By faith He revealed that grace and mercy are given freely, not earned, for, in fact, they can’t be earned!
Did you ever feel that kind of terror? Did you ever feel that sense of your own disgusting sinfulness? I hope you have. Because without a sense of our own sinfulness we will never know how serious sin is or how hopeless our condition without a proper atoning sacrifice is. We will never see how much we need God. We will never see that gap between us. We will then not see that there is a bridge over it. That bridge is Jesus. This is good news!
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

The Gospel Basics.

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36 ESV)

Peter’s explanation of the miracles of Pentecost, particularly the speaking in tongues, gave him an opportunity to preach the gospel. This short sermon contains the basic facts of Jesus ministry, death and resurrection. These facts are enhanced by an appeal to the witness of the Old Testament Scriptures, in this case the prophet Joel and King David. Peter also cited the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and the testimony of the people who were there listening.

The important idea that Peter wanted to convey to those listeners was that now is the day of salvation, now is man made right with God. This is possible only by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the very man that the Jews condemned and rejected several weeks earlier. Peter let them know that Jesus had risen from the dead. He was no ordinary man, but He is Lord, that is Yahweh, as well as the promised Messiah. In the ensuing verses Peter called them to acknowledge their sins, repent and be baptized. Then they would receive forgiveness, enter into the new life in the Kingdom of God and filled by the promised Holy Spirit and in fellowship of the new community of God, the church. All who are saved are rooted in that fellowship of believers. It is impossible to be a Christian without the fellowship of the church for love and faith need fellowship in order to develop and function.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

God’s “foolish” way to overcome death.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 ESV)

In John 3, Jesus cited the example of the serpent in the wilderness to signify that He would bear the sins of mankind in Himself. This incident is found in Numbers 21, an account of the Israelites’ murmuring against God. Here they voiced their dissatisfaction with the food the Lord had provided. After years of wandering, the people were still looking back to the good food they had in Egypt. They forgot that they had been slaves there. After all those years, you would think that their experiences would have taught them the consequences of complaining against the Lord’s provision. 

The Lord punished Israel with a plague of fiery serpents. These snakes fell on them with devastating consequences. The people cried out in repentance and the Lord provided salvation. The odd thing is that the salvation was in the form of a bronze serpent. All the people who had been bitten had to do was look at it and they would be saved from death. Those who thought that doing such a simple thing was stupid, pointless or foolish, died. 
In this incident we see that the very thing that caused death was a symbol of life. This of course is a type for Christ. He became sin on the cross. What was deadly brought life. All who look to His cross in faith are saved from death. Those who refuse to look to the cross because they insist they know better or think that looking to a man crucified in despicable shame is foolish or unscientific and cannot possibly make a difference to them will die. 
 I often think things would be better if I went back. But then I recall that I was always in bondage to shame and fear. And I had no relief because the one who i perceived shamed me most was the one I feared the most: the Lord. Now I know Him and am sure of His mercy and unconditional love. Why would I want to go back?
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

The Spirit of Truth.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)

On the night of the Last Supper, the words Jesus was sharing with the apostles filled them with questions. He increased their dismay by telling them that not only would He be leaving shortly, they would suffer persecution for His name and He wasn’t going to around to help them and give them advice and encouragement. Yet He did encourage them by telling them that His place would be taken by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would be with them at all times and in every place and situation. He would use them and all who would place their faith in Jesus to do the work the Lord did. His job was to convict the world of sin righteousness and judgment. This meant that men would see their sins in light of the gospel but also would be granted the righteousness of Jesus by faith in Him. All would be judged by their response to that faith.
All believers benefit from the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has commissioned us as His ambassadors to preach the gospel. Many of us shrink back from that commission with the excuse that we lack the courage or wisdom or speaking ability or talent to do so. But this is no excuse because it is obvious that we do lack such abilities and the Lord knows this! The Holy Spirit will enable each believer to do that which he or she cannot. He will provide each of us with the words we need at the appropriate time. He will use us to speak of Jesus and His love. He will use us to witness for the Name of Jesus. He will use us to bring God glory by leading others to Him.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Unity in Christ

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)

Our culture is torn apart by differing forces and movements. Many people desire that we come together in peace and harmony by recognizing what we have in common. Others say unity is achieved by stressing the uniqueness and autonomy of each individual. But the unity and harmony our culture seeks has already been achieved by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. He was poured out on that day on the disciples of Jesus with great power manifested by intense fervor and zeal. The Holy Spirit enabled each of the disciples to speak in languages they did not know to people who did: Jews who were in Jerusalem from other parts of the Roman Empire, all gathered for the harvest feast of First Fruits. And the first fruits of the New Covenant were gathered in the church that day. 3000 people believed and were baptized.

On that Pentecost the great manifestation of the Holy Spirit was the miraculous speaking in tongues. This signified that the Lord was uniting humanity in His Kingdom thereby reversing the curse of Babel (Genesis 11) which had resulted in division, hatred, prejudice and disharmony. At Babel humans came together to achieve glory for themselves in man made religion and works of the flesh. On Pentecost the Lord established His Church as the New Israel. Unlike national or ethnic Israel, the Lord was bringing together people from all nations and languages. Now in Christ all can be united by the Holy Spirit in common faith, not by their own works or by following religious laws, but by the work of Jesus on the cross.  

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville