Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of January 10, 2016

“The Hereafter, Here and Now: Hear Now!”

This message is the first in a four week series titled: The Hereafter, Here and Now.  Through the season of Epiphany we will see how God makes Himself known in the pages of Scripture and today.

The word Epiphany means manifestation or revelation.  Literally, it means to be made known.  In the coming weeks in the season of Epiphany, we will see how God continues to make Himself known to humanity in many and different ways.

Today, in our Gospel lesson, we saw how at the waters of the Jordan River, God revealed Himself.  This was no ordinary man standing in front of John.  Yes, it was his cousin whom he probably knew for years.  John had just confessed with words to his followers about the Messiah, the one who was to come and that He would be different.  And here He is standing in front of him.

That baptism was different as well.  John’s baptism was one of repentance but here, One who had no need of repenting is revealed as God.  With a descending dove and booming voice, Jesus is proclaimed as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the words of the hymn, “God in Man, Made Manifest.” 

This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  His words would soon make known the plan of salvation, the grace of God, the love of the Creator and the will of the Master.    In the course of time, many would hear His words, know His will and follow His way. 

The focus of Jesus’ ministry would be on the hereafter.  He had come to make things different, to change the course of sinful humanity.  He revealed Himself as the Messiah so that our hereafters would include a forever relationship with Him.

If you have spent any time here at Bethany, you have heard either Pastor Kevin or myself remind you that the ministry of Jesus is not just something from the past, it is not simply something that affects the hereafter, His ministry is HERE & NOW
  • It comes in water and the Word at Baptism 
  • It comes in the wafer and wine in Holy Communion 
  • It comes in the witness and the words of God's people gathered together

Jesus is here, now, to bind up the broken hearted, to heal the sick and the suffering, to ease the pain of loss and grief.  Jesus is HERE, NOW!

For all the sin that clings to your being; for all the times you have blatantly disobeyed and gone your own way, Jesus is HERE, NOW and He offers forgiveness found is His blood, shed on the cross and He offers His life to you as He has defeated death HERE & NOW.

HERE & NOW, your sins are forgiven, in Christ!

And all of this is well and good.  It’s what those gathered here need to hear.  The reminder that we are indeed sinful people and that by the amazing grace of God we stand as forgiven children of God. 

But what about the world? 

You know, back in the days of the Apostle Paul the world was just becoming Christian.  This church was in its infancy.  The previous generation had NOT known the story of the Savior.  Paul’s calling was to make known what God had done in Jesus to the current generation.  And he did so in new and different ways. 

Paul writes to the Ephesians from our text this morning, “In the past, this mystery was not known by people as it is now. The Spirit has now revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is the Good News that people who are not Jewish have the same inheritance as Jewish people do. They belong to the same body and share the same promise that God made in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:5-6)

In many ways, we live in a time that is 180 degrees from that of Paul.  The previous generations HAVE lived in a world where the Christian message has been made known both in culture and in society. 

But many are also painfully aware that the coming future generations will not necessarily have the same centrality on God’s Word, God’s will, or God’s way in everyday life.

The old St. Francis of Assisi had value in a Christian world, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.”

In a post Christian world I’m not so sure it is as valuable.  In the here and now words are necessary. In many ways we need to go back to what Paul did, to preach Christ, and Him crucified.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and He also dwells IN us as He works through us here and now.

So, what does this mean?  As you head back to work, school, or wherever God has called you in this season of life, you can be the Hear & Now for someone else by using your words to say, “Hear, now!” 

Your words and your witness are powerful ways that the coming generations who are here now will come to understand God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s way. 

In my house we tell our kids all the time “Use your words!”  So today I am encouraging you to do the same.  Use your words to give witness to Jesus.

I know you have heard the old phrase, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  Words may not have the physical power to hurt but God’s Word does have the power to heal, the power to create, and the power to instill faith.  And you have that Word!!  It is as close to you as the Bible and is with you as you use your words to tell others. 

Word’s are necessary and THE Word will help you accomplish it!

Paul told the church in Rome, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Joseph Bart-Plange, is a volunteer with the Lutheran Hour Ministries office in Ghana and he relates the following story.
In 1999 while on a visit to the Daboase area in the Western Region of Ghana, I met a man who was a mechanic, a fellow who specialized in repairing motorcycles. After sharing the Gospel with the man, he was brought to faith. His was a faith that responded well to the Lord's love. He and his family offered their residence to be used for a church. This offer I shared with our head office of Media Ministry in Accra. They supported me and the work with materials that proved invaluable.

Knowing faith comes by hearing, we started with Bible studies. This was done using tapes of Scripture, which had been recorded in the native language. The studies were done outside with the people sitting on benches. Our gathering soon attracted the attention of those who passed by. Soon many of those folks joined us so they could listen to the Gospel in their native tongue.

The number increased each week, and as a result we started church services on Sunday and Bible studies on Wednesday. Daboase now has a church and a pastor shepherding the flock.

In the same year, a cassette supplied by Lutheran Media Ministry was introduced to the nearby Sekondi prison. It was our desire to provide God's Word so the inmates might hear the Gospel. I give thanks I am able to share there was a great impact on the inmates, and many of them were brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.

Along with the tapes of the Bible, we also introduced our Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC). Those inmates who completed the course were awarded certificates and their very own Bible. While in prison some of the inmates requested permission to do their communal labor around the church in Daboase. When they have finished their sentences, a large percentage of the inmates have visited and joined the church.

Wow, what a story of the power of words and the power of The Word.  God continues to reveal himself in different and powerful ways.  And with the Word made flesh, we all can have an impact on the hereafter here and now and we can ask others to HEAR NOW, the great news of Jesus.    

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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