“New Heavens and a New Earth” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“New Heavens and a New Earth” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

This year’s theme for our Advent midweek services is “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.” We’re looking at the Epistle readings for the first three weeks of Advent, all of which are about looking forward to the second coming of Christ and, in view of that, how to live now while we’re waiting for that day.

Last week we began by looking at the biblical background of the term, “The Day of the Lord.” We saw it as a day of both judgment and salvation–judgment for the unbelieving world, but salvation for us as the redeemed people of God. We took comfort in God’s promise that he will sustain us to the end, “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Today we continue to explore what it means to be waiting for the day of the Lord. Our text this week is from 2 Peter 3, where St. Peter alerts us to be ready for that day. Peter’s message to us tonight is threefold: First, while there may seem to be a delay in Christ’s return, don’t think that God has forgotten his promise to bring it to pass, and so don’t be caught unawares when it finally does come, for it will come like a thief in the night. Second, Peter tells us what will happen to this evil world on that day, and he points us to the new creation that God will then bring about: “New Heavens and a New Earth.” Third, Peter exhorts us to live as God’s holy people even now, since that is who we are in Christ, and those new heavens and new earth we’re waiting for will be a place “in which righteousness dwells.” Let’s take these three points now one at a time.

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Published in: on December 14, 2017 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017

“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Well, here comes John the Baptist again. He always shows up around this time of year. Always with kind of a depressing message: “Repent! Get your life straightened out!” John the Baptist is like the Denny Downer of December. Everybody else is having a good time getting ready for Christmas–going shopping, listening to Christmas music, watching specials on TV, having Christmas parties–and here comes John, telling us to repent. John, is that any way to get ready for Christmas?

I mean, listen to this part of our text today from Mark 1: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

A baptism of repentance. People confessing their sins. Kind of dreary, isn’t it? Not too cheery. But oh, wait! This was John’s baptism, right? Yeah, John’s baptism doesn’t apply to us, does it? So I guess we can go on and skip over this repentance stuff.

Hold on, not so fast. Yeah, John’s baptism was not exactly the same as our baptism. His was preparatory, provisional, for a limited time only. But is it totally irrelevant to us? I mean the repentance stuff. I don’t think so. Let’s find out more now, as we consider “A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins.”

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Published in: on December 10, 2017 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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“A Day of Judgment and Salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

“A Day of Judgment and Salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

In thinking about a theme for our three midweek Advent services this year, I decided to go with the Epistle readings for the first three Sundays in Advent. For there is a common theme that you can see in all three. There is a phrase, a connecting thread, that runs through these readings. See if you can notice what it is.

First, from the Epistle for the First Sunday in Advent, 1 Corinthians 1, the part where it says: “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Then from the Epistle for the Second Sunday in Advent, from 2 Peter 3, phrases like these: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. . . . waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. . . . we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth. . . .”

And from the Third Sunday in Advent, 1 Thessalonians 5: “may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you catch it? What is the thread running through these lessons? It is “the day of the Lord,” the coming and revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, his second coming, and how we are to wait for that day. Thus our theme for this Advent series: “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.”

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Published in: on December 6, 2017 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down” (Isaiah 64:1-9)

First Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2017

“Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down” (Isaiah 64:1-9)

The Old Testament Reading for today, from Isaiah 64, is an intense prayer. The prophet is begging God to intervene on behalf of his people. As such, it is a fitting prayer also for God’s New Testament people, the church. And so, on this First Sunday in Advent, as we enter this season of waiting for the Lord’s coming, we cry out with Isaiah, “Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down.”

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Published in: on December 3, 2017 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 18, 2016

“Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

There’s that word “Emmanuel.” And we sing that hymn every Advent. But what’s it mean? Who is this “Emmanuel”? Why are we praying to Emmanuel to “come and ransom captive Israel”? And this “mourning in lonely exile” business–what’s that all about? Today we’ll find out, and we’ll find out how it applies to us, as we listen to “Isaiah’s Immanuel Prophecy.”

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Published in: on December 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“He Comes, We Come” (Isaiah 35:1-10)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

“He Comes, We Come” (Isaiah 35:1-10)

“You go, we go.” That’s what the Chicago Cubs told their centerfielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler the last couple of years. “You go, we go.” In other words, “As you go, Dexter, so we will go. You are the guy who makes this team go. When you get on base and play well, our team will do well.” And that is what happened. Fowler played very well, and the Cubs won the World Series. “You go, we go.” And now that Dexter Fowler has signed with St. Louis, the Cardinals are hoping for the same result.

“You go, we go.” Today I want to modify that saying a bit to reflect our reading from Isaiah 35. And what I’ll change it to is this: “He Comes, We Come.” He comes, we come. And the result will be something far greater than even a World Series championship.

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Published in: on December 14, 2016 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Be Patient until the Coming of the Lord” (James 5:7-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 11, 2016

“Be Patient until the Coming of the Lord” (James 5:7-11)

Advent is a season of waiting. We’re waiting for Christmas. This is a time of penitential preparation awaiting that festive celebration. The season of Advent always begins on the Sunday closest to November 30, which can be as early as November 27, and that’s what it was this year. So this year we’re having the longest possible Advent, a full total of 28 days.

But we get kind of antsy about waiting and letting Advent be Advent: “We gotta get the Christmas tree up!” “We gotta have the Christmas party in early December.” God forbid we wait until the actual twelve days of Christmas and have the party then. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything sinful about having the Christmas tree up already or having the Christmas party during Advent. These are just a couple of examples to show how hard it is for us to be patient and not to rush things.

Advent is a season of waiting. And if it’s hard enough for us in the church to wait for Christmas, it’s well-nigh impossible out there in the world. Think about how our culture wants to rush Christmas. The catalogs arrive in the mail right after Labor Day. The radio stations start playing Christmas music in early November. The store decorations and gift items come out earlier and earlier every year. Christmas TV commercials and TV specials have been playing for weeks. So when Christmas finally does get here, it’s over in a day and everybody’s kind of tired of it. People have a hard time waiting. We have a hard time being patient.

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Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 6:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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“The Shoot and the Root of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

“The Shoot and the Root of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Today we continue our series on “Isaiah’s Advent Prophecies.” Today’s prophecy comes from Isaiah 11, and it begins, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” And then our text closes, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” Notice that this one who is coming is first called “a shoot from the stump of Jesse,” and then he is called “the root of Jesse.” Both “shoot” and “root.” And so our theme: “The Shoot and the Root of Jesse.”

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Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand” (Matthew 3:1-12)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2016

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand” (Matthew 3:1-12)

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand”: That was the message of John the Baptist as he came preaching in the wilderness. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”: That is the message of John the Baptist as he comes preaching in our midst today. Let’s listen and take heed to what he is saying.

“Repent”: That’s the big word that comes through in our text today. What does this call to repentance mean for us and for our lives? What shape will it take? You see, this is not just a word for way back then. This is a word for right now, for us. It is the word of the Lord delivered through John that is meant to go in our ears and straight to our heart and affect what we do and think and how we live.

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Published in: on December 3, 2016 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Mountain of the House of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:1-5)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, November 30, 2016

“The Mountain of the House of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:1-5)

Today we’re beginning a series of sermons I’m calling “Isaiah’s Advent Prophecies.” We’re taking the Old Testament readings for this season of Advent, all taken from the prophet Isaiah, and making them the basis for these messages. Today it’s the reading from Isaiah 2, as we will hear.

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” the main character is told, “If you build it, he will come.” What is it that he is to build? And who is it that will come? That’s what the movie is about. It turns out that what the character is to build is a baseball field, the “field of dreams” of the movie’s title. “If you build it, he will come.” The “he” is rather a mysterious figure; we don’t know for sure who that is until the end of the movie.

There’s another line in the movie where the main character is told “People will come.” He’s being encouraged to go ahead with the baseball field, because many people will come and see games there. If you build it, people will come. And it turns out to be true. People did come.

What made me think of these things is our reading from Isaiah 2. There it’s not “If you build it, people will come.” Rather, it’s “If God builds it, people will come.” And what God will build is, not a field of dreams, a baseball field, but instead the house of the Lord, established on the mountain of the Lord. And people will come there because he will come, namely, the one who will teach us God’s ways and his word. People will come, yes indeed, people will come to “The Mountain of the House of the Lord.”

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Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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