September 23, 2022: 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we need You to re-remind us what’s really important, vital, and valuable for our lives.  We need an added dose of Your forgiveness and holiness along with an ongoing appreciation of every blessing—from the biggest to the smallest.  Armed with all those spiritual weapons we can actively live blessed lives.  Amen


TEXT:  I Tim. 6: 6-8

Dearly Beloved  by Christ: 

          Remember those little cartoons from years past where some seeker of truth laboriously trekked up on a mountain cliff to ask some guru: “What’s the meaning of life?”  The guru always had some amusing answer which stated the obvious.—“It is to eat well, my son.”  Or, “It is a good night’s sleep.”  Or, “It is to spend your life in living and not searching.” 

          So, how would you answer that question: “What’s the meaning of life?”  Well, before you provide your answer you need to listen closely to our lesson.  For in it, St. Paul gives God’s answer to the:



          St. Paul begins by really stating the obvious.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  And then he enlarges on it.  “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  On the surface this all seems rather self-explanatory.  But, let’s dissect Paul’s words and in the process flesh out The Secret To A Great Life.

          First off, what is godliness?  Is it simply belief in a higher power?  It is acting morally upright, or at least trying to do so?  Is it going through the motions of religion—praying, worshiping, and praising God?  Is it thinking a lot about heaven and the afterlife?  No, being truly godly centers upon being right with God.  It is all about your relationship with Him.  But, since we’re imperfect sinners, isn’t it impossible for us to achieve rightness with God all on our own?—Yes!  Our attempts at godliness always fall sort.  That’s why God had to step into this void and make us right with Him through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As Paul writes in Romans: “But now a righteousness from God has been made known.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” 

          Just as rightness with God, also know to us as the forgiveness of sins, is God’s gift to us; so, too, is the faith in our hearts which grasps this gift.  So, true godliness centers upon Jesus and all He’s done for us.  True godliness already belongs to each and every believer.  So, why is it that many believers, indeed all of us, fail to have a great life at times?  Why is it that we feel frustrated with life, have moments of unhappiness, and often wish we were someplace else doing something else?  Well, the answer is found in these words: “with contentment.”


          Godliness and contentment should go hand in hand.  And when they do, as Paul says: “We have great gain.”  But often we separate the two, don’t we?

          There are two basic mindsets you will find among all people.  Some are results oriented and others are process driven.  That is, some people are all about results, the bottom line, completing a project as soon as possible in order to move on to something else.  They are content and happy when whatever they are doing is finished.  Meanwhile, while they are actually engaged in getting it done, they are edgy, uptight, and frustrated.  That is, they hate the process necessary to achieve their goal.  When I was a boy and would put together model ships.  I wanted the project to be over as soon as possible.  I wanted the model completed.  So, I wouldn’t follow the directions on the box.  Instead, I’d snap pieces together and hurriedly glue them.  Then I would paint the model after I had assembled it.  Voila!  I soon had my end result in cut time because I had circumvented the correct process.  But, alas, my models never quite looked as good as the one on the box because I was in too big a hurry!

          When you’re result-driven you find yourself wishing away your life.  The daily process becomes a grind which is intermittently broken up by some sort of achieved goal.  Those “goal moments” or “result moments” give you contentment for a bit.  But they are very short next to the long hours of labor, or process, needed to achieve them.

          Sometimes you meet people who are more process driven than result driven.  I’ll bet you have a neighbor who always seems to be remodeling his house and never really gets it done.  They live for months, or years, all torn up.  Yet, they seem happy and content.  How can this be?  Perhaps they love the process of doing the work more than basking in the end result? 

          As Godly believers we find both process and result concepts impacting our lives of faith.  Sometimes we focus primarily on the result of believing in Christ, which is heaven.  We long for heaven.  We almost obsess about it—especially when tough times come our way here on earth.  It’s almost an escapism mindset.  But, in the process of doing that, we fail to appreciate each day and fail to savor each task God lays before us.  The result is: we miss out on a whole lot of contentment.

          At other times we can find ourselves so immersed in living out our faith, worshiping, doing for others, praying, engaging in the whole panoply of sanctification that we lose track of the ultimate goal behind it all: the heavenly result. 

          The fact of the matter is: process and result should always go hand-in hand when it comes to our faith.  We should never lose sight of heaven and never fail to live in each moment God gives us during the process of getting there.  But, of course, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?


          How can any of us achieve contentment to go along with our godliness?  The answer is: by embracing the process and never losing sight of the result.  Mowing the church lawn takes a good 3 to 4 hours.  It’s laborious, but it looks nice when it’s all done.  I used to mow it with an invisible clock in my head ticking off the time expended.  When I finished I’d proudly look over my work and only then was I content.  However, I’ve learned to do otherwise.  Now I try to savor each step and to just enjoy the work of doing it—embracing the process.  As a result, I’ve gained 3 to 4 hours of contentment! 

          The same holds true with painting the house, doing housework, driving to work, laboring on a presentation, hauling the kids around, or just lounging in your easy chair.  The Bible says: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  We could paraphrase that passage to say: “This is the moment in time the Lord has given to you, don’t waste it or wish it away as it will never come again.”

          True joy in life comes from both the doing and the finished product.  Both have their special joys.  And when both are embraced, ongoing contentment reigns in your life.  That’s because as a believer you know that you’ve acted on the godliness that Christ has bestowed.  We cannot take houses, money, or possessions with us when we go to heaven.  We take only our faith in Christ.  We take our good works of daily service born of that faith.  And the final result of such godly contentment is that we get to hear Christ say directly to us: “Well done!  Thou good and faithful servant!”  So, The Secret To A Great Life is: godliness with contentment.    Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

September 18, 2022: 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  today we celebrate the eternal wealth that You have given to us, namely the forgiveness of all sins, eternal life, and peace between You and us.  May we learn by Your Word of truth to employ those riches in every way possible in order to be faithful managers of such wealth and thereby win souls for Your glory.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 16: 1-13

Dearly Beloved in Christ: 

          The fixer.  Every community has one.  And everyone soon learns who they are.  Every office has someone who can cut through red tape to get things done.  Each city has someone who you can turn to in order to grease the skids for building permits.  Every family has at least one member who always seems to solve relationship problems.  Sometimes we admire such people—especially when they employ their skills in an ethical and honest manner.  But most of the time we don’t want to know exactly what they do since we’re 90% sure they have cut corners.  The bottom line is: we all grudgingly admire such people because we benefit from the results they achieve. Fixers are “doers” and not just “talkers.”

          In today’s lesson, Jesus speaks about such a “fixer.”  He was the business manager for a very wealthy man.  He was in charge of all that vast wealth and had the power of attorney to sign every contract.  So far, so good.  But, but there was a maggot in this well-run  enterprise.  This fixer wasn’t honest.  He was a thief who siphoned off a portion of that wealth and/or misused company money to better himself.  The rich owner found out about this breach of trust and called a meeting. 

          The fixer knows he’s been found out.  You can well imagine that someone he stepped on too hard got word back to the owner.  He also knows he’s going to be fired, or worse.  “What shall I do now?  My master is taking away my job.  I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”  You see he still has legal power of attorney.  Maybe, maybe he can “fix” his situation?  And he does.  He calls in various debtors, presents them with their contract and then has them write it down.  Then he affixes his legal signature and voila!  The problem is “fixed” and his future is secure.  Yes, he connived.  Yes, he jobbed the system.  Yes, what he did was unethical.  Yes, he took advantage of a loophole.  He used his worldly wisdom to create a “win” for himself out of a certain defeat.


          “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.  For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”

          Note well that the owner does not countenance theft.  Is he happy that he’s now lost a portion of his wealth?  No.  However, the owner is wise enough to recognize this fixer’s ability to take care of himself and he even gives voice to it. 

          Well, this is a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  So, now comes the direct application to you and me, who are children of God’s light.  “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  

          You and I have been given two distinct types of wealth.  First, we have our money and earthly property.  Second, we possess heavenly riches through faith in Jesus Christ.  So I guess you could say: Christians are doubly rich!  Now, which one reigns in your life?  Which is more important to you?  Which type of wealth do you value more highly?  Since we’re all natural born sinners, the temptation is to let human wealth run our lives and control our hearts and to view Godly riches as a nice afterthought.  To counteract such thinking, Christ ends this whole discussion by bluntly stating: “No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.”  That being said, why would Christ tell His followers: “use worldly wealth (money) to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”? 


          Jesus knows the human heart.  He knows that Christians aren’t very adept at being “fixers.”  He knows that often we’re lazy about getting too involved with others because our focus is on eternal life and this world isn’t the be-all and end-all of our existence.  And yet, shouldn’t believers employ everything in their possession and use all their human skills for God’s glory?  Shouldn’t we actively use our worldly wealth, our abilities and passion to impact the lost souls we come into contact with?  Shouldn’t we be just as shrewd as the world in winning souls for Christ and thereby help create an automatic welcoming party for us when we enter heaven?  Obviously, we don’t want to sin while doing so, like this fixer did.  But, shouldn’t we admire his cunning and zeal?  And shouldn’t we be just as cunning and zealous when it comes to letting Christ’s light shine into sin-blackened hearts? 

          Every one admires and is a bit envious of some billionaire who gives his money away to help hurting people.  Well, think about Jesus.  God’s Son gave His life away to save hurting people.  He died on a cross and paid for all sins thereby winning for everyone peace with God Almighty.  Jesus holds out this forgiveness to all.  He offers it to everyone.  Yes, some, like us, gladly receive it via faith.  Others reject it.  But that doesn’t change the fact that His loving, generous heart is beyond compare. 

          Obviously, Jesus is the ultimate “Fixer” because His infinitely valuable blood fixed our relationship with God.  So, LEARN FROM THE “FIXER” HOW TO HANDLE REAL WEALTH!  And here are His final words of guidance as to how to do so.  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” 

          Lest you start dwelling on your failures and inability to be zealous for the Lord in all you do and deduce from it that He’ll somehow abandon or reject you, start actively living this passage where Christ says: “Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”  Let’s all take back the title: “The fixer” and turn it into a name that people will revere and God will be proud of.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

September 11, 2022: 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, we come today with a guilty conscience.  Our failures to put You # 1 in our lives combined with our failures to actively keep Your commandments condemn us.  However, as struggling believers, we know that You send forth the Spirit to uplift us!  Today, remind us that it’s not what we do that gains glory, but what You have done for us that is all important.  May that truth be reflected in our actions and predominate in our hearts.  Amen


TEXT:  Exodus 32: 7-14

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          We love heroes!  We seek to emulate heroes.  Magazines are full of heroes.  We dress like them and even wear their sports jerseys.  But, what happens when these mortal humans do something that causes our hero worship to crumble?  We become disillusioned and toss them aside like a dirty tissue.

          True heroes aren’t just people who are rich and famous.  They aren’t people that enjoy their 15 minutes of fame.  No, true heroes are folks, ordinary humans, who make a lasting impact on society for the better.  Washington, Lincoln, and even Dr. Luther come to mind.  These were men who inspired generations.  So, where are such giants now? I’ll tell you where to find them.—They are right here.  Yes, you are the heroes of this age!  For whatever you do, whatever your job, you can make an eternal difference!

          It’s not just statesmen, or captains of industry or bishops who hold this country and the church together.  It’s you.  It’s the repairman, the educator, the thinker, the artist, the faithful parent.  It’s Christians who aren’t afraid to speak out and encourage others.  It’s Christians who thereby make an eternal impact on another’s eternal soul.  With that in mind, today let’s ponder this truth :



          One person, Moses, made a huge difference, a difference that still effects us today, by confronting sin.    We begin with Moses on Mt. Sinai.  This great leader had just led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the foot of that great granite crag.  At God’s command he had left the people behind and climbed that mountain to commune directly with God.  In fact, he had just received the 10 commandments etched by God’s finger on those two tablets of stone.  But, in his absence, the people had grown restless.  “Where is he?  Why is he gone so long?  God must have forgotten about us.  What will we do out here in the middle of no where?  We’re all going to die of starvation.”  So, they backslide.  They think back to their days in Egypt and decide to hedge their future by building and then worshiping a golden calf—a “god” the Egyptians revered.  Of course, God knows all and sees this.  So, He tells Moses: “Go down, because your people (note how God doesn’t want anything to do with them as seen by the “your people” instead of “my people”) whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt…They have bowed down and sacrificed to a golden calf saying: ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’”

          To understand the Old Testament, you must always remember that the Israelites were God’s visible church on this earth.  And just as the visible church is filled with both believers and hypocrites today, so too, at that time.  Also, just as the visible church today is filled with sinners who are weak and sometimes disillusioned, so, too, then.  So, like us, they had forgotten God’s blessings.  Like us, they wanted to be “broad minded” and thought: “If we include idol worship in our religious service, God won’t care.”  But, He did and does care! 

          Today we may laugh at this silly attempt at “godliness” on their part.  To us it seems O so crass.  But, examine what they were doing.  They were injecting human emotions and human ideas into Godly worship.  Obedience to God was out.  Human reason was in.  Let me ask you this: Is the concept of one God in three persons reasonable?  Is the idea that God washes us from sin in baptism reasonable?  How about the truth of communion?—That Jesus supernaturally joins Himself to bread and wine with His true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, is that reasonable?  Downplaying these truths and disregarding whatever commandments seem difficult to us, such behavior is no different than “golden calf” worship, is it? 

          The major reason these people fell was the sin of pride.  Self-deception  elevates the ego at God’s expense.  In human terms they also fell because they lacked good leadership.  Aaron was Moses’ brother.  He was the high priest.  He had been left behind in charge while Moses was gone.  But, Aaron was weak-willed and a compromiser.  His flesh was more concerned about keeping the masses happy than in keeping God happy.  So, when they came to Aaron and wanted him to build this calf, he relented.  To him the end justified the means.  After all, “they’ll still be worshiping God, just in a different form.”  But, no!  God isn’t about to share His glory with a silly golden idol then,  or with political correctness or moral expediency, today.  Yes, just like you would be, God  was outraged over this attempt to steal His identity! 

          At this point one person could have made a real difference.  All it would have taken is for one individual to stand up and utter the religious equivalent of: “the emperor (the idol) has no clothes!”  But, none did.  And God was justifiably angry about it.  “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people.  Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.  Then I will make you into a great nation.”


          A lesser man, a weaker Christian, would have thrown in the towel.  A person not driven by forgiveness and love would have failed God’s test here and concluded: “Great!  Let Him destroy them and then my name will be great and my family will be famous.”  But, Moses wasn’t just any man.  He was a faith-filled Christian.  And so, he doesn’t succumb to this test of faith.  No, one person made a difference when it came to conveying forgiveness and saving God’s earthly church from destruction.

          Moses the believer, not Moses the pride filled sinner, now intercedes for the people.  “But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. ‘O Lord, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say: ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth?’ Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendents all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.”

          Moses is governed by the gospel.  His faith is ruled by forgiveness.  And that faith prompts him to challenge God by holding before Him His past promises.  In short, he holds God to His Word!  Likewise, Moses reminds God that for the sake of His own honor, and so that the heathen world would know of His loving power, He should give these wayward children another chance.  And finally, Moses says: “If you are love itself, if you are who you say you are, then show it by permitting love to overrule your anger.”

          Moses’ words made a difference!  For we’re told: “then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”  But, why did these words of Moses work?  Why were they effective?  The answer: “because God is always faithful to His promises.”  He cannot go back on any of His promises without denying Himself.  Also, He is a loving God.  And that means His love always trumps His anger.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of it this way when he wrote that God’s thoughts and God’s ways are entirely different than man’s ways.  When people hurt, abuse, and mock us, our way is to cut them off at the knees.  But, when we engage in hurtful behavior toward God, His way is to chastise us in order to get our attention, and then to forgive us and remake our lives for the better.  Our gracious God proved that when He sent Jesus His Son to suffer and die on the cross in our place.  Christ came to ransom us from our rebellious ways and to change our hearts, not with coercion, but with love.  To be sure, on earth we must still suffer the consequences for our sins.—In this case, they had to drink the ground up gold from their burned calf!  But even amid such concrete repentance, we don’t have to suffer eternal consequences because Jesus already did!

          Our brother Jesus, and our brother Moses, made a difference.  Their words and actions made an eternal difference.  They changed the course of history, of our history, and through their efforts we are God’s spiritual heirs.  Well, you can make a difference, too.  God has given you words of eternal truth and wisdom.  He has given you knowledge of true morality and right and wrong.  But, most importantly, He has given you the one tool which can and does change people’s hearts—His love and forgiveness in Christ.  So, use His blessings!  True heroes are those who serve others in love without ever thinking: “What’s in it for me?”  And of such people God says: “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted!”  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

Septemeber 4, 2022: 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You must always come first in our lives.  We know that nothing and no one can ever compare with You.  We know that without You we are lost, forlorn, desolate human beings who have no hope for a better tomorrow.  Today we ask that You reenergize us so that we truly do put You first in all we think, say, and do.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 14: 25-33

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          Until about 25  years ago, people never talked about “hate speech.”  Now, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t such a thing.  We simply had more descriptive terms with which to label it.—We called people who harangued on an issue to foster ill-will, we called them a “nut” or a “crank.”  Sometimes we labeled them as “uninformed and stupid.”  Occasionally, if they were extremely blatant and offensive, we even called what they said: evil. 

          As a child we would sometimes throw around the word “hate” when we were upset.  “I hate that outfit and I’m not wearing it to school!”  Or, when big sister was particularly nasty about something, we’d hurl out those words: “I hate you!” just before we ran in the opposite direction!  Of course, we really didn’t “hate” them in the sense that we wanted evil to rain down upon their head.  In our hearts we still loved and cared about each other.  It’s just that the word “hate” was used much more loosely.

          I suppose the term “hate speech” came into vogue in an attempt to more properly define unacceptable speech.  And the result has been the ultimate label branding of people with whom you disagree.  Just use the word “hate” in conversation and people immediately stiffen.  You cannot even say something like: “Don’t you just hate it when that happens” without people looking sideways at you!  I guess I’m a dinosaur.  For even though we would throw around the word “hate” in those “olden days” people were much more civil.

          As I looked at this text, I was struck by Christ’s use of the word “hate.”  And I wondered: how do people today relate to and regard this very pointed lesson?  So, I did a word search of the Greek word “miseo” translated here as “hate.”  It means: to hate, despise, disregard, or be indifferent to.”  Obviously Jesus knew that.  He knew it was a strong word.  And yet He still uses it.  What’s He trying to teach us?  Well, today we’ll find out as we ponder this question:



          Remember when Christ talked about “a house that is divided against itself cannot stand”?  His point there was that a household, a family unit, that is quarrelsome cannot and will not be united.  Its atmosphere is poisonous.  And then He compares that attitude to the visible church.—Christians who cannot treat each other civilly and don’t agree on the basics of the faith can never walk as one. 

          As individual Christians the most important Person we can ever walk together with is: Jesus Christ.  All true unity of purpose, of direction, and of meaning to our lives begins and ends with Jesus.  That’s because Jesus is the eternal Son of God.  He’s the One Who laid His life on the line to purchase our souls from sin, Satan, death, and evil.  He died, taking all that evil baggage with Him to the cross.  And then He arose to a new life.  A pure life.  A life in which His love for our souls could be applied to us literally forever.  Moreover, all this shiny newness and oneness with Him is made our possession through His imparting of faith into our hearts. 

          As God’s all-knowing Son, Jesus could read hearts.  He knew human nature better than we humans do.  So, to get people to really examine their allegiance to Him, He poses His question about it in the most graphic of terms.—“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”


          Certainly those words are jarring—especially to our modern ears.  They are an “all or nothing” proposition, aren’t they?  But, isn’t that the point?  Isn’t true allegiance to God’s Son an “all or nothing” proposition?  Isn’t He supposed to be more important to us than our closest relatives?  Isn’t He more vital to us than our own earthly existence?  After all, doesn’t He now own our lives?  Aren’t we totally under the umbrella of His grace-filled control?  And isn’t discipleship the willingness and the celebration of that fact? 

          Still, our modern ears have been conditioned to shy away from that word “hate.”  And even our faithful study of Scripture has told us we’re not to allow hatred into our hearts.  After all, doesn’t Jesus tell us: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer?”  Yes, that’s all true.  But, His point of comparison here isn’t about mere human relationships.  It is really about our timeless relationship with God Almighty.  Nothing dare divide our loyalties to Him.  Nothing dare come between our Savior’s love for our souls and our faith-filled souls.  And if and when we are tempted to allow such a thing to occur, we need to recognize it and literally “hate” it.  For separating a Christian from his or her Savior is downright evil….


          The next two paragraphs of this lesson both focus on how we must continually “count this cost” of our discipleship.  The first deals with a foolish builder who cannot complete his tower because he runs out of money.  As a result he turns into a laughingstock.  The second deals with a headstrong king who wants to build a name for himself by going to war against an enemy.  But then, when it is obvious his enemy will crush him, that king swallows his pride and sues for peace to avoid destruction.  Again, the point is: always count the cost of what you’re about to do.  “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

          Historically, what’s the most hated position any human being can ever find themselves in?  Isn’t it slavery?  And what sane human being would ever willingly submit to complete slavery?  That’s right, none.  So, when Christ says: “Any of you who does not give up everything cannot be my disciple” isn’t that whole concept repulsive to our nature?  Of course it is!  So, why would we ever do so?  Simply because God’s own Son became a slave to us in order to save us from the slavery of sin.  He became the ultimate object of human hatred in order to have that hatred shifted from us to Him. 

          So, back to our original question: Is Jesus Guilty of Hate Speech?  Well, the answer is: Yes He is!  But His guilt all stems from His love toward lost, double-minded sinners like us.  So, learn to hate your sinful side.  Learn to hate evil when it knocks at the door of your heart no matter the form it may take.  For it is only then that His forgiving love will find a place to rest within you.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox