November 6, 2022: Last Judgement Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in this very unfair world, we long for fairness.  We long for justice and for truth to prevail.  Too often we see otherwise, and discouragement comes upon us.  Today take all that away!  Remind us that only those who actually finish this race through life will see perfect judgment played out before their eyes and that judgment will prove the validity of the Christian faith.  Amen


TEXT:  2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?  Remember how the tortoise plodded along and took all kinds of guff from the rabbit, but in the end, when the rabbit was snoozing it crossed the finish line in first place?  It’s a study in patience, isn’t it?  It also reminds us to never become discouraged or give up but to steadily run the race toward heaven. 

          Some people view today, which is Last Judgment Sunday, as a downer.  I guess if you are a non-Christian attending a church today for the first time, it might appear that way.  But for the long-time believer that is a reminder of the validity of our faith.  It reminds us that this life isn’t the be-all and end-all of our existence.  It reminds us that truth and justice do, indeed, win out in the end.  It reminds us that a sobering event will occur in the future which will be quite awful for the unbeliever, but quite glorious for those who cling to Christ.  So without further ado, let’s look at:



          Judgment Day will be unbelievably awesome.  Christ will someday return visibly to this earth, turn matter and time on its head, transport all people into a new, eternal reality, consign evil people who reject His forgiving love to eternal hell, and then take all believers who trust in His goodness and love into never-ending glory.  And all that will occur literally in the blink of an eye.—For remember that in eternality the constraints of time do not apply. 

          Have you ever wondered why God tells us about the coming judgment?  Some people think of God as an angry Dictator Who forewarns us in order to literally “scare the hell” out of us.  Think of that teen program called: “Scared Straight” in which cocky teenagers are taken to a prison for a day and the inmates verbally beat them up in order to get their attention and hopefully keep them from ever coming back.  However, since no one has ever seen hell and come back to tell about it, and most people view such talk as far-off and unrelated to their lives, this really wasn’t the chief reason God describes judgment day. 

          No, God discusses judgment day with us in order to prepare us for what is to come while also giving us patience to endure this life.  Think about the news lately.  People pushed to death on subway platforms.  Or, attacked with hammers.   Where’s shame?  Where’s justice?  Isn’t prison too good for such evil people?  We like to say that: “What goes around comes around.”  But, in your own life experience, has that always been the case?  Don’t evil people often seem to skate on charges or plea bargain them away?   We may think that the old “eye for an eye” adage should apply in many instances, but in today’s world it seldom does. 


          The church in Thessalonkia suffered persecution at the hands of the Roman rulers.  It hadn’t yet devolved into facing lions and gladiators in the arena, but instead took on less blatant forms—being forced from their homes, beatings, verbal abuse, extra taxation, and perhaps even slavery.  Due to all this, they really thought that judgment day would happen literally tomorrow.  And so the temptation was to sit back, do nothing, and wait.  It was to give up on the business of living and sharing their faith.  You hear of similar situations today where a group of believers thinks they’ve pin-pointed J-Day, so they sell everything and go off somewhere to contemplate their navels until that time. 

          Well, God never wants His people to quit on life.  Every moment of life is an opportunity to let our light shine, to bring forth fruits of our faith, and to honor our Living Lord.  We dare never adopt the position of the hare, who falls asleep because the finish line seems so far off that he always has time to sprint it out; but instead should be like the tortoise and keep plugging along trusting God to get us through.    That’s why Paul writes and says: “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.  God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.  This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.  This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”


          Here are a few truths to learn from the future reality of judgment day.  1. How we handle evil inflicted upon us—as long-suffering believers who aren’t afraid to ultimately let Christ handle it because we know we’re forgiven, saved, and heaven-bound—all this shows that God didn’t invest Christ’s forgiveness upon us in vain.  2. Christians know that God sees all and will never allow any sin to go unpunished.  So, let God do His job.  3. He will always provide streams of soul-quenching love to His people.  4. A special date has been fixed when Christ and His angels will square the equation with all sinners.—Those who refuse to follow Christ and His ways will be destroyed in hell-fire while those who cling to His blood and righteousness alone will be taken into eternal glory. 

          So, dear frustrated Christian, should you regard judgment day with foreboding, gloom, doom, and sadness?  No!  For us J-Day means vindication!  It means evil will finally be wiped from creation never to trouble us again.  It means our beloved Brother Who died in our place and put His holiness upon us through faith will be our Judge.  It means that when He looks at us, it will be with loving eyes and welcoming arms. 

          Meanwhile, we’re still earthbound and waiting.  Continue that waiting with patience, trust, hope, and firmness of faith.  You’ve run this far, so don’t be a hare and fall asleep on the job.  Don’t get distracted by anything or anyone so as to pull you away from your Savior.  We should act like a tortoise and keep plodding.  Adopt a long view of your future.  And then, whether J-Day occurs tomorrow or 1000 years from now—you’ll be ready.  Folks, that the long and short of Judgment Day.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

October 30, 2022: Reformation Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we thank You for restoring to us the pure truth of Your holy Word!  We thank You for so ordering human history that we now know Your sacrifice on the cross was total and complete and through it all our sins and guilt have been covered over by Your blood.  And we also thank You that our souls, our future, everything in our lives are reliant on the grace that You freely give us through faith.  May we never compromise these facts and never take them for granted.  Amen


TEXT:  Ephesians 2: 8-10: “For it is by grace you have seen saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Fellow Redeemed Lutherans:

          How can anyone who is deeply concerned about their soul not cling to grace alone?  That question was the driving force behind Dr. Luther’s reformation of the church back in 1517.  Grace is God’s undeserved love in Christ.  It gives all glory to God for saving our souls.  And it provides tremendous comfort to the struggling sinner.—The truth that our salvation rests in God’s hands and not ours takes away all fears.  For it teaches that His love for us in Christ is greater than any sin, any evil, and any feelings of guilt we may have. It gives certainty. 

          Another mini-Reformation took place in America about 130 years ago.  And the issue those Lutherans, our spiritual forefathers, confronted was: what is the true meaning of grace and why is it so vital?  It began fairly innocently.  Dr. C.F.W. Walther, a great theologian, delivered a paper about our election by God to eternal life.  Correctly drawn from the Bible, he taught the same thing that our lesson encapsulates.  That is, in eternity, before time began, God looked ahead, saw you and in pure love elected you to be his child and to come to faith in Him.  Yes, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”

          Well, throughout American Lutheranism, this teaching caused an uproar.  And it led to the heresy, formulated by its detractors, that God elected you to salvation not by grace alone, but “in view of your faith.”  That is, He saw something good in you that would make you easier to convert and because of that, He then elected you.  The die-hard Reformation Lutherans said: “No way!”  They said: “If you possess some sort of ability to link yourself to God, undeserved love, or grace, is no longer grace.  Likewise, it takes away from and diminishes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for you.”  This heresy split our old synod.  Families were divided.  Congregations were divided.  And the synod split in half.  For the next 40 years they disagreed.  But, over time, they held talks to discuss the issue and try to resolve it.  Well, in 1917 with the deaths of some great theologians who stood up for the truth about grace, finally they came to an agreement wherein they “agreed to disagree.”  In essence, they gave up their spiritual heritage by giving up God’s grace.  Six pastors and various laymen, under tremendous pressure, walked out of that meeting and re-formed our synod.  The rest went their own way and today they are amalgamated into the large, ELCA synod where the Bible is taught to contain errors, the resurrection of Christ is taught as a fable, the miracles myths, and that God’s Truth is relative.  In short, those folks gave up the heart and soul of the Reformation. 

          All this stemmed from a false view of grace and the lesson before us this morning.  So, today, I want you to ponder these words from St. Paul and consider:



          In Dr. Luther’s time, and still today, the Roman Catholic church officially taught that humans possessed a spark of goodness that they could use to initiate God loving them and forgiving them.  The problem with that view is that: first, it denies original sin and the depth of our alienation from God; secondly, it diminishes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us (He didn’t do 100% in saving us, only 99% or less; and thirdly, it destroys certainty about our eternal soul’s welfare and thereby forces us to look for comfort not in Him, but in our life of good deeds which spawns a whole lot of guilt when we don’t see them.

          God electing us to salvation in view of our faith, really does the exact same thing.  First, it makes faith into a work of man, kind of like that “spark.”  This flies in the face of Paul’s words when he says: “faith is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”  Second, if God chose you to be His child because you wouldn’t be harder to convert than the next guy, it denies original sin.  And thirdly, it turns grace, or undeserved love, into deserved love.  Grace is an all-or-nothing proposition.  Either it is 100% or it is something else.  And less than 100% love means God’s gift really isn’t a pure gift after all—thus making everything about  Him relative. 


          It should come as no surprise to us that the Lutherans (in name only) that have given up grace alone, have also come to give up most other Godly truths as well.  For if you can relativize how we’re saved, you can relativize everything else in Scripture, too.  That’s why they tell us that the Bible is not the Word of God, but only contains the Word of God, and by our tremendous “wisdom” we can figure out what’s true and what isn’t.  That’s why they deny the physical resurrection of Christ and the reality of His miracles, because they don’t jibe with human reason.  That’s why they often rationalize away the 10 commandments and say: “O, they were created by Moses to keep people in line then, but we’re different today, so they really don’t apply.”  That is why many of them never preach about judgment day or the reality of hell, because they say it is just an antiquated concept not applicable to our modern world. 

          The truth is: if you give up Grace, you give up everything.  Human beings become their own little gods.  They become the arbiters of their own little lives.  That’s because original sin is alive and well and it always seeks to rob God of all the glory, just like Adam and Eve.

          But, by God’s grace, you and I have been made different.  Like Luther we know we’re saved by His pure love for us in Christ.  We know it comes through hearing the believing the Bible, the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out.  And as Paul says: such a total reliance on grace, on Christ, has now made us into new creations in the sight of God.  It is His work, not ours that has done this.  Yes, “we are now God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  This fact gives God all the glory!  This fact comforts any and every distraught sinner because it means that the totality of our lives rest completely in His loving hands. 

          Today of all days, we must be careful not to turn faith into a work of man which is the cause, or reason behind of our redemption.  No, grace alone is the cause of our redemption.  Yes, “it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”   We Reformation Lutherans cling to grace alone because it is the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and because it gives all glory to God!  It is because of that fact and only that fact that we rejoice today!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

October 23, 2022: 23rd Sunday of Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we thank You for being You, while also giving to us—each other.  Being Your beloved children is a huge blessing beyond compare!  And being able to appreciate and rely upon our fellow Christian siblings is a joy.  Lord, today we thank You for providing direction and guidance and loving motivation to each of us.  Amen


TEXT:  Philippians 2: 1-5

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          October was the month I was born.  It also marks when my mother’s  stoke happened.  6 months later she was in heaven.  Looking back, on thought stands out:    CHRISTIANS ARE THE BEST!   During those emotionally-charged days following my mother’s stroke, I talked to countless people.  In every case I had to explain what happened, her current status, and try to buck them up emotionally—all at the same time.  (I repeated myself, a lot!)  In most cases, I knew the background of the folks I was talking to.  I knew whether they went to church, or not.  I knew if they were active believers, or not.   You could see in their eyes that they were grateful not to be in my shoes.  Compassion is a human emotion, not just a Christian one.  That being said, CHRISTIANS ARE THE BEST!  They take both their concern and their love to a whole new level.  When the chips are down, they don’t bail, they don’t walk away, they don’t ignore the needs of others.  No, they give of themselves what they can.  They help as the Lord gives them strength.  And they always, always pray.  Most importantly of all, they do all these things for the right reasons.  Their hearts are pure, their motives are spotless because the love of Christ has been poured into them by the Spirit and now comes gushing forth.  It is during trying times that St. Paul’s injunction in our text: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” becomes a living reality for God’s faithful. 


          St. Paul started the church in Philippi.  Remember the jailer of Philippi and how Paul and Silas were freed from his jail by God?  Remember how that fellow came to faith instead of committing suicide?  Remember his question to Paul: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  And Paul’s answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”  The Christians at Philippi were close to Paul.  They literally were his “brothers and sisters in Christ.”  And now he writes to them in order to solidify their closeness even more.  “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  After those words, Paul then goes on to outline the glorious Gospel!  He outlines exactly how Jesus, God’s beloved Son, humbled Himself, took on human sin, died our death and rose from our graves.—All this in our place to save our souls and make us right with God.


          Do you know why Christians Are the Best?  Because they mimic Christ as best they can—for all the right reasons.  Jesus saves us out of pure love.  He gave us faith out of pure love.  His grace, or undeserved love, permeated everything He did, everything He said, and everything He thought.  He didn’t just share a few common emotions with us; He literally lived in our skin and became you and me.  Thus, when Isaiah writes: “Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows” it is 100% true.  And he did it all from a totally loving heart!  He put us first instead of Himself.

I’ve saw the same thing play itself out in a small way after mom’s stroke.  The non-church going friends were genuinely sorry about my mother, but they are especially relieved they don’t have a similar situation in their own lives.  In short, their compassion is touched a bit by human selfishness.   However, that’s not the case among the Christians!  They want to encourage.  They seek avenues to comfort.  They are filled with tenderness and compassion.  They humbly try to add moral support, verbal support, physical support, and spiritual support at all times.  It’s refreshing and it’s a joy—I can tell you that…..

          Christians are the Best!  Because Jesus Christ has made them the best along with the power of the Spirit.  You can count on believers when you’re down.  That’s the message of Paul today.  And along with that message comes another: let’s all show such unity of love all the time!  Why just reserve it for crisis moments?  So, once more listen to Paul’s words: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  Amen to that! 


Pastor Thomas H. Fox