Dear friends in Christ,

Our youth will be traveling to Orlando this week for a youth rally.  God go with you!  In 1987 we had four WELS churches in Atlanta.  We hosted the WELS International Youth Rally.  It was truly the most challenging, interesting and biggest projects I have ever been involved in.  Youth rallies were different in those days.  The local hosts put everything together.  Now it is done by our Synod committee.  Until the 1987 International Youth Rally rallies had been held in the Midwest.  That was the first the moved out of the Midwest.  I had taken youth from Lawrenceville and Marietta to the two previous ones.   

We held the rally at Camp Rock Eagle in the middle of the woods off Hwy 441.  Rock Eagle is the largest 4H camp site in the world.  It had a capacity for 1200 people.  At first we asked if we could rent half the camp.  Until that year youth rallies had about 600 teens attending.  When we found the interest was so great, we asked to use the whole camp.  We eventually rented three additional motels and had to turn away about 300 applicants.  We had over 1500 participants

As chairman of the organizing committee, it was fun to see everything come together.  The laypeople on the committee were incredible.  It was the first time I ever used a computer and a laser printer.  We printed an 87 page handbook with maps and worship services, all Bible classes.  We registered and housed 1500 people at the camp.  We planned and manned the worship and Bible studies.  We took 1500 people to Six Flags in 47 buses without losing anyone.  It was an exhilarating and exhausting experience.  One of the organizing pastors said with a smile, “The cockroaches were this big, but we all learned about Jesus.”  Wherever the word is preached it is always successful and a blessing.  That’ what we need to remember about sharing Jesus.  Share the Word.  That’s what Jesus teaches.  “We Need to Share Moses and the Prophets.”     

Context for this story is interesting. Jesus was warning about the dangers of the lure of money and earthly possessions.  Luke tells us, “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.”  It is certainly not a sin to be wealthy.  Many of God’s chosen leaders had plenty.  It came from the Lord.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon were all blessed by God. 

There are, however, plenty of temptations that go along with wealth that those who live hand to mouth don’t experience.  A trio once won the lottery in which they split $30 million three ways.  They were asked the question, “Can money bring you happiness?”  Together they answered, “Yes!”  Well, yes it can…for a little while.  But it won’t last forever!  

That’s why this story.  “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.”  Literally it says, “He gladdened himself day after day.”  He spent his considerable wealth enjoying what he had.  It made him “happy,” but eventually his time, as everyone’s time, runs out.    

I read a story about a Greek wrestler by the name of Yussef who lived many decades ago.  He coveted wealth and grew accustomed to wearing his earnings in gold in a belt he wore around his waist.  After winning a match in America he returned to his homeland with $90,000 worth of gold in his belt.  This was before the day of airplanes.  He traveled by ship.  When the ship arrived fairly close to Greece, the captain made a serious error. The ship hit a rocky shoal and ripped a gaping hole into the side of the ship and began to sink.  Yuseef was confident that he could swim ashore.  He wanted to take the gold belt with him.  He drowned trying.  In a very literal sense the gold took him to death.      

Jesus says there was a rich man who died and awoke in hell.  Why?  His life was focused on a lot of things but ignored what was most important.  He had no plans or cares about his eternal future.  There are some things about life that we don’t need to take too seriously, but there is one thing we need to be deeply serious about: What happens when all this is over!

It is so tempting when someone is in the prime of life to put it off that kind of thinking.  There is a feeling of invincibility.  Remember David’s words to his good friend Jonathan, “There is only a step between me and death.”  There are also the sobering words of Job who stared death in the face with serious illness, “My days are swifter than a runner; they fly away without a glimpse of joy.”

We just had three graduates from high school. Each did very well. Each has been accepted into college – two at Georgia and one at the University of Wisconsin.  But what’s after college?  Grad school?   What’s after that?  A job?  What’s after that?  Marriage and a career?  What’s after that?  Making money?  For what?  To eventually retire?  Hey, I got that far.  I want to still serve the Lord, but I would like to travel and see our children and grandchildren.  But what’s after that?  The rich man ignored what’s next.  That fact made him poor… forever!   Remember what he said, “Then I beg you, father (Abraham), send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 

There’s not a more serious message that needs to be shared than the necessity of getting prepared for the inevitable.  In the first week of this sermon series, the reason we need to share Jesus is because there is a heaven and a hell.  There is no intermediate state like a purgatory where souls are given a reprieve to purify, purge and cleanse oneself.  That was done on the cross, not in this imaginary devilish place.  What a disservice the Roman church has done over the centuries to pull the wool over the eyes of its members for centuries in promoting this Bibleless doctrine.  The Devil has really used it for his advantage.  Then there is the ear itching message of universalism that says everyone is going to heaven anyway because God is such a nice guy.  That’s not what Jesus teaches here or elsewhere.  If everyone was going to heaven anyway, why did Jesus come to this earth?  Why did he suffer and die?  

God provides a way to heaven.  His love is very tangible and so total.  He gave us the manual to tell us what he did in reality.  Jesus was making the point that Moses and the Prophets tell us the way.  He pointed to the Old Testament Scripture where it was promised.  The New Testament Scripture was to be written.  But the Old promised the Son of God would come to the rescue.  The Son of God would be the world’s Substitute.  The Son of God was to be born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth and have a ministry centered in Galilee and bring light! He would prove he was the one to whom all flesh needed to look.  He opened the eyes of the blind both physically and spiritually.  He would open ears of the physically death and spiritually deaf to hear.  While he was the God over all, he would become the servant of all by being wounded and pierced and punished for the sins of all.  Yes he would die and be buried, yet his body would not see decay. He would rise from the dead.  It was God’s way of saying the death penalty for sin was paid by him who is God over all. 

What Moses and the Prophets prophesied the apostles and prophets verified.  What Moses and he Prophets said would happen, the apostle as prophets tell us did happen.  Right here in the manual – God’s manual.   Paul once gave the following testimony:  “But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”  Did you hear how Paul mentioned Moses and the Prophets?   Did you hear how Jesus said that Moses and the Prophets is all that is necessary?  Sharing the promises of the Bible is what it is all about.  It is not about flash and flair; it’s about the Word.    

Pastor Lewis, your new pastor, has a jeep he likes to tinker with.  He and his family were passing through Atlanta on the way back to Mobile.  He asked to take a peek at the church and parsonage.  He measured the garage because he knows he can’t tear down his jeep in the driveway.  It isn’t fashionable in Georgia like it is in Alabama. 

I had a flashback to my growing up days.  I grew up in the country.  My dad always had a truck too.  He never bought one new.  In fact, he taught me how to drive when I was in the fifth grade.  That was with a clutch and gear shift on the floor. Now you see why we are moving to Tennessee.  I am reverting to my childhood.  My dad was as a stickler about simple maintenance on his truck and the family car.  He changed oil every thousand miles on each.  His vehicles would wear out from rust from the salt on the snowy roads before the engines. They always purred. 

As a small kid I would crawl under the vehicle and watch him do some of the simple maintenance, like change the oil and change oil filters.  He asked for a certain wrench, I would get it for him.  He showed me where the oil pan was and pretty soon he showed me the oil filter and pretty soon he had me doing it.  It was more fun doing it with him. 

As children we go or went to Sunday School.  We start to learn the Bible stories and main characters in the Bible.  As we climb through the grades, the stories get more involved.  Instead of just remembering the characters and what they did, we start to hear about how the stories apply to our lives.  Eventually we go to catechism.  The stories change to Bible passages and doctrines that are spelled out.   Our understanding gets deeper.  We are confirmed but our study of Moses and the Prophets and the Apostles and evangelists gets deeper.  We don’t quit.  We go to teen classes and then to adult class.  Why?  Certainly to deepen our own understanding and faith in God’s plan of salvation; to make us strong against Satan. After all, the Bible is a life time study, but it is not just for you.  It is for you to share.  Study Moses and the Prophets and the Apostles and the evangelists so you can share God’s grace that we need so desperately because of man’s personal sins.  Even though God is a holy God and a just God, he is a loving God who gave us Jesus to bring payment for all sin and forgiveness.  That’s the message to be believed.  That’s the message we share.



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