Last Words of Rev. Aaron Simms

These are the last public words of our faithful brother in Christ, Rev. Aaron Simms.  Keep St. John the Apostle Lutheran Church and the Simms family in your prayers as they continue to make known the Gospel of our risen Lord Jesus amidst the heartache and pain of this mortal life.  The everlasting victory belongs to our brother who faithfully taught God’s Word and confessed the all-sufficient work of Christ throughout His life.  Glory to God for the work that our Lord did through his servant, Aaron.

Rev. Aaron Simms writes,

He has risen (Luke 24:1-12).  This is the reason that we are celebrating today.  We are rejoicing in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for us. 

Three days ago, on Friday, Christ died for your sins, being perfectly obedient to the Father and fulfilling all things.  He spilt his blood on the cross to atone for your sins; our great High Priest made the all-sufficient sacrifice of himself on your behalf.  On Saturday, yesterday, the Sabbath rest, the Lord’s body was sealed in the cool, stone tomb.  

But, now that rest is over and the Son has arisen.  Today is a new day, the eighth day of Christ’s Passion week, the first day of the beginning of the new creation.  In the original creation, God created in six days and rested on the seventh, and when the first day of the new week dawned things were all very good.  Now Christ has come to restore His fallen creation by working the six days of Passion week (culminating in the finishing work of the crucifixion), resting on the seventh, and rising on the first day of the new week so that all things can again become very good.

So, this is the Lord’s Day, Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead, the day of the empty tomb when Christ conquered death by rising to life, leaving the tomb behind, vacant and devoid of power.  And where death is conquered, sin is conquered as well, because it is sin which led to the intrusion of death into this world.  It is sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, which corrupted God’s good creation by bringing evil into it, including decay and death.   But, Christ has defeated all these; he has been victorious.

Therefore, Christ’s death and resurrection has far-reaching consequences that extend beyond our present lives.  For, it is not for this life only that we hope in Christ.  Christ did not die and rise for us so that we could have more money, more friends, or even more happiness in this life.  He didn’t die for us so that we could have our best life now.  

How often, though, are our hopes so small, so shortsighted, that they only encompass the span of our lives and end at our deaths.  St. Paul says that if this is the content of our hope, this life only, then “we are of all people most to be pitied.”  For if we look to Christ simply for blessings in this life, then we are missing the point.  For our best life now is not the content of our hope.  In fact, often times, we as Christians endure ridicule, suffering, persecution, and death for our faith; our lives now are often anything but peaceful and good.  Even today, Christians in Sri Lanka were killed at Easter worship services, just as Christians have been killed for their faith throughout history.  If this weren’t enough, we still have the temptations and pull of sin, still suffer decay, and still succumb to death, because although Christ has conquered, and although we have a foretaste of the “good,” things are not yet fully restored to as they should be.  Things are not yet “very good.”

So, St. Paul’s point to the congregation in Corinth, and to us as well, is that our hope does not end in death, because the proper object of our hope is the one who has died and yet has risen from the dead and now lives (1 Corinthians 15:19-26).  We trust in the one who has conquered sin and death on our behalf, so that just as we too will die someday we will yet live for eternity; our best life is yet to come in the restoration that he is bringing with him upon his return.  We will then be reunited with all the Church, including those Sri Lankan Christians who went to the grave today.

So, it is in this Jesus Christ, the one who died and yet rose on this day, that we truly have hope.  We were all born into the sin of Adam, cursed by decay and mortal death from the moment of our conception.  Our lives lead into death and destruction, and all the things we accumulate in this life go to someone else after we die.  If we want plenty of rest, the grave is where it is found, because this life is not easy, nor is it leisurely; we live by the sweat of our brow.  

But, Christ has a true rest in store for you that is not in the bed, nor is it in the grave.  For, Christ has died for your sins and conquered death for you.  It is through his work on the cross and empty tomb that you are saved and brought into the Sabbath rest. 

And Christ is the firstfruits of what is to come.  The firstfruits of a crop provides assurance that the rest of the crop is going to come in.  Christ is the firstfruits of the bodily resurrection, because he rose from the dead and therefore he is the guarantee and guarantor of your own resurrection.  The point is that because Christ died and rose, you can be sure that you will also rise, although you die.  So, your hope in him is not for this life only, but rather extends out into eternity where you will have rest from all your works and from sin and from death.  This is the grace and mercy of God that we see on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that Christ has died and risen for you.  Friday we see the consequences of sin and death, as the sinless one died on our behalf; Sunday we see the consequences of God’s grace and power as that sin and death is defeated and life and light breaks into the darkness.  

So, all that plagues you in this life – illness, sorrow, decay, temptation, sin, grumbling, conflict – Christ has already defeated these through his cross and empty tomb.  These evils came into the world through the sin of Adam, but Christ defeated these enemies of his good creation.  And he has also defeated the ultimate enemy, which is death.

Death is still here with us, of course, in this life, but it is no longer the last word.  Death is our enemy and it is the enemy of God’s good creation, because it is not meant to be here; it intruded into creation through the sin of Adam.  But, this is not how things are meant to be.  God created you to live with Him forever, but sin got in the way and brought death and the other evils with it.  

However, as we have seen and heard, Christ – the new, perfect Adam – has defeated death; he rose from the dead, he left the tomb behind.  And he is returning to raise you up also.  

We confess we believe in the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  Thus, wherever your bodies are on that last day of this age, the day of his return, Christ will make you alive, body and soul reunited together.  If your ashes are in an urn or scattered over field or sea, Christ will make your body alive.  If your bones are in a grave, Christ will make you alive.  If your body is fallen on some battlefield far away from home, Christ will make you alive.  And if you are still alive in the body when Christ returns, he will make you truly alive.  For you will live for eternity.  And if it were possible for someone to peer into your graves and look for your bodies at that time, they would hear what the angels asked the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Because when Christ returns he will take death, which he has already defeated, and destroy it forever so that neither sin, nor death, nor the devil can plague God’s good creation any longer.  So, as the prophet Isaiah who saw that day says, no more will an infant live but a few days or an old man die, because death will be no more (Isaiah 65:17-25).  There will be no more war, no more sorrow, no more death, and the “wolf and the lamb shall graze together.”  There will finally be peace, eternal peace.

And you will finally meet in person the Church that has come before you and the Church that comes after you.  And you will all then live eternally in the glory of the Lord in a new, restored creation – a new heavens and a new earth.  The former sorrows and pains that you had, and death that you experienced will be no more, nor will they be remembered or come to mind.  For you will inhabit the new Jerusalem, with no sin or evil or death in it; just the Lord and His people dwelling together forever and enjoying God’s good and perfect creation.  

All this because Jesus Christ has risen from the grave.  And this victory is yours, because He has willed it to you through the testament of his blood.  

So, Easter morning when Christ rose is the day we celebrate every Sunday, and indeed every day as we live out our lives together, as his people, in the light of his victory and in the hope we have in him.  

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”   He is risen!  He has risen indeed, Alleluia!  

Amen.

April 14 Arrives Soon!

Trinity Lutheran Church has its first service in Norcross, Georgia on Palm Sunday, April 14!  All is set and ready for the preaching of the unmerited grace of God in Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord!  This is a new place at a new altar where people can gather and receive the eternal treasures of the Triune God!  This is a place where our Lord will snap the idolatrous chains of Satan that keep people trapped in spiritual death (Ephesian 2:1-10).   This will be a place where burden and guilt will be lifted off the shoulders of troubled souls by the forgiveness of sins in our loving Savior, Jesus (John 20:20-23).  We give God thanks for the mission heart and support from the Atlanta North Circuit for the purchase of the new hymnals and catechisms.  We also thank our Lord for our Florida-Georgia District who have given a generous gift to cover the cost of rent at Norcross Elementary School for 6 months.  It is time.  If we continue to wait until our weak sinful natures are ready enough to engage in the Great Commission, we will never move.  But our Lord Jesus Christ says “Go (Matthew 28:18-19)!” We trust the power of the Word of God to bring all the results.  We trust the Holy Spirit Who brings new life when and where He wills (John 3:3-7).    “Behold, now is the favorable time (kairos); behold now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)!”

Pastor Belton at Stepping STone Pic for Kairos Network black and white

The schedule for the day will be:

  • The Divine Service at 9 AM with Dr. Victor Belton preaching (pictured above left).
  • Bible Study for all ages at 10 AM.
  • The Divine Service in Korean at 11 AM with Rev. Min Soo Kim preaching (pictured below with his family).
  • Bible Study for all ages in Korean at Noon.
  • Food and Fellowship for all at 1 PM.

IMG_8912 (1)

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host:

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen!

~Thomas Ken

 

 

Evil and God

The question about evil continues to pop up as a reason for people to “not believe.”  It is very common for people to say that “I cannot believe in a God that allows suffering or evil.”  This all concerns the question of theodicy.  Theodicy basically probes the question “why does a loving God allow evil in the world?”  This is a legit question and people are very often legitimately asking this because they are seeking answers.  So . . . how do we respond?

Oddly enough, this question is concretely answered in Article XI of the Formula of Concord!  Crazy!   Thanks to Rev. Wolfmueller for putting this in front of us so succinctly!

 

Why Plant a Church?

Why should any of us be so concerned about planting a church?  Aren’t there plenty of Christian churches already around us?  Aren’t there churches with much better facilities?  And much more effective programs?  Wouldn’t they be better at helping people understand the Gospel and find a church?  Why do we need to be so concerned about what we are doing?  Read Matthew 28:19-20.  The words are “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have observe all that I have commanded you.”  Christ clearly commands us to go to baptize all nations and to teach all that He has commanded us.  The tense of this Greek word “Go!” basically says “having already gone,” baptize and teach.  This is not a job we ever walk away from.  It is protocol for the entire Christian Church on earth.  Also, we are assured here that until the close of the age, Jesus says there will be a holy Christian people with whom He will dwell.  He says “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  The question is, “how can these holy people be found or recognized?”  Martin Luther writes that these holy Christian people can be recognized by these seven things:

  1. Possession of God’s Holy Word in its entirety (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  2. Holy Baptism rightly administered (Acts 2:38-41).
  3. The Sacrament of the Altar rightly administered (Acts 2:42).
  4. The Office of the Keys exercised publicly (John 20:23).
  5. The Office of the Ministry called pastors who administer the above four things (Acts 20:38).
  6. Prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
  7. Possession of the sacred cross in proclamation and participation (Galatians 6:14).

Luther’s Works, Volume 41, Pages 148-165.

Ask yourself.  Where can you find all these things in one place?

Although there are churches around us, these precious things are not all around us.  And yet these things are the reason for our courage.  Although we are sinners whose only consolation is the mercy of the cross of our Savior, time and time again we are steadied by our convictions in the Word of God and the necessity for the people around us to hear the eternal Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ clearly (Romans 1:16).  We are moved by our conviction of God’s mighty power in Holy Baptism (Romans 6:3-5), the necessity of the forgiveness of sins (John 20:23), and the great benefits of the Lord’s Supper (John 6:54).  People need the Good News of Christ in these days!  They need His concrete means of grace!  The Holy Spirit has given us the desire for others to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  The result of these 7 marks of the Church is Christian love empowered by the Holy Spirit.

So . . . Trinity Lutheran Church is going into Norcross.  They will bring these blessings to the lost and also disciple the saved.  Keep them in your prayers as things begin on April 14, 2019!  Glory to God and salvation to man!

Holy Trinity Lutheran Logo with Schedule

 

 

Trinity Lutheran starts in Norcross!

On April 14, 2019, Trinity Lutheran Church begins Word and Sacrament ministry in Norcross, Georgia!

Trinity’s new location will be at Norcross Elementary School (150 Hunt St. Norcross 30071).  Both worship and Bible study will be in the cafeteria.

Trinity Lutheran Norcross logo with schedule

Get the word out so that people looking for a good church in Norcross can start to gather!  Worship and Bible Study begins at Norcross Elementary School on April 14.  Plan on attending and supporting the ministry as it reaches out to all people in the area with God’s eternal Word and gracious Gifts!

More information on Trinity Lutheran can be found at http://www.TrinityLutheran.net.

 

Rev. Rojas on the Giver of Life

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:13-14


Meditation: The Author and Giver of Life

God is the Author and Giver of Life, and life begins at conception. When God created this world, He blessed Adam and Eve with the command to procreate: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). This wasn’t a command to “be productive” or to “work hard.” This was a command to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28) with people. Soon after giving this command, God reveals to Adam and Eve exactly how they will “be fruitful” and “fill the earth”—”A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It’s a common misconception that “one flesh” refers to some spiritual union between husband and wife (think of the language of ‘soul-mates’ and ‘destiny’). But this is not what Scripture says. When Scripture says, “they shall become one flesh,” it means they will have a baby. An infant is the flesh of only the father and the mother combined. Every human being who has ever lived (except for Adam and Eve, and Christ Himself) are the combined flesh of their two parents: father and mother.

God didn’t keep the joy of creation for Himself—He gave it to us. (Christians should ban the term “reproduction” from their vocabulary; instead, use “procreation.” “Reproduction” is an industrial and business term that refers to inanimate objects. People started to use this word to refer to “making babies.” It’s crass. We “procreate.” This language affirms that there is a Creator—God—who “brings forth” His creation through His creatures. It’s a beautiful image.) God shares a glimpse of His joy of creation with us! The unspeakable joy that a father and mother have in seeing their child’s face at birth and then showering that child with undeserved gifts for the rest of his life is a splinter of the joy God has in creating and sustaining us.

God creates life through a man and a woman. If you ever want to know the definition of marriage and family, just consider where every human being came from—The sexual union between one man and one woman. When God chooses to make another human, when God chose to make you, He chose to first bring together your father and your mother. In doing this, He joined them together in the most profound and blessed union on the face of this planet. And, in God’s time and according to His Will, He caused you to be made in conception. He formed your inward parts. He knitted you together in your mother’s womb—He threaded your veins and arteries from your heart to your limbs, He formed your bones and jointed them together, He placed every hair follicle precisely where He determined it to be. And for all of this, it is our duty to thank and praise Him, serve and obey Him. Every human being is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Lamentably, there are many who deny this. There are many who claim that there is no Creator, that life doesn’t begin at conception, and that some people are not fearfully or wonderfully made. Some people advocate and pay for the murder of infants in and out of the womb(even nominally Christian denominations!), simply because they reject the undeniable and demonstrable truth that life begins at conception. Others are driven to despair and end their life because they hate their bodies, their life, and their entire being. They reject the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by their dear Father in heaven who loves them. Birth defects and physical troubles don’t negate God’s love. These things prove that original sin and its consequence of death is real—This should move us not to deny this life, but to seek eternal life in Christ all the more!

There have been 61 million abortions and counting in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade (There have been 1.5 billion worldwide). This is a holocaust. This all comes from the denial of God as Creator, the Father, the Source, the Author and Giver of Life. When we deny that God gave us life, we will soon deny the life God gave to others. To murder infants—for whatever reason—is an abomination. This is an indescribable horror, one too ghastly to think about. Yet it happens every day.

The world denies God and the life He so graciously gave them. But it shouldn’t be this way with you. Don’t despise God or the life He gave you or the body He so fearfully and wonderfully knit together in your mother’s womb. Learn to accept your life as a gift of God and the life of others as gifts from God as well. Don’t fall into the “pragmatism” of the day that prevents children from being born through birth control or “Plan-B pills.” Learn to confess that children are a gift from God Himself and that we should never prevent God’s Will from being done. Husbands should never deny children to their wives, and wives should never deny children to their husbands (1 Corinthians 7:4). There’s never a good reason to prevent or end the life of a child. However, if you’ve fallen into such vice in the past before, repent. Repent and remember that God, the Author and Giver of Life, willingly gave Himself into death for your sake to forgive all of your sins. Remember that God loved your life and body and existence more than you ever could. He not only loved you into existence, but He loved you into His kingdom as He gave life and limb, flesh and blood for your salvation. The God who formed you in your mother’s womb made Himself to be in the womb of the Virgin Mary to redeem you, to live the perfect life in your place since His conception. He created you. He redeemed you. And now He sanctifies you with His Word.

Rejoice in the life God gave you now, and the eternal life He has promised to you through faith in His only begotten Son. Love and protect the life that He gave to your neighbor, even your neighbors you haven’t met yet still in the womb.

+ Rev. Roberto Rojas Jr.

Epiphany of our Lord

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’” ~ Matthew 2:1-3

HE STILL SEEKS WISE MEN.  This is not the phrase you see this time of year.  In fact, nobody would buy it or understand it.  Instead, we see the bumperstick “Wise men still seek Him.”  We would all agree that it would be very wise to seek Jesus!  But, alas!  We are not wise!  Even the fall into sin could be understood in light of Romans 1:22, “claiming to be wise, they became fools.”  The Gospel is foolishness to those who are wise (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).  In Matthew 2, it is the Lord Who is seeking the magi!  The best translation of the Greek word magi is . . . you guessed it . . . magi!  If we call them “wise men,” it is only because they were wise in their dark arts.  They were definitely pagans.  As Chaldeans rulers, they may have had some lingering memory of what the faithful Hebrews told them in Babylonian exile, but they were still wandering and wondering souls.  They were lost.

We must gladly remember this.  This is consistently Biblical from the beginning to the end.  We don’t end up believing in God because we find Him.  Or seek Him.  Or make a decision for Him (read Ephesians 1:3-14 sometime!).  Or even “accept” Him.  Uh. . . . you can’t do that either.  Only the Holy Spirit can create the new life that we call saving faith (1 Corinthian 12:3).  God was not lost in Genesis 3 or any chapter after that.  God is the One Who has been seeking and finding as a Good Shepherd looks for His Sheep.  He is the One Who drew the wise man out of their spiritual darkness to the place where they could interact with the King of kings.  The Light of the world was shining forth through this toddler (Jesus was living in a home in Bethlehem by the time the magi arrived) that themagi would eventually “find.”  One tiny, lasting word from one of Yahweh’s dear people in exile was enough to prepare the wise men to travel to see the true King when the star drew them forth.  And . . . coming to the place where Jesus was, they fell down before Him and worshipped Him.  They opened up to Him their gifts, which were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The first two were kingly gifts indeed, but the last one, myrrh, which was used in the burial process, was already revealing that this tiny eternal Messiah would be the Savior of the world.  He was born to die and born to save the lost.

God finds us.  He sent Jesus to find both Jews and Gentiles.  He sent Him to save both the low-born and the high-class.  He came to save the notoriously sinful, but also those who still think that they are wise in their own eyes.  Yes, He still seeks wise men!  He still seeks those flirting with all kinds of false spirituality and the deep darkness of self- worship.  He is seeking all those trapped in the new age movement and worshipping idols in temples.  Christ came to liberate us from the our bondage to sin through His liberating life and salvation through His atoning death and glorious resurrection.  He puts down a name through Word with water in Baptism to find, to save, to keep.  This very Lord, Who once was so tiny and helpless, is now at the right hand of the Father with all things under His feet.  He is the very merciful and conquering Lord Who stoops down to strengthen with His Body and Blood in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  Jesus is a King Who stays for us with the forgiveness of sins until the closing of the age (Matthew 28:20).

As recorded in George Malech’s Book, “History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-Apostolic Church of the East,” there is a group of Christians who claim that their origins go back to the mission work of the converted Magi who told of the newborn King.  They also have a record of the names of the 12 ruling magi who came to see Jesus.  Do we know this for a fact?  No, because it is not recorded in the Holy Scriptures.  But . . . what we do know from Word of God is that Jesus is our Savior.  He has come for both Jew and Gentile.  He has delivered us from our spiritual blindness.  He has given us His Words.  These are the very words that we gladly get to tell to those who around us in a lost and hurting world.  Arise, and shine, your Light has come!

Blessed Epiphany!

Rev. Tim Droegemueller