MINISTRY MESSAGES

by Pastor Craig Michaelson

At Faith Community Lutheran Church, we know that church isn’t just a weekend experience, but the way in which we live out that experience in our every day lives. These devotionals are here to help motivate and encourage us through out the week.

“Running on Empty”

APRIL 14, 2021

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.” (Matthew 28:5)


Dear brothers & sisters in Christ:

Do you remember your very first chocolate Easter bunny?

It seemed so big! It seemed so fancy! It seemed like it would take forever to eat it.

But then you took your first bite. And when you did, you couldn't believe it! Your chocolate Easter bunny was hollow! It was empty inside! And it left you with an empty feeling inside.

Life is like a hollow chocolate Easter bunny at times. Instead of giving you lasting joy and fulfillment in life, it ends up leaving you with an empty feeling inside.

That’s been the case for many people over this past year because of COVID and all its ripple effects. And maybe that’s been the case for you. Maybe, like Jackson Browne’s 1977 song and album, you have felt like you are “Running on Empty.”

On that first Easter morning, the women sure had an empty feeling inside as they made their way to Jesus’ tomb. They were still in shock over the events that had transpired. They couldn’t believe that Jesus was dead. They had heard Him teach. They had seen His miracles. They believed that He was the One who would save them. He had filled their lives with hope and peace and joy.

But in an instant, all that was gone. Jesus was dead--killed tragically on a cross like a criminal and buried in the tomb of one of His followers. There was nothing that could make them feel emptier inside.

Still, out of devotion, they were going to the tomb to anoint His body. They wanted to pay their last respects to Jesus and give Him a decent burial. And after that, who knows what they would do? All they knew was that they were running on empty and nothing could take away the emptiness they felt inside.

Nothing but an empty tomb and a risen Savior! Suddenly, the women were running on empty again! But this time, they were running on the power and the promise of the empty tomb! Jesus was alive! He had risen from the dead! And their lives were filled with hope and peace and joy that nothing could take away!

The next time the pandemics and problems and pains of this life leave you feeling empty inside like a hollow chocolate Easter bunny, remember the one thing that can fill you with a hope and a peace and a joy that lasts.

Remember the empty tomb of your Savior Jesus.

The empty tomb means your sin has been forgiven.

The empty tomb means your death has been defeated.

The empty tomb means your relationship with God has been restored.

The empty tomb means your home in heaven has been reserved.

That’s the power and promise of your Savior’s empty tomb!

And that's the power and the promise that can keep you "running on empty" through this life and trusting in your risen Savior for the life to come!

In Jesus’ name.

Pastor Craig Michaelson

“What a Difference!”

April 7, 2021

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


What a difference a year makes! Last year, the Church Sanctuary was empty as we celebrated the empty tomb. Everything was online instead of in person. But this year, the Church Sanctuary was full for several of our Easter celebrations! And many joined our resurrection celebrations online too!

What a great feeling it was to welcome new people for worship! And a great feeling it was to welcome back members of our Faith Community family, some for the first time since the pandemic began! The empty tomb of Jesus filled our hearts with joy and hope as we gathered to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the promise of ours!

But none of this celebration would have been possible if it hadn’t been for that first Good Friday and Easter. Christ’s death and resurrection make all the difference, an eternal difference, for you and for me!

Consider these words from St. Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. (1 Corinthians 15:13-18)

Did you follow the “If . . . then . . .” statements? They don’t paint a pretty picture, do they? If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then we and all who have lived and died believing He did are in trouble.

Thankfully, those “If . . . then . . .” statements are trumped with “But . . .”

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

That 3-letter word tells us that because of Christ’s resurrection, none of those “If . . . then . . .” statements apply!

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!

Our preaching and our faith are eternally beneficial!

Our witness about God is true!

The dead in Christ will be raised!

Our faith is essential!

We have been freed from sin’s punishment!

Those who have fallen asleep in Christ are found in heaven praising our risen Savior!

What a difference our risen Savior has made, for time and eternity!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
 

In Jesus’ name.

 

Pastor Craig Michaelson

“It's Too Quiet”

March 31, 2021

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26:14-16)


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

If you are a parent, you know that the time you should be the most concerned about your child(ren) is when it is quiet. Usually that means they are trying to be sneaky so they don’t get into trouble!

Things were quiet on Wednesday of that first Holy Week. The other days were filled with activities and events. But Wednesday was quiet. And sure enough, someone was trying to be sneaky that day.

That someone was Judas Iscariot. He went secretly to the chief priests and asked them how much they would pay him to betray Jesus and deliver Him over to them.


Their offer? Thirty pieces of silver. The going price for a common slave in ancient times.

Let that sink in. Judas sold Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders just as he would have sold a slave to someone else. In Judas’ mind, that’s all Jesus was worth. Which shows that Judas was a slave to sin and death.

Judas is not alone. You and I and the whole world were at one time slaves to sin and death. But on Good Friday, Jesus redeemed us from our slavery to sin and death, not with silver or gold, but with His precious blood.

And now, through Spirit-given faith in Jesus, we see what He is truly worth! Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us is priceless!


In Jesus’ name.

Pastor Craig Michaelson

“Good Death”

MARCH 24, 2021

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:43-44)


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


Sometimes people try to make death sound like a good thing. The word “euthanasia” literally means, “good death.” People say it is natural, part of the circle of life, our friend, etc.

But scripture calls death anything but good.

Death is unnatural. God designed His creation for life. Only after the Fall, did death become a reality. Deep down we know that death is not natural.

Death is also not our friend. It is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). It is also our enemy, the last enemy to be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26).

When Lazarus died, Jesus cried.

But Jesus did more than that. He cried out in a loud voice and called the dead Lazarus to come out of his tomb. And His words had the power to make Lazarus come back to life once again! It was like a mini-resurrection celebration!

As we prepare for another Holy Week journey with our Savior, we are reminded that there was only one good death, and it took place on Good Friday. And the only reason it was good is because Jesus was willing to die to pay the penalty for our sin and to rise again so we could live forever with Him!

Death, that unnatural enemy of us all, has been defeated by Jesus. And on the Last Day, when Jesus calls us to our heavenly home, we will celebrate together how death has been swallowed up by Christ’s resurrection victory!


In Jesus’ name.

Pastor Craig Michaelson

“Where Do You Find Hope?”

MARCH 17, 2021


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would share a story of something amazing that happened in Northern Ireland last year on St. Patrick’s Day.


Keith and Kristyn Getty and their children decided to do a family hymn sing. Their family hymn sing received more than one million views over 100 countries after going live on Facebook!


The Getty’s idea was conceived last year during the first week of the COVID-19 lockdown while they were in Nashville. The Gettys then returned to Northern Ireland so they could be at home during the lockdown.


The timing of their social media hit also coincided with the 20th anniversary of the writing of their most celebrated hymn, “In Christ Alone.” The lyrics of that song have helped hundreds of millions of people to find where true hope is found.


I hope the lyrics of the song will help you find your hope in Christ alone.


In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This cornerstone, this solid ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm What heights of love, what depths of peace When fears are stilled, when strivings cease My comforter, my all in all Here in the love of Christ I stand


In Christ alone who took on flesh Fullness of God in helpless babe This gift of love and righteousness Scorned by the ones He came to save Till on that cross as Jesus died The wrath of God was satisfied For every sin on Him was laid Here in the death of Christ I live


There in the ground His body lay Light of the world by darkness slain Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again And as He stands in victory Sin's curse has lost its grip on me For I am His and He is mine Bought with the precious blood of Christ


No guilt in life, no fear in death This is the power of Christ in me From life's first cry to final breath Jesus commands my destiny No power of hell, no scheme of man Can ever pluck me from His hand Till He returns or calls me home Here in the power of Christ I'll stand


Our world tries to get us to find our hope in all kinds of things. But none of those things can give us the lasting hope Jesus gives us.


St. Patrick found his only hope was in Christ alone. And he shared that hope with many in Ireland!


May we find our hope in Christ alone and share that hope with others too!


In Jesus’ name.


Pastor Craig Michaelson