The Epiphany of our Lord
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” Isaiah 60:1.
When the date January 6 now arrives everyone may be reminded of the images imbedded in our minds of the riot that took place on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. I don’t think any news stations will announce the importance of this date in the life of a Christian. Yes, Epiphany! The twelfth day after the nativity, the birth of our LORD on Christmas Day.
Also known as “three kings’ day” when the wise men of the east bring gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to the Christ child. Guided by the star they are led to Jesus and present him with the gifts that are truly fitting for a king. Even Herod’s attempts to extinguish this new born king his attempts failed. The light of Christ has arisen, and we are now the ones who are blessed by this light of God’s grace and love and mercy through Jesus Christ. Even though Jesus was given a crown of thorns at Calvary on Good Friday, death could not defeat him. Rising on Easter morning sin, death and the Devil are defeated. “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities” Isaiah 53:11.
I’m not going to forget what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, but I especially do not want to forget how important this day of Epiphany is for us who believe and trust in Jesus Christ our King. After the Magi (wise men) spoke with Herod they went on their way following the star they had seen in the east. It stopped over the place where the child was and when they arrived, they were “overjoyed.” My prayer is that this joy is yours not only during this season of Epiphany but until that day when there is no more violence, suffering, pain, or tears. May Jesus rule and reign in your hearts and minds and may the light of God’s love and mercy shine upon you now and into eternity.
Grace and Peace,
Never forget! But can we forgive? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s not that hard to forgive someone who takes your parking place right as you are waiting to pull in. But what about those who unleashed such evil twenty years ago that left thousands dead. Our prayers continue to go out for the families who have lost loved ones from this horrific day and are still suffering from the pain and hurt of that day. Or those first responders who put their lives on the line and have suffered for doing so. It is not easy to forgive but if we don’t the terrorist win. Or as Booker T. Washington said, “I will not let any man belittle my soul by making me hate him.” Forgiveness will help in the healing as hard and as painful as it might be. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Mt. 6:14.
We have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus out of God’s love for us. And even though a lot of blood was shed on 9-11-01 it is only by the grace of God and His mercy that He gives us the ability to forgive but we will also never forget. May the love of God bless you and give you His peace. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom. 12:1
March 18, 2021… Love Will Overpower the Hate
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Mt. 7:12
I learned a long time ago that only the weak are cruel, it takes a strong person to be kind. We have been experiencing a lot of hate, violence and cruelty in our community specifically targeted at the Asian American community. We as a Christian community deplore and denounce any form of hate or cruelty brought about by those with hatred in their hearts. We stand together with the Asian community and anyone who is the victim of senseless cruelty and hatred. We know as Christians that our love will overpower the evil of hatred. We know that our kindness is the strength that will overpower any form of racism or hate. We know that God’s love is a power that can bring true healing to a hurting suffering world.
There are two principles that we as Christians hold on to that are based on God’s Word. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
May this love of God be with you and extend out into the communities in which we live.
Grace and Peace,
Jan. 18, 2021… Wise Men
We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day this weekend. A Nobel Peace prize recipient and one of the only Americans that a holiday is named after along with Lincoln and Washington whose birthdays are now combined as President’s Day. Martin Luther King Jr. a Baptist minister saw the hand of God in all the work he was doing. Even though he was named Michael King Jr. at birth he changed his name after seeing the atrocities in Berlin during the rise of Nazism in 1934 while at a Baptist World Alliance conference. Upon his return home he changed his name to Martin Luther King Jr. named after the great reformer Martin Luther whom he respected and admired his work igniting the reformation in the 1500’s.
Martin Luther whom our church is named after saw government as the “left hand kingdom.” The right hand kingdom is that of the church and based on the doctrine of justification that we are saved by the grace of God through faith. The sword cannot force someone to believe in God. But in the left hand kingdom the governing authorities bear the sword to maintain peace and civility in our land. Martin Luther saw government based on Romans 13 as a call for government to maintain peace and not abuse its power.
Martin Luther the reformer was named after St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin born in 316 AD and was the son of a senior Roman official. Martin would serve in the Roman Calvary in Gaul (modern day France) and would eventually become the Bishop of Tours. While serving in the military Martin sees a beggar only in rags in the depth of winter and Martin takes his coat and cuts it in half with his sword and gives half to the man in need. That evening Martin sees the face of Jesus in a dream wearing the coat. It is said of St. Martin “Wherever Christ in known Martin is honored.”
This can be said of all three of these wise men. They all looked to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and they all have made a difference in the world in which we live.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Grace and Peace,
December 10, 2020 Advent of our King
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2,6.
Christmas is coming. Prepare the way the king is on the way. “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” Isaiah 4:3. Christ is coming and this is the celebration worthy and fitting for a king. What is the King going to witness when he comes into town? A pandemic that is out of control. The stain of sin that is evident in every small town and large city and everything in between. But our king did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it Jn. 3:17.
God’s love for us is revealed in His Son our Savior Jesus Christ. And it is this humble child who grows and goes to the cross to remove the stain of sins on our hearts and to reconcile us to the Father. He is Mighty and He is Wonderful and He is our source of peace.
May the peace of this Advent season be with and bless you!
October 12, 2020 Vote!
Usually this time of year we talk about stewardship in the church. Since it is harvest time we talk about being good stewards of all that God has given us. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he encourages the use of the gifts of God for the blessings of others. “If it is in serving, let him serve; if it is in teaching let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Rom. 12:7-8.
By exercising our rights as citizens we have the ability to put into place those who will “govern.” I am not advocating one party over another or one individual or initiative over another. But I am strongly encouraging everyone to have their voice heard as Christian citizens because we are citizens of heaven but we are also citizens of the United States and we are all included in the phrase, “We the people.”
It is good stewardship to let your voice be heard through your ballot. In the temporal world (government) they are in place to keep us safe and provide those services that are there for the benefit of all of us. Luther called this the “left hand kingdom.” In the church “right hand kingdom” there is the forgiveness of sins, the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments for the spiritual well-being of the people of God.
Vote! It’s a stewardship thing!
Grace and Peace, Pastor Binz
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5:1
The times we are living can definitely test our faith. Paul is encouraging the Christians in Rome in the first century to remain faithful. Being justified freely by the grace of God will give us the peace that even goes beyond our understanding. As this pandemic continues to ravage across our land there is tremendous suffering, pain, sickness and even death. Since we are justified by the work of Jesus Christ we can live with hope and with patience as the suffering of many continues. “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:3-4.
During these unsettling times it can be very challenging to be patient and trust in God’s timing in all things. This shut-down is going on five months as I write this. Those who have lost jobs, those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones due to this corona virus can really be struggling with their faith. And so this message of hope in scripture is ours also. This hope will not disappoint us, and God pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and we are encouraged not to lose hope. We will get to other side of this pandemic, but in the meantime we continue trusting in God and being justified through Christ Jesus living with that peace of God giving us hope.
Stay well everyone, God’s peace be with you,
June 26, 2020 Rest for your Soul
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Mt. 11:25-30
I think we are all a little tired, if not a lot tired. Tired of this pandemic. Tired of sheltering in place, tired of not being able to come together in worship, tired of the restrictions placed on us to stop this spread of Covid-19. On the surface we may really like this text because of the rest needed because of the tiredness of the day. But Jesus’s words are going beyond just a physical rest. The burdensomeness and weariness is not from work, but rather from sin. The burden of conscience that we haven’t done enough or that certain sins continue to weigh us down this is the relief Jesus is speaking of. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“I will give you rest.” Faith in Jesus gives us rest from the burden of sin. Sin is forgiven by the grace of God and then the “yoke” becomes easy. The burden of sin is lifted by Christ and it is replaced with peace within our souls. This peace and rest from God is what brings joy in the life of being a Christian. Knowing that nothing can separate us from this love and the peace that the world cannot give but is given to us in Christ Jesus.
Living with the sin and guilt lifted in our lives we are now empowered to serve God under the yoke of forgiveness and that becomes a blessing to our neighbor as we serve them in joy and in peace. May this love of God in Christ Jesus give you that peace and rest for your souls.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Binz
June 10, 2020, Love will Prevail
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd people everywhere are voicing their outrage and wanting solutions to the problems of elitism, racism, and social injustice. I thought after the Rodney King incident in L.A. in 1991 we would have learned that racism is harmful to everyone. When there is hate in the heart against anyone whether they be Black, White, Asian, Latino, rich, poor, Democrat or Republican we are going to continue to have the symptoms of violence, un-equality, and prejudice.
Jesus was confronting these issues with the leaders of his day. An expert in the law starts with the question, “What must I do to inherit the kingdom of God?” Jesus responds, “What does the law say?” The “law” was more than a civil code it was a covenant with God that was a promise to hold to it in order to remain the children of God. And so their response to Jesus’ question was correct and it’s about Love. Loving God and loving your neighbor. The leaders follow up with another question, “and so who is my neighbor?” And Jesus goes into the parable of the Good Samaritan.
This Divine Love from God as the Holy Spirit works in our lives through His Word empowers us to be capable of loving God and loving our neighbor. The Samaritans in the first century were oppressed, outcasts, and feared by many. Yet it was the Samaritan who extended mercy to the man on the side of the road. (The priest and the Levite feared becoming unclean by helping). For it is fear and ignorance that fuels hatred, the opposite of God’s command to love. And by rejecting God and His love for us we are not able to love our neighbor. By receiving God’s grace, love and forgiveness we are able to extend that love to our neighbor. “And so we know and rely on the Love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 Jn. 4:16
At the conclusion of the parable Jesus asks them, “who proved to be his neighbor?” They answered, “The Samaritan.” Jesus’ words were, “Go and do likewise.” For this love of God in Christ Jesus is powerful and will not only overcome hatred and prejudice but will heal the hurts brought about by the evils of racism and injustice.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Binz
Pentecost, May 31, 2020
“Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:11
This was the response of the people who were hearing and understanding others in their own language. That day of Pentecost (fifty days following the Passover), the Holy Spirit manifests itself amongst the people. God is at work and just as was prophesied in Joel the Holy Spirit is poured out.
Martin Luther uses that phrase, “What does this mean?” before he writes an explanation on the Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, or the Apostles’ Creed. In Acts 2, what it means is that God is at work. And God is at work in our lives through His means, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, The Word, and the Holy Spirit works through those means.
In describing the work of the Holy Spirit in the third article of the Apostles’ Creed Martin Luther answers it this way, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” Small catechism-third article part 1.
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
5-24-20 Armed Forces Sunday- Blog
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” Jn. 15:13
The weekend we are celebrating Memorial Day and giving thanks to God for those who have sacrificed on our behalf so that we can enjoy the freedoms won by their sacrifice. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” No only no atheists but those who are willing to lay down their lives for their brother, sister, and their country. This type of love that goes beyond oneself is admirable. In this context in John, Jesus is telling the disciples that they are his friends. It will be Jesus who lays down his life. Not for himself, but for his friends, including you and me. Not only does he lay down his life but He does so for a purpose. And the purpose and goal is win for us the forgiveness of sins and salvation. We are victorious in Christ. Our sins are forgiven and we have the gift of eternal life, death and the grave are defeated.
God’s love and peace abide in you, now and forever,
For more information on our LCMS chaplains serving faithfully go to:
National Day of Prayer May 7, 2020
P- Please P-Pray E- Everyone
Please Pray Everyone
On this National Day of Prayer we pray knowing God hears our prayers.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1.
Let us pray for all those in our nation who are suffering from this coronavirus grant to them healing and strength. Pray for all those families who have lost loved ones due to this virus may God grant them peace and comfort during their sorrow and grief.
Pray that God would be with all medical personnel; Doctors, Nurses, Medical Support Staff, Researchers working to find a vaccine/cure. And pray for all first responders who are on the front lines helping the injured and sick. Pray also for the families of these people that they stay safe as their loved ones go to work to keep us safe.
Pray for those in authority, all elected officials, the President, Governors, local officials, as they work to put strategies in place for reopening our nation. Pray that God would give them wisdom and compassion as they lead our county through this pandemic.
Pray for all teachers in our nation and especially the teachers here at West Portal Lutheran as they work to continue to educate the youth of our nation by distance learning. Pray for the students as they adjust and adapt to different ways of learning. Pray for our colleges and seminaries as leaders in the church are trained and prepared to serve God as pastors, teachers, and other vocations to the glory of God.
Pray for those who have suffered financially from this pandemic. Those who have lost jobs and those who are struggling with the basic necessities of life. Pray for God’s mercy and goodness as the giver of all good things as we seek first his kingdom.
Pray for the church not just here in America but in the world. That we would be bold to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ even in the midst of turmoil in the world. That those who have not heard the saving message of Christ may hear and believe and come to saving faith. Pray for all the missionaries that are working to bring the Gospel to all nations.
You are in my prayers and thank you for your prayers for me and my family,
“Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.” Ps. 86:6-7.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you.” 1 Pet. 3-5.
These words from Peter are a tremendous help during these current times that we are currently facing. Because of the Easter truth of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we have an inheritance in heaven that will not perish or fade.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Pet. 1:6. There is plenty of suffering in our world today and some wonder if we will ever get beyond it. We are not able to worship, we’re not able to be in community in large groups. Many people are out of work due to this pandemic. There is much weeping and many finding it hard to rejoice during these times.
This hope that Peter promises is the hope I share with you. A “living hope” that will not perish or spoil. A hope that despite the suffering and pain of the moment there will be a new day, a new dawn, and because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have that “living hope.” Living with this promise given to us by God by grace through faith we can meet whatever sufferings or trials we may be facing even up to the point of death. But even then, all those who believe, “shall not perish, but have life everlasting life.” Jn. 3:16.
May this living hope the Love of God in Christ Jesus, be with you now and forever.
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020
The angel said to the women, “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.” Mt. 28:6
He is Risen! He has risen indeed, Alleluia!
Easter is very different this year. I miss the celebration at church (the brunch is good too!). This will be a year we’ll never forget. And we especially don’t want to forget the very first Easter when Jesus rose from the dead and the tomb was empty.
On that first Easter morning fear was evident with those who encountered the empty tomb and not only do angels tell them, “don’t be afraid,” but Jesus also said to them, “don’t be afraid.” That had reason to be afraid, the guards at the tomb were so afraid, “they became like dead men.” Fear has way of robbing us of the joy that is in Christ Jesus.
We are facing uncertain, and to be honest fearful times. But this promise that the resurrection brings to us is true joy that despite what is happening in our world, this joy of the resurrection is for us to give us hope, peace, and love. This love of God given to us in Christ Jesus in the resurrection is the center of our faith. And with this faith, we live with hope and the true joy that will lead us now and to life everlasting.
Grace and Peace,
Friday, April 3, 2020
“The LORD is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” Ps. 27:1,3.
I have heard it said that we are in a war and the enemy is invisible. Currently the reference is to this coronavirus that cannot be seen but is spreading like wild fire across the world infecting people, and leaving sickness and death in its wake.
St.Paul refers to the enemy as not seen but real nonetheless. The evil one that is not flesh and blood but rather authorities, rulers, powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms Eph. 6:12. We are fighting this coronavirus by washing our hands staying at home, keeping physical distance between ourselves and others. But the battle that will continue long after this pandemic is over is the fight against sin, death and the devil.
Thanks be to God that the battle has been won. We’re still waiting for the battle against the coronavirus to be over, but the battle over sin, death and the devil has been won by Jesus Christ. This is the truth of Easter and what we believe, teach, and confess. We are victorious because of the work of Jesus Christ. We will be victorious over this coronavirus because of the hard work of so many people especially the medical professionals. Continue to pray for those suffering from this virus, pray for those who have lost loved ones due to this pandemic and pray for all those working in the medical field working to bring an end to this dreaded disease.
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear.”
Stay well, stay safe, and may God’s peace surround you and your loved ones.
In Christ, Pastor Binz
Friday, March 27, 2020
“But there is a time and has come when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet, I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” Jn. 16:32
Jesus will be going to the Father in prayer and eventually to the cross on our behalf. But in this context Jesus reminds the disciples that He is going to be away but not alone but one with the Father. During our isolation-“shelter in place” we may feel isolated all alone. Jesus had to be alone to accomplish the work of suffering and dying on the cross to forgive our sins and give us salvation.
We are at home to help stop the spread of this coronavirus. But we are not alone. God is with us and as we are “scattered, each to his own home.” God is always with us and He hears our prayers, He hears our pleas, and hears our cries. We are separated but still together. May we always remain one in Christ, and may his love and peace give us hope as we look to Christ our source of strength, hope and love.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Binz
Friday, March 20, 2020
“God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.”
We are facing uncertain times, but we can do this without fear because we have a God who is certain in his promises to us. God promises to be with us at all times and as we face these challenges together this is a good time to even though we are practicing “safe distancing” we can draw closer to God even though worship and Bible studies are cancelled for the time being. And even though we aren’t coming together in worship remain in the Word and look out for one another, check in on the members you know from time to time and offer help if needed. God keep you in his precious care trusting in his mercy. Pastor Binz