Want to feel better? Eat right and exercise! How hard is that to understand?

Since the vast majority of people don’t read “Triathlete Magazine” I am going to pass on an article called Get Phit by Erin Beresini. Erin writes: “Ameica is terribly inactive. Acording to the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of us don’t get the recommended minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity and two muscle-strengthening sessions a week.” (Triathlete Magazine May 2017 p 26

Now for all those who spend most of their lives sitting around and griping about how lousy they feel, how everything is so messed up wah, wah, wah. You are the people who are going to be old, obese and infirm by age 50, if not younger, of course according to you it will be someone else’s fault and you will of course expect someone else to pay your massive medical bill for your diabetes, heart problems etc. You’re the ones who are quick to grouse on FaceBook, but you won’t do a thing for anyone including yourselves. Get off the sofa, turn off Oprah and or your computer, put some comfortable shoes on and go walk a mile or so. Get some elastic straps (any sporting goods store and very inexpensive) hook them on to something sturdy and do 20 minutes of resistance training. Really, really simple! In a few weeks you will be feeling a heckuva lot better and maybe you will avoid having to have me pay for your diabetes medication.

Erin writes: “Eight of the top 10 diseases in the United States are related to physical inactivity,’ including mental health, diabetes and heart disease, says Tom Cove, CEO and president of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.” Wow and all it takes is a little effort on your part. I was on my bike waiting for my GPS to boot up when this obese woman pulls in front of me in her car and starts laughing. Sure she takes a handful of pills everyday because she gets winded walking up a flight of stairs, but she thinks I’m funny looking in bike clothes. Maybe I am, but I think you’re kind of sad condemning yourself to a life of such misery and then laughing at others. Wow!

The point of Erin’s article is to set up a way for people to pay for their physical activity. OK, it does cost a little money, especially if you start to get a little serious about it. Fine, if the government were a little smarter about it, let you deduct the cost of running shoes, bike, health club, etc, you actually did something, the health crisis would disappear in rapid succession. We would not be paying billions for those who can’t control their food intake, who just can’t be bothered to get up and do something physical for even 20 minutes. “The PHIT Act would let individuals set aside up to $1,000 in pre-tax dollars and families up to $2,000, to spend on physical fitness related expenses…” Wow, could you imagine the immediate upgrade at your YM/YWCAs, Jewish Community Centers, etc? Tiny investment would make hundreds of millions notably more healthy. In the meantime you can do it on your own. I squirreled away money for about 6 months to buy a really nice race bike. It can be done.

Hey how about this,  Start thinking about what you eat. Start to go easy on the alcohol. Ditch the marijuana and other drugs (yea I know the ones out there who are trying to tell us that it’s actually good for you. Seriously? Why don’t you shut up and admit you have a problem). Get up twenty minutes earlier in the morning, go downstairs and use some straps, put on your comfy shoes and go outside. Get over your precious little dignity. I certainly don’t look that great working out, but anyone who has a clue knows what I’m doing and respects me for it. Even if I’m no one’s poster boy. You certainly aren’t in the least dignified being a hundred pounds over weight and unable to walk a flight of stairs. Chose the indignity of getting out there and exercising, I will have a lot more respect for you. Imagine, in a few weeks a few pounds lighter. You enable your body to activate the feel good hormones in your brain (dopamine, endorphins etc), you start having a positive outlook on life instead of all your whining on FaceBook, you avoid a lot of serious health risks and both you and I don’t have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for healthcare. Seriously think about it

Rebuke, Exhort! Don’t minimize and “tolerate”

St Paul wrote the largest amount of the content of the New Testament. Certainly the Gospels are specifically about the life and teachings of Jesus. But on the road to Damascus Jesus personally knocked Paul off his donkey and made Paul focus on who Jesus is and what being a Christian is all about. From there the Holy Spirit took Paul in hand and led Paul to be one of the greatest missionaries of Christianity and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Christian teacher. Many people like to minimize doctrine, but without Paul’s writings on doctrine we would have very little understanding of our Christian faith, a lot of what we accept as normal Christian practice, we would have to guess about, without Paul.

Paul founded a number of churches during his mission trips and he spent a lot of time and ink teaching people the important aspects of being a Christian. His “epistles”, letters, were written to people in Corinth, Thessalonica, Rome, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Colassae, and undoubtedly other groups in the Roman Empire. These were to address issues the churches were dealing with, or to pass on to them important aspects of being a Christian. In addition to Paul’s epistles to the churches, he also mentored, at least two pastors, Timothy and Titus. His letters to them were how to be pastors and how to lead congregations in the difficult times that these churches, all Christians, were going through at the time of Paul’s letters. Much of what Paul writes about is directly applicable to the Christian church and Christian pastors today.

Paul was not a shrinking violet, he had to contend with an immense amount of adversity during his ministry which culminated in being beheaded. As I said, Paul was probably the greatest missionary and pastor in Christian history. But if you really read Paul’s writings most Christians today, would be taken aback by Paul’s straightforward, even abrupt pastoral style. He wasn’t playing around, things had to be done in the church and in confronting a pagan and hostile society. Again so much of what Paul had to deal with we see today. While I’m not telling people to go out and be contentious, look for fights, or not try to be winsome and inviting, I am saying that there will be many times where you have to be straightforward in proclaiming the Gospel and not worry about who will be “offended”, or upset. As Christians and certainly not pastors we are not here to patronize people, or play to the crowd. As a pastor I took vows, to my death, promising to proclaim the Gospel. Many will be offended as Jesus tells us in KJV Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” The adolescent whining you will often hear while proclaiming the Gospel is just a convenient way for people to not deal with the truth. They will be held accountable for their silly little posturing, but we can’t let them intimidate us into shutting up about Jesus and that’s what they’re shooting for.

Believe me if they had interacted with Paul, they would think that someone like me is a little candy cane. Paul wanted to make it clear to churches, like Corinth and Thessalonica, that the Gospel is not about kid gloves. It’s about people’s eternal life, that is the ultimate issue, even if people don’t recognize it. It’s not up to us to candy-coat it or treat it like entertainment. It’s up to us to proclaim it with great knowledge, great compassion, integrity and urgency. Treat the Gospel in a way that is with utter respect as to its importance, not the way most people treat it which is a secondary issue and why worry about it, God will work everything out. I get that attitude all the time and it is just not true.

 

Paul writes to Timothy, one of his disciples who he is mentoring as a pastor. Timothy is in Ephesus, he is a young preacher and it would seem that he was contending with a lot of different people who were teaching false doctrine. Paul tells Timothy: “ESV 2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Paul is telling Timothy you know what is important, you know what you need to do, don’t stop doing it just because there are some people who are opposing you and trying to shut you up. We see that in too many young pastors today, “I don’t want anyone to get mad, I don’t want to offend anyone”. I look at it in terms of; “am I worried about upsetting this guy here, or God”? If it’s a choice, I’m sure not going to upset God. Paul makes it clear that it’s about what is in Scripture.

To underline that he goes on to write in the strongest terms: “ESV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul is serious and he’s telling Timothy; by all that we hold as holy, you need to go out and teach that. Don’t pull punches, don’t tell people what they want to hear. That’s not your call, your call is to tell people what God has given us in Scripture. Anything else would be to “suit their own passions”, which isn’t God’s intention, is it? Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort. These are not make nice words. Paul’s words are telling Timothy to make sure people understand these words are serious. Don’t let people get away with it if they’re trying to sell nonsense. We see that today with so many false teachers, it’s no less today than it was 2,000 years ago. Today when you’re faithful to Paul’s teaching you’re going to catch all kinds of flak as to how mean, judgmental, unloving, whatever phobic and whatever other adolescent prattle you hear from people who don’t want to hear God’s word and want to wallow in their nasty little sin. But they still expect God to come through for them and save them, do things their way. Bizarre, but people today truly expect everything their way and that includes God. After all, to quote the prattle from false teachers, God just wants us to be happy! Huh!? God wants us to become mature Christian disciples. That’s much more than “happy”.

Titus was probably an older man, another of Paul’s disciples and he was the pastor of the church on the island of Crete. Ever hear the expression “Cretans”? Not a flattering expression. Titus apparently had to deal with some pretty crude actors.

Paul gave Titus the same direction. Don’t be bashful, preach the truth of the Gospel: “ESV Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” The last part “Let no one disregard you.” Don’t be brushed off or ignored, don’t let people patronize you, and wow you see a lot of that in the world today dealing with Christians. No! This is the truth, you may not like it but don’t be cavalier about it either, this is serious, treat it as such.

Paul goes on to write: “ESV Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Yes doctrine does matter, don’t play around or minimize it, preach it. “7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,” Have Christian integrity, stick to what you know is the truth, be faithful and strong. But do it with dignity too. Don’t look silly and get all emotional and flakey. Assert the truth and move on. People too often don’t treat Christians seriously, make them take you seriously know what you’re talking about. Now more than ever we need to take those words seriously and stop putting on shows of “tolerance” or accommodation. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) There is no other truth! You may disagree with me, but you have to take Jesus’ words seriously.

As Christians we get a lot of just straight out stupid messages from the world. Too often we make the mistake of trying to dignify them, of being too gracious. Paul, Timothy, Titus and us, we don’t have that luxury. We need to be serious strong disciples and evangelists and witness in a way that we will be taken seriously. It’s not always going to result in conversion, but, Paul told both his disciples, don’t be bashful, rebuke wrongful teaching. Don’t get defensive about someone telling you you’re being judgmental. Say what you want and try to use weenie words to avoid the truth, I’m telling you the truth, and it is judgmental. If you disregard the truth of Jesus Christ : “ESV John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” I’m telling you the truth, if you chose to ignore it or minimize it you’ve “judged”, “condemned” yourself, not me.

God places us in our vocation

C.F.W. Walther was the first president of the Lutheran Church in the United States. The following is from a collection of his sermons from Concordia Publishing House. He talks about how we are placed in and used by the Holy Spirit in the vocation we are in for a reason. Dr Martin Luther made vocation an important part of his issues with the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church had been teaching that those who are in “religious” vocations are on a higher level than the rest of the worldly vocations. That somehow priests, nuns, monks, do work that is more important. Luther took issue with that in that we are all placed in our vocation by God for His purposes. Therefore since we are in those vocations at God’s behest, we are serving Him to the best of our abilities in that vocation.

As a good Lutheran pastor, Dr. Walther certainly is in tune with Dr Luther’s views. The following is from a sermon he gave based on Luke 5: 1-11:

“In today’s reading, we encounter Saint Peter working diligently in his earthly calling. He explains to Christ that he has worked patiently through the entire night. Although he has caught nothing [no fish], he does not give up the difficult vocation of fishing to seek something more rewarding. Instead, we find him the next morning washing his nets with his partners and preparing to try again.

Every true Christian will work diligently and untiringly. He will not leave his chosen vocation without real cause, recalling the words of the apostle Paul; ‘So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God’ (1 Corinthians 7:24). This is not, however, a distinguishing mark of the Christian since unbelievers can also pursue a vocation with dedication and endurance. In some cases, a non-Christian may even surpass a Christian in his devotion to his work.

How, then, does the true Christian show himself to be such by his earthly work? The first thing we notice from Peter’s example is that, although he was very industrious, he laid his net aside and carefully listened to Jesus as soon as He began to preach. Moreover, he permitted Jesus to use his boat as a pulpit when the people on the shore crowded Him from all sides. Finally, when Jesus called him to be a fisher of men, Peter immediately ‘left everything and followed Him’ (Luke 5:11)'”

In the midst of his earthly work, a true Christian shows that it is not the principal activity of his life. Indeed, he places his heavenly calling above his earthly one. He seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He does not let his bodily work be a hindrance in caring for his soul. He would rather interrupt his bodily support than be without nourishment for his soul from the precious Word of God.

Today’s text tells us even more about Peter. When he let down his net and caught such a great number of fish that the net tore, he did not in any way attribute the success to himself, his diligence, his wisdom, or his worthiness. Instead, ‘he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ (Luke 5:8). He regarded his great success as a blessing of Christ alone that he did not earn. Here we see the second way a person reveals in his earthly work that he is a true Christian. He does not believe he can preserve himself by his work, his diligence, and his wisdom. but only be awaiting his daily bread from God’s faithfulness. He does not lose heart if his worked proves fruitless, but instead places his reliance upon God. If his work is crowned with success, he receives it as a gift of grace from His heavenly Father. He does not bind himself to earthly things, but separates himself from them that he might be drawn to Christ all the more.

There is one more way in which Peter demonstrated in his work that he was a true Christian. When Jesus had stopped speaking, ‘He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”’ (Luke 5:4). His command was completely contrary to the rules of fishing and Peter’s own experience. The best fishing is not in the depths of the open sea but close to shore; it is also not during the day but at night. How does Peter respond? ‘And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets'” (Luke 5:5). This is how all true Christians work. They are motivated by God’s command because His Word says, ‘By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread’ (Genesis 3:19). Christians therefore daily say, in the conviction of their heart, ‘But at Your word I will let down the nets.”‘

“And gently grant Thy blessing That we may do Thy will, No more Thy ways transgressing, Our proper task fulfill, With Peter’s full assurance Let down our nets again. Success will crown endurance If faithful we remain. Amen (The Lutheran Hymnal p 544:5)

(Translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer “God Grant it: Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther” pp 551-553)

Idols hmmmm, really? Tells me to remember who’s really in charge!

I am the pastor of First Saint Johns Church in York, Pa. First Saint Johns (FSJ) was completed in 1875, as you can see from the featured image, the altar, and the rest of the sanctuary are very nice and very reverent.

There are those who I have showed the sanctuary to and felt that there was just “heavens, too much idolatry”. Rather amuses me. I’ve been in a lot of sanctuaries where you might truly wonder what the space is actually used for. By looking at this picture, there should be little doubt what or, better, Who this space is about. It’s all about Jesus and the people who built his sanctuary 140+ years ago knew it.

The altar is especially interesting in that it shows the most important aspects of who and what Jesus is all about. Underneath the flat part, called the mensa, is a lamb, shows that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next is a crucifix, reminding us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Next is Christ ascending to glory in heaven. The top stained glass window shows Jesus as Lord of all creation, at the right hand of God the Father.

The stained glass windows on the sides have various Christian symbols and at the top is one of the apostles.

People have actually told me how idolatrous this is??? Yet I can go into an old Quaker, Calvinist, etc churches and honestly wonder what’s going on there. I can go into a lot of “community”, “independent”, etc and see no indication that I’m in what purports to be a “Christian” sanctuary. There is a lot of symbology on the altar and on the stained glass at FSJs. A lot of visual reminders of what we believe and Who we hold important. Over the ascending Jesus is the motto “Sola Deo Gloria”, yea wow, “To God only the glory”, yikes that’s a first commandment buster, right?

Why do people really object to this? Why do they prefer to have a “church” that is essentially void of anything that is Christian? I would submit that especially with all the “big-box” non-denominationals, that it’s really more about those in the church preferring to kind of push aside all the Jesus stuff. Yea, they sing about Jesus and kind of preach about Him. But it’s not really about Him, if it was why is there a problem about having a lot of visual reinforcement.

My answer. In the world today it’s all about me, what’s good for me. Well Jesus is good for you, the only and ultimate good. But too many people don’t see it that way. Today’s culture says: I don’t want to be reminded of all that Jesus stuff, if I’m here I’m worshiping what I want, “ooo that gory crucifixion stuff”. Well that’s a whole big subject, and well we just shouldn’t have to do that, just make me happy God. I showed up, I should get the big payoff. Doesn’t work that way folks. It is all about God and not about you. That’s why we have all these reminders to reinforce that in us when we are in true worship, lifting up and praising God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

People who built these great old churches understood that and when I stand in front of the altar here I know exactly what and especially Who it’s all about. It’s why we at First Saint Johns are serious about what we do and why we do it, it’s for Jesus who sacrificed all for us and we will be His for all eternity. So instead of mouthing silly platitudes and not thinking about what is important, let’s all do some serious thinking about what and Who is ultimately important. I have all these beautiful and compelling reminders here, maybe it’s time for you to think about why this is all important.  Sanctuary 140th anniversary