Category Archives: authenticity

The World chooses to divide against Christ Luke 12: 48-53 August 18, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md.

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have known strife and division said … AMEN!

I’ve seen lots of pastors have a real problem with this passage, that it doesn’t fit their concept of Jesus. Their perception of Jesus wrong, it’s presumptuous, just not scriptural but that’s what people want. They want gentle Jesus with the little children, heal some people, make some gratuitous remarks and then go away so that we can live real life. We’ve done our duty, we sit and endure a sermon, some readings, Jesus is the little baby Jesus, nice and harmless and really doesn’t require anything of anyone, let’s just make nice, feel we’ve had a little bit of God and now let us move on to the stuff we want to do and keep us from all the judging stuff. After all I’m a good person, I deserve all the good stuff. Like Sally in a Peanut’s Christmas, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” If I were you, I would not be making that demand to God, you may think that it’s what you expect in this world, but expecting what you think is your “fair share” from God? How do you think that is going to work out? I always find it funny when I hear a Christian, I heard this from Roman Catholic clergy a lot in the social justice movement, we expect justice from God!  How do you think that is going to work out? Do you really want justice, or what we do get, grace? I’m very good with grace, please give me grace. God’s justice; Father, Son and Holy Spirit is as we see in this reading. The silly perception of sweet, humble, peace loving is just not realistic. We see His quotes in this passage. We see how He went up against the Jewish leaders. He had no compunction holding people responsible for their sins, certainly forgiving those seeking repentance. We’re not entitled to “forgiveness”, we certainly don’t want what we have coming to us, we wouldn’t like it. So likewise with today’s Gospel. Jesus is serious, He’s not some kind of supernatural Santa Claus dispensing what you want, when you want, good, bad, sinful, that’s not Jesus and you just can’t gloss over this passage. How do we see Jesus in Scripture? Certainly in this passage: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” So Jesus’ is causing all this division? You’ve heard of the golden rule? He who has the gold makes the rules? Jesus makes the rules, the people who defy Him are causing the division. How is Jesus portrayed in the Book of Revelation? “One of the concluding visions of the Apocalypse pictures the victorious “King of kings, and Lord of Lords.” He is riding triumphantly on a white horse—a symbol of conquest (19:11-16). He is faithful and true, consistent with his holy character, he will “judge” and “make war.” The judging discriminates between the godly and the ungodly; the war signifies the punishment to be inflicted upon the rebellious. His garment is red with the blood of his enemies (cf. Isaiah 63 from which the imagery is borrowed). Those who have served faithfully under his leadership likewise are on white horses and are clothed in white garments, signifying their purity and/or victory. By his word he smites the rebel nations and breaks them with his rod of iron (cf. Psalm 2:9). His enemies will feel the fierceness of his wrath and find no relief ever after (cf. 14:9-11).”[1]Through the Gospels we see Jesus taking on those He has a problem with; the merchants abusing His house, the Jewish leaders who abuse their positions. Those who sin gratuitously. Jesus is telling us in this passage, I wasn’t sent by the Father to be a simple bumpkin, I was sent to take on a very evil world. It’s not Jesus who is causing the division. First off that’s just oxymoronic. How can the person who through all creation came into existence, cause division? He created everything, He makes the rules. If someone choses to ignore the all-powerful Creator of all and make rules and creation in his own image, contrary to Jesus’ image. The culture scoffs at the idea of worshipping idols, when they’ve made themselves an idol, that they believe all creation is made into their image. Those are the ones causing division. Jesus is coming with a sword in order to restore creation, for people to turn back to Him, the one who makes the rules, the one who saves us to eternal life, the One who is to be worshipped, not ourselves. You create division any time you think, despite what Scripture says, that the “fair” thing is for things to be your way, in your image. If you’re breaking the commandments, violating the law that God established, you are the one causing division, and that is called sin! Jesus confronted and defeated Satan after 40 days in the desert and then proceeded in a number of situations. Jesus is about overcoming evil, the ultimate spiritual warrior. He repeatedly confronted demons in Scripture, yes He loves the little children, but there’s one pericope about children, there’s numerous ones in particular today’s reading and most of the Book of Revelation. This is what Jesus is about and not some wimpy, vacillating milquetoast. People should think about when they decide to put themselves on the altar as their idol to worship. Jesus does not tolerate those who simply dismiss Him and conduct their life in defiance of His will and laws. When you really consider all the evil of the world, when we portray Jesus as this kind of nice fella, wonderful with children, I can see why people don’t take Him very seriously. That’s our fault trying to “sell” Jesus as the gentle, benevolent nice guy. Jesus is the ultimate warrior! Sounds like a good wrassling name, doesn’t it? He is! The evil of the world is kept in bounds because of what Jesus does for us. I’ve heard commentators suggest how insufferably evil the world would be without the Holy Spirit keeping it in bounds and He will be withdrawn as the Book of Revelation tells us. Jesus’ angels are with us, it is Jesus who commands the arch-angel Michael the commander of the heavenly host who drove Satan out of heaven. It is Jesus who will be the ultimate warrior as we see in Revelation who will destroy the world. The upside for us who are in Jesus is that He will then restore the world. Not the world tainted by our sin and evil. The world likes to make it about those who are in Jesus who are the ones causing all the strife: if you would just leave people alone and let them do what they want all will be well !!!! Yea that’s why we’re having these ridiculous scenes police officers in New York being doused with water while making an arrest, being hooted and pelted in Philadelphia by a mob, the scenes we’re seeing played out in Baltimore. Should have just let those people alone. There are innocent people in those neighborhoods who have to live there, don’t want to be subjected to the violence and the threat of attacks on their person. Letting people alone is not the answer, that is what is called division. God will judge those who divide and cause the strife in the world and that is what Jesus is talking about in this passage. It is those who do what is contrary to God’s will who cause division. Wes McAdams is on spot when he writes in Radically Christian: “the sin Jesus and the apostles addressed the most might have been division. In fact, did you know the word “heresy” comes from the Greek word that means “sect”? Literally, a “heretic” (Titus 3:10, KJV) is a person who divides from others and forms a sect around his or her opinions. This kind of sectarianism is expressly condemned and I believe every single one of us need to heed the warnings of Scripture. The book of James sheds a lot of light on what causes divisions. And the simple answer is, a lack of wisdom from above. James says, “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17). When we are not being peaceable, gentle, and open to reason, it is obvious we are lacking the kind of wisdom James is commending here. He goes on to say our conflicts are caused by our passions which are at war within us (James 4:1). We want and we do not have, which causes us to fight, bicker and quarrel with one another. What we really need, James says, is to humble ourselves (James 4:6-10). Wouldn’t a good dose of humility and some spiritual wisdom (that is peaceable, gentle, open to reason, etc.) go a long way in preventing religious division? If Christians – on both sides of division – would stop pushing their own agendas and humbly stick with what Scripture actually says, there would seldom be division. James also says we need to not speak evil against our brethren or judge them (James 4:11-12). So what does that mean?”[2] This is spot on. Our wants, our opinions, our passions, those are the things that cause division, they put us on the altar, we are our idol. It is all about what we want and obviously that divides us from God.

Journal about what are the idols that you are obeying, worshipping that are dividing you from God. What divisions are you causing because of your opinion, in what you do to deliberately misunderstand Scripture to twist it to your desires? This is what causes divisions. We want God to be the great benevolent enabler because our sins are OK, and they’re not. They separate us from God. Jesus causes division when He comes with the sword, from those who battle against God. It’s going to be His way, no matter how far in denial we are. So we can continue to live in this idea that it’s everyone else’s fault and I should just have my own way. Then we’re shocked when people in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore attack for no reason, just for a hoot and we know the only way it will get better is when we start getting serious about God and are bringing Him into the world.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

 

[1] https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1484-jesus-christ-in-the-book-of-revelation

[2] https://radicallychristian.com/the-sin-of-division

Can’t always be your way! (do you want to succeed for Jesus’ church or not?)

Wow I wish the average person would get that. I’ve actually seen people try and undermine an activity because it wasn’t being done their way.

I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard, most of what is done is all through training and procedure. Years of experience have taught how to do things and continually reporting and evaluating has developed new ways and methods.

Great! Right? Certainly though, there will be the times when something has to be worked out. As General Stanley McChrystal responds to this question: “Can you create a flexible group without lots of debate and argument? The general’s answer: “No. In all healthy organizations, argument happens face-to-face. You debate, argue and move on.

By the way, there’s a pile of argument in the military. It just take different forms. But when the landing-craft ramp drops and hits the beach, that’s not a time to argue the plan.” (1)

Yea, and that’s what too many non-military types just don’t seem to want to understand. Even more so in terms of the fact that you are trained to be there for everyone around you, you depend on them, they depend on you, the job needs to get done and everyone needs to RTB (return to base). That seems to be a foreign concept to most civilians, that includes police, politicians, medical persons, computer salesmen, pretty much everyone. It has to be their name on it, they have to have the recognition. In the civilian world “it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, so long as the job is accomplished”, is almost thought to be stupid. Of course it matters who gets the credit, because after all in our society today, it’s all about me.

Now I have worked in corporations, very successful ones, where it was understood that we needed to get this done and we all got the job done. Those were great places to work. Too many of those places and that includes some places in civilian government I worked where it was dealing with the clueless who were sure it was all about them.

This also extends to the church. Frankly it is astounding that the one place you would think that you would find some genuine altruism, is actually way to much about me and my way. People who are sure they are oh so smarter than everyone else. I know how to parse a Greek verb and I was number one in my class in Wheatfield, South Dakota, so everyone should listen to me. Smart people who aren’t very smart. Who don’t understand teamwork and synergy because they’ve been so caught up in themselves for so long.

This is Jesus’ church, not yours. Whether you are clergy or lay people. Frankly laypeople need a serious wakeup! Just because you can sell cars, or build something does not mean you know what a church is about. Maybe we can all get together and genuinely figure it out.

Please let’s really put the silly aside, it’s not about you. It’s about Christ first, last and always. The landing-craft ramp has dropped. God put us in the world for a reason and He has given us the plan, it’s the Bible and His Church. So let’s all set aside the entertainment, the unrelated silly and really do something with Jesus’ church. It really can be great being a part of a team that can bring Jesus in the world. For way too many of you out there who can’t get past your ego, you probably wonder why you’ve never been part of a winning team. It’s cause you try to do your own thing on that beach and then wonder why you get snuffed all the time.

(1) General Stanley McChrystal to RichKarlgaard in Forbes Magazine Oct 24, 2017 p 26

The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons OCTOBER 27, 2014 BY T. DAVID GORDON

By imminent decline of contemporary worship music, I do not mean imminent disappearance. Commercial forces have too substantial an interest to permit contemporary worship music to disappear entirely; and human beings are creatures of habit who do not adapt to change quickly. I do not predict, therefore, a disappearance of contemporary worship music, sooner or later. Already, however, I observe its decline. Several years ago (2011) Mark Moring interviewed me for Christianity Today, and in our follow-up communications, he indicated that he thought the zenith of contemporary worship music had already happened, and that the movement was already in the direction of traditional hymnody. He did not make any claims about the ratio of contemporary worship music to traditional hymns; he merely observed that whatever the ratio was, the see-saw was now moving, albeit slowly, towards traditional hymnody. If the ratio of contemporary-to-traditional was rising twenty years ago, it is falling now; the ratio is now in decline, and I suspect that decline will continue for the foreseeable future. What follows is a painfully abbreviated list of eight reasons why I think this change is happening.

  1. Contemporary worship music hymns not only were/are comparatively poor; they had to be. One generation cannot successfully “compete” with 50 generations of hymn-writers; such a generation would need to be fifty times as talented as all previous generations to do so. If only one-half of one percent (42 out of over 6,500) of Charles Wesley’s hymns made it even into the Methodist hymnal, it would be hubristic/arrogant to think that any contemporary hymnist is substantially better than he. Most hymnals are constituted of hymns written by people with Wesley’s unusual talent; the editors had the “pick of the litter” of almost two thousand years of hymn-writing. In English hymnals, for instance, we rarely find even ten of Paul Gerhardt’s 140 hymns, even though many musicologists regard him as one of Germany’s finest hymnwriters. Good hymnals contain, essentially, “the best of the best,” the best hymns of the best hymnwriters of all time; how could any single generation compete with that?

Just speaking arithmetically, one would expect that, at best, each generation could represent itself as well as other generations, permitting hymnal editors to continue to select “the best of the best” from each generation. Were this the case, then one of every fifty hymns we sing should be from one of the fifty generations since the apostles, and, therefore, one of every fifty should be contemporary, the best of the current generation of hymnwriters. Perhaps this is what John Frame meant when, in the second paragraph of his book on CWM, he indicated that he had two goals for his book: to explain some aspects of CWM and to defend its “limited use” in public worship. Perhaps Prof. Frame thought one out of fifty constituted “limited use,” or perhaps he might have permitted as much as one out of ten, I don’t know. But our generation of hymnwriters, while talented and devout, are not more talented or more devout than all other generations, and are surely not so by a ratio of fifty-to-one.

  1. Early on in the contemporary worship music movement, many groups began setting traditional hymn-lyrics to contemporary melodies and/or instrumentation. Sovereign Grace Music, Indelible Grace, Red Mountain Music, Reformed Praise all recognized how difficult/demanding it is to write lyrics that are not only theologically sound, but significant, profound, appropriate, memorable, and edifying (not to mention metrical). If the canonical Psalms are our model, few hymn-writers could hope to write with such remarkable insight (into God and His creatures, who are only dust) and remarkable craftsmanship (e.g. the first three words of the first Psalm begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph (א), each also has a shin (ש), and two of the three also have a resh (ר), even though each is only a 3-letter word. Even those unfamiliar with Hebrew cannot miss the remarkable assonance and alliteration in those opening three words: “ashre ha-ish asher”).
  2. As a result, the better contemporary hymns (e.g. “How Deep the Father’s Love,” “In Christ Alone”) have been over-used to the point that we have become weary of them. These two of the better contemporary worship music hymns are sung a half-dozen times or a even a dozen times annually in many contemporary worship music churches; whereas “A Mighty Fortress” may get sung once or twice (if at all); but neither of the two is as good as Luther’s hymn. What is “intrinsically good” (to employ Luther’s expression about music) will always last; what is merely novel will not. Beethoven will outlast 50 Cent, The Black Eyed Peas, and Christina Aguilera. His music will be enjoyed three hundred years from now; theirs will be gone inside of fifty years.
  3. It is no longer a competitive advantage to have part or all of a service in a contemporary idiom; probably well over half the churches now do so, so we have reached what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “Tipping Point.” Contemporary worship music no longer marks a church as emerging, hip, edgy, or forward-looking, because many/most churches now do it. Churches that do not do other aspects of church-life well can no longer compensate via contemporary worship music; they must compete with other churches that employ contemporary worship music. Once a thing is commonplace, it is no longer a draw. And contemporary worship music is now so commonplace that it is no longer a competitive advantage; to the contrary, smaller churches with smaller budgets have difficulty competing with the larger-budgeted churches in this area.
  4. As with all novelties, once the novelty wears off, what is left often seems somewhat empty. In a culture that celebrates what is new (and commercial culture always does so in order to sell what is new), most people will pine for what is new. But what is new does not remain so forever; and once it is no longer novel, it must compete by the ordinary canons of musical and lyrical art, and very little contemporary worship music can do so (again, because its authors face a fifty-to-one ratio of competition from other generations). Even promoters of contemporary worship music prefer some of it to the rest of it; indicating that they, too, recognize aesthetic criteria beyond mere novelty. Even those who regard novelty as a virtue, in other words, do not regard it as the onlyvirtue. And some, such as myself, regard novelty as a liturgical vice, not a virtue because of its tendency to dis-associate us from the rest of our common race, heritage, and liturgy.
  5. Thankfully, my own generation is beginning to die. While ostensibly created “for the young people,” the driving force behind contemporary worship music was always my own Sixties generation of anti-adult, anti-establishment, rebellious Woodstockers and Jesus freaks. Once my generation became elders and deacons (and therefore those who ran the churches), we could not escape our sense of being part of the “My Generation” that The Who’s Pete Townsend had sung about when we were young; so we (not the young people) wanted a brand of Christianity that did not look like our parents’ brand. Fortunately for the human race, we are dying off now, and much of the impetus for contemporary worship music will die with us (though the commercial interests will “not go gentle into that good night,” and fulfill Dylan Thomas’s wish).
  6. Contemporary worship music is ordinarily accompanied by Praise Teams, and these have frequently (but by no means always) been problematic. It has been difficult to provide direction to them, due to the inherent confusion between whether they are participants in the congregation or performers for the congregation. In most circumstances, the members of the Praise Team do the kinds of things performers do: they vary the instrumental or harmonious parts between stanzas, they rehearse, etc. In fact, if one were to watch a video of the typical Praise Team without any audio, they ordinarily look like performers; their bodily actions and contrived emotional expressions mimic those of the entertainment industry.

Theologically and liturgically, however, it is the congregation that is to sing God’s praise, and what we call the Praise Team is merely an accompanist. But there is a frequent and ongoing tension in many contemporary worship music churches between the performers feeling as though they are being held back from performing for the congregation, and the liturgists thinking they’ve already gone too far in distinguishing themselves from the congregation. Many pastors have told me privately that they have no principial disagreements with contemporary worship music, but that they wish the whole Praise Team thing “would go away,” because it is a frequent source of tension. I have elsewhere suggested that the Praise Team is not biblical, that it actually obscures or obliterates what the Scriptures command. I won’t repeat any of those concerns here; here I merely acknowledge that many of those who disagree with my understanding of Scripure agree with my observation that the Praise Team is an ongoing source of difficulty in the church.

  1. We cannot evade or avoid the “holy catholic church” of the Apostles’ Creed forever. Even people who are untrained theologically have some intuitive sense that a local contemporary church is part of a global and many-generational (indeed eschatological and endless) assembly of followers of Christ; cutting ourselves off from that broader catholic body may appear cool for a while, but we ultimately wish to commune with the rest of the global/catholic church. Indeed, for many mature Christians, this wish grows as we age; we become aware that this particular moment, and our own personal life therein, will pass away soon, and what is timeless will nonetheless continue. Our affection for and interest in the timeless trumps our interest in the recent and fading. We intuitively identify with Henry F. Lyte, whose hymn said, “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” We instinctively wish to “join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all” (to use Edward Perronet’s language). Note, in fact, the opening lines alone of each stanza of Perronet’s hymn, and observe how, as the stanzas move, our worship is connected to both earthly and heavenly worship, past and future worship:

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;…
Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall…
Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;…

Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God, who from His altar call;…
Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, ye ransomed from the fall,…
Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, whom David Lord did call,…
Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall,…
Let every tribe and every tongue before Him prostrate fall…

O that, with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!

It is not merely that some churches do not sing Perronet’s hymn; they can not do so, without a little dissonance. Everything that they do intentionally cuts themselves off from the past and future; liturgically, if not theologically, they know nothing of martyrs, of Israel’s chosen race, of David’s lineage. Liturgically, if not theologically, everything is here-and-now, without much room for angels or seraphs, nor every tribe and tongue (just those who share our particular cultural moment). To sing Perronet’s hymn in such a setting would fit about as well as reading Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at a Ku Klux Klan gathering.

“Contemporary worship” to me is an oxymoron. Biblically, worship is what angels and morning stars did before creation; what Abraham, Moses and the Levites, and the many-tongued Jewish diaspora at Pentecost did. It is what the martyrs, now ascended, do, and what all believers since the apostles have done. More importantly, it is what we will do eternally; worship is essentially (not accidentally) eschatological. And nothing could celebrate the eschatological forever less than something that celebrates the contemporary now. So ultimately, I think the Apostles’ Creed will stick its camel’s nose into the liturgical tent, and assert again our celebration of the “holy catholic church, the communion of the saints.” The sooner the better.

(Photo credit: Aikawa Ke/ Flickr)

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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

T. David Gordon

T. David Gordon

T. David Gordon is Professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College, where since 1999 he has taught courses in Religion, Greek, Humanities, and Media Ecology. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. He is the author of Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers and Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Re-Wrote the Hymnal. His personal website is www.tdgordon.net. He lives in Grove City, PA, with his wife Dianne, and daughters Grace and Dabney (and innumerable cats). 

People need to wake up and realize they make themselves God’s enemy John 3:20

As much as I read people from the past, I see it repeated over and over today. The failing is that if it’s already happened, and people are trying to run the same game as people 500 years ago, the people today are simply, let’s be charitable, and say not very perceptive, or they think people today are not very bright and can be played into their game. How about the nonsense being played against law enforcement today? One of the stated purposes of the United States constitution for government is to “provide for the common defense.” When you are sworn in as a law enforcement, military or some officer of government, you swear to protect against all enemies “foreign and domestic”. Whether they are Americans or not, anyone who does something that is an attempt to undermine the civil authority is an “enemy”. We need to be open to correction, not abuse, not overreaching authority on the part of government, people trying to abuse their power and authority, but we do need to accept when we have stepped out of bounds and offended the law and our neighbors. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing things that offend and deprive our neighbors rights is obviously not loving.

Martin Luther had a great, if not obvious observation; “The world doesn’t want to be punished. It wants to remain in darkness. It doesn’t want to be told that what it believes is false.” (365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther “Through Faith Alone” Concordia Publishing House July 2) Oh, wow! We’re seeing that not just in terms of the Christian church, but also the authority of what Dr Luther called the “left-hand kingdom”, the civil authority. Dr Luther asserts that God placed the “right-hand kingdom” in the world to assert the authority of the church, those who want to benefit from being in the church. He also asserts that God placed the left-hand kingdom in the world also. Those who are law- enforcement officers, government officials, mayor, governor, president, district attorney, attorney general etc. All placed by God to maintain public order. As much as we see attacks against that order now, Luther saw in his day. As Americans, in the tradition of the Declaration of Independence and the writings of the Founding Fathers, we certainly have a right to push back against government that becomes abusive of its authority. That is the whole reason for American Revolution. You can certainly make the case that government in many ways has become abusive of its authority. While it may be being dialed back a little with recent Supreme Court decisions, more and more government has been discriminatory against Christians, depriving people of their First Amendment rights to practice their religious beliefs without government interference. But in the way that those who want to somehow eliminate local law-enforcement, Luther’s observation is as prescient today as it was 500 years ago. Make no mistake, those who want try to usurp local law-enforcement do so in an attempt to intimidate government into creating a de-facto local government in many city neighborhoods. That distinct minority of people are making a play to establish their own system which would be established solely to their benefit and increase their wealth and power. In terms of third-world countries, Somalia would be a great example of a place ruled by local, I don’t know how to put it nicely, that run their fiefdom under their own authority, chose who will survive/thrive under their rule and starve those who resist. That is the vision of those who would presume to some how create autonomous zones in our cities.

This is the extreme example of what Luther writes about, but there are many enemies, to the church and civil authorities, foreign and domestic who would run roughshod on the rest of us given the opportunity. The church’s authority has certainly been undermined, now other authority, certainly the left-hand kingdom is being challenged.

Luther addresses the issue in the church: “If you also don’t want to be corrected, then you might as well leave the church and spend your time at the bar and brothel. But if you want to be saved – and remember that there’s another life after this one – you must accept correction.” It is pretty amazing how many people outside and inside the church (foreign and domestic) continue to undermine the church. The Bible addresses many issues which state that in order to be a Christian you must conform to the stated teachings of what is in the Bible. Of course the mantra today is “well my God, would / wouldn’t…” and in their petty dictator way, ignore the reality of what is written, but continue to insist that God would approve of their way, in complete contradiction to any kind of reality or documentation. Luther goes on to write: “If you don’t want to be saved, what’s the use of me being concerned about it? If you aren’t sure you believe in hell, the devil, death, eternal condemnation, and the wrath of God, then just ask your neighbor about it…”. We see this all-around us today, don’t trust in what God’s minister says, or elected official, or police officer. Instead go have a chat with your uninformed neighbor, and you can both share your ignorance and then wonder why your life is as messed up as it is. Trust everyone else but the people who God has put in place to serve the public good. I have seen it acted out over and over in many settings, it’s bizarre! Suffice to say, you can create your fantasy world, what you say is right or wrong, but if it is in conflict with the revealed Word of God in Scripture, then you are condemned, you are an enemy of God.

“In short, if the church and secular government are to exist, they must shed light on evil. The civil authorities must punish the obvious deeds of darkness of public vices and the offensive ways of people, while we preachers in the church must bring to light the subtle darkness of false teachers and false belief. We must confront those who teach and think that they have God’s approval because of what they do.” As a pastor it’s not up to me to punt when I know someone who is playing around with God’s word, anymore than a police officer can just walk by someone who stabbed another person. We both have the duty to enforce what we’ve sworn to do (and Christian ministers certainly take vows in their ordination on what they are supposed to do to serve). With the civil law it’s usually pretty obvious. There’s a body with stab wounds in it, the person has ceased to have a heart rate and respiration, people have stepped forward and credibly accused a person of the stabbing/murder, and the police have the duty to arrest, imprison and attest in court to what the person did. A Christian minister’s duty is often a little more subtle, but nonetheless, usually obvious, and frankly profoundly more destructive if he does not address those issues. Issues of sexuality today have had a profound effect on undermining the church and the civil authority. “I will do what I want, when I want”, when God has said “thou shalt not”, calls into question the authority of the church. Since western government was established under biblical principles, leads people to wonder why it’s anymore important than church authority. The answer is that the civil authority can still put you in jail and even execute you. Church authority can’t, but whether or not you believe in hell, the punishment of God is profoundly more effective than civil. You can put someone in prison for a season, hell is eternal and would make an American prison look like Wallyworld.

“If the church and government stopped admonishing people, the whole world would collapse in a heap. If you want to be saved and be a Christian, then stay open to correction. A preacher has to rebuke, or he should leave his position. The Christian who won’t accept correction is only pretending to be a Christian.” I’ve been a Christian pastor for 8 years now, I’ve certainly seen it. Those who are convinced their authority in the church is more necessary than the pastor’s, despite having no training, education, real experience, or any other credential, and yet actively work to undermine the man appointed to be the pastor. That person is living in their own fantasy, they are undermining God’s authority as much as any pretender to civil authority in a neighborhood, foreign country, and just as much an enemy of God and certainly a domestic enemy of the church.

Certainly the world and the church, both under God’s direction, have ways of reasserting the authority God has given them to maintain order and not “collapse into a heap.” But it requires people who will stand up under the scrutiny and the pressure of those who are in active rebellion, enemies foreign and domestic and do God’s will in either realm. The church needs to be much more pro-active in supporting those people on the front lines, maintaining the order, and taking the shots. The people need to stop listening to the non- sense of those who would readily suppress them and take from them if they succeed in ascending to authority. Instead in today’s world, it’s easier for the majority of people to side with those who take the side of those trying to usurp God, His enemies, and then wonder why the world has collapsed into a heap and why no one’s doing anything about it. Oh yeah, it’s bizarre! Try being in the position of those who support God’s servants and not the way of the world, the world’s way will end up as an incredibly evil and destructive way to live.

The Lutheran Hero of the American Revolution  JULY 4, 2018 BY GENE VEITH

Among the heroes of the American Revolution, which we celebrate on this fourth of July, was a Lutheran pastor, Peter Muhlenberg.  An article in The Federalist tells his story.  And there was more to his career than his famous disvesting in the pulpit.

He became George Washington’s aide, was a military hero, and after independence became a statesman in the new republic.  Read about him, and then I have some questions.

From Ellie Bufkin, Meet A Friend Of George Washington And Patrick Henry Who Fought Boldly For American Independence:

In January 1776, a small church in rural Virginia burst at the seams with parishioners eagerly awaiting the arrival of their pastor. Members of the congregation, who had even spilled out into the cemetery, were alive with excitement.

Over the last few months, with tensions between the colonies and England ever increasing, the members of the Lutheran church had heard from their pastor that a revolution was imminent. He told them the time to take up arms in defense of their nation was now.

This particular Sunday was to be the pastor’s last sermon, and the large gathering represented far more citizens than those who inhabited the small town of Woodstock where the church stood.

Rev. Peter Muhlenberg entered the church dressed in his robe, with a sense of purpose that appeared to make him stand taller than usual. He ascended to the pulpit and delivered his sermon, acutely aware of the importance of what he would say.

As the sermon began its conclusion, Muhlenberg referenced Ecclesiastes chapter three: “In the language of Holy writ, there was a time for all things, a time to preach and time to pray, but those times had passed away.” He faced his congregation for the last time, and in words that he knew meant the end of life in the once- peaceful Virginia countryside, he continued, “There was a time to fight, and that time has now come!”

Muhlenberg removed his robe, revealing his colonel’s uniform, and descended from the pulpit to the sounds of drummers by the church door, drumming for recruits. Three hundred recruits signed that day at the church, and Muhlenberg’s was the first of the Virginia regiments ready for combat service just two months later.[Keep reading. . .]

So what are we Lutherans to make of Rev. Muhlenberg?  Was he violating the Two Kingdoms in preaching the American revolution from the pulpit?  Was he violating his vocation as a pastor, or just moving to a new calling as a soldier?  At any rate, does he not deserve our nation’s honor, along with Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the others who brought our nation into being?

There was a whole family of Muhlenbergs who were important in the early days of American Lutheranism. The key figure is Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, known as “the father of American Lutheranism,” who was Peter’s father.

Can anyone tell us more about the Muhlenbergs and their legacy in both the church and the state?

 

Illustration:  Portrait of Peter Muhlenberg, Public Domain, via Wikipedia

Authenticity, integrity, true timeless principles

 

This is a great observation, the amount of phony, posers, pretenders in the world is staggering. They’re the ones who are usually so obsessed about pointing out how messed up everyone else is. They are the ones that a mile wide and an inch thick. They think principles are about who you sleep with, or what the new movie is about, or what they  saw on FaceBook or CNN. Then there are the ones who live their lives in integrity, focus on the eternal things, the things that create, sustain, perpetuate, strengthen and not the phoniness of the current age. So please, be authentic, be a genuine man and woman, and frankly, that can only be done in Jesus. I’m not sure if this is what Ms Gilbert intended, but I appreciate at least the theme of her blog.

I thought this was a wonderful way to approach whatever endeavors we are involved in. It’s being yourself which grounds and guides us. The start of the year, significant birthday or any milestone event, arrives and fills us with new possibilities for the future. But along with our enthusiasm can come an unwitting loss of…

via Don’t Worry About Being Original. Just Be Authentic – Elizabeth Gilbert — The Seeds 4 Life

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.