Category Archives: Christian discipleship

Least of the Apostles 1 Corinthians 15

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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 understand they might have to endure suffering for their witness of Christ said … AMEN!

Kind of wondered what the response would be. Today’s lectionary readings, should be rather sobering about what a real Christian is about.

This is Paul really going for it with the Corinthians. They are a huge pain. But should sound familiar! We all have our issues, our problems. The Corinthians, they sure haven’t taken Jesus’ words seriously. Remember the phrase, describes the boys of the Corinthian church; “hail fellow well met.” The Cambridge English Dictionary defines that phrase as: “If a man or his actions, they are very friendly and enthusiastic, sometimes in a way that is not sincere: greeted with the usual hail-fellow-well-met slap on the back and handshake.” I’m not trying to be a smart guy. These guys are found everywhere, it’s all about them, everyone just get along, everyone is just great, a mile wide and an inch thick. Little of substance, go along to get along. Totally clueless about Jesus’ words, and they would tell Paul to lighten up, let’s just have a good time. As Paul relates he is not a “lighten up” kinda guy, and as Jesus says in His words, despite the cultural perception, He is not a “lighten up” kind of guy either. You might want to put His words on a little Post-It in your brain: “Woe to you when people speak well of you”. Unless it’s being a truly Christian man, like Paul, applause you get from the world, is not conducive to good Christian character. If we’re being hyped by a corrupt and evil world, there might be something wrong in our Christian walk. There’s lots of serious stuff going on around us, as Christians, we need to recognize and address that.

Paul/Saul, had serious issues and he knew it. He headed up persecution of Christians on a large scale. He obviously knew from whence he spoke. God gave Paul more personal attention, Ron Dunn writes: “Paul …when he was caught up into the third heaven, …it is probable that this took place on his first missionary journey and perhaps when he was stoned at Lystra …maybe that’s when the Lord caught him up into the third heaven and gave him a glimpse of that…”[1]  Paul knew from what he was shown, from what Jesus said in Luke. Paul’s was the beginning of Christian persecution. It was small change compared to what Christians were subjected to, and still subject to today. Christian persecution is getting worse. I’m writing a paper on what is called the “Velvet Revolution”, anyone remember? It happened in pretty much all of our lifetimes? … Christians suffering severe persecution in countries that had historically been very strong Christian countries.

You don’t have to go far, in Christian circles to hear about the current state of being a Christian in the United States. We in the northeastern United States are very insulated from a lot of abuse going on in this world, even in the United States, but you shouldn’t get comfortable in that. Today’s lectionary readings are about not getting too comfortable in the world. For Christians who live in most of the rest of the world, they are acutely aware it is not a world of nice, fuzzy Christianity.

Sunny Lockwood writes: “Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” overturned the communist government in late 1989 … How could such a dramatic, yet bloodless revolution succeed after so many years of oppression?”[2] I want to give you sobering thoughts in terms of the reality of Christianity in the world today, what Christians endure, have endured, that in the United States is probably going to get worse instead of better. We do have a precedent that doesn’t seem to be taken seriously and yet shows that Christians can push back against the secular, even in very trying times, and glorify Christ in their actions. In Poland it was Roman Catholics. Karol Wojtyla, the Polish Cardinal elected Pope. There was an assassination attempt on President Reagan. An attempt traced to Bulgarian Intelligence on John Paul’s life. The rotting structure of communism trying to rule by force, and use force against those against the communist regime. At the same time the Chinese were using force to subdue protestors in Tiananmen square. Communism is a faith system. There is no “god” in communism, but George Weigel writes: “The revolutionary faith of Marxism-Leninism had all the elements of a traditional religion… often explicated in stultifying prose, communism had a doctrine and particularly a soteriology (a theory of salvation …through revolution) an ecclesiology (a theory of the Church—in this case, the party). Within the party, it had a discipline and a theory of apostolic succession. It had sacred texts (the Manifesto, Das Kapital, What Is to Be Done?). It had a ritual, … “[3]  “Weigel argues … people don’t put their lives, and their children’s futures, in harm’s way simply for better cars, refrigerators, and TVs. Something else–something more–had to happen behind the iron curtain before the Wall came tumbling down Weigel argues that “something” was a revolution of conscience. The human turn to the good, to the truly human, and, ultimately, to God, was the key to the political Revolution of 1989… how the Catholic Church shaped the moral revolution inside the political revolution.”  Communism is a faith system, scientism in today’s world, that science holds all the answers to the world, any “faith” system that is not about Christ is used by man to be abused. Science is a great thing, there are many great Christian scientists. But in today’s world, too many put their faith there. Or in politicians or political movements.

As Paul writes: Christ died for our sins. He was raised, He appeared to Cephas, then the twelve disciples, to five hundred brothers, most of whom were still alive at that time, then to James, all the apostles then to Paul. Galileo can’t die for our sins, Marx, Mao, Sartre, Descartes, none of them. Only Christ. For those who deny Jesus existed, that just doesn’t cut it. Paul is writing to people who knew what he was saying was true. There were plenty of people at the time Paul was writing this who could have called Paul out. No one ever has.

The world for Christians has always been difficult. We Americans have had a cozy cocoon for 400 years, that reality is catching up to us. When we look to examples like the “Velvet Revolution”, where surely, there was divine leading of Christians in those countries, our hope is, should always be in Christ. People may hate Christians, speak ill of them. There should be no doubt to them, to you that we speak for Christ, for His promises. We speak for His acts on the Cross, the sacrifice He made for our sins to be paid. To have the promise that Paul reminds us of “the resurrection of the dead, that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”. We have the promise of our eternal bodily resurrection in Jesus’s resurrection. We also know we are called to confront evil. Not to worry about who speaks well of us, but that we are blessed when people hate us in our witness of Jesus. We saw that 30 years ago, when Christians led “revolution”, overthrew the most evil system ever on this earth. In China where the church remains it continues to grow. It is estimated by 2030, the Chinese church will be the largest Christian church of any country in the world. Even in the face of the cruel repression that is occurring, Christ’s Church continues to grow. Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran minister in Romania, imprisoned for almost 20 years for his Christian witness wrote: “I tremble because of the sufferings of those persecuted in different lands. I tremble thinking about the eternal destiny of their torturers. I tremble for Western Christians who don’t help their persecuted brethren.” Sobering words to us in the United States and motivate us to step up our witness to Christ and His Church.”[4] We can peacefully stand for Jesus to make a difference in our lives here and for those in Christ in the eternal resurrection. We can follow the example of Christians in eastern Europe and make a strong, non-violent witness for Christ. Let’s show the world what serious Christianity is in our life and witness to Jesus.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] http://rondunn.com/pauls-visit-to-heaven/

[2] Sunny Lockwood “Living the Velvet Revolution”

[3] George Weigle “The final Revolution The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism p forward

[4] Richard Wurmbrand “Tortured for Christ”

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

Repent and be saved 1 John

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 are not just about confessing and receiving forgiveness, but also about true repentance on their part said … AMEN!

Every Sunday we start worship with “Confession and Absolution”. We start with confession, we want to start our worship in a way that we’ve dealt with the sins of the past week, that we recognize that we need to start this time of worship truly opening up to God, knowing that we have failed, that we have offended Him through the week, and we want to deal with that before we start, we want to know we are worthy to be in God’s presence. We are sinners, but we are affirmed and forgiven in Christ, that we can come into the Father’s presence knowing that we are worthy, in Christ, to be in His presence. All that we’ve done in the past week to separate us from the Father, we come before Him now completely forgiven in Jesus. But there seems to be an element that is missing. You are completely forgiven in Jesus. I’ve had this discussion with the local parish priest. One of the issues Luther had was the idea that we are not completely forgiven in Jesus, that there still is this one extra element on our part in order to seal the deal and that is penance. As usual, when something is at issue, we lurch from one silly extreme to another, and we simply ignore that element which is in dispute. “If Jesus died for my sin and I confessed my sin, as we are told to do in James: “ESV 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We are told to confess to one another, but there is still a little something missing. You’re not any less forgiven, you are completely forgiven, but… there’s a lack of intent on our part, when we omit our repentance. That we are truly sorry for our sin, that we want to do better. In our liturgy for individual confession, there is a place made for that. On page 292 in your hymnal, you will find “Individual Confession and Absolution”… wonder how many of you knew that was in there? The penitent can, if they wish, list out the sins that they are confessing, that are most weighing on their heart. Then: “They conclude by saying, I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.” Generally that part gets omitted from our “corporate” confession, because we want to be good Lutherans and emphasize that we are forgiven and absolved in Jesus and we are! But that one little aspect of genuine repentance on our part, true regret for the things that we have done that are an offense against God, that do separate us from a truly, completely, holy God, we sort of omit them and decide that we’ve been forgiven, we can just move along until the next time. Gosh, I’ve done what I could, so let’s not dwell on it. What’s missing? Any thought of genuine sorrow and … how am I going to live my life in terms of not committing that sin, or any others in the future? The old man is always in us, our old human nature is always going to lead us to sin. We all know; “none are righteous no not one…” by the same token treating it as “drive by” absolution; I’m covered until the next time and I will just get forgiven then, that’s not being faithful in Christ, that’s not showing any desire to grow as a true disciple of Christ. What the rest of the world is about, “go along to get along”, then we wonder why nothing ever really changes in our life, why we always seem to be stuck in this spiritual adolescence. We’re all guilty of it, but it is how we deal with it. Judas and Peter, both deeply sinned against the Lord. Judas’ was straight out betrayal. But… Was it the unforgivable sin? No, not really. Peter also betrayed the Lord. A little girl confronts him and he almost hurts himself saying he has no idea what she is talking about, or who this Jesus guy is. One was forgiven… Peter! Peter is on notice, the angel tells the women go to the disciples and Peter, why is Peter singled out? Ya, Peter you messed up, your sin was very grievous, you denied me. My disciples are called to proclaim me and you ran away, the big tough fisherman, ran away like a frightened little rabbit. But who does Jesus take aside on that day on the beach and says “Feed my sheep”. Jesus is making sure that Peter knows he is being given an enormous responsibility. And Peter is obviously repentant. Judas? What did he do? Did he stay faithful in that room, in that period after the resurrection, waiting for the Lord to come back, trusting Jesus’ words in His resurrection? No! Judas didn’t even see the resurrection, he ran away too, but in a weaker way. He didn’t try to go back to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, to show repentance, genuine or not so genuine. He takes the issue into his own hands, he decides for himself that there is nothing left and he goes and hangs himself. Peter goes to Jesus in repentance, hangs his big head in front of Jesus and gets whacked right in the head… right? No, Jesus gives Peter a little poke, but much more importantly Jesus reorients Peter right away, gets him back on track; “Peter feed my sheep, get out there, do what you’re called to do, what you’ve been prepared to do for the last three years and bring My Word, My guidance, My Lordship and salvation, My resurrection to everyone the Holy Spirit guides you to, so that they will know “life and life more abundant”, go and build My church, with the other disciples, those who are here and those who to come, that all may be saved in true baptism, with My Body and Blood in My Church, My Body on earth, composed of all those who are saved in Me and who come together in My Church to reach out into the dark, sinfilled, death filled world. Bring the hope and promise of My Lordship and salvation to a hopeless world, with no promise other than death.

How did all that come about? Peter was repentant, he came back to lead, to wait on Jesus’ resurrection, trusting in Him, and not in his own opinion. Judas decided, by himself, he was beyond forgiveness, maybe too proud to go to Jesus in repentance, to truly trust that Jesus would forgive him and restore him. Judas, not Jesus, decided that Judas was irredeemable and the only result could be his death. That Jesus’ forgiveness did not have the power to forgive, at least not this sin. This was a really bad sin, so Judas decides on his own, that Jesus can’t help him and that he will now take matters into his own hands and decide the issue, once for all, to all eternity. Judas was guilty of the horrible sin of betraying the Lord, he was truly despicable. He was furthermore guilty of his lack of faith, that Jesus couldn’t redeem even this horrible treachery. Peter, in faith, humility and repentance returned to Jesus and was restored by Jesus. How many of us take the Peter way out, truly repent and look for restoration in Jesus? How many of us take the Judas way out, decide they aren’t going to repent, maybe they think repentance or anything else they do won’t be sufficient in order to restore us in Jesus? I’d say the majority of, even Christians, just decide to resolve the matter their way and not to trust in Jesus’ forgiveness. What way do you think truly works out?

Repentance is from the Greek word meta,noia the Greek word means: “a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done” you also see it translated a “change of direction”, I’m not following this route anymore, this constant sinful practice that I pursue as much as daily. That I am going to change that practice. Now, how do we really change? In our own strength? No… Jesus is faithful to us, the Holy Spirit does dwell in us and has been pushing us to realize our sin, to bring us not just to confess the sin, to acknowledge it, to put it out there to be forgiven. The Holy Spirit is also moving us to change our direction, another definition of meta,noia to go in a different way, a way that is 180 degrees the opposite of where we’ve been going. In a way that changes from offending God, to pleasing God. We can only do this through “repentance”. This is a concept that we as the church don’t emphasize, that doesn’t mean the church doesn’t condone repentance, it just doesn’t emphasize it, that we should be doing what we can and trusting in the Holy Spirit that He will lead us to true change and away from those things that do cause us to sin.

Here are some examples of, let’s say non-genuine repentance, in the sense I’m saying sorry, but I’m not really saying I’m sorry, no less making any meaningful personal change. The first one is not attributed, but is certainly illustrative: “I am very sorry if I called you bloatie, and booger faced, buttface, jerk, stupid, numskulls, what were you thinking if you had a brain, fur face, Lord bless me you stink so bad you make me faint, I’m sorry.”[1] Not genuine repentance, it is taking a further shot. Just wanted to make sure that was clear for everyone. In case we are not clear on this concept, allow me to give another example of what repentance is not, this is from Ty: “I’m sorry for kicking you with a feather. Kicking is not okay, because it hurts people. Also don’t forget about the time when you were a baby-crying little devil, but I liked you and now you still are a crying little devil who gets away with everything…”[2] Again, not genuine repentance. One more from Liam: “Miss P made me write you this note, all I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t.”[3] I can see a great career in law, international diplomacy or corporate finance for Liam here. We don’t really come in true repentance, to church, to those around us, to ourselves in terms of doing anything for any meaningful change in our lives. We engage in drive through confession, expect to be given a clean slate when we pull up to the window and then decide to worry about it the next time, next week, next month, next Christmas, that we’re in church and have to deal with the pastor standing up in front of you and saying, “we rise for Confession and Absolution”. In your prayers let’s not make it just about confession, but Lord please change my heart, move me to change to be more pleasing to you and to those around me.” For Him who chose death on a cross, all of what He endured for us so that we would be forgiven and in relationship to God the Father. From now on, what did the Holy Spirit put in your mind to see forgiveness for and what did He put in your mind to lead you from your sins, to repent after He has forgiven you?

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

 

[1] https://www.ranker.com/list/funny-apology-notes-from-kids/ashley-reign

[2] Ibid

[3][3] Ibid

Equality by Friedrich Nietzsche he didn’t believe there was, Jesus does!

This is being written on December 23, when cyber-space is filled with all kinds of Christmas greetings. So if you really don’t want to deal with anything else you may want to avoid this blog. However, you may want a little break from the Christmas stuff, you might find this interesting.

“Equality is a lie concocted by inferior people who arrange themselves in herds to overpower those who are naturally superior to them. The morality of ‘equal rights’ is a herd morality, and because it opposes the cultivation of superior individuals, it leads to the corruption of the human species” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Hmmmm, interesting, this is from the one who is practically the inspiration for the egalitarianism of today. The humanist, “progressive”, secular – “God is Dead”-movement, etc, this is actually what the “progressive” humanist leaders of today truly believe. They look at you and lie about how equal everyone is, they are lying. Their education comes in faux areas like “feminist literature”, they thing they know something because they know who Nietzsche is, but because of their very shallow learning and experience, they really don’t go any deeper into the subject.

Having said that, in stark contrast and in the Christmas spirit, we remember Luke 2: 10, the angel is speaking to the humble shepherds, out in the fields alone, not equal to anyone, the lowest on the rungs of the social scale: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good new of great joy that will be for all the people.” In terms of human history, this is the first time that this idea was ever uttered. That something was for “all the people”, no less that God was for all the people. While there was a slip – back in human history making Jesus more for some people and less for others. None the less, for those who teach and preach Jesus, we know that in God the Father’s eyes, we are completely equal, equally sunk in our sins, in our lives, our accomplishments. The secular, the humanist, believes that there are those who are our superiors, and we need to heed them. Christians may not be the best at it, but we know that now and in the future judgment, we will all be equal in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luther’s Reformation of Beer NOVEMBER 3, 2017 BY GENE VEITH

 

Not only did Martin Luther reform the church.  He also reformed beer too.  Specifically, the Reformation gave us beer brewed with hops.

So says Nina Martyris, who takes the prize for an influence-of-the-Reformation-on-its-500th-anniversary story with The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too : The Salt : NPR.  She is drawing on a book by William Bostwick, the beer critic for TheWall Street Journal:  The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer. 

So how did Luther give us hoppy beer?

The story begins with another prominent figure in religious history:  St. Hildegard of Bingen.  Recently canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and made a “doctor of the church,” this 12th century abbess was a talented musical composer, an innovative playwright, a mystic, a theologian, and an influential herbalist.  She taught against the use of hops, saying they “make the soul of a man sad and weigh down his inner organs.”

So the church said that beer should no longer be made with hops.  More to the point, the church established a  monopoly on gruit — as Bostwick explains it, “the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon)” that took the place of hops.  Beer made with this gruit was also subject to a heavy church tax.

But with the Reformation, brewers celebrated their freedom from the tyranny of the pope by renouncing gruit!  Instead, they turned to hops!  Just as Luther recovered the Gospel, as taught in the New Testament church, after it was covered over by accretions of human teaching, the Lutheran brewers recovered beer with hops, as brewed in older days, despite the accretions of human innovations such as mug wort, heather, and ivy!  (My analogy.)

There were other financial advantages to making beer with hops.  The flower was plentiful.  And beer made with that ingredient was not taxed at all.  Furthermore, says Bostwick, hops are a preservative, making it possible for beer to be a trading commodity.  The making and selling of beer thus became part of the new commercial growth that accompanied the Reformation, fueled mainly by the “work ethic” associated with the doctrine of vocation.

Furthermore, Reformation beer had different effects than Catholic beer.  I’ll let Nina Martyris, via William Bostwick, explain it:

Another virtue in hops’ favor was their sedative properties. The mystic Hildegard was right in saying hops weighed down one’s innards. “I sleep six or seven hours running, and afterwards two or three. I am sure it is owing to the beer,” wrote Luther to his wife, Katharina, from the town of Torgau, renowned for its beer. The soporific, mellowing effect of hops might seem like a drawback, but in fact it offered a welcome alternative to many of the spices and herbs used by the church that had hallucinogenic and aphrodisiacal properties. “Fueled by these potent concoctions, church ales could be as boisterous as the Germanic drinking bouts church elders once frowned on,” writes Bostwick. “And so, to distance themselves further from papal excesses, when Protestants drank beer they preferred it hopped.”

Can we still see this, sort of, in obnoxious beer drunks who get loud, start fights, and “make poor sexual choices”?  Are they not always drinking tasteless mass-produced beer with few hops?  Whereas those who drink hoppy beers in brewpubs find themselves relaxing, becoming calm, and engaging in good conversations?  Or not?

The reporter asks Bostwick if the Reformer could be considered the patron saint of beer:

“Luther might blanch a bit as a good Protestant at being called a saint,” points out Bostwick, “and there’s already a brewery saint called St. Arnold, who saved his congregation from the plague by making them drink beer. In the interests of Protestantism, I wouldn’t call him a saint, but he was certainly a beer enthusiast, and many a beer bar and brewery today has a picture of Martin Luther on their wall. So let’s say that while we certainly don’t genuflect to him, he’s known and appreciated.”

Well, Luther’s kind of Protestants still have the category of “saint,” though I’m not sure about “patron saint.”  (Can anyone address that?)  All Christians, he said, by virtue of their salvation by Christ, are simultaneously sinners and saints.

But remember Luther and the Gospel the next time you taste hops in your beer.

God’s promises to us in prayer

The last Tuesday of the month is out monthly prayer breakfast at First Saint Johns Lutheran Church. It is a time to lift up prayer for each other, for the church that God has put us in, for our community, any other needs that people bring up. Everyone is welcome, it’s a great breakfast and a really great time of fellowship in prayer.

It is also a time for a little teaching. We can all always use a little more guidance in our prayer/devotional life and I found he following is from Martin Luther which will be a topic of conversation:

“Good prayer that is heard by God has two prerequisites. First, we must consider God’s promise that he will hear us. By reminding him of his promise, we can dare to pray confidently. For God hadn’t asked us to pray and hadn’t promised to hear us, then all people praying their requests together wouldn’t be able to receive even the smallest item.

So no one receives anything from God because of the quality of the prayer, but only because of God’s goodness. God anticipates all of our requests and desires. With his promise, he prompts us to pray and desire these things so that we will learn how much he cares for us. He cares for us so much that he is prepared to give us even more than we are ready to receive or to ask for. Because he is offering us so much, we can pray with confidence.

Second, we must not doubt what the true and faithful God promises to do. He promises to hear our prayers – yes, he even commands us to pray. He promises this so that we might firmly believe that our prayers will be answered. As Christ says, ‘That’s why I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24; Matthew 21:22). Christ also says, ‘So I tell you to ask and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find, and for the person who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Luke 11:9-10). By trusting in these promises and obeying thee commands, we can pray with confidence.” (Through Faith Alone  365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther October 30)

As in everything in our relationship with God it is about Him guiding us in prayer, it is about Him leading us in everything. We can certainly lift up inspired, high prose in our prayer, but that’s not really the point. Often we would do well to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to move us to understand what we really should be praying for and get on God’s track for us instead of us trying to force our prayer and struggle. God truly is waiting to God us in all parts of our life. That is faith, trusting His leading instead of fussing about what we’re supposed to do.

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.