Category Archives: Christian discipleship

Great Insights into stewardship Abby Perry     “Something’s got to give” How Holiday Generosity can ease your stress and increase your joy”  Christianity Today  Dec 2022 pp 80-85

…A OnePoll survey found that 88 percent of Americans feel that the holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Seventy-seven percent find it difficult to relax during the season that purports to be a time of joy and celebration, and well over half use the word ‘chaotic’ to describe the holiday season.

Financial concerns and others’ expectations top the list of holiday stressors for most Americans. Yet by the time November comes around, most households have piles of fundraising letters from ministries and nonprofits that grow each day. Already stretched by the number of gifts they need to purchase and dinners they need to host, some feel as though adding philanthropic giving to their December to do list is simply one task – and one hit to the bank account – too many…

…when Christians think of themselves as merely as potential donors, they see their financial contributions as an act of ‘giving away’ of resources.’ There’s no ongoing relationship with the organization or sense of investment. But the team at Maclellan says that a ‘steward-investor’ concept invites deeper engagement between giver and organization…

…Rather than experiencing them as yet another obligation or guilt inducing to do item, a steward investor mindset invites Christians to think wisely and intentionally about which ministries or organizations to support, as well as what it might look like to give generously and with a sense of lasting impact…

…The experts at Stewardship Legacy Coaching recommend taking inventory of one’s finances at the end of each year, looking for places where stewardship could be increased and more intentional giving could be practiced…

…The thought of giving at the end of the year may seem stressful or anxiety inducing, but research shows that generosity actually improves mental health in several ways. Scientists at the University of Oregon have conducted scans that show the pleasure-related reward centers activating when people decide to donate money to a cause they believe to be good. Additionally, participants in a joint study from the University of Lubeck, Northwestern University and University of Zurich who pledged to spend money on others over the next four weeks exhibited brain activity while making that decision that predicted an increase in their happiness.

Giving also has positive effects on hormones and other neurological functions. For example, donating releases oxytocin, the hormone that is most often associate with feelings of love and connection to others. Individuals also experience the release of serotonin, the mood stabilizing hormone, when they give, as well as dopamine, the feel good transmitter.

Between activating the brain’s reward center and initiating the release of positive hormones, acts of generosity can become habit forming as givers want to repeatedly experience those positive feelings. Such a routine is a win-win for all involved: organizations can count on regular support from a reliable giver, and the giver enjoys less stress and increased happiness during a busy time of year.

In addition to the brain boost, people who give report higher life satisfaction than those who do not, and, according to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, generosity is associated with workplace benefits, such as a lower risk of job burnout. In an era rife with mental health struggles and skyrocketing rates of mental illness acts of generosity can lessen depression and produce a sense of meaning and purpose.

Generous behaviors also seem to reveal connections between mental and physical health. For example, giving is linked to physiological benefits like lower blood pressure and successful recovery from coronary related health events. Researchers at the University of Michigan have even found that generosity seems to increase one’s lifespan: Individuals who did not provide support to others were more than twice as likely to die in the next five years than people who gave support.

And, perhaps most fitting for all of the holiday campaigns funneling through our mailboxes and inboxes, Jill Foley Turner at the National Christian Foundation shares research from the American Psychological Association that indicates generous people have a higher likelihood of experiencing the feeling of awe or wonder. These givers ae likely to feel small, but not in a negative way – instead, in the way that one might feel small beholding a starlit night sky or the ocean as it meets the horizon. In other words, when people give, they are invited to remember who they are in light of an immense God and to participate however they can in reflecting His goodness. What better time to reflect on our smallness than the Christmas season, when we celebrate the arrival of God as an infant: tiny and infinite at once…

…SRG managing partner Paul Schultheis and fellow members note that giving collaboratively has several positive outcomes for the givers. These benefits include a stronger approach to vetting organizations, the opportunity to take on large projects, and a variety of gifts and skills brought to the table by a diverse group of donors. Collaborative giving allows people of various financial means and availability to join together in making a difference – perhaps one person can write a large check while someone else has the time in their schedule to serve as a liaison with the designated ministry…

… Parents can help their children research organizations and choose one to support, for example, or participate in an endeavor like the Salvation Army Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts to children who otherwise may not receive any…

…’whoever sows generously will also reap generously’ (2Cor 9:6), giving during the Christmas season is a powerful way for believers to experience the goodness of God while simultaneously ushering it into the lives of others. As the angels brought tidings of great joy at the birth of Christ, so can we bring tidings of great joy to organizations and ministries carrying out God’s work in the world and to our own hearts, as well.”

Chuck Swindoll “Of Parrots and Eagles” in “Come before Winter”, pp 83-85

“…Content to sit safely on our evangelical perches and repeat in repad fire falsetto our religious words, we are fast becoming over populated with bright colored birds having soft bellies, big beaks and little heads. What would help to balance thing out would be a lot more keen eyed, wide winged creatures willing to soar out and up, exploring the illimitable ranges of the kingdom of God … willing to return with a brief report on their findings before they leave the nest again for another fascinating adventure.

Parrot people are much different than eagle thinkers. They like to stay in the same cage, pick over the same pan full of seeds and listen to the same words over and over again until they can say them with ease. They like company, too. Lots of attention a scratch here, a snuggle there and they’ll stay for years right on the same perch. You and I can’t remember the last time we saw one fly. Parrots like the predictable, the secure, the strokes they get from their mutual admiration society.

Not eagles. There’s not a predicable pinion in their wings. They think. They love to think. They are driven with this inner surge to search, to discover, to learn. And that means they’re courageous, tough minded, willing to ask the hard questions as they bypass the routing in vigorous pursuit of the truth. The whole truth. ‘The deep things of God’ – fresh from the Himalayan heights, where the thin air makes thoughts pure and clear, rather than tired, worn distillations of man. And unlike the intellectually impoverished parrot, eagles take risks getting their food because they hate anything that comes from a small dish of picked over seeds … it’s boring, dull, repetitious, and dry.

Although rare, eagles are not completely extinct in the historic skies of the church. Thomas Aquinas was one, as were Augustine and Bunyan, …

…Who are those wh forge out creative ways of communicating the truths of Scripture … so that it’s more than a hodge podge of borrowed thoughts, rehearsals of the obvious which tend to paralyze the critical faculties of active minds?

Eagles are independent thinkers.

It’s not that they abandon the orthodox faith or question the authority of God’s inerrant Word … it’s simply that they are weary of being told, ‘ Stay on the perch and repeat after me.’ Eagles have built in perspective,  a sensitivity that leaves room for fresh input that hasn’t been glazed by overuse…

I find myself agreeing with Philip Yancey, who admits:…

…Christian books are normally written from a perspective outside the tunnel. The author’s viewpoint is already so flooded with light that he forgets the blank darkness inside the tunnel where many of his readers are journeying. To someone in the middle the mile long tunnel, descriptions of blinding light can seem unreal.

When I pick up many Christian books, I get the same sensation as when I read the last page of a novel first. I know where it’s going before I start. We desperately need authors with the skill to portray evolving viewpoints and points of progression along the spiritual journey as accurately and sensitively as they show the light outside the tunnel.

Yancey is saying we need ‘eagle writers’ who come to their task with the abandonment of that keen minded Jew from Tarsus. If you need an illustration, read Romans. Like a careful midwife, Paul assists in the birth of doctrine, allowing it to breathe and scream, stretch and grow, as God the Creator designed it to do. And he isn’t afraid to say it for the first time, using a whole new vocabulary and style that is as original as it is accurate. There’s not as much as a parrot feather on one page of that one of a kind letter.

So then, which will it be? If you like being a parrot, stay put. But if you’re an eagle at heart, what are you doing on that perch? Do you have any idea how greatly you’re needed to soar and explore? Do you realize how out of place you are inside that cage? Even though others may not tell you, eagles look pretty silly stuck on a perch picking over a tasteless pile of dried seeds.

I’ve never heard anybody ask, ‘Eagle want a cracker?’

Hope in Christ our only hope

Our faith in Christ is certainly in the hope that He gives us. Not just in this life, where we know He is present with us. Our hope is in the eternal life of the resurrection. This is when our life is genuine, when we are given “life and life more abundant” as Jesus promises us, that is our hope and promise.

David Rosage writes: “…Hope is the source of our happiness, peace and joy. A little spark of hope is enkindled and fanned into a mighty conflagration as we strive to put on the image of Jesus by living the Gospel message. St Paul’s advice is certainly direct: ‘Acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” (Eoh 4: 23-24) “Rejoice in Me” pg 46

God uses our efforts even the ones that don’t seem fruitful

I feel like I’ve dealt with this so many times. Clearly I am led to do something and then it just doesn’t seem like there’s a point to it.

John Chyrsostom, quoted in A Year With the Church Fathers, Scott Murray, p 9, gave me some assurance:

“Even though the soil that we cultivate might bring forth no fruit, if we have made every possible effort, the Lord of it and of us will not allow us to depart with disappointed hopes but will give us recompense. St Paul says, ‘Each will receive his wages according to his labor’ (1 Corinthians 3:8), not according to the result. And that it is so, listen: ‘You, son of man, testify to this people, if they will hear, and if they will understand’ (see Ezekiel 2: 3-5). And the Lord says to Ezekiel, ‘If the watchman warns us of what we ought to flee, and what to choose, he has delivered his own soul, even though no one takes heed’ (see Ezekiel 3:17, 19; 33:9)”

I’ve said this a lot, but I often don’t take my advice, it does sound defeatist, but it is what faith is about. God doesn’t call me to “succeed, He calls me to be faithful.” Sort of rubs against a man’s mentality. ‘No, if I make the effort, I have to succeed at it’ and yet, perhaps God is using the result, to achieve His own outcome which we may never know, at least not this side of the resurrection.

We all need to trust in and have faith in God’s will, whether it makes “sense” to us or not.”

Jesus, His coming foretold by the prophets – John Chrysostom

…Then, so that you would not be confounded by what is going on, and by their strange frenzy (Matt 12:14) He introduces the prophet [Isaiah] also, foretelling all this. So great was the accuracy of the prophets that they omit not even these things but foretell His very travels and changes of place as well as the intent with which He acted in these, so that you might learn how they spoke entirely by the Spirit. If the secrets of men cannot by any art be known, how much more impossible is it to learn Christ’s purpose, except that the Spirit reveals it? …

‘The prophet [Isaiah] celebrates His meekness and His indescribable power, and how to the Gentiles ‘a wide door for effective work has opened’ (1 Cor 16:9); He foretells also the ills that are to overtake the Jews and signifies Jesus’ unanimity with the Father. He said, ‘Behold My servant, whom I uphold. My chosen, in whom My soul delights’ (Is 42:1). Now if the Father chose Him not as an adversary, Christ wouldn’t set aside the Law. The Father chose Him not as an enemy of the lawgiver but as having the same mind with Him, and the same goals.

Then proclaiming His meekness, he said, ‘He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice’ (Is 42:2). His desire indeed was to heal in their presence; and even though they thrust Him away, He did not contend even against this. And intimating both His might and their weakness, he said, ‘A bruised reed He will not break’ (Is 42:3). Indeed, it was easy to break them all to pieces like a reed, and not just as a reed, but as one already bruised. ‘A faintly burning wick He will not quench’ (Is 42:3). Here he sets forth both their anger, which is kindled, and His might which is able to put down their anger and quench it with the greatest ease, by which His great mildness is signified”

(Chrysostom, “Homilies on Matthew, 60.2” quoted in “A year with the church fathers, meditations…” p 397

The Terror of Christmas Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Only when we have felt the terror of the matter [of God’s coming at Christmas], can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone’ God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home itself has moved into us.. Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God’s goodness will once again draw near. We think of all God’s goodness that came our way last year and sense something of this marvelous home. Jesus comes in judgment and grace: ‘Behold I stand at the door … Open wide the gates!” (Ps 24:7) from “A Testament to Freedom pp 185-186

Treating Pastors with respect by Jerome

“…If we berate or harass our shepherds, we are berating and harassing the Body of Christ…Our pastors exercise spiritual oversight for the sake of our souls so that we might receive the unfading crown of glory. In that relationship there is a mutuality of love.

Be obedient to your bishop and welcome him as the parent of your soul. Son’s love their fathers, and slaves fear their masters. The Lord says, ‘If then I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master where is My fear?’ (Malachi 1:6). In your case, the bishop combines in himself many titles for your respect. He is at once a monk, a prelate and an uncle who has before now instructed you in all holy things.

‘This also I say so that the bishops should know themselves to be priests, not lords. Let them render to the clergy the honor that is their due so that the clergy mayo offer to them the respect that belongs to bishops. There is a witty saying of the orator Domitius (d. 48 BC] that is to the point here: ‘Why should I recognize you as leader of the Senate when you will not recognize my rights as a private member?” … Let us ever bear in mind the charge that the apostle Peter gives to priests: ‘Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the un fading crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5: ) “

Jerome “Letters,” – 52.7 quoted in “A Year with the Church Fathers” p 375 Scott Murray

More Prayer Much More Prayer 1 Timothy and Luke 16 shrewd steward

[for the audio of this sermon click on the 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 want to be shrewd for Jesus said … AMEN!

Leveraging, OPM, basic B-School concepts. We Christians have become so caught up trying to appear pious and that is not what we are about. For example “money is the root of all evil”, complete quote is the “love of money is the route of all evil”. Money is a tool, how do we use that money, are we using it for the Kingdom, the proclamation of Christ or does our money go to things that are worldly?

This is not the only place in Scripture that Jesus tells us to be shrewd. Despite what many think, there is nothing in Scripture that says “be stupid”. Seems as a Church we’re supposed to roll over and play dead for every ridiculous concept the world foists on us, meekly schlep along, agreeing with everything the world says about the hottest topics now: “Obviously the Bible is wrong about these things, because our human/earthly institutions insist that these things are right. So maybe the Bible needs to be updated. We find over and over again that the Bible is indeed right, but it seems we all have to crash and burn with the rest of society when we fall all over ourselves to accept what is the newest and coolest. We have a loving Father who waits for us at the crash site to keep us from getting seriously hurt, while many insist on avoiding God’s outstretched hand and hitting the hard ground.

Not only does the Bible not tell us to be stupid, Jesus has told us a few times, be smart. We can play the world’s game in the power of the Holy Spirit beat the world at its own game, we leverage what the Spirit gives us in the world. But we insist the institutions around us are right. Jesus commends shrewdness in Matthew 10: Jesus sends His disciples to the world with these words: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” He tells them a lot of the people they go to meet are going to be judged, they will be condemned and destroyed. He qualifies that in the same passage by saying His disciples are going to get the brunt of things too. They are going to be delivered before governors and judges and will be cruelly punished. Not because what they are saying is wrong, but there’s a cruel world out there that rejects Jesus and His hope and promise and insists on its own silly, worthless words that it always finds out are wrong in the end.

Let’s talk about prayer, something very much on my heart. Before I really realized the importance and need for prayer Marge and I were the coordinators for the National Day of Prayer in our hometown of 100,000 and after three years, the coordinators of the Commonwealth of Mass. We had some really great day long rallies on Beacon Hill and got a lot of attention from elected officials, some of whom served on the state committee and who actively participated. Even bugged a governor because we went over time in front of the “Grand Stairway” in the state house and cut into the governor’s time. But we realized that when we took prayer right to the public forum, leveraging prayer to the best interests of the worldly people around us who saw how we could come together, grow in prayer, especially when those same people were included and helped to understand the importance of what we are doing.

Leveraging, OPM, often used cynically, by practitioners of these trades. The Gordon Geckos who have a very narrow vision of what life is about. We in a shrewd manner, like the steward in the pericope, use the resources of the world, not cynically, but positively, we stand strong in the things we do as Christians, in prayer, faithful to Christ’s teachings, ignoring the nonsense the world continually foists on us. That other “churches” buy into and are never successful in pursuing, even worse trying to leverage what the world tells them to those who are seeking Christ, they are revealed as phonies and cause many to become disillusioned in Christ because of their dysfunctional church, even reject Christ and condemn themselves. I don’t want to be a leader of any of those churches, I don’t want to stand before the Judgment Seat and explain to our Lord why I was the instrument of so many people denying their faith and coming into eternal destruction.

We can be smart about it, we can be shrewd about it. Talk about the ultimate “leverage”, that Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for us”. Technically, it’s more in the sense of propitiation, He paid the penalty for us to be free and saved. But for us what He did really is OPM. That we have been given eternal promise and hope by what Jesus did. If you look at this as leveraging OPM so that we derive the return, that would be a great way to think about it. Not in a cynical way, but in a way that gives us a bright future of eternal bliss, and eternal life, what Jesus says is “life and life more abundant”. Paul is emphasizing prayer to his student, one of the men who he calls his son in Christ. What does he say about prayer? “ESV 1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

When we did the National Day of Prayer we had the mayor of a large city, other city officials. At the state house we had many legislators, some city officials, both parties who were very supportive. None of them got upset that we were praying for all our public officials, they seemed to be quite pleased to be prayed for like this. No cynical attempts, a very shrewd, positive outpouring that we wanted to pray for these men and women. That the more we supported them in prayer, they would lead our state, communities in ways that would be positive, and help us all to grow.

We seem to get a little prissy when we come to passages like this one. We’ve been dealing with passages like this all summer. Jesus isn’t some milquetoast, quaking, pious little fella, who doesn’t want to offend. He’s not concerned with who He offends. If someone takes offense from God the Son, the One who makes the rules, who created all of everything, that’s on them, it becomes their problem. If they are so obsessed with their way, their agenda, and they reject God and His agenda, and then they’re surprised they end in eternal condemnation? Who’s being dumb here? Doesn’t sound like a shrewd move on their part. These people love to tell you how smart they are, genuinely smart people do not try to outsmart people they know are smarter and will shut them down. Smart people are shrewd people, they leverage what they have in order to move in their lives. Jesus wants us to be shrewd and smart, for the Kingdom, for the eternal life and salvation of all those around us. We can go right down the street to the county seat, we can go right across the bridge to the state capital. We can leverage our power of prayer, using OPM, in this case God’s currency and show people what life genuinely is in Christ. Or we can keep being hang-dogs, follow along in the world’s agenda, then wonder why we’ve crashed and burned with the world. We had the shrewedest, smartest, most powerful of all in Jesus and instead of being smart and shrewd, threw Him over for the silly, naïve, greedy, grasping, immaturity of the world. I’m smart enough to know where I should be focused.  Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

Ascends as Lord of all creation Acts 1 Trinity Lutheran Church,

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

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 know Jesus’ sits at the right hand of all power and all glory said… AMEN !

We use the “Common Lectionary”, when people come up to do the readings, they traditionally read out of the service book, that has the daily readings assuring that we observe the important, formative, enlightening events of the Bible. It usually guides our worship. Sometimes the pastor has a good reason to deviate from Scripture, but usually we want to stick to the lectionary. This keeps the pastor focused. Too often in non-liturgical worship, preaching and teaching is more about the preacher’s hobby-horse versus, trying to teach the entire Bible. The entire Bible is important, we need, at the very least to be familiar with the various parts and be able to describe different parts of the Bible and what is going on in those parts. The entire Bible points to Jesus being active before His incarnation, the events Jesus lived through in the incarnation. When we understand that, we have an even deeper appreciation of the entire Bible. People will often tell me how “boring” the Book of Such and Such is. Yet that Book, all of Scripture describes Jesus, God the Son who has lived eternally, John writes in his Gospel: “ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” As much as the Father was through all eternity, so is the Son and the Holy Spirit. They may not have been revealed until the New Testament, but they very much existed, all eternal God. I’ve had people who claim to be Christian “pastors” say, I don’t preach on the Old Testament, it’s the Gospels and the epistles that really matter. Nothing could be more wrong, and someone who claims to be a pastor, and believes that, is not a qualified Christian pastor. All this is to say that the lectionary keeps us all honest, on track, having a thorough understanding of Jesus, and all of Scripture as possible. While Ascension Day may seem anticlimactic, OK, He rises up into the air and disappears, time to move on… Daniel Marrs writes: “I wonder if our tendency to let Ascension Day slip past uncelebrated has more to do with the simple fact that it feels anticlimactic? The Christmas story tells us that God purposed to be with us, joining himself to human nature and walking among us as a man. And we know how Jesus’ life culminated with the world-shaking significance of the cross and the resurrection. But then he just…leaves. Why? And what does it mean for us?[1]

Jesus is not unique in being bodily taken to heaven, Elijah was lifted up into heaven in front of his student Elisha. ESV 2 Kings 2:11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” It does seem that God’s intention for Elijah that he would be the one who would announce the Messiah’s return. We know he was with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Moses was also, some people believe Moses was also bodily ascended into heaven. Elijah and Moses are thought to be the two witnesses in Revelation 11: 3-12, because they were bodily raised to heaven for these purposes. While Dr Luther stipulated that the Bible did not say anything about the bodily assumption of Mary, he didn’t deny the possibility either. Lutherans have rejected that view, I’m not trying to convince you of it, but just that Mary is included in the list. Isaiah may be also, he was brought into the presence of Yahweh, but the intention was not to keep him there, same for St Paul.

While it might make an interesting discussion, how many angels dancing on the head of a pin, kind of discussion, we know this for sure. Elijah and Enoch may have been raised up to somewhere by God in heaven, and Paul says that he was raised to what he called the 3rd heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. In His Ascension into heaven, Jesus became the entirety of the universe. Elijah, Enoch, Paul, Mary(?) if God did raise them bodily into some level or part of heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. Being at the right hand of any ruler was always understood as the person being at the right hand had the power and authority of the ruler. Peter Mikhalev offers this pointed quote: “St. John Chrysostom: “Elijah ascended as if into Heaven, because he was a slave, but Christ ascended into Heaven itself, because He was the Lord.”[4][2] This is generally to be understood as the man who carries out the will of the ruler. Enoch, Elijah, Mary (?) may have bodily ascended to heaven, but to be sure no where near the right hand where as we profess in the Apostle’s Creed: “seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” By virtue of this position of power Jesus is He whose rule is in complete glory: John Calvin writes: “Christ was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him — and that he not only entered into possession once for all, but continues in it, until he shall come down on Judgment Day” [3](Institutes 2.16.15). Mikhalev quotes St Gregory: “…by His own Divine power the Creator ascended into Heaven, because He was returning to there from whence He descended. He entered there where He had habitation from the ages: for, although He ascended as man, as God He possessed both Heaven and Earth.”[14][4]

R C Sproul writes “God’s right hand is the place of “highest favor with God the Father” (WLC, Q&A 54), and the phrase is used throughout Scripture to indicate His power and sovereignty (Ex. 15:6Isa. 48:13).  This means that He is ruler over all and that the kings of the earth rule only according to His sovereign permission. As such, Christ alone is worthy of our highest allegiance, and it is to Him that we must render obedience, even if it means, at times, defying the rulers of this world. Jesus’ kingdom alone is eternal, and His rule is above all others.”[5]

That Jesus raised Himself to heaven, to the ultimate glory of His ruling over all of Creation eternally, also is another demonstration of His Lordship overall creation. Arator writes: “…let us commend the manner of his rule though the powers that are subject to him: born of a virgin mother, rising again by treading upon death, seeking the scepter of heaven He announces such deeds by these angelic servants. Nor do the elements cease to serve their thunderer. In his honor as he is coming, a star does service as a soldier going before the magi. A cloud waits upon him in obedience as he goes.”[6] As He is about to be lifted up, unbeknownst to the disicples, He gives them the great commission, we quote Matthew 28 more often, but Acts starts this way, reminding us we are His disciples, His witnesses to the end of the earth, everywhere. As He says that He is lifted up, the disciples stand there [wide eyed] The angel sitting there had to be amused what you guys doing? He’s told you what to do and He will return in the same way. In the meantime it’s time to turn to for Jesus.” They certainly did in the power of the Holy Spirit whose intentional introduction will be made at Pentecost that we will observe next Sunday.

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.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/05/its-ascension-day-heres-what-it-means-for-you/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&spMailingID=59440308&spUserID=MjgzMzMxOTk1NTAS1&spJobID=1644181925&spReportId=MTY0NDE4MTkyNQS2

[2] Did Enoch and Elijah ascend into heaven? Deacon Peter Mikhalev

[3] R C Sproul quoting John Calvin https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/seated-at-gods-right-hand/

[4] Op Cit

[5] Seated at God’s Right Hand   RC Sproul

[6] Arator quoted in Ancient Commentary on Scripture NT 4 p 10

The Lamb of God in the brilliance of the New Jerusalem Revelation 21 May 26, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md

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

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 know true life is the eternal resurrection said … AMEN!

The Book of Revelation is discussed at this time of year, because it is part of the “new” church. The Acts church was certainly brand new for those people who were chosen by the Holy Spirit, to start the NT. The Book of Revelation is about the end times. As much interest in the end times, there’s not much that can be done about it. Be curious, look for God’s intent in the end times, but when prophecies start to come to pass about the end times, there won’t be any doubt about what is happening. Further for those who are in Christ still in the world, will be provided for. There is no doubt that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is always in control. What is biblical the Judgement, Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “ For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18) We know the lead up to that in Revelation. It will be horrible, we should pray that we are in the Lord’s presence and not here on earth during the events described in Revelation. I will stipulate that for the guys, it sounds weird to be talking about a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, weirds guys out to think about. There’s not a sexual connotation to that phrase, it’s much more about the most intimate relationship there is. We’ve had a physical relationship with Jesus since we were confirmed. We eat His Body and Blood. He has given His Body and Blood to us in His sacrifice. Through that we derive the spiritual sustenance, strength, in order to live a strong and healthy life for Jesus. When we don’t eat His Body and Blood then our spiritual health declines, our faith in Christ becomes weaker and we are less able to withstand the attacks of the world and Satan. As much as we need food to be strong do what we need to do in our life, we need the Body and Blood in order to be strong enough to do Christ’s will in the world. Likewise, as the church is the Body of Christ in the world, that we have become one flesh with Jesus by eating His Body and Blood, we become that one flesh in the New Jerusalem. From the very beginning God told Adam and Eve: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This is from the very beginning God established marriage, between a man and a woman the only way to become one flesh. We are one in the church in the Body of Christ, we become one with Jesus in the new world, in the new eternal life. If this is a problem for someone, nothing you can do about it. Mormons think otherwise, Mormons are fatally, tragically wrong. Like pretty much everything, people try to create a designer heaven, a designer new world, because they know what’s right, everything should be their way. It’s bizarre to listen to such people talk. God tells us “your ways are not my ways”. That He has a much greater plan that we can’t conceive of, an entirely new paradigm. Randy Alcorn, answered this question. Alcorn is quoting C S Lewis: “But I do think C. S. Lewis’s insight was great, where he talked about the boy who had heard about people having sex and said, “Well, do they eat chocolate while they are having it?” — because he was told is this is a wonderful experience. To him it was like nothing could be better, you know, than eating chocolate. And then Lewis makes the argument that perhaps our sense of loss about the idea of not being able to have sexual relationships is like that boy thinking that chocolate is the greatest joy and that there are greater joys that await us.”[1] The point is that it’s been God’s plan so far, if we’ve trusted and benefited from that plan for however many decades, is it difficult to understand that in so many ways He has something so much more glorious, wonderful, fulfilling, strengthening in what He has planned for us? I don’t think there can be any doubt that the resurrection, the New Jerusalem is going to be magnificent beyond our wildest imagination. So when we talk about the church being the Bride of Christ, it will be for all of us as the Body of Christ, His Church, and that it will be glorious, triumphant and exultant in a way that we can’t begin to imagine. In the resurrection we will be restored to so much more as we are today. Men will be strong, brilliant, creative, the true pinnacle of manhood and strength. Women will also be strong, brilliant, creative, the true pinnacle of womanhood and compassion. We will be restored to the total, complete apex of what it is to truly be a man or a woman. Jesus told us: ESV Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” this is how God made us, this was His eternal expectation for us, that we should be the near perfection of what a man or a woman is. We’ve achieved the ability to tinker with that, to try and frustrate God’s will for that person. His will is in how He made us, not how we’ve allowed ourselves to be corrupted and undermined by the world and Satan. It is up to us to follow and cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s word. Not to try to stymie His will but to trust Him to the completion of His much greater, all-knowing, His great love for us that His end will be superior to anything we can imagine. His promise for us may entail some tragedy, some hardship, some misery along the way, but when the ultimate result is to be His man, His woman in the ultimate/eternal resurrection where we will have life and life more abundant. The “brilliance” of the New Jerusalem will be powerfully stunning and focused, right in the midst of that, the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice. Jesus will be that temple, the center of all that is in the New Jerusalem “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel.” To our post-modern, technological eye that doesn’t seem compelling, but considering the time, that was as radiant as a first century person could imagine. To us it will be stunning almost overwhelming, truly beautiful and magnificent in form, brilliance and strength. “…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21:27) Only those who are perfect, that is those in Jesus. Those who are detestable are not in Christ, those who’ve rejected Jesus and chose a debauched life-style of the world, who live one of the lies of the world will not be able to enter, they will be condemned. For an age that loves to think of itself as so genuine, it is so phoney and debased.

As much as the Book of Acts describes the birth of the church, a church that completely changes the concept of what church is in the first century world, so does the Book of Revelation describe the next birth. We’ve had the new birth in Christ in our baptism, we have that new life in Him. In the Book of Revelation we will be restored to a new and eternal life, where God the Son will be our eternal husband and all that means as a provider, protector, enhancer, builder, changer. Whether we are man or woman, that new “church”, that new paradigm, new world, will be so abundant, so lush and promising, so challenging and fulfilling, anything and everything we could begin to imagine that we can have in the very presence of Him, Jesus, who loves us beyond anything we can comprehend and wants us to grow to eternity, to be that man and woman that we couldn’t begin to imagine but that He not only imagines, but has a specific plan for each of us, in this existence we are in now, and of the existence that we who are in Jesus will live to eternity. A promise and reward that is inexhaustible and eternally fulfilling.

We remember today, those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I particularly like to remember Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, who was in Iraq, part of a boat crew and boarding officer that intercepted a dhow headed at an oil terminal. When he attempted to board, the attacker realizing he had been discovered detonated the explosives he had intended to destroy the terminal with, perhaps causing additional loss of life and also alerted other forces who discovered two other vessels trying to detonate explosions to cause harm at the same time. Only Petty Officer Bruckenthal was killed. As a fellow Coast Guardsman I identify with Nathan, I’m sure most here today have someone who lost their life or seriously injured in defense of their country and fellow man. There is so much tragedy and misery in this world, we should glory in what we remember on Memorial Day. We as Christians have the promise of Christ, that we will have an eternal, physical life that is magnificent, what we are and have now, will fade into obscurity, only remembered as what we lived through in order to be delivered by God into true life.

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.desiringgod.org/interviews/sex-in-heaven