Category Archives: Christian discipleship

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

Cheering to Jeering to Cheering Psalm 118

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 God’s people who give thanks to the Lord for He is good said … AMEN!

Christianity is a contrast, there is no doubt about the One and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in complete love, sacrificial, selfless agape love and desire to save, reaches down to humanity, provides everything we need in order to not just live in this world, but for us to also serve in the eternal world of the resurrection.

Here He is now!  Just as it is written in prophecy: “Rejoice greatly; O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” These words written by Zechariah a prophet between 522 and 486 BC, Matthew and Luke both see what is happening as they accompany Jesus, riding into Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit nudges them both, “this is what Zechariah wrote would happen 500 years ago.” Matthew and Luke write it down as part of their Gospels. There is rejoicing, Jesus’ inner circle of disciples is parading proudly next to their Lord, the Lord of all who are there. There’s no doubt in their mind, with all this cheering that this is it! It’s going down now! They didn’t know how, but they’d seen Jesus do so much; calmed the storm, fed thousands, healed the ill, raised the dead. Driving out the Romans, putting the priests, the lawyers, the Pharisees in their place, replacing them in power, pish-posh child’s play for Jesus. He’s here to bring the Kingdom.

500 years before Zachariah, the unknown author of Psalm 118 writes: “Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord … The Lord is God and he has given us light …Bind the festal procession with branches.” Here He is, Jesus is He who is riding on the donkey. It’s seen as a gesture of humility. But understood at that time to be a sign of kingship. Versus the warhorse, the donkey was seen as Jesus proclaiming His Kingship, coming to claim His throne. There was not universal jubilation at Jesus’ entrance. Jesus’ disciples were proclaiming; “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord” according to Dr Luke 19: 39. While Matthew heard; “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” Matthew 21:9. In Luke’s account Pharisees scold Jesus; “Teacher rebuke your disciples.” Meaning, these people are saying you’re a king, that you are David’s son, to make you David’s heir as king. You have rode straight into Jerusalem on a donkey and we are all aware of what you are claiming. The only thing missing? There’s no army. The rag-tag group hailing Jesus and his posse beside Him are no army. They were all full of themselves, sure that by some supernatural means, the enemies of Jerusalem would be swept out. They would walk in, pick up the pieces, assume their rightful places under Jesus and let the new world begin that they would rule under their Lord Jesus. Before we start worship I like to say: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it…” Psalm 118: 24, this is where in the Bible. The day the unknown psalmist writes about is a joyous day, he proclaims; “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Are the Pharisees, priests, lawyers, Romans, going to just stand back and let Jesus take over? Noooo! Hey Jesus the Pharisee reprimands, knock it off, tell your followers to back off, coming into town on a donkey may be nice symbolism, but we’re the sheriff, not you. That’s not going to change. We talk a good game about God, and we’re obviously the blessed ones. There’s a Joel Osteen sense with the Pharisees that since they’re the pretty ones, with the money, power and influence, they’re not going anywhere, nothing’s going to change. Have things changed? Oh yes. On a more powerful level than any of these grasping hypocrites can begin to understand. Forces have been building, the old order is being moved out. It may not be realized, but God’s Kingdom is now on earth. The stone the builders have rejected, has become the cornerstone. God the Son our Lord Jesus ends this same week, being mercilessly beaten and brutalized, then nailed to a cross to die. But it is only a prelude. What is necessary in order for Jesus to return in victory, to overcome the tomb, defeat death and the Kingdom to be realized. We live in a world that has been overcome for us. We have won the victory because we are in Jesus, entirely His and through that relationship, victors.

Friday is going to be brutal and merciless. Any palm branches people have will use them to taunt Jesus with. They will spit on Him, mock Him, jeer Him, “crucify Him”, they will demand of their pagan ruler. Jesus is abused in His Body and His Spirit. He hangs on that cross enduring all of the punishment around Him, yet still prays to God the Father “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

This coming week is a series of wrenching, exhausting, at times demoralizing results. But when they are sure that their friend, their Lord, the One who they saw and served, will overcome all of the crushing events and produce the most monumental event in history. He will defeat death for us, overcome the grave. But doing so assures us of our resurrection and eternal life in the eternal, blessed, world of unlimited possibilities and excitement in Christ. Cheers, jeers, ultimately monumental cheers. We are the ones who win through Him who suffered.

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

[For the audio of this sermon click on the icon following]

Least of the Apostles 1 Corinthians 15

{please click on the icon above 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 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.