Tag Archives: atonement

Confession or separation and from whom

Unconfessed sin isn’t fooling anyone. God certainly knows, and come on those around you? They know. Unconfessed sin also separates us, from each other and from God. God knows, but since you have chosen to suppress, conceal, downplay, dismiss, your sin separates you from a perfect, holy God. Hasn’t a child, spouse, someone close tried to ignore unconfessed sin with you? Can’t you sense a very real separation from that person until you come to grips with that person and their sin. As a fellow sinful being we can kind of understand that, and God certainly understands and forgives, but can’t you still sense the distance, separation, even barrier it has created?

Mark Buchanan points out in Peter love covers a multitude of sins. Sure we get it, you are forgiven, Jesus died for that sin. Pastor Buchanan points out “Love can’t cover over what pride or shame covers up.’ He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.’ (Proverbs 28:13) (Your God is too Safe p 170) Last I checked pride is sin, aren’t we compounding the original sin or subsequent sin? Sin does create separation and barriers: “If anyone is going to love you and if you are going to love anyone the way Scripture exhorts and commands, you’re going to have to show someone the real you. The real you will have to stand up. You’ll need to confess.” (Ibid)

I really like how Pastor Buchanan expands on what this separation and barrier of unconfessed sin creates. Are we Christians, loving not just each other, but those who may even actively oppose us? And not this phoney, shmaltzy, cheesey love. Love is genuine put it on the line, up to the point of sacrificing your life for the best and betterment of someone who truly needs you to stand up for them? How can we truly be the Body of Christ, to trust our lives, to truly be a part of the integrated Body of Christ, if we let sin, pride separate us. We still need to use discretion, as I pointed out in my last blog, there is someone who you should trust with high confidence. Your Pastor. At least as a Lutheran, your pastor has a high level of training, is under the seal of the confessional, which is still recognized under secular and canonical law, who cannot discuss anything with anyone else that you discuss with him. As you grow in relationship with other Christians, sure you should be much more open with them. But remember your pastor has a lot to offer, including: “as a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ I tell you, for Him, that you are forgiven.” You want an authority figure on the matter, who is better suited than your pastor?

But Buchanan presents the perspective of a regular practice of unconfessed sin: “The first is that Christian fellowship becomes a masquerade – a game of hide-and-seek, of pretense and jargon, with no real life and no real depth. We end up investing so much in the appearance of holiness that we miss the substance of it. We end up so preoccupied with saving face that we fail to live in God’s saving grace. We walk around with insecurity and fear: If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me. The Only reason you like me is you don’t really know me.” (Ibid)

In other words, a phoney Christian life. I have gone into churches where there’s a lot of phoniness, there’s no real Christian confession, just as Buchanan points out; “pretense and jargon” and that is just not a healthy place to be. You can almost cut the subterfuge with a knife. It’s almost suffocating. In a congregation where  confession, trust, openness, smacks you right in the face like a crisp, winter seabreeze, it’s bracing and challenging, and it’s also refreshing and just makes you want to push right in and get more.

“But confession and true fellowship are deeply joined. John in his first letter makes that explicit. He writes, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1: 8-9).”  He goes on to note that: “…When we walk in the truth and in the light, we have real fellowship … not among perfect people, but honest ones, people willing to deal with their imperfections. Otherwise we have a country club, not a church.”

“That’s one consequence of a people without the holy habit of confession: Our fellowship becomes a shallow, gaudy, fickle thing, a nonfellowship, an exercise in faking it.” (Ibid pp 170-171) And isn’t that sin? Aren’t we called to fellowship? Aren’t we called to be genuine? It’s not easy and I doubt I will ever be “good” at it. But that’s not an excuse for me to avoid striving for it either.

Let’s do everyone a big favor, start to truly live that Christian life in confession. Let’s start trusting those clergy that God has give to us in order for us to grow closer to God, instead of all the pretense and baloney that we substitute instead. Let’s do our best to grow in our relationship with fellow Christians. Yes, we have to maintain some discretion and common sense. But at least keep pushing the boundaries. Can you get burned? Yup, but it won’t be on you, you will be living the life in Christ, it will be for that person who failed in your trust. Pray for them and for all Christians who can’t step up in maturity and move on as a faithful Christian disciple.

You cannot “earn” your way to salvation in Jesus, it is a gift through grace.

When Dr Martin Luther started to raise issues with the Roman Catholic Church (remember he was an Augustinian monk), he wasn’t trying to undermine the church, he was trying to reconcile his Biblical studies and the teachings of the church. The church emphasized what we are supposed to do in order to be “worthy” of salvation. Dr Luther said, No! What can we add to what Jesus did? He was the sacrifice that paid for our sins. What else can we add through anything we could do to Jesus’ full payment for our sins? Are we fully forgiven in Jesus? Yes, we know Him as our Savior, we are baptized into new life in Jesus, we take His Body and Blood, we hear His preached word, we are saved. We are led to salvation by the Holy Spirit, not by anything we do. All of these things are given to us as part of the Body of Christ, His church. We receive baptism, we receive His Body and Blood, we receive/hear His preached Word. Nothing we did, all of what He did.

Dr Luther tries to lead the Christian church back to the original understanding that we are only forgiven and saved in what Jesus does, nothing that we do. Do we do good works? Absolutely, but these are works that are done through us by the Holy Spirit. Any works we do don’t get us any more saved. When we are baptized, the old/dead man is drowned and we are born again, we are a new creature in Jesus. We are now children of God the Father and are His. Nothing that we did, everything that Father, Son and Holy Spirit did for us.

So there were new Christian churches, teaching and preaching that we are wholly saved by what Jesus does and nothing about what we do. But along comes these Americanized Christians who decide that there must be something that we need to add to Jesus’ works in order to assure us of our salvation. “Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation.” (Henry, Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 205). This is referred to as “works righteousness” in other words, it’s our works that make us righteous in addition to what Jesus did. There has to be both what Jesus did and what we add to that.The Blackaby’s are great Christian brothers, but there are too many in Christiandom that continue to try to stress what we do and undercut what Jesus has done and does do for His people. The extreme examples being Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who try to put our salvation entirely on our efforts and try to undercut Jesus entirely. I’ve always wanted to ask one of them, what if I am just not capable of doing anything? Then what? Too bad for me?

In the July 17 devotional (p 199), the issue is that not only are there works that need to be done by us, but we also seem to achieve almost sinlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not preaching antinomianism (the belief that since we’re saved in Jesus, then we can pretty much sin at will because our forgiveness is already assured because of our redemption in Jesus). Reality is this, we are never going to be sinless, we just aren’t. Sure I hope that in Jesus the Holy Spirit is going to make me completely pure, holy and sinless. I am completely righteous through Jesus! But I’m not through me, or some bizarre idea that I have achieved sinless perfection. I’m just never going to make that level

The Blackaby’s say “It is exhilarating to be set apart by God, knowing that God observes your consecrated life and is pleased with what He sees.” Sure, absolutely! I do want to lead a God pleasing life and I should not be committing gratuitous sins. But the fact of the matter is that I will be. At the beginning of every Lutheran worship we start with Confession and Absolution. Well if we have just been perfect in our selves for the past week, what do we need that for? Because the reality is that we need forgiveness, as often as possible. We aren’t going to make it through a week without sin. Sure sometimes they’re acts of omission vs commission, but sin nonetheless and we want to be absolved, to be forgiven and not by virtue of having “a special place in God’s heart!” We do! By virtue of what Jesus did, nothing we’ve done. Not by virtue of our works or our sinlessness, solely through redemption in Jesus’ sacrifice.

I’ve talked to many people who have experienced Reformed Christianity (various types of Calvinism, Arminianism), that feel they’ve had to jump through hoops to be “saved”. There’s of course the “accepting” Jesus, Walking down the aisle during worship to declare that you have some how “chosen” Jesus. Ya…, no! “You didn’t chose me, I chose you.” Jesus tells us. Martin Luther put it forthrightly, you are saved by grace, sola gratia, nothing you did, everything Jesus did. Stop fretting whether you’ve done enough works, or too much sin. Jesus died for your sins, you are saved in Him. If He has chosen you to be saved, you are saved! Done deal, lead pipe guarantee, nothing you did, everything He did. That should be incredibly reassuring. If God has done it, it’s done! If part of it is up to us, oh boy, that is a problem! It’s not, you’re saved in Him. Not in you. Praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for that! Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. If you don’t know what that means drop me a message.

“Predestined to a great inheritance in Christ” First St Johns July 12, 2015 Ephesians 1: 3-14

[click on above link for 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 have been pre-destined in Christ from the beginning of the world said … AMEN!

Christians are starting to get a little too much of a “bunker mentality”, I’m going to stay in my own group, I’m not going to share Christ with other people, I’m just going to treat it as my viewpoint and not try to get anyone involved.” That we are essentially under siege, many would claim that Christians in the world are oppressed and yes there are many who are openly persecuted. So we take on this attitude of being beaten down, forced to shut up, sort of like a beaten dog and just keep a low profile. A radio preacher really drove home the point, though, that sure, maybe we are getting a little beaten into hiding. But can we really justify that when we talk in terms of who we are in Jesus? Can we really justify a persecution complex, the “everyone’s picking on me poor, poor pitiful me mentality”, because I’m in Jesus and let everyone know about it? The Concordia Self-Study Bible points out: “Divine election is a constant them in Paul’s letters [the note describes 33 verses in Paul’s writings, from a number of citations in Romans, Colossians, first and second Thessalonians and Titus], in today’s periscope, “…it is emphasized in the following ways: he chose us, he predestined us, we were also chose, having been predestined”[1] Based on the fact that we are chosen, God has “pre-destined” us to salvation, that we are in His Lordship of our life, are we really justified in thinking that we are some kind of a victim?

It’s sort of like professional wrestling. How does it work in professional wrassling? The hero goes out and takes a beating, he gets taken down, it all looks hopeless and then …? Right? He gets off the floor, and eventually rallies to give a beat down to the Undertaker or the Iron Sheik, or whoever the bad guy of the day is. Not all the time, but I think under the circumstances of today, that’s kind of how we feel. We might take a beat down for Christ and as I’ve said before, for us here, it’s really not so bad. But we certainly know Christian brothers and sisters who are paying a heavy price for being Christian disciples. But because we are saved in Jesus, because we are baptized children of the Father, how can we really think that no matter how much persecution we endure, that we’re oppressed?

The fact of the matter is that we are saved. We know we are saved because of the tangible signs that we’ve been given. We are baptized into new life, we do take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we do hear His preached Word and read His written word. We know, just like the wrassler, I have been a big fan of Killer Kowalski, we do know how this ends, we do know where our eternal life begins. To be sure, life here matters. I’m not trying to downplay our earthly life. But we are so much more than that, and we certainly can’t justify thinking of ourselves as victims. We’re not! Sure we may get a metaphorical bloody nose once in awhile, get the short end of the stick. But for what it matters we have been chosen, we have been predestined to eternal life in Christ. For me that is enormously reassuring. I’m not saved in anything I do, for that matter, I can’t accidentally mess it up. I am saved, I am forgiven, I am predestined by the Creator of the Universe, God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to life eternal. To life “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) We are the victors in Jesus! We are Hulk Hogan in terms of Christ, we are His. He gives us true life, not just in the resurrection, which considering that is eternal life in Him in the perfect, unlimited, exciting life in our perfected bodies, the way we were meant to live life as a Christian. But also that we have abundant, fruitful lives because Jesus is the Lord of our life in the here and now. Sure we might take some hits for it, but when you really look objectively at what the rest of the world thinks of as “living”, we are so blessed to have a life in Jesus that is about the truly important things in life. We get to live a life that is meaningful and is not all about the sin that we see that is all around us. We are free in Christ, not like the person who is enslaved to lust, or greed, anger, bitterness, drugs, consumerism, violence, the list goes on and on. Even someone who is so caught up in the world, like Bob Dylan is quoted as saying “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.” For those in the world, they are enslaved to those sins, that is what “life” is to them. For them to feel as if they are “living” they need to constantly have an increased amount of the newest things, the most popular life, more ponography, more substance abuse, they are slaves to their things. We should have pity and compassion on those who are in the world, because they are caught up in such hopelessness, things that make them dead now. Do Christians struggle with those things? Yes, they do. But unlike those who are enslaved to the world, we know that we have been saved from those enslaving things, we know that we do have true freedom and true deliverance. We are not tied to those things, we know that the Holy Spirit continues to save us from the things that dominate other’s lives. It is not through our efforts that we are saved, even in the midst of struggle we have the Holy Spirit to turn to and guide us away, make a way possible to overcome. Sadly for those in the world who somehow think they have the upper hand, they don’t have that choice, they are victimized and snarled in their sin.  Others in the world try to help them overcome, but it is remarkable how ineffective and even more deadening when others use the methods of the world. Often it leaves people even more victimized. But over and over we see how faith based methods of saving people from sin work in astonishing ways.

So how can we say we are victims when we have the assurance of being saved, no matter how bad we might mess things up, we know that the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to turn to Him? We know that what Jesus did and does for us brings us life more abundant in the world, and in eternity. As I said, how can we whine about some temporary imposition, when so many around us, are tangled in their sin, completely addicted to their sin and lost to eternal separation and punishment because they rejected God’s salvation in Jesus? They are victims, we should have great pity and compassion for them. And we who have been pre-destined from the beginning, who know what our life is here and eternally, how can we really feel as if we are the victims?

Father, help us all to know in our hearts, to the depths of our souls, the riches in Jesus that we have been given and that we are pre-destined to receive in Jesus. We are comforted constantly in prayer, in trial, in the constant reassurance that we have, that we are truly holy, sanctified, set apart in Jesus. He took all of our sins on Himself, and on the Cross He paid the price for all those sins. Because of that He gave us the promise that through Him we are sufficient to be in the presence of our holy, perfect, just, gracious God to life and life more abundant here and in the eternal world of the resurrection. Take out that journal and write about the ways you have been delivered, about the assurance we have in Christ of being saved from the evil in the world and that we are pre-destined to life eternal and more abundant in Jesus.

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

[1] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1804

Sharing thoughts and music for Easter and Good Friday from Paul Burkhart

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

\

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

Christian creeds, what we really vow to truly believe before God

I did a post yesterday based on an article in Leadership Magazine about “Evangelcial Christian” churches who just dispense with Christian worship. They call it worship but is it? When you don’t even do the basics of Christian worship? Please feel free to check it out and let’s talk.

In the meantime, in my other reading I’m reading a book titled “The Catholicity of the Reformation”. That Dr Martin Luther really had no issue with Roman Catholic worship the liturgy, for the most part. What he had a problem with was the doctrine and traditions that had grown up in the church.

The book by Carl E Braaten and Robert W. Jenson discusses how much even liturgical churches have slid into American Evanglical Chritianity, as it were. It’s a regular issue in the Lutheran Church that some pastor is making worship too Catholic. I know what that means, but I don’t think the person(s) saying it really knows what it means. If worship is getting liturgical, that’s not a problem in the Lutheran church. Luther never proscribed the liturgy, he frankly encouraged it. But the American Lutheran Church has become so affected by American evangelicalism that it really has lost its identity. The liturgy in the Lutheran Church faithfully lifts up Scripture and true worship. It is what we should be doing and not getting into what was frontier/camp meeting “worship” led by, often, self- appointed “preachers”. Generally there were too many preachers that were uneducated, didn’t really understand the Bible, doctrine and the purpose of actual worship. They made a bunch of nice-sounding noises and played to the crowd, but did little real teaching and no one really knew to keep them accountable. Hence, today, we have all sorts of nice sounding stuff, that has little with actual Christian worship. Oh, I can hear it now,  “yada, yada, that’s your opinion, we can do what we want, yada, yada” which only illuminates the speakers lack of understanding of Christian worship.

One thing that particularly caused me agita (although I don’t think I can ever get over the idea that a “Christian” church doesn’t included the Lord’s prayer in worship!!!), was the lack of a creed, confession. In this day and age when all sorts of organizations, from Fortune 500 companies, huge government agencies, down to the smallest organizations, are told to develop mission statements and mottoes, to think that the Christian church shouldn’t be likewise focused is just stunning!

Braaten and Jensen write: ” The function of the creeds and confessions is to provide standards by which the church can judge and condemn false teaching contrary to the gospel.” (p 59) Would any knowledgeable Christian disagree with that? Really, how could you disagree? They go on to point out: ” …heresy has become virtually outmoded in the modern church…” Would any of the same people disagree with that? No! Yea, guess I’m going to be a little catty here, but when we join together as the Body of Christ and recite a creed (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian) we are making a vow, before God, in terms of what we genuinely believe. So my catty comment is; Why don’t so many churches (many flat-line, uhmmm, I mean main-line) say the creeds? Because they know their teachings are false, and they’re at least smart enough to not offend God any further, by making false promises. Do I give them credit for at least a little integrity?

The writers go on to say: “…the enlightenment brought the age of tolerance in which the rules that set limits to heresy were overthrown. Orthodoxy was put on the defensive. Heresy become a matter of religious freedom and human rights. The threat of heresy to personal salvation that prevailed in the ancient church was annulled…Dissent was permitted so long as it did not break the unity of the church. Not heresy but schism became the more serious concern. To prevent heresy from leading to schism, the churches today, maintaining their organization unity at almost all costs, have taken to promoting inclusivity and diversity at the expense of revealed truth and biblical morality, pushing back the limits to heresy, to the point where people are ‘tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14)

I know, maybe another cheap shot, but certainly Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill comes to mind. But certainly so many other “Christian churches” who become much more  about other things. The Mormon Church is much more about big business. Churches that are all about their pastor, their building, their… You name it. But are just not about real Christian doctrine. Why don’t they want to get into creeds, because genuine Christian worship is just not what they’re about.

Yea, I’ve singled some out, but this is so widespread that the actual orthodox Christian churches are the ones that are perceived as odd-ball and the rest of the churches are seen as “real” Christian churches. The result of that is a cynical perception of the church by the general population. If the big churches really don’t teach Christianity, and they must be representative because they have all the money and people. Well then the church is actually just a feel-good-rah-rah operation. To most people that translates into phoney and I’m certainly not going to disagree. But for those churches that are genuinely Christian, who do lift up the creeds, who do the things in worship that do turn us to God, who do lift up Jesus as the atonement of our sins and the Lord of our salvation, solely because of His works, they are lumped in with the phoney. That is not a desirable result for any church, or believer.

Maybe those “churches” and all who claim to be true Christian churches might start getting on track and we might be able to all make a true witness to the rest of the world of genuine Christianity, to our Savior Jesus Christ, by making it regular practice to profess a genuine/historical creed (Apostles, Nicaean, Athanasian) Come on, really impress everyone and take time once per month to do the Athanasian Creed. Look it up.

Teaching, walking as a disciple of Jesus

For the audio version of this sermon, click on the above link.

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 it’s about what God does and His Word said … AMEN! We are going to have a little spring training today. The Patriots win the Super Bowl today, the Red Sox report to Florida in a couple of weeks, a few weeks of fundamental baseball in Florida and all is right with the world. The subject is this, what are the fundamentals? What issues do we as Christians need to deal with, what is important for us to remember? There are way too many Christians who make other issues their top priorities; social issues, political issues, how much or how little sin, end times, making worship entertainment the Sabbath and in this case fussing over what kind of food we should/shouldn’t be eating. In today’s epistle lesson Paul is trying to get people to focus on what’s important. What are they focused on? Eating food that was offered to idols? As part of that discussion Paul’s saying; “We can all be smarty pants and get into these secondary issues with people. Try to look like we’re theologians, “oh heavens, we must talk about the seriousness of this vital issue. I saw brother Thomas over at the temple meat market and he was buying a prime rib that was sacrificed to a pagan ‘god’! That’s horrible! We can’t allow that! This must stop. I don’t care if the temple meat market has the best prime rib, if we buy prime rib at all, it better not be from something that was not sacrificed to some pagan ‘god’.” Yea, OK, in this context is that cool? No, it’s not! But on the other hand, for a Christian, is that something that really speaks to our eternal salvation or any other Christian’s eternal salvation? No, it’s not. We have a whole lot better things to discuss and frankly it takes away from those issues that are much more compelling. For example; ‘ok, brother Aurelius, we shouldn’t eat meat sacrificed to a pagan “god”. I’m not going to say right, wrong or indifferent. But Aurelius, when was the last time that you took a pagan or a new Christian and really sat down with them about the real issues of being a Christian? How’s your prayer life? How’s your relationship with Jesus? Do you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to serve someone and you didn’t? Let’s go back to the “Solas”. What are the solas? Sola Fide – by faith alone. It is His faith that God the Father gives Christians that we trust in Him, we trust His will and we follow His will. There are way too many people out there who try to make it out to be all about us, what we want, that God needs to get on our agenda. That’s not going to happen and God will lead us where he wants us and it is far better than anything we can do. Sola Gratia – By grace alone. This gets into the whole issue about how we are saved. Is it about what we do? Maybe even a little? Or is it about what God does? He saves us! It is through His grace that we are saved. We don’t earn it. The Father gives us His grace because in his sovereignty, He chooses those who are saved and they are saved because He brings them into relationship with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved only through Him and His righteousness. Even if we live the “perfect” life, did everything right or avoided the things we shouldn’t do, we’re not saved. It’s not about what we do, it’s what He did! We may have obeyed the Law, but the Law does not save you, we are only saved through the righteousness of Jesus and that becomes our righteousness when he brings us to Him and saves us. Sola Scriptura – Only through Scripture, only through what is in the Bible. We have a lot of “teachers” out there whose attitude is, “well, this isn’t in the Bible, but it should be and ‘my’ God would have put it in the Bible.” No! I am a Lutheran pastor, I am charged with teaching you what is in Scripture and helping you to understand that Scripture is what you need to grow in Jesus and serve Him. It’s not up to me to make up things and today there is way too much that is made up. Moving on, we believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. There are, again, way too many teachers who are teaching to the effect “oh well, that really couldn’t have happened, that’s not rational, and it really doesn’t matter, because we’re saved by our own agenda.” Every Sunday we recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is God the Son and could only have been born by the will of God. Not by any man. Jesus was born the perfect man and God the Son. Jesus is God! God the Son. There is only one God, and there are three persons who make up the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We cannot become “gods” as some teach. Jesus isn’t some sort of secondary “god” and He wasn’t the brother of Satan. There are no other “gods” and we trust Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus died for our sins. He is the perfect sacrifice and He took on himself the sin of all the world. That doesn’t mean that everyone is saved, because not everyone is baptized and lives in Christ. Most everyone lives in themselves and tries to justify themselves by what they do. We know that isn’t possible because we can never live the life that will save us, only Jesus saves us. Jesus rose, he was resurrected to give us the promise of eternal life. Through His resurrection we have the promise of our resurrection and eternal physical life in the new world that will come when this world is destroyed. We are saved through baptism. Almost the rest of Christianity teaches that baptism doesn’t save us. They teach we are saved because we make a decision to “accept Jesus”. No! Jesus accepts us and saves us through the washing of our sins in the water of baptism. Having said all that, we as Christians have what Dr Luther called “Christian Freedom”. Can we sin and be forgiven and still be saved? Yes! Jesus died for all sins. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me the sin they’ve committed that Jesus didn’t die for. I’m never going to hear it, but there are people who insist they are too sinful to be saved in Jesus. That’s wrong! When they are baptized, when they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, when they confess their sins in repentance and hear the preached Word of God they are saved! Game, set and match, they have eternal salvation in Jesus. Paul is dealing with a bunch of people, the Corinthians, yea them again, who are way too caught up in other rules. When they did that, when we do that, we forget what really is important. They are all snarked up about people who go to the meat market of a pagan “god” and buy their meat there. Well this goes back to the Old Testament teaching that some animals are innately unclean and can’t be eaten. God said that in Leviticus 11. He listed out animals that He didn’t want His people to eat. OK, fair enough. But then Jesus came and with Him, we are again taught, it’s not about the secondary stuff like right or wrong animals. It is about Him, He died for our sins and our diet doesn’t change that. In Acts 10, God tells Peter, these things are clean, eating these things doesn’t mess up your relationship with Jesus. But now, we get into an issue where we do serve our brothers and sister. There are things that we can do, eat certain things, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco. Some of these things we probably shouldn’t do, but that doesn’t cut us off from God. But weaker brothers and sisters may have a problem with it. They may start to question whether this Christian thing saves them. They might look around and decide “well these people are doing these messed up things so I think they’re wrong and Jesus really doesn’t save us. We, as Christians, do have to be aware of how we affect other people. Can we do certain things? Yes, they might be sinful and we need to confess and repent, but we’re still saved. But if we do these things without any concern of how they affect others, then we are not serving those around us. We are called to be faithful servants and to do, or not to do, things for others so that we can disciple them and help them to grow and mature as a Christian. When we give power to silly things, like eating sacrificed animals to idols, we give that idol power that it just doesn’t have. We make it out to be something when it’s actually nothing. So we don’t get caught up in that. But if we make it tougher for a brother or sister in Jesus, then we aren’t faithfully serving and we should sacrifice for the better of someone else’s conscience. We should follow Jesus’ example, His sacrifice for us. We don’t, as Dr Luther said, want to create discord and contempt. We want to act in a way, in many issues, that others will be built up and strengthened in their relationship with Jesus. For this week, read all of 1 Corinthians 8 and read Romans 13, which is a lot of the same discussion. Are there things that you are doing in your life, that may be making it tough for non-believers or immature Christians? The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

Sabiduría en un mundo de pragmatismo, la “sabiduría” del mundo 1 Reyes 3 Lucas 2: 47 First St Johns

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo y todos los que que quieren ser fuertes en la sabiduría de Dios dijo … AMEN!

No sabemos mucho acerca de la infancia de Jesús, nuestra lectura de hoy es sobre el único registro que se tiene de su infancia en absoluto. Pero las lecturas de hoy son sin duda un contraste en la sabiduría. En nuestra lectura del Antiguo Testamento vemos, lo que, al menos, parece ser, una especie de acto altruista por parte de Salomón. El texto dice: “Salomón amó a Jehová, andando en los estatutos de su padre David; sólo, … “Pero también vemos Salomón poniendo un poco demasiado atrapados en los caminos de la política mundial. Se casó con una hija de Faraón. Ahora bien, esto es contrario a la Ley que Jehová dio vuelta en el Pentateuco, los primeros cinco libros de la Biblia. Eliezer Shemtov escribe: “La fuente primaria de la que la prohibición de que un Judio se case con un no-Judio se encuentra en (Deut. 7: 3):” No casarse con ellos (los gentiles), que no dará su hija a su hijo y no tomarás a su hija para tu hijo “.

La razón de esta prohibición está claramente en el siguiente versículo: “Porque él va a llevar a tu hijo descarriado de Mí y que servirá dioses extraños …” (“dioses ajenos” pueden también ser interpretados en el sentido de esos ideales y ‘ismos’ que no se ajustan a los dictados de la Torá, …) 1 vemos Salomón conseguir un poco atrapados en los caminos del mundo y olvidar lo que Jehová les había dicho que hiciera. La Biblia de Estudio cronológico escribe: “El matrimonio es un medio eficaz para la creación de alianzas entre las naciones antiguas. La esperanza era que uno podría tratar más amablemente con los familiares que con los extraños. No hay mayor evidencia de la importancia de Salomón entre los países vecinos sería que para registrar su matrimonio con una hija de un faraón egipcio. Como política, los faraones de Egipto no dieron sus hijas a los reyes extranjeros. “2 El pasaje de 1 Reyes 3: 1 nos dice:” Salomón hizo una alianza matrimonial con Faraón rey de Egipto. Él tomó la hija de Faraón, y la trajo a la ciudad de David … “(ESV) Además, el pasaje nos dice que” … el rey fue a Gabaón a sacrificar allí, porque ese era el lugar alto principal. Salomón usó para ofrecer mil holocaustos sobre ese altar “(1 Reyes 3: 4). Esa es una impresionante sacrificio! Pero ¿por qué Salomón hacer una ofrenda allí? El Arca de la Alianza, el tabernáculo estaba en Jerusalén. ¿Por qué no hacer sus sacrificios? La tradición de las religiones paganas era hacer sacrificios en “lugares altos”. Más tarde, en 2 Reyes, el escritor señala: “Y el pueblo de Israel hizo en secreto contra el Señor su Dios las cosas no rectas. Ellos construyeron para sí mismos lugares altos en todas sus ciudades, … “(2 Reyes 17: 9) Hay 75 versículos en el Antiguo Testamento acerca de” lugares altos “y todos ellos condenan el hecho de que Israel adoró en” lugares altos “. Ya en Levítico Jehová dice: “Y destruiré vuestros lugares altos, y derribaré vuestras imágenes, y pondré vuestros cuerpos muertos sobre los cuerpos muertos de vuestros ídolos, y mi alma se abominará.” (Lev 26:30) Doesn ‘t parece haber ninguna duda de que hay! Está claro que Israel no es el uso de “lugares altos” para la adoración de Yahvé. Sin embargo, es en Gabaón que Yahvé viene a Salomón en un sueño y le dice “Pide lo que te daré.” Salomón ciertamente dice las cosas correctas. Habla de cómo Jehová fielmente amado padre de Salomón David y David amaba a Yahvé. Salomón reconoce que Yahvé ahora lo ha hecho rey de Israel, y por lo que parece que Salomón realmente entiende por qué está donde está. Sus palabras están justo en el mensaje: “Dale a tu siervo un corazón con entendimiento para gobernar a tu pueblo, para discernir entre el bien y el mal, porque ¿quién podrá gobernar este tu pueblo tan grande” Salomón sabe que Israel es el pueblo de Yahweh, que sólo Dios hábilmente puede gobernar y Salomón parece entender que él ha sido puesto allí para gobernar con fidelidad como Jehová lo ha colocado allí.

Salomón fue sin duda brillante, Israel se elevó a la altura de su poder bajo Salomón. Se convirtió en el reino más poderoso de la región, era rico más allá de la imaginación. Se dice que Salomón no hizo uso de la plata para decorar cualquiera de sus edificios porque el oro era tan común. La Reina de Saba viajó desde su reino africano de tomar en la sabiduría de Salomón. Pero con toda la sabiduría, el poder y el material bendición del mundo, Salomón hizo demasiado enamorado de su poder mundano y lo hizo todo lo necesario para mantener su poder y riqueza. Él ya no confiaba en la sabiduría de Jehová a gobernar a Israel, pero confiaba en la sabiduría del mundo. Él construyó su poder mundano al casarse con mujeres de muchos reinos diferentes: “Pero el rey Salomón amó a muchas mujeres extranjeras, además de la hija de Faraón: moabita, amonita, edomita, de Sidón, y las mujeres hititas, … Él tenía 700 esposas, princesas y 300 concubinas. Y sus mujeres desviaron su corazón. “(1 Reyes 11: 1, 3) El escritor de Reyes señala:” Jehová había dicho a los hijos de Israel: “No contraer matrimonio con ellos, ni se ensayarán con usted , porque ciertamente harán inclinar vuestros corazones tras sus dioses “. Salomón se aferró a ellas en el amor “Más inquietante Isho’dad escribe:”. La razón de esa prohibición era no sea que [sus hijas] podría hacer que sus hijos también se prostituyen a sus dioses “3 Todas estas mujeres de diferentes partes del mundo,. éstos a Salomón un gran hombre en el barrio. Todas las naciones que lo rodean entienden su poder debido a todas sus esposas y alianzas. Vieron su poder como resultado de estas alianzas, y no como resultado de lo que el Señor había previsto para él y lo hicieron a través de él. Porque Salomón confió en el poder en el mundo, comenzó a ignorar Yahweh y confiar en los “dioses” de sus esposas. Eso resultaría en un desastre para Israel, que pasaría de ser el gorila de 800 libras, que dividida, pobre, constante lucha interna y, finalmente, sería invadida y su gente asesinados o deportados a países extranjeros. Sólo podemos imaginar lo que Israel habría sido como si Salomón y los reyes posteriores habían seguido fielmente Yahweh.

Mientras Salomón parecía venir aparte debido a su sabiduría, vemos que Jesús también comenzó como sabio. Salomón era joven cuando fue concedido gran sabiduría por Dios y, desde luego, ya que Jesús es Dios, Él tenía una gran sabiduría desde el principio. Demostró que la sabiduría desde el principio. Los maestros del templo, los hombres que han pasado toda su vida estudiando Torá “se admiraban de su inteligencia y de sus respuestas.” Esto sería como un niño de doce años de edad hoy en día ir a una reunión en la Escuela de Derecho de Harvard y “sorprendentes” todos los profesores ya está. Es sólo que no iba a pasar, los maestros del templo probablemente tenía un conocimiento más profundo de la Torá entonces los profesores de Harvard tienen de la ley.

La diferencia es la siguiente. Mientras que Salomón llegó a pedazos como escribió en el libro de Eclesiastés: “Vanidad de vanidades, dice el Predicador, vanidad de vanidades! Todo es vanidad. “Todo es inútil cuando seguimos la sabiduría del mundo, todo sólo se rompe. Pero con Jesús: “Y Jesús crecía en sabiduría, en estatura y en gracia ante Dios y los hombres.” (Lucas 2: 52 ESV)

Lo vemos a nuestro alrededor. La gente se llena de sí mismos debido a su poder o sabiduría o la riqueza. Ellos ya no confían en la dirección de Dios, confían en lo que está a su alrededor. Ellos confían en el mundo y su propia comprensión y al final, como Salomón, se encuentran con que todo era inútil, que no hace ningún bien a nadie, si algo causa daño y destrucción. Por otro lado, Jesús ciertamente no llegó a ser rico o poderoso, ni ninguno de sus discípulos. Sin embargo, lo que dejaron fue una iglesia que sigue sirviendo, edificar y animar a la gente de Jesús. La vida de Jesús terminó en la cruz y lo que podría parecer en la pérdida y la derrota, pero Él venció a la muerte. Jesús resucitó de entre los muertos para darnos la promesa de la vida eterna. No puede haber mayor contraste, la mundanidad y la derrota de Salomón, tan lleno de promesas. La santidad y la victoria de Jesús, que vino al mundo sin nada, vivían una vida que el mundo diría nada y, sin embargo, nos da la promesa y la esperanza de Su en este mundo y también en la eternidad.

Salomón falló, confiando en el mundo. Jesús triunfó confiando en la esperanza y la promesa de Dios. Ya que estamos en el comienzo de un nuevo año, vamos a tomar un giro diferente en nuestras resoluciones del Año Nuevo y realmente pensar en lo mucho que nos hemos alejado de el plan de Dios para nuestra vida y de confianza demasiado en las promesas del mundo.

¿Qué podemos hacer en nuestras vidas para volver a dedicarnos a Dios y su voluntad para con nosotros y comenzar a mirar las cosas en nuestra vida que son demasiado acerca de riqueza, el poder, la comodidad y muy poco acerca de la vida en Cristo, por nosotros y por todos los que nos guía el Espíritu Santo para testificar a.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, guardará vuestros corazones y vuestros pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Shalom y Amin.