Tag Archives: Christian community

Christians are faithful servants, at church and the workplace

I have really appreciated Patrick Morley’s book “A Man’s Guide to Work”. Along with Gene Veith’s books, these make some great observations about our faith life in Christ being as much a part of our Christian life as church. Too often we, may, be at church on Sunday, then Monday in full world’s mode in our work life. It is difficult to distinguish our faith life and our work life, we should be integrating them when we are really compartmentalizing them. We can’t continue to do this, we have to stand up as Christians in the workplace especially when the world continues to marginalize Christians.

Part of that effort needs to be in terms of how we actually work. Too often we fall into the world’s mold of mediocrity, we do what we have to do by spending the minimum amount of time and effort on our part. Clock hits 5pm and we’re out the door? At the minimum we are being paid for 8 hours, it better be 8 and maybe five minutes more, at least. Wasting time and effort is not a good stewardship witness to our employer or our fellow workers. We can certainly be an example that, as Christians, we are serious about our work life and want that to be a witness to Jesus too.

Morley makes an interesting observation on the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25: 14-30 (p 31) to show that we have been entrusted with our work/vocation by God too and mediocrity is just not acceptable. Quoting Morley: A wealthy man has three employees. To the first one he gives what is about $60,000 in today’s money. A meaningful amount of money.

Like any of us, if we are entrusting money or any other asset to someone else what are we expecting? For that person to make money for us, n’est ce pas? If they don’t and granted quite often they don’t, then we are not going to be satisfied and we really shouldn’t be. To the second employee he gave $24,000, again a material amount of money. To the last he gave $12,000. Still a material amount, but five times less than the other guy, apparently this employer kind of knew something, and you know what, Jesus knows about us and what He’ll trust us with, but the employer still entrusted the employee with a substantial amount.

Whether it’s the end of the month, quarter, half-year, year-end, the employer comes back and is looking for their reports. Now the first two guys, wow, they doubled the employers money. Wow! We would all take that kind of return now wouldn’t we? Hopefully both of those guys are Christians and since the Lord is relating this parable, I’d like to assume they not only made that money by honest means and, to go even further as we should as Christians, with integrity as a witness to the Lord. Don’t want any Bernie Madoffs here.

Now the last employee, he decided, for whatever reason that well he was afraid, he was lazy, he didn’t want to fail, blah, blah, there are always excuses. Is that what you want when you get your report from someone handling your money? For that matter, do you want to be the guy always making excuses. No on both counts, you want a respectable return, I’m sure you’re paying this person and now they’ve just handed back to you a respectable amount of money and said “see, I’ve kept your money safe for you.” Ya, well, I could have probably found a cheaper way if I was just looking for safe. But that’s what we get for so many people in today’s world, “well at least I didn’t lose anything”. Brother I could have opened a 2% CD and gotten a little back, with you all I got was grief and aggravation. Morely quotes “The Message Bible” quoting Jesus as saying: “…And get rid of this ‘play-it-safe’ who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.” You know what Jesus is serious about what we do.

Yes I’m sure there are those out there who are utterly horrified that Jesus would be so harsh. Hmmmm, you mean the guy who was tortured, beaten, nail to a cross, humiliated and left to die, that we should expect to only give Him back, at best, mediocrity? He gave His best, but it’s OK, I’m not even going to give you back anything respectable. A bagful of beans for the man who gave His all. Shocking, right? But wow, we do it all the time. We won’t go out on a limb for Him, we can’t even sacrifice a tiny little bit of our precious dignity to step out and tell someone all about Jesus and what He has done for me. Oh, no, the guys on the soft-ball team might think I’m kind of a twit while they’re swilling beer.

It’s about integrity and being serious. Too much of the world is about going through the motions, maximizing what’s in it for me, in the third employee’s case, it was about minimizing his time and effort and making more time for that beer swilling softball game, that’s just so much more important then integrity at work or integrity in Jesus.

Yea, maybe all the cool kids try to show how cool they are by ripping off their employers, standing around when you could be doing something (oh that’s not my job). What makes you think it was Jesus’ job to go through all He went through for us? As those who are faithful to Him who has been so faithful to us, how can we not give our best in everything we do? I know, I get it, sometimes it does feel like you’re running on fumes, and Jesus is there to care for you in the difficult times as much as He is to motivate us. We certainly can look to Jesus for motivation in whatever we do, but mediocrity, lack of integrity, trying to get more than you give are not acceptable to Him who gave all. As Christians we are to be the stand up guys, and you know what, you will be misunderstood, you will be mocked by your co-workers, but they will also have a model that they can’t deny. At some point it is on them, is this a game where you keep being mediocre or is it for real and it is all about your best effort and how you serve your organization, your fellow workers, your family, your community, your Lord and Savior. Ya, go ahead and mock, but I’m going with living my life to the best of my ability in all the areas of my life. For those who want to lead that mediocre life, I really don’t understand how you can expect the best from others and how you can look yourself in the face. But you do. Let’s be great Christian brothers and strive to go far above what anyone expects. You will fall short, it won’t always work out the way you planned, but no one can say that it was for your lack of trying.

You are welcome to come and discuss further, your suggestions about building a group that is looking to be faithful to Jesus in our worklife are welcome. Right now we have a small group that meets at the coffeeshop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in York, Pa. We meet on Wednesdays at 10am, all are welcome, park right behind the church at 140 W King St. I will even buy you your first cup of coffee! See you there.

Serving and Faith Luke 7: 1-10 First St Johns May 29, 2016

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

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The observance of Memorial Day is about those who have served in the United States military and have died as a result of that service. I had ancestors who fought in the Civil War. One returned home after suffering serious injury, he lived a few more years, but his life was definitely shortened by wounds in military service, therefore someone who should be remembered and honored on Memorial Day.

The United States’ highest military honor is the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s not a requirement, but the Medal of Honor is usually presented posthumously, that is the recipient died as a result of the action they took to be awarded the Medal of Honor. According to Wikipedia the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,471 members of our military. “The first Army Medal of Honor was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott during the American Civil War for his role in the Great Locomotive Chase. The first African American recipient was William Harvey Carney who, despite being shot in the face, shoulders, arms, and legs, refused to let the American flag touch the ground. The only woman Medal of Honor recipient is Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War surgeon.[1]” Of the number awarded there are only 76 living recipients.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to any member of the military who is so qualified. The next level are the service crosses; the Distinguished Service Cross for the Army, the Navy Cross for Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, the Air Force Cross. Interesting how our second highest military honors are crosses. The posthumous rate for the crosses is not as high as the Medal of Honor, but is still significantly high. How appropriate is it that for many who sacrificed themselves to often rescue or protect others, that they should be awarded a cross, the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for all of us.

One particular mission in Afghanistan early in the War on Terror resulted in a few people being awarded the Navy Cross. Probably more than any time in the military history of the United States Special Forces, all branches of the military are required to have a Special Forces unit, have been utilized in the War of Terror to rescue civilian and military persons and to also perform covert U.S. operations and  to assist host countries in various military operations. There is a Special Forces prayer that is quoted in Lt Col Oliver North’s book “American Heroes in Special Operations”. The prayer is: “Almighty God, Who art the Author of Liberty and the champion of the oppressed, hear our prayer. We, the men of Special Forces, acknowledge our dependence upon Thee in the preservation of Human freedom. Go with us as we seek to defend the defenseless and to free the enslaved. May we ever remember that our nation, whose motto is “In God We Trust”, expects that we shall acquit ourselves with honor, that we may never bring shame upon our faith, our families, or our fellow men. Grant us wisdom from Thy mind, courage from Thine heart, strength from Thine arm and protection by Thine hand. It is for Thee that we do battle and to Thee belongs the victor’s crown. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN”[2]

In one of the first actions in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Petty Officer Neal Roberts, was part of a unit to be inserted by helicopter into a mountain top area known as Takur Ghar to engage Taliban. During the approach the helicopter was hit by ground fire, engine fluids started pouring over the inside of the helicopter. Petty Officer Roberts lost his footing and went out the back of the helo: “…His buddies watched him fall about ten feet to the snowy outcropping below.” As the Chinook wheeled away from the mountain, the rest of the team watched helplessly as Roberts came under heavy enemy fire. The last they saw of him, was returning fire with his squad automatic weapon, attacking a superior force and going it all alone…”

“A drone was sent to observe and sent back video of Petty Officer Roberts fighting off the enemy for nearly an hour, first with his automatic weapon and then his sidearm until he expended all his ammunition and grenades. He was finally overrun and killed, becoming the first Navy SEAL to die in the war on terror …”[3]

I have interacted with a lot of military and also civilian public safety. They realize that they don’t work a 9-5, punch in/punch out job. They’ve seen and had to deal with situations of life and death and sometimes inhuman acts done against people. Death is a reality to most of them and unlike most people, they are very aware of their own mortality. Too often their attitude towards God, is often, like most people today, think that they’re doing good works and that will punch their ticket to heaven. Many though want to know about God, I’ve had many uplifting encounters with military and public safety people. Often they want to know how God can permit such violence and injury. This has given me the chance to talk to them about sin. God gave us free will, which means that we are free to sin and we do, quite often. For those who are not Christians they are dead in their sins, they don’t know anything other than sin. They might bargain with God and try to do works they think will earn their way. My answer is that we can’t make a bargain with God. He provided one way, Jesus! That’s a great thing. Too often I see people floundering around trying to make their own way to God and they know in their heart that it doesn’t work. We need to be in relation to God through baptism and in Jesus. Anything else is our own works and ends in failure in trying to reach up to God. But there is no mystery about it, Jesus, God the Son, told us very plainly: “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Our way to God is obvious, it is not a struggle to be saved. Being saved might be a struggle, but in Jesus we are helped through our struggles and helped to maintain our faith through His grace, that we are living in His will.

In the same sense a Roman centurion is not your garden variety pushover. He had enormous power and authority. He certainly could have been U.S. special forces today. A Roman centurion could pretty much act as he felt necessary, for the most part was trusted to do what was necessary and his word would have much more influence than others. The centurion in this pericope would have been classified as a “God-fearer”, someone who was not Jewish, but who acknowledged the God of Israel as the supreme Creator, Sustainer of the universe. The Hebrew name was yirei Hashem[4]. They did not convert for various reasons, but they recognized the monotheism of the Jewish God. A Roman did not reach the level of centurion by getting involved with charlatans. Certainly an important point of this pericope was to show that Jesus’ power and authority was recognized outside of Jewish circles and was a precursor of the rest of the world recognizing Jesus as God as His disciples/apostles went out into the world. The centurion saw Jesus as having authority as the Roman did. If it was Jesus’ will to have something done Jesus had only to give the word. Chrysostom writes: “…the reason he had not brought him in [his house] was itself a sign of his great faith, even much greater than those who let the patient down through the roof. Because the centurion knew for certain that even a mere command was enough for raising the servant up, he thought it unnecessary to bring him.”[5] Chrysostom also notes: “While on previous occasions he [Jesus] had responded to the wish of supplicants, in this case he rather springs actively toward it.”[6] Obviously the Jewish leaders in Capernaum saw His authority also, they seemed to have no problem intervening with Jesus on behalf of the centurion. For those who deal with the very real world of life and death, they don’t necessarily know Christ as Savior, I’m sure the centurion would have reservations about making that level of commitment, but they usually know the real thing, their life often depends on it. Often as they go along in life they are led by God to know true salvation, again they finally see the authenticity. We honor those who have made a sacrifice for us, we continually hold our Savior Jesus in our heart and in our prayers as He who made the ultimate sacrifice for those who are His to have eternal life in the resurrection. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

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

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Medal_of_Honor_recipients

[2] Lt Colonel Oliver North USMC (r) “American Heroes in Special Operations” p 8

[3] Lt Colonel Oliver North USMC (r) “American Heroes in Special Operations” pp 44-45

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-fearer

[5] Chrysostom “The Gospel of Matthew Homily” quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Matthew 1-13” Manlio Simonetti p 161

[6] Ibid

Let’s step up and really live our Christian life in the workplace and in church

OK, now I’m a little spun up.

Innocently watching the Red Sox, enjoying a rare day, as a Pastor, of no actual work to do. Yea, I spent 20 years in corporate finance, I actually had three day weekends, OK, not often then either, but a lot more than as a pastor. Trying to catch up on the 90 books on my Kindle and then I read this.

The following is from Bill Diehl, a Lutheran layperson who was an executive with Bethlehem Steel. I am a Lutheran pastor, don’t know if the same “Lutheran” as Mr Diehl and yes this was written well before I became a pastor. Furthermore I will stipulate that too many of my fellow pastors I have known have only been students or pastors. Too many have no meaningful experience in anything else and yes I’m a little unusual. But still, this got under my skin:

“Bill Diehl, as noted earlier, is a former sales manager with Bethlehem Steel, active Lutheran layperson, author, and leader in the FAW movement. Diehl has been sharply critical of what the church professes about lay ministry and Christian vocation versus what it actually does to affirm and equip those called to live out their vocation in the marketplace. In a comment that could easily have come from a typical FAW participant of today, in 1976 Diehl expressed his sense of abandonment from the church (note that a careful reading of his words also reveals concern about all of the Four E’s of ethics, evangelism, experience, and enrichment):In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to oth…”

“In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never offered to improve those skills which could make me a better minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate the faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career[as a sales manager]. In short, I must conclude that my church really doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.14” Maybe Mr Diehl if you were going to a serious church, which I bet you’re not, you would be living a serious Christian life. I get the distinct feeling that Mr Diehl might think he knows about Christian discipleship, but I doubt that he really has the discernment and understanding of what genuine Christian discipleship is, because he went to a church that was all about a patronizing Christianity himself. A little discernment to a lot of know-it all types of all stripes would go a long way.

I have been busting my crank to reach out to people in the corporate world since I started in ministry. I now have over 5 years of ministry experience added to my 20 years of corporate experience and 29 years of military experience. Add to that a Masters of Divinity degree (many of these people don’t have more than an undergraduate degree in anything) Whenever I try to reach out to someone in the corporate world I usually get this patronizing pat on the head that I somehow don’t know what I’m talking about. Hmmm, my bachelors is in business administration  from Lesley University (a over 100 year old private college in Cambridge, Ma.) I started my corporate work life at 21 years old, working for Chase Manhattan Commercial Corp., then went to Motorola, Fleet National Bank, a year working for the Massachusetts State Treasurer, Robert Half International, Town and Country Fine Jewelry. In my corporate finance position, I was responsible for handling monthly seven-figure balances, dealing with some of the largest corporations in the United States. In addition 29 years in the Coast Guard reserve being involved in serious search and rescue cases, law enforcement and military operations. I served in a deployable unit in Naval Coastal Warfare being deployed to do security in Vieques and force protection in Spain. Carried a gun on a regular basis, yes even as a reservist, served four years active duty in War on Terror. When I returned to my corporate job my very large corporate employer, was less than, well let’s just say cordial or receptive. Soooo you can spare me patronizing little pats, I will compare my resume and life experience with Mr Diehl or anyone else for that matter.

I have made repeated attempts in various ways to get a ministry that Mr Diehl might have found helpful. This does not include “The Christian Businessman’s we’re calling to tell everyone what they’re supposed to do, because we’ve just got it altogether group”. There’s way too much of that too. I was part of a group back in Boston that was a rather high-level group and they were there to genuinely live their life in the workplace. I believe very much in this.

Having said all this, I am  wholeheartedly inviting you to take on this challenge. No I’m not an expert in this area. I would love to write a book, because frankly I think there are very few books that have as much perspective on this subject as I do. There are a lot of books out there on the subject, I think I can add a lot to that discussion, maybe for my PhD dissertation. In the meantime, if you are serious, I double-dawg dare you to take me up on this challenge. Is it going to be perfect or a whiz-bang production already pre-packaged? No. I am a parish pastor, believe me I have plenty to do. I also serve as a York City, Pa. police chaplain. I will compare my challenges to you anytime. Let me know the next time you get called out of bed at 2am for an accounting emergency. I’ve gotten called out to tell someone their child was killed, to provide comfort to a victim of a crime and a suicide, (a lot of less dramatic, although compelling times also)

I want to do this very badly. Yes, I do want this to be part of growing the congregation I’ve been called to. And before you get all hoidy-toidy about; “you probably just have an elderly congregation, no one with any real substance.” It’s not big, nowhere as big as it should. But it serves an inner-city constituency with a number of people with meaningful corporate experience. Maybe it’s time to leave your nice, pretty, big-box church and do some actual Christian discipleship and get over the idea you should have some nice pretty church and go to one that was built to the glory of God. A church that is a genuine growth opportunity to make a meaningful impact in a difficult environment. But frankly, you won’t. People who work in offices are used to and expect the amenities and they’re not really interested in stretching themselves for the Lord. “Hey I show up every other Sunday and put my $5 in the plate.” Oh yeah, isn’t that just special of you, a real put it on the line Christian! (Yea I can be patronizing too.)

One of our accomplishments has been to start and operate a 100 watt FM radio station, 106.1 in case you want to listen,

Home

take a listen if you have time to drag yourself away from your big dinner. (I did go to some pretty nice places in my corporate life)  Add in a Grief Share group, an employment support group, food bank, fitness center, all this we’ve done on a shoe string in the last five years. So think about that Mr “I’m a big-time corporate type”. If you feel that you should be living your life as a Christian in the workplace, you are right. I did my best, and yes I will admit with little pastoral help. But think twice before you give me a patronizing little pat just because I have a clerical collar on. I’ll compare my life experience to yours any time.

So, you going to take me up on this? A re-start challenge that will be a bigger challenge you’ve ever faced and for the Lord, Creator, Sustainer of the Universe our Savior Jesus Christ. How cool would that be to get a real group of Christian men and women together to put a real group (sans the pretentiousness, I’ve seen it done) to rebuild a grand old ministry, based on genuine Christian discipleship, to take back with you on Monday morning to live your life as a Christian 24/7.

I shouldn’t have asked, no one will take it on. Big corporate tough guys, talk a good game but you will just go back to your pretty, big-box churches where you can talk a good game, but mostly just sit back and be entertained. Yea…I tried, at least I’m back on the ground again and I’m living my life out according to God’s leading and not according to what makes me feel good.

We have an, albeit, small group that meets Wednesday mornings at 10am at the coffee shop at the corner of King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa. You’re all welcome, and if you have better ideas; breakfasts, special evening events, weekends, I’m all ears let’s do it, seriously, let’s do something.

Picking a Fight with Jesus John 8: 48-59 First St Johns

[for the audio version click 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 and are creations of, saved by, sustained by and inspired by the all-powerful eternal God-head said, … AMEN!!

“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” At least for the guys, there were things that you could say on the playground, or wherever for that matter, that if you were looking to pick a fight you would say this. Straight to the point, these are fighting words in first century Israel. Same kind of principle on the playground, or in a locker room or in a bar. Kind of in the same vein with someone saying something about your girlfriend/wife, mother. The people who were confronting Jesus at this point were looking for a fight. They had people in His time, as now, who had nothing better to do then go out and look for fights, and many of the people who confronted Jesus were just those kind of people. They were just looking for a fight and they saw Jesus then, the same way many people see Him today, sort of a cream puff, a Rabbi therefore He must be a Poindexter/intellectual, because bullies like nice soft targets and that’s what these people were, bullies and that is what Jesus encountered so many times in His incarnation.

Now bullies expect their targets to pretty much just turn and run, this kind of mentality really can’t cope with reality, they’re not about to get into a deep discussion. They are the ones who today who sit around and smoke marijuana, drink too much alcohol, and just want cheap amusement. That is a lot of the world. They had no idea what they were talking about, probably didn’t even know who a Samaritan really was, or a demon for that matter. But Samaritans at that time were, in popular opinion, the most contemptible, dirty, inferior, any kind of pejorative you could label them with, that was the Samaritan to the Jew.

Samaritans are part of Scripture in a few instances and always labeled with a negative connotation, or they feel themselves are somehow low-grade. Recall the woman at the well. Samaritans really did not have the kind of animosity towards the Jews that the Jews had toward them. So the woman at the well, John 4, was surprised that Jesus would even acknowledge her existence, let alone talk to her or, horrors!!, touch His water with her hands. Jesus, obviously, didn’t feel that kind of animosity toward her, and she became one of the earliest evangelists for Jesus.

These guys picking a fight with Jesus and they feel justified because obviously Jesus is not one of them, another sure sign of bullies, and they can’t tolerate anyone who would be so obviously different. Ya, much like the world today. Talks a good game, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, just trying to pick fights in order to look good with their little gang, but has no intention of getting caught up in any kind of deep/intellectual discussion. They can’t function at that basis and they’re just not going to.

This is Trinity Sunday, the day when, if it’s not clear yet, we make exceedingly clear just who Jesus is. Jesus is God, God the Son. He is one of three of the infinite, transcendent, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal God head, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All of them God, all equal and individual and all in unity in the Godhead, one God. There is nothing more powerful in the universe, then our almighty God! So when Jesus is standing in front of the town buffoons or when we are reading His words 2,000 years later, the Creator of all creation is telling us what we need to know. If we treat Him patronizingly and just kind of play around His words, we are playing with fire and moving ourselves away from Him who is all powerful, moving away from relationship with Him and moving toward giving the world the same power that He, the Great I AM, really has. When we trust the world’s power be it in business, education, government, entertainment, we are trusting in something that will not only fail us, but will lead us to destruction. You can do that, but it’s simply the fast track to Hell. When, not if, the world fails you, it will leave you bitter, angry, and lost, out of connection with the real God.

You will have discussions with people to the effect that Jesus never said that He was God. That is nonsense, it is a completely disingenuous denial of what Jesus said. For those kinds of discussions, this is one of the passages that you can refer to.

The men who sat down to hammer out the Athanasian Creed had to contend with the same disingenuousness that we deal with today. The difference is that they wrote this in 325 AD, the Christian church had only just become the official church of the empire, but there were still plenty of people around who believed in all sorts of different gods/idols and there were even all sorts of people who called themselves “Christians” who were all over the map as to who Jesus was/is.

There were a lot of oddball ideas even for Christians. For example there should be a chart in your bulletin, it’s in Latin, but all it says is that Pater/Father, Filius/Son and Spiritus Sanctus/Holy Spirit, are/est, in the middle, God. They are non-est, not the other person of the God head. There are some people out there today who try to make the case that each person of the Godhead is their own individual trinity, making it into a twelvinty, I guess.

At this point, 325 AD, something we talked about at the Men’s Network breakfast yesterday, Constantine had reunified the Roman Empire and had made Christianity the official religion of the empire, this was over all the other belief systems of the time and there were a lot. Was Constantine a nice, all-on board Christian man? Ehh probably not, he was, eventually baptized, his lifestyle was not that of the exemplar Christian. Many would say that it was a pragmatic, even cynical move on his part to make the empire unified in Christianity. His mother, Helen, was a devout Christian woman and many would claim that she kept him in line. Point is, that, perhaps, thinking he could make the empire more unified, he finds that there are all sorts of flavors of Christians who are just as contentious with each other as with other beliefs. Since Constantine is, effectively, the head of the empire’s church, he decides he doesn’t want the conflict and forces the real Christians to sit down together and hammer out the tenents of their beliefs in order to unify Christians. That kinda/sorta worked to his purposes, but more importantly it did motivate the Christians of that time to really work out what being a Christian was and more specifically, based on Scripture, articulate who Jesus is, that He is true God along with the Father and Holy Spirit. You will find another insert that gives you the entire Athanasian Creed. You will see how much they tried to define, the finite trying to define the infinite, the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The reason we have this passage for Trinity Sunday is to, again, point you to one of many passages where Jesus does declare Himself to be God. While He doesn’t straight out say “hey I’m God and you guys need to get with it”, He does make references that to first-century Jews say, without question, “listen, I’m God.”

Any good Jew of the time would, without qualification, say that he was a child of Abraham. Ok, that’s fine Christians would say that they are in the spiritual line of Abraham too. Jesus, however, says sure Abraham is great, but Abraham was only a man. In fact, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Woe, wait a minute Abraham lived about two thousand years before Jesus, how could Abraham know about Jesus and why would Jesus dare to presume to claim that Abraham rejoiced about Jesus’ day? There’s only one way that could happen and that is if Jesus had been there with Abraham, told Abraham what was going to happen and knew his reaction. The only being that was capable of doing that was …? God! But to make extra special sure that the Jews He was talking to, knew exactly what He was talking about Jesus said: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Dr Paul Arand gives a good explanation: “But what does it mean for God to say ‘I AM’? Often this is translated as Lord. And rightly so. He is the one who rules, He is the one who rules over all things. There is none who is like him. But why is there none like him? And why does he rule over all things?… It is because he is a more powerful god than all the others?”

“Here is where we need to connect the dots of the narrative. Why is God Lord? Why is he the ‘I Am’? Because he is the Creator! Here we would do well to remember that in Scripture, the title ‘God’ is not a reference to an abstract deity or a philosophical concept of ultimate being or anything like that. It is always rooted in a narrative. … To put it bluntly if you created everything … you are God.’ … So to confess that Jesus is God is to confess that he is the Creator of all things. And for that reason He rules all things.”[1]

You have to understand what is being said between Jesus and His antagonists in terms of first century, Jewish Israel. Not in the context of 21st century English speaking Americans. The people Jesus was talking to knew exactly what He was saying, the penalty for blasphemy was stoning and that is what they started to do, stone Jesus. Jesus made it perfectly clear to them that He was saying He is God, without any doubt. I lived before Abraham, Abraham knows who I AM, and I am calling myself by the name that God told Moses. I AM God! Jesus is God, the Trinity is the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Creator, sustainer and savior of all creation. On this Trinity Sunday go back to those journals, look through John’s Gospel, Jesus makes other references like this. Remember those references, because someone will come to you and tell you that Jesus isn’t really God, how will you answer that person?

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

[1] Dr Charles Arand   “Concordia Journal   Spring 2016 p 139

Our Power as Jesus’ disciples in the Holy Spirit Acts 2: 1-21 May 15, 2016 First St Johns

[for the audio of this, please click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and those who pray come Holy Spirit, come, they said … AMEN!!!

Grace is the most important thing that separates Christianity from the other world religions. All other “religions” impose requirements that their believers must achieve to have, not the assurance of salvation, but the chance to be saved. Grace for a Christian is that God has done everything necessary for us to be saved. As long as we faithfully follow Christ, by being baptized, attending worship, taking His Body and Blood, hearing His preached Word from Scripture, you are saved, solely in Jesus and by what He has done for us. There is nothing we can ever do in order to “earn” grace, receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus.

Another thing that distinguishes Christianity from other world religions is that God, the one and true God, has actually been in the world. God Father and Son are now in heaven. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in glory as our great high priest to pray for us and intervene for us. But Jesus was very publicly in the world, all His major acts, His miracles and teachings, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, all events that were done in public for all to see. Again unlike the other major religions of the world.

God the Holy Spirit remains in the world, with those who have received salvation in Jesus: ESV 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, ESV 1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The Holy Spirit is part of us in order to guide us, in order to continually point us to Christ. On this day that we remember as the Day of Pentecost, we often refer to it as the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ, the place where His disciples grow and reach into the world. The word Pentecost is from Greek, “pentokoste hemera” meaning the fiftieth day, which is the fiftieth day after Passover. It was an ancient Jewish holiday known as the festival of weeks. It would certainly be reasonable to construe that the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), jointly chose this day to, again, bring to public attention, a major move of God. On this holiday there would be Jews from all over the known world in Jerusalem to observe the holiday. As was read this morning; Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Cretans, Arabians. As it is today, all these people continue to speak much different languages. We see in our first reading the reason why they spoke different languages. Then, as now, there were a bunch of smart guy people who decided they should put themselves at the same level as God. Just relatively recently the world had been destroyed because of the presumption of man. Now man would be separated from each other by language in order to keep them from conspiring together to try to do what Satan tried, to usurp or put themselves on an equal footing with God. Yes, I know, they could not possibly have achieved this end. But the point is that neither Led Zepplin in our time, or these ancient people could build a tower, or a stairway to heaven, but the arrogance of man will often bring quick and direct action from God. At some point God decides to let man just wallow in his sin and let it drag man down to death. Certainly God could have let them build the tower and then it would inevitably collapse, due to their ignorance, and kill many people. Mercifully God chose to save a lot of lives, but to also separate those sin-filled presumptuous people and hopefully keep them from collaborating on more presumptuous, arrogant acts that would also end up in physical or, worse, spiritual death, either way creating separation between God and man. The people continued to sin and act arrogantly. Certainly we see their acts when God Himself comes into the world to give them an opportunity to direct them from their evil, self-destructive ways. God the Son came into the world in order to proclaim as visibly as possible who He is and that He is the only way to life and eternal salvation in Him. As we know, people chose to reject that plea.

That does not mean that the Godhead retreated into heaven and left man to try to figure it out for themselves. Yea, we see a lot of attitude from people, but God continues to do whatever it takes to bring us to Him. And He always does all those things in a very public, very obvious way.

Jesus gives His disciples, then and now, such touching and compelling words of encouragement in our Gospel reading. He’s leaving them, He knows that, they don’t. “ESV John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ESV John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The Greek word that is used here for “Holy Spirit” is para,klhtoj( in older translations of the Bible you will see the Holy Spirit referred to as paraclete, the Greek means “helper, intercessor”. John is the only one who refers to the Holy Spirit in this way, it’s not used in the Book of Acts. In the same sentence Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit directly, pneu/ma to. a[gion( while we give it what seems a rather benign meaning, “spirit” the Greek word meaning blowing/breathing, and also wind. This may sound rather charming, it’s very much intended to be very powerful, in terms of the breath of life, yes, life giving. Tell me what the word “pneuma” says in English, here’s a hint, has to do with tools, … pneumatic tools. If you’ve ever used pneumatic tools, you know a compressor pumps hard to build up a lot of pressure so that the tool, that’s connected to the compressor, can perform various tasks, ever been near a jack-hammer working? We’re connected to the Holy Spirit.

The disciples don’t have a lot of context for what Jesus is telling them. They are probably thinking, “aren’t those nice, comforting words”, but at best have a vague idea of Who/What the Holy Spirit is, but on the Day of Pentecost, they would have a very powerful/lifegiving demonstration of Who the Holy Spirit is and just a slight idea of the kind of power the Holy Spirit is capable of.

Raniero Cantalamessa writes: “Origen informs us that the pagans of his day used to challenge Christians by saying: how can one man, who for good measure lived in an obscure township in Judea, fill the world with the perfume of the knowledge of God, as you Christians say, referring to 2 Corinthians 2:14? Origen’s answer was that Jesus can do this because he has consecrated a large number of disciples with the Holy Spirit and sent them through the world, and these devote themselves to saving the human race by living in purity and righteousness and by teaching the same doctrine as Jesus. Thanks to them, ‘the precious oil sprinkled on the head’ of the true Aaron, who is Christ, runs down ‘onto the collar of his robe’, referring to Psalm 133:2, that is, it spreads throughout the body of the Church and, through it, to the whole world.”

“We are those disciples sent throughout the world to spread the ‘sweet smell’ of Christ! To succeed, we too must ‘shatter’ the alabaster vessel of our human nature: we must mortify the works of the flesh, the old Adam which acts as an inner barrier to the rays of the Spirit…”[1]

We have mini-Pentecosts today! Ok, we don’t have 3,000 people being baptized at once. But in each baptism that is done here, we see the power of the Holy Spirit being demonstrated, that someone is being born again in Christ. When we accept someone into membership of the church as we do today, we add a new person to the Body of Christ, His church. It is the power of the Holy Spirit descending on that person, that person, having been indwelt by the Holy Spirit at baptism, is now a living example of the Holy Spirit. They are a container of the immense power of the Spirit, we all are as confirmed members of Christ’s church. As possessors of such power, the question becomes what do we do with that? How do we disciple those who are new in that power, so that both you and they will live that life of power in the world. We have too many cold and timid “Christians” today, we need to be renewed in the pneumous, the immense power of the Holy Spirit to stand as strong and equipped disciples who point the world to Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Raniero Cantalamessa  The Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus p 18

Leftovers for God? Is that a smart way to go?

Yea the Blackabys have inspired me to get this written, it’s been sitting for awhile, but the blanks have been filled in. It’s about how we give God the leftovers, if that. I’m not innocent of this, as I lay person I didn’t have an appreciation for what goes on at a church while I’m not there and didn’t feel as motivated as I should to give the very best. The Blackabys point out”When the Israelite gave an offering to God, it was no longer their own, it belonged entirely to God. God would only accept the best that people could give. It was an affront to almighty God to offer him animals that were damaged or imperfect in any way. God Himself set the standard for sacrifices when He offered His own Son as the spotless lamb.”(Experiencing God Day by Day Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby p 268).

Certainly to the point they write “You do not serve Him in your spare time or with your leftover resources.” Yea, as a pastor I really do feel it. Too often “hey here’s five in the offering plate, great service.” Try to imagine how that makes me feel. I really do try to make worship as uplifting and yes challenging as possible. Compare that to the therapist/counselor who charges, just you, a lot more. I’m there to push you to grow in Jesus, to make the best for Him for what He’s given you and to also push myself. I have some great folks who help me, but too often you just hear about how the big box church has produced some massive show for about one-tenth your total annual budget for one Sunday.

But for the most part, it’s about people’s soccer games (a general reference to all the other things going on Sundays. Really?! Sunday? Morning? seven days in the week, you can’t reserve half a day, read give or take three hours?) To be there to lift up praise and worship to God Father, Son and Holy Spirit who created you, sustains you and gives those in Jesus the promise of eternal life? How about the other folks that do rely on church for encouragement, often times just to see younger people and interact and encourage others. Few if any there to encourage them, because they’re working, they’re traveling, they’re at sports or some other event, they’re at home because they had a tough week. Yes, maybe three Sundays out of 52 (not including weekday worships, which I miss even more rarely), I am there the rest of the time really trying my best. No I’m no Chuck Swindoll and I’m always looking for feedback. However I’m also working hard to faithfully worship as millions have for 500 years and millions do around the world today. That is a faithfulness that can’t be matched by any of our current fads, that just have to be on Sunday morning.

I get it, people do travel, people do other things. But clearly the priority is no longer church, worship, their pastor, their fellow congregants. People tell me all the time they’re going to meet with me, they’re going to come to church. Gotten to the point where it seems, unless of course someone wants something, that about 80% of the time what they say is bupkus. So much for integrity. My wife says they just tell you what you want to hear. Really how about just tell me the truth? It’s far more disillusioning when someone tells me something that they will do and don’t, then just telling me the way it is. I’m a big, tough, ugly, gnarly guy, you’re not going to hurt me with the truth. But wow, when people say they’ll be there, do something, support something and don’t because there is something more interesting going on elsewhere, it really does beat you down and yea does hurt. Really what I do isn’t interesting and challenging?

Hey, to be sure I’m not going to stop. There are Christians through history and all around the world who are going through far worse than I am and I’ve made promises to the church, to the congregation to do as much as I can. I feel very strongly the need to be able to tell someone I did all I could, probably more for Christ and His church. Yes, there may come a time when I may have to sacrifice a lot more. For now I can look you in the face and say I have every intention of being faithful to my vows, for working hard 6+ days a week. For those who have become church members, you might also want to remember that you made vows to be a member to support the church with your time, treasure and talent. From 13 year old confirmands to those who come to Christ later in life. Way too many just pooh-pooh those vows. (As far as time, for most of you a two day weekend is a given, for me, it’s a holiday. If I have one day that is truly about me and my family, that’s even pushing it. I can’t remember the last time that I had a three day weekend. Hasn’t been in the last year.)

How about it? For those who have never gone, maybe you should get over yourselves and see what it’s all about. For those who have a “sawtooth” pattern, if that regular, maybe you could step it up about 50%, maybe everyone could do a little more in all respects to the time, treasure and talent? “But I’m so busy!” I will compare Day-Timers with anyone out there, you’re not that busy. Giving the best to God? I’ve had people who haven’t been in church in decades, members, who call me and expect that because of some, usually tragedy, that I’m supposed to now jump for them. There are people who’ve supported that church for decades, so that I could be there, but you didn’t, now I supposed to jump for you? And for those who like to give me that patronizingly little pat on the head “oh it will all work out”, no, no it won’t. And you won’t like it.

I am privileged to work with a handful of people at my church who can say they do. But for the most part, the rest just give left-overs and for too many people pretty scraggly left overs. So yea, this is a challenge, especially to the guys. Let’s see you step up and really lead your family in Christ, start by showing up, listening to what needs to happen, being that disciple of Christ that your wife, children, community, employers will be forever grateful for, as well as your brothers and sisters in Jesus, you will be great and I will be there to do whatever I can to make you that guy. Lose the lame excuses and step up to things of eternal value.

I am holding on to you John 16 First St Johns May 1, 2016

[please click on the above for the audio 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 that the great I AM is holding on to them said … AMEN!

I AM holding on to you, I AM holding on to you, in the middle of the storm I AM holding on I AM. For those who are convinced that I’m a stodgy fuddy-duddy, who just can’t get contemporary Christian music, I assure you that is completely inaccurate. I will compare my library of “contemporary” Christian music going back over twenty years to yours any day of the week.

One of the newer artists is David Crowder, the last Winter Jam we went to he was there and he really is great. I think he gets it a lot better than a lot of Christian musicians and yes, sad to say, there is a lot of junk out there.

One of his newest songs is titled “I Am”, if you listen to the song without really “hearing” it, it will sound as if me, you, the desperate sinner whoever that is, is almost frantically proclaiming that he is holding on. Sort of like me on a real roller-coaster. I don’t like roller-coasters, and when I am on one, I am probably thinking about how much “I am holding on”. But that’s not the point of the song and it is a really good illustration about our relationship with Jesus.

When Crowder says I AM holding on to you, who is the I AM? …  Yes, Jesus. In the middle of the storm I AM holding on to you. We have that assurance all the way through as to who it is that is really holding on. Jesus says, in our reading, “…whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you.” Now that is a huge assurance that in Jesus when we ask we will get what we need. More than that, when we think we’re asking in Jesus’ Name and we’re not, we’re asking for something that is not going to build us in Jesus or glorify Him or witness to the world for Him, we won’t get it. Why? Because He is holding on to us, even when we have a bad idea or motivation, He is holding on to us to protect us from ourselves and the world. Between John 6: 35 to 51, Jesus refer to Himself four times as “I AM the Bread of Life”. I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the door, I AM the water of life over and over. The people listening to Him all knew exactly what He meant, Yahweh told Moses that His Name is I AM. They understood His reference to the bread that Yahweh provided for their ancestors in the desert. They understood their need for that physical bread, and also the bread that “strengthens and preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.” That Jesus was saying I AM the bread. He was telling them that He is God the Son, the only one who could give them what they need to preserve them in their daily lives, but also for spiritual nourishment, to strengthen, preserve and prepare them to life eternal in the resurrection, as He was going to be shortly resurrected. The difference being our resurrection will be in the perfect world of the eternal earth.

Crowder writes “this is my resurrection song”, saying again that it’s about what Jesus did, He who died in order to save us from our sins, who was perfect, perfectly holy and God the Son, the only One who would be sufficient to pay those sins and in doing so gave us the hope and promise that we need in order to know that we are saved. Not just saved but also given the very visible, tangible evidence of our salvation. The perfect Son of God, tortured, mocked, humiliated, killed so that our sins are completely paid for. Not what we did, but entirely what He has done and continues to give us the assurance that He has provided everything necessary for us to live in this world in Him, and as it says in the Revelation reading: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” That is, we will be in the very presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the resurrected, perfected, eternal world.

Through all of our readings today, it is being made abundantly clear, who’s we are and in Whose hand we are and will always be.

Luke tells about Paul who is headed east, toward Asia. The Holy Spirit gives Paul a dream of a man in Greece, Macedonia, asking Paul to cross from Asia Minor to bring the Gospel message to Greece. Paul’s journeys have been entirely in faith to Jesus who knocked him off his horse on the road to Damascus. While Paul was taking the initiative to spread the Gospel, it’s obvious when we look at all he had to endure that it was the great I AM who was holding on to him, guiding him in his ministry. Paul had the things that he was told by the apostles in Jerusalem, by men who had been Jesus’ disciples during His incarnational ministry. He had his encounter with Jesus, he certainly had his experience of being raised to the third heaven. But the Holy Spirit was leading him into places that had never heard of Jesus. Paul didn’t have a New Testament to show people and help them to see who Jesus is. But Jesus was holding on to him, even in new places where Paul had to trust entirely in Christ. There were no churches, no clergy, no funds to live on, no Bibles, no radio, internet or television. Just Paul and maybe Timothy, Barnabas, Mark, maybe Peter caught up to him. Much more powerfully it was the great I AM who promised to hold on to him, did hold on to him and lead him to where he needed to be to build those churches, establish the Christian leaders who would be the catalyst of Christianity to grow around the entire world.

Finally He gives them the ultimate hope and promise; “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” It’s not up to us to overcome the world. We’re not going to be able to overcome the world, Jesus will. The world will ultimately become so corrupted, sin-filled, beyond the possibility of any kind of rehabilitation or redemption that it will be destroyed. Yea, I guess many people would wag their finger saying how mean that will be of God. “Why can’t God just leave us alone and let us be happy?” You hear people regularly ask. Because the world they envision, filled with destruction, despair, anger, intolerance will become an intolerable place to live, even to those who think that complete independence from God will form some kind of utopia. It won’t, the world today, all around us, is filled with despair, hopelessness. We see people substituting that hope with greed, drugs, sex, alcohol, things that separate us, divide us, even cause us to confront each other in anger, violence and destruction. The only thing that will unify us, bring the world together is the peace and hope of Christ, who through Him all creation came into existence. Jesus’ promise in our reading that yes, we will have tribulation, but in the things that He has promised us, we will have peace, we will have true life and life more abundant, our life in this world and especially in the life of the resurrection. The great I AM is holding on to us.

Crowder’s song may sound like the desperate floundering of someone who is just barely holding on, but it really is about the assurance that no matter what we’re going through, being led to some unknown to witness to Jesus, to serve others, going through the storms of life, that the great I AM is holding on to us and not the other way. He holds on to us even when we try to pull away, when we ask in His Name He is faithful to keep holding on, always for our good in Him.

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

Together or individually, which do you think works? John 20: 19-31 First St Johns April 3, 2016

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 strive to be excellent together with all those in Jesus’ church said … AMEN!!

“We hang together or most assuredly we hang separately”. The church metaphor is to the extent that we hang together spiritually, each conceding part of how we think things should be and agreeing that the church is the Body of Christ and that we are all served best when we act as the Body of Christ and come together to serve Jesus and each other. We hang separately when we try to have things our own way, decide the church is all about us, and let the whole thing implode, hang separately, because we put our desires ahead of everything else.

Today’s opening thoughts in your bulletin put it this way in terms of being there for the group, in our case the church, the Body of Christ: “Thomas will forever be known as a doubter. In reality, he should be remembered less for his doubts, which the rest of the disciples also shared, and more for his failure to be present when Jesus first revealed Himself risen from the dead. No one grows in faith by failing to assemble together with the people of God around His Word and His Table. God grows our faith and deals with our doubts not with distance but with the intimacy of Jesus’ presence through the Means of Grace. The Spirit works through the Means of Grace, and there our doubts give way to faith and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection.” Just to make sure we are in agreement, “The Means of Grace” are … Baptism, you can’t even understand or accept what we are about in the church if you’re not born again in baptism. The Lord’s Supper, you cannot take the Body of Christ for the nourishment of your body and soul, if you are not part of the Body of Christ as a confirmed member in Jesus’ church. The preached word, what the pastor says in his sermons is not going to make sense to those who have not been born again, have not been strengthened by Jesus’ Body and Blood and have not come together as the Body of Christ in order to serve each other and those in the world. We can make it up as we go, or we can fuss and decide our way is the best way, instead of trying to build, grow and mature, we chose to tear down and destroy, for the sake of our own personal gratification.

When people start deciding it’s all about their personal opinion, like Thomas, and not about the group, yes the team, team implies working together for the same goal, for the church that goal is to be there as a witness to Christ so that others might come to know Jesus as their Savior. When the church is no longer on that course and has decided that it is personal preference, the Holy Spirit can’t guide something that’s not moving in one unified course. It becomes DIW, Dead in the water. It’s still floating, but it’s not making way. In my time as a pastor, I’ve observed a rather strange construction, that the world has talked us into, because I can find nothing in the Bible to justify it. Instead of letting, even helping, the church push on people, challenge them, encourage them to grow and mature, there are too many people who think “team” means the lowest common denominator. Too be sure, a team and the church for that matter, is only as strong as its weakest link. To many people, the logic goes this way, instead of trying to strengthen the weakest link, we weaken all the other strong links. No! An excellent team, and this goes for the church too, is certainly to care for, strengthen and encourage the weakest part of the team. But that doesn’t mean to give up on the mission that the Holy Spirit puts in front of us in order to somehow let the weakest part of the chain let the entire construction come apart. This often includes people who are here, but frankly just don’t care. Paul cut Mark loose because he failed him once, Paul wasn’t going to let his mission for Christ suffer because he couldn’t rely on Mark. If Thomas was concerned enough to be with the rest of the disciples, then when they told him what the rest knew was the absolute truth, Thomas would have been a lot smarter keeping his opinion to himself, instead of getting all pompous and patronizing with his unfounded “opinion”. Ever hear the phrase; “felt like a penny waiting for change.”? I can imagine that is exactly how Thomas felt when he was confronted with the very presence of the resurrected Lord. Thomas does make quite a confession: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas knows he was very wrong and to his credit makes an absolutely unconditional whole-hearted confession who Jesus is to him and that ought to be the confession of all of us, all the time. As an excellent team, we certainly care for the weakest. But just as in a military unit, you don’t put the weakest in the place where they are going to fail. The weak, the wounded, the fearful are put somewhere that they don’t get other people hurt. They certainly aren’t making important decisions, or expected to perform important functions, they and the rest of those concerned know enough to keep them where they aren’t going to destroy the rest of the unit, or cause others to fail in their important functions. We certainly don’t let others drag the team, the church, down to mediocrity and compromise. You may not want to go out and reach the world for Christ, but you better not make it difficult for others who do want to perform the mission of the church. An excellent team and that is what the church should strive to be, we have a Savior, a Father and Holy Spirit that exceed the highest levels of excellence, a Savior who took on all the evil, the degeneracy, the weakness of a cold, dark world and overcame it to give us the assurance of new life in the resurrected life of the resurrected perfect world. Can we strive to be anything less than excellent for Him who strove in all excellence for us? An excellent team, the church, pursues excellence and I have no doubt that the apostles were guided as an excellent team, by an excellent coach, that coach being,… the Holy Spirit. Can’t get more excellent than that. Seems I’m always running into people who love to tell me how they don’t need the church, they can do it all by themselves. Really? Are you about being that public witness to Christ, doing whatever you can to pass on Christianity, the love of Christ to the next generation? If they were at all serious about what they were saying, they would realize how much they need Christ’s church. But far too many are just not serious about Jesus, so why would they be serious about His Body, the church? Seems there are also plenty of those same people in the church. They say things, but they are just not serious.

One of my last big cases in the Coast Guard a 60 ton fishing boat was DIW about 50 miles off the coast, it’s generator failed. That is a very bad situation for any boat. It was February, the air temperature was about 17 degrees and the wind was about 30miles per hour. The seas were about five feet, not bad, but definitely a difficult situation. Try to picture this. There is no power in the boat. They are using the radio on batteries, and the batteries soon died. It is black, there is no light around you, it was about 11pm when we reached them. There is no heat, it’s cold and getting colder. You can’t go anywhere. Five foot seas and whatever the current was is pushing you around in a completely arbitrary manner. There is no one else around you. You are trusting that the Coast Guard has the means to reach you. But you’re still out there waiting, and in that time all kinds of other things can happen. If you go in that water, no one is going to reach you in time. Now if the Coast Guard is sitting around and everyone is debating about how this should get resolved, everyone has an opinion, from Group Boston who was in control of this case, down to the crewman on the boat, how do you think that’s going to end? That boat is going to be lost, the more we debate and discuss, the more those arbitrary winds, waves and current are going to take that boat. To the point where we just won’t be able to find it, by the time we decide with all the pushing and pulling that boat is going to be somewhere else and even the best navigator is going to be very challenged to factor in wind, waves and current to have an idea where that is. That is what the church is experiencing these days. Our generator is the Holy Spirit. But too often we take Him off line, decide that we’re going to debate and discuss every piddling point, not trust in those who have been trained to figure out how the church should function and while we’re doing all this hemming, hawing and debating, there is a very cold, dark world that is being pushed around by all kinds of negative waves, winds and currents, and if the church ever figures out what it’s about, it can’t seem to find where the world is and how to reach it  in time. This is the absolute truth, just to extend the illustration. We went out the door of the station at 10 pm. On military bases, 10pm is taps. That means that while we were walking down to the boat house, taps was playing on the station speakers. The name of the boat, was the Grim Reaper. Because we acted as a team, from Group Boston, about 15 miles away, the station leadership and the boatcrew we found the boat fairly quickly and managed to get it towed back, even in some challenging conditions. Five guys went home that morning, got a hot meal, went to sleep in a warm bed. It’s only because everyone trained for long hours, day and night for years, learned the facts, not their opinions, were not just there to rescue, but were eager to rescue, knew their roles in the process of saving, and did what they were trained and expected to do. That is what the teamwork of the church produces. We reach out to people who are very much dead in the water, they have no clue where they should be, what they should be doing. They are being beat down by the wind, waves and current of the society around them. They are in the middle of darkness, cold and the chaos of all the stuff going around them. Sure, you can be a Thomas, the rest of the team huddled behind locked doors and windows, cowering at every sound, every bump; “harrumph, harrumph, I don’t care what you guys think. Jesus wasn’t here, it’s all about me and I’m not going to believe anything you have to say, so harrumph, harrumph, I’m going to do things my way, and we’re all going to cower together completely DIW hoping that we will survive.” That’s no way to live, and it’s certainly not going to help you to survive in a cold, hopeless world.

Thomas decided that it was about him and what he saw, or didn’t see. Jesus gave him the option; “do you really need hands on proof? Go ahead, touch Me.” Thomas realized he needed to trust his brothers and we need to realize that we need to trust and rely on our brothers and sisters in the church, the Body of Christ.” Let’s make up our minds to keep Thomas’ confession on our hearts and to put excellence in what we do in the Body of Christ as Jesus’ team, His disciples.

The community of God’s people, saved by grace, functioning through grace, through the church where we seek to lift up Christ for ourselves, for each other and for the world, collectively, through grace to expand Christ’s church, so that all will see the church and the hope and promise of Christ through His church. While we are individually saved by grace, “the ideal of grace is not lived in isolation, but in community, the church.” The church striving in excellence and grace in Christ for mutual support and encouragement, can only effectively influence the world in that excellence and grace that Jesus gives us.

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

God’s will, not the popular will or giving in to adversaries

I’ve been in business, the military, for the most part, there are generally accepted best practices and that’s what you follow in order to conduct business or execute military tactics. Sure you don’t always follow the blueprint, you do want to take advantage of different circumstances.

Ministry? Wow! Things are just all over the place, people tell you what they expect, and they are not interested in any other consideration. It does astound me how people who have been part of a church for decades, know so little about church, about the Bible, about doctrine. And before you give me this “doctrine isn’t important, blah, blah, blah…” It’s all about love. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Have ever really stopped to think what you’re talking about? Doctrine is what keeps us doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we’re doing it. Way too often the church gets off into sentimentality, emotionalism, what makes me happy, “well Jesus would want me to be happy!!” Really?

The Blackaby’s have some good advice “…If you concentrate on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God’s activity. Don’t base your decisions on what people are doing. They can prevent you from carrying out God’s will (Rom 8:31)”. People just aren’t interested in why, why not we should, shouldn’t do something. That is what doctrine is about, developed over decades/centuries, by the greatest minds. In the Lutheran Church that is over 500 years and have had some incredibly great minds. But that doesn’t matter, no one’s interested in coming to me to find out what they should do, they come to me to tell me what they want and what I should do. That’s backward and destructive.

Now of course the quandry is this, if I’m not “cooperative”, as I’ve been accused of, then how do you resolve the issue of people leaving, running out of money. Well, the Blackaby’s certainly address that. Paul was being strongly confronted in Ephesus, riots broke out (Acts 19: 23-41), no doubt people were telling Paul how he was messing up, should give up, doesn’t have it, needs to leave. Paul took a lot more abuse then I probably ever will. He knew he was being faithful to God’s will and stuck with it. I need to do my best to discern God’s will, not worry about what others are pressuring me to do, not what is the popular move, not give in just because of adversaries and opposition and stick to what I’m doing.

Furthermore people just don’t seem to get that the way they “want” things, not based on any other consideration, because frankly they don’t know what they’re doing or what any of it’s about, they don’t care, just want it their way. How do you somehow pacify people who want to make the rules, but have no idea of what they’re doing. Further they don’t understand that no one else is really interested in their world-view, no one is going to follow their agenda, because it’s not anyone else’s and most people can tell it’s just wrong. Again that’s what doctrine is about, not some guys opinions, but people who have worked hard to try and reconcile what we are taught in Scripture and how we have to deal with that as a group. Too many people honestly think that they can just make it up and because that’s what they want, based on nothing other than their emotions, sentiments, feelings, that everyone should just follow along. It’s amazing, people today really aren’t looking for truth, what should be, they are looking for what I want and to somehow justify their completely unfounded opinion.

Just because I’m being opposed and deserted doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It does seem to mean that there are a lot of misguided, opinionated people around me, another reason why this church was failing when I got there and it is up to me to stay faithful to what God is leading me to do in ministry and to trust Him with the results. His church will prevail, Jesus promised us that, it will prevail on His terms and in His time. I am responsible to do my best to carry out His will in my little part of the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for Paul and the church as a whole, even up to the present. No reason it should be easy for me.

Meekness and following the world’s lead Matthew 5:5

The world tries to shut the church up, by saying something to the effect: “Doesn’t Jesus say “the meek shall inherit the earth”? So that means you should just shut up and mind your own business because that what meek means.” Yea, No! And the last thing on earth we should be doing is listening to the worldly/secular about the Bible. They take a few isolated phrases (oh yeah, judge not blah blah blah…), think they really know what they’re talking about and throw those phrases around. As always, the secular is about an inch thick and a mile wide. Problem is too many in the church, who also don’t know what they’re talking about, who call themselves Christians but don’t read the Bible, don’t truly serve, just cave in to the secular do what they’re told and even have the chutzpah to tell others in the church what they should and shouldn’t do. Liberal Christians dismiss way too much in the Bible, have this sort of half-baked, groundless spirituality and try to sell that as real Christianity. This folks is the height of dishonesty, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about then do everyone, yourself included, and keep your mouth shut. Presuming to teach the church about Christianity is the height of arrogance, is called the sin of presumption.

Now I’m going to quote the Blackabys at length because this is the best explanation I’ve seen of what “meekness” according to Jesus, in the Greek, the original meaning actually is talking about in Matthew.

“The word Jesus used had a different meaning. His picture of meekness is that of a stallion that has been brought into subjection to its master…The stallion has lost none of its strength or endurance; it has simply turned these over to the control of the master.” (Experiencing God day by day Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby p 235) Meekness is in terms of submitting to God and His will, not the world’s. We have the power of Christ, yes we are supposed to be winsome, welcoming, encouraging. No the other extreme of the image of the church being “well you better just get everything together right now and be the perfect person, yada, yada!!” Well that’s wrong too, seems there’s always this middle that Jesus wants us in and we  either think we’re supposed to be just weak and stupid or we let the world convince us that we’re being bullies by proclaiming Christ. The middle is often too hard for people, yea even Christians. Most people like nice and cozy black and white. My experience in the corporate world, the military, government, school, church, there is no such thing as a black and white. There’s this place where you are supposed to leave yourself open to the Holy Spirit’s guiding and most of the time it’s not some nicey/nice vacuous cream puff. It’s hard to stand up for what’s right, I get it, but like the old saying “if it was easy everyone would do it”. Being a Christian isn’t easy, Jesus told us there is a narrow road, a narrow gate to salvation. Because the Holy Spirit guides us we know what that is and that is what we have to tell the world, even when obnoxious bores are telling us to shut up. They will, because they can’t tolerate the truth, they live in their own little fiction which leads to destruction and they don’t want to know the truth and they don’t want anyone else to either. “Meekness is not submitting to everyone around us, it is taking our direction from God. Meekness means a life submissive to the Holy Spirit…” Read the Bible, when people were standing for God they were not bashful about it. If anything they were very much asserting the truth of God, the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, the truth of the Bible. And yes quite often, be it an Old Testament prophet, Peter, Paul, John they were not bashful and they were very assertive. I’m not saying for anyone to go out of there way to be obnoxious, but again that big gray area. You must know what you’re talking about, be serious about it, get past this gloopy, sweetey Christianity, assert that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, that we do need to understand that and repent of our sin. We need to be baptized, not our decision, but because the Holy Spirit has led us, we need to be instructed in the faith so that we can function as knowledgeable Christians, we need to regularly attend worship and grow in our fellowship and Christian maturity, we need to regularly receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus and we need to be open to the leading of the Spirit to witness to those around us about Jesus.

It basically means to be mature, strong, knowledgeable baptized sons and daughters of God, we call that being a “disciple” of Jesus. Just as anyone else in the Bible is. To be any less is to cave into the world, and to be faithless to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ saved us, He is the ultimate truth, the world is a lie, especially when it presumes to teach us something that it doesn’t even understand. This idea that a Christian is supposed to be a malleable cupcake for the world to push around is just not Biblical and it certainly is not going to serve anyone.