Tag Archives: Christian

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.

God is merciful, but is paying attention Ezekiel 33: 7-20

[for the audio please 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 live and turn from their evil ways said … AMEN

We are in the season of Lent, we should reflect on what our life is about all year long and certainly repent at those times when we have sinned and failed God. Reflection, repentance, are the primary focus of Lent. Today’s readings emphasize that. Most of the Bible is very straightforward, very real in the day to day lives of the people it describes. Many people like the mysticism, the mystery of many other beliefs, just for that reason and dismiss Christianity as being a little too prosaic and not mysterious enough. I disagree, the realness of the Bible, from beginning to end, make it totally relatable, real world, it describes the darkness and sinfulness of a fallen world, and it describes in very gritty, earthy ways many of the people in the Bible. There was little mystical about David, Elijah, Peter, they were very manly-earthy-gritty men, even Jesus. The Bible is not about being mystical, mystery, that so many try to make it out to be, but in some respects it is. There are compelling mysteries in Christian theology: The Trinity, the atonement of Jesus, the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection. There are mysteries that we may never understand, but that does not diminish the very straightforward realities of who Jesus is, how we are saved, what the Father does in our lives everyday as we are guided by the Holy Spirit. There are mystical parts to the Bible. Daniel can be, Revelation certainly is, parts of Isaiah. Kenneth Stevenson and Michael Glerup write: “Ezekiel also leaves its mark on the New Testament. The image of Jesus as the Shepherd (Matthew 18: 12-14; John 10: 11-18) finds its inspiration in the prophecy about the shepherds and the sheep (Ezekiel 1: 5-10). Revelation bears several significant traces of the influence of Ezekiel: the vision of the chariot from heaven with the four living creatures (Ezek 40-48; Rev 21-22) … and each book ends with a vision of the new temple.”[1] In our reading today Ezekiel is pretty straight forward, and according to Stevenson and Glerup; “…his teaching about judgment seems at times harsher than the message of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”[2]

Through Ezekiel, Yahweh is pretty tough on Israel and He could be saying essentially the same thing to today’s culture. David Peters writes: “You are no better than the Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite [reminds me of the Monty Python line Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberry –mine] You were such an ugly baby they left you out to die.” (Ez 3: 7-9) Peters goes on to write: “This is pretty rough talk coming from the Lord. God compared them to the people for whom they had the least respect – the Samaritans and the Sodoms. This sarcasm attracted the people’s attention and they protested that God was being unfair to them. God replied, “You say, ‘The Lord is being unfair in his assessment of us?!’ Listen to me! You are the ones being unfair not I.’” (Ez 18:25) In a contest as to who is fair, God will always win.”[3]

The most poignant part of the lessons for me is when Ezekiel takes his foot off the gas in the middle of the reading to remind his audience: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his way and live, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ez 33:11) Who is the “house of Israel” that God is talking to? … Yes, us, we are Israel. Jesus is Israel, we are in Jesus, even 500 years before Jesus, God, through Ezekiel, is talking to us and almost pleading with us. I don’t want to see people die in their sins, I don’t want to see people lost in Hell for eternity, that is horrible, I want you to fear me enough, to know who I am, what I have done for you and for you to stop resisting and find peace and rest in My grace. God is often practically pleading with us, stop it, get over this ridiculous, rebellious, attitude that only leads to death! We should be in a state of reflection, repentance and prayer all year long, but we have been given this time of Lent to specifically reflect on the reality of the state of our sinful nature. Not as a way to beat you down, but as a way for you to truly live “I am the way the truth and the life…” Jesus tells us. His way, life and life more abundant in the resurrection. The world’s way is sin and death. We may think Ezekiel is being overly harsh, but God, through Ezekiel, is desperately trying to steer us away from our rebellious and sinful nature and find true life, hope, promise and eternal life of perfection in Him. Is there any doubt that when someone repents, stops his rebellious ways that the Father will be joyful? Luke writes: “ESV Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Because we can’t have it our way, we act as if God is the enemy. We live in a “gotcha” culture. It’s not about what you do, the great ways you serve, the things you accomplish. There are people out there who genuinely think they are serving by waiting in the weeds in order to “gotcha” on the most trivial issues and show what a truly horrible person you are. The world tries to project that mind-set on to God. Nothing can be further from the truth. The “gotcha” God wants is the times when you realize your sin, repent and mourn in ashes over your sin and realize all that He has done to save you and give you eternal life. Is there any doubt in your mind that the Father, on His throne, will be smiling when you realize what has been done for you? Sure He knows who He has saved, but in the middle of the joy of heaven, there will be the Father’s smile of satisfaction, that His plan in that person has come to pass? In the parable of the talents Jesus tells us how our Master, God, “Enter into the joy of your master.” (Luke 25: 21, 23) The world tries to convince us it’s an “us against Him”.

By the same token, He isn’t playing. You want to take the wide road into the wide gate, do it your way? You can’t expect God to be pleased with your destructive behavior. He wants to save you, Jesus came in order to be the salvation of the world. The Godhead knows that most of the world faces destruction, death, the eternal wrath of God, and why shouldn’t they who have rejected God? God takes no pleasure over the death of the wicked, but they made their choice and rejected God. Ezekiel writes: “Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’, yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right,…he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ez 33: 14, 15). Through the Holy Spirit, the Father has made the path to salvation quite obvious and doesn’t make us jump through hoops to be in Him, as all other beliefs do. He gives us pure, unqualified grace in His Son Jesus. Jesus did the hard work and the heavy lifting. Jesus died on the Cross the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. God made the road to salvation quite obvious in His Son’s life, death and resurrection. There is nothing we can do to earn it, to justify it, to deserve it, it is given to us to have life and life more abundant.

In our Gospel reading people are asking Jesus if the people who died because of Pilate or an accident somehow deserved such violent deaths because they were bad people. The people asking were somehow “good” and those that died got what they deserved. Jesus replied: “No, I tell you; unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Not that a tower will fall on all of them, but Jesus was saying, keep doing what you’re doing and you will all die in your sins, you will be condemned to the eternal fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We do not have a “gotcha” God who is just waiting to condemn us. John 3:16 for God so loved the world that He gave us His Son to give us a sure and certain way to salvation, everlasting, perfect life in the resurrection. Trust in Him who does so much for us, turn and repent and know that in Him, in His church, in our baptism in Him and in the Lord’s Supper when we eat His Body and Blood, in Jesus’ life and sacrificial death, He has saved you to that eternal life in the resurrection. He wants what is best for you and waits to give it to you. There is no joy in the death of a sinner, there is joy in the man and woman who repents and receives the free gift of grace in Jesus.

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

 

[1] Stevenson and Glerup in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Ezekiel, Daniel” p xx

[2] Ibid p xiv

[3] David Peters “The many Faces of Biblical Humor”

Fear the world or fear God?

Seems like we’ve had it backward for a long time. Oh sure, the world can do bad, mean things to you. However, can it do anything worse than an all-powerful God who can not only allow your life to be tough here, but can just allow you to slide away from Him and into an eternal world of “wailing and gnashing of teeth”. (Matthew 13:42, 50)

Fear is just so prevalent in the world, despite all the technological advances, plenty of almost anything, fear is even more common. You see these people with their facial hair, tatoos, piercings, all intended to intimidate. What you find are these fearful little people who live in a constant state of anxiety.

The Blackabys’ point out “…Their fear hinders them from pleasing God because they waste their efforts appeasing other people…Fear causes us to stop and question what God has clearly told us to do.” (Experiencing God day by day p 34)

Just like all the other vices of the world, the ones that we are just so “free” in, (yea ask the next heroin user you see how “free” that person is. Same goes for alcohol, sex, money, power, yea sure “free”)

The question for me is how to I help people understand how real God is, how they should fear Him. “ESV Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Shouldn’t this focus people’s attention? This life is not all there is, there is an eternity. That eternity will be in Christ in the new world, the perfect life of the resurrection. Or it will be eternal separation and suffering. That is what existence is separated from God, if you reject Him, you are choosing separation, existence without the all-powerful protecting hand of God.

God does not will anyone’s death, He does not want anyone separated. But if you let your fears separate you from God, if you do not trust in His power, that He will save you from anything you are afraid of now, ultimately in the new world, then you have rejected life and allowed yourself to be separated, because of your fears and that you thought you could handle your fears alone.

I hope that you will pray that the Holy Spirit guide you from your fears, to show you true freedom in Jesus, that life won’t always be easy. But in Jesus we will ultimately overcome our fears. Say thank you to the Holy Spirit for guiding you from your fears and into Jesus.

Hallowed be His Name

Worship, that is about hallowing God’s Name. That’s how Jesus tells us to pray, “hallowed be Thy Name”. We are called to bring glory to God’s Name. As the Blackabys point out: “If, however, our actions detract from God’s reputation…We can so tarnish the name of father that we hinder other people in coming to God.” (Experiencing God day by day  Henry and Richard Blackaby p 229)

People today are hungry for God, God the Father of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and Sustainer of all. But we, as Christians, have trivialized His Name so much. Starting decades ago, Jesus our buddy, our brother, our co-pilot. How can God be all – powerful if He needs us to lead the way and He’s just there to buck us up. I can always use another buddy, God has blessed me with many, but what I really need is an all powerful God, who created the universe, controls the universe and is completely in control of how this is all going to play out and how I, as an eternal being in Jesus, will live my eternal life. The world really wants to know that God. The world wants to see Him being treated worshipfully and reverently by His people. How can they take seriously a God that when we leave “worship”, it’s about the same way we would feel leaving an Aerosmith concert. All pumped up, but not for the right reasons.

Our worship should be respectful in terms of how seriously we take God vs how much it’s really about us. We talk about profaning God’s name vs Hallowing His Name. How does a “praise band” hallow God’s Name in worship. Seems to me that trivialize God’s Name for our own comfort and amusement. How can anyone else take His Name seriously, turn to Him as the true strength against the evil of the world, the true salvation of the world, the true sustainer of the world? “Jesus is my buddy, Jesus makes me happy, it’s all about me la, la, la”. One person said they really question a song about Jesus when the number of personal pronouns outweighs anything else in the song. Me, I, ours, it’s not really about Jesus is it? It’s really about you, isn’t it? That’s what distinguishes hymns about God, they are all about God, how He is the ultimate, how we glorify Him. He is the infinite, eternal, all powerful God, there is so much to say about Him, not what we usually have now, a mindless mantra, repeating over and over some particular attribute. The attribute the singer clings to because they really don’t know all that much about God. Jesus told us: “KJV Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” [Bible works}

We are taking God, the rock of our salvation and making Him the rock and roll of the trivial. We’re trying to turn worship into a time that pleases us, not Him, making His Name common place and trivial, what’s the point of glorifying Him? After all it is all about me, right? God is a tool for me, to use or not use as I deem necessary. He’s not the all powerful Savior, Sustainer, Creator, all powerful God. He’s just something to amuse and please me. If He doesn’t serve my purposes, well there are other alternatives in our great post-modern world, things that will make me “happy”, because the ultimate goal isn’t the reverential worship of God almighty, hallowing His Name. The ultimate goal is that I “like” things and they make me happy. “We ought to pray daily, as Jesus taught us to, that God’s name be treated as holy.” (Blackabys)

Body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a First Saint Johns January 31, 2016

[for the audio version 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 are part of the Body of Christ which is His Church said … AMEN!

The Apologetics Study Bible prefaces this discussion this way: “The church in Corinth was in some degree of turmoil, and Paul wrote this letter in response to some disturbing reports he had heard from the church as well as by way of reply to a set of questions the church had sent to him.”[1]

Have to give the Corinthians credit, they did realize that they were not where they should be and took the initiative to write to Paul and acknowledge that, and ask for guidance. As Christians we could take a cue from that. It’s a guy thing, if I’m lost I’m going to keep driving around thinking I will find the way. What happens? You usually end up more lost than you started. Today’s sermon is related to the last sermon in that we are given gifts in order to serve God and serve His church. But it is more than just properly utilizing your gifts, it’s understanding that as a Christian it’s not just about me. It is about the community, community is made up of many parts, the Holy Spirit guided you to be a part of this community. All the parts of your body are important. If you do not have all the parts then you are limited in what you can do. The church is the same way and this is also about your stewardship in the church. When all the parts of the Body, the Church, are working to the level that God designed for them and placed them together for, the Body/the Church functions at its finest level and serves each other and our neighbors much more effectively. The Corinthian church was sadly dysfunctional, it wasn’t the Body of Jesus, it was each man and woman for themselves. Much like today’s world; what am I getting out of this, I do for me let everyone else handle their own life. If I’m an eye, well too bad for the rest who can’t see. Imagine First St Johns where we have those who are so gifted in so many things, and yet chose to keep their gifts to themselves. Next week is our Chili-dog/bingo bash, what if Marge decided not to share her award winning chili? We would all be the lesser for it.

Paul writes that in baptism, in that new life that we are given, we are baptized into one body. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we are or do, it matters that we are all equally brought into the Body of Christ through baptism. Likewise we all eat the Body of Christ and drink His blood, all equally, all to our soul’s health. If we are all equally baptized and share in the Body and Blood of Jesus, doesn’t that mean that we also bring to the Body our gifts that make the Body stronger?

One aspect that seems to be ignored in today’s world is the understanding of synergism. Together we are much stronger in our individual life and in the Body of Christ by bringing our time, treasure and talent together, not withholding it and keeping it for ourselves. It is the synergism of the Body of Christ that not only helps us to grow and strengthen as a person, but also as a church. I bet you that any player in the NFL would like to be on the Carolina Panthers right now, than they would the 3-13 Tennessee Titans! You can be a superstar, but if you are in it just for yourself, no one’s really going to know you and you’re sure not going to be getting a Super Bowl ring anytime soon. If you’re Cam Newton, everyone knows you and you’re probably getting fitted for your Super Bowl ring right now.

Jesus has put together His church for a time and a place and a reason. He has made you part of His church in this time and place. For a tiny band, we had a 2015 season that would make any church sing and praise! We came together as the Body of Christ and in God’s strength proceeded to make a mark for His Kingdom in this community. That is because people put aside their individual agendas and came together as His Church to work His will. We all recognized that we’re baptized and given new life in the same water as everyone who is part of First Saint Johns. We all ate the same Body and drank the Same Blood of Jesus as everyone here and stepped up to collectively and in a positive and uplifting way build the Body of Christ in York! One of you were the eye, one the arm, one the leg and all came together in the Holy Spirit’s brain, vision and guidance to bring us together to accomplish so much in bringing the Gospel of Jesus to York. If someone chose not to come together, the rest realized the importance of what was being done and were used by the Holy Spirit to compensate for those who chose to withhold their gifts. Likewise for those who chose to take and to be a drain on Christ’s Body, others were guided to work around those who were hindering the advance of the Kingdom. Ben Paynter writes in Men’s Health Magazine quoting the journal Philosophical Transactions “… that men throughout the ages have clustered in tribes to stay motivated, embrace risks, conquer pain and build empires.” The Kingdom of God is the greatest empire and we as the Body of Christ, His Church, here at First Saint Johns are an integral part of the Kingdom. We have been clustered together by the Holy Spirit so that we can motivate each other, embrace the risks that we have taken. We have conquered pain, we have overcome the obstacles others have thrown in the path of Jesus’ Church. But it could only happen because, unlike the Corinthian Church we chose to take the difficult path. The result? Many have been touched by the church to hear the Gospel. If you have been listening to the radio station, the platform that we have all helped to build, was used by Bill Stockwell to broadcast a powerful message of the scourge of heroin addiction that is having a destructive impact on the York greater community. You all here, as members of this church had an impact on the world that far outstrips anything you could have done individually. You submitted to the will and leading of Jesus and accomplished far more than you would have if you decided: “If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Everyone, even those who did not think they had strength, stamina, skill or resources, decided that they would only grow and serve each other and themselves by bringing their gifts and blessings together to serve their part of the Body of Christ here at First Saint Johns.

Okay, no one’s going to be getting sized for a Super Bowl ring, but I have no doubt that for those who came together and overcame in order to bring about such great service for the Kingdom he or she will be the recipient of great treasure in heaven. You have followed Jesus’ promise: “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Because we have come together, because we have been good stewards, because we have acted like the Body of Christ we have laid up that treasure in heaven. That treasure in heaven will make a Super Bowl ring look like something you can get out of a gumball machine.

The Blackabys write: “If you are not a part of a caring community of believers, you are missing out on what God designed you for. You are also in danger of falling into sin. You must link your life with others who are seeking God’s will. Seek to be a person who willingly joins others in carrying out God’s assignments. Strive to be a source of support and encouragement that those around you need.”[2]

Let’s grow in our stewardship. How much more can we give of our time, talent and treasure in order to accomplish more for the Body of Christ in the world? We have seen what our mustard seed faithfulness has done in the past year. What can we do this year and the next? It doesn’t have to be a huge feat, so often the smallest mercies, gifts, blessings that you bestow on a young man or woman, on just one who is less fortunate, have effects that echo through years, decades. How would the Holy Spirit guide His church to use that extra money you give now to have an impact on the Body of Christ that will ring through our community for the good of so many, for years to come?

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

[1] The Apologetics Study Bible p 1707

[2] Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 327

Keep moving, trust God to work things out

The Blackabys write: “…We tend to divide problems into two categories: problems that we know require God’s help and problems we can handle on our own.” Sort of I will handle everything God, no need for You. Ah well, in this case, I’m going to need a miracle, so You handle it.

The right answer? Ya, turn it over to God, whatever the problem is. I have to tell you, it is very freeing, and despite what we big, tough, know-it-all guys think, it’s going to work out the way God wants it to anyway. With or without me and I’m probably only going to get in the way and mess things up with my efforts.

No, it does not mean you passively sit there in our little pity puddle just hoping, “how come I always have these problems”, we all do, get over it. Or letting problems just distract us so much, dwelling on them, losing sleep over them and often letting the rest of life pass us by. Yea, we want to be in control, we want everything to work out according to our plan.

OK, guess I’m getting to the age where it’s finally hitting home for me. I can dwell on stuff, or I can keep going in the direction the Holy Spirit is leading me. For those of you who have not had the benefit of years of experience, do yourself a big favor and come to this realization faster than me; you are always going to have issues in your life. You do what you need to do and move on. Dwelling on them is not what God wants you to do. He will work them out. Sure, you are going to, usually, have to do something, but don’t get bogged down in it. There are the things that will need attention. I really have found that what needs attention I deal with, then the Holy Spirit is refocusing me, moving me where He wants me and He’s dealing with the issue.

I would even submit that it seems that it is often some kind of demonic influence that is putting problems, issues, whining and crying in our path in order to knock us off the path we’re supposed to be on. Does God give us trials? Ya, but it always seems you can distinguish between God’s trials to move us, teach us, mature us and demonic problems. The demonic always seems to be about petty nonsense, you can almost feel yourself being dragged down into some insipid silliness intended just to distract. In both cases I submit that you can almost feel the Holy Spirit moving me past the pettiness, but focusing me on what God wants me to do and to learn and not trusting in me, but in Him. I really think God wants us to push through ‘problems’, to not get distracted with the trivial.

Does that mean that some problems are going to “look” bigger more compelling? Sure. Is that more reason to get caught up in them? No. If it really is an evil influence that wants to confuse us, seems that is all the more reason to not get caught up in it. Then we refocus on God and trust that He will work it out and we get back on the track He wants us on and keep pressing ahead on His plan and goal.

Believe me, I know what it is to be distracted by what seems to be more compelling, even though I know it is more about the negative and ungodly. Resist the urge to let yourself be diverted from God’s guidance and focus on His positive influence. Keep in prayer that He will deal with the evil influence, He will.

The Blackabys (Experiencing God Day by Day p 283) end: “If you feel strong in an area of your life, beware! Often your strength, rather than your weakness, hinders you from trusting God. God will bring you to a point of weakness if that is what it takes to bring you to trust in Him. Do not despise your weakness, for it leads you to trust in God’s strength.” For a lot of us, we think we can confront the evil and demonic in our own strength and still follow where the Holy Spirit is leading us. That’s simply not realistic, why we would try to fight something far older, more experienced that can easily outsmart us, when God is there, who is infinitely wiser and smarter than any being, trying to get us to focus on Him. I’m going to stick with Him and in faith trust that He’s going to deal with all the negative and lead me to do the positive uplifting things He’s planned for me.

Gaudette, Rejoice Sunday Zechariah 3 December 13, 2015 First St Johns

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 rejoice in the hope and promise of Jesus Christ said … AMEN!

As Christians we cannot say enough, we cannot overemphasize, the hope that we have, the only true hope, the hope that comes in Jesus and I cannot imagine for the life of me, although we’ve seen it, we know people who are like why any Christian would not rejoice in the hope that we have in Jesus. We are reminded every year of that hope specifically, right now, right this time, every Christmas is the true and  eternal promise that we have in a baby, God came to us as a child. The scenario is complete, there is a young, innocent girl betrothed, about to be married to a man who, for his time, is doing well. Mary would have a godly, hardworking faithful husband. They would both care, support and love each other. And then we have the angel Gabriel, the angel who stood in the very presence of God ready to announce God’s Word to wherever the Father would direct him to go. We have the humblest of the respectable. People below the shepherds were not respectable, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, but the shepherds were invited by the multitude of the heavenly host, lesser angels than Gabriel, but still magnificent, who would also attend the birth of Jesus. There are the magi, wealthy and important in their lands. The magi were gentiles, they weren’t Jewish. Jesus was born a Jew, but He came as “true Israel”, the true Israel Isaiah had prophesied about 600 years earlier, where all the nations would come to Israel to Jesus, to salvation. That Jesus is the hope of all the world. All creation; supernatural, Jew, Gentile. Among the greatest and among the most humble are led to the salvation of the world, our Lord Jesus the Christ, Messiah, the One anointed by God the Father to save mankind.

God inspired Zephaniah to write 600 years, before Jesus’s birth. “ESV Zephaniah 3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! ESV Zephaniah 3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.”

The people of Zephaniah’s time were about to be overrun, killed or at least exiled from their homeland.

The people at that time knew that their time as a nation was about to end. It did not seem like a time to sing aloud or to rejoice or to exalt. It wouldn’t have seemed as if there was much to be joyful or to rejoice about. Yet for us, we who are baptized in the Name of Jesus, reborn into that new life as children of God the Father, we who have the promise of salvation and eternal life in the new world in Christ, how can you not be joyous about that?

Yeah, Christmas is that time with the pretty lights and the decorations and joyful singing, feasting, exchanging gifts, to be with family and friends. Yes we should be joyous, we should celebrate regularly, we have every reason to celebrate, we should. God tells Jeremiah, and ironically we refer to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet, Yahweh tells Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings. The city shall be rebuilt on its mound and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.” (Jer 30: 18-19)

Who was God talking about to Jeremiah? To us! We Christians. We should sing thanksgiving, we should celebrate. The Father said He will honor them and they will not be small. God does honor us and Christians are certainly not small. Despite some of the popular perceptions these days, Christians are the largest religious group in the world by far. God has multiplied His people, Christians.

Even in those times of trial and certainly Christians are being tried in America right now, times of trial will probably increase going forward. Certainly Israel was being tried in the time of Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Isaiah. Even in that we are called to rejoice, to celebrate. We know the world tells us it’s crazy to celebrate when things look bad, when we’re being oppressed, when we’re being tried. What does the world tell us? Be angry, lash out, be bitter. The misery loves company thing. In comparison to the people in Zephaniah’s time, Christians in the United States have so much to celebrate, to be thankful for, to rejoice in. We too often we let those inevitable trials steal our joy, keep us from celebrating.

We restrict our celebrating to the time between Black Friday and Christmas Day, the season does go straight to Epiphany twelve days later. The day after Christmas though, we’re back to the races, fighting tooth and nail through the stores. Grousing because “well Christmas really didn’t turn out the way I thought it should”. What does St Paul say in today’s reading in response to    : “Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I will say rejoice …And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4, 7) Yea even in a foot of snow in February, even in the hectic times of life, the trials, the heat and humidity of summer, the lowering darkness of Autumn, so much that the world can drag us down about and God, even in the darkest time, is telling His people to rejoice, exalt with all your heart. You shall never fear evil, rejoice always, I say rejoice.

The short name for this Sunday is “Gaudette”, it is Latin, it means rejoice. We need to be told to rejoice, we need to be reminded, nothing wrong with that. Make it a point to rejoice today! Rejoice knowing that the birth of God the Son, Jesus our Savior, our Creator, our Redeemer, our loving, compassionate, giving, Lord and God is going to be remembered in less than two weeks. At least take this time to rejoice, to stop in the middle of the season and rejoice.

You’ve all heard the Christmas carol “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Our dear friend Terry Downes posted the origin of this carol. Too often we hear these Christmas carols and they seem kind of gratuitous, platitudes, nice things to say, things we’re supposed to say for days like Christmas and to raise up to God.

More often than note the stories behind the lyrics and the music are the result of genuine trials, pain and grief that’s been endured by others. Pain and grief that should not be minimized. That we should appreciate as real world testimonies of what God has done for us, does for us, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Terry passed on this article by Justin Taylor. The story is about Henry Longfellow, a good Massachusetts boy, and his son Charles Appleton Longfellow, a grandson of one of America’s greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Charles left his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to enlist in the Union Army in the Civil War in 1861 right at the beginning of the war.

He enlisted as a private, but he impressed his fellow soldiers and officers so much that he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1863. He fell ill with typhoid fever, which was a very common problem at the time because the Army did not have very good hygienic practices. Charles was sent home for three months to recover. Shortly after his return to duty he was shot and nearly paralyzed in battle. Charles’ father Henry traveled to Washington to be with his son. Henry had recently lost his wife, her dress caught fire and she died the next day from the injuries that she received. This man had lost his wife, his son had been wounded and still might be paralyzed as a result of the wound, who was living through all the tragedy and violence of the Civil War. While he was with Charles he was listening to the Christmas bells of the local churches. This is how he was inspired to write the lyrics that we know today.

“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols played, of peace on earth good will to men. Then from each black accursed mouth, the cannon thundered from the south, and with the sound the carols drowned. And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. Then peeled the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Through the bells God gave Henry the renewed hope and promise of Jesus. Even after the loss of his wife, the serious injury to his son that might leave him paralyzed, he knew the hope and peace in the Lord Jesus that God gives us, the promise knowing that even in the midst of loss and the national tragedy that was going on around him, that God will always prevail. We will be saved, we will be raised up in new life, and to life eternal in Jesus. The same hope on Christmas Day that Henry was revived in 150 years ago he passes on today in the carol that he wrote. The Father gives to us every day in our baptism, in our new birth in Jesus that hope. We can let the world drag us down into bitterness and anger or we can hear the bells on Christmas Day, every day and remember the peace hope and promise that Jesus gives us every day.

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

You need community and it is only found in the truly Christian Church

Community, one of the most overlooked aspects of Christianity today. People will honestly look me in the face and tell me that they don’t need the church, they don’t a pastor, they don’t need a fellow Christian, and here it is “because it’s all about me” and then, almost incidentally, and God. Often times not even bothering to define what/who “God” is, but whatever makes me happy. At the same time describing the 12 with Jesus as His “ Apostals” (sic) vs the correct context would be disciples, students. Apostle is actually a messenger, almost in the sense of an ambassador. Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote a great devotional on Christian community. “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion, But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10) (Experiencing God Day by Day p 327) As the Blackabys point out we were made by God to be in community and for those that God chose, starting with the nation of Israel and then progressing to Jesus and those saved in Him, God’s church has always been the community of His believers.

Certainly the Trinity is the original “community” God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Godhead working together to fulfill their roles and guide the people of God. The Blackaby’s note: “…the success of our endeavors depends upon our interdependence. This is why He established His Church and released His Holy Spirit to empower the community of believers to spread the gospel. We are to be a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9).” Obviously we can only support and build each other in the context of community. One thing that always bites me is someone telling me that they can worship God on their own. Certainly we can come to God and lift up our prayers, we are certainly, in Jesus, in relationship with the Father. But that is done through the church of Jesus. When we baptize we baptize as the Body of Christ, His Church, in the presence of the Body and through the authority of His ministers who administers the sacraments. I didn’t invent baptism, that was given to us in the Bible and passed down through His church. We only become a child of God in baptism, we become that new creation in Christ. If that is not done in and through His church, sorry, but it isn’t baptism. Can we as Christians, in extremis, baptize? Yes, and we should. If someone is right there dying and aren’t baptized in Jesus, we can’t wait for them to get to church for the normal baptism ceremony, absolutely baptize that person. But that baptism is still recorded in His church and done under the authority of the church.

The Blackaby’s write: “…if we have cultivated supportive friendships, we will find strength in the comfort and encouragement of those who care about us. Interdependence is also a safeguard for us when we are lured by temptation. The consistent testimony of those who have fallen to temptation is that they isolated themselves from other believers and were not held accountable by Christian friends.” The attitude today seems to be: “I will do whatever I stinkin’ want to do and if you do like it too bad for you.” Yea well the downside is that their particular sin finally bites them and who do they turn to? Or, in many cases they just let that sin drag them down and condemn them. Name it, being the pastor of a downtown church I see pretty much the whole span. People who have sunk in their sins of drugs, alcohol, sex, gluttony, covetousness etc. Always seem to mess them up and then they expect someone to be there to pick up the pieces for them.

Yes, I should try to help those who’ve really become lost in their sin. But on the flip side, I have a congregation of people who faithfully supported their church with their time, money and talents. Only so much time and how do I justify to them that I have to put ministry off in order to pay attention to someone who, by the sin of presumption, thought they had it altogether and could sin nice and safely and now they’re knocking my door down for attention? We are supposed to take responsibility for ourselves as adults and not engage in things that are inevitably going to hurt us. Yet in today’s world everyone is a smart guy and is sure they can handle drugs, alcohol, fornication, adultery, etc and then when the consequences hit them, as they will, “well someone’s got to bail me out”. That is what community is for. Pull that person back from the edge, pick them up when they fall. Not when they’ve created a situation that’s going to require extensive attention, or when it really is too late, but at the outset. We love to think that we know it all, but over and over I hear the same thing: “I should never have gotten involved and now I regret it, but now you have to help me.” News flash, I don’t have to help you. There are plenty of those have faithfully live their life and do innocently fall into difficulty. Have to tell you, there’s barely enough in resources to help those I really have to help. Why would someone compound their sin, with the sin of presumption and assume I’m just waiting around to jump through hoops for them? And quite often I just don’t have any way to help. Sorry, but there are times when I just have nothing.

Of course the whole “don’t judge me” attitude so prevalent in society plays into this condition. Not only that, but the attitude seems to be do what I want, enable me in my sin and then I will go on my way. Yea, no, that’s just not going to happen. The attitude of the world seems to be that the church is only there for their individual convenience. Because of this attitude that “it’s all about me”, more and more church’s just don’t have the resources to be there to provide. I have to hoard my meager resources just to make sure I have something to provide for those in the church who have faithfully supported the church. Why would someone presume to tell me that I have to just hand over what others have faithfully given to me to be a faithful steward of? The answer of course is that because “it’s all about me”.

It’s not to say that we don’t have individual lives that God has a plan for. God certainly wants us to live the life that He has made us especially suited for. But that life is always in the context of the church and how God puts the pieces together in His church to effectively serve. If people punt on that responsibility and expect to be served, but to never serve, how effectively do you think that plan’s going to work? Too many people just don’t seem to grasp, or probably more likely, don’t want to because they might have to do something for someone else, how God tries to pull each person together so that together we grow in the synergistic impact of the church. One person punts on their part and everyone loses. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that by choosing to do only live for yourself and ignore those in Jesus’ church that the person that rides off alone gets picked off by the world and makes things a lot tougher for those who stay and faithfully serve? That also goes for those who are part of the church, but expect that the church simply entertain them and just hand over the benefits.

An article in Christian Counseling Today (vol 20 No. 4 pp 34-39) certainly does convey the impact of community, the context being in terms of healing community, generally 12 step programs. These programs certainly have grasped the concept of healing and support in community and many have not just benefited from that community, but have also paid back by becoming an active part of that community to support others. I have seen in my own experience a very effective community, and one that is effective, but is also abused by those who, again, expect to just have it handed it to them and still expect to live in their one way life and continue to be abusive to others. My life has been made a little tougher because some who participated in a 12-step program thought that everything was there for their convenience unnecessarily stepping on the toes of others and of those who were trying to help. I don’t mind the extra effort, but I get tired of having to answer for those who think that the world is there for their convenience.

As I said I’ve seen those groups do great work and it should be supported. Henri Nouwen is quoted in the Christian Counseling Article: “’When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares”.[1]

Certainly that is the look that the church should have, but on the other hand, how far can the church go with that when everyone wants attention and few want to support. When the church was being supported, pastors could truly care for those who genuinely needed attention, there was the time and resources. But now with the attitude that “I know better, I’m going to do what I want, when I want”, there’s only so much, so far. In the same article Dr. Henry Cloud is quoted: “’It is interesting to compare a legalistic church with a good AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Group. In the church, it is culturally unacceptable to have problems; that is called being sinful. In the AA group, it is culturally unacceptable to be perfect; that is called denial. In one setting, people look better but get worse, and in the other, they look worse but get better … The sad thing is that many of us come to Christ because we are sinners, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to pretend that we are not!”’ (Changes that heal). OK, point taken, and I think that is one reason why the church has wounded itself in the past. But I also think that the cultural paradigm has changed so much that churches today are putting up a fence is because there are so many who have decided that the process should be the other way around. Before the paradigm was, I’m part of a church, I support the church. But at some point I fall and need help and those in the church help me. Now it’s I don’t do anything for anyone and when I need help everyone’s supposed to jump to my aid.

Absolutely, we are all sinners and we need the church and none of us is going to come into the church perfect. We absolutely should stipulate that we are there to help each other grow and overcome those things in our lives. The Lutheran Church is certainly different than other Reformation churches in that we start worship with Confession and Absolution. Yes, we are sinners, we are here because we know that, and we are in need of continual forgiveness. So yes, in terms of “big-box churches” that I think Dr Cloud is referring to, we in the Lutheran Church all start from the same flat-footed start, we are all sinners, now what?

The problem with 12-step programs is that the person’s presenting issue is what constitutes their entire life. Well we in the Lutheran Church would say no. We are all sinners and we all need to deal with issues. Sure some of us need a particular way to deal with that, and if having someone who has gone through that experience helps you in that, great. The problem is that you become so immersed in your narrow issue, you really begin to lose real world perspective. The entire world is not in terms of your alcohol problem. The attitude of these 12-step programs is that only an alcoholic can help another alcoholic. I would submit that the best thing for a person is to be discipled in the church by a faithful, godly person of the same gender, who has lived their life as a Christian. They’ve had to deal with the sin, the world, all the stuff, but they’ve had a much more well-rounded life, that hasn’t consisted of only primary issue. The whole world is not about alcoholism. It is about being saved in Christ. We all have a sin issue and that is what we need to confront, not how do I deal with alcohol, or whatever is the besetting sin. I would submit that for most people who abuse something, and yes that’s all of us to some degree, being a part of a Christian community and dealing with a real world of all kinds of sin is more realistic than your little 12-step enclosed culture. The 12-step program is a good initial answer, but that should only be for a very short time and then time to get back and deal with the real world. Despite what you think that real world was made by God and is all about Him. Not about the places and people you used to hang out with as an alcoholic.

The same article quotes Richard Rohr: “’Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.”’

Amen, couldn’t agree more, but is that change going to effectively take place in a very narrow demographic of people dealing with a particular 12-step issue? No, I really don’t think so. It’s going to be more effectively addressed in a community that includes Grandma and Grandpa Schmidt, and the Hispanic kids, the folks who live here, work there, people who have really lived the life or are trying to get up to speed in the life. A genuine slice of contemporary society. The guy in the Men’s Group that works at the Insurance Company, the Computer Company, the auto dealership. Yea, they have issues to deal with too, but sorry, too often in 12-step programs it is more enabling someone in their particular sin, then genuinely giving them the help that will be life changing in a genuine Christian community.

I can hear the objection now; “they’re going to be so judgey”. Yea, that immediately tells me, that they’ve been more enabled in their very close 12-step program, instead of having to deal with the reality of the world. Sorry folks, time to be a part of genuine diverse Christian community. I get it, too many big box churches are fairly affluent, pretty much lilly white and do, as Dr Cloud claims, tend to exacerbate people’s sin problems. However, a church like First St Johns, that is slowly becoming very diverse, is still, white, but has been in a downtown location for many years. It is a community that fully gets the fact that there are people out there with serious sin and abuse problems and accepts them, because those same people don’t live under some goofy delusion like the big-box churches that everyone there has it altogether. While serving in the Coast Guard I would once in awhile be rotated down to a sub-station that was in a very affluent community. I got the chance to talk to the local police officers down there and I once made the observation to one of them that it must be really nice being a police officer in such an affluent community. He understood what I meant, but he quickly pointed out that their biggest problem was dealing with domestic issues. Physical abuse, substance abuse, sexual on and on. As much as we would like to think otherwise, the police there were expected to keep such situations under very confidential wraps. They were expected to basically cover over the issues and make everything nice and pretty. I agree with Dr Cloud that there are too many big-box churches that are like that. “Don’t you worry about that sin thing dearie, you’re a good person, just keep plowing money into the ministry so we can keep providing expensive entertainment and maintain an expensive facility and everything will be just fine.”

Yes, just by virtue of being a down-town church does not necessarily make you a spiritually healthy one either. There are too many who let their churches dwindle down to a couple of dozen, actively resist anyone different from being a part and expect it to be all about them.

I submit that there is a movement, especially among the denominational churches, admittedly still very much in its infancy, but to turn around churches so there will be genuine Christian ministry. That people can be a part of a church of people who are very much aware of the world around them in many aspects, not just the narrow aspects of substance abuse or some other 12-step program. Who want to reach people for genuine Christian ministry. Who are trying to grow as Christ’s disciples and who are ready to disciple others, effectively/real world, as well as be discipled. That is in a true Christian model, based on the Acts church, the churches that Paul describes in his epistles. Has the church messed up and been messed up? Absolutely. Is that a reason to shun the church? Absolutely not. Sorry, but more and more we are all realizing in society that we can’t go it alone, that there are not any institutions that will genuinely reach out to people and be there for them as well as have others be there for you. You can use all the hypocritical justification you can think of, but the only way to salvation is through Jesus. It is only through the Body of Christ that salvation and true life can come through. Otherwise you become lost in your sin and become a part of the ever growing angry and bitter world, that thinks that everyone else is supposed to be there for them.

As the Blackabys write: “If you are not a part of a caring community of believers, you are missing out on what God designed you for. You are also in danger of falling into sin. You must link your life with others who are seeking God’s will. Seek to be a person who willingly joins others in carrying out God’s assignments. Strive to be a source of support and encouragement that those around you need.” And I would add that you need too. The church is the only place that is going to do that. And a church that lives in a very real environment like First Saint Johns, is going to be that truly diverse group of people who will welcome you regardless of where you’re at, so long as you’re willing to serve and be served. Live in denial if you want, but serving and being served will only happen in the church of Jesus Christ. Being a lone ranger is only going to make you an easy target for the sin and death of the world to take you down. As smart as you think you are, you will go down.

[1] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life).

Mutual submission like husband and wife applies to rulers and citizens

Continuing our study in God at Work by Dr Gene Veith. Dr Veith examines the different vocations, callings, of the average Christian and right now our group is talking about “Calling as a Citizen”. As Dr Veith points out we are called to be good citizens in Romans 13. Despite the contemporary nonsensical propaganda, Christians are higher in the demographics as “good citizens”. Quick reminder, there are those who consider themselves “Christian”, but when you see the “fruits of their works”, i.e. church attendance, service, Bible study, prayer, groups, a lot of people talk a good game, and they’re something, but not Christian. This is evidenced by a lot of current research and by the hard cold fact that we are called to spiritual disciplines in the Bible and way too many today just disregard it.

So let’s be serious here, quit quibbling, there are those who are faithfully trying to live the Christian life and as part of that they strive to be good citizens.

Now, having said, that, as I often say, there is nothing in the Bible that says either God is to be stupid or we are. Of course one of the first objections to this idea of submitting to rulers is “guys like Hitler and Stalin?” No! Certainly the early Christian church had crackpot rulers. Nero and Caligula jump immediately to mind. All Roman citizens, Christians included, were required to “burn incense as a way to acknowledge the divinity of the Emperor”. Dr Veith refers to those who continue to witness to Christ in countries that legally forbid Christian evangelizing. Certainly Moslem countries, but secular states like China, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea also persecute Christians for worship, witnessing, public prayer.

Dr Veith writes: “It is clearly not the calling of a ruler to oppress his people. his purpose, again, is to love and serve his neighbors – that is, his subjects. A good ruler will thus be one who works for their good.” (Dr Gene Veith God at Work p 105). This can obviously be subjective, I don’t like the ruler of Moldovia, so as a citizen I can see how he’s not serving the way I think he should. Well no! You may not think he is serving the public good, because it’s not your good, but unless he is actively persecuting, or making demands that a Christian, in general, would have to conscientiously refuse, he is serving the public good. He may not be doing it well, but he still has to be obeyed. That goes for providing physical protection for our persons and our property.

Now if the ruler makes laws that single out and penalize groups, e.g. requiring people to honor this leader like a “god”, somewhat the situation Dietrich Bonhoeffer was with Hitler, or the Roman Emperor Decius, the one who required incense to be burned as a sacrifice to himself. Christians refused, First Commandment, there is no other “god”, then God the Father. Pope Fabias and Alexander of Jerusalem, among many other Christians refused and were put to death. So no, we can’t get all Moral Majority and decide what is or isn’t acceptable unless it truly conflicts with our biblical understanding. However, we are called to disobey when we are called to violate something that would articulably be proscribed in the Bible. Such as the Christian doctor who refuses to perform an abortion. Bear in mind, as was the case with those who refused to burn incense, there is often a penalty. That we are prosecuted or harassed,as the disciples were, they were joyful that they were honored to suffer for Christ. It’s not a dishonor to suffer for Christ, but it will still be suffering and probably hold you up to public abuse. Spouses are called to mutually submit and serve, I think you could certainly make the case the if rulers are not being submissive and serving for the general good, then they are “acting outside of their vocation”.

Let’s talk about it some more, Wednesday mornings 10:30am. The coffee shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts in York, Pa. Parking is right behind the church walk about 50 yards east to the coffee shop. If you come for the first time, I will even buy you coffee.

Saying “God” doesn’t mean you know Him

TP (this person) I’ve never been an overly religious person, which is to say that I do not believe in organized religion. I think that the relationship one has with his/her diety should be personal, not choreographed. And even though I’m not a bible beater, I do believe in a Christian god, and I try to do my best in living a life that follows the rules.
Last night, it was proven to me beyond any doubt that God has his protective hand over my family and me.

In short, God’s protective hand was over my family and my house last night. There is no reason other than that that our house still stands, that no one was hurt, and that all we need to get this morning is a new dryer plug and electric box. (NB: I deleted some of the detail)

My comment: Jim Driskell Praise God, maybe He is using this to show how much He loves and protects you and wants to build a relationship with you and your family. You expect God to be on call for you, but otherwise live your life regardless of Him. How would you feel if that was your relationship with your parents, children, husband? God wants your relationship to grow with Him and that is what His church is about.

TP (this person’s reply): And responses like that are exactly why I left organized religion in favor of building a more personalized relationship with God.

AP (another person’s) And to add to that, TP leads a better Christian life than many judgemental, bible thumping so called Christians I know.

Ah, wow, Jesus died for these person’s but hey it’s my way, we’ll do it our way. We have no idea who this god is, or how we get to know him. Don’t try to tell us about Him “ESV James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” OK, you know there’s a god, and….? Just as strange is someone piping in, who doesn’t know me, and doesn’t let that get in the way and passes judgment on me and that’s OK? You can “believe”, but that doesn’t put you in a saving relationship with Him.

OK, you disagree with me, you think that being part of the Body of Christ is somehow a negative, or at least not for you. OK (?) Can this person even begin to articulate what it’s all about? The answer is kind of obvious, I’m not interested, it’s going to work out the way I want it to, I don’t need to know, it’s all about me and my opinion no matter how uninformed that opinion is is all that matters because I know all I want to know.

Kind of a dangerous game to play: “Sure there’s a god, but despite my lack of knowledge I’m going to assume that he will play it out the way I want.” How does that kind of world view really play out? Is that something God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) should honor and reward?

Our all holy, just Father wanted to be in relationship with the people who He created and who then subsequently told to Him to shove off. In order for Him to restore that relationship, in His justice, at His sacrifice He gave up His Son as the payment for all the wrong that we did, that He told us not to do. Believe me I know plenty about wrong (of course sin) and because of what He did for me, in order to restore me to Him, He chose to put my sin on His Son who died in order to pay the penalty for that sin and bring me to Him as His new creation in Jesus. I sure don’t have a way to know God or be in relationship with Him, He has to do it all and guide me to Jesus as my Savior, which He did for me.

For all those who chose to reject all that, how do you know? Is God some sort of indulgent parent who really doesn’t care what his children are in to? He’s just going to make everything all right regardless? I’m sure the response would be, I don’t need all that Jesus stuff, I’m a good person (because I say so), I do good things (if I think they should be done and will benefit me) and I deserve everything to be about me and work out for me.

That’s the world’s logic, not just TP’s. I have never heard anyone really justify that logic, it’s just that’s the way it is and stop trying to confuse me. And of course we get the other person, who decides to jump in and uses the standard adolescent response “judgmental”. Please stop that! Whenever I see that I know that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about, especially in terms of the Bible. It’s just a typical adolescent ploy to try to shut people up so that the adolescent isn’t forced to consider other points. They’re right everyone should know it, shut up and just listen to them. Seriously, if you can’t discuss beyond “judgmental” you need to keep it to yourself and listen. When you say “judgmental”, anyone with a level of intellect knows that you’re just trying to bully, that you don’t know what you’re talking about and you, frankly, don’t care.

Yea I know, again, being a little too caustic and sarcastic. But we as Christians can’t leave that kind of rationalizing unanswered. Look I truly pray that God is using this little casualty as a wake up call to someone who obviously needs it and I pray for the rest of TP’s family. As a Christian I’m certainly called to pray for TP and other TPs and pray that they will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6) But to look me in the face and expect me to accept their personal vacuousness and the various vacuousnesses of the world, that’s just not having any kind of critical thinking. That’s living in a world where you think everything is your way and for your convenience. That’s not the world and people who think this way are going to end up in a very sad and difficult place, bitter and angry and alone. I pray that won’t happen to anyone who God guides me to witness to. That’s just to miserable for me to contemplate. So certainly I keep TP and others like them in prayer, that God softens their heart and brings them to true knowledge in their Savior.