Tag Archives: Christianity

If it is of God… Acts 5:29, John 20:19

[for the audio version 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 all those who join Thomas saying to Jesus “My Lord and My God!” said … Amen!

We now have this pretty interesting conflation, two different perspectives have started to see Jesus as something much more than what was imagined. The leaders of Israel seem to be rethinking what they did to Jesus. Thomas straight out asserts Who Jesus is “My Lord and My God!” Gamaliel was a very important man at the time. Luke, the writer of Acts, singles Gamaliel out by calling him “a teacher of the Law held in honor by all the people. The Jewish Encyclopedia says: Gamaliel was the son of Hillel who is still one of the leading authorities on Jewish law and is quoted by many people today. He was the head of the school Hillel in his time succeeding his father. “Gamaliel, as it appears, did most toward establishing the honor in which the house of Hillel was held, and which secured to it a preeminent position within Palestinian Judaism soon after the destruction of the- Temple. The title “Rabban,” which, in the learned hierarchy until post-Hadrianic times, was borne only by presidents of the highest religious council, was first prefixed to the name of Gamaliel.”[1] Much later on in Acts, Paul seems to take special pride in being a student of Gamaliel’s. (Acts 22:3) He gets a lot of notice in Acts, during the early church. If he is proceeding with caution against the embryonic Christian church, then he must have some idea that Jesus is who He says He is.

The amazing things that have happened, certainly culminated in the Resurrection of Jesus, leaves little doubt as to Jesus’ claim to be God. Gamaliel had to have been part of the court that condemned Jesus. I would guess that Gamaliel fell right in line with the majority consensus. Caiaphas proclaims to the leadership that this man, Jesus, must die to save the nation. No thought is given that there might be something a lot more compelling with Jesus, that He might be who He said He was. The concern was with the preservation of the status quo; Israel, it’s leadership and maintaining their way of life. As highly regarded as Gamaliel was, he certainly followed the party line. While we know that there were members of the Sanhedrin who objected to the illegality of the proceedings to try Jesus, Gamaliel wouldn’t have been one of those objectors. If he had objected the Sanhedrin might have at least backed off from condemning Jesus to die and might have even decided to do something else regarding Jesus.

The paradigm has clearly changed for the leadership in Israel. They thought that they were dealing with a nuisance that would burn itself out. They tried, and for the first time in history, killing a man didn’t make Him go away. It seems Gamaliel is hedging his bets a little, but it’s pretty clear that he sees Jesus as a lot more than being an ordinary man. Gamaliel compares Jesus to Theudas and Judas the Galilean. It seems though that Gamaliel is taking Jesus a lot more seriously than Theudas or Judas, neither one of them rose from the dead. It seems that the leadership is trying to prevent a panic. They’re trying not to acknowledge it, but clearly there is a new archetype and they know that they can’t just make the problem, Jesus, go away. They hope that they can, but now they have something much bigger than they expected while trying to avoid setting the rest of Israel off, that Jesus is who He says that He is.

The difference is that while Gamaliel is trying to hedge, not set off a rush to Jesus and still not taking Him seriously. He seems to know the truth, but as so many people do for so many bad reasons, Gamaliel is trying to save his position in Israel. The disciples, as Luke writes, know the truth, they know that there is no other option, they are beaten and we know how brutally Jesus was beaten. Maybe the disciples weren’t beaten as badly, but you know that they suffered more than enough that they shouldn’t be back out on the street rejoicing and teaching and preaching about Jesus. They knew the truth and saw there was no alternative to Jesus, the Sanhedrin was still trying to play its political game with its own people, the Romans and irrational as it sounds God, even though Gamaliel certainly had some perception that Jesus and his disciples were more than the garden variety revolutionaries of previous years.

Clearly John is continuing to emphasize that Jesus is much more than what most people seem to want to believe. Thomas declares it: “My Lord and my God!” Jamieson writes: “He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven.”[2] This is not some gratuitous acknowledgement, Thomas was completely overwhelmed and was utterly sure who Jesus was. Meyer writes : “ It is a confessionary invocation of Christ in the highest joyful surprise, in which Thomas gives the fullest expression of profound emotion to his faith, which had been mightily elevated by the conviction of the reality of the resurrection, in the divine nature of his Lord. The ὁ κύριός μκὁ θεός μου was the complete and highest confession of Messianic faith,” This is the first time when someone really addresses Jesus as God. For those who like to question who Jesus was and whether He claimed to be God, here is where someone is declaring who Jesus is. It may not be bragging if it’s true, but it’s more credible when someone else is declaring the fact. And again, there are plenty of places where Jesus is readily understood by those He is talking to as to who He is. If it wasn’t true, wouldn’t Jesus lift Thomas off his knees and set him straight? If it wasn’t true Jesus wouldn’t have just let Thomas’ comment ride.

We are His disciples. We see Jesus is making it very clear that Jesus has the authority to and intends for us to take what the disciples then and we who are His disciples now, that we aren’t to just go back home as if it’s all ending. He makes it clear to His disciples then it’s only beginning. He tells them, and us, that the Father sent Him. He has been sent to us to take His word, His life, what He has done for us dying for our sins and then resurrected to give us eternal life, that it isn’t for us to keep to ourselves. Matthew 28:18, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, Mark 16:15, Matthew, John, Luke and Mark all report that Jesus came to send us to tell the entire world about the salvation that Jesus gives us. In John He reinforces this message by giving them a preview of Pentecost. “He breathed on them.” The Greek word the hagios pneuma, the Holy Spirit, pneuma meaning the movement of air, the breath of His Body. He is giving them the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and for them to understand that they constitute His church. As He does by giving them the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:9, He is empowering His church to not just bring the Good News to the world, but that Jesus is empowering His church to save people to the Kingdom, but to also make it clear to those who aren’t saved and that His work is done through His disciples in His church.

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

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6494-gamaliel-i

[2] Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary on website  http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/john/20.htm

Palm Sunday the next step to the Cross John 12 First Saint Johns April 9, 2017

[for the audio of this sermon 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 all those who shout Hosanna, God save us said … AMEN!

Palm Sunday has been seen by Christians in many different ways. Some to the effect that this was Jesus’ big move, that the people were falling in line and Jesus would re-establish David’s kingdom. Certainly the people that day saw it as such. They are shouting “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” We see those words today almost as a platitude, something you say when David’s Son, Jesus, comes riding in as Zechariah prophesied and seems to be making His political or military move. The people greeting Him see it that way, recall from last week’s readings: “ESV John 11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Even Jesus’ disciples were sure that this was a power play. That Jesus’s being crucified, was a huge miscalculation. Maybe on His part? Who knew, but things just weren’t coming out the way they were supposed to.

To be clear, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the direct, immediate march to the Cross. There is no turning back, there are no backup plans. Maybe some second thoughts, you really can’t blame Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing full well what is going to happen to Him in about twelve hours, at least raising the possibility to the Father that maybe this isn’t how we want to go? But the plan was in place, everything is set.

We see prophecy of the passion going back to David’s time in some of the Psalms He wrote: ESV Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Clearly a prophecy of the mockery from the Roman soldiers and the leaders of Israel. Matthew 27:41 is about the mockery about Jesus being King of Israel, that if He’s the Son of God that the Father would surely save Him. ESV Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet-17 I can count all my bones- they stare and gloat over me;” Clearly a description of a man who has been stretched out on a cross, nailed to it so that they could plainly see his ribs. David is being shown by God that his descendant, Jesus, is going to be killed in a way that he wouldn’t even know. Crucifixion wouldn’t be used as a means of execution for at least another 500 years after David lived. Yet he writes pretty vividly what we know of the crucifixion of Jesus. “18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” A clear reference to Matthew 27:35. No we can’t know for sure, but in terms of biblical prophecy, no one really questions that Psalm 22: starting with verse 7 is prophecy of the events that we plainly seen in each of the Gospels. The scene had been set over a thousand years ago when David wrote the words of Psalm 22. Yahweh told David quite plainly that his descendant, Jesus, would be killed in a very violent way.

Today is Palm Sunday and we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The whole Jerusalem community turns out to see Jesus. He certainly has made an impact. John writes: “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.”(vv 17-18) As I pointed out in last week’s sermon, Jesus had done His miracles in Capernaum, about 117 miles away from Jerusalem. The place He raised Lazarus was about 2 miles away from Jerusalem. Everyone who mattered knew fully well who Lazarus was, knew that he had died and knew that Jesus raised him. Clearly Jesus had set up His notoriety in anticipation of His entering Jerusalem. If nothing else, everyone wanted to see the man who raised another man from the dead. If Jesus wanted to make sure there was a crowd He accomplished that, but soon that cheering crowd would be a jeering crowd, demanding His death which was prophesied 1,000 years before His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Psalm 118 and Hebrews 9 is the Gradual for today’s worship. Psalm 118 is referred to as the “Great Halliel” a Psalm of celebration referring to the deliverance of God, and certainly the people of Jerusalem see that their deliverer is now entering Jerusalem: (v 16) “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous” … “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” … “With [tree] boughs in hand join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (vv 24, 27)

Dr Carl Fickenscher was talking about Palm Sunday on Issues Etc on April 4. He asserted that the crowd is shouting Hosanna, which means “come save us” that this Psalm is a coronation Psalm that they perceive that Jesus is coming to be crowned King of Israel. In fact Jesus is coming to enter into the holy places, the Holy of Holy in the temple. Only the priests could enter the Holy of Holy and that was only once during the year and that was on the Passover. If anyone else entered the Holy of Holies the penalty would be death. Jesus is now entering into Jerusalem because He is the Great High Priest, that by His sacrifice, His death, His blood, that He is tearing down the curtain that separates the Holy of Holies because by His death He has assured eternal redemption for all who are in Him. Jesus knows that He is going to the Cross, to be that sacrifice for the payment of all the sins of the world. The Cross becomes the Holy of Holies for all and He is proceeding into Jerusalem in full view of all in order to proceed to the Cross at the end of the week.[1] Matthew 27:51: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Why from top to bottom? The curtain was 60 feet long and 30 feet high. Certainly a massive curtain and no one would try to tear it from the top. But in this we certainly see that by Jesus’ death, the curtain that had separated man from God was now removed by God and Jesus is now that link to the Father. Jesus goes in to the Holy places by means of His blood and security, our eternal redemption. Jesus becomes our High Priest by becoming our salvation, our intercessor with God the Father at His right hand. People had gone out to see the man who raised the dead and was certainly the man foretold by David, Isaiah, Zechariah, all of the prophets. They thought that He was coming into Jerusalem to save them from the Romans. He came to save them and all of us through history from ourselves and our sins and to deliver us so that we would have eternal life in Him because He died for us on the Cross and then overcame death when He rose from the tomb and was resurrected on Easter morning to give us the assurance who are in Jesus of our eternal resurrection in Him.

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

[1] Dr Carl Fickenscher   “Issues Etc” April 3, 2017

Hubris, millenials the generation of hubris

Yea, I know, might be getting a little to spun up on this subject. Maybe it’s just a function of my becoming an old fuddy-duddy. But I’ve had some interesting interactions with this generation. OK, after this I will stop picking on them, maybe.

Hubris is defined: “ˈ(h)yo͞obrəs/ noun

 excessive pride or self-confidence.
  1. synonyms: arrogance, conceit, haughtiness, hauteur, pride, self-importance, egotism, pomposity, superciliousness, superiority;

    informalbig-headedness, cockiness
    “the hubris among economists was shaken”

    I can’t wait until someone whines to the effect “…eh whaddya gotta speak Latin for”, you know because they’re scare, not afraid, they’re scared. As “educated” as that generation thinks it is, it just isn’t. If you are familiar with the concept you will understand how much trouble a person would get into because of their hubris, arrogance. It’s especially common with people who think they get it, but aren’t even close. (any kind of it).

    However there is hope. I was especially encouraged to see a recent blog by an 18 year old. The article sounded kind of whiney, how bad the church is yada-yada (note I didn’t know the background of the author). It looked more like middle- aged angst, but upon reading further: “So as the Body of Christ, let’s stop thinking of ourselves, our likes, dislikes, and preferences, and let’s make God the focus of our worship within the church. Let’s love and lead like Jesus did for us, for His glory.” ( http://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/christian-you-need-the-church.html?utm_content=buffer84444&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_source=cwpg&utm_campaign=cwupdate) Wow Kelsey, great job! It’s not just millenials who do it, but many who are just not intellectually stimulated; “Well I just don’t like it…” As if your likes/dislikes matter in the least.  I don’t see God sitting up in heaven getting all spun up “wow, Brittany and Hunter didn’t like that part of the Bible. Maybe I should authorize a revision there, all that nastiness in Canaan. Maybe they’re right, maybe that wasn’t “fair”, hmmm”. Ya, our little ones may not “like” it, but it’s not going to change anything, and if they received a little context, they might actually find themselves getting some intellectual depth.

    Going back to ancient Greek mythology, people got into serious trouble because of their “hubris”, this generation is well on their way to that trouble. They are a seriously undereducated/poorly educated group, that have been given little training in any kind of critical capability. (This despite the exorbitant amounts of money spent on public education). Most of their likes/dislikes come from the opinions that their poorly educated, little in terms of life experiences, public school teachers and college professors passed on to them. Even if their “educators” knew the reality, seems they often find it easier to give in, be the popular teacher instead of the one who pushes on their students.

    Problem for us is this; real adults have to deal with straight out ignorance, which also consists of pure sentimentalism. This is from the same group that thinks their adolescence should go to at least 30 years of age, while still knowing more than everyone. If that doesn’t give you an insight into the lack of logic we’re dealing with, I don’t know what will.

    This is an incredibly gullible generation that gets spun up about such things as letting males use women’s restrooms. On one issue they have grasped reality is abortion. Being the generation that was completely under legalized abortion, they are becoming much more pro-life realizing that they could have easily been a victim of abortion.

    In ministry there’s a recognition of the person who thinks that their ministry is one of criticism. They never actually do anything, but they think that it’s incumbent on them to find all the failings in the church and report them to someone to have their issues fixed and to their satisfaction. They don’t do anything except make life tough for other people who are actually trying to do something. We may have created a whole generation like that. People who can’t really provide for themselves, but know what is wrong with everyone else. The bizarre part is that we’re actually listening to them instead of being the grown-ups and telling them they need to sit down and listen. Please sit them down, they really do need to learn something!

Leaving it all on the course for Him Matthew 5:21

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have left it all on the field for Jesus said … AMEN!

You’ve heard the interviews after an athletic contest, one of the most common phrases; “I left it all on the field”, basically I gave everything I had in order to win. It can get a little cliché, but by the same token, I have no doubt that each person who says that truly believes it. At the end of that contest; a race, basketball game, matholympics, I gave everything I had, physically, mentally, emotionally in order to win, or at least to do my best. I’ve done races where I expected it to be a little more challenging and at the end upset with myself that I was holding back too much and I could have pressed harder on the bike or the run. By the same token I’ve seen people sprinting to the finish line, giving everything and as soon as they crossed, going off somewhere and literally getting sick right after they finished. No question they exceeded their normal physical ability in order to find that tiny little bit that they had left in order to finish as well as they could.

We certainly see this in so many of the people described in the Bible. King David wrote dozens of Psalms, but if you think he was all about sitting at a desk pen in hand and dreamily wondering how to compose his poetry, you would be mistaken. Most of his prose was about the different ways that he was left it all out on the field for God. David was a powerful soldier, his soldiers followed him into many different situations, they trusted him as a leader who would be there for them, do whatever it took for his men and defeat his enemy. David had no compunction going out on that field and doing what God directed him to do and pouring every last ounce he had into the fight for his men, his country and very much so for his God. David lived his life for Yahweh, there were times when he failed in that and he failed in a way that only a great king and general could fail. As Dr Luther wrote: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [or sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”[1] If King David had known about Jesus and written about Jesus, he would have understood completely what Dr Luther wrote.

In a lot of ways that is what Jesus is saying in the Beatitudes, you have to go over and above, you have to leave it all out there. There may even be a physical price to pay. The Beatitudes can be taken in a legalistic way. Jesus is not saying you have to do this, you have to do that in order to be saved. People have told me that they live by the Beatitudes. It’s not about grace, it’s about them and their performance, what they need to do, that God is keeping score and waiting for them to tank, to hit the wall, to not finish the course. If they somehow fail in one of Jesus’ directives they failed to leave it all out on the field for Jesus, they kept some back for their own pleasure, maybe cheated on the course somehow and didn’t completely live up to what Jesus directed us to do.

The fallacy is this, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that unless we are picture perfect, that we have somehow failed and therefore don’t manage to hit the finish line having left it all out on the course for Jesus. The Gospel does say that Jesus who is entirely perfect God and perfect man, something we could never be, a person that we will never be because there was only one Jesus. Jesus absolutely did leave it all out on the course and it was entirely for us, Jesus didn’t do all that He did for Himself. What’s the point? Jesus is the One through whom all creation came into existence, He is perfectly God, all He did was not for Him, but entirely for us. Nothing we can do, can add to what Jesus did for us, not one iota, not one jot or tittle.

Yet, many people are pretty sure it’s about sticking to the letter of the Law in the Beatitudes and that gets you over the line. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be obedient, Jesus said “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” But Jesus knows that we are fallible, that our obedience is qualified by our failings as sinful people in a sinful world. However, for all that Jesus did for us, how can we not strive to be obedient? How can we not strive to leave it all out on the course for Jesus?

Does a completely good, completely holy, completely gracious God want us to pluck out our eye and throw it away if we are not completely perfect in everything? In this day and age you can’t look anywhere that doesn’t offend your eye. The issue is, did you let your eye linger over that which offended? Or did you realize, “hey, this isn’t glorifying Jesus or doing me any good”, and just turn away? That’s what Jesus is asking us to do, in the Beatitudes. He exaggerates to make a point. He might say. “You really want to try to earn your way, this is what has to happen, if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. I’m thinking, none of us would truly stand that test. That does not, however, minimize the fact that we should strive to avoid things that offend our eye or what we do with our right hand, or our left hand in order to sin.

Marge and I were at Pastoral Leadership Institute immersion this past week, which, ironically is about us and our performance, and driving us higher in Jesus. It’s an honor to be asked to attend, not everyone is, and it’s recognition of the fact that we are striving in evangelism and discipleship and given the opportunity in PLI to push to the next level. It doesn’t makes us more saved, but it does push us to better serve you and the Kingdom of God as leaders of His church.

The Father is not trying to impose unrealistic expectations on us, He is trying to get us to realize that we can’t get there on our own effort. We will fail! We will have plenty of good efforts, being obedient to the things Jesus asks of us, but at some point we will fail to push as hard as we could. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost, that we should cut off our hand. Matt Popovits was one of the speakers, the overall subject was discipleship, which was great, I emphasize discipleship in my ministry. While we are called to be strong and faithful disciples of Jesus, our performance in that respect is not what saves us. The thesis was “How do I measure my worth?” For those who are so sure that it’s all about me and my “opinion”, because my “opinion” is so vitally important! I have bad news for youse, your opinion just doesn’t really matter. Heavens, how can I say such a thing, come on pastor, we all know it’s all about me! It really isn’t. I can tell myself how great and special I am, but despite what I think, it’s not going to get me diddly. Whose opinion does matter? Oh yes, God’s opinion. That is a great thing! By the way, I told Matt I was going to rip him off relentlessly here, he said “fine, go for it!”.

Anyway, Matt talked about “Performacism”, this idea that we measure our worth by what we do, how well we do it, in and of ourselves. Performacism drives you to the following: 1) The fear of and trying to avoid a horrible outcome, a false Hell that you’ve created, that you’re running from in order to make it to an “unfulfilling heaven, that you earn the applause and approval of your peers. That heaven can’t do what you want, doesn’t fulfill your life.”[2] God’s not all powerful, it’s all about you and what you do and more importantly the way you want it to play out. It drives me nuts hearing people talk about heaven as a boring place, “why would I want to end up there”. Heaven is not our ultimate destination, our ultimate destination is the eternal resurrection. We will be put back on this earth in our physical bodies in order to live our lives the way God intended us to live, a world filled with unlimited possibilities and life fulfilling beyond anything we could imagine. Matt points out that Adam and Eve rejected the “Garden of Yes” in favor of the “tree of no”. We make that wrong choice all the time, a garden full of all kinds of possibilities in order for us to indulge in our personal besetting sin.

Matt further observes that we make ourselves a “Functional Savior” that it’s all in our hands whether or not we make it to that amazing eternity. It’s our activity, and accomplishments that save us, so that we are valued by ourselves and by others, because, heavens! in today’s world, it is all about everyone else’s who so precious opinion. We have that problem on a massive scale in our society today and something that our youth get so caught up in, but we’re all susceptible to it. Our self-image, whether our physical attractiveness is valued by others. In a world where everyone’s equal regardless, ya right! Our hypocritical world is just so full of themselves. The fight is to be as superficially attractive as possible to be of value, if you’re not, you might be patronized a little, but just not taken seriously. We see girls today going to extremes because hey the vital thing is to be beautiful, get the right guy, have all kinds of worldly wealth and live happily ever after. Forgetting that despite all our efforts, some, like me, who’ve just been ugly from birth, end up simply being dumped out the other end of life, whether we were beautiful  or not because we no longer meet the standards.

The cut to the chase is this; Jesus tells us that we can do it the hard way, by our own standards, our own worldly, wrong opinions. Or, because Jesus did it the hard way for us, we can trust in Him, that He has done all that’s necessary. Yes, we should leave it all out on the course for Jesus, because that’s what He’s done for us, but never think that is what gets you His promises.

We are so incredibly valued by the Father and there’s not one thing that we can add to that, not by anything we’ve done, not done, or done wrong, but solely who we are in Jesus, so incredibly valued because of who we are in Him and that He died a horrific death in order to save us. For such a huge price and to be adopted into true life in the Father’s family in baptism, we are, each one of us, so incredibly valued and loved. There are those of us who the Holy Spirit is moving to do big things, to serve at high levels. There are those of us who just physically can’t or who are called to do what we feel are humble things. Doesn’t matter to the Father, yes we should follow our calling, but no, we should never doubt how precious we are to the Father and what we are to Him in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Dr Ryan M. Reeves https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/ryanreeves/2016/04/20/did-luther-really-tell-us-to-love-god-and-sin-boldly/

[2] Matt Popovits PLI seminar, Cary, NC, February 9, 2017

Science is important, scientism is in denial

I have been baffled as to why any secularist would think of, at least a Christian, as wicked. Yes, there has been a lot of stupid in Christianity, no where near as much as the secular, but let’s move along. This bigotry that people like Richard Dawkins preaches is just stunning in its hatred. Yes, there are some (and that is some not all) fundamentalist types that are just delusional. These people really are not trained in Christian ministry, they’ve been making it up and it’s just going to be their way. They are a minority. The Roman church has certainly had its issues, it has not been vigilant about screening for homosexuals and pedophiles. And again a minority, most of the Roman priests I know are the most upright, self-sacrificing men you will ever know. The public education system up to and including universities, should be spending more time getting their own house in order and not wagging their finger at Christians.

Mark Ward in an article he wrote for Answers Magazine (Oct – Dec 2015 pp 52-55) “Most Western scientists affirm that ‘the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry.’ Dawkins calls those who don’t accept this overwhelming evidence ‘the wicked’. Dr Ward claims that “scientism” perceives those who disagree with what they consider the obvious evidence to be some kind of conspirators. That Christians are trying to over turn what they, in their faith system, consider to be carved in stone fact and that Christians, being ignorant, uneducated, Cretans are simply trying to corrupt and undermine the enlightenment of education and science.

OK, I guess I finally get it. But as Dr Ward points out that charge can certainly be bounced right back at the secularist. For someone who claims to base everything on science, to blindly accept the staggering odds against the entire universe happening by accident, is simply blind faith. It is a faith system that has as its basis no substance. At least a Christian can point to the revelation of an all powerful, infinite, all knowing Creator. Ward quotes Terrence McKenna: “…tongue-in-cheek description of modern secular science: ‘Give us one free miracle and we’ll explain the rest.'” Basically just shut-up and accept our explanation because I have a lot of letters behind my name. Sorry, but that is the definition of arrogance.

Both Dr Ward and I are all for science, you’d have to be in complete denial to think that science hasn’t accomplished remarkable feats. But what they have given us is a world that lives in hopelessness, after all science’s only promise is that when we die we simply blip out of existence and what we do here only matters in terms of what we leave to posterity. As an inner-city pastor I see the hopelessness constantly and for those who buy the secular-scientism, the only answer really lies in a bottle, a joint, a needle, sex, power, money  or eating, among the most common idols. There is no greater being who wants what is best for you, who watches over and provides for you and gives you the promise of eternal life in a perfect world. Sure we Christians want what is best for our posterity, look at all the things that have been left for us from centuries of Christians. But we are also leaving hope and promise, that this isn’t just a dog eat dog Darwinian survival of the fittest world. There is a purpose, a plan, hope and promise and a perfect, holy, just God who has given us that hope and promise.

Dr Ward writes: “But there is no agreed upon definition of science that can solve all disagreements. Science is not a neutral arbiter, as Stanley Fish would say, ‘that sits above the fray, monitoring its progress and keeping the combatants honest.’ Science is, instead, ‘an object of contest.’ Which authority gets to determine what counts as science? Will it be God, or not-god?” Again a survival of the fittest that leaves the weak and vulnerable in a state of constant fear and oppression. Scientism may have the “facts”, but what good does that do if it’s constantly telling you that if you don’t stack up, then, as Ebeneezer Scrooge opined “they should die and thereby decrease the surplus population.” Scientism followers may not declare that, but where do you think that Charles Dickens would have really derived that opinion, certainly not the church.

Dr Ward quotes St Paul “…to describe those who reject the evidence of creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:18-22)

Dr Ward goes on to write: “It is wicked to suppress the truth when we who are made in God’s image have sufficient intelligence and opportunity to process it. Paul reveals that we all have those things, and so he joins Richard Dawkins and me in seeing truth as a moral issue.”

I would certainly join that, it is wicked to suppress the truth, the truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know Jesus was a historical man, we know that He did and taught things that we as Christians know could have only been done and taught by God. We know we have the hope and promise of His death as payment for our sins and resurrection as the promise of our eternal life. Other historical, non-Christian people have attested to who and what Jesus did. And all this He did for those He chose to be saved to eternal life. For we who know that truth and do not actively profess, teach and present it to non-believers, seems to me that could be defined as wicked on our part. If we, as Luther wrote, are beggars, and we know where the bread is, wouldn’t it be incredibly wicked of us to withhold that truth to other beggars? When we leave those around us in hopelessness and despair, leave them to be victims of the Darwinist/scientism, beliefs of the culture, we choose to deprive them of what we are blessed to have and we simply cannot do that. We are called to live and present the Gospel/Good News of Jesus Christ. We then trust what God does in those who we have pointed to true life in Jesus. Are we wicked when we don’t? A case could be made, couldn’t it? Do you want to stand in front of God in judgment and answer why you didn’t point others to Him?

The Joy of Church

This really is kind of a plea, please, please really hear me out. In this world, that is just so temporary, so phoney, so wrong, so lacking in hope, in promise, please consider a genuine alternative, the church. I think we’ve all see more than enough to show us that there is nothing that the world can offer that gives us any long term promise. Clearly the church of Jesus Christ does, everything around us fails, disappear, just let’s us down. The Christian church, for 2,000 years, has been the only hope and promise for eternity. I know, we all have to function in the world, we do, I worked in corporate America for 20 years and I served in the military reserve for 29 years. I’m not asking you to be a monk, I am telling you what you are painfully aware off, none of these things last, Jesus told us “I’m am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Coming to the Father means eternal life. Jesus was crucified, rose  from the dead, ascended into heaven and promised that for those saved in Him, they would be resurrected to life eternal. This is true life, the life that God had intended for us until we messed it up with our sin.

Being in Jesus means being part of His church, the one He said He’d build on the rock of His disciples, the church that is His Body. To be in communion with Jesus who is our only promise, our only hope, means being in communion with His Body, His church.

So I submit the following, this is from Matthew Harrison, Dr Harrison is the President of the Lutheran Church and I wanted to share his thoughts on the Christian church. Being a part of the church, serving each other, being served, living life in Jesus and eternal life in Him. If you would like to see the blog site which includes this and other similar posts check out  lcms.org/president :

The Bible teems with joyous, paradoxical truths. God is three in one. God is man. God dies on a cross. The God who visits His vengeance upon trespassers has mercy only on sinners. We die to live. We live to die. The sinner is righteous .The weak are strong. Saints are sinners. Sinners are saints. Afflictions are blessings. The word of man is the Word of God. The poor are rich, and the rich are poor. The first are last, the last first. Law and Gospel. It is a hallmark of Lutheranism that it does not, as a matter or principle, try to resolve these paradoxes. Is it bread, or is it body? The texts simply state that it is both. If salvation is God’s act alone, and faith is a result also of an eternal election to salvation (Ephesians 1), and god wants all to be saved, then why are not all saved? Must not God then have determined to condemn some from all eternity? No. The Bible says, “God wants all to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Lutheranism lets the paradox stand. . . .

The maladies in the life of the twenty-first century church, and in the Church in every age for that matter, are the result of missing “the narrow way” (Matthew 7:13–14). It is for me a paradox itself, that the “high” road of orthodoxy—right teaching and right praise—is freeing! For ortho-dox-y is both right doc-trine and right dox-ology (or praise). It also leaves plenty of space for us to rejoice in God-pleasing differences of gifts, emphases, practices, and even personalities.

The Church is a paradox. She is the Bride of Christ, “spotless,” “holy,” “washed” (Ephesians 5:25–27), the “[pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1ff). And yet she only appears in this world hidden under the guise of poor sinners, flawed leaders tensions, divisions, and even false teaching. This is at once both disturbing and comforting. It is disturbing because we find ourselves in such “spotted” congregations, denominations, and Christendom. It is comforting because—despite its outward appearance, despite the fact that there have been times in the history of the church when the pure teaching of the Gospel all but disappeared from the public confession of the Church and its practice—nevertheless, the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Church endures because Christ endures, and he will never let his Gospel go un-believed, until the end of time. That’s worth rejoicing over, especially in the times in which we live. And there is also comfort in knowing that because the Church exists well beyond the genuine Lutheran Church, we will also find truth spoken by others. And when we do, we are free to heartily and gladly acknowledge it as such. . . .

The secret of living a good news life in a bad news world is knowing that despite our manifold weaknesses and sins, precisely of Christians and the Church, Christ remains wherever, so far and so long as, Christ and his Word are heard and to the extent that true Baptism and the Lord’s Supper remain. That is the expansive joy of generous, faithful Lutheranism. Thus genuine Lutheranism is simply genuine Christianity. And Christianity, with all its manifold weaknesses and sins, is far broader than genuine Lutheranism. . . .

That’s the joy of a generous, faithful Lutheranism – generous in recognizing the Church wherever the Gospel is, and faithful in recognizing its sacred duty to be faithful to the truth of God’s Word. It may be a paradox, but it’s a joyful paradox, nonetheless.”

Yea the church is important for the individual person, for those who come together to support each other and to be supported. It’s important to come together to support those around us, many rely on the church in times of trial, inside and out, of the church and when we come together to support each other and others, we truly serve God who serves us and gives us the promise of true hope in our earthly life and our life eternal in the resurrection of our bodies and the real world.

As Adriane Heins points out in the same issue: “You are a part of something greater than yourself – the true Church. You are loved in christ, and you are not alone.” (The Lutheran Witness August 2015 pp 2, 3)

Jesus the Bread of Life, does that offend you John 6: 51-69 First St Johns August 16, 2015

[For audio version of this sermon, click on 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 rejoice in eating the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ said …  AMEN!

It’s interesting to note, that this is an issue, the Body and Blood of Jesus, that was there right from the beginning. You might find it interesting that the majority of Christians world-wide, believe that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, really is about the true Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s American Christianity that has really undermined that believe, albeit abetted by people like Zwingli who was Swiss and James Arminius who was Dutch. None of the churches that come from them have really taken root in Europe, but they have in the United States and other parts of the world. There are variations, the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican/ Episcopalian and Lutheran churches do hear Jesus’ real words in the Scripture. “…Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Saint Paul is very clear, not only is true life only in Jesus’ Body and Blood, but for those who don’t accept Jesus’ words he writes: “ESV 1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Now if you take that to the logical extension, if we are taking His Body into our Body, then we sustain, in us, the Body of Christ that we are a part of, in His church. If we, being His church, His Body, the church is the Body of Christ, and we take His Body in order to be forgiven, to have true life in His Body, doesn’t that mean that only those who understand being a part of the true Body of Christ would take His Body to their benefit? If someone is not a part of the Body of Christ, taking His Body is not going to do them any good and St Paul is quite clear: “ESV 1 Corinthians 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. ESV 1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Not only is this not doing them any good, but according to St Paul will actually do harm. Why, as a Christian pastor, would I allow someone to harm themselves in something that for those who are in Jesus does give forgiveness and does save to eternal life, but for those who don’t believe this, they may be harmed? This quote from the Lutheran Study Bible: “…the Sacrament unites the participants both to Christ’s Eucharistic Body and Blood as well as to their fellow participants. Union with Christ results in union with one another… This unity is emphasized in particular because of the actions of some in Corinth who were destroying the faith of those ‘for whom Christ died.”[1] We want people to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church. I certainly want people to accept and believe the true Gospel, that Jesus sacrificed His Body in order for us to be saved. When we eat His Body we have forgiveness and spiritual strengthening in Him, His flesh and His sacrifice as payment for our sins and to give us the assurance of eternal life in Him, in His Body. That is what His Body and Blood are all about. But for those who think that it is only a remembrance, a ceremony to go through, they are not going to receive His Body to their benefit. St Paul is very clear and I have no reason to think otherwise!

We understand what the issue is today. Let’s face it, at the point that Jesus is telling this to His disciples and this is not just limited to the twelve, no one really understands except for those who the Holy Spirit has given faith in Jesus’ words. Look back at verse 22, it refers to the crowd. This is most, if not all of the people, 5,000 men and at least that many or more of women and children that Jesus just fed with bread and fish. Where it says: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ and when Jesus confronts them about their “grumbling” and challenges them, saying: “Do you take offense at this?” The answer is, “Ah, ya, we do take offense” and as verse 66 says: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” They knew perfectly well what He said, and they were frankly, freaked out about it. I honestly cannot say I blame them for their reaction. Jesus is definitely springing this on them. He really is just blurting this right out of nowhere. However, when Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man”, He wasn’t fudging His words, He wasn’t mumbling. When Jesus says “truly”, that’s the way it is. When He says “truly, truly” not only is that the way it is, but ya, it may be a little tough to take, but that is the way it is and you need to accept that the only way you can deal with it is to know that the Holy Spirit will give you the faith to deal with it.

When these disciples picked up and walked away, Jesus didn’t chase after them. “Woe, wait a minute there, hey this is just a lesson, a simile, a symbol, you’re not really drinking my blood and eating my flesh, I’m not trying to gross you out here, just making a point.” Jesus meant what He said, this is my actual Body and this is my actual Blood and the huge crowd that was following Him around exactly understood what He was saying and they just could not accept what He said and realize that God the Son, Jesus, was telling them that ya, there is a whole new paradigm in effect and if you have faith in me, if you are willing to accept what I say, and you play out the rest of the game, you will understand why this has to be the way I’ve told you. Jesus confronted the twelve and point blank challenged them: “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter is the stand-up guy this time and makes it abundantly clear that he accepts what Jesus is saying and while Peter might be a little freaked out about it also, the Holy Spirit acted on Peter at that very moment and gave him the faith that he needed in order to accept this seemingly bizarre statement and hang in with Jesus on it: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” The reading goes on, Jesus then blurts out, “one of you is the devil”, which seems to mean, that ya, you guys get it, but there’s one here that’s just going through the motions. There are many people today who are just going through the motions and do it, but don’t believe it. I have to believe that Jesus gave the big old, fisherman, Peter, a big smile and an arm around the shoulder to hear Peter’s answer. Way to go Peter, someone does get it.

I close with this quote from Cyril of Alexandria: “How he will give them his flesh to eat he does not yet tell them, for he knew they were in darkness and would never in that state be able to understand what is ineffable … But the power of learning suitably follows on those who believe … It was therefore right that faith should first be rooted in them before understanding … And it is for this reason (I suppose) that the Lord refrained from telling them how he would give them his flesh to eat, calling them to believe before they seek. For those who believed, however, he broke bread and gave it to them, saying: ‘Take, eat; this is my body.” … Do you see how he does not explain the mystery to those who had senselessly rejected the faith without investigation? But, to those who believe, he declares it most clearly.”[2]

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

[1] Lutheran Study Bible  p 1960

[2] Cyril of Alexandria quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” Joel Elowsky editor pp 239-240Communion prepartion Jose Montalvo, Pastor Jim Driskell, Bob Seen