Tag Archives: Church of Jesus

Tell it to the Church Matthew 18

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, we take this time to remember those who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and for the comfort and peace of their families in at this time. We all joined together and said … AMEN!

We lift up in prayer all those in Florida, in the path of the next hurricane, we pray they are kept safe and that minimal damage is done. We thank you Father that the people in Puerto Rico were spared serious damage. We also remember Houston and pray that they continue to recover. Most of us remember well the attacks of 9/11, we certainly know of the war that continues in Afghanistan, although we may not know of a lot of the other activity that has occurred to stop terrorism and to break up and bring to justice those who would murder and destroy for their own purposes, for their own glory and do it in the Name of God. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit does not inflict violence. Only the love of the true God which moves us to know and grow in Him and for those who do not know Him, He continues to move them to focus on Him and His true life here, salvation in heaven and eternal life in the resurrection. Help us to know Him in His love and relationship to Jesus, His Church and His people, in true, everlasting life and love.

Dr Martin Luther writes: “The amaranth is a flower …[which] is easily broken off and grows in joyful and pleasant sort… being sprinkled with water, becomes fair and green again, so that in winter they used to make garlands thereof. It is called amaranth from this: that it neither withers or decays.

I know nothing more like unto the church than this flower, amanranth. For although the church bathes her garment in the blood of the Lamb and is colored over with red, yet she is more fair, comely, and beautiful than any state and assembly upon the face of the earth. She alone is embraced and beloved of the Son of God, as His sweet and amiable spouse, in whom only He takes joy and delight and whereupon His heart alone depends. He utterly rejects and loathes others that condemn or falsify His Gospel.[1]

A couple of times a year we step outside the walls of our stunning sanctuary. We do all we can to share this church and this great monument to our Lord Jesus Christ. To invite our neighbors, family and friends who do not know Jesus and His church. We have been given a great gift, to be saved in Jesus and in that salvation to be a member of His church. Not everyone who is saved is part of such a magnificent testament and monument to Jesus. Too many think that, by choice, a place that is simple and does not have anything to really honor Him or even remind those who are there that this is supposed to be a place to honor and worship our Lord and to show the world how important Jesus is. Too many in our culture today are more concerned with makes them happy, they’re really not concerned about honoring or worshipping Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Until such time, of course, when it’s very obvious that they need God and expect Him, and yes, His Church to be there for them. We who faithfully serve Jesus’ church know how difficult it is to maintain this place of worship and that it may not always be there.

Many love to tell us how enlightened they are because they’ve made up their mind that the church is wherever they decide it should be. The snarky remarks about worshipping on the golf course, at the beach, some have told me drinking or even taking drugs. They claim that is their form of worship. We live in a truly delusional society that thinks it’s all about them and can make reality any way it pleases them. Those are the same ones who when all is said and done; “will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) The same phrase Matthew quotes Jesus as using in Matthew 13:42, 13:58, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30. “Omaha” Jesus makes it plain the fate of those who reject Jesus and His Church. It is a combo package, you can’t have a church that doesn’t accept Jesus, it’s not a church that will save you. Likewise you can’t have Jesus and not the church. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth, to be in Christ is to be a part of the Body of Christ which is saved to the eternal resurrection. You have to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church.

In two places Jesus refers to His church. “ESV Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And in today’s reading: “ESV Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Despite what today’s culture likes to think, it is plain that Jesus’ purpose was for His church to do His will on earth. Not for everyone to have their own little worship of whatever I want or makes me happy. In today’s reading Jesus makes it very plain that, yes we are to judge. Not in a pharisaical, harsh way, but in a way that is trying to get the person back into a right relationship with Jesus and His Church. That is what excommunication is about. Not to be punitive or flex ecclesial muscles, but to make it plain that someone’s lifestyle; abusing others, undermining Jesus’ church and ministry, sexual sin, coveting after the things of the world, abusing God and His Name, murder, stealing, lying, that all these things are not acceptable in the Church of Jesus and won’t be tolerated. That the person committing those sins isn’t being judged, as much as condemning him or her own self by their actions. The church’s job is to call them to account on their sin and if he refuses to listen to a brother or sister in Jesus, then to three or more, then as Jesus says: “…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt 18:18) The church is given the power to judge, as Jesus goes on to say, what we call “the keys of the church”: “whatever you [meaning the church body] bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Whatever you as the church, truly functioning in good faith, good intentions, truly trying to redirect those who by their actions and rejection of My, Jesus’, Church, won’t listen “even to the church”, note the emphasis. Ok, it’s one thing not to listen to your neighbor, or maybe 3 people from the church, but when the entire church, that you won’t listen to the entire church! Ok, then the church in My authority as Lord of the church, tell you that you should treat this person as a Gentile and tax collector. In the context of the time the most damning condemnation one could make. The lowest person in Jewish society at the time was a Gentile or tax collector. Don’t have anything to do with them, except that you reach out in prayer, love and compassion, always doing what you can to restore them to the church.

This arrogant attitude we have today, really idolatry, that is making oneself the object of worship when you claim that “oh I worship on the beach, the golfcourse”. The attitude being that worship, if any, is going to be on my terms, my time, place, emotion. As if God’s supposed to follow you around like a puppy dog hoping that you will deign to privilege Him with your attention. Doesn’t work that way, that is arrogance, self-worship, quoting CFW Walther: “…pious speech without a living and believing heart in one accord is nothing before God except a hypocritical abomination. Christian fellowship is founded on the promise from Christ Himself, as our text makes irrefutably certain. No Christian can say: ‘I prefer to remain alone. Why should I have fellowship? I derive no blessing from it.’ Whoever speaks like this contradicts Christ and questions His faithfulness.”[2] Clearly Jesus means that when two or more are gathered, no one is entitled to set their own rules of worship, and that more than two are intended to come together in true worship.

Dr Luther writes about the church of Jesus Christ: “…She grows and increases again, fair, joyful and pleasant. That is, she gains the greatest fruit and profit thereby; she learns to know God properly, to call upon Him freely and undauntedly, to confess His word and doctrine. She produces many fair and glorious virtues… the church will by God be raised and wakened out of the grace, and become living again. The church will everlastingly praise, extol and laud the Father our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, His Son and our Redeemer, together with the Holy Ghost.”[3]

It is only in the church that there will be everlasting praise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only those who have praised, extoled, lauded God in life, will be there to do the same in heaven, and even more so in the resurrection, where we are restored in our bodies to everlasting life in the perfect world that God originally intended for us, to live our life the way we were supposed to live it. Satan, the world will tell any lie to keep you from Jesus’ church, but as Jesus promises: “ESV John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Nothing and no one can give you any hope or promise that truly matters except for Jesus and He does that in and through His Church. Quoting Luther: “…I am not troubled that the world esteems the Church so meanly; what care I that the usurers, the nobility, gentry, citizens, country people, covetous men, and drunkards condemn and esteem me as dirt? In due time, I will esteem them as little. We must not suffer ourselves to be deceived or troubled as to what the world thinks of us. To please the good is our virtue.”[4]

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom        He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] Martin Luther Table Talk Bridge Logos edition p 242

[2] C.F.W Walther quoted in God Grant it Daily Devotionals from CFW Walther edited by Gerhard Grabenhofer p 545

[3] Martin Luther Table Talk Bridge Logos edition p 242, 243

[4] Ibid p 241

Prayer, let’s be proactive.

Some great words of advice from Dr Martin Luther:

[from 1 Thessalonians  5:17-18]

It’s good to let prayer be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. Be on guard against false, deceitful thoughts that say, “Wait awhile, you can pray in an hour  First, you must finish this or that.” For with such thoughts, you turn away from prayer towards the business at hand which surrounds you and holds you back so that you never get around to praying that day.

Of course, some tasks are as good as or better than prayer, especially during an emergency   Nevertheless, we should pray continually   Christ says to keep on asking, searching and knocking (Luke11:9-11). And Paul says that we should never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Likewise, we should continually guard against sin and wrongdoing, which can’t happen if we don’t fear God and keep His commandments in mind at all times  in Psalm 1 we read, “Blessed is the person who reflects on His teachings day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2)

We shouldn’t neglect the habit of true prayer and get caught up in necessary work – which usually isn’t all that necessary anyway. We can end up becoming lazy about prayer, cold towards it and tired of it, but the devil doesn’t get lazy around us

(Martin Luther Through Faith Alone Aug 28)

 

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

Dress for Action Like a Man Job 38, Mark 4: 35 First St Johns Fathers Day Jun 21, 2015

[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 a noble, self-sacrificing man of God said … AMEN. I was just expecting the guys to amen that

It is not easy to be an adult man in the world today. Even in the church that is becoming more the case. Part of the problem is that while men are called to be the leaders, they are called to be the priests of their family. But, as Rich Murphy writes: “We don’t have a submission problem in our church, we have a leadership problem. In many families, the woman is de facto head of the house, because the man isn’t. Why? Because men haven’t been taught how to be men. Our society has drawn a picture of men as bumbling, incompetent idiots who need a woman to show them how to pour water out of a boot. Don’t believe me, just look at any sitcom on television today.”[1]

Ken Broussard notes: “He takes responsibility for his children’s faith, “training them up in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). In Ephesians 6:4, God puts the responsibility on the man, the father, to make sure his children are raised on the teachings of God and in a Godly environment.”[2] Men, are called to be the leaders, called to set the tone, to take the responsibility. It may seem easy, but Jesus hardly ever just told people, “do this, do that”, but went to such trouble, pain and effort to live the life that we should be living, Jesus shows us that being the father is not “select and direct”, it is to deal with the hard situations, to do our best, not for ourselves, but for our family, to take a tough situation and overcome it. Chuck Swindoll tells the following story: ““The colorful, nineteenth-century showman and gifted violinist Niccolo Paganini was standing before a packed house, playing through a difficult piece of music. A full orchestra surrounded him with magnificent support. Suddenly one string on his violin snapped and hung gloriously down from his instrument. Beads of perspiration popped out on his forehead. He frowned but continued to play improvising beautifully.

To the conductor’s surprise, a second string broke. And shortly thereafter, a third. Now there were three limp strings dangling from Paganini’s violin as the master performer completed the difficult composition on the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and in good Italian fashion filled the hall with shouts and screams.  As the applause died down, the violinist asked the people to sit back down. Even though they knew there was no way they could expect an encore, they quietly sank back into their seats. He held the violin high for everyone to see. He nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and then he turned back to the crowd. With a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and shouted, ‘Paganini … and one string!’ After that he placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played the final piece on one string as the audience (and the conductor) shook their heads in silent amazement. “Paganini … and one string!” And, I might add, an attitude of fortitude.” Paganini could have just given up, caved in, admitted defeat everyone kind of expected him to. Instead he took the setbacks, and created from that, overcame and triumphed in a way people still marvel at. Guys, that’s what we’re called to do for our families and Christ.

God tells Job in our reading today: “Dress for action like a man.” Job could have whined, blamed and accused, just bail out as his wife suggested. But he didn’t he hung in, he stood tough. In our Gospel reading we see the story of Jesus and the disciples caught in a storm. If you look at your order of worship under “sermon”, you will see a picture I took in a museum in Capernaum. It is of a fishing boat that has been determined to date back to the time of the disciples and thought to be much like the boat the disciples and Jesus were in. I see that picture and I’m still amazed that they didn’t just get pitched out of that boat, or it didn’t break up and everyone drowned. The fact that they didn’t is a miracle by itself, the second more dramatic miracle is of course Jesus calming the storm. You have to be in a real rock and roll storm on the water to appreciate this story. We were on a small work boat, about 25 feet. We had been at Boston Light and were taking five electronic technicians back to Boston after spending the day working on the lighthouse. The radio all of a sudden starts squawking, everyone on the water had something to say a massive thunderstorm had descended on Boston Harbor and looking to the east we could see this kind of blue/green evil looking colored group of clouds coming out of where we had to go into. My very long time brother and I were used to bad weather, but the rain got so dense you couldn’t see five feet ahead of the boat and the lightning strikes were so close you could hear the crash on the water and smell the ozone. Our passengers were completely freaked. None of them had any real experience in small boats and certainly not with the crashing and booming that was going on around us. This was a small boat, only meant to carry people and equipment to a workplace. Didn’t have radar, although it wouldn’t have helped, it wasn’t  grounded for lightning, no GPS or LORAN, none of the equipment he and I were used to on a standard Search and Rescue/Law Enforcement boat. The other guys were huddled together, but we didn’t have that choice, we had to find a way through the storm and get the people we had to safety, despite the difficulty, to push through the danger.

That is what we expect of men in today’s world and particularly Christian men. Sure most of us are never going to be on a creaky wooden boat in the middle of a large lake or an aluminum one in Boston Harbor. But I’m sure most of the guys here know what I’m talking about, doesn’t take much for a storm to swoop in and you have a bunch of people freaking out around you and you know that you have to stay calm and strong and find a way through the storm. David was a man, a man after God’s own heart and a man who royally messed some things up, but also a man who has been truly admired throughout history as a great general, great statesman, poet we still read 3,000 years later. Not so great father and husband. He could have given up, cut everyone loose, hey he’s the king. But he stood against the storm around him, he writes: “…if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive… then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed by the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.” (Psalm 124).

I know what David is talking about, I’ll bet most if not all the guys here know what he’s talking about. David had to deal with a lot, he had to overcome a lot, some of it self-inflicted, but he did not give up, God did not give up on him and David trusted that God would forgive, overcome and get David to where he had to be. I bet God told David to “dress for action like a man” and I’ll bet he’s told many guys who are here that same thing.

Guys, dads, we’re not called to be popular. We’re not called to be everyone’s favorite person, often we have to do things that don’t endear us to our wife or children. Often we have to do what is necessary to protect and do it in a way that’s often not gentle, even upsetting. We are called to and have to stand for those things that are important, but maybe not popular. Frankly the way many women and children treat men today is not just disrespectful, but downright rude. A Christian man should never, ever respond in kind, our response is to provide, comfort and sometimes even defend, and that’s what we are expected to do, even when we’re treated rudely. Remind you of anyone? The way Jesus was treated. That’s why men are expected to be the priests in their home, to be the ones who stand up and take the hits and accept the fact that might be treated disrespectfully for the things they had to do because they upset someone else’s gentle sensibilities. You can’t get upset over it or choose to run away, accept it and move on as Jesus did.

So guys, since you are all big, tough, self-sacrificing Christian men, who I sincerely hope God blesses for your strength and courage, I have a challenge for you. I hope all the guys will take up the challenge, will come and meet at the next Men’s Network breakfast to discuss and will sign this pledge. All the guys should have a photo-copy of this, and it doesn’t matter if you’re fifteen or eighty, you’re still a Christian guy, if you accept this resolution, sign and return the photocopy to me, I will make sure you get a handsome original, suitable for framing and you will be the faithful, self-sacrificing priest of your home and a hero to your wife, children, grand-children etc and despite the popular characterization, will stand against the world that works constantly at trying to tear down Christian men.  As godly men, trusting in our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering how He lived His life as an example and as a sacrifice to save us all, we too are called to live our life in Christ, trusting in Him and not in the world’s opinions.

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

[1]http://maranathalife.com/marriage/mar-rel4.htm

[2] http://kingmovement.com/true-manhood-pt-6-a-real-man-is-priest-of-his-home-reprise/