Tag Archives: disciples

Mars Hill without the intellectual pretense

This overnight radio show drove home how really unintellectual this country has become. This is especially ironic and tragic when you consider how much money is spent on “education”. People really aren’t educated today, they’re trained, indoctrinated and made competent, but assuredly not educated.

In respect to that we have the great enabler, the media, this particular show is such a graphic example. Call in with the most ludicrous subject, conspiracy theory, any kind of theory, so long as it’s not about Jesus, and he will tell anyone who calls that they are right about anything they submit. His attitude seems to be “they said it so it must be true, again so long as it’s not Jesus”. No matter how impossible it is to reconcile with reality or with anything else that’s been proposed on the show, that night or any other night in the years this show has been on. It’s on seven nights a week 365 days a year.

The regular host, at least, rarely questions anyone and when he does it’s in the sense of “well ok, if you say so”. So many of the callers are almost obviously delusional, even over the phone/over the radio it’s pretty apparent. The paranoid and obviously delusional, and others suffering from an apparent mental disorder call into this show and just throw it right out there and no one questions them in the least. There is a constant stream of guests who go on, often for hours, spouting their latest theories, conspiracies and/or coverups. They label something a coverup, no matter how obvious or implausible and the host will give you a microphone and an audience.

Isnt this really how society is today? Anything/everything is possible, label anything/anyone you want with some kind of conspiracy, some kind of a conspirator and this host will let you rant on so long as it’s politically correct (although he will let some right wing fanatics and/or religious nut ramble on just to show they’re obviously somehow paranoid or delusional). The rest he just let’s go on their merry way, pats them on their head, tells them how obviously right they are, while making no effort to try and reconcile this ones story with the one from the day before. There must be UFOs, they must be a part of a government plot or coverup.

One could certainly make the case that this is a modern day “Mars Hill”, but while the people there were some kind of intellectuals, there is no pretense of any kind of intellectual at all in contemporary society. Frankly I submit if anything it’s anti-intellectual. We will tell you what the truth is (or that there really isn’t any truth) and you just need to fall in line. You get all these people who tell you they don’t need an education, because they know all they need to know. I’ve learned all I need, when they can’t demonstrate that they’ve done anything to learn anything. I’ve seen more than a few of these types.  No education to speak of, no real life experience, no personal study, it’s obvious that anything they know is very superficial. But that doesn’t stop them. They have somehow absorbed the information, some form of osmosis, and everyone should follow them and believe everything they say.

You certainly see this in big-box churches. No real background, but let’s put on a good show, say the right words (although they fill those words with ideas that don’t at all match their biblical use or any other genuine Christian doctrine).

There is ridiculous anti-intellectualism in this country. All you need is a superficial, if any, understanding on a subject and you can just pontificate away and expect everyone to unquestionably accept and act on what you say. Ya, that’s how Jim Jones, Charlie Manson, Joseph Smith, on and on, with no real understanding of reality, just blah-blah-blah, now go do it.

We also have the uncritical, anti-intellectual like this radio host perpetuating this. The creed being, just be an enabler, don’t challenge, don’t question, don’t rebuke. Nah, I just want to be liked, be successful, make money, and then? Well we will deal with that then, but hey I’ve been a good person.

That is why we want people to grow in their faith, to be good disciples and disciplers. That is why we cannot tolerate those churches that just make Christianity a form of entertainment. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. We have to live that, lead that, teach that and not give in to the silly babbling. We cannot concede souls to those who have no scruples except to make money and try to distract people from the truth in Christ. Satan really doesn’t care what you believe so long as it’s not Jesus.

Does God Hear? by Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis

by Ken Ham on February 26, 2013

Many churches now place a heavy emphasis on praise and worship music in their services. While God loves good music, it’s important to make sure our priorities line up with Scripture. What does God reveal about “true worship” that pleases Him?

To begin this article I need to make something very clear. I love music. In fact, both my wife and I play the piano. I love to listen to Christian music as I travel—and I love to sing praises to our God as I worship in church.

Also, one of my closest friends is Answers in Genesis’s songwriter and singer, Buddy Davis. I have encouraged Buddy over the years to produce CDs of the many songs he has composed and presented at concerts at the Creation Museum and churches around the world.

Having said that, I want to address what I see as a problem—something that troubles me. I realize that when you begin to talk about music, it can evoke very emotional responses. But I actually don’t want to address music styles or content in this article (not that such is not important). I believe something else needs to be addressed.

A New Priority in the Church

I am in a rather interesting position to view what is happening in much of the church. I have traveled for over thirty years across the United States and to other parts of the world speaking at conferences and churches. I get to see patterns from a big-picture perspective. My observation holds true across denominations and national boundaries (with some exceptions, of course).

I would like to suggest that in many instances—particularly from my personal observation in the larger churches—music has become the dominant part of church services, and the teaching of God’s Word has become less of a priority. The same is true in certain Bible conferences, particularly those geared for young people.

Let me share just some of my observations. I encourage you to consider them carefully.

  • There is what they call a “praise and worship” time with a band usually on stage. The congregation, or audience, is asked to stand and sing for thirty to forty minutes—sometimes for an hour or so.
  • Now, as I look around the room, I often find that many people are not singing.
  • Many of the songs are sung over and over and over again.
  • When people finally sit for a sermon or teaching, this time is often less than the music. And many people seem tired and distracted.
  • Many times, the band’s words cannot be understood. You can recognize them only if they are shown on the screen.

Let me share a couple of personal experiences that show how this mindset can hinder the teaching of God’s Word. Sometimes a pastor says something like, “We tried to cut the praise and worship time so you could have the fifty minutes you wanted to speak, but I can’t really control what the worship pastor will do.” And so I often end up with less time than what I prepared for and what is needed.

Some worship pastors have said things like, “We’ll let you set your computer up after we’ve finished our practicing. After all, the praise and worship is the most important part of the service.” If I hope to teach God’s Word effectively, as the invited speaker, I need to make sure the computer works well with the church’s A/V systems.

I have seen this pattern in other countries too. Churches have a “praise and worship” time that is more often like a concert to attract people to the church, while the teaching time for God’s Word is secondary.

Now, to be sure, not all churches are like this, and I’m not saying churches should not have a “praise and worship” time. But if young people and adults get the idea that music is more important than the study of God’s Word, then where will they and their churches be spiritually in the coming years?

Biblical teaching and worshipful music do not have to be in competition. When properly done, both are important aspects of true “praise and worship” that glorifies and pleases the Lord.

No More Excuses

I have had many pastors, particularly youth pastors, tell me that music is where the kids “are at” today, and music helps keep them in church and attract others. But when I’ve been given opportunity to speak to these young people, I find they are filled with questions and doubts about God’s Word, and they desperately want answers that can’t be found in a praise chorus.

Let me give a specific example. I was asked to speak at a service for young people. I sat through almost an hour of loud music and couldn’t understand most of the words. Then I was asked to speak for only about twenty minutes because, I was told, “Young people can’t sit for long and listen to talks these days.” Then I could have a question time afterward.

So I did my best in twenty minutes and asked for questions. Those young people bombarded me: Where did Cain get his wife? How do you know the Bible is true? Why doesn’t God show Himself to us? What about carbon dating? How do you explain dinosaurs? How could Noah fit the animals on the Ark? We went on for over an hour.

Afterward, the youth pastor said, “I’ve never seen them so interested. I never knew Billy could even ask a question, let alone the one he asked. What happened?”

What happened? Well, the beliefs of these young people are being challenged at public school. From my experience, I know many of their doubts, and from the research we conducted for the book Already Gone, we know that two-thirds of these young people will leave the church by college age. So I began giving them answers to help them understand how we know God’s Word is true.

MANY CHURCH LEADERS HAVE ADOPTED MUSIC STYLES SIMPLY TO ATTRACT PEOPLE, INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON THE THINGS THAT MOST PLEASE GOD.

What’s the point of all this? Again, I’m not against having time for music. But I believe many church leaders have adopted music styles simply to attract people, instead of focusing on the things that most please God: music and vital teaching that most meet the flock’s needs and glorify the Lord. People want to hear solid biblical truth and answers to the skeptical questions of this age. They want to know how to live Christ-honoring lives and proclaim and defend the gospel to people who are thoroughly “evolutionized.”

Now, the Bible does not prescribe how much time should be allotted to teaching and music. But in a world that increasingly attacks the Bible’s authority, I submit that the pastor, more than ever, needs to equip his people with biblical truths so that they can function as true Christ followers (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Furthermore, many churches tell their adults and young people that they can believe in evolution and history over millions of years, as long as they just trust Jesus. Or they totally ignore this topic. Yet I believe that today’s attack on God’s Word is the same strategy Satan employed in Genesis 3 when he asked Eve, “Did God really say . . . ?” This attack on the Bible’s trustworthiness is destroying the coming generations. Meanwhile, church members get together and have long “praise and worship” times that relegate Bible teaching to a much lesser role than music.

But is God hearing many of these churches? If we are compromising God’s Word and not teaching and obeying His Word as we should, is it possible that God would say to these modern churches what He did to the Israelites of old?

“Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments” (Amos 5:23). “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Amen! By God’s grace, may we get our priorities straight and help people to praise and worship Him as He deserves—giving primacy to His Word in all aspects of our personal lives and church services!

Ken Ham is the founder and president of Answers in Genesis–USA. He has edited and authored many books about the authority of God’s Word and the impact of evolutionary thinking on our culture, including Already Compromisedand The Lie.

For God so loved all peoples, all heritages John 3: 14-21 First St Johns Mar 15, 2015

[For the audio version of this sermon 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 are brothers and sisters in Jesus said … AMEN!!

You may have heard me refer to St Patricks as the “high holy day”, if you grew up where I grew up, it would be easy to come to that conclusion. I went to the St Patrick’s Day mass in Boston, once. It was conducted, by then, Cardinal Law. You wanna talk “high holy day”, that was it. The worship service, for what was during the week, was very ornate and well attended. This was at the Cardinal’s seat at Holy Cross Church in Boston. Say what you will about the Roman Catholic Church, but I left there very much feeling as if I had been in worship.

The story is told of Mayor James Michael Curley of Boston. Mayor Curley was quite the character, sort of a Robin Hood figure at the time, which was pretty much during the depression. He couldn’t make March 17 a holiday for a Christian Saint, he tried to find an historical event to commemorate. He hit upon the fact that March 17 is when the British evacuated Boston during the Revolutionary War. Well the fact that our Boston ancestors drove the mighty British out of Boston wasn’t something that not only the old Boston Yankees would happily commemorate, but also the Irish-American population would also buy into. Call it what you would, there was a holiday on March 17 and we all know what it’s really about. Evacuation Day is still a recognized holiday in Middlesex and Suffolk counties where Boston is located in. And it is duly celebrated.

Heritage is an important thing, it should be shared and celebrated. Right here we have at least four different groups in First St Johns Lutheran Church that are very serious in the living and celebrating of their heritage and there is nothing wrong with that. In a society that has become so splintered and so alienated, I submit that those people who remember their heritage, share that heritage with others of the same group, make sure that their children, grandchildren and other relatives remember that and don’t surrender to what has become an increasingly homogenized society. As much as diversity is promoted in today’s society, it really is putting away ethnic and religious heritages, to be bound together under an increasingly secular and humanist heritage. Many talk a good game about heritage, the lack of knowledge of American and ethnic history is getting to be scandalous. Too many young people can’t even think in historical terms, as if what came before them doesn’t matter and yet has very much made them what they are. This lack of anchoring in our society, to our Christian heritage and our family heritage has left us with a society that is increasingly detached and alienated.

When you were baptized, you became a new person. In Baptism you are “born again”, you are given real life, in Jesus Christ, you are that new man or woman. Because of that you are born into a new heritage. You may be of German ethnicity or Irish or Spanish, African-American, Italian, but as the song says “…in Christ alone…” We share a heritage that goes back to the beginning in Jesus. As Paul wrote to the Galatian brothers: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Because it is the “high holy day”, I bring this up because I do try to make St Patricks a little special. I know it’s the middle of Lent and should be somber. Sundays, though, even in Lent, are still festival days on the church calendar. It’s odd how it works out and if you would like me to explain it, I will, but I see St Patricks as a way to kind of stay in touch with the culture that I was brought up in and even as a Lutheran was included in. I have to admit, being of Irish/Yankee ethnicity, makes me an oddball in the Lutheran Church. Although it’s not the only thing that does, but I see St Patricks as a way to remember not just our ethnic identity, but so much more importantly our identity in Jesus.

One reason that I have felt it was so important to recite the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds with the word “catholic” is to emphasize that the Lutheran Church is very much a universal church. We should not concede that to any other church. We are universal and the Lutheran Church has members and churches in almost every country in the world. There are countries where Christianity is seriously repressed, so we really don’t know what church is or isn’t represented. The fastest growing Lutheran population in the world is not in the United States or Europe, it’s in …. Africa, by far. “…there are over 16 million Lutherans in Africa?  To put that in perspective, that’s more Lutherans than in all of North America. Unlike the Church in Europe and North America, Africa as well as Asia is seeing phenomenal growth in membership.” Put in perspective, from Dr Luther grew the churches of modern Protestantism. [1] Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, genuine Protestant Christian, excluding Anabaptist churches, churches are the result of what Martin Luther did 500 years ago. We are all truly brothers and sisters in Christ. Often more brothers and sisters than the people that we share physical parents with.

I may use St Patricks Day to add a little twist into worship, I try to do it better, but it never seems to come about. But we have a shared heritage that far transcends what countries our ancestors were born in, we have a heritage that matters for eternity. Jesus died for all of us equally, we are all equally saved in Jesus, whether you were baptized last week, or seventy years ago. I am no more saved because I’m of Irish descent than you are of German descent, or Spanish, African American. In the eternal resurrection our heritage is solely in He who died so that we could be saved. He who is the Lord of our life, in this life and in the life eternal. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” World, ko,smoj in Greek means “…the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human race”[2] We are all brothers and sisters in the Holy Catholic, universal Lutheran church of Jesus Christ.

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

[1] See more at: http://www.messiahlacrescent.org/2010/09/lutherans-in-africa/#sthash.x7ApeFjD.dpuf

[2] BibleWorks

True disciples in Jesus, not phoney expectations

This is from Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 142: “James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greater honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples’ actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7-9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt 26:69-75).

Yea these guy’s definitely failed, but I respectfully disagree being in Jesus does not mean that we all of a sudden become lions for Jesus. As a Lutheran we certainly know that we become a new creation in Jesus. Baptism makes us a new man or woman, we have been born again in the Spirit a new creature. We absolutely do. But Martin Luther always cautioned that the old/worldly person would always be lurking waiting for the chance to jump in and assert itself.

When it’s not about Jesus it’s about me. I have no doubt that the ratio is well over fifty percent weighted to me. Sure they became new men on the day of Pentecost and we praise God for that. We do become spiritual beings in Jesus and the Holy Spirit does keep working on us.  I pray that we do respond to Him when we are called on, that we are raised up far more than we fail.  But the beef I have with Reformed theology falls in to works righteousness theology, that we have to become virtually perfect. This side of heaven we aren’t going to be perfect or even too close. I’ve talked to too many people who have given up, have despaired because some uneducated, self-proclaimed “evangelist”, who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and makes it up. Who genuinely thinks he/she has reached some state of perfection and thinks everyone else should be. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. The Blackabys certainly are much better educated than me, but all Reformed theology still breaks down in this works righteousness and creates an environment where too many give up because they can’t reach an impossible goal of perfection.

I’m not saying give up and don’t strive. Christians should always be striving for Jesus. But don’t get sucked into this idea that you’re going to be perfect and have it all together. Too many have been spit out the “big box” church because of faulty teaching and faulty people. These are the kinds of Jim Jones/cult kind of thinking that causes serious spiritual dysfunction. The fastest way to truly die is to let your spiritual life be undermined.

Look at ISIS, all the places where Christians are truly persecuted and truly living for Christ. They don’t have the time and resources for big box Christianity, the Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, nonsense. We have brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia who have and continue to suffer persecution. While people sit in their non-denominational big boxes being amused and convinced they’re perfect just by virtue of being them, the denominational churches, the ones who live the life and put it on the line are out there truly serving. I wonder when non-denominational churches are going to be sending military chaplains who are right on the front line. Who are going to do the work of Lutheran World Missions, for those who sit in pretty sanctuaries, world pleasing sanctuaries.

The big box phoney churches can try to sell that you need to be perfect, but for those who are living the life by actually serving, who are suffering, who know the real world of Christianity, we aren’t perfect. Dr Luther knew the old man, and I certainly have never known a Christian more real than Martin Luther. We need to quit creating phoney expectations that are not Biblical and are only in the head of some self-important big box player to the crowd. Let’s stand up as true brothers and sisters in Jesus accept that we and those around us are fallible and go out and really live the life in Jesus. Let’s not set people up for failure which the big box churches are doing.

Death Cafes Mark 8: 27 – 38 First St Johns, York, Pa March 1, 2015

For the audio version please click on the link above.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that death in this world is only the beginning of life in the Resurrection said … AMEN!!

I’ve got news for youse, in case you didn’t know it, the world just keeps getting weirder. Shawn Kumm writes about nice little dinner parties that are becoming popular. There’s all the trappings china, linen, small sandwiches, pastries, comfortable coffee house setting, these are known as “Death Cafes”. These started in 2011 by an Englishman named Jon Underwood. “The stated objective is ‘to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives”. I’d say to check it out, they of course have a website deathcafe.com. “Groups gather together to discuss death over refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake -.” Hey we’re all going to die, we might as well eat cake. Pastor Kumm goes on to say “but, ‘with no intention of leading people to any conclusion … or course of action.”[1] Well of course, because heavens, it’s the post-modern age, whatever we say goes, and we’re just going to have our nice little designer eternity, fit to our specifications. Folks, people really live these kind of deluded lives. We have a world that really is out of control. We can’t even stop the radicals in the Middle East who continue to burn alive, decapitate, bury alive, brother and sister Christians. Yet we have those who live deluded, self-obsessed, degenerate lives, sitting around and having little coffee parties, talking about death and coming to no conclusion, but being sure that things after death will be just fine.

In today’s reading Jesus tells His disciples, for the third time: “…the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed…” It’s as if the disciples, like those in their delusional little coffee klatches, simply remain in denial. To the extent that Peter, and yes I really do love that guy, he is a stand up guy and then drops the ball again. A few lines earlier, Peter is confessing exactly who Jesus is, “You are the Christ.” In Matthew’s Gospel Peter goes on to say: “…the Son of the Living God.” Everyone of those disciples that heard Peter’s confession, knew exactly what he was saying. This is Messiah, Mesheach, this is He who has been promised since the beginning of God’s revelation. He’s not another prophet, who were all men. This is God the Son, the Son of the Living God, David’s Son, David’s Lord, He who is the salvation of the world. Jesus has told them twice already, that He would die. Granted, He didn’t exactly fill in the blanks of what His death and resurrection meant to them, but regardless, their reaction was a sort of, … yea OK, but is it possible you might be overreacting just a little.

There’s Peter and he has stepped right up, inspired by the Holy Spirit, but let’s face it, many people have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and have fumbled the ball. Not Peter! I’d like to think that he knew where the inspiration came from and was not going to be denied. Jesus tells Peter in Matthew, “yup you got it, you have been blessed to know exactly who I AM.” But then Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, adds, for the third time, having said that and being recognized as the promised Messiah, men are going to take me, beat me, torture me and then kill me. Well Peter likes the Messiah idea, but ya … no, the killing thing, well that just doesn’t fit into his, still, worldly paradigm. The Messiah is going to physically lead all his followers, as His father David would, and drive out the hated Romans and establish God’s kingdom here on earth. Peter is just not at the point where he can understand anything but that Israel needs to be delivered in the here and now. He cannot grasp Jesus’ eternal perspective. Oh yes, the Kingdom of God is here, Jesus is saying I AM here, but the plan is that the Kingdom of God is not yet recognized.

While Peter gets who Jesus is, that He is the Son of God, Peter takes it upon himself to let Jesus know the being killed part just doesn’t work for him. That Jesus is going to stay alive and be the conqueror king. Jesus certainly will conquer. But not according to Peter’s agenda and drive out the Romans. Jesus will conquer death! He will overcome the true enemy of man, He will be the agent of God’s plan to reconcile man to Himself. He will be the propitiation, the payment, the Redeemer of all our sins. Those who are in Jesus will still be in the world, but now we will be saved from the world. We will now be delivered from the world of death, disease, suffering, evil and in our baptism in the Triune God, be adopted into the family of God, reborn into the Spirit. Still in this world, but now new creations in relationship with God the Father, redeemed by God the Son and guided in this world by God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has to drive these things home. According to Mark’s Gospel, in chapter 10, they were on the road going up to Jerusalem. In just a few days will be the triumphant entry. Jesus will enter into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This is no small thing, he will be hailed by the crowd, cheered welcoming the Messiah, but not in the sense that Peter expects. They are welcoming Him who will deliver them from the Romans. In today’s reading Peter takes Jesus aside to set Him straight; He’s not going to be killed, Peter doesn’t say it, but when Peter criticizes Jesus, it’s to tell Him, “no, you’ve got it wrong, this is going to be the Kingdom where we all rule with you.” The Concordia Self-study Bible’s reads: “Peter’s attempt to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross held the same temptation Satan gave at the outset of Jesus’ ministry (Matt 4: 8-10).”[2] Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, being tempted by Satan: “All this I will give you, he [Satan] said, ‘if you will bow down to me.’” Peter is saying as much as Satan said: “Forget all that dying stuff Jesus, we can do what’s really important, rule the whole world. Don’t worry about salvation for all those people. What’s dying going to do? What’s important is ruling and running Your own agenda.” Of course what would that mean to them, to us, to people all down through history? Jesus didn’t die for us, He didn’t redeem us, He didn’t pay for our sins? The only thing affected is this part of the world and we are not saved in Jesus’ death. Jesus came to redeem us from death, from all the evil of the world, to redeem our sins and give us the promise of eternal salvation. He made that very clear to Satan in the beginning of His ministry and now as that ministry comes to an end Jesus makes it very clear to Peter and by extension us. Certainly Satan was not happy being stripped of his authority and surely Peter wasn’t happy that his vision of Jesus’ ministry wasn’t going to occur. Of course Peter, all the disciples, would be filled with the Holy Spirit and they would come to know how they were saved and they, like us, would know the promise and hope of Jesus in eternal salvation in the resurrection.

Sad, isn’t it? Those people at the coffee houses, who subscribe to deathcafe.com. They don’t have that hope and promise. They think they can talk death to death and they will have their very own designer eternity, probably sitting around a coffee house in their superficial, phoney, non-existent, little eternity.

Sorry to say, they will be lost and condemned. They refuse to be guided by the Holy Spirit to true life in the resurrection and think it’s all about them. So take out that journal this week. Really pray over what Jesus has said, remember that He is summing up His earthly ministry and preparing for His death. He doesn’t want to endure this, but through His love for us, that agape, sacrificial love He has for us, that His Body and Blood will suffer and be spilled as the sacrifice that will conquer all and give us the hope and promise of eternal life in the resurrected world. Write about what that hope means to you and how you can give hope to those you know through Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Shawn L. Kumm  “Concordia Pulpit Resources” Vol 25, Part 2, Series B, p 6

[2] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1518

Church renewal suggestions

I’m still, kind of, a new pastor. As part of my seminary education I was vetted as a “church planter”, then the district president whose district I was called to thought that I should apply those skills in an effort to conduct a renewal program. I was called to an ancient/stately church in York, Pa. that just cried out for a renewal effort and so here I am.

Now that I’m approaching five years here, I have a few lessons that I thought I should share. As a disclaimer this is not a shot at anyone or any group, simply observations things that I would recommend to anyone else who might be starting a renewal.

This is in no particular order, unedited, but should be sufficiently readable for anyone interested:

One thing I would do if I was to do another Renewal is to sit everyone down together, right at the beginning, employees, leaders, EVERYONE and make it very clear. If I’m being called here to do a renewal, you need to understand right here, right now, this is not about you. It is about you supporting what is going to happen, it’s about you (no matter what you are) making sacrifices, putting in extra time, going the extra mile, supporting efforts that you may not “like”, making an extra effort for new people. Agreeing that there needs to be small groups and you need to lead them. If you don’t feel “qualified” then agreeing to put in the time to learn about discipling and actively discipling. Making the extra effort to invite people and to do “faith sharing moments”. If you are not going to do this, right here/right now, then say so and the “Renewal” will stop right here. This will be, at least, a three year commitment [I would give them the slips that I gave to the Discipling Group.] Sign them and commit to doing what you’re supposed to be doing. If these things don’t happen, then it ends right there.

No fussing because you have to push a little harder, you might be inconvenienced, you might have to adjust to different things. If you do not understand at the outset that this is not about you and is about team, it is about the Body of Christ, then own up to it now and forget it. It’s not about you, it’s never been about you, but you seem to think it is. It is about the Body of Christ, it is about making the church an effective witness to Jesus and effective discipling group of Christian disciples.

You also understand that you are there to be cheerleaders, for the pastor, for new members, for those who have stepped out to do new things, those who are about making Christian disciples. Yes there are other things that are necessary, but the celebration is for those who are going out and saving the dying, reaching out to those in a dying world who would otherwise be lost for eternity. Those who have a conscience and truly understand that they will be used by God to reach those who are lost, who cannot stand the idea that someone may be lost because of what they did not do. Those who understand that God is never going to have a problem with those who make a good faith effort to reach the lost, but will hold them accountable who refuse to make the effort because they don’t think they’re ready or capable or yada-yada. Those who understand that when God calls us we are to respond, not when we think we’re ready. Those who understand that their procrastination, they’re phoney perfectionism is just an excuse. It’s not a virtue, it’s a sinful, straight from the pit of Hell cop-out.

That they will ask and have an open minded conversation about things they “don’t like or bothers them”. Sure if things are being done arbitrarily or capriciously then it’s certainly acceptable to question, but if there’s a lot of thought and research, then accept it, do what is necessary to adjust, but don’t sit there and refuse to make necessary adjustments in order to make the church more effective and more welcoming.

If you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say it, forget about it. Seems that the MO is that no one does anything, because if someone does do something, it’s open season for people to pick apart the other person’s efforts. If you haven’t done something about it and it’s been hanging for too long and someone has done something, then you are to say how wonderful it is that person is doing, that you are so pleased that something’s being done that should have been done a long time ago.

There has to be an understanding that we are not here to celebrate the same old/same old. I am only interested in celebrating those who have stepped out in faith, have taken up the gauntlet, have taken a chance. I’m going to be much faster to celebrate someone who took the chance, even if it might be sloppy, and I’m not going to celebrate the person who just criticizes and doesn’t have a better idea. A spirit of criticism of gossiping is sin, it’s not acceptable. If you’re not going to find a way to do it better, then you need to keep your mouth shut about anyone else who is actually doing.

So, that’s it, so far. Again these are various lessons not meant to impugn anyone or whine and complain, but I think that lessons that I’ve learned that should be shared with others. I will continue to blog on this, infrequently and probably incompletely. If anyone is interested and wants to set up a dialogue on it, I would welcome the opportunity.

The Veil is lifted from Jesus First St Johns February 15, 2015

We Make Our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been allowed a glimpse of Jesus as God as His children in baptism said … AMEN

Happy day after ST Valentine’s day! “A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine, as the former Bishop of TerniNarnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus (the Latin version of his name) was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household were baptized.[20] Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to proselytize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) himself. Claudius condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused.[21] Another narrative says he was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. [23] Archaeologists unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.”[1]

Valentines also seems to be another of those festivals that the world has co-opted and frankly corrupted. Yes, there is an element of romantic love, of Eros, in the Valentine story, it is much more about the agape love, what Valentine did in order to witness to Christ. There is little doubt in my mind that Valentine would be embarrassed beyond description for us and for himself to be associated with a Feast that the world has really corrupted.

   Of much more importance, much more, like more than infinitely more important, we remember the Transfiguration of Jesus today. Festivals of different saints are a great thing, especially when it’s one who like St Nicholas, Valentine, Patrick who are readily recognized by the secular world, and we don’t emphasize enough the importance of these saints, not for holidays, but because of how they lived and died for Jesus. But we also remember, that in Jesus we are all saints, Nicholas, Patrick, Valentine, great men, and they should be remember as examples of faithful living and maybe we should be more pro-active about observing their feasts and festivals. We look to those men for their example, we pray for God’s strength to emulate their lives, but we too are saints and we all are priests and we are all expected to come into the presence of the Father on the basis of our salvation in Jesus.

Jesus has shown Himself during the incarnation as a man, the Bible says a rather unremarkable looking man, you wouldn’t think much about Him at all if you walked by Him on the street. Those privileged disciples and by extension, now, us, get to see Jesus as He truly is. He is God, He is appearing to His disciples, in, no doubt, a much more muted form. We could not endure His splendor as God the Son, but in the Transfiguration there is no doubt that He is far above anything we are and the Father comes along and confirms, this is My Son! The veil has been lifted. There are a few times in the Bible where people have been left with a view that’s been hazed over, if not outright obstructed. Moses was in the actual presence of God and had to wear a veil among the people because they weren’t able to bear even a sort of reflected view of God’s Shekinah glory. Mary Magdalene had a veil over her eyes at the tomb. The two disciples didn’t see Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Dr David Lewis observes: “Paul discusses the cause of unbelief with the image of “the veil” an image where faith is likened to seeing and so unbelief is blindness.” We certainly know those who just will not see Jesus as Lord. I have no doubt, the Holy Spirit has presented Jesus, has tried to move some people and they will just not be budged, they like the blindness.

I certainly resonate with what Dr Lewis says in terms of Paul’s ministry and ministry today. Christian ministry, proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus is not for shrinking violets and the church has been guilty of that for decades and is becoming even less of a witness today. We are more concerned about offending others, while to quote Billy Graham, we’re offending God.

Dr Lewis notes: “Because of this [inability to see under the veil] Paul stresses the importance of conducting his ministry with openness/boldness. What is openly proclaimed is that Jesus is Lord.” Why proclaim Him? “The hope [Greek elpida] in the enduring/remaining glory…the new covenant … This hope motivates Paul to behave boldly/frankly/openly (marresia) in his ministry …”[2] As we should do.

Jesus has now unambiguously revealed Himself on that mountain and the Father has confirmed who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son.” We are God’s children, we are born again in baptism, we are His and we are strengthened through His Word in preaching and in Scripture and we are saved through the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are saved through His sacrifice, the payment of His perfect life as compensation, the just payment for our sins. This is our hope, this is the only hope of mankind, the Lord Jesus! And that is why we must boldly proclaim the hope and promise of Him, as Paul did. Jerome writes: “They [Moses, Elijah, the disciples, us], too, indeed are dear to Me, but He is My beloved; hear Him, therefore. They proclaim and teach Him, but you, hear Him; He is the Lord and Master, they are companions in servitude. Moses and Elias speak of Christ; they are your fellow servants; He is the Lord; hear Him. Do not render the same honor to fellow servants as to the Lord and Master. Hear only the Son of God.”

For this week spend some time in prayer asking for guidance to help you lift the veil from those you know. How can the Holy Spirit work through you? Who does He want you to help to lift the veil from their eyes to see the only hope and promise in the world? Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. The Holy Spirit has lifted the veil from we who are baptized and born again in Jesus.

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

[1] http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=159

[2] Dr David Lewis  “Concordia Journal/Winter 2015) pp 60-61

Sponsoring children through Christian organizations really works

My wife and I sponsored a child in Indonesia for a number of years, until he turned 18 and started his life. It was interesting to get mail from him and to write back and to learn about him, his family and life in Indonesia. It would be great to hear back from him. Life kind of got in the way with us, four years of active duty, four years of seminary and over four years getting started in ministry kind of got us off that track. Based on the following we should get back on track. Based on the following from Christianity Today, these sponsorship programs do work. (Bruce Wydick June 2013 pp 22, 23)

The study was done on Compassion International that dates back to the time of the Korean War. The organization started in the United States, was set up to support Korean children during and after the war.

“…In all six countries , we find that sponsorship results in better educational outcomes for children. Overall, sponsorship makes children 27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education. Child sponsorship also appears to be the great equalizer in education: In areas where outcomes are worse, such as sub-Saharan Africa, impacts are bigger. In countries where existing outcomes aren’t as bad, like in India and the Philippines, impacts are significant but smaller. In countries where existing outcomes are higher among boys, the impact on girls is larger; in counties where the existing educational outcomes are higher for girls, the impact on boys is larger. We even find some evidence for spillover effects on the unsponsored younger siblings of sponsored children.”

While Compassion does sort of shepherd things while the child is in school, there are very interesting results after school. “…when the child grows up, he is 14-18 percent more likely to obtain a salaried job, and 35 percent more likely to obtain a white-collar job. Many of the Compassion-sponsored children become teachers as adults instead of remaining jobless or working in menial agricultural labor. We found some evidence that they are more likely to grow up to be both community leaders and church leaders.”

I believe that the biggest crisis in America is the lack of hope. As most of society becomes functionally atheistic, and rejects the notion of anything after life; the more that society basis their expectations on the material, that which is easily destroyed, can easily malfunction, be lost. In all our affluence, we find more and more that the material just does not satisfy and the more we lose hope. Compassion is giving hope to children who live in much more dire circumstances than you can often imagine: “…In each of the studies, we found that sponsored children consistently had significantly higher expectations for their own schooling than unsponsored children, even when controlling for family and other factors…. Many of these findings came close to mirroring the adult differences we measured between formerly sponsored children and nonsponsored children.”

That is they are given hope in the here and now, hope that those around them probably don’t know. And since Compassion is a Christian organization, they are also getting the hope of eternal life in Jesus. So based on this article, my personal experience, I highly recommend this as something that your family could do, your children’s class, groups, sports teams. Yours or your spouses groups, Bible study classes. Cost of sponsorship is usually around $35 per month. Not exactly big bucks for us, but a whole new life, filled with hope for a child that lives in a place that is so deprived, so lacking in hope.

Running the race in faith in God’s standards, not ours. First St Johns Lutheran Church, York, Pa. February 8, 2015

[The picture is of Pheidippides accouncing the victory of the Greek forces over the Persians to the Athenians Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869 ]

(For a audio version of this sermon, click on the above link or copy and paste it into your browser)

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 run the race of faith in Christ said …   AMEN!

I have done a marathon, I have done a century. A marathon is a 26.1 mile race, I did it in Falmouth, Ma. A century is a bike ride/race of 100 miles, I did that at the seminary. I’ve done 56 triathlons. Paul could have been talking about running a Marathon. The Battle of Marathon occurred in 490 BC and the Greeks may have included the marathon as a competition in their Olympics which would have made the marathon known to the entire Roman world, Israel and Paul included.

Paul is telling us that we have to do life, like these physical tests, with endurance. The problem is we have pasted over these with our own expectations. As Lutherans, too often, we think we don’t have to do anything. We’re saved by grace, we don’t have to do that. But let’s say you should do that. I still think you have to because I honestly believe God still pushes us to stretch in life. We are saved by grace, but that does not mean that we get to sit and just vegetate, especially when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. He gave His best, why on earth should we think that we don’t have to give our best.

Another issue that always seems to be, at least to me, an excuse with Lutherans and too many other people. “If we can’t run the race, if we can’t ride the bike, if we can’t entertain, or maintain or serve or witness … well then we just shouldn’t do it.” Heck, if that’s the issue what am I doing here? I’m sure not, no Billy Graham, or Dale Meyer, or Matt Harrison, or Jon Diefenthaler. If I’m really not that great as a pastor, as a preacher, the one charged with worship, what am I really doing here?

What I am doing, what you are doing is being led by what God wants us to do in our lives. No where in the Bible does it say, “well you have to do everything and anything with excellence, otherwise, just don’t bother doing it!” It doesn’t say that anywhere, no one demands it or expects it. None of us is perfect, none of us is going to do anything perfectly. We should strive to do our best, to serve as perfectly as possible, but it’s not going to happen all the time, we’re just not going to make it. Sometimes it does look perfect and that’s a great thing, and we should salute excellence, but we should never expect perfection, from ourselves or anyone else.

Recently, studies have shown that perfectionism is really just a form of procrastination. We seem to have always celebrated the “perfectionist”. This is the person who, “well I just won’t put this out into the world until it’s absolutely perfect”. We all think how marvelous that is, this kind of integrity. I’m certainly not saying be sloppy, but I’m also not saying that you use every little thing for an excuse to avoid doing the things that you need to do.

We are called to be disciples. That is a race, that is an endurance effort that makes the Hawaii Ironman look like a walk in the park. Are we called to be excellent disciples? No. Does it mean that we can throw God any old little effort that we want to whenever we want to? No! He doesn’t do that to use. God gives us His best everyday. He’s given us His best in Jesus. God’s not sitting up there grading us, not even on the curve, “well poor Jim, I know about him, I’ll cut him some slack”. It’s not about how great or how bad. It is about do we serve Father, Son, Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters in Jesus and the world to the best of our ability? Not in a one shot, here it is take it or leave it. We serve in the sense of the long-haul, making constant effort. We are always looking for the opportunities, always looking for where God leads us. We do it with the understanding that, Yes, we grow through this process. We also serve others through this process. Service isn’t often a one-shot deal, it’s a matter of endurance. Of continuous service.

I have no doubt in my mind that Paul was probably one crispy-critter by the time he got to Rome. Think of all that he had done, all that he endured, all that he sought to maintain and build. It’s staggering! I doubt that in what was maybe a ten-year period, no other person in Christian history did as much to spread Christianity as Paul. We have to remember that he really had no basis. Sure he had the local synagogues, but often they became as hostile as the pagan world, if not more so. So there’s a great excuse right there; “sorry, we can’t have worship because we can’t use the synagogue on Sunday, they kicked us out”. You know as well as I do that would be a ready made excuse for many people today. Paul could say I don’t have the right clothes, I can’t preach like this! No, he did what he could do with what he had. He could have said; “well, we just haven’t worked out the proper teaching, the proper doctrine here, so as soon as I get all that down perfectly I will get back to you.” Heck if I did that I’d never preach, I sincerely hope you don’t think that I am the fount of all Christian knowledge. But did that keep Paul from preaching and teaching? Would that keep me from preaching and teaching?

I’m not saying don’t prepare to the best of your ability. But I think one thing that military training, even athletics has taught me. At some point there is going to be a case, a mission. Probably the biggest case I had, a really bad situation that was my Damascus Road experience. Someone asked the boat coxswain afterwards and he replied, “I’ve never done that before, I was scared to death, I can’t believe I got through that”. He was as prepared as he could be for that storm, he  showed up and people needed help and he got to where people needed him. He didn’t wait until he was perfect, he didn’t have that luxury. He had trained to the best of his ability and likewise the rest of us in the crew, and when the call came we responded to the best of our ability. Despite very difficult circumstances, we got the best possible outcome and all of us that were involved in that case, got an education that we could never have paid for, never arranged, have never gotten under any circumstances other then we were there, we were called, we went out and put on our best effort and, the outcome was as good as it could have been expected.

As I said, yes I ran a marathon, yes I have done a century, yes I have done 53 triathlons. Having said that, I wouldn’t be too impressed if I were you. I did the marathon in 4 hours and 57 minutes. Most people finish under 4 hours and the winning times are almost under three hours. I finished the century in about 8 hours. I did finish before two other people, but otherwise the rest of my group had finished anywhere between 3 and 4 hours earlier than me. So does that mean I should just hang my head in shame, “oh how embarrassing, I’d never tell anyone that I did a marathon or century”… uhmmm no! I can tell anyone that I have finished either one, it’s called bragging rights. I did it and I’m entitled to put a little plate on my Road ID to say I did it. I may not camp on the fact that I took almost 2 to 4 hours longer than most, but I can say that I did it.

Yes I might be able to brag, a little, about what I’ve done and I have no doubt that everyone of you out there has done something that the average mortal never really does and you are entitled to bragging rights. Go ahead, yea Christian humility and we should be humble, but hey, in these cases be a little obnoxious. But when it comes to running and ultimately finishing the Christian race, we do that with humility. Why? Did we really run it in our strength? No! I have no doubt in my mind that my thirty years as a Christian and where the Holy Spirit has put me, that it was entirely through the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit, not mine. How can I take credit for something that someone does through me? But does that make me any less saved? No! I am perfectly saved and if I faithfully follow that leading and do the things that I’m lead to do, in the time I’m lead to do them, then I am a faithful servant. I have been put into plenty of situations by the Holy Spirit, where I knew that a lot more preparation would have been good. I assure you and anyone at Concordia Seminary would agree, that new pastors have a lot to work out when they get to a parish. Frankly some more than others. But is that a valid excuse to avoid what you’re supposed to do and not run the race? No! Sometimes the trial is the teaching moment, the growth moment. That the Father knows that you will only grow through doing versus sitting around talking about it or reading about it. We should continually strive to be the best possible disciples we can be, our Savior is the best and most perfect and He gave us all that we have or ever will need. But we should be ready to run that race at any moment. Not when we decide that we are ready, but when the Holy Spirit hits that alarm and tells us we need to jump up and run out that door. Sometimes we may never even know to what we are running, but we run anyway instead of waiting until we’re perfect because the Father has given us the faith to trust in Him, not in our abilities.

I didn’t run/ride the races perfectly, but I did do them. We aren’t called to run/ride/fight the faith perfectly, we are called to serve the Lord in obedience. God says I am more interested in your obedience then your sacrifice. When we faithfully obey, even we don’t do it the best we can, we are doing God’s will and will be rewarded on that basis. Not on the basis of what we think is acceptable, what is up to our standards, but what we did when we responded to God’s call in faith.

May God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit bless and preserve you to all eternity. Shalom and Amin.

Teaching, walking as a disciple of Jesus

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

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