Tag Archives: eternal life

Faith and Preparation or Worry? Luke 12 First Saint Johns Church Aug 7, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the faith that God has given them said … AMEN!

Our epistle reading today in Hebrews is often referred to as “the catalog of the heroes of faith”. It’s also referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. People dealing with issues that have been pressing down on their heart. Abram and Sarai have gone decades beyond child bearing years, and they both have heavy hearts, they know that God is aware of their desire, a good desire. It can be a selfish desire. Abram keeps referring to the fact that he wants an heir of his own body to pass all of his wealth to. He has no idea who this child will be, no less that he will ever have a child, but the idea of leaving his wealth to a servant, not someone who will carry on his name weighs on him. God knows the motivation for Abram’s desire and plans that Abram will have that child, but in God’s own time. Abram is about 80 years old, Sarai about 60 years old. God has already done so much for Abram, but as well all do, Abram has put that aside and is looking for the next part of God’s promise. How many times do we do that in our life? I try to keep track of the times that God has answered my prayers, moved me along to where He wants me next. I do that because I’ve come to realize that I forget way too easily about God’s answers to prayer and I remember way to well the prayers that God didn’t answer that I feel He should have. When I look back I realize why God did one thing and didn’t do another, but it’s still very much in my head the other things I think He should have done. I too often take for granted what I have, as if God owed me the answers, but get way too caught up in waiting for other answers, or getting “no” as an answer. God moved Abram from Ur to Canaan. Abram already had wealth and God added to it and gave him land where he could provide very well for himself and the growing number of his family and servants. Abram had power, he had wealth, he had land that God designated just for him. He had no other worries, but he wanted that son and despite the things that had been done for him, Abram decides that God hasn’t been sufficiently faithful. God makes a covenant with Abram, He tries to give Abram every reason to trust in God’s will and not his own. “Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield: your reward will be very great.” That promise is to all of us who are in Jesus. He went on to promise Abram that his offspring will be greater than all the stars in the sky. God certainly fulfilled that promise since all Christians, Jews and Muslims claim to be descendants of Abram, billions of people. But very shortly after God makes these promises with Abram, after He gives Abram this covenant, this contract, what does Abram and Sarai do? They take matters into their own hands. At that time it was common practice for masters to have children with their slaves, especially if their wife hasn’t had any children. Children were valuable at that time, something we shouldn’t forget, they were the parent’s source of provision in their old age, and it was important that their family continue. So they decide that Hagar should have Abram’s child, which was not part of God’s plan. Instead of being the answer to prayer, Ishmael’s presence caused problems. The Arab people of today claim to be descendants of Ishmael. The descendants of Ishmael, the Arab people, and the descendants of Isaac, the Jewish people have had continual conflict since then. Violating God’s plan didn’t solve Abram’s problem and created problems for hundreds of millions of people since then.

The writer of Hebrews lists out those in the Old Testament who have been notable for their faith. We know all these people who were written about were faithful Jews and are now being presented as great examples of the faith for Christians that God gave them. They all trusted God’s Word, His promises and directions, even under very difficult circumstances.

Dr J Vernon McGee points out that we all want a blueprint. I’ve had this happen to me repeatedly; “ok pastor, tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it”. Doesn’t work that way, what God trusted to Abram, what he trusted to Enoch, Noah, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Samuel, on and on, these were all very different people, very different times, places and circumstances. The “rules” Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, those are a baseline, what we are expected to follow, but it is always and only through faith that we live our life out according to the Lordship of Jesus. The attitude for is “I followed the rules, so now give me what I want”. The fact is we can’t see what is truly important, we don’t really understand what God wants for our life and how His will is what is genuinely important and will give us the life that is always the best for us. As McGee points out, he likes to have a neat, clear set of directions, makes our life easier. “But in this chapter we are going to find people who went an altogether different route [which is God’s route]. They walked by faith, and that is the way God wants us to walk today.”[1]

Always to eternity in the eternal life of the resurrection. It’s pretty difficult for us to imagine eternity when we just want what we want right here and now. Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We would so quickly settle for crumbs, things that won’t last, things that will lose their shine in a very short time and will end up just being junk. So many people do that with their lives. Trade the Father’s good pleasure for the things that are eternally important, for power, wealth, big homes, drugs, alcohol, sex. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” All of us make idols out of the things that we think we should have and they lead us nowhere. Jesus tells us: “Instead, seek his kingdom,” God’s kingdom is promise to all of us who are in Jesus and “all these things will be added to you.” They will be part of all that God is pleased to give us. This doesn’t mean that as soon as we think that we should have these things, well there they are right there for our faithful following. Certainly God does provide as Jesus is telling us all through this pericope. But that He will provide for us on the journey, that He will do what is necessary for us to follow His will.

There was always a “ready boat crew”, the people who would be expected to go on a call at any time, night or day. If one of us was on that crew we would just sleep in our clothes. If the buzzer went off, or if someone came in the room in the middle of the night, there wasn’t time for fumbling around for our uniform, we would just slide off the bunk into our strategically located boots and then rush down to the boathouse to get underway to rescue those in danger. Jesus is telling us that for His people, those He died for, that we should “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” Be ready to serve, be ready at any time to do what was necessary, Jesus said even in the second or third watch, between about 8pm and 6 am. Not that we should obsess over being ready, sit around constantly worried, but to be aware that He can come at any time; “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” A note for those who think they can predict that time, well Jesus said you can’t. A note for us to be prepared and when we trust in Him, when we have the faith that He gives us, that we are focused on Him and His will. That means we’re not all about what we want next, what will make us happy, what idol we can serve, but being focused on His return and His will for us.

No matter what our circumstance God does provide for us. It will be at a time and in a way that we can never anticipate. Since we can’t anticipate it, our worrying about it doesn’t make one bit of difference and it is always in His hands and as Christians we know in our heart that it will always be to the best result. Even in those times where it doesn’t seem so, our true life is not in this world, Jesus is our Lord and Savior in this world, He is our Lord and saves us to the eternal life of the resurrection. Where He gives us life and life more abundant. The Father knows what we need in this life and we do receive it, but true life is in the resurrection and we who are His need to stay prepared, dressed for that, no matter what our circumstances are in this short and difficult life.

We can get caught up in our “needs” here and spend all our time worrying about it, or as Peter Chrysologus writes: “All this is what that treasure brings about. Either through alms-giving it raises the heart of a man into heaven, or through greed it buries it in the earth. That is why he said, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ O man, send your treasure on, send it ahead into heaven, or else your God-given soul will be buried in the earth. Gold comes from the depth of the earth – the soul, from the highest heaven. Clearly it is better to carry the gold to where the soul resides than to bury the soul in the mine of the gold. That is why God orders those who will serve in his army here below to fight as men stripped of concern for riches and unencumbered by anything. To these he has granted the privilege of reigning in heaven.”[2]

Worry, anxiety, covetousness are not the ways that the world will see Jesus in us. The world all around us has no hope, no promise, anything they put their faith in will never last and gives no promise of their future. Our Lord Jesus died for us, high and lifted up on a Cross, He surrendered His life for us to give us the way to eternal life, the very visible promise of our life in Him, the world does not have that hope and promise. Ambrose writes: “Jesus indicates that grace will not be lacking for the faithful in the present or in the future, if only those who desire the heavenly do not seek the earthly. It is unseemly for the soldiers of the kingdom to worry about food. The King knows how to feed, cherish and clothe his household, and therefore he said, ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.”[3]

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

[1] Dr J Vernon McGee  “Thru the Bible Commentary Series Hebrews Chapters 8 -13

[2] Peter Chrysologus quoted by Arthur Just editor  “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III” pp 211-212

[3] Abrose Ibid p 211

Jesus the Bread of life, His flesh saves and sustains us.

John 6:5 we have all these people and Jesus has told us we have to find food to feed them. 5,000 men, plus women, children! Where do we come up with all that?

Everyone gets fed, we pick up what’s left, hey food’s too precious, we can’t leave anything behind. Interestingly there are twelve baskets left, one for each of us disciples. That night we’re rowing across the Sea of Galilee and there’s food under our seats, giving us enough energy to keep going. He provides, even when we have no idea what we’re going to be dealing with. Who can do that? Yes, Jesus and He is God the Son.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. He told the Jews who were hounding Him that He was the Living Bread that came down from heaven, the manna that kept their ancestors alive in the desert. But now the Bread of Life is His flesh. The flesh that He sacrificed on the Cross, His true flesh for our spiritual and physical sustenance. His disciples knew exactly what He was saying, and He didn’t try to convince them otherwise. Most of them picked up and left, probably a little freaked out.

“Do you take offense at this?” Why would they be offended by what’s supposed to be a figure of speech? Sure a metaphor might bother you, but what would really bother you is hearing someone say that you have to eat His flesh in order to have eternal life.

It will be a little longer, but Jesus solemnizes, makes a new covenant, based on the eating of His flesh and drinking His Blood. No metaphor intended, hey read the Greek. He is the Bread of Life, He gave His Body, shed His Blood on the Cross for the atonement of our sins. He continues to give His Body and His Blood for our sustenance to eternity, to nourish our eternal life. For those who have been born again and are the eternal sons and daughters of God, we need divine sustenance for our born again body. That can only be through the miraculous sustenance provided by His Body and Blood we receive from His undershepherds, your pastors to sustain us to eternal life.

Only God’s will in the New World of the resurrection Revelation 22: 1-6, 12-20 First St Johns May 8, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who look forward to the eternal, perfect life in the resurrection and the new world said … AMEN!

I’m not that big into eschatology, end times, I’ve never really understood the point. When God decides to let the clock run out, it’s going to happen, whether I’m ready or not. What does fascinate me, and what it’s all about as Christians, is the eternal world, the new heavens and the new earth. One of my professors in seminary Rev Dr Louis Brighton, is a well known scholar and expert on the Book of Revelation. Dr Brighton is a professor emeritus at Concordia in St Louis, but he regularly did lectionaries on Revelation and I took advantage of taking in his expertise, especially concerning the resurrection. Between Dr Brighton and Randy Alcorn, I have come to a real understanding and appreciation of the resurrection that I never really had as a lay person. The resurrection is the ultimate reality.

We live our lives as Christ’s people, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We take the Body and Blood of Jesus and are saved, sustained and strengthened to live our lives being nourished by His true Body and Blood. We are confirmed in His church, the Body of Jesus. These are the things the Holy Spirit leads us to do in our very short, difficult, sin-filled life on earth. If we die before the return of Jesus we, who are in Jesus, will go to heaven, will be the church in waiting for the promised resurrection. I know today the word promise is used a little too loosely, promises made but easily forgotten or a quick excuse because our promise is too often insincere and hastily made. So with Jesus we should read the word promise as iron clad/lead pipe guarantee.

There were Jews who believed in the resurrection as part of Jewish doctrine. It was a basic source of disagreement between the two main schools of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not. The Sadducees tried to trap Jesus making a fallacious argument about a woman who had seven husbands “who would be her husband in the resurrection?” Really?! You reject the resurrection because of someone’s marital status in this earth? If you regularly present Jesus to people you will hear a lot of silly arguments and I have no doubt that this was one of many that Jesus heard. His answer made it clear that God had intended our resurrection from the very beginning of time. God knew that we would reject Him and we would have to be removed from the first earthly paradise, Eden. We know that there is a perfect life for us because of the first perfect creation in Eden. Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees emphasizes what our true life will be: “ESV Matthew 22:31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ESV Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” ESV Matthew 22:33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.” Jesus answers them a little more tartly in Mark’s version of this pericope: “”Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? … ESV Mark 12:27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”” Not exactly the oh so delicate Jesus the world likes to make Him. Basically, “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you obviously don’t know Scripture.” Luke has the scribes commending Him: “ESV Luke 20:39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.”” God did not create us to simply pop out of life, He created us so that we would have life and life more abundant. For those who are in His will He did create an eternal world, completely in accord with His being the God of the living.

Jesus took this reference from Exodus 3:6, way back to the second book of the Bible. This is important because the Sadducees believed that only the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible were the only valid books of Scripture. Jesus is making it emphatically clear in a way they could not dismiss that it is all about the resurrection. God does not create us in order for us to simply blink away. He creates us in order to live our life in Christ that makes us truly prepared for eternal life in a new world that will only be suited to those in Jesus, because He will be the very present source of that eternal life. As Dr Brighton writes: “…whatever kind of physical life his people will live and experience in their resurrected bodies, God will richly supply their earthly needs as he did with Adam and Eve in the first paradise before the fall.”[1]

Don’t misconstrue, the world is not going to be one big garden with us sitting around eating fruit. God provided Adam and Eve all they could want in their own context. That is what He will do for us in our own context. There has been 5,000 years of recorded human history and the resurrection will be the culmination and inclusive of all that history.

Between Matthew and Revelation there are 41 references to the resurrection.

For those who like to tell us how unfair we are in saying that only those in Jesus will be resurrected, refer to Jesus’ words to John: “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it and his servants will worship him.” (Rev 22:3) What is accursed? … Everything! Sin made everything in creation, yours, mine, everyone from Adam and Eve to you and me. We are not “good”, we are all accursed, but in Jesus we are saved, we are justified and righteous. Dr Brighton writes: “The theology of the incarnation itself suggests that, as a result of Christ’s redemptive activity and his own bodily resurrection, those in Christ in his resurrection will be restored to God’s original design for humanity’s bodily state and so also the present earth be restored to its original, divinely intended state as the home for God’s resurrected people.”[2] Sorry, but there can’t be a diversity of opinion and “lifestyle” in the new world. There was only God’s will in Jesus through whom all creation came into existence in the original world. There can only be God’s will in the new, resurrected world. Sure there’s a lot of other “opinions” and lifestyles and diversity in this world. But that’s not how God intended in His original creation and it will only be what God intended in the new restored, resurrected world.
Jesus promises John who writes that promise to us: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” “Coming soon” in the context of eternity, even two thousand years after the promise made means pretty much right away. In eternity we will clearly understand how quick and tenuous our short lives were and how even two thousand years in eternity is “soon”. God is a just, completely holy God, we expect that from Him. The problem is we expect Him to be just according to our perspective which is inevitably wrong. We are only just in Jesus. Yes in the final judgment we will have to answer for the things we failed in, we sinned in. The difference between those of us in Jesus and the rest of humanity is that our Great High Priest, Jesus, intervenes for those who know Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus tells John: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev 22: 15) Who does that include? Yes, all of us. But in Christ we are cleansed in His Blood, His sacrifice for all who know Him as Savior. For those, who He describes as dogs, who rejected Him, who denied who He is, they are on the outside of the new, resurrected world. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Rev 22:14) In Jesus our robes have been washed, in His blood.

The resurrection is entirely in God’s will, it will be the restoration of His creation according to His will. His will can only be in terms of His justice, His holiness, His righteousness. Only those who are in Christ will be able to share in that eternal world that is only in God’s creative will. We should do everything we can to emphasize that to all who we meet and point them to the only possible way to that new resurrected world that is only in Jesus. For those who reject and ignore us, we should mourn for those who are doomed and continue to hold them up in prayer that God will have mercy on them and lead them to the only hope and promise that is in Jesus. Go back and read the account of the resurrection in Revelation, it is between chapters 21 and 22. Journal how it will be all about Jesus and not about how the world thinks it should be.

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

[1] Dr Louis Brighton “Revelation” p 631

[2] Ibid p 632

Science is important, scientism is in denial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original sin

Part of my responsibility in preaching is to preach about Law and Gospel. A good Lutheran sermon always contains discussion that we are condemned under the Law, we all break the Law, we all offend God, when I say all, I mean ALL. That therefore means all those who are human and are alive and have ever been alive (except of course Jesus). No one is exempt and so the pushback I always get is that there must be some, yup like babies, that aren’t sinful. Some Christians will even assert that there is an “age of accountability” and for those who fall below that age they are not sinful. I mean how could cute, sweet infants be sinful? I have to wonder if the person that brings this point has ever had to deal with a baby. Does a baby mean to be selfish, angry, demanding? Of course not they will respond, that’s just their nature. Uhm yea, and that’s the point. We are all naturally sinners, King David writes: “ESV Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This is Scriptural, there is no reference in Scripture about an “age of accountability”. This is just a way for man to overcome an uncomfortable truth, from birth to death we are immersed in sin and death in this life, that is our condition. You don’t slowly develop into being a sinner, you are one right out of the gate.

And of course you always have the “…well I’m a good person…” Really? In general I’m sure you love your momma and don’t kill people, I’m really not trying to offend, but for every person who thinks they’re a “good” person, I bet I could ultimately turn up five people who would not think they’re so good, would have some problem with them. That’s the human condition, not so much that any of us are “bad”, we are and we do sin, we do things that offend a pure, holy, just God. We sin because we are born of two sinners, into a sinful world, a world of death and defect. None of us can be anything else. So you oh so sensitive souls who take offense at every little slight, first off, get over your sensitive little self. Second, deal with it, you are in this world, with us people and you are as sinful as anyone else. This state of sin cannot but separate us from God whose nature is completely opposite to ours, completely holy.

Having said this, there is a qualification. While we all remain sinners until the day someone’s throwing dirt on our face, some of us have been brought back into relationship with God. There is only one way we can be brought into relationship with God, and that is through the righteousness of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are still sinners, but because Jesus paid for our sins through His sacrifice on the Cross and in His perfect righteousness we are saved and restored into right relationship with God.

Martin Chemnitz was the next generation of Lutheran theologians after Martin Luther. Chemnitz picked up Luther’s mantle and wrote and taught extensively on Lutheran belief, or as he and Luther would have taught what was original, genuine Christian teaching. In the following Chemnitz writes about what “original sin” is, that which we are all under and is only healed through baptism in Jesus. Also why sin separates us from God and why that separation needs to be closed in order for us to be in God’s will and not condemned to the sin, death and lostness of the world. We can reject God, but that leaves us in the human condition of sin and death, and that only results in condemnation. If we reject God, there is only one option, we are all condemned by sin and if we stay in that condition and reject Christ we are condemned to Hell. By our rejection of God, because Hell is the final end for all who want their way and not God’s.

To rewind, this is from Chemnitz, in “The Doctrine of Man” (p 196), giving a description of our spiritual condition from birth to death unless it is remedied by baptism, the faith that God gives us and maintained through confession, absolution, taking the true Body and Blood of Jesus and hearing the preached Word of Law and Gospel.

Chemnitz writes about the condition of those who are not in Jesus: ” Original sin is darkness of the mind, aversion to the will of God and stubbornness of the heart against the Law of God. These evils are not called actions, but out of them arise the actual sins, both inner and outer. In the mind come persistent doubts and blasphemies. In the will arise false security, neglect and mistrust of God, admiration of self and the placing of our life and wishes before the command of God. Then come great confusions and a flood of vile affections. Let us not imagine that original sin is an inactive thing. For though indeed a few men are held in check by honest discipline, nevertheless there are great doubts in the minds of men and many inner drives pulling them away from God and running contrary to His Law. It is as Jeremiah says: The heart of man is wicked, brazen and inscrutable (Jer 17:9)”

“Thus with the original depravity there are always actual sins, which in the unregenerate are all mortal. And the total person is damned with his fruits, as John says: ‘He that believeth not the Son … the wrath of God abideth on him’ (John 3:36)…”

Of course we have those who will just reject God’s say. “Who’s to say what is good or bad? I didn’t vote for God!” They will ask up to the point when someone does something to them, then of course it requires a federal investigation. If it happens to you, eh, too bad for you. get over it. If it happens to me? Well of course that’s wrong, I demand justice! This is of course the immature, selfish, sinful nature of the world. The dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, if I can take from you to bad for you and good for me. That’s why there is God, He is a God of justice, completely holy and wrathful against those who sin and offend. He is there to assure that ultimately those who offend, who reject Him, who make themselves their idol, their ultimate end, that they will not be allowed to offend again. That His people will be saved to eternal life. They will no longer be subjected to the evil, sinful lusts of those in the world who truly believe that it is all about them. In Christ we have the promise of eternal life the way it was meant to be, the new world of the resurrection. Yes there is a God, who does love us, who did give His Son to save us. Who also is not going to tolerate anyone else presuming to be God, to set the rules, to determine what is “fair” and “unfair”. It always amuses me to hear someone say something to the effect that they don’t need God, they can operate their own life, it’s not fair, I didn’t vote for this. There really are presumptuous, arrogant people like that. But if we’re all honest, we’re like that to some degree. The world and all who are in it are sinful by nature and man is just fine with that, we want it our way. We are all condemned by original sin which is our nature, God will not tolerate that. He did give us a way to be in relationship with Him even in this lost world and that is through Jesus. So you can live in your fantasy world that denies the sinful world around us and that you don’t need to be saved. Or you can really decide to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading you and to start living true life in Jesus. You are a sinner and you need to be saved in Jesus.

Liturgical worship, music, chanting, does stir the emotions, the right ones.

Once in awhile God blesses me with a “eureka” moment and you, dear reader, are about to share that with me, or well at least I’m about to lay it on you. Groovey, huh baby?

The hit on liturgical music/worship is that there is no depth of emotion, it doesn’t lift the spirit, the emotion.

Ya, well there’s a technical term, that’s “bupkus” or as Charles Dickens wrote, “bah humbug”.

The truth of the matter is that it  most certainly does! The problem is that the past few generations are so superficial, so motivated by “eros” love, that it’s all about me, give me, give me. Liturgical worship is much deeper, it gives to God who gives back to me. Yea, well we want to cut out the middle-man and, as always, gimme, gimme. If we would really shut-up and listen we might realize how much more comforting and strengthening liturgy is, how it reaches down to your soul, because it’s the Holy Spirit who is reaching. We can stay with the shallow/superficial or we can really build that relationship with God the way that man has been doing it, which would date back to at least the time of King David, King Solomon and Solomon’s Temple.

Now, I will concede this. Because liturgical worship is difficult, and for those who lead worship and really don’t get it, they will do a lousy job. Sure there are many young pastors who can do it, but they really don’t get it and after awhile it does seem to be going through the motions. For me, who is much less talented, but who has gotten it and is better able to articulate it, but still no talent, you know what, have a little patience with me and my lack of talent won’t matter. What will matter is the depth of emotion and love that we convey to the Father in the liturgy. If you just go through the motions meaning will not come out and again, there are too many who should do it well, but just don’t get it. Sorry, but seems there are far too many of the following mindsets: “Here I am going through the motions, I don’t really know what I’m doing or how I’m doing it or why and, frankly, don’t really care. Right, wrong or indifferent and, frankly, I don’t even think there’s a “right”.”

Well yea, there is a “right” and let’s talk about it.

I have opined before, that the difference between “happy-clappy” and real worship is the emotional content. God the Holy Spirit has finally helped me to articulate the case for the liturgy much better.

We have become an “eros” society. Everything has to appeal to the superficial, emotional, put on a big show – please me, it’s all about me, feed me, sex me, give me this superficial comfort, love me in this adolescent, it’s all about me, wah, wah!!!

Liturgical worship is about agape love. I give to You (God), I lift You up, I know it’s all about You (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). It’s only through You and because of You that I even exist, no less have any meaning at all. I is all about You, when I acknowledge that and praise You, You make it all about me. You make me something I could never be, Your child! You give me something that I could never get – everlasting eternal life in the resurrection. Real worship is always about completing that connection. Not me just sitting back and just taking, again that adolescent attitude.

Of course another reason we like the “eros”, is because it’s easier. It does just go to our base instincts and we don’t have to work at it. One hit that I’ve taken about being more liturgical is that in some way it’s not pleasing, doesn’t resonate well. Yea, well, get over it. Does everything have to be The Gaither Family? No in fact, that’s just another generation’s superficial “please me-please me” with no more depth of true worship. One of my past pastors, United Methodist, but definitely not of the wishy-washy liberal. If anything much more Father Flannagan. He was a military chaplain in Italy during World War II. The man couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but didn’t matter. If he had to belt it out a little louder to prod us to sing louder, he had no compunction about that and we frankly loved him for it. He was actually kind of a little prickly, nothing prissy sentimental about him, and when he started singing we’d just smile. Not a mocking smile, but a “there’s our pastor and we really do love him.” An attitude of pride, of it really doesn’t matter how we sing, just sing and lift up God in worship. That’s the way it should be done. For those prissy little perfectionists, get over yourselves and focus on worshiping God in the hymn and what the hymn is teaching and don’t worry your self about the quality. You ain’t no Pavarotti either. I have a much bigger problem with the guy who has much more talent and goes through the motions then the guy (me) who has no talent, but truly wants to lift up God in worship. I mean really, doesn’t that make sense? (I’m sitting here listening to Bob Seger and going on about hymns and liturgical worship, go figure. God surely does mix it up on you!)

The impetus that God used for what is going to be awhile longer (strap in) is an article in Christianity Today by Steven R. Guthrie Love the Lord with All your Voice (June 2013 pp 44- 47)

CT is not a high liturgy kind of publication and yet Mr Guthrie uses as the focus of his article Athanasius who lived from 293-376. Definitely not happy-clappy. “In the fourth century, the church father Athanasius articulated a different understanding of singing . It includes self-expression, but Athanasius believed singing is centrally a spiritual discipline – an important practice in Christian spiritual formation and a means of growing in the life of faith.” Now that would be for everyone, the Don Paiges, the Gaithers, Martin Luther, Me. Those who are great to listen to and those who, let’s just say can be challenging to listen to.

“In a letter to his friend Marcellinus, Athanasius enthusiastically commends the Book of Psalms and provides guidance for reading the Psalms devotionally, (B N – We are pretty sure that most, if not all, the Psalms were set to some kind of musical scoring. We don’t know how, but the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches have all taken a run at putting the Psalms to melody and most of these are what we chant during worship.) … The Book of Psalms, however, has a unique place in Christian devotions, somethiat the was true in Athanasius’ time and remained so across centuries of monastic practice and worship. Athanasius suggests that the Psalms are so spiritually significant precisely because they are not simply read or spoken but sung…

Now I am going to quote the article at length, because it is just so right on. So I may be breaking rules and I’m sorry and will happily do what I can to make up for it, but this just has to be repeated.

“…In singing, the truth of the Psalms is drawn into the depths of one’s being rather than out of the depths of one’s being…” [this is in contrast to where music today is drawn to, which is much more on the surface, definitely not the soul. This is the difference between agape and eros. Agape reaches down to give you strength, being, connection that you could never do on your own vs. Eros which is entirely about your superficial appetites, more personal titillation than truly moving your soul.- JD].

What Guthrie talks about next applies to Scripture readings also. When we read Scripture with some genuine human emotion, versus the flat/rote manner most people read it, Scripture does come alive. It gives us a sense of what is really going on in the real world. So much of other beliefs are sort of unreal, pretension, than genuine “this is the human condition” ideas. Christianity can be very mystical, it is very deep, it is right where we live because God the Son, Jesus, did live among us and did experience everything we did. So it is real versus this phoney Eastern stuff or gnosticism, that tries to deny the reality of the world.

“We might ask again why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life but something of its posture, inflection and emotional disposition.”

“When we sing, we learn not simply what to say but how and why to say it. What Athanasius recognizes (and what we might forget) is that inflection, rhythm, and tone of voice matter deeply. They are not aural decoration. For example, after someone offends us we might say, ‘It’s not so much what he said, it’s the way he said it.'”

Chanting is difficult, I keep trying to do better, make it more aesthetically pleasing. But it drives in me the opportunity to express the ideas in a deeper more meaningful way, an expression of the different emotions instead of it being some kind of rote incantation. Because of that, I hope that the hearer hears, the depth of what the writer was expressing 3,000 years ago. That the human condition has not changed a bit since the time of Solomon until now. When we get over ourselves and understand this connection that the church has had going back to the beginning, we can start to live genuine lives instead of this goofy idea that we are somehow so much smarter now than ever before. It’s not true and in some ways it should reassure you that you’re not the first one and won’t be the last. Shut-up and listen, instead of trying to convince us how brilliant you are. If you do, you might find some true comfort and connection to those who have been connected and inspired by God to live their lives in Him. The claim is that the liturgy, chanting has no depth of emotion. That is, as we say in the Greek, baloney. Most chanting is based on the Psalms, mostly written by King David. You do not know anyone who has gone through the range of emotions that David has. Shepherd, then king, great man, great sinner, hunted, hunter. This was a man after God’s own heart. When he loused up, he loused up big-time. But he took it back to God, he took the consequences, he dealt with the rubble, then came back and lived for God. He was a brilliant man, brilliant composer, brilliant king, brilliant soldier, diplomat, builder, on and on. To you guys who think that anything in the Bible is sort of silly and prissy, you need to snap out of it. David is more “man”, than any man I can think of before or since. He truly lived (omitting the really bad stuff), the way men should live. That is why the Psalms are so important, especially to guys.

“Music, Athanasius believes, is a sounding image of a soul that is no longer at odds with itself, nor at odds with itself, nor at odds with the Holy Spirit. Melody models an inner life in which the many different elements and impulses of the person are drawn together in a pleasing chorus.”

“Athanasius goes even further. Not only is this singing of Psalms an image of the well-ordered soul; it is also a means by which God brings about this order. As the Christian goes about ‘beautifully singing praises, he brings rhythm to his soul and leads it, so to speak, from disproportion to proportion.’ This proportioned, harmonized self is not our normal state of being. Apart from Christ, the ordinary state of affairs is for the various members and impulses of our person to jostle for control, battling with one another (Rom 7: 22-23). But when one sings, body, reason, emotion, physical sense and desire come alongside one another, each enlisted together in the praise of God. As we sing, we become a harmony.”

“…Athanasius’ point, however, is that specifically by singing our praises, all the diverse elements our our humanity are drawn together and then together lifted to God in worship.”

“Athanasius portrays the Christian life as a sort of richly broadened harmony, ringing out in praise of God…”

Part of what this means? Quit the non-sense about well you can’t sing, I don’t like hearing that. If you were focused on your singing and what it truly means in respect to the guy next to you and to God, you’d realize it doesn’t matter how good/bad the other person is. What matters is how the Holy Spirit is bringing what you are doing, what he’s doing, what every Christian who is at worship at that moment anywhere in the world is doing, making it a “richly broadened harmony”. Just saying, but I get the feeling you’re going to feel pretty petty in heaven, when you truly understand how the Holy Spirit does bring all that together. And yes that includes my still in much need of improvement chanting.

I am probably not doing Mr Guthrie’s article justice, but I think that I’ve made the point. God has been using liturgical music for at least 3,000 years. It does bring us together, it does reach down to our soul in a sacrificial, it’s all about the other person, it’s all about Jesus way. Can we do it better? Absolutely. But you want genuine emotion and content in your worship? All due respect to the David Crowder Band and all Christian music going back to who knows when, but the eros emotion that music evokes, is OK, believe me, I’ve got all the albums. But when it comes to what is truly from the soul, what reaches back through three millineium, what God uses to tie together Christians around the world, is the liturgy, based on, mostly, Psalms, but also the Gospels. When we truly take this form and truly lift up God in worship and make it all about Him, then He does respond and make it truly about us. In stark contrast to eros, which is all about me and what appeals to my senses and doesn’t go deep enough to impact our soul. Only God does when we truly lift Him up in worship that’s about Him and not about us. And if Athanasius is right and singing is a spiritual discipline, then it doesn’t matter if you do it well or not so well. We worship, we take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we hear the preached word, we’re baptized, we study Scripture, we journal, we confess and absolve, and yes we should sing, in a way that is truly a spiritual discipline and not another worldly indulgence.

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.