Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Tell it to the Church Matthew 18

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, we take this time to remember those who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and for the comfort and peace of their families in at this time. We all joined together and said … AMEN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[4] Ibid p 241

Justified and sanctified in Jesus

I have been asked on a regular basis if Lutheranism is Christian. For all the denominations and “independents” and so many of these faux attempts at Christianity, YES! All of these other denominations and other presumed attempts at Christianity came from Martin Luther. In fact if your non-denominational “pastor” has any training at all (so many don’t and just presume to hand out a shingle calling themselves a church) but if he has any grounding in genuine Christianity he will, on a regular basis, quote Martin Luther. Dr Luther is the one who called out and broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman’s were right on one score, you open up Christianity, and you risk having a lot of presumptuous people thinking they know the drill who will pose themselves as “Christian” teachers and preachers. On the other hand the Roman Church was so wrong on many counts and we see those errors seeping into Reformed Christianity. Mainly in terms of “works-righteousness”. That is the idea that while Jesus saved us, you still have to do a few things to get you over that line into salvation. Make no mistake, we can reject our salvation. But as one Concordia seminary professor puts it, “God does the verbs”. That is God does what is necessary for us to be saved, there isn’t one thing we can add to what Jesus did for us to have salvation. It’s either all about him and nothing about me, or salvation doesn’t happen. There is also what is called antinomianism. That is that the Law doesn’t have any effect on Christians, we can go about and do just whatever we want and because of the grace of salvation, we’re forgiven of everything while we just flout God’s Law. There is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for. That doesn’t mean we can just go off and do whatever we like. There are consequences to our sin and at some point God decides that you really don’t have the fruits of the Spirit and that you’re just not really saved.

The point of this blog, though, is about the Lutheran teaching in terms of how our salvation is worked out. So for you who like to play at being a Christian, take some serious note here. We are saved because we are justified in Jesus. Justified, coming from the root word “justice” that we are completely innocent, completely guiltless because Jesus paid the price of our sin by dying on the cross. He took the punishment that we should have in order for us to be free of the guilt of our sin.

We are also sanctified, from the Latin “sanctus” completely holy, set apart, totally God’s man or woman. Again, that is only because we have been clothed in the holiness of Christ because of His sacrifice for us. If we are not completely justified, if we are not completely sanctified, and the only way that can happen is in Jesus, then we can not be saved. We cannot die and come into the presence of a completely holy and innocent God, God the Father of Jesus Christ.

One of the greatest Lutheran teachers, was C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church in the United States. I’ve started a book by Concordia Publishing House which is a collection of Walther’s writings in a daily devotional, translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer.

Walther writes: “Justification happens in a blink of an eye. As soon as a sinner, in despair, recognizes his sin and desires grace and redemption, God speaks a word in heaven and justification takes place.” ( p 670) Walther wrote in the mid 1800s and I really like the style of writing from that period and Walther doesn’t disappoint. Likewise, he doesn’t pull any punches.

While we are immediately justified in Jesus, there is a process of sanctification, of growing in holiness. “Sanctification, on the contrary, does not happen suddenly. It occurs gradually and it continues until the end of our life. Justification is immediately perfect. Each one who is justified instantly receives the full forgiveness of his sins, the complete righteousness of Christ, and a new status as a child of God. Sanctification, which follows justification , begins weakly and grows until death, but it never comes to perfection.” ( pp 670-671).

Having said that I would point out that while we are, hopefully, always growing in sanctification, when we die as directed by God, the Lord of our life, we come into His presence completely justified, completely sanctified, completely righteous, but not due to anything we’ve done, only due to what Jesus has done for us. In baptism we become that new child in God, therefore we become completely justified. Baptism is the “new birth” in Jesus. We become completely saved in Jesus. Yes people are baptized, then become as lost as anyone else in the world, through their own bad choices. But not because God failed them in anyway, they chose the way of the world, and the way of the world is sin, death and eternal condemnation in Hell. Sure, lots of people would like to amend that and make it according to their own plan, but this is God’s plan and that’s just the way it’s going to happen. You can continue to live in your little world of denial or realize that the only Lord of life is Jesus and He has revealed salvation to us and that’s the way it’s going to be.

Walther writes: “Perfection for the Christian is the clear recognition that he is imperfect in himself, but nevertheless perfect in Christ Jesus”. For those who think that they’re “all that and a bag of chips”, don’t need Jesus, ok, how’s that going to work out. While you’ve made an idol of yourself, because you think you know what it’s all about, the only way to eternal life is through Christ. You can make it up, but it’s pure fiction and you’ve basically told God “yea, not really happy about your way, I’ve got a better idea”. You may think it’s better, but without anyway to save yourself, again eternal condemnation. Harsh? Not really, we want to know how to be saved, but when we get God’s way and decide it just doesn’t work for us, well it’s God’s way or no way and you’re not god, deal with it.

“When a person is justified, God generally lets him taste the sweetness of His grace in order to draw the sinner from the world to Himself. At this point, many a beginner in Christ thinks he is rid of the world, sin and Satan. but if that were truly the case, it would not be long before such a person became secure and proud. Therefore, our faithful God removes the sweet feelings of grace and power from most of His believers and from that time on, He bestows such blessings meagerly and allows His Christians to grow in humility. When a person becomes truly poor, he must daily beg God for everything and adhere to Jesus’ word of grace so he is not lost. He also comes to realize that God’s work of grace in sanctification is revealed in the fact that his spirit continues to struggle against his flesh. If he feels that sin rages in him, but something else in him prevents sin from gaining dominion over him, this moves him to prayer and to the word of God.If he succumbs to sinful temptations, he goes to Jesus and prays to Him for forgiveness. Such a person is not dead, for a dead heart no longer beats.”

“We have been reborn into true life in Jesus in our baptism. We were dead in our sin with the rest of the world, now we have true life. When we are given that new life, we become completely righteous in Christ and as a new child in Jesus we begin the journey of Christian maturity in our sanctification in Jesus.” (pp 671-672)

This is what is truly important about being saved in Jesus. We can get into a lot of mushy, pointless, emotionalism, or we can understand that we are sinners, that our only salvation is in Jesus and only through Jesus do we become justified and sanctified and truly fit to be made a child of God and to be in His presence and to live in the resurrected, eternal, perfect world that God had always intended for us.

Simul Justus et Peccatore 2 Samuel 11:26 Luke 7:36 First St Johns June 12, 2016

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the grace and joy of forgiveness and forgiving said … AMEN!

Don’t misunderstand what David did was completely repugnant. There is no acceptable reason for what he did. Bathsheba wasn’t totally innocent either. There are those who like to point out the failings of the Old Testament, the vengeful, angry God stuff. By 21st century American standards there are things that we just would not countenance in this day and age. But there is certainly a good deal of hypocrisy with those who make such judgments, a lot of what the critics do are just not acceptable and certainly not by the standards of Israel in 1,000 BC. Those critics certainly never seem to be concerned with what the peoples around Israel did which were just abhorrent. One big difference was the accountability of their leaders, especially their kings. For the rest of the world at that time, the king was the highest authority and could pretty much do whatever he pleased. Take any woman, put anyone to death, take whatever they wanted and could do it with impunity. As the king of Israel David was responsible, as any other person in Israel was to Yahweh, his position didn’t make any difference, if anything he was held more accountable. When he was confronted by Nathan the prophet, any other king of that period could have just ignored Nathan, put him in prison, executed him and no one would have said boo about it. David was always responsible to Yahweh, he did have multiple wives, wasn’t supposed to and especially not a Gentile wife, Uriah was a Hittite and so presumably was Bathsheba. But David did and was forgiven, along with his adultery with Bathsheba and his treachery toward Uriah. But Yahweh was still faithful to David in his sins and is faithful to us in ours. We, by comparison, are graceless to those who offend us, quick to take anything and everything personally and like the Pharisee in our Gospel reading, quick to reject and condemn those who don’t follow our every whim, right down the line.

In our readings we certainly have a stark contrast. We have David who has committed truly abhorrent sin, he has committed adultery and against a man who was probably a friend, or at least a close associate. Uriah is listed among the renowned mighty men of David’s bodyguards, 37 men in all, a sort of elite military Secret Service, these men were all in close contact with David, so David certainly knew Uriah and had to know Bathsheba. David is certainly taken to task for the absolutely repugnant things that he did. The big surprise? He was still forgiven. Doesn’t mean God was justifying or somehow rationalizing David’s sin and as always, when we commit sin, there are usually consequences. David was made to suffer, although you could certainly wonder why his baby son was the consequence. Nevertheless, David was penalized and he knew it deep in his heart. We even have his repentance look up Psalm 51:  A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” David knew the deal, he also knew he was forgiven. Yahweh had been so gracious to David and David knew that he failed, he knew that he had seriously failed God, who had faithfully stood by him. We have all done this to one degree or another. Served faithfully and also let down someone who had treated us with graciousness and generosity. There are people who I remember through my life who treated me kindly, were selfless in helping me and being there for me, and I was not considerate in return. Certainly I have let God down on many occasions and He has faithfully forgiven me. There were penalties and consequences. Often people have told me that they knew they sinned, that as David put it “have done what is evil in your sight”, but on the flipside, turn around and complain that God treated them badly, they resent the fact that their sin caused them unpleasant consequences. We’re really quick to sin, really quick to accept forgiveness, but equally quick to forget that there are consequences. “I asked forgiveness, God said He forgives, so why did these bad things happen to me after I asked forgiveness.” We are forgiven and should be grateful for God’s forgiveness, but instead of copping an attitude because of the inevitable consequences, we need to remember Psalm 51, be grownups go back to God and acknowledge where we’ve sinned, that we’ve failed God and accept, without bitterness, the consequences of what we’ve done, move on in our life, trust that God is going to provide and get over the attitude. It truly astounds me in ministry, there is no room for disagreement, forgiveness, grace, it’s all or nothing. Yes, that’s the way it’s become in our society, but for a people who are forgiven, we Christians seem to have little idea of how to forgive, of how to be gracious, of how to put the best face on things. We just do not seem to understand that we will not always agree, and instead of taking our ball and bat and going home, understand that the ball game is going to proceed and God expects you to play out the game and not just desert because you didn’t get your way. There is no way you could function in business or the military with that kind of mindset, but that is certainly how people in the church seem to feel.

God graciously forgave David and didn’t break off His relationship with David. Imagine if God had the same attitude we often do, “well Jim, you didn’t do what I wanted you to do, so I’m out of here, see you later, you’re on your own.” We couldn’t function with such a fickle God, we would all be lost and condemned. God doesn’t do that. Just because He gives us consequences doesn’t mean He deserts us and leaves us to go it alone, He sticks with us. That is grace! For those who profess to be Christians, they expect grace, from everyone, but they’re quick to pull the trigger on others and ignore the whole grace thing.  As I said, our readings today are a stark contrast. We have David who just messed up royally, pun intended, was forgiven, suffered the consequences, moved on and remembered that God had been faithful to him and he needed to trust God that David would continue to be faithful in return to God. In our Gospel reading we see a woman who is unquestionably guilty, Jesus never tried to deny her guilt, He admitted she had sinned much, but He treated her with grace when the legalistic Pharisee characterized her faults and by extension Jesus’ faults for allowing her to be so loving toward Him. That’s the love of grace, being so thankful that Jesus would be gracious to her, even in her sin, and essentially offering her worship for Jesus’ grace. The Pharisee sitting in judgment of both of them, devoid of grace and forgiveness and as Anthony Cook describes: “…illustrates the woman’s expression of love was in direct proportion to her cancelled sin. She is forgiven much, loves much and he who is forgiven little, the Pharisee, loves little. She is being hospitable to an extreme, while Simon failed to show Jesus the simplest of common hospitality.”[1] Jesus didn’t cut the woman off because of her lifetime of prostitution, the woman is convicted of her sins, shows her gratitude to Jesus, while Simon the Pharisee, sits in bitterness and judgment on both Jesus and the woman. After Jesus forgives her, her sin, Simon and the rest of the men become more angry and judgmental: “who is this guy who presumes to forgive?” Seems like something we all do, Jesus had more than proven who He is and should have been acknowledged as the Messiah. Instead these men immediately jump to condemn Him, God the Son, again.

It’s so easy to take something personally and decide to just walk away and condemn the one you disagree with. Certainly God didn’t even when He had good reason to with David and the prostitute. Jesus certainly didn’t deserve His treatment, being beaten, tortured, humiliated and crucified, but He did it in love for us, when He could have simply decided that those who are without sin, that’s none of us, they are saved, the rest of us, well too bad, eternal condemnation. By the same token, we need to start acting with more grace and forgiveness, remember what is important, forgive the slights, real and perceived, remember the relationships and vows and move on to the Kingdom of God. Help us Father to put the best face on the things that we find offensive, realize that things are not always going to go our way, that in Your gracious will there are times when we have to deal with the things we don’t like and join together with those who we disagree with and keep Your will and purpose in our lives and move together towards the realization of the Kingdom and the eternal resurrection in Jesus.

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

[1] Dr Anthony Cook Concordia Journal Spring 2016, volume 42, no 2, p 144

The Lord God is my strength and shield 2 Corinthians

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 God is their strength and their song, said  … AMEN!

How many times have you just thrown it in God’s face, just like the Prodigal Son? That was exactly what he was doing to the “Father”. Even now in the Middle East to do what he did, tell his father to hand over his share of the inheritance, is still a gross insult. Basically saying drop dead old man and hand me over all your stuff. Way over the top. We really miss that in western culture, this kid was totally out of line. We are certainly all sinners, but what this kid did was just so over the top, just a creep. Yet we are all like him. We’ve basically told God go away, we don’t need You, hand over what is “ours”, as if we have anything that is “ours”. Neither did the prodigal son, right? His father was still alive, the son wasn’t entitled to a thing, and yet …

And yet God is our strength, when we do something weak and nasty like the prodigal, we don’t get punished, we get grace. Bear in mind, there are consequences, it may not be God punishing us, but our sinful behavior always incurs consequences. If I go to someone right here, haul off and slug you right in the head, what’s going to happen? You’re going to call the police. God may not be punishing me for battery, but the police will because a complaint was filed after I belted the person. But in repentance I am still forgiven by the Father.

As Christians, though, we can be as obnoxious as this prodigal is, but it is in God’s strength that we are saved, we are forgiven, we are not only forgiven, but we are still, in Jesus, inheritors of eternal life, there will probably be consequences, but ultimately He still saves us. In God’s strength, He makes us His children in Jesus, He gives us forgiveness in Jesus, He gives us eternal life in Jesus. Some see that as weakness. “I saw what he did and he should be taken away and punished! There can’t be any reward for him! Don’t you know what he did? He deserves to be punished, the sooner the better!”

Is that what happened to the prodigal? After he put his father through all that he did? Insulted him, took his money, went off to a foreign land and spent every last dime? He must have caused his father unimaginable anxiety and pain, how many sleepless nights do you think that father had worrying about what happened to his son? How many fathers do you think might have said: ‘Eh, whatever, can’t believe what that kid did, maybe if he gets whacked around a little he might learn something and if something else happens, oh well.” But our Father in heaven doesn’t do that. In what is an enormous, unimaginable amount of strength, God endures so much because of our gross insults, our shameless flouting of His grace, His kindness, His many/countless gifts. What did the father do when the son came home? He could have taken him out back, beaten the tar out of him and no one would have said boo about it. Many would have expected it.

But no! The father shamelessly runs out to the son, kisses him, calls for a fine new robe, a new ring, and!!! The fatted calf, the most delectable meal they knew! Based on the description Jesus gives us, the Father was a very important and wealthy man in the community. Men in general do not run out to greet anyone. They would have to gather their robes up into their belt, which would leave their legs exposed, unless there was an emergency, men of such importance did not run. Reminds me of a Simpson’s line: “You were running? Unless there were lions chasing you down the road, you don’t run.” It would have been the same for the father in this story. Yet there he was, in a most undignified manner, running out to this contemptable, unfaithful young man, who himself admits he is not worthy to be called his son.

This had to be embarrassing for the father, I have no doubt the next day at the city gate some of his peers, at least, gave him a little ribbing, even downright derision, “what was that little demonstration yesterday? We are the leaders of this city, let’s conduct ourselves with a little dignity”.

That’s something we get way too caught up in ourselves, isn’t it? Our etiquette, proper demeanor. That’s something God doesn’t get too caught up in, our dignity. A lot of times, as in this story, He doesn’t get too caught up in His own, especially if it means the difference between saving us or letting us condemn ourselves. Isaiah was called to some undignified acts, David Peters paraphrases Isaiah 20: 1-3; “In the year that Assyria captured the Philistine stronghold of Ashdad, the Lord told Isaiah, ‘I want you to take off your clothes and walk around naked and barefoot.’ Isaiah did as the Lord commanded and walked around naked and barefoot for three years.”[1] Peters points out that God asks His people to suffer hardship and embarrassment because God in His dignity lowers Himself to us in order to pull us out of the hopelessness and despair we are lost in, in our sin. He doesn’t have to tuck up His robes under His belt and run out to take us in and clothe us and give us wealth and food as He did with the prodigal son, but He does it not just to save us, but to fulfill His promise that we would have new life. Paul tells us; “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Through Jesus and only through Jesus do we become that new creation and then makes us “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Through Jesus, because of the indignity that He suffered on the Cross, we are put in relationship with God. We are no longer that old man, that lost, sin filled, pathetic hopeless being wandering around, obsessed with the things we think are important, our dignity, our opinion, our self-importance, our obsessive love of self. No! Instead we are a new creation. God the Father has put aside His dignity to run out to us to save us, to reach down from His infinitely high throne in order to save His lost, rebellious defiant creation. Not only does He save us, but He makes us His new creation and He adorns us with new clothes. Remember, a new robe was an extravagant thing in that time. Clothing was very expensive, the material was expensive and each robe was made by hand, a new gold ring was extravagantly expensive, the fatted calf was a costly, precious delicacy in a world where getting enough to eat everyday was a challenge. The Father takes His new creation, what He makes us in Jesus, gives us hope and promise, takes away the indignity of our sin and adorns us to the epitome of what we could expect. How then could we not know in our heart that God is our strength and our shield, even when he could be very righteously angry with us? And because of that, how can we not sing, give thanks and exalt His name because of what He has done for us by giving us His ultimate sacrifice, giving us His perfect, completely holy and sinless Son to die as the only sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. If that doesn’t make you want to sing and shout, then you have no appreciation for that Father who runs out to meet His lost child and is so elated, that His child was lost and now His precious child, you and I are with Him again in the eternal world of the resurrection that His Son Jesus gave us by overcoming death in His resurrection.

Jurgen Moltman writes: “In him the despair that oppresses us becomes free to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become as open and as vulnerable as he was.

What initially seemed so meaningless and so irreconcilable – our hope and Christ’s cross – belong together as a single whole, just as do the passionate hope for life and the readiness for disappointment, pain and death.

Beneath the cross of Christ hope is born again out of the depths. The person who has once sensed this is never afraid of any depths again. His hope has become firm and unconquerable: “Lord, I am a prisoner – a prisoner of hope!””[2]

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

[1] David Peters  “The Many Faces of Biblical Humor:“ page 200 Location 4873  Kindle version

[2] Jürgen Moltmann, “Prisoner of Hope,” from The Power of the Powerless, English transl. Copyright © 1983 by SCM Press Ltd., reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Suffering/hardship is often God’s way of teaching

“If you become bitter over your hardships, you close some parts of your life from God.”(Experiencing God Day by Day Henry and Richard Blackaby p 27) And certainly many just close off their entire life to God. Increasingly people really expect that they should go through life with nary a bump, when that bump happens, they often shake their fist at God and berate and reject Him. “How could You let this happen?” They shriek.

“Some place in your soul can be reached only by suffering. The Spirit of God has important things to teach you, you can only learn these lessons in the midst of trials.”(Ibid) I’m not going to stake my theological reputation on this statement, however, it does seem that what we learn through trials/suffering/hardship, does stick with us, makes a more long lasting impact on what we do, then if life is just a breeze and we are handed everything. “Ok, I pick God, OK, now make me happy, healthy, wealthy, famous …” Just doesn’t work that way. Did God put us here just to hand us stuff and then bring us into eternal life in the resurrection? No, we’re here to grow, build character, integrity, follow Him as He makes us worthy of being with Him in the eternal life. That only comes through growth and growth only comes through trials and maturity.

“David spent years in suffering and heartache. When he finally ascended the throne, he was a man after God’s own heart.”(Ibid) Jesus certainly had reason to be bitter, through His incarnation, He was being put upon, pushed, threatened. But even on the cross He says “forgive them Father for they know not what they do”. Clearly bitterness turns us away from what Jesus wants for us, and leaves us to flounder around in our personal pity party. What’s worse we expect to drag others down with us in that pity party. I would submit that God uses the suffering and trials to make us complete. That if we resist what God is doing, sort of like not taking our math finals in high school, then we have not completed what God’s doing in us. If we somehow avoid or chose not to deal with some trial God intended for us do we become that person we should be in Jesus? I think a case could be made that we don’t. Do we want to be a lesser person in that eternal life in the resurrection with Christ? We should try to be as much as we can and trust that God is giving us the faith we need to follow Him while He is teaching us. Sure we don’t want to, but on the other end we become more in Him and less in the world. Shouldn’t we be doing that as we move to eternal life?

Sin is sin, trust in your pastor and quit thinking you know it all

I am still pretty much of a rookie pastor. I try to listen more than yap when others who have more experience, more education than I do, so that I will be a better pastor. Can’t say that everything I hear or am told is correct, that I should follow it. I do have a lot of life experience, so there are times when someone is telling me something that is just wrong. Just because someone else has been making mistakes for years, doesn’t mean that I should make the same mistakes.

Dr J Vernon McGee was the pastor of one of the largest churches in California. He also had a world-wide radio ministry, wrote a bunch of books, etc. He went to be with the Lord in 1988, but his radio ministry is still alive and well.

One of the observations I’ve made as a pastor is that people continue to try and impose their sin on me, as a pastor, or they expect me to endorse their sin, often due to their tortuous reasoning. I’m sure we all know which types of sins that people are finding all kinds of justification for. My overall favorite is “the church is full of hypocrites so who is a pastor to tell me I’m sinning, and so therefore I can continue to pursue my personal sin.” Yeah, like I said, those in the world live a very delusional life.

Let me make one aside, for those who recognize their sin, struggle with it, lift it up to the Lord for forgiveness, continue to ask God to deal with their sin and overcome it, “…If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins…” (1 Corinthians 11:31) God does forgive, will help us and is not there to beat us down on something that we are genuinely trying to deal with and conform to His will. Christians do not live deluded lives, our sin is sin. We’re not kidding ourselves that our particular sin and circumstances are justified, that, for those simple minds in the world, is what hypocrisy is. Maybe you ought to look into your own heart and be a little genuine. For those in the world, get over all your petty little justifications, get real and deal with your sin issues and be a part of a genuine Christian church that will help you in this area.

As a rookie pastor, I have had the experience where people pretty much confront me and demand that I justify their particular sin. Really! Yea the world really does bully and thinks that most pastors are entirely lacking in integrity and genuine biblical faithfulness, that you (me the pastor hears) just don’t know what you’re talking about at all and those in the world will be happy to set me straight. The hypocrisy, naivete, bullying, and straight out ignorance is just breathtaking.

Dr McGee had a wide breadth of experience and accomplishment for the Kingdom, a very accomplished pastor and these are his words: ” “What if there’s a sin in the Christians’ life that he/she won’t deal with, reveal it, confess it? … it’s amazing the number of people who are in sin, who come to a pastor and what they really want, is for the pastor to approve of their conduct and they become very much incensed if he does not agree with what they are doing or with their solution to the problem. When he attempts to put the Scripture down on their lives, why they wince under it and they get angry with the pastor and they say ”my he’s cruel, very unkind, he’s not the kind of pastor he should be, he’s not as sympathetic as he should be.” A lot of pastors know what this is because so many people will not deal with their sins. Now when they won’t, God will deal with them at the judgment seat of Christ and a great many people are going to find out, though they were busy down here teaching Sunday school classes, being the president of the missionary society, singing in the choir, leading different groups… yet they were disobedient and they would not deal with the sin in their lives, they won’t receive reward, they refused to deal with sin in their lives.” (Dr J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible” Broadcast Dec 26, 2015)

I’ve had this experience. The person doesn’t want to discuss, they are going to tell and if you don’t listen and get it, then you  have a problem you’re wrong and I’ve had people tell me how lacking I am in what they consider to be the proper pastoral characteristics. No, I don’t get too spun up over it. I’ve had a lot of life experience (usually more than the person who’s telling my how it really is) and I get it, people are often not going to really think it out. They’re sure they know what it’s all about and they’re going to make sure that they give you the benefit of their “knowledge”.

Which leads me into another observation, Mr or Ms “I’ve been successful” in my world. They’re going to tell you how you should successfully run this church. I have news for you Mr Successful, God bless you that you’ve achieved some success in an area, I wish you the best. What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand, despite their obvious smartness in their success, is that success in one thing doesn’t necessarily translate into success in another thing. Not that I’ve achieved any level of success, but we certainly see that in so many individuals who have presumed that their success in one thing should ipso facto, translate to success in another.

Sorry Mr Success “so you should listen to me”, if you were as smart as you think you are you would know that. I have no problem whatsoever listening to others suggestions, direction and assistance. Frankly I find myself kind of begging for that. Having said that, it does not mean that I can always use and apply the input. Often times part of the problem is that the input just does not conform to the proper functioning of a Christian church. I think the church has done itself a great deal of damage in the last maybe 100 years, because it has allowed the world to dictate to it, instead of doing ministry in accordance with Scriptural direction. When pastors fold up and function according to the world, the world and the church realizes he as a pastor, or a Christian, that is not to be taken seriously.

It is amazing how much hypocrisy there is in the world and the world is the first to wag it’s finger at the church to criticize it for hypocrisy. The world’s hypocrisy really does border on the delusional and is absolutely breathtaking to see in action.

I hope that 1) people start to deal with their sin honestly. I’m not saying that because I’m perfect because, I’m not. On the other hand, I don’t try to delude myself into thinking that I’m above all that, if it’s my sin then it’s really not sin, it’s just A Skippy OK.

2) To Mr/Ms I know it all. I know that you don’t know it all, I can tell. You’ve been in church for decades, but I know that you don’t have even the most basic Christian/Scriptural understanding. You’ve been sitting in church because you think you should, just waiting to tell everyone how it should be.

The truly smart people who I know, recognize when others know more than they do about a particular subject. I really try to make sure, that when I can tell someone obviously has a grasp of something that I should shut-up and let them talk. I inevitably learn something and am thankful that they shared with me. Mr and Ms I Know It all, you might actually get smart and rely and trust those who actually know more about something. That doesn’t mean blind submission, that does mean realizing your limitations, recognizing someone else’s expertise and listening. That’s the smart thing to do and if you were really that smart you’d understand that.

Priorities, when are you going to make Jesus one?

I so had to pass this along. The following is from Pastor Ken Klaus who, along with  Pastor Greg Seltz, does daily commentary from Lutheran Hour Ministries which is a tremendous ministry. Please read Pastor Klaus’ commentary for today, June 4, 2015 and I heartily recommend that you subscribe to LHM’s daily email devotional:

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June 4, 2015

 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The world can be a busy place — so busy we sometimes need to set timepriorities.

Certainly, that was the situation for the officials who were running the NCAA Softball Regionals. The third scheduled game of the day was between Louisiana Lafayette and Baylor. Looking for ways to keep things on time, it was decided they would forego the playing of the National Anthem.

The officials felt perfectly comfortable with their judgment. After all, hadn’t the Anthem been sung at the beginning of the day’s activities? Just as importantly, no official could find anything in any rulebook that demanded the singing of the nation’s song before every one of the afternoon’s softball battles.

The announcement was made to the crowd over the PA: “Because of time issues there will be no National Anthem before the game.” The news was not met with pleasure by the fans. Indeed, it didn’t take too long for representatives from the stands to voice an official protest.

They were told, “No, our decision stands. No Anthem will be sung.”

As I said, the world is a busy place, and sometimes we have to make decisions as to how we are going to use our time. That’s the way it was that day for the fans who had come to watch the game at Lansom Park. They made their decision. Without any music, without the use of the public address system, without a great deal of organization, the people sang the nation’s Anthem. The players stopped and took off their caps; the umpires stopped and stood respectfully, while the people sang.

Many who were there that day were moved to tears, and no objections have been made about a misuse of time. Indeed, most agree it had been the right thing to do.

Now the only reason I bring this little story to your attention is because you and I make similar decisions about our use of time. For example, this is Thursday, and in a few days it will be Sunday. You will wake up and be confronted with numerous ways you could spend those hours.

Maybe the golf course beckons … or you need to do some lawn work … or the fish have been biting … or a birthday needs celebrating … or maybe you have to visit a sick relative. I don’t know what is on your list of things to do, but I certainly hope attending worship is on that list.

Yes, I realize those other things need to be done, but worshipping the Lord whose Son died so we might be forgiven and granted a place in heaven is not a matter inconsequential. Now you can skip church, just like those fans could have skipped the singing of the Anthem. You can skip such things, and it won’t be the end of the world.

But some things should be done — even if they cost time — because it is the right thing to do.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, each of us has 24 hours in a day. Grant us the wisdom to use those hours wisely, so You may be glorified, and we may do that which is right. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

In Christ I remain His servant and yours,

Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries