Tag Archives: God-the-Father

Let’s step up and really live our Christian life in the workplace and in church

OK, now I’m a little spun up.

Innocently watching the Red Sox, enjoying a rare day, as a Pastor, of no actual work to do. Yea, I spent 20 years in corporate finance, I actually had three day weekends, OK, not often then either, but a lot more than as a pastor. Trying to catch up on the 90 books on my Kindle and then I read this.

The following is from Bill Diehl, a Lutheran layperson who was an executive with Bethlehem Steel. I am a Lutheran pastor, don’t know if the same “Lutheran” as Mr Diehl and yes this was written well before I became a pastor. Furthermore I will stipulate that too many of my fellow pastors I have known have only been students or pastors. Too many have no meaningful experience in anything else and yes I’m a little unusual. But still, this got under my skin:

“Bill Diehl, as noted earlier, is a former sales manager with Bethlehem Steel, active Lutheran layperson, author, and leader in the FAW movement. Diehl has been sharply critical of what the church professes about lay ministry and Christian vocation versus what it actually does to affirm and equip those called to live out their vocation in the marketplace. In a comment that could easily have come from a typical FAW participant of today, in 1976 Diehl expressed his sense of abandonment from the church (note that a careful reading of his words also reveals concern about all of the Four E’s of ethics, evangelism, experience, and enrichment):In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to oth…”

“In the almost 30 years of my professional career, my church has never once suggested that there be any type of accounting of my on-the-job ministry to others. My church has never offered to improve those skills which could make me a better minister, nor has it ever asked if I needed any kind of support in what I was doing. There has never been an inquiry into the types of ethical decisions I must face, or whether I seek to communicate the faith to my co-workers. I have never been in a congregation where there was any type of public affirmation of a ministry in my career[as a sales manager]. In short, I must conclude that my church really doesn’t have the least interest in whether or how I minister in my daily work.14” Maybe Mr Diehl if you were going to a serious church, which I bet you’re not, you would be living a serious Christian life. I get the distinct feeling that Mr Diehl might think he knows about Christian discipleship, but I doubt that he really has the discernment and understanding of what genuine Christian discipleship is, because he went to a church that was all about a patronizing Christianity himself. A little discernment to a lot of know-it all types of all stripes would go a long way.

I have been busting my crank to reach out to people in the corporate world since I started in ministry. I now have over 5 years of ministry experience added to my 20 years of corporate experience and 29 years of military experience. Add to that a Masters of Divinity degree (many of these people don’t have more than an undergraduate degree in anything) Whenever I try to reach out to someone in the corporate world I usually get this patronizing pat on the head that I somehow don’t know what I’m talking about. Hmmm, my bachelors is in business administration  from Lesley University (a over 100 year old private college in Cambridge, Ma.) I started my corporate work life at 21 years old, working for Chase Manhattan Commercial Corp., then went to Motorola, Fleet National Bank, a year working for the Massachusetts State Treasurer, Robert Half International, Town and Country Fine Jewelry. In my corporate finance position, I was responsible for handling monthly seven-figure balances, dealing with some of the largest corporations in the United States. In addition 29 years in the Coast Guard reserve being involved in serious search and rescue cases, law enforcement and military operations. I served in a deployable unit in Naval Coastal Warfare being deployed to do security in Vieques and force protection in Spain. Carried a gun on a regular basis, yes even as a reservist, served four years active duty in War on Terror. When I returned to my corporate job my very large corporate employer, was less than, well let’s just say cordial or receptive. Soooo you can spare me patronizing little pats, I will compare my resume and life experience with Mr Diehl or anyone else for that matter.

I have made repeated attempts in various ways to get a ministry that Mr Diehl might have found helpful. This does not include “The Christian Businessman’s we’re calling to tell everyone what they’re supposed to do, because we’ve just got it altogether group”. There’s way too much of that too. I was part of a group back in Boston that was a rather high-level group and they were there to genuinely live their life in the workplace. I believe very much in this.

Having said all this, I am  wholeheartedly inviting you to take on this challenge. No I’m not an expert in this area. I would love to write a book, because frankly I think there are very few books that have as much perspective on this subject as I do. There are a lot of books out there on the subject, I think I can add a lot to that discussion, maybe for my PhD dissertation. In the meantime, if you are serious, I double-dawg dare you to take me up on this challenge. Is it going to be perfect or a whiz-bang production already pre-packaged? No. I am a parish pastor, believe me I have plenty to do. I also serve as a York City, Pa. police chaplain. I will compare my challenges to you anytime. Let me know the next time you get called out of bed at 2am for an accounting emergency. I’ve gotten called out to tell someone their child was killed, to provide comfort to a victim of a crime and a suicide, (a lot of less dramatic, although compelling times also)

I want to do this very badly. Yes, I do want this to be part of growing the congregation I’ve been called to. And before you get all hoidy-toidy about; “you probably just have an elderly congregation, no one with any real substance.” It’s not big, nowhere as big as it should. But it serves an inner-city constituency with a number of people with meaningful corporate experience. Maybe it’s time to leave your nice, pretty, big-box church and do some actual Christian discipleship and get over the idea you should have some nice pretty church and go to one that was built to the glory of God. A church that is a genuine growth opportunity to make a meaningful impact in a difficult environment. But frankly, you won’t. People who work in offices are used to and expect the amenities and they’re not really interested in stretching themselves for the Lord. “Hey I show up every other Sunday and put my $5 in the plate.” Oh yeah, isn’t that just special of you, a real put it on the line Christian! (Yea I can be patronizing too.)

One of our accomplishments has been to start and operate a 100 watt FM radio station, 106.1 in case you want to listen,

Home

take a listen if you have time to drag yourself away from your big dinner. (I did go to some pretty nice places in my corporate life)  Add in a Grief Share group, an employment support group, food bank, fitness center, all this we’ve done on a shoe string in the last five years. So think about that Mr “I’m a big-time corporate type”. If you feel that you should be living your life as a Christian in the workplace, you are right. I did my best, and yes I will admit with little pastoral help. But think twice before you give me a patronizing little pat just because I have a clerical collar on. I’ll compare my life experience to yours any time.

So, you going to take me up on this? A re-start challenge that will be a bigger challenge you’ve ever faced and for the Lord, Creator, Sustainer of the Universe our Savior Jesus Christ. How cool would that be to get a real group of Christian men and women together to put a real group (sans the pretentiousness, I’ve seen it done) to rebuild a grand old ministry, based on genuine Christian discipleship, to take back with you on Monday morning to live your life as a Christian 24/7.

I shouldn’t have asked, no one will take it on. Big corporate tough guys, talk a good game but you will just go back to your pretty, big-box churches where you can talk a good game, but mostly just sit back and be entertained. Yea…I tried, at least I’m back on the ground again and I’m living my life out according to God’s leading and not according to what makes me feel good.

We have an, albeit, small group that meets Wednesday mornings at 10am at the coffee shop at the corner of King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa. You’re all welcome, and if you have better ideas; breakfasts, special evening events, weekends, I’m all ears let’s do it, seriously, let’s do something.

I’m going to do it God’s way, by His Word in Scripture

A lot of feedback I get is to the extent, “sound really strict”, “not very loving”, “why are you always quoting the Bible?”. There is a lot of pretty superficial Christianity out there. As a Lutheran pastor I’ve always been taught, to be faithful to what the Bible says, it’s God’s Word that matters. It’s your job to help people understand it, grow in it, live their life in accordance with the Bible, not to make things up. Imagine if we all lived according to the Bible and not just the way we think things should be, the world would be a much better place. Fact is, we are all sinners, even in our best intentions we do things that are messed up and hurt people and hurt our relationship with God. We can turn back to Him for His forgiveness and blessing, or we can keep messing things up, even unintentionally and keep driving each other away. We live so isolated from each other today, we have our superficial relationships, heck we really think we’re friends with someone because they accepted us on FaceBook. No it’s really time to build relationships the right way and not the way the world tells us that we all know inevitably hurts us and other people.

For example, “it’s all about love”. It’s not about “love” in terms of doing what’s right, of being a blessing to others by helping them to really focusing on God, His Word and your neighbor. (I do find it interesting that people will always quote “Love they neighbor”. They seem to forget that Jesus said first, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength.”) You can’t really love your neighbor until your relationship of love with God is firm and established. Until you know how to “love” as God wants you to “love”, then you’re really just kind of playing with people.

To many people “love” means, “you make me happy, you do things for me”. (Often those things are give me sex, booze, drugs or just cash, make it easier on us.) Love means what’s doing the best for that person, helping that person be the best they can be and not just an enabler for whatever sin that they’ve become chained to, that’s supposed to make them “happy”. Come on, let’s face it, let’s take a, somewhat, benign sin like ice cream. It costs money, good ice cream gets a little pricey after awhile. It puts on weight, with very little nutritional benefit. It causes much more serious health issues. I know plenty of people with diabetes, yet we’re so consumed with smoking. Smoking is sin too, but get a grip. Too much junk and diabetes will kill you. There’s people all around getting constant medication for diabetes, going blind, losing limbs, dying. Don’t know anyone with lung cancer.

Let’s really love and start holding people accountable to what they should be doing. Being “happy” today, is just a fast track to poor health  and early death. Throw in drugs, booze, lack of exercise. Poor health in general is everywhere, do we really love when we see someone tooting another joint, or doing another in a long line of “16 ounce curls”?

There is so much “me” today and so little in terms of God’s will. We make God to be an agent of our “happiness”  and we really aren’t interested in what God has for us. People would look at my life and think that it might be pretty goofy. Picking up and moving from a place I had grown up in, raised children in, then moved to an unfamiliar place (actually two), far away from family and friends. But I do have peace that this is where God wants me and I am doing what He wants me to do. Way too many people today do what they think makes them happy, but have very little peace, hmmm, how do you think that happens? Telling God to go take a hike in order for me to do what makes me “happy”, then finding out what makes you “happy”, just messes you up. What God wanted for you would make you “happy”, but you just decided “don’t confuse me with the facts” if God wants it, then it’s probably boring or lame, I don’t want to do that.

But yes, in God’s will I do have peace. Doesn’t mean things are easy, we see with the disciples, many people down through history. Things weren’t easy, read what Paul wrote about 2 Corinthians 11: 16-33, he went through more in a few years, then most of us will in a lifetime. He knew God was guiding him and strengthening him, making him a better man and certainly a more godly man, and certainly not a messed up man.

So I do what God guides me to, yea sometimes it’s not very pleasant, there are plenty of times I take shots for what I preach, teach or write. Doesn’t mean what I’m doing is wrong, just means someone thinks it’s ok to take shots at me, even if they don’t have a good reason to, don’t know what they’re talking about. Being faithful in God is not settling for just a “feel good” Gospel, something that makes everyone happy for the moment. Sorry just doesn’t work. The trials and tragedies of life pop up all to quick and then we don’t feel good anymore and it’s all God’s fault. My job is to equip those who are in Jesus in order for them to deal with all the good times, tough times, and mundane, maybe even boring times in order for them to grow closer to God and to glorify Him who provides so much for us. That includes eternal, perfect life in the resurrection, it’s only through Jesus. This also includes being strong and being a Christian example for others. The next time you need to be encouraged and strengthened, you think your local drug pusher is going to help you? No! In the end he’s only going to make it worse. What really works is a strong /mature Christian man or woman (and yes that excludes the “feel good” Christians out there too). Too often we want to be made “happy”, placated like a child. We know that leaves us worse off then we were.

God sacrificed greatly for me in His Son Jesus. I have to step up and live a true life in Jesus, not a life of go-along to get-along. I have to be that example of a mature faithful Christian man. That is what God expects from me, to be faithful in continuing to grow, in following where He leads and not in what I think is “happy”, or what I “like”. Lots of other people look to me for that too, imagine what a great place the world would be if everyone were living that way. But that’s not going to happen because in this day and age it’s all about me and what makes me, what I think, happy. We can’t just continue to “hang” where we are and to be pacified, You aren’t going to find any example of that in the Bible. The Bible is what God wanted us to know about Him. He inspired men to write the Bible and show what is the truth. You don’t see people just coasting along in life, sitting around getting snookered and honoring God. Only those who are strong and faithful honor Him. What you find over and over again is men and women who are pushed to step out of their comfort zone in order to live up to God’s will and not their own. Why on earth do we think we should be different today? Is it because we know we can’t handle it and need to be babied?

You will think what you will, but Jesus made it very clear that many will be deluded, fooled, by wrong messages. That His true disciples will have to deal with the trials and antagonisms of the world. We are seeing Christians being martyred right now, all around the world. Not for “feel good”, but because they know who Jesus is and that they need to serve Him and others even in extremely difficult circumstances. There were more Christians martyred in the 20th century, then in all of history, combined! There’s no “feel good” Christianity there, yet it is only through Jesus that we are saved, some of us do have to suffer to the extreme in order to be saved. It dishonors them and Jesus when we make being a a Christian about “what makes us happy”.

What does honor Jesus, the millions who have lived in Jesus through the centuries, the millions who live around the world? It is being true, faithful disciples of His. Doing what He teaches us in His Word the Bible, and not what other people try to make Him out to be. To follow where He leads us and to what He leads us to do through His Holy Spirit. Jesus said He will tell many to be gone because “I never knew you”. Many who thought that what someone told them to “tickle their ear”, was actually genuinely in Jesus. Someone who tried to make Jesus into what they wanted instead of what Scripture truly says about Him. I know my responsibility as a teacher will be greater and I will be held much more responsible for what I teach. I intend to do all that I can to truly teach God’s Word in the Bible. I seriously fear for those who have to answer to God who ignored God’s Word and made up what they thought would make people feel good, it will be very scary for them.

Our Power as Jesus’ disciples in the Holy Spirit Acts 2: 1-21 May 15, 2016 First St Johns

[for the audio of this, please 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 those who pray come Holy Spirit, come, they said … AMEN!!!

Grace is the most important thing that separates Christianity from the other world religions. All other “religions” impose requirements that their believers must achieve to have, not the assurance of salvation, but the chance to be saved. Grace for a Christian is that God has done everything necessary for us to be saved. As long as we faithfully follow Christ, by being baptized, attending worship, taking His Body and Blood, hearing His preached Word from Scripture, you are saved, solely in Jesus and by what He has done for us. There is nothing we can ever do in order to “earn” grace, receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus.

Another thing that distinguishes Christianity from other world religions is that God, the one and true God, has actually been in the world. God Father and Son are now in heaven. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in glory as our great high priest to pray for us and intervene for us. But Jesus was very publicly in the world, all His major acts, His miracles and teachings, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, all events that were done in public for all to see. Again unlike the other major religions of the world.

God the Holy Spirit remains in the world, with those who have received salvation in Jesus: ESV 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, ESV 1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The Holy Spirit is part of us in order to guide us, in order to continually point us to Christ. On this day that we remember as the Day of Pentecost, we often refer to it as the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ, the place where His disciples grow and reach into the world. The word Pentecost is from Greek, “pentokoste hemera” meaning the fiftieth day, which is the fiftieth day after Passover. It was an ancient Jewish holiday known as the festival of weeks. It would certainly be reasonable to construe that the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), jointly chose this day to, again, bring to public attention, a major move of God. On this holiday there would be Jews from all over the known world in Jerusalem to observe the holiday. As was read this morning; Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Cretans, Arabians. As it is today, all these people continue to speak much different languages. We see in our first reading the reason why they spoke different languages. Then, as now, there were a bunch of smart guy people who decided they should put themselves at the same level as God. Just relatively recently the world had been destroyed because of the presumption of man. Now man would be separated from each other by language in order to keep them from conspiring together to try to do what Satan tried, to usurp or put themselves on an equal footing with God. Yes, I know, they could not possibly have achieved this end. But the point is that neither Led Zepplin in our time, or these ancient people could build a tower, or a stairway to heaven, but the arrogance of man will often bring quick and direct action from God. At some point God decides to let man just wallow in his sin and let it drag man down to death. Certainly God could have let them build the tower and then it would inevitably collapse, due to their ignorance, and kill many people. Mercifully God chose to save a lot of lives, but to also separate those sin-filled presumptuous people and hopefully keep them from collaborating on more presumptuous, arrogant acts that would also end up in physical or, worse, spiritual death, either way creating separation between God and man. The people continued to sin and act arrogantly. Certainly we see their acts when God Himself comes into the world to give them an opportunity to direct them from their evil, self-destructive ways. God the Son came into the world in order to proclaim as visibly as possible who He is and that He is the only way to life and eternal salvation in Him. As we know, people chose to reject that plea.

That does not mean that the Godhead retreated into heaven and left man to try to figure it out for themselves. Yea, we see a lot of attitude from people, but God continues to do whatever it takes to bring us to Him. And He always does all those things in a very public, very obvious way.

Jesus gives His disciples, then and now, such touching and compelling words of encouragement in our Gospel reading. He’s leaving them, He knows that, they don’t. “ESV John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ESV John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The Greek word that is used here for “Holy Spirit” is para,klhtoj( in older translations of the Bible you will see the Holy Spirit referred to as paraclete, the Greek means “helper, intercessor”. John is the only one who refers to the Holy Spirit in this way, it’s not used in the Book of Acts. In the same sentence Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit directly, pneu/ma to. a[gion( while we give it what seems a rather benign meaning, “spirit” the Greek word meaning blowing/breathing, and also wind. This may sound rather charming, it’s very much intended to be very powerful, in terms of the breath of life, yes, life giving. Tell me what the word “pneuma” says in English, here’s a hint, has to do with tools, … pneumatic tools. If you’ve ever used pneumatic tools, you know a compressor pumps hard to build up a lot of pressure so that the tool, that’s connected to the compressor, can perform various tasks, ever been near a jack-hammer working? We’re connected to the Holy Spirit.

The disciples don’t have a lot of context for what Jesus is telling them. They are probably thinking, “aren’t those nice, comforting words”, but at best have a vague idea of Who/What the Holy Spirit is, but on the Day of Pentecost, they would have a very powerful/lifegiving demonstration of Who the Holy Spirit is and just a slight idea of the kind of power the Holy Spirit is capable of.

Raniero Cantalamessa writes: “Origen informs us that the pagans of his day used to challenge Christians by saying: how can one man, who for good measure lived in an obscure township in Judea, fill the world with the perfume of the knowledge of God, as you Christians say, referring to 2 Corinthians 2:14? Origen’s answer was that Jesus can do this because he has consecrated a large number of disciples with the Holy Spirit and sent them through the world, and these devote themselves to saving the human race by living in purity and righteousness and by teaching the same doctrine as Jesus. Thanks to them, ‘the precious oil sprinkled on the head’ of the true Aaron, who is Christ, runs down ‘onto the collar of his robe’, referring to Psalm 133:2, that is, it spreads throughout the body of the Church and, through it, to the whole world.”

“We are those disciples sent throughout the world to spread the ‘sweet smell’ of Christ! To succeed, we too must ‘shatter’ the alabaster vessel of our human nature: we must mortify the works of the flesh, the old Adam which acts as an inner barrier to the rays of the Spirit…”[1]

We have mini-Pentecosts today! Ok, we don’t have 3,000 people being baptized at once. But in each baptism that is done here, we see the power of the Holy Spirit being demonstrated, that someone is being born again in Christ. When we accept someone into membership of the church as we do today, we add a new person to the Body of Christ, His church. It is the power of the Holy Spirit descending on that person, that person, having been indwelt by the Holy Spirit at baptism, is now a living example of the Holy Spirit. They are a container of the immense power of the Spirit, we all are as confirmed members of Christ’s church. As possessors of such power, the question becomes what do we do with that? How do we disciple those who are new in that power, so that both you and they will live that life of power in the world. We have too many cold and timid “Christians” today, we need to be renewed in the pneumous, the immense power of the Holy Spirit to stand as strong and equipped disciples who point the world to Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Raniero Cantalamessa  The Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus p 18

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

Leftovers for God? Is that a smart way to go?

Yea the Blackabys have inspired me to get this written, it’s been sitting for awhile, but the blanks have been filled in. It’s about how we give God the leftovers, if that. I’m not innocent of this, as I lay person I didn’t have an appreciation for what goes on at a church while I’m not there and didn’t feel as motivated as I should to give the very best. The Blackabys point out”When the Israelite gave an offering to God, it was no longer their own, it belonged entirely to God. God would only accept the best that people could give. It was an affront to almighty God to offer him animals that were damaged or imperfect in any way. God Himself set the standard for sacrifices when He offered His own Son as the spotless lamb.”(Experiencing God Day by Day Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby p 268).

Certainly to the point they write “You do not serve Him in your spare time or with your leftover resources.” Yea, as a pastor I really do feel it. Too often “hey here’s five in the offering plate, great service.” Try to imagine how that makes me feel. I really do try to make worship as uplifting and yes challenging as possible. Compare that to the therapist/counselor who charges, just you, a lot more. I’m there to push you to grow in Jesus, to make the best for Him for what He’s given you and to also push myself. I have some great folks who help me, but too often you just hear about how the big box church has produced some massive show for about one-tenth your total annual budget for one Sunday.

But for the most part, it’s about people’s soccer games (a general reference to all the other things going on Sundays. Really?! Sunday? Morning? seven days in the week, you can’t reserve half a day, read give or take three hours?) To be there to lift up praise and worship to God Father, Son and Holy Spirit who created you, sustains you and gives those in Jesus the promise of eternal life? How about the other folks that do rely on church for encouragement, often times just to see younger people and interact and encourage others. Few if any there to encourage them, because they’re working, they’re traveling, they’re at sports or some other event, they’re at home because they had a tough week. Yes, maybe three Sundays out of 52 (not including weekday worships, which I miss even more rarely), I am there the rest of the time really trying my best. No I’m no Chuck Swindoll and I’m always looking for feedback. However I’m also working hard to faithfully worship as millions have for 500 years and millions do around the world today. That is a faithfulness that can’t be matched by any of our current fads, that just have to be on Sunday morning.

I get it, people do travel, people do other things. But clearly the priority is no longer church, worship, their pastor, their fellow congregants. People tell me all the time they’re going to meet with me, they’re going to come to church. Gotten to the point where it seems, unless of course someone wants something, that about 80% of the time what they say is bupkus. So much for integrity. My wife says they just tell you what you want to hear. Really how about just tell me the truth? It’s far more disillusioning when someone tells me something that they will do and don’t, then just telling me the way it is. I’m a big, tough, ugly, gnarly guy, you’re not going to hurt me with the truth. But wow, when people say they’ll be there, do something, support something and don’t because there is something more interesting going on elsewhere, it really does beat you down and yea does hurt. Really what I do isn’t interesting and challenging?

Hey, to be sure I’m not going to stop. There are Christians through history and all around the world who are going through far worse than I am and I’ve made promises to the church, to the congregation to do as much as I can. I feel very strongly the need to be able to tell someone I did all I could, probably more for Christ and His church. Yes, there may come a time when I may have to sacrifice a lot more. For now I can look you in the face and say I have every intention of being faithful to my vows, for working hard 6+ days a week. For those who have become church members, you might also want to remember that you made vows to be a member to support the church with your time, treasure and talent. From 13 year old confirmands to those who come to Christ later in life. Way too many just pooh-pooh those vows. (As far as time, for most of you a two day weekend is a given, for me, it’s a holiday. If I have one day that is truly about me and my family, that’s even pushing it. I can’t remember the last time that I had a three day weekend. Hasn’t been in the last year.)

How about it? For those who have never gone, maybe you should get over yourselves and see what it’s all about. For those who have a “sawtooth” pattern, if that regular, maybe you could step it up about 50%, maybe everyone could do a little more in all respects to the time, treasure and talent? “But I’m so busy!” I will compare Day-Timers with anyone out there, you’re not that busy. Giving the best to God? I’ve had people who haven’t been in church in decades, members, who call me and expect that because of some, usually tragedy, that I’m supposed to now jump for them. There are people who’ve supported that church for decades, so that I could be there, but you didn’t, now I supposed to jump for you? And for those who like to give me that patronizingly little pat on the head “oh it will all work out”, no, no it won’t. And you won’t like it.

I am privileged to work with a handful of people at my church who can say they do. But for the most part, the rest just give left-overs and for too many people pretty scraggly left overs. So yea, this is a challenge, especially to the guys. Let’s see you step up and really lead your family in Christ, start by showing up, listening to what needs to happen, being that disciple of Christ that your wife, children, community, employers will be forever grateful for, as well as your brothers and sisters in Jesus, you will be great and I will be there to do whatever I can to make you that guy. Lose the lame excuses and step up to things of eternal value.

Jesus Ascends, our high priest, Ascension Day 2016

[For the audio version click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit. Amen

Starting at Ash Wednesday, through Lent, all of the Holy week remembrances. Sunday morning we celebrate “He Has Risen! He has risen indeed hallelujah.” It can be tough for us to observe all the important milestones of the Lent/Easter season. They are packed together and they kind of come at you, bang/bang. It’s not over either, another big one, Pentecost where the disciples are really grabbed by their collars and  moved right out into the fray.

Luke seems to give us the most complete account of this time. He might have been there and he certainly had access to people who were right there. He doesn’t stop in his Gospel, his next book, Acts, picks up from where he stopped. Acts still has them standing there gaping into the sky. Hey, I don’t blame them, even in this technologically advanced age, we don’t see people being levitated out of sight into the sky. That they wouldn’t be standing there gaping would surprise me, because I would be. Seems a little disjointed between the end of Luke’s Gospel and the beginning of Acts, but either way the disciples are now being moved on, in the Holy Spirit. Sure they would have liked Jesus to be with them physically, who wouldn’t want to hang with Jesus. But it’s, obviously, physically impossible. The entire world is about to find out about Jesus, He can’t be everywhere all the time, physically, and it is now time for a new chapter. It is time for the Holy Spirit to appear and because He is God/Holy Spirit, He can be everywhere. God Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally God, they are all omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, but in Spirit, we can be that physical temple of the Holy Spirit. He can dwell in all of us, as Spirit. And He will be what physically drives the disciples, Paul and new Christians to bring the Gospel of salvation in Christ to the rest of the world.

Backing up to Easter morning, they thought that He was gone, they were despondent, defeated. Luke 24 starts out by telling us that the women are visiting the tomb, having no expectation that they are there to properly prepare Jesus’ Body, something they were unable to do because of the Passover Sabbath. Jesus wasn’t there! How could that be? There are two men there, angels, telling the women that Jesus has risen. Just as He told them He would, but of course who would believe that? But it’s true! Now they have a second chance, He has risen, He has returned. Luke doesn’t go into detail about what was said in the forty days after the resurrection. Jesus had explained that He would be killed, but then He would be resurrected. Obviously, they weren’t listening then. But now so much has happened, and the Body is gone and two angels have told them straight out what has happened, who knows maybe it’s the same two angels who pop up while they’re standing there staring into the sky. Now that Jesus had their undivided attention, He would have mine, I’ve never known anyone to be resurrected and yet He is right here. So now He has their undivided attention, He was crucified and now He’s alive. That has to be enough to keep even the attention of the most attention deficient person. During the forty days He has probably told them what will happen next, that He does have to leave, again. But this time He is leaving as the Lord of creation, He is going to the glory of being seated at the right hand of the Father. Just as you see in the stained glass window above me. He has been to the deepest depths, beaten beyond recognition, no food/water, tortured, naked, nailed into and lifted up on a rough wooden cross and then a spear drive through Him. All this to be the payment for our sins. Reduced to the lowest humiliation, our creed says He even descended to Hell. Certainly not condemned, but to free those who are now free in Him.

We see that Jesus leads His disciples to Bethany and some translate the word “Bethany” as the House of Obedience. It certainly does seem appropriate. Another writer describes Bethany as a “miserable” village. So Jesus isn’t giving them some “white glove” treatment. Certainly the disciples are going to find being obedient, is going to cause some misery. While the disciples are going to be getting further orders, seems as if Jesus is making a point? This is the last time you will see me and as I said, He probably has told them what is about to happen. Gives them some final instructions and rises into the air helped by angels. They don’t seem upset in any way that He’s leaving, He gives them a final blessing, they worship Him and “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” It does seem as if the disciples have a much more profound understanding of what is going to happen. Nonetheless they are still human, they may have returned to Jerusalem joyously. Jesus no doubt gave them promises and assurances. The disciples had seen Jesus do miracles, teach with a wisdom that is beyond what they had known from any human. They saw Him die on a cross, they saw Him resurrected, now they see Him rise far into the sky, into heaven. Augustine writes that “Jesus ascends in his body so that the person of Jesus, divine and human nature is not separated.”[1] He is now the Great High Priest, very God, very human as the writer of Hebrews tells us: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” That great high priest has to be man, but He is also the all mighty God the Son. Our Lord and Savior. Leo the Great submits that because Jesus has returned to heaven, both God and man, the disciples have further assurance of the fact that they enter into heaven along with Him. So surely, at this point they will return to the upper room joyously. But even a day can make a big difference, and there has been a lot of attention put on the disciples. So when we see them again, a week from Sunday, they will be hunkered down in fear. They have had the assurances of Jesus just ten short days ago, but they still do not have the Holy Spirit as they will on Pentecost, so their joy only lasts so long, they probably don’t know exactly what the next step is, ten days is a long time when you are waiting, and their joy is back to fear. But with the Holy Spirit in them, they will charge out, not just in joy, but in determination, guided by the promised Holy Spirt who will lead them to various places in the known world, and who faithfully leads us today where the Lord had destined us to serve Him.

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

[1] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture p 391

Yes! A New Heaven and a New Earth Revelation 21: 1-7 First St Johns Apr 24, 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 resurrected, eternal life of fulfillment and order said … AMEN!

So this is where it all comes together. Starting from the Garden of Eden, all of the different aspects of Jesus in the Old Testament, leading to the incarnation/the life of Jesus in the New Testament. Certainly the peak of the Bible for us is the death of Jesus, His sacrifice as a payment of our sins, and then comes the resurrection. The way has been made for us to be in relationship with the Father, to restore what has been broken by sin for so long, but if there is no resurrection, then we still die to eternity. Our hope and promise is in Jesus’ resurrection, that’s why we worship on Sundays, every Sunday being a mini-Easter, a time to come and be blessed and nourished by all the sacraments to be strengthened in our spirit in order to continue to live and function for Christ in a dark world, but also to have the assurance of eternal life. The life we are promised in the resurrection of Jesus and ultimately in our resurrection. Chuck Swindoll quotes S Lewis Johnson: “The resurrection is God’s ‘Amen!’ to Christ’s statement, “It is finished.’”[1] Not that Jesus is finished, or all hope is finished. No! It is the end of hopelessness and despair, the end of separation, the old is swept away, the kingdom is here, it is in Jesus, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and ultimately is all of reality. The old world, the world we live in day to day is no more, it has been destroyed, swept away. Sin, death, disease, the breaking down of our bodies, the failures of age and disability. All of those things are no longer a factor. The resurrection is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that in Him we have life and life more abundant. In the resurrection, it is the ultimate of abundant life. We are no longer limited by death and disease, the result of sin. John writes: “…for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” The “sea” in Jewish literature was always a metaphor, for chaos, destruction, lack of order, control. The first earth passing away means the world of sin, chaos. The desire in today’s world is for fulfillment, happiness. How many times do you hear people say that, see someone post in social media “I just want to be happy.” How’s that going to work out? Do any of us see any real happiness in the world today? No. You just don’t. I don’t care what your situation is, at some point discontent, envy, want, sneak in and well “you’re just not going to be happy until…” When that happens then what? Yea …, sin! “Well I’m entitled to be happy”, we hear people say that over and over today. This is the first period in the history of the world, where people genuinely feel entitled to happiness. The more they expect, the more their definition of happiness expands, what is the ultimate result? Unhappiness. OK, I won the race this time, but how about the bigger race next time? How about the same race next year? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be motivated and strive to improve. But when we tie it to happiness and place our trust there instead of in Jesus, you’re not going to be happy. We’ve said this before, there is joy in Christ, there is the hope and promise of what He does for us. Certainly in this passage that hope and promise is being plainly spelled out: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What we have right here, right now, this will all pass away, this is a lead pipe guarantee. This is God’s promise to us that we who are in Christ will be a part of a new earth, the ugliness and putrid death of the old earth is gone. In this new world, our new resurrected life, this world of the here and now will be a vague memory. And since we will have eternal life in this new world, this life will fade even further in our memory, this life on earth is so short. Life in the eternal resurrection will be so long and obscure the pain and heartbreak of this sinfilled world.
Historical context. Edward Englebrecht writes: “At the time that Revelation was written Christians were being terribly persecuted by the Roman emperor Domitian.

The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus in all His majesty and glorious victory. Its pictures and descriptions are true, but not literal. Many early Christians endured unimaginable pain simply because they refused to give up their faith in Jesus. They were thrown to lions and other wild beasts while onlookers cheered. They were set on fire, hurled down cliffs, skinned alive and reportedly even boiled in oil. The cruelty was off the charts! As believers watched friends and family members being tortured, it would have been easy to give up hope. It would have been easy to deny their faith. The Book of Revelation helped God’s people stand firm despite the storms that roared all around them. The book has one focused message: Jesus is victorious and He is coming soon!”[2]

The Book of Revelation has been a source of hope and promise through the centuries. Even for those who may not be suffering from physical persecution, we Christians today know that our hope comes from this passage. We should remember and celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross. We should remember and celebrate that He has been resurrected. These aren’t general, abstract ideas! These are the hope and promise we have of eternal life: “Behold I make all things new.” And we know that promise is for us, the old that we live in now is gone. The new will be an earth beyond our imagination and of such promise and potential that will astound us. Hold on to that hope and promise. The grittiness of sin and death will soon be over, the world God prepares for those He loves, those who are His in Jesus, His children, will be the world of bliss, of genuine happiness, what is now a vision of breathtaking promise that will be for us the reality of eternal, joyous, exciting life in a very physical world, that will contain wonders that make today’s modern technology look childish.

When John writes that he sees “a new earth”, Spiros Zodhiates writes: “New, as opposed to old or former and hence also implying better, … Also for renewed, made new, and therefore superior, more splendid. … Metaphorically, speaking of Christians who are renewed and changed from evil to good by the Spirit of God; a new creation…”[3] This is why the new world is only promised to Christians. It will be a world that God has created that will only accommodate those whose lives are in Jesus, who live together knowing life in the Holy Spirit. There won’t be room or tolerance for those who insist on the things of the world. Who chose to create strife, grief, greed, for their own ends. As Christians we trust God’s will, we want a world that conforms to His Word and not to the will of those who reject Him and think that they can do things better than Him. If someone refuses God’s will, how could they live in a “new earth” that is entirely about the Father and His will? Our earthly existence is about sorting out those who want to live in Jesus and who will persevere and overcome according to God’s will. That is what the new earth is all about. Not about those who worship their own will and have lived in this world by their own, limited, sinful judgment. I want to live in the perfect, holy, unlimited world of true life, not a world that men and women chose to mess up according to their selfish desires. Randy Alcorn writes: “believers in particular (those with God’s Spirit within) are aligned with the rest of creation, which intuitively reaches out to God for deliverance. We know what God intended for mankind and the earth, and therefore we have an object for our longing. We groan for what creation groans for – redemption.”[4] Paul writes in Romans 8 that the whole creation has been groaning. We trust that the resurrection will be marvelous beyond our comprehension, Alcorn writes: “…the Master Artist, will put us on display to a wide-eyed universe. Our revelation will be an unveiling, and we will be seen as what we are, as what we were intended to be – God’s image-bearers. We will glorify Him by ruling over the physical universe with creativity and camaraderie, showing respect and benevolence for all we rule.”[5] The promise we read about today should take our breath away. Renew us not just for hope for tomorrow, but also with a heart to share what our promise is. For our heart to ache for those who do not have any promise and to reach out to them to share the glorious world that we are promised in Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Dr Charles Swindoll     Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotations. P 492

[2] Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook Edward Engelbrecht General Editor p 442

[3] Spiros Zodhiates Executive Editor “Key Word Study Bible” p 2193

[4] Randy Alcorn “Heaven” p 127

[5] Ibid

Together or individually, which do you think works? John 20: 19-31 First St Johns April 3, 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 strive to be excellent together with all those in Jesus’ church said … AMEN!!

“We hang together or most assuredly we hang separately”. The church metaphor is to the extent that we hang together spiritually, each conceding part of how we think things should be and agreeing that the church is the Body of Christ and that we are all served best when we act as the Body of Christ and come together to serve Jesus and each other. We hang separately when we try to have things our own way, decide the church is all about us, and let the whole thing implode, hang separately, because we put our desires ahead of everything else.

Today’s opening thoughts in your bulletin put it this way in terms of being there for the group, in our case the church, the Body of Christ: “Thomas will forever be known as a doubter. In reality, he should be remembered less for his doubts, which the rest of the disciples also shared, and more for his failure to be present when Jesus first revealed Himself risen from the dead. No one grows in faith by failing to assemble together with the people of God around His Word and His Table. God grows our faith and deals with our doubts not with distance but with the intimacy of Jesus’ presence through the Means of Grace. The Spirit works through the Means of Grace, and there our doubts give way to faith and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection.” Just to make sure we are in agreement, “The Means of Grace” are … Baptism, you can’t even understand or accept what we are about in the church if you’re not born again in baptism. The Lord’s Supper, you cannot take the Body of Christ for the nourishment of your body and soul, if you are not part of the Body of Christ as a confirmed member in Jesus’ church. The preached word, what the pastor says in his sermons is not going to make sense to those who have not been born again, have not been strengthened by Jesus’ Body and Blood and have not come together as the Body of Christ in order to serve each other and those in the world. We can make it up as we go, or we can fuss and decide our way is the best way, instead of trying to build, grow and mature, we chose to tear down and destroy, for the sake of our own personal gratification.

When people start deciding it’s all about their personal opinion, like Thomas, and not about the group, yes the team, team implies working together for the same goal, for the church that goal is to be there as a witness to Christ so that others might come to know Jesus as their Savior. When the church is no longer on that course and has decided that it is personal preference, the Holy Spirit can’t guide something that’s not moving in one unified course. It becomes DIW, Dead in the water. It’s still floating, but it’s not making way. In my time as a pastor, I’ve observed a rather strange construction, that the world has talked us into, because I can find nothing in the Bible to justify it. Instead of letting, even helping, the church push on people, challenge them, encourage them to grow and mature, there are too many people who think “team” means the lowest common denominator. Too be sure, a team and the church for that matter, is only as strong as its weakest link. To many people, the logic goes this way, instead of trying to strengthen the weakest link, we weaken all the other strong links. No! An excellent team, and this goes for the church too, is certainly to care for, strengthen and encourage the weakest part of the team. But that doesn’t mean to give up on the mission that the Holy Spirit puts in front of us in order to somehow let the weakest part of the chain let the entire construction come apart. This often includes people who are here, but frankly just don’t care. Paul cut Mark loose because he failed him once, Paul wasn’t going to let his mission for Christ suffer because he couldn’t rely on Mark. If Thomas was concerned enough to be with the rest of the disciples, then when they told him what the rest knew was the absolute truth, Thomas would have been a lot smarter keeping his opinion to himself, instead of getting all pompous and patronizing with his unfounded “opinion”. Ever hear the phrase; “felt like a penny waiting for change.”? I can imagine that is exactly how Thomas felt when he was confronted with the very presence of the resurrected Lord. Thomas does make quite a confession: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas knows he was very wrong and to his credit makes an absolutely unconditional whole-hearted confession who Jesus is to him and that ought to be the confession of all of us, all the time. As an excellent team, we certainly care for the weakest. But just as in a military unit, you don’t put the weakest in the place where they are going to fail. The weak, the wounded, the fearful are put somewhere that they don’t get other people hurt. They certainly aren’t making important decisions, or expected to perform important functions, they and the rest of those concerned know enough to keep them where they aren’t going to destroy the rest of the unit, or cause others to fail in their important functions. We certainly don’t let others drag the team, the church, down to mediocrity and compromise. You may not want to go out and reach the world for Christ, but you better not make it difficult for others who do want to perform the mission of the church. An excellent team and that is what the church should strive to be, we have a Savior, a Father and Holy Spirit that exceed the highest levels of excellence, a Savior who took on all the evil, the degeneracy, the weakness of a cold, dark world and overcame it to give us the assurance of new life in the resurrected life of the resurrected perfect world. Can we strive to be anything less than excellent for Him who strove in all excellence for us? An excellent team, the church, pursues excellence and I have no doubt that the apostles were guided as an excellent team, by an excellent coach, that coach being,… the Holy Spirit. Can’t get more excellent than that. Seems I’m always running into people who love to tell me how they don’t need the church, they can do it all by themselves. Really? Are you about being that public witness to Christ, doing whatever you can to pass on Christianity, the love of Christ to the next generation? If they were at all serious about what they were saying, they would realize how much they need Christ’s church. But far too many are just not serious about Jesus, so why would they be serious about His Body, the church? Seems there are also plenty of those same people in the church. They say things, but they are just not serious.

One of my last big cases in the Coast Guard a 60 ton fishing boat was DIW about 50 miles off the coast, it’s generator failed. That is a very bad situation for any boat. It was February, the air temperature was about 17 degrees and the wind was about 30miles per hour. The seas were about five feet, not bad, but definitely a difficult situation. Try to picture this. There is no power in the boat. They are using the radio on batteries, and the batteries soon died. It is black, there is no light around you, it was about 11pm when we reached them. There is no heat, it’s cold and getting colder. You can’t go anywhere. Five foot seas and whatever the current was is pushing you around in a completely arbitrary manner. There is no one else around you. You are trusting that the Coast Guard has the means to reach you. But you’re still out there waiting, and in that time all kinds of other things can happen. If you go in that water, no one is going to reach you in time. Now if the Coast Guard is sitting around and everyone is debating about how this should get resolved, everyone has an opinion, from Group Boston who was in control of this case, down to the crewman on the boat, how do you think that’s going to end? That boat is going to be lost, the more we debate and discuss, the more those arbitrary winds, waves and current are going to take that boat. To the point where we just won’t be able to find it, by the time we decide with all the pushing and pulling that boat is going to be somewhere else and even the best navigator is going to be very challenged to factor in wind, waves and current to have an idea where that is. That is what the church is experiencing these days. Our generator is the Holy Spirit. But too often we take Him off line, decide that we’re going to debate and discuss every piddling point, not trust in those who have been trained to figure out how the church should function and while we’re doing all this hemming, hawing and debating, there is a very cold, dark world that is being pushed around by all kinds of negative waves, winds and currents, and if the church ever figures out what it’s about, it can’t seem to find where the world is and how to reach it  in time. This is the absolute truth, just to extend the illustration. We went out the door of the station at 10 pm. On military bases, 10pm is taps. That means that while we were walking down to the boat house, taps was playing on the station speakers. The name of the boat, was the Grim Reaper. Because we acted as a team, from Group Boston, about 15 miles away, the station leadership and the boatcrew we found the boat fairly quickly and managed to get it towed back, even in some challenging conditions. Five guys went home that morning, got a hot meal, went to sleep in a warm bed. It’s only because everyone trained for long hours, day and night for years, learned the facts, not their opinions, were not just there to rescue, but were eager to rescue, knew their roles in the process of saving, and did what they were trained and expected to do. That is what the teamwork of the church produces. We reach out to people who are very much dead in the water, they have no clue where they should be, what they should be doing. They are being beat down by the wind, waves and current of the society around them. They are in the middle of darkness, cold and the chaos of all the stuff going around them. Sure, you can be a Thomas, the rest of the team huddled behind locked doors and windows, cowering at every sound, every bump; “harrumph, harrumph, I don’t care what you guys think. Jesus wasn’t here, it’s all about me and I’m not going to believe anything you have to say, so harrumph, harrumph, I’m going to do things my way, and we’re all going to cower together completely DIW hoping that we will survive.” That’s no way to live, and it’s certainly not going to help you to survive in a cold, hopeless world.

Thomas decided that it was about him and what he saw, or didn’t see. Jesus gave him the option; “do you really need hands on proof? Go ahead, touch Me.” Thomas realized he needed to trust his brothers and we need to realize that we need to trust and rely on our brothers and sisters in the church, the Body of Christ.” Let’s make up our minds to keep Thomas’ confession on our hearts and to put excellence in what we do in the Body of Christ as Jesus’ team, His disciples.

The community of God’s people, saved by grace, functioning through grace, through the church where we seek to lift up Christ for ourselves, for each other and for the world, collectively, through grace to expand Christ’s church, so that all will see the church and the hope and promise of Christ through His church. While we are individually saved by grace, “the ideal of grace is not lived in isolation, but in community, the church.” The church striving in excellence and grace in Christ for mutual support and encouragement, can only effectively influence the world in that excellence and grace that Jesus gives us.

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

God’s will, not the popular will or giving in to adversaries

I’ve been in business, the military, for the most part, there are generally accepted best practices and that’s what you follow in order to conduct business or execute military tactics. Sure you don’t always follow the blueprint, you do want to take advantage of different circumstances.

Ministry? Wow! Things are just all over the place, people tell you what they expect, and they are not interested in any other consideration. It does astound me how people who have been part of a church for decades, know so little about church, about the Bible, about doctrine. And before you give me this “doctrine isn’t important, blah, blah, blah…” It’s all about love. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Have ever really stopped to think what you’re talking about? Doctrine is what keeps us doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we’re doing it. Way too often the church gets off into sentimentality, emotionalism, what makes me happy, “well Jesus would want me to be happy!!” Really?

The Blackaby’s have some good advice “…If you concentrate on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God’s activity. Don’t base your decisions on what people are doing. They can prevent you from carrying out God’s will (Rom 8:31)”. People just aren’t interested in why, why not we should, shouldn’t do something. That is what doctrine is about, developed over decades/centuries, by the greatest minds. In the Lutheran Church that is over 500 years and have had some incredibly great minds. But that doesn’t matter, no one’s interested in coming to me to find out what they should do, they come to me to tell me what they want and what I should do. That’s backward and destructive.

Now of course the quandry is this, if I’m not “cooperative”, as I’ve been accused of, then how do you resolve the issue of people leaving, running out of money. Well, the Blackaby’s certainly address that. Paul was being strongly confronted in Ephesus, riots broke out (Acts 19: 23-41), no doubt people were telling Paul how he was messing up, should give up, doesn’t have it, needs to leave. Paul took a lot more abuse then I probably ever will. He knew he was being faithful to God’s will and stuck with it. I need to do my best to discern God’s will, not worry about what others are pressuring me to do, not what is the popular move, not give in just because of adversaries and opposition and stick to what I’m doing.

Furthermore people just don’t seem to get that the way they “want” things, not based on any other consideration, because frankly they don’t know what they’re doing or what any of it’s about, they don’t care, just want it their way. How do you somehow pacify people who want to make the rules, but have no idea of what they’re doing. Further they don’t understand that no one else is really interested in their world-view, no one is going to follow their agenda, because it’s not anyone else’s and most people can tell it’s just wrong. Again that’s what doctrine is about, not some guys opinions, but people who have worked hard to try and reconcile what we are taught in Scripture and how we have to deal with that as a group. Too many people honestly think that they can just make it up and because that’s what they want, based on nothing other than their emotions, sentiments, feelings, that everyone should just follow along. It’s amazing, people today really aren’t looking for truth, what should be, they are looking for what I want and to somehow justify their completely unfounded opinion.

Just because I’m being opposed and deserted doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It does seem to mean that there are a lot of misguided, opinionated people around me, another reason why this church was failing when I got there and it is up to me to stay faithful to what God is leading me to do in ministry and to trust Him with the results. His church will prevail, Jesus promised us that, it will prevail on His terms and in His time. I am responsible to do my best to carry out His will in my little part of the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for Paul and the church as a whole, even up to the present. No reason it should be easy for me.