Tag Archives: Gods glory

The heavens declare the glory of God Psalm 19 First Saint Johns July 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 know that all creation glorifies God, said … AMEN!

We had to stay constantly qualified in the Coast Guard, even being part-time. One of those qualifications was being underway in different areas, night-time, day-time, all year round. Many times we’d be going out at 8pm in January because we had to get the underway hours. No I don’t like being cold, but you have to do it. There you are, far away from shore, no other light around you, especially when there’s no moon. Even in the sky over the ocean at 18 degrees, there is very little humidity in the atmosphere, the sky is clear and dark, and looking into the sky, stars are bright and sharp, the Milky Way is so prominent, it felt as if I could reach up and brush my hand through the Milky Way. The number of points of light in the sky is staggering, we who are so used to seeing the night-time sky in the middle of man-made lighting, the stuff that gets into the atmosphere, we have very little of the total view, even in the best circumstances there is very little that we see with the naked eye. Most of what we see is the galaxy that we are in, what we know as the Milky Way. When we proclaim that God created the universe, that our all creative, powerful, all knowing God made us in His image and set us in this universe, gave us all His creation, many will accuse us of presumption: “How can you think that in this immense universe that we are the only people in this massive, universe? There has to be other people.” There are complicated calculations estimating how many other planets are populated by sentient beings like us. I submit that if you do rely on complicated mathematics and you do the calculations of all the factors involved to account for the fact that we are here, you would see that our presence here is beyond any estimate of scientific possibility. If you really want to justify our existence through science you have to concede that there is an all-powerful, transcendent Creator of the universe. For us to be here is, under the laws of probability, beyond any statistical possibility. If we are statistically impossible, then even in this massive universe, the “probability”, the scientific word, for other life is beyond impossible. Further if God creates us in His image, creates an environment that not only “supports” our existence, keeps us alive, but more so allows us to flourish and grow despite our rather fragile constitution, especially in a universe that consists of such extremes in terms of temperature, radiation, water, atmosphere, and many other factors, that God did provide us an extremely unique environment for us to live. The Christian perspective is that God is all loving, all providing and all powerful in all respects of creation, for His people. Why wouldn’t He give us, His people, His creation, and for those in Jesus, His children. Why wouldn’t He give us an enormous, magnificent, immense universe?

God did create the universe, the prevailing scientific opinion is that the universe was created as a result of the Big Bang. Interestingly, the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a Roman Catholic priest. “This startling idea first appeared in scientific form in 1931, in a paper by Georges Lemaître, a Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest. The theory, accepted by nearly all astronomers today, was a radical departure from scientific orthodoxy in the 1930s. Many astronomers at the time were still uncomfortable with the idea that the universe is expanding. That the entire observable universe of galaxies began with a bang seemed preposterous.”[1] It’s interesting that conventional science at the time was that the universe had always been, this is called the “steady state” theory that everything always was, and always would be. It took a Christian clergyman to point out to the rest of conventional science that “steady state” was just not reality. No scientist in this day and age believe in the “steady state” because of a number of factors, one being that the universe isn’t just kind of sitting there, that the universe is actually pulling itself apart. At some point, millions of years from now, the universe will have pulled so far apart that gravity will no longer be able to control, that everything in creation will be a lump of frozen solid matter. There will no longer be any heat, because heat is a factor of gravity.

Father Lemaitre, the formulator of the Big Bang is quoted to the effect of saying that if God the Father chose to create the universe in one huge, lightning fast bang, one brilliant flash then so be it. Christians have actually been in the lead of scientific discovery since the beginning, people like Louis Pasteur, arguably the most brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal to name a few who were devout Christians. Many believe that Galileo proved that the sun was at the center of the solar system. Actually a Catholic cleric named Nicholas Copernicus showed the sun, not the earth was at the center.  A theory expanded upon by another devout Christian Johannes Kepler. The argument has been made that Christians are far better equipped to be scientists since the paradigm for the universe is what God has established, that the God of Scripture is very rational. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14: 33: “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.    The universe is a testament for order. There are times when we feel that the world is out of control. But then we realize the disorder is what we create, what we do as a matter of our sin. The order that maintains the universe, what God has established, order that we can’t undermine, that the sun shines, the water cycle continues, that we are protected from the harsh environment that surrounds us; extreme cold and heat, radiation, lack of water, extremes of gravity. Our environment, what is around is, is so balanced, so controlled, so tailored to our very specific needs, that to say that this is all an accident is just living in denial to an extreme.

The claim is that it’s science versus faith, but faith has been proved over and over since the beginning, in contrast to science which has been disproved over and over. While the church was setting up universities, training people to teach and to do research in the Middle Ages, secular science was still far more concerned with alchemy and astrology, areas the church condemned. If being right is arrogant then so be it, I submit that being arrogant is far less of a sin than being wrong, or taking a position because of what others want you to believe, because it’s popular, because it’s the world around us living in denial, than yes, I guess I’m going to be arrogant. It is more important to be right than to be popular.

As Christians we know that it is because of God’s will that not only are we aware human beings in the middle of God’s creation, recognizing that the complicated, intricate universe around us could not have been an accident, but on this Independence Day, Christians recognized God’s hand in what we have in our freedoms today, in the United States. In Thomas Jefferson’s final form, he writes: “…to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them…” recognizing that not only that the complicated intricacies of our world, in nature, has been created and controlled by God, but that He also moved the men and women of 240 years ago to create a nation that is still the most faithful in Christ in the world, but also faithful to the true guidelines and inspiration of the Bible. To deny that is to be in denial of history as much as so many are in denial of science and probability.

And of course the most quoted part of the Declaration: “That all men are created equal”, that is there is a Creator, we didn’t get here by accident, we were put here intentionally, as the writer of Esther states: “For such a time as this.”

That God not only created us, but that He endowed His people in His creation, with certain inalienable rights: “…that these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, yes we’ve stretched those “rights” out into the ungodly, but we know who not only created, but also gave us the dignity and responsibilities of His creation in Him as a witness to God. Jefferson ended by stating that the members of the Continental Congress representing all those in the United States; “…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, for the rectitude of our intentions”, that is we appeal to God to either confirm our course of action, that we feel we are confirmed in that course, or that He should intervene in order for us to be brought back into His will. For Americans God’s creative power is not just in terms of the entire universe, but also in our very tiny part of that universe, guided by His Supreme will, even in these days when it seems we don’t follow His will.

Craig Blaising and Carmen Hardin write: “The nineteenth psalm present three laws in harmony with one another”, quoting Theodoret. And “It also presents a rebuke of atheism.” Quoting Diodore. They go on to say, quoting various writers: “The pslam begins proclaiming that God, as designer of the heavens, is known by His design. The creation is not by chance. Rather, created things are servants for our instruction. It is the spectacle of creating that speaks, drawing a response from us that glorifies the Creator. … That “God is revealed especially in the order of things. For it is clear that Reason rules through the natural order… This order forms the primal music of the cosmos. This natural revelation constitutes a message of the Lord’s greatness … His providence is a message of his love … in a book open to all … declared in a universal language.”[2]

Truly God is great, He reveals all that we need to know that He is in control. That He has given us life and life more abundant through His Son. That even in this universe which is so sunk in sin, that He gives us the promise of salvation and resurrection through His Son Jesus Christ. All for us who when we consider the vastness of creation and the even more massiveness of God, that He has provided for us in so many ways, continues to provide for us and gives us the promise of eternal life in the New Creation in Jesus Christ. Only someone who is truly in Christ or preaching in Christ can know that this message is truly on their heart.

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

[1] This is an excerpt from COSMIC HORIZONS: ASTRONOMY AT THE CUTTING EDGE, edited by Steven Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson, a publication of the New Press. © 2000 American Museum of Natural History.

[2] Edited by Craig Blaising and Carmen Hardin  “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VII p 146

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.

Serving, Service, Gifts, Talents

I don’t know why this bugs me, maybe I’m just not gifted, maybe I don’t serve effectively, or maybe I’m looking at the Bible and seeing that no one in the Bible made massive productions out of their gifts. I don’t even see where anyone can justify their opinion that there are those in the Bible who were especially gifted. It looks to me as though various people were empowered to perform a specific act in the context of the situation. If someone came to Peter for healing, Peter was empowered to heal, but he wasn’t at liberty to just wander around and heal at will. Jesus certainly was, but Jesus is God the Son through whom all creation came into existence. If He choses to heal, then He is certainly entitled to exercise His prerogative.

We are all called to serve, no question. That does not mean that we are empowered to do what we want with any gifts we’re given whenever we want to. In fact as a Lutheran, I would submit that the Holy Spirit puts us into the situations where He wants healing and empowers us to do so. Otherwise, we move along and follow His lead. There are way too many Christians out there (and I’ve talked to many of them) who are convinced that they are somehow specially gifted and entitled to go out and demonstrate those gifts. Sorry, but my “poser” antenna goes up when someone is talking to me in that way. Frankly, I immediately get the sense that this person really thinks it’s all about Him, that he is somehow special and that is why He is gifted. Satan can certainly gift you too. He gives you a gift to do something “good”. OK, lots of unsaved people do “good” things. But what’s Satan’s bigger purpose? Maybe to get you so obsessed with your “special” gift, and how “special” you are and start to separate you from Christ, after all, you don’t need Jesus, you have these special gifts. Hey, Satan really doesn’t care how he turns you from Christ, anything will work, so long as it’s not about Jesus.

This attitude is certainly prevalent among the “Name it and Claim it” types, the Benny Hinns, the Pentecostals, charismatics. These are people whose ministry is almost entirely about their emotional gratification, their “special” gifts, their speaking in tongues and very little about Jesus, grace, salvation, what the Holy Spirit does. No it’s really about what they do and the Jesus stuff? Well that’s a nice incidental.

Their entire schtick, worship seems to be like a carnival barker. They have to have a big crowd, yada, yada, hurry, hurry, come on in, see the great Jesus. Not so much seeing Jesus as seeing what He can do. Problem is not only did Jesus usually do healings in a very subdued, private way, He also told people to keep quiet about it. They often didn’t and were bringing people to Jesus as some kind of side show. Paul doesn’t even talk about performing any miracles, although it seems he did. He wasn’t interested in miracles, if Jesus was going to do a miracle through him, it was all about Jesus and nothing about Paul.

When you encounter someone who is making a big production about their “gifts” I suggest you treat them very lightly. Too often this stuff is orchestrated, contrived, might I even say demonic. Too often these people show themselves to be phonies and have somehow managed to set up the show their performing. Satan is all about that, sure, all about the gifts and the results, nothing about Jesus who genuinely heals.

God does not respond on command, the only exception being Jesus and certainly Jesus could/can do miracles in His own power. Other miracles were set up because either God specifically sent the person, like Moses, told him what to do, how to do it and God did the miracle through Moses. Certainly you could make the case that God set up the circumstances for that person to be put in the situation to perform the miracle and they only lent their presence to the situation, the power of the miracle was all God’s.

Too many people presume to treat God like a trained monkey, working on command, that’s not how God works. That person should know that and wonder where else this supposed “power” is coming from. Let’s focus on the faith, grace and Word that God gives us and get over this idea that God has given us some kind of unique power. There’s nothing in the Bible that would indicate that He does. Does He give us gifts? Sure. Are they for our gratification or for His glorification? The correct answer, of course is, His glorification. If it is somehow working out otherwise, you might want to seriously question what is going on and if you have used your “gifts” to truly serve Him or just to draw attention to yourself because you’re “special”. You’re not and the more quietly and unassuming God uses gifts through you, in that usual paradoxical way that God works, the more that God will be working through you. You might not think that He’s performing signs and wonders, but in God’s usually subtle ways He may be using you powerfully if you trust in His will and not some idea that you are specially gifted.

 

Cathedrals are as important now as ever in Christian witness

First Saint Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown York, Pa. It is an historic and majestic glory to God. Christmas church sanctuaryAnytime I get the chance to show someone the sanctuary, the instant they walk out from under the balcony they inevitably let out a low reverential “wow” and rightly so. OK, I wouldn’t call FSJs (First Saint Johns) a “cathedral” but for a small city like York, Pa., it’s as close as you will get. Keith Anderson in his book “The Digital Cathedral” writes: “…according to Oldenberg’s criteria, cathedrals tend to function as more of a classic third place. Their doors are typically open throughout the day to visitors and pilgrims. People come and go as they wish, remaining anonymous if they choose. They are welcome to admire the architecture, art, or music; participate in worship; or just sit and be present in the space. The experience is not prescribed and there are lower expectations regarding participation and affiliation. As Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, writes, ‘There is clearly something about a cathedral … which breathes an unconditional welcome, allowing people to use its sacred space as they wish.'” (p 136) Well of course use it within reason. But the point is sill the same. FSJs sends an unconditional message of being a Christian church and rightly so. Me and Timothy in worshipI would love for FSJs to be such a cathedral where people could come and go. Add to that our minister of music or our emeritus musician playing the organ on a regular basis would create a magnificent environment of glorifying Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Certainly I would see that as an opportunity to witness to Christ. The building itself is certainly a witness to what the Christian faith community can do to send a very visible witness and message to the community, but when it’s locked up the vast majority of any week, that witness does tend to send a message of isolation and exclusivity. That’s not the message that should be sent.

Having said that, there is the reality that it is in a part of the city that is a little problematic. There have been items that have, well let’s just say grown legs. That would be minimized if we could have regular supervision, but providing that supervision at least 40 hours a week would also be problematic. It certainly would be a tremendous faith statement to leave those doors open without supervision and I’d like to try, but needless to say that’s going to be a tough sell.

I think that you can tell from the pictures (and they frankly don’t do justice) that this is an impressive space and was made that way for a reason, to show that the builders took the church of Jesus Christ very seriously and would sacrifice time, treasure and talent in order to properly celebrate that. Too often such magnificent testimonials are kept locked away. I try to take advantage of every opportunity to at least hold worship, leaving the church open to all who want to attend. All are welcome to worship. OK, if we have the Lord’s Supper you do need to be a Lutheran. There’s a good reason for that and for anyone who wants an explanation I will be glad to provide it. However, worship is important and if you are willing to be flexible, not so dogmatic in terms of feeling you should be able to do whatever you want, you will get a lot out of worship.

“A cathedral is an immersive experience of faith formation, with the images, architecture, people, music and ritual all serving to form those who enter that space.” (Ibid p 166) Yes, faithfulness to those who were motivated by God to build this tribute and the accompanying unique ritual will affect people. We are serious about worship at FSJs, you will get a genuine worship experience in Christ here. We are not about the world, we are about true Christian worship and everything in that sanctuary is a tribute to that. Not just the history, but the faithfulness of today. What too much contemporary worship lacks is any real connection to the rest of the church. It is connection to the rest of the church, all over the world, as well as to the historical church, all down through Christian history that demonstrates true faithfulness. We are here to be a faithful part of the entire church, vertically and horizontally. Someone from the Lutheran Church in Africa (which is growing explosively, there are more Lutherans in Africa than in North America) could come to worship at FSJs and understand what is going on. They may not get the language or small provincial tweeks, but overall they would feel welcome and part of the worship. The same for a Lutheran from 400 years ago. That’s a good thing, not to be denigrated, the church is all about relationship and true worship. Not entertainment and playing to the crowd. “Part of the genius of cathedrals is the way they affect and shape us simply be being inside them. Even as you trace a particular stone carving with your finger, stare up at a certain stained glass window, walk by a labyrinth… the environment itself is shaping you. As Marshall McLuhan reminds us, ‘Environments are not passive wrappings, but are, rather, active processes which are invisible.’ The space we inhabit (just as the media we use) affect us in ways we don’t always notice.”(Ibid p 166)

The cathedral is always intended to remind us of the ubiquitousness of God, His infinite power and glory and that He focuses all on the individual believer. It’s built to give us the tiniest hint of the glory of God and eternal life in Jesus in the resurrection. Too much of today’s church architecture is made to make people comfortable, a pleasant environment. That’s not what it’s about, it’s about challenging you, wowing you, giving you just the slightest glimpse of the presence of almighty God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior. “That kind of reaction is just what the architects intended… the overall feeling she had was one of weightlessness, as if being lifting heavenward.” (Ibid p 167)

While too many try to emphasize taking over abandoned retail stores for worship, and sure that has its place, too many are also trying to minimize the great monuments to God that can still be maintained and stand as a tribute to the Triune God, to Christ whose church this is, He built the church and as much as possible we should build churches to truly honor Him. My hope and vision is that we can build the ministry of these churches, truly have a cathedral that will be open to any, available to those who want to have worship on Thursday nights at 5pm because they just can’t get to worship any other time. To be a place where people are free to inquire and search and I can be there to help them in that inquiry.

I get the point of Rev Anderson’s book, in this new age we should be a part of all the places where we can reach and connect with people. I have no problem with that and do that to the best of my ability. However, what better place to give people a genuine experience in Christ in a place that was built to honor and glorify Him and genuine discussion and inquiry can happen?

Serving God in His gifts to us 1 Corinthians 12 First Saint Johns January 17, 2016

[for the audio version of this sermon please click the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who use what God gave them to serve others and His church said … AMEN!

As Christians we have a lot of “vocations”, we often thing of vocation as a trade school kind of thing, but it actually means calling. Our very little Bible study that we do on Wednesday mornings, is about our different vocations as Christians, how we serve in those vocations as a Christian. We use a book by Dr Gene Veith, a Lutheran, who has a very Lutheran view of a Christian’s vocation or calling. Dr Veith emphasizes that we are called to live our Christian life in our worklife, as citizens, as parents, children, neighbors, our church, all to the glory of God. Dr Luther had a very different view of vocation/calling then the Roman church. The church of the time and even now saw Christian vocation in a very limited sense, only those “vocations” that were considered to be “religious”, were a valid calling, that is priests; from the parish to a bishop, cardinal, pope, monks, nuns, other auxiliary types of church servants. These people had a Christian vocation and because of their vocation, they were directly serving the church and therefore the church saw those vocations as “holy”. All other vocations were secular and not as important. The word vocation is from the Latin vocatio or voces, meaning “calling”. Luther saw every vocation in terms of our Christian life. You might be a plumber, but as a Christian you are called to that vocation by God, you are to serve as a Christian plumber.

One of the discussions that Dr Veith has is in terms of Christians serving as police officers, military, judges, corrections officers. That is positions where someone might have to use deadly force to compel someone to submit or can impose death on another person. Lutheran teaching is quite clear in this area, if we are serving those who are, secularly speaking, innocent victims, those who expect the government’s protection, then as Christians in order to compel submission /compliance, we can use deadly force. That applies to those who are duly appointed to positions of public safety, and it certainly applies to American citizens who can use deadly force in order to protect someone who might be subjected to violent or deadly force. Luther actually commends those Christians who are willing to serve in occupations that could result in death or serious injury. Those Christian sects which refuse to recognize this principle are just wrong. They claim that Christians are forbidden from killing another human being, that is just not true. The sixth commandment tells us not to “murder”, that is to take the life of someone who is, again, innocent, it does not forbid us from taking the life of someone who is trying to harm another person. I’ll bet if a terrorist is trying to ignite a bomb in a crowd you’re in and a police officer or military person kills to prevent the terrorist from killing others, women, elderly, children, you’re not going to stand there and wag your finger at that person and tell them they’re bad for shooting. There are Christians who will do just that and they don’t know what they’re talking about. God had no compunction telling Old Testament figures like Debroah, Joshua, David to take someone out who was threatening His people.

We as Christians are called to a number of vocations. God calls us to those vocations and He wants us to serve in those vocations to His glory. So if you are a Christian plumber, you have just as holy a calling as a church pastor. If you are called to be a Christian accountant, you are not just regulated under FASB, you are also regulated to the extent of what God expects you to be as a Christian accountant. I am sure that you know that means to a much higher standard than others who are plumbers, accountants, police officers, military, public office holders, on an on. How about our young people? “I’m not in church, I’m in my seventh grade classroom, so I don’t need to get all caught up in what God’s calling me to do as a student.” My response: “Wrongo, chalk breath”, if you are serving God as a student, does He not have a reason and a plan for you to be in that particular classroom, studying that particular subject? If you decide, “eh, history’s not that important, I can mess around and slack off in this class”. Again, wrongo. God has you in that class for a reason.

If we are faithfully serving God, those around us should know that, they should know we are Christians. Yes, we should profess our faith, tell people about our faith and what Jesus does in our lives. That’s one reason why we have “faith- sharing moments” at the end of worship. For you to tell us how you’ve shared your faith, and I think we all understand that the Holy Spirit can lead us to do that in the workplace, the classroom, the softball team, the Elks Lodge, etc, etc, never to disrupt what is going on, but at a time when you know you should, telling someone about Jesus, especially in the context of what they and/or you are dealing with at the moment. But since those around you probably know you’re a Christian, but they also know that you’re disruptive, unreliable, you don’t do your job well, or study well, in general you don’t strive for what is best and glorifies God, you create problems for those around you. How do you think they will view Christians and especially in terms of God. “Wow, how can I take God seriously, when the Christians around me tell me it’s all about God, and yet they’re lousy students, unhelpful, even harmful in their work?” They’re not going to think much of God because you’ve shown them that being a Christian and your relationship in Jesus isn’t serious in terms of your whole life. We are to show people that we are serious about our vocations, that our calling is not just to do a good job, but to also show that whatever we are doing, we are doing it to the glory of God. Everything we do should be to the glory of God, and should be in a way that truly shows excellence, team-building, loyalty, trustworthiness, and much more. Anything less shows others that God isn’t really worth knowing.

You might think it’s pretty limited what our callings are. For most people in the world they see their “vocation” as their employment and we, as Christians, certainly have a calling in our 9-5 work life. That calling is not just in terms of I show up, do what I’m supposed to do, punch out, go home and that’s that. As Christians we are called to a much higher standard. We also have to understand that in terms of “serving”

Finally serving does mean to the best of our ability in the church. Remember, we serve because it is God who enables us to serve, in many ways, and then guides us into the service that He wants us to perform. We have many here in the church that put their time, talent and treasure in service to God, to the church. God has inspired them to be where they are, doing what they’re doing to His glory. When we are faithfully following Him, we serve Him to the best of our ability, not just sit back and let others carry the load. Stewardship is a vitally important part of being a church member. It is a subject that I will be including in my sermons from now on. I don’t want to make stewardship a five week sermon series. But I do want to make sure you understand how God is leading you to serve His church by the best use of your financial offerings, the talents and skills that God has given you and the time and health God has given you to devote to His church. Look over our reading in 1 Corinthians. Paul writes that there are a variety of services, activities and gifts God gives us: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (12:7) How disobedient is it to have a God-given, gift, talent, time, and keep it entirely to yourself, fail to do anything with it in order to serve His church, His people and the people around you? We like to think that what we have is entirely because we’re such wonderful, special people and we deserve everything we get. As Christians we better know better than that! Whatever we have has been given to us by God and certainly we can enjoy it, benefit from it, grow in it, but we are not allowed to hoard it and not use it in service to others. People have hoarded their gifts, and at some point God simply pulls those gifts away from them. Could be money, could be a talent, could be your time. If you misuse it or don’t use it for God’s glory, He could decide to take it back, bestow it on someone God can trust to use it to the building of His Kingdom on earth.

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

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.

Glorify God at Work by John Piper

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011

How to Glorify God at Work


Just home from two weeks in Australia, I am brimming with thankfulness to God for his people there, and for the pleasures of working with them in Brisbane and Sydney and in the mountains of Katoomba.

One of the conferences was called Engage. It was focused on “young workers,” which, in their lingo, means young professionals in the workplace. I was asked in an interview if I thought this focus was a good idea. I said yes, because of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

So they asked: How can young workers glorify God at work?

Here’s the gist of my answer.

Dependence. Go to work utterly dependent on God (Proverbs 3:5-6; John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help.

Integrity. Be absolutely and meticulously honest and trustworthy on the job. Be on time. Give a full day’s work. “Thou shalt not steal.” More people rob their employers by being slackers than by filching the petty cash.

Skill. Get good at what you do. God has given you not only the grace of integrity but the gift of skills. Treasure that gift and be a good steward of those skills. This growth in skill is built on dependence and integrity.

Corporate shaping. As you have influence and opportunity, shape the ethos of the workplace so that the structures and policies and expectations and aims move toward accordance with Christ. For example, someone is shaping the ethos ofChick-fil-A restaurants with this video.

Impact. Aim to help your company have an impact that is life-enhancing without being soul-destroying. Some industries have an impact that is destructive (e.g., porn, gambling, abortion, marketing scams, etc). But many can be helped to turn toward impact that is life-giving without being soul-ruining. As you have opportunity, work toward that.

Communication. Work places are webs of relationships. Relationships are possible through communication. Weave your Christian worldview into the normal communications of life. Don’t hide your light under a basket. Put it on the stand. Winsomely. Naturally. Joyfully. Let those who love their salvation say continually, Great is the Lord! (Psalm 40:16)

Love. Serve others. Be the one who volunteers first to go get the pizza. To drive the van. To organize the picnic. Take an interest in others at work. Be known as the one who cares not just about the light-hearted weekend tales, but the burdens of heavy and painful Monday mornings. Love your workmates, and point them to the great Burden Bearer.

Money. Work is where you make (and spend) money. It is all God’s, not yours. You are a trustee. Turn your earning into the overflow of generosity in how you steward God’s money. Don’t work to earn to have. Work to earn to have to give and to invest in Christ-exalting ventures. Make your money speak of Christ as your supreme Treasure.

Thanks. Always give thanks to God for life and health and work and Jesus. Be a thankful person at work. Don’t be among the complainers. Let your thankfulness to God overflow in a humble spirit of gratitude to others. Be known as the hope-filled, humble, thankful one at work.

There are more things to say about glorifying God in the workplace. But this is a start. Add to the list as God gives you light. The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.

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Thumb john piperJohn Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.