Tag Archives: God’s word

A Spirit Not of Fear but of Power Matthew June 25, 2017 First St Johns

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 trust Jesus and are overcomers said … AMEN!

I’m sure many of you have had this discussion with your parent, to the effect, “But dad I don’t want to because I’m afraid of this person”. The response was to the effect “you have more to be afraid of me, then of aforementioned person.” I’m sure you’ve had the same thoughts in terms of “I don’t want to do this because I’m afraid of the reaction I’m going to get from someone else” and then come to the realization, I’d better be a lot more afraid of what God is going to think or do then the big monster I’m afraid of will do. I was afraid, [Rodney voice] I grew up in a tough neighborhood, the local restaurant only had broken leg of lamb on the menu.[1] On my street, the kids take hubcaps – from moving cars.”

Jesus makes it pretty plain, sure bad things can happen if you get someone in the world angry, but that’s not going to be anything compared to making God angry from failing to be faithful to His will. In fact whenever I’m in that quandary, after all is said and done, when I look back, I realize that the person/ thing/situation that I was afraid of, was nowhere near as big, bad or ugly as I thought. Furthermore, trusting in God usually results in an outcome I never expected, would never planned. I’m not giving you a Harry Potter incantation or Joel Osteen everything’s going to work out because God has a great plan for your life. He does, but not some Osteen formula. It’s according to the only words that matter, Holy Scripture.

Jesus talks about the one who has “endured to the end who will be saved.” While too many “Christians” have a rainbow and unicorn perception of Jesus, as we see in this passage, through the Gospels and particularly the Book of Revelation, to quote another writer: “The Bible teaches Christians to recognize that the world is a battleground, not a playground.”[2] To take Mr Dangerfield’s quotes, we all grow up in a tough neighborhood. We certainly have the assurance that Jesus will be faithful, that when we trust in Him we will be delivered. It might not seem like it, people do die, people do suffer tragedy, or, at least what we perceive as death or tragedy. We know many cases where we might think that someone has been treated unfairly, but what God has lead that person to do in that trial, that tragedy has, in fact, resulted in genuine blessing for that person, for others that they have served, have inspired, have reached. As Christians we know the ultimate tragedy is to be lost for eternity. While we may suffer in this life, and the reality is that we all suffer in one form or another. That we all have a cross to bear, ESV Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Arthur Just explains: “These are catechumens who have heard the Word, have left family and understand the costs of discipleship. But as they travel with Jesus to Jerusalem, they begin to encounter rejection and persecution…[this] corresponds to the seed that fell on the rock and withered because of lack of moisture, like those who receive the Word with joy but have no roots and fall away in times of temptation, which can include persecution.”[3]

It’s never my intention to, create fear in people. The words we see in the Bible emphasize being aware and faithful. Jesus told His disciples in this passage; “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We are saved, we are protected, we are baptized, we eat the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of Christ, we are very much a part of Him, in the sacraments, in the Keys of the Church, His Body that we are very much a part of. We don’t, ultimately, have anything to fear. The same writer: “The Greek word most often translated “overcomer” stems from the word nike which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “to carry off the victory. The verb implies a battle.” You probably remember the Nike missile, Nike sports gear. Needless to say in war and in sports, the point is victory. To take the simile a little further, the Nike slogan is “just do it”. I wish we, as Christians, understood that motto in terms of our witness to Christ instead of being fearful of rejection and embarrassment. Embarrassed for Jesus? hmmm, sort of where He says: “ESV Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” When we are unfaithful, and put our trust in the world, and the things around us, just chose to punt, to give in to the world, Jesus is under no obligation to be faithful to us. If by our lives and our witness we demonstrate that Jesus is not important in our lives, why would we have the idea that we should be important to Jesus? Why should He stand up for us for eternity, when we won’t stand up for Him for just a moment in a world that is so temporary, so fleeting, so transitory? I have seen it so often, I chose not to stand up, I chose not to bravely confront and deal with a fraudulent world, but then expect someone to stand up for me and they are outraged that they’ve been left completely exposed. The world loves to set people up, as false witnesses, as Paul writes “to be slaves to sin … for the end of those things is death” (Rom 6: 20..21)

The real emphasis in the real language Jesus uses over and over again, is very much in terms of one who stays faithful, the one who endures, the one who while they are afraid, still endures. Many have the idea that the “brave man” has no fear going into danger. That would infer a really high level of stupid. I’ve seen plenty of brave men and women, people who’ve had to face actual, physical danger. They are acutely aware of the danger, and they are by no means stupid people. By the same token, they realize that they have to overcome and trust their fear because others are relying on them, trusting them to do what is necessary. As Christians we should always trust Christ in the face of danger. We have the guarantees, we have the lock, we know how the story ends, we are going to feel fear, BUT, we are certainly called to overcome. How do we overcome, do we overcome in our own strength? NO! We know the Holy Spirit is with us to strengthen us in those times when we face any challenge and certainly that includes up to and including death. Our trust is this, that what we do for Christ will never be wasted. Too often people talk about someone they perceive dying prematurely or being seriously injured as waste. They only see the here and now and don’t wait in faith for how Christ will use this. If that person has rejected Christ, has actually wasted their life, then we can see the reason why they might have died. I’m sure you can imagine many who simply wasted what they were given. By the same token those who have endured, stayed strong, overcome the trials that were given and still pointed to Christ as the reason, we certainly know and will witness to others and we know the Holy Spirit will use that to glorify Jesus and bring others to Jesus. The Christian church in China will be the largest church in the entire world in about 15 years. This in spite of horrendous persecution and suffering. Those who suffer are very real witnesses to others of the truth of Jesus’ church, of the Christian church and that it does save and they become Christians because they know that they have the promises of Christ of their resurrection to eternal, real life, life and life more abundant! The world cannot come close to such a promise, but takes those who fail to persevere, who will not stand in the strength of Jesus and the world toys with those people, gives them empty promises, kicks them to the curb and walks away laughing. “Overcomers are promised that they will eat from the Tree of Life (2:7), be unharmed by the second death (2:11), eat from hidden manna and be given a new name (2:17), have authority over the nations (2:26), be clothed in white garments (3:5), be made a permanent pillar in the house of God (3:12), and sit with Jesus on His throne (3:21). Jesus warned that holding fast to Him would not be easy, but it would be well worth it.”[4]

Jeremiah’s words have to lift you and inspire you, the promise of who God is and what He will most certainly do: “ESV Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.”

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

He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] source: http://www.jokes4us.com/peoplejokes/comedianjokes/rodneydangerfieldjokes.html

[2]

[3] Arthur Just Concordia Commentary Luke 9-24 p 581

[4] https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-overcomer.html0

Being aware of your environment Ephesians 6: 10-20 First St Johns August 30, 2015

[Click on the above link for the audio of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father, and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are aware of the world around them in Jesus said … AMEN!

We should be familiar with; “those who are in Christ are in the world, but are not of the world.” Jesus’ priestly prayer for His disciples John 16 and 17, Jesus stresses “ESV John 17:16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

We are Jesus’ disciples, we are in the world, but we are not of the world. We are His, Jesus is our Lord, our Savior. We also know the things that are constantly around us. St Paul’s quote reminds us that we are of a different mind then those who are in the world: “ESV 2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Despite the words of Jesus, of St Paul, we still have many in the church who believe we can somehow reconcile this and be at peace with the world. That’s certainly not Jesus’ idea, “ESV John 17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” The world will do whatever it can to separate those who are in Jesus from Him and influence us into anything, so long as it’s not Jesus.

We should all be very aware of the influences that surround us and defend ourselves against them, not give into them. Many of those influences are very tempting, often they’re made to look like “ehh, not such a big deal”. But it’s the little bad influences that can keep affecting us, impacting us, slowly separating us from the truth that is in Christ Jesus. Do these bad influences “defile” us? Jesus says no in today’s passage. The Greek word koino,w means: “1) to make common 1a) to make (Levitically) unclean, render unhallowed, defile, profane 1b) to declare or count unclean.”[1]  Jesus is telling us loud and clear in our Gospel reading No! The things that are around us, don’t make us unclean. You find something on the Internet or on television, or happen on something in your travels that makes you feel unclean. I’ve seen things that made me want to run and take a shower. Let’s face it a lot of those things make you feel “defiled”, kind of violated. But in Christ those things don’t make us unclean, if they do, turn them over to Him, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a spiritual hose down… AMEN ?? But don’t feel as if you’ve become unworthy or so unclean that you can’t take it to Him, to be a part of His church.

But that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of being aware, of just avoiding the things that do make us feel that way, that do make us feel violated and separated from Jesus. Today more than ever, one of the most common things you will hear in the military, police work and other areas that require interaction in the world is the warning to “be aware of your surroundings, of your environment”. For most of history war or crime was pretty straight forward. There’s the enemy, there’s the bad guy, go and get him and restore control. On Sept 11, 2001, an unremarkable Tuesday morning, the biggest issue for most people was summer was over and dealing with the reality of the coming fall and winter. No one in their wildest imagination would have thought that at the start of their day at the World Trade Center that the building would come crashing down around them and many would not be home that evening. There was no apparent threat, no reason to be aware, another day like so many others they had lived through. And yet, out of no where, came a very real, very deadly threat.

We have spiritual threats like that all around us, day in and day out. Television, the internet, so much in print, there are spiritual threats at the flip of a switch.

So we agree, we live in a dangerous world. There’s no question that our physical safety can be of concern too. But frankly, more importantly our spiritual lives can be even more readily destroyed, temptation to degrade our spiritual lives is all around us, right in our homes, much nearer than what could kill us physically and this is the case even more so now than ever in the history of mankind. We agree we have to be readily aware of the fact that spiritual danger is all around us and we have to be very aware of our surroundings. That doesn’t just mean walking down a city street, being in a crowd, but the surroundings in our own home. What do we keep right around us that can negatively impact us, can spiritually kill us? We agree on these things, but what do we do about them? Paul tells us that we continue to trust in God and what He has given us, has already done for us.

We are told that our strength is in God, in His might. That we put on the whole armor of God. I don’t pull my helmet out of my helmet bag, my Kevlar vest out of my closet, our greatest enemy is “cosmic powers … spiritual forces of evil”. What do we have to defend us? Paul tells us: the belt of truth. When the world tells us what we should do we know the truth, it is right there around our waist. The breastplate of righteousness, protects our heart, soul, the things that do corrupt us. He gives us the shoes of readiness, not just to protect what supports us, our feet, our stability in the Word, but also to move us into the world to proclaim Christ, against the evil that is around us. We have a shield, the shield of faith what God gives us to protect us against the attacks of the world, the many attacks of the world. The helmet of salvation, reminds us of what is really important. We can get all involved in the evil and temptation of the world, or we can remember that our true life is in the resurrection, the world that God saves us for, the way God intended for us to live. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, the Bible. This is what we bring to thrust God’s Word into the world. It’s not enough to just stand there and take the hits from the world, we have God’s Word and He calls us to bring His Word into the world. Being aware of your surroundings isn’t just to be defensive, but it is to pro-actively go into the world and proclaim God’s Word, to push back against the darkness with His Word, the Bible, the Gospel. AMEN??

Of course Paul ends with “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplications. The church’s most powerful weapon is prayer, us lifting up our prayers to the Father and the Father guiding us in our prayers so that we will be in His will. In five years of being ordained, I’ve seen God do some amazing things in answer to the prayer of His faithful people. So we put on the whole armor of God, all the things that protect us while we maintain “situational awareness”, and we lift up our situation to God in prayer and trust that He will answer and He will also lead us to where He wants us to be, for His best interests and ours. Our safety, our family’s, those we love, our awareness, is in Him and the armor that God has given us to stay in Him. Physically we may be hurt and suffer, but that is only for a time, our real danger is in the eternal life, letting the world drag us down because we were not aware of our surroundings and we let them influence us and not God’s protection. Spend some time this week in your journal to really work out where you need to improve in the use of the equipment God gives you.

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

[1] Strong’s in BibleWorks

Real truths need to be poured over and really absorbed. Not superficially like the world.

Listening to Radical Grace Radio Podcast which is done by a Lutheran pastor and lay person down in Florida. Matthew Pancake says the Magnificat never meant much to him until he had to learn it for choir. We learn things by repeating them over and over again. He says he suddenly realized what it was saying.
Hmmmm isn’t it so true. That is what liturgical worship is all about. Liturgy is deep, it is full of meaning. If people would stop treating it as just rote and really think about what it’s saying, what it means in our life, it will impress Biblical teachings and elements, God’s Word into our soul.
The problem is that our world wants a blunt ten second sound byte, tell me and I will decide whether I want it or not and move on. Yea, and we wonder why we are becoming more superficial and frankly crude. No one really makes us think, except that the church should be making us think through Biblical teaching and through fundamental Christian worship. But we want everything dragged down and diluted to make it easy for us. Sorry, but church is not ding-dong school, like too much public education. It’s intended to push, to make you think, to constantly have God’s Word hard-coated into your very soul.
God is not superficial, He gives us what we need in order to be pressed into our brain, heart and soul. For us to repeat over and over and when those times of trial come, we have God’s teaching right where we need it. When we have it hard coated it comes right back to us when it matters. We have taken the time to repeat it, to think about it, to let the Holy Spirit have time to really drill it into our head and soul. Something that we don’t do in our superficial, tell me something new and easy right now, world.
Liturgy, Bible study, prayer, may all seem rote, even tedious. But when it really is impressed on our brain, heart and soul, through regular worship, repetition, prayer then we truly begin to live in a way that is responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and become less responsive to the leading of the world. We begin to realize more and more how deep God’s Word is and how superficial and tedious all the blah, blah of the world really is.

It’s God’s will, we are in His will or we are condemned.

What seems to be missed by people is this idea that there are “choices”. When it comes right down to it, there really aren’t. Sure there are choices that you make like, I like the whopper better than I like the Big Mac. I like the Red Sox, I don’t like the Yankees. What house I’m going to buy, yea, maybe. When it comes right down to it, like it or not, the real choices are in God’s hand. We are either in His will or we are separated from His will.

That doesn’t mean we sit and obsess if we really can’t discern God’s will. A lot of times in my life, I can honestly say that I knew what His will was/is, and He made it very plain how I should follow it. At other times, I did the best I could, put it in prayer and trusted Him that what i was doing was the way He wanted. I can’t say that I was always right or that I did it faithfully, that I did it according to His will. Sometimes, frankly, I have to admit I didn’t even take His will into account. Seemed obvious, jumped in and then afterwards realized that I should have given it more time, more work, more consideration. As in anything in humans, we’re just not going to be perfect. We do the best we can to pull it together, to execute the plan and then leave it in His hands. Sometimes it doesn’t work because He wanted us to do it and He used it to His own will, even if it seemed that it wasn’t such a good deal to us. “ESV Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” [Bible Works]

I am trying to write, that for those who pursue this attitude, that God is somehow unfair, because many go to Hell, Jesus made it very clear that many would chose to ignore Him, that they would chose their own path: ” ESV Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” [Bible Works]
Dr Martin Luther in his book Bondage of the Will addresses the idea that there is “free-will” in terms of our salvation. The idea that we are in some way “free agents”. The only way that works is God’s way in Jesus. Any “free-will” is purely from Satan and puts the individual on the path of destruction.

Luther writes: “You describe the power of ‘free-will’ as small, and wholly ineffective apart from the grace of God [Luther’s NB – As in those who lack grace (special grace, I mean) reason is darkened but not destroyed so it is probable that their power of will is not wholly destroyed, but has become ineffective for upright actions.’] Agreed? Now then, I ask you: if God’s grace is wanting, if it is taken away from that small power, what can it do? It is ineffective, you say, and can do nothing good. So it will not do what God or His grace wills. Why? Because we have now taken God’s grace away from it, and what the grace of God does not do is not good. Hence it follows that ‘free-will’ without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good…it is ineffective apart from God’s grace, straightway you rob it of all its power. What is ineffective power but (in plain language) no power? So to say that ‘free-will’ exists and has power, albeit ineffective power, is, in the Sophists’ phrase, a contradiction in terms. [Luther’s NB – oppositum in adiecto]” p 104

“…that we do everything of necessity, and nothing by ‘free-will’; for the power of ‘free-will’ is nil, and it does no good, nor can do, without grace … The term ‘free-will’ is too grandiose and comprehensive and fulsome. People think it means what the natural force of the phrase would require, namely, a power of freely turning in any direction, yielding to none and subject to none. If they knew that this was not so, [p 105] and that the term signifies only a tiny spark of power, and that utterly ineffective in itself, since it is the devil’s prisoner and slave,…” [p 106]

“…However, with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, he has no ‘free-will’, but is a captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.” [p 107]

You have either stopped resisting what God is doing to you and are chosen by Him to be your Lord, or your right where you are because you have resisted the Holy Spirit and simply want to wallow in where you are. If you aren’t in Jesus, you are already condemned. While you continue to assert your own will, to think it’s all about you, that you are the master of your own fate, then it’s just another way for Satan to assert his control over you. If you come to the realization, that God is in control, that it really isn’t about you, that it’s all about what the Holy Spirit is doing in you, then you are saved.

Once we accept that it is about God and His will, that what we do outside His will is separation from God, that separation is Hell, is condemnation. There is no will for salvation other than God’s. Anything is the path to destruction. Separation from God is Hell.

In Revelation 12: 7-17 and 13:5-8 God has removed His hand from earth, Basically He has said that this is the end, that there is no more grace and man is left to his own devices. Honestly, how do you really think that’s going to work out? I know there are times when things look crazy and out of control, but God is still very much in control. The difference will be very obvious when Satan rules and there will then be unrestrained evil. We like to think we are somehow able to conduct ourselves properly, but when God removes His hand, when God simply allows us to do our own will, is there any doubt that the outpouring of evil, of violence, of greed will be absolutely stupefying? Is there really any doubt in anyone’s mind that when God has removed the Holy Spirit, when Satan rules that there will be unrestrained evil? This is what those who reject God will have, what they’ve accepted, there will be survival of the fittest. They don’t want God’s control, His blessing, although they think they’re entitled to the benefits of His blessing. They don’t realize what unrestrained evil is and they’ve shown that they really don’t care. And we’ve all met people that fill that bill, there are those who are obvious and the rest, not so obvious.

God is good, God is perfectly Holy. Being in a downtown church, being in the inner-city, albeit a small city, there are still lots of people who will knock on the church door and expect that I will just hand over money to them. In more subtle ways, there are plenty of people out there who have the same attitude, they expect God to hand over everything, including salvation on their terms. Then they will accuse God of not being “good” because He won’t save them! God is perfectly good, not according to our individual agenda (let’s face it, there’s God’s agenda, then there’s yours. In the end, which one do you really think is going to win out?)

God is perfectly good, perfectly holy, perfectly all knowing, all powerful, transcendant beyond anything that we can understand. Your agenda is just not going to be perfectly good, come on, it’s going to be covered in sin, if not completely submerged. It’s all of us, we are all completely unredeemed sinners and the only way to redemption is through Christ, The Son of God. God certainly does have an agenda, He revealed it, in His revelation, the Bible. We look to God for Him to guide us in how we fit in that agenda. Not our way, but His. Certainly that agenda is different for different people. If you are a great Christian mom, or Christian office worker, or Christian soldier/sailor, or Christian plumber, Christian factory worker, does that not serve God? We are put where we are at to serve God to the best of our ability, to be the best Christian factory worker we can as a witness to those around us to Jesus. We like to think that it’s all about us, it’s all about our control. Let’s face it the more you try to assert control, the more you realize that you just don’t have control. You can keep wrestling with God over it or figure out that it is all about Him and not about you. When we stop resisting the leading of the Holy Spirit and surrender to His will, when we are concerned about God’s agenda and not ours, when you trust His control, His will, and operate our life accordingly, It may not be “easy”, but it will be much easier then struggling against God.

The faithful telling of the Bible

It seems to be easy lately to think that the there is just a remnant of Christians, only a few that are left to raise up God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But then a long comes an event or a message that demonstrates that Christians are very much alive, faithful and active.

Case in point the production of the television series The Bible produced by husband and wife Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. I will qualify this upfront by saying that I really did appreciate The Bible that it really was a faithful portrayal of the Bible. It always amuses me when people call the Bible ‘boring’. That is biblical illiteracy. If I can be a little tacky, the Bible has it all violence, intrigue, sex, infidelity, charity, faithfulness, sacrifice, integrity, pride and strength. The Bible has good, bad, somewhere in the middle, ordinary people confronting extraordinary circumstances. The last thing I would describe the Bible as is boring. One of the things that always annoyed me was the way different people/beings of the Bible have been portrayed in movies and media. Jesus always seems to be sort of soft and prissy, and that just could not have been the case. He was probably a carpenter, He spent so much of His earthly ministry outside, traveling around, even out on the boats with some of His disciples. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was very much a manly man and nothing in the Bible contradicts that. Another is this idea that angels are sort of beautiful, poofy women. Again that is not biblical. Any description of angels in the Bible depicts them as male. The depiction in the television series of angels as more like ninjas would be a lot more faithful to the biblical narrative.

Angel in The Bible Does kind of create an interesting contrast with Ms Downey’s portrayal of an angel in the television series Touched by an Angel 

Forbes Magazine did a feature on the couple and their production of The Bible and future productions based on the Bible. Their success, that I would consider a lot more biblicaly based, then most contemporary productions (yea, just ask me about Noah ugh), anyway “The Bible made its debut in 2013, and even on a relatively esoteric cable channel was able to outdraw the networks; at one point Burnett had the No. 1 show in America five nights out of the week. And viewers couldn’t get enough: The Bible has sold over 1 million copies via DVD and Blu-ray….the movie spinoff, which Burnett and Downey spent an estimated $1 million to bankroll, has done $68 million worldwide…” (Zack O’Malley Greenburg, Dorothy Pomerantz  Forbes Magazine July 21, 2014 pp 55 – 60)

Clearly a faithful rendering of the Bible, not too pious, not too imaginary (yea like Noah) are greatly in demand. God’s story is the most compelling ever: “There are not a lot of books being read these days’, says Paul Telegdy, NBC’s president of late-night and alternative programming. ‘But there is one that’s being read and reread, and that’s the Bible.”

Burnett points out that a lot of contemporary television and movies are biblically based: “…he says take their dominant influence from the world’s most popular book: Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Matrix.” The Matrix??? I guess he’d know better than me. Point being is that too much media has either dumbed down the Bible, or made it too sugar coated or made it to ham handed, none of which are faithful renderings. Straightforward, human portrayal of the Bible is what God inspired the writers of the Bible to write and that has what guided the faithful for 2,000 years. There is plenty of hunger in the world for the real Bible. Let’s faithfully teach, preach and relate the Bible. The Holy Spirit will use that to lead and inspire others, we don’t need to embellish what was perfectly inspired by God.

Fear is so crippling, so limiting, such a waste to live.

FEAR!!! Fear of failure, of the future, of change, of growing older and either being injured, sick or disabled, or losing physical ability. Fear drives our desperate attempts to keep what we have and never trying to move and grow. If we attempt to move and grow we might risk what we have. Fear of trying church, of taking a chance to follow Jesus, not committing but at least trying, trusting a friend, family or pastor and just giving worship a chance.

Jesse Thomas in “Triathlete Magazine” (May 2014 pp 40-42) talks about the fear, as a professional triathlete of that day when he (or his wife Lauren, also a professional triathlete) will suffer a career ending injury or just realize that his abilities are not sufficient to remain an elite athlete. I participate (I hesitate to say compete, because while I wish I did, wouldn’t really be accurate) in triathlons. I certainly don’t make my living doing triathlons because I’d starve on a street corner. I’ve had all kinds of goofy “owwees”, left heel, plantar, both knees, serious cramps, right now sciatica, all eminently treatable, but when they happen the thought races through your brain, “oh no, this is it, I’ll never be able to …” Last season playing basketball in a church league, my left calf violently seized up. It was so severe that I was sure that I ruptured the achilles tendon, literally had to crawl off the basketball floor. Turned out to be a bad cramp, found a way to contend with cramps, haven’t had another and it’s going on a year now. But I remember thinking as I crawled off that floor, “this is it”, the fear was very compelling.

Thomas points out “”Ninety-five percent of the time our ailments and injuries evaporate within in a week.” And that’s been my experience, but approaching the big “60”, my physical abilities continue to decrease and the better chance that something will happen that will keep me from a high level of participation. Certainly with a professional like Jesse Thomas the fear has to be more profound. l’m a pastor my most visible function is to preach, if I somehow couldn’t speak properly anymore that would certainly put my future as a pastor in jeopardy. “…I’d be SUPER BUMMED”, writes Thomas, “in all caps for emphasis. And even though the risk is remote, I think the weight of that possibility is why my brain instantly goes to the darkest place in moments of doubt. It’s like trying to speed by a black hole without getting sucked in. According to Stephen Hawking, that’s impossible, no matter what your bike split is.”

We are all there, we all have that fear, it certainly does happen but it is rare. The possibility of such an occurrence is something that is supposed to be provided for by society, it’s certainly being abused in this day and age, but for those people with character, integrity, trust in God, and looking to live life they do not want to be “disabled”, they will fight tooth and nail against it.

There is an issue, those of us of want to keep going, are giving in to a different type of sin(s); fear, failure, relying on ourselves/idolatry, lack of faith. It also keeps us from living at the level we should be living: “So this ritualistic thinking about an athletic ending is just a way to acknowledge that fear, no matter how remote the chance that it actually materializes and to acknowledge that stupid trick that the mind can play on us. [I would interject, it’s more about our pride, more than us being victimized by our mind – Jim] And by acknowledging it [I’d say pride] we can stop our minds from dragging us into a fear cycle, make the conscious choice to disregard it and proceed in pursuit of the goal despite the possibility of failure. In that way, we CAN speed by the black hole. Where you at now, Stephen Hawking?” I would attribute Thomas’ claim not to my determination, but to the faith that God gives me to trust in Him and follow where He leads even when it might seem hopeless. He overcomes my fear, gives me the faith I need and then pushes me back to confront the world, but He is always with me.

Now the reality is that at some point I’m going to just be too old or disabled to toe up on a beach somewhere and jump in the water with a bunch of other people. (You have no idea how difficult that was to write), so then what? Could stay home, sit and bemoan my fate and just give up. I like Thomas’ perspective: “Acknowledging that worst-case-scenario, fear, also helps both Lauren and I realize that even if the ‘worst’ happened (our careers ended) in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal… Lauren and I would have to find other professions, we’d be forced to not exercise all day, every day and not go to bed at 8 pm on Saturday night because we have a big session Sunday morning. As terrible as that sounds, nobody dies, we won’t starve… We will go on as a family and probably thoroughly enjoy the next phase of our lives. And after the sting of the disappointment wears off, we’d realize that the journey was all worth it anyway,” Absolutely, we’ve lived the life, we’ve gotten all we’re likely to get out of it, God has taught us what He wants us to learn from it and now it’s time to move on. For sure I won’t like it, yea my ego and dignity will take a hit. But then He moves me on. Thomas doesn’t address the ultimate time when it will really be over, our culture today is pretty sure that death happens to everyone else, not to us. For Christians death will mean the resurrection, put in our perfected bodies, that will never be sick, will never break down, will be perfect for ever. It won’t be over, it will just be starting. I have no doubt that I will actually be able to complete an Ironman Triathlon in the resurrection. Even in eternity I will never be able to do all that the new, very physical world offers, but I will never have that fear, even if I fail, I will have infinite opportunities to grow, develop and go back and start again.

But the thing I will never understand is this fear of ever even trying because you might fail. Bad news, you will!!! Deal with it, get over it and yourself, decide what you’re going to do about it and move on. Fear of trying, like ya worship, making excuses, keeping the mediocre and even destructive and passing on what truly gives life, what truly moves us in life, what is truly life and life more abundant, I just don’t understand. This world is not the answer, it’s only a stage, it will end, do you want it to end with you whining in fear and failure, hidden away some where, to ultimate destruction? Or do you want to live the life God has given us, to live to His glory and then move on to a life that, ya there will still be failure, but it’s OK, it’s perfect life and life with abundant opportunities to succeed and move on in life? Ya, seems rather obvious doesn’t it? So why are you still sitting there obsessing?

God’s minister or the people’s minister?

Yes, for the second day in a row I am ripping off Dr Dale Meyer, but for good reason, because it brought up an issue that is important regarding worship. Dr Meyer’s commentary is first and then my slant  on the reasons why I preach from the pulpit.

Meyer Minute for November 21

Here’s a question I’m often asked. “Does the Seminary teach students to preach in or out of the pulpit?” This ranks right up there with the other great questions of the universe. Why does God hide Himself from us? Why does God permit suffering? How can Christianity claim to be the only true religion and only way to heaven? Catch my sarcasm?

We have chapel services on campus every weekday. Most chapel sermons are delivered from the pulpit but it’s not unusual for the preacher to stand in the center of the chancel or even down in the aisle. I teach preaching and always get the question, “What about preaching out of the pulpit?” There are, I answer, logistical considerations. For example, if you’re standing in the aisle, can the people on the flanks or in the balcony see you? There are deeper considerations. What is the congregation used to? If they’re used to one way or the other, is this an issue worthy of controversy? Ask the elders, I tell them. But going farther, my sarcasm getting the better of me, why do you ask? I’ve learned that they imagine that standing out of the pulpit somehow means being relevant. I also hear lay people say, “We love our pastor. He preaches out of the pulpit.” Huh? The real issue is what he’s preaching! A compelling sermon from God’s Word will be compelling wherever it’s delivered from. A sermon of theological jargon that doesn’t speak to life will be irrelevant wherever it comes from.

In my mind it comes down to this. To congregation members: Are we so at home with one worship style that we get upset by something different? Aren’t we driven to come to church by this question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) To students: Don’t make the pulpit the hill you’ll die on, or off. Instead, make God’s Word so applicable to people’s lives that they’ll listen intently wherever you are. In or out? Sounds like a belly-button question, naval gazing. I’m desperate to know more God, wherever the preacher stands.

My thoughts on why I preach a certain way – Pastor Jim Driskell

I certainly get Dr Meyer’s point, well I kind of have to, he’s the one that taught my Homiletics II course, I passed. Fits with my philosophy of life “Semper Gumby”, always flexible. You do have to factor in the situation, the hearers, survey all the considerations. All things being equal, I do prefer the pulpit. It’s not due to some ego need, but I also have to remember what I’m doing there. Richard Foster asked the rather germaine question; “Am I a minister of the people or of Christ.” I’m called “minister” because I represent Jesus to His church, His people. Yea, sometimes you do have to come down and get right in the middle of people. But as I’ve been discussing for awhile, it’s not our “comfort” that it’s about, it’s how we glorify the Lord and pick a part of His earthly ministry and you can see that He was terribly concerned about our “comfort” He was concerned that we are growing, that we are becoming mature in Jesus. How does that apply here? I feel it’s my duty in as many ways as possible to remind people of the Lordship of Jesus. Not that He’s aloof, or separated from us, He’s not, as baptized children who eat Jesus’ Body and drink His blood, we could not be closer or more apart of anyone. But we also let ourselves get way to buddy-buddy with Jesus and we forget what He’s done, continues to do and what He will do. He told us that when He returns He will return in His glory, we know that He rules in glory from heaven. If He chooses to treat us as His friends, and He told us He did, that’s His call and I would certainly welcome it. But as His minister, as one who has been chosen to represent Him and bring Him due honor in front of His people, that’s what my aim is. That when we are in worship together we all know that it’s Jesus who is with us, who is using me to preach. I may not be that great as I conduct worship and I may not be worthy of that tremendous privilege and duty, but I strive to do it to the best of my ability and I want people coming in and thinking about our Great King and I intend to honor Him that way and leave it to Him if He chooses some other way. So Dr Meyer’s point is well taken, if you are in worship, be there for the right reasons. It does none of us any good to get hung up on whether I’m in a pulpit, wandering around, yada, yada. Be focused on what God’s doing, that, hopefully, He is using me to preach His word and I’m doing it well enough and you are getting a message that will lift you and encourage you, know that our great and powerful God is in control and watching over you and to bring Jesus to all you know. In the meantime I will faithfully do what I can to honor Him.