Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Resurrection

We Christians talk about heaven as if that’s the ultimate goals. Many non-Christians, certainly the “nones”, use that as their cop out, because wow is that generation, ah heck the whole culture today, all about excuses. Doesn’t matter, what happens, happens, I’m entitled anyway, it’s all about me, yada-yada!

Well no, sorry, but your ticket is punched for hell. What you thought was reality, i.e. it’s all about me, well you will find out that it’s not true and that is tragically and eternally.

On to the actual, ultimate reality. It’s not heaven. Many will never be in heaven. They are saved, but if Jesus returns tomorrow, and you and I are around, we will never be in heaven, we go right to the eternal resurrection. For the non-Christian reading this, sorry, doesn’t apply to you, you will be eternally condemned in hell and that’s just the way it is. I sincerely do hope that the Holy Spirit uses this to save the reader who is not a Christian, but as a Christian minister, I’m required to live in the actual real world, and the ultimate reality in that world for me is the resurrection. For the non- believer, the ultimate reality is eternal condemnation and torment in hell.

Kind of separate, but interesting how our Christian holidays have become more about who we are in Jesus. The world is all about Christmas because it’s me-me-me, all about me, and that’s what the world is about. As Christians we know the deeper meaning and can still celebrate and observe Christmas in a genuine way. For genuine Christians (by that I don’t mean the people who call themselves that, because they grew up in that culture, went through the motions, but really have no clue, and live very much in the world. Too many of those people are in churches, don’t get it and don’t care. Like those in the world, they’re entitled, and well God has to come through for them.) Moving along, Easter is where it’s at if you are genuinely in Jesus. Easter Sunday and every Sunday we remember the resurrection, that is what being a Christian is all about. The new-perfect-eternal life in the new world. The world will look very familiar, but it will be perfect, no evil, no sin, no death, no illness, full of genuine life, of infinite potential. We will have the whole picture, understand completely what God did in creation, in history, in salvation and will understand that it was and is completely perfect and understandable. We will see what a truly evil, debased world the world around us was. We will see the spiritual warfare that went on around us, the constant attempts to undermine our relationship with Jesus and tear us away from Him to eternal  condemnation. The Holy Spirit and all the spiritual warriors all around us fought hard to keep us focused on Christ and fit for eternal salvation in the resurrection.

Certainly one way we resist in this spiritual warfare that is going on around us is through prayer. Continual prayer on our part keeps us connected to the spiritual, to God’s guidance to the beings around us that are protecting us. We are tuned into God’s direction, guidance, what He is doing in our life. Failing in prayer is to cut yourself off from God, to be tuned in only to the world and its direction. The world is condemned, and if that’s where you are tuned, you very much risk being condemned. Prayer doesn’t save you, that’s not the point. None of our works save us, we are only saved in what Jesus did and does for us. But if we are not connected to what God is doing in, for, through and around us through our prayer, we lose that connection, we eventually just buy into the constant blah-blah from everything around us in the world, decide that it’s the world’s message that’s most important and fade off into eternal separation from God.

The resurrection is the ultimate destination, the Holy Spirit guides us there, Jesus makes us fit to be there by His righteousness imputed to us and the Father assures us of that eternal life in the resurrected, perfect, eternal new world, New Jerusalem.

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.

Jesus Ascends, our high priest, Ascension Day 2016

[For the audio version click on the above icon]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture p 391

Peter was a fallible man, so am I, but the Holy Spirit uses fallible men

Peter is such a great example to me and should be to all of us I readily identify with him. If the Gospels show the humanity of anyone, it is Peter, he really is every man.

Good Friday was yesterday and among the things we remember from Good Friday is Peter’s denial of Jesus. At the Last Supper Peter vehemently promises Jesus he will never deny him. Few hours later, to a woman, Peter is not just denying Jesus, he is doing so with oaths and curses, denying Jesus rather vehemently

But as the Blackabys point out, despite his failings Peter was always seeking after Jesus and I certainly hope that I am at least as passionate in seeking after Jesus as Peter was. “Peter did not always say or do the right things, but he did constantly seek to be with Jesus.” (Henry, Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day-by-Day p 36). Hey give him credit he may have denied Christ, but other than John, Peter is the only one we know who at least tried to maintain contact with Jesus. All the other disciples had scattered at Gethsemane.

People seem to like to stereotype me, that “well you grew up in the church, that’s the way it’s always been for you, la, la, la…” Well that would be wrong! I did not grow up in the church. Jesus was a vague historical figure and really did not mean anything to me, well yeah Christmas and Easter. I saw that, as many do today, as some sort of rote, ritual thing to do. Then I got whacked over the head. There is so much superficial platitudes going around the secular. People just think they go through the motions, do what they decide is right (which is often very wrong), think that “well I’m a good person”, when they know deep down they aren’t. Or they decide that some superficial good deeds are all that is necessary and everything will work out fine. They never seem to be able to articulate how that will be, they have no basis for what they think or for that matter don’t think, but “hey don’t try to confuse me with the facts.”

Peter was very much like that, “trying” hard, but it just didn’t sink in. He thought it was all about him taking action. Well the fact is it’s all about what God does. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled Peter and he came out like a tiger witnessing to over 5,000 fully aware that it could end him up in jail, flogged, crucified. But all of a sudden, because the Holy Spirit moved him, it was all about Jesus for him and not about what he did, it was all about what the Holy Spirit moved him to do regardless of the circumstances.

So the question is, do people see Jesus in me? Do they look to me to point them, to disciple them in Jesus? For sure I’m certainly not doing it perfectly, but like Peter I keep coming back. The question is raised “what’s the difference between what Peter did and what Judas did?” Judas trusted in his own actions, decided he needed to force the issue and make Jesus come out as the Messiah. It was going to be done that way, Jesus knew it and said so at the Last Supper. But when the issue came to fruition, Judas decided that he would take issues into his own hands, again, and not turn it over to the forgiveness of Jesus and so Judas went and hung himself. Peter on the other hand waited in the faith that the Holy Spirit gave him and stayed faithful. He was one of the first ones at the empty tomb and after Jesus was resurrected stayed with Jesus and was told to “feed my sheep”. Peter was faithful to that and after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit came down and gave Peter the courage to stand and witness to his Savior Jesus. Many were saved because Peter was used by the Holy Spirit to witness to many that Jesus was the Savior, the Hope and Promise of the world, of true life in the resurrection. He was an example to many in his life and continues to be an example to us today.

So I am a very human and fallible man, but I continue to pray that the Holy Spirit uses me as mightily as He did Peter and that I continue to faithfully witness to the only hope of the world, my Savior Jesus. Jesus died for me as the payment of all my sins and rose so that I would have life in the resurrection of my body and the perfect, eternal world of the resurrection.

O Sacred Head and Heart now wounded Luke 22, 23 First Saint Johns March 20, 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 thank and praise God for the Passion that Jesus suffered for us and our salvation said … AMEN!!

Our sermon series for Lent has been based on the hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”, composed by one of the great Lutheran hymnists Paul Gerhardt, according to Wikipedia is based on a Latin poem written by Arnulf of Leuven sometime around the 12th century. While we know the physical wounds that Jesus experienced, the flogging, the crown of thorns, dragging a rough wooden cross over His beaten back, being nailed into that cross, being lurched up into the air and left to hang from that Cross. But more than that were the wounds that were inflicted on His heart, the emotions, the wounds that cut us deeply, as the series said those wounds that are inflicted by those we trust, or those who aren’t satisfied with just physical wounds but want to cut right into our very being, humiliate and debase us. Jesus suffered physically and surely felt the pain of what His disciples did, or failed to do the night before He was crucified.

We talked about the wound of betrayal. Yes, Jesus knew who would betray Him, it didn’t come as a surprise. Jesus wasn’t sitting at that table in the Upper Room thinking “didn’t see that coming”. He talked about the son of perdition and how that man, one of the twelve, one of His closest followers would betray Him into the hands of the world, of sinners. Quoting that sermon: “He had traveled many miles and shared many meals. Here was a wound that weighed down our Lord’s sacred head and brought Him sorrow and grief that compounded the weight of sin He bore upon His cross.”[1] As you will see in our Living Last Supper presentation, Jesus will tell His disciples that; “One of you will betray Me” and each of the disciples asks the question; “Is it I Lord?” Jesus knew this time was coming, but I can’t imagine that lessened the cutting hurt He endured to have it finally happen and see a man who was so closely associated with Him, quietly slip away from the table and slither out of the door, trying to leave unnoticed by the other disciples. I don’t know how Jesus reacted, but I have to believe He was hurt deeply. I know if it was me my heart would sink in my chest and there would be a huge lump in my throat.

The next sermon was titled “The wound of apathy”. He and His disciples have finished the Passover Dinner. Jesus has left them with one of our greatest gifts, The Lord’s Supper. The next day Jesus will be the perfect sacrifice, for them, for us, for all Christians who know that we receive His true Body and Blood in His Supper. He has just taken the bread, “…and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” Right after He makes this new covenant, this new promise, gives us this new hope that we would have the incredible privilege of taking His true Body and His true Blood, that our bond with Him would be very much spiritual and very much physical, that the nourishment we would receive from His Body and Blood would be the only nourishment that would preserve our body and soul, the only nutrition that keeps us strong in body and soul, immediately after one of the most profound moments in His ministry, in the history of all man, He reveals that “…the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.” We know the passion that He suffered physically, but we don’t really think of the passion in His heart, but that injury inflicted on Him right after He promises that His Body and Blood would strengthen and sustain our souls, His Body given for us His disciples. Then Judas slinks out the door: “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Wow, guys, were you listening? It’s happening NOW! Is it that everyone has gotten a little too comfortable? They’ve ignored all the warnings He’s given them, that this would happen and there they are cluelessly chirping away about who is going to be the greatest? I can imagine how I would feel. “What is wrong with these guys? Have I just been airing my lungs out here? Have none of you been paying attention?” Yet, how many times do we forget what Jesus has told us and frisk merrily on our way, happy in our own little denial?

He knows it’s only a matter of hours, they go back to their sanctuary at Gethsemane. Hey it’s been a long holiday, we’re all bushed, what’s Jesus do? All the other guys are sacked out all around us and Jesus is schlepping Peter, John and James away. “My soul” He says, “is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.” Is that really too much to ask? “Guys this is it, in a few hours I will be experiencing unimaginable agony, stay with Me and pray, support Me while I pray in these final hours.” Just doesn’t sink in, Jesus goes and prays that He doesn’t want to go through the physical, emotional and spiritual agony that He knows is coming. He is so consumed that He is sweating drops of blood. But He trusts His Father’s will and goes back expecting His closest friends to be up waiting for Him in expectation. But they’re not, it’s just like any other night and they don’t even seem to try to stay awake with Him in His time of agony.

Now it is completely obvious what is happening. Jesus has been hauled away by soldiers and Jewish officials, taken to the high priest to be judged. All of His disciples have scattered or hidden. At least Peter did follow, at a distance. He’s trying not to be noticeable, but I can imagine Peter is still trying to figure out what’s going on, what’s going to happen. The same Peter who declared: “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matt 26:35) Peter makes this manly declaration to Jesus, but when it really counts, confronted by a little serving girl, a woman, Peter not only denies the Lord, but curses at the ones suggesting that he knew Jesus at all. Jesus knew Peter denied Him. He was brought outside, escorted right past Peter and looked at Peter, not with scorn, but with disappointment.

Perhaps at this point Jesus is so emotionally and physically wounded that the taunts and mockery of the Roman guards don’t really sink in. He hasn’t been with them, but He does know Judas, Peter, John, James, the ones who have failed and abandoned Him. But to know fully well who you are and why you’re there and to have a bunch of louts laughing in your face? The world still treats the Lord that way and if we think about it, there are times we do too.

The final wound is not something we, any of His followers inflicted, but because of the things we did, the sins we committed, the atonement for all of our sins, hanging on the cross, in the dark, with all of the sins of humanity on His shoulders, our completely holy, completely perfect Father has to turn His back on His Son.

God will not let our sin, our black ugly failings soil Himself. The Son has now become the perfect sacrifice, the propitiation of all our sins and His broken Body, which now bears all of that sin so that it may be forever forgiven of those who know Jesus as their Lord, but the Father in His perfect, holy nature will not bear that sin and has to turn away from His perfect Son. Hell is that place of eternal separation from the Father. For those who choose their own way and reject God, God allows them to have their way and eternally separates them from Him. In addition to the physical torments of Hell, is the torment of being eternally cut off from our only Hope and Promise in the Triune God. But Jesus suffers that separation, for the sin of all of humanity.

Yes on this day we remember how Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as the King, because He is the King. King of all creation, Lord of Lord, He who will be at the right hand of God the Father. But five days later, subject to unimaginable physical and emotional torment, brought on by the sins of all of us here, all of mankind. Our eternal life is bought for us by Him, who through Him put us back into relationship with the Father, who when we sin, when we fail to live our life in Christ, the Father only sees His beloved Son, our Savior Jesus the Christ. By His stripes our sins are healed and three days later He will rise to defeat death and to give us the promise of true, eternal life in the New Creation, with Him as our only Lord.

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

[1] “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” Lent sermon series Concordia Publishing House

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.