Tag Archives: law

People need to wake up and realize they make themselves God’s enemy John 3:20

As much as I read people from the past, I see it repeated over and over today. The failing is that if it’s already happened, and people are trying to run the same game as people 500 years ago, the people today are simply, let’s be charitable, and say not very perceptive, or they think people today are not very bright and can be played into their game. How about the nonsense being played against law enforcement today? One of the stated purposes of the United States constitution for government is to “provide for the common defense.” When you are sworn in as a law enforcement, military or some officer of government, you swear to protect against all enemies “foreign and domestic”. Whether they are Americans or not, anyone who does something that is an attempt to undermine the civil authority is an “enemy”. We need to be open to correction, not abuse, not overreaching authority on the part of government, people trying to abuse their power and authority, but we do need to accept when we have stepped out of bounds and offended the law and our neighbors. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing things that offend and deprive our neighbors rights is obviously not loving.

Martin Luther had a great, if not obvious observation; “The world doesn’t want to be punished. It wants to remain in darkness. It doesn’t want to be told that what it believes is false.” (365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther “Through Faith Alone” Concordia Publishing House July 2) Oh, wow! We’re seeing that not just in terms of the Christian church, but also the authority of what Dr Luther called the “left-hand kingdom”, the civil authority. Dr Luther asserts that God placed the “right-hand kingdom” in the world to assert the authority of the church, those who want to benefit from being in the church. He also asserts that God placed the left-hand kingdom in the world also. Those who are law- enforcement officers, government officials, mayor, governor, president, district attorney, attorney general etc. All placed by God to maintain public order. As much as we see attacks against that order now, Luther saw in his day. As Americans, in the tradition of the Declaration of Independence and the writings of the Founding Fathers, we certainly have a right to push back against government that becomes abusive of its authority. That is the whole reason for American Revolution. You can certainly make the case that government in many ways has become abusive of its authority. While it may be being dialed back a little with recent Supreme Court decisions, more and more government has been discriminatory against Christians, depriving people of their First Amendment rights to practice their religious beliefs without government interference. But in the way that those who want to somehow eliminate local law-enforcement, Luther’s observation is as prescient today as it was 500 years ago. Make no mistake, those who want try to usurp local law-enforcement do so in an attempt to intimidate government into creating a de-facto local government in many city neighborhoods. That distinct minority of people are making a play to establish their own system which would be established solely to their benefit and increase their wealth and power. In terms of third-world countries, Somalia would be a great example of a place ruled by local, I don’t know how to put it nicely, that run their fiefdom under their own authority, chose who will survive/thrive under their rule and starve those who resist. That is the vision of those who would presume to some how create autonomous zones in our cities.

This is the extreme example of what Luther writes about, but there are many enemies, to the church and civil authorities, foreign and domestic who would run roughshod on the rest of us given the opportunity. The church’s authority has certainly been undermined, now other authority, certainly the left-hand kingdom is being challenged.

Luther addresses the issue in the church: “If you also don’t want to be corrected, then you might as well leave the church and spend your time at the bar and brothel. But if you want to be saved – and remember that there’s another life after this one – you must accept correction.” It is pretty amazing how many people outside and inside the church (foreign and domestic) continue to undermine the church. The Bible addresses many issues which state that in order to be a Christian you must conform to the stated teachings of what is in the Bible. Of course the mantra today is “well my God, would / wouldn’t…” and in their petty dictator way, ignore the reality of what is written, but continue to insist that God would approve of their way, in complete contradiction to any kind of reality or documentation. Luther goes on to write: “If you don’t want to be saved, what’s the use of me being concerned about it? If you aren’t sure you believe in hell, the devil, death, eternal condemnation, and the wrath of God, then just ask your neighbor about it…”. We see this all-around us today, don’t trust in what God’s minister says, or elected official, or police officer. Instead go have a chat with your uninformed neighbor, and you can both share your ignorance and then wonder why your life is as messed up as it is. Trust everyone else but the people who God has put in place to serve the public good. I have seen it acted out over and over in many settings, it’s bizarre! Suffice to say, you can create your fantasy world, what you say is right or wrong, but if it is in conflict with the revealed Word of God in Scripture, then you are condemned, you are an enemy of God.

“In short, if the church and secular government are to exist, they must shed light on evil. The civil authorities must punish the obvious deeds of darkness of public vices and the offensive ways of people, while we preachers in the church must bring to light the subtle darkness of false teachers and false belief. We must confront those who teach and think that they have God’s approval because of what they do.” As a pastor it’s not up to me to punt when I know someone who is playing around with God’s word, anymore than a police officer can just walk by someone who stabbed another person. We both have the duty to enforce what we’ve sworn to do (and Christian ministers certainly take vows in their ordination on what they are supposed to do to serve). With the civil law it’s usually pretty obvious. There’s a body with stab wounds in it, the person has ceased to have a heart rate and respiration, people have stepped forward and credibly accused a person of the stabbing/murder, and the police have the duty to arrest, imprison and attest in court to what the person did. A Christian minister’s duty is often a little more subtle, but nonetheless, usually obvious, and frankly profoundly more destructive if he does not address those issues. Issues of sexuality today have had a profound effect on undermining the church and the civil authority. “I will do what I want, when I want”, when God has said “thou shalt not”, calls into question the authority of the church. Since western government was established under biblical principles, leads people to wonder why it’s anymore important than church authority. The answer is that the civil authority can still put you in jail and even execute you. Church authority can’t, but whether or not you believe in hell, the punishment of God is profoundly more effective than civil. You can put someone in prison for a season, hell is eternal and would make an American prison look like Wallyworld.

“If the church and government stopped admonishing people, the whole world would collapse in a heap. If you want to be saved and be a Christian, then stay open to correction. A preacher has to rebuke, or he should leave his position. The Christian who won’t accept correction is only pretending to be a Christian.” I’ve been a Christian pastor for 8 years now, I’ve certainly seen it. Those who are convinced their authority in the church is more necessary than the pastor’s, despite having no training, education, real experience, or any other credential, and yet actively work to undermine the man appointed to be the pastor. That person is living in their own fantasy, they are undermining God’s authority as much as any pretender to civil authority in a neighborhood, foreign country, and just as much an enemy of God and certainly a domestic enemy of the church.

Certainly the world and the church, both under God’s direction, have ways of reasserting the authority God has given them to maintain order and not “collapse into a heap.” But it requires people who will stand up under the scrutiny and the pressure of those who are in active rebellion, enemies foreign and domestic and do God’s will in either realm. The church needs to be much more pro-active in supporting those people on the front lines, maintaining the order, and taking the shots. The people need to stop listening to the non- sense of those who would readily suppress them and take from them if they succeed in ascending to authority. Instead in today’s world, it’s easier for the majority of people to side with those who take the side of those trying to usurp God, His enemies, and then wonder why the world has collapsed into a heap and why no one’s doing anything about it. Oh yeah, it’s bizarre! Try being in the position of those who support God’s servants and not the way of the world, the world’s way will end up as an incredibly evil and destructive way to live.

Commissioned by God to do the work he has led you to Luke 10 July 17, 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 serve God to His glory in their vocation said … AMEN

There are so many of us “Marthas”, well that’s what I’m about, that’s what I have to do, the other stuff is good, but this is important. Martha was a hostess, she was no doubt the lady of the house, it was her responsibility, at least as she saw it, to make sure the house was being run according to protocol, to hospitality. Jesus isn’t saying there’s anything wrong with that. But He is saying to her and to so many of us, there are other important things. I’m sure Jesus appreciated the freshly squeezed pomegranate juice that Martha put out, I’ve had it in Israel it is so good. I’m sure he appreciated the little food tray, the collection of munchies that a good hostess was responsible for. Being led into the nice, well kept, probably rather fancy house that Martha kept, being led over to the nice big chair she reserved for important guests. But I also know the flip side too. Too often I have something that I really want to share, to get into, I’m all excited to sit down and talk about and get everyone else’s opinion and insights. Very well- meaning folks, men and women, want to make sure that all the hospitality is there. It’s nice, I certainly appreciate their consideration, but there’s things I really want to get down to. To be sure Jesus certainly appreciated Martha’s concern for His comfort, but and I know I feel this way a lot, Mary was concerned about what He had to say, what He wanted to share with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Certainly Jesus appreciated the fact that Mary was waiting on what He had to say and share. Before I started putting this together, I had just been over to Never Forgotten BBQ and yea, I’ve been trying to get over there for awhile, I do appreciate barbeque. But I immediately sat down at the computer because I was really inspired about what I wanted to say today, as my lunch in the Styrofoam container sat getting cold on the kitchen table. Jesus certainly isn’t criticizing Martha’s desire to serve in what we would say is a practical way, but we as Christians we need to remember Jesus’ words to remind Martha who complained to Him about Mary: “”Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42 ESV) We are called to serve, but we are also called to keep in mind what is eternal, that while we serve, what we will remember ten years from now and to eternity are the teachings of Jesus. If you have Jesus right there in your presence, or if you have His minister ready to preach and teach the Words of Jesus the “good portion” is the Gospel! In our hurry, hurry world, there is so much around us to be anxious and troubled about and we can all justify the things that we do to work on and to “fix” those things. But the answer to all that we confront always has been, is, and always will be in Jesus’ words and not in the things we do to rush around and fix.

It’s that middle line we walk in so many ways. I’ve said it a hundred times, since I’ve become a minister of the Gospel. I’d love to give you the black and white way on everything, but it’s not always that clear. We have the things that are clear, the Law. The Law convicts us of what we do and shouldn’t do. Jesus was clear, quoting the Levitical law that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul, absolutely! In the Sermon on the Mount He is again clear, we shouldn’t be looking at another with lust, we have committed adultery with that person in our heart. We shouldn’t call someone else a fool, we are condemning that person and we aren’t the ultimate judge, God the Father is the ultimate judge. We are told to rebuke, telling someone that they can’t continue to sin and violate the Law, but God is the ultimate determiner and in Jesus we are forgiven of our sins. There are so many ways we can serve and we should serve each other and those in the world in the example Jesus set for us; remember how He washed the feet of the disciples? Certainly a caring and practical way to serve, the thing that the lowest Gentile servant in the household would do. Jesus isn’t telling us not to serve, but He is saying that we should be discerning. The Book of Concord is the doctrine of our faith, in the part titled the Augsburg Confession, our basic faith statement is: “At the forefront of the Augsburg Confession is a dual profession of faith in the person and work of Christ: “they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith. . . This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight.”[4] –[1] There are always ways we could serve more or better, but, for example, when the Gospel of Jesus is being proclaimed on Sunday morning, we have to chose the good portion, that for us who are in Jesus won’t be taken away from us and that is His Word, the good news of the Gospel of Jesus.

Now that we are in agreement as to what is the “good portion”, being the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus. I know that if Jesus showed up right here and now, I’d certainly come down from this pulpit, my work, and sit and wait on Jesus, to hear what He has to say. Likewise, I’d hope that we would all put aside the activities and stop and wait on Him, to serve Him and more importantly to listen to Him. I sure hope that if we knew Jesus was going to be here next Sunday, we’d set aside getting the Sunday barbeque ready or going to the Sunday soccer game instead of church and be here to eagerly listen to His words.

The title of my sermon is “Commissioned by God to do the work He has led you to do”. What I mean is that we have been put in our vocation to serve each other, God doesn’t need our service, but He has put us here to serve others. We certainly want that service to be honoring and glorifying to God and a positive witness to others how we serve the Lord. In our reading in Genesis we see Sarah and Abraham both serving three strangers. They turned out to be from God, but they didn’t know that, and in faithful service to them, they are glorifying God who has led them both so far and through so much. Through His angels, and yes they’re male angels, not female, God is telling Abraham, that after all the waiting, that he needs to wait one more year in faith and service to God and He will be given the son they have both been praying for, for decades. We can’t always expect that we will be given what we want because of our service, and even if those prayers are answered, it may take more years to see the answers, but it will be at the best time, God’s time.

We continue to serve in our vocation, God does bless the work we do. May not always be for big bucks or status, but what we do does matter very much to God no matter what our vocation, or service. Whether we are serving household guests like Martha did, or waiting in service on God like Abraham, Sarah and Mary.

One of the basic beefs Martin Luther had with the Roman Church was the idea that either vocation didn’t matter to God, that there were far more important things to worry about than how I earned my daily bread, or that there were different levels of vocation. There were those in Christian service vocation and this was designated to be much more worthy. Religious persons; priests, nuns, monks, others in the church, were seen to be far more worthy in their vocation, than those who worked in the secular world. That the religious person had a fast track to heaven and pretty much everyone else was slotted to take the longer track through purgatory.

Leif Grane in his commentary on the Augsburg Confession writes: “Luther speaks of being as a Christ to one’s neighbor; i.e., in serving one’s neighbor the Christian is not serving God, but, on the contrary, being united with God by faith is participating in the work of God himself. … the works of the Christian, therefore, are divine works, by virtue of faith, despite the sinfulness of the person. The works which are to be done are those works laid upon the person by his or her calling.”[2] Serving others to the best of our ability is working out our vocation, whether that is a lawyer, auto mechanic, dentist, restaurant operator, the person who does your taxes, you know what a blessing it is to find someone who will does this well, fairly and reasonably. No matter what our vocation, parent, housewife, business owner, pastor, accountant, athlete, teacher, when we perform these roles well, when we effectively serve our neighbor, and when we do these things in a way that the person we serve knows that we are serving them because we are working with God, then the particular vocation doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has worked through us to reach someone else through our daily efforts. Certainly you can see that if we do our vocation poorly or to enrich ourselves, others will think less of God and we have failed both our neighbor and God.

The vocation you have been placed in is what God works through on you and other people on a daily basis. If that is God’s will how can it be anything but holy? If it is holy, we want to serve in order to point others to Christ and to glorify God in what we do on a daily basis. Far too often we let God into our lives on Sunday, not even one day, by Sunday afternoon, for too many people, they are back in the world living according to the world’s agenda. Grane writes: “…the issue is not ‘special’ works, but in faith to know that God is present in all circumstances of daily life.”[3] When we remember that and seek to serve Him, not to somehow earn God’s favor, but to live our life in Him to His glory and even in thanksgiving and to also serve Him, by serving others. When our vocation is centered around serving others to glorify God, no matter what your work is it is holy, sacred and precious to God and just as important as any vocation.

Martha was genuinely serving Jesus and Jesus didn’t scold her for that. She was providing for her family and her guest, certainly commendable and something we should all do. Our serving is blessed by God and we serve well as a witness to His blessing and glory. But Mary was commended. Too often it seems that the person sitting around reading, listening, engaging is somehow goofing off, but they are certainly receiving a “good portion”. God has put us in our vocations and we serve in them accordingly. That doesn’t mean that the minister’s vocation, the preaching of His word and the administration of His sacrmanets isn’t important. Help the pastor serve to the best of his ability as a minister, help him to serve you in your vocation and we all serve each other to praise, lift up and glorify our Father in heaven who takes delight in our serving each other in His Name.

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

[1] See more at: http://lutheranreformation.org/theology/christ-office-holy-ministry/?utm_content=buffera69b7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer#sthash.jH8hLWBj.dpufhttp://buff.ly/29rSUgv

[2] Leif Grane  “The Augsburg Confession, A commentary” pp 201-202

[3] Ibid

For God the impossible takes no time at all 140th anniversary observance of First St Johns Mark 10:23-31 October 18, 2015

[Please click the above the link for the audio version]

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 nothing’s impossible for God said … AMEN!

The SEABEES are part of the U.S. Navy, they are unique not because they are involved in constructing facilities like runways, landing facilities, fortifications, they are unique because while they are involved in construction they are often under enemy fire. Just like Nehemiah’s men, while some men worked on the wall around Jerusalem, others stood guard with swords and spears. Likewise SEABEES are often portrayed with a shovel in one hand and a rifle slug over their shoulder. Their unofficial motto is “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer!” I had the privilege of serving with a SEABEE in Naval Coastal Warfare, he was about six foot 3 and as wide as he was tall, he could have been a linebacker. I had to share a two man tent with him for the first four nights we were in Spain, I acquired a lot of sympathy for my wife who has had to sleep with a big moose for all these 36 years.

On this 140th anniversary of First/St Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church, I can certainly say the same for those who founded this church. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have taken to conceptualize (a brilliant mind like John Augustus Dempwolf, who also designed the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital in Harrisburg… and supervised the construction of Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, First Saint Johns is certainly a remarkable achievement.) Also what it must have been like to raise the money, organize the resources to raise this magnificent house of worship, built to the glory of God. I wonder if it took “just a little bit longer.”

More and more we are realizing how vitally important strong Christian churches are to the vitality of our cities. So while we observe the founding and building of this structure, a feat that must have been enormous. Of equal importance are those people who 140 years ago had the vision to see how important a strong Christian ministry is in the heart of the city of York. That these structures were built to inspire awe and a tiny hint of God’s glory, the glory of the eternal, perfect world in our Lord Jesus Christ. I really like bringing people into this sanctuary for the first time and inevitably they will let a reverential “wow” come from their lips as they take in this magnificent house of Christian worship, the place where we join together to raise up God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This all speaks to the fact that there are those in the world who do those things that are to the glory of God, that look beyond themselves, that want, yes, what is best for themselves, but they also know that what is best is not for themselves alone, it is for all. Certainly Christ is best, there is no other way but through Christ. This quote from C.S. Lewis: God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” I just do not understand how people can cope without Christ. They are quick to blame a God they don’t believe in, they have many idols in their lives; their money, possessions (remember the rich young ruler from last week), job/position, spouse, home, on and on. Other idols include drugs, alcohol, sex, power, food… As Pastor Eric Lang notes about today’s Old Testament passage; “Ecclesiastes here focuses more on the danger of wealth to those who are wealthy.”[1] How is that dangerous? It is mortally dangerous! We can’t focus on two idols and Jesus certainly clearly stresses that: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt 6:24) Jesus never says don’t have money. Lazarus was wealthy for this time. Jesus doesn’t condemn him. It seems as though Lazarus was more than willing to share his wealth, he uses his wealth to provide for others. Jesus says: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9) Remember how God told the rich man who was blessed with a plentiful crop, he had all kinds of plans to hoard and benefit from his produce? “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:20) We don’t really know for sure, it was 140 years plus ago, but I would be willing to bet that those who founded Heilige Johannes Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche were not particularly rich people. Either way, their lives weren’t like the rich farmer when he said: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” (Luke 12:19) Many, maybe most, had emigrated from Germany and their vision was not about being merry, it was about a church that would be a witness to the world around them to the glory of Jesus Christ. Part of that witness was providing for those who also emigrated from Germany and no doubt to help their neighbors. We continue to live that heritage today. I’m not German, but I am Lutheran. Many here today aren’t German, but as a result of this church being here, they have had an opportunity to come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord, they know that they are only saved in Christ. They certainly understand the C.S. Lewis quote there is no happiness or peace other than in Jesus. Sure in today’s world many think they have peace through self-medicating and indulging, but they come to realize how shallow, hopeless and the slavery they fall into when they surrender to worldly pleasures. Only through Christ do we have true life, only because of His sacrifice do we have eternal life in the resurrection. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross do we have that relationship with God in this world and in the eternal resurrection.

The men and women who had the vision for this church, who struggled to bring this church to reality, who served Christ in this church and because of that served so many others, those people understood what Jesus’ words meant. They did not store away their wealth, but they used it as a tool to build this magnificent testimony to the Lordship of Christ and their true life because of Him. By doing that they also have witnessed to Christ to generations of people who have worshipped here, who have received the life-saving message of Christ’s Gospel here. The founders of this church did the impossible, not as men and women, but as the faithful of Christ who were guided by the faith the Holy Spirit gave them and sacrificed time, treasure and talent to build this glorious witness. Because of it God did the “impossible” through them and saved countless souls because of the Christian ministry in this church.

While they are the church waiting in heaven, we who are their brothers and sisters in Jesus, now bear their mantle to continue to witness to Christ, not just in this building, but going out into the community they knew so well to proclaim the life-saving message of Christ. Those who are led by those who are here, then come and join us in this magnificent house of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit to grow in their life in Christ and to raise their children and generations that will follow us.

We praise God for them, for what they have left to us, for those who are here today and whom we have personally known who sacrificed and worked so hard for this church that we join together in, in Christ.

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

Design attribution to Terry Downs

[1] Eric Lange  Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 25, Part 4, Series B

Original sin

Part of my responsibility in preaching is to preach about Law and Gospel. A good Lutheran sermon always contains discussion that we are condemned under the Law, we all break the Law, we all offend God, when I say all, I mean ALL. That therefore means all those who are human and are alive and have ever been alive (except of course Jesus). No one is exempt and so the pushback I always get is that there must be some, yup like babies, that aren’t sinful. Some Christians will even assert that there is an “age of accountability” and for those who fall below that age they are not sinful. I mean how could cute, sweet infants be sinful? I have to wonder if the person that brings this point has ever had to deal with a baby. Does a baby mean to be selfish, angry, demanding? Of course not they will respond, that’s just their nature. Uhm yea, and that’s the point. We are all naturally sinners, King David writes: “ESV Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This is Scriptural, there is no reference in Scripture about an “age of accountability”. This is just a way for man to overcome an uncomfortable truth, from birth to death we are immersed in sin and death in this life, that is our condition. You don’t slowly develop into being a sinner, you are one right out of the gate.

And of course you always have the “…well I’m a good person…” Really? In general I’m sure you love your momma and don’t kill people, I’m really not trying to offend, but for every person who thinks they’re a “good” person, I bet I could ultimately turn up five people who would not think they’re so good, would have some problem with them. That’s the human condition, not so much that any of us are “bad”, we are and we do sin, we do things that offend a pure, holy, just God. We sin because we are born of two sinners, into a sinful world, a world of death and defect. None of us can be anything else. So you oh so sensitive souls who take offense at every little slight, first off, get over your sensitive little self. Second, deal with it, you are in this world, with us people and you are as sinful as anyone else. This state of sin cannot but separate us from God whose nature is completely opposite to ours, completely holy.

Having said this, there is a qualification. While we all remain sinners until the day someone’s throwing dirt on our face, some of us have been brought back into relationship with God. There is only one way we can be brought into relationship with God, and that is through the righteousness of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are still sinners, but because Jesus paid for our sins through His sacrifice on the Cross and in His perfect righteousness we are saved and restored into right relationship with God.

Martin Chemnitz was the next generation of Lutheran theologians after Martin Luther. Chemnitz picked up Luther’s mantle and wrote and taught extensively on Lutheran belief, or as he and Luther would have taught what was original, genuine Christian teaching. In the following Chemnitz writes about what “original sin” is, that which we are all under and is only healed through baptism in Jesus. Also why sin separates us from God and why that separation needs to be closed in order for us to be in God’s will and not condemned to the sin, death and lostness of the world. We can reject God, but that leaves us in the human condition of sin and death, and that only results in condemnation. If we reject God, there is only one option, we are all condemned by sin and if we stay in that condition and reject Christ we are condemned to Hell. By our rejection of God, because Hell is the final end for all who want their way and not God’s.

To rewind, this is from Chemnitz, in “The Doctrine of Man” (p 196), giving a description of our spiritual condition from birth to death unless it is remedied by baptism, the faith that God gives us and maintained through confession, absolution, taking the true Body and Blood of Jesus and hearing the preached Word of Law and Gospel.

Chemnitz writes about the condition of those who are not in Jesus: ” Original sin is darkness of the mind, aversion to the will of God and stubbornness of the heart against the Law of God. These evils are not called actions, but out of them arise the actual sins, both inner and outer. In the mind come persistent doubts and blasphemies. In the will arise false security, neglect and mistrust of God, admiration of self and the placing of our life and wishes before the command of God. Then come great confusions and a flood of vile affections. Let us not imagine that original sin is an inactive thing. For though indeed a few men are held in check by honest discipline, nevertheless there are great doubts in the minds of men and many inner drives pulling them away from God and running contrary to His Law. It is as Jeremiah says: The heart of man is wicked, brazen and inscrutable (Jer 17:9)”

“Thus with the original depravity there are always actual sins, which in the unregenerate are all mortal. And the total person is damned with his fruits, as John says: ‘He that believeth not the Son … the wrath of God abideth on him’ (John 3:36)…”

Of course we have those who will just reject God’s say. “Who’s to say what is good or bad? I didn’t vote for God!” They will ask up to the point when someone does something to them, then of course it requires a federal investigation. If it happens to you, eh, too bad for you. get over it. If it happens to me? Well of course that’s wrong, I demand justice! This is of course the immature, selfish, sinful nature of the world. The dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, if I can take from you to bad for you and good for me. That’s why there is God, He is a God of justice, completely holy and wrathful against those who sin and offend. He is there to assure that ultimately those who offend, who reject Him, who make themselves their idol, their ultimate end, that they will not be allowed to offend again. That His people will be saved to eternal life. They will no longer be subjected to the evil, sinful lusts of those in the world who truly believe that it is all about them. In Christ we have the promise of eternal life the way it was meant to be, the new world of the resurrection. Yes there is a God, who does love us, who did give His Son to save us. Who also is not going to tolerate anyone else presuming to be God, to set the rules, to determine what is “fair” and “unfair”. It always amuses me to hear someone say something to the effect that they don’t need God, they can operate their own life, it’s not fair, I didn’t vote for this. There really are presumptuous, arrogant people like that. But if we’re all honest, we’re like that to some degree. The world and all who are in it are sinful by nature and man is just fine with that, we want it our way. We are all condemned by original sin which is our nature, God will not tolerate that. He did give us a way to be in relationship with Him even in this lost world and that is through Jesus. So you can live in your fantasy world that denies the sinful world around us and that you don’t need to be saved. Or you can really decide to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading you and to start living true life in Jesus. You are a sinner and you need to be saved in Jesus.

Angry God Leviticus 18-20

One of the main shots at God is that the Old Testament God is so cruel. How could Yahweh send His people into Canaan, the Promised Land and tell them to kill the people who were already there?

The answer is, yes, in Scripture, But hey, we don’t want to read through those first five books. Yea, Genesis, Exodus (thanks to Cecil B DeMille) Exodus is OK, there’s entertainment value there! But Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy? Boring. Telling us all those thing we can’t do, or we have to do.

Despite the perception, there is interesting history in those books and, come on, if God’s telling us something, it’s not  “boring”! But hey, we want to be entertained, “ESV 2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” (BibleWorks)

The attitude is; If I have to read the bible then at least amuse me, you like how you entertain me at church, referring of course to Sunday morning service, what’s supposed to be worship. But the rest of the world sees as “amuse me”.

God intended His people, the Jews, to be His people, a nation of priests. They were supposed to be dedicated to Him, His chosen people and not be influenced by the people who were in Canaan, who were, according to God “detestable” (Lev 20:23).

As it happened despite all His attempts, His people did not follow His directions (of course none of us do, we all being sinners). The Israelites did leave Canaanites alive because it was to their advantage to keep them alive. But they paid the price.

Through its history, Israel turned to these evil ‘gods’, begin to ignore Yahweh, Yahweh would send an enemy as punishment for Israel turning from Yahweh, they would be conquered, suffer, regret what they did to be punished, and the fact they were ruled by an evil people. They would repent, God would restore Israel, things would go well for awhile and then rinse, repeat. From their escape from Egypt until the time that the Rome destroyed the temple, about 2,000 years. Now we can wag our finger but the same thing happens to us. We are certainly becoming more and more evil as a society, more and more it’s about me and very little about God.

You can’t blame God for not telling us. The Books of the Law, the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) certainly give us straight forward ground rules, but hey, it’s about us, remember?

Yahweh lists out some of the more heinous things that we don’t do. Leviticus 18-20 are pretty specific, if not a little graphic (have your attention now?): “ESV Leviticus 18:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” (English Standard Version, BibleWorks)

Right out of the gate, before they’re allowed into the Promised Land, Yahweh is making it very clear, He is not leading them to Canaan to be Canaanites. He has lead them there to be His Chosen People and not to get swept up in the Canaanites sick, twisted depravity. “God detailed the sexual practices He abhors, in order that the Israelites might live before Him in purity, unlike the Egyptians and Canaanites. Because of their sexual practices, Canaan, the land promised to the Israelites, is defiled and their people will soon be ‘vomited out’ of the land as God leads the Israelites in (v 25).” (Lutheran Study Bible p 191)

This is where God lists out the prohibitions against incest, and yea, does go into detail. Let’s face it, if we’re not explicitly told, someone’s going to look for the loophole and decide that somehow he can’t be saddled with the same woman or be denied his “fun”. When I say the laws against incest, every, heterosexual, possibility. Why did God describe every possible situation? Because the Canaanites were doing every possible incestuous situation. Nice, huh? Next, how about a threesome? “ESV Leviticus 18:17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity.” Sweet, huh, again, the Canaanites were doing it. How about this: “ESV Leviticus 18:18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.” Nice people, huh? “OK, babe, think I’m going to set up a little competition, let’s see between you and her who can … oh, perform better?” But these are the people that so many “nice” people are outraged at God for killing them off.
Let’s cut away from sex awhile: “ESV Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” It was a regular practice of these nice Canaanite people to sacrifice their first born son to Molech.

MolechSacrificeAltar

The baby would be put in the idol’s arms which were pitched so that the baby would roll down into the furnace in the idol. Yea, nice people. Oh yeah, not specifically delineated, but let’s not forget temple prostitution. The practice where the men, married or not, would have sex with temple “priestesses”, like the baby sacrifice, all so that Molech would bless them with rain, fertility both in terms of crops, animals and babies. Yeah, nice people, they’d make great neighbors, huh? Yahweh restates His position: “ESV Leviticus 20:2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.” Not pulling any punches there are we? But really how could anyone roll their baby son into a furnace? And yet those poor put-upon people were.

Here’s the big one: “ESV Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Hey God’s words, not mine. And again: “ESV Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” One has to think if God restates it, He must really mean it.
This next one is classic: “ESV Leviticus 18:23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.” Yup, those nice Canaanites. And just to make sure we know what we’re talking about: “ESV Leviticus 18:24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, ESV Leviticus 18:25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” The Canaanites did all these things and now, God is telling you, do not do them and make sure there are none left in the Promised Land who have been a part of this culture and will be left to corrupt you. You may not like it, of course there will those who will think that this is all so “unfair”, but that’s too bad. It’s not your world, God created it, it is His, and if He will no longer tolerate such decadence then it’s His call. Like it or not He can do what He wants to. Whether you think it’s fair or not, matters not a whit and I think it’s kind of bizarre that your opinion really carries any weight in this to begin with.
Why do Christians have a problem with all the things these Canaanites did? “ESV Leviticus 18:26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you ESV Leviticus 18:27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), ESV Leviticus 18:28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.”

Yea, Christians will be taken and protected by the Father, we have that hope and promise, in Jesus it’s a done deal. But for those who have to tell everyone how unfair it is, how we should be “free”, everyone do their own thing. It’s just not going to be that way and we don’t want to see those we love and care for be swept away. You can live in any delusion you like, but that’s not going to change who God is, what He has done, and what He will do. Whether you think it’s compassionate or not, it is compassionate. Just as you might like taking the medicine to cure you, let your boss tell you what to do, the reality is, that God has said, He has shown that He has meant it and for those who do have the truth, we do have a responsibility to be compassionate and that compassion is shown in how we tell the truth about Christ.

Here’s another one: “ESV Leviticus 19:9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. ESV Leviticus 19:10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” What this means is that the Canaanites did not perform acts of charity. Israel was told in this verse, that the least you can do is not pick up everything when you harvest crops and leave it for those who don’t have anything else. Yea those nice picked on Canaanites wouldn’t even leave a little food for those who were genuinely starving. Needless to say they didn’t do anything else to provide for the poor, it was all about them and what made them happy, hmmm, sound familiar?

Yahweh lists out pretty much the Ten Commandments, meaning? Yes, the Canaanites violated them all, lying, stealing, cheating ya, regular practice.

How about this? “ESV Leviticus 19:13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.” People would fail to pay those who performed work for them. They would also not pay them at the end of the day. In this society, there was no refrigeration, it was hot, dirty. When you received your pay at the end of every day, you went out, bought food and ate. If you didn’t have any money, after an entire day of working, you went to bed hungry. But those nice Canaanites, would literally take the bread right of their brother’s mouths after they did a whole day’s worth of work for them. If they couldn’t pay them, why would they hire them at the beginning of the day?

How about government corruption? “ESV Leviticus 19:15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” If you were poor, you got no justice, the highest bidder got their way. Public Defenders? Haaaaa! Ya right!

Verse 19:20, own a slave woman? Canaanite men could do whatever they wanted to do with them. Israelite men? No way! Slaves in general and women slaves in particular, had to be treated humanely. Nice people, huh? All you high-minded people who think that God was so unfair having them wiped out.

“ESV Leviticus 19:29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.” Prostitute your daughter? Hey, ya gotta do, what ya gotta do.

“ESV Leviticus 19:31 “Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” Ya, I know, today, Ghost Hunters, palm readers, astrologers etc. What’s the harm? God said stay away from it, and I have no doubt there is serious harm involved. In this post-modern era we are seeing more messing with the demonic, and you would have to be clueless to claim otherwise. Yahweh restates His position on mediums and wizards on Lev 20: 6. And in verse 27 adds that a medium or wizard should be put to death.

“ESV Leviticus 19:36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” These were measurements used in commerce, in this context. They were ripping each other off in the marketplace, ya how nice.

“ESV Leviticus 20:9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.” Ya, I know, not a big deal in our highly enlightened contemporary world.

Just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding Yahweh restates His opinion of the Canaanites: “ESV Leviticus 20:23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.” Having God detest you is not where you want to be. And He tells Israel: “ESV Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”
You can keep living in your state of denial and think it’s all about you and not about God, but in the end God will make the calls. For those who’ve played their whole lives, will be called to account and there will “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, Jesus’s words, six different times in Matthew. For those who are holy to the Father in Jesus, there is salvation, there is the resurrection. God doesn’t tolerate the absolutely detestable life-style of the Canaanites and neither should you. But that is exactly where we are headed to as a culture, frankly we’re pretty much there. You really expect a completely just, completely holy, completely pure and all- powerful God to just sit back? That’s just not reality.

It’s all about God Exodus 20 First St Johns March 8, 2015

For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know it’s all about God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit said … AMEN!

Caesarius of Arles said: We should also know that the ten commandments of the law are also fulfilled by the two gospel precepts, love of God and love of neighbor. For the three commandments which were written on the first table pertain to the love of God, while on the second tablet … are recognized as pertaining to love of neighbor. The Lord said in the Gospel: ‘On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”[1]

The commandments, which are also called the Decalogue in Greek, are to you, they’re about loving God and loving others. When we do that, is there any doubt that we are loved back? Again, I want to emphasize, that we’re not talking about the sentimental, mushey love that we Americans have understood love to mean, or this sort of enabling “love” that doesn’t judge or rebuke. It’s love that wants what is best for us, that helps us to grow and to become people who are led to live lives that God had intended.

An article about a man Noel Biderman who started an on-line website that helps married people meet other married people to have an affair. This was published in Forbes Magazine, in the next issue of Forbes, the “letters to the editor”, were mostly appalled, but sure enough there were the “well if that’s what they want…” and “if he can make money…” There are people in today’s world who would try to convince you that for a variety of reasons it is loving to help people to sin. Let’s be very clear here, it is in no way shape or manner “loving” to help people do things that are clearly destructive. There is no such thing as a victimless crime, and it is not loving to think that there is.

To be truly loving, we do the things that benefit and enhance our spouses, our children, our parents, siblings, all those we encounter. Someone may hit me up for money for a “burger”, which means booze, when I refuse they accuse me of being unloving/unChristian, a bad pastor. Really? Am I really doing anyone any good by expediting their death? When we remember the Decalogue, we are remembering, yea, the things that we’re not supposed to do, but we also remember the why and not only the “don’t”, but also the “should”. Walter Roehrs writes: “…they are a basic epitome of the response that God expects of the participants in His covenant of grace…” He goes on to say: “..They lay claim to man’s total being from the hidden stirrings and intentions of the heart to their overt expression in word and deed. It eliminates all assertions of man’s self – determination. The new covenant doesn’t minimize but rather sharpens the demands of an uncompromised surrender of self to the Redeemer and the Fulfiller of the Law.”[2]

Remember the “Small Catechism”? Those basics of our faith that get shoved into the back of an out of the way bookcase, or, worse, a box in the basement, assuming you took your copy with you from your parents home, decades ago.

Let’s take a quick pass through, not just the don’t do this, don’t do that, but one thing that is unique about Lutheranism it also helps us to see what we should do.

“You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.”

“Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

“Honor your father and your mother.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”

“You shall not murder” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”

“You shall not commit adultery.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

“You shall not steal.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get out neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.”

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers or animals or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.”[3]

We should keep Dr Luther’s commentary in a contemporary context, can you imagine if we all lived that way? For God and each other and not ourselves? We should also remember that Christ certainly lived these commandments. He not only obeyed, but He also lived for what is best for us. The example He lived in the Incarnation was not just about not doing something, but pro-actively living so that others might come to know how to truly live the Decalogue. He also died so that we who were powerless to save ourselves, He served us who did nothing to earn His service and who don’t deserve to be served, but to be lost. He died to save us and to serve us.

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

[1] Joseph Lienhard editor, quoting Caesarius of Arles “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT III” p 102-101

[2] Walter Roehrs “Concordia Self Study Commentary” p 75

[3] Lutheran Service Book pp 321-322

Teaching, walking as a disciple of Jesus

For the audio version of this sermon, click on the above link.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know it’s about what God does and His Word said … AMEN! We are going to have a little spring training today. The Patriots win the Super Bowl today, the Red Sox report to Florida in a couple of weeks, a few weeks of fundamental baseball in Florida and all is right with the world. The subject is this, what are the fundamentals? What issues do we as Christians need to deal with, what is important for us to remember? There are way too many Christians who make other issues their top priorities; social issues, political issues, how much or how little sin, end times, making worship entertainment the Sabbath and in this case fussing over what kind of food we should/shouldn’t be eating. In today’s epistle lesson Paul is trying to get people to focus on what’s important. What are they focused on? Eating food that was offered to idols? As part of that discussion Paul’s saying; “We can all be smarty pants and get into these secondary issues with people. Try to look like we’re theologians, “oh heavens, we must talk about the seriousness of this vital issue. I saw brother Thomas over at the temple meat market and he was buying a prime rib that was sacrificed to a pagan ‘god’! That’s horrible! We can’t allow that! This must stop. I don’t care if the temple meat market has the best prime rib, if we buy prime rib at all, it better not be from something that was not sacrificed to some pagan ‘god’.” Yea, OK, in this context is that cool? No, it’s not! But on the other hand, for a Christian, is that something that really speaks to our eternal salvation or any other Christian’s eternal salvation? No, it’s not. We have a whole lot better things to discuss and frankly it takes away from those issues that are much more compelling. For example; ‘ok, brother Aurelius, we shouldn’t eat meat sacrificed to a pagan “god”. I’m not going to say right, wrong or indifferent. But Aurelius, when was the last time that you took a pagan or a new Christian and really sat down with them about the real issues of being a Christian? How’s your prayer life? How’s your relationship with Jesus? Do you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to serve someone and you didn’t? Let’s go back to the “Solas”. What are the solas? Sola Fide – by faith alone. It is His faith that God the Father gives Christians that we trust in Him, we trust His will and we follow His will. There are way too many people out there who try to make it out to be all about us, what we want, that God needs to get on our agenda. That’s not going to happen and God will lead us where he wants us and it is far better than anything we can do. Sola Gratia – By grace alone. This gets into the whole issue about how we are saved. Is it about what we do? Maybe even a little? Or is it about what God does? He saves us! It is through His grace that we are saved. We don’t earn it. The Father gives us His grace because in his sovereignty, He chooses those who are saved and they are saved because He brings them into relationship with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved only through Him and His righteousness. Even if we live the “perfect” life, did everything right or avoided the things we shouldn’t do, we’re not saved. It’s not about what we do, it’s what He did! We may have obeyed the Law, but the Law does not save you, we are only saved through the righteousness of Jesus and that becomes our righteousness when he brings us to Him and saves us. Sola Scriptura – Only through Scripture, only through what is in the Bible. We have a lot of “teachers” out there whose attitude is, “well, this isn’t in the Bible, but it should be and ‘my’ God would have put it in the Bible.” No! I am a Lutheran pastor, I am charged with teaching you what is in Scripture and helping you to understand that Scripture is what you need to grow in Jesus and serve Him. It’s not up to me to make up things and today there is way too much that is made up. Moving on, we believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. There are, again, way too many teachers who are teaching to the effect “oh well, that really couldn’t have happened, that’s not rational, and it really doesn’t matter, because we’re saved by our own agenda.” Every Sunday we recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is God the Son and could only have been born by the will of God. Not by any man. Jesus was born the perfect man and God the Son. Jesus is God! God the Son. There is only one God, and there are three persons who make up the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We cannot become “gods” as some teach. Jesus isn’t some sort of secondary “god” and He wasn’t the brother of Satan. There are no other “gods” and we trust Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus died for our sins. He is the perfect sacrifice and He took on himself the sin of all the world. That doesn’t mean that everyone is saved, because not everyone is baptized and lives in Christ. Most everyone lives in themselves and tries to justify themselves by what they do. We know that isn’t possible because we can never live the life that will save us, only Jesus saves us. Jesus rose, he was resurrected to give us the promise of eternal life. Through His resurrection we have the promise of our resurrection and eternal physical life in the new world that will come when this world is destroyed. We are saved through baptism. Almost the rest of Christianity teaches that baptism doesn’t save us. They teach we are saved because we make a decision to “accept Jesus”. No! Jesus accepts us and saves us through the washing of our sins in the water of baptism. Having said all that, we as Christians have what Dr Luther called “Christian Freedom”. Can we sin and be forgiven and still be saved? Yes! Jesus died for all sins. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me the sin they’ve committed that Jesus didn’t die for. I’m never going to hear it, but there are people who insist they are too sinful to be saved in Jesus. That’s wrong! When they are baptized, when they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, when they confess their sins in repentance and hear the preached Word of God they are saved! Game, set and match, they have eternal salvation in Jesus. Paul is dealing with a bunch of people, the Corinthians, yea them again, who are way too caught up in other rules. When they did that, when we do that, we forget what really is important. They are all snarked up about people who go to the meat market of a pagan “god” and buy their meat there. Well this goes back to the Old Testament teaching that some animals are innately unclean and can’t be eaten. God said that in Leviticus 11. He listed out animals that He didn’t want His people to eat. OK, fair enough. But then Jesus came and with Him, we are again taught, it’s not about the secondary stuff like right or wrong animals. It is about Him, He died for our sins and our diet doesn’t change that. In Acts 10, God tells Peter, these things are clean, eating these things doesn’t mess up your relationship with Jesus. But now, we get into an issue where we do serve our brothers and sister. There are things that we can do, eat certain things, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco. Some of these things we probably shouldn’t do, but that doesn’t cut us off from God. But weaker brothers and sisters may have a problem with it. They may start to question whether this Christian thing saves them. They might look around and decide “well these people are doing these messed up things so I think they’re wrong and Jesus really doesn’t save us. We, as Christians, do have to be aware of how we affect other people. Can we do certain things? Yes, they might be sinful and we need to confess and repent, but we’re still saved. But if we do these things without any concern of how they affect others, then we are not serving those around us. We are called to be faithful servants and to do, or not to do, things for others so that we can disciple them and help them to grow and mature as a Christian. When we give power to silly things, like eating sacrificed animals to idols, we give that idol power that it just doesn’t have. We make it out to be something when it’s actually nothing. So we don’t get caught up in that. But if we make it tougher for a brother or sister in Jesus, then we aren’t faithfully serving and we should sacrifice for the better of someone else’s conscience. We should follow Jesus’ example, His sacrifice for us. We don’t, as Dr Luther said, want to create discord and contempt. We want to act in a way, in many issues, that others will be built up and strengthened in their relationship with Jesus. For this week, read all of 1 Corinthians 8 and read Romans 13, which is a lot of the same discussion. Are there things that you are doing in your life, that may be making it tough for non-believers or immature Christians? The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin