Tag Archives: life

Prayer, let’s be proactive.

Some great words of advice from Dr Martin Luther:

[from 1 Thessalonians  5:17-18]

It’s good to let prayer be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. Be on guard against false, deceitful thoughts that say, “Wait awhile, you can pray in an hour  First, you must finish this or that.” For with such thoughts, you turn away from prayer towards the business at hand which surrounds you and holds you back so that you never get around to praying that day.

Of course, some tasks are as good as or better than prayer, especially during an emergency   Nevertheless, we should pray continually   Christ says to keep on asking, searching and knocking (Luke11:9-11). And Paul says that we should never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Likewise, we should continually guard against sin and wrongdoing, which can’t happen if we don’t fear God and keep His commandments in mind at all times  in Psalm 1 we read, “Blessed is the person who reflects on His teachings day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2)

We shouldn’t neglect the habit of true prayer and get caught up in necessary work – which usually isn’t all that necessary anyway. We can end up becoming lazy about prayer, cold towards it and tired of it, but the devil doesn’t get lazy around us

(Martin Luther Through Faith Alone Aug 28)


Science and Christian apologetics

It is important. I realize that too much focus on the “apologetics”, the issues that are based more in terms of history, science, social sciences, archaeology should never overshadow faith. They should never be the reason that we are Christians, that we know Christ as our Lord and Savior. Because I am giving this issue a lot of attention is not my way of saying Christianity is real, look at the documented facts. People may find the arguments compelling, they may even be convinced, but you are going to be saved by what the Holy Spirit is doing in your soul. Hey, who knows He may be using these arguments, but the cut to the chase is that coming to know Christ as your Lord will be because of Him, not because of what you do.

Now that I’m over the Gospel disclaimer, I move along to a book that I’ve been reading by Philip Yancey. I’ve written about those writers who, if they published their grocery list, I would read it. Yancey is one of those writers and much thanks to my brother in the Lord Rev Dr Mike Ramey for this gift.

The book, “Vanishing Grace”, seems to be sort of in the series of books, “What’s So Amazing About Grace”, for example, by Yancey. He discusses the fact that Christians and the church don’t seem to really practice grace and that there certainly isn’t any grace in contemporary society.

As part of the discussion he includes a section on the relation of science and Christianity. Most would say say that they are mutually exclusive, but when God is the One who has created all that science studies, clearly they aren’t. Yancey quotes Sir William Bragg, “…a pioneer in the field of X-ray crystallography, who was asked whether science and theology are opposed to one another: ‘They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers on my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.’ For much of history the great scientists – Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz – believed their discoveries in ‘the ‘the book of nature’ comprised a form of revelation, teaching us clues about a creator God.” (p 177)

“I suggested to the panel that although science had contributed much to modern life, there are at least three important questions for which it has no answers since they lie beyond its bound. (1) Why is there something rather than nothing? (2) Why is that something so beautiful and orderly? (3) How ought we to conduct ourselves in such a world?…” (p 177)

Theology used to be considered the “Queen of the sciences”, that it was where all the sciences end up. There are those whose “faith” is in science, the evolutionists believes in Darwin’s writings even though it is not even a good hypothesis, no less ‘theory’. Their faith, compared to the reality of Jesus and His incarnational ministry, is most definitely “blind faith”. The historocity of Jesus is really beyond dispute, He is the most studied individual in history and despite fallacious attempts to discredit the original texts and writings down through the centuries the certainty of His life is more than any figure in antiquity.

Another discussion that’s been impressed on me is the impossibility of life here on earth. “Scientism” (my own creation for the ‘religion of science’) ‘science’ insists that there has to be life elsewhere. Hey maybe there is, God’s going to do His will regardless of the ‘impossibility’ involved, we’re here aren’t we? But to say that life can be blindly reproduced in other parts of the universe, despite the impossible odds of life on earth, is just not dealing with reality. “…In their heyday the Soviets swept the sky with huge antennas listening for messages. Some scientists estimated the universe the universe would reveal a hundred thousand, perhaps a million advanced civilizations. Enthusiasm cooled as, one by one the projects failed to turn up any evidence of intelligent life.” (p 178)

I would quickly note that the “SETI” program in the United States has been mostly discontinued except for sparse private funding.

Yancey elaborates on the discussion about the impossibility of blind creation of the universe. “Scientists themselves who calculate the odds of the universe coming into existence by accident suggest such boggling figures as one in 10 to the 60th power. [That’s one chance in 10 with 60 zeros]. Physicist Paul Davies explains, ‘To give some meaning to those numbers, suppose you wanted to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away. Your aim would have to be accurate to that same part in 10 to the 60th power.’ Stephen Hawking admits that if the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had varied by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed. That’s only the beginning: if the nuclear force in certain atoms varied by only a few percentage points then the sun and other stars would not exist. Life on earth depends on similarly delicate fine-tuning: a tiny change in gravity, a slight tilting of earth’s axis, or a small thickening in its crust would make conditions for life impossible.” (p 178)

Yancey goes on to describe the responses of the high-priests of evolution (my snide remark) and undirected creation which are to the effect, ‘hey don’t try to confuse me with the facts: “Confronted with the staggering odds against random existence, Richard Dawkins simply shrugs and says, ‘Well, we’re here, aren’t we?’ He, along with many others, sees no need to assume a Designer behind such apparent evidence of cosmic design (although in a conversation with Francis Collins, Dawkins admitted that the fine-tuning of the universe is the most troubling argument for nonbelievers to counter). Scientists in the U.S. are equally divided, with 51 percent believing in some form of deity.” (p 179)

“…it occurred to me, that if the odds were reversed we likely would not have had a discussion. If someone calculated the odds of God’s existence at one in 10 to the 60th power, I seriously doubt any scientists would waste their time discussing faith issues with people who believed in such an improbable God. Yet they happily accept those odds of a universe randomly coming into existence on its own.” (p 179)

Yancey goes on to write about the narrow mindedness, the denial of facts that’s often attributed to religious fundamentalists that scientists demonstrate. They are not just in denial, but they are pejorative in their attitudes towards people of faith. There is certainly antagonism by Christians towards the secular, but the antagonism of those of the faith of “scientism” is much more narrow minded and dismissive. “When I talked with the Nobel laureates later, I asked about their own belief or disbelief in God. All three spoke of a strict Jewish upbringing against which they later reacted. Martin Perl, discoverer of the Tau lepton particle, said candidly, ‘Ten percent of Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens, half are creationists, and half read horoscopes each day. Why should it surprise us if a majority believe in God? I oppose all such superstition, and in my experience religion is mostly harmful. I limit my beliefs to observation, not revelation.'” Wow, that’s pretty narrow and bigoted. I know Yancey would not appreciate my lack of graciousness, but come on, really I’m just pointing out the obvious.

This obvious narrow-minded bigotry is not, mercifully, universal among scientists. But you have to wonder, people who claim to be driven by “observation”, can sure pick and choose and live in such denial. “…Albert Einstein, was more receptive to faith: ‘The scientist must see all the fine and wise connections of the universe and appreciate that they are not of man’s invention. He must feel toward that which science has not yet realized like a child trying to understand the works and wisdom of a grown-up. As a consequence, every really deep scientist must necessarily have religious feeling.”‘

“Einstein marveled that our minds are able to assemble patterns of meaning. As he told a friend, ‘A priori, one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way.’ The fact that this isn’t the case, that the cosmos is comprehensible and follows laws gives evidence of a ‘God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.’ Yet Einstein could not bring himself to believe in a personal God such as the Bible portrays…” (p 180)

“Other scientists share Einsteins’ childlike wonder. Alexander Tsiaras, a professor at the Yale Department of Medicine, entranced a sophisticated crown at a TED conference with a video of the fetal stages from conception to birth. he had written the soft ware to utilize an MRI technique that had earned its inventor a Nobel Prize. The video compresses nine months of growth and development into a nine-minute film…”

“The human body largely consists of collagen – hair, skin, nails, bones, tendon, gut, cartilage, blood vessels – Tsiaris explains in his introduction. A rope-like protein, collagen changes its structure in only one place, the cornea of the eye, where it spontaneously forms a transparent grid pattern. As the video of speeded-up fetal development plays, this mathematician drops his objectivity, awed by a system ‘so perfectly organized it’s hard not to attribute divinity to it… the magic of the mechanism inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go.'”

“…the programmer Tsiaras remarks, ‘The complexity of the mathematical models of how these things are done is beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with marvel: How do these instruction sets not make mistakes as they build what is us? It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.'” (p 181)

Carl Sagan was, of course, the  high priest of “scientism” and was usually very antagonistic to Christianity. Despite his profound knowledge of the facts, he seemed to be much more motivated by self-promotion and enhancing the faith system he promoted. But Yancey writes:”…In an exchange of letters with Robert Seiple, then president of World Vision USA, Carl Sagan clarified that even he remained open to belief in God. He viewed with wonder the beauty and simplicity in the laws governing the cosmos. Summing up, he wrote, ‘As a scientist, I hold that belief should follow evidence and to my mind the evidence of the universe being created is far from compelling. I neither believe nor disbelieve. My mind is, I think, open, awaiting better data.'” (p 182)

I really hate it when someone plays me, and Sagan was playing. “Creationism” isn’t “proved” so I’m going to be a proponent of something that is statistically impossible, unless and until such time as there is proof of God. Huh? This is a person that is in denial. People like this love to talk about their objectivity, but they have none. Sorry, but these are narrow minded fanatics that insist that you agree with them in every detail or you’re the one with a problem. I’ve been watching a television show on people and their families who are out on the street abusing drugs. Frankly the attitude seems to be the same in “scientism”, don’t judge me, don’t try to confuse me with the facts, just enable me and leave me alone in my addiction, my denial, my own little abusive world. There are many scientists that are objective and have no problem trying to reconcile the reality of the created universe and the One who created it and His Son Jesus Christ who came to reveal the will of the One through whom all was created. I have always had an interest in various aspects of science long before I was a Christian. The astronauts of the 60s and 70s were my heros, I loved reading books dealing with astronomy and space travel. One of the earliest books I remembered reading was on Clyde Tombaugh, you know who he is? I have always been fascinated by astronomy, but seriously don’t get in my face trying to convince me that this massive, elaborate, amazing universe all spun into existence by accident. It didn’t and anyone who can understand probability understands that.

Giving Life

For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link or copy and paste into your browser


Giving Life
First St Johns May 11, 2014

We pray to our Father, because our Lord Jesus told us to start our prayer “Our Father…” mothers give us life, but to all of us who are in Christ, we have life and have it more abundantly. You are everywhere Father, yes you gave us mothers to give us life, to be there for us, to encourage, to comfort, to belong. We thank you for our mothers who gave us life, but true life is only in Jesus, eternal/abundant life is only in Him, Your Son, our Lord. Man, woman, mother, father, child, we are all sheep to Him who is the Good, the Great Shepherd. He is the Door to eternal life, He protects us from the stranger, the accuser, the liar. Satan knows he does not have eternal life, he knows that he is doomed to damnation and because of that He sees us, Your children, and hates us because we are secure in Jesus. But he continues to try to move us away from life, if he has to suffer, he wants all of us to suffer. Misery does love company and he is a miserable, bitter being. Thank you Father for our mothers, for those who sacrifice so much of their life for us, but more importantly thank You for the Good Shepherd who sacrificed for us eternally and sacrificed all for us. 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 God for life in a faithful mother and for an eternal Savior said… AMEN!
Happy Mother’s Day, we have some small gifts for you and we hope that you enjoy your day. A woman recounts: “she had just returned from renewing my license at the County Clerk’s office. When asked to state an occupation she hesitated. The clerk explained, ‘Do you have a job, or are you just a …?” “Of course I have a job the woman snapped, I’m a mother.” “We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation … ‘housewife’ covers it’, said the clerk emphatically.
“I’m a research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused, looked up as if she didn’t understand. I repeated the title slowly as the clerk wrote my pompous pronouncement on the questionnaire.
“Might I ask, just what you do in your field?’
She heard herself reply, ‘I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t) in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for a Masters (the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters).
I often work 14 hours a day. But the job is more challenging than most run of the mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.”
She writes: “As I drove into our driveway buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants ages 13, 7, and 3, upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child development program…
I felt triumphant. I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘”just another …. Home what a glorious career. Especially when there’s a title on the door.”
Moms are definitely a vital part of God’s plan for the world, God’s plan of life, of the ultimate perfect world. I was just reading some research, that found that the person who has the most influence on a man to become part of a church family, is his wife, usually when she becomes the mother of his children. Wives give life to the children and also, in many cases, open the door to spiritual life.1
It’s one of those tough ministry calls, it’s Mother’s Day and it’s also “Good Shepherd Day”, might seem to be a conflict, but actually they complement each other. We take time to remember mom, but we are together here in the Body of Christ and so we remember He who is the ultimate life giver. In our reading today in John 10 we read my favorite line in Scripture, Jesus telling us “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” To be sure mom gives us life in the flesh but remember Nicodemus’ confusion when Jesus tells him he must be born again: “Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4) Jesus replies: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:5) God gives us physical life through our mothers, and we have life for a few decades, but through Jesus we are born again, born in God the Holy Spirit and we have life eternal.
Having life and life more abundant, does start in this life. Our life in Christ, Jesus who is the Lord of our life, who saves us in life from the slavery of sin that we see all around us. The deceiver tries to convince us that the so-called pleasures of life in the world are what is important. But in Christ we have no doubt that these pleasures result in sin, sin is pain, it is slavery, it is death. It looks good on the surface, but the result is always misery and loss. It is eternal loss, versus eternal life. The Greek word zwh, yes, you might have heard that as a girl’s name, is a word that Jesus uses so emphatically. It has such an emphatic meaning throughout the New Testament, it is used to mean “…eternal life, i.e. that life of bliss and glory in the kingdom of God which awaits the true disciples of Christ after the resurrection.”2 The promise of life should give us a great assurance, we trust that Jesus secures eternal life for us, that we will live forever, that we won’t just all of a sudden simply disappear. Our soul rebels at the idea that we will be here one moment and then gone the next. But our soul can’t reconcile that conflict, the worldly person can’t see any way to escape this. They don’t know Jesus’ promises of eternal life, there just has to be another way they rationalize, a way that will be on their terms and in their plan, but they will never be able to do that, they live with this constant struggle in their soul. We as Christians are called to show them the promises of Christ, to turn to Him for the peace that they see in us. Let us have Christian compassion and help them in their rebirth into the peace, mercy and eternal life in Christ. We take time in daily prayer to come before Him who gives us life more abundantly and we come to be a part of the Body of Christ every Sunday to worship Him, to give Him thanks for our eternal life. But it’s not some eternal life that is some kind of grayish/ghostly existence that pagans believe in. He promises abundant life. The Greek word perisso,j which means extraordinary, remarkable, profuse, beyond measure.”3 I’m sure you wonder why I refer to the Greek so often, but when Jesus is talking to us, He is using words that we hear in a mundane sense, but that He intends for us to understand in a sense that is extraordinary, His words are intended to be wondrous and assuring.
He gives us moms to give us love, assurance, that warmth that is only an inkling of His abundant love and promise. Dr Luther makes this observation of the devil and the world: “…who takes pleasure in shaming us most miserably and embittering us among ourselves, causing nothing but murder and misery and tolerating no peace or concord between brothers, between neighbors or between husband and wife.”4 That is what the world knows. It knows the love of mother, but in too many cases even that “love” is misery, it does not bring peace, but continued conflict and difficulty. We are thankful Lord for those who know what it is to be a mother in Jesus, we pray Lord that more mothers will come to know the peace, love and life that is in Jesus and bring their children to know life and life more abundant in Him. Eve has taken a lot of hits throughout history, but we need to remember her and all mothers in Todd Wilken’s words: “Eve’s creation is unique in all creation. Eve is the only creature made from another creature. She is made from Adam.
Adam calls her what she is, Eve: “Life, the Mother of all the Living.”
An afterthought? Far from it! Eve is the genesis in Genesis. Without her there is only Adam. With her, there is humanity.
Moreover, without this woman, there is no “woman’s seed;” there is no Jesus. With her, there is Jesus, the new Adam, the New Creation.
Eve, you’re not an afterthought. You’re the Mother of the Promise.
Jesus is the Promise, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Good Shepherd who guides us, protects us from the “stranger”, inspires us, gives us eternal, abundant life.
We are thankful to you Father for mothers who are used by You as you give us physical life, who sacrifice so much of their life to make us men and women in Jesus. We are thankful to You Father for a great Savior who gives us life eternal, abundant, beyond measure. After the stroll through the street fair over on Market St and the gifts and the dinner, this evening when you are home, take some time to remember the giver of life, how He has chosen you, man or woman, to give physical life and how you can be not just a good father and mother to the children you have given birth to, but how you can be a good “spiritual” mother or father to help in the birth of children in Christ, true life in Him, who do you know that the Spirit is leading you to, to be used by God to give birth in eternal life. What does abundant life mean to you and how do you live abundantly today and through all eternity?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

U.S. suicide rates rise sharply article by Tara Parker-Pope New York Times May 2, 2013 as quoted in Leadership Journal Summer 2013

This article really hit home with me because what of suicide means to me as a Christian and especially in terms of the fact that the group most affected, is becoming most likely to commit suicide are men in their 50s, like me.

So what’s the difference? Clearly as a Christian, as a pastor, I see suicide as the final act of those who are hopeless, who see nothing else left to live for and so chose to stop.

Why men in their 50’s? Parker-Pope points out factors such as economic, availability of prescription painkillers. That might accelerate the process, but, in my opinion, that’s not the core issue. As a Christian my faith is in the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, my hope is in Him only, not in the economy, my expectations, what other people think etc. She does go on to point out that “…it hinted that deeper issues like failed expectations and a loss of hope might be a root cause.” She quotes “Dr Julie Philips, a researcher from Rutgers: ‘The boomers had great expectations for what their life would look like, but … It hasn’t turned out that way.'” She goes on to say that future generations will be facing the same situation.

I can certainly speak as being part of that demographic and can relate. Twenty five years ago I finally finished my business degree working for Motorola and there was no doubt in my mind that I was finally on my way to at least being a CFO for, at least, a mid-cap company. If you had told me that I would be a Lutheran pastor in York, Pa., I would probably have suggested that they might cut out smoking, drinking whatever was messing with their mind.

Middle aged men today have become all about their job, achievements, their house, their car, well you get it. That’s it, their total investment is in how they amass money/ things. I hear it constantly from men “oh yeah, I don’t need church, blah, blah,” and they will spout some inane nonsense about how they know it all, don’t need none of that, again blah, blah. The more they talk, the more obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about. But hey I will concede that the church has gone out of it’s way to make itself less relevant to men. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the job, making money etc.

In addition to not needing church, don’t need government, because they’re all crooks, doesn’t make a difference, again blah, blah. Men aren’t getting educations because it doesn’t make a difference, the only thing that makes a difference is how much money, the quality of their possessions. Men in their 50’s are statistically supposed to be at the peak of their earning, on their way to having a nice easy retirement etc, etc. The reality is that most are finding that is not going to be the case, that they haven’t achieved what they thought they were supposed to and everything that they’ve pinned their hope on is simply not going to happen. Their hope is gone, the supposed promise of the American Dream is simply not going to happen.

Let’s cut to the chase, yes of course each of us is responsible for running our life, but we need to realize that it’s not about what we ultimately do, it’s what God guides us to do. I had a certain set of expectations, but I was clearly led by God to be where I am now and there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s much more to come. It may be where I’m at, or something entirely new, but when I look back on my life I have no doubt as to who was guiding it. I’m not saying that I’m somehow “chosen” I’m not saying that I’m any kind of special case at all. I am saying that if more people, not just men, trusted in what God was doing and quit trying to live by their own expectations, they would find life to be a more of an adventure, a lot more fulfilling, more authentic and in the end? Maybe not the big bank account, big house etc. But knowing that they have lived according to God’s will, they’ve lived the life that God guided them in and in terms of living their true life, in the resurrection, they will be blessed and yes, the building treasure in heaven that Jesus makes many references to.

Space and inclination don’t permit me to get into a discussion of suicide, but it’s God who gives us life and it’s His decision what happens and when He decides to call us home, suicide is never the solution in any respect. Pride, anger, disappointment are not acceptable, but in a society where we have this idea that it’s all about us and we can do what we want, when we want, well God is simply not going to bless that.

It’s way past time for us all to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and trust in the hope and promises of the Bible, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are responsible for the conduct of our life, but that responsibility is realized when we trust in what God is doing in our life and not our own desires and expectations.