Tag Archives: prayer

We are called to constant Reformation John 8 Community Reformation Service First Saint Johns Nov 1, 2015

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.

My sermon subject last week was, do we need a new Reformation? We are in Jesus. We do not live static, boring, stagnant, uninspired lives. We are children of the King, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, all creation. We shouldn’t be waiting for a new Reformation, Reformation for us should be a continuous, exciting, challenging life full of new experiences, new opportunities, yes new adventures. Do you really believe we should be sitting around waiting for a new Reformation? Do we really see our Lord Jesus waiting? Not the Jesus of the Bible. He was always pushing, always entreating, exhorting and rebuking. Change is a constant in the Christian life. We were not given new life in Christ to go and hide from the world. If anyone honestly thinks that, they have no concept of one of Jesus’ great commandments. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Does anything in that statement imply sitting around and waiting? Do we need a new Reformation? OK, but starting right now, and until the time that we are called to be in the presence of the Lord, that Reformation should be continuous, joyful, exciting, provocative, a new daily experience.

I will grant you that yea, it sounds challenging, maybe even exhausting. Is that a reason to quit, not even try? I’m not going to try to sell you some idea that faithfully living the Great Commission means you charge right back out into that world and expect everything to fall right into place, exactly as you expect it to in Jesus. Did it for Jesus? No! Look at the rich, young ruler. Jesus gets right up in his grill, right where Jesus knew it would hurt that man the most and said “that’s great, you’re going to be one of my followers. Now you just run along, sell everything you have, turn it over to those who are truly in need and then you trot right back here and follow me. How’d that work out? Jesus said “you have to eat my Body and Blood…” what happened with the thousands who were listening? A large percentage of them picked up and left. “Hey we like this free food and all these nice platitudes, but come on, that’s just weird, eat His Body and Blood? See ya, I’m outta here.” Jesus didn’t chase after any of these people, begging them to come back to Him. The church does that today. Oh heavens, have someone walk out of church. Hey pastor you better run after that person and get them back, we have to keep up attendance numbers.

I would never say ignore anyone who rejects Jesus. Certainly they do need pastoral attention and care. But on the other hand, there will be those who have been in church for the wrong reasons. We can appeal to them and help them to understand. But in the final analysis, it’s always about what the Holy Spirit does. We faithfully follow and do what the Spirit leads us to, to those who don’t know Christ or who have rejected Him. But on the flip side, Reformation doesn’t mean conform to the ways of the world in order to somehow keep our numbers up. It does mean to continually look for the leading of the Holy Spirit and certainly Dr Luther did just that. He appealed to the world. When he posted his 95 Theses on that door in Wittenberg on the front door of the Castle Church. He wasn’t looking for a confrontation, he wasn’t trying to pick a fight. As a highly educated monk, a college professor, Luther had been looking at Scripture and comparing it to the actual practice of the Christian church at the time. He struggled mightily with this. He was a faithful part of the church, he was a highly regarded clergyman in his community. He had no reason to pick a fight. But more importantly than all that, he faithfully followed Christ. The Holy Spirit guided Luther in his study of Scripture and Luther knew that God’s word was right. How could it not be? Should he trust the church of the time to truly live according to Scripture? Obviously he didn’t and he was led by the Holy Spirit to point out where the church was wrong. He only wanted to bring it to the attention of the church. He trusted that the church had strayed into wrong doctrine and practice by accident. He wasn’t pointing the finger and accusing. He was sincerely lifting up questions and asking for an honest dialogue and to be genuinely led by the Holy Spirit to identify and correct the bad practices of the church. We can certainly say that Luther was probably naïve in the ways of the world, but as Christians, in some ways, we should only trust in Christ and not get caught up in the ways of the world. Does that make us look naïve? So be it. Jesus tells us:  ESV Luke 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” He is telling us to be shrewd and smart, but by the same token Jesus tells us: “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Should we trust the church? Yes, but as always there’s a limit. There are “Christian” churches out there who have gone way off the rails. The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, has stayed faithful, however that doesn’t mean blind trust there either. As I said, we are called to stand up, to challenge, to push, to continually live in Reformation. So can we always trust the church? No! There are churches who call themselves Christian who have lurched way off on the other side of wrong. Just recently there was an article about two women pastors, United Methodist and Episcopalian, who led a prayer rally to bless an abortion clinic.[1] Can the church be wrong? Oh yeah! Do we sit passively by and let the errors go? No, way! Luther certainly didn’t. But we better know what we’re talking about and we better accept, that just like Dr Luther, we are going to be subject to a lot of fire and flak. Too many times people see attacks on themselves as somehow meaning that they are wrong. Luther was attacked constantly through the rest of his life after 1517. Did that mean that he was wrong? No, obviously he was right. But when we challenge the church to Reformation, whether it be “Christian” churches who tell us that we need to have faith and if we do we will be pretty, smart, wealthy, happy, successful, or Christian churches that tell us that abortion and homosexuality are just A, skippy OK, we better know what we’re talking about. We are called to be those disciples that Jesus told us we need to be in the Great Commission Matthew 28. Was he sending them out into the world where everything would just fall into place and be nice and easy: “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Obviously not. Did he send Luther to make a nice easy, clean overhaul of the church? No! He became a marked man, there were people who would have happily burned him at the stake as they did with John Huss a hundred years earlier. Was Huss wrong, was Luther wrong? No! Obviously not, so when I say that Reformation should be a constant part of our church life, I am not saying that it is going to be clean and easy. What I am saying is that you better know what you’re talking about. Did Dr Luther know what he was talking about? Absolutely and he struggled with it mightily. When he says he was attacked by Satan I don’t doubt it for a minute. If you stand for the truth in Christ you put a target on your back and don’t think for a minute that Satan won’t take shots at that target. And believe me those shots will hurt, as well as the shots that you will receive from a world that thinks it’s ok to bless abortion clinics and call itself the church of Christ. You will! Is that a reason for you to stop standing up for the true church of Christ? No, but again you better know what you are talking about and what you are doing.

How do you do that? You need to be strong in prayer. Faithful to the true church. Take the true Body and Blood of Jesus faithfully and see that the sacraments, the preached word and the true church are faithfully living in Christ. Hold your pastors and your fellow Christians accountable. ESV 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” We are called to be faithful, to continually be in Reformation, to continually remember that it is about Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. That we preach, disciple and live Jesus’ words, in our Gospel reading: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”(John 8: 31-36) To truly be His disciples requires us to be faithful to His word.

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

[1] http://www.lifenews.com/2015/10/12/united-methodist-and-episcopalian-church-clergy-lead-prayer-rally-to-bless-abortion-clinic/

Confess and pray to one another that we will be healed James 5 First St Johns September 27, 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 trust in the Lord for healing body and soul said … AMEN!

If you have been to a healing service here, our epistle lesson this morning will sound familiar. The first verse is instructional to all of us “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. We should not just pray, but also praise.

Certainly I appreciate the faith of those who come to the healing service and are looking to God for healing. This service isn’t my invention, it is in the Lutheran Service Book and we who are brothers and sisters in Jesus know the pericopes in the Gospels that are about the many healings that Jesus did. He healed people who were suffering from demonic possession, the man with the withered hand, the woman with the flow of blood, the man who couldn’t walk etc. We know that if it is God’s will and we lift up in prayer, by ourselves and/or part of a Christian group that God will heal. I think that the line “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick” is interesting. It says the prayer of faith will “save” the one who is sick. We know that it is not always God’s will to heal. The healing service includes “we also pray that those who are suffering do not lose faith.” As much as the healing service is about physical healing, it is also about spiritual healing.

I do not give them a 30-day money back guarantee when I do the healing service. I can’t promote this service as if it’s some Benny Hinn football stadium rally in front of 30,000 people. What about the people who don’t make it on the stage in time? Too bad for them? How come Benny Hinn can’t heal everyone in the stadium, if he has this miraculous power? Seems they have to come up on stage in front of the crowd and cameras so that he can make a spectacle out of his “healing”. I very much believe in the healing power of God. I very much believe that when faithful brothers and sisters gather together to pray for healing that it is effective. I don’t believe that I should turn it into a spectacle. Because I’m special? That I just send healing requests to the Throne of God and He heals on command? “Oh was that Driskell, he needs someone healed of cancer? OK, Jim’s my boy, there ya go healed.” This is the sin of presumption. I don’t set up the stadium, have a whole lot of people show up and bibady, bobady boo, everyone’s healed on my word. That would be great, but that’s not how God works. It’s about His will and who He wants healed and, in some cases, who He wants to take home. As one wag on the internet said, if these Benny Hinn types are so great, why don’t they stop at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which specializes in the treatment of pediatric cancer in Boston and heal all the children there? Seems the people who do this are more interested in self-promotion and the spot-light.

This is one of the ways the world sees Christians as gullible, superstitious, and presumptuous. Because of this many dismiss Christianity as silly and fatuous. They dismiss the Lord Jesus, He who died to save us, to be our redemption for our sins, to put us in right relationship with the Father. Yes our earthly life is important, but our eternal life in the resurrection is so much more important. That is all dismissed by the world because they don’t want to be one of those silly, easily influenced Christians. It does make me wonder: “OK, you don’t believe that Jesus can heal, what do you have that’s better?” I never get a straight answer, but the attitude seems to be, that they are too dignified, just plain too full of themselves to believe in silly Christian superstition. It really is kind of a metaphor of the world. I’m not going to believe what Jesus did for me for the sake of my dignity. There is no other solution, so I’m going to make my pride, the important factor, reject Jesus and be eternally condemned. OK, whatever? I can relate to the feeling that there are too many out there who try to make a side show attraction out of healing, which never seems to help the sick person and just makes Christians look silly.

The old country preacher was holding a healing service and he invited anyone to come up for healing. Billy comes up and says “Pastor I need help for the hearing.” Preacher raises his hands up in prayer, puts his hands over Billy’s ears, sticks his finger in Billy’s ears, loudly pronouncing and appealing for healing. Finally he stops and looks at Billy and asks can you hear? And Billy says I can hear fine, I need prayer for the court hearing next week. Yes that was a Chuck Swindoll.

Even the secular world has come around to the fact that there is power in faithful, prayer. Dr Harold Koenig, MD, was a professor at the Harvard Medical School for many years, and one of the things that he taught on was how prayer, faithful Christians have helped many people. Much research has shown that people who are prayed for actually do have better recoveries, fewer complications. Even more compelling those who know they’re being prayed for have even better results than. We have our prayer list that we pray over at every worship, at the prayer group that meets Sunday after worship, and at our prayer breakfast. You are encouraged to take the list in your bulletin home with you and include it in your daily prayers at home. When people ask me to put someone on that list, I ask them to give me the persons mailing address so that I can send them a postcard telling them they’re being prayed for. Sure I do that partly because I’ve seen the research that shows they will have a better result when they know they’re being prayed for and also I do it in faith for what St James tells us, to pray over the person, and our healing service is an effective way to pray over a sick or ailing person. But it’s always in trust that regardless of the outcome it is according to God’s will.

Dr Koenig is now the director at Duke University’s Center for spirituality, theology and health. We’re not talking about Bob Jones University, we are talking about very secular institutions of higher learning, Harvard and Duke have both come to recognize man isn’t just a physical machine, we are also spiritual beings that can be healed through the power of prayer that St James tells us about.

An article in Web MD states: “Research focusing on the power of prayer in healing has nearly doubled in the past 10 years,…” Dr Mitchell Krucoff states: “All of these studies, all the reports, are remarkably consistent in suggesting the potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions.” The article quotes other research: “These studies show that religious people tend to live healthier lives.  In fact, people who pray tend to get sick less often, as separate studies conducted at Duke, Dartmouth, and Yale universities show. Some statistics from these studies:

  • Hospitalized people who never attended church have an average stay of three times longer than people who attended regularly.
  • Heart patients were 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not participate in a religion.
  • Elderly people who never or rarely attended church had astrokerate double that of people who attended regularly.

Also, says Koenig, “people who are more religious tend to become depressed less often. And when they do become depressed, they recover more quickly from depression. “[1]  We are told to raise up prayers to God and to ask Him for prayer. I would never, ever tell you not to pray for healing. But our prayer has to be in terms of trusting God, relying on His will. His will is not always to heal, but He often does and when it happens it is staggering. But we don’t do it in a prideful, presumptuous way as if God performs services on demand. It is about the faith God gives us and His will, His plan. His will is always, better than ours. Even at the times when we don’t see it that way, we realize later, that whether God chose to heal or not, it was the best result and God uses that healing or lack thereof to His glory, not making it a spectacle. Clearly, as St James tells us: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

We lift up prayer here at First St Johns for a reason. We are not here to make gratuitous gestures, go through the motions, we are a people of faith and we trust when God tells us to pray for those who are sick. Yes, the secular findings are interesting, but regardless, we trust God’s word to heal or to take a loved one home. We trust His will and we will continue to be people who take prayer seriously. Not just for physical healing, but as Dr Luther tells us, as a pastor I am a seel sorger, a “soul healer”. I want to be involved in physical healing, but also in the healing of the spirit. Healing of the spirit is certainly for life in this world, but our Lord Jesus has given us the ultimate healing, the forgiveness of our sins, our reconciliation with God the Father who heals our soul that we will live in the eternal perfection of the resurrection.

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

[1]http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Strong’s in BibleWorks

Prayer. Let’s just get started!

Again one of my beefs with Reformed Christianity, Christianity that is so prevalent in the United States today, is this obsessiveness with how everything has to be done right. Otherwise? What, just don’t?
I’m really not picking on the Blackabys but again, there are differences between Lutheranism and Reformed Christians. “Only when we pray according to God’s will is He pleased to grant our requests (John 15:16)”. So we limit God to what wecan request and require Him to answer prayer within these limits? Sounds a little presumptuous, He is going to do what His will is and, as it often goes, it’s not going to always make sense to us.
I submit that if it’s a choice between someone who’s not praying or, they will pray but they might not be in conformance with the rules the Blackabys list out:
If we are selfish. (James 4:3)
Are our requests worthy of the God we approach?
Do we lack the faith God requires…? (Matt 17:20)
Is there unconfessed sin? (Isaiah 1:15)
If we will ask according to His will. (Jeremiah 33:3)
(Henry, Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Day by Day p 244)
I’d much rather that they pray. I have no doubt that God leads us in prayer. That by our taking a submissive posture, intentionally turning to and addressing Him, that He will lead us in prayer and that He is going to get us where He wants us to be from there, which doesn’t require our going through a briefing of what is and isn’t acceptable. But we have to start by being in prayer.
Getting people obsessed with, again, rules will discourage or give them another excuse not to even get started.
Bartimaeus asked to not be blind, to have sight (Mark 10:51), that’s kind of selfish. He could have asked for someone else’s benefit. But from that Jesus led Bartimaeus to follow Him. Maybe Bartimaeus became a disciple who subsequently taught and led other people.
As mature Christians we should pray in His will, and shouldn’t be self-centered. People will grow into spiritual maturity led by the Holy Spirit and hopefully by a faithful mature Christian disciple. Isn’t the Holy Spirit going to lead that new person into maturity? I have no doubt many aspects of a new prayers life are brought into closer conformance with Jesus’ will by taking to prayer. Let’s not get people obsessed with dos and don’ts, let’s get them praying first, then disciple them into efficacious prayer.

Worry, worry, worry, don’t let God handle it!

Ah yes, worry, worry, worry. Oh believe me, I can get sucked in so easily. Then, a few hours later, can’t even remember what I was all twisted up about, but at the time, literally it was like I was feeling my stomach dissolving.

Chuck Swindoll goes so far as to call worry sin! Why? For a Christian it’s lack of faith. Is God in control or isn’t He. If He is, could He possibly be leaving you just spinning in the wind? No. Are there times when we worry because of sin we’ve committed? Oh yeah! Are we worried about the consequences? Unless you’re not paying attention, of course. But even then, God will work it out. It may not be pleasant, yes there are consequences to sin, but trust in Him and it will work out in His wisdom.

Thomas Goetz in Inc Magazine (June 2015 p 48) writes: “What I’ve learned is that sleeplessness is part of the entrepreneurial condition. There’s just no escaping the all-around anxiety that comes with running a startup, brought on not only by the tenuousness of the enterprise, but also by the sheer volume of tasks that crop up each day. Though my recent insomnia is partly a barometer of fear, it’s a measure of effort as well. After all, when i can’t do everything I need to during my waking hours, at least my brain is trying to get something accomplished in the off-hours.”

Come on Thomas. First, from a practical management point, if there’s something you really can’t get done, you hire someone, cut out something you really don’t need, time management, or let it go.

I hear you saying: “Whaddya know about being an entrepreneur?” Fair enough, I always worked in established corporations, and now I’m a church pastor. I was vetted at seminary as a “church planter” and was called to do a church “renewal”. This is intended to reestablish a long-established church. In this case, this church will be observing its 140th anniversary in October.

Now Thomas, you want to talk about tenuous? There really is no established protocol for a “renewal”, we are all trying to figure it out and in the meantime, really just flying by the seat of my pants. I’m not trying to play tit for tat. Thomas has a lot of personal money and sweat equity in his effort. By the same token, I spent a lot of money for seminary, picking my family up from our home of twenty years, the city my wife, children and I grew up in to move from the Boston area to the midwest, then get called to another brand new city. So I think that I can weigh in and with a Christian perspective.

As you might expect I refer you to Matthew 6: 25-34: “”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? ‘For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Did Jesus have something to say about “worry”? Yea, I guess so. In essence, knock it off! Yea, meek and mild Jesus when He says “O you of little faith. You have enough to deal with right now, deal with that and then when we (you and the Holy Spirit) get to  tomorrow, you’ll deal with it then.” Thomas is talking about waking up at 3am worrying about all his stuff. Really, is there anything that you can really do at 3am to do what you were supposed to, solve some problem? No. Basically you’re spinning your wheels. Is that good management practice? No. It’s seriously taxing your resources, in particular your physiology. You break down and what? You sure aren’t going to solve any problems being treated for a psychological breakdown. I’ve seen it personally, everything’s about your work, your stress, the stress that you’re inflicting on your family, the overall environment becomes destructive. Again, good management practice? No! What do you have to do to constructively deal with this particular issue and move on? Dwell on it at 3am? That’s not accomplishing anything and inflicting actual physical damage.

What’s God’s answer? Knock it off. Are you going to trust me or not. I’ve had times when I’ve dropped the ball, certain that civilization as we know it will now come to a violent end. I’ve seen God work out some of those situations just so incredibly, almost as if I wasn’t supposed to do what I was supposed to. Other times, it got addressed and taken care of.

Believe me, I know what Thomas is talking about. But Thomas I’ve had to deal with life and death. At least 1800 hours of underway time on Coast Guard boats. Nothing you’re doing is going to result in anyone’s death. It might make life tough, but it’s not the end of life. You talk about waking up at 3am, try getting pulled out of bed at 2am to do a search or pull someone out. As a police chaplain getting up at that time to tell someone a loved one just died, or counseling someone who has just been a victim of a serious crime. Thomas and yes too many others of you, you need to get some perspective. Your final comment is “So what keeps me up at night? Knowing that if i start sleeping like a baby, that’s when I should really start to worry”. What as “if I’m not worried, I’m not paying attention”? Come on, all you business types are supposed to be smart guys. Tell me are your resources being wisely allocated? Is your time being used efficiently? Are you setting yourself up for failure. Believe me, it’s been five years for me of 50-60 hour weeks, with very little time off. Ministry is a 24/7 job. I’ve been called the away from a day off because of death. This year, we really can’t even afford a vacation, so probably won’t be one, except a couple of days here or there. I get it, but beat yourself down about it at 2am and see how that works. I’m feeling like a crispy critter myself, but I’m just not going to get into what we called “the overhead watch” in the Coast Guard (that’s laying in bed staring at the ceiling).

Now having said that, yes there seems to be a particular time of day that I’m really vulnerable to this. I’ve been getting up around 5am since pretty much my Coast Guard days started at 17 years old. I’ve been waking up at or a little later since then, it gives me time to pray before anything else and that is when I really feel it. And I really feel it as a demonic attack, I know but seriously it’s like I’m being just dragged through. Christian or not I think that is what is being experienced by anyone who is going sleepless. Now the difference for me is this, when I’m up at that time and really feeling under siege, I take the time to lift it up in prayer. This is where I show faith. I don’t always do it great, and yea I can get really spun up, but I do also feel the Holy Spirit sitting me down, giving me some perspective, reminding me Who really is control. Rubbing His hand over my head, kicking my sorry butt out into the dark and cold to run 7k and get on course for what I need to do in the day.

As I said at the beginning, lack of faith = sin. Seems harsh, but hey, if you’re just rejecting the Holy Spirit, “it’s all up to me and no one can help me”! Another time Jesus said “oh you of little faith”? The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee and being tossed around by a storm and in imminent danger of drowning. Jesus stepped up and calmed the storm. He then turned around and said “wow, I’m right here and couldn’t trust that I’m going to keep you safe?” How would you feel if someone close to you just rejected you like that? Yea, we’re telling the Creator of the Universe, that He’s just not sufficient to work out our problem. That problem that a week from now you won’t even remember? Yet you lost all that sleep over it. Oh yeah, that’s a smart move, Mr big deal entrepreneur, or anyone else!

Get some sleep, really help yourself. Then wake up a little earlier, spend some real time in prayer, enough for God to let you hash over your issues and what He’s going to do and to calm you down, focus you and send you out there to serve Him.

Wednesday mornings, 10am, we get together to discuss how we live our Christian life in the workplace, anywhere God puts us from Monday to Friday. We’re at the coffee shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts in downtown York. Park behind the church and I will buy you a cup of coffee for you first time.

Our emotional responses

I guess this is a follow up on the previous diatribe, it’s not intended to be, not as high minded but something I feel I should raise. Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God day by day p 19) “…discipleship … Is learning to give Jesus Christ total access to your life so He will live His life through you…” Okay, I’m not sure about Jesus “living His life through us” I would see it more as Him guiding our life to be more like Him.  Blackaby goes on to write:”when others see you face a crisis, do they see the risen Lord responding? Does your family see the difference Christ makes when you see a need? What difference does the presence of Jesus Christ make in your life?”

” God wants to reveal Himself to those around you by working mightily through you…” I will say that when it comes to genuine crisis that I respond pretty rapidly and effectively. Over twenty years of being in a U.S. Coast Guard boat station, responding to many cases I have had to deal with many life threatening situations and I can only remember one time when I had an emotional reaction and I did get that under control.  Business, church, I think I do well in that area. If I do get a little assertive I think it is for the right reasons. I’d like to say it’s always Christ like, conforming to His nature, but I’m sure you would be, at least dubious and rightly so. I do need to respond in a more Christlike way and set aside the emotion, except for compassion. But the areas I really need help in is the petty nonsense.  I just get so fed up with the selfish, lazy (intellectualy and physically) attitudes. I expect others to be Christlike because I try to be and when I see the failure in others prayI respond in a manner that is most definitely not Christlike. I end up shooting my self in the foot by exemplifying unChristian behavior to those in the world who are certainly never going to be Christlike.

I need your prayers to help me to respond in the highest manner. Sometimes that response does require an emphatic demonstration that shows this is serious and vitally important. But if the other person just doesn’t even get it, what’s the point of getting in a twist? Pray that I can properly respond. To remain composed in a crisis, to respond lovingly to those who just don’t know better and in those times, which will be rare to be emphatic, but to not lose my composure. I do have to be strong. We just had Good Shepherd Sunday. The point being that Jesus stays strong and vigilant to protect us and isn’t going to stand for Satan’s nonsense or the nonsense of the world, He is there to protect the flock, His church, from so many dangers. As a pastor I am an under shepherd and Jesus uses me to protect the part of the flock I’m responsible for.  Help me do it in a way that honors Jesus. So that the world knows I, in Christ, am serious, determined even to death. But still compassionate and welcoming. And also so that my share of the flock will feel safe and secure in Christ. Thank you for your prayers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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