Tag Archives: promise

Prayer our all powerful resource from God Luke 11 First Saint Johns Church July 24, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that their refuge is in God the Father through prayer said … AMEN!

God gave His church the most powerful tool in the universe, PRAYER! Jesus gave His disciples, those who asked Him to teach them how to pray and His disciples all the way to you, me, and those growing into disciples. There is no greater power in the universe. Through prayer we are given access to God the Father. Prayer puts us very much in His presence, His power and glory. Even for the biggest and toughest, to be in the presence of Abba, Daddy. He is not only the most powerful being in all of creation, also the most loving. No matter who you are, you can take in all the love, peace and comfort of God in the simple act of sitting down and following Jesus’ directions; “When you pray say: “Father,…” Matthew writes that we start “Our Father” The Greek in Matthew 6:9 says: “Pa,ter h`mw/n” Many jump on that as another “contradiction” in the Bible. Why does Luke just say “Pa,ter”, ? While Matthew says: “Pa,ter h`mw/n” In any human dialogue there’s dozens of reasons why we say, or hear something different. Matthew was there, he heard, “Pa,ter h`mw/n” I took French for seven years, I have a plaque in the office with the Lord’s prayer “notre pere”, of course, at First Saint Johns, many times the German “unser Vater” has been used in the 140 year history of this sanctuary. Whichever language, He is “our Father”, just as Jesus told His disciples. The Bible is the inspired word of God. The Holy Spirit inspired the remembrance of Jesus’ words for Matthew and whoever told Luke. I’d like to think that the Holy Spirit wanted us to know either way is good, that He wants us to know that He is my Father, that I can, even should address Him as “Pater, Vater, Pere, Father”, but that He is collectively our Father. Because I am born again in Christ, the Holy Spirit has made me that new creation in Jesus, that I am a born again son of the Father, that He is very much my own Father, but that He is also Father to billions. I have billions of brothers and sisters in Jesus right now and through the last two thousand years of history. Brothers and sisters that are in all parts of the world, all over the world, and in all the ages of the last two thousand years. We are so vastly different as people, but through prayer, through our Father, through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ we are all the children of the same God, through whom all creation was made, sustained and will be restored to the perfection that was intended by Him at the beginning. We all pray the same thing, different languages, different countries, even at different points in history, but Father, our Father, He hears us all calling to Him as Father.

Prayer certainly does unite us, reminds us that people all around the world are saying Father, Our Father. One of the most unifying prayers is in 1 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” By far the Gospel that is most focused on prayer is Luke’s, Luke makes constant references to Jesus going and praying, usually by Himself. That certainly is another model for us that we need time to be alone to focus on being in God’s presence, that there is nothing to distract us, to take us out of His presence, that nothing interfere with Him pulling us toward Him, uniting us with Him in our prayer. As His children we are entitled, we are expected to come before our Father, regularly, to be in His presence. Sure there will be times when we will come into His presence cowering, knowing what Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucille Ball, “Lucy, you got some explaining to do!” Lifting up to God our repentance and asking for forgiveness. He does forgive, He certainly puts it on our heart that He expects better, that He is there, in prayer, to steer us away from the rocks and shoals that we launch ourselves onto and find ourselves stuck on. Through Him, in prayer, He reminds us of the things we need to stay away from and also that He is there, one short prayer away to keep us from hitting the bottom and damaging ourselves. More importantly He reminds us that He is our refuge. In his Psalms David refers to God as His refuge 46 times. In Psalm 64:10 David writes: “ESV Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!” We all have God as our refuge and are united in Him when we take refuge in Him together through our prayers. We ought to constantly go to His refuge, the place where He provides for all that we need.

Too often though we come to Him only in times of desperation, how much better it would be for us if we were constantly in prayer relying on His refuge. Robert Pase writes: “But God’s intent in giving us the gift of prayer isn’t that we wait to pray until all seems lost. God intends that prayer be an everyday, every moment part of the Christian life, including when life seems to be clear sailing, a pleasure cruise. The fact is that God rights the ship, keeps the world on an even keel, by the prayers of his Church. The saints on earth and in heaven are constantly praying, and God is constantly answering – with good weather, good crops, good health and all sorts of things we might take for granted. God invites us to pray about everything every day, not just as a last resort.”[1] You thought I was the only one who used sea metaphors. The point being that prayer is not just for times of distress, but is for all the time and certainly in those times when we want to be in His very presence. His refuge provides us with peace, safety, strength, knowing that no matter what, He is in control, it is all according to His will and the more we align ourselves with His will in prayer, the more we will realize that we need to let go of our fears and worries and to pray to be in His will and set our agenda aside. Our peace is always in God and in the fact that He will be there through our trials and at the end to welcome us as His good and faithful servant. That will only be reinforced and hardcoated into our brains through prayer, constant prayer. There are a lot of sea metaphors, the sea was a metaphor to the Jewish person of chaos and danger. If you are far from shore, at the mercy of the sea you have an acute understanding of the day to day lives so many of us live with, a feeling that there is nothing that we can really secure ourselves to. E Stanley Jones, quoted in Chuck Swindoll’s book writes “Prayer is surrender – surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Payer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.”[2] God has His line out to you through prayer. He is pulling you to Him, not the other way around. So long as we persevere in Him, He will be taking us to safety in Him.

Paul promises us in: “ESV Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Even in those times we just fall on our knees and have no idea where to begin, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. He knows what is on our heart, what we need to pray and He will lift those prayers to the Father for us. But we can also look at the prayers that King David makes in the Book of Psalms. Psalm 86 is called a prayer of intercession where David is desperate for God’s attention, he prays: “ESV1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you- you are my God. 3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. 4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. 5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. 6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. 7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. 11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. 12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

God is our Father, for those of us who are fathers, we would do whatever we could to provide for our children. We passionately want what is best for them. Yes it is often in a selfish way, but we don’t want to see our children hurt or struggling. I know my heart is often hurting for one of my children. Jesus puts it directly to us: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent, of if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11: 11-13) Certainly for those of us who are fathers, we know well how much we want to help our children to live a life that glorifies God where they know who their strength, provision and refuge is. Our all powerful, all loving God knows that infinitely better than us and waits for our prayers, waits for us to ask, to seek, to knock so that He will pour out His love and strength on us. We here at First Saint Johns know the power that we have in prayer. Many of us have worked hard to provide many ways to lift up prayer and to keep us focused on being united to the Father in prayer. If we are ever in need of prayer, we know that we will be included on our weekly prayer list and those in the church, the Lord Jesus in whose Body we share, that we will be prayed for. A prayer room has been made ready by loving hands on the second floor as a place of peace, quiet and refuge. A group often meets after worship to join together to lift up others and themselves in prayer. We gather together for a monthly prayer breakfast for our individual needs, the collective needs of First Saint Johns, for our church and those outside of our church who are looking for support in prayer. That we are always looking for opportunities to come together in prayer and to encourage individual prayer. That we maintain an environment here that is a constant reminder to all of us of the strength and power we have when we go to the Father in prayer that our refuge is always in Him.

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

[1] Robert J Pase  “Concordia Pulpit Resources” Volume 26, Part 3, Series C p 17

[2] E Stanley Jones, quoted in Chuck Swindoll’s “Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes” p 453

In Jesus we get the attitude we need. Then it’s up to us.

It really is about attitude. Sure people with bad attitudes succeed, but you also know that they will never be content, they will never know trust, promise, they will always be insecure. They know that even if their lives appear to be a “success”‘, that they will never have peace. Peace doesn’t necessarily mean complacency. In fact it seems when the Holy Spirit gives me peace is when I get excited and driven to take on the next challenge. Too often I just really don’t “see” it and can’t get motivated.

This leads me to a bit more of a mundane subject. “in a landmark 1967 study. Australian psychologist Alan Richardson chose three random groups of students. One group practiced basketball free throws daily for twenty days. Two other groups shot only on the first and last days. But one of the no shooting groups spent twenty minutes per day carefully visualizing foul shots. At the end, the non-practicers hadn’t improved at all. No surprise. The hands-on practicers improved 24%. And the visualizers? They improved 23 percent… ”

“…mental training will boost performance. Psychologist Steve Ungerleider recommends regularly sitting in a quiet, comfortable space and spending 20 minutes mentally walking through ever step of your upcoming bike, run, or ski before race day.” – Outside Magazine. P 66 January 2015.

There are times when I am kind of wondering about what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do. Too often what’s anyone’s response? Fight or flight? You either just plunge right in or you pull a Jonah and head west. Seems to me most of the time we need to spend time being guided by the Holy Spirit in how we should do what we are being guided to do. Certainly it will take away a lot of your anxiety, it’s just not going to be as bad as you think. “If I go and talk about Jesus to that person what will happen, how is God helping me to visualize that?” Sure they could just brush me off, but now that I’m visualizing it, it’s really not that bad. But if I keep thinking about hitting those free throws, seeing some genuine trust, hope and promise in the person I’m talking to, wow! Won’t that be so incredible? Win the game, see the Holy Spirit bringing someone to salvation. “jje

Spend some time on what the Holy Spirit wants you to do and how that would look. No, it’s not always going to be what we think we want. The results may not always be enough, at least to our standards. But knowing that it is the Holy Spirit moving, seeing that, mentally and then being there seeing Him work, these are things that we are way to quick to throw cold water on. Spend some time to see it the way the Holy Spirit wants it and follow through.

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.

Resurrection, true life for eternity Isaiah 25: 6-9 First St Johns Easter April 5, 2015

[For the audio 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 are looking forward to being resurrected in a perfect physical body in a perfect physical world said … AMEN!!

We’ve been doing a sermon series by Rev Dr Reed Lessing for Lent. I’ve really gotten a lot from this series, so I’m staring our Easter sermon noting what he says about Easter: “Home! The very word evokes feelings of love and laughter, security and serenity, warmth. It means mom and dad, fun and games, good food, deep sleep, a little girl from Kansas says it best, “There’s no place like home.””

Truly that is what Easter is all about. The world as a whole, all of us, we have become so camped on our home being heaven. It’s not! Sure there’s comfort when we lose a loved one to say that they are in heaven, and when they die in Jesus, we have the assurance that they are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV) But that’s where we leave it, it has somehow become imbued in our understanding that we spend eternity in some kind of ethereal state sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. No! We will die. We will, unless Jesus returns before we die, we will go to heaven, but that’s not our final stop.

We are going to talk about the resurrection. We should be every Sunday. Why? We worship on Sunday versus Saturday, which was the Sabbath Day, because every Sunday is a little Easter, it reminds us of our ultimate destiny, destination. Because Jesus was resurrected, we too will be resurrected. Jesus returned to this world, in the same body He died in. This was to give us the promise that we will be resurrected just like Him. “ESV 1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

You really have to kind of wonder, why would Paul be so excited about being “changed” into some kind of diaphanous, wispy form. This idea comes from a belief system unrelated to Christianity called neo-platonism and also Gnosticism. Both of these belief systems teach that the physical is somehow evil, that because the Father is spirit, then we will want to be spirit. What’s the point of Hell, if we aren’t physical, how do we really suffer. Conversely, if we are spirit and are saved in the resurrection, how do we truly enjoy the resurrection? We can’t. We were made to be physical. If we are “going home” as Dr Lessing submits, is home really heaven. I’ve never been to heaven, I don’t remember anything about it. Sure I will be in Jesus’ presence and that will be tremendous joy, bliss. But that’s not what we were made for, that’s not how God created us.

We know how God created us. Despite what you hear in the world, we didn’t come from animals. The Book of Genesis tells us how we were put here, why we were put here and in what form we were put here. We were created in the Imago Dei. We are unquestionably special, unique, highly privileged by God because we were made completely uniquely in the Father’s image and in very physical, tangible bodies. Adam and Eve lived in perfection, in their created bodies, for many years. They then simply chose that everything God created for them wasn’t enough, that they were entitled to more, who was God to withhold even one thing from the? They waved God off and did what they wanted.

God wasn’t going to tolerate their defiance, He just wouldn’t, His nature is to be completely holy, to be completely just, be completely perfect. He was not going to tolerate their imperfection, their sin, in their defiance.

Yes, God booted them out into the cold, harsh world. But our loving God never leaves us alone. He never rejects us, He always makes a way where He, not you, will bring those He created back to Him.

Yea, we know those who just reject God and make it all about them. But even in our imperfection, we who have been brought to Jesus, are brought back to God’s intention for us. He promised Adam and Eve that there would be a deliverer, that Savior would be the payment for our failures, our sins and would put us back into relation with the Father. He did, Jesus. Jesus died a very physical, a very gruesome, gorey death, He died that death, not because of what He did, but because of what we did, because of our sin. Jesus, God the Son, was the perfect sacrifice for us who are so imperfect.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, writes extensively that we will be resurrected, we will be raised in very real physical bodies, just like we are now. This is my reason, this is my hope, the reason for the hope that lies within us. That is what being a Christian is all about, H-O-P-E. We are not lost and helpless like those who are without Jesus. We know we will be raised in a perfect body, in a perfect world, to live the life that we were always intended to live. Not in this sinful, corrupted, thoroughly messed up world and I defy anyone here, anywhere to try to make this world something that it isn’t. Sin is what has caused violence, disease, death, deformity. It’s all on us, do yourself and everyone else a big favor and quit blaming it on God.

Alcorn reminds us: “As human beings, whom God made to be both physical and spiritual, we are not designed to live in a non-physical realm. Indeed, we are incapable of even imagining such a place… An incorporeal state is not only unfamiliar to our experience, it is also incompatible with our God – given constitution… We are physical beings as much as we are spiritual beings. That’s why our bodily resurrection is essential to endow us with eternal righteous humanity. Setting us free from sin, the Curse and death.”[1] Alcorn rightly points out that because of our physical nature and when heaven is portrayed as a non-physical place, that our senses that do bring us pleasure, touch, smell, sight, hearing, won’t be a part of us, this really repels us at our core. Alcorn writes: “…when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alienates and even frightens us…”[2]

For most of us, we will spend our time in that “spiritual” form, but that is because we are the “church in waiting”, the world is still in tribulation and the “church in waiting” is still a part of that battle against sin and evil. In heaven, we will still be in prayer. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. Our loved ones in heaven don’t know what we’re going through, they don’t need to, they know we are still being subjected to the spiritual struggle that goes on around us. But ultimately we have the promise of the resurrection. Paul writes: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:” (1 Corin 15:42) We have the promise that Jesus made to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25). We will be raised up in very real bodies, to live very real lives, but lives the way God originally intended for us to live, in a very real world. But this is a world not limited by sin, by physical defect, it is a world where the possibilities are limitless, not this world, that is limited by all our human failings. A world where as the beer jingle says “you can have it all”. You can’t in this world, but you can in the world that God has promised to all those who are saved in Jesus. A life that God intends for us, that Jesus promised us when He said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) That is the world of the resurrection, a life of limitless abundance, no more pain, none of the disability of body and sin. It will still be a world of challenges, we are still expected to grow and achieve, move and accomplish, but in a way that builds us and strengthens us in Jesus.

Dr Martin Luther wrote: “Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” You and I will have so much more than a golden tail.

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

[1] Randy Alcorn, “Heaven” p 16

[2] Ibid p 17

We serve our neighbors in service to God

We’ve been talking about vocation in many ways at our Wednesday Coffee Break Bible study. Certainly our vocation in terms of our job, profession, position. Position can mean many different things in terms of our spouse, children, parents, siblings. Our position in the community. Any responsibility we hold in the church, on and on. Positions God puts us in, in His service, but to serve others. I’m sure we recognize that God doesn’t need our service per se. Jesus has done all that is necessary, and God sustains us in every way. We are in His service for what we do for ourselves and for others.

I serve by working to better myself in every possible way nutrition, exercise, study things that are edifying. We are in His service when we serve our neighbors. Surely God puts us into situations where our service to a neighbor would be pleasing to Him. In fact I would hope that we would do works to glorify Him, that others may know that what I did was a result of what God does to me and through me. So anything I do for another is only a result of the Holy Spirit in me.

Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Today”, p 122: “God deserves our love and He demands that we love others in the same way He does.” And yes, I will say it again God’s love is of genuine concern for what is best for another, not this phoney, empty enabling love we think of today. What is in that person’s best interests and not ours. Believe me that is hard to do but that is the goal we need to strive for. Heck, in today’s world, anyone who even approaches that is doing more than anyone expects.

The Blackabys spell this out: “We are to love our spouses, not as they deserve, but as God commands (Eph 5: 22-33). We are to treat our friends, not as they treat us, but as Christ loves us (John 13:14). We are to labor at our jobs, not in proportion to the way our employer treats us, but according to the way God treats us. God is the One we serve (Eph 6:5).”

“Mediocrity and laziness have no place in the Christian’s life. Christians must maintain integrity at home and in the workplace… Our toil then becomes an offering to God. We not only worship God at church on Sunday, but our labor throughout the week is an offering of worship and thanksgiving to the One who has given us everything we have.”

How many times have you seen someone decide that they’re just not treated fairly and they do what amounts to be stupid things to strike back? And we all know how that works out. It bites them, it brings them a bad reputation and if people know they are a Christian, it always puts Christians in a bad light. “Our” work is “our” work. We may be getting what we think is a bad deal, but doing work that doesn’t serve our neighbor and reflects poorly on Christ and Christian brothers and sisters really ends up only hurting the people who you’ve professed to be in fellowship with and the Father. Do we really want people to think we are all about shoddy, half baked service? Sure we aren’t always going to be great, but we should make our best effort to be as good as possible and never be perceived as “tanking the ball”. Someone will call us on it and we’re the one who looks bad in the end. That certainly should be our perspective in our work and no less in our family and our church.

Our efforts should even be thought of as an offering to God, not in the sense of earning anything or buying anything, but certainly in the sense of Thanksgiving.

Even when others fail us, refuse us, treat us poorly, we continue to serve because our service is always given in thanks to God. Take a break during the week, Wednesday mornings, the coffee shop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa.  10am, park behind the church. I will even buy you your first cup of coffee. No charge, no obligation.

The Veil is lifted from Jesus First St Johns February 15, 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 and all those who have been allowed a glimpse of Jesus as God as His children in baptism said … AMEN

Happy day after ST Valentine’s day! “A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine, as the former Bishop of TerniNarnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus (the Latin version of his name) was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household were baptized.[20] Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to proselytize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) himself. Claudius condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused.[21] Another narrative says he was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. [23] Archaeologists unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.”[1]

Valentines also seems to be another of those festivals that the world has co-opted and frankly corrupted. Yes, there is an element of romantic love, of Eros, in the Valentine story, it is much more about the agape love, what Valentine did in order to witness to Christ. There is little doubt in my mind that Valentine would be embarrassed beyond description for us and for himself to be associated with a Feast that the world has really corrupted.

   Of much more importance, much more, like more than infinitely more important, we remember the Transfiguration of Jesus today. Festivals of different saints are a great thing, especially when it’s one who like St Nicholas, Valentine, Patrick who are readily recognized by the secular world, and we don’t emphasize enough the importance of these saints, not for holidays, but because of how they lived and died for Jesus. But we also remember, that in Jesus we are all saints, Nicholas, Patrick, Valentine, great men, and they should be remember as examples of faithful living and maybe we should be more pro-active about observing their feasts and festivals. We look to those men for their example, we pray for God’s strength to emulate their lives, but we too are saints and we all are priests and we are all expected to come into the presence of the Father on the basis of our salvation in Jesus.

Jesus has shown Himself during the incarnation as a man, the Bible says a rather unremarkable looking man, you wouldn’t think much about Him at all if you walked by Him on the street. Those privileged disciples and by extension, now, us, get to see Jesus as He truly is. He is God, He is appearing to His disciples, in, no doubt, a much more muted form. We could not endure His splendor as God the Son, but in the Transfiguration there is no doubt that He is far above anything we are and the Father comes along and confirms, this is My Son! The veil has been lifted. There are a few times in the Bible where people have been left with a view that’s been hazed over, if not outright obstructed. Moses was in the actual presence of God and had to wear a veil among the people because they weren’t able to bear even a sort of reflected view of God’s Shekinah glory. Mary Magdalene had a veil over her eyes at the tomb. The two disciples didn’t see Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Dr David Lewis observes: “Paul discusses the cause of unbelief with the image of “the veil” an image where faith is likened to seeing and so unbelief is blindness.” We certainly know those who just will not see Jesus as Lord. I have no doubt, the Holy Spirit has presented Jesus, has tried to move some people and they will just not be budged, they like the blindness.

I certainly resonate with what Dr Lewis says in terms of Paul’s ministry and ministry today. Christian ministry, proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus is not for shrinking violets and the church has been guilty of that for decades and is becoming even less of a witness today. We are more concerned about offending others, while to quote Billy Graham, we’re offending God.

Dr Lewis notes: “Because of this [inability to see under the veil] Paul stresses the importance of conducting his ministry with openness/boldness. What is openly proclaimed is that Jesus is Lord.” Why proclaim Him? “The hope [Greek elpida] in the enduring/remaining glory…the new covenant … This hope motivates Paul to behave boldly/frankly/openly (marresia) in his ministry …”[2] As we should do.

Jesus has now unambiguously revealed Himself on that mountain and the Father has confirmed who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son.” We are God’s children, we are born again in baptism, we are His and we are strengthened through His Word in preaching and in Scripture and we are saved through the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are saved through His sacrifice, the payment of His perfect life as compensation, the just payment for our sins. This is our hope, this is the only hope of mankind, the Lord Jesus! And that is why we must boldly proclaim the hope and promise of Him, as Paul did. Jerome writes: “They [Moses, Elijah, the disciples, us], too, indeed are dear to Me, but He is My beloved; hear Him, therefore. They proclaim and teach Him, but you, hear Him; He is the Lord and Master, they are companions in servitude. Moses and Elias speak of Christ; they are your fellow servants; He is the Lord; hear Him. Do not render the same honor to fellow servants as to the Lord and Master. Hear only the Son of God.”

For this week spend some time in prayer asking for guidance to help you lift the veil from those you know. How can the Holy Spirit work through you? Who does He want you to help to lift the veil from their eyes to see the only hope and promise in the world? Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. The Holy Spirit has lifted the veil from we who are baptized and born again in Jesus.

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

[1] http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=159

[2] Dr David Lewis  “Concordia Journal/Winter 2015) pp 60-61

Sponsoring children through Christian organizations really works

My wife and I sponsored a child in Indonesia for a number of years, until he turned 18 and started his life. It was interesting to get mail from him and to write back and to learn about him, his family and life in Indonesia. It would be great to hear back from him. Life kind of got in the way with us, four years of active duty, four years of seminary and over four years getting started in ministry kind of got us off that track. Based on the following we should get back on track. Based on the following from Christianity Today, these sponsorship programs do work. (Bruce Wydick June 2013 pp 22, 23)

The study was done on Compassion International that dates back to the time of the Korean War. The organization started in the United States, was set up to support Korean children during and after the war.

“…In all six countries , we find that sponsorship results in better educational outcomes for children. Overall, sponsorship makes children 27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education. Child sponsorship also appears to be the great equalizer in education: In areas where outcomes are worse, such as sub-Saharan Africa, impacts are bigger. In countries where existing outcomes aren’t as bad, like in India and the Philippines, impacts are significant but smaller. In countries where existing outcomes are higher among boys, the impact on girls is larger; in counties where the existing educational outcomes are higher for girls, the impact on boys is larger. We even find some evidence for spillover effects on the unsponsored younger siblings of sponsored children.”

While Compassion does sort of shepherd things while the child is in school, there are very interesting results after school. “…when the child grows up, he is 14-18 percent more likely to obtain a salaried job, and 35 percent more likely to obtain a white-collar job. Many of the Compassion-sponsored children become teachers as adults instead of remaining jobless or working in menial agricultural labor. We found some evidence that they are more likely to grow up to be both community leaders and church leaders.”

I believe that the biggest crisis in America is the lack of hope. As most of society becomes functionally atheistic, and rejects the notion of anything after life; the more that society basis their expectations on the material, that which is easily destroyed, can easily malfunction, be lost. In all our affluence, we find more and more that the material just does not satisfy and the more we lose hope. Compassion is giving hope to children who live in much more dire circumstances than you can often imagine: “…In each of the studies, we found that sponsored children consistently had significantly higher expectations for their own schooling than unsponsored children, even when controlling for family and other factors…. Many of these findings came close to mirroring the adult differences we measured between formerly sponsored children and nonsponsored children.”

That is they are given hope in the here and now, hope that those around them probably don’t know. And since Compassion is a Christian organization, they are also getting the hope of eternal life in Jesus. So based on this article, my personal experience, I highly recommend this as something that your family could do, your children’s class, groups, sports teams. Yours or your spouses groups, Bible study classes. Cost of sponsorship is usually around $35 per month. Not exactly big bucks for us, but a whole new life, filled with hope for a child that lives in a place that is so deprived, so lacking in hope.