Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

Michael Arch Angel Spiritual Warfare

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Spiritual Warfare, Michael, Satan

Angels Watching over me [Amy Grant song]

Trinity Lutheran September 29, 2019

 

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 God’s people said AMEN

St Michael and all Angels day. Michael is an Archangel. There are millions of angels and the counterparts of angel, which are … demons. Lucifer, Son of the Morning Star (Isaiah 14:12), decided he should have a better gig, decided to push back against God (for a being created to be the most brilliant of all angels,) being brilliant can be an idol, it can cloud your knowledge and judgment. Lucifer realized that God intended for the angelic to serve humanity and Lucifer was not interested in serving beings he felt were so far beneath him. Lucifer thought he was so brilliant, he was bullet-proof, he learned the hard way. There’s kind of a fourth archangel, named Raphael, who is mentioned in some of the Apocryphal books.

It is said that each angel has their own sphere of influence. Some say down to an individual person, in Matthew 18:10 Jesus says: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” The senior angels, are in the immediate presence of the Father. Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation, he came from the Father’s presence. Tradition says; “Michael is in charge of spiritual warfare. Gabriel is in charge of messages and announcements. Lucifer of knowledge.” Gabriel was the Herald of God, Wikipedia defines herald as: more correctly, a herald of arms, an officer of arms… Heralds were originally messengers sent by the nobility to convey messages or proclamations—in this sense being the predecessors of the modern diplomats.”  When you show up to tell people what God is about to do, that’s an important guy. Lucifer was in charge of knowledge, when man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge the mixing of good and evil together. Much could be said that man in innocence would have had a life of peace and joy. Lucifer decided that we should think we are smart, because of that, we’ve decided we are smarter than God, so Lucifer who’s a whole lot smarter than us, should think he’s smarter than God.

We focus on the leader of the angels, after Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Michael, is the archangel of “spiritual warfare”. Michael being the leader of the heavenly host, and that is what host means, the army of heaven. John tells us specifically in Revelation that Michael and his angels are fighting Satan. The angels are certainly God’s, but this is written in the sense that a military commander would refer to his men, those he is directly in charge of and responsible for. Michael is also the patron saint of the military, police and fire fighters. Do not pray to Michael if you are in the military or public safety, we always pray to the Father in the Name of the Son. Michael is a sort of icon of the Father’s protection, one of the ways the Father will send help you or defend you. I used to have a little medallion of St Brendan in my coxswain kit in the Coast Guard. First, he’s Irish, second, he was the patron saint of navigators. Ok, call it a good luck charm, bit of superstition, but I certainly didn’t take out my charm to pray before going on a case. But when I went into my case for something it was a comfort, because it ultimately meant God was with me, watching over me, I had no doubt of that.

Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are called “saints”, that is in the sense of “sanctus”, holy. Since it seems the angel who is highlighted is Michael, we assume, “spiritual warfare” is recognized as a priority. Our epistle lesson and Old Testament lesson, both discuss Michael. In Daniel 10:21the angel tells Daniel that he was held up by a demon and that Michael had to come to help him in order for him to deliver his message to Daniel. In Revelation John tells us how Michael and his angels drove Satan out of heaven. This is the most lopsided “war” imaginable, the problem is that you and I are in the middle of that war. But it’s certainly lopsided since the outcome has been determined. The Book of Revelation tells us of the ultimate fate of Satan and the demons. But for now, the world is in Satan’s grasp. Sin abounds in the world, and it seems humanity likes it that way. And let’s face it, we like it, sin is attractive, if it’s prettied up, “hey what’s the harm, right? “John Warwick Montgomery observes: “…the devil’s main act of hatred is not to destroy people (at least not at first), but to get them by masquerading as angels of light. The devil’s best disguise is piety. From the beginning, he’s cloaked …beneath a robe of theological inquiry – ‘Did God really say?’” Go ahead, take a bite, doesn’t matter of what, so long as it separates you from your Savior Jesus, and it must be OK, because it’s so purty, nice, I like it. And that’s how we make decisions today and Satan helps us move there.

Many people have this odd idea that because sin is so prevalent God can’t or won’t do anything about it, Montgomery goes on to say: “…God has even anticipated the demonic opposition of the adversary and the determined seductiveness of the tempter and has systematically integrated it into his own world order (Rev 2:10; 13:5 ff). The devil is the power in God’s world who always wills evil, yet always effects good. Satan does not escape from God’s ‘ordo’, but remains co-ordinated in it,” It’s not whether God is in control, He certainly is, we see that in the life of Jesus, read about it in the Book of Revelation. What Satan does, God permits. Satan is a completely, evil, depraved, vicious being, no doubt, if Satan were left to his own devices, this world would be an unbearable hell. Paraphrase what Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt, what Satan intends for evil, God uses for good.

Historically we like to think warfare is cut and dry, there’s the enemy, we protect ourselves from him and trust that God will save us. Dr Montgomery observes, it’s not that cut and dry, the devil presents himself as an angel of light, he can because he was an angel of light. He can be as pious as anyone, it’s not really hard to do, at least for what he needs. We have to be vigilant, we have to be discerning, to be faithful in prayer and ready to follow God’s leading. We may think we know what we’re doing, but the whole point of warfare, spiritual or worldly, is to undermine the enemy. To Satan, we as a Christian, baptized, strengthened by the Body and Blood of Jesus, faithful in attendance, hearing the preached Word, we are the enemy. It’s not hard for Satan to create all kinds of dislike, confusion and outright hostility. We have to be constantly on guard as to what the forces of evil do to Christians individually and as a group. We rely on God’s promise; Deuteronomy 33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you,…” We only do that trusting in Him, in the pastor He has sent to lead and in our fellow Christians. I’m certainly not saying that this is a formula for perfect peace and harmony, the demonic works hard and constantly, they’ve been doing this for thousands of years, it’s not hard to find some weak point. It’s up to us to be vigilant, to test the spirits as we are told, to rely on our Savior. There are demons around us seeking to influence us to mislead us and to deceive us. David Petersen on Issues Etc with Todd Wilkins also suggests: “Pastors in the Lutheran Church will do house blessings, it’s not an elaborate ritual, it will drive demons from the home [reminds me, I should do that here!]  it’s a few prayers and readings from Scripture, we are promised that God’s word is enough to drive off demons. This is also why we should have family devotions, husbands and wives should pray together. We shouldn’t underestimate demons or mess around with these beings. [The Ouija Board was invented in Chestertown? If there’s one in your house I would destroy it and just never mess around with those things. Christ crucified has defeated the demonic, the evil in the world, that does not mean it’s dead, we’ve seen terrorist acts in the world, Satan is more than capable of spiritual terrorist attacks. But the evil in the spiritual world can be confronted and driven away, partly by us not involving ourselves or believing the things of the world that is constantly manipulated and played by the demonic. Through Christ’s life and death we are equipped through baptism, His Body and Blood, the Word, all the armor we need to defeat the enemy. As Paul tells us in Romans in all these things we are more then conquerors through Christ who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin. He has risen! He has risen indeed Alleluja

 

 

Remember and record how God has moved in your life.

I really encourage people to journal. It’s a rare sermon when I’m not encouraging the congregation to do take the sermon topic and write about it from their own perspective. “Spiritual memory is crucial in the Christian life. Do you vividly recall times when you know God spoke to you? It would be tragic if, in your haste to advance in your Christian faith, you neglected to leave spiritual markers at the key crossroads of your life.” (Henry and Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 174).

“Hearing God” means a lot of things. That movement in your soul, heart, head however you put it, when it’s almost impossible to resist that you know God is moving you. The Blackabys refer to spiritual markers in physical terms. God picked me up and moved me from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, so I’m not going to see physical markers. But there are those markers I remember, I think the Holy Spirit brings them, to mind as a way to keep me on course.

We need to do a much better job of remembering the times when God moved us in our lives. That doesn’t mean the tedious evangelical testimonials, “God spoke to me because I’m special and He told me to tell you”‘ ya? No! God speaks to all of us, sure share what He says to you; Mark it down in your heart, mark it where He’s doing it, why, what’s going on around you. God moved you, He moves all His children, so for the tedious, self-absorbed types get over yourself and develop a spirit of humility and grace. I’m really tired of the big mouths that make Christians and Christianity look like buffoons.

“A spiritual marker identifies a time when you clearly knew that God had guided you.” I know exactly what Blackaby is saying. I can’t pinpoint it and I’m not unique because God did it to me, but I am loved by my Father who takes an interest in all those who He has made His children and is constantly working in their lives. We should keep track of those times. As I’ve written, I make a point of what the people in the congregation should take home and journal about. I have no doubt that God will use that to reach each person and guide them the way He wants them to go. Sit down and journal about these times in your life and use them to grow in spiritual maturity. Praise and glorify God for the things that He has done in your life and encourage others to learn from what you’re doing and apply it in their own lives. Go back on a regular basis to see what God has done in your life and raise up thanksgiving and share those with others. Not that you’re somehow spiritually superior, but to encourage them to see God working in their own lives.

If you don’t confess Jesus as Lord, you’re not a Christian 1 John 4: 1-21 First St Johns May 3, 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 confess Jesus as Lord of their life said … AMEN!

This is becoming an overwhelming issue for Christians in a pluralistic society. John’s words are more important today than ever. Many people acknowledge Jesus, but few really see Him as Lord of their life. John’s epistle is dated to the end of the first century, about sixty years after the crucifixion and resurrection. The church of Christ has grown, it is catholic at this point, that is universal, there are many kinds of people, in many different places that profess Jesus and worship with fellow Christians. The world today may be difficult in our post-Christian world, as compared to the world which until recently was at least culturally Christian. People in the world today often do not think of themselves as “Christian” as those of us who are in the Christian church. They may see Jesus as a “great teacher, etc”, but not as who He truly Is, that is the Lord of those who confess Jesus as He who died for our sins and was resurrected to give us the assurance of our resurrection into eternal life in the perfect New World. As much as the world has become very alien and antagonistic, or at least indifferent to Christianity today, it’s not hard to imagine how much more the world was that way to the church at the end of the first century. There was “gods”, beliefs, philosophies across the board, a supermarket of beliefs for anyone to choose whatever they wanted. With few exceptions, there was very little integrity in any of these beliefs, groups and teachings were organized to support anything you could want ranging from love of money, love of self, epicureanism a system that taught how to live the so-called “good life”, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. And of course to beliefs that were entirely about us and our works.

John is the last of the original disciples. There are bishops, even some regional assemblies that guided the church, but if there was an ultimate head of the church on earth he would have been John. He is very elderly at this time, probably around 90 years old, very much revered as a teacher. Unlike most people at this point, John’s “been there, done that and certainly has the t-shirt”. He was the disciple who was closest to Jesus, unlike the rest he was right there at the crucifixion and was at the resurrection and was involved in the church for the last sixty year. At this point in history, there are many heretical beliefs that are creeping in to Christianity. You often see other “Christian” beliefs, today with churches, who question the need for Christian doctrine, “it’s all about love”, they claim, that’s all you need. It is doctrine that gives us what it means to be truly Christian and to counter all the false teaching out there which were there from the beginning and are out there today. As we’ve discussed many times, the word “love” is very subjective, the word we use today, has about four different words in the original Greek. John uses the word frequently in this epistle. He starts the letter with the word “beloved”, the Greek word is  avgaphto,j we’ve talked about the Greek word  avgapa,w In a Christian context it is the love that Jesus showed to us, it is a love that is to all and under all circumstances, that is self-sacrificing, concerned with the best welfare of those who God leads us to, to be in relationship with. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading talks about us all being a part of the same vine. We are all branches, we have the same source, the same relationship, being part of the same organism. Jesus said I am the “true vine”, there is no other authentic vine, only Me and only those who are branches of Me, the true vine. We abide in Him as a vine, an extension of Him and because of that He abides in us. The Greek word me,nw not just to be a part of, but to wait with, endure with, and as Jesus says to bear fruit and of course part of that fruit is that selfless, sacrificing love that we have for Him and brothers and sisters in Jesus. We have that love toward all we encounter, all people who the Holy Spirit brings us in contact with. But especially means to endure and to enhance the vine. To be fruitful and faithful to the vine and all the branches. In today’s world, we too often see that as being a little too soft, lacking discernment.

John calls those he writes to beloved, those who are the favorites and we are favorites, we have been chosen to be part of the vine, so we are very favored, also dear, important, close, part of the same vine, the same Body. Also esteemed, since we are so highly favored, each of us who are baptized in Jesus, we should think of each of us baptized in Him as special and important. Edward Englebrecht writes: “One story says that the congregation asked John to say a few words to them. By then, the aged apostle could not put many words together, but he would say repeatedly, ‘Little children, love one another”.[1] We are all part of the same vine, the same body, our first priority, the great commandment is to love the Lord, the “true vine”, but to also love our neighbor. How much more of a neighbor can we have then the branches that we are a part of and surround us, the branches of the true vine of Jesus Christ?

But the world continues to push on us, which is spiritual warfare that John is warning us about. We are to test the spirits, and spirits can come to us in many shapes, forms and ways. What you see on the internet, the movie you watched last night, the people you encounter on the street, on and on. We are to treat them with respect, love, that they are dear to us, they are made in God’s image. But we are always to test those spirits, if they show themselves to be of Christ, that they are baptized and take the Body and Blood of Jesus, they are a brother or sister and should be esteemed and treated accordingly. But if they do not confess Jesus, if they do not produce the fruit of the Spirit, we need to remember that as we relate to them. The world claims there are a lot of things that are “truth” that do not have anything to do with Jesus. John saw many false prophets in the first century and it is no less today. People who are teaching things that either straight out reject Jesus, or just ignore Him and profess things that have nothing to do with life and life more abundant as Jesus promises us and as a part of that vine that is all about Jesus.

Take that journal out. How do you test the spirits? It is not difficult, when we interact someone, it’s all about how what they say fits with what Jesus tells us. If they make a claim that doesn’t result in Jesus being Lord of our life, as Dr Martin Luther wrote: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”[2]

If what you hear conflicts with what Dr Luther wrote, it’s not of Christ, it’s wrong. How do you address what you hear or see in faith to Jesus?

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

[1] Edward Englebrecht  “Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for students” p 438

[2] Martin Luther’s Large Catechism

Ghosts, spirits, demons

This may seem like kind of a goofy subject, but frankly considering all the supernatural themed shows on television, and a couple of experiences I’ve had as a parish pastor, this subject really should be raised and discussed from a Christian perspective. I happen to agree with the writer, that there are demons in the world, that they do try to convince people they are  ghosts of relatives, friends that kind of thing. OK, goofy, but the demonic wants only one thing, to take your attention away from Christ. So if you get caught up in doing “ghost hunts” through old houses, hey so much the better, keeps you from being a Christian disciples. So consider the following and I certainly would like to hear back from you to discuss further.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Biblical Worldview

by Rick Barry on June 3, 2010; last featured October 28, 2014

Audio Version

Ghosts. What do you really think about them? If someone pushes us, most will admit a degree of love for scary stories. But what about reports of real ghosts, even by sincere Christians? Few Christians seem to know what to think. If we look to the Scriptures, however, we find solid answers, even on this murky subject.

The Fall of Satan

In The Fall of Satan you will discover who Satan is, when he rebelled, and other biblical teaching about this spiritual adversary and his angels.

Both children and adults alike wonder about the existence of ghosts. Some reject the notion. Others insist that ghosts exist and cite experiences—their own or friend-of-a-friend stories—as proof.

But what is a ghost? Although definitions vary, the most common one is that ghosts are the disembodied spirits of dead people that linger on earth. According to tradition, ghosts are invisible but can permit humans to see them.

Of course, either a thing exists or it doesn’t. No amount of belief will cause ghosts to exist if they don’t; nor could personal opinion cause ghosts not to exist if, in fact, they truly do exist. Because a person’s belief in ghosts creates very serious and far-reaching ramifications, it’s a topic that no Christian should ignore.

Classic Ghost Stories

Tales involving apparitions drift down to us from ancient times. Various languages contributed words such as wraith (Scottish), phantom (French), specter (Latin), shade (Old English), banshee (Gaelic), and poltergeist (German).

In ancient Iraq, the Epic of Gilgamesh portrayed Gilgamesh conversing with the spirit of his dead friend Enkidu. Old Egypt left a cryptic tale about the ghost of Nebusemekh chatting with the high priest of Amun-Re. Such stories prove nothing, of course, except that the concept goes back a long way. In fact, even Christ’s twelve disciples fearfully mistook Jesus for a spirit when He appeared walking on the sea at night (Mark 6:49).

Homer included ghosts in his Odyssey and Iliad, and Shakespeare cast roles for spirits in Hamlet and Macbeth. Whether these authors believed in ghosts is unknown. What they understood, however, is that a truly chilling ghost story can grip an audience.

Growing Interest

Yes, ghost stories have been around for ages, and some (such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol) have become fixtures in modern culture. However, in recent decades the genre has exploded with an abundance of movies (Field of Dreams, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Sixth Sense, as examples) and TV shows (such as Lost and Ghost Whisperer) that depend on spirits to drive the plots. Nonfiction programs such as Ghost Hunters attempt to investigate claims of ghosts using infrared cameras and other devices.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN GHOSTS? THE QUESTION IS HUGE. GETTING PEOPLE TO BELIEVE IN GHOSTS AUTOMATICALLY FORCES THEM TO REJECT KEY BIBLE VERSES.

Does a diet of such entertainment influence anyone? Undoubtedly. In 2006 the Barna Group published the results of nationwide studies involving more than 4,000 teens. The study found that 73% of the youth surveyed had “engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity, beyond mere media exposure or horoscope usage.” One tenth had participated in séances. Nine percent had visited a supposed medium or spiritual guide.1

The Barna Group’s vice president noted that teens “cut and paste supernatural experiences and perspectives from a variety of sources—from the movies and books they read, from their experiences, from the Internet, from their peers and families, from any place they’re comfortable with.” This is a problem for adults as well.

An astounding find is that only 28% of churched teenagers could recall hearing any teaching at church in the past year that helped to define their understanding of the supernatural. Is it any wonder that so many teens enter adulthood without the answers they need on this topic?

Shadows of Doubt

Most reports of ghost sightings include details that defy logic. For instance, most alleged apparitions are clothed. But if a ghost is the spirit of a dead person, shouldn’t a spirit appear unclothed after shedding his earthly body and its garments? Is one to conclude that pants, shirts, dresses, and medieval armor contain spirits of their own that faithfully cling to the ghost of a person?

Further challenges to logic stem from stories of ghost ships (such as the Flying Dutchman), ghost trains, and similar accounts. Does a vehicle constructed by human hands gain a “soul” that reappears later?

People who listen to ghost stories around a campfire understand that their friends have concocted those tales. The wish to embellish a spooky yarn naturally explains the addition of such silly details as ghostly nightgowns and horse carriages. But what about people who insist they really did see spirit manifestations, clothes and all? Is it possible that some individuals—including sincere, Bible-believing Christians—truly observe supernatural apparitions?

God—the Creator of the universe—offers solid answers to man’s questions. His Word, the Bible, is the foundation for understanding both the visible and invisible world because God is Lord of both the natural and the supernatural. Regardless of whether a question concerns the origin of life or human souls, the first resource to check is God’s Word.

Even new students of the Bible quickly notice that it never portrays souls as lingering after death. (The immediate destination of heaven or hell rules out that idea. See, for instance, Luke 16:22–23, Luke 23:43, and 2 Corinthians 5:8.) Yet Scripture bluntly affirms the existence of immaterial intelligences. Mark 5:2–15 details Jesus’s encounter with a man indwelt by a multitude of unclean spirits. Christ ordered them out but permitted them to enter a herd of swine. In Samaria, Philip preached and “unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed” (Acts 8:7). Later, Acts 19:14–17 tells of a man inhabited by a demon. The sons of Sceva tried to exorcise it, but the man attacked them. However, these aren’t ghosts; they’re demons—fallen angels—governed by Satan (Matthew 12:22–28).

Bible scholar Charles Ryrie noted, “The very fact that demons can enter human or animal bodies shows they can pass through barriers that would restrict human beings. . . . Demons are not humans; neither are they God. But they are superhuman with superior intelligence and experience and powers. To deny the existence of demons is not skepticism; it only displays ignorance. To be unrealistic about their power is foolhardy.”2

Interestingly, the Bible records one occasion when the living appeared to contact the dead. King Saul donned a disguise and visited a medium to summon the dead prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7–21). An apparition that looked like Samuel appeared to the witch—causing her to cry out in fright.

However, this passage doesn’t suggest that séances work, and it absolutely doesn’t condone witchcraft. Some scholars believe that God sent Samuel on this unique occasion.3 But others believe a demon was impersonating the prophet based on the fact that he made some false claims. For example, commentator John Gill notes that the apparition warned that all of Saul’s sons would die on the next day, but some survived.4

Either way, the emphasis is that Saul had sunk so low that he tried to dabble in the occult, which God condemns. The next day Saul died.

Grave Conclusions

No evidence has produced a single fact that should sway a Christian into believing that the spirits of deceased people can loiter on earth. In light of the Bible, the only conclusion is that ghost sightings are either the figments of overactive imaginations, or else they are demons.

In his book The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, and Psychic Phenomena, Christian author Ron Rhodes states, “People sometimes genuinely encounter a spirit entity—though not a dead human. Some people encounter demonic spirits who may mimic dead people in order to deceive the living (see 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1–3). Many who claim to have encountered such spirit entities have some prior involvement in the occult.”5

But why would demons want to deceive the living by impersonating the dead?

As servants of Satan and enemies of God, they would have every reason to cast doubt on God’s Word and its warnings about future judgment. Getting people to believe in ghosts automatically forces them to reject key Bible verses (seeHebrews 9:27).

Do you believe in ghosts? The question is huge. Coming to a wrong conclusion about the afterlife has eternal consequences, and the wrong choice on this side of the grave can condemn a soul to eternal agony on the other side.

Celebration, Feasting, Drinking, because we are His and that’s something to celebrate Isaiah 25: 6-9, Matthew 22: 1-14 First St Johns October 12, 2014

For the audio of this sermon please click on the play button

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 God’s children celebrated and said AMEN
Feasting, that is really about? … Celebrating! Absolutely! Many churches have banquets to celebrate the year, and the ministry God leads them to perform, to recognize those who serve their church and in a festive way God’s love and delight in us. I’m told that the men here at First St Johns used to bring a keg of beer into the meeting room in the school building. I’m not encouraging the idea, but hey we’re not Baptists! Martin Luther certainly did nothing to discourage drinking of beer. In our reading in Isaiah, the Hebrew word that is used for banquet is hT,v.mi ((mishtah) which means “feast, drink, banquet”. I’m not saying “hey, let’s go get a keg”, I’m not saying no, just no stupid. The ancient Israelites would have readily understood that part of what Isaiah is describing as a banquet would be drinking, probably wine. We live in a world where fear is so prevailing. Yea, we celebrate, but it’s always with sort of detachment, at arm’s length with each other. We get to celebrate once a week! Too many people see it as a chore, an obligation to be fulfilled. We get to be in His presence every Sunday morning and that is a celebration. I hope it comes across to you, that when I lead worship I’m doing it in a way that is enthusiastic, excited, I get to be here, I get to lead worship in this magnificent place, I get to tell everyone how great God our Father is and what His Son Jesus Christ has done for us. If that’s not worthy of celebration, well what is? We can get into a discussion about how we worship. Many people would claim that liturgical worship isn’t “celebration”, that it’s just a rote way of doing the same thing. We’ve let the world tell us how to “celebrate”, we forget what celebration is in the worship of Jesus.
A “Satanic Black Mass” was held recently in Oklahoma City. Fox News noted that “dozens” participated in the mass, while those who stood opposed to the “mass” far outnumbered the participants. Kudos to the Roman Catholic Archbishop who held Holy Mass at a local church, that was attended by over 1200 people, almost a hundred times those who attended the Satanic Mass. The Archbishop’s message was something to truly celebrate in the face of the world’s depraved observance: “as Christians “we know that Christ conquered Satan. The war has been won, Christ has conquered, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes to reign forever.”1
Notice how the world mocks Christianity? They mock the mass, the liturgy, worship like we Lutherans conduct. You never see them mock worship like those of, let’s just say those who are all happy-clappy, telling you that it’s all about you and being “happy” and being entertainment versus what we do, which is worship. I truly think of our worship as a time of joy, there should be exuberance and celebration, I feel joyful and enthusiastic when I lead worship and I hope you will tell me if I’m not being joyful or it’s not coming across. I don’t see worship as a chore, I see it as a couple who are members here told me, “I get to come to church and worship”. The rest of the world holds back in fear and worry, they are afraid that they will be criticized or that their dignity will be affected. We get to celebrate every week and as I greet people as they leave worship I see joy, I see enthusiasm. But then they go back into the world, they let the world’s agenda dampen their joy and enthusiasm. They let the world’s message beat them down, “that wasn’t ‘fun’, that was boring, rote ritual”. No it’s not! We get to remember all that has been done for us, all that we have to be joyful and thankful for. Why do we let the world impose on us with its cynical and depressing attitude?
It’s often because we really believe the world’s message, that it’s a scary, fearful, ratrace, and now that you’re back in that world, you have to put aside that church stuff and realize how scary it really is.
It’s not! Unless you let it be. We have the promises, grace and love of Christ in our lives. There’s nothing to be afraid of! Jesus tells His disciples in John 16: 33, just before He is to be crucified, that yes, difficult times are ahead; “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The world can’t harm you, the world’s opinion doesn’t matter, I have overcome the world and since I am in you and you are in me and I have overcome the world, you have what I have given you, what I have promised you, joy, confidence, the knowledge that this world is not the real thing, it is not genuine. What the world says and does is phoney, only what I say, the Lord and Savior of your life is genuine, what you receive here in worship is genuine and you should celebrate that and take that attitude back into the world. We need to push back against the world. We are all so afraid of rejection, “oh here comes that crazy Bible thumper”. Heavens, that takes away our dignity. At last week’s conference someone made the comment that there is always push back against our message in Jesus. D’uh! Of course there is, how could it be otherwise? Jesus told us there would be. The conference was centered on our ministry to younger generations, that these people have left the church. Why? I submit because there is a serious lack of genuineness in the church. Why believe something that no one really stands up for and asserts that this is what is really important. No one is going to buy something that they feel is not genuine in its claims.
We don’t celebrate our faith and our worship, we don’t show what it means to be genuine in our discipleship and then we wonder why no one is buying. Those in the world know how phoney and irrelevant the world’s institutions are. They are looking for the genuine and we have it right here and we get to celebrate it in worship every week. I submit to you that instead of this sanctuary and building being so empty the rest of the week, that we come for other worship, Matins, confession, prayer, other small groups. What else can we do to make our worship more genuine, every day, not just on Sunday? Let’s spend more time in prayer, studying Scripture, sharing our faith with brothers and sisters and those in the world. That’s what the younger generations wants and they know, that when it’s done right, not the phoney stuff the world tries to convince us is “church”, that it does produce joy, peace, comfort and assurance that God is with us, that He loves us 24/7, that He wants what is best for us. That’s why Satanists mock what we have and not the phoney worship. But we take it for granted, we let the world drive us down, instead of us going out and showing the world what true joy and love is.
Isaiah is telling the Israelites, this is what’s going to happen. It’s not some vague metaphor, it is genuine, true, giving hope and assurance. When you really let it become part of you, realize what God is promising, you should be at least this high off the ground (holding your fingers at least two inches apart). God is going to provide us a feast of rich food of well aged wine. He’s telling this to a people who often live hand to mouth, we get plenty of food, they never had enough, God is telling them ‘you will have a gift far beyond your imagination, you will have joy and all you could want.’ Jesus is telling us that we are not worthy of His great wedding feast, but you know what? He wants us to have it, He wants us to have a time of joy and plenty beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Even now we are so blessed, provided with so much, and yet we have no joy. Please remember what we’ve been given, share it with others, the joy grows only when you share it with others and then you see the effect of their joy and how it builds yours in Christ our Savior. Spend some time journaling on all that you have to be joyful for.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

All the Lord’s people prophets

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and of God the Son and of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the power of the Holy Spirit said … AMEN
The feast of Pentecost is the oldest continuous celebration that Christians observe. Reason being it was originally a Jewish festival that God directed Israel to remember going all the way back to Deuteronomy 16:10. It is originally referred to by Yahweh, as communicated to Moses, almost what we would think of as Thanksgiving in the United States. Israel was to raise up thanks to Yahweh for the “first fruits, the first harvest”. God reminds Israel: “I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’ (Joshua 24:13) Israel would have a lot to be thankful for. The Israelites had to fight their way in, but when they made it, there is ready made homes, fields, vineyards. They had to make their way into Palestine/the Promised Land, but Yahweh intends that when they get there, they will be set, they will be free from the paganism they escaped from in Egypt and that surrounds them and they would be able to provide for themselves. Pentecost was also a day to remember that Yahweh gave Israel His Law. The Law is what Israel is built on. Jewish people believe that they are saved by the Law, so Pentecost is to celebrate what they perceive as their salvation in the Law. In response there was only continual griping. God is providing them with manna to live on, He gives them water, He gives them the Law, He gives them the promise of a fruitful life in the Promised Land and what is their response? “We are still in the desert, we’re sick of this manna and we don’t want to go to the Promised Land because we are afraid and we just don’t trust your promises.” So God hears the griping, He gets angry, that means Moses gets angry who whines to God and Yahweh tells Moses to bring the 70 elders of Israel together for a huddle. Moses is fed up with the complaining and so Yahweh promises: “Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.” (Numbers 11:17) Life is not a bed of roses for Israel, but they are about to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. Considering everything God has promised them it’s a life that’s not to shabby and their response is to continue to fuss and whine.
Take out your bulletin. Look at the Numbers reading verse 25. “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him [Moses], and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders.” What do you notice about “God’s Spirit”? It’s capitalized, a proper noun. “What” you say, “this is 1,500 years before the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples, what’s going on here?” Yahweh gave Moses the Holy Spirit probably right from the start of His revelations to Moses. William Wrede describes it: “…the Lord comes down in the cloud and gives them a gift. The same gift of the Spirit given to Moses is now shared with the seventy. Moses loses none of his gift, but as one candle lights another, the Spirit is given to each and they all begin to prophesy. This is God’s gift to his people to be a blessing to others.”1 I really like that imagery, while the Holy Spirit didn’t descend upon the Jews in the desert the same way He did on the disciples in Jerusalem, the outcome is still the same. Men possessed by the Holy Spirit and led by Him to prophesy. Clearly a preview of the Christian Pentecost here in the Sinai desert 1500 years before Jesus. These two men, Eldad and Medad, apparently didn’t check their e-mail or got caught in traffic, and didn’t make it to the elder’s meeting at the tabernacle and they are back in the camp, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t miss them. Joshua rushes to Moses to rat them out, contrary to expectation Moses is not at all disturbed: “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets.”
Fast forward 1,500 years, we see a stark contrast. Where Israel had God’s promises of material satisfaction in Israel, they had the tangible tablets of the Law, and some of them even had the Holy Spirit. We find Jesus’ disciples huddled together in a house in Jerusalem. While everyone else in Jerusalem is probably out, celebrating the third most important feast-day in Judaism, the disciples probably still have a “bunker mentality”, they remember Jesus’ promise, ten days earlier: “…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” (Acts 1:5, 8) OK, fine, but when will that happen? In the meantime, “we’re going to hide out here, our Shepherd’s gone, no doubt there are people who want to arrest us and are looking for us. Until such time as Jesus does what He promised and we have no idea what that really means”, maybe they don’t remember Numbers 11, “we will make ourselves very scarce.”
Hiding away, cowering. Certainly an odd contrast to their ancestors who are standing out in the desert heckling Moses, demanding immediate satisfaction. The disciples are together, they are trusting in Jesus’ promise, they don’t know how that will happen, but in faith they wait. Their faith is rewarded, probably beyond anything they imagined: “…a sound like a mighty rushing wind..” You’ve probably heard people describe an on-coming powerful tornado,… they often say it sounds like an approaching freight train, concentrated power and fury. Can’t we imagine the Holy Spirit’s approach being at least like a freight train? The Greek is pneu,matoj a`gi,ou in English we have the word pneumatic, as in pneumatic tool, how is a pneumatic tool powered? … Compressed air, we have tools that use the power of compressed air. In Hebrew the word is x;Wr [ruach] which also means “wind, spirit”. Both usages imply momentous power. This wasn’t just a sudden burst of wind, but an enormous, continuous blast, a strong enough blast that all these people in Jerusalem, our reading says “…devout men from every nation under heaven..” rush together, “bewildered”, what is this noise! We don’t rush into the street at any random burst of wind, we might take a quick look out, but normally we don’t pay anymore attention. Then “…divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them” Now that we have your attention, you will hear us preach in your native language. This is all the work of the Holy Spirit, a clear demonstration that God is at work, the Holy Spirit inspires Peter to preach in a way he would never have before (this is the same guy who didn’t want to talk about Jesus to a few people after Jesus had been arrested. Now Peter is proclaiming the Gospel to thousands.) From this Peter is used to bring three thousand souls to know Jesus as their Savior.
Remember they are here to celebrate the “Feast of the First Fruits” those who God chose to come to faith are now the “First Fruits” of the Christian church. Philip Schaff notes: “This festival was admirably adapted for the opening event in the history of the apostolic church. It pointed to the first Christian harvest … We may trace to this day not only the origin of the mother church at Jerusalem, but also the conversion of visitors from other cities, as Damascus, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome, who on their return would carry the glad tidings to their distant homes…”2
We who are chosen by God to be saved in Christ, baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Spirit, disciples and apostles of Christ, we are called to proclaim Him just as the disciples did on the Festival of First Fruits. We are called to proclaim Him in the language and understanding of those we know, being used by the Holy Spirit to reach those He has put in our lives to point to the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that only He can promise. Take some time this week in prayer, help us Father to feel the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to live that life in Him and to the world. The Spirit’s power in the wind, but to also pass from you to those He leads you to, like a candle lighting another candle. And also as our young men are “lighted” by the Holy Spirit in recognition of their confirmation today.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

Satan prowls to inflict trials on us

Satan prowls to inflict trials on us
First St Johns June 1, 2014

Lord we raise up to You Jesus’ prayer that we are Yours, that we are in the world, but subject to the attacks of the world, subject to maliciousness of Satan and his demons, the malignant attacks of Satan to inflict death. We know that Your Holy Spirit protects us, but we also know that being foreigners in this world that we will be attacked. We are behind enemy lines and while we are faithful to You, we will be hated and people will speak evil about us. We know Father that You watch over us, protect us and ultimately return us to be with You, in the world You intended for us, to be citizens of the New Jerusalem. 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 saved and protected in Jesus Christ said … AMEN!
He has risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah. We are now at the end of the Easter season, we held Ascension Day worship on Thursday, only a few of you are probably aware of that… Our Gospel reading this morning is part of Jesus’ great priestly prayer. His prayer could be characterized in legal terms of His summary argument, He is at the end of His ministry in the incarnation. Only about half His prayer is in today’s reading, the prayer is a lot of what Jesus’ entire purpose was in the incarnation: “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou has given Me to do.” The Greek word teleio,w this same word is used by Jesus shortly after His prayer, John’s Gospel says that Jesus’ last word on the cross was tete,lestai which is the passive form of teleio,w In His “Priestly” prayer, He is saying that the goal He has been sent to accomplish has been achieved. On the cross He is saying that the goal He has been sent to accomplish has been achieved through Him. In the Coast Guard while you are conducting a mission, there are a series of messages sent to the next level of command, at my station we would send what are called “sitreps” to Group Boston on the progress of the mission, there would be a final “sitrep”, situation report, that would report the outcome of the mission. In Jesus’ final “sitrep” He is reporting to the Father that I have “glorified” You in My life. He goes on to say I have also organized a group of disciples who will be going into the world to be our avpo,stoloj our representatives, our messengers. They are still disciples, still learners, as Christians always are, but now they are God’s messengers, which we also become when we are taught and confirmed in the faith. Jesus is saying I have accomplished this goal of the incarnation. When Jesus is on the cross He is saying that the goal of redemption has been accomplished through Him, the sins of the world have been redeemed, they have been paid for, it has been done/finished through Him.
In His “High Priestly Prayer”, Jesus now goes on to say: “I have given them Thy word; and ‘the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” When we are in Jesus we are like Him, that we are not of this world, we are of Him, in this world. Jesus goes on to say: “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” The “evil one” can be translated to be the “vicious one, lewd, malicious, malignant, one who inflicts pain, causes calamity, affliction”. When we hear the word “malignant” what do we usually think of? … A malignant cancer. What is a “malignant cancer”, a cancer that causes death. The “evil one” Jesus refers to, Satan and his “malignant demons”, cause death, our sin gives them the opportunity to inflict death. Jesus is praying for our protection and we are certainly protected. But we are still subject to attack and it is how we respond to those attacks that is what truly matters as disciples and apostles of Christ.
Johnny had been misbehaving and was sent to his room. After a while he emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and then said a prayer. “Fine” said the pleased mother, “If you ask God not to misbehave, He will help you.” “Oh”, Johnny said, “I didn’t ask Him to help me not misbehave, I asked Him to help you put up with me.” As the Father’s still imperfect children, we still misbehave, as Peter points out Satan still continues to prowl about seeking someone to devour, Satan continues to try to find ways to provoke us to misbehave and we trust that God will continue to put up with our misbehavior in response to Satan’s provocations.
I have this big brown “Day-Timer” that I keep reminders of the tasks that I want to accomplish day to day, I also keep some reminders/promises that God makes to us all and one of them is this quote from Peter. I would encourage you to keep this as a constant reminder; “Your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Instead of “someone” though I substitute “Jim”, so it’s “the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking Jim to devour.” This is a very compelling warning. I like to remember that the reality is, we are the foreigners, we are the outsiders, Jesus refers to Satan as the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11 KJV). It is to recognize the reality that Satan is still very much a malignant force in this world, he inflicts death and pain and misery and provokes sin at every opportunity. When Peter tells us to remember that Satan is prowling to find someone to devour, who is he talking to? What kind of person would be reading the Bible? Christians!
The beginning of our epistle reading says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” I’ve often had people do just that, “how can God do this, why would He let this happen to me?” First off, God isn’t “doing this”, God does not inflict evil. But He does permit Satan to inflict evil. The non-Christian just can’t seem to comprehend the world around them, they do not understand that evil can afflict them, I’ve heard so many people say something to the effect that they are somehow entitled to be protected, they shouldn’t be subject to evil. The more accurate question would be “how can evil not happen to me?” Those who are so worldly, who think they are so sophisticated in the ways of the world, demonstrate amazing ignorance when their attitude is that they should be somehow immune to the “fiery trial”. The sad part is that they are not just subject to trial here, but through eternity they will continue to suffer. While we Christians are subject to trial, we are still under Jesus’ protection. Last week I referred to the Book of Revelation when God removes His protection from the earth. We think the earth is evil now, we whine about our trials, we are protected, because of Jesus’ prayer, we are cared for and watched over. As Christians, we do have a target on our back. Let’s face it, for those who do not know Jesus, for those who are lost, those who are condemned, there really isn’t much point for Satan to attack them. For those of us who do know Christ, who are saved in Him, who are not of this world, but still in this world, we are the targets, we are going to be subject to the roaring lion, Satan wants to undermine us, wants to deprive us of the perfect world that we are going to and he will never know. But since we are protected by the Holy Spirit we are spared the worst. Even if we die as a result of Satan’s attack what happens to us? We are in the presence of the Lord. Death for the Christian is only the start, the next stop on the road to the perfect life in the resurrection. Peter points out something that we should be regularly and painfully aware of “…the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” What you are going through maybe difficult, but there are Christians that are experiencing pain and deprivation even as we sit in the comfort of our beautiful church and that pain is a result of their faithfulness to Jesus. In our times of trial we need to remember Peter’s assurance: “…the God of all grace, … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you…”
Don’t be surprised by the “fiery trial”, it will happen. We can’t allow ourselves to be devoured by Satan in our bitterness. Spend some time in your journal and really dissect this passage from Peter. What trials are you going through, relatives, friends, those who the Holy Spirit puts in your life to witness to? How can you give them hope and strength through this promise of Christ? The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.