Tag Archives: world

Suffering as a Christian, supported by the Body of Christ, the Church

Despite what others say and might think it’s supposed to be, quite often becoming a Christian does mean that you are going to experience, at least, challenges, if not more. Now before you go running back to your little hiding place, where you’ve been hoping the rest of the world will just pass you by, I ask you, do you have a better idea? I don’t care if you’re a big tough guy, or a little woman, you all have your hiding places, thinking no one will see you and just pass you by. If you just let things alone, pass from life into death, you might just get through life without much difficulty. It is a lousy way to live the life that God has given you, but I guess you managed to get through without having your prissy little sensibilities hurt.  Good for you, you had a sad little life, you’ve sinned against God by piddling away your life and ignoring Him and since you did it all your way, and ignored God, well God has ignored you and let you condemn yourself to eternal separation from Him and eternal condemnation in Hell. You sent yourself there, God did permit it, goody for you, you had your free will.

For those who are in Christ you will experience challenges, there will be difficult times. It stands to reason, if you put yourself out there and are serving others you are going to take hits, you just are. In fact if you consider yourself a Christian and have just been cruising through, you might want to take a serious look at your relationship with Jesus, been a little too much about you and not really much about Him? I would question if you are still in relationship with Jesus and have slipped into the nice, cozy little world of condemnation.

My theme, lately, has been about the Body of Christ and how we all seem to feel like free agents, it’s all about me and Jesus and forgetting that it’s really about Jesus and His Body, His Bride, the church. All those fellow believers who are all experiencing challenges. Doesn’t it make more sense to turn to and rely on Christian brothers and sisters in times of trouble? Who else would know better the attacks of Satan and the world then someone else who has undergone those attacks? A brother or sister, someone who is in the Body, who also hurts when another part of the Body, you, me, brothers and sisters, has been hurt, we should be there to support others and know they support us.

We certainly have the Holy Spirit who is watching over us, we are protected, although we will stay take shots and hits in the world. But doesn’t it help more to have a flesh and blood brother watching over you and you watching over him? To build each other up and support each other? that other person may not be in the same church. I may not totally agree with him, but if he is genuinely in Jesus, we need to have each other’s “six”.

Whether you are new or been a long time in the Body of Jesus, you will experience adversity in the world. If the world rejected Jesus, it will challenge and reject you. That’s why you have the church and brothers and sisters. For those guys who think they’re so tough and can do it on your own, don’t be surprised when you are chewed up and spit out and leave yourself condemned to hell also, it will happen, I see men and women like that all the time. Tough guy, know it alls who end up flat on their back looking up at the sky and then expecting someone else to pick up the pieces because they were smart guys. If not for yourself, be there, at church, daily lives of Christians, for others to help them. I will bet an enormous amount you will be blessed and start wondering how you ever survived without brothers and sisters in Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Strong’s in BibleWorks

You have all borne witness, a mother is the first witness to her child for Jesus First St Johns May 10, 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 blessed by the faithful Christian witness of their mother said … AMEN        He is risen …

It is Mother’s Day, motherhood has become something very different, motherhood has gone through a number of iterations in the last century, at least in the United States. Many here have told me of mothers who had farm chores, tasks that mothers in the post-modern world would probably be mortified to even consider. Waking up early every morning to either perform farm chores or to prepare a large breakfast for a large family who all had farm chores to perform. Back in that day, people started out the day early, performing very real physical exertion.

After the Second World War we had the June Cleaver mom who was impeccably dressed, made sure her house was A-J squared away as well as her husband and children. This really remains the stereotypical mother today, although June Cleaver gave way, about a generation later to the Michelob Light generation. Starting in 1985, Michelob Light preached that we should be it all and do it all with their commercial jingle “who says you can’t have it all…?” Even while those around us might suffer because of our needs, read wants.

Today Motherhood is coming to be seen almost in terms of the “Baltimore mom”. In a letter to the editor from Nathaniel Smalls: “The mother of a Baltimore teenager who was caught on video disciplining her son who was about to join the riots, was labeled a child abuser by some, but hailed as Mother of the Year by most.” Way too many women, forced by circumstances into having to be the disciplinarian. A generation ago, when I was raising children, the attitude was really bad, it was just sort of fun and games, didn’t have to take much too seriously, someone else would take care of it, so long as you let your children make their own decisions everything would work out find. Frank Perretti recounts a discussion with a woman about raising her children as a Christian. In that faux-phoney way some parents try to project, she told Perretti, I couldn’t find the exact quote, but to the extent that she wasn’t going to raise her children in any way/ tradition. Perretti asked, does that mean that you have nothing to offer your child, that there is nothing you can give to your children in a way that will give them a life that they can believe in, ideals that they can strive for, a Savior who will be the Lord of their life and life more abundant, you have nothing to offer your children? Basically, you’re going to allow your child, who has really no frame of reference, no real ability to discern and discriminate, nothing in terms of critical thinking and you’re just going to let them wallow around until they turn 18 and pray that they have somehow built up some kind of genuine discernment? As so open-minded as you think that is, it really means that you are going to allow that child to be raised by the world. The world influences our children and grand-children every single day, the class room, computers, television, what little social interaction they have with peers, is all a very worldly perspective.

We are entrusted with children by God, to raise them according to His will. As we who are Christians know, God’s will is vastly different from the world’s. God’s will is that we grow in His image and our model is the life of Jesus Christ. The agape love that Jesus had for us, His death that paid for the sins of those who know Jesus as their Lord in life and Savior to eternal salvation in the Resurrection. Today the world is straight out about money and earthly security. Survival of the fittest, not trusting in God’s will or His provision, but scratching out, by whatever means, how you can take enough for you.

Even the Baltimore chief of police said he wishes there were more like the mom who rushed into the mob. I would add who wouldn’t surrender to the world. This woman who was put into a position, because of the failure of the world, to physically go out and rescue her son. I pray that no woman is put in that position again, but a Christian mother is called to be that faithful witness to her children and to save them from the crudeness and irresponsibility of the world.

I’m not trying to come off as harsh and unloving, but we have to start looking at what we are leaving our children to. The Baltimore mom, rightly so, was scared to death, that her son was going to wander out into something, that despite the fact that he’s 14 years old and just knows everything he needs to know, he could very well have ended up dead or badly beaten. Moms, grandmoms, spiritual moms, maybe you don’t have a child, but I will bet, there’s children in your life that you could give a motherly influence to. We as parents, moms and dads, are the first Christian witnesses, and may be the only Christian witnesses our children might see, at least on a daily basis. We cannot treat lightly or leave their Christian discipling up to them. There is simply too much influence of the world that is working on them, they will probably end up with that influence and none of what Christ intends for them. Yea it’s difficult, and many times you will feel as if you are not getting anywhere. You will feel that you have lost and have wasted a lot of time and effort. Heavens, you may even look oh so not cool and so old fashioned and out of touch. Do you really want to risk losing a child because you may not appear to be sufficiently hip or with it, and having your child run off into a fight that is just not his or her fight and end up permanently damaged or even dead? My wife had the audacity to paraphrase a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Marge said: “All that I am or hope to be I owe to my Lord for sending me my angel mother.” Amen! A Christian mom needs a Christian mom and needs to be a Christian mom.

There is a lot of misguided nonsense in the world, and too many people in order to appear sufficiently sophisticated are willing to sacrifice their children in order to have some sort of respect from the world. I told a story last year from the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees 7 about a mother who watched her seven sons being tortured to death because they would not disavow their faith in God. We who are here in a nice comfy pew in the northeast United States may be repelled at such a story, but we are seeing that story in reality in the middle east, Africa, and Asia. The world is not kind to Christians, yet for five thousand years our ancestors persevered and stayed faithful. You may choose to live in denial and believe you can live anyway you want and raise your children in the world and God will honor that. That is not realistic, God gave up His Son. Jesus’ life of strength in faith and honor. As Christian parents we are called to raise strong young men and women and not lose them to the world. They have had the witness of Christian faithful throughout thousands of years. Sure we want our children to be “happy”, but more importantly don’t we want them to be strong and faithful? We are promised life and life more abundant in Jesus. There is nothing more compelling and inspiring then a man or a woman who lives a life of strength and integrity in Jesus, and as Marge recognized, that was made possible by a mother who was given to her by Jesus in order to be a strong woman and mother in Jesus and one who would live a marvelous life and then a life beyond all description in the resurrection.

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

Do all to the glory of God

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I have not always been a Christian. So when I discuss this, it’s not from the perspective, “well that’s what Christians do their whole lives”. I’ve been involved in athletics pretty much all my life. I was on and off swim teams since I was about 8 years old. I played football from when I was eleven years old until I was seventeen. I worked at the local YMCA where I played basketball, racquetball, weights, and other stuff here and there. I’ve stayed active for the last 40 odd years mostly training and participating in triathlons, also kickboxing and a little basketball mixed in. If anyone can get me into to a racquetball regular game, I’d love it if someone could hook me up with a regular racquetball game again.

Having said all that, yes, it’s been a regular part of my life. And frankly, while I do try, I’ve never been good at anything. It was necessary, serving in the Coast Guard Reserve, my job was operational. I had to stay in condition, because I could be called on at any time to be involved in very physically strenuous situations. So yes, I’ve had a reason to stay active for a long time and it’s been an important part of my life. It really drags me down when I don’t keep up a regular routine. So who knows, maybe I need those endorphins, dopamine etc in order to feel good. But as I grew as a Christian and have become a pastor, I’ve realized that we do have a responsibility to maintain the body God gave us and to especially not abuse it. Now believe me, I’m not any “George Gorgeous”, if you saw me I look pretty much of a dumpy old guy. But… a year ago, I did get a stress test done because of a minor issue. The technician asked me if I worked out because she could see it on the results I was producing and when the doctor looked at my results, he pretty much told me to “get outta here, you’re wasting my time”.

Having said all this, in no way shape or manner am I saying that to be a “good Christian” you need to be in great shape. It’s not a works thing, but in my continual discussion about our “relationship” with Jesus, He gave us our body, mind, everything we have. Don’t most of us want to be in good shape and look good for our spouse, SO? Don’t we want to feel good, have energy, all the benefits of good health? The better we maintain ourselves, the better we serve our Savior, our family, our brothers and sisters in Jesus, the church etc. So don’t we serve and relate better to everyone involved when we do the best we can to maintain ourselves?

Now, IN NO WAY SHAPE FORM OR MANNER, am I saying that you can only be a good Christian if you’re in good physical condition, you’re all pretty and photogenic and all that stuff. Too many “churches” have some need to be all pretty and everyone associated all pretty, that is straight out phoney, hollow and misguided. It’s sort of in the sense of the “cool kids” table in high school. No that’s unacceptable in a Christian church. We need churches that are authentic, phoniness in the church is killing the church and is leaving too many others to die without Jesus. I’ve known plenty of great saints who could barely lift themselves, no less a dumbbell. And believe me I have my own issues that need to be dealt with, I’m not trying to sell that I’m perfect. What I am trying to say is that we still strive to be the best we can with what God gives us. There is way too much mediocrity, and excuses out there. We are called to be perfect as our Father is perfect. Let’s do what we can to strive for that goal, but accepting that no matter what, all of us will fall short and most (like me), miserably so.

An article in Christianity Today (June 2013 pp 39-43) discussing this very subject and I think is a really good perspective. One beef I do have with many Christians is their ability to phoney themselves, their church, their lives in general up. Which certainly does not enhance our witness in the world and refers back to my “cool kids table”. If you’re a Christian and concerned about being part of the “cool kids”, you are already way off track. The world is phoney beyond all question. Why do we keep trying to emulate the world? The church has to be authentic, warts, chubby pastors (like me), lack of talent, but authentic, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

Leslie Leyland Fields makes some great points and does sternly caution against a wrongheaded approach to encouraging all that God’s given us. We should be strong in mind, body and spirit. Doesn’t always work out that way, sometimes due to circumstances beyond our control But we should work on what is in our control, not because it makes us better, but frankly makes us a better witness to Christ. Ms Fields quotes Charlie Shedd: “…if our bodies are to be [or already are] temples of the Holy Spirit, we had best get them down to the size God intended.” Fair enough.

“PraiseMoves cites 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 as its foundational verses: ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.’ … Many in the faith and wellness movement cite the apostle Paul: ‘Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.”

I really like Ms Fields point: “…outside the church, it challenges the prevailing notion that our bodies belong to us alone – either as machines to be hacked and fueled, or as ‘plastic’ to be reshaped, starved, pierced and used for pleasure or vanity. and inside the church, it challenges the dualistic worldview that God cares only about ‘spiritual’ matters.”

To be sure, as Ms Fields points out, we do not become stupid, obsessive and phoney over the subject of physical fitness and conditioning. We do it with intelligence, planning, something that we will benefit from on many levels. With the mind-set of serving God, that we want to build our relationship with Him, that we want to serve our family, fellow Christians, our church to the best of our ability and this is one way to do it. Realizing that regardless of our physical condition we are to always serve the Lord and the Body of Christ. But to quote Nike “just do it”. How about a church filled with people who do strive, who do want to bless each other, who are spiritually, mentally and physically doing their best in order to disciple others to strive to be their best for Christ who gave us His best.

Wisdom in a world of pragmatism, the world’s “wisdom” 1 Kings 3 Luke 2: 47 First St Johns

Please click on the above link to hear the audio of this sermon or copy and paste into your browser.

This is my 300th post, so Yaaaay, appropriately enough it’s my sermon from last week.

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 who want to be strong in God’s wisdom said … AMEN!

We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, our reading today is about the only record we have of His childhood at all. But today’s readings are certainly a contrast in wisdom. In our Old Testament reading we see, what at least appears to be, a sort of altruistic act on the part of Solomon. The text says “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only,…” But we also see Solomon getting a little too caught up in the ways of world politics. He married a daughter of Pharoah. Now this was contrary to the Law that Yahweh gave back in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Eliezer Shemtov writes: “The primary source upon which the prohibition for a Jew to marry a non-Jew is to be found in (Deut. 7:3): “You shall not marry them (the gentiles), you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son.”

The reason for this prohibition is clearly spelled out in the following verse: “Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…” (“Strange gods” can also be interpreted to mean those ideals and ‘isms’ that do not conform to the dictates of Torah,… )1 We see Solomon getting a little caught up in the ways of the world and forgetting what Yahweh had told them to do. The Chronological Study Bible writes: “Marriage was an effective means for creating alliances among ancient nations. The hope was that one would deal more kindly with kin than with strangers. No greater evidence of Solomon’s importance among the nearby countries would be than to record his marriage to an an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter. As policy, Egypt’s pharaohs did not give their daughters in marriage to foreign kings.”2 The passage in 1 Kings 3: 1 tells us: “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David…” (ESV) In addition the passage tells us that “…the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” (1 Kings 3:4) That’s quite an impressive sacrifice! But why would Solomon make an offering there? The ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle was in Jerusalem. Why not make your sacrifices there? The tradition of the pagan religions was to make sacrifices on “high places”. Later in 2 Kings, the writer notes: “ And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns,…” (2 Kings 17:9) There are 75 verses in the Old Testament about “high places” and all of them condemn the fact that Israel worshiped on “high places”. As early as Leviticus Yahweh says: “And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.” (Lev 26:30) Doesn’t seem to be any doubt there! It is clear that Israel is not to use “high places” for the worship of Yahweh. Yet it’s at Gibeon that Yahweh comes to Solomon in a dream and says “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon certainly says the right things. He talks about how Yahweh faithfully loved Solomon’s father David and David loved Yahweh. Solomon acknowledges that Yahweh has now made him king of Israel and so it appears that Solomon really understands why he is where he is. His words are right on message: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Solomon knows that Israel is Yahweh’s people, that only God can capably rule and Solomon seems to understand that he has been put there to faithfully rule as Yahweh has placed him there.

Solomon was definitely brilliant, Israel rose to the height of its power under Solomon. It became the most powerful kingdom in the region, was wealthy beyond imagination. It’s said that Solomon didn’t use silver to decorate any of his buildings because gold was so common. The Queen of Sheba traveled from her African kingdom to take in the wisdom of Solomon. But with all the wisdom, power and material blessing of the world, Solomon became too in love with his worldly power and did whatever was necessary in order to maintain his power and wealth. He no longer trusted in Yahweh’s wisdom to rule Israel, but trusted the wisdom of the world. He built his worldly power by marrying women from many different kingdoms: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,…He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” ( 1Kings 11: 1, 3) The writer of Kings points out: “the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.” More unsettling Isho’dad writes: “The reason for that prohibition was lest [their daughters] might make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.”3 All these wives from different parts of the world, these made Solomon a big man in the neighborhood. All the nations around him understood his power because of all his wives and alliances. They saw his power as a result of these alliances and not as a result of what Yahweh had intended for him and did through him. Because Solomon trusted in the world’s power, he began to ignore Yahweh and trust in the “gods” of his wives. That would result in disaster for Israel, it would go from being the 800 pound gorilla, to divided, poor, constant in-fighting and eventually it would be overrun and it’s people killed or deported to foreign countries. We can only imagine what Israel would have been like if Solomon and subsequent kings had faithfully followed Yahweh.

While Solomon seemed to come apart because of his wisdom, we see that Jesus too started out as wise. Solomon was young when he was granted great wisdom by God and certainly, since Jesus is God, He had great wisdom from the start. He demonstrated that wisdom from the beginning. The teachers of the temple, men who spent their entire lives studying Torah “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This would be like a twelve year old today going to a meeting at the Harvard Law School and “amazing” all the professors there. It just wouldn’t happen, the teachers of the temple probably had a more profound knowledge of Torah then Harvard professors have of the law.

The difference is this. While Solomon came apart at the seams as he wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” It’s all pointless when we follow the world’s wisdom, it all just breaks down. But with Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2: 52 ESV)

We see it all around us. People get full of themselves because of their power or wisdom or wealth. They no longer trust God’s leading, they trust what is around them. They trust in the world and their own understanding and in the end, like Solomon, they find that it was all pointless, it doesn’t do anyone any good, if anything it causes harm and destruction. On the other hand, Jesus certainly didn’t become wealthy or powerful, nor did any of His disciples. Yet what they left was a church that continues to serve, build up and encourage the people of Jesus. Jesus’ life ended at the Cross and it might appear in loss and defeat, but He defeated death. Jesus rose from the dead to give us the promise of eternal life. There can be no greater contrast, the worldliness and defeat of Solomon, so full of promise. The holiness and victory of Jesus, who came into the world with nothing, lived a life that the world would say had nothing and yet gives us the promise and hope of being His in this world and also in eternity.

Solomon failed, trusting in the world. Jesus triumphed trusting in the hope and promise of God. Since we are at the beginning of a New Year, let’s take a different twist on our New Year’s resolutions and really think about how much we have fallen away from God’s plan for our life and trusted way too much in the world’s promises.

What can we do in our lives to rededicate ourselves to God and His will for us and to start to look at the things in our life that are too much about wealth, power, comfort and too little about life in Christ, for us and for all those who the Holy Spirit guides us to witness to.

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

2Chronological Study Bible p 454

3Marco Conti Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT V p 13 quoting Isho’dad of Merv quoting Ex 34:16

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

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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.

We’re called to be in the world, not of it.

We’ve been reading Dr Gene Veith’s book God at Work in our Wednesday morning group at the Green Bean in downtown York, Pa. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in a fundamental understanding of the issues related to living your Christian life in the workplace.

One great point we discussed this past week was Dr Veith’s following observation: “Christians live in tension with the fallen world. And they are not allowed to diminish that tension by either retreating form the world or by uncritically embracing it. Jesus alludes to this in His great priestly prayer in John 17: 14-18: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Throughout the history of the church, it has lurched from one extreme to the other. For so long  people were honored who escaped into the desert, forests, mountains, for a time those who lived on the top of poles or, sort of, scaffolds. This is clearly not Christian, not at all what Jesus taught. Sure Jesus is depicted as going off to pray somewhere, but sure enough the next day was right in the mix of the crowds. And it was not just with other Jewish people. Jesus interacted with Samaritans, Romans, Greeks, a Syro-Phoenician woman, free, slaves and no doubt others, Jerusalem was an international crossroads in His time.

Many Christians exist in an, essentially, Christian sub-culture, many have no non-Christian friends an don’t interact with any non-Christian unless it’s necessary. We look at Paul’s life and travels, from Israel to Rome and maybe even Spain. According to legend the rest of the apostles were dispersed to all the points of the new world. Biblically we are encouraged to interact with all non-Christians.

Dr Veith’s other point about “uncritically embracing” the world is also a great observation. Jesus certainly didn’t in His time, He was very counter-cultural, He was in the world to fulfill and observe the Law. He was against the Law, He did oppose those who abused, twisted the Law. Today we see the other extreme, especially in, so-called, liberal Christianity, which seems to allow itself to be dictated to by the world, regardless of what the Bible teaches.

Having said this, there seems to be this idea among Christians who do feel led to venture out into the world (which we are supposed to do), that if we are nice and sweet to everyone than they will all immediately fall in love with us/Jesus and everything will be all sweetness and spice or the other extreme, if people find out we’re Christian then we will be immediately set upon by the evil world. The latter supposition is probably closer to the truth, but neither one is really a day to day. Jesus told us: “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (Jn 15:18)
There’s this kind of odd idea among some Christians, that if we just say the right words, people will come around and love us and love Jesus. There is no magic set of words that people will immediately respond to in some kind of “come to Jesus” epiphany. It certainly didn’t happen with Jesus. Sure many responded to Him and what He did, but no question there were plenty of people who wanted to get rid of Jesus.

The world really does see Christians as gullible, suckers, easily led. This is the same world that will jump through hoops if you wave a few bucks in front of it, or booze, drugs, sex, the world will fall right in. Talk about gullible, Jesus is life, what the world wants is inevitable death. It’s stupid, but it is consistent, the world is all about death.

Dr Veith’s point is that as a Christian it is tough to be in the world. Jesus recognized this in His prayer. We live in this constant tension and yes sometimes we do give in to the temptations. Difference is, we’re forgiven, the world in the same circumstances, is condemned. As Christians we have to keep all this in mind. We can’t give up on the world, Jesus didn’t, He is our Lord, and we have to be faithful to His leading. We have to keep witnessing to Christ in all the areas of our life. But when we do that it is with the realization that often we won’t be “liked”, appreciated and the good works we do will often be repaid in spite and coldness. We can’t run away from the world, and we can’t affirm the world’s sinful lifestyle. We have to be faithful to Jesus’ leading and endure the world’s animosity.

We won’t be meeting this Wednesday because of a funeral, but May 14 we should be meeting the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver, 10am, welcome to park right behind the church.