Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spiritual Driver’s License

When you were about fourteen and looking forward to getting your driver’s license, did you ever thing, “One day I will have my license and then maybe once or twice a year I will drive”? Probably not. Normally, when a young person gets their driver’s license they cannot wait to drive.

When you started confirmation in sixth or seventh grade, did you ever think, “I can’t wait to get confirmed so that maybe I will go to Divine Service and the Lord’s Supper once or twice a year”? Probably not. Yet, how often do we see members of our congregations go through the “duty” of getting confirmed and then not making use of the privilege of approaching the Lord’s Table and making use of His means of grace and being lavished with His gifts in Divine Service.

Perhaps what may be even more amazing is when someone who does not use their spiritual license and then wants to blame someone else. “I don’t like the pastor.” “I don’t like so and so.” “I am upset about something.” It will be interesting when they stand before God and make such excuses, what will God’s reaction be? “Sorry, but you have a mind of your own and you are responsible for yourself, nice try!”

But, maybe you do use your spiritual license and maybe you believe you use it on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which we need to define terms, so what does “regular” mean. Certainly we would have to agree that attending divine service twice a year might be defined as regular, as would attending once a month, but is that what God means when He says to remember the Sabbath* day. Remember, even Jesus “usual custom”, we are told, was to be in the synagogue, to be in prayer, etc. When Jesus tells us to “remember the Sabbath” day He means that we are to make regular, each and every Sunday and diligent, whenever offered, use of the means of grace, being in divine service every Sunday and other opportunities and making use of the means of grace. Remember, God’s usual ways of coming to us to give to us is through the means of grace, His Word, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and His Holy Supper. Because these are the means He has given to us to come to us to give to us, why would we want to be anyplace else except where His means are in use and His gifts are being delivered?

“Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?” No, but a Christian, a true Christian will want, more than anything else, to be where the gifts of God are being delivered, in divine service.

*rest (not Saturday)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Commended to God’s Word - April 25, 2010 - 4th Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 20:17-35

Today we continue to celebrate Easter. Remember, as Christians, we worship on Sunday because for us each and every Sunday is a miniature Easter celebration. Each and every Sunday we are reminded of God’s great love for us. Each and every Sunday we have the opportunity to come to divine service in order to be given to, in order to be lavished with all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give to us. Why would we want to be anyplace else?

In our text for this morning Paul has called the elders from Ephesus in order to address some concerns he has for them. Paul is being compelled to go to Jerusalem and he says that this will be the last time he will see these people and so he gathers this congregation and in essence he is preaching his farewell sermon.

Paul begins his sermon by putting forth his own life as an example. We begin at verse seventeen, “17Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 17-21).

Paul puts his life before the people as an example. He is not boasting or bragging, remember his desire is only to boast in the Lord. Yet, the example Paul leaves is that he lived among the people as a servant, serving in humility. Paul boldly proclaimed the Word of God. He did not shrink back from any opportunity to proclaim the Word of God. Paul did not shrink back from having to proclaim words of Law to the people. He preached the Law in all its severity and he preached the Gospel in all its sweetness.

Again, Paul is looking ahead to going to Jerusalem, picking up at verse twenty-two, “22And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (v. 22-27).

Paul understands that imprisonment and affliction await him in Jerusalem and yet, he is not afraid to go because he believes the Holy Spirit is calling him to go in order to testify of his faith in Jesus. For Paul, the value of his life is the Gospel of the grace of God. We might imagine that Paul sees the “big” picture of life that is that his life in this world of sixty or so years is nothing compared to his forever life in eternity so he is not overly concerned about this world, but is more concerned about the real world of eternity. And he is concerned about the souls of people.

Yet, before he goes, Paul speaks words of warning. Picking up at verse twenty-eight, “28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (v. 28-35).

Satan is alive and well and is working in this world as much as he can. Paul knows that after he is gone that Satan will work through his own followers, as Paul describes them as fierce wolves, to come in and attempt to deceive them. Paul knows that there will be those who will attempt to twist God’s Word, to change the Gospel into a new law and the Law into a new Gospel, confusing the law and the Gospel, commingling the law and the Gospel and leading people away from salvation.

So Paul’s warning and instruction are to listen carefully to what is proclaimed. As else where Paul instructs other Christians, they are to be as the Bereans, testing everything they hear and comparing it with what they know is right, the very Word of God. Remember, last week we were told that Paul was proving that Jesus was the Christ. And Paul’s concern is especially for those new Christians, those who may yet be weak in the faith, that is that the strong are to help the weak. Again, this echos Paul’s words and Jesus’ words concerning the fact that we are brothers and sisters in Christ and we are to build each other up as members of the body of Christ. We are to look after and encourage one another.

The first question we might ask ourselves this morning concerning Paul’s words to these Christians of the early Church and to us is, “How is this done among us?” Paul put forth his own life as an example to the Christians to whom he was addressing. Might we follow his example and put forth our own lives as an example? Not in a boastful way but in a humble, serving way? If we do put forth our own life as an example, what is our life example? Certainly we have all heard the law motivating questions, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Another question certainly we have heard and we might ask ourselves is this, “Do others know we are a Christian by our actions?” Both of these questions are indeed law questions because both of these questions convict us. We are not the people we know we should be and even though we know our actions bear witness of what is in our hearts, very often our actions speak of the lack of faith we have in our hearts. Yes, we are all, always witnesses and very often we are bad witnesses.

Continuing on, following Paul’s example, are we ready to give an answer, a defense of our faith, or do we shrink back? Do we let others know that we are Christians, or are we embarrassed at being a Christian? Not every work environment is conducive to one professing to be a Christian. So, with Paul, are we willing to face imprisonment and affliction as we vowed at confirmation for the sake of the Gospel? Are we ready to face being embarrassed? What is the value of our short life on this earth? I would suggest that we live in a world which tends to value life in this world more than life in the world to come. We live in a world which invests more energy in this life than in the life to come. And unfortunately, I believe there are too many that do so to the detriment of their own soul.

Continuing on in following Paul’s example, are we aware of those who try to deceive in our world today? Are we aware of those who twist God’s Word? Do we listen carefully and discern what is mete, right and salutary? And do we help the weak? You have heard me encourage you as Paul does to be discerning, to be as the Bereans. I know it may be hard to believe, but what is presented as entertainment in our world is not always simply entertainment. Very often what is presented as entertainment is presented with a message and more often than not, in our world today, that message is contrary to the Word of God. How often do we see the agenda of Satan portrayed in various forms in entertainment today with the underlining message that such deviance is okay? I get so frustrated with televison and the need of the media to present the homosexual lifestyle in a manner which attempts to make it look normal, yet God in His Word speak of the condemnation of such behavior. The media and entertainment industry present extramarital affairs, adultery and fornication, as normal behaviors. Truth is presented as being relative and according to the words of the teller. And of course we are constantly bombarded with the opinion that all religions, all beliefs, all faiths lead to the same heaven. We constantly hear messages which confuse and co-mingle law and Gospel, not only in the media, but especially through e-mails. How often do you get an e-mail which makes you feel guilty and gives you hope if you do this, that or the other thing, suggesting that some work, some action, some good deed you do will cover a multitude of sins? Now, if you have enough faith, tell this sermon message to five people in the next hour so good things will happen to you. Folks, please be discerning.

So, what does all this mean? What do we take from Paul’s words this morning. First we might ask, “What is important in life?” We are brought into this world with nothing and we will leave this world with nothing. Is the amassing of stuff and things important? Our lives in this world are numbered, perhaps sixty, seventy, eighty, maybe for some a hundred years, but our lives in the world to come are forever, without ending, but continual, forever. Are we ready?

Thus, how are we to live? Paul’s life is a great example for us. Paul understood the gifts God has to give and His means of giving those gifts. God loves us so much. God loves you so much. God has given you so much and He has so much more He wants to give you. Ultimately God wants to give you eternal life in heaven. And we understand, we know, we believe, teach and confess that God’s ususal way of giving the good gifts and blessings He has to give is through His means of grace. Each and every Sunday we have the opportunity to come to His house, to divine service, through which He comes to us through the means He has given us to come to us, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, His Holy Word, and His Holy Supper, to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. Yes, the Lord loves you and wants so much to lavish you with all the good gifts and blessings He has to give.

My prayer for you this morning and every morning is that you will be discerning, that you will understand the importance of making regular, each and every Sunday, and diligent as often as offered, use of the means of grace so that the Lord may come through these means to give you all the gifts and blessings He has to give. My prayer continues to be that you might understand the shortness and the finiteness of the world so that your life may be lived looking forward to the permanence of heaven. And finally, my prayer continues to be that through your making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, the Lord will have His way with you, will strengthen and keep you in faith, and will stir in you a response of faith so that your life does say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market entails your writing to meet a specific need at a specific time, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!