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!


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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seek First the Kingdom - February 27, 2011 - Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 6:24-34

This week we continue listening to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mountain as it is called, except that this week we have fast forwarded past the giving of the Lord’s Prayer, words on fasting and words on laying up treasure in heaven. This week Jesus speaks to us concerning the First Commandment and our breaking the First Commandment by not fearing, loving and trusting in God above all things. Please remember, these are Jesus’ Words, not my words and as we talked about last week and week before, Jesus broadens His definition of how we break the commandments so that we realize that we have not and cannot keep the commandments. If we can keep the commandments, then we have no need for Jesus, but when we realize how sinful we truly are, then we can see our need for a Savior, for Jesus to forgive us. And so the very purpose of the commandments is not to give us something to look at and then seek to justify ourselves, but to show us our sins so we can see our need for a Savior and then we are prepared to hear the words of the Gospel, which show us our Savior, and these words are then the most sweetest words we can every hear.

Our text begins with Jesus exhorting us with the fact that we cannot serve two masters, verse twenty-four, “24No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (v. 24). In the New Testament Jesus tells us that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10), and “where your treasure is, there your heart is also” (Matt. 6:21). Notice how Jesus speaks quite frankly and openly about money and how He equates money as one of our masters. Truly money is simply a means of barter, a way to purchase goods and services, but when the desire for money moves beyond being a means of barter it indeed becomes a master. We are slaves to money, to mammon, to the things of this world, first and foremost when we deny or fail to acknowledge that all things come from God. Remember, what we are born with and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours, meaning that nothing in this world is truly ours. The rest, everything, is on loan from God while we live in this world. So, are we acknowledging that God is the Giver by first returning a portion to Him, or do we believe it is ours to do with as we please and simply give some back to Him?

On the other hand, we are slaves to God if we are content with the gifts and blessings God gives and if we acknowledge those blessings from Him through our giving of our first fruits and tithes, trusting that as He has giving us all that we need to this point in our lives, He will continue to do give to us as we need. Our giving is not because God needs us to give, but because of our need to respond to all that the Lord has first given to us. Thus, we acknowledge that a lack of giving is a reflection of a lack of faith. But Jesus is not finished.

Jesus goes on to talk about anxiety. Anxiety is that overwhelming sense of concern for something over which we have no control. Jesus warns us against anxiety especially concerning physical things, food, drink, clothing, verse twenty-five, “25Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (v. 25). Here Jesus throws open the door to our sin, because how often do we find ourselves concerned and anxious about how we look and what others think about how we look? And this does not mean that we are not to take care of ourselves and want to look our best, but it does mean that instead of being concerned about out outward appearance and what the world thinks, we are to be more concerned about our inward appearance and what God thinks.

God shows His care by pointing us to look at the birds, verse twenty-six, “26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (v. 26). Again, Jesus opens the door to our sins, and this would be our sin of omission, omitting to see how God cares for the world and for us and how we are of more value to Him that all the other creatures of the world.

But Jesus is not through piling it on. He continues to warn us against anxiety reminding us that anxiety cannot add an hour to one’s life, although it might take an hour away, verse twenty-seven, “27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (v. 27). Really, have we ever added anything to our lives by being anxious and worried. If anything, anxiety and worry causes us to have high blood pressure, which could lead to have a stroke or a heart attack and even now by simply talking about it, we may be getting all worried inside raising our blood pressure even more.

So Jesus moves back to reassure us reminding us how God shows His care by pointing us to look at the flowers, verse twenty-eight, “28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (v. 28-30). Here we are chastised by Jesus again. Jesus knows us. Jesus can and does look into our hearts. Jesus knows we are conceived and born in sin and that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. Jesus knows that we have a difficult time trusting in Him alone above all else and He knows that even though He continues to point out how He continues to care for this world and that we are of more value than all the things of this world as the crown of His creation, we still suffer from the sin of anxiety.

And so Jesus exhorts us one more time to not be anxious, verse thirty-one, “31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (v. 31-32). God knows what we need and not only has He promised to provide for all that we need, He does provide for all that we need.

Our main priority then is to seek first God’s kingdom, verse thirty-three, “33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33). Here again as we were reminded last week, and week before, we continually fail, instead we go running after other, more important priorities and then wonder why we are anxious.

Finally, Jesus reminds us, that tomorrow will take care of itself, verse thirty-four, “34Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34). The other day someone mentioned that I had stepped on their toes in the sermon. Today, Jesus continues to step on all our toes, because the fact of the matter is, no matter how much Jesus encourages us and exhorts us to not worry, to not be anxious, we do worry and we are anxious, because that is our nature, yet that does not excuse our sin.

So, what does this mean? How do you know who is your master? Actually, we can have only one of two masters. Either God is our master, or He is not and if He is not, then anything and everything else is, which is idolatry. Now, the hard part, admitting that in and of ourselves, because we are conceived and born in sin and because every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, our tendency is to be mastered by anything and everything other than God. I say this, not as an excuse, but so that we realize our great and constant need to cling to Jesus for our salvation, our faith, forgiveness and life.

In particular, this morning Jesus reminds us concerning our sin of anxiety. Anxiety is sin because it shows our lack of faith. Anxiety is faith in self rather than faith in God. And we are anxious because we are not in control of our lives as we would believe ourselves to be and as we often wish ourselves to be. Now you might be better able to understand why I keep telling you to look outsider yourself. The world says to look inside yourself and yet we see that inside ourselves we are anxious and not in control, but outside ourselves is our Lord who is in control and who can and who does do for us what He knows is best for us. When we look outside ourselves, when Jesus has His way with us, then we move from a state of anxiety to a state of contentment.

What does contentment mean? Contentment means that we rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for all His good gifts and blessings. Contentment means we rejoice and give thanks to the Lord knowing that He loves us, that we are of more value to Him than anything else in the world, because we are, after all, the crown of His creation. We rejoice because the Lord gives us all that we need, not necessarily want, but all that we need.

How do we reach contentment? We cannot reach contentment by ourselves. It is only as the Lord has His way with us that we can become content. God’s desire is that we worship Him above all gods. God’s desire is to love us and show His love for us, after all, the reason He created us is to love us. And He does love us and He does show His great love for us. It is God who comes to us from outside of us, who first comes to us and loves us, who sent Jesus to live perfectly for us in our place. And did you ever notice that Jesus never owned anything except the clothes on His back. He never owned a house or a donkey or a plot of land, and yet He was never concerned about His needs being met? It is God who loves us and sent Jesus to do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. It is God who sends the Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace, His Word, Holy Baptism, Confession and absolution, and the Lord’s Supper to give, strengthen and keep us in faith.

Who is running the show? Our discontent and anxiety remain when we try running the show as we are often tempted to attempt to do. It is only as our Lord runs the show, runs our life, that He dissolves our discontent and anxiety and stirs in us to trust in Him above all things so that He might indeed continue to shower us abundantly with all His good gifts and blessings.

Truly, discontentment and anxiety flow from self. Contentment and joy flow from the Lord. As we make regular and diligent use of our Lord’s means of grace, He has more and more opportunities to give to us and do for us and love us as is His will for us. And when we are done to and given to we rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lessons in Critical Thinking (1 of 12)

Beginning with an Absolute.

You have heard me encourage and even exhort you from time to time to be as the Bereans, who were of a more noble character and checked out everything Paul told them. They checked Paul’s words against God’s Word to make sure what he said was true. You have heard me tell you to be discerning. In order to help you to be discerning as the Bereans, over the next few months I will include these articles on “Critical Thinking.”

We live in a world in which we all begin with certain presuppositions, that is that we all have things in our minds that we know, think, or “feel” to be true, these are the things that we “suppose” to be true before we begin thinking, thus they are pre-suppose(itions). Unfortunately, these presuppositions are not inborn but are learned. Since they are not inborn but learned, how does one know what presuppositions to believe and which to not believe?

Basically there are two presuppositions. One presuppositions is “In the beginning there was nothing.” This is a presupposition of no god. This is a supposition in which, in reality, we become our own god, because if there is nothing in the beginning, then there is nothing to depend on except our own reason and intellect, and so we are truly our own god. Thus, it follows then that there are no absolutes and no one is responsible to anyone except themselves because we are each our own god.

There is a second presupposition and that is, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 (ESV)). This presupposition begins with the understanding that there is something bigger than all of us, all of humanity, all of the world, all of creation, all of the universe. If there is a God, then there are things that are absolute, absolutely right, absolutely wrong, absolutely true and absolutely false. If there is a God, then there is someone (or something) to which we must all be accountable.

Where one begins, one’s presuppositions, leads to where one concludes. The first presupposition, “In the beginning there was nothing,” leads to chaos and despair. The second presupposition, “In the beginning God . . . ,” leads to responsibility, order, and purpose (and a reason to think critically in the first place).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The World Religion Time line

1500 CE
1000 CE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Islam (625 CE)
500 CE - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Buddhism - - Taoism - - Confussianism
0 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Judaism
500 BCE
1500 BCE
2000 BCE - - - - - - - - - Hinduism
2500 BCE - Christianity

Although there are those who would contend that Judaism began with the call of Abraham and Christianity began with Christ, the fact of the matter, Biblically speaking is that Christianity was the very first world religion and Judaism was a branch off at the time of Christ as we will see.

In the beginning God created all things out of nothing and crowned His creation with the creation of humanity. In Genesis chapters one and two, when God is running the show, all is perfect. In Genesis chapter three, when man begins running the show, all hell breaks loose, literally. Eve and Adam disobey God and eat of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and this disobedience brings a curse. Yet, because God is love, because God created humanity to love, He stepped in and promised to send a Savior, a Christ, for all people, thus the Christian Church. People throughout the Old Testament were made right with God, were justified by God’s grace through faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus. Notice that this is, was, and always will be a covenant of faith and grace, not flesh and DNA.

Now notice, when God called Abram, He did not make a new covenant with Abram. God reiterated His covenant made to all people that a Savior for all people, that through the Seed of Abram, all nations would be blessed. In other words, God narrowed the line of fulfillment so that through the family of Abram the Savior would be born. Again, the covenant continues to be a covenant of faith and grace, not flesh and DNA.

When Jesus is born, the first people to be call Christians are those Jewish people who put aside their Jewish roots and embrace Jesus as the One sent, promised to Abram and to Adam and Eve and all nations. Those who rejected Jesus became what is known today as Judaism. Even Jesus Himself spoke of the fact that God can raise up children of Abraham from stones (Matt. 3:9). Thus, the true Israel, the true people of God, the true children of Abraham are those who are His by His grace, through faith in Jesus, not because of flesh or DNA. Just as the people of the Old Testament were save by faith in the one coming so in the New Testament we are saved by faith in the One who has come, Jesus, the Messiah.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Discernment Day Twelve

This was truly a test in discernment, because there is nothing wrong with the statement: If I am saved, God gets the credit. If I am not saved, it is my own fault.

This concludes these lessons in discernment, at least for now. Go out and discern the world.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Be Perfect as Your Heavenly Father - February 20, 2011 - Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 5:38-48

Again, this week we continue to hear Jesus preach. Before we get to our text I want to make just a comment about our other readings which work well to support our Gospel reading for today. In the Old Testament reading we hear Moses speak words of law to the Children of Israel, even saying, “You shall be holy for I the Lord you God am holy,” words which Jesus reflects at the end of our Gospel lesson for this morning. In our Epistle lesson Paul encourages us to build our Christian life, not on ourselves and not on anything within us, especially not on what we think we can earn that is that we think we can earn eternal life, but Paul urges us to look outside ourselves and to build our Christian life on Christ alone. Paul also reminds us to be careful to not be deceived by this world, because the wisdom of this world is folly before God, instead Paul urges us to boast only in the Lord.

Now moving to our text. In our text for today we continue to hear more of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mountain as it is called. Remember, these are not my words, these are Jesus’ words, so if you have a problem with what is being said, take it up with the author, Jesus. Anyway, last week Jesus spoke about the fifth, sixth, and second commandments and the fact that rather than narrow the definition of the commandments so we might think we can keep them, as did the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Jesus broadened the definition so that we might see that we sin in thought and word as well as in deed, so that we do see how sinful we truly are so that we see our need for a Savior. Certainly we are reminded that if we could live as God would have us to live, then we would have no need for a Savior, that is why Jesus broadens the definition of the commandments so that we might see our need for a Savior, so that we might confess our sins and so that we might be given forgiveness of sins, and with forgiveness, life and salvation. This week Jesus continues His sermon talking about revenge, loving our enemies and being perfect.

Our text begins at verse thirty-eight and again Jesus begins by saying, “you have heard it said,” implying that what you have heard, probably from the Pharisees and teachers of the law, is not what is true according to God. Verse thirty-eight, “38You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (v. 38-42).

Jesus seeks to change the social, political law of retribution that was given for the sake of good order, in other words, through our civil law God gives the authority to carry out just punishment for crimes committed. In other words, if you steal or kill you may suffer civil punishment, temporal consequences for those crimes, you may serve time in jail. This authority to carry out such just judgements is intended for the sake of peace and good order. Think about it this way, if there were no civil authority then there would be anarchy and chaos.

Now please understand that Jesus is not trying to change the civil law, rather He is directing changes to the spiritual order of love, which is to turn the other check. In other words, although we may have crimes committed against us, that does not mean that we are not to seek civil retribution, but it does mean that with confession we are to forgive. So, if someone steals from us, certainly for their sake a civil restitution of restoring what was stolen is in order, but even more, we are to forgive that person, which is probably the more difficult order.

But, there is more, as Jesus tells us that as Christians our faith is to be a reflection of Godly love which is shown and seen in our going the extra mile. In other words, we are to practice agape love, going beyond what is demanded and joyfully sharing God’s love as Christ loved us and gave His life for us. Just as Jesus died for us, instead of inflicting the punishment we deserve, so we are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus is not giving us an easy task.

And Jesus continues, again suggesting that, “you have heard it said,” and it may not be true so I will tell you what is true. Verse forty-three, “43You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (v. 43-47).

Again, Jesus reminds us of the social, political law of equality, that is to love those who love you and hate those who hate you, because after all that only sounds fair. Yet, if we simply love those who love us and hate those who hate us, how do we change to be a more peaceful society?

So, again, Jesus speaks to direct us to change the spiritual order which will work to effect a change in the civil order. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Someone once said, “The way to get rid of all your enemies is to make them your friends.” Jesus tells us to love our enemies, but not only to love them, but also to pray for them. Here again what Jesus tells us is a difficult, if not an impossible task, at least by ourselves.

Certainly we like to think about civil equality, but what about spiritual equality? Jesus reminds us, concerning spiritual equality that in God’s eyes we are all equal sinners yet, He blesses us all sinners with rain and His love. Civil equality is just that, equality, balancing scales, I treat you to dinner, you treat me to dinner, I give you a present, you give me a present. Jesus wants us to move beyond civil equality to a type of love, agape love, which is always doing more for the other person. Just as God first loved us and sent Jesus to live, die and rise for us, undeserved as we were, so we are to move beyond thinking of equality and loving, even loving those we deem unlovable, even those we know are unable to return what we have first given to them.

Finally, Jesus expresses what He has been saying in a very specific, concrete way, verse forty-eight, “48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48). Jesus commands us to be perfect, how much more specific can Jesus get and how much more guilty can He make us feel? Be perfect, how can He ask such a thing of us, after all, we are conceived and born in sin, and every inclination of our heart is evil all the time? The Greek word Jesus speaks is the word which means “complete.” So Jesus is saying, be complete, be grown up as a Christian in faith and love.

Jesus tells us to be perfect. The word He uses is the same word that He uses on the cross when He says, “It is finished.” On the cross when Jesus says, “It is finished,” what He is saying is that the debt, the price for our sins has been paid, has been completely paid. So, to be complete as a Christian means to love as God loves, unconditionally. To love unconditionally means to love without reference to the worthiness of the other person. And this love flows out of the fact that God first loves us.

To be perfect means to be complete. To be complete means that we start with God, not with ourselves. The world would have us start with ourselves, as we are continually admonished by the world, “look inside yourself,” “choose Jesus,” “you can be the good Christian God wants you to be.” Unfortunately, when we start with ourselves all we get is imperfection and failure. By ourselves we cannot be the people God would have us to be. By ourselves we are lost and condemned persons. No, to be perfect means to look outside ourselves and to look to God who stirs and moves in us giving us faith, forgiveness, life and completion and helps us to love others as He loves us.

What Does this Mean? There is a distinction between civil law and spiritual law. As concerning civil law, we live and abide under the laws, the civil laws of the land for good reason, to maintain good order, for the sake of peace. Civil laws are good and unless they negate God’s spiritual laws, we are to obey them. However, obedience to civil laws, while maintaining peace, will never earn eternal life. And you may have noticed, there is no grace and no Gospel concerning civil laws.

As Christians, we live in two worlds, the secular and the spiritual and we live in both these worlds at the same time. As Christians we gladly and willingly obey the civil law, again, as long as it does not contradict God’s law, but even more, we live more under God’s Word which emphasizes His grace and love.

God is the prime mover. God shines His grace and love on us through His Word, through Holy Baptism, through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper. God shines His grace and love on us through giving us faith, forgiveness, life, salvation. God shines His grace and love on us and through us and stirs in us to reflect that perfect, complete, unconditional love to others. As always, it starts with God and we know we get it right when we start with God.

God first gave His law in the hearts of people, then He gave His written Law to His people Israel through His servant Moses. God’s law has never and never will change, not one iota as we heard a couple weeks ago. Yet, for us and for our sake, because of His great love for us, God sent His only Son, Jesus to do for us what we are unable to do ourselves. God sent Jesus to live perfectly for us, according to His law. Jesus was holy for us. Jesus was perfect for us. Although we may be able to abide by the civil law, in and of ourselves we are completely unable to keep God’s spiritual law, which is what Jesus has kept for us in our place. Jesus was holy, Jesus was perfect for us and now, by faith in Him, faith which He gives to us, His perfection, His holiness, His completion is ours. We are perfect, because Jesus makes us perfect. And all that is left is to rejoice and give thanks to God. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Discernment Day Eleven

Our actions deceive us. Our actions demonstrate what is in our hearts. We live our priorities. Has any parent thought about asking the coach to change their day of practice, or time of practice, or the day of the event? Probably not, because that is more important.

Although there were some rather risque moments in the movie “Click” the best line in the movie was that you cannot lie to the remote control. Briefly, so you do not have to watch the movie, Adam Sandler’s character is given a “universal remote control” that controls his universe. Along the way, he tends to fast forward through parts of his life that he finds distracting and the remote control learns what is important and not important. In the end he realizes that he has been lying to himself and his family, but the remote control learned what was important and could not be fooled.

So, if your relationship with God is most important, and your family, and your faith life, then these are the things you make time for, these are the things for which you rearrange your schedule.

One of the important ingredients in any relationship is spending time together, especially in conversation with one another. Have you ever lost a friend because you failed in speaking to one another, not our of meanness, but because of a lack of a time commitment? The same can be true with our relationship with our Lord. For our own sake, we need to spend time in conversation with God, speaking to Him in prayer and allowing Him to speak to us through His Word (reading our Bibles).

What is important? You live what is important. You make time for what is important. You change your schedule to accommodate what is important.

New challenge, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
If I am saved, God gets the credit. If I am not saved, it is my own fault.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Discernment Day Ten

There is no god. Really?

Did you choose to be born?
Have you ever seen anything spontaneously appear?
Have you ever looked at Mount Rushmore and thought, “I wonder how many years of wind erosion it took for that to form?”
Have you ever seen a sand sculpture at the beach and thought, “Wow, look what the waves did?”
Have you ever looked at a house and thought, “Look, a tornado must have blew through a lumber yard?”
Have you ever studied the complexities of the human eye, or the amount of activity that goes on in the body for blood to clot and thought, “Wow, all those important functions that have to happen at just the right time all happened by accident?”

I must say, to believe that there is no god takes more faith than I could ever muster. Of course, this is to be denied with the argument that only those of less intelligence need a god of sorts, yet, intellectually speaking, god cannot be explained away and if intelligence is what is necessary to eradicate God, then I pray I never reach that state of intellect!

At conception innate knowledge of God is written on our hearts. Those who turn from God know in their hearts what they are doing. Even the heathen and pagan, as well as idolaters know they are turning their hearts from God. Why would they choose such a thing as to turn from their Creator? Because to confess and acknowledge a Creator means the necessity to subordinate one’s own being to another, to be accountable. In other words, if there is no god, then I am accountable only to myself and to none other, which in essence makes me my own god, which then begs the original question, “Did you choose to be born?”

New challenge, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
Pastor, church is so important to us, it is the most important thing, but my child has an activity (game, practice, event) scheduled that conflicts with what you have scheduled, so can you change your schedule?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Discernment Day Nine

Although this may be a nice sentiment, especially in our tolerant world (cf. earlier discernment on tolerance, and why can’t we all just get along), the problem is many fold. The following are just some answers.
  1. The Islam Religion cannot, will not, does not want to coexist with any other religion. The Koran commands that not only is Islam the one religion, but also the form of government (ladies beware).
  2. Although many books and articles have been written to equate all religions suggesting that we simply call God a different name, none really reaches the point of distinguishing the one true faith from all other religions, that is that the God of Christianity, Jesus is still alive, that He died and rose.
  3. The God of Christianity is a self described jealous God, demanding that we worship Him and Him alone.
  4. When Israel entered the promised land God told them to wipe out the people, because He knew that the would influence them and take them away from worshiping Him alone, which they did.
  5. If there were may ways to some eternal existence then Jesus is a lunatic, after all, why would He suffer and die from the most cruel punishment of a cross if He could have simply told us to follow something or someone else?
  6. If we could coexist, then all religions would be fake.
  7. Christianity is different from all other religions, and Lutheranism is even more specific, in that we are saved, not by looking into ourselves, not by our character or good works, but by looking outside ourselves, by looking to Jesus and Jesus alone who freely gives Himself, faith, forgiveness, life, salvation and eternal life.
An interesting article can be found at:

New challenge, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
There is no god.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Discernment Day Eight

All these statements are simply excuses and an attempt to excuse oneself of their own spiritual responsibility.

How do you think this will go on the last day?
God: Do I know you?
Person: Well, I did not go to church because my parents made me.
God: Jesus willing died for you.
Person: Well, I did not go to church because I was mad at my pastor.
God: You were angry at the man I sent to preach the Gospel? Was he preaching heresy? Was he not preaching the Gospel, administering the Sacraments and forgiving and retaining sins?
Person: God, it is not my fault, it is your fault (Gen. 3:12). It’s someone else’s fault.
God: I the Lord your God am a jealous God, thus, as you sow, so shall you reap.

New challenge, how about one of my favorites, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
What is wrong with this bumper sticker?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Discernment Day Seven

So, why can’t we all just get along? Well, the bottom line is the fact that we are all conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5), and every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). It is our nature to be at odds with one another.

The broader answer to this question however is that it is usually asked in a rather whinny voice that begs for the one asked to change their opinion to agree with the whiner, in other words, when someone whiningly says, “Why can’t we all just get along?” my response is, “We can, if you agree with me.” And so the implication that the problem of why we cannot get along is my fault, the charge is reversed and the onus is put back on the one asking the question.

New challenge, how about one of my favorites, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
I don’t go to church because my parents made me go as a child (or because I don’t like the pastor, or I don’t like organized church, or any other reason, fill in the blank).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Discernment Day Six

Okay, so, you’re not supposed to judge other people, fine and good, but the problem we have in our society today is the fact that we confuse recognizing sin for judging, i.e., you should not be doing illegal drug. And the response, who are you to judge me for doing illegal drugs. The answer is that I am not judging you, but recognizing your sin. If I were judging you I would say that you were going to hell for doing illegal drugs. And actually, is it not more loving to call this sin to one’s attention than to let them remain in their sin and possibly harm themself?

But there is more to this, because if a person persists in their sin, then God tells us as a Church that we are to rightly judge that person through the process of excommunication. Excommunication is not an unloving practice, but is very loving, because the intent is to call the sinners attention to just how dangerous their sin is so they will repent.

As for the bonus, there is no Bible passage that says, God helps those who help themselves.

New challenge, how about one of my favorites, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
Why can’t we all just get along?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Surpassing Righteousness - February 13, 2011 - Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 5:21-37

We continue this week, hearing Jesus preach to us as we hear more of the sermon on the mountain. Last week we heard Jesus tell us how we are the salt and the light of the world, that is, how our Christian faith is shown in our thoughts, words and deeds. We also were reminded that all of the Bible is a gift from God, that it is His Word and that it is able to make you wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). This week we want to begin where we ended last week, so we go back and pick up our text at verse twenty from last week. In verse twenty Jesus tells us that our righteousness should surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. We read, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). Last week we came to understand that if we compare our righteousness, or goodness, our good works alone to that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, that our goodness is nothing. However, we also came to realize that the goodness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law was merely an outward goodness, a civil righteousness, not a true goodness, not true good works in God’s eyes. Praise the Lord that our goodness, our righteousness, our good works do surpass that of the Pharisees and teacher of the law, not because we are good, but because our goodness is Jesus’ goodness made ours by faith and we know that goodness, that righteousness far surpasses the goodness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

Moving on to our text for today Jesus speaks to us about the fifth, sixth and second commandments. Listen carefully, because Jesus’ point is not so much the commandment as it is in the way we sin against these commandments. And the way we sin against these commandments in not necessarily the way you and I might think. Jesus begins by saying, “you have heard that it was said,” meaning that we have heard from the Pharisees and teachers of the law and implying that their words might not be completely reliable. We read beginning at verse twenty-one, “21You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (v. 21-26).

Now, let us say Jesus’ words in our modern language and I hope this is something that you learned in catechism class. Jesus says, you have heard it said that the fifth commandment refers only to actual killing, or murder but I am here to tell you that the fifth commandment refers not only to actual killing, not only to murder, but also to anger, to name calling, and to angry cursing. In other words, killing and murder is merely the final stage of sin, sin which began in one’s heart. Sin which began with anger, then escalated to name calling, grew more intense with angry cursing, and ended with actual murder. Jesus’ words remind us that all sins, no matter how small we might think they are, are sin. For Jesus, there is no degree of sin. Maybe you have heard it said this way. In God’s eyes, a sin is a sin is a sin.

Jesus reminds us that we sin not just in our actions, by what we do or do not do. You might remember that we sin sins of commission, when we do an actual sin and we sin sins of omission when we sin by not doing something we should be doing. Not only do we sin in action but we also sin in our words and in our very thoughts. Sin has its beginning in our heart, in our thoughts, in our mind and soul. Jesus reminds us that all sins, no matter how small we may think they are, all sins are serious offenses in deed, in word or in thought, so much so that it might hamper one’s own worship.

With our sins in mind Jesus reminds us with His “therefore,” therefore Jesus says we are to settle our earthly accounts of conflict before attempting to bring an offering to His altar. Yes, you heard Jesus right. If you are about to put your offering in the offering basket and you remember that you have sinned against someone, or that someone has sinned against you and those sins have not been reconciled, do not put your offering in the basket. Here again we are reminded that our giving back to the Lord is a privilege. And Jesus continues by telling us that we are to settle our earthly accounts of conflict lest, ultimately, they are carried over into heaven where we will have to settle them before the eternal judge.

Jesus continues with His next, “you have heard,” again implying, by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, beginning in verse twenty-seven. We read, “27You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (v. 27-32).

I am sure that these words of Jesus do not set well in our world of hedonism, our world of “if it feels good, do it,” our world of “We’re living in the twenty-first century.” Jesus tells us that we commit adultery even if a physical act is not performed, because we can commit adultery simply with our eyes. How often does one commit adultery in the course of watching a thirty minute television show? Or a two minute commercial for that matter? But pastor, you say, you do not expect us to give up television. Do not look at me, I am not here to tell you what to give up, I am merely passing on Jesus’ words. Like the fifth commandment, so with the sixth commandment, Jesus reminds us that adultery begins in the heart, mind and soul.

The problems of Jesus’ day sound very much like the problems of our own day. In Jesus’ day it was thought that it was okay to simply write a certificate of divorce, even for bad cooking, or bad dressing. What are our reasons for divorce today? Incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, whatever fancy word you want to use to say, “we despise the commitment we made to each other before God.” Jesus says that the only reason, the only reason, for divorce allowed before God is the reason of marital unfaithfulness. I will leave it with that, those are Jesus’ words.

Our text has one more “you have heard” beginning at verse thirty-three. We read, “33Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (v. 33-37).

The problem of Jesus’ day, and of ours, is that people were not keeping their word, were lying and in order to persuade others to believe them they were swearing by anything they could swear by, except God’s name and thought that if they broke their oath that would be okay because they did not swear by God’s name. However, Jesus tells us that we should not break any oath. And especially, He reminds us that we should not swear recklessly. In other words, we should not say something like “I swear to God, stick a needle in my eye,” or “cross my heart and hope to die,” or “to tell the truth,” or, “to be honest with you,” or simply, “I swear,” and the list goes on. Any of these and all of these are not needed. Jesus reminds us that our word is backed up by our actions, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Your word is as good as you keep your word, and if you keep your word you do not need to swear to emphasize or suggest that now you will really keep your word. If you keep your word you will be known for keeping your word and your “yes” or “no” is all that will be needed.

I guess by now we have all been convicted by the words which Jesus has for us today, which is the point of Jesus’ words of law, to convict us. Jesus words remind us that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, which, again, is the point of the law, to show us our sins and how sinful we truly are. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law tried to narrow the definitions of the commandments in order to convince themselves that they were able to keep them. Thus, if we are able to keep the commandments ourselves, we have no need for God. Jesus broadens the definitions of the commandments showing us how sinful we are so that we clearly see our need for a Savior. Jesus’ Words remind us that we sin by killing in thought and word, hatred and name calling. We daily sin much by our lusting after others. We daily sin much by our swearing by all the earth. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. Fortunately for us, Jesus is also the one who is giving us His Word and His Word includes words of “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.”

It is only after we hear the law which shows us how sinful we truly are that the words of the Gospel, “Your sins are forgiven,” can truly be sweet and mean so much to us. It is just as we confessed at the beginning of our service, “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9).

Jesus came into our world to deliver us from sin, death and the power of the devil. He did that, delivered us from sin, death and the power of the devil by sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, in our place. And now He works in us, through His means of grace, the Word and the sacraments, to help us to overcome the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. It is Jesus who reminds us that sin begins in the heart, and it is Jesus who works in our hearts to overcome sin and temptation. It is Jesus who reminds us that we are not perfect and as long as we are on this earth we will not be perfect, and it is Jesus who reminds us that He has overcome the world. Each day then, we wake up, we remember our baptism, we remember that we have been washed by Jesus, we have been forgiven. Each day we get a fresh start because all our sins have been paid for and Jesus will help us to go out and sin no more. Strengthened by Jesus’ Word, we go out in faith and confidence and live lives that say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Discernment Day Five

Well, if we use the logic in this argument, we might as well stop making it illegal to steal, or kill, or any other law, because then we would have to put those people in jail as well. You know, if we made everything legal, we would not have to put anyone in jail and our jails would be empty.

New challenge, how about one of my favorites, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
You're not supposed to judge other people.

Bonus challenge:
The Bible says, God helps those who help themselves.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Discernment Day Four

So, if teaching abstinence does not work it is either because it is not be taught right or not being practiced. Abstinence works, no sex, no baby. So, it is not the teaching of abstinence that does not work, but the lack of practice.

New challenge, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
If we make abortion illegal, we will have to put a lot of people in jail because they will have illegal abortions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Discernment Day Three

Again, I hope you were able to discern the problem with the statement "I cannot stand people who are intolerant," showing that the person making the statement is also intolerant.

We live in a world that wants to value this thing called tolerance, however, if you listen discerningly at those who think themselves to be tolerant you can see how their own words and actions deceive themselves.

As a Christian, beginning with my Christian worldview, I believe that there are absolutes. I believe that certain behaviors and actions that are absolutely wrong and should not be tolerated. These behaviors and actions we call "sin." I also believe that these sins are not and will not be tolerated by God who is the one who gives us the absolutes we have as well as instruction into what is sin and what is not sin.

Now, for those who claim to be tolerant, first, what is the basis for their tolerance? In other words, what is the foundation, what is their worldview that tells them what is to be tolerated, what is right and wrong? Second, if they do espouse to be tolerant, truly tolerant, then they should tolerate and rejoice in my intolerance, otherwise, they have fallen into my worldview of believing that there are certain behaviors and actions of which we are to be intolerant. In other words, they are lying about their tolerance.

See how when we listen and are discerning we can see all the holes in the arguments of those who seek to impose their worldview and beliefs on us.

New challenge, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
Teaching abstinence does not work.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Discernment Day Two

I hope that you were able to discern the fact that to be prejudice is to hate someone or something, thus to hate people who are prejudice makes you prejudice.

New challenge, discern what is wrong with the following statement:
I cannot stand people who are intolerant.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Discernment: noun, The ability to judge well

Luke tells us, “10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11)

Your assignment, discern what is wrong with this statement:
I hate people who are prejudice.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Have Come to Fulfill the Law - February 6, 2011 - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Our text for this morning is a part of Jesus’ sermon on the mountain. Maybe you remember last week’s Gospel lesson was the beginning of Jesus sermon and the “Beatitudes.” This week we continue listening to Jesus’ message to those who gathered around to hear Him speak. This week we get two “snippets” or “sound bites” from His sermon, one talking about salt and light and the other about the fulfillment of the Law.

First, Jesus talks about our being the salt of the earth and about our being lights of the world. We begin at verse thirteen, “13You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 13-16). In verse thirteen Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” And He asks the rhetorical question, “But if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” Our first thought might be that if salt loses its saltiness then it becomes tasteless and worthless. However, our second thought might be to come to the conclusion that salt does not lose its taste because the only way for salt to lose its taste is to no longer be salt and that is Jesus’ point. Jesus is talking about the Gospel and the fact that the Gospel does not lose its taste or affect. Jesus is reminding the people and us that the Gospel is God’s indestructible gift to His people in Christ. The only way we would lose our saltiness, the only way we can lose the Gospel, is if we would lose our faith altogether and are no longer Christians.

Jesus then moves on to elaborate on this point by comparing our faith to that of a shining light. By our simply wearing the name “Christian,” that is, by others knowing that we are Christians, we bear witness of what it means to be a Christian. We bear witness by our actions, our thoughts and our words of what Jesus means to us. Which means that we either make a good witness or we make a not so good witness. Either way, we do make a witness to others of what it means to us that we belong to Christ. It is a natural thing, just like salt being naturally salty, otherwise it is no salt at all. We as Christians act like Christians, otherwise are we really Christians at all?

Finally, Jesus exhorts us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The thing about our good works is that they are good works because they are done to praise our Father in heaven. To use a different analogy, I believe that Jesus is telling us what is a natural cause and effect. It is much like the sun and the moon. The moon has no light of its own, it merely reflects the light of the sun, so when we see moonlight, it is sunlight that we are really seeing. So, if there is no sun shining on the moon, then there is no moonlight. God is like the sun and we are like the moon. We have no love of our own, within ourselves. When God shines His love in our hearts, we reflect that love to others. When we have no love to reflect to others it shows that we have rejected God’s love and have kept God out of our hearts.

Which brings us to the second part of this text, the part that reminds us of the importance of God’s Word, its efficacy and its unchangeableness. Picking up at verse seventeen, “17Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 17-19). In verse seventeen we are reminded that we worship an unchanging God. Jesus came to fulfill all the Old Testament, He did not come to change it or to abolish it. Jesus did not come to change or do away with the Ten Commandments, He came to fulfill them. He did not come to change or do away with the tithe, He came to fulfill it. He did not come to change or do away with any part of the Old Testament, rather He came to fulfill the whole Old Testament.

Jesus’ words to us this morning remind us that none of Scripture has been changed or abolished. It is still all God’s Word. It is still God’s gift to us. All of scripture is valid for us today. I think we need these words of reminder as we defend our faith against those individuals and denominations who vote on the truth and validity of God’s Word or of certain portions of God’s Word. It is becoming more and more difficult in our so called “tolerant” society to proclaim faith in a God who is intolerant of sin. It just does not make for good publicity. So what happens? People, individuals, and denominations begin to vote out the old, intolerant Word of God and vote in an new, user friendly God. If you do not like the Word of God, change it. Today we want to stay away from talking about the real needs of the people, sin and forgiveness, instead we want talk about their felt needs, how I can keep from feeling guilty about what I have been doing and what I am about to do without having to compromise doing what “comes natural.”

Of course, we may ask how can anyone do that, but it is simple, instead of believing that the Bible is the Word of God, we will say that it contains that Word of God. Or we will say that some parts of the Bible are culturally or timely, period-ly, valid. In other words, we place ourselves over the Word of God as the authority and in essence we become our own gods, judging God’s Word and instead of allowing God’s Word to mean what it says, we say it means this or that, in other words, we make ourselves our own little gods determining what is God’s Word and what is not God’s Word. What happens is there are no longer any absolutes and truly, no longer a Word of God.

Jesus teaches us that to teach that some of Scripture is not of value is to be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, in our world today such a person who speaks against Scripture might be thought of as being a great thinker or as being innovative, but not so in God’s kingdom. As I read and reread these words of Jesus, I am reminded of the importance of the Word of God. It is the Word of God which is one means that He uses through which He gives us His good gifts and blessings; faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life in this world, eternal life and salvation. It is the Word of God which is His Word, which is an absolute, which is what permeates our time together in Divine Service. I will be the first to admit that my sermon is not the most important part of our divine service. Rather, it is the readings, the liturgy, confession and absolution, being reminded of our baptism, the Lord’s Supper, those parts of our service which are the means of grace are the most important parts of our divine service, because it is through His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments and confession and absolution that God gives us His good gifts and blessings. My sermon is only as effective as the Word which it proclaims.

Which brings us to the last verse of our text, the one that reminds us that there are two ways to get to heaven. Verse twenty, “20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). One way to get to heaven is by being perfect, that is by our own good works being perfect, which means that because of the sin that is born in us, we would be doomed from the start if we tried to be saved by our own good works. Which leaves the only other way of salvation which is God’s free grace and favor. The example that Jesus gives is that of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. Their righteousness was great in that they followed the letter of the law. However, theirs was a civil righteousness, not God’s righteousness. And their righteousness did not save them.

If we were to try to be saved by our own righteousness, we would be doomed as they, yet, Jesus reminds us that our righteousness does surpasses theirs, not because we are so good, but because of our faith in Him. By faith God’s righteousness is made our righteousness.

God’s righteousness is made ours by faith in Jesus. Thus, it is God’s righteousness that works in us so that we do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). And they are truly good works because they are motivated by Him, done in and through us by Him, and done to His glory. And as I told our Bible class, these are the good works that more often than not we are not aware that we are doing.

To sum up this morning, I would simply redirect you to God’s Word. Just as Jesus spoke personally to the people of His day, so He speaks just as personally to you and me today through His Word. With that in mind then we are reminded by Jesus that the Old Testament is needed and is valid today.

We are reminded by Jesus that the Bible, all of the Bible is God’s gift to us, is needed by us, and is applicable to us, today, in total. We are reminded by Jesus that His Word and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as well as confession and absolution, are the means that He uses to give us all His good gifts and blessings, which reminds us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of these means.

And we are reminded by Jesus and from God’s Holy Word that His righteousness is made ours by faith, is worked in us so that we are the salt of the world, that our lights do shine before all the world to see, that we do live our lives according to all of God’s Word, because He moves in us to do so.

Jesus’ message to us today is a message of a super-natural occurrence. Jesus gives us life at conception. He gives us new life through His Word and Holy Baptism. He gives us strengthening of life and faith through His Word and the Lord’s Supper. He gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life through confession and absolution. And He gives us the ability and stirs in us to respond to all His good gifts and blessings so that we might live our lives in such a ways that they say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

False Hope

(From the Feb. 2011 Newsletter of St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield)

As we approach the end of this world, we can see that God’s Word is true, especially His Word which speaks about the approach of the end of this world. Of course, simply to make that statement often brings looks of suspicion because our society has come to the point of thinking that only lunatics with signs on street corners talk about the end of the world. So, how did we get to this point and how do we know we are at this point?

How did we get to this point? We slowly moved to this point by not taking God’s Word seriously, by compromising our faith and beliefs, and by allowing Satan to slowly move us from believing God’s Word to believing man’s opinions. If you do not like what God says in His Word, His demands, then close the book, and do not read it. Do not listen to it, do not go to where you might be convinced otherwise.

How often do we find ourselves in opposition to God’s Word, but instead of going to where we might be corrected, attending divine service and Bible class, we simply stay away, pleading ignorance if you will. Again, this is just as God predicted, “3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (1 Tim. 4:3-4). And yet, these same individuals will believe that their souls are not in jeopardy because after all they are members of a church or at least their names are on the rolls. Please do not be deceived, God is not mocked,
“6One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:6-8).
If you think you will be saved by simply having your name on the rolls of a congregation and live a life despising God’s Word by refusing and rejecting His Word, by refusing to be admonished and corrected by His Word, you are mistaken.

Slowly as human opinions began to take over God’s Word and as human opinions began being accepted as truth over God’s Word is how we got to this point. Yet, we know that our own human opinions have been tainted by sin, so more often than not they are incorrect. The biggest example is the heretical teaching of Darwinism which would have people believe that God’s Word is mistaken and man’s word reigns as truth. When we begin believing this heresy, then it is easy to dismiss God and live as we want to live, thinking in our own hearts that there will be no repercussions. The other result of believing the heresy of Darwinism is that the world will never end, but as it has been going, so it will continue to exist.

How do we know we are at this point? We know we are at this point because we truly do not know God’s Word, nor do we truly believe it (see above). A bold statement indeed, yet how true and how easy to see. Simply answer this question, “If you knew the world would end tonight, would you live today any different?” If you answer, “Yes,” then you give yourself away, because you do not know if the world will end tonight or if you will pass on. Either way, it would then be over. Jesus tells us,
“36But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:36-39).
And so we see our world living in this manner, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” oblivious to the fact that the end is coming, soon.
Are you ready? Do you have a false hope or a real hope? How do you know? You know you have a false hope when your life exhibits these signs: gift refusal through lack of divine service and Bible class attendance (in other words, attending whenever offered, if at all possible); not taking God’s Word serious especially concerning His judgements; being more concerned about this world, what people think more than what God thinks, amassing a nest egg, having the best and the most; spending more time concerned about this temporary world than the eternal world to come.

You know you are ready when the Lord makes you ready. You know you are ready when your heart is at ease because, even though you are a sinner, you know you have forgiveness as each week you hear those wonderful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” You know you are ready when your desire is to be about God’s business regardless of what the world thinks and even if it means being ridiculed by the world, including your family and friends. You know you are ready when you can answer “No” to the question, “If you knew the world would end tonight, would you live today any different?”

The world is coming to an end, soon. Or, we will pass on and go to the Lord, soon. Either case will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. Are you ready? Now more than ever is the time to get ready. Throw off any false hope you might have, “get right with God” and make sure you are ready because ready or not, it will happen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Convenient Change of Mindset

(From the Feb. 2011 Newsletter of St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield)

Have you ever noticed when life does not go the way we believe it should go, instead of going back to God and His Word and listening to what He tells us, often because that is too hard, we simply change our theology and how we understand what we believe God is saying?

When we have friends who are not Christians and are too timid, too afraid, even too politically correct to live our lives of faith and share our faith with them, instead of believing God’s Word which tells us that there is only one way to heaven, we simply adjust our theology and buy into the one world religion theology. After all we convince ourselves, it does not matter what you believe or in whom you believe as long as you are sincere in your faith. So, if we can convince ourselves that our friends are saved, then we do not have to confront them with their pagan, heathen, atheistic unbelief and life goes on. If our friend was a drug addict, would we do the same letting them go on abusing drugs and killing themselves? Then why would we be so malicious and let them continue to kill themselves spiritually, even putting their own soul in danger of eternal judgement. Either God has given us His Word which He means every part of it or we might as well throw out the whole book. God never said life would be easy.

Or, what about when our friends or even our own grown children begin to act in an ungodly manner? What do we do when they begin living in ways contrary to our own Christian morals? Do we confront them? Perhaps for a while we do, but then when they fail to change their lifestyle because they enjoy the sinning they are involved in, why is it that we change our theology and start sounding so much like the rest of our immoral society? You have heard it said, “You’re not supposed to judge other people.” Is that really what the Bible says? Is recognizing sin the same as judging someone? Paul reminds us that if we did not have God’s Word, especially the commandments, then we would not know what sin was; thus, the commandments are good. He also reminds us that as we do recognize sin and as our responsibility is to call attention of those we love to their sin, we are to do so recognizing our own sin as well. And finally, God does tell us that if someone continues in their sin, we are to judge them (1 Cor. 5:13), which is what we call excommunication. This calling attention to sin and even judging someone is done because we love them and want them to see the seriousness of their sin so they repent and are not eternally (forever) banned from heaven.

Perhaps before we compromise our faith and reduce our faith to that of our immoral, pagan society, we might go back to God and listen again to what He tells us in His Word. Remember, He created us to love us, and He helps us to love others, not by compromise, which leads to forever separation from Himself and each other, but through repentance and forgiveness which leads to eternal salvation.

I am reminded of the man whose son was inflicted with an evil spirit.
“20And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. 22And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ 23And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.’ 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:20-24).
Perhaps we might want to offer the same prayer before changing our theology. “Lord, I believe Your Word is true. Help me accept it and even more, help the ones I love hear and believe it as well.” And God will answer your prayer so that instead of an eternal separation there might be an eternal dwelling together in heaven, which is truly a more loving way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CD - A Final Thought - John 21:24-25

I know I have enjoyed writing these devotional thoughts. I pray that you have enjoyed reading them half as much as I have enjoyed writing them. I do have one concern and one prayer for you as a brother or sister in Christ. My concern is that you, please, do not rely on me or any other individual to tell you what to believe. In other words, do not just read devotional booklets or other people’s philosophies in order to know what to believe. My concern is that you read the Bible. Let Jesus speak to you through the pages of the Scripture as only He can. Let Him explain Himself to you as you read the pages. It is through Word and Sacrament that we are given God’s Grace. That is why they are called the means of grace. It is through reading the Word as well as through confession and absolution, remembering your baptism and attending the Lord’s Supper that we remember and are given forgiveness of sins. We are also given the other gifts that come along with forgiveness, namely, life and salvation.

I would like to end with my prayer for you, along with my concern that you read the Bible, I also ask you to pray. Pray for your family and friends. Especially, pray for your unchurched family and friends. Pray that they might come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Pray that they might, as you, have the certainty of eternal life in heaven. Pray that the Lord would work through you, as well as through others, to bring these people to meet Jesus so He can give them faith. Make yourself a prayer list and pray for the people on it. Set aside a time each day so you can get into the habit of reading your Bible and praying. These two things, more than anything in the world, will be what will keep you strong in your faith and help you to make it through life’s crises. This last devotion I would like to end with my prayer for you.

May the Lord bless you in all your works and all your ways. May the Lord strengthen you daily, and may He use you as an instrument whereby others may come to know Him. May all glory be to Him and His name forever. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CD - The Salutary Use of the Lord’s Supper? - 1 Cor. 10:17

The Sacrament of the Altar is a gift from God to His people. His people are those who have faith in His Son, Christ Jesus. His people are those who repent and believe that their sins are forgiven. His people are those who worship in divine service and serve Him alone as their God and Lord.

The Sacrament of the Altar is given to those who come in repentance and to be reconciled with God and with others. As one approaches the table they do so in a manner which shows forth that they believe that in this meal they will be given God’s forgiveness and they are ready, willing and able, with God’s help to share that forgiveness with others.

The Sacrament of the Altar is given to those who have been instructed in its proper use. It is given to those who understand what they are doing, that is that they are partaking of Christ’ body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins. It is given to those who are able to examine themselves before coming to be given these gifts.

The Sacrament of the Altar is also given to those who confess a unity of faith. This confession of faith is one of the most misunderstood and difficult things to understand about this Sacrament. We can understand why the ungodly, unbelieving and unrepentant are not allowed at the table. We can understand why the unforgiving are not at the table. We can understand why the unconscious are not invited to the table. We have some problem with understanding why those not properly instructed and why those of another confession are not invited to the table. Unfortunately, a lot of our misunderstanding comes from confusing the thoughts and ways of society with the thoughts and ways of God. Society says we are to let everyone do what they want. God says we are to come together as like minded people. Certainly the pastor cannot read everyone’s heart, but by coming to that table we all confess one faith. If we come to one table making one confession, then attend another table making another confession, we have confused our confession and we have lied to one people or another. The pastor, then, is left to the confession of the person attending the table for which he is responsible.

Thus, as we approach the Lord’s Table to partake of His gifts we will want to do so keeping in mind that we come in faith; that we come in repentance and forgiving others; that we come after being properly instructed and having examined ourselves and that we come confessing the faith in which we were instructed and in which we believe. We come, not demanding that this is something that this church, this pastor, or that God owes to us, but we come to be given the gifts that God has to give and to be given them in the way in which He has to give them. We come with thankful hearts, praising God for His good gifts and blessings.

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me especially when I approach Your table in a manner that is unworthy of my coming to Your table. Help me remember to come to Your table with a mind of faith, forgiveness, and trust after having been instructed in your Word and after examining myself. And Lord, thank You for Your gifts given to me through Your gifts of Your body and blood. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.