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, June 16, 2019

The Wisdom of God - June 16, 2019 - The Holy Trinity - Text: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Today we commemorate the social holiday of Father’s day, recognizing God’s gift of fatherhood and giving thanks to God for the Godly father’s who take serious their God-given role as the head of the family making sure to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As we have heard time and again, our short life in this world is nothing compared to our real eternal life in heaven reminding us that what is most important while we are in this world is making sure our eternal salvation has been procured. Thus, we rejoice in Godly fathers who make the spiritual life of their family the highest priority by being in Divine Service and Bible class, being given all the gifts and blessings God has to give. Thank you fathers for being here today and God’s continued blessing on your vocation as father.
This morning we celebrate the fact that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and as we describe Him in human terms, a God who is three persons in one Godhead. We are baptized into the Church in the name of God when water and His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are placed on us. We begin our divine service by invoking His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We conclude our divine service in His name in the Trinitarian Aaronic Benediction. And, although we may only be able to describe our God in human terms and may not be able to completely understand how He can be how He shows Himself to us, this is what we believe because this is how He has revealed Himself to us.
Our Scripture readings for this morning help us to understand God as He reveals Himself to us. In the Epistle lesson Peter espouses Jesus as truly God in human flesh. Peter testifies that although King David died and is still dead, at least his body is still in the tomb, Jesus, who was crucified on the cross, is alive and showed Himself to be alive and is ascended into heaven, from where He descended.
In the Gospel reading Jesus espouses Himself to be truly God. Jesus tells the Jews that before Abraham was born, He was already in existence. Not only here, but in the other Gospels as well, Jesus continually spoke of Himself and showed Himself, not only to be truly human, but also truly God.
Now, getting to our text. Our text speaks of wisdom and as we hear, read, mark and inwardly digest, or as we take to heart our text, we will understand and know that the wisdom with which our text speaks is indeed wisdom incarnate in Jesus, who is God. God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and beginning in our text at verse twenty-four, He speaks of His creating water, “24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water” (v. 24). Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the water and its separation from the dry ground.
Continuing on in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text at verse twenty-five, He speaks of creating the mountains, “25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world” (v. 25-26). Again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the mountains.
Again, continuing on in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text at verse twenty-seven, He speaks of separating the earth from the sky, “27When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28when he made firm the skies above,” (v. 27-28a). Once again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the separating of the earth from the sky.
And finally, concluding in our text, God is wisdom who created all things out of nothing and in our text beginning at the second half of verse twenty-eight, He speaks of setting boundaries for the seas, “when he established the fountains of the deep, 29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth” (v. 28b-29). Finally, once again, reiterating the fact that Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the beginning of Creation. He was there at the creation of the seas and the setting of their boundaries. And just as an aside, I believe and trust that God continues to keep these boundaries so that the earth will never again be flooded with a global flood, no matter what fallible, human scientist might suggest.
In summary, then, our text instructs in the fact that Jesus is truly God, with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world, and with the fact that true wisdom is founded in God and in particular is personified and incarnate, that is made flesh, in Jesus Himself. This is important as today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. Today we celebrate that God is wisdom. Just look at creation and how can you conclude anything less than what a wise creator God we have who created out of nothing the complexities of the orderly world in which we live?
Today we celebrate that Jesus is who He says He is and who He showed Himself to be, that is that Jesus is God. Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at creation. Jesus took on human flesh at His conception and birth. Jesus showed Himself to be truly human during His life as He demonstrated human attributes, that is He was hungry, thirsty, tired, sad, and so forth. Jesus showed Himself to be truly God during His earthly life as He demonstrated divine attributes, that is He healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storm, walked on water and so forth.
Today we celebrate that Jesus is truly Wisdom incarnate, wisdom in the flesh. If Jesus is God and God is wisdom, then we know that Jesus is wisdom. And thus we understand that apart from Jesus there is and can be no wisdom, no true wisdom.
So, what does this mean? Beginning with our text, we are reminded of creation and the fact that as God created all things out of nothing, He created all things perfect. After each day of creation, God saw what He had created and said it was good. After the sixth day of creation, after creating all things, God looked at what He had created and He said it was very good. So, in the beginning, all things were good and even very good. Unfortunately, when we move to chapter three of Genesis, after God ceases running the show, which He was doing in chapter one and two, when we get to chapter three and man begins running the show, perfection is lost. After creating all things perfect and holy, man sinned and this sin tainted man’s will and wisdom. Before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve knew only good. My contention, not to give them an excuse, but I believe since they knew only good, they did not understand that Satan was lying, because they did not understand evil. Anyway, after Adam and Eve sinned, that sin took root in their entire DNA so that no longer were they perfect and holy and knowing only good. Now they knew what was evil as well as what was good. Now their wisdom and understanding were tainted by sin.
Today our world continues to espouse human wisdom, which is tainted and flawed, over God’s wisdom. Today so called scientist attempt to explain our world apart from its Creator God. Today many people attempt to make sense of death and destruction apart from a perfect, holy Creator God and a humanity which has been tainted by sin. Today there is an attempt to throw God out, to keep Him out of our courts, our politics, our schools and even out of our homes. Is it no wonder that the world is in the mess it is in? Is it no wonder that people, even young people are killing each other? If there is no God then we are accountable to no one. If we are simply accidents of nature, or as some have describe us, rearranged pond scum, then we are simply doing what is natural and who are you to say we cannot kill, steal, and so forth?
What is touted as wisdom in this world, that is wisdom apart from and without God, we can see and understand is truly the foolishness of this world because we know that apart from God and Godly wisdom, is only foolishness. It is amazing how those who tout themselves as wise apart from God will believe the impossible, such as the spontaneous generation of DNA information and deny the obvious, creation by design. When looking at photo of a house and a yard, the so called wise man of this world has no problem believing the biologically complex lawn happened by accident, but cannot fathom and would believe you to be crazy if you suggested the much less biologically complex house came together by accident, perhaps through a tornado. This is the wisdom of this world, tainted by sin, which is indeed foolishness.
As Christians, as those redeemed by God, as those having God’s name put on us through the waters of Holy Baptism, we bear witness of truly Godly wisdom and we do this, bear truly Godly wisdom, through our lives of faith. So, although the world may call us foolish, we have God’s witness and we have His authority and promise that as we live lives as priests in the priesthood of all believers, as we live lives of faith, offering our lives as living sacrifices, He is with us to deliver us. In the end, as we gather around our Lord’s throne, then, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord!
This morning, as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Godly wisdom of our triune God who shows Himself to us especially in the person and work of Jesus. It all begins with Jesus. He is the prime mover. He was with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world. He took on human flesh and blood in order to be our substitute. He loves us so much and He shines His love into our hearts and lives especially through His means of grace, His word and His Sacraments. He loves us and helps us to love others. He loves us and in our loving others and serving others, we are serving Him and giving glory to His holy name.
God is wisdom and Jesus is wisdom in flesh. God is love and Jesus is love in flesh. As Christians, we rejoice as we are counted as worthy enough to stand with Jesus, to be persecuted for our faith, to be called foolish and unwise, because we know the truth, we know wisdom, we know Him who gave His life for ours and we know Him who saves us and gives all things to us. My prayer for you is that as you continue to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, the Lord will continue to strengthen you and keep you in your faith, and strengthen you so that you will be better able, at all times to give a defense and answer for your hope and faith in Jesus. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Making A Name - June 9, 2019 - The Day of Pentecost - Text: Genesis 11:1-9

There are some people, who, when they sit down to read a book, they like to go to the last chapter or the last few pages and read to see how the book ends. They believe if they know how it ends, then they can better enjoy the journey through the book. This morning, as we celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, and the ability of the Apostles to speak in the languages of those present in Jerusalem, we might come to realize that we are reading the end of the story of our text which takes us to the time that the languages were mixed and confused so that the people were scattered to populate the earth. Today we celebrate Pentecost which is the undoing of the Tower of Babel in our Old Testament reading.
Our text begins with the plot, and sin, verse one, “1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’” (v. 1-4)
A quick review of history is in order. In the beginning God created the world. On the sixth day of creation, the same day God created the dinosaurs, God created Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Some time after creation, Adam and Eve sinned and brought sin, death and evil into the world. Sin and evil got so bad that God washed the world with a world wide flood. After the flood God told Noah and his family to spread out and repopulate the world. However, instead of the people going out and repopulating the world, they stayed in one place and grew to be a large number of people.
Now, getting to our text, our text tells us that the people wanted to “make a name for themselves,” that is they thought more highly of themselves than they should have. They wanted to make themselves known to the generations that followed them. They wanted to leave a legacy. They wanted to be thought of, even as gods. They did not want to “disperse over the face of the whole earth,” instead, they wanted to disobey God and outright sin.
Their plan was to build an everlasting monument to themselves, a monument that would draw people to Babel, to keep them at Babel and to perpetuate their idolatry. For our engineers, notice that their plan was to make bricks in a new and better way. They were not going to simply make mud bricks and let them dry in the sun which is how it was done before, instead they would make bricks from stone and bake them and concrete them together so they could build a taller and stronger structure, a structure that would last longer. Just a side note of interest, did you notice how, from creation, God had given them the wisdom necessary for this architectural ability. This engineering ability was not something that was “discovered” or learned, but was already in their DNA. When God created Adam and Eve He created them with all knowledge, with perfect knowledge and this is important as we will make note a little later.
God is God and He knows what is happening, He is, after all, omniscient. His answer to their arrogance is seen beginning at verse five, “5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (v. 5- 9)
It is interesting as our text describes God in terms of ‘coming down’ to see the city. God is omnipresent, that is He is always everywhere present, yet for the sake of emphasizing how little these “big headed” people really were, God ‘came down’ to this little earth, that He created, to assess the problem. Now, understanding that it is because the people have one language that they are able to carry out the evil intent and desire of their heart and so God’s plan to stop their behavior is to confuse their language. When God confused their languages, since they now spoke different languages and could not understand each other and could not communicate with one another, they had to abandon their project.
After the Lord confused their languages, the people had to find those who spoke their own language. Sorry for the image, but my first instinct is to think that this might have been something like a group icebreaker where everyone is instructed to go around and find people of similar eye color or hair color, or the like, except that with an icebreaker like this, everyone can speak the same language.
At any rate, after finding people who spoke the same language as they spoke, these people of various language groups dispersed, and as they dispersed they took with them certain dominant genetic traits. This is why we have the various cultures we have in our world today. This is natural selection, not molecules to man evolution. As the people who spoke the same language dispersed to certain parts of the world they took with them certain dominant DNA traits. Some took with them traits for certain dominant colors of skin, some traits for certain dominate shapes of eyes, some traits for certain dominate heights, and so forth. What the world calls the various races of the world, I believe, are better described as the various cultures of the world, I say this because God in His Word speaks of only two races, the believers and the unbelievers. So, our text for this morning explains the beginning of the various culture groups we have around the world.
As I mentioned earlier, today is Pentecost Sunday. In our Gospel lesson we hear Jesus promise to His disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit who will teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that He has said to them. And so, He is encouraging the disciples to wait for the sending and their receiving of the Holy Spirit.
In the Epistle lesson we read the account of the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit. And just briefly, the celebration of Pentecost was a Jewish harvest celebration when the Jews were instructed to be in Jerusalem to celebrate, which is the reason so many Jews from the various parts of the world, speaking various languages were in Jerusalem. God took this Jewish celebration and gives something greater, the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of the most fascinating things about this is the timing, that God’s timing of the life, death and resurrection of His Son happened so that this Jewish celebration of harvest, this Pentecost celebration might coincide with the fiftieth day after Easter and His sending of the Holy Spirit, at just the right time.
And as we made note earlier, this sending of the Holy Spirit on these people who had gathered in Jerusalem at this time and who spoke different languages is the undoing of the Old Testament lesson and the reminder of God’s will to save all people.
So, what does this mean? Again, my contention is that what we read and hear is not coincidence and no surprise. Remember, it was immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden that God promised to take care of their sin. God’s promise to send a Messiah was given in Eden before there was a Jew or a Gentile, when there was only one people group, Adam and Eve. As we walk through the Old Testament, we note that although the promise of through whom, through which family line the Savior would be born was narrowed, the promise to save all people was never changed.
Following the flood, as at the creation of the world, it was God’s desire to populate the earth. At creation God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. After the flood God told the people to disperse and repopulate the world. Because the sin of humanity remained in Noah and his family, people continued to be born in sin and continued to sin. Sin is in our DNA, it is genetic. That fact that we are conceived and born in sin, that sin is in our DNA does not give us a license to sin, but it does explain our natural instinct and behavior. And this morning, we have our answer as to from where the various cultures, or as our world likes to designate them, the various races come, the tower of Babel.
We live in a world that is still infected by sin. We still think more highly of ourselves. We still seek to make a name for ourselves. Yes, we are still conceived and born in sin and we know that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. We still need a Savior and that is why Jesus came, to be our Savior, to be our substitute, to give His life for us and for all.
Jesus came to do what we cannot do, to live perfectly, to obey all God’s laws and commands perfectly and He did, never sinning even once. Because He was born as one of us, a human being and because He never sinned, He was able to be our substitute. He took our sins, our sins of thinking more highly of our selves, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission and He took them on Himself and paid the price for our sin. He suffered the eternal death penalty of hell for us, in our place and He died. But as we know the story, death and the grave had no power over Him because He rose victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. And today we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who worked in the hearts and minds of the Apostles so that they finally understood all of what Jesus came to do and did. It is the Holy Spirit whose work today continues to point to Jesus. He is the one who works and gives faith through the means of the Bible as well as Holy Baptism. He is the one who stirs in us and gives us the words and boldness to proclaim His Word to all.
Again, and as always, God is the prime mover. And now, we know we are getting it right when we know He is the prime mover. God gives and does and we are given to and done to. God gives life and we are reminded of His giving of life at creation and personally at conception. God gives forgiveness of sins, and we know we have forgiveness as we hear His Word of forgiveness spoken to us. God gives life and salvation and we know we have salvation, again, as we hear His Word.
And again this morning we see God’s great love for us. God created all things out of nothing and His desire is to show His love for all He created. He showed His love in His promise to Adam and Eve to send a Savior. He showed His love in His attempt to cleanse the world with a flood and in His preserving Noah and His family. He showed His love in thwarting the plans of the people at the tower of Babel and the confusion of their languages so that they were scattered throughout the world. He showed His love in the giving of His Son and His Son’s life for us on the cross. Today He continues to show His love through His Word as well as through confession and absolution, Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper. God loves you so much, my prayer is that you continue to be given His love and that you will continue to be lavished with all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give as you make regular and diligent use of His means of grace. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Lord Opens Hearts - May 26, 2019 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 16:9-15

Over the past three Sundays we have been reminded that our lives bear witness of the faith that is in our hearts, or that it bears witness of our lack of faith. Indeed, we are encouraged to love others as God first loves us, thus we live in our vocations as a response of all that God first does for us. We live as priest in the priesthood of all believers, living our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, serving God by serving others. We were also reminded of the fact that because of our inborn sinful nature we do bear witness imperfectly.
In our text for this morning we continue to see God working through Paul, but even more, we continue to see the Church, that is the Holy Christian Church grow through the means of the preaching of the Word of God as well as through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Again, this morning we are reminded that God’s usual way of coming to us, of giving to us, of doing for us, of working in and through us, is through means and in particular the means of His Holy Word and His Holy Sacraments.
Our text begins with Paul’s vision, verse nine, “9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (v. 9-10). Up until this time Paul was told “no,” you are not to go to Macedonia. Paul had a desire to go to Macedonia, but the Lord had prevented him from going by putting other obstacles in his way, but no longer.
With Paul, we continue to see God working outside His usual means of dealing with His people, that is, with Paul, God again comes to him a bit more directly, this time in a vision. God shows Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him and urging him to go to Macedonia. And so Paul plans to go.
Our text continues with the rest of the story, picking up at verse eleven, “11So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” (v. 11-15).
As we follow along here in Acts, Luke lays out the travel plans for Paul. The trip took the group from Troas, to Samothrace, to Neapolis, and finally to Philippi in Macedonia. Interestingly enough we are told that this is a Roman colony, which means, for Paul, being a Roman citizen, he has certain privileges that other non-Roman citizen do not have.
Anyway, we are told that on the Sabbath, that is on the day of rest, which for the Jews was the last day of the week or Saturday, Paul was looking for a place to worship. Here we are reminded that Paul’s usual custom is being in divine service and keeping the third commandment. “13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together” (v. 13). Paul was new to the city and did not know what to expect, so he went to where he thought was a place of prayer and then sat down with those who had already gathered.
Because there were no men present to lead the service, the missionaries, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke lead the service and Paul had the opportunity to preach the Word of God. We are not given Paul’s sermon, but from our reading of Paul’s letters, certainly we would believe that Paul preached a sermon of law, convicting those gathered of their sins, and a word of Gospel, presenting and proving that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, God Himself who gave His life for the forgiveness of those gathered and for all people.
And now we have our reminder, again, this morning, as we have had over the past few weeks, how the Lord works through the very means of His Word to give the gifts and blessings He has to give. We are told that those gathered paid attention to the words that were spoken, to what was said, and what was said was the Word of God and as God’s Word does what it says, we are told that it worked conversion. Through the very means of the Word of God which Paul spoke, Lydia was given faith, forgiveness and life.
But even more, we are reminded that faith’s response is the desire for baptism and so, Lydia and her household were baptized, giving faith to the rest of the household. Now, a couple important things to remember; when faith is given through the Word of God, faith’s desire is baptism. For a person to say they believe yet do not have a desire for Holy Baptism is to deny one’s faith. Also, as Peter reminds us in his Epistle, baptism is also a means of grace so that through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism one is given faith and we see this in our text as we are told that Lydia’s household was baptized and we understand that to mean that they too were given faith. Notice we are not told the ages of those in her family, because the age is not important. We are accountable to God from the moment of conception, and because we are conceived and born in sin, our need for forgiveness and baptism is evident. Notice also, that we are not told of the mode of baptism, whether by immersion or sprinkling, because the mode is not what makes for a valid baptism.
Finally, we are told that her response of faith was to offer hospitality, to have the missionaries come and stay at her house while they were in Macedonia so that she might tend to their physical needs. And Luke says, “she prevailed upon us,” in other words, they could not say “no.”
So, what does this mean and what does this mean for us today? This morning we are reminded once again, as we have been reminded over the past number of weeks, that God’s usual way of coming to us and giving to us, is not directly, but indirectly, not immediately, but mediately, that is through a mediator or a means. Remember the reason the Apostle’s had the ability to do miracles, to heal, raise from the dead and the like, was to attest to the validity of their work and their Words which were the Words of the Lord. As the Apostles died off so did this ability to perform miracles, signs and wonders, because they were no longer needed. So, as I have said before, what we often see today, especially on television, what is touted as a miracle, is either a “slight” of hand, a trick, simply a show or con, a work of Satan himself, or in very rare and I mean very rare instances, truly a miracle. Personally, when it comes to believing in miracles, I give more credence to what I would call the quiet, unassuming miracles, those miracles which give glory to God and to God alone and are not accredited to any human person.
What we see in our text for this morning is what happens in our world today, that is that God, is working through His usual means, the means of grace to call to and give faith, forgiveness and life, through these usual ordinary means. God’s call to faith is through the means of His Word, the Bible as well as through the means of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is through these very means, these ordinary things, these common, earthly things, that God does great things and He does great things through these ordinary means because He is a great God. The Bible is a book unlike all other books. The Bible is a book with power, to do and give what it says. When God says we have forgiveness, we have forgiveness. When God says we have faith, we have faith. Holy Baptism is another powerful gift from God. As Peter reminds us in his Epistle, “Baptism now saves you.” We do not save ourselves, but Baptism, the very means of baptism, saves us. God, using the ordinary, earthly means of water, connected to His very Word, and in particular, His name, does and gives what it says. And the same is true for the Lord’s Supper. Though the very means of the ordinary food of bread and wine, connected to God’s very Word, He gives us His body and His blood so that we participate in His death and resurrection until He comes again. Yes, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection, that is what “Do this in remembrance of Me,” means, we participate!
God gives faith, forgiveness and life through these ordinary, every day, earthly  means. And we can add to these means, the means of confession and absolution. Every Sunday we come and we begin our service by confessing our sins and then when we hear the word of absolution, the words that our sins are forgiven, although we hear them from the mouth of the one God has called to speak them in this place, from our pastor, we know that they are God’s Word of forgiveness and as God’s Word of forgiveness, so it is so, His Word does what it says, His Word gives us forgiveness so that we can be certain that our sins are forgiven, by God for Christ’s sake.
And finally, God stirs in us a response of faith. Our response of faith is what shows that God has given us faith. Our response of faith is to not refuse and reject the gifts that God gives, “I don’t need any more gifts this week Lord, I have enough, maybe next week I will need some more.” Rather, our response is the desire to be where the gifts are given, when the gifts are given. Our response is not, “Do I have to go to church?” but “When do we get to go again?” Our response is that we simply cannot get enough of God’s grace, forgiveness, strengthening of faith, life and salvation.
God loves you so much. He has shown His love in the gift of His Son and His own life for you on the cross, because of His great love for you. God has so much that He wants to give to you. He has given you life, faith, forgiveness and eternal salvation and He has so much more He wants to give to you. My prayer is that He will continue to work through these very means that He has given to continue to move you to be given the gifts He has to give and to continue to live a life of faith, to live your life as a living sacrifice as a priest in the priesthood of all believers. So that your life bears witness of the faith He has given to you and so that your life says, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Homeschool Graduation Address

Graduating Class of 2019, let me remind you as you move from one part of your life into the next, the world is not a nice place. Indeed, the devil is in the world roaming around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. As our world moves further and further from the truth of God’s Word, there are those who would prey on you, especially you who are homeschooled and Christian. As a matter of fact there are many whose sole desire would be to “break” you of your beliefs. Thankfully God is on our side.
First, let me say, that going to college or university may not be for everyone. There are many opportunities and even more and more so today in the trade fields. Dr. Martin Luther spoke much of our vocations that are the places in life where we serve God by serving others. He expressed the fact that the milkmaid serves God better in her vocation than the monk who sits in his cell all day and meditates (not his exact quote). The point being that as we live in our various vocations, son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, factory worker, plumber, electrician, doctor, lawyer, pastor, priest, farmer, rancher, no matter what our vocation, we serve God by serving others and that is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. As long as we are working in an honest vocation serving God by serving others, we should rejoice in that gift of vocation, whatever it may be. Yet, even in all workforce vocations, the devil will be there to tempt you.
Should you decide to further your education, the devil will be there even more so. So, let me explain something to you before you move on, up and perhaps out. The big world of academia seeks to scam you into believing that what you have been taught as a Christian makes you not so smart. They will attempt to persuade you that they know what is best for you and how you might become a free-thinking person, your own person, intellectually independent shall we say. What they will attempt to do is to convince you that if you think like your parents, like you were taught growing up then you are not truly smart nor a free thinker. Instead, they would ask you to give up your ways and instead to think like they do, because then and only then will you be truly smart and a free thinker, indeed intellectually independent. Yet, if you have been following carefully you will see that they simply want you to trade one set of norms, morals and values for another, your parents for theirs. I would challenge you to challenge any professor that says they want you to be a free thinker, ask them if it is okay to disagree with them. You might find that you will fail if you were to actually bring up free thinking ideas. So, you might be careful how you address your professors.
What is my advice? Cling to what you know is right, what you have been taught. Certainly your parents, who brought you into this world, who fed and clothed you, who taught you, changed your diapers, rooted for you, encouraged and even disciplined you, love you more than you can know. Your professor simply has you as a student, a number in his or her class. They do not know you from anything, do not be fooled into thinking they actually have the best in mind for you. I would encourage you, do not trade the values you have learned for the values or lack thereof of your professor and think that makes you a free-thinking smart intellectually independent person. The truth is you will have simply traded the values of those that love you for one who seeks a notch on his or her belt.
How do you keep from falling prey? The B-I-B-L-E. You know what Bible stands for, Basic information before leaving earth. Every group that I get to speak to and teach I make sure I begin with the foundation, the basics, the Word of God. As we know, the Old Testament points to Jesus. The New Testament points to Jesus. The calendar, B.C. (Before Christ) points to Jesus and A.D. (Anno Domini) points to Jesus. All history, all time, the Bible points to Jesus. Thus, you know you get it right when you point to Jesus. I would encourage you to go back to your Bible, to read especially Genesis chapters one through eleven. In Genesis God sets the standards for life. He tells us exactly how He created the world meaning that there is a Creator, thus there is an ultimate Authority, and there is One to whom we are ultimately responsible. He tells us how He created humans beings, two genders, men and women and how marriage is for one man and one woman, not any other perversion of this gift. My rule of thumb in life is this: Human beings are by nature imperfect sinners and often get it wrong. Look at any science book and see how many times theories are changed. God is perfect and never gets anything wrong. So, if there is ever a difference between what God says and what men say, I am going to go with what God says and figure that the human has gotten something wrong and needs to go back and look again.
With that said, please understand, God never said that life in this world would be easy, as a matter of fact, because of the exclusive claim of Christianity, that there is one and only one way to heaven, the world will hate you, but indeed it is not you but Jesus they are hating. The various religions, cults, and sects of the world, the various theories of molecules to man evolution, the many worldviews of our social society have come about because of man’s desire to be the captain of his ship, his own ruler, the one to determine his own destiny or fate, in other words, to make himself or herself their own god, which we know is idolatry.
So, let me encourage you. Matthew 28:19-20 is usually referred to as the Great Commission. I would like to encourage you to read it as the great giving of authority and the great promise. Jesus begins by telling us that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him and therefore He infers that He is giving that authority to us. So, when someone asks you, who gives you the right to speak for God, say, Jesus does. Then as He continues, the tense of the verbs is not a command, rather it speaks of the fact that as you are going, as you are living, as you are living in your vocation, make disciples and we do that by always being ready to give an answer, a defense, an apology for our faith, that is when someone asks us what we believe, we eagerly answer their question. And let me encourage, as hard as it may be, no one wants to listen to you if you speak when not asked. So, although you may desire to pour out your faith on another, patiently wait and pray for the opportunity, to be asked. And then we have Jesus’ promise, lo, I am with you to the end of the age. Indeed, let me assure you, Jesus will give you the opportunity, the courage and the very words to speak to bear witness of Him. And then go on rejoicing and praying for that person.
Now, although this may sound discouraging, please be encouraged by this fact, heaven is a place of complete perfection. The world we live in may be difficult at times. When we get to heaven how much of this world do you think you will remember? I am an avid Cowboys and Astros fan, but in heaven how many Super Bowls, or World Series they have won really will not matter. My point is this, too many people spend too much time on the struggles of this world and too often to the detriment of their spiritual well being, on what is important, preparing for our real lives of heaven. When life gets difficult, remember this world is only a temporary place.
Finally, let me say, each of you can make a difference, or better said, the Lord can make a difference through you. I would say keep the faith, but I will say, give it away. Live life to the fullest, enjoying the gifts the Lord has to give and share that with others, as you have opportunity and as you are asked. And remember, you do not convert anyone, you simply share the Word and God does the rest, let Him do what He does best. May God bless you in whatever vocation you choose, serving Him by serving others and always doing so to His glory.