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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Wish I Had the Power I Am Attributed to Having Or, How Do You Think God Will Respond?

“So and so made me do it.” It is so easy to pass the blame to someone else, when the truth is, we should answer, “I did not get my way and so this is my ‘adult’ way of pouting.”

But, let us take this to the ultimate, theological conclusion. Let us say we are standing before God on Judgment Day. We have not been to church in years. We have been bad mouthing our pastor, other church members, etc. We believe we are justified in our anger. (And Satan is proud!)

So, God asks, “Who are you?” “Do I know you?” “Have I seen you before?” and we answer, “Yes, we know you Lord, remember, we are members of Your Church.” “Then, why have I not seen you?” God asks. Our response, “Well, it is so and so’s fault.” “So and so made me do it.” Do we actually believe God will say, “Oh, okay, that makes sense, after all, I never did create you to be responsible for yourself.”

It is amazing how narrow focused, self-centered, we have become in this world. Our focus is rarely where it should be and needs to be, on the goal, eternal life with Christ. How little thought we give to the fact that our life in this world is truly fast and fleeting. Instead, we begin life thinking we are invincible and live life on the edge. We then live life thinking we need to make the most of this life while we can. And, unfortunately, it is not until and only if we live long enough that we begin to think about the goal and it is usually at this time that we begin to realize how short our life has been and the regrets we have for the things we have done and said.

Jesus told the parable about the rich man for a reason. Remember the story, the rich man believed he needed to build bigger and better barns, stock up and enjoy life, eat, drink and be merry and tomorrow he would worry about his soul, but that very night his soul was required of him.

None of us knows when we will die, because our birth certificate does not have an expiration date on it, so we need to be always ready, especially always ready to give an answer, even to our God, the judge who may not recognize us, because we have not been the people He would have us to be.

So, perhaps we would do well to keep life in perspective, to keep our eyes on the goal, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to not take offense, to not throw tantrums, to be ready to stand before God and answer for ourselves taking responsibility for ourselves. No one can make us do anything, not even God (well, I guess He could if He wanted to, but that is not how He operates). When we act, when we react, we do so according to our own intentions and we are accountable, before God for our actions.

How to respond to, “So and so made me do it?” “Well, if I made you do this, then would you have done the opposite if I had told you?” “Then why did you not do the opposite, because that is what I would have told you!”

The good news is this, God is gracious, God is love, and He loves us so much. He has earned forgiveness for us and He has the power and the will to stir in us, to guide us, to help us to be the people He would have us to be, to act and react appropriately, taking responsibility for ourselves, and even when we fail, He is there always ready to forgive and help us again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You Know Where You Are By What You See

If you were blindfolded and taken into a store anywhere in the United States and the blindfold was removed, and you saw a store mostly painted red, with red circles and circles inside circles, you might imagine you were in a Target® Store. If you removed the blindfold and you saw predominately a blue paint and little flowers and smiley faces, and the brand Great Value you would know you were in a Walmart® Store. The same could be said for any of a number of department stores, Sears®, Penny’s®, Kohls®, Kmart®, and the list could go on. Simply by our observation of what we see in a store, the colors, the arrangement, the store name brand, and so forth, we know the store. The philosophy of business of the store dictates the design and function of the store.

There is a cliche that states, “If it looks like a duck and quakes like a duck, it is a duck.” This may be applied to what we have been saying about these large department stores. You would not go into a Walmart® and expect to see little red targets. You would not go into a Sears® and find the Great Value brand. Because of the particular business philosophy of each business, each business has a particular way of designing the layout of the store, a particular way of presenting the items for sale, a particular way of advertizing, having sales, etc.

Since this connection is true in the business world, and since too many (one is too many) in the church would like to emulate the business world and incorporate the business model into the church, believing the church should be run like a business, certainly we can make a comparison in the church. Interestingly enough, although there are those who would like to run a church like a business, they do not want to compare the connection of the business philosophy to the way the business carries out their philosophy. The reason for this resistance to compare the two in this manner is because those who would like to run a church like a business want to make a disconnect from the business philosophy and the business practice.

The “brass tacks” of this is that even in the business world there is a connection between philosophy and practice just as in the church there is a connection between doctrine and practice. In the church some label this as “style” and “substance.” Style is practice and substance is doctrine or philosophy. In the business world they go together so that no matter in what store you shop, you know you are in that store. When there is a disconnect, as has been attempted in the church, there is confusion. So, although in years past if you went into any Lutheran Church, you knew you were in a Lutheran Church, the same cannot be said today, because, there are some Lutheran Churches who attempt to make this disconnect today. Which means that as the practice has changed, the style has changed, and the heart of this change can be traced to a change in substance, in doctrine. So, just as a business that changes its philosophy reflects this change in how it conducts business, so a church that has changed its doctrine shows this change in its practice. And the reverse is also true, if a church has changed its practice, its doctrine will change.

If you go to a church that looks like a Baptist Church, sounds like a Baptist Church, acts like a Baptist Church, etc., then you know you are in a Baptist Church. It does not matter what the name on the marquee is, non-denomination, pan-denomination, un-denomination, etc., it is what it practices. If you attend a Church that has the Lutheran name, but sounds, looks and acts like a Baptist Church, do not be fooled, it is a Baptist Church.

Perhaps we would do well to stop trying to fool people concerning who are what we are and be proud of our history, name, doctrine and practice.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wisdom and Strength

Praise the Lord for the power and wisdom of God. Praise the Lord that His weakness is stronger than our power. We may think we have power, well, after all, we can blow up the earth, but in His power God said, “Let there be” and there was. God alone can create and destroy matter. We human beings can only change the matter which our Lord has created for us.

Praise the Lord that His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom. We may think we are wise, especially when we begin to explain the processes that occur in our world. This is where we need to constantly remind ourselves, lest we forget, that we are merely explaining processes. It is God who created all the processes, how long has it taken us to understand just a few? Oh, there are people who would like to explain away the world according to chance, but the faith it would take to believe those theories is much greater than the faith the Lord gives us to believe His truth.

The other day I saw a car with the Christian fish made with legs and the name “Darwin” inscribe in the middle. I would like to have stopped the person and asked, “So, how many years did it take for all those parts to come together by themselves to make your car?” Certainly, the person would have looked at me like I was crazy. And I did leave out the whole problem of where did the parts come from in the first place. If you would ask anyone this question they would think you were out of your mind. Yet, no one seems to mind suggesting that our bodies, which are even more complex than a car, evolved over millions of years. How much greater is the foolishness of God than the greatest wisdom of man.

There are basically two religions in the world. There is man’s religion and there is God’s religion. The religion of man is based on self-righteousness, on man’s reaching up to God, on man’s ability, his character, his working out his own salvation. Basically, according to man’s religion, one must earn his or her salvation. A person is to do good and then he or she is saved.

And then there is God’s religion. God’s religion is based on grace. God does it all and gives it all. And God does it all and gives it all even though we are undeserving of any and all that He has to give. God gives salvation and then a person is motivated, again, by God, to respond, that is to do and to live.

Thus, the cross is foolishness to the self-righteous and so they do not hear the preaching of the cross. The cross is simply another reminder of our sin and our inability to do anything about our sin. We like to think of ourselves as basically good people. Have you noticed how the people of our world flock to these churches that, basically tell people they are good people. And if we are basically good people, then we do not need anyone to pay any price for our sins, because basically we do not have any sin. This is man’s wisdom. Or should I say, “This is man’s wisdom?” (Said in a questioning tone). Remember, as I said last week and as I have said numerous times before, the forgiveness of sins is our greatest need and the greatest gift we are given to by God. For, without forgiveness, we are yet in our sins and we would be destined to eternal spiritual death. When we think we are so good that we have no need for forgiveness, when we are not reminded of our sins so that we confess, then we remain in our sins and our destiny is set.

Yet, as we see, there are many in our world today who revel in this foolishness and in this powerlessness. People flock to churches and seminars where they are told how good they really are and how they can do some many good things to please the Lord. There are many who believe God wants and even needs something from them. Here again we see human wisdom at its best. As Christians, as redeemed children of God, as sinners made saints through God’s grace which gives faith, forgiveness and eternal life we are certainly reminded, what could our God possibly need from us? He is the One who created us. He is the One who redeemed us. He is the One who is working in us our Sanctification. He created us in order to do for us and give to us, in order to love us. How many parents do you know have children so they can be served by their children? No, we have children in order to love them, care for them, and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are God’s children and He created us to love us, care for us and nurture us.

So, if we are going to boast, then we only boast in the Lord. As we look at our three texts for this morning, we are reminded that we boast in the fact that our Lord loves us so much that He gives us the Ten Commandments, which point out our sins, so we do repent. We boast in the Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God, even God Himself, who came to earth to do for us what we are unable to do. That is, Jesus obeyed all the commandments perfectly for us and then took our sins of breaking all the commandments, and paid the price for our sins. And now we are reminded of the foolishness and weakness of our Lord, which are far greater than what we believe to be our wisdom and strength.

Praise the Lord that in His power and wisdom He did not let the weaknesses and foolishness of this world get in the way so that He did accomplish His plan of salvation so that by grace, through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection we have the promise of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tolerance and Getting Along

I want to begin by asking you to be tolerant of my good behavior this morning. I would like to ask that you be tolerant of what I pray will be good theology, good law and good gospel. Now, doesn’t that sound rather absurd? We do not need to ask for people to be tolerant of our good behavior. When someone is asking us to be tolerant of their behavior it is because they are going to do something that is not good, meet, right and salutary. So, usually we are asked something like this, “will you be tolerant of my homosexual behavior/lifestyle?” “Will you please be tolerant of my drug abuse, spouse abuse . . . etc.?” “Will you be tolerant of my misuse of law and gospel and lousy theology?” And you get the idea. Let that float around in your mind for a minute.

In the Epistle lesson, Paul is writing to the Corinthians because there is a problem. Perhaps the problem is that they are not being tolerant enough of one another? I wonder what their problem might have sounded like in one of our district or synodical conventions today? We are following church growth principles. We are following the principles of Rick Warren. We are following the principles of Bill Hybels. We follow the principles of Joel Osteen, he will bring out the champion in us. We are following the principles of the Fuller Institute. We are following the principles of Kent Hunter. We are following the synod guidelines. We are following Luther. And you know it will happen, someone will get up and say, “Why can’t we just get along?”

“Why can’t we just get along?” That is code for, “Why can’t everyone agree with me?” Of course my response is, “If you will agree with me then we can get along.”

The problem is, we cannot all get along. We are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. And, of course Satan knows this and uses this to his greatest advantage pushing and pulling us against one another, tempting us with this or that false teaching, heresy and easy way to “success.”

As a pastor I know that, unfortunately, not all the laity actually realize what the pastor is called to do. Perhaps some people confuse what we do as members of the congregation; anything that needs to be done at times, taking out the trash, fixing the copy machine and so on, we confuse this with our calling to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments and forgive and retain sins. God calls us to be faithful and to faithfully carry out our calling. No where in Scripture does God indicate that He expects anything from Pastors or from Christians except faithfulness. And actually, the only place Scripture speaks about success has to do with a military campaign and the success is not a human success but is God’s success.

God calls us to be faithful and He knows that even that simple expectation is difficult for us because of our nature. Paul says he was glad he did not baptize anyone (and then he begins remembering the ones he did baptize), but his point is this that he was called by God to preach the Gospel, to preach Christ, to preach Christ crucified, what folly.

Everyone knows that the winner is the one who defeats and comes out on top in the end. The Super Bowl is coming on Sunday and we believe the winner will be the greatest team (when we know the Cowboys are the best, did I say that out loud, sorry). Perhaps the winner will be the best team, at least for a few months until it starts over next season, but he point is, this is a human idea.

Paul, and for that matter, I and, I pray, all good pastor preach Christ crucified. I believe what some fail to understand that we will understand how great is God’s grace and forgiveness only as we understand what miserably, awful sinners we really are. If we follow the tolerant schemes of the world, then we think we are not so bad and perhaps Jesus only had to die a little for me. Not much grace there. Perhaps we can believe in ourselves and the champion in us will come out so that really, we won’t need Jesus at all. No grace there.

One little sin condemns to eternal death. Let alone the fact that we are great sinners indeed. Have you ever thought about it. Suppose we only sinned 3 times a day, when the actual figure is more like 30. So, 3 or 30 times 365 days in a year equals 1000, or 10,000 sins in a year, times how old we are. No, we are not pretty good people. We are rotten, miserable sinners. And God is not tolerant of sin, thus, God is not tolerant of us. The price for sin was set, eternal spiritual death and that price had to be paid. We cannot get along with God because our sin has separated us from Him. There is only one way and that way is not the easy way, that way is the hard way, the death way, the cross way, the Jesus way. There was no quick fix. There was no tolerance. There was no getting along. There was no success, except that Jesus was successful, after all, He did defeat Satan, sin and death, completely. No matter how you look at it, there is only one way and that way is Jesus. And it’s not me and Jesus, it’s just Jesus. Me and Jesus takes way from Jesus. Me and Jesus puts me in the drivers seat. It’s just Jesus. Jesus lived perfectly, obeying all God’s laws perfectly for me, because I cannot. Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly for me. Jesus saved me because I cannot save myself. It’s just Jesus and even then, Jesus pours out everything on us. He graciously gives us His good gifts and blessings. He graciously pours out His bounty on us giving us gifts upon gifts, the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. With Jesus, we have no need for anything more! Amen.