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, February 29, 2012

The “Apple” - Lent Mid-week 2 - February 29, 2012 - Text: Genesis 3:1-21

This evening we continue talking about the symbols of Lent and Easter. This evening we take up the topic of the symbol of the apple. Let me begin with some words of clarification. Although the “forbidden” fruit in the Garden of Eden is often referred to as an apple, I have to tell you, it was not an apple from an apple tree. The fruit that is often depicted as an apple was the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, it was knowledge of good and evil fruit. So, this evening we will actually be talking about the symbol of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

I want to begin by looking at Satan’s temptation tactics, because the tactics he first used in the Garden of Eden are the same tactics he still uses today and why should he not still use them today if they continue to work as well today as they did when he first used them. Notice Satan’s first question, “Did God actually say?” Satan’s goal is to get Adam and Eve to question God and His Word. Today we still have the same question being asked by Satan and the world. How often do we hear such questions as, “Did God really mean . . . ?” and then the rest of the question of doubt continues. Does God say what He means in His Word and does His Word mean what it says? Whenever we start questioning God’s Word, which we do in order to justify ourselves and our sins, we literally throw His Word out. And we have seen this so many times and in so many ways in our world and in our churches, which is why too many churches look like our society with the same norms and values because they have given up God’s Word being God’s Word and instead have decided to follow the sin tainted word of humanity.

Continuing on with Satan’s temptation, we read Eve’s response, “God said . . .!” and then she goes on to stretch God’s Word even adding to it, going along with Satan and agreeing that God is not very loving by adding such harsh demands to what He gives. Here again, how often do we see the opinions of sin tainted humans being added to God’s Word taking from us the Gospel and making new laws. Certainly you have heard someone tell you that to be saved, “All you gotta do is . . . X, Y, and Z.” Or to be saved you have to do something to show God you are good enough. The fact of the matter is that God has done everything for us and He gives everything to us and nothing is required of us. So, as Eve is tempted by Satan, she joins in his exaggeration and changes God’s good gift, His Gospel and makes it into a new law.

But Satan is not done in his attempt to destroy Adam and Eve. He continues with his temptation, “You will not surely die . . . God knows . . . !” Here we see a great illustration of lying and deceiving by God’s name. And here again we see this being done in our world today when we hear false teachers use God’s Word and twist it into something it is not. Most blatantly we see this happening in the cults of the Mormons and in the Jehovah’s Witness. But we also see this in any Christian church that espouses something other than the Gospel of Christ crucified, such as the new law, any new law of “All you gotta do . . .”

And so, Eve ate the fruit, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and she gave to her husband who also ate of the fruit. Notice that Adam was there with Eve when all this was happening. Eve and Adam demonstrated by their actions that they believed Satan rather than God. The very reason we have so many religions, cults and sects in our world today is for this simple fact that too many people continue to believe Satan rather than God and His Word.

Now, moving on in our text we hear of God’s reaction to the disobedience and sin of Adam and Eve. Notice that when God comes into the garden He comes calling Adam to account for what happened. God had created Adam first and had placed him in charge so that he was the one to be accountable for the actions of both he and Eve. This is what we call the order of creation and this order of creation, that God holds husbands accountable, has not been negated, nor canceled because of the order of redemption, that is that all people are equally redeemed in God’s eyes.

Adam responds to God’s accusation by blaming Eve and truly blaming God Himself. Notice that Adam says that it was the woman that God had given him to be his helper suitable for him. Adam implies that if God had not given him Eve this never would have happened so it is God’s fault, according to Adam. Notice how Adam attempts to shirk his responsibility, much like we humans continue to do today, blaming others and even God when we fall for temptation and sin.

Eve hears Adam blame her and she passes the blame on as she blames the serpent, Satan. It was not Eve’s fault she suggests, rather it was the serpents fault because he was not honest with her, he lied to her and what could she do because she did not know what a lie was and she believed him. Again, just like Adam, Eve too denies her part in this sin, and again, much like we humans continue to do today, as we always have an excuse to justify our sinful behavior.

After the blame game is over, God’s response is to dish out the consequences, the punishment for the events that have taken place. First God punishes the serpent and Satan. He punishes the serpent by removing his ability to walk on legs and instead he must slither along the ground on his belly. And further he curses the serpent by making humanity scared of snakes, which we still have this divide today.

God punishes Eve and all women by making procreation a difficult task. And here let me remind you that the woman was created in the image of God in that she can procreate. The man cannot procreate, he cannot give birth, but the woman can, yet her punishment would be that as a reminder of her sin she will procreate in pain. Also, God says that her desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over her, perhaps a foreshadowing of the “battle of the sexes” we have today.

God punishes Adam and mankind with the curse of the earth. Evidently before this Adam did not have to contend with thorns and thistles when taking care of the Garden of Eden. And even today we continue to see the results of the cursed earth in that we have times of drought and times of flooding, we have times of good harvests and times of poor harvests.

God curses the world and the effect is that Adam and Eve will eventually die a physical death and their bodies will rot and decay and return to dust. And so, God’s Word is true, Adam and Eve did begin to die as now their bodies began to age and they did die a physical death when they reached an old age.

Yet, even in God’s curse He still gave a promise. God’s promise was to take care of man’s sin by taking man’s punishment on Himself which He did in the person of Jesus, taking our sins and suffering and dying and paying the price for our sins.. As a sign of this punishment we are told that God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skins. I believe these skins came from the first sacrifice a sign of the punishment for sin, that blood would have to be shed.

And so to this day, the fruit, often seen as an apple, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil reminds us of Satan’s temptations, of Eve and Adam’s sin of disobedience and of God’s promise to send a Savior. And so this evening we continue to reflect on our own sins and our own part in putting Jesus on the cross. We continue to get ourselves ready to remember Jesus’ life, His perfect life and the fact that He lived perfectly for us in our place as our substitute, because we cannot be perfect. We continue to get ourselves ready by remembering that Jesus took our sins upon Himself, freely because of His great love for us. We continue to remember His death and we look forward to celebrating His resurrection and the fact that by faith in Him we too will rise again. And so we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

More To Think About

What is wrong with this quote?
Quote taken from a Facebook post quoting about the Dali Lama, “One of the things I like most about being Buddhist is that we don’t flatter ourselves with the ridiculous claim that we have the only right answer.”
One of the main reasons Christians, true Christians are hated is because of Jesus’ own exclusive claim that He is the one and only way to eternal life. Apart from Jesus there is and can be no eternal life. Interestingly enough He even states that narrow is the way to eternal life, and broad is the way to destruction.

The corollary of this quote is that all religions are the same, worshiping the same God just calling him by a different name. As you read the explanations as to why we should believe this heresy and if you actually read the heresy, you will make note of the point that never do those who suggest all religions are the same, speak about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Christian Church is different from all other religions, cults and sects because we have a God who is alive. We have a God who entered our world to save us from our sins. We have a God who loves us so much that He gave His life for ours and, after giving His life, He rose from the dead.

The exclusive claim of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is not flattery, but is truth. Unfortunately, for those who do not believe, only at the end will they truly understand their folly and then they will try to blame God for their refusal of faith.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Ashes - Ash Wednesday - February 22, 2012 - Text: Gen. 18:27; Job 30:19; 42:6

Over the years there have been many symbols and icons that have come to remind us of Easter. Some symbols have been brought over, borrowed, even stolen, if you will, from pagan rituals and customs. At times the reason for this borrowing was in order to give Christians a way to compete with the pagan culture, other times it was intended to take back something that was Christian in the first place. When it comes to the traditions we have as well as the customs we observe, it is good to go back and look at the roots of our customs and traditions to make sure that these are customs and traditions we should continue to celebrate today. For this reason, this year during the season of Lent we will take the time to look at some of the symbols of Easter that are important to us today. We will attempt to find their history and explain them in the light of our modern world. This evening we begin with the custom of putting ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday. And let me remind you that as our Lutheran Altar Book says in the rubric for Ash Wednesday, “The imposition of ashes may take place as worshipers enter the nave or after the Litany.” The rubric “may” reminds us that this is an adiaphora, something neither commanded nor forbidden, but something we may use in Christian liberty.

From my online research I have found the following information concerning the beginning of the imposition of ashes. “The name ‘Day of Ashes’ comes from “Dies Cinerum” in the Roman Missal and is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. The concept originated by the Roman Catholics somewhere in the 6th century. Though the exact origin of the day is not clear, the custom of marking the head with ashes on this Day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).” “In the Old Testament ashes were found to have used for two purposes: as a sign of humility and mortality; and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin. The Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday has also been taken from this Old Testament biblical custom. Receiving ashes on the head as a reminder of mortality and a sign of sorrow for sin was a practice of the Anglo-Saxon church in the 10th century. It was made universal throughout the Western church at the Synod of Benevento in 1091.”

We have three texts for this evening, each one speaking about the fact that we are creatures, created by God and although we were fashioned, formed from the dust of the ground and given life by God Himself, He created us to love us. Yet, we realize that at the fall of Adam and Eve, God’s temporal judgement on us has been physical death and apart from Him, eternal spiritual death.

In our first text we read, “Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). The context of this reading is that Abraham is pleading to God against the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In his humble pleading with God Abraham confesses that he believes that he is a human being and really has no right to bargain with God.

As Abraham recognizes his position before God as “dust and ashes,” we are reminded that this is our standing before God as well. We are but dust and ashes and have no standing before our Creator God, yet we too approach Him as our Father in heaven, just as children approach their earthly fathers.

In our second text we read as Job speaks concerning his circumstances, “God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes” (Job 30:19). The context of this reading is that Job, in speaking with his friends, expounds on what he believes is his situation. Job does not understand why all these “bad” things are happening to him, but he is sure of this, that it is a testing from God and that certainly he must accept what God gives because of his low estate.

As Job recognizes his standing before God he believes that in God’s eyes he is dust and ashes, so too we are reminded that this is also our standing before God, that we too are but dust and ashes and we would do well to accept and even rejoicing in any testing the Lord may have in store for us.

In our third reading Job again speaks saying, “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). The context of this reading is that Job expounds on what he believes he needs to do before God. Job realizes his need to despise himself and to repent in dust and ashes. Keep this image of repentance in dust and ashes in mind if you will.

Job understands that sin requires repentance and repentance encompasses admitting one’s nature, that is that we are creatures, created from dust and ash. Time and again in the Word of God we read of someone covering themselves in dust and ashes in their time of sorrow and repentance. And so this dust and ash covering have become synonymous with contrition and sorrow over one’s sins.

So, what does this mean? As we read through the Word of God we realize that our status, our stature, our standing before God, is that we were created from the dust of the ground. God formed us from the dust of the ground and breathed in the man’s nostrils and he became a living being. We are descendants of Adam who was created from the dust of the ground and so indeed our DNA is that we are dirt.

Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, because their sin and its punishment and curse have been passed down to us through our DNA, our status before God is that we are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin, that which we call original sin. Because we are conceived and born in sin we have no free will, because our free will was lost in the original sin and curse, so our will, being tainted by sin and cursed is to reject everything that is good and from God. Thus, every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. We have no right standing before God and we have no right to stand before God.

Ashes symbolize our recognition of our sinfulness and our desire to repent. Ashes symbolize our recognition that we are creatures, that our DNA is dirt and ashes, that God is our Creator and certainly that He created us for the purpose of loving us. And He does love us and He shows His love for us in the gift and the life of His Son. Now, I could stand here all night and tell you what a lousy sinner you are and how in and of yourself you have no hope of eternal life. I could run through the Ten Commandments and remind you of our sins of commission, doing the things you should not be doing and I could remind you of your sins of omission, that is I could remind you of that you not doing the things you should be doing. Unfortunately no matter how much law I might preach it will not lead you to confess your sins. The law leads, either to despair because you might come to believe there is no hope, or it will lead you to works righteousness, thinking that you can become good enough for God.

Thanks we be God that we are not left with just the Law, but we also have the Gospel. We have the good news of Jesus. It is this news that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to live for us, to take our sins upon Himself, that He suffered for us and died for us. It is this good news that actually leads us to repent of our sins. It is because we know that God loves us and that He has already taken care of our sins that we desire to and that we do confess our sins and rejoice in His forgiveness.

Which bring us to God’s response which is to forgive our sins. The very reason Jesus was born was to give His life for ours. He lived for us, He suffered for us. He died for us, He rose for us, because of His great love for us. Because of what He has done for us we cannot help bur repent and be given His forgiveness.

Because ashes are a sign of repentance so we take this day and put ashes on our forehead, usually in somewhat of the form of a cross. As the ashes are put on us we are reminded of our dire situation, that we were created from dust and to dust we shall return. We wear our ashes as a symbol of our repentance and a reminder of our forgiveness. We wear our ashes as a witness to the world, our humble witness of what a great God we have. We wear our ashes in the sign of the cross to remind us that our sins are forgiven and thus to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Vow, My Review (Spoiler Alerts)

I went and saw the movie, The Vow. It was an interesting movie, good acting and a good story, but something did not seem to be completely honest about the movie. At the end of the movie it was stated that true events inspired the movie. Well, after reading about the actual events, it seems to me that, although true events inspired the movie, the movie failed to be true to the true events. This movie is another attempt by Hollywood to rewrite life so as to include all things important to Hollywood, but none of what is important to real people in real life. Let me chronicle a few examples.

In the real story Kim and Krickitt Carpenter are two regular people who do not live anywhere near each other. In Hollywood’s version, Paige and Leo, live in the same area. In real life there was a third party in the automobile and there was not “sexual” overtones involved, not so with Hollywood.

In the real story we are not privy to the politics of Krickitt, but in the movie we are shown how much better a person Paige is because she has moved away from her controlling, rich, upper class, “better than thou” Republican roots to become a more progressive and all accepting, vegetarian, Obama voting, Democrat. Although, in Hollywood’s version, after her head injury she reverted back to her snobby self and then had to be reindoctrinated back to her better people loving, socialist Democrat self.

In the Hollywood story we are not told until later that the reason Paige left her family was because of an illicit affair between her father and one of her high school friends. This was not the case in the real story. In the Hollywood version Leo has never met her parents. In the real story Kim asks Krickett’s father for her hand in marriage.

In the real story Kim and Krickett are strengthened and kept together through their mutual faith and prayer as Christians. Also in the real story, there is never the idea to divorce. Not so in the Hollywood version which makes moving in together okay and which makes divorce an acceptable alternative.

In the Hollywood version Paige is being torn by her estranged family and “old” friends, while in the real story there was support from her family that loved her.

Interestingly enough, and I think Hollywood missed this, but the real life Kim Carpenter works in a profession that served the community, as a coach. In the movie it’s as if they both work in self-serving professions (personal opinion). Also, Hollywood did insert the fact that the reason Paige’s parents did not divorce was because the mother believed in forgiveness and in not wanting to break the family apart.

Although I enjoyed the movie, and although it was not enough to make my wife cry (which means it is a really good movie), Hollywood insisted on doing it “their way.” I believe the movie would have been a better movie if Hollywood would have honored the most important part of the story, the Christian faith of the couple which, in the end, is what kept the couple together, not some wavering human emotion of sentimentalism.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Something Else to Think About

What is wrong with this statement?
One prominent Baptist preacher wrote concerning the proper distinction of Law and Gospel these confusing words, “The requirements of the Gospel are . . . ”
It is important and probably one of the most important tasks in the study of the Word of God to properly distinguish between Law and Gospel. It is important not to co-mingle the Law and the Gospel because when they are confused and co-mingled, then works righteousness abounds. Thus, it is also imperative that when stating Biblical truths, these truths are stated properly as well.

So, first, let us distinguish Law and Gospel. The Law shows our sins. The Law makes demands. The Law serves as a curb or a deterrent to keep us away from sin, as a mirror to show us our sins when we do sin so that we might confess those sins, and as a rule or guide to help us to live in a God-pleasing manner.

The Gospel shows our Savior. The Gospel proclaims what Jesus did, does and will do for us. The Gospel shows us Jesus’ life for us, His taking our sins and paying their price for us, His dying for us, His rising for us, His promise to return for us, His ascending for us, His ruling over us, watching over us and interceding for us, and His promise to robe us with His robes of righteousness.

Now, to say there are requirements to the Gospel certainly attempts to put new constraints on the Gospel and turn it into a new Law, thus moving one into the direction of works righteousness, thinking one might do something in order to earn God’s free gift of salvation, meaning it is no longer a free gift, but something worked for, earned, etc.

Here again, then we see the importance of how things are said. Interestingly enough, however, when push comes to shove, one will find that certain Christian denominations must say what they believe in certain ways, including misleading and works righteousness leaning ways in order to continue their own doctrines and teachings, yet the whole while attempting to explain that what they say is not necessarily what they meant, that what they meant was what you said. Perhaps is we all said it the right way, the same way, we might all be Lutherans! :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Something to Think About

What is wrong with this quote?
“On Sundays we visit different churches trying to find one that ‘fit’ our family, our values, and our theology.”
This quote is almost like suggesting that we will worship God if He fits into our family, our values and our beliefs. The author of this quote has it backwards. It is not the Church that needs to fit his family, rather it is his family that needs to conform to the Church (notice I am using Church with a capital “C”).

The truth behind this quote is that there are many different churches (small “c” as in denomination) and truly many different doctrines and theologies proclaimed by these many churches. And the truth is that this method of finding a church is what is used by most people, that is to look for a church that fits their family, values and theology. And certainly if one looks hard and long enough they can find a church that teaches what they want to believe, not necessarily what the Bible truly proclaims.

Unfortunately, to look for a church that teaches what one believes is the same as seeking a God who fits into one’s preconceived beliefs about God, which is a very fine form of idolatry. God is God. God tells us who He is and what He has done, does and will do for us. Rather than attempt to put God in a box and make Him fit our beliefs, it is better to search the Scriptures, to be as the Bereans, that is to examine what is taught and compare that doctrine to the Word of God.

Perhaps the better attitude and statement might be to say, “On Sundays we visite different churches trying to find one that teaches the Word of God in all its truth and purity and rightly administers the Sacraments accordingly, whether that is a ‘fit’ to our sin-tainted human understanding, our human values, or our human preferences or not.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

“I Am Willing” - February 12, 2012 - Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Mark 1:40-45

Again this morning we continue in the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the season in which we celebrate God appearing to us by His taking on human flesh and blood. This morning we also continue in our reading through the Gospel of Mark. You might remember that two weeks ago we were in the synagogue with Jesus when He was confronted by a man who was possessed by a demon and He cast the demon out of the man. Last week brought us to the conclusion of the synagogue service and we went with Jesus to the home of Simon where He healed Simon’s mother-in-law. Also, last week, we saw the wonderful example of how Jesus began the day in prayer. Finally, last week we concluded with Jesus’ words, “‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mark 1:38-39). This morning we continue to walk with Jesus as He leaves to go out and preach and teach to others and He is met by a man who has leprosy. Leprosy, you might remember was a dreaded skin disease that was incurable and would literally eat a person’s flesh to the point of death. Because there was not a lot known about leprosy and because there was no cure, it was a feared disease. And so, lepers were banned from the city and had to live by themselves outside the city limits. Lepers had to shout, “unclean,” when anyone would approach as a warning for them to stay away. It was a rather lonely life that the leper lead.

Our text for this morning continues to show us the Epiphany of Jesus, that is that He is truly human. We are told that when He was approached by this man with leprosy that Jesus “was moved with pity.” Jesus had an emotional feeling of mercy and pity toward this man. He was moved. He demonstrated a human feeling, a feeling of pity.

Mark says that Jesus touched the man. Jesus had a physical hand. He was physically present. Contrary to those who teach that Jesus was only a spiritual being, even while on this earth, here Mark tells us that He actually, physically, touched the man with leprosy. Of course, according to ceremonial law, this touching of an unclean leper would have made Jesus Himself unclean, but Jesus was not so much concerned about that ceremonial law as he was about the man with leprosy.

And Jesus spoke. He first listened to the man, then He spoke to the man. Jesus used His human senses of touch, sight, hearing and speaking. He showed Himself in every way to be a human being. Not just here, but in other places in the Gospels we are reminded of Jesus’ humanness. He was thirsty, He cried, He was hungry, He was tired, He slept, He exemplified all the traits which make us human. Our celebration of Epiphany is a celebration of the humanness of Jesus.

Jesus is also truly God. Jesus shows Himself to be God. When Jesus spoke to the man with leprosy He said, “Be clean!” and the man was at once cleansed of his leprosy. Jesus shows that He is God because only God can do miracles. Jesus shows that He had all power, the power to make whole, the power to cleanse, the power to heal. Most importantly, the power to forgive sins.

Jesus shows that He is true God. When He spoke He spoke with authority. His Word did what He said. Jesus said “Be clean!” and the man was clean. Just as we see that Jesus is human from this text and from other places in the Gospels, so here and in other places in the Gospels we are reminded of Jesus’ divinity, that He is truly God. He healed people of various diseases, He raised people from the dead, He forgave sins, He cast out demons, He exemplified all the traits which show Him to be God. Our celebration of Epiphany is a celebration of the divinity, the God-ness of Jesus.

Someone may have wondered about Jesus’ previous casting out of the demon of two weeks ago, “Why did Jesus not let the demon tell who He was?” Again, we might also wonder why this week Jesus told the man not to tell anyone. There are several suggestions why this might have happened. One suggestion is that Jess did not want to be just a “miracle worker.” In other words, He did not want people just to come to Him to be healed. A second suggestion is that Jesus did not want to bring attention on Himself, which He knew would end His public ministry prematurely. Another suggestion is that Jesus did not want to bring on Himself the attention of the authorities which would bring on His death, again, prematurely. And one last suggestion is that Jesus knew the psyche of people and He knew if He said “do not tell anyone” then the natural response would be to go out and tell everyone. What is the right answer? I cannot give you a definitive answer, all I can say is that it is probably some combination of all of these. I do not know about you, but I am adding this question to the list of questions I already have for when I get to heaven. —Anyway, I hope you noticed the man does not listen to Jesus and the result is that He, Jesus, “could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places,” and yet people were still looking for Him and coming to Him.

Jesus came to this earth for a purpose, to fulfill all of Holy Scripture, perfectly, concerning His life, death and resurrection. Jesus came to do for us what we are unable to do. He came to live perfectly for us in our place. It is something like what happened in the civil war years ago. I am told that during the civil war, a person with enough wherewith all, cash, might hire someone to take their place, to go to war for them. The actual person who goes to war is not credited with being in the war, instead the one who was supposed to go gets the credit. Jesus came to live for us in our place. Thus, we are credited with living perfect lives and He is credited with our sin when in fact, we are the ones who are sinners and He is sinless.

Jesus came to this earth on a mission. Unfortunately, not everyone understood who Jesus was or why He came. This misunderstanding by the people brought about the fact that for a while Jesus became popular, but for many of the wrong reasons. People were coming to Jesus, not to be saved by Him, but to be healed by Him, to be fed, uplifted, and the like, by Him. Some were even looking to Him as a political savior.

Jesus came to preach the Good News of salvation. He came to call the people to repentance. He came to show Himself as the Messiah, as the one promised from the Garden of Eden. He showed Himself to be God through the signs and wonders, the miracles He performed, but too many did not understand.

And so, as the word about Jesus went out, as His popularity grew, He was put out to the lonely places. And still, as Mark tells us, “people were coming to him from every quarter.” Perhaps many of these came for reasons such as healing and being fed, but there were those who had a right understanding of who Jesus was and why He came. There were those who were looking for a spiritual savior. There were those who believed He was the true Messiah.

As we progress through this season of Epiphany we continue to celebrate what a great and loving God we do have. I heard, what I think is an excellent explanation about Jesus becoming flesh. It is a story about a farmer who in the middle of the winter would put out seed for the birds to eat. One day during one winter it was just too stormy for the birds to find and eat the seed he would scatter in the yard, so he opened the barn door and tried to get the birds to go into the barn. The birds, however, would not go into the barn. The man thought and had an idea, “if only I could become like them, a bird, then they would trust me and I could lead them into the barn where there is food and shelter.” Jesus came as one of us, a human being, in order to lead us, in order to teach us, in order to be an example to us, but most importantly, in order to take our place, to die the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell for us in our place.

And although Jesus was a human being, He was also God. He was God so that He could fulfill the Law perfectly and the prophecies perfectly and so that He could rise from the dead. Because He was God He could forgive sins. He could drive out demons. He could heal people. He could raise people from the dead.

Jesus came to give His all for us. When the leper approached Jesus he said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Notice that the leper did not rest his faith on himself but on Jesus. He rested his faith in Jesus alone. I read a church sign once that said, “miracles happen to those who believe.” I wanted to stop and correct the sign to make it read, “miracles happen (Period).” Miracles happen, whether we believe or not. Miracles happen, because God makes them happen. It was not the lepers faith that healed him, it was Jesus who was truly God who healed him.

This morning we come before our Lord’s throne and we speak. Our words are, “Lord, if you are willing, you can save me.” Our words to Jesus are the words of the man who was begging Jesus to heal his son who was possessed by an evil spirit. He suggested that “if” Jesus could do anything that He would help Him. “‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23,24). We come before the Lord’s throne praying that the Lord will continue to help us in our own weakness of faith and unbelief, that He would help us to grow in our faith and life. Our Lord’s response to us is that He comes to us through the means of His Word and His sacraments in order to do just that, to give us forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith, life and salvation, and to keep us in faith even unto eternal life. Our response is to rejoice and say to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

God’s Hands and Feet? Or Satan’s?

Perhaps you have heard the adage, “We are God’s hands and feet.” If this is true, that we are God’s hands and feet, what does this mean and what does this say about our God?

In the first article of the Apostles’ Creed we are reminded that God created all things out of nothing. And God continues to direct and preserve all that He has made. It all begins and ends with God.

In the second article of the Apostles’ Creed we are reminded that Jesus is God in flesh who came to live for us, take our sins upon Himself, suffer and die for us. He did this freely because of His love for us, because He created us to love us. He traded His perfect life for our imperfect life. And He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. It all beings and ends with God. This article reminds us of our justification and that we are made just and right in God’s eyes by God Himself.

In the third article of the Apostles’ Creed we are reminded that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to gives us faith, to strengthen and keep us in faith. We call this work sanctification. The Holy Spirit works to sanctify or make us holy through the very means of God’s Word, enlightening us with His gifts, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and giving us faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life in the world and even eternal life. This article remind us that our sanctification, that our being made holy has its beginning with God. God does and gives, and we are done to and given to.

So, if God gives life, forgiveness and new life, what does He need from us? Does God need for us to be His hands and feet? What does it say about God if we say He needs us to be His hands and His feet? An idol, a stone statue or image needs its worshiper to feed it, water it, move it, and in total to do for it because after all, it has no hands or feet and cannot do for itself.

God does not need us to be His hands and feet, but Satan does and unfortunately too often we are his will, if unconscious, hands and feet. How often it is that instead of keeping God first we put something or someone ahead of Him. Or instead of keeping His name holy we curse and swear. Or instead of being in divine service we have something more important to do. Of course, we would never admit that we have anything more important to do than be in divine service on Sunday, yet our very actions betray us, because we do choose to do what is most important to us. We cannot fool our hearts even with our lips. Yes, we may say that church attendance is most important, but what we do shows what is actually in our hearts as to being most important.

How often do we fail to give proper respect to our parents and others in authority, obeying the law? Or do we simply excuse our behavior from time to time? How often do we hurt and harm others with our words and actions? How often do we sit and lust after what we see on television, in movies, in commercial advertisements and even in the world? How often do we fail to take care of what we have borrowed or even failed to return it? How often have we failed to speak up for the absent party in any conversation as their name is “drug through the mud”? How often do we find ourselves begrudging others of what they have worked for and earned as if we deserve a share simply because we do not have it, even though we failed to work for it ourselves?

Yes, we daily step in and use our hands and feet for Satan, and more often than not we do it without even realizing it. We speak out against God, against His servant, our pastor, against His church, our congregation. We speak words of cursing and swearing unthoughtfully using His name. We have something more important to do than be in divine service and invite others to join with us. Anytime we break any one of the commandments we are the hands and feet of Satan.

Now, what does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we let God be God. Fortunately for us, God does not need for us to do any of His work, because thanks be to Him, He has done it all and He gives it all to us. God gives us life at conception. God gives us new life through His Word and Holy Baptism. God gives us forgiveness and strengthening through Confession and Absolution and through His Holy Supper. God gives it all and, we are given to. We need to be God’s hands and feet, as it were. We need to be able to do for God, to respond to Him for all He has done, does and will do for us. And even though we may do imperfectly, God does allow us to do for Him, in particular, He allows us to do the good works He has prepared in advance of us to do (Eph. 2:10), and He makes it right when we mess up what He allows us to do. This doing what He has prepared in advance for us to do is what we call vocation, and in our various vocations we live our lives in such a way that they bear witness of our faith in Jesus and give glory to Him, but again, this is as a response of faith, not because Jesus needs us to be His hands and feet.

Notice, as always, again and again, we get it right when we get right who is doing what, who is running the show, who is running the verbs. When we are running the show, we cannot be sure of what we are doing, and we get it wrong. When God is running the show, we know He always gets it right. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Call for a Presuppositional Change

What would happen if, instead of researchers beginning with the presupposition of evolution, they begin with the presupposition of creation? Let me explain. If your car breaks down, your first thought is to repair the car according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Your first thought is not to wonder how the car came about by chance and then to seek to discover how those chance-melding of parts might be repaired. And a car is rather a simple machine compared to the human body. On a molecular level the human body is quite a “machine” with each part integral with the next, each part uniquely made to serve its unique function, and each part necessary. For the whole to work all the parts must be in tact and work in unison. To believe that the complexity of the human body could have come together by chance through millions of mutations is more unbelievable than to believe that a house was built by a tornado winding through a lumber yard, or an automobile was created by a hurricane winding through a junk yard. The point is, no one would begin repairing an automobile or a house by thinking about its randomness, rather one begins repairing an automobile or a house by thinking about its designer and builder. And interestingly enough, most automobiles and houses get repaired quite easily from this approach.

Now, to apply this thinking to the human body. Would it not be more efficient and logical that when researchers are seeking ways to help repair, mend, or heal the human body, rather than begin by asking how the parts of this more complex instrument came to be and then seek some formula for repair, would it not make more sense to ask, “What did the Designer have in mind when He put these parts together in the way He put them together?” Perhaps we might have better results as well as more and more timely results if we began to think in these terms of designer and builder rather than random and chance mishaps.