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

Disclaimer

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

Sunday, April 11, 2021

He Is Risen - April 11, 2021 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: John 20:19-31

What’s up with Thomas? Have you ever wondered about Thomas? But the same could be said for all the disciples. What is their deal? They had been raised in the Jewish faith. They knew the promises of the Old Testament. They had spent the last three years of their lives with Jesus. They had listened to Him preach. They had watch the sign, the wonders, the miracles He performed. They had “special” sessions with Him where He explained everything to them. Why were they afraid? Why did they not “get it?” Of course, we are looking back with twenty-twenty hindsight. We can see clearly all the events and their significance. What we might rather ask is why do we so often act like Thomas and the disciples? Why do we hide in fear and why do we doubt? Let us look at the account and see how it very much reflects our own lives.
 

   Last week we came and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and the events of that first Easter morning. By the time we get to our text for today, Jesus has already shown Himself to be alive to many people. For others, for those who have not yet seen Jesus, rumors were going around concerning His “possible” resurrection. The beginning of our text brings us to that evening, that first Easter evening. Our text last week told us specifically that Jesus had risen from the dead, those events of last week happened already early on this day. So, our text for this morning is a continuation of the day of Easter. Now it was evening and in our text for today we are told that the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. The disciples were afraid because they thought that what happened to Jesus, His crucifixion, could happen to them and since the body of Jesus was missing they knew they would be the first suspects, so they gathered together behind locked doors. Well, I guess being all together and being behind a locked door is not such a bad idea, we all know that there is safety in numbers. Again, by this time they had certainly heard rumors of Jesus’ resurrection and some of them had already witnessed the empty tomb. Maybe the good news was just too much to believe.
 

How often do we find ourselves like these disciples? We come here to this building once a week and we gather. We gather, not necessarily behind locked doors, but we do gather because we know that in here there is some safety in numbers. In here it is okay to admit that we are Christians. In here it is okay to talk about God, at least to some extent it is okay to talk about God. During Bible class we have a little more freedom to discuss the Word of God as well as the events of the world and how these two things collide and mesh and yet, very often, we are much like the disciples, unsure of how all these things fit together.
 

The disciples were all gathered together and then, Jesus appears to them. He comes to them and He puts His peace on them. Jesus’ peace is peace beyond all understanding. His peace is a complete peace, a peace of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. For His disciples, His peace was so wonderful that their fears were immediately calmed and they were overjoyed at His presence. Jesus brings peace and He also brings a blessing. He comes to bless them and to send them out with a mission, “I am sending you,” He says. But there is more to this sending than just words. Along with His sending is His authority. He is giving them the authority to forgive and retain sins. What an awesome authority, an awesome privilege, and an awesome responsibility.
 

And here again, is this not what happens to us each and every Sunday? We come to the Lord’s house for worship. We come here. We confess our sins. We hear God’s Word of absolution which is His Word of forgiveness and His Word of peace on us. We hear His Word read and expounded. Our fears are calmed. We might even think in our minds as the Psalmist, “it is good, Lord, to be here,” in Your house of worship. We are strengthened through His Word and through His body and blood in His Holy Sacrament. We are given His authority and we are sent out. We are sent from this place to live as witnesses of the faith that is in our hearts. We are sent out into our various vocations to live offering our lives as living sacrifices as priests in the priesthood of all believers. Even the sign in our parking lot reminds us that as we leave this place we are going out into the mission field. We are sent out with an awesome authority, an awesome privilege, and an awesome responsibility.
 

But what about Thomas? Thomas was absent. He was not there the first time the disciple saw Jesus. Certainly when Thomas returned his fellow disciples were excited to tell him that they, too, had seen Jesus. Certainly they could not contain their own enthusiasm in sharing this good news with him and they expected that he would believe and return their excitement. But, Thomas would not believe. Thomas could not believe. Thomas wanted evidence. He wanted proof. Thomas demanded, “Unless I see in his hands the marks of the nail, and place my finger into the marks of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” It is no wonder Thomas has been affectionately called “Doubting Thomas.”
 

Yet, before we “beat up” on Thomas too much let me first remind you that this is the same Thomas who was ready to go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. And, before we “beat up” on Thomas, maybe we need to examine our own lives. How often are we like Thomas? Oh, maybe not here at church. We know that this is a pretty safe place. It is okay to show ourselves to be a Christian here at church, but what about in the rest of our lives? Do our neighbors know we are Christians? Do our co-workers know we are Christians? Does our family know we are Christians? Do the people with whom we work, shop, eat, play, and so forth know that we are Christians? Does our life show forth the faith that is in our heart? Do our thoughts, our words, and our actions show forth the faith that is in our hearts? Being a Christian is not a one or two hour a week obligation. Being a Christian is a lifestyle. It is a way of life. When being a Christian becomes anything less than a way of life, a complete way of life, not just one compartment of my life, then what we are saying is that we doubt that He is so important in our lives, and like Thomas, we thus doubt His death and resurrection for us, for you and for me.
 

In the case of Thomas, Jesus accommodates Thomas. But let us be careful, just because He accommodates Thomas does not mean that He will accommodate us, nor does He have to. Our text continues by taking us to the following week, eight days later, which is how the Jews counted days, starting with the day they were on, thus eight days later was the next Sunday. Eight days later when the disciples were in the house again, and this time Thomas was with them, Jesus showed Himself again. And He showed Himself especially to Thomas. Certainly that would have been a sight to see. The disciples continuing to try to convince Thomas, “yes it did happen.” And Thomas continuing to doubt, “I just cannot believe it unless I see or unless I feel something (which sounds a lot like people of today).” And as Thomas continues to express his doubt Jesus comes up behind him and calls his name, “Thomas.” And Thomas speaking as he turns says, “now don’t you try to start with me,” and seeing Jesus his mouth drops open and he is speechless. At which point, Jesus shows Thomas the evidence for which he has asked. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” I do not believe that Thomas needed that evidence anymore as we hear his confession, “My Lord and my God!”
 

Every morning we have the privilege of remembering our Baptism. Every morning we have the privilege of remembering our Baptism. Everyday we have the privilege of reading God’s Word. Every week we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s House, confessing our sins and hearing His most beautiful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” Every Sunday we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s Table to partake of the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood. Whether we take advantage of the fact that we can do this or not, we do have the privilege and we still have the freedom to do this. As the doubts of life build each day to the end of the week we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s house to have those doubts squelched. The old cliche is true, seven days without the Lord does make one weak, that is “w-e-a-k.” On the first day of the week, on Sunday we have the opportunity to come to the Lord’s house and to see our Lord, to taste Him, to hear Him and to confess as Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Every Sunday we have the opportunity to come and be strengthened in our faith so that we might be able to face the struggles, the trials and tribulations that will face us the rest of the week.
 

We might imagine Thomas as our hero of sorts. It was because of his doubt that brought Jesus to show Himself specifically to Thomas. Thomas had convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection which for us means we have convincing proof as well. Jesus’ words to Thomas are His words to us, especially in our time of doubt. Jesus’ words to Thomas are words about us as well, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” that is us. We have not seen Jesus with our physical eyes, but we continue to see Him with our hearts. We see Him in His Word. We see Him in Holy Baptism. We hear Him in Holy Absolution. We see Him and taste Him as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper. We are blessed.
 

I believe the last two verses of our text are definitely a part of this Thomas story. John reminds us that Jesus did even more than what was recorded in the Bible. At the end of his Gospel John tells us that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Thomas wanted proof. Too often we and others in our world want proof. We have the truth of Jesus Himself and the proof of the witness of His Holy Word.
 

As John finally tells us in our text for today, the reason we have the Bible is so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” We have God’s Word, we have opportunity to read His Word on our own, to come to divine service and Bible Class to hear His Word and to hear His Word expounded so that we might be brought to faith, so that we might be strengthened in our faith, and so that we might be kept in our faith until Christ comes again to take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.
 

For us, Thomas’ doubting was good. What happened to Thomas reminds us that we are not alone. And just as Jesus came to Thomas to encourage Him, so He comes to us to strengthen and encourage us. So that ultimately we might stand together before the heavenly throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness - Easter Sunrise - April 4, 2021 - Text, Sermon Hymn, #467 - Awake, My Heart, with Gladness; Scripture Readings: Col. 2:15; Rom. 8:35-39; Gen. 3:15; Rom. 6:4

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning as has been during the season of Lent is the appointed Hymn of the day, the sermon hymn that we just sang. The first thing we might notice in this hymn is the fact that while Luther’s influence in Reformation hymnody taught universal and objective salvation using terms as “we” and “us”, Paul Gerhardt’s hymns were more personal using the pronouns “I” and “me.”
 

Stanza one, “Awake, my heart, with gladness, See what today is done; Now, after gloom and sadness, Comes forth the glorious sun. My Savior there was laid Where our bed must be made When to the realms of light Our spirit wings its flight.” Last Friday we gathered and remembered Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. We left as we were reminded of Jesus’ burial and the closing of the tomb. How fitting that our hymn begins with stanza one, obviously, which takes us to the tomb where our hearts are gladdened at the sight of Jesus’ resurrection.
 

In this stanza, Gerhardt reminds us that the tomb was our grave. It was because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that death entered into our world. The price for sin was set at death, physical death and eternal death and hell. The price for our sins is death and more specifically human death for human sin. We should have been the ones on the cross and in the tomb. We are the ones who are conceived and born in sin. The wages of our sin is our own death. But Jesus took our sin. He took our place. He suffered and died for us, in our place. Yet, how we now awake with gladness as we come to the tomb and find it empty because Jesus rose from the dead.
 

Stanza two, “The foe in triumph shouted When Christ lay in the tomb; But lo, he now is routed, His boast is turned to gloom. For Christ again is free; In glorious victory He who is strong to save Has triumphed o’er the grave.” Stanza two reminds us that when Jesus died and was buried the devil thought he had won the victory so the devil shouted when Jesus was placed in the tomb, but now he has been routed, he has lost the battle and his boast has turned to gloom. We sing with gladness because Christ is victorious. He has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has risen from the dead. Christ is free.
 

Stanza three, “This is a sight that gladdens—What peace it doth impart! Now nothing ever saddens The joy within my heart. No gloom shall ever shake, No foe shall ever take The hope which God’s own Son In love for me has won.” This stanza takes us to the tomb where we are gladdened by what we see, an empty tomb. To witness Jesus’ resurrection brings eternal joy. Knowing that Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil nothing can sadden us, no gloom can shake us.
 

Yes, while we live on in this world we will still face trials and tribulations, we still have times of struggle, the devil will still tempt and harass us, but the devil can never discourage us because Jesus has won the victory for us because of His love for us. Greater love can no one have than this that one will lay down His life for us and that is exactly what Jesus did. He laid down His life for us and then raised it up again.
 

Stanza four, “Now hell, its prince, the devil, Of all their pow’r are shorn; Now I am safe from evil, And sin I laugh to scorn. Grim death with all its might Cannot my soul affright; It is a pow’rless form, Howe’er it rave and storm.” Here in stanza four we confess and rejoice that the prince of hell, the devil himself has been stripped of all his power. Indeed, death, hell and the devil have no more power over us. We are saved from the evil of the devil. No, that does not mean we are free from temptation and sin, but we know that the devil has been defeated and we have Jesus on our side to help us in times of need. Our greatest enemy, death has been defeated and can harm us no more. Death is powerless no matter how it might rave and storm. By faith in Jesus our souls need not fear.
 

Stanza five, “The world against me rages, Its fury I disdain; Though bitter war it wages, Its work is all in vain. My heart from care is free, No trouble troubles me. Misfortune now is play, And night is bright as day.” Here again in stanza five we admit that the world may continue to be against us, we may continue to suffer trials and tribulations, struggles and temptation, but we can do so with out fear. The world rages against us. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh tempt us. And yet, their work is in vain. Our hearts are free from care. No trouble troubles me. Nothing in the world can harm us.
 

Stanza six, “Now I will cling forever To Christ, my Savior true; My Lord will leave me never, Whate’er He passes through. He rends death’s iron chain; He breaks through sin and pain; He shatters hell’s grim thrall; I follow Him through all.” Because of God’s great love for us, because Jesus lived for us, took our sins, suffered and died for us, because Jesus rose for us our response of faith is to pledge that our faithfulness to Christ will never end. We will cling to Christ our Savior for ever and know that He our Lord will never leave us. Jesus breaks the chains of hell and gives us victory. He breaks through sin and pain shattering the torments of hell. His love for us moves in us to guide us and to follow Him through all.
 

Stanza seven, “He brings me to the portal That leads to bliss untold, Whereon this rhyme immortal Is found in script of gold: ‘Who there My cross has shared Finds here a crown prepared; Who there with Me has died Shall here be glorified.’” Stanza seven brings us to our earthly life’s end. He brings us to the portal. Jesus brings us to the door of heaven. The door to heaven is a door to untold bliss, pure peace and happiness, more precious than gold. And He gives us the crown prepared for each one of us. This same Jesus who gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, in order to live for us, take our sins, suffer and die for us. This same Jesus who rose from the dead ascended to the place from which He descended, so that He might regain His glory, this same Jesus we will meet and see Him in heaven in all His glory.
 

Last Friday, Good Friday we witnessed once again that the price for sin was death. We witnessed what God promised in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”  (Genesis 3:15). We watched as our God died and was buried. Today we are reminded of Paul’s words in Romans, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). And this morning we come and see that death and the tomb, the grave had no power over Him because we are witnesses of the empty tomb and His resurrection.
 

Again, Paul’s words in Romans comes to mind, “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
 

Awake, my heart, with gladness. Jesus has risen from the dead. He has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has paid the full price for our sins, your sins and mine. We have forgiveness and with forgiveness we know we have life and salvation. What a great God we have, what a loving God we have. What else can we do except rejoice and say, to Him be the glory. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

O Lord, We Praise Thee - Maundy Thursday - April 1, 2021 - Text, Sermon Hymn, #617 - O Lord, We Praise Thee; Scripture Readings: 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Peter 2:24

Although the author of this hymn is unknown, Martin Luther rewrote Stanza 1 and wrote Stanzas 2 and 3. Luther encouraged the singing of this hymn in the Formula Missae (1523) and in his Deutsche Messe (1526). Luther argued from stanza 1, which had been sung in the churches for at least a century, that the practice of Communion in both kinds had been practiced in the church long before the Roman practice of withholding the cup from the laity.
 

This hymn reflects Luther’s Trinitarian understanding of the Lord’s Supper both in its three stanza structure and in its content, the grace of God (God the Father), the body and blood of Christ (God the Son) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (God the Holy Spirit).
 

Stanza one, “O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee, In thanksgiving bow before Thee. Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish Our weak souls that they may flourish: O Lord, have mercy! May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary, That our sins and sorrows did carry, And Thy blood for us plead In all trial, fear, and need: O Lord, have mercy!” In this first verse we begin by praising God, adoring Him and in thanksgiving bowing before Him. Why this praising, adoring and bowing in thanksgiving? We praise, adore, bow in thanksgiving to God for His body and blood that nourish our weak souls. Today is Maundy Thursday and the night in which our Lord gave us His Holy Supper, His body and blood for to nourish our weak souls.
 

Even more we thank God for Jesus, true God, born of Mary, true man, who bore our sins and sorrows. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden at death, physical death and apart from faith in Jesus it would be eternal death in hell. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were never intended to pay the price for human sin as the price for human sin was human death. However, the animal sacrifices were a reminder that the price for sin was death and that blood had to be shed, but even more they always pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of a human to pay the price for human sin. Here we confess that this same body of Jesus that was carried in Mary’s womb, this same body on the cross is the body we eat and the blood we drink, given and shed for us as we plead, in all trial, fear and need.
 

Stanza two, “Thy holy body into death was given, Life to win for us in heaven. No greater love than this to Thee could bind us; May this feast thereof remind us! O Lord, have mercy! Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee That Thy blood should bless and sustain me. All our debt Thou hast paid; Peace with God once more is made: O Lord, have mercy!” Stanza two reiterates our confession that Jesus gave His body into death to pay the price for sin and to earn our forgiveness and win heaven. Jesus tells us, no greater love can one have than to lay down their life for another as He did for us. As we partake of our Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper we are reminded of His great love for us, giving up the glory that was His in heaven, taking on human flesh and blood, living the perfect life demanded of us for us in our place, taking our sins upon Himself, suffering the punishment, the wage for our sins on the cross, that is  suffering eternal death in hell, the shedding of His blood, for us, to pay for our sins, for our forgiveness.
 

We pray that our partaking of the Lord’s Supper will remind us of our Lord’s kindness, His greater love as well praying that His body and blood to sustain us, that we may have peace with God. Indeed, true peace is the peace that only God can give. True peace in knowing our sins are forgiven.
 

Stanza three, “May God bestow on us His grace and favor That we follow Christ our Savior And live together here in love and union Nor despise this blest Communion! O Lord, have mercy! Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us; Grant that heav’nly-minded He make us; Give Thy Church, Lord, to see Days of peace and unity: O Lord, have mercy!” In stanza three we continue our prayer that God would continue to bestow on us His grace and favor so that we may continue to follow Christ. We also pray for a unity of the Church, that is a unity in faith and doctrine. Here we confess that true Christian unity flows out of our oneness of faith and our oneness of confession in Jesus as our Savior. It is this oneness, this heavenly minded oneness that brings us together and gives us peace and unity in His Holy Christian Church.
 

And ultimately then we pray for a blessed end in heaven. What is more peaceful and unifying than a peaceful, blessed end of our days of the earth than to live together in perfect unity and harmony with our Lord and with one another in heaven.
 

This hymn is a fitting Maundy Thursday, giving of the Lord’s Supper hymn. In this hymn we are reminded of the Biblical texts of this hymn; Paul’s words in first Corinthians, “23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus’ words in Matthew, “26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28). And Peter’s words in first Peter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
 

On this Maundy Thursday evening, then, we are reminded that this was the night in which our Lord was betrayed by one of His own apostles, Judas Iscariot. We are reminded that Jesus, Jewish Jesus, was celebrating the annual Passover meal with His disciples. Jesus was celebrating the meal that was meant to remind the Children of Israel how God delivered them from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. And yet, even more for us, we are reminded that from this Passover meal Jesus gives us something better and greater. As the blood of the lamb was painted on the door post and lintel of the houses in Egypt and the lamb eaten so that the angel of death would pass over those houses and not kill the firstborn, so Jesus gives us His Holy Supper. In this Holy Supper, in this Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink, marking us so the angel of eternal death will pass over us and not condemn us to eternal death and hell. Perhaps it was this marking of the door post and lintel and the eating of the lamb were one of the reasons Luther was so adamant about the people partaking of the Lord’s Supper in both kinds, that is in the bread and the wine. As the Israelites ate the lamb it became a part of them. Today, as we partake of the body and blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, so He becomes a part of us, a physical part of us. Thus, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. His perfect obedience is counted as our perfect obedience. His perfect suffering and death becomes our perfect suffering and death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection.
 

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we eat His body and drink His blood, we are given forgiveness. We are strengthened in our faith. We are united in love and communion and we have peace, true peace, peace of sins forgiven. And we leave rejoicing and saying, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dying - March 28, 2021 - Palm Sunday - Text: Mark 15:1-47

Today is a special day for two of our youth and for their parents, sponsors, God-parents, grandparents, for the whole family. Today these two young people will come forward to do what many of us have done in years past. No, today is not graduation. Let me say that again, today is not graduation. Today is the beginning of their adult church membership. Today is their confirmation day and we will talk some more about what that means in just a bit.
 

According to our church year calendar, today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day the church traditionally celebrates Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. However, after listening to the text for this morning you might be asking, “What happened to Palm Sunday?” But on closer inspection you might have noticed that the Old Testament reading is a picture of Palm Sunday, “your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” So, we have not completely lost our Palm Sunday Celebration, it is just that is not our main emphasis this morning.
 

I would suppose that the difficulty in choosing a text for this Sunday comes from the fact that today is also the day we begin Holy Week. Today we begin the last week of Jesus time on this earth as we walk with Him through the moments of His anguish in the Garden, His arrest, His trials and His suffering and dying on the cross. Here I would point you to the page in your bulletin which outlines the Bible readings for each day of this week. Those readings are listed to help you follow along with Jesus during Holy Week.
 

And this morning we continue our schizophrenia of sorts with the fact that we add to today our celebration of Confirmation. What is a pastor to do? And why does he title his sermon, “Dying?” There really is so much to preach on and so little time. So, for your sake and for mine, I will concentrate on Confirmation, after all, as I said earlier, it is something most of us have been through and it is good to review what promises we made so many years ago.
 

First, I want to answer the question, “What is confirmation?” And I want to begin by answering that question in the negative, by answering what Confirmation is not. Confirmation is not a sacrament, at least not according to our definition of a sacrament. Remember, our definition of a sacrament is rather narrow. To be a sacrament all of the following criteria must be met: 1) it is a sacred act, and confirmation is a sacred act; 2) it must be instituted, or started by God, and God did not give us confirmation. Confirmation is a man made tradition; 3) it must have a visible element which is connected with God’s Word and 4) it must give forgiveness of sins; and confirmation, although we speak a Bible verse, it does not have a visible element connected with God’s Word and it does not offer forgiveness of sins. Thus, confirmation is not a sacrament.
 

So, “What is confirmation?” A second thought which is often mistakenly spoken of concerning confirmation is, and you do not have to raise your hand if you think this way, that confirmation is our confirming our baptismal vow. Let me assure you, it is not our confirming our baptismal vow. Think about it, what vow did we make at our baptism? We did not make any vow at baptism. Rather, at our Baptism it was God who did all the work. He made the vow. He put His name on us. He put faith in our hearts. He claimed us as His own.
 

Well, then, what is confirmation? Confirmation is our public profession of faith. I will state this now and later, “Confirmation is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.” In other words, it is a public confession of faith, a time to say, “I am now responsible for my own Christian faith,” and a lifelong pledge of being faithful to Christ. And this is where we get our sermon title. Confirmation is a pledge to die for Christ, and that pledge is made in response to the fact that we believe that He died for us.
 

Now, what pledge and what promises did we and do we make at confirmation? If you do not remember, you may open your hymnal. These questions are listed in their completeness on page 272-274 in the front part of the hymnal. We will be asking these questions of the confirmands in just a few minutes, but for now I want to somewhat summarize them as we ask ourselves what pledge and promise we made at our own confirmation. And maybe we might ask ourselves again today, do we still make these promises?
 

First, we are asked about our faith, the faith into which we were baptized. In essence we are asked, “Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism? Do you renounce the devil? Do you renounce all his works? Do you renounce all his ways? Do you confess faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” These are not too difficult of questions. They are questions our sponsors and the congregation answered for us at our Baptism and so we are recognizing the faith and gifts God has given to us at our Baptism. Do we believe in God as He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible, or do we believe in some other god, even some god which we might have created in our own image? We might think that is a non-question, but too often we say we believe in the God of the Bible, the whole while believing in a god we have created in our own image.
 

Second, we are asked about the foundation of our faith. “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God? Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?” In other words, do we believe the Bible is the Word of God, or that it merely contains the Word of God. The difference here is important. If the Bible merely contains the Word of God then we can believe the parts we want and throw out the parts we do not like. Sounds great does it not. How often we would like to throw out that part about lying or about coveting?! The problem, though, is this, once we throw out one part, we have to throw out the whole part. The other option is that we believe the Bible is the Word of God, which means we have to take all of it, even the parts we do not like. This belief is not as easy at it seems. How often do we find ourselves justifying what we do, because we know that without our bit of justification it might seem that we are disobeying God’s Word. We all do it. I know the Bible tells me to obey those in authority over me, but right now I have to speed to get where I am going. I know the Bible says that adultery is a sin, but what does it hurt to “window shop.” I know God wants me to give myself to Him first, that He wants me to be in Divine Service and Bible Class every Sunday, but how can He expect me to do that when there are so many things in life that I would miss if I actually did put Him first? This second question asks us what do we believe about the Bible?
 

Third, although this question is not asked explicitly in our new order of confirmation, it is asked implicitly, that is we are asked about our desire to be a member of this church. “Do you desire to be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and of this congregation?” Do we want to be a Missouri Synod Lutheran or not? This question reminds us of something that is quite lacking in our society today, denominational loyalty. I have said this before and I will say it again. Too often people are shopping for a church and not necessarily for a church which teaches what the Bible says. Rather they are searching for a church that teaches what they want to believe about the Bible. I pray that you are a member of this church because you have been as the Bereans and that you will continue to be as the Bereans. Remember the Bereans, they checked out everything that Paul preached to make sure that it was according to the Word of God.
 

Fourth, we are asked if we promise to be active in our faith and faith life. “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?” In this question we are asked if we promise to live active Christian lives. We promise to give ourselves first to the Lord. We promise to give of our first fruits, our time, and our talents in response to all the good gifts and blessings our Lord first gives to us. We are reminded that He gave His life, how are we going to respond?
 

Fifth, we are asked if we will give our life for our faith. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Now, many of us have made this promise, but do we live by it? I must admit, I do not know, if my life depended on it, if I would confess my faith or not. If someone said to me, if you admit you are a Christian I will kill you, now tell me, “are you a Christian?” I do not know what I would say. I do not believe any of us can say for certain. However, I do pray, that if and when the time would come, that I would be able to stand firm in my confession of faith. So, these are the questions we were asked and the questions we will ask our confirmands.
 

Today, then, we come to celebrate. We celebrate what God in Christ has done for us. We celebrate that it is not we who have chosen Jesus, but it is Jesus who has chosen us. We celebrate that because of His great love for us, Jesus gave His life in order to earn forgiveness of sins for us through His death on the cross. We celebrate that He has given us faith through His Word and through Holy Baptism. We celebrate that He continues to strengthen us in faith, and He continues to work to keep us in faith until Christ comes again to take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven. We celebrate that we cling to God’s promises and work, not our own fallible thoughts, trusting that as God is running the show in our lives we know we can depend on Him to get it right.
 

Today we come to rejoice. We rejoice in the public profession of faith of these two confirmands. We rejoice with them that by the power of the Holy Spirit working through them they have come to proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. They have come to proclaim that they believe the Bible is the Word of God. They have come to proclaim that they desire to be a part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and this congregation. They have come to proclaim that they intend, with God’s help, to lead faithful lives in the Christian faith and in this congregation. And they have come to proclaim that they will suffer all, even death, rather than deny their faith. And all this they confess with the help of the Holy Spirit.
 

Today we come to pray. We pray God’s blessings on these two young people, especially as they face the trials and temptations of this world. We must all admit, there are many young people from our own confirmation classes who have fallen away and are no longer a part of the body of Christ. And Satan’s temptations may even increase as they now make this their confession and profession of faith. Indeed, they will be tempted to put their trust in themselves and in human thoughts and reasoning instead of in God and His Word. They will be tempted with the business of the things of this world, with thoughts of power, fame and fortune, even tempted by family and friends as the devil, the father of lies, who hates all things of God will work tirelessly to lure them away from their faith. Thus, we pray that the Lord will strengthen these confirmands in their faith and resolve; that the Lord will help them to live according to their promises; so that finally, when their last hour has come they may stand before the Lord and He will say, “well done though good and faithful servant, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”
 

My prayer for each one of you gathered here today, whether you are family or friend, whether you are Lutheran or not, whether you have kept your confirmation promises or not, is that the Lord will fill you with His Holy Spirit, so that you might know God’s love for you so much that He gave His life for you so that even if you have not been faithful, with Him there is forgiveness and the opportunity to return to faithfulness; and if you have been weak in your faith and life that He would work in you a renewed spirit so that ultimately you might stand with these young people and with all the saints before the throne of God and declare, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Serving - March 21, 2021 - Fifth Sunday in Lent - Text: Mark 10:(32-34)35-45

Last week we heard the words which most of us have memorized from early on, the words of the Gospel in a nutshell as they have been called, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And as we heard these words we heard them in their context, that is that Nicademus had come to Jesus questioning Him about His teaching and Jesus tells him about being born again. This morning we move back into the Gospel of Mark and we hear Jesus being a bit more explicate in His speaking to His disciples concerning the events of Jerusalem which lay ahead of Him, namely His suffering and dying. And then we hear the squabbling of His disciples concerning who gets the place of honor.
 

Our text begins with Jesus detailing what lies ahead, “32And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise”(v. 32-34).
 

Jesus has been with these apostles for some time, close to three years. He has been teaching and discipling them. He has been speaking in parables and explaining the parables. He has been speaking somewhat directly and now, here, at this time as He is heading to Jerusalem He speaks plainly, not in parables, not in allusions, but plainly. He speaks concerning the events that will happen, namely that he will be “going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him” and notice He even includes how the events will turn out in the end, “and after three days he will rise.” And now, after all this they were amazed and afraid.
 

Jesus was going to be delivered by His own people, the Jewish nation, the leaders of the Jews, those who held high positions, the chief priests and the scribes. This nation that prided itself on taking care of its own would be actively delivering one of its own to the Roman Gentiles, the ruling political party for a judicial sentence of the death penalty.
 

As a part of this trial that would lay ahead, Jesus knew what was going to happen and so He outlines these events specifically for the twelve. He was going to be mocked, spit upon, flogged and killed. The response of the twelve is that they were amazed and afraid. Perhaps they did not believe Jesus. Perhaps they were afraid that if these things happened to Jesus they might happen to them as His followers. Whatever the reason, they were amazed and afraid. But that did not last long.
 

Continuing on in our text we read of the confusion of the Apostles, “35And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (v. 35-40).
 

Jesus had just finished speaking about His suffering, death and resurrection and the disciples were amazed and afraid, but now their attention deficit disorder kicks in and just as quickly they change the subject so that now we hear James and John asking for places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom.
 

Now understand, James and John were very much like the Pharisees and teachers of the law and many in Israel, and I would suggest even many in our own world today. There were many in Israel who had come to think of God’s kingdom in terms of an earthly kingdom. When God promised a Savior back in the Garden of Eden and when He reiterated that promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David and so on, the promise was never a promise of an earthly salvation and kingdom, but always a promise of spiritual salvation and an eternal kingdom in heaven.
 

Yet, Jesus answers the two by asking if they understand for what they are asking. Can they suffer as He is about to suffer? Their response shows their failure to understand what Jesus is saying because they respond that they believe they are able.
 

And so Jesus explains what it actually means to sit in the place of honor. It means, as He says, that they will suffer. So, we see that all that amazement and being afraid really was more of a confusion concerning Jesus, who He is and what He came to do.
 

But our text is not over. Our text continues with Jesus again, teaching, “41And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slave  of all. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 41-45).
 

In response to the request of James and John, the rest of the apostles are upset, or rather as the text says, they were indignant. And they had every right to be upset, after all, they were just as equal and had just as much right as James and John for the seats of honor, at least in their own minds.
 

As the good teacher that He is, Jesus sits the disciples down and explains what it means to be a true ruler and a great person. To be a true ruler and a great person means not to be served, but to serve. Even as Jesus Himself came, not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for us.
 

What does this mean? In our world today we think in terms of human greatness; power, fame and fortune. At the same time we do have the example of our world in which we speak about people in public office being public servants, that is that our elected officials are here to serve, at least that is or always has been the intent. Yet, too often today we hear about the offices of public service being less and less about service and more and more about power, fame and fortune, much like Jesus’ disciples. Perhaps you may recall one president saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” which has been played against a recent statement made by one of the citizens of this country, “What is my country going to do for me?”
 

As sinful human beings, we are not much different from those who have gone on before us. We are not much different than our sinful ancestors. We too have a tendency to focus our lives on this world.
 

God would have us focus on the world to come. This life is short and sweet and compared to eternity, this life is but a snap of the fingers, here today and gone tomorrow. We are very much like Jesus’ disciples. We attend divine service on Sunday. We hear the law and the fact that we are sinners. We hear the Gospel and the fact that God loves us, that Jesus lived for us, that Jesus suffered and died for us. We hear the same thing the disciples heard, that Jesus was “delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they condemned him to death and delivered him over to the Gentiles. And they mocked him and spat on him, and flogged him and killed him. And after three days he rose.” And then we leave and go about our daily lives and live as if this life is all there is. We live looking for power, fame and fortune in this world. We live looking for places of honor.
 

God would have us think in terms of service. First and foremost He would have us think in terms of His service to us. He is the One who came, not to be served, but to give His life. He came to love us first, so that we might love others with the same love with which He has first loved us. He did not ask what we could do for Him, but He came to do for us and to give to us. And He continues even today to do for us and give to us. He comes to us to give to us and do for us through the regular means He has given, His means of grace, His Word, Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is through these very means that He comes to us to give to us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
 

Yes, we do talk about the fact that Jesus came as an example, but not just as an example. If He were just an example, that would lead us to despair because we can never be like Him. He came as an example, but even more, He came to fulfill the example He set, even to fulfill all righteousness.
 

Jesus gives and we are given to. Jesus runs the show and we know we have the best, we know we have all He gives, because He is the one giving and we are the one’s begin given to. Jesus has done all that needs to be done. Jesus continues to do for us as well. He has won salvation for us. He gives us salvation. And He continues to pour out on us all His good gifts and blessings.
 

I want to conclude with a bit of my own paraphrase of Jesus’ words to His apostles who were discussing getting to sit in the place of honor, and to us who strive for such a place in our own lives and in the world of eternal life. You know that those who are considered the best leaders in this world are not the ones who lord it over them, and attempt to exercise great authority over them. Yes, there are those types of leaders in this world, but they are not seen as great but as what they are, dictators and tyrants. And so, this type of behavior should not be so among us. Instead, if we want to be known as a great person in this world we must be a servant and be of service to others. For, whoever would be first among us must be slave  of all. We have the example of Jesus Himself, the Son of Man, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. It is Jesus who has given His all for us, who works in and through us so that we might be His people. With all humility, may God work such an attitude in and through us as a response of the faith, forgiveness and life He gives to us. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

God Loved the World So That He Gave - Lent Mid-week 5 - March 17, 2021 - Text, Sermon Hymn, #571 - God Loved the World So That He Gave; Scripture Readings: John 3:16; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Tim. 1:9; Matt. 9:2

In the midst of this penitential season of Lent it is refreshing to confess and reaffirm our faith as we do in this hymn. While The Lutheran Hymnal declares the author of this hymn to be anonymous, and Lutheran Worship lists the text as authored by L. Bollhagen, and our Lutheran Service Book lists the authors as Heiliges Lippen and Hertzen-Opffer, my readings attribute the hymn to Johann Olearius. Olearius was a German hymn writer, preacher, and academic. He taught philosophy at his alma mater, the University of Wittenberg. He also served as a court preacher and chaplain. As a preacher and theologian he wrote this hymn expressing Bible truths to be sung for our encouragement, comfort and hope.
 

Stanza one, “God loved the world so that he gave His only Son the lost to save That all who would in him believe Should everlasting life receive.” The first stanza of this hymn is almost a direct translation of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” As we make our way through the season of Lent, reflecting on our sin and our part in putting Jesus on the cross, the words of what we call “the Gospel in a nutshell” bring continued hope and comfort. It is not the Law that moves us to confess our sins. Remember the Law only leads us either to despair, believing we have no hope, or it leads us to works righteousness, believing we can do something, we can work off our sins, we can earn forgiveness and eternal life. Rather it is the Gospel, the good news of the fact that our sins have already all been paid for that leads us to repentance. Thus it is with blessed assurance that our sins have been forgiven and that we have eternal life in heaven that we boldly confess our sins, are given forgiveness and are moved to confess our faith in the One who gave His life to save us.
 

Stanza two, “Christ Jesus is the ground of faith, Who was made flesh and suffered death; All then who trust in Him alone Are built on this chief cornerstone.” Here in stanza two we affirm our faith in Jesus as true God in human flesh who came to live for us, that is to do what is demanded of us and what we are unable to do, live a perfect life. Not only did Jesus live the perfect life for us in our place, but then He took all our sins, our imperfect life upon Himself, while giving us His perfection, and He suffered death for us in our place. As we are reminded that the price for sin, that is the price for human sin is human death, so Jesus had to be truly human in order to be our substitute, in order to give His life for ours. In this stanza we are bold to confess that Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the Church and our faith so that all who believe in Him are saved. It is not about us and what we do, but about Jesus and what He has already done for us. He has completely paid the price for our sins and gives us complete forgiveness.
 

Stanza three, “God would not have the sinner die; His Son with saving grace is nigh; His Spirit in the Word declares How we in Christ are heaven’s heir.” In this stanza we confess our Trinitarian faith as we confess our faith that God’s desire is that all people are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. We confess that it is God the Holy Spirit who works through the means of grace, the Word and Sacraments in order to bring us to confess our faith in God’s saving grace purchased and won for us by His Son, Jesus. Thus we declare what God declares, that by faith in Jesus we are heirs of heaven.
 

Stanza four, “Be of good cheer, for God’s own Son Forgives all sins which you have done; And justified by Jesus’ blood, Your Baptism grants the highest good.” As we take the time to reflect on our lives in this world, as we wonder through the Ten Commandments, as we hear God’s Law which reflects our sinful image and shows how sinful we truly are we need to hear words of forgiveness and hope. In this stanza we sing of the confidence we have that all our sins have been paid for and are forgiven in Jesus. We sing how we know that we are justified, that is we are made just and right before God by Jesus blood. There is nothing in us that is good. There is nothing in us that earns or deserves forgiveness, indeed, we cannot gain forgiveness by ourselves no matter how hard we might try. Forgiveness is a gift given to us by God, earned and paid for by Jesus’ shedding His blood on the cross. And we are reminded that Jesus’ life and death are enough, no more needs to be done. He died, once for all.
 

And so we rejoice in our Baptism because it is our Baptism that secures us in our faith. Baptism is not what we do but what God does for us. Baptism is God putting His name on us, forgiving us our sins, washing us in the waters of forgiveness, robing us with His robes of righteousness, writing our names in the Book of Life. Baptism is God’s doing and God’s giving and our being done to and given to and so what else can we do but rejoice and give thanks to God for giving us our highest good.
 

Stanza five, “If you are sick, if death is near, This truth your troubled heart can cheer: Christ Jesus saves your soul from death; That is the firmest ground of faith.” In this stanza, stanza five we are reminded that it is in times of struggles, sickness and death, in times of trouble that we are encouraged to take heart and be of good cheer. And why are we of good cheer during struggles, trials and tribulations? Because our hope is not in the finiteness of this world, but in the infiniteness of heaven. This world and our lives in this world are short and sweet, but our true life, our real life is our life in heaven which is forever. And we have the certainty of our life in heaven because it is Jesus who has saved us, our soul from eternal death and hell. Indeed, Jesus and faith in Him is the firmest ground of faith.
 

Stanza six, “Glory to God the Father, Son, And Holy Spirit, Three in One! To you, O blessed Trinity, Be praise now and eternally!” Having had the Law show us our sins and the Gospel declaring us forgiven by the blood of Jesus in this last stanza we are moved to confess our faith in our triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In this doxological stanza we praise His name now and forever. Well, what else can we do? As you continually hear me say, we get it right when we point to Jesus and this hymn and especially this stanza points us to Jesus, true God in human flesh, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the blessed Trinity so indeed, Be praised now and eternally.
 

We are now over half way through the season of Lent. We have taken the time and we continue to take the time during this penitential season, to take stock of our sins and our part in Jesus’ suffering. In our hymn for today we rejoice in our singing more of our confession of the Gospel and sins forgiven. Perhaps similar words are in our minds as were in the author’s mind, words like those of Titus, “4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Or words like those of Paul written to Timothy, “9who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Or even the very words of Jesus Himself, “2And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven’” (Matthew 9:2).
 

Indeed, we confess what we sing in this hymn that God not only loved the world but continues to love the world. He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, indeed, He Himself came, was born in human flesh, lived the perfect life, took our sins upon Himself in order to give His life for ours. The cornerstone, the foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. And yet, Jesus is not simply one of many gods, He is the One true God, the one true triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We rejoice and confess that our sins, all our sins, our sins of commission and omission, our sins of thought, word and deed, all our sins have been paid for by Jesus’ blood. We are made right in God’s eyes, that is we are justified before God by Jesus’ blood. And this justification becomes ours, is given to us at our Baptism where in water and God’s name are placed on us and through which the Holy Spirit gives us faith, forgiveness and eternal life. Our sins are forgiven. Heaven is ours. What else can we do except give praise and glory to our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, for His name’s sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Lighting - March 14, 2021 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: John 3:14-21

This morning we come to hear the heart of our Christian faith and church. We come to hear that verse we have grown up calling “the gospel in the nutshell.” We come to hear John 3:16, but we come to hear it in its proper context. Its context is this, Jesus had cleansed the temple, remember, that was our text for last week, and now He was alone with His disciples. It was now night and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, comes to Jesus to speak to Him. “[Nicodemus] said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’” (John 3:2b). In other words, Nicodemus has been paying attention. He has noticed the signs and wonders, the miracles Jesus has preformed which “prove” that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the One promised to save the world, even God in human flesh. Perhaps, even though he is a member of the Sanhedren, the Jewish ruling council, Nicodemus is a believer, which is what brought him to Jesus under the cover of night. Jesus’ response to Nicodemus is, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). To which Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4). Jesus’ answer is that you must be born of the spirit and Nicodemus responds, “How can this be?” (John 3:9). Our text for this morning is Jesus’ answer to his question.
 

Jesus’ answer to Nicademus goes back to an Old Testament illustration of sin and its effect. Jesus is referring to the sin of rebellion by the children of Israel in the desert. Here I would refer you to our Old Testament lesson for this morning. The children of Israel had been delivered from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. They had been saved from the Egyptian army by God opening a path through the Red Sea. They had seen the almighty hand of God deliver them and destroy the Egyptian army and yet, how easily and how soon they have forgotten. When their faith was tested they reverted back to their old ways of whining. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” (Numbers 21: 5b). Had not God provided for all their needs? Do they think He will stop providing for them? What provoked them to believe that He would not continue to take care of them and all their needs?
 

Yet, before we chastise the children of Israel too much, we might want to stop and take a look at our own lives? God has given us all things. He gives us life at conception and new life, spiritual life, eternal life in heaven through Holy Baptism. God has provided us with an opportunity to get an education, the ability to work, even a job to perform. God has provided us with gifts, talents and abilities to perform the work we need to perform at our job. God has provided us with a wage to purchase food to eat, to put a roof over our heads, to put shoes on our feet and clothes on our back. God has provided us with all that we need to support the needs of our daily lives and even many if not most of the wants of our daily lives and yet, how do we respond? “What have you done for me lately, God?” Yes, we commit the same sin of rebellion. We daily sin much. We commit sins of omission, not doing what we are supposed to be doing, not helping others who need help, not putting others and their needs before our own, not looking for ways to share our faith with others. And we commit sins of commission, doing what we are not supposed to be doing, not putting God first in our lives. Oh, we might say that we do these things, that God has first place in our lives, that He is our number one priority, that our relationship with Him is our number one priority, but our actions and words betray us. The fact is, we continue to put ourselves first. As children and even as adult children we forget to honor our parents and guardians, we speak unflattering words about a coworker, we gossip, or rather, “we do not repeat gossip, so you better listen close the first time.” We sin and this sin is rebellion against God.
 

We are reminded in the Old Testament lesson and by Jesus in the Gospel that the price for sin is death, even eternal death, which is hell. Yes, in our country we put a scale of punishment for crimes committed. Murder is deserving of a much harsher punishment than speeding. Gossiping and lying may not even be punishable. But in God’s eyes, sin is sin. All sins are equal. The sin of lying is just as punishable by eternal death, hell, as is murder. The price, the cost, the wage, what all sin earns is eternal death and hell.
 

Thanks be to God, that just as He sent a cure for the rebellious children of Israel, He also has a cure for us and that cure is His grace and mercy. In the “Gospel in a nutshell,” John 3:16, Jesus tells us about His universal grace, that is that God loves the whole world, the whole universe. Jesus was born into this world as a Jew in order to save the Jews, but not the Jews only. Remember, God chose the Jewish nation to be the nation to bring salvation to the world. Their mission was to share their faith in the Lord with others, yet they did not do that, instead they kept it to themselves. (Prayerfully, we will not make the same mistake.)
 

Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save the world. That does not mean that Jesus tolerates sin. And actually the fact is that He is contrary to our so called tolerant world in that He is intolerant and most especially He is intolerant of sin. He never approves of sin. Instead, Jesus came to take the sin of the world upon Himself. He came to take the punishment for sin upon Himself. He came to die for the sins of the whole world in order to save the whole world.
 

God’s will is not that some are saved and the others are condemned. No, God’s will is that all are saved. That statement begs the question, “then why are some saved and some are not saved?” Jesus’ answer is that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.” Some have already judged themselves because of their unbelief, which is the unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, that is rejecting the gift of faith the Holy Spirit gives through the means of grace or simply stated, dying in unbelief. Yes, folks, God is intolerant. Anything less than faith in Jesus Christ alone will condemn a person to eternal judgement. When we allow our family and friends to continue on in their lives rejecting Christ, absenting themselves from divine service and Bible study, or when we allow them to continue on in their very religious life, if that very religious life includes a belief in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ alone, then we are condemning them to eternal death and hell. God’s will is that they have a part in His Kingdom, thus His will is that we share His Word and love with them.
 

God’s will is, and Jesus died in order, that all people are saved which is universal atonement. Universal atonement is important, but even more important is vicarious atonement, that is that Jesus gave His life us, for you and for me. God so loved the world and He so loves us, you and me.
 

Paul expounds on Jesus’ words in the Epistle lesson for today. Paul reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith. We are saved by God’s grace, the gift of His undeserved love for us. We do not deserve that Jesus should give His life, that He should pay the price for our sins, that He should die the eternal death penalty of hell for us. This love, this living and dying is grace, is gift. We are saved by grace and we are saved through faith. Faith is the instrument which takes hold of and makes all God’s good gifts and blessings ours and this faith is also a gift.
 

Paul does not stop there. We are saved by grace through faith, but we are not saved for nothing. We are saved for a purpose, as Paul says, to do the good works which God has prepared beforehand (in advance) for us to do. In other words, faith shows itself in action, in good works. And as we have said at other times, what makes a work a good work in God’s eyes is this, that it is motivated by God, that it is worked in us by God, and that it is done to His glory.
 

This morning we have the privilege, the undeserved privilege, of having God pour out upon us grace upon grace. We are reminded that God gives and we are given to. God gives us our life at conception. He gives us new life through Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness of sins earned by His death on the cross. He puts His name on us. He makes us His children. He claims us as His own.
 

God gives even more. Daily He strengthens us in faith through His Word. As we daily make use of His Word, that is as we read His Word, and remember our Baptism He works through these means to give us the strength that we need to meet the challenges which are before us each day. Every week as we come to His house for divine service we have the opportunity to make use of confession and absolution, confessing all our sins and hearing His most beautiful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven,” and we have opportunity to make use of His Holy Supper. In His Holy Supper He comes to us through the eating and drinking of His body and blood, in with and under the bread and wine. He comes to us to give us forgiveness of sins and to strengthen us in our faith in Him and in our love for each other.
 

God is the prime mover. He gives and gives and gives. He gives and He keeps us in faith until Christ comes again, to take us to heaven. When we come to divine service we are like a dirty mirror. The first thing that happens in divine service is that our mirror is cleaned, that is confession and absolution. Once our mirror is clean, then we are able to reflect, to say back to God what He gives us to say. We have nothing to reflect of our own, we only reflect as our Lord shines His love on us.
 

God gives to us and we respond. Our response is not an attempt at payment for services rendered. Our response is not an attempt to show Jesus that He had to die any less for me. No, our response is a response of faith. We are so filled with His many good gifts and blessings that we cannot help but overflow and share His love to others, to, as Paul says, “do the good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
 

Jesus says it best and we all know what He says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Cleaning - March 7, 2021 - Third Sunday in Lent - Text: John 2:2:13-22 [23-25]

Last week Jesus explained to us exactly what it means and how much it costs to be a disciple. It means, “denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus.” It costs giving up life in this world for life in the world to come, eternal life. We were also reminded that because of our own sinful nature, in and of ourselves, we are not able to do these things. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us that we can be followers of Jesus. This morning we continue our journey with Jesus as we see Him, once again, demonstrate what it means to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him.” One thing I will ask of you this morning, “do not lose your focus on the events which are being played out in our text. Keep your eye focused on Jesus’ demonstration of discipleship.” If you miss it, I will bring it back into focus later.
 

Since Jesus turned twelve years old and was legally an adult He has attended the three celebrations required by law. These required celebrations were the celebration of the Passover, the celebration of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles or booths. These celebrations meant going up to Jerusalem to the temple. These celebrations were huge events with many people coming from all over to take part.
 

Our text for this morning brings us to the particular celebration of the Passover. This celebration required that sacrifices would be made by the people. Many people who came to the Passover celebration came from far away. Some came and bought the animal they would sacrifice when they arrived in town. Others brought their own animals with them. The problem with the one’s who brought their own animal was that the animal had to pass the inspection of the priest to make sure it was a spotless animal. However, many times it would appear that the animal was deemed as unworthy for the sacrifice. Once they were deemed unworthy they had to sell the animal and buy one which was worthy, at least, according to the priest.
 

For many years the ones who were selling these animals were down the street, maybe at the other end of town. Over the years they found it more convenient to be closer to the temple, until at this time they had already reached the temple courtyard, the courtyard of the Gentiles. So, in Jesus day, the temple courtyard was overrun with these zealous sellers of “spotless” animals for sacrificing in the temple. All this is according to the “letter of the law.” I suppose that if a modern day news team were to investigate what was happening that they might find that the same animals which were deemed unfit for sacrifice were later sold to someone else as being fit for sacrifice. I suppose they would uncover a nice money making scheme in which little or nothing was paid for an “unfit” animal and then the price hiked on one which would be declared “fit.”
 

But the scheme does not stop there. In order to purchase in the temple courtyard you had to have the right currency. Remember, people were coming to Jerusalem from all over the world with many different currencies. In order to help and be of service to you, so that you would have the right currency, there was a booth to exchange monies. Here again, the local investigative news team would probably find that this exchange of monies was also a good way to make money. What this boils down to is that all these activities going on in the temple were merely places were money makers were legally robbing the worshipers.
 

So, what does this have to do with us, with you and me? When we are reminded that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we begin to get a better idea of what was happening. Jesus would rather have us all to Himself. He would rather our lives not be cluttered with so many distractions. Too often these distractions creep in unaware. It is like the story of the camel in the desert. The nomad stopped for the night and pitched his tent. About 11 pm the camel stuck his head in the tent. The nomad asked him what he was doing and he said, it was so wind outside and would the nomad mind if he just stuck his head in the tent. The nomad said he did not mind. About midnight the nomad awoke to find the camel’s front feet in the tent. Again the exchange was that the camel merely wanted to put his front feet in the tent, it was so windy outside. The nomad agreed and went back to sleep. About two am the nomad awoke and the camel was more than three fourths the way in the tent. And again the exchange that it was so windy outside the camel asked if the nomad would not mind. The nomad said okay. Finally, about four in the morning the nomad awoke to find himself outside the tent. We are so much like this in our daily lives. The devil does not tempt us to not go to church, or Bible class or Sunday School. He does not tempt us to not give of our time and talents, no, he just tempts us with other things. We have so many things vying for our attention, our time, our talents, our treasures. Little by little we allow these things to take over until we find ourselves outside the tent. Until we allow the Lord’s temple, our lives, to be cluttered with everything except Him.
 

But then Jesus “rides” into town with His whip. We are told that He is zealous for His Father’s house and we are reminded that He is the Son of God. This temple is His Father’s house. He is sick, as we should be, of the atrocities which were happening in this house of worship.
 

Jesus has come to town to celebrate the Passover. He takes the time to walk around the temple to see what is happening. Everywhere He looks He sees deception and stealing going on. And He is angry. He has every right to be angry. As He walks through the temple courtyard He is braiding some cords together to make a whip. He is angry, but He does not sin in His anger. Remember, anger in itself is not sin. How you act out anger may be a sin. Jesus did not sin in His anger. He did not sin in His casting out of the money changers. He attacked no one and hurt no one. He merely removed the physical property which was used to steal from the worshipers.
 

By His actions Jesus shows He is God. John writes a commentary in an aside as he says, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
 

Jesus drove the money changers, the thieves, those legally stealing from others, out of the temple. And then He meets His opposition. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law ask the question, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” There was no question concerning whether or not this was a good thing which Jesus did, which we see that it was a good thing. There was rather the question, springing from the loss of revenues, of “authority.”
 

The answer to their question was seen in His actions. Jesus had been and continued to show His authority through the signs, wonders and miracles which He performed. Time and again was the question put to Jesus concerning His authority. Time and again His divinity, the fact that He is God, was attached to a miracle He would perform and time and again He showed Himself to be who He said He was, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
 

The second answer Jesus gives is the answer of His death and resurrection. This answer is spoken in a mashal, which is a teaching statement. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” We are clued in and understand that what Jesus is speaking about is His body. Those hearing this do not have a clue and believe that He is speaking about the actual physical building of the temple. In another aside commentary, John says, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” As Jesus reached the end of His earthly life and when He was put on trial, a few days later, this statement would be used against Him in a court of law. And His conviction in that court proved what He was saying, as He did die on the cross and three days later, rose from the dead.
 

Now, let me ask you, did you keep your eye focused? How does this text focus our attention on discipleship? How does this text apply to me? First, we must begin by admitting that we are sinners. We are born in sin. We add to that inborn sin our own sins of commission and omission. We are slaves to sin. We have already stated our tendency to let the things of this world take priority over the things of God. But there is more. We are often no better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. We question Jesus’ authority. Who is He to ask for our time, our talents, our treasures? Who is He to judge us? Who is Jesus to tell us right from wrong? Too often we are so in tune and in grained with the thoughts of our society that we are actual enemies of God. We are encouraged by our culture to look inside ourselves for the answers to life’s questions, for our authority. We are tempted to question God rather than humanity. And we are tempted to trust man and his answers and authority rather than God and His answers and authority. We spout Biblically incorrect statements like, “what anyone does is their own business.” “You are not supposed to judge other people.” The heart of these statements and statements like them is authority and does God have the ultimate authority over us?
 

Fortunately, for us, we have the answer. And the answer is not inside ourselves but is outside of us. The answer is, and you have heard me say this so many times, we get it right when we point to Jesus. Indeed, the answer is Jesus and His answer is what laid ahead of Him. His answer is the cross. His answer is that He came to give His life, His life for ours. It is our sin, our confusion of priorities, our demand for our own authority which puts Jesus on the cross. It is His love for us, so much so that He denied Himself and took up the cross in order that we might have forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ authority is an authority of love, giving Himself for us.
 

Now that we have been brought back into a right relationship with our Father in heaven, through faith in His Son, faith which has been given to us. Now that we have been made right before God, by Jesus, God Himself in human flesh. Now that we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, purchased and paid for by Jesus’ blood. Now, we also have the Holy Spirit who works in and through us so that we might respond to all that He has done for us. Our response is a response of faith and submission to His authority and giving of ourselves.
 

I think Paul summarizes it best for us in the words of this mornings Epistle lesson, “22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). I pray that your focus may ever be on Christ and Him crucified. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

From Faith to Reason to Doubt (Understanding the World of Today, the World of Anti-intellectualism)

    “In the beginning God” . . . or, “in the beginning nothing?” These are the only two options and both sides would argue and have you believe that they are correct. Unfortunately, no one was there in the beginning to be able to tell us what actually happened, or so one side would have us believe. If there was truly nothing in the beginning, then indeed there would be no one to tell how it all began. However, if in the beginning there was God, a Prime Mover of sorts, then He could tell us how it all began. If, in the beginning there was God, then some would suggest that this statement would have to be taken on faith for there is no evidence to prove such a declaration.
    We live in a world that has seen faith in the unseen as a driving force. We have seen our use of reason as a driving force and now both faith and reason only lead to doubt because we cannot be sure of either faith or reason. In our world today words have become the tool of creating fact, truth and doubt. Some words have become so overused that they mean nothing. Other words have been given such power that we are no longer able to use them so they are banned from our vocabulary. The world has lost its power over words and instead has given words so much power that one is offended by a mere word. At the same time words are given different meanings so that when words are used by one person they may mean one thing while to the person hearing they mean something else.
    So, how did we get from faith to reason to doubt? Historians and sociologist like to look back over history and periods of history and try to find significant events to which to point as turning points from one era to another and then label each era. Of course, we should and must admit that much of what is done is subjective and usually done according to one’s own preconceived ideas. With that said, perhaps we can use such designations to help guide our understanding.
    For our purposes we will suggest that up until the time of what we call the Renaissance the world pretty much centered their ideas, their facts, their truth, their beliefs around faith. And here we might expand our definition of faith to include not only belief in a god or gods but also in superstition. From around the 12th century, religion, or theology was important and one of the most important disciplines along with arts, law, and medicine.
    From around A.D. 1400 to A.D. 15001 we have what is called the Renaissance period of history. The Renaissance brought ideas of humanism (human beings are the measure of all things), individualism (the right for people to think for themselves), skepticism (all things should be questioned), secularism (the belief that money, travel, secular activities were important), and classicism (interest in other historic cultures). These values were reflected in buildings, writing, painting and sculpture, science, every aspect of their lives.
    From A.D. 1517 to A.D. 1648 we have the Protestant Reformation which was a religious movement in which Lutheranism (started by Martin Luther) broke with the Roman Catholic church and redefined Christianity.
    From A.D. 1450 to A.D. 1600 we have what is known as the European Renaissance which is known as a cultural “rebirth” in art, music, literature, society, and philosophy.
    From A.D. 1650 to A.D. 1800 we have what is called the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement that is also called the Age of Reason. This period of history saw the reexamination of politics, economics and science before giving way to Romanticism in the 19th century.
    Romanticism was a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.
    From Romanticism we move to Modernism which included a tendency in theology to accommodate traditional religious teaching to contemporary thought and especially to devalue supernatural elements and modern artistic or literary philosophy and practice especially a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression.
    Finally, from the late 1900s to the early 2000s, the dates are still in flux, we have what has been referred to as Postmodernism, also spelled post-modernism. In Western philosophy, this movement is characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.
    So, what does all this movement in history, in thinking, in beliefs mean? Before we proceed, as we talked about earlier, it is important that we define our words. Words are important and how one uses words, how one defines their words is important.
    For our purposes, the word “naturalism” means the philosophical belief that everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted. The word “humanism” means an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems. The word “rationalism” means a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response. Again, for our purposes, these three words act as synonyms for the simple fact that they all point to the human mind as the sole interpreter of what is real.
    Again, for our purposes, the word “fact” means an incontrovertible reality attested to, not from one person’s thoughts, ideas, or feelings but, from a real event or phenomena. The word “truth” means a statement of fact based not on one’s personal thoughts, ideas, or feelings but on real events and observable phenomena. And the word “absolute” refers to something viewed or existing independently and not in relation to other things; not relative or comparative. For our purposes, these three words may also act as synonyms for the simple understanding that they all point outside oneself with no need for interpretation.
    So, how did we get from faith to reason to doubt? If we begin with the belief that in the beginning nothing, then all we have is doubt because there is no outward foundation for fact, truth, reason or absolutes. More on this belief later.
    When we begin with “in the beginning God,” we have a foundation that is based on what is believed to be truth, fact and absolutes because truth and fact are external, from outside oneself, one’s being, thoughts and feelings. With the belief that in the beginning God, then God is truth and all truth flows from God, so that without God there is no truth. And it must be admitted that even with this belief as our beginning there have been those throughout history and still today who misuse and abuse such truth by lying and deceiving by God’s name in order to mislead or take advantage of others. Interestingly enough, the very fact that there is the opposite of truth testifies to the truth, because there cannot be untruth without truth.
    In the beginning God, lays the foundation for truth, fact and absolutes. In the beginning God also lays the foundation for history in the words of the Book of the Bible. The Bible is a book of history not science as one might define science. Yes there are descriptions of natural phenomena, what one might call science in the Bible, but not presented in what one would call a scientific form. In other words, just as a person in our world today speaks of the Sun rising in the East and setting in the West does not mean that person is describing what they believe to be the scientific fact that the Sun revolves around the earth, but simply is expressing what one sees from their particular point of view. However, the Bible does describe such phenomena and the Bible does reveal much history, none of which has ever been disproved (and the Biblical account of the creation of the world has not been disproved as the evolution of the world from nothing to something has never been proven either, both theories must be taken on faith).
    So, how do we move from faith to reason? The simple explanation is easily accounted from the third chapter of the Bible and, as we will see, cannot be accounted for from any history outside the Bible. In chapter three of Genesis we are told that the man and the woman, Adam and Eve, who had been created in purity were approached by none other than the opposite of the Creator God, the devil himself in the form of a serpent. Remembering that Adam and Eve only knew good it is not difficult to see how they fell for the devil’s lies that they could become like their Creator, knowing both good and evil if they disobeyed their Creator and did as the devil tempted them, that is that they ate from the forbidden fruit. Their desire and the desire of all humanity from the beginning to be like their Creator has caused all humanity to believe that they can be as smart as or smarter than God. Indeed, it was the thought of the devil himself, who was a created angel, to think of himself as equal with his Creator God that got him cast out of heaven in the first place.
    As humanity moved through the stages, the eras or periods of time as outlined above, as humanity moved further and further from a close relationship with their Creator God, so mankind began to more and more think more highly of himself so that he no longer believed he had a need for a god, let alone the Creator God.
    When one begins with God then there are absolutes, there are facts, there is truth and there is accountability. With God there is a right and a wrong. The opposite is human reasoning, thinking, science, i.e., naturalism, humanism, rationalism, in which man is the captain of his ship, the one who can think and know truth, thus science trumps all, especially faith. Thus, there is no truth, there are no absolutes, there are no facts, there is no accountability.
    Moving from faith to reason, now humanity must look inside themselves for answers. Since science is now the place to find answers, religion is placed in the background with the reasoning that religion is a matter of faith, but science is provable fact, at least for now. Of course, this shift brings many problems as well. If humanity and human reason are the end all, then how do we regulate morals and ethics? Can we have any truth? Are there any absolutes? And what about facts, are they reliable?
    After some years of believing that human reason is the answer it finally became obvious that there are problems with human reason. As society moved into what has been called the postmodernism era it has now been realized that science may not be all the facts and truth it was proposed to be. As one must believe in the Biblical account of creation or one must believe (and believe is the optative word) in the theory of molecules to man evolution2, so science is now back on the level of faith, i.e., no longer any truth nor absolutes, but all is relative, thus science is now something that is done by and agreed upon by consensus. So, now, in our world today, facts are not facts and truth is not truth. Facts are what we believe them to be. Truth is what we feel or believe it to be, thus there is and can be no facts nor truth. We might go so far as to say that facts are how the truth or the fact is spun.
    When someone suggests that they are more interested in truth than fact, what do they mean? When truth becomes relative that is when what may be true for me may not be true for you and what is true for you may not be true for me, then facts do not matter. Rather one’s interpretation of the facts is what matters. And as one interprets the facts that is what is true to them. Thus, what is important are words and how words are used to convince others to believe what they want them to believe. Truth and fact become what is the consensus of the group. Thus, the end all is the ability of humanity to convince others that their truth and facts is true and sure. But, can anyone be sure of truth and fact when truth and fact become so subjective which leads to doubt by those who can still actually think and who actually believe there is truth, there are facts, there are absolutes and there is accountability.
    The key to moving from truth to reason to doubt is to dumb down the populace so they do not realize they are being lied to, deceived, and used as pawns in the grand scheme of things. In the public square then, there is the struggle for convincing the minds of mush that they are only intelligent and independent thinkers if they think and act like the “wise” intellectuals tell them to think and act. The goal is conformity but spoken as unity. We want to unite, however the uniting is a uniting of those that conform. Thus goal may be expressed as herd instinct. Herd instinct is following the crowd believing you are an independent thinker. It is very much like on Television advertisement that suggest that we all be original and do the same thing.
    As people, especially young people, grow up and older they have a desire to be independent thinkers or at least to think of themselves as independent thinkers. They think they are not independent if they think like their peers or their parents think, even though they fail to realize that their parents love them and raised them instilling in them their values so that they might be good productive citizens. So they leave home and are influenced by other friends or coworkers, by mass media or social media. Or they go on to college or university to be taught by “educated” professors or doctors of education, who profess to want to teach their students to be independent thinkers (just like them) and wind up giving up what they are taught and instead believe what the professor teaches, after all, he or she is a professor, and their parent is an uneducated person. Thus, they truly are still not independent, rather they simply exchange one set of ideas and values for another, that of someone who really has no care for them or their lives, simply to root out any previous values. These independent professors, who speak of helping students become independent thinkers, however, despise any questioning or descent from the students they avow to teach to be independent thinkers. Here again we go back to the very nature of humanity, the desire to be like god, the desire to be accountable to no one.
    Thus, today, we have moved from a post-modern world view to what truly is an anti-intellectual world view. This movement does not mean that there is no fact, no truth, nor any absolutes, but fact, truth and absolutes are what I present and persuade you to believe is fact, true or absolute. Those thought to be intellectual are those who spin the best “truth.” And the best way to spin truth is to dumb down the populace so that they do not realize they are being persuaded to believe an untruth.
    Examples of such dumbing down the populace include such things as the cry for tolerance, the cry for justice, the cry for removal of offensive language, history, art, books, statues, etc., much like George Orwell wrote about in his book, 1984. When human reason, which is flawed, takes over, there can never be any confidence in anything. Simply ask the question, “Have human beings (including scientists) ever been wrong?” Answering that question in the affirmative reminds us that to rely on human wisdom is to rely on faulty reasoning. Thus, facts, truth, absolutes, if these are to be reliable, must come from outside humanity. Those who believe human reasoning is the answer must admit that, because of the diversity of human reason and because of the fallible nature of human reasoning one can never have any assurance of truth or facts, thus one is always left in doubt. And it is this doubt that is used to distort facts and truth in order to deceive the populace.
    So, when it comes to tolerance the cry for tolerance is one used to make an excuse for behavior that, up until this time in history, has not been deemed appropriate, because no one asks to be tolerant of something that is good and expected. And interestingly enough, the teaching of tolerance can bring offense to the one being tolerated, in other words, one may ask, “Why do you have to be tolerant of me? Am I so offensive that you need to tolerate me?” The same may be said about the cry for justice. Everyone wants justice, but is justice really what everyone wants? The answer is no. What everyone wants is what they believe to be their own justice. The one convicted of a crime might be justly convicted, yet the one crying for justice may not see that as justice, at least not for them because they believe they have been wronged. The cry for removal of those things offensive means those things that I find offensive. Indeed, if we were to attempt to remove all those things that are offensive to any and everyone, there would be nothing left as everyone may find something with which to be offended.
    So, what does a society look like that fully abides by the influence of humanism? Quite scary actually, so much so that most of the populace will have no joy only sadness, gloom and doom. Why? Because to follow humanism to its letter is to believe there is no right or wrong, there are no absolutes, there is no truth and there are no facts. If there is no right or wrong then who decides what is right or wrong. Those who believe humanity is the end all believe that the society as a whole decides right and wrong. This decision can only mean that ethics and morality, right and wrong ultimately must be at the lowest level, the lowest common denominator of belief and acceptance because all the populace has to agree and those who do not want to be inhibited by any rules or laws will desire that all things are deemed good and right.
    What does a humanist society look like? There can be no law against stealing as stealing could be considered as simply a way for a person to take care of themself. Rioting becomes a way of life. There can be no law against killing and no one can say killing is wrong since that is simply the way one makes his way to the top (survival of the fittest). No one can say that one person having intimate relations with another, not matter what age, gender, etc. even against their wishes is wrong because that is simply one person exercising their desire over another.
    What is interesting is that those of a humanist world view do at times claim that something is right or wrong with no basis for their claim. Indeed, if there are no absolutes then there can be no claim for right or wrong. Thus, apart from a world view that begins with “in the beginning God,” there can be no cry for right or wrong, no description of ethics or morality, no absolutes. What happens then is that the humanist will step out of his world view and attempt to step into the world view of “in the beginning God” in order to declare right and wrong.
    Since there is no right or wrong, no standard of morality, no absolutes then there is no hope for a future, no joy, no happiness, only the struggle to stay on top. All this leads back to words and the use of words. Words become the tool to deceive and convince others to believe the facts or truth according to their own point of view. And words can mean whatever we desire or assign them to mean meaning that the meaning of words may change according to our own intent and purpose. Thus, we see the need to define terms, especially when speaking with others who may be using the same words we use except with a different meaning in mind. In this way we see that what a word once meant now maybe used with the exact opposite meaning, which would explain how what once was deemed as evil is now exalted as good and what was once good is now deemed as evil. This result comes about because there are no absolutes, not facts and no truth.
    In our society today we see just this use of words especially in mass media as well as social media. There is a constant barrage of information and misinformation such that as the saying goes, “If you say the same lie over and over enough people will believe it.”  When opinion is presented as fact and facts are filled with adjectives rather than just facts it becomes difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction. And as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so what is presented in picture form by the media is only what the media decides to present from their own narrative. The viewer is not shown the whole story only that part which supports the view and narrative of the story teller. Thus, indeed, can you believe anything you hear or see? Add to this fact that the education system is continually pointing students to their own reasoning and you have the makings of disaster (notice the opinion presented as fact). Group think and consensus become fact and truth. Emotion rules the day. Words that are deemed offensive are outlawed; history is rewritten, distorted or removed (George Orwell, 1984); as was said, science and fact become what is agreed consensus; and personal feelings rule the day.
    When there are no absolutes, facts nor truth, what is left, except human opinion based on human emotions, one’s feelings. Each individual then has their own truth, their own facts, and if it were possible, they would have their own absolutes. And it can be added that one can have their own opinion based on their own definitions of the words they use. How do you keep order in such a world? Simply stated, through fear. Divide and conquer is the rule of the day. Identify various groups and pit one group against another. Use words to incite fear and fear to incite protest and riots, after all, if there are no absolutes, if there is no right or wrong, why not riot, loot and pillage?
    If, “in the beginning nothing” is true, if “survival of the fittest” is true, if all things evolved from nothing (molecules to man or pond scum to man evolution), then what about animals and animal rights? Why should we not give animals the same rights and protections as humans? Yet, at the same time the life of a child in the womb may be seen as expendable. If the humanist is honest, they would believe that killing and eating animals is simply a part of the “survival of the fittest” aspect of life.
    What about the accusations that human beings have ruined the Planet Earth by making themselves the center of all as accused by the environmentalists. What should be the relationship between humans and the earth? Should earthly resources be used for the benefit of humanity? Here again, if the humanist is honest, they would believe that using the resources of the earth is simply a part of the “survival of the fittest” aspect of life.
    If “in the beginning nothing” is true  then there is no basis for the value of human beings, except the grasping of their own perceived value through power. And if molecules evolved to animals and animals evolved into humans, it is not out of place to think that someone can be “trapped in the wrong body,” the ultimate denial of physical reality, even among people who claim that physical reality is all there is. If humanity is simply an evolved creature then one’s gender or sex is simply a mutation of conception that can be corrected according to one’s desire to be what one wants to be, according to one’s feelings. Of course, how often does one have a change of feelings and does one’s outer and inner “plumbing” have any other use or does changing one’s “plumbing” actually change one’s nature, i.e., male or female? Does it affect one’s DNA? Or, does all this simply bring more confusion and questioning?
    The humanists believe that man is the end all, that science answers all questions, that fact and truth are found through scientific analysis. The post-modernist believes that there are no absolutes that there is no ultimate authority, that right and wrong are human constructs, that nothing is provable as truth or fact. So overwhelmed by these contradictions, the anti-intellectual simply seeks refuge and meaning in pleasant diversions.
    So, why the term “anti-intellectual?” Intellectuals desire rationality and facts, yes, even those things that have been neutered by humanist. Intellectuals can process oral and written material, philosophy, theology, psychology, etc. Intellectuals are resistant to propaganda and do not run from the thought processes involved in understanding and debating. Intellectuals seek learning and knowledge. Anti-intellectuals do not like being overwhelmed with listening, reading, information, misinformation, disinformation, difficulties, division, contradictions, etc. Anti-intellectuals do not want to have to think, but would rather simply be amused and made happy, even if it means giving up their individuality and freedom for the sake of the group. When coming from the point of view of the humanist, this would be a natural inclination because for the humanist, since there are no absolutes, since there are no facts nor truth, except from the community, one must lose his or her individualism in order to have their absolutes, truth and fact validated. Even dictators understand the importance of the group over the individual. Individuals think.  Groups can be motivated to action and reaction.
    At one time people could listen and discuss, even debate in oral communication for hours on end. As literacy became more and more available, as more and more people were taught to read and write, communication and debate could take place through the writing and rebutting of ideas through written communication. With the invention of television the honorable idea was to use this new invention, this new means of information to present truth and facts for the viewer. Unfortunately, that proposition has long since past as now television is simply a diversion where one needs to have their attention held for the purpose of ratings and money, via advertisements. And now we have internet, social media, snippets of information so that it is difficult for one to be able to read a long dissertation of thought (such as this writing), or a lecture for an hour or less. Instead the order of the day is snippets and sound bites and snippets and sound bites out of context or presented in such a way as to present the opposite meaning than was intended. The natural response then is to react to such snippets and sound bites and very often with what might be thought of as in an anonymous way such that little thought is put into what is written.
    With the explosion of media, the means of mass media, of social media, of the internet opening up so much information and misinformation, we have moved from civil discourse to uncivil discourse. There is no taking the time to think and answer just simply to react. Here again, it has become so overwhelming that the anti-intellectual simply seeks refuge and meaning in pleasant diversions. Thus, mass media, social media, all forms of electronic communication have become simply a pleasant diversion of amusement as well. Neil Postman, writes quite convincingly in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, outlining this demise in human communication and yet his writing was done before the boon of the internet and world wide web. And his writing was before the profitability of media. Yes, he understood the profit of the visual media, but the profit of the electronic media was not yet seen. Today the profits of media are what drives the media. With smart phones and tracking algorithms, with the world at the tip of one’s fingers, commerce comes knocking with exactly that item for which you are searching. Here we see that Orwell’s Big Brother that was imposed is a Big Tech that has been invited into our lives, with open arms.
    With Big Tech invited into our lives and monitoring everything we say and do, every search and every bit of information we post, with its generous nature to give to us all that we need, want, at our fingertips we have forgotten that what is easily given is easily taken. When Big Tech does not like how or what we think or how or what we see they can just as easily take it away that is censor our usage, which is and attempt to control our lives. So, Orwell may not have been too far off, just in who would be doing the controlling.
    How does one navigate in a world that no longer believes there to be truth, facts, or absolutes? How does one live in a world that feeds on doubt and even worse on fear? Can one trust anyone or anything, or rely on what one reads, hears or even sees? Can we make a circle back to what some believe as faith and if so, what will that faith look like?
    Or, consider the then futuristic world that Ray Bradbury created in his book, Fahrenheit 451, a world in which books were outlawed because books cause people to think, have opinions and differences of opinions which causes conflict. Bradbury was ahead of his time somewhat in that he envisioned a populace that went around with devices in their ears listening to entertainment, all the time. His world envisioned homes in which one room had four walls with each wall being a large wall sized television blaring day in and day out with what amounted to nonsense, but which brought entertainment and took away any need for thinking. In 1984 and Brave New World the idea was to keep people from being individuals, because as individuals people might begin thinking for themselves. In Fahrenheit 451 the idea was to individualize the people but to do so for the purpose of not allowing them to share thoughts and ideas. The idea was to individualize people in such a way as to be able to instill in them the right thoughts and ideas which amounted to no thoughts or ideas rather simply to be happy being entertained.
    The world, culture, society of today is on in which humanism reigns supreme. The message from birth is to look inside yourself. The message is that you have the answer. That message is reinforced by the education systems, technology, and media. The constant message that is presented is one of community think including a rewriting of history, or a lack of teaching history all together, a message which twists absolutes, facts and truth, because after all there are not absolutes, no facts and no truth except what the community says are such things. Thus, the individual is targeted with a constant barrage either in one’s ear through oral communication or through one’s eyes and brain through 140 character messages and other bit and piece messages which amount to convincing one to think like the rest of the populace and in so thinking to think that they have initiated these ideas within themselves thus what intelligent, independent, intellectual thinkers they are, when in reality they have subtly and simply been convinced to be original like everyone else, thus the herd mentality. It is no wonder then that when one such person who thinks themselves to be such an intellectual independent thinker comes into conversation with one who stands outside such a barrage of information, twisted history, truth of facts that have been spun to mean something completely different, and absolutes that are considered lacking that person thinks more highly of themselves and thinks those outside the community or group think is simply either mistaken or does not have a grasp of what is their own truth, which very often leads to no conversation at all. And this thinking leads to the desire to reeducate those who think differently from the community.
    Some people would suggest and there is always the plan for a utopian society as Aldous Huxley proposed in his book, Brave New World, but any and all such utopian plans always have the problem or many problems such as losing freedoms, over reaching government control, social strata and the like. Indeed, could there ever be such a utopia in a world as confused as the world of today? How could one ever find utopia with the problems of lack of absolutes, truth and facts? Again, it seems the utopia selected by many in the world today is that of anti-intellectualism, that of simply finding an amusing diversion. For some their diversion is drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gambling, sports, shopping, eating, video games, whatever diversion might bring relief from the divisions of the world around them. For Orwell it was the VICTORY GIN, for Huxley it was the soma, for the anti-intellectual it is amusement, video games, movies (such as the movie Ready Player One, 2018, which presents a world in which most of its inhabitants live in a virtual world rather than the real world),  and all the items previously listed, anything except confronting the confusing world “out there.”
    Is there any hope for a world with so much information and misinformation and disinformation, in a world with so much division and conflict, in a world in which to disagree or have a different opinion, is to be intolerant, racist, offensive and hateful, in a world in which one seeks relief through alternate means including and especially pleasant and amusing diversion, and in a world in which there seems to be more and more of a disconnect between what is real, that is what is fact and what is fiction? How can one survive? How can one make any sense of this world? Huxley’s utopia world answer seems to be the subtle answer we find in our world today that is the dumbing down of the proletariat, so to speak. For Huxley it was the Hatchery in which babies were hatched for specific purposes and raised in such a way so that no one questioned their station in life but were happy and content because they did not know anything better or different. In our world today as history is rewritten, as words are redefined, as more and more amusement is offered, as morality is oppressed and immorality exalted, as Big Brother, or Big Tech takes over as the provider of all things convenient, as long as one is happy there is no need to confront life and the realities of life. Of course, since such complete isolation is not really a reality, when one does have to confront the “real world” they do so by simply parroting what has been hypnotically droned into them through media think, or Newspeak by the Ministry of Truth as Orwell would say or through hypnopaedia as Huxley would say. Perhaps the illustration of the effectiveness of Television advertisement might be in order: No one ever sat down to memorize the jingles from TV ads, yet how often does one find themselves singing such jingles. The constant repetition of words, whether true of false, whether real or unreal, becomes true and real for the hearer, especially if the hearer has been conditioned to not question what is heard or to believe all that is presented. Ultimately then, to keep harmony, those who actually think for themselves, those who believe in absolutes, in fact and truth are seen as the enemy and are the ones who need to be reeducated into the unity, that is conformity, of the group think culture.
    In Orwell’s 1984 and in Huxley’s Brave New World it is the individual that is most feared, the one who can think for themself, the one who questions. In Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 it was the group think, the organizing that was most feared. In a humanist world individuality is also a threat, after all, what good would an individual thinker be to the community where it is the community that decides absolutes, facts and truth? An individual thinker in such a community would only bring doubt and questions, which would cause descent instead of harmony.
    So, we have moved from a world of oral communication, to a world of written communication, to a world of visual communication, to a world of electronic communication, but what have we learned? We have moved from listening, even being able to listen for hours on end, to reading, even reading lengthy documents and processing the information, to watching, but only with breaks every so often and only if it is stimulating or amusing, to processing only bits of information at a time. We have moved from a world of absolutes, truth and facts to a world of group think, misinformation, historic revision, information and stimulus overload, entertainment and amusement, word and book banning, “photo shopped” and digitally altered “evidence,” media Newspeak and media hypnopaedia, offense taking, bias and prejudice against intolerance, redefining and misusing words, and the lack of the ability to discern more than one-hundred-forty characters of information at a time. Instead of intelligence one is filled with trivia and thus thinks that such regurgitation of trivia is intelligence, after all, he who can regurgitate so much trivial information must know a lot. Thus, we have moved from intelligence, critical thinking, speak and reading with understanding and the ability to process and debate to being so overwhelmed that one would rather be isolated with their own preferences and entertained and amused without having to work so hard at discerning and deciphering. Why put out the work to read or think or make decisions, why be involved in debate or critical thinking when one can leave all that behind and instead simply live in the world one creates, perhaps in their own fantasy virtual or digital world and leave the real world and all its problems to itself?
    We have moved from a world of absolutes, fact and truth, a world in which one was pointed to those things outside themselves for validation of such absolutes, facts and truth to a world that rebelled against such a world and instead desired to throw off the constraints, or what were deemed the constraints of such a world and instead moved to look inside themselves for their own validation. Once humanity began seeking validation for absolutes, fact and truth inside themselves what they found was human reason, flawed human reason, doubt about one’s own reasoning, apprehension, mistrust, suspicion, more questioning, and the necessity to weave a web of one’s own truth to what appeared to be one’s own facts. With no absolutes then there can be no truth and facts become one’s opinion of one’s experience. Thus, humanism ,or naturalism, or rationalism, instead of giving one confidence and assurance simply leave one with doubt and insecurity within oneself and in the society as a whole. Those who look outside themselves are seen as arrogant and are distrusted as those who look inside themselves have no surety and if one cannot trust oneself then one can trust no one. So, we have moved from the surety of what has been given coming from outside ourselves to insecurity coming from inside ourselves and the more “noise” that comes from outside ourselves the more confused and the less interest one has in absolutes, fact and truth. Instead, one simply seeks a diversion from the insanity of the world. To find a pleasant diversion one simply gives up reality. Ultimately, one gives up the messiness of reality from the relief of the tensions of the world. One retreats into their own world shutting out the rest of the world as if the rest of the world has no bearing on one’s own life and world. Thus, the move from a world of absolutes, fact and truth, to a world in which the community or society determines absolutes, fact and truth, and when that too becomes overbearing and unacceptable, to a world in which one chooses to opt out of reality and instead isolate onself by removing themself. This removal of oneself includes seeking ways to be separate such that one no longer seeks to engage but seeks the opposite. So, with no need to engage and with no engagement, simply living in a world of pleasant diversion, the world moves from absolutes, fact and truth, from an oral tradition, to a written tradition, to an post-literate world (not that people do not read they simply choose not to, instead they simply watch or listen) and now to an anti-intellectual world, a world that wants nothing to do with engaging in the discussions of the day with the motivating factor being one no longer has a desire nor the ability to get involved with understanding, deciphering, and debating of the issues of the world but would rather simply “live and let live,” because one believes the world out there has no affect on their own world.
    In a world of doubt faith seems to take on a whole new meaning from what it once did. In the world of today faith is that thing that is a personal thing, not necessarily based in reality or fact or even truth, but based on one’s feelings, thoughts, and desires. This type of faith should be of no surprise as it is a faith that was spawned in faulty, fallible, human reason bringing us back to a faith of doubt.
    If “in the beginning nothing” is true, we as human beings are to be most pitied, because we truly have no purpose, no reason to live, no hope and no future. We are simply nihilist believing that nothing has meaning. The answer to nihilism is existentialism which simply points one to self for meaning, purpose and value which, as we have seen truly is not the answer. Can humanity ever develop a utopian world? Can humanity be truly happy in a virtual world? Can humanity find meaning in a meaningless society or a society that imposes its own definition of meaning? If “in the beginning nothing” is true then the ultimate conclusion may be, “in the end, nothing.”
    However, if we begin with “in the beginning God” and allow God to be God, not some god we have created from a miss mash of theologies and beliefs, if we look outside ourselves then we can anchor our values, our meaning and purpose on those things that have been given to us, God, the Prime Mover, the God of the Bible and not the god of our interpretation of the Bible, but the God of the Bible as He speaks Himself to us in His Holy Word. But, back to the questions, can we or how can we move back to this point or will we ever be able to move back to such a belief?
    It is interesting that what one needs when one reaches the point of no meaning, value, or purpose is the very thing they are attempting to reject. The thing they are attempting to reject is that thing that is written on their DNA, the vacuum in their life which seeks meaning, value and purpose. Perhaps that is why one with no meaning, value or purpose in their life fight so hard against those who have joy, peace and happiness, because their own lives have no meaning, value and purpose. As the saying goes, “Misery loves company.” So, if I have no meaning, purpose or value in my life, if I have no joy, peace and happiness, if I am miserable, then you should be too. Rather than give up my attempts at killing my conscience, rather than give up my attempts at being “captain of my ship,” “having it my way,” “grabbing for all I can get out of life,” rather than believing there are no facts, there is no truth, there are no absolutes and that I am accountable to no one, I would rather you be just as miserable as I am. Indeed, again, the very thing one needs is to be where one can find meaning, value and purpose, the place where one can find joy, peace and happiness, the very place one can be sure of facts, truth and absolutes.
    Many people who have been frustrated and have been directed to go back to where their frustrations may be resolved and have rejoiced in their return to where their DNA has pointed them, indeed have returned to where the belief that “in the beginning God,” has pointed them and acknowledge their new found joy, peace and happiness. Of course, there is a difference between seeking one’s own answer to fill the void in their life and in one being found by the One who is truly able to fill the void written in their heart. To look inside oneself as society continually encourages is to remain in the realm of disappointment, but to look outside oneself, to point to an external source for truth, joy, hope, meaning, and purpose is to find that the One that one is seeking is truly the One who has been seeking them all along, truly it is not to find, but to be found. And being found by the One seeking from outside brings truth, fact, absolutes, right and wrong, good and evil, joy and happiness, meaning and purpose, hope and life.
    The Greco-Roman calendar begins marking time as B.C. that is before Christ and continues in our world today as A.D. that is Anno Domini meaning “in the year of our Lord,” or as some have translated it, “after death” or after Christ. Notice that this calendar points to one place, one person, Christ. Indeed we might surmise that all time points to Christ. The Old Testament of the Bible points to the coming of Jesus. The New Testaments points us back to Jesus’ life. All the Bible points to Jesus. The new designation of time as B.C E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), while attempting to put Christ out of the picture still points to one thing, Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Perhaps there is a point to such pointing?
    Because so much in our world, the Bible, our calendar, history, etc., points to Jesus perhaps that should be the first place to look to find the answers to our questions. If looking inside oneself only brings more questions as well as sorrow and sadness from guilty and meaninglessness, then why not try looking outside, to some external source to find the answers? Perhaps there is truth in the notion that we get it right when we point to Jesus, because Jesus is outside of us. If we cannot be sure of ourselves, our feelings, our own truth or facts, how can we be sure of those feelings, truth or facts of others because they are only looking inside themselves as well. Looking outside oneself, looking to the Prime Mover, to God, to Jesus, then one has an anchor, an absolute, indeed, fact and truth.
    Perhaps the only answer is for each individual who believes “in the beginning God” to live life with joy, meaning and purpose and when asked how and why one can be filled with such joy and have meaning and purpose, then gently give an answer for such meaning, “in the beginning God.” Then the one who asked will either have to give up their view of “in the beginning nothing,” or continue living with no purpose, meaning or value. Perhaps we can come to some consensus to this conclusion?

1. The dates, names and descriptions of these time periods are an amalgamation of various internet searches compiled and defined such that one may do a similar search and find other such similar or dissimilar dates, names and descriptions, thus no cite in particular is cited as no true quote has been lifted. In other words, these dates, names and descriptions are meant simply for offering some general direction and knowledge in understanding the whole.

2. The word “evolution” here is defined not as natural selection which is accepted by those who believe in the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2, but is defined as it is used in science that the world came about from nothing through, perhaps, a big bang and that humankind evolved over millions of years from a simple molecule, none of which has ever been proved. The problem in the scientific community is the bait and switch of talking about natural selection where in the various traits of any given kind (persons or animals) allow for the variations in those groups and then suggesting that these traits, already coded in one’s DNA and not naturally occurring, account for humankind to spontaneously evolve from a molecule to the person we have today.