July 2019 Newsletter

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Mature Infants

Isaiah 6:1-13; Psalm 138:1-8; 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20; Luke 5:1-11

I remember when I was younger how embarrassing it would be to be found ignorant of something. Most people don’t like to be seen as naive yet in Pauls first epistle to the people of Corinth we find that this is exactly what Paul calls the followers of Christ to be in the twentieth verse of the fourteenth chapter, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”

I have known the laughter and the chiding of others because I didn’t catch something that was said. I wish I could say that I was innocent all along, but I have not lived a life that is like an infant to evil, as Paul states should be our desire. I will however state that God seems to have put something in my spirit that I used to fight against that sometimes will cause me not to look upon the evil or catch innuendo that will lead my thinking down paths that may not be honoring to Christ. For example, when I was in Seminary my wife and I went to downtown Minneapolis with a friend to the Christmas Parade. Now it was cold so we did not desire to stand outside so we sat inside one of the local pubs that looked out onto the street. As we were there enjoying each others company over a few beverages my wife and her friend went to the restroom and there my wife saw a woman with a tiara and another woman in the restroom made a comment on how she wished she had a tiara. My wife kindly responded, “I think all women should have a tiara!” After hearing this, the woman smiled and engaged my wife in some light conversation and then the woman ended up following my wife and her friend back to the table. While sitting at the table we had conversation with this woman and being a Seminarian the conversation led to the topic of the woman’s life and faith. Somewhere in the midst of this conversation the woman made a comment to my wife and her friend that I missed, so my wife and her friend excused themselves to the restroom. Apparently, the comment was odd and my wife and her friend excused themselves so they would not laugh at the woman. This left me and this woman talking about her life, her family, and her faith. Personally, since I had missed the inappropriate comment, I felt compassion on this woman and was seeking to bring her the Gospel and let her know the love of Christ. I heard the brokenness of the woman and heard how she had been used and abused. For me this woman was unaware of God’s desire for her and when she abruptly left with an odd comment when my wife and her friend returned, I was confused.

Now my wife and her friend chided me some after explaining to me that this woman’s comment was odd and lewd which is why they had left and then clarified the comment the woman had made to me when she left, I felt embarrassed but also a little relieved. You see, I was unaware of the advances that were being made and was seeking to bring the Gospel to a broken person. If I had known, I don’t know that I could’ve or would’ve been able to share the faith that I so love with this person. I probably would’ve been at minimum uncomfortable, but possibly offended. For me, the conversation had innocence to it that once things were clarified was removed. At the time I was an infant to the evil that was confronting me, but was mature in my thinking as it pertains to the faith. The goal, for me, was to build up the church by building another in the faith. Now I wish that I was always that oblivious because, at that time, there was really no danger for me. If the woman had made any physical advances it would have sent an alarm, but my ears and my spirit were kept from the verbal advances so I was able to proclaim Christ. Ultimately, that is what we are all called to do.

We aren’t to be dumb about the dangers within this world, but as an infant the temptations to engage in evil is not there. An infant does not have the knowledge truly. Children, also, have a natural innocence to most evil. It is one of the greatest tragedies of our age as we see a world that tries to sexualize everything. It is why the sexual abuse of a child is so heinous because it robs a child of innocence. That innocence, as Christians, we should seek to protect for as long as possible. Ultimately, we are able to maintain that innocence or receive it anew when we turn over ourselves to Christ and seek to glorify him in every aspect of how we live our lives. Marriage is the place where we can innocently engage in the glorious gift of sexuality as husband and wife as God intended with the ultimate goal of bearing and raising children that fear, love, and trust God above all else. It is in that union that, with God in the center, that we find refuge. In Martin Luther’s On the Estate of Marriage, we can find great insight on how marriage and God’s design for it were pure and holy and, though we are fallen, we should strive to live out that union reflecting our Lord in every aspect of it. At the time of Martin Luther, he saw how marriage was supposed to be as opposed to how it was and sought to guide other Christians to live in marriage as a better union then often seen in the world of his time. Luther gave his wife Katie great respect and honor and saw her as his helpmeet. He went contrary to the age and made Katie the executor of the estate upon his passing which was honored because of the respect that the Prince had for him. Luther did not see Katie as one who was beneath him, but as God intended for marriage as a true union of two become one. In the world then and in the world today many would mock the naivety of Luther’s view. The image that is often painted in the world on marriage which also permeates the Church is the idea that marriage is an old union that places women under men and in the biblical sense makes women merely property. Now it is true that throughout the millennia since the Fall often women have been treated as such. There are Christian traditions that do put women under the thumb of men and they use portions of Scripture to justify this, but this has not been always the way and often is influenced by non-biblical cultural ideals. This is the struggle that we face since the Adam and Eve realized their nakedness. Our innocence is no longer protected because we have received the knowledge of good and evil. Unfortunately, the evil around us often parades itself as good – sexual empowerment, self-pleasure, indulgence, fake adoration, etc. It is easy to be tempted. To be mature in our thinking is to be aware of how fleeting all the things of this world truly are and to remain focused on the eternal, which is God. As Christians, we aren’t called to hate nor should we seek to be offended. I pray for more opportunities of ministry that causes me to be unaware of the temptations that surround me in order to bring to Gospel to one who is caught up and seeking to be pulled out of it. I still wonder about the woman at the pub and pray that she has found the only source of true happiness and joy. We live in a world that has turned away from the things of God and is often more like the world of Judges, doing that which they find pleasing and right since they had no king in those days. Our world does not recognize the one true King of the Universe and those of us who are followers of Christ are his ambassadors. We are called to proclaim the truth of the Word in a world that is not yet ready to hear and, like Simon Peter, there will be those that once they see Christ in us will fall to their knees confessing their brokenness and receiving the fullness of our Lord’s forgiveness and new life. Let us all be infants to evil and mature in our thinking and may Christ’s love fill you and flow from you abundantly. Amen.

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Called to Share the Faith

Called to Share the FaithOne thing that has always bothered me is gossip. I’ve never really liked people talking about me to others and for that reason I try not to talk about others in the same way. I mean, I will share the piece of positive news about friends or that tidbit of information about friends that is meant to build them up or let others know that they need prayer, but if I don’t think it would be something someone wouldn’t want shared I won’t share it. I guess that was something I was taught. It seems though that this is not common any longer. Why is it that many people find it easier to talk about someone else’s failings and less about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What is less offensive about saying something behind someone’s back than sharing the life giving Word that is the way, the truth, and the life? It doesn’t make much sense, yet we seem to continually light fires against others with our tongues while quenching the Holy Spirit at the same time. “I don’t want to offend…” is a common way to open a sentence, but often we find after those words comes a diatribe of words that can only be offensive. I was taught if you can’t say something to someone’s face it is better to not say it at all. It is a reminder of what Scripture speaks about and James reminds us in the 3rd chapter of his letter as he speaks of the tongue like an untameable thing that can spread fire. He also reminds us of the conundrum we create when out of our mouths that are meant to praise God comes curses. I have known many “good” people that when crossed say some of the most vile things. This is what James is speaking of when he speaks of does a salt water stream produce fresh water? Many people are more offended by profanity than they are by some of the profane things that we do to each other. We are called to be different, we are called to be more. We are called to be salt and light in the world. Unlike salt water, salt itself preserves. We are called to speak words that are life giving and support one another, offering correction privately and seeking to cover another’s shame. Let your mouth spring forth fresh, life giving water that refreshes all those with whom you come into contact.

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We Are All But Beggars…

We Are All But BeggarsNear the end of Martin Luther’s it has been told that the last words he wrote, “We are all beggars…” An African pastor has extended these famous words, “We are just all just one beggar telling another where the food is.” These words are a poignant understanding of the Christian faith. God does not look at our name, our standing in society, the way we look, the way we are dressed, or even the amount that we give. God looks at our hearts. It is so antithetical to our world. How do we know the hearts of another? We don’t so we leave that to God. We cannot know where a person’s heart lies so we are not meant to judge. The Sunday reading from Isaiah 35:4-7a points us to the providence of God. God is the One that heals. The power of God is that which builds us up and gives us the strength to carry on. We receive even greater than that we receive sight, we receive hearing, ultimately we receive understanding.

James 2:1-10, 14-18 calls into question the eyes with which we look upon others. We see people externally, but we can not see the heart of another. This is what God sees. Often we can become caught up in the way someone dresses, that makes good decisions, and are financially successful and we often place them in places of honor. James criticizes this mentality as we should as Christians. I have known and been betrayed by those that feel that their status deserves a greater level of respect than another. I have been judged by those that saw me as “less than” they feel that they are. Jesus knew this also as we look at Mark 7:24-37. At the beginning of these verses, we read about how Jesus goes to have a secret meal. Probably invited by another and wanting to get away from the crowd and have a peaceful meal was the mindset, but a woman had a daughter that was possessed by a demon and she was seeking help. This woman heard about Jesus as a teacher and healer so she sought him out and found him. Now she comes asking. Not only was this an interruption, but she was not a Jew but she was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician to be exact. She was not someone a good Jew would want in his home much less when a special guest, a Jewish Rabbi, was in the home. The people at this dinner, it can be easily assumed, looked down upon this woman and when her request comes Jesus responds with words that could only be reflecting the feelings of those with him by comparing this woman’s request to that of a dog begging at the dinner table. I am certain that there was no guile in his statement but, being God, Jesus knew this woman’s faith and the response she would give in humility. This woman put her pride aside for the sake of her daughter and because of her faith, she received what she was seeking, the healing of her daughter.

When we look down on another we are guilty of the sin that Jesus revealed and James speaks against. We are not to think of ourselves as ones that deserve grace, but as children that are receiving grace from our Father in Heaven. He does not owe us forgiveness or grace no matter how much we do or how much we give, but he gives it to us out of His divine grace and mercy. Another aspect of James that is difficult for many is the call that seems to demand faith and works. There are many Lutherans who struggle with this and many misunderstand our Lutheran faith by thinking we are against works. That is not true. As Lutherans, we are in line with Christian thinking and know of the importance of works, but we, also, understand that no matter how much we do there is no work that can save us because that was done for us already through Jesus Christ on the Cross. Works are a natural response of faith. It is a powerful reality that we do works because that is what faith drives us to do. It doesn’t help our brother or sister in Christ that is hungry and suffering to simply offer pray, but we are called in faith to provide what we are able to provide to those in need. When we think of what James is speaking about we can look to the next portion of the reading from Mark where people bring this man who was deaf and mute and Jesus is very tactile in the healing. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears and spits and touches the man’s tongue saying the word, “Ephaphtha,” which Scripture reveals means “Be Open.” Jesus opens this man’s ears and loosens his tongue so he can hear and can speak. The same is true for each and every one of us.

With a word our Lord opens our ears that we can hear his words and he loosens our tongues that we can proclaim His truth. That is the power and truth of the faith. We seem to often lose sight of this reality. As we are gifted with the power to hear the Word and trust what Jesus says as well as our tongues loosened to proclaim His Truth we are called to remember that we are all beggars. We come with nothing to offer but our Lord gives us everything. We do not deserve anything, but He gives abundantly. That is the power of these words. Remembering that we are nothing but beggars reminds us that we only have one Word to offer to our Lord and that is “Thanks!” Why don’t we give thanks as we should? We have forgotten and think that we are owed forgiveness. God owes us nothing. We owe God. We are, as an African Lutheran Pastor once said, “one beggar telling another beggar where the food is.” That is all we are. Humbly let us remember this and let our tongues be loosed to proclaim our God’s praise to all with whom we have the opportunity to share. When we see something that needs to be done and we cry out, “I wish someone would do something.” Remember that that someone may just be you. Be a beggar for the food that only satisfies and the waters that truly give life. We are all but beggars, that is our state and we can find that in our begging we find our place next to the king. Amen.

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Raising Up Families of Faith

Raising Up Families of FaithThe first calling that God gives to all parents is to raise up their children to know and love God. As a pastor and father of six, I know this reality and also understand the difficulty. Some may think it would be easy as a pastor to raise up children of faith, but the difficulties are no different for me than for anyone else. Growing up, I was not raised with regular patterns of family devotions and the like. It is a change for most people today. The majority of people that we encounter inside and outside of the church more than likely have had little if any faith formation in the home. Personally, for those had this upbringing a part of my spirit feels jealous wishing I had had the same patterns engrained in me. This passes quickly as I realize that God has been with me throughout and, though I have to work at these patterns, the most important part of it all is where my heart lies. As the Church, we are called to raise up families of faith by imparting the faith to parents and helping them to teach the kids. Early on Moses was given instructions by God to pass on to parents in Deuteronomy 4 and the readings for this past Sunday highlight the need for that instruction (1-2, 6-9). This was at a time when all a parent had to do to teach their children of God was call them out and point to the Tabernacle where they could visibly see the presence of God. God was not going to lead that way forever and, in reality, that was not the way that God desires for us to know that He is there. God wants us to trust in Him even when we don’t clearly see Him. Mother Teresa, in the book, Come Be My Light, revealed that except for a brief five-week period in 1959 she had not felt the closeness of Christ in her for the last sixty-six years of her life. In spite of this, she never lost hope or faith trusting that Christ was near her. The faith that we are called to teach and to carry on is not a faith in which we are expected to carry on just because God does all that we ask of Him or because we feel a good feeling from Him. As we are called to teach our children the faith we can find that our own faith is strengthened. As we teach our children the faith, we are also preparing them for the difficulties that they will face and the struggles that will come upon us because of the spiritual warfare that is confronting us that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:10-20. Our teaching of the faith is central in equipping our children and for all believers to be equipped to withstand the constant attack that we find within our lives within this fallen world. The difficulty of these attacks as they don’t always come from without, but also from within. As Christians, we sometimes are led not by the Holy Spirit, but the spirit of our age and our world to deny aspects of the faith and/or to attack those that hold to the historic faith as being outmoded and are antiquated. The glorious thing about our Christian faith is that the biblical principles of the faith are timeless and unchanging though our world is everchanging. As people, we are not so different than the people that we read about in Scripture and the issues that we face are not that different even though we are confronted with the new media and the ability to quickly interact with different peoples. The reality of the fallenness of creation does not seem to be lessened the more we know of what is happening in the world but is much more prevalent as we see the evil that people do against one another. It is in this light that we teach of the faith and the importance of our witness. We, as Christians, are not called to be judges that bring only judgment, but we are called to be more like lighthouses that lead those caught up in dangerous waters to safe harbors. That is the calling that we all have in our faith as we teach our children, but also as we reach out to those that do not know Christ. As Jesus’ words remind us in Mark 7:14-23, we are not to be limited by man-made traditions to define how we view and live out the faith, but centrally we are called to stand firm on the principles defined for us as we find revealed to us within Scripture, particularly the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are not to look down on others and deem them unworthy of our care but are to see them in the eyes our Lord sees them. Reaching out to those and eating with those that are different from us is something that we are called to do and our views or the views of a church body should not limit us or prevent us from entering into the company of those that do not believe as we do. As we raise up our children in the faith and grow in our faith we are called to be prepared with the full covering provided within Scripture that we do not fall to the temptations or barbs that we could face and if it cost us our lives we do not flee from the truth of the faith that we hold but hold fast to what we know to be true even if it cost us our life. That is our calling as Christians and the promise of new life that we all receive in Christ and in Him alone. The importance of carrying on the faith is truly a life or death issue, not only in this world, but more importantly in the new life promised to us eternally with our Lord. May your life be centered in Christ and may He carry you through all trials and turbulation.

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God is First

God Is FirstFor the message this past Sunday the Readings were as follows, Isaiah 29:11-19, Ephesians 5:22-33, Mark 7:1-13. In preparing for this my heart was drawn to the Ephesians reading and conversations helped to affirm that drawing. All three readings have an element of challenging traditions that often get placed before a full devotion and love of God. That issue is no more true than how we act within marriage. Yes, God desires for husbands to be the head of their household but what that means is where the weeds become thick. God desires for men to be the Spiritual head. In the Old Testament we find from the end of Genesis 2 is that a man is not to cling to anything but his wife and to be the one that cares for her as God cares for us. In the Fall, that became twisted and women often became mere property meant to bear children and to take care of the household. Wives were often relegated to a position just above a servant or slave. Though this position has often gone unchallenged throughout history and as Christians we have not been innocent in this viewpoint, when looking to the Word it is difficult to defend this mentality if we are being truly honest with ourselves. Though one could point the the tenth commandment that equates wives with chattle, but I would argue that even there one may find difficulty. God gave women to us as helpmeets or partners and both man and woman are made in the image of God.  No other creature is made in the image of God. God formed both man and woman with His own hands.

The problem is that often the orthodoxy of the world tries to paint their orthodoxy as God’s. The worldly sense does not respect nor regard humans as anything more than another animal. So, why should we not act like another animal. Women are abused because of the perpetuation of this model and the concept of love is something that is twisted up to such a point that the most intimate act that is meant to be done within the confines of love, particularly the love reserved for husband and wife, is merely another recreational act that is more for self-pleasure and self-gratification as opposed to a true sharing of one another where two are joined together in one flesh. As Christians, we should be most horrified by that view. Unfortunately, we are often just as wrapped up this worldly mindest as those that are not in Christ. We see single parents, couples living together, divorce, and the like equally inside of the Christian Church as we find among those that have no Christian faith. This is a real tragedy and a grave danger to the faith that we hold.

Paul’s words to Ephesus are just as timely for those of us in the Church whereever we are today. We can read these words as if written to us. Ephesians 5:21, though often not read with the verses that follow says this, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Most translations tie it to end the preceding verses but it could just as easily be read as the introduction for the next verses. Ultimately, we should understand all relationships as a reflection of how Jesus Christ relates to all creation. We find in Him the true desires of how God desires to be in relation to us. Jesus did not live nor did he treat people in a worldly way. People were not and are not meant to be treated as a pawn to help us to get to where we desire to be.

For men, God has given us great responsibility. We are called to be Christ to our wives and in our household. That is what our wives and family are to submit to when they submit to us. We are called to be lifting up our wives and pouring our love upon them so that our sons know how to love women and, ultimately, their wives. This is a way to show our children what a healthy relationship looks like and how we are not to bring them down by objectifying them, but to lift them up and cover their shortcomings. Christ didn’t come to lord over us, He came to redeem us. He showed us a different way. When He came across those that were overly burdened with sin, He did not come with a wagging finger, but words of comfort and concern. That is the power of the Gospel and as husbands we are called to live that out for our families. It is for the salvation of our sons and daughters. As son watches his father’s treatment of women, particularly their mother, they are imprinted with those images of what it looks like for a man to love his wife. The same is true with daughters in understanding how they should expect to be treated by the man that they eventually will marry. Unfortunately, many young men seem to have the mentality that a woman is something that a man is called to possess. So, if a man truly desires a woman he needs to take her. Sometimes this is through wooing her for the purpose of sexual intercourse and self-gratification. At times, though, this can be done through force. The problem of objectifying another is that it removes the realization that the person is made in God’s image and is a person, but now the person is no different than any other creature that is meant to be possessed. This leads to rape and other abuse and sometimes ends in the death of another physically, but no matter what it does cause a spiritual death within people.

The sad thing I see in marriage and in relationships in general is that no longer is God put first. If we don’t put God first in our lives, we certainly don’t put God first in our relationships. This is where the rift begins. The First Commandment that says, “You shall have no other Gods, ” is where we see the failure begin. We put ourselves and our needs in the position of God and often expect Him to bend to our will. This feeds into our speaking, our worship, and ultimately how we treat others. If we were faithful with the first there would be no such thing as violence, war, theft, or divorce. If God is first we reflect that to our children and they grow to love, fear, and trust God over and above anything in the world. Marriage would be easy because as husband and wife the relationship would not be a competition of wills, which is what we often find and neither the man nor the woman would seek affection from another because each would support the other. Jesus never oppressed those that He encountered, but offered a hand and encouragement. He healed those that were oppressed with infirmities. That is the power of our God and that is what He offers for those that have nothing else to hope in. Those healed had no expectation but their hearts cried out for God. Often we are the same when we come to the end of our ropes. God wants us at the beginning. He desires us all along.

Ultimately, my appeal is that as men we seek to be the godly heads of our households that God calls us to be. Not putting our needs before the needs of our wives, but sacrificing for our wives and our families. Putting God first in our relationship and showing Christ’s love in how we love our wives that our sons and daughters will grow to to know the love of our Father by the love that their father has shown. It isn’t a call to be perfect, but humble. Humble enough to admit error and ask for forgiveness. The Christian faith is not mysogynistic and it does not even leave the door open for chauvinism. In countries where the norm was the orthodoxy of the world one of the greatest missionary witnesses was once a man converted how different he was for his wife and family. Women found that they were not oppressed. Any one who calls themselves a follower of Christ but oppresses his wife needs to take a look at the Word and truly humble himself because the words that are given speak of the husband as being Christ in his home, is Christ in Scripture an oppressor. The roles of husband and wife are very unique and special but they are complementary and both require a sense of humility. A woman that disrespects her husband is no better than a man who abuses his wife. Ultimately, the focus and the call that I have as a pastor is to beginning with the men. God calls us to be Christ to our wives and we are called to this reality as we live our lives placing God first. This is not an easy calling because it causes us not to react as our nature would call us to react, but to be humbled and seek to give a positive witness. This by no means is weakness, but meekness. It is a position of restraint for teaching. It does not tolerate abuse. Jesus was not weak in His witness and neither should we be weak in ours. When we live by our convictions, we are clear and boundaries are clear also. We are consistent and in that consistency is protection. Our witness should be such that our wives and children know the Lord and His love because we reflect that love to them.

This is a high calling and we will fail since we are fallen human beings, but that does not excuse us from trying. In Martin Luther’s writing “On the Estate of Marriage,” he places the importance of husband and wife raising their children to love and trust in God as one of the only areas that he would, if it were in his power, think would be a guarantee to salvation through one’s own work. Of course, we don’t say that and Luther did not offer that as a real possibility since salvation comes through Christ and Christ alone, but it does highlight how even 500 years ago this was seen as a need. It is not easy to live into the witness because of our fallen state and, even then, fathers were falling short at being witnesses of Christ’s love. I described in my sermon this past Sunday the story that is making its rounds about a couple married 70 years as they lay dying had their beds placed close to one another so they could hold hands. As they lay together the wife passed and shortly after that the husband. What a witness to the family of love and devotion. The family had no doubt as to the love and devotion that they had for one another. If we show that love and devotion with God being put first in the lives of husband and wife, imagine the witness that is offered to the children. If we place God first in all relationships, imagine how different they may be. That is the calling, that is the gift and that is life. Our children are dying. First, they are dying because they are being swallowed up in a world that offers nothing but takes everything. Second, they are dying because they don’t understand the fullness of what it means to be loved by God. Third, they are dying because they do not understand in whose image that they are made. Fourth, they are dying without knowing the Savior which means that they will not only die once, but twice for eternity being separated from God. Christian, put God first and let Him be the guide, let Him be in charge, and let Him make you new.

 

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It Is God Who Chooses

It is God who choosesIt’s hard to understand God’s choosing. Why me? For some, they may find this statement to be just as strange especially when paired with the question, “Why me?” So, often we look at this question from a mentality that the negative things going on in our lives are unfair and unearned. However, is this a proper mindset? Well, no, if we read the Word of God properly, we find that God offers forgiveness and grace not because we have done anything to deserve it. On Sunday, we had a reading from Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18. We find Joshua with the people of Israel in Shechem and the famous quote, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Now in this, we have a call to follow God from Joshua, but also a choice. The choice to serve God or to serve the other gods that they had worshipped or observed. It seems an odd question or even an option when we look at the context of what happened just before this call from Joshua. God had led the people of Israel that had observed God’s providence in battle as they had entered into the promised land. The people of Israel saw the walls fall in Jericho and victories that were against all the odds, but the temptation to serve other gods was still there. It is a struggle that still exists today. So, we have the words of Joshua. God desires for us to focus our lives solely on Him, but the words of Scripture highlight that difficulty because other gods are seeking after our attention. At the time of Joshua, the spirit of the people were to pray to idols, today we find other things that fight for our attention that may not be as obvious. We are reminded in the reading of Paul from Ephesians 5:6-21 that tells us of the temptation to follow other voices. These voices tempt us from following God to follow other gods. They lead us down paths of hopelessness and loss and can cause one to lose sight of the promises that God has to offer us through Jesus Christ. When the Truth of our faith is proclaimed these are the voices that people who are offended by the Truth run to for shelter, but in the end, they find only emptiness and death. The danger for us is that we may lose sight of the salvation we have been given if these are the only voices that surround us. For followers of Christ, it should give us pause. Why? Because if these voices become the majority of our life, our hearts can become bitter against God, particularly in times of suffering. Suffering happens. We will all be confronted with loss, but if the voices surrounding us are only telling us of how good we are and how well we have lived our hearts will reject the love of Christ because a sense of entitlement replaces our sense of awe.
In John 6:51-69, Jesus is addressing those that had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes and had their bellies filled. These people had also seen the miracles Jesus had performed in healing the afflicted that were brought to Him. When Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many of those that had been following Him were driven away. The teaching was too hard. It was anathema to them to think of eating any flesh or see Jesus as something more than a teacher and prophet. To believe in Him as God was just too much. That is the struggle that many still face this day. There are those that like to speak of Jesus as a great teacher and will lift up some of His moral teachings as positive for life, but still, do not bend their knee to Him. The Christian walk is challenging in that it calls us to something beyond ourselves. It drives us to let go of other gods when fully confronted with His words. This is too much for those that think that they are good enough and do enough in their lives and believe that Heaven is deserved. If we believe that we are the ones that are choosing to believe in God, then the difficulty of faith is even more significant. If we could choose to be good, if we could choose to follow Jesus, then Jesus’ death on the cross was unnecessary. Ultimately, it is about our inability to choose God, and the humility that creates that shows us the face of God and fills us with a greater sense of grace. The goal of any follower of Christ is to reflect that love humbly out that others may see the face of Christ through your living. This will always be imperfect, and that is where the Holy Spirit steps in. Without the Holy Spirit no one can come to know Christ, and without Christ, one can not truly know the Father. That is our faith. That is the Truth of our faith. The people of Israel no more chose God than we can choose Jesus Christ. The God of Israel is the same God that we worship this day. God chose me, and God chooses you. Will you listen to His call or will you choose to follow your free will – the gods of your fathers and forefathers? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Amen.

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