“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.”
Job 1:5 (ESV)
In times of uncertainty, many people turn to God in order to seek guidance and comfort. Job was a faithful man as described in his account within Scripture. As I read the beginning of his account in my devotions Job 1:5 struck me. Job was so faithful and concerned for his children and the possibility that during their celebrations they may have sinned that he would consecrate and offer sacrifices for them to cover the possibility of sin. As Christians, the age of offering animal sacrifices is something from which we are far removed. Yet the reality for each of us is that we have a God who offered Himself for us in order that all our sins, known or unknown would be covered.
We are washed and renewed in the Baptismal waters and God redeems us of all sin and shame. This is not something, however, we should take for granted. The sad reality of Job and his family is, though he was faithful, we don’t truly know how faithful his children were. The same is true for many parents and how great a tragedy it is for faithful parents to see their children and their grandchildren living outside of the faith of Jesus Christ. My prayer is this season of uncertainty not only creates and increase of prayer, but also an increase in faithful witness.
There are many that might feel that this is a punishment from God and are angry that God would allow this to happen. Now, God may or may not use plagues like Covid-19 as a source of judgment, to state otherwise would not be honest. Yet, one can not state that this is truly God’s judgment with full certainty, i.e. to say that this is caused by any specific or group of people, is neither helpful nor is it a faithful use of the Word. We are all fallen in sin and fall short of the glory of God. We all deserve God’s judgment. That is a fact, no matter how uncomfortable that makes some people. It would be better to see how God’s mercy is being extended. Yes, God’s mercy is here. It is now. In the midst of this time, we can see God’s mercy if we are willing to humble ourselves. In times of great strife and struggle, I have been carried through by my faith alone when there was little else which to cling. To follow God does not mean that we will not suffer, but in our suffering we are giving grace that carries us through.
One of the things that has been of greatest difficulty in this time is having to worship virtually instead of face to face. Unable to greet and to pray together in a single space is an adjustment and a loss. There are some congregations in our nation that are resisting this, but I think they miss the point. The Church is not limited to a building or one charismatic preacher, but it is the people believing in Christ. Our doors have been opened in a way that has not been seen in a great while and in a way that is unique to our period of history. Because of the stay-at-home orders that the majority of our nation is under we have more of the Word being sent out into the world by pastors from all corners of the United States that are broadcasting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. I have been so blessed by the writings of many pastors putting words of encouragement out there that they normally wouldn’t. I have also been inspired to step up in my own presence.
God uses such times as these for His Word to be carried out. Job cried out in his suffering. The friends of Job pressured him to confess a sin that he did not feel he had committed because the suffering must have been because of his actions. What we find through Job, however, is suffering happens. The devil is out there. He creates disease and war. He utilizes selfish desires in the hearts of human beings to perpetuate dissent and strife. So, it is in times like these it is an opportunity to pause and take a breath. As faithful followers of Christ, we can not offer a sacrifice for the sins of those whom we love but we are able to pray for them. We can pray for God’s mercy to fall upon them and the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts and draw them to Christ. We can pray for those suffering. We can witness in our prayers online, over the phone, or in our writings to those we know that are struggling. We can reconnect with those with whom we have lost touch. Christ is our covering and Christ is our Hope. Let that be what is reflected in you this season and may that shine out in your witness to others.
When I was in Seminary, I was bit by the charismatic bug and was attracted to a prayer movement that came about in 1999 called 24-7prayer.com. In entering ministry, I began with that still being an aspect of my regular life, but, as can happen in ministry, other worries began to overtake me and other aspects began to take precedent. Now don’t get me wrong, I still prayed, but not as often and not as deeply as I once had. There were moments that I were filled with fervent prayer in these times, but not as often as I had hoped.
It’s funny how life can become so full, that sometimes the hours that would once be spent in prayer become fewer and fewer. Visits, meetings, reports, sermons, family obligations, etc. all seem to fill the time and the prayers become quick morning prayers, meal prayers, prayers with people in times of need, prayers at meetings or events, evening/bedtime prayers, and prayers during worship services. The reality is that though all together these, though may come up to a chunk of time when put together, how little they truly add up to when thinking how they often lack the depth and cry to God as well as the praises to God that can be shared.
I write this in the midst of prayer because my heart feels driven to write these words. I am filled with a strong sense of prayer as I look to thinking of my children. I look to my oldest, who is now entering those difficult tween years and sooner than I am prepared for will become that teen. It is surprising how quickly the time ebbs and flows and my hope and prayers for him and each of my children. My next child, my creative young boy soon coming to the double digits and how his heart is so soft and sometimes easily wounded. His creative spirit that I pray the world will not crush as he is bombarded with those that try to label in ways that are not defining him in the image of the young man whose heart seeks after God’s own heart because of the softness of his heart and spirit. My beautiful third child, a young and vibrant young girl, shy and awkward but with such a heart. I think of my fourth child, a fun little boy with a playful (though sometimes annoying in his clowning) spirit that truly is a loving young boy that seeks the approval of me as a father and of others that he sees as his people and I think of some of the harsh judgments that have been placed against him. I think of sweet, little, spunky fifth child, such a little doll she is and her coy playfulness. Then I think of my sixth and last born boy, a fearless toddler growing into his boyhood. The fearlessness in this young boy is scary as a father, but I know that it will serve him well as he grows older and I seek as a father to protect him and all my children. I desire to protect them all from the harshness of this world, this age.
Then we have this new threat, this Covid-19, that is ravaging our globe and placing such fear and panic in our world. I fear for all those that do not know Jesus Christ and have sought after all those false gods that fill up our lives. Who needs church? Well, as the Church we have often have had little to offer so many as we are caught up in the world’s issues and forget to look to the Word. That is where all the promises lie.
“With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.”
Psalm 142 (ESV)
My the Word fill us and His promises guide us as we navigate these new waters. My prayer is that as we face this virus and come out the other side my prayer is that we, as followers of Christ and those that currently are not, will come out as better people. The Lord has already shown how quickly He can heal his creation from our sin that has so long damaged it as the birds can be heard singing in China that was once filled with dirty air and noise pollution, isn’t it amazing that we are in an age where the air clearing could be seen from space?!? To read about how the canals in Venice are clear and clean and the dolphins and swans were swimming in the waters is another sign of God’s miraculous design. Now let us be aware as we can watch as God heals the spirits of those that have been driven by fear and panic and let’s them see how little control that they have so their hearts are humbled and turn to one true Creator of Heaven and Earth. Lord, bind this disease and let your name be praise.
We are living in a new age. Watching the constant updates on the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) it can be frightening. In fact, when faced with our mortality and the suffering that this causes to our most vulnerable. The questions arise on what we should do as the Church and as followers of Christ. This is not the first such season our church has confronted and it will not be the last.
We are not to be driven by fear, nor are we to be mocking of those who are weaker in the faith, but we are called to be careful and to care for those that are the most vulnerable and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to them. Luther faced a bout of the plague that hit Europe in 1527 and killed many. The plague had had many other periods in history and outbreaks occurred in the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Luther wrote of this in a letter to his pastors in Breslau in his letter, “Whether One May Flee from Deadly Plague” (Luther’s Works, vol. 43). His exhortation is not from one who did not understand, in fact, he, against the urgings of his elector and other leaders, did not leave Wittenberg but he and his family took in patients and cared for them while they were sick until death. He didn’t do this out of pride and sought to do things in ways that were encouraged by those who practiced medicine in that time. He, also, did not judge those who, because they had no obligations requiring them to stay, that took the opportunity to leave. He just called those that were in places of leadership or who had responsibility over others to not abandon those who God had placed in his or her care. He urged that neighbors take care of one another and we should not abandon our neighbors, but urged those that were weaker in the faith to leave, so long as they made arrangements that their obligations would be fulfilled. Those that are in government should stay and not abandon their posts, as well as medical workers, and law enforcement. Those that had duties to protect should stay. He called pastors to stay and care for their flocks and urged the faith to be in the Lord’s providence. The reality of this, as with any epidemic, is for those of us in Christ to stand firm in the faith of Christ and know that we are saved through Him alone. In this season, let us, as Christians, take a moment to breath and know that God is still in control, not allowing panic to fill our hearts. Let us pray together for God’s protection and do those things that will help keep the most vulnerable from being placed in danger. To our Lord’s glory.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?‘”
Genesis 3:1, ESV
These words of the serpent, “Did God really say?” are the beginning of the Fall. It is the challenge that we struggle to this day and was a struggle reformers like Martin Luther fought against at the time of the Reformation. The Word of God is a challenge to the deceiver. The desire, however, is to mythologize the Scripture and paint it as a story to tell a greater truth, because, of course, a serpent can not talk. The supernatural must be removed in order to rationally understand Scripture, right? This is where the smallest seed of doubt begins to be sown and, unfortunately, it is sown most often by those called to be Preachers of the Word. The reality is to believe whether the events described are descriptive of an historical event as purveyed by the inspired writer or writers of the Old Testament or a myth carried on by the early Hebrew people written down at the time of the writing of Genesis is not something we base our salvation on as Christians, but it does begin to chip away at the reliability of the Word of God as the question posed by the serpent to Eve caused Eve to eat and share the forbidden fruit with her husband.
Why don’t we, as people of the Word, begin as we are called to do by testing everything to Word of God? This is a good question that, if really pondered, may lessen so many disputes, particularly in our day and age. We all know the danger to the Deceiver if we were to be faithful and trust in the Word of God, but we never seem to question. The main issues that tend to be thrown out there is the prevalence of many things that would be considered negative for faithful people to engage, i.e. genocide within Joshua and Judges, plural marriage, abuse of women, and slavery. The question one must ask is are these, when being interpreted against the whole of Scripture normative? The answer is simply, “No.” These each highlight areas of the Fall. God’s desire in Joshua and Judges was to create a “Promised Land” where the people of God would not be corrupted by other influences, other gods. The reality is that because of the peoples disobedience to God that they were never afforded the peaceful, rich homeland that God desired for them to have. The Garden, as created by God, was utopia where Adam and Eve could walk and be in relationship with God without fear. They could’ve even eaten from the Tree of Life that was right next to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but there eyes didn’t even look to that tree, but they were drawn to the one tree from which God had told them not to eat. The seed of sin was sown with these simple words, “Did God really say?” Trust was broken and from then on the fear was not of the Deceiver but of God and that is still true for us today.
Think about this reality when we hear the cries for those that wish to remove “religion” from the Public Square. Which religion are they desiring to remove? Across the United States, students can be asked to study the Koran as an historical book but if a teacher were to bring in the Bible and ask students to read from it as an historical book there would be a major outcry. A Muslim can easily wear a hijab to school, but a student may be stopped with a cross or a Christian T-shirt. If a Sikh or a Hindu were to wear traditional clothing to school it would be celebrated, but be careful about too much Christian wear. Now, I am not opposed to studying the Koran or the wearing of other religious wear in school I believe that, within reason, all should have the right to religious expression and it is good for students to have an understanding of various faiths, but the one that will bring the greatest amount of ire in schools is the one that invokes Jesus Christ.
As Christians, I think it is important for us to see about defining how we view the world and study Science with a Christian worldview. Science is merely the pursuit of knowledge and it is good and healthy to look at the world and try to understand the world that God has created. In fact, one can do that and still hold a biblical worldview. That does not require a secular, evolutionary understanding. When looking at the idea of evolution one can find issue. Since personally becoming a Creationist I have seen the timelines shift at least a half a dozen times in the last six years because of new findings that don’t fit earlier timelines. Not that I am spending all my time in research, but I do like to look at articles and read viewpoints of various scientists both Evolutionist and Creationist to compare. I have found the program “Ancient Aliens” to be an interesting watch as the theories that, though many would argue their ideas are out there, are presented line up with Creationist ideas but they move away from God and the timelines often are longer. It is fascinating, though, how broad the “star dust” theory and the “seed planting” theory have reached into the mainstream sciences to explain how Earth came to be populated.
Martin Luther, in his writings, struggled with those that were challenging the biblical creation account in the sixteenth century at the time of the Reformation. He stood up for the Word of God and wanted that to be our standard. As the arguments for reason, and following the Greek philosophers was becoming a movement of the early humanist movement Martin Luther saw the difficulties that this presented.
In opposition they quote Aristotle’s statement: “Reason pleads for the best”; this they try to support also by certain sacred statements and by the opinion of the philosophers that sound reason is the cause of all virtues.2 I do not deny that these statements are true when they are applied to matters that are subject to reason: to managing cattle, building a house, and sowing a field. But in higher matters they are not true. How can a reason which hates God be called sound? How can a will which resists God’s will and refuses to obey God be called good? Therefore when they say: “Reason pleads for the best,” you should say: “For the best in a mundane sense, that is, in things about which reason can judge.” There it directs and leads to what is honorable and useful in respect to the body or the flesh. As for the rest, since it is full of ignorance of God and detestation of the will of God, how can it be called good on this level? Moreover, it is a well-known fact that when the knowledge of God is preached and this subject is dealt with in order to restore reason, then those who are the ablest and, so to speak, are endowed with a better reason and will hate the Gospel all the more bitterly. Therefore in theology let us maintain that reason in men is most hostile to God, and that the respectable will is most opposed to the will of God. From this source arise the hatred of the Word and the persecution of godly ministers. For this reason, as I said, let us not minimize this evil which human nature has contracted as a result of the sin of our first parents; rather let us emphasize it. Then we shall both regret deeply this state of ours and have a profound longing for Christ, our Physician, who was sent by the Father to heal those evils which Satan brought upon us through sin, and to restore us to the eternal glory which we had lost.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 1: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 143–144). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Luther holds nothing back in his words and his disdain for the attack on the Word of God. We like to act as though we have greater wisdom than God and want to place our knowledge above the Word and that is where we find the greatest struggle and instead of remaining in the struggle we opt out and explain away God’s work as being something less. To be subjected to something is contrary to our nature, but any good leader understands that no one is without a greater authority. Ideas do not come from nothing, but are influenced by something or someone. My wife, in her research, looked upon a university site and saw that common Radiocarbon dating is only highly accurate up to 4000 years. In my research for this blog I looked it up and have found that among Christian sites, but in the magazine Scientific American they are saying that it is accurate only up to about 50,000 years now, encyclopedia.com puts it up to 7000 years being very accurate and somewhat accurate up to 50,000 years, and Oxford University Press gives it a 70,000 year dating. One number that comes up commonly is the the half-life of 5,568 years. The reality is that these numbers are all really an assumption based on the limited observations that we can truly have on this and it is still a relatively new science, but no one has been able to truly observe any of this because I know of no one who has lived a life long enough to truly clarify and, to the best of my knowledge, no person put a date on an object 50,000 years ago to be observed today. I do, however, find the dating of 5,568 years to be significant in a biblical perspective.
If we are to trust the Word of God, let us begin by looking at what is observable and that begins with the accounts given to us in Scripture. This begins by looking at those wonderful lists of names from Adam to Noah as presented to us in Genesis. Have you ever wondered why we find the names and ages of people? Early Christians looked at those dates and began to add the generations together and most commonly, we find the number that dates from Adam to Jesus is about 4000 years. We have dates and historic events presented to us in Scripture that help us to confirm some of the dating. Archaeologists have found many places described in the Bible that were once considered myth and Biblical Archaeologists are using the Bible to find sites that many people said did not exist simply by using the descriptions given in the Bible. Archaeologists has also found things that point to people of the Old Testament like David that challenges the assumptions of some to say that Israel and the power that the nation once held was never as described in the Bible. Unfortunately, the secular archaeologists don’t give as much credit to those that use the Bible to help in these findings, but at the same time they will use other religious and mythological documents to assist in their findings without question. Even the flood account is challenged as being influenced by other cultures as opposed to the biblical account being the genesis of the flood accounts which would make sense if one were to believe the Tower of Babel to be an historical account and not just a fanciful myth of the early Hebraic people. Did God really say? One needn’t turn off rational thought to begin the journey of trusting the biblical accounts, in fact, it is quite the opposite, in my opinion, because it is beginning by placing a trust in God and letting Him reveal to you the reliability of the accounts.
Yes, in this way one would begin to rely on and trust the in the miraculous and supernatural, i.e. a speaking serpent, a pillar of cloud in the day and fire in the night, the shrouding of a mountain, the shooting of fire from offering lanterns, healing of sick, bringing the dead back to life, the ability given to a donkey to speak, angel armies, etc. When reading in Scripture we have many supernatural accounts of how God is at work within His chosen people and how He includes others. There are aspects of Scripture that will trouble us and cause us to question, but these are opportunities for greater prayer as we ask God to help us understand. This is cause for pause. I find it troubling how many I know struggle in faith and often because of the false belief that one can not believe Science and the Bible but that ties to the false understanding that God does not want us to explore His creation. One would only need to read the Word to find that not to be the case, in fact, the modern “flat earth” argument is not a biblical construct nor a construct that most ancient people knew (globes have been around as early as the 3rd Century B.C. which can easily be verified with a quick internet search, that’s what I did!). For more information on this I will point you to a great article on this issue, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/earth/falling-flat-earth/, My hope and prayer is that we will not continue to fall away from the Truth presented to us within Scripture and the reliability of the Word that does not require a “literal” interpretation, but a move back to what Martin Luther would say and read the Word “plainly” or as it was written, i.e. history as history, poetry as poetry, prophecy as prophecy, dream as dream, and parable as parable. If I were to say to you, “On Sunday, we had church.” You wouldn’t interpret that as a statement highly open to interpretation because it is obvious that the day that I had church was Sunday which is quite different than me saying, “One of these days, I am going to fix up the basement for the kids.” This is well open to interpretation. Let’s look at the Word how it is written and ask the same questions, not based on assumptions we want to impose, but simply on how the Word is presented. We might find greater answers and a greater level of faith in God’s Holy Word.
As I reflect on the state of our world, I am struck by the great divide that seems to be growing wider every year. This divide is not only in our political realm, but also in the concept of faith. Growing up, I was taught by my grandmother the joy of being able to debate and discuss difficult topics with those with whom I did not agree one hundred percent. My grandmother and I would discuss various things over coffee, often very passionately. My mother would become quite distressed with our discussions because to her it sounded like we were fighting. However, my grandmother and I were having fun and our love for each other and our love for vigorous discussion was fed.
As I have grown older, I have found it much more difficult to have these types of discussions. Our world has become so divided that many seem to only hold discussion on various issues in a vacuum and if someone disagrees that person is often relegated away by the other as “enemy.” This is a tragedy which makes us an anemic society. Academically, the vacuum seems to be becoming an echo chamber of single-mindedness. It was difficult when I went to Seminary because of this growing trend amongst Academia. Because of my love of learning and being taught to think critically, I approached my Seminary studies with a similar mindset (that is the purpose of Graduate studies, is it not?) and would not eat the horse hooves and all in listening to what the professors were teaching. Sometimes, I would play devils advocate just to be able to explore other aspects of thought and would vigorously debate various points. Personally, this was meant not to attack the views of the professor but to better understand and expand discussion and deepen the learning.
Disagreement on an issue or a view does not equal a dislike of another person. That aspect of thinking was lost on some of my classmates and my professors at the time and it seems that our society is losing that understanding also. Personally, I can disagree with a person and still have a lot of respect and love for the other person. I may not engage in discussion on certain topics in order to preserve the relationship, but more often that I will do not for my benefit but the benefit of the other since not everyone can separate the views from the person, i.e. I am highly pro-Life but I truly care about some people that I highly disagree with on this point and are for the protection of abortion-rights. On this issue of Life, I can look at those that support abortion-rights and wonder how anyone can support the murder of innocent children but I don’t look at the friends or family of mine that are supportive of abortion as murderers. I don’t look at those that have gone through an abortion that way either. I do pray with them and if they are open to discuss, I will engage. Most of the time, however, I find that it does nothing to benefit the relationship and choose to let it lie.
There are many things which I can look to and reflect upon, but, in light of the time, I would like to focus on this issue of abortion being it is the forty-seventh anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. We see the trends changing worldwide as we have seen countries like Ireland which had been a long-time advocate for the life of the unborn until recently to the divides within the United States where there are those that have gone from saying, “Abortion should be safe, but rare.” to “Abortion should be legal up until birth and is a women’s health issue.” Having been a person that was “pro-Choice” and has moved to being very pro-Life it has been a great transition for me and I am more shocked by the way the language has changed. My “pro-Choice” mind was not because I saw abortion as a positive, but I did not want to see abortion to be done on in unsafe clinics.
Spiritually, I see this as an aspect of our country that should not be of great debate in our churches, yet I have a great many colleagues and pastors that have taken a view that is only what one could call pro-abortion. Why do I say “pro-abortion” vs. “pro-Choice?” Well, this is simply because the views defended by those that support organizations that support abortion and perform abortions like Planned Parenthood no longer speak about keeping abortion “safe but rare” but simply promote access to be freely given and oppose anything that may dissuade a woman from having an abortion, i.e. ultrasounds or hearing the heartbeat. My pro-Life view is not against those that have had an abortion, but it is against abortion and the lies that are being perpetuated about the “benefits” of abortion. I am supportive of those that are healing from the pain of an abortion and do not desire to make them feel any worse, but want them to know the healing love and forgiveness of our Lord, Jesus Christ. My views have always been for the protection of women and the healing of the women and my views always supported the “rare” side. As the Church, we are called to profess a healthy sexuality as God designed it which has become disordered since the Fall. This is based upon our calling to preserve sexual intimacy within the confines of a life-long committed relationship between a man and a woman. Even biblically we can see the consequences as that initial relationship became disordered and how we have abused our great and glorious gift of sexual intimacy. God has utilized the imperfect to do His work, but that did not bless the imperfection or sin. There is and has always been a consequence for the failings of humanity. The desire of the God and His use of the Church is to bring restoration. Restoration is not a justification of the failures, the sin, justification is the release from the guilt of the failure, the sin. God desires for our hearts to be turned to Him.
With all the issues that face us in the world, the one that I feel that under which our faith in God and His Word would be the protection of life, particularly the most vulnerable – the unborn. It is simple and when a person is being truly honest and not speaking to the fringe arguments such as trying to bring up the tragic occurrence of a miscarriage or stillborn child which, if one were to stop for a moment and think before they speak, a reasonable person would find the argument of exception to be on its face offensive particularly if you have every experienced either or been with another who has been faced with either tragedy. The abortion argument is not centered on these issues and no person that desires for an end to abortion would argue on this issue. Not to say that there have not been misguided laws presented, i.e. the Ohio law which presented a segment that would require doctors to try and save the embryo and attempt to re-implant an ectopic pregnancy which is currently not possible and, unfortunately, this type of pregnancy is not viable and puts the mother at risk. If a pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk and is viable, however, that is a thing which would require great prayer and discernment of both the mother and the doctor and knowing many mothers, my wife included, having had that conversation many would risk their own lives for the baby in their womb (as a husband, I would struggle with this decision since both lives are valuable for me but ultimately I love my wife more I am also aware that it would need to be her decision and I would have to support her regardless of how I would feel about the risk of becoming a widower with children and the probability would be she would choose to save the baby). The issue of risk to the mother is, thankfully, not the norm as are the other arguments of rape and incest (the data shows all three to be less then three percent of all abortions performed). As Christians, we should be in agreement that ALL life is precious and should be protected and should not celebrate the death or suffering of anyone, including our enemies. Unfortunately, that is not the case and most troubling the least protected are the unborn.
God created all humanity in His image. We are special and unique and have value. I, personally, don’t stand behind the death penalty, though I know that their are biblical arguments in support of it. I look to Jesus’ treatment of the woman brought to him who was caught in adultery and the forgiveness that he gave to her. She was clearly in violation of the Law and deserved to be stoned to death under the Law, but the reality is that one can’t speak the Gospel to a person who is dead. There are truly things worse than physical death and, though, we don’t know the outcome of the life of the woman spoken of at the end of the seventh chapter of John and the beginning of the eighth chapter (though there is a tradition that says that she was Mary Magdalene), we do know that the path was lain before her to come and be a follower of Christ. As Christians, we are not meant to preach hate, but we are called to offer guidance and correction which can be difficult for anyone to receive. For women struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, we can be a light that shines on their lives showing alternatives. Ultimately, we should be a light speaking honestly about the gift of our sexuality when ordered properly.
We are meant to be different than this world that we live in and not of this world as this is not our permanent home. We are called to be sojourners. The reality is that no one in this world should be seen as unwanted especially the unborn. Unfortunately, we forget this in our calling and either respond with a wagging finger or with false love that attempts to act as if our failings, our sin, is in need of some form of justification. Jesus never justified sin, he sought to forgive it and release those bound in it from the lies and the shame. When aware of our sin, we are, as Martin Luther put it so well in the Catechism, to “fear and love God.” Our sin puts fear in our hearts at the realization of our sin, but being washed in His forgiveness we love the new life promised to us. It is not an excuse. It is a renewal of self. It is dying to self. We are called to pray for those with whom we find differences. We are to pray for those with whom we disagree. We are to pray for those who make themselves our enemies, not because we hate them but because they are placing themselves against God. The purpose is not to call for their condemnation, but to pray for their reconciliation with God.
I have been saddened as I have found myself at odds with some with whom I have had a positive relationship, it calls me to pray for them more and more. It has caused me to see how different our worlds are becoming. It is amazing how we may look at the same thing and have such opposite views. That, however, is the way of the world and it highlights the calling of the Lord. Our Lord loves them too. He doesn’t love me anymore than my brother or sister that may or may not believe in Him. In fact, He calls me to pray for them and seek to be a witness to them. Not with a wagging finger, but in a constant attempt to continually amend my own life that I may be a better witness to them. God only knows how far and how much I fail to live into the life that He desires for me. The reality is the only life that I can truly amend through guidance and prayer is my own. I can only pray for those things that trouble me and pray for those that live contrary to the Word of God and ask the Holy Spirit do the same for them. Ultimately, that is where it begins. My greatest prayer is that my children grow in their fear and love of the Lord and realize that we are to live differently seeking our Lord’s correction and amendment in their lives first in order to be a positive witness to others. I know that many of my classmates from Seminary would think that my faith falls under the snarky name of “Fundagelical,” which is a criticism of Fundamentalism and modern Evangelicalism, which does not wholly fit me but may in some ways have some truth since I do believe in reading the Word of God plainly as Martin Luther urged us to do so long ago. My hope is simply to be a light and my hope is that things will be better for my own children and that we once again will be able to find some unity what we call the Christian Church.
Today would have been my grandmothers 88th birthday. I reflect on that because she died this past October. Personally, the past year has had a lot of sad events for my family most particularly the passing of my last surviving grandparent and the death of my wife’s father leaving her without parents and no maternal grandparents for my children. These are simultaneously sad and celebratory events because we are saddened by the loss of our loved ones, but we can celebrate the faith that they died within.
Each year is full of some tragedy for someone as each year people die, become sick, or face suffering of some type. At the same time, each year is full of some joy as people marry, children are born, new relationships begin, old relationships are restored, and many things that bring joy occur for most people. No year is full of just suffering and the converse is true, no year is full of just joy. Much of it is based upon the things that we reflect on the most. It would be easy for my family and I to look at the past year in a negative light because of the two sad events that occurred in our family at the end of the year. Though my grandmother had been in decline with Alzheimer’s for years and the ability to have a relationship was hampered not only by the disease, but also by distance, there was comfort in knowing that she was still there and the thought of visiting her in the future was a possibility. The passing of my father-in-law has a higher level of sadness since his decline was recent and his death came much more quickly. Both my grandmother and my father-in-law were the same age (my father-in-law would have been 88 at the end of January) and that makes their passing much more poignant. The point of relief in my spirit is that they both are no longer suffering or having to struggle and that I know that both had been claimed by Jesus Christ as they were washed and given new birth in the waters of Baptism and were marked with the Cross of Christ.
As we are reminded in Titus 3:5-8a, “He 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy.” The act of salvation is done through Jesus Christ alone and not by our own actions and when we cling to the promises given to us we receive what was promised. God’s gracious hand carries us through our times of suffering and sorrow and carries us into times of celebration and joy.
As the door closed on 2019, it is good to reflect on the joys of the season and look forward to what God has in store ahead for 2020. Yes, there will be struggles in the coming year just as there was in 2019, but to focus on the areas where things could have been better only causes us to miss out on all the great and wonderful things that God has done and may cause one to miss out on what God is doing. God desires for us to always be thankful for what God has provided for us and hopeful for what God has in store.
In the coming days, let us reflect on where God blessed us in the past year and pray for God’s blessings in the days ahead!