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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God Is Our Focus

God is our FocusBecoming distracted is easy. As a pastor, this is just as true as it is for everyone else. Becoming distracted is easy. It is even more comfortable, it seems to be distracted from God’s calling and from remembering His providence. Elijah highlights this issue in 1 Kings 19:1-8 as he has just seen God’s mighty hand and was emboldened to call for the death of false prophets who had mocked God. He moved from being brave and standing firm to one who was fearful and desiring death because of the word that Jezebel was seeking to kill him. I can relate as I have witnessed God’s hand and then the actions of another have brought me low. It is incredible how easy it is to lose focus on what God is doing. That is the importance of realizing that our faith is not dependent on us. It is God who gives faith. Yes, He desires for us to always turn to Him first, but He realizes the brokenness of who we are. He sent us Jesus precisely for this reason. If we could keep our focus on what God desires by our own ability, then there would be no reason for Christ to have died on the cross for us. He would not have needed to enter into Creation at all. Since the Fall, this is a reality that we all struggle. Paul speaks to this problem since it is easy to be distracted by the things of this world. Unfortunately, we more often are influenced by the things of this world instead of being the ones affecting our friends and loved ones by our unswerving faith in Jesus Christ. Some will try and separate themselves from the world and place themselves on pedestals pointing out the errors and flaws of those that are caught up in the sins of this world. This is no more helpful than those who try and excuse their sins and act as though God may approve of them so that they feel better about themselves without ever truly knowing the fullness of the forgiveness that Christ desires for them to feel.

Jesus came to the people that had witnessed the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes as well as the healing (John 6:35-51) and reveals to them their blindness to what God was doing. The offense that they feel is an offense at trying to make God fit into the right box. It is easy to feel offended or bothered when the Gospel is fully revealed because the Law will reveal for us the need for the Gospel and if we feel that we have it all together on our own to have it revealed that we don’t is quite offensive. It can make us feel judged. We don’t like to have the chains binding us revealed but are prideful that we aren’t bound by anything. When I have lost focus, God has been gracious. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t pain. I have been hurt by people that I had held in high esteem. God is good, however. He redeems and renews me. He heals me and helps to refocus my heart on what is essential. It is humbling but renewing. May your heart be renewed in Christ’s love.

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Why Do We Become Angry With God

Why Do We Become Angry With God

When they had diagnosed that her cancer had advanced, she was upset. Now I had walked with Delilah (not her real name) through her cancer. First, she had a lung removed, and the surgery did not go well in the end since her remaining lung shifted which had cause her esophagus to shift also. This made things difficult for eating and swallowing. Then her husband, a cancer survivor himself, became ill. The doctors had found that the cancer had returned. Because of the nature of his cancer and as aggressive as it was her doctor felt her cancer was under control and suggested that they focus on his treatment since any treatment of hers would make it hard for her to care for him. So, for the six months, she cared for her husband and his needs. Delilah’s husband was a man of faith, and he and I had many conversations through this time, and as he entered into hospice and was in his final days, he shared such a faith that there was nothing but comfort for me and those who he lived. Delilah was another story. Delilah was angry about her husband’s passing. Delilah’s faith was crumbling. She was angry that God had taken her husband from her. Then the doctor found that her cancer was much more aggressive than had previously been thought, so they attempted treatment but found it was too late. Her anger with God grew. She disliked her step-son, also, and her words against him were harsh. As her cancer worsened, so did her cries against God. Her children echoed her resentment because she had been so faithful in the latter part of her life serving within the church. As her health declined the time of ministering to her became darker and darker. She continued to cry out against God because she felt that God had failed her. She was angry. At the time of her passing, it was not any more comfortable. She felt like God had owed her and he was unable to pay His debt.

This story is not uncommon. The details may be different, but the theme is the same, “God, I worship you, so you owe me!” This is the consumeristic model of the faith that infects the people of God. If the music doesn’t enthrall me and make me feel good, then we need to find another church that will play what I want. If the sermons don’t make me feel comfortable, then it is time to find another church or another pastor. If God doesn’t answer my prayers as I want them to be answered, then God is not worthy of my worship or praise. The people of Israel in Exodus 16:2-5 had witnessed great miracles as God led them out of slavery and through the waters of the Red Sea. They had witnessed how God had worked miracles with Pharoah through the plagues. They knew the accounts of their forefathers and how God had worked through Joseph and protected them in time of famine. Yet we find them crying out against God. Why? Because they are hungry. Instead of crying out in prayer and praise and asking for God’s providence they cry out in anger that they were hungry and it should be required of God to provide for them. In spite of this, God still provides. God provides not because we demand it, but because He is generous. He provides for our needs.

We confess in the Small Catechism, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures. He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them. In addition, He has given me clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods. He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life. He protects me from all danger and guards me and preserves me from all evil. He does all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this, I ought to thank Him, praise Him, serve Him, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.” [McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (p. 328). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.] These words are biblically sound and give us a faithful witness of the faith it is that we hold. Though not all Christians hold or even study Luther’s Small Catechism, the truths found within it can transcend the various Christian theologies as it is centered in the Word and traditional Christian thought. God has and always will provide for those He has chosen not because of the merit of them but out his own love.

When I was a teenager, I was helping my dad with some of his friends reshingle the roof. Mostly I was a runner bringing up shingles and supplies when needed. Being the typical teenager, I was tired and complained. I wanted more than what I was receiving and quickly was reminded of the reality that my parents owed me nothing more than food, clothing, and shelter. Being a father and knowing that my life was better than the life of my parents, particularly my father when I hear the words, “That’s unfair!” I can only think of my parents and how I felt so put upon. The reality is that nothing in life is fair. It’s not fair that God has chosen me even though I fail daily. It’s not fair that in spite of my shortcomings I am promised, Heaven. It’s not fair that I can feel the hope I feel that is not dependent on the circumstances in which I find myself.

Our faith is centered in the reality presented to us by Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus 4:1-16 as we are reminded that we are united in the waters of Baptism. We receive the promises of our Lord as we are joined by the Holy Spirit that calls us to love one another. We are not told to love each other because we deserve the love of another, but because we receive that undeserved love from our Lord and are given the opportunity to share that with others. Our Lord did not only ascend, but he freed those that had been in bondage. He broke the chains of sin upon us and all who turn to Him. It’s a great and glorious gift for which we haven’t had to work. Christ’s death and resurrection have lifted us. God has called people to prepare and send out all who believe and trust in Jesus Christ. The power of this Word is so great that hearts are transformed. It is a great and glorious love that can guide us through the turbulent waters of the world which desires to distract us from the promise. This love can carry us through any suffering with which we may be confronted. I have known pain as have most yet God is still there, and He carries us through in His hope.

It is centered in realizing who it is that provides for us. John 6:22-35 highlights the yearning in the hearts of many as they have tasted of the gifts of God, yet not understanding for what it is they are genuinely hungering. There are so many hungering to know what it truly means to know forgiveness. The initial cost for those of us who believe is nothing, yet the Holy Spirits work is quite costly. The transformation of our lives is unimaginable. Once we submit our lives to the Lord the paths that we are lead are not in areas we could imagine. The struggles that it may cause for those that desire to enjoy the blessings but are still desiring to control the outcomes is also unimaginable. When we hear from where the true bread comes many are troubled. When we realize that the bread life is our Lord and God it is indeed a struggle. To believe that the bread and the wine is our Lord’s body and blood isn’t difficult when we trust in the Words that Christ says. When we trust in those words, we can find greater confidence in trusting in those promises. The bread and wine are not made the body and blood of Christ by our will or our actions or even our believing, but it is because He says it is. When we struggle with the words of our Lord, we grumble against God. When we struggle against the words of the Lord, we can become distracted from the blessings that we have received. That is the power of our Lord. That is the power of Christ. That is the power of faith. Christ’s love is great! Why do we grumble against the one and only God who gives? God gives us everything.

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