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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The Word is Truth for Life

The Word is Truth for Life.jpg

How often do we look at the rainbow and think of God’s promise to us? The rainbow has been co-opted to mean other things, but as followers of Christ, it is something that we should seek to reclaim in our witness and our lives. The rainbow is intended to be a reminder to us that God is keeping his promise because as we read in Genesis (9:8-17), God created the rainbow as a reminder for him (as if God honestly would need a reminder) that he would never again wipe out all flesh through a flood. I could not imagine what it had to have been like for Noah and his family, particularly in those first days. I am sure that the cries for help could be heard from those that were outside of the Ark as the waters rose and covered all the earth. The deep sadness that each of them had to have felt like the great flood consumed family and friends. If we were to look at the flannelgraphs of the account of Noah and the Ark we might have an image of the oversized Noahs Arkbathtime boat that has all the animals loaded into overflowing. The image promotes a concept that helps to undermine the reality of the flood as a worldwide flood and how the various kinds of land and air animals were given refuge to ensure that life would continue on the earth. Again we are in a time that does not acknowledge God’s ultimate providence and rejects the flood or any of the biblical accounts as myth. Noahs ArkThe flood account is ultimately an account of God’s providence and His love for us, and the account of God’s creation of the rainbow is an affirmation of God’s true love and the keeping of His promise to us. God did not need to save Noah, his wife, son’s, and their wives along with a pair of each animal clean and unclean (seven pairs for those sacrificial animals). God did not need to save any of them, He created them all and to recreate was not beyond His ability, but He chose to save them and, in turn, us. This is the point of it all.

Paul speaks of our need to bow down to God in the reading from Ephesians (3:14-21) in response to His love for us. It is a reminder of why it is we bow to the Lord and why it is that we worship. We do not worship to make us feel better we worship because God is worthy of our praise. We are called Christian not because of who we are, but because of who it is that we worship. It is not by our own selection or power that we can follow Christ, but it is because of Christ and the revelation given us by the Holy Spirit that frees us from the bondage that we often find ourselves in because of the fallen nature of our world. We may not understand the love of God, but we truly aren’t meant to and neither can we fully comprehend it. His love for His creation is in the fact that He seeks ways in which to preserve it.

This final reflection is shown in the Gospels. Mark 6:45-56 is another step in the continued journey of Christ in the Gospels and a show of His providence and love for all of His creation. It is immediately following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with two fish and five loaves. The reality of what had occurred was still not understood as we find in the reading. The disciples did not understand that God was with them. They did not realize that it was His providence that was carrying them through. Jesus had gone up to pray, and they left ahead of Him. The night waters were choppy, and they were struggling to make it over. Jesus saw them, walked on the water, and met them planning to pass them by, but they were afraid not knowing it was him they saw. We honestly can not blame them, though. How would you react to seeing a man walking on water? He calms the storm, and they arrive on the other side and dock at Gennesaret. Here Jesus continues to heal as people in need of healing are brought to Him.

Nothing is too much for God. That is what we often fail to realize. We desire to blame God for all failings and shortcomings that are ours and do not want to give Him credit for all that He does for us. When we see great miracles, we often do not recognize them. When God’s Word is placed before us, the nature of many is to reject it or explain it away. The difficulty of Christ’s love for us is that it is beyond our own understanding and is not like the love that we show one another. It is far from the standard way in which we love or what we call love. Jesus’ love is not conditional as our love tends to be. It is not dependent upon how we act or how we respond but is there for us regardless of our personal actions when we call upon him and trust in him.

Unfortunately, the wisdom of the world often clouds us from the wisdom of God. For the world, it is silly to believe that a worldwide flood occurred and two of every kind of land and air animal was rescued with eight people on a large wooden ship sealed with pitch. It is nonsense that God created the rainbow to remind Him of His promise to all creatures that He would never produce another worldwide flood to wipe out all creatures of flesh. I’m sure that many of the people at the time of the flood thought similar things of Creation as they lived further and further away from it and the length of lives that they lived. It is incredible how so many today are quick to disregard the Word of God and allegorize so much Scripture for the sake of human-made knowledge. God creating in six days is just crazy and to believe that all of Creation occurred six thousand years ago is illogical since the science is settled and shows otherwise. Christ’s love extends even to those who disbelieve the Creation account, but hearts are often hardened to God because of similar wisdom. I mean, seriously, Jesus walking on water and calming a storm with a word? It had to have been a flash freeze that allowed him to walk across and the healings were just because the people were comforted with the kind words Jesus had to offer. I would rather place my faith in the Word of God than the thoughts of men, but that is just me.

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The Good Shepherd is the Bread of Life

Good Shepherd is the Bread of LifeOften in worship, we confess that Jesus Christ is the bread of life. We confess a lot of things in song, prayers, and liturgy but how often do we honestly believe them to be true? When times are tough like what the people of Israel faced in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-6), we find words of hope as God does not forget those who he has claimed. The power of his promise endures all things and at all times. When we wander and find ourselves in danger, it is because we have strayed from the Lord not because the Lord has driven us away. Like in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and tried to hide from God, that is our tendency with God. In the midst of struggle we like to blame God, but at the same time, we want to cover up our shame, our sin. God still doesn’t leave us, but he always provides a way for us. Paul reminds of this in the reading from Ephesians (2:11-22). Again, it is when we are wholly reliant on our own abilities we find ourselves in trouble, but when we turn to Christ, we find reconciliation. Laws do not save us, they can drive us into further into despair because in them there is no hope, but when we turn to Christ, we receive all we need. The faith that we hold is no longer in our ability, but in God’s doing. So we come to one of the great miracles of God presented to us in Mark 6:30-44 in which we come to the five thousand men with women and children being fed. After all the long, arduous work Jesus leads the disciples away to a desolate place to get away and have some peace. The problem is that people see them in their boats and follow them meeting them at the desolate place. I am sure that the disciples were tired as was Jesus but the compassion was higher for the Lord for these people, so he does what he does and begins to teach them. Imagine the crowd. After some time the disciples urge him to send them off so they can get some food, but Jesus has other plans. He wants them to be fed. The number and the cost were overwhelming, so the disciples balk at this and question, Jesus. How often do we do this with God? Trying to say that something is impossible or too much for God to do with us. The great miracle is that with five loaves and two fish Jesus feeds all who are there, but God can not be stopped there. Not only are all fed and full, but twelve baskets full of the remaining were collected. God does not just provide, but he provides abundantly. That is the God we worship, and that is the God who saves. He never leaves us in the lurch but is ready to rescue us in times of need when we cry out to him. He didn’t need to provide for the people in the desolate place, and he doesn’t need to provide for me or anyone, but he does out his divine mercy and grace. That is the glorious God we worship! That is the blessing of our faith.

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