I’m reading Daniel 9:4–5 https://ref.ly/Da9.4-5 via @Logos

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https://link.pray.com/P43kNjFLm1

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https://link.pray.com/A040Xu3al1

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For All the Saints

As we enter into another All Saints Day which, as a congregation, will observed this Sunday I am caused to reflect on Baptism. For many of my non-Lutheran Christian friends and those that were not raised in the Lutheran tradition or have been influenced by other traditions the saving act of Baptism is forgotten. So many focus on the water and belief it has to do with the promises of the baptized or the choices of the baptized after Baptism, but this makes the act of Baptism merely a symbol or simply an act of obedience. For me, this is a hopeless act as we can not do anything to save ourselves. We do not create faith in ourselves, but faith comes to us as an alien act given to us by God and God alone. He is the only one that can give us faith. Unfortunately, the lack of biblical understanding paired with a loss of catechetical study has left many in a dry desert of hopelessness that has hidden the Gospel. The Gospel reveals to us the present and always current promise of Baptism as a saving act as Jesus speaks of in Mark 16:16. It is the Word that we cling to as Paul reminds us in Titus 3:5-8 and Romans 6:4. We are transformed forever and daily by the waters that flow over us, burying us. These are the promises that we cling to as we lay taking our final breaths knowing that our Baptism is valuable. “I am baptized!” is our words of victory given to us through Christ and Christ alone.

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What Will Jesus Find?

“I tell you, {God} will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:8 (ESV)

As I was doing devotions this morning these words of Jesus jumped out at me. In our world, with all the hatred and vitriol that seems to be pouring out it is hard, sometimes, to be hopeful. The “me-centric” faith that many espouse seems so thick and heavy as churches create a Jesus that is there to serve their needs or their causes. Jesus is a climate warrior, gender equality champion, poverty buster, etc. Jesus, the Savior of all and the one who releases us from all bondage, can be buried and lost. Would he truly recognize himself in the images that we have made? But then, realizing who it is that is saying these words, we can find hope because as he was saying these words Jesus was revealing what he already knew. We so often place our faith in things that are of our creation, but we don’t create faith in God. God gives is this faith and when we are left disappointed by everything else, God fills us. When we are empty, our Lord finds space. It is in our realization of a need for a Savior we find that all we need has already been provided.

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September 2019 Newsletter

https://indd.adobe.com/view/a648fa5c-5e04-45f2-89f9-4e423b41c2a9

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The Age of Discontent

It seems that discontent is such a simple state into which we human beings easily fall. The sense of entitlement and believing that our opinions are of most importance. I know I have not written for a time and, in our age, that is something that a person writing a blog should not do because it doesn’t help build an “audience.” I don’t know that what I have to say is important or not, but it is on my heart and if it helps one person in life then it is worth the words and the thoughts.

I am so tired of the level of divide we see within our country and our world. People hold opinions and when others don’t hold the same they ridicule those with whom they disagree as being “stupid” or “idiots” and we continually hear the call for temperance from one side against the other, but both continue to lambast the other. Whether it be via twitter or any other social media platform. We live in an age of righteous indignation that must be remedied in whatever method that feels right for the one who feels wronged. A group that states it’s purpose as being against fascism which is a system of control that does not allow for disagreement but oppresses those who disagree with them or puts those that are different than them in thought, beliefs, or ethnicity under an oppressive thumb but then attacks those who disagree with them, holds different beliefs then them, or does not fit into their mold of what they consider and define as just and good through violence and oppression. It is insanity and my prayer is that it stops.

It is wrong to attack people because they are different then you, period. The beauty of living in a free nation is that thoughts and opinions are allowed to be had even though they may differ and we are free to be offended as well as we are free to offend. The consequences of such action are also a part of the freedom. If, for example, people find that my words are offensive they may say so and choose not to read them. People may comment and I do not have to like what they say, but I also have the freedom to disagree. This, though, is not my main reason for writing this nor is it my goal. My prayer is that we, as Christians, seek to find points of common agreement on things of importance and things that are central to our faith. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, did not agree with all with whom he came into contact. Much of the time, he did not agree, yet he still loved them in spite of their disagreement. This is what we are called to do.

In Luther’s Small Catechism, the eighth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” is explained like this, “We should fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, lie, or gossip about our neighbors, but defend them, speak well of them, and put the most charitable construction on all that they do.” It is that last part in which I find the greatest hope. How often do we not put a charitable construction on the words of those with whom we disagree? How simple, yet how hard. Anyone that knows the history of Martin Luther would know that he often failed in this, also. Notwithstanding, the truth of the sentiment drove him and should drive us. I know that I have failed here and any one of us, if being truly honest, would find the same to be true. Yet, it does not excuse us to continue to fail.

The beauty of our faith is that when we fail, we are afforded the opportunity to confess and receive forgiveness. 1 John 1:8-9 says this,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8–9, ESV)

I have known and know those that like to shake their heads and wag their fingers at people engaged in sin with which they disagree while justifying the sins in their own lives. I have also known and know people who like to act as if their sins are not sin and should be justified because it is their own expression of who they are meant to be. Sin is sin and we all are caught up in sin in one way or another. The only true forgiveness comes when we confess and are relieved from guilt. The relief of guilt does not justify the sin nor does it justify the perpetuation of the sin, it only relieves the burden for the last iteration of the sin. For example, if I speak a wrong work to my children or spouse in anger just because I repent and ask for forgiveness for doing so does not justify the wrong word or the anger that I held nor does it offer me forgiveness for future failings. Forgiveness is the immediate relief from the burden of the sin as I seek to restore and reconcile with the one who I hurt. If I unintentionally do something, the same is true. Forgiveness and justification are two different things and are mutually exclusive. We may be forgiven, but that does not justify the sin and if one seeks justification they are not seeking forgiveness. A righteous person is not self-righteous, but he or she is forgiven. A self-righteous person will find forgiveness to be a difficult thing to give because he or she will feel justified in his or her actions against those who have hurt them and will not truly seek to be forgiven.

I have forgiven a lot of people that have hurt me. I can not say that it is always easy and I won’t lie and say that I don’t from time to time feel the ache that is left from betrayal. The forgiveness that I feel has freed me from bitterness that comes with unforgiveness. That is the most difficult thing that I see in our age today is because of our anger at one another and the bitterness held is hidden behind a new banner of self-righteousness and justification instead of a humble banner of grace and forgiveness. People want to be justified to do what they see as fit instead of first humbly praying before God and seeking forgiveness for doing that which is not right before God. Many seek to justify themselves based on wrongs done in the past by those who felt justified in their own wrong doings based on their understanding instead of seeking reconciliation with the one true God. God does not wear a banner of blue or red. He is not as much concerned by the politics of the United States any more than any other portion of His creation because it is all His. The reality is that He truly loves all of His creation. He loved the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some may find that strange to think about. Love is not approval. God will redeem those who He has chosen. Our calling, as followers of Christ, is not to justify, but to humble ourselves and be comforted by the promises of redemption, and proclaim the Truth revealed to us in Scripture.

The greatest illness of our country and our world is the same that we find in the time of the Judges which states repeatedly, “They did what was right in their own eyes because they had no king.” God desires to be the King of all of our lives and we are called to seek out and do His will even when it may not be in line with our own desires. This is a difficult reality, but one which can bring much peace and relief once lived out. The issues of our world are but a symptom of what has plagued humanity since the Fall. We desire to be our own god and believe what is right in our own eyes instead of what God has revealed to us as His desire. As followers of Christ, we are not called to wag our fingers or shake our heads. Nor are we called to call for the eternal punishment of those with whom we disagree. We can freely speak to the sins that we see before us, but only out of love for the other. If our hearts are guided in this love, then we may find that we can truly affect the world which we see fallen. God desires us first to be content in what He provides and seek less to be offended, but seek to be bearers of Christ and his forgiveness into a world that is sin sick and need of the one and only Savior. Let the love of our Lord Jesus Christ guide you in your love of all of his creation and be at peace. Amen.

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