Pastor's Blog

November 2018

You Are a King!?

“Here is your king!” And there he was: Jesus of Nazareth; dressed in a purple robe, a crown of thorns on his head, blood streaking down his face and his back. His body was broken. And Pontius Pilate said, “Here is your king.” Some king is what Pilate meant. He can’t even defend himself.

Of course, it’s easy to say that when the image of Jesus as king is this beat up, broken man. But what if things had been different that day? What if Jesus appeared in all his power and glory? Would Pilate have chosen different words? I wonder if Pilate will remember what he said so long ago when Jesus does return at the end of time.

But what about right now, does Jesus look like a king to you? When you step out into the world and face ridicule, hatred and rejection Jesus probably doesn’t seem very kingly. When you’re plagued with doubts about your faith, about forgiveness, about God and everything, Jesus’ glory seems pretty dim.

The situation is urgent because there appears to be competing truths out there. One says that God and all he has revealed is true. Another says that since we cannot see God or test for God he cannot be true. And caught right in the middle is Jesus. Just who are you Jesus?

And with one foot in God’s world, and another foot in our world, Jesus says to us, “I am your king.”

You are a king, then!

Yes, a king of truth. And in a world where truth is so often in short supply, he's just the king you and I need.



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The California Wakeup Call

The images coming out of California are nothing short of horrifying. You watch a video of a family literally escaping through the flames, the wife praying in the passanger seat for their safety, her husband in shocked awe at the loss of people's homes which are burning on both sides of the road. I can't imagine it.

What are we to make of all this? 

Some people, jumping at a political opportunity, are labeling this as God's punishment on a state that has leaned more and more liberal over the years. "God is finally getting even with these people," seems to be the underlying thought. Apparently God promotes a certain political viewpoint in Scripture?

Another point of view is that this is just the consequence of mankind's behavior. Whether it's poor forest management, man-made climate change, or something else, the thought seems to be that there is nothing divine in these actions, there is no spiritual "takeaway," there is only the material world and thus we must look for material solutions for mankind's problems.

The answer, as it so often does, lies in the middle. The traditional Lutheran approach is always to take the narrow middle ground between two viewpoints. This is neither a punishment nor an absent or non-existant God. This is, however, a consequence of mankind's behavior, and it does have a spiritual takeaway. Let me explain.

God COULD have pre-programmed us with all the correct attitudes and behaviors so that we would never have made an incorrect choice. Think of this like spiritual robots. But he didn't. Thus mankind fell into sin by an abuse of their God-given free will (and has made a whole bunch of mistakes since.)

God COULD have created this world and then stepped back to watch what would happen and laugh his head off at all our foolishness and intervene only when it suited him. But he didn't. Thus he redeemed mankind from sin and hell through the life, death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.

God DID create us with a spirit and a highly developed capability for reason. God DID involve himself most intimately in our lives.

So here's the takeaway. These fires in California are not God's punishment. God's punishment fell on Jesus. When Jesus said, "It is finished," that's what he meant. Done. Nada. Zilch. No more punishment for sin remains. It's what makes rejection of Christ so tragic.

Instead these fires are a wakeup call.

For everyone who thought they were living in paradise with their home in the country and their life set up just the way they wanted it and all was right in the world and they had no need for God, this fire roared through Paradise and has nearly taken it off the map. God can do that. He did it to Sodom and Gomorrah years ago, he's still doing it today. Wake up. 

For everyone who thinks they can put off their relationship with God until tomorrow, or when their life is more settled down, God can send a fire that will spread so quickly that people will die escaping in their vehicles. Wake up.

For everyone who thinks God doesn't care, that there are no more good people left in the world, and all is cynical and base, God sends humble people of heroric preportions who brave the dangers of a wildfire to rescue, to help, to save lives. God does care. Wake up.

And for anyone who wants to point the finger at others in self-righteous judgment, God can send a fire that no one was expecting to come their way so fast. Maybe we should take care of our own life first? Wake up.

The fires in California are like any other natural disaster - it's your time to take notice, measure your life against the Word of God, and wake up.

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Our church body does send aid to those in need. If you would like to contribute to our Committee on Aid and Relief to help those affected in the CA wildfires, please click here.

 



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At Last the Sun Rose

“As I looked thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” The Book of Daniel, chapter 7.

We have traveled a long road. Life has given us its good moments and its bad moments. We have seen and experienced the best in human behavior and we have witnessed the most vile and cruel human behavior. We have seen in ourselves the capacity for kindness and generosity as well as wickedness. Life has gone well, and life has gone terribly. It’s been a long, winding road to eternity. Jesus was right when he said, “…small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to eternal life,” (Matthew 7:13). Our sins and trespasses have haunted us. But our salvation was always before us, our forgiveness never left us. God’s undeserved love protected us and encouraged us. Yet our hearts sighed with the Apostle Paul, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Acts 14:22).

And at last the sun rose. Just when we thought we couldn't handle it anymore, that life couldn’t hand us anymore trouble—the Sun of Righteousness rose over eternity’s horizon. He cast his light of judgment into this dark world. He announced to you and me that the day of our deliverance had arrived. He announced that all people would stand in the court of God’s justice and that sentence would be pronounced.

We looked up and the light of the Sun splashed across our tired faces. We looked at each other, and we smiled, because at last the sun rose, its fire vindicating our faith and its light healing the faithful.

"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,  says the LORD Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." Malachi 4:1-2



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It's "only" the end of the world

The truth is: the world has been ending for a long, long time.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul spoke about it a lot in his letters to the different churches. He said in 1 Corinthians, “The world in its present form is passing away.” It was almost like he expected it to happen any moment. Jesus himself gave us many signs that the end of the world is coming. He said in Mark 13, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains."

Did you catch Jesus’ promise to the apostles there, to believers throughout the centuries, and to you and me? It only gets harder. The wars become more frequent. The famines and floods and natural disasters keep coming. The turmoil in this world increases. The love of most will grow cold. Many will fall away from the faith. Christians get treated worse and worse.

Hey, it’s only the end of the world—don’t worry! Right?

Jesus says “be on your guard” and “watch out” but he doesn’t say get worried. In fact as things get more difficult, as the end draws closer, Jesus gives you and me confidence to share the gospel.

This last week the Lutheran church celebrated the Reformation. It's a time to celebrate how God reformed the church through Martin Luther in the 1500s.

And really, when you break it down, the Reformation is really all about one thing: confidence in God's Word.

Martin Luther would agree, it’s only the end of the world. Don’t worry: stand firmly on the gospel and trust the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says, "Do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit." (Mark 13:11)



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My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. ~ PSALM 62:1