Pastor's Blog

February 2017

Are you sick enough for Jesus?

I’m the kind of person that gets sick a few times a year. I don’t know what it is, but it seems that every year I pick up all the new varieties of the common cold. This past year I found a way to manage it better, but I still get sick. And being sick stinks.

But that’s just the common cold. It’s not a sinus infection or an ear infection. It’s not cancer. It’s not liver disease or a neurological disorder. And of course, we could add a bunch of other things to that list and come up with a whole menu of diseases, infections and disorders that make our life miserable.

But if there is a silver lining to being sick, it is finding the root cause of the illness. When a person discovers that the pain in their back is an indication of something much more serious that can be cured, that’s a very important discovery. And they’re led to seek out medical help so they can get healthy again.

It is the same for our souls. Sin makes our souls sick and often we just ignore it. We think that we’re OK with God because we go to church, even though we’re caught in any number of sins. “God still loves me,” we tell ourselves. But nice thoughts don’t cure the sickness. And as the sickness of sin gets worse and worse, ignoring God eventually leads to bitterness toward God. As our souls get darker and darker from sin, we get madder and madder at God, “He’s just out to get me. He doesn’t care about me.”

So we need to know we’re sick, so we can get the cure. By knowing the reality of sin we go and find a real doctor of our soul, our Savior. And he makes us healthy. And by his help, our attitude about forgiveness changes and so does our attitude about him.

God’s truth changes our attitude. So what do you think, are you sick enough for Jesus?

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Love Restored

If you’ve ever met with a group of friends to play a game that involves teams, you know that you’ve got to divide everyone up. So what do you do? Well there are a lot of ways to make teams, but I bet what you probably do is boys versus girls, right? It’s that old contest: who’s better the boys or the girls. I would like to submit to you today that when we do that, we are admitting something about our natural state of sinfulness: boys and girls don’t always want to play nicely together. Now I’m not saying teams of boys vs. girls are wrong, I’m saying I think it illustrates a portion of our human nature.

Of course, God never intended life to be “boys vs. girls.” God intended boys and girls to help one another, to partner together. God intended boys and girls to marry and become not just friends but intimate companions in this world whose relationship would form the foundation of society. What God says about boys and girls is that he made them to be each other’s companions and not just companions but as husband and wife, intimate companions.

We look back on that with wonder because we know how different things are today: broken and hurting marriages. How sad! It seems at times that life really is “boys vs. girls” with each side viewing the other as their adversary. You’ve got “women’s rights” and “chauvinism”; women and men abusing each other. What has happened to that perfect companionship? It's sin. But worse than that, it's sinful people like you and me. And we are sinful because of a broken and failed relationship between us and God. 

But God was not willing to be the spouse left out in the cold--forgotten and abandoned. He fought his way back into our lives by destroying the sin that separated us from him in the first place. He did it by joining the human race in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus destroyed the wall of sin by bashing it down with the cross. The cross was the perfect weapon to destroy sin because on it Jesus was punished in your place for sin; and not only that but his perfect life of perfect companionship with God and other people was turned over to you and covers your life of sin. So nothing stands between you and God anymore. The relationship has been restored through Christ. We can love him now because he loved us even when we were his enemies.

And if sinners and a holy God can be restored, then the love between boys and girls, the love between man and woman, the love between a husband and a wife--all love, even your love, can be restored.

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Be Noticeable

Sometimes when Jesus speaks, your ears tingle a little bit. In Matthew  5 Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees…you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Every good Lutheran who hears that should practically fall out of their pew. It sounds like Jesus is telling you and me that we need to do something in order to get into heaven; that we need to earn our forgiveness. Has Jesus just spoken blasphemy? Your ears tingle when Jesus speaks those words because they think they are hearing something contrary to what they’ve heard from Jesus in the past. Didn’t Jesus earn heaven for me? Didn’t Jesus do all the work so that I wouldn’t have to?

Yes, but Jesus also knows our tendency. He knows how easily we take his work for granted. He knows how stubborn our good Lutheran hearts can be. So fickle and so stubborn, in fact, that we need to be told over and over again that God’s laws still apply to us; that from a certain point of view we do need to work for our salvation; that we are saved by faith alone but that faith is never by itself; that Jesus wants us to be noticeable. He calls us salt and light for a reason folks: be noticeable for Christ. It's about being noticeable because Christ has fulfilled God’s law for you by keeping it perfectly. It's about being noticeable because with Christ you can keep those laws, too.

You see, this isn’t about earning forgiveness, it is showing how you have already been forgiven. So go and make it known by how you live.

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Sharing Jesus is Hard...right?

Today everyone is supposed to be fired up for something. You’re supposed to be fired up for the next game, or fired up to go and make that next sales call, or fired up to go and achieve your dreams. It’s about enthusiasm, drive and achievement. And you can even hire people who will help you get fired up.

Do you feel fired up about to share your faith? Do you have a fire in your heart, has the Holy Spirit set you on fire to go and share God’s love? If you’re like many Christians, sharing your faith is hard work, you don’t know what to say, you don’t feel like people want you to share the gospel with them. In fact, if you listen to the news, it seems people are trying to get rid of God’s Word. Was it the University of Wisconsin that recently removed all Bibles from a campus conference center? If people don’t want God’s word then if I share it, aren’t I just inviting trouble? So not only is the fire of enthusiasm within me doused, but it seems like I’m just starting fires if I do share it?

Well, this has all happened before; you’re not the first believer to face this. About 2,000 years ago three believers stood in front of a blazing, crackling furnace and were threatened with being burned alive if they didn’t worship a false god. There names wereShadrach, Meshach and Abednego and you can read their story in Daniel chapter three. These men show us that facing the furnace of evangelism isn’t about being clever or intelligent or powerful, it’s about faith. They knew it was better to trust in God's promise to deliever them from death and hell than to worry about what these flames would do to them.

Does the same promise of God resonate with you? 

To be a great evangelist means to understand God’s work better. The very first person that God converted in your life was you. You stand in this world as a miracle and a testimony of God’s power to change sinners into his children. Spend some time thinking of the miracle of faith that came to you. And when you do that you start to appreciate what God did. God sent a savior for a sinner like me. Jesus did all the work of living a perfect life so that he could buy me back from eternal death. Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sin. I come into God’s presence today only because Jesus brought me here.

How do we face the furnace of evangelism? How do we face the prospect of getting burned for sharing Jesus? The same way those three men did: with God’s promises in our heart. And those promises will give us a reason to share Jesus with others, no matter what.

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