Pastor's Blog

June 2017

How to Slay Your Dragon

            In the Disney movie, How to Train Your Dragon, one of the main characters is a dragon named Toothless. The movie revolves around a tribe of Vikings who spend their whole lives in fear of dragons and training to fight and kill them without realizing that dragons could be their friends. It’s a cute movie that explores the concepts of love, loyalty and overcoming misconceptions.

            But the movie might have one unintended consequence: it takes the idea of dragons, which have been depicted for generations as fearful and dangerous creatures that breathe fire and destroy whole cities—it takes that idea and changes it. Dragons aren’t dangerous, they are our friends. Dragons aren’t evil, just misunderstood. Dragons don’t really want to hurt you, they want to help you.

            Part of me—the cynical part, I guess—makes me wonder if maybe that isn’t an unintended consequence. Because I look at how our culture has taken what was formerly evil, dangerous and destructive and made it seem good, safe and helpful. And maybe the creators of the movie feel the same way about life. Maybe they think that the old ways of religion and right and wrong and wicked and evil are totally misguided and totally irrelevant to today’s modern world. We’ve moved beyond the stories of knights in shining armor defending the helpless or the stories where the hero was morally superior to the enemy he was facing. To use another example from popular culture: look at how Batman was portrayed about 50 years ago. Batman didn’t have any personal problems, he didn’t struggle with morality, he didn’t wonder if he was doing the right thing. Good and evil were pretty clear cut…but now? Sometimes it’s hard to tell who the bad guy is: the Joker or Batman?

            Comic books and dragons aside here’s my point: the dragons are getting turned into heroes. Evil is being called good. And the devil is getting a makeover and it’s not good for us. Dragons need to be slayed and we need Jesus to show us how to slay them. In fact, Jesus shows us how he already did that. Check out Revelation 20:1-3.



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The Lawless Ones

I remember talking to a friend of mine who is a Christian teacher. For several years he was the principal of a Christian grade school and when we would get together, we’d love to talk shop. One of the things I remember him saying was how he responded when someone said to him, “This or that should be happening at a Christian school.” And he would reply, “You’re right. But the difference is that at this Christian school I can talk to them about what God says about this or that.”

    But the truth is…they’re right. Christians are supposed to live to a higher moral standard—everyone is, even if they’re not a Christian. And yet we don’t. And when we don’t, when we make a misstep in our Christian life—when we sin—there is a whole world of critics ready to catch us doing wrong.

    But that’s not really what hurts the most. What hurts the most is our own conscience. That’s that little voice inside of us that’s ready at every moment to tell us how bad we are and how far short we are of where we should be.

    Should should should! What is “should”? Should is rules. Should is the standard. Should is the law. So what if I told you the law didn’t matter anymore? What if I told you Christians are the lawless ones? 

    We can become motivated by what we should be doing. I have to go to church; I have to be nice to others; I have to be a better parent, child, student, employee, boss. That’s all true; God does want those things for us. But the really bad part is when we start living as if that is the ONLY way we can make God happy, it becomes true. If we want to keep the whole law to make God happy, then we had better do it all.

    And that’s why God had to obliterate the law. Your record of sin was crucified with Christ. You were crucified with Christ. Your sins, your violations, you rule-breaking, it all died there on the cross. Can you hear those hammer blows pounding Christ to the cross? That was for you. Each blow of the hammer was your sin being pinned to a cross so it could be punished once and for all. There is no punishment for sin anymore. It’s been wiped away forever.

    The condemnation of the law, which still tries to cry out against us, has been obliterated. You are not a victim of the law. You are not a victim of your own disobedience. Christ was the victim and you are set free from the law. In that sense, you are lawless.



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When Does Life Start?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope…” (1 Peter 1)

            For many of us believers, baptism was our beginning. Baptism is that precious washing of water connected to the promises of God's Word which wash away our sin. As the disciples began their ministry with the forgiveness of sins, our relationship with God began with a new birth into a new relationship with God through the same forgiveness poured out in baptism. So it’s really a tragedy and a great sin against God when we neglect the daily encouragement of our baptisms. Perhaps it’s partly due to age: we were too young to remember being baptized. But more likely is that it’s plain old neglect. Remembering our baptisms falls into the same category of other things we plan on getting to like reading our Bibles more frequently and spending more time in personal prayer. No Christian denies their importance but do they make the time? We even have the audacity to hold up the blessings of God as an excuse to neglect God: my job, my family. 

You and I cannot bring anything to the table which pleases God. Our own deeds are tainted with sin. So let’s dispense with any pretend piety, or make-believe Christianity, and come to God as beggars, looking for help. Might I remind you of the waters of baptism? It is only when we see the reality of our sin that we can appreciate the reality of forgiveness. And today, while it is still today, let us worship God with a true heart, remembering that in our baptisms we are declared forgiven.

We didn’t earn it, we didn’t want it, we didn’t have any say in the matter—we were just declared to be forgiven. It was all purely based on the authority of Christ. That same authority which sent out disciples to enlighten the heathen, has empowered baptism so that we are something which we could never be on our own: disciples of Christ. Here at font we are connected to the work of Christ which is to say that we are connected to the death of Christ, that Christ’s death as payment for sin is as good as if you died to pay for your own sin. Yes, in baptism you died. And in baptism you rose again. As surely as Christ rose to live, you and I were born again into a new life with God. Gone are the days of angering God. Gone is the night of unbelief. We live in light. Now life really, truly, begins.

Have you been baptized? If not, contact a Christian congregation in your area. Or contact our pastors (see "contact us" at the top of the page), we'd love to help.

 



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Pentecost Today

Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday. It came 50 days after the Feast of Passover and coincided with the wheat harvest. It was a time to get together with everyone else at Jerusalem and celebrate how the Lord provides everything. We do that at Thanksgiving. And just like we celebrate with turkey and a church service, the Jews celebrated with great meals and a special worship service at the Temple. So what you did was you baked two loaves of bread using the grain that you just harvested. You brought these loaves of bread with you to Jerusalem, along with the other items for your offering, and that was part of your sacrifice. When it was your family’s turn to offer your sacrifice at the Temple, the priest would take your loaves of bread and wave them before the Lord and then hand them back to you. The waving motion was a way of showing how that bread, and everything else, comes from the Lord. When the sacrifice and worship service were over, then it was time to get together with the rest of the family and celebrate.

Today Pentecost has a completely different feel to it. Instead of a thanksgiving service, it’s really the birthday celebration of the Christian church. This is the day that Jesus’ disciples boldly proclaimed their faith. This is the day they witnessed what they knew about Jesus. This is the day that tongues of fire settled on their heads. This is the day they were clothed in power. This is the day that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, came and empowered the disciples, taking away their worries and grief so they could convict the world of sin and point them to their Savior. And even in our own day, we continue to celebrate how the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, comes to us to take away our grief, too, that we might proclaim the message of this world's savior to everyone. 

Happy Birthday!



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For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ ROMANS 6:23