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Preach the Word!

Epiphany 4

Preach the Word!

Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10

 

As you walk down the hallway of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary—our seminary that trains pastors in Mequon, WI—just above the doorway into the beautiful chapel is a phrase painted in big Greek letters:  keruxate to euangellion.  They are the words of Jesus which in English are:  Preach the gospel.  It’s a reminder of the incredible privilege pastors have to preach the good news of Jesus to others.

Those who preach God’s Word are a great gift of the Lord to his church.  This last week I was in Indiana and shared classes with pastors from all over the country and all over the world, including native African pastors from Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ghana.  I could not help but think how gracious God is to give people who preach the gospel to his Church throughout the world.  I was very thankful to see for a second time these new friends of mine who preach God’s Word despite incredible challenges.  Very inspiring!

But, it’s not just their job to preach the gospel, and it’s not just my job to preach the gospel.  When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he was talking also to you!  Your job is to Preach the WordHowever, unless you have been living as a hermit in some cave, you know, that’s not so easy! Read the rest of this entry

Yes It is My “Business”

The doorbell rang. Of course! Right when I’m in the middle of something!

I went to the door, looked through the stained glass, and knew immediately who it was. I could tell by the mid-length floral dresses. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses–again.

I opened the door and they began their regular and rehearsed routine. But I cut right to the chase. “Thank you very much, but I don’t need information from anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is truly God.” They had the look in their eyes like they knew they were in for an up-hill battle.

The two ladies at the door couldn’t answer many of my points from Scripture about Jesus being true God and our true Savior who gives eternal life in heaven to all who believe (not just 144,000). They needed to bring in the cavalry for reinforcements.

I shared more truths from Scripture, but they simply wouldn’t listen. Finally, I made one last-ditch effort to wake them from spiritual slumber. They needed a huge wakeup call from the full force of God’s Law.

I smiled and calmly stated, “My name is Phil. I want you to remember that. I want you to remember so that on the Last Day when Jesus comes and you find out you were wrong, you will know that at least one person tried to tell you and warn you.”

Recently I have been writing about a particular topic–homosexuality. In a broader spectrum I have actually been writing about unrepentant sin of every kind–sinning against God without care, sorrow, or regret. The last two days these posts have been a hotbed of discussion and opinions. One of the more common things I have heard from people is this:

“It’s none of your business.”

“It’s none of your business what other people do. It’s none of your business what people do in the privacy of their own homes. It’s none of your business because it doesn’t affect you.”

But don’t get me wrong, I haven’t only heard this from people living the homosexual lifestyle or in favor of homosexuality. I hear this from the church prospect whose living situation isn’t pleasing to the Lord. I hear this from prescription pill addict who won’t admit he has a problem and is in danger of going to prison. I hear this all the time from many, many people. They all say the same thing:

“It’s none of your business.”

But listen to what the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel 33:7-11:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of  them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

It was Ezekiel’s job, his commission, his mission, and his ministry to be a watchman for the people of Israel. Just as a city watchman would stand on the city walls and warn of impending danger, so Ezekiel’s job was to warn the people of Israel about the danger of their sins.

Amazingly, the Lord even told Ezekiel that if Israel did not repent of their sins and Ezekiel had not warned them, then he would share in the guilt and responsibility of their sins!

Ezekiel was to be a mouthpiece for the Lord. Why? Because the Lord does not desire that people go to hell. The Lord wants people to turn from their sin and evil ways, to repent, to be forgiven, and to be in heaven. That’s what the Lord wants, and that’s what the Lord wants us to tell others.

Imagine you are at the Grand Canyon. What a beautiful sight! But suddenly, to your horror, you see a blind person walking around the rim of the canyon. The person is using a cane, so he has some awareness of the danger. But he chooses to walk in danger anyways.

It gets worse! Terribly worse!

You see that blind person walking toward the edge. Slowly but surely he nears that edge. Then, sadly, he even walks off and falls to his peril.

You stood by and watched the whole thing take place. But you didn’t say anything. Why? Because it was “none of your business.”

Was it really loving of you to “mind your own business”? Would you not say that though that blind person brought on his own death, you also shared in culpability because you said nothing?

That’s exactly what God told Ezekiel, and that’s exactly what God tells his people today. We are his watchmen. It is absolutely, completely, definitely our business what other people do because it our  job, our commission, our mission, and our ministry to speak the Word of God to others.

No, we are not to stand in judgment of others. That’s for God to do. No, we are not to look down our noses at others as if we have never sinned and we are so much better. That’s neither realistic nor loving.

But rather we are supposed to be God’s watchmen carefully, clearly, and lovingly proclaiming the truth. Listen to the apostle Peter:

15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

God wants us to be prepared to speak his truth, to be his mouthpiece, to be his watchmen. Yet–so importantly–he tells us to do so with gentleness and respect. It is in love for the eternal salvation of those living in sin that we proclaim God’s message: “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (After we preach the message to ourselves first!)

Many have told me before, “It’s none of your business.” Well actually, yes it is. God has charged me as both Christian and  pastor to be a watchman and to proclaim his truth with gentleness, respect, and love.

And besides, I care! I do not want to see people walk off the edge of the cliff!

So, fellow Christians, stand your watch. Care. Love. Proclaim God’s truth.

It is your business.

Daily Devotion on Acts 4:8-12

Text:  Acts 4:8-12

Now it was real.

Before, Jesus had taught his disciples about what would happen to them because of him and his name. He told them that they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. He told them that they would be hated because of him.  He told them that they would be handed over to rulers and authorities–and much worse–because of him.

Now Peter and John were under arrest of the Sanhedrin, perhaps eerily familiar to what happened to their beloved Teacher not too long before. They were experiencing exactly what Jesus had foretold.

But Peter and John did not back down. How could they refuse to talk about Jesus? How could they obey men rather than God? They couldn’t and they wouldn’t.

Why? Why be so resilient? Why ignore the threat of prison, torture, or death? Why?

Peter gives us the only reason that matters:  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

Peter and John had their lives changed because they came to know salvation through Jesus. They also knew that other people had to know about this too, for there is no other way of salvation except through Jesus alone!

So today, we Christians also are persecuted. Perhaps not in America at the same level as the early disciples were, or even as other Christians around the globe are persecuted.

But regardless of how much we are persecuted now or in the future, we will not back down!

God has worked in our hearts faith to know and believe salvation through Jesus. That faith is so empowering that we also can’t help but share what we have seen and heard. Other people need to know about Jesus to.

So dear Christian, Preach! Preach Christ crucified and risen! For we must obey God rather than men!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of the Church, fill me with your Holy Spirit and embolden me to profess your saving name now and always. I pray in your name. Amen.

Speaking the Truth in Love to Homosexuals, Muslims, Mormons, and More

About two weeks ago I reacted in a blog post to some recent comments by Kirk Cameron about homosexuality and gay marriage. I also took the opportunity to share a biblical perspective and my own beliefs about the same topics.

In that post there were two main points that I made:

  1. The Bible reveals that all homosexuality is a sin in God’s sight.
  2. Christians who believe such are entitled to that free opinion just as much as those who are pro-homosexuality or gay themselves.

I anticipated that post getting a few extra views than our normal web traffic would bring. I didn’t quite anticipate that it would be the busiest day in the history of our church’s blog. Nor did I fully anticipate all the reactions and replies it would bring. Read the rest of this entry