5th Sunday after the Epiphany
This Is Good?
Text: Romans 8:28-30
It was a busy day, but a normal day. Just as she was about to sit down at the dinner table with the kids, the doorbell rang. This was unexpected. Annoyed and distracted she went to the door and opened it. A police officer was standing there. “Are you Sarah Jackson?” he asked. Sarah’s heart began to race as she said, “I am.” The officer barely started with, “I’m sorry, ma’am,” and tears already welled up in her eyes. This couldn’t be good. “I’m sorry to tell you, ma’am. There’s been a terrible accident. It’s your husband.”
Days later Sarah sat in the front row of a church, clutching her children, dabbing the last few tears she had left, and dressed in all black. There were so many things she might wonder about. What would she do now? Where would they go? How would she provide for the kids? But right then all she could really wonder was how she could possibly be at a funeral—for her own husband.
Not many knew what to say to Sarah Jackson. But many tried to say something—and it all usually sounded the same: “Sarah, I’m so sorry. But everything happens for a reason. Somehow this will work out for good.” Finally Sarah looked at one friend and said, “Good? This is Good?” Read the rest of this entry
2nd Sunday in Lent
By Grace Alone through Faith Alone
Text: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
I was 15 years old. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. My parents told me, “You need to get a job.” I thought I might as well apply at Subway. It was two blocks from my house and I loved the food at this newer restaurant. At the time, competition was a little fierce for jobs though. I remember bringing in my application and the owner was conducting a number of formal interviews. I was one of a bunch of applicants. But I was hired.
I started at the very bottom of the fast food chain that year. Just another employee. But over time they realized it wasn’t such a bad deal to have a pastor’s son who goes to a Christian high school working for you. So they trained me to work on the cash register. Then to take deposits to the bank. Then to work by myself at times opening the store and closing the store, which meant I had keys to the building. Then I became an assistant manager. Then I ran the entire Subway booth at the Wisconsin State Fair. At one point when I was in college, the owner, who owned nine Subways and three Taco Bells, asked me to be his regional manager with a full salary and a company car. But I told him I was studying to be a pastor and couldn’t.
Finally after 10 years of work I had to quit to go off to my vicar year at the Seminary. By that point I was a lead manager, I worked any time I wanted, and I made some pretty decent money for a fast food employee.
A lot of you have very similar stories. You started at the bottom and worked your way to the top. You started doing grunt work or hard labor at first but worked your way up the ladder. Some of you were in the military and worked your way up the rankings through the years. Some of you had nothing for many years but worked and saved and wound up able to have a nice retirement. Read the rest of this entry
Justified by Faith
Text: Romans 3:19-28
Go ahead. Go ahead and try to please God. Isn’t that what we all want? We are simple, small, frail creatures, but we all want the same thing. We want a right standing in God’s presence. We want a mighty, holy God to be happy. We want God to be pleased with us. We don’t want a God who fills the universe to look on us like a colony of ants and squash us with his divine boot. No. We want to be in a right relationship with God and we want him to be pleased. So go ahead. Try and please God. See what happens.
Martin Luther tried. He tried really hard. When Martin Luther was living in a monastery he would beat himself and starve himself, punishing himself almost any way he could think of. Why would a person ever do that, you might wonder? Well Martin Luther took God seriously. He took his relationship with God seriously too.
So when Martin Luther read the Scriptures he found that God says things like, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” He knew of the descriptions of heaven in the Bible, where God is seated on his throne and surrounded by angels who are singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
As he found these things about God in Scripture, Luther became terrified. God is holy, mighty, and fills the earth with his glory. So how could Luther possibly please God? His life was filled with sin. Yes, he lived in a monastery. Yes, he was studying to be a priest. Yes, he studied Scripture daily. But he still wasn’t even close to holy. The more he learned about God, the more he learned how terribly he was falling short. In desperation, he resorted to attempts to literally beat the sin out of himself. But he couldn’t do it. Read the rest of this entry
5th Sunday of Lent
You Were Grafted by Grace (so)
1. Keep humble
2. Keep connected
3. Keep sharing
Text: Romans 11:11-21
Inosculation. “A natural or surgical joining of parts of branches of tubular structures so as to make or become continuous.” Those of you who know me well, or have seen my yard and my plants, also know that clearly I found that definition on Google. I do not know how to do inosculation and I will not ever attempt to try inosculation. But at least I know what it is.
In layman’s terms, inosculation is grafting. Grafting occasionally happens naturally, but more often is performed by horticulturalists to save a branch. The loose branch is grafted into a branch on the tree and eventually that new branch becomes part of the tree. Did you know there are about 10 different ways or methods of grafting a branch? Neither did I. Thank you again, Google!
Spiritually speaking, there is only one way to be grafted—through Jesus Christ. This morning, in a very complex and deep section of Scripture, the apostle Paul explains that You Were Grafted by Grace. Read the rest of this entry
Barack Obama is President of the United States (POTUS) again. On Tuesday the Commander in Chief was reelected to remain in his office for four more years.
If you look at the voting statistics, it was a fairly close vote. Maybe it wasn’t as close as some people thought it would be, but it was by no means a landslide victory.
So now what? What will all the Republicans do? More importantly, what will conservative Christians do? As I shared in a previous post this week, there are a number of things that are concerning about what the Democrats are trying to do. There are things being approved and proposed that are contrary to our faith and beliefs. Thus, many conservative Christians might have been left frustrated and disturbed after Obama was reelected on Tuesday.
What are Christians to do? How are we to react?
With respect and honor! Once again, we review two key Bible verses:
Romans 13:1-2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
1 Peter 2:13-14, 17 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right . . . honor the king.
No matter who is the President of the United States–or even if we live in a country with communism and a dictator!–we owe our government respect and honor. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with every policy or platform. But that does mean we ought be humbly respectful.
God is in control of this entire universe. He created it. He preserves it. Thus, it was according to his holy will that Barack Obama is the one he has allowed to become president.
Only God knows.
But we do know these things:
- God promises never to leave us or forsake us
- God promises that all things work for our good
- God promises that his kingdom and his Church cannot be defeated
Thus, humbly we accept God’s will and move forward. Maybe Obama was your vote. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter any more. God allowed Obama to retain his office. God’s will was done.
Therefore, we are to respect our President. We are to pray for our President. We are to pray for our country. And, if we want to make some real changes in our lives and in our country, then we can be resolved to vow what Joshua did in the Old Testament:
Joshua 24:15 But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!
That crystial-clear focus will bring real change in our lives, our communities, and our country.
God be with President Obama. God be with the United States of America. God be with us.
May his will be done. May his kingdom spread.