“You will be hated by all…”

Startup Stock PhotosA friend of mine once told me a story about his trips to the coffee house to sit, read, and, on occasion, discuss Christianity.  My friend didn’t go to debate, he was there because it was a comfortable place with nice chairs and room to spread out his books for study.  The coffee house wasn’t a big chain with green aprons, but a locally-owned place with good crowds and a great vibe.  He loved the place and got to know a few of the regulars.  Everyone got along for the most part, and he had some lively debates.
That is, until one night, when another patron pulled him aside and told him to be careful.  My friend and the patron had grown close, and the patron wanted to look out for him.  There were grumblings among some of the others that my friend needed to “watch out.”  This was, effectively, a threat.
WHAT?!
Christians, more often than not, are not the instigators of another person’s feelings.  We don’t cause someone to become angry at us, or to hate us, or to think we’re being judgmental.  Often, the quiet Christian is harassed solely because they exist in the same space as the other person or people and are, well, being Christian.
“If I don’t cause the reaction, why does it happen?  Are these people just hateful individuals?” Not at all. Instead, those responses are internal to that person.  The feelings inside them well up and are driven out at the Christian, making them the target of all of the feelings.
So, then, one will ask, “What are the source of these feelings?  These are not people that normally live lives of anger.”  How can it be that seemingly passive or accepting people (read “tolerant”) become so vicious?
In the end, the answer is fairly simple for the Christian to understand, and folly to all others.  They have the Law written on their hearts, as we all do.  The very sight of Christians and Christian signs and symbols wrenches on their hearts and minds, and injects a feeling of guilt that bounces off of their hardened hearts and becomes hate as it leaves their lips.  They don’t hate you, though, but rather they hate Christ and all that He is.  They cannot stomach the thought of their sins, their breaking of the moral code of God, and they live in fear of the judgment that is theirs because of their sin.  They are not even aware of it.
And the worst part of this reaction is that we do the same things to God.  We, in our sinful lives, hate God.  Our stomachs turn and our sinful hearts turn away.  We strive to run from God as fast as we can.
“But, how can that be?” you say.  “I go to church, read my Bible and pray, and I believe.  How can I hate God?”  The key difference between the believer and the unbeliever is faith.  We have faith, given by the Holy Spirit through the power of God’s Word.  Because of that faith, the Holy Spirit turns us towards God and His Son Jesus Christ, and we are saved!  By the power outside of ourselves, we are made right before God.  We are because, as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
That’s the blessing of God’s power and the comfort of His merciful gift in Christ Jesus.  We are able to live freely in our faith, and able to complete the works of God for the world around us.
The unbeliever doesn’t have that comfort.  They don’t have the faith that saves them from the wretched guilt that eats their insides.  Without the Word of God, they are not even able to give it a name.  They just know that they hate that cross you wear, the Bible you carry, the worship music you listen to, or the book about your faith that you read.  They cannot understand because they do not have the language that we receive in our faith.
We live in a world that doesn’t understand us.  It doesn’t know Christ inherently.  God is only revealed to us by God’s Word.  This is why we must continue to speak it to the world.  Whenever we can, whether it is the quiet lunch conversation with the grieving co-worker, the smiling message of gratefulness and thanks to the grocery store clerk, or the words of forgiveness and strength to our friends and family, we can speak the Word of God and the comfort that comes in Christ Jesus our Lord through our words and actions.
Maybe, next time the person who sees you at the coffee house will, instead of shouting at you, ask about the Bible you are reading.

Even the Young Will Wage War!

I have found an interesting article over at Steadfast Lutherans that I wanted to share.  I found a quote as well that I love:

I shoot into the darkness at anything that moves. Sooner or later, I will hit the evil one.

In writing that’s called showing, not telling.  Enjoy!

Thoughts from a Young Pastor

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

We’ve all seen it, the wreath in the front of the church.  It’s brought out of the back or the downstairs storage closet every year right around Thanksgiving, dusted off, and put up by the pulpit.  The acolyte comes out and lights one or more candles throughout Advent, and it adds to the lighting and majesty of our preparations for the coming of Christmas.  But what do those four (or five) candles mean?  Why is a new one lit each week?  And what is up with the PINK ONE?!

From an lcms.org/faq document concerning questions about Worship/Congregational Life and the Church Year:

The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, which is taken from Philippians 4:4.  

(“Rejoice! . . . the Lord is near”). Hence a “pink” candle was used to signify “rejoicing.” Some also included a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).

We light a new candle each week to signify the coming of Christmas, and the excitement of Christ’s birth.  It’s a countdown of sorts, there to remind us that He, Christ Jesus,our Lord and King, came into the world.  He was a baby, born of woman, grew, learned, ate, breathed, walked, talked, worked, taught, suffered, died, rose again, and will return.  Until then, we can still partake in Him in the Holy Supper, receiving from Him the forgiveness of sins bought and paid for on the cross, when He took on the weight of the sins of all mankind.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,” John 3:16-18a.

Come, Lord Jesus!

I’m Pretty Sure the Mayans are Laughing at Us Now…

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

There’s certainly been a lot of talk as of late about the End of the World. When I will happen, what it will be like, and who’s going to get it first. The Mayans are getting more discussion as of late than during a seventh grade history lesson. The world is going to end on THIS day (December 21st), or THAT day (the 22nd), or at 11:11 (but which time zone?), or at 5:15 (AM or PM?). Every one is very worried that they’ll have to go to work on Friday morning, but that no one will get Christmas presents three days later. Or, my favorite, that the gravitational pull of the Earth will be reversed, in some cosmic, hilarious, twisting of every tested Law of Physics known to man about the attraction of objects, and all of the stuff not tied down will be blasted into space…I think I’ll just chuckle about that one and move on.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” -Mark 13:32

It seems silly to attempt to predict the end of the world. It is stated very plainly throughout Scripture that we won’t get to know when it’s coming. We can guess all we want, but it’s just a guess. The LORD will not reveal it to us. It makes us anxious because we, as sinful people, want to be in control. We try to know it all. We want to be in charge. We want to be like God. It’s First Commandment stuff here, people.

The words of Christ comfort us as we begin to fret about the end and our lack of control. In Luke 12:25-26 Christ says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” The end is not for our concern. We do not live by our anxiousness. “The righteous shall live by faith.” -Romans 1:17

We live in the knowledge that Christ died for us. He suffered on the cross, bore our sins, and is our Savior. He gives us life and salvation through His Word, and the faith that comes by His Sacraments, which are the means of grace through the elements and His Word. Because, in the end, it always comes back to Jesus and His Word.

The verse in Mark above is important about the day and hour of the end, but the verse immediately preceding holds all the truth we need about the end of days.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away.”

Come, Lord Jesus. Amen!

The Mercy of the LORD endures forever!

O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is Good, for His Mercy endures forever! –Psalm 118

Among the evil and sin of the world we seek refuge; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

Through the suffering and pain of loss and heartache, we desire peace and strength; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

When man’s sinfulness consumes him in body and soul, and he commits heinous acts against others; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We struggle to understand why the evil of this world overtakes us; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We pray for the families, friends, and loved ones of those affected by violence and hatred; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

When we come to the altar of the LORD in repentance; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

As we receive His forgiveness in the Holy Supper; the Mercy of the LORD endures forever.

We go forth from His Table singing praises and saying, “The Mercy of the LORD endures forever!”

Amen! Come Lord Jesus! Amen!

Prayers for Those in Need

It’s difficult to accept the fact that there are things the Lord doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t let us in on all the plans. He doesn’t give us all the insight, or the scoop on the whys and hows of the universe.

Our feeble, human minds cannot hold all of the knowledge of God, for He is so much bigger than we could ever be. And yet, we still try. Because our sinfulness will not allow for something to be bigger, greater, more important, more mysterious, more powerful than we want to let it. This is basic First Commandment stuff, people. There’s a reason that God put it first on the list.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

But we try so hard to reign God in. We give Him limits when He is limitless. We remove His majesty, divide His divinity, denigrate His name. We put God in the box of our minds and try to keep Him there.

“A good and just god would have turned away the hurricane.”
“A righteous and fair god wouldn’t have let that child be molested.”
“God can’t be in the bread and wine at communion, or in the waters of baptism. That just doesn’t make sense.”

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)

God is a mystery to humans. He is higher, stronger, bigger, and more kind and compassionate than any person. He is more confusing, strange, and difficult to comprehend than anything we can possibly image, because He is beyond our imagination. How can we ever hope to prove ourselves to a being that is unprovable to the human mind? And that is why it is our faith that is so important, given to us not by our own thoughts or our works, but through the Spirit. It is that faith, which comes from His Word, that saves us. It is our faith in His Word that brings us comfort before His magnitude. Faith brought through His Word in the Sacraments. Faith that allows us to say, “His Body IS the bread, and His Blood IS the wine, and we receive forgiveness in our communion with that Body and Blood.”

Oh Lord, Jesus Christ,

So many things happen in this world which we do not understand, cannot comprehend, and will never be able to explain. In these times of struggle for those who are suffering, we ask for Your comfort and protection. Bring peace to those who are in the tempest of sin and earthly strife. Bring Your healing hand where it is Your Will, and let Your Word be preached to all the nations. Lord, we thank you for that which we do have, for that which You have given and will give to us. Allow us the strength to provide for those who need our help, and send Your Spirit to grant faith and hope to all.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Amen!

Temptation Sucks!

Grace and Peace to you from Our Father and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

Temptation sucks. It really does. The Evil One is a powerful being, able to entice you with things that look just so good. He’s “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” says 1 Peter 5:8. He’s silver-tongued, the serpent, who “was more crafty than any other beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1). He tells you that you can be great, even God-like, and wants you to step up to your sinful nature and just do whatever you want, because no God should be able to tell you what to do.

Jesus knows our struggles with temptation. He’s experienced it first-hand, face-to-face with the Evil Foe himself. The devil wrestled with Jesus for 40 days and 40 nights, and the Christ, the Son of the Living God beat him back again and again. And He did it with the Word.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” – Matthew 4:4, taken from Deuteronomy 8:3.

“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” – Matthew 4:7, taken from Deuteronomy 6:16.

“You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve” – Matthew 4:10, taken from Deuteronomy 6:13.

Christ uses the very Words of God, of His own, to beat back Satan. He shows us the path of strength through the power of the Word.

In the story of the temptation from Mark 9, we see yet another source of strength for Jesus during His temptation. Mark 1 begins with the Baptism of Jesus, and then He “immediately” proceeds to His temptation in the wilderness. He is prepared for His trials through His Baptism.

And the trials of Jesus do not end there. Before the garden of Gethsemane, when He must begin to endure the worst pain in history, we see our Lord institute His Supper, partaking the bread and wine, and then in the garden, praying to the Father for all strength.

What does this mean for us? Jesus shows us the way to deal with pain, temptation, and trials. It is through that which He Himself commands, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and that which He teaches, prayer and the Word. These are the things we use to pass the struggles of our lives, our humans lives, which Christ Himself has experienced. Jesus beat back the devil with the Word because He was, as a true human being, tempted by the Evil One. He was baptized and partook of the Supper to show us where to find strength before trials and tribulations. He prayed on that Friday morning because it gave Him comfort and peace before the Father willed Him to suffer and die on the cross. And He silenced the roaring lion forever by rising to life on that blessed Easter morning.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:10

Amen.