10-01-12 - Living the Faith
Genesis 12:1-3 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
I am not alone in arguing these three verses are one of the pillars all of Scripture rests upon. The theme blessed to be a blessing continues through the rest of Scripture after the calling of Abraham here and explains much of what happens in the biblical narrative.
As I explained in a recent sermon, our primary blessing is faith: trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior and receiving the promise from God that we are rec-onciled with Him and are promised eternity with Him. While we may receive many other blessings in this life (and we all do), nothing surpasses faith in Christ and the promises that go along with it. We are wise to humbly and joyfully give thanks and praise to God for working this faith in us. It is nothing we can take credit for on our own, for God is the one who works faith and gives us the Holy Spirit to grow and persevere in faith.
We are blessed. . . to be a blessing. If we had nothing more than our faith in Christ, it would be enough of a blessing. If we share nothing more than our faith with others, it would be enough. Yet we have been blessed with more than just our faith to share with others, in fact even the things in our own lives that we might call negative can be transformed by God to be a blessing to us and to others (Romans 8:28-39, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). Absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love, and therefore there is nothing God can’t transform to be a blessing by building faith and drawing us and those around us closer to Him.
Blessed to be a blessing is one of the measures of a mature Christian we at St. Andrews strive to create. This is why you will see in this issue of the Fishhook opportunities described where we desire to be blessed to be a blessing. In this news-letter you will hear about:
Our goal this year as a congregation: To have 80% of our active congregation mentoring someone younger than themselves (not their own children). I don’t feel I have to convince anyone of how valuable this is and how foundational to our faith the act of mentoring/discipling is.
You’ll hear more about our new endowment and what a difference that can make for mission and ministry at St. Andrews for years to come and in your own life. Miriam and I were excited this past year to put together a charitable trust that would provide for our children for years to come, while at the same time giving to our be-loved church and charities and teaching our children how to live generous and faithful lives. Our endowment will provide the opportunity for each family in our church to do the same over the next few years if they are so willing.
How you can bless others across the world by joining us in supporting Lutheran World Relief’s and the LCMS’ joint Lutheran Malaria Initiative.
Now, my friends, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesian 1:3-6
09-01-12 Telling the Story
Deuteronomy 6:20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
Someone had to point this out to me, but do you notice how Moses instructs the Hebrew people to answer their children’s questions about why they do what they do and why they believe what they believe? Tell them a story! Tell them what God has done for them. Tell them how God has been with them throughout their history. Tell them all the wonderful deeds God performed for them. Tell them how much God cares about them.
I sadly don’t always first think to tell a story when asked a question about God. Jesus did, though. It was his chief way of teaching. The power of stories (whether true or as parables) lies in the teller’s ability to include the listener in their story, bringing them into their own life. When we hear a story we feel included in both the answer to our question and the life of the person telling the story. It is both instructive and unifying when done properly. Moses teaches us to teach by inviting people into the story of God working in, with and for His people.
Telling God’s story is also great for the one telling the story, as we begin to realize how connected we are to what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do long after we are gone from this earth. We recognize someone has come before who invited us and included us in the story. If the story is to continue we must invite and include someone else in the story.
From the calling of Abraham until now the way of faith has been inviting others and including them in the story of God’s work of salvation in humanity. We are always one generation away from the story stopping, and praise God he has worked in every generation to pass it on to the next. We see in our current culture a great challenge in passing on the story-not the worst in history but nonetheless greater than it has been in a few generations.
If the story is to continue, people of faith like you and I must invite another generation into the story of God working His salvation through history. We must intentionally invest in their lives and pass on what we have been given, so they can do so for the next. We need to disciple, to mentor others in faith and life, trusting that God, who is faithful and powerful, will use our efforts to build His kingdom and bear fruit that will last for eternity. The results we will entrust to God’s hands; He has always and will always make things new and fruitful.
We have made it our goal this year to focus on mentoring one another, highlighting how mentoring is already at the foundation of our churches ministries and dedicating a great deal of our church’s energy and resources to mentoring one another inside and outside our church walls. We plan to encourage, equip, and offer opportunities to each other so that we can excel in passing on the story of God to the younger generations. We will be faithful to God’s call of investing in other’s lives, and trust that God will bear fruit in this work in His timing.
06-01-12 Enjoy Loving
Rom. 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Do you feel “obligated?” What do you feel obligated to do? I can only speak for myself, but I am not always the most motivated of people when I do things out of obligation, the way I normally think of the word, anyway. Yet I do know that much good is done in this world when we do what we are obligated to do.
How much stronger would our nation be if each citizen lived in such a way that government would be unnecessary? How many marriages would be saved if we followed our vows fully, loving and honoring our spouse each day as we promised? How many businesses, schools, and churches would function at a higher level if we all did what we were obligated to do?
In one sense “obligation” refers to a debt we owe others, something we need to repay (a bummer if we owe money, which is perhaps why we don’t like the word). But if we owe love or hope or joy, obligation can actually be a very good thing to repay. This is why Paul states in Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
As you can see in Romans 1:14, Paul felt a sense of obligation to love others and share the gospel. He didn’t care whether it was Jews or Greeks, didn’t care if they were rich or poor, didn’t care if they were Christian or hadn’t yet found the hope found in Jesus Christ. He wanted to share the joy he had found in Christ, the joy he felt in his life, with all those he met.
Paul also recognized that coming together, even when out of obligation at times, is a powerful opportunity to share life together, encourage one another, and support one another (Romans 1:12). This still happens today when we gather together in groups to build each other up and experience personal and corporate growth in community.
I’d encourage you to let this be a summer where your small group gathers to encourage one another and strengthen each other. I’d encourage you to take the opportunities that summer allows to bring people together and build relationships between your churched and unchurched friends which just may result in those you care about coming to faith. Relax, though. The only thing you are “obligated” to do is love one another. That’s my kind of obligation.
Have a great summer.
04-01-12 He Is Risen
1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
It is that serious, my friends. All of Scripture points to Christ. The Old Testament prepares us for His coming, the New Testament declares what He did for us and how we are to believe in Him and live in that faith. Jesus was very clear about His purpose: He came to seek and save the lost. We were all lost in our sin, and we are saved by Christ taking on our sin and paying the penalty for our sin: which for Him was death on a cross (For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21) Yet the power of sin, death, and hell was nothing to Jesus Christ, and he rose from the grave on the first Easter, demonstrating that our faith in Him is well placed, for reconciliation to God and eternal life is promised to all who call on Christ.
All the promises in Scripture in regard to hope, to forgiveness, to life, and to eternal life are vain-even lies-if Christ did not get out of the grave. We are a club filled with fools if Jesus did not die on that cross and walk out of the tomb on His own power on the third day. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul actually tells us we are to be pitied by other people if our hope is for this life only (I’d encourage you to read the whole chapter).
But we are not to be pitied. Our hope is an eternal one that rests on the promises God has given to us in His word and in the fact of the Resurrection, the moment Christ conquered all and showed He lives and reigns eternally. Because not even death has power over Christ, there is nothing this world can throw at us, be it disease, disaster, or death, that we need fear. We can walk in confidence, with a solid peace, hope and joy, knowing Christ has won a victory for us over any and everything that may try to tear us down. Any affliction we bear is merely a “momentary and light affliction” that is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us through Jesus Christ.
This Easter come and worship our Lord and Savior, rejoicing in the Resurrection and filled with hope for what it means for each and every person that calls on Christ as Lord and Savior. There is nothing more important than this solitary truth that resonates through history: Christ has conquered death and the grave and given the same promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him. It is worth living each day of our lives rejoicing in this hope, and certainly worth sharing that hope with others.
He is Risen!
02-01-12 - Knock, Knock! Who’s There!
Have you ever wondered why the Magi left Jerusalem alone? I’m talking about the wise men from the east who arrived in Jerusalem with news that the heavens (stars) had revealed to them that a great king, the long promised Savior, had been born. The bible scholars in King Herod’s court revealed to the Magi that the Savior was to be born in Bethlehem, and so the Magi travelled on — with no one accompanying them!
Now I get that the folks in Jerusalem may have thought these Magi were merely crackpots from the east rather than wise dignitaries. But the biblical text (Matthew 2) seems to indicate their arrival in Jerusalem caused quite a stir, enough of a stir that you would think someone who heard their story would want to find out if the promised Messiah had truly come. But nobody left with them. What is going on here?
I fear that what occurred in Jerusalem in those days occurs in our own lives each and every day. The people of Jerusalem who knew the impor-tance of who and what the Magi were seeking yet turned away and went about their day to day business are not so unlike you and I. Something amazing was happening and they could hardly be disturbed from their normal routine. God was changing the world as we know it and the “cheer meter” raised up a few notches and quickly fell back to normal. They allowed themselves to be distracted by their own cares and concerns. They didn’t take the time to travel and be overjoyed with the King of kings.
My friends, this is why Jesus bids us to slow our lives down and pray. Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him,and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20). Jesus continually stands at the door of our hearts, minds, and souls and seeks to have us pray and commune with Him. He seeks to have us join Him. Jesus seeks to join with us in our life’s journey. There are perhaps times when He knocks the door down for our own good, but it appears He is normally far more respecting of our choices than that. Sadly, we often hear the knock but choose to ignore the person at the door. Yet He stands and knocks, not for His sake, but for ours.
Christ knocks so that we may open our lives to Him and experience the true joy that only exists when we deeply connect with Him. He knocks so that He can give us His love, mercy, strength, and power any moment we need them. He knocks so that we will not be alone. He knocks because He knows this is what we are made for, and He knocks to be heard over the din with which we have surrounded ourselves. Understand that God truly wants us to be fruitful and multiply, to be productive in our work and service to church and community, but never at the expense of our abiding relation-ship with Him (John 15:4-10).
Open the door this month, St. Andrews. Allow Christ to enter your hearts, minds and souls deeply and powerfully. Allow Him access to all your cares and concerns, and seek His grace, mercy, wisdom and power so you may be encouraged to fight the good fight of our faith. He has graciously given us the ability and the opportunity to pray, let us not be distracted from this great gift but offer ourselves to Him as He has offered Himself to us.
Let us pray,