Sunday, April 18, 2010

Acts 5 - Obey God or Man?

On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, I preached on Acts 5 and John 20. The Acts 5 passage was when Peter and the others were arrested in Jerusalem for preaching the message of the gospel - that He was put to death by the Jews, and God raised Him from the dead. The high priest and the Sadducees were offended and upset with this teaching and therefore commanded the disciples to no longer teach such things. The disciples replied "We must obey God rather than man." They stood strong in front of those who were opposed to the message of the Gospel. They kept proclaiming Jesus Christ in the face of persecution.

Following that sermon, I was asked about an interesting question - the disciples and early Christians did not fear persecution nor went into hiding despite the opposition. What about those in say, the Soviet Union, who went underground to avoid persecution and continued to worship and spread the gospel on the quiet? Were they wrong for doing this? Should they have done like the disciples and faced the persecution?

This is really a moral question. I think that Dieterich Bonhoeffer faced such a question in Nazi Germany. He struggled with joining the resistance against Hitler. He finally decided that he could join in with them - though he did not believe that he would force all people to do the same thing. He left it up to the individual to make that decision for himself/herself.

So it is during times of persecution. There will be those who stand out publicly and take the penalty for acting is such a way. They do it for consciences sake. At the same time, there will be those who do go "underground" and continue to hold firm to their faith. They do it for consciences sake as well. Neither is wrong. They are doing what they believe the Lord would have them do.

Even in the early church, there were times and places where the church did not meet publicly. Instead they were an "underground" church in order to avoid the persecution. There are times to stand out and times to blend into the background.

The joy that we have is that when the Soviet Union broke apart, those underground Christians came out into the public once again, showing that even while communism tried to kill Christianity, the saying the Lord came true - not even the gates of hell itself shall prevail against the Church of God. We praise God for that very fact.

I hope that helps out with the question.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


There has been talk about making it illegal to protest the funerals of servicemen - the Baptist church from Kansas (or is it Nebraska? I don't remember. They are such a fringe group and so radical that no one really pays them heed until now.). They show up at funerals of those killed in Iraq or some other place and protest. They say that those who die do so because it is God's judgment against the USA not taking a harder stance against homosexuality.

Are they nuts? The simple answer is - yes. The death of the men and women in the military is not God's judgment against us because we accept homosexuality. There are many of us who still follow the Word of God and do not agree that homosexuality is the way that God wants for people. It is wrong. To engage in same-sex relations, even if it is monogamous, is wrong. God condemns it. People should not engage in it.

But having said that, does that mean God is judging the USA because we have been lax and even supportive of this behavior? There are Christian churches who have accepted it as a way of life - does God bring judgment on them? To say such things is like saying that AIDS is God's punishment upon the homosexual community. Once again - are you nuts?

That is not what the Scriptures teach. Nor should it be something that we support or promote. Having said that, understand that I do not say that the lifestyle is all right. It is just as wrong for couples of the same sex to engage in sexual activity as it is for heterosexual couples to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. Both are wrong. Both are going on. To take the thought of the Baptist church, we would have to say that God is bringing judgment on the USA by letting the servicemen get killed because couples are living together outside of marriage and because couples are engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage. Do they do that? No. Why not? Because they have an ax to grind against the homosexual community. That is wrong.

Instead of attacking the homosexual community, they should be bringing the message of Christ to them. But then again, isn't that what each Christian church should be doing against each sin? We reach out to the sinner with the words of both Law and Gospel. You start with the Law, showing the sin and helping the sinner to understand that the activity - whatever it might be, homosexual, heterosexual, drinking to the excess, looking at pornography on the Internet. Then, with much prayer and assistance from the Holy Spirit, when the person admits their sin and repents of it, you apply the loving balm of the Gospel.

Protest a funeral? That doesn't do anything at all except upset people - it even upsets those of us who agree that homosexuality is a sin. Instead of going to the funerals and making a mockery of Christians, they should be there to help those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and then go home and clean up their own backyard. Sin is everywhere. Why do we single one out as worse than another. Let's all work together with one purpose, to show the love of Christ, to act in a Christ-like fashion and to proclaim the message of life and hope. That is what Easter itself is all about.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday morning thoughts

"Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38-39 ESV) Those are some wonderful words to start this week (I know it is Tuesday but school is back in session today and it seems like the start of the week).

The question is asked, "What difference does Easter make?" Right here, in these words, you see the difference. Everything that holds you in bondage - the fear, the sorrow, the temptation, the pain, the suffering, you name it - that thing, that feeling, that action that holds you in bondage, you are given freedom through this one Man who rose from the dead on the 3rd day. It is through His life that you are given life. It is through the freedom He had as He broke the bonds of the grave that you are given freedom. It is through faith in Him, in the risen and living Jesus Christ alone, that you are given this freedom.

The people in Pisidian Antioch heard this message and rejoiced. They couldn't get enough of it. They were in bondage under the law, trying to free themselves only to find that they were mired deeper and deeper in their sinful actions. Paul came and proclaimed this message of freedom. They rejoiced and wanted to hear more.

What mires you? What holds you down? What keeps you from the true free life that Christ is bringing to you today? Ask yourself, "Is that bigger and stronger than Jesus?" He beat the grave! He rose when all of us will stay put (until the Last Day). He is the One who gives true freedom. Why do you doubt? Are you like Thomas? You just can't get your mind around it because it seems so "out there"? Stop doubting and believe. "I can't. It just seems...too good to be true, too impossible, too something." Why? Is it because you think God is too small and too unable to do such a powerful thing? Stop doubting and believe. I just...just what? Why do you refuse to believe? Answer that question and then come back and we will talk some more.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!