Monday, November 21, 2011

The King Shall Come

The Church Year has come to a close. Yesterday was the Last Sunday of the Church Year. For many people, that means absolutely nothing. I must admit that when I first began in the ministry, I followed the Church Year out of obligation. It was what I was to do as a pastor in the Lutheran Church. After all, the LC-MS is a liturgical church that follows the Church Year faithfully. I felt that I must do it out of obligation. But as I have walked through the Church Year again and again I have found more and more meaning to following it. So when I find myself ending one year and beginning another, it is almost more important to me than when the calendar year changes. The years will march on and in reality, there is not much change that happens other than having to learn to write a new date.

I hope that isn't the way you feel about the Church Year - that it marches on again and again without much changing. Amazing things happen during this year. Advent - with the emphasis on the coming of the Lord. Christmas - the celebration of the birth of the Christ-child. Epiphany - focusing us Christ for the nations, true God, true man, Savior of all. Transfiguration Sunday - a powerful glimpse of the glory of Jesus as He prepares for His death. Lent - somber yet touching, upsetting yet uplifting. Easter - He is risen! Alleluia! So too shall we rise! Ascension - all but forgotten yet setting the stage for the return of Christ, as He sits down at the right hand of the Father. Pentecost - the coming of the Spirit, the birth of the Church, the fire of faith burning brightly. Trinity - a God beyond all other gods, Triune, eternal. Pentecost season - long, green, growth, like the raising of a field of corn, seed planted, sprouting, growing, greening, maturing, bearing fruit. Last Sunday of the Church Year - the harvest!

That is right, the harvest! That Sunday shows us what our lives is to be all about - leading us to that one point when the King shall come and all eyes will see Him. Never again will there be any doubt who is God. He is the immortal, invisible (then made visible) God who is the eternal Judge. We will know at that moment when all eyes see Him coming on the clouds that there is one Savior, Jesus Christ. This world that tries to convince us that all religions are the same will know at that moment that they are not all the same. As the sheep are separated from the goats, as the believers are separated from the unbelievers, there will be great rejoicing and great mourning. That is the harvest. The Lord will send His angels to the four corners of the world to gather the elect and they will brought into the barn while the chaff, the unbelievers will be cast into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. A great and wonderful harvest!

It will also be terrifying - for those who do not believe. Which leads us to the point that we must face - we are called to share the Gospel message in our lives. People are dying and going to hell! I know that we are not to say that in today's world. Family members will be upset. Friends will be shocked. I will be told that I am unloving and uncaring to say that. But it is the truth. Why would do I say it? Because if I don't, then I am not being faithful to my Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot give His glory to anyone else. I cannot say that someone who does not believe in Him will receive His righteousness because it would be a lie and would be taking the words of my Lord and twisting them just like the devil does. I will not! I can not! Why? Because I love my Lord Jesus Christ and will not give up His word for the political correctness of this age.

I do not want anyone to be damned to hell. So I continue to proclaim the message of Christ. I proclaim the message that there is only one Savior, Jesus Christ. Believe in Him and you will be saved. You, yes you! are called to share that message in your life. You are called to share it with your family this Thanksgiving weekend. You are called to live it each day in your office or classroom. There is no other name in heaven or on earth or under the earth whereby we must be saved.

The King shall come. The harvest will be complete. The Last Sunday of the Church Year has passed (and unless the King comes before this next weekend, the new Church Year will begin with Advent once again).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fruit of the Spirit - Peace

Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (ESV)

 The theme verse for the 2011-2012 academic school year at St. Paul’s is a familiar verse for many of us. We have heard often of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” These “fruit” will be what is used to find our “Student of the Month.” Each month we will be looking at one of the “fruit” and will be considering the student that best fits that “fruit.” In order for us to be prepared to make this decision, it would be good for us to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest these words for ourselves.

November – “PEACE”

 As we continue with the fruit of the Spirit we come to the one that seems hard to pin down when you try to apply it into a student’s life. Why is that? Is it because we are trying to find the one student who is so “peaceful” in all that he/she does? Perhaps we can find the one that always works to keep arguments or fights from breaking out. But that doesn’t seem to work either. As I struggled to get my mind around “peace” for the Student of the Month, I found myself turning back to the Word of God and trying to understand what is meant by “peace.”

 I asked myself, “What is this peace we are talking about?” The answer that I found began in John 14:27 where Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” (ESV) So the peace we are looking at is not what the nations try to find as they struggle with war day after day. Nor is it the peace that we try to come up with as Occupy Whatever comes in and tries to get its way even as the cities struggle to uphold some sort of worldly peace in their community. This peace is the deepest peace that comes to the heart of the believer, not by their own desire, but by the power of the Spirit that works through the faith given to each person. This peace must begin in the heart of God.

 And it does. We are fast approaching the Christmas season. That season brings the true sense of peace into our hearts and lives. It is a challenge to find that peace as we hurry and scurry about trying to accomplish our list of things which need to be done before the day of Christmas breaks upon us and we can breathe a sigh of relief that it is over once again. The peace is found in the manger, in the song of the angels, in the visit of the shepherds and in the stillness of the night. The angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is please!” (Luke 2:14 ESV) Peace on earth! There it is – beginning in the heart of God that brings peace into a world that tears itself apart day after day, a world that has its very fabric torn apart as Adam and Eve eat fruit from a forbidden tree. Hiding from God, they know no peace. In the Christ-child, there is no hiding from God. There we know true peace.

 For this peace is the eternal peace that is brought from the heart of God to the believer. We find this as the 3rd of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists. There is no mistake there. You cannot have peace until the love of Christ fills your heart and life and the joy of salvation touches you in that special way that changes how you face each day. With love and joy giving you new glasses through which to see the world, peace comes rushing into the heart and life and guides the believer into a true sense of peace that begins in the relationship with God and carries over into every aspect of life itself. This peace looks upon the cross and sighs contentedly because it knows that right there, in the midst of that terrible, cruel instrument of torture and death, Christ brings peace in a way that is completely different from the world. The world would say, “Come down from the cross and show us how to live our lives.” The heart of faith rejoices to see Him remain on the cross and bring peace with the heavenly Father once again, a peace that had been lost since the Garden.

 That is the peace that is the fruit of the Spirit. After we see that it is that which we have from God as our relationship with Him is changed from Sovereign Judge to Loving Father, we begin to know what Paul writes, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV) This peace gives peace of mind. As we look for the student of the month, we look for one that exhibits this peace of mind in his/her relationship with God.

This peace of mind then leads to peace in relationships. We can see this in Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone…” (ESV) and 1 Peter 3:11 “…let him seek peace and pursue it.” (ESV) The believer that knows the peace of God then makes it his/her goal to be at peace with those around him/her. He doesn’t try to create problems but instead “…puts the best construction on everything” (as we learn from Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment). We follow the direction, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” (Colossians 3:15 ESV) This peace of Christ rules the heart of the student that exhibits this fruit of the Spirit.

 So what do we look for as we look at the fruit of the Spirit? We look for a student that knows the peace of God in his/her heart and that allows that peace to touch the lives of the students around him/her. It is a student that faces the challenges of the day (from school to home to heart) and still shows that he/she is filled with that wonderful, life giving peace that passes all human understanding.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pressing On

Spending a little time in Philippians this morning caused me to think (as God's Word generally does). It is a familiar verse for many people. "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." (Phil. 3:12 ESV) Now I know that you may have heard this expounded on before. I know I have. But it caused me to ask this question, "Do you really press on to take hold of the goal to which Christ has called you?"
You might be asking, "What is that goal?" Paul writes, "...that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3:11 ESV) The goal is not a happy life, a big bank account, a fine house, a good looking spouse, well behaved children, etc. All those things are great to have. In fact they are truly blessings given to us by God Himself for our daily life. But they are not the goal in life. Too many of us have made that our goal. And consequent, we have found that we are never content in life. When I have a new car, it grows old and I desire another new car. When I have a good looking spouse, they grow old and I begin to think that I need a younger, better looking spouse. (I want to say right now that I do not feel that way! Penny is all I need, want or desire in a spouse. I am content!) But when the goal of life is more of the same, then you will never attain that goal.

The goal of life is to attain the resurrection from the dead. The goal is that life eternal with the Father in heaven. The goal is to leave this life and enter into the next. Is that your goal? You don't have to be a downer about this. It isn't that a Christian walks around saying, "I am ready to die. Let me die. I want to die." No, that isn't the way to live life either.

The goal is to press on in Christ. The goal is to strain towards what is coming - through in Christ Jesus. It means that I live each day, not for the things of the world but for the things of Christ. It means that the focus of my heart and life, the desires of my heart, are that which comes from my Lord Jesus Christ. I press on to make it my own. I press on in faith. I look to Christ. I keep my eyes focused on the goal of life - to reach that eternal life with my Lord in heaven.

All the rest of the things I do in life, reflect that goal. As I go about my day, I do it to bring glory to God with the realization that each day is a gift from His hand. Each day I have here on earth is to be lived for Christ. Each day is to be a day of preparation - of my soul for the day He comes for me - and preparation for others - sharing the message of life and love with those I come in contact with so that they too will know the joy and life that comes from Christ Jesus.

I press on today. I have the goal in sight - it is there. When will I reach it? Don't know that. But I do know one thing, "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own!"