Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In everything adorn the doctrine of God

In writing to Titus, Paul brings forward an interesting aspect of life that we don't think of too often. He encourages all people, no matter their station in life to remember that all that they do is to reflect their faith in God and be in accord with the sound teaching/doctrine that we have received from those who have gone before us. (That line made me think of All Saints' Day, which is only 2 days away on Nov. 1st, as well as the importance of realizing that it isn't up to us to make up new doctrine or teachings.)

Paul's words to Titus, "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine," (Titus 2:1 ESV) are words that are oft quoted concerning the importance of the pastor and teacher to watch carefully what is being taught on all levels of life. But he goes on with other words that I think are very telling for all people to pay attention to in their lives. He writes concerning older men, older women, younger men, and slaves. In doing so, we read, "...that the word of God may not be reviled" (2:5b); "...having nothing evil to say about us" (2:8b); and "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." (2:10 b) Everyone, no matter their station of life, are to life a life that reflects their faith in God. Not only is it to reflect their faith but also that which they profess - which is called doctrine or teaching.

Too often we live our lives as though it doesn't matter what we say or do as long as we believe in Jesus as our Savior. The focus is upon our personal faith and what we believe. We don't think about how what we do, how we live, what we say, is to be a reflection of that which we believe (which is called doctrine). You might say, "But I am not a theologian." So what! You don't have to be theologian to live a life that reflects that which you believe.

You are a witness to Christ and what He has given us in His Word. How you live reflects Christ. What you say, what you do, tells others what you believe. You can say, "I believe in Jesus as my Savior," but when your life and your words reflect the prince of this world and the sinfulness of this age, then your words are trumped. People will listen to what you say after you say you believe. That becomes the reflection of your heart.

And that is the challenge of living as a Christian. We are called to live as a Christian each and every day, in all that we do and say. Of course, we are going to sin. everyone sins. Being a Christian doesn't mean you are perfect every moment of the day, but it does mean that you are forgiven in Christ Jesus. But knowing this also means that you will do all you can, guided by the Holy Spirit, strengthened by Word and Sacrament, to live as a child of God, living according to that true doctrine/teaching that you have been taught.

What is the purpose of that kind of life? "...that in everything [you] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." (2:10b) In everything your life is to be a reflection of God and not the world. That is truly a challenge that only the Spirit can help us to meet.

Ramblings, yep, they are ramblings this morning. Not sure that they came out like I was thinking. I pray your day will reflect the doctrine of God our Savior.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trust in the Lord

This morning I was reading Psalm 115. The Psalms are amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how these words that were written so long ago can still have an impact upon the lives of people here in the 21st century. That is the power of the Holy Spirit working to inspire the writers of the books of the Bible. What an amazing God we truly have!

The Psalmist writes: "O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield." (Ps. 115:9-11) The phrase that just kept jumping out at me is "trust in the Lord." Those words are the words that I would like to consider this morning. "Trust in the Lord!"

It isn't always easy to trust in the Lord. The situations of life make it challenging. There are many who would point to that which is going on your life and tell you, "Trust in yourself. Trust in the doctor. Trust in your family. Trust in your friends." That advice leaves you empty, like a tree without leaves in the midst of winter. The emptiness of the branches make it hard to find shade from the heat of the noonday sun, so the advice of one who points you something or someone other than the Lord God almighty. He alone is able to give you comfort and strength in the trials and tribulations of your life. He alone is able to lift you from the despair of the day.

BUT! you may cry out, but the problem is still there! It hasn't left. He hasn't healed me or my loved one. He hasn't give me a job. He hasn't made the frustration go away. He hasn't done what I asked Him to do! How can you say that He is still right there, helping me? He isn't! He hasn't! That must mean He can't!

Therein lies the problem. The challenge of the Psalm is found in that very thought. To trust in the Lord is not to make Him a magical genii that will make all things better, that will solve all your problems and make your life all that you want it to be. I believe that we have elevated ourselves to the point of becoming 'godlike' so that we believe that what we want is what needs to happen. We have lost the thought that our God is one who looks beyond the moment, the present, which holds many struggles and pains, trials and temptations, problems and sickness, and a whole host of other things that we can't even name (or perhaps don't want to because we are afraid to even say/think of them because they just "might" come true). We have a warped understanding of God. We have remade God in our image and then, when that newly made God doesn't act the way that we want Him to act, when He doesn't do what we want Him to do, we get upset, frustrated, and angry with Him and cry "Foul! I didn't sign on for a God that doesn't do what I want, when I want. I am not so sure that I can trust in this type of God." And in anger, pain, bitterness, and frustration, we shuffle off to Buffalo without looking back upon the God we have made that has disappointed us.

"Trust in the Lord!" Those words call us to set aside ourselves and our ways and to turn to the God of the universe, the God who has made all things, who has loved all things, who has saved all things. We are to trust in the God who has reached out to us, not by making us become like Him but by becoming like us. We are to trust in the God who has sent His Son into this world to suffer (yes, suffer, and much more than we have ever suffered) and to die for each of us. Yet, that is not the full story. He also rose again on the 3rd day, rising from the dead to give new life who all that believe in Him and all who trust in Him.

For you see the fullness of what Christ Jesus has done is that He did die but He also rose again. It is in that resurrection, in that new life, that we are given new life, new hope and new future. To trust is the Lord is to have the old self put to death (with all its demands that make it desire to become the controlling of all things) and the new self come forth. To trust in the Lord is to actually trust that He is God and I am not. It means that even when things don't go the way that I think that they should, I know that God is still in control and knows what is best for my life in this situation. It means believing in God and not myself.

That is the challenge. I am not God. I am not in control. I do not know what is the best for my life. I may suffer. I may become ill. I may lose someone or something important in my life. But I trust that God is still God, He still loves me and cares for me. No matter what happens, how things play out, God is still God and I still trust in Him.

That is not easy. Satan doesn't want us to live that way. Our sinful nature doesn't want us to live that way. People around us don't want us to live that way. That is where the Psalm, the Word, and faith begin to really come together to guide our lives.

"Trust in the Lord!"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


What is the local congregation about? Fellowship in Christ. In those words we find what the congregation is to be about. It begins in Christ - the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah, the One who will come again. In Christ we find our life, our being, our present and our future. In Christ our past is forgiven (forgotten by Him but held onto by us so that we do not repeat the action of the past and make it an action of the present or future). Day in and day out, we are to be about Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. If we proclaim anything other than Jesus Christ, Him crucified and risen, we are preaching a gospel that is not the Christ of Scripture. So the congregation is about Christ, receiving daily life from Him alone.

In this Christ, we have fellowship - with Him and with one another. To proclaim Christ without living in the oneness, the fellowship of the body of Christ, is to proclaim a Christ that has no impact upon our lives. Who He is, what He has done, what He is doing and what He shall do (this sounds much like the One found in the Revelation, the "One who is, who was and who is to come") impacts our fellowship with one another. If I am righteous, then I can treat you as one who is not. But if I fully understand that I live under the grace of Christ because I am unrighteous, a lost and condemned sinner, one who has been forgiven in Christ, not because of what I have done but what He has done and still does for me, then I will live as one who loves others who themselves are just like me, forgiven sinners under the love of Christ. This makes us "fellows" on the same path, traveling the same way, being loved by the same Lord and lifted up by the same Spirit. We are in a oneness with each other in Christ.

That is the fellowship that we tasted of last night at the Mother/Daughter/Friend Salad Supper. That is the fellowship that we drunk deeply of over the weekend at the SID Junior High Youth Gathering at Camp Wartburg. And that is the fellowship that flows freely each weekend as we join in worship on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Together in worship, we fellowship around the words of Christ and His body and blood in the Sacrament. The focus is not upon us but upon Him. We look not to each other for strength or forgiveness but to Christ alone for that strength and forgiveness. We look to each other as fellow travelers upon this rough and difficult road called life. The fellowship we have with each other, shown as we sit around tables, laughing, talking, eating and praising God by our lives, the fellowship that we have as we lift up our hearts in prayer or our voices in songs of praise and thanksgiving, the fellowship we have as we kneel at the altar comes from the love of Christ and all that He is for each of us.

I greatly enjoyed last night. The M/D/F dinner is always a highlight of the month of October. It is so wonderful so see so many people talking, laughing and eating together, especially as I realize that it is taking place because we are one in Christ, we have fellowship with each other coming from a oneness we have with each other. As I looked out on all the faces of the women gathered and the men serving, I was filled with a warmness. That warmness was love, the love of Christ that leads my heart to love each and every one of you that were there. It lead my heart to ache at the thought of those who were not able to be present for whatever reason. I longed for those who were missing and rejoiced in those who were present. I give thanks for the women who put it together. I lift up my heart in praise to God for those who were present, those who were laughing and talking, those who were eating and rejoicing, those who were living in the love and fellowship of Christ.

Yes, last night was fun. It was uplifting. It filled my heart with hope. It showed me Christ is in our midst. He is working in wonderful ways. He is giving us fellowship - in Him and with each other. Thanks for last night. It was worth every moment. I look forward to next year's dinner. And I look forward to this weekend when we will fellowship once again.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shine like lights in the world

I was reading Philippians again. We are studying this letter in our Sunday morning Bible class. If you haven't joined us, I would encourage you to do so. We are doing an overview of the Epistles, learning their historical setting and the importance of their writing. It has been an enlightening and fascinating journey. Come and journey with us.

As I was reading through Philippians again, I came across the following section: "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Philippians 2:14-16 ESV) There are many things that can be said about these verses but the one thing i would like to focus on this morning is the fact that we are called to "shine as lights in the world."

"This little gospel light of mine, I'm going to let it shine..." Remember singing that in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School? It is a happy little song. Our children enjoy singing it with their "gospel lights" held up for all to see. The children let their lights shine in the the world. We look at them and smile. Often we think, "That will change as they grow up and the shine is worn off their lives."

The shine does get worn off. It is worn off by this "crooked and twisted generation" in which they live. Our world is crooked and twisted. Sin has taken hold and twists and turns and bends and breaks the wonder of this world that our Lord has created. The beauty is destroyed by the ugliness of sin. (Think about the wonder of the sexual relationship which the Lord has given to a man and a woman in marriage and how this crooked and twisted generation has made that into something vulgar and twisted.) Our children grow up with the shine of faith and then the world twists it and bends it and tries to break it.

You, as a parents, a teacher, a mentor, a Christian who has gone through the time, are called to continue to shine like a light in this world. Those little ones are looking to you, someone who has been living in this crooked and twisted world, for guidance in how to live the life of faith. Your faith is to shine for those little ones (and not so little ones) to see. Your light of faith is to shine so that in this dark world of sin there is a light that can be looked at - the light of Christ, shining for all to see, so that they may praise your Father who is in heaven.

Ask yourself this question: "Is the light of faith shining brightly in all I say and do? Am I reflecting Christ today as I go about my day? If that child, with their little gospel light in hand, was to watch me, listen to me or reflect me today, would their gospel light still shine brightly or would they be hiding under the bush? (Oh no!) As Paul was writing to the Philippians, he was encouraging them to remain shining brightly in this dark world. I would encourage you to do the same. Hold up your gospel light. Let it shine.

And then go to work, shining in the light of Christ. Go to school, shining in the light of Christ. Go to the store, to the mall, to the gym, wherever you need to go, and let the light of Christ shine brightly in this crooked and twisted generation. Instead of moaning about how wicked things are, let the light of Christ shine in your life for others to see.

"All around the neighborhood, I'm going to let it shine..." May the Holy Spirit guide you so that the light will shine all around your neighborhood.