Monday, 4 June 2012

Where do we find certainty?

In Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 the Preacher says, "The righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God, and man does not know if he is worthy of love or hatred, but all things are kept uncertain in the future."

The works of man are uncertain.  We labour and toil, but we do not know if God is pleased with what we do simply based on our works.  Whether you are faithful or faithless, things turn out equally here on earth.  The godless man gets promoted.  The godly man gets promoted.  Trusting in our works is futile and will lead us to despair.

However, God has made it this way on purpose.  He does not want us to look to ourselves and what we have done, but to Him.  His Word is certain.  His Word has declared the present and the future.  We know how He feels towards us because He tells us in His Word.  He promises us the benefits of His Son, that His death and resurrection are ours by faith.  By faith we know that God is pleased with us, that He is pleased with our works, that He has prepared rewards for us in heaven that cannot be compared with any earthly gains.

Our certainty rests in God.  Our righteousness rests in God.  Our life and very being rests in God.  Let us let it rest in Him.  Let us hold onto Him and all that He does for us and forgo all else.  He has declared what will be.  And His Word is certain.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What does it mean to "have a god"?

The first commandment reads, "You shall have no other gods."

But what does it mean to "have a god"?

Luther writes in the Large Catechism, "Many a person thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and possessions.  He trusts in them and boasts about them.  Such a person has a god by the name of 'Mammon'."  He also writes, "So too, whoever trusts and boasts that he has great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor also has a god.  But it is not the true and only God."

"Having a god" means to have something in which the heart trusts entirely.  Everyone has a god.  But not everyone has the true and only God.

Which 'gods' do you have?  What things do you rely upon?  What things do you think about to make yourself feel secure?

God forbids us from trusting in things other than Him.  But He doesn't do this to harm us, but to protect us from relying upon things that are temporary.  Should we 'have gods' that will not protect and defend us in the end, how could a loving God allow us to trust in them without warning us?

God commands us to hold Him alone as god.  For our safety.  For our good.  And because He loves us.  He is the only One who has created, and He is the only One who saves.  Trust in the Lord, for He alone  is faithful as His holy death and resurrection prove.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Why should we fear God?

We should fear and love God...

Sometimes we have a hard time understanding how fear and love can go together.

The fear of the LORD that is consistently referred to in the Bible is not the same as other types of fear that may immediately come to mind.

We do not fear God the way we fear being in a field with an angry lion.
We do not fear God the way we fear the thought of a ghost, or an evil spirit.

We fear God because it is not in our power to take hold of grace.  He alone can save, and we are at His mercy.  The fear of the LORD goes beyond respect, it goes beyond awe - the fear of the LORD is a total surrender of control.  It is the acknowledgement that God alone holds the outcome of your existence.

His Word on this matter brings both fear and love. 

"Just as I do not want a sinner," He says, "so I do not want the death of a sinner.  But if you have been driven to sin by the wickedness of the devil, and if the Law condemns you and the devil hurls his flaming darts at you and tries to drive you into hell, I do not want you to die or to despair.  No, I want you to flee for refuge to Christ the Savior, who does not want the death of a sinner, just as He does not want a sinner either." ~ Martin Luther

In Christ we fear and love God.  Christ lived a life of fear and love towards His heavenly Father, and in Him we have His life.  Flee to Christ the Savior for refuge, for without His life we have neither fear nor love, but only despair.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Why don't we see more results?

When it comes to ministry we are always tempted to look for the results of our efforts, or the success of the ministry.  We see success in numbers and we cannot help but count and compare.

But is this the way God measures success?  What is His focus?

In John 6:66, the apostle writes, "After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him."  Jesus had continued preaching the same message, but He began losing some of His following.  If we were to look at this with human eyes today, we would say that He must not be teaching the truth, or He needs to do something different to attract the youth.  But did Jesus change His message?  Did He change His style?  No, because He does not measure success the way we do.  He is not focused on the same things as us.

St. Paul provides a fuller explanation.  He says, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3)  Hidden.  That is to say, you cannot see it.  We cannot see who has faith, and who acts like they have faith.  We cannot see these deep spiritual things, and thank God that they are hidden from us.  But if they are hidden, then we are not supposed to focus on them.

What then should we focus on, if not results?

The answer is Service.  Focus on Service.  Focus on the serving, not on the result of the serving.  Serve your neighbour.  Serve your friends and your family.  Serve your Lord, and let Him take care of the results.  After all as St. Paul says, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

This new focus on service frees us from the concerns of success.  We can freely serve knowing that the Lord will bring growth as He sees fit.  Thanks be to God, that He gives us the opportunity to serve in freedom.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

What should I pray for?

St. Paul wrote many letters to young congregations.  In these letters, he told them he had been praying for them.  Interestingly enough, he prayed almost the exact same thing for each congregation.  He prayed that they would:

Grow and increase in all spiritual wisdom and knowledge of what God wants, in order that their lives may display His will in all things.

This is an excellent thing to pray for - for yourself - for your family - for your church family.  May God give us all a deeper and growing knowledge of what He wants, that we may show all of creation His good and gracious will.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Truth is Always Brave

The topic at hand for today is "The Truth".

Does it speak up for itself?  When falsehood is present does it point that that falsehood out?  Can it remain silent in the presence of lies?

Answer: The Truth is Always Brave. 

The truth does not hide, but like a city on top of a hill - it cannot be hid.  The truth is not afraid.  The truth is not timid.  The truth does not apologize.  The truth does not compromise.  Why? 

Because it is the truth. 

It can stand amidst threats.  It can endure against slander.  It always shows itself true in the end.

Death could not even hold Christ in the grave, because the truth lives.  So regardless of what situation you are in, regardless of how afraid you might be, regardless of what may come against you - speak the truth in a loving way, because the truth is always brave.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day?

Today is Feb. 14th, the day that the Western world traditionally celebrates Valentine's Day.  We all know the excitement that has become Valentine's Day, but where did it come from?  Why do we express our love on this day?

St. Valentine was a physician and priest who lived in Rome in the third century.  He was a martyr, which means he was murdered for believing in Jesus Christ.  On this day in AD 270, Feb. 14th, Valentine was executed for his Christian faith, but it was what he did just before his death that has created our modern day celebration.  He left a note of encouragement for the child of his jailer, a note that he wrote on an irregularly shaped piece of paper.  This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is really a story about faith, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For St. Valentine trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ so much, that he was willing to be put to death for it himself.  The encouraging note he wrote shows that the love St. Valentine had received from His Savior Jesus, overflowed to those around him, even to the child of the man preparing him for execution.  May the Lord encourage us also by this example of faith, that we may be strengthened in knowing we are not alone in our walk with our ever-present God, but are surrounded by a growing cloud of witnesses.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Does God exist?

When people say in their hearts: "There is no God" they create a worldview of denial.  Their mind is thinking about denying things as opposed to affirming things.  They must feed this idea of their hearts with more and more negative things.  They must continue to prove what "is not."  They must continue to deny what "is."  All of life becomes about denying, proving things wrong and putting things down.
Down is a fitting direction for such a heart.

However, when people believe in their hearts: There is a God and His Name is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they create a worldview of affirmation.  Their mind is thinking about affirming things.  They get to feed this idea of their hearts with more and more positive things.  They get to focus on what "is."  All of life becomes one constant affirmation which they are receiving from God.
Up is a fitting direction for such a heart.

Does God exist?  The answer determines the direction of your life.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Why does God allow suffering?

Many people often ask the question:  How does a good God allow so much suffering?

Luther wrote: "He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering.  Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and  in general, good to evil.  These are the people whom the apostle calls "enemies of the cross of Christ" [Phil 3:8], for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works.  Thus they call the good of the cross evil and the evil of a deed good."

As humans, we seem to think we understand when something is "good" or "bad/evil."  But then we see our God hanging on a cross, tortured beyond recognition, and publicly humiliated before everyone.  As Christians we call this day, "Good Friday."  But it seems like total defeat.  Total shame.  Total failure.  Already we must realize that we don't understand the first thing about suffering, but we can be certain about one thing...

God has only revealed Himself to us in the suffering and death of His Son.  Christ has suffered everything that everyone has ever suffered.  He does not desire suffering any more than any of us, but His passion for our salvation, His deep compassion, His undying love compells Him to endure it on our behalf.  His cross brings meaning to our suffering.  It brings purpose.  Value.  And when that final day comes - it will bring glory.

God brings immeasurably more salvation through His suffering than His glory, and the same is true of our suffering.  Why does God allow suffering?  Because He is able to use our temporary suffering for eternal good.  Thanks be to God.