Tuesday, December 21, 2010

White Noise

Dictionary.com defines the noun "white noise" this way: Also called white sound. a steady, unvarying, unobtrusive sound, as an electronically produced drone or the sound of rain, used to mask or obliterate unwanted sounds.

We can have theological white noise as well. We drown out the gospel with discussions on other topics. We sound like we are talking about important things, but it is mostly white noise, avoiding Jesus.

Systematic theology is white noise. It is the discussions about God that takes place between the proclamation of God. Even as Christians, we keep Jesus at arm's length. We don't want to hear the real message, so we discuss things that keep Jesus away.
Systematic theology can be used to drown out the real message of God. What is the real message?

The proclamation of the gospel of our Lord and Savior is the real message. That Jesus has reconciled us, and we are free. Be reconciled!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. ~ 2 Corinthians 5

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Singing of Jesus

We met at the church's parking lot early in the morning. It was cold. The hay bales were strategically placed on the flatbed trailer. The silver foil garland was taped around the edge of the trailer. Speakers were put in the back of the pick up, and given a supply source. Microphones were plugged in and checked.

It was time to go get in the line up for the parade. Off we all went downtown to the staging area. Other parishioners arrived in the staging area. We had lots of children to dress up as angels and shepherds. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus arrived, and took their spot on the flatbed. Everyone's excitement was rising. On the sides of the truck were banners that read "Blessings to you from Messiah Lutheran". On the front of the truck we had a gift tag that read, "To YOU, from GOD", with the hood and cab decorated to look like a present. On the manger for baby Jesus was another gift tag, saying the same.

Our small army of parishioners were ready to pass out the magnet puzzles to kids, along with the invitation to our living nativity and church services. Some of the choir sat in the truck bed and we practiced while waiting for the go ahead from the parade marshal. In front of pastor were two boys carrying our sign that read Messiah Lutheran, then Pastor walked, then the float, with our army of walkers. We had 50 people total.

This was a first for me. I could not stop smiling and making eye contact with people watching the parade. I could see people that Jesus loves. We were singing songs of reconciliation, all familiar Christmas Carols. To see faces light up with freedom to say "Merry Christmas" back to us between songs; to see that Jesus loves these people was overwhelming. In a city that most Christians say is spiritually dark, I saw how open and needy people are to hear the Gospel. We kept singing, and some would sing with us, most would smile and wave back. Smile, wave, sing of Jesus, was all I could do. It was wonderful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Today in History

"Mom. We're in lockdown. I'm in the library, in the room in the middle. Someone shot their police guard, took her gun, and ran from the medical hospital in this direction. He's six foot seven, Mom."

Stunned, I didn't know what to say. I wanted to get to the school and get her out. I'm not sure I heard anything else she said.

"Are you okay? Who is with you?"

"I'm okay. I'm really hungry and I have to pee. We can't go to the bathrooms, though. Mina is with me. There were two classes that were in the library. There are five teachers with us."

"How long have you been there?"

"Since 10:30."

"It's 1:00 now. I haven't heard from the school or anybody."

"It will be okay, Maddie. Let others use your phone if they want to call somebody. Call me back. I love you."

"Bye Mom."

That was the first phone call I received today. The television had no reports of what was happening, so I looked on the local t.v. station websites. I found one small article. It confirmed what Madeline reported to me. I called Larry to tell him what was happening. We were still in unbelief or denial. Not sure which.

Then came the second phone call.

"Mom, we're still here. I'm so hungry."

"It's noisy. Are the other kids being loud."

"They're on their phones, too. I'm scared. We've been here so long."

"I know. I've been praying. Now is a good time to pray. Tell Father on the gunman and ask for safety."

"Okay. I'll talk to you again. I love you."

"I love you, too. It will be okay."

I had so much pent up energy, but wanted to stay home. The police did not know where the gunman was. The hospital is in between the school and our home, so I locked all the doors; prayed; did chores; prayed. Then I texted Maddie this verse: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

The school sent out an automated call telling us the school is in lockdown, as the sheriff's department ordered. Another half hour passed. I called Maddie.

"Hi Maddie. You doing alright?"

"Yes. I want to leave. They announced that the man has a hostage over on English Street."

"It is good they know where he is. Now, you know he is not on campus."

"Yeah. I have to go. They're making an announcement. I love you."

"I love you."

The next phone call was from the school. They were releasing students and parents should come pick them up. I texted Maddie "I am on my way."

Maddie called, "Don't come to the usual pick up place. They won't let us go to that part of the campus. I'll meet you at the Dry Cleaners on Soquel."

"See you there."

I was so happy to see her walk up the street. We hugged.

"Where do you want to go? Home, or get some lunch?"

"Lunch, Mom. I'm starving. Can we go to the bakery?"

"Yes, let's go!"

We ordered lunch for Maddie, a coffee for me. She devoured her twice baked potato and iced tea. When she was telling me of the ordeal, she was wiping away tears.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So, I Heard About This Guy

No, this guy didn't walk into a bar. His story is completely different. This guy came from a really large family. All of his half-brothers chased him out of their father's house because his mother was a prostitute. They didn't think he was respectable enough. He ended up being a mercenary. He was a strong warrior. In fact, he was a leader of mercenaries.

Eventually, his brothers and the town they lived in were in trouble. Their enemies wanted to take over their land and the town. Someone approached the mercenary and asked this guy to come lead. Can you imagine? After kicking him out, years later they seek him out to rescue them! What would you do, dear reader?

Lo and behold, the mercenary chastized them. Saying, "After you kicked me out, you want me now to save you? I wasn't good enough for you then, but now I am?"

He relented, heard their pleas, and became their salvation.

Oftentimes, we reluctantly admit our need for our Savior, Jesus Christ. This story of Jephthah gives us yet another picture of our relationship with Jesus. We want to hang onto and harbor our sin, but when we are exposed we see our need for Him. We'd prefer to save ourselves and do it our way, but we cannot. We need Him. We need a mighty warrior who will save us from ourselves.

We become our own worst enemies. We need deliverance from our own pride. We need a mighty warrior who will save us from ourselves. God came to earth. We could see, feel, hear, and touch Him. We rejected Him. We still wanted to keep our sin, so we nailed Him on a cross to die. Yet, He resurrected for us and our sake! For you and me, that is how strong Father's love is for us.

Jesus is our Mighty Warrior, our mercenary who has killed our enemies. He has conquered sin and death because we cannot.

Praise Him!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We were driving home through the winding, mountainous road. It was blustery, but the sun had that beautiful fall light. The big leaves were falling from the deciduous trees. It was like driving through a rainstorm of red, gold, brown, and orange. We cracked the windows open to smell the crisp air.

"Mom, can I play my music?"

Madeline showed me The Blues Travelers' "Run Around", Dispatch's "Open Up", "Flying Horses", and "Bats in the Belfry".

Then the play list went into rap.

"I like Atmosphere because he tells stories."
"You like ballads, then."

More leaves fall. We come to our favorite turn in the road. From there we can see across Monterey Bay when it's clear. It was clear.

"The mountains look like a watercolor painting."
"They do, Mom."
"You have Creedence Clearwater?"
"Yes." M laughs.
"That was my first album. You know what an album is, right?"
"Yes, Mom." Laughs again.

We started singing along with "All Along the Watchtower", and "Purple Haze." Jimi Hendrix, too. There's something about that old rock and roll.

And we kept singing until we got home. I had not heard Madeline sing since elementary school. It was a joyous ride.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Words of Love

"What is the Gospel? How can I be saved?" were the questions asked by the newcomer to the group.

"Predestination says that God chooses who He will save," came one reply.

"Election is how one is saved," replied another sinner.

"The Church tells us we must do penance."

Do you see the problem? What measly, pitiful answers! All the packaged theology stifled the words of love from coming to the fore. The answers were not clear, they were muddied. The replies were not answers at all!

Theology should always bring us to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Theology should never impede the mouths that should announce God's love for us. When theology points us to places other than Jesus, the lover of our soul, it is in need of repair.

The good news that you have been reconciled to God are the words of love from Jesus. Be reconciled!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Golden Calf Days of Yore

Remember the good ol' days? Most of us think they exist. We talk about them fondly. "Life was simpler then. Less complicated and easier to manage." I remember being young and the concerns that plagued me and others over schoolyard politics. Will I be the last one chosen for the dodgeball team? Is Suzy going to try to trip me during jumprope today? Must I suffer that embarrassment again?

Some even go so far as to think the early church had things easy; that those were the good ol' days. A reading through Corinthians should dispel one of the notion that those days were a breeze.

There are days I want to return to my fictitious golden days of yore. The times when I felt I could control God, or manage Him. He was so prettily packaged with a flower, the Calvinist TULIP. I thought it was a sure foundation; I thought it explained God in a very logical, easy-to-understand package.

Now, God is God. He hides from me, except in Jesus. I only know Him through Jesus, The Word and Sacrament. No more peering behind the cross to try to keep Him contained. Trying to look into the why's of God creates speculation. Scripture tells us to avoid speculation. Speculation causes doubt and uncertainty. Clear words are muddied, and sometimes completely turned upside down to mean the exact opposite of the word.

My vision must stop at the Gospel. The best place to stop is at the Gospel. The gospel contains my justification and my sanctification. It is at the cross where Jesus' love for me shines brightest. He loves me, He saves me, He gives me life, He gives me righteousness, He gives me faith. We must return to the assurance in the Gospel. Always.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HTML and Beyond

The text I received on my blackberry shocked me. What my friend once swore off is now being embraced as a ministry. The news was not new to him; only to me. The work I did was being jettisoned by my co-laborer. A kind of grief engulfed me.

Two years we had tried to get this Christian website up and running. The intended use was for edification of ourselves and others. Not knowing how to grow the site it never did much but flounder. The reality was it was a lonesome website to tend.

I now have to decide what to do with the abandoned carcass. Do I give the website a burial now? Do I save the work I did for future date? Do I use it for my own purposes now? It is still left in my hands to deal with, as my partner tosses it out of his mind and has already returned to the place he once rejected.

We are free.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pennies and Stickers

Remember last week when we talked about sin? What did we say about sin? All people have it, it is messy, it is not believing what God says about us, it is a word used in the bible. Think of something wrong you did last week. Maybe you disobeyed your parents, or lied to somebody. Think of one thing, but don't say it out loud.

See these pennies and how dirty they are? Everybody hold one penny, and remember that wrong thing you did this week. Now place the penny back on the plate. Thank you.

I will put this sticker on your forehead, but you cannot touch it with your hands. That sticker represents the thing you did that was wrong. We all have stickers on our faces because we've all sinned. Our hearts are messy on the inside.

Now, let's try to remove that mess, and those stickers. Think really hard and see if those stickers will pop off. Did it work? Think really hard and see if you can undo that sticker. Why can't we undo the bad things we've done in the past?

We do not get any do overs for the bad things we have done. We can't take back our words or actions. Sins stay put, just like those stickers we have on our faces.

But God cleans up those sins for us. I'm going to read you something a King wrote. His name was David. You may have heard of him, he slayed a giant when he was young. He got in big trouble when he became a king. Big, big Trouble! Let's see what David says to God in Psalm 51:

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. `ESV

Father sent Jesus to pay for our sins. All those dots that represent sin are cleansed. Jesus died for our sin, and rose three days later, or came to life again three days later, to make us clean. King David believed Jesus did this for him. I believe Jesus did this for you and me, too.

Remember those pennies? I put hot sauce on one side while we were talking. If I wipe it off, look what happens to the penny. It is cleaner, but not completely clean. God makes us completely clean. He forgives us of our sin. Isn't that good news?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bare Naked Lady

So unprepared was I for what happened last week that I was completely blindsided by the Law and it's accusations against me. I thought I was preparing a simple gospel lesson and devotion for children. You can read the devotion in the blog post here. It snowballed into what seemed a ceaseless rail of accusations that swept others into the overwhelming speed of my own sinful avalanche.

Upon reviewing my devotion for the kids with my co-worker in the Lord, she told me that children should not be told that Jesus died for their sin, that it was too scary of a concept for them. I ignored that advice and went ahead with the lesson I had developed. I was interrupted several times during my devotion, and given a look of surprise that I had gone ahead with the lesson as planned. I left feeling confused, as if I had done the wrong thing.

Then while talking to some friends after this experience, which they were unaware of, I misinterpreted some things that were said. I thought they were suggesting we end our friendship. Feelings of rejection and being in middle school again were resurfacing. Amazing how long those hurts stay with us from when we were not yet teens. Then in an attempt to encourage that rejection I said some very unkind things. Thankfully, two of the friends responded quizzically with, "Julie, this isn't like you. What is going on?" One brother in the Lord helped me to see what had happened.

To my wounded friends, I am so sorry. Forgive me.

Being new to understanding God's word in terms of Law and Gospel, this was my first awareness of a spiritual attack. My conscience and sins were being thrown before me. I needed to run to Jesus for refuge. In my confusion, I came out swinging with deadly words. My faith was on trial and I did not know what to do about it. I had forgotten to remind myself of the Gospel; that Jesus paid for all my sin, past, present, and future.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. ~ 1 John 3:19-23

Since this incident, I have talked to my co-laborer with the children and we talked about what happened that afternoon. We know one another better now. I will continue to tell children that Jesus loves them and died for them, because it is true.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Believing What God Says About Me

Have you ever drawn a self portrait? Were other people able to recognize you? In a large group, where everybody draws a self portrait, all the drawings will look different. It would be interesting to have each person hold another person's portrait and then match it to the artist.

There are many ways that we are different from one another besides our appearance. Some of us are good at one thing; while others excel at something else. For instance, one of my friends is very outspoken and open with her views on everything and anything; I am usually quiet and reserved. We often think differently from our closest friends.

When God created the world he said it was good. When He created humankind he called us very good. Does "very good" refer to you and me, too? Sometimes we don't feel good about ourselves and we know we have been naughty or we have sinned.

The differences we see in people around us can cause us feelings of jealousy, envy, and even hatred. We want what they have. Sometimes we begin to hate ourselves because of the things others say about us, and we begin to believe them.

When we lie to other people, God knows. When we are mean to other people, God knows. When we are sorry that we hurt others, God knows. When we tell God that we have hurt our friends, He will forgive us when we ask Him to.

When we disobey mommy and daddy, they still love us. Mommy and Daddy do not stop loving us when we are naughty. God is our Father also. He does not stop loving us when we sin. Does God love us even when we sin? The answer is Yes. We know this because He sent Jesus to die for our sin.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baptism: The Great Exchange

On our way to church, Larry and I were discussing the Ark of the Covenant, or Ark of the Testimony, and Joshua 3-5. God parted the Jordan, just like the Red Sea; this time the Israelites were out to conquer, rather than fleeing. While talking about this, my thoughts jumped to Jesus' baptism.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1, ESV

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3, ESV

John the Baptizer was also puzzled as to why Jesus, the sinless One, was asking to be baptized. John baptized for repentance. We also wonder along with John. Jesus was baptized to identify with us; to take our sin. This is the beginning of Jesus' ministry for you and for me. He took our sin in His baptism. He took the sin of the whole world in His baptism. He became sin for us.

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, ESV

In our baptism, we put on Christ. Scripture is clear on this. We are told many times we put on Christ in baptism. The Great Exchange takes place, our sin for His righteousness.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3, ESV

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6, ESV

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me this. Praise God!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Knockout Punch

"God wants us to obey His commands!" Was the cry by the majority of people when asked this question regarding Joshua Chapter 1: Summarize the message of this chapter in one sentence.

One lone voice answered, "Faith displays itself in action."

If you recall, Joshua 1 tells us how God commissions Joshua to take the place of Moses, God promises Joshua that he will conquer the land and no one will be able to oppose him, if he meditates on the law and does not swerve to the left or to the right. Refresh yourself by reading it, dear Reader.

God's command in scripture is that we believe Him and walk in the confidence that He does not lie. To some they hear scripture say: if we obey all that God commands us to do, we will have success. They want to climb a ladder up to God, rather than believe what God tells us when He comes down that ladder to us.

Climbing up a ladder to God is no different than all other religions of the world. There is a penance one must do to achieve Nirvana, by emptying all self; Allah weighs your good deeds against your bad deeds and may capriciously disregard your good deeds. Christianity is completely upside down from the idea that we can climb up a holiness ladder to have a relationship with God. God became man for us and for our salvation.

Joshua 1 is a wonderful chapter on faith and what it looks like. Joshua believed God and put that faith into action. To obey is to believe. It is faith that obeys, without faith we cannot please God. Faith acts on God's promises. Faith sees God's promises. Faith believes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jesus, Lord of All

Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
John 6:32-33

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.
John 3:31

These few verses verify that Jesus is Lord of all. Jesus tells us that He came from above in John 6. Then in John 3 He tells us that He is above all. To say that Jesus is not Lord of all is to deny that He is God.

Lordship salvation teaches that we must "make Jesus Lord of our life." What surprises me is that this teaching comes from a Calvinist camp. Some, not all Calvinists, tell you you must make Jesus your Lord after you are saved. How is this any different from the non-Calvinists who tell you that you must decide and ask Jesus into your heart? It is a teaching that turns Calvinists into non-Calvinists, denying the sovereignty of God.

that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
John 5:23

I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
Isaiah 45:5-6

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Isaiah 44:6

These three sections of scripture tell us that if we deny Jesus, we deny the Father, that there is no other God, that God is the Redeemer. Jesus is indeed Lord of all. Amen.

It is foreign to my ears to hear Calvinists denying God's sovereignty in salvation. Writing this is almost the same arguments used against those who deny Jesus' deity. I reject Lordship salvation as non-Christian teaching. Is it a result of having faith in their faith, rather than knowing that faith is properly placed in Jesus? Or a result of needing to look at works for assurance? Or a result of the limited atonement that puts Calvinists in the awful position of having to look at creation rather than the Creator dying for us? In any case, Lordship Salvation is problematic.

If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The setting sun and cool breeze beckoned me outside. I harnessed and leashed Roxy. Her tail wagged, and eyes brightened. Bidding adieu to the homebodies, we made our escape to the schoolyard. We reached the corner and in usual fashion I said, "Sit. Good dog. Let's go." We were off. Ah, refreshment.

After going through the gate, I unleashed Roxy. She was following behind me. True to her nature, her nose was investigating many things. Up ahead were some California Quail. I didn't show her because I wanted to watch them for awhile. The quail were looking for bugs and seeds. Once Roxy caught glimpse, her cocker spaniel came to the fore and chased them into the bushes. They always escape her through the chain link fence.

The corner of my eye caught sight of the blue heron in the middle of the field. This was something I had never seen here before. Roxy had so much fun chasing the quail that I pointed out the heron to her. She watched it for a minute, and I watched her. She saw it move, then she ran after it, haltingly. I kept walking and watching. Full out run now. The chase was on! The heron flew over to another part of the field. Roxy thought that was so much fun she chased the heron again. Once more, the heron just flew to another part of the field. Roxy's tongue was almost touching the ground. She was watching that heron, while lying in the grass. Roxy had enough of that big bird and returned to her business of scouting scents.

As I cornered the last bend on our walk around the field, I saw some wild rabbits. They were small, and sweet with little white tails. I slowed down so I could watch them. They were eating the green grass, or so it looked to me. Flash! They were off like lightning, back to the safety of the bushes.

Roxy was a great walking companion that night. When we reached the front door, there were a few rays of sunlight left and the breeze was still refreshingly cool. Sans leash and harness, we plopped on the couch together. I know I was thinking about all the critters we saw; I imagined Roxy was, too.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Gift of Worship

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:6-7 ESV

And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27 ESV

Worship sets us apart from other animals. Some say that it is our thinking that sets us apart from animals; or the way we use tools. But research has shown that animals also think, and also use tools. There is something we do, that no other created thing does. No other created thing worships. Worship is not an afterthought of God, but it is a gift for us.

Worship satisfies our desire to know God. God is present when we sing, during prayer, in Scripture, and when we celebrate the sacraments. We gather together to celebrate the One we have in common. We confess our sin together, we confess our faith together, and we hear the absolution together.

Worship is where God meets us, and we respond. It is a communication with God.

In worship, God renews us. It is like finding North on the compass and reorienting ourselves to God. It is with great joy that He renews our minds in worship. We see our brothers and sisters in the pew across the aisle, worshipping, provoking us to worship alongside them. We hear pastor announcing the absolution for us. We receive Christ's blood and body. We remember our baptism and the promises attached to that baptism: remission of sins, discipleship, salvation, eternal life.

Witness takes place in worship. We show our neighbors that worship is important just by attending. As we leave our driveways to go to church, our neighbors know that we are Christians. Walking into church, the neighbors of the church know we are Christians. It is this witness that may allow us to give these neighbors the good news of Jesus' forgiveness for us sinners.

We respond to God meeting us with joy and thanksgiving. Leaving weekly worship with a song of praise on our lips!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32 ESV

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Problem With Peter

1 Peter 3:20-22 ESV

because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

There are many promises attached with baptism.When one is baptized, it reminds us our sins are washed away, we are saved, we are in Christ, we have died with Christ, we are Christ's disciple. That list is not exhaustive. Baptism is a sacrament that Jesus instituted, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

When theologies explain away verses such as this to say the passage doesn't mean baptism saves, they end up not knowing where to look for their assurance. Some, such as reformed theology and their step daughters, the Arminians, will place their faith in their faith. Looking within, they are assured by their faith. On days when doubts pursue us, faith in faith does not help us. Pentecostals and charismatics, tend to substitute speaking in tongues for the sacraments. When those gifts don't flow, the doubts creep in.

Father knows we are weak, so He helps us by giving us the visible sign of baptism to remind us to whom we belong. Peter tells us that baptism saves. Don't cry, "baptismal regeneration!" as if it is a nonbiblical thing. Peter tells us very plainly it saves.

Baptism does save, as scripture declares. We, too, are brought safely through water.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Begone Unbelief

Doctrineless doctrine. What is that? A doctrine is a principle, position, or policy that is taught or advocated. It is impossible to have a doctrineless doctrine. It is an undefineable phrase. One cannot say, "We have no doctrine", because that, by definition, is a doctrine.

In matters theological, it is all about doctrinal distinctions. A doctrineless doctrine would have us denying essentials of Christian beliefs, and declaring unbelief not a sin; after all, there can be no doctrine. Yet this phantasmagorical doctrineless doctrine would be overstepping its bounds.

On the other side of the road is the idea that you must have all your theological ducks waddling behind you in a straight, orderly, logical fashion. They must all waddle together, with the same step. The cries of "consistency" and "logic", often attend with the little ducks. Logic, while we do need and use it, is a worldly wisdom that at times opposes what God says in His word.

Beware of both of these ditches.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Passive Aggressive

Faith is passive in that we receive it from Father. He gives us faith. It is His gift to us, and with that faith we become His child. It is perfect faith when it is passive, and we are being done unto by God.

Baptism of an infant is a perfect picture of this. The infant is present, babbling and looking at Mom and Dad and Pastor. Water is applied to the infant, and the infant passively receives it.

Our faith is not aggressive. Unlike Augustine, who thought we are given faith, then we add to, and improve, and exercise our way to perfect faith. Scripture makes it plain that we are put to death as a sinner, and raised as a saint. That is perfect, passive faith.

Faith is aggressive on Father's part. He pursued us with great love, and we can see his aggressive love for us in Jesus. Jesus living in our stead, dying for our sins, resurrecting first, so that we may follow.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Real Presence

Real Presence is not a magical occurrence, such as thought to be by Roman Catholics. Nor is it an empty cup and bread, as thought amongst the many variations of Reformed Christians. No, it is Jesus who promises to be with us at communion.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. ~ Matthew 18

Communion means to be united with one another. We commune with Jesus and the saints militant and the saints triumphant. It is a mystery that we regularly eat and drink with our Lord. We must believe the promises.

For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12

How can it be that we are not consumed in the presence of our Holy Jesus when we are at the altar of the Lord‘s Supper? Some of us are served communion weekly, some less frequently. Yet we are not consumed.

Jesus’ body broken for us, Jesus’ blood spilled out for us. That is what we receive. Forgiveness of sins. It is due to that same body and blood that we received that we are not consumed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fruit Salad

A good tree produces good fruit because the trunk of the tree is working properly. Jesus is the trunk, we are the branches, Him working in and through us is the fruit. Good fruit cannot produce a good tree. No matter how hard we try, the fruit we create on our own is always rotten.

It is important as believers to get the direction right. The flow is from the top down, not from the down up. All other religions flow backwards, only in Christianity is the direction correct. God comes down through us, so that we can move out and serve our neighbor. We are passive, and free.

God is doing what He does, making all things new. First he makes us new, so that He can work in us. We become free from the law, and are in Christ. He moves us from under the law, and into Christ. We are a new creation. That new creation can live large in the world and serve our neighbor, and enhance life around us.

Isn’t that freeing?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I Call Roman Catholics "Brethren"

I was listening to some people discussing sanctification. Here is the gist of the conversation: Yes, we are to obey the law. The Holy Spirit empowers us with grace to be able to follow the commandments of God. When we sin, we just need to resist harder. We are to mortify our flesh.

Do you hear Roman Catholicism in those ideas?

The penance there is all the things we must do. "We must mortify our flesh. We must obey the law." How do we mortify the flesh? The answer was that we are to crucify our flesh. More things we must do, more penance.

Scripture says in Romans 6, But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

and in 1 Corinthians 1, But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

Our sanctification is Jesus Christ. We don't do the best we can, and then God finishes what we cannot do.

Why can I call Roman Catholics brethren? Because they err the same way the Calvinists do, going back under the law after salvation. And not only do the Calvinists make this grave error, but so do all her step-children, the Arminians.

Paul warns us about returning to the law this way in Galatians 4, Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Dear Reader, did you hear the idea of penance in that conversation? Did it sound like Roman Catholicism to you, too? Self-flagellation was equated to sanctification. The conversation was amongst Calvinists, not Roman Catholics; but to my ears they sound the same.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Face Your Doubts

God wants us to confront our doubts;He will answer them. He answered Thomas' doubt about Jesus' resurrection. Thomas' reply was, "My Lord and My God!" Thomas gained belief. Jesus was bigger than Thomas' doubt and more than able and willing to answer!

One of the biggest hurdles in approaching a sacramental view was the doubt that sacraments truly did anything. Most of us are taught that sacraments are just representative; no real presence is there.

From the Westminster Confession of faith: Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him: as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word.

In Baptistic churches, which is the predominant view in the U.S.A., they are taught so well that instantly one will react to the real presence in Holy Communion with "It is only symbolic. The apostles weren't gnawing on Jesus' actual body."

Upon facing my own doubt about this, God answered me with scripture. Peter tells us that baptism washes away sin. Moses and the Israelites were saved by passing through the Red Sea, with Pharoah and his army drowned in the sea not to rise again. Naaman's leprosy was healed by passing through the water.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Calvinism's Assurance Ministry

When I was a full-fledged Calvinist, volunteering my time in an online apologetic website by proofreading and helping in the chatroom, I was often having to assure other Calvinists of their salvation. The first thing I would remind them was how much they hate their sin as a sign of their faith. This pattern was repeated over and over many times.

For awhile, I thought because of this I should go into Nouthetic Counseling. People would turn to me, seeking assurance. Then I was awakened to the truth of Limited Atonement.

If Jesus died only for a few people, then the natural question to ask is, "Did He die for me?" Being unable to look at Jesus on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," as universal atonement, one had to look elsewhere. So, you start examining your own inward thoughts. What a way to plummet to the depths of despair!

The human heart is so wicked we cannot even know our own hearts, let alone the heart of another person. It is better to trust in the words of Jesus than it is to look within ourselves. Jesus is God, and He never lies. Scripture says He died for the whole world. His death, burial, and resurrection was generous to the point of saving all if one receives this free gift.

Calvinists, stop looking within for faith and trust in Jesus' finished work on the cross.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mystery of Jesus' Two Natures

The Chalcedon Creed says this about Jesus Christ's two natures: one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union.

This creed confirms that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. Both of his natures died. How do Christians explain that God died? We don't, nor can we, it just is.

Some will separate Jesus' two natures, pretending that God is mutable, saying only Jesus' body died on the cross. In doing so, they break with traditional and orthodox Christian teaching.

This is one of the things that helped me to leave Calvinism. Calvinists do teach the separation of Jesus' two natures. They try to deny Nestorian heresy with one hand; yet teach it with the other hand. Ask and watch the jig begin.

God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Amen.

Here is my first post regarding Nestorianism, if you want to read a bit more.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Name Change

Welcome to One Sheep Ponders, the new name of this blog. It was time for a name change, as God has seen fit to open my eyes to the theology of the cross. No longer do I see God as one who goads those who belong to Him. He is Father. He is my Father. Father loves and cares for me. Is He your Father?

God is also triune. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Praise Him.