Here is the service from October 18, 2020.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Monday, October 19, 2020
Having doubts is very unsettling. If a girlfriend doubts her boyfriend really wants to be with her, if an employee doubts he will have a job in a few weeks, if a family doubts they will ever pay off their credit card debt--all of these people live in some degree of terror.
It is even more severe when it comes to doubting the Bible. Christians know that this is a matter of eternal consequences. If you doubt your salvation, God's promises, or the words that are supposed to be the foundation of your life, that is abject terror. Who wants to go through life wondering if he has been a fool to believe the Bible? What is a person to do?
Unfortunately, Christians will not admit they have doubts about the Bible or their faith. It suggests that they are weak and, perhaps, not real Christians. Our solution is often to rely on our pride, to not seek assurance, comfort, and encouragement, and to let doubts fester until they go away. They don't. If left unaddressed, it is the Christian who goes away.
Therefore, if you have doubts, 'fess up. Acknowledge them; you would not be the first to have them. Then seek answers from those who know the Scriptures. God has granted you a pastor and a congregation for a reason. Rather than wrangle through answers when you are not even sure where to find them, seek answers from those who do. And feel free to ask challenging questions. The Scriptures are not weak on answers.
While we will not be limited to these examples of doubts, we will discuss topics such as these:
>>> "I don't like what the Scriptures say."
>>> "The Bible has all kinds of contradictions."
>>> "I don't understand it. It just doesn't make sense."
>>> "I saw a YouTube video that showed me all kinds of errors in the Bible."
>>> "My friends don't believe the Bible and they are so nice. Does it really matter then?"
All are welcome to join us, Wednesday, October 21 at 7:00 PM. If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send you a link. Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature though.
Oct 28 – Marriage: Still God's plan; still a good idea
Nov 4 – Is it important that I'm special?
Nov 11 – Are all judgmental people bad?
Sunday, October 18, 2020
LUKE 1:1-4; LUKE 24:44-53
LUKE PROCLAIMS A REAL JESUS FOR REAL SINNERS.
In the name + of Jesus.
The Greek poet, Aesop, wrote many fables which were designed to teach lessons. One example: A crow, having stolen a bit of meat, perched in a tree and held it in her beak. A fox longed to possess the meat himself, and by a wily plan succeeded. “How handsome is the crow,” he exclaimed, “in the beauty of her shape and in the fairness of her complexion! Oh, if her voice were only equal to her beauty, she would deservedly be considered the Queen of the Birds!” The crow, eager to show off her singing voice, called out a loud caw and dropped the meat. The fox quickly picked it up, and addressed the crow, “My good crow, your voice is right enough, but your wit is lacking.” The moral of the story is not to be deceived by flattery. Aesop may have been good at fables and lessons, but no one will confuse Aesop's story with a historical event.
There are many who would reduce the Bible to a series of stories that are no different than Aesop's Fables. But the Bible is not “Once upon a time in an enchanted kingdom.” The Bible records historical events with real people who lived in particular places. It is firmly planted in history. Our faith is not based on fantasy, but on facts. While there are many examples of the writers of the Bible pinpointing moments and places in history, there is probably no writer who is more of a historian that the doctor, Luke.
Luke was closely associated with the apostle Paul, often traveling and serving the church with him. While Paul was in prison awaiting his execution, Luke was there with him. It is from the instruction which our Lord gave to St. Paul that Luke recorded his Gospel. St. Paul, however, was not Luke's only source. Twice St. Luke noted that, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19), so it is likely that Luke received details about Jesus' birth and youth from his mother. As a faithful historian, entrusted with recording the life of Jesus, Luke was careful to get it right. Luke proclaims a real Jesus.
He says so in his introduction: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4) Although Luke mentions many who have written, the Lord chose to preserve only the writings of Matthew and Mark (John having written later). Therefore, God guided Luke to record another account of Jesus' words and works. Luke gives us the most detailed account of Jesus' birth and the only account of Jesus as a boy. Luke gives us the most accurate starting date to mark John the Baptist's preaching, and therefore also Jesus' ministry. Luke correctly identifies government titles, military officers, landmarks, weapons, and coinage. No one who is trying to deceive you would ever be so precise. One reason, of course, is that the Holy Spirit guided Luke in every word he used. But another reason is because Luke, the historian, wants you to know that salvation is cemented in history. Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners.
Luke, being a doctor, was trained to diagnose illnesses and to prescribe medicines and ointments to deal with them. In his Gospel, Luke mentioned various diseases and ailments—leprosy, chronic bleeding, paralysis, a withered hand, blindness, and even demon-possession. When it is claimed that simple-minded people of Jesus' day assumed that every disease and disorder was demon-possession, they fail to note Luke's careful designations. Even though Luke could label these problems, that did not mean that Luke could heal them.
It is all the more true with sin. It is not hard to see the symptoms of our sin. They are behaviors which are harmful, hateful, or immoral. Those symptoms are easier to see in others than in ourselves. When we commit sins, we do it because we think they are beneficial, not harmful. We do them because we like them and think we gain something by them. If we cause pain to someone because we sinned against them, our apology is often, “I am sorry I hurt you.” It is rare to hear the honest confession, “I was wrong.” That's because we think we are good and our sins are justified. But ask anyone you sin against if your sins are real. The pain, the shame, and the bitterness that sins cause are real. The diagnosis is obvious: We are all sinners, because sinners do sinful things. Our offenses against God's Law are, indeed, wicked, but it is the root cause that damns us.
If someone had chronic headaches, they would be recognized as symptoms of a greater problem, perhaps a tumor. A doctor could prescribe limitless supplies of Advil and that would mask the symptom, but it would do nothing for the disease. The tumor is the real and lethal problem. Likewise, our sins are symptoms. We can try to improve our behavior so that we are more kind and more sensitive to others. While that masks our sinfulness and others would appreciate it, it does not address our underlying problem. Our real and lethal problem is our sinful condition. We can label it, but we cannot cure it. This is why Luke proclaims a real Jesus. We need a real Savior because sin and death are real. We are real sinners. We need a real Savior. St. Luke proclaims and assures you that you have one. Jesus is a real Savior for real sinners.
Shortly before Jesus ascended into heaven, he commissioned his apostles to proclaim to the world all that he taught and did for the salvation of the world. Jesus told them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48) St. Luke has recorded the testimony of people who witnessed God in the flesh, who heard the testimony of angels, who saw Jesus perform miraculous signs, who were taught by Jesus about the kingdom of God, who saw him crucified, buried, and risen from the dead. St. Luke proclaims a real Jesus.
Luke recorded these things not just so you know your history, but so that you can know your salvation. Yes, St. Luke proclaims a real Jesus, but he proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners. Jesus said all of these things were done so that “the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in (Jesus') name to all nations.” (Luke 24:47) This is the cure for sin and death. Jesus has come to purify you of all sin and to deliver you out of your sinful condition. He has taken up your infirmities and sorrows, your sin and your shame, your death and your damnation. God has never overlooked your sins, instead he became a man to pay for them. Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin before Caiaphas. He suffered under Pontius Pilate and was executed by Romans. He was crucified publicly and confirmed dead. On the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the grave, producing a scandal and cover-up among his foes and great joy among his friends. Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners, as none of this was done in secret.
Since Jesus has risen from the dead, you know that the payment is complete. Jesus' resurrection proves that God the Father is pleased with Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf. For this reason, Jesus wants forgiveness proclaimed to the world. Every infraction against God's Law has been atoned for. Every sinner who is baptized into Jesus has been covered with Jesus' innocence and purified of all unrighteousness. St. Luke made a careful investigation in all that Jesus said and did and he has recorded it for you so that you can know with certainty that you have been saved by Jesus. Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners.
I suppose some might consider Luke's Gospel redundant or even unnecessary. As we considered earlier, Matthew and Mark had already written their Gospel accounts. And much of what Luke recorded they had already covered. What's more, in his introduction, Luke acknowledged that his friend, Theophilus, had already been taught about Jesus. If all of these facts are true, why write a third Gospel?
St. Luke answers: “It seemed good to me … to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4) We continue to gather together as the friends of God (for that is what “Theophilus” means) to hear the testimony about a real Jesus who brings a real salvation to real sinners. Sin still plagues us. Death still bothers us. Fear and doubt still haunt us. Our need for comfort and encouragement is constant and real. God be praised—so are the mercies and promises of Jesus Christ.
Luke proclaims a real Jesus for real sinners. And so, we sit before the pulpit to hear the words of Christ. We come to the altar to partake in the body of Christ which bore our sins. We drink the blood of Christ which atones for our guilt. We are fed the body and blood which have overcome death so that we will receive an eternal life with a real, unending glory. We come to the sacraments so that we maintain a real connection with Jesus and grow in certainty of his promises.
For many, eternal life, everlasting peace, and endless glory are fantasies. Not for you. They are the promises of God. They are received by faith, and they will be seen in their realities at the resurrection of the dead. You have a real Savior who gives you real comfort, hope, and peace. These are the facts. St. Luke is your witness. Jesus is your Savior.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Our society is becoming more and more secular. The Bible and its teachings are being attacked, mocked, and dismissed—even by Christian churches! God's people are in a position where we have to defend our faith or deny it. Remaining silent about our faith should not be considered an option. We are encouraged to give an answer to anyone who asks about the reason for the hope we have. That tells us that people will ask us about our faith and that we ought to be prepared with answers.
What answers can you give? How do you react to attacks on biblical teachings? What if someone presents a convincing argument that produces doubts about your beliefs? Sadly, the trend seems to be that people with doubts slink away from the church rather than come to the church to seek answers and a defense of the faith.
Bible Matters discusses teachings that are questioned or misrepresented. The topics may make you uncomfortable, but we ought to discuss them in a Scriptural way; dismissing them makes us sound like we don't really have answers. The more comfortable we get discussing our faith and defending it, the more prepared we will be to stand firm when the faith is attacked and the more confident we will be in sharing our faith with others.
Is that a lofty goal for a Bible class? YES! This class allows people (members or guests) to ask challenging questions. You are free to be bold with your questions. You are even free to be a heretic (though we will not leave you free to remain a heretic). Our goal is to be more and more firmly grounded on God's word so that we will not be blown here and there by every wind of teaching. This is especially useful to prepare young people whose faith will be challenged in high school and college.
Oct 21 – I have doubts about the Bible. Now what?
Oct 28 – Marriage: Still God's plan; still a good idea.
Nov 4 – Is it important that I'm special?
Nov 11 – Are all judgmental people bad?
If anyone wants to follow along on Zoom, contact the pastor (email@example.com) to receive a link. Your contribution to the discussion may have to be limited to the Chat feature. Topics may be suggested to the pastor and will be announced prior to each session.
Bible Matters meets on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM. All are welcome.
Friday, October 16, 2020
Lutheran worship is liturgical. While that often refers to an order of worship, it can also refer to the calendar of the Church Year. The Church Year includes major festivals, such as Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, etc... On Sunday, October 18, we will recognize a minor festival, the Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist.
St. Luke was a close companion of St. Paul. St. Paul refers to Luke a number of times, particularly that Luke was with Paul in the final days of Paul’s life (2 Timothy 4:11). Luke wrote the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts (which also demonstrates his association with Paul in the portions that talk about what “we” did). Not only was Luke a physician (Colossians 4:14), he was obviously a historian which is seen throughout Luke’s Gospel and the book of Acts where Luke is careful to date events and cite people and places. We are especially grateful that, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Luke “carefully investigated everything ... so that (we) may know the certainty of the things (we) have been taught.” (Luke 1:3,4)
Thursday, October 15, 2020
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Tuesday, October 13, 2020
If you want your children in eternity with you, then you must bring them to Christ now, and regularly. If you set the example that Christ and his Church are essential, they will likely remain faithful to that their whole life long. If Christ and his Church are optional, they will likely find an option that is more entertaining.
Being a parent provides daily, abundant opportunities for good works. Parents get to care for their children for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. It also enables parents to get a glimpse of God's grace. For, parents often feel that their service is a thankless task. They serve for the good of their children and they do find joy in it because they love their children. But parents also will remember when they were being raised and how little they thought of their parents labors on their behalf. Now that these people are doing the same for their children, they finally appreciate the sacrificial love that goes into it, seldom with their children acknowledge or appreciating their labors. God, of course, does this and more for us daily.
If your goal is to get a good job, you can probably attain that. If you are seeking to do good works, God presents them to you in your own home. And the benefits of those good works has an eternal impact as well. The vocation of a parent is a high and holy calling, and it should be upheld as that.
From Luther: “Thus it is true, as men say, that parents could attain salvation by training their own children, even if they were to do nothing else. If parents do this by rightly training them to God’s service, they will indeed have their hands full of good works. For what are the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the alien if not the souls of your own children? With these God makes a hospital of your own house. He sets you over them as the hospital superintendent to wait on them, to give them the food and drink of good words and works. [He sets you over them] that they may learn to trust God, to believe in him, to fear him, and to set their whole hope upon him; to honor his name and never curse or swear; to mortify themselves by praying, fasting, watching, working; to go to church, wait on the word of God, and observe the sabbath. [He sets you over them] that they may learn to despise temporal things, to bear misfortune without complaint, and neither fear death nor love this life.”
-- Treatise on Good Works, Luther's Works: American Edition, p 85