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We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified and...
that
you will be blessed by your time spent with us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thought for the Day: How Far is Too Far?

Recently, Muslims ended the month of Ramadan, a month devoted to fasting and prayer in order to purify themselves through restraint and good deeds. So why is this significant? Attention has been drawn recently to certain a prominent Christian emergent leader, Brian McLaren, who announced that he was also fasting during Ramadan in order to "come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them." Other Christian leaders such as Albert Mohler disagree with him, saying that "The logic of Islam is obedience and submission. It's by following these practices that a Muslim demonstrates his obedience to the rule of the law through the Quran. For a Christian to do the same automatically implies a submission to the same rule."

To most of us, it probably seems obvious that this was a bad idea. But it was successful in a way: the Muslims that McLaren spent time with felt that "Here is a pastor who wants to understand us, who does not want to convert us, and who is even prepared to walk with us, to fast with us. That is a big gesture." He was able to connect with them in a way that showed respect. So what should we take from this? What do you think Christians should do to show Jesus' love to those around us, including Muslims?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Church news, 9/20: "Stop the Warring Madness!"

Our Sunday homily focused closely on James 4:1-10:
What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
   Fr. David pointed out that these verses apply to dissension within the body of believers. James addresses 'you' in the plural meaning among you all. James states strongly that dissensions come from people's desires for self-gratification and self-interest rather than from dedication to do the will of God. He uses language that's sometimes shocking, such as "you desire and do not have; so you kill," not to infer that Christians were necessarily committing murder, but that they were angry with their brothers and sisters -- a meaning along the lines of Jesus' admonition recorded in Matthew 5:21-22   "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment".
   Conflicts, fightings, and wars in our relationships (especially within the church) are because we desire and covet and don't obtain what we want. He states that we don't have... because we do not ask, meaning that we do not ask God in prayer. Furthermore our asking is amiss because we ask with self-interest and in self-centeredness ("to spend it on your passions") for the sake of self-gratification.



   James tells the scattered Jewish Christians that they absolutely have to choose between the world's way and God's way; that they can't be "doubleminded", trying to be friends both of God and of the world. In strong language once again, we are told that we end up as "adulterers and adultresses" and "enemies of God" when we become friends of the world (enculturated and co-opted into a 'me-first' world).

   The Word of the Lord in James helps us to realize that we must learn how to 'stop the warring madness' by submitting ourselves (entrusting ourselves) to God in humble faith. Seeking His holy will and cooperating with Him in true conversion through faith  will lift us from the perversions brought on by our self-centeredness. Ask Him in prayer... seeking His will (not our own), "resist the devil and he will flee from you", "draw near to God and He will draw near to you."


May we become singleminded desirers of God's will. As we do this, the Lord will exalt us and the warring madness among us will subside.

   We continued our consideration of these verses in our after-service discussion. It's no accident that dissension can arise during times of the greatest opportunity for growth and service. So we reminded ourselves of our priorities, to make sure that God's will and ministries are always our first focus, over and above our own personal interests. To God be the glory!

NOTES: The special offering for Shane Gormley, our seminarian at Nashotah House in Wisconsin, continues through the end of the month. We also give thanks for the use of the Chapel and meeting room at Reformation Lutheran Church, and for the loving hospitality extended to us by their congregation and staff.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spirit vs. body or spirit AND body?

The duality of life can't be escaped. Maybe it's even a tri-ality. There's the talkative mind, the stolid body, and the spirit that's hard to pin down.

As Christians, we tend to think of our minds (renewed) as the voices of our spirits, and so what we experience is a duality in which we too often exalt the "superior", communicative mind at the expense of the "inferior", silent, stubborn body. In short, because our minds yack so much, we pay them a lot of attention.

And when a friend or family member dies, we think only of their spirit and its journey, since their body is still right here, still silent, and still stubborn. We think of their spirit with Jesus in Heaven: I remember my mother once wondering if we would become little points of light, hovering like fireflies.

Concentrating on the spirit only -- or worse, downgrading the body to "just a shell", as I have heard Christians say from time to time -- impoverishes our faith. We are beings of body and spirit and we will, for eternity, have glorified bodies as our spirits' clothing; bodies like Christ's that are "real", solid, but no longer subject to the laws of physics or fallen Nature.

This essay, The Great Christian Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, reminds us of the sacred importance of our bodies. We are beings that are, eternally, both spiritual and physical. Remembering this not only helps us grapple with ideas of the afterlife, but also gives us a way to mediate the negative barrage our minds like to hurl at our bodies.

What are your reactions to the essay?

Church News: September 15, 2009

Last Sunday, the message was titled, "Losing Our Lives For Christ's Sake" based upon Jesus' words recorded in Mark 8 verses 27-38. In it, Father David started out by seeking to answer the question of how valuable our souls and lives are. The short answer- Worth dying for!  Indeed, he said, to recognize the context of this passage, we need to contemplate the sanctity and awesome value of our lives, lives for which the Son of God offered His Life on the Cross. 

He reminded the listeners that "God wanted us born" and "He has great hopes and investment in our lives." Our lives are valuable to God! From this starting point, he helped us to unpack what Jesus said as recorded in Mark 8:35 "whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." 

"Considering our lives as valuable to God, then what does the denial of self entail?", David+ asked. It entails a shift from self-centeredness, selfishness, exclusive self-interest, and even seeking self-protection without consideration of God's place in our lives. Who is at the center of your life?, David+ asked. Who do you seek to have supreme control in your life? Is it your self or is it Jesus?

So how does self-denial and humility fit in to our lives in a godly way? David+  explained that everything we have is from God, therefore we don't need to hold so very tightly to our own self interest. Rather, we must learn to let go of our selfishness, our efforts to save ourselves without God's help, and learn through faith to cooperate with God and trust Him. 

"And yet", David+ continued, "self-denial is not an end in itself."

We can never rid ourselves of self-interest... this can not be the aim... and furthermore 'What can a man give in return for his life?' (Mark 8:37). The self-denial Jesus advocates takes dying to self and becoming alive to God. We do this by giving over ourselves to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. This means that we learn to cooperate with Him in the life He gives us and the life to which He calls us in His love. Afterall, Jesus is speaking here of self-denial for His sake and for the sake of the gospel. We are therefore invited to give over our loyalties, our focus, our purpose, everything that is important, and indeed, our centeredness, to God.

David+ encouraged us not to think of ourselves as too damaged, too bad, or too unreachable for God, nor are we to think we are too good, not needing a Savior. Neither are we to see God as to weak or too unwilling or uncaring to receive us and grant us life eternal as we lose (invest, commit) our lives unto Him: for His sake and the gospel. 

So who is in control- you or God? Father David concluded, "In Christ, your life is not your own. Jesus bought your life for the price of His own Life, therefore your life is sacred to God." Let us offer (lose) our lives unto Him in faith in order to gain true life.



Announcements


Pray for the people of Reformation Lutheran as they meet to discuss the recent changes in the Lutheran church and how these changes will affect them.


September 26, 2009- First day of Sunday School! Tom and Alison will host an after-church meeting for all members regarding Sunday School, refreshments will be provided.


October 6, 2009- Women's Book Group will meet at 7PM at the Perkins at 1500 W. Ridge Rd. The discussion will include "Why Faith Matters" by David J. Wolpe, the Mary Magdalene
chapter of the book "Twelve Extraordinary Women" by John MacArthur, and the Ben Stein video documentary "Expelled".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thought for the Day: How Do We Respond to Those Who Ask Us How We Can Believe In Something that Can't Be Proved?

"The existence of non-empirical knowledge is absolutely crucial for a Christian worldview."

Non-empirical knowledge is knowledge that can not be proved to be true or untrue by using the five senses. The widespread materialistic worldview does not acknowledge that any truth can exist beyond what can be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or felt. But we as Christians know that there is so much more. How can we explain this to those who are limited by a sole belief in the empirical? Check out this post from the Boundless.org blog called:


And for those who would like to know more about how to describe knowledge, check out the companion article:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Church news, 9/8: Faith without works is dead

On Sunday we considered another seeming paradox of Scripture: are we saved through faith or through works? Passages such as Ephesians 2:8 indicate what the Reformers preached: "Sola Fide", Faith Alone! But James 2:14-26 (esp.17 & 26) plainly says that faith without works is dead. So which one is it?

Fr. David pointed out that "Sola Fide" (we are saved by 'Faith Alone") was put forward in response to an emphasis on works in the Roman Catholic Church.

"Martin Luther was frustrated by his inability to rid himself of sin. No amount of works seemed to be enough. Finally he realized he couldn't be good enough, no matter what he did, no matter how many of his sins he could remember and then confess" said Fr. David. "Luther was reading Paul's letter to the Romans when the Holy Spirit flooded his life and showed him it wasn't about him or what he did. Salvation was already accomplished in Jesus' death on the Cross and is offered to us as a free gift that we receive through faith.

"So the Reformers said it's the Lord's work that counts, not ours, and this is true. But then James points out that faith will make a change in the fabric of our lives, and this is also true. The seed of salvation -- God's Word dwelling in us -- springs to life and bears spiritual fruit through faith, and is expressed through works of faith (acts of love... faith put into action) .

"This is a different kind of works -- not the kind that comes from ourselves and our self-effort." Likening works to planted seeds that grow and bear fruit, Fr. David continued by pointing to Christ's parable of the sower in Matthew 13. The seed falling onto stony ground springs up, but without deep enough roots it withers away. Seeds need to  put forth roots, shoots, and fruits. Likewise, our faith is meant to be the resource for our works: our works are meant to come forth from our faith in God. Our works cannot save us in themselves, but are effective only when they are motivated by and rooted in our faith (fruit that is borne in a cooperative effort with God).

James shows us what happens when the seed of salvation falls on good soil (when it is invested with faith). His position is, "You can't show me faith without works because works are the natural fruit of faith, like the fruit of the Spirit."

So it really isn't a case of "either/or", but a case of "both/and", Fr. David concluded. "We're compelled to faith-filled action through a heart set upon our Father God, an openness to the Holy Spirit, and faith-filed love and thankfulness to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The answer to the question "faith or works?" is answered with the faithful devotion and living application of faith AND works."

NOTES: A special collection is being taken for Shane Gormley through the end of the month. Shane is currently studying for the priesthood at Nashotah House seminary in Wisconsin. To contribute, use one of the special envelopes available at church.

Friday, September 04, 2009

When a friend dies: Grief + responsibility

A friend of mine -- a former co-worker -- died this week. She'd battled lung cancer for a year and a half, successfully, as it turned out, but there were a host of other health complications that dealt her a war on too many fronts. She was 63.

My friend was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church but lived a resolutely secular life. A slot machine was present at the funeral parlor to celebrate her favorite pastime of casino gambling. She always wore a diamond ring on every finger, loved to buy clothes (being a size zero, everything looked great on her), had a colorful vocabulary and was quick with a salty joke.

We all loved her.

While fighting her health war, she refused to take time to plan a funeral (that would be giving in) but did say she'd feel like a hypocrite having a service in a church. Not that she didn't believe in God, just that she wasn't much of a churchgoer during her life.

In retrospect, what strikes me is that believers have a responsibility toward their unbelieving friends, and that the Lord will provide a way for each of us to share the Gospel with sensitivity and grace.

I am very thankful for another funeral service earlier this year (the father of another co-worker) where my friend was present. This was a believer's funeral and the pastor kindly but very clearly shared the Gospel message of salvation. On the way to our cars, my friend said several times how much she liked the message and the pastor. Later on, when she was ill, she said that she prayed but she preferred to do that by herself. When I was by her bedside for what later turned out to be the last time, her daughter was intent on keeping things upbeat, so I wasn't really able to say all I wanted to say.

I trust in her baptism, her willing hearing of the Gospel, and her renewed prayer life as evidence of her reconciliation with the Lord at the end of her life. But my story doesn't end there. On the day of my friend's funeral, her daughter asked if any of us wanted to say anything during the service. Everyone else said no, at which time I realized the Lord was offering me a responsibility to take.

Now, in half a century of living I have NEVER spoken at a funeral. And now I'd said yes, with virtually no time to prepare. A priest was present to conduct a short mass. He used all the scriptures I'd had in mind, except for one. So when it came my time to talk, I talked about how my friend enjoyed life as much as anyone I've ever known. That enjoyment is different from love. Love is sometimes enjoyable and other times an act of will that partakes of duty, but enjoyment itself is akin to thankfulness and that our friend went through every day enjoying every scrap of it: having an attitude of constant thanksgiving.

"Life here is short," I said, "but Life itself is very long. And we have a promise, which is that when we are absent from the body we are present -- immediately -- with the Lord, where every question of life that has ever troubled us will be answered." I finished by saying I knew our friend was enjoying this in the same way we all saw her enjoy her life here.

It wasn't the Four Spiritual Laws, but it was true both to my friend and to the word of God, and was as good as it was going to get with 20 minutes' prep time. The experience was difficult -- like tightrope balancing. How to tell the truth without placing one's self in the position of judge. Afterwards, everyone thanked me so I guess I did OK. Have you been in this postion? How did you handle it? I'm sure it's coming to all of us eventually, but I hope it doesn't come to me again, at least for awhile.

from: MATT KENNEDY at Standfirminfaith.com


Bishop Ryle on the Deference given to False Pastors

Thursday, September 3, 2009 • 7:31 am


A couple of years ago I was engaged in a fairly heated argument on Stand Firm over the question of how to deal with false teachers in the church---the argument centered on passages from 1st Corinthians 5, Galatians 1 and 2nd John. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that one weakness in contemporary Anglican circles that chronically leads us into trouble is an odd kind of clericalism that tends to disregard the effect of good or bad teaching on the congregational level. Some well meaning orthodox priests doggedly view priests who teach false doctrine as colleagues to be treated with deference--as persons with whom gentle and genteel dialogue and conversation is both desirable and necessary. Meanwhile, as the "conversation" drones on, the collared wolves devour their flocks and ruin the people in their care. But "the people" seem to be a secondary concern. What is most important is the "unity of the Church" which tends to mean: priests and bishops being nice to each other at meetings that they all attend.

This morning I ran across this passage from Bishop JC Ryle's commentary on the Gospel of John (chapter 10) while reading another blog. Bishop Ryle's comment serves as a helpful antidote to clerical toleration in the name of unity. You can read the entire commentary here.
Those who think that unsound ministers ought never to be exposed and held up to notice, and men ought never to be warned against them, would do well to study this passage. No class of character throughout our Lord's ministry seems to call forth such severe denunciation as that of false pastors. The reason is obvious. Other men ruin themselves alone: false pastors ruin their flocks as well as themselves. To flatter all ordained men, and say they never should be called unsound and dangerous guides, is the surest way to injure the Church and offend Christ.

Hat tip to the Pyromaniacs.