Category Archives: Joshua

The Unknown is not Unknown

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” [Joshua 1:9]

A great nation (Israel) was encamped on the banks of the Jordan River. Their leader for over 40 years, Moses, is dead; the one who taught this nation God’s Law. Large and powerful armies are standing in the way of Israel. And now Joshua stands ready to succeed Moses. Large shoes to fill, to put it mildly. I think I would be nervous to take on such a calling, considering the unknowns that lie ahead. But God is encouraging and commanding Joshua to obey and to be courageous, for it is God that continues to go with them. None of what they have accomplished was due to their strength. None of their victories were due to their military might. None of the fear they put into other nations was due to their stature. Everything; all glory and honor, belongs to God. Therefore, God says, be strong and courageous. That alone was enough to encourage Joshua and make him a successful leader throughout his life. He feared and followed and obeyed God, and he encouraged and commanded the nation of Israel to do the same. God did his thing, Israel flourished and God was glorified.

Imagine what you can accomplish when you consider who is going before you. Imagine what you can do when you remember who has won victories on your behalf. Imagine what you can do when you remember who fights for you. When you are praying and living “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” then fear of the unknown is irrelevant.

But yet, when people are faced with the unknown, fear still creeps in and dictates their course of action. Human logic becomes their wisdom as they try to deal with the unknown and the fear that goes with it. But this is not the way of God. God alone deals with the unknowns for our unknown is not unknown to God. Think about that. Our unknown is not unknown to God. God sees the whole picture. By taking matters into your own hands or being paralyzed with fear is basically telling God that you don’t trust him. You are telling God that He does not know the unknown and therefore can’t handle things. This is an attack on God’s Sovereignty.

But God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for I am with you and will always go with you.”

Think about that. Consider this promise and command. Imagine what you could accomplish if this verse were always in front of you, I mean, imagine what GOD can accomplish through you if you actually trusted that God knows your unknowns. So,

Do not fear
Be strong
Be courageous
Be bold
Trust
Take that leap of faith

and let God handle the rest.

Oh God, I am thankful that You know my unknowns and that You always go before me. Grant me the faith to trust You and place everything in Your hands. May my courage bring glory to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Happy Advent

Has anyone else been taken off guard by the arrival of Advent?  I certainly have been.  Part of it is the lack of snow and cold weather and part of it is…well…I just can’t seem to put my finger on it.  It just doesn’t quite feel like Advent yet.

This morning I walked into the sanctuary and saw the Christmas trees up and some of the decorations up (the rest get hung during our “Hanging of the Greens” service this morning).  It felt awkward, but I got a feeling that once I jump in with both feet, into the deep end (singing Christmas/Advent hymns, puting Christmas music in my CD player, decorating my office and house, etc) things will get better.  So maybe I should just get into the theme of Advent and wait, prepare and anticipate.  I know things will change.  I know the season will get better.  I know “Merry Christmas” will roll off the tongue.   I know all this will happen…much the same and even more…as I know that the days are coming when God will fulfill his gracious promises he made to us through Jesus Christ.

So I will continue to prepare, wait and anticipate…for many things…so bring it on.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

-edh-

What now?

The morning after…

…actually it’s the first day of the week following the historic vote at the ELCA CWA09 last week in Minneapolis; a vote that changed ministry policies allowing homosexuality clergy in committed, life-long, monogamous same sex relationship to serve ELCA congregations.  The vote also opened the door for ELCA congregations to bless same sex unions if they so choose.  But also recognizing that fact that people across the church have “bound consciences” and that we are to respect that.

With this vote I knew I would get lots of questions (as I did as I walked into the coffee shop this morning) so I decided to address this right away on Sunday morning in the sermon.  Below is the newsletter article I wrote that is a very brief summary of what I preached on Sunday.  I used the text from Joshua 24:14-15 about choosing whom we will serve.  Here’s my newsletter article:

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“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15)

By the time this newsletter reaches your mail box and is in your hands, the ELCA will be forever changed.  ELCA Church wide assembly met Aug. 17 – 23 in Minneapolis.  The big agenda item (and one that garnered the most passionate discussion/debate) had to do with lifting the ban on homosexual clergy, who are in life-long, monogamous, committed relationships, from serving on the ELCA roster and allowing congregations to bless same sex unions. Many of you are no doubt experiencing a number of emotions surrounding this that include but not limited to:  anger, confusion, disappointment, sadness, etc.  Some of you no doubt believe that scripture is clear when it comes to homosexuality.  Some of you no doubt are not even willing to discuss/debate this because you believe there is no discussion/debate.  But I also recognize that some of you may be very excited and happy about this change.  Wherever you fall and however you feel the reality is still the same:  We live and serve in a Church that has been forever changed.  In a way we now live in a foreign land.  So what now…

…As with everything there are decisions to be made, but in our case there is only one faithful option:  We will continue serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in advancing the Gospel with all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ…who are all as equally sinful as you and me.

This may be hard to accept for some, but when you consider how Jesus treated the outcast, it makes a lot of sense.  In the sermon on Sunday, Aug. 23 (one that many of you were not in attendance to hear) I reminded people of the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8:  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

Jesus taught us to separate the sin from the sinner; to hate the sin NOT the sinner.  So what does all this mean?  Simply this:  In light of the change in ministry policies here in the ELCA concerning homosexuality I echo Joshua’s words, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord”.  Basically…nothing is going to change.  The ELCA vote will not change what I preach or how I preach; I will continue announcing forgiveness and presiding at the table; I will continue to baptize, marry and bury people; I will continue teach and love people.  And (as I expect everyone here to do) I will continue to welcome ALL people.  I may not approve of their lifestyle but I will continue to separate the sin from the sinner and serve the Lord through loving my neighbor.  That is what Jesus commands us to do.  Loving people and accepting ALL people is serving the Lord.

The ELCA has been forever changed (there is no question about that), but Salem Lutheran Church has not been changed.  We will continue to serve the Lord; we will continue to welcome ALL people; we will continue to advance the Gospel.  But as we do this I urge you to dive even deeper into scripture and explore the Good News that God has for us.  Know what the Bible commands us to do AND know what God promises to do for us.  Get to know God better through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So join me, as we travel through this uncertain time, and continue to serve the Lord…all the while praising God always and forever.

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I know that more and more questions are going to come.  There is going to be much spirited discussion and debate through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and coffee shops.  But through it all we need to remember that we are all children of God.  And my hope and prayer is that we can somehow move forward in mission.  We need to get out there and announce to people this awesome love we have from God through Jesus Christ.  Forgiveness needs to be proclaimed; people need to experience love; the stranger still needs to be welcomed.  Let’s not lose focus.

We serve an awesome God…let’s continue to do so…praising God always and forever.

-edh-