Authority of Jesus

Do you want to know what never, ever gets old with me?

What never gets old with me is the fact that when Jesus says something…IT HAPPENS.  No if, and or buts about it.  When Jesus speaks, people (and demons) listen.  I guess that is also why I enjoy preaching on texts, like what we have for Sunday ~ Mark 1:21-28 ~ the authority of Jesus/casting out evil spirits.

Jesus teaches with authority (not like that of the scribes).  The scribes, when they taught, would rely on the authority of the great teachers that came before them.  Their teaching would be full of phrases such as:

[So and so] said [this] about [this] Commandment and therefore according to [so and so] you should live in [this way].

This got old for the people.  The scribes never taught with their own authority.  They didn’t make their own judgments.

But Jesus did…and the people loved it.

You see…Jesus’ authority wasn’t just in the manner he spoke.  It wasn’t just in his voice inflection. It wasn’t just in his facial expressions and body language.  Jesus’ authority was much different…and powerful.  Jesus’ authority was his own’s and he didn’t need teachers who came before him.  Actually…no one came before him because he was God for crying out loud.  You don’t get any more authoritative than that.

And Jesus displayed that authority through his powerful words when he commanded those evil spirits to leave that man…and the evil spirits listened (kicking and screaming on the way out).  But that shouldn’t surprise you because…
…when Jesus speaks people listen.

…when Jesus speaks his words do something
[“Lazarus, come out”, “Take your mat and walk”]

when Jesus speaks he means exactly what he says.
[“Your sins are forgiven”]

Wow…that is authority.  That is awesome.  That is powerful.

We are God’s children because He says so.
We are forgiven because God says so.
We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ because God says so.

Next time you are in worship and hear the pastor announce forgiveness, know that the pastor does that with the authority of God and therefore the words being spoken are from God himself…AND therefore…you can trust that the words will do what they actually mean:  YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

Thank you, God, for calling me your child, forgiving me when I stray and embracing me when I return.  May you be praised always and forever. Amen!

edh -|—

Communion WITH God

An interesting question was posed to us at the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference last week.

The speaker was talking about a relationship WITH God and asked us: “How would your life be different if you were always aware of God’s presence?”.  He went on to talk about prayer as not just communication but communion WITH God…thus enabling us to “pray without ceasing”.

I was struck by that question. How would my life be different?

How would it affect my daily decisions?
How would I treat those who are difficult to love?
How would I deal with temptation?
How would it affect my T.V. viewing choices?
How would I speak about others?

Does this awareness affect your decisions because of fear of punishment?
Does this affect your decisions because you hope God will do something for you?

Or

Does this awareness affect your choices because of your love for the one who died and rose that you may have life?

I guess it all depends on how you look at the Gospel.  Who is God for you?

For me? 

God is Holy.  God is love.  God is life.  And my hope and prayer is that I respond out of love and worship for God.

What is your communion with God like?

-edh-

godly training

1 Timothy 4:7-8
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

I am a runner and an emerging triathlete so I understand the value of physical training.  If I don’t do the proper training then I am not going to be ready for the event I am participating in.  If I am training for a marathon then I need to make sure I get some long runs in otherwise I am going to struggle during the actual race.  When I am training for a triathlon, I need to get bike and pool workouts in as well as my running.  I also need to do back-to-back bike and run workouts to get my legs used to doing those events.  Training is vitally important.

Paul goes on to tell young Timothy that physical training is fine but remember your godly training.  That training will benefit you in this life and the next life.  But what does godly training look like?
–Scripture reading
–Praying
–Bible study
–Service
–Fasting
–Patience (and practicing the other Fruits of the Spirit)
–Worship
–Meditation
–Journaling
Just to name a few.  All of these are great ways to train for godliness.

They will bring you closer to God and to others.  They will strengthen your faith so others may see your good works and give glory to God.  This training will strengthen you resistance to Satan’s flaming arrows.  This training will feed your soul with God’s grace and forgiveness.  This training will keep us on the right track as we serve as Jesus’ disciples for the sake of the world.

Training is never easy but the more you do it the easier it becomes.  Also…the more you do it the easier it is to face the real thing.  So don’t forget your godly training.  Keep that as part of your daily routine but not so much a “routine” that your training becomes rote.  Train your soul to learn more about this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so others may experience this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so the burdens of this world do not become overwhelming.

Happy training all; praising God always and forever!  Amen!

-edh-

Proverbs 28:5

The text that caught my attention this morning was Proverbs 28:5.  Here’s what it says:

“Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

One of the reasons I am reading scripture is this verse.  The fact of the matter is that I am an evildoer; a sinner.

We all are.

And the only way I can come to a true understanding of right and wrong is through seeking out God.  I have my own version of right and wrong but it often conflicts with God ~ so I need to seek out God and learn from Him.

God is the one who sets me straight.
God is the one who convicts me.
God is the one to teaches me.
God is the one who guides me.
God is the one who LOVES me.

I need God’s direction and wisdom ~ we all do.  Seek God out and learn His ways.  Don’t try to speculate rather hear it from the Authority ~ the Creator of the universe who is madly in love with you.

-edh-

Wrestling with justice and death

I have been doing a lot of wrestling today over the events of the last 24 hours or so; the killing of Osama bin Laden.  My wrestling will continue but I wanted to write down what I have been mulling over so far.

Throughout today I have been keeping an eye on Facebook and Twitter to see what others have been saying.  I have also watched some news reports and read a few articles.  As I reflect on everything I have seen and read I find myself dealing with a tension.

First off…I am proud of our military and of their sacrifice.   Those men and women have made great sacrifices in the war on terror and in their hunt for bin Laden.  There is a part of me that is glad that this terrorist is gone.  There was a part of me that felt relief last night when I heard the official word of his death.  Will the world be a safer place…I doubt it.  But has justice been served…Yes.  So this part of me is happy and glad.

But now here’s the tension…

…as a Christian how are we to respond to the death of an individual who was created by God.  That’s right…Osama bin Laden was created by God…it’s hard to believe sometimes but he was.  So the question is this:  Is it a proper Christian response to cheer, celebrate and party over the death of a human life…no matter how evil we may think they are?  That is what I am struggling with…and the struggle feels even worse considering that it is bin Laden; a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and for changing our lives forever.  But another problem I am having is if it is alright to cheer this person’s death where do we draw the line?  It seems to be a slippery slope and one I am not willing to approach.

Another theological issue arose this morning for me.  I received a phone call from a parishioner who asked me if Osama is in hell.  I know what they wanted to here but I was forced to respond with a very difficult phrase:  “I don’t know…only God knows“.  This person wanted me to do better so we talked about the fact that we are not God and that God is the only true judge.  We also discussed that it is a dangerous business to get into; trying to determine who is going to hell and who isn’t.  “Do not judge lest ye be judged“. (Matthew 7:1)

So where I am at now is the fact that I live in two different worlds.  I am a citizen of the United States of America and a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  These worlds are in tension with one another but it is a tension we need to learn to live with and respond to.  Maybe the challenge for all Christians is to follow what Jesus commanded us to do…pray for our enemies.  That can be a tall order sometimes.

I am not going to mourn bin Laden’s death but I am going to try to refrain from celebrating it.  So in the mean time the wrestling match is going to continue…and maybe that is a good thing.

How are you responding to Osama bin Laden’s death?

-edh-

Really?

I recently read a little blurb in the March issue of The Lutheran.  Check this out:

A British university study suggests that people of strong faith can spread
religion through a “believers’ gene” that is part of their DNA.
The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a prestigious journal
of Britain’s Royal Society of scientists, theorizes a “predisposition
toward religion.” Author Robert Rowthorn suggests that people with
strong religious beliefs tend to have more children and this, combined
with a genetic predisposition to believe, can explain the expansion of religion.

Wow…I think someone needs to tell these people that they have too much time on their hands but more importantly about the work of the Holy Spirit.  Then again…maybe they have figured out how the Holy Spirit “really” works.  Who knew that God programs us at the DNA level to believe.  The next thing you know is that on CSI, while they are doing a DNA profile, you will hear them say, “Hey look…we have a Christian.”

But seriously…this is just another sad example of how people just can not leave some mysteries up to God.  There is this insatiable desire to try to figure God out.  We can’t just leave things up to faith.  I mean…there are some things we can not fully explain.  I think this is just another attempt to remove God from the picture and become gods ourselves.  Surprise, surprise.

For me…the wonder of creation is that I don’t totally understand it.  I love being surprised.  If everything was calculated, figured out and predetermined ahead of time life would be incredibly boring.

“Believers’ gene”…nope.  It’s just good ole fashioned parenting.  No mystery there.

-edh-

Remove your shoes

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

The Old Testament small group and sermon series takes us to Exodus this week (despite the fact that the small group have been canceled tonight because of weather).  I didn’t get very far in my reading before I was hit by some pondering and thinking ~ holy ground.  Moses saw this “strange thing” on the mountain ~ a bush burning but not being consumed by the fire.  Of course he had to take a closer look (me…I might have been a little more leery).  As Moses approaches the bush God belts out that this is holy ground so take off your sandals. Why take off his sandals ~ more on that later.

As I read that section I got to thinking about “holy ground” today.  What is considered holy ground?    Many people would define holy ground in various ways.  Some might say their home is holy ground.  A guy might say his man’s den is holy ground.  A golfer might say that St. Andrew’s golf course in Scotland is holy ground.  But what is holy ground?

The word “holy” means special, set apart, different.  The Bible is holy and therefore special, set apart and different ~ it is a book like no other book; for it is a living word.  God is holy and therefore special, set apart and different.  Communion, baptism is holy…and you get the picture.  But do we treat these things as holy?  Do we give such things in our lives the same respect that Moses did for some dirt around a bush?  I am not saying we should take off our shoes during Holy Communion or a baptism (that might not be a good idea for some), but how do we treat and view such events?  How do we treat the truly holy things of God?

We can get so caught up in protecting “holy things” that we miss the fact that the very things we are protecting are not truly holy.  They may be special, set apart and different in our lives, but in relation to our souls they do nothing.  I have seen people treat sports as a holy event; protecting it at the expense of time in worship.   I have seen people protect their status at the expense of the promises they made in Holy baptism.  I have seen people protect their pocket book at the expense of their relationship with their holy God.  Our “holy things” do nothing for us in the long run.  They provide some happiness and security now, but do nothing for our souls.

But consider this ~ we are ALL living on holy ground.  We are living holy lives.  We were created by a holy God to do holy things.  We were redeemed by a holy savior through a death and resurrection that is indeed special, set apart and different.  All that we consider “holy” is only available to us to call “holy” because our holy God created such things and such opportunities.  We may have special things, people, places and times in our lives but they are nothing outside of God.

So if I can dare to be allegorical here let me suggest that we take off our shoes ~ which is anything that gets in the way of truly encountering God ~ and worship God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.  Let us treat the things of God for what they are ~ special, set apart and different.  Only God is life-giving and life-sustaining.

We are indeed standing on holy ground ~ remove your shoes.

-edh-

All good things…

The above title was the title of the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The day that episode ran was a sad day for me being a huge fan of the series, but as the title suggests all good things come to an end.

This past month of so (of inactivity on this blog) I have once again been doing some soul searching about the future of this blog.  I went through a period of soul searching not so long ago and decided to keep blogging.  I felt then that was what I was meant to do, but things are changing.  I am not exactly sure what it is.  It might be that this blog has just run it’s course.  But I think a larger part of my decision involves trying to focus more energy on my ministry here at Salem and Belmont.  I am a firm believer that to have a “successful” blog (and I am being careful to claim any success here), one needs to put a lot of time and energy into it.  And my energy for blogging is waning.  So I guess as the writers of Star Trek have said, all good things must come to an end 😦

My plan is to keep this blog active for those who stumble across the many ramblings I have posted here.  When comments are left I will respond (I get email notifications).  And who knows…maybe something will strike me and I will post something, but I am not going to commit to regular posting anymore.

There are so many of you out there that have been so encouraging to me.
When I went through dry periods, you hung with me.
When I had questions you put in your two cents.
When I needed to vent, you listened.
When I needed to flush something out, you where there.

I have learned a lot about faith from many of you.  Your comments to things I have written have challenged me and I will never forget that.

Thank you for this awesome experience and for sharing yourself with me and with the world on this blog.  I pray for God to bless your ministries as you serve this awesome God that we have.  And….I look forward to crossing paths with you someday…if not in this life then in the next, because as Christians…redeemed through the cross…we know that we WILL see each other again…so this is not “good bye”…this is only “see you later”.

So with that…until we meet again.  God bless!

-edh-

Life through the cross

Life through the cross

This is the wind break wall on the ramp leading to the sanctuary at Salem Lutheran Church.  You will notice that a robin has built a nest on right cross arm.  When my wife noticed this she said to me, “There’s got to be a sermon illustration in there somewhere.”  I think she may be right.  My first thought was “Life through the cross“. Corny…maybe…but leave it to a pastor to do theology with a picture like this.  I guess one could say that I am a theologian of the cross 🙂

So…

What would you call this picture?

What scripture comes to mind when you see this?

-edh-

Post Easter vacation ramblings

Hi there…my name is Eric…

OK…enough of that…<“we all know you haven’t been around for a while”>.  I hope it doesn’t worry you that I was just talking to myself.  Maybe I need a longer post Easter vacation. Maybe I need some more coffee (which doesn’t sound like a bad idea).  Maybe I need…well…we could go on for a while here so I won’t bore you.

In any case…Easter is done (at least the day of Easter is, we are still in the Easter season) and my vacation is over.  Now I am back in the office and I was greeted with another death in the congregation.  Nothing quite like being thrown into the fire right away.  But hey…the life of a pastor.

I spent the morning attempting to clear off my desk (notice the word “attempting”) and now the call of this 70 degree day is tempting me to leave the office.

<Must…do…some…work…>

Wow…this post has turned strange very quickly.  Maybe I DO need some more coffee 🙂

Anyway…I just wanted to check in with you and share a couple things that you will be seeing here shortly:

(1) I am working on an adult class on Paul’s letter to the Romans.  I have always been intrigued with this book and decided I wanted to dive deeper into this with some people.

(2) I am continuing my preparations for my educational event that I will be attending in June at Virginia Theological Seminary.  I have a case study to write, a book to read and a couple congregational projects to do.  And this is all due on June 15.  I need to get to work.  I hope to share some insights with you here.

(3) More ponderings as a pastor (me) serving in a rural context.  Now that the program year is coming to a close in a month or so, I am hoping to do some more writing.

OK…enough rambling for now.  Hopefully you long time readers aren’t too worried about me.  And hopefully you first time readers aren’t being scared away.  I am really quite “normal” (whatever that means).

So with that…God bless your day…and I hope to see you again soon 🙂

Take care.

-edh-