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Why Mustard Seeds Move Mountains

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. ‑‑Matthew 17:20

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I’m a good person

I obey the law, drive carefully, donate to charities that touch my emotions and I am generally liked by others.

Does this sound familiar?  The secular world is full of “good persons”.  But, so is the Christian church militant.

Those “good persons” in the temporal world are right to a point. Using their scale of what is good to their fellowman, they can always find someone not as good as they are.

Ask the average person if they think they’ll go to heaven when they die and they will answer ‘well, I’m a good person; I haven’t killed anyone’ or words to that affect.

‘I’m not as bad as most people’.  That is not a “good person”; that is a modern day Pharisee.

We as Lutheran Christians, being “in the world” can easily fall into that scenario of comparing ourselves to others to establish our “goodness” quotient.  We can quickly fall into the pharisaical thinking.

As Lutheran Christians we are to be “in the world’ and not “of the world”.  In this fast growing technological age, it is easier to slip into the temporal thinking mentioned above.

In order to avoid this trap that the evil one has so craftily set for , we need to, we must prepare against it.

How do we do that?  We avail ourselves of all the defensive gifts given to us by our Creator God in the Bible and our churches.  Put God at the top of our priority list.  Prayer is the way to begin – establish a regular program of prayer, conversing with the one who created us.

We get prepared by attending divine worship services and partaking of the gifts God is there to give us; the gift of the sacraments.

We maintain contact with our Savior by getting involved in a regular formal Bible Study and setting a certain time of day to read from our Bibles.

In doing this we will learn and remember that we are not looking to be judged by the people of this world. Their measuring stick is subjective; you might measure up with some and not with others.

We are being measured by God’s holy and inerrant Word.  And, in order to measure up to be that “good person” we must take on the mantle of our Savior Jesus Christ.

He and only He can clear us of our sins and forgives us of our lapses into the worldly pharisaical thinking.

I am a good person. Yes, indeed through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ.  Are we fit to go to heaven when we die?  Yes, through Christ who saves us.

When the Going Gets Tough

“When the going gets tough” is the first part of the saying – the remainder of it is, “The tough get going. “ And what about the one that goes like this – “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall but how many times to get back up.” Also one hears, “God helps those that help themselves”  and “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. “

All of these are meant to encourage and lift up one who is having a rough time in life. This is how the world sees adversity.  Just go to your local book store, library or on line and search “self help” and you will be inundated by all sorts of advice.

This is a very lucrative business; there are self help books from everything to better sleep to healing cancer. They all have one thing in common.  It is all about what you should/can do to make things better.

But, what if all these methods fail and you undergo yet another tragedy? What then? Well, the world has an answer for that too.  You can move to one of the states that sanction assisted suicide.  You get to end your torment and the assistant does not get prosecuted for manslaughter/murder.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States as of 2010, more people died of suicide than in car accidents. In 2010, the total number of suicide deaths in the United States was 38,364.

A startling fact is that suicide occurs among Christians at essentially the same rate as non-Christians. This is a shocking revelation to many Christians. Aren’t we supposed to be protected from such devastating suffering that we would be driven to end our own lives?

Not really. Our Lord makes it quite clear in His scriptures that we must suffer with Him so that His glory might be ours in the resurrection. See Phil 1:29 and Eph 6:0, 11, 16, and Rom 8:17.

You see, as Christians we have no right to end our own life anymore than we have the right to end someone else’s life. We have been called by God. And  through His Son’s spilled blood on Calvary we are His.  We do not belong to ourselves; we belong to God.  Jer. 1:5, Job 10:11-12, 2 Tim. 1:9, Titus 1:2.

This ‘purchase’ occurred at our baptism and is strengthened each time we go to the Lord’s Table and receive God’s gifts of redemption and forgiveness at Divine Service.

The prince of the world, Satan may attack us; Once when Martin Luther was asked the question, are the evil thoughts that pop into my head a sin? And Martin Luther said, the birds of the air may fly over your head but they must not make a nest in your hair.

But as baptized Christians we wear the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God gives us His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us; that He will be with us always. Heb 13:5b, matt 28:20b.

It is in our weakness where God is our strength. The world at large, the non-believers have no such security in this life. It is all about them and what they can do.

Thanks be to God that we have Him who did and does everything for us.

Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress” states of Satan that a single word can slay him. LSB 656 v. That little word is baptized.

So when adversity hits us, we turn to Him who called us by our name, formed us in our mother’s womb and sent His only Son to buy us back into complete reconciliation with Him.

What a blessing baptism is; we are members of God’s forever family.

Count To 10

 

Count to ten is a familiar saying to those of us with quick tempers and short fuses. We’ve either said that to someone or have had it said to us.  Not usually a comforting or welcoming imperative.

This is to slow down the escalation of a heated discussion or the beginning of a serious argument. It is meant to stop the negative thinking process and distract yourself with counting.

Sometimes is works and sometimes it doesn’t, as while one is counting to ten the opponent is formulating his/her next point of opposition in the argument.

Or one either counts 12345678910 as quickly as they can (rather than 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 and so on) so they can get right back into the dispute. This gives them time to formulate their next volley in the quarrel.

Many of such confrontations are between family members, close friends or fellow workers. That means there is an emotional component to the clash or row.  This complicates things as the relationship will continue long after the “dust settles”.

Words spoken are impossible to retract. One may apologize and try to make amends but the words have been spoken, heard and remembered.  An argument takes on its own identity and is an entity of serious and sometimes damning consequences.

We are so blinded by the rhetoric that we cease to see the person we are sparing with and see only an opposing opinion, thought or plan. We are all out to “win” this battle; sometimes at all costs.  This makes “making up” difficult, slow and arduous.

I propose another method of counting to ten. One that will bring civility back into the clash and make it easier to turn it into a discussion of ideas where each one respects each other and employs good communication skills, Namely each one listens and hears the other one out and each one repeats what they (thought) they heard.

This other method is that when you count to 10, link each number with a quality you like about the other person.

  1. He/she has my back.
  2. We see eye to eye on …
  3. He/she has an upbeat personality.

Depending upon how close the relationship is invite the opponent to also count in the same way. Take turns saying each number and statement out loud.  This diminishes the level of hostility and puts the disagreement in perspective.

You know the line from a song “when you are worried and cannot sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep..”

Our loving God has given us many blessings and they are spread out in the people that He puts in our lives. Our sin keeps us from focusing on these blessings that each person brings into our lives. These sins prevent us from enjoying the blessings He has given us through those around us.

So we as sinners are bound to have spats with those in our circle of life, but there is a way to mitigate these outbursts.

It is only through the love of our heavenly Father, His Son Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit that we can know these blessings. It is through the forgiveness of those myriad of sins that we can even come before our God and give Him thanks for all He does for us on a daily basis.  And only then can we share that joy He gives us with those around us.

 

Fear or Fear Not

President Roosevelt’s famous statement “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” is well known and is quoted often. Psychologists and psychiatrists state that fear is the underlying cause of all emotion; fear is what drives our emotions, actions and in-action.  You have heard “paralyzed by fear”.

I question if it is fear that drives the unbeliever away from the gospel, the good news of Jesus the Christ. Generally, people don’t like change, especially if it is they that must change.

The perception of the unchurched seems to be that they must change their behavior, activities, thoughts and lifestyle to be “believers”. So, that fear turns them away from finding out and learning that it is after they receive the gift of faith that Jesus does the changing and it is for the better. A change they would welcome through faith in the promises of God.

Fear is paralyzing, debilitating and caustic. Look at how fear began in Genesis 3:10 where we first see fear appear. Adam says to God,  “…I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked’ and I hid myself.

Fear drives us to desperate measures. In Adam’s case he turned away from God.  Later on in the Bible when God came down on Mt Sinai and gave His law to Moses for all His people, they too turned away from God trembling in fear.

We as a people don’t like to be corrected; we don’t want to know what, how and where we go wrong. The law does just that.  Fear rises up in us and we try to hide from it. Therefore we will hide from God, our helper.

However, there is another mountain, one which holds the answer to this fear for us. It is Mt Calvary, Golgotha.  God in the body of Jesus comes on this mountain also, but with a different message than that of Mt Sinai.

This is the “Fear not” message of the Bible, the gospel. The law has been fulfilled for every human being. God in His grace took mercy upon us and gave us the antidote to our fear, sin and wages of sin, which is death; the second death which is the death of our soul.

This is the message the nonbelievers need to hear; a solution to their fear of whatever it is that drives them away from Jesus. Whether their fear is learning of their wrongdoings, fear of change in their habits and lifestyle, fear of the unknown or fear of rejection of their friends and family if they become “a believer”, they need to hear the pure words of Jesus (the law) is finished.

In the Bible when God sends His messengers, angels, they begin with the words “fear not”.  We as Lutheran Christians know that with God through our baptism there is nothing to fear, not even fear itself.  We have the healing message that Jesus and His good works has given us His grace and mercy and removed fear through His redemptive work on the cross.  We go forth in our baptismal covenant with the one true and triune God and fear not, but love (our neighbors) with the joy and love of our risen Savior.

The law was given, in part, to show us our sins so that we would turn to Jesus for His grace, mercy, redemption and forgiveness.

The gospel was given to the world so that we could know the good news; that God sent His only Son to keep the law for us.  When we confess our sins and sincerely repent of them,  Jesus pardons all of our sins and imputes His righteousness to us.

‘Fear’ of the law that condemns us or ‘fear not’.

 

Fear not, Jesus has done it all for us. We are reconciled to God through the Holy Spirit that gives us faith in the gospel promises.

Love Is An Action Word

The use of the word love has been broadened over time. Therefore we need to identify how we intend to use the word love for this article.

You will hear or even have said yourself, things like:

“I just love your hair”

“Oh, I love to go fishing” and…

“Luv Ya – bye”

What happened to “admire”, “like”, “approve of” or “be in awe of”? Years ago the word love was used for special people in one’s life, not things.  It had deep emotion and respect behind it.  It had a “touchy-feely” aspect to it.

The word love today is often used as an emotion, a feeling. Emotions and feelings are misleading and fickle. One can be high in happiness at one moment and due to some random internal thought or some external activity be dashed to despair. This kind of love is transient.

So, to refer to love in that sense is to ‘water-down’ the real and basic meaning. God’s meaning.

But there is another way to use the word love. The Bible tells us that God is love: 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16.  Then, to realize what love really is, we must see what God does.  The word “does” indicate activity – action.  God’s love is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The action is the gifts He gives us through His Son Jesus.

He gives us the gift of grace, mercy, repentance, reconciliation and above all, the forgiveness and remission of all of our sins. His love in action through Jesus our Savior..

God (He) created everything that was, is and will be…and…He continues to care for it. That is out of His love, for God doesn’t need any of these things.  They are for His prime creation, mankind.

Out of His love he set parameters (law) to guide and govern us. We, out of love, set guidelines and parameters for our children, to keep them safe.   These are actions we take which shows our children our love for them.

God chasten His creation out of love, Hebrews 12:6 so that we do not go astray and follow false teachers, but keep our eyes on Him. We do the same thing with our children when we discipline them when they do wrong; again, actions out of love.

God loved the whole world that he gave His only Son (gospel) to take upon Himself all of our sins, wrong doings and failings. That is love in action in its highest form. Jesus tells us in Mathew 22:39 that we must do likewise and love our neighbors; those people He places in our circle of life. This may be, for us, the utmost of love in action.

I have a neighbor that for no reason will put freshly baked cookies in my mailbox. That is loving your neighbor – love in action.

Think of the ways you show God’s love (and joy in Jesus) to your neighbors. Do you defend them against rumors and false accusations?  Do you pray for them regularly?  Do you share the Word of God with them?  These are all love in action.

Think of the ways someone has shown God’s love to you; some call it “random acts of kindness”, however it is referred to, it is God in action in our lives through His love and our joy in that love.

So, yes we can, do and will use the word love loosely in our everyday language and that, in and of itself is not bad so long as we remember who is the author of love.

We have a loving God who says He is Love. Let us also use the word love in that meaning and context too and put it into action in our daily lives.

We love because God loved us first. What greater love can there be than to give His Son Jesus up to carry our sins to the cross where we have every lasting forgiveness and the promise of life eternal with Him?

It IS What It IS

This is a popular exclamation in today’s vernacular. You hear it said in the media and in personal conversations.

It is usually uttered when all other words fail us; in cases of apparent unexplainable circumstances or in otherwise grave situations when one does not know what to say.

An example is a freak accidental occurrence that defies reason, logic and understanding. After stumbling and stammering through various incomplete and incomprehensible thoughts in an endeavor to console, in exasperation we say “It is what it is” and everyone seems to instinctively understand the unspoken thought the sentence conveys.

There are many times in our lives that we are at a loss for words, when our emotions are so powerful that they overcome our ability to think properly.  We and our reason, thoughts, perceptions and whatever word you want to use often fail us.

These are times when our all powerful God is at work doing his Godly things which are far above our ‘pay-grade’ to grasp. Not only do our words fail us, but all of our being and abilities fail to understand His ways.  It is what it is – God’s way, time, reason and WILL.

However, in His holy Word, written by His called scribes and inspired by Him, our Sovereign God does give us an understanding that is certain.

He tells us that He is with us and He comes to us with His gifts of love, grace, mercy, justifications, sanctification and forgiveness. He tells us through Jesus His Son, our Savior as Jesus institutes the Holy Supper for us in Matthew 26, “Take, eat, this IS my body” followed by “This IS my blood of the new covenant…”.  It IS What It IS; God’s Word, spoken by the Incarnate Jesus for us and for our salvation.

This is something that through the gift of the Holy Spirit though our baptism we can wrap our soul around. No need for earthly thinking, reasoning or understanding to take this in.  God has done all the work for us.

It is what it is because God says it, it is real and we believe it through His gift of faith. Praise God that “It IS What It IS, His command, His love, His gifts and His will for us unto and through eternity.

Maybe we will never hear those often spoken words in the same way. “It is what it is.”

Childlike By Command

Childlike by Command

Matthew 10:15 and Luke 18:17

In order to consider this command by our Lord Jesus we should explore the meaning of childlike and not confuse it with childish.

The first is of the spirit and the second is of the flesh.

(1) Childlike – “resembling or suggesting a child: like that of a child; especially having or showing the pleasing qualities (such as innocence) that children often have” Merriam-Webster

A Childlike spirit is trusting, unquestioning and naïve in nature; open to receiving the             gifts of faith.

(2) Childish – “of a child or typical of a child; especially : having or showing the unpleasant qualities (such as silliness or lack of maturity) that children often have” Merriam-Webster

A childish (fleshly) behavior is juvenile, immature, silly and not open to anything             outside of them.

We are to be childlike and open to receiving God’s Word, His gifts and blessings of forgiveness of our sins without doubt or question

But we have grown up; we have adult thoughts, reasoning and logic.    How else can we subsist in the world without these traits?  Well, that is the flesh speaking; what about our mature spirit?

We engage in the battle of childlike faith and trust and adult intellectual thinking on a daily basis.  It is like the fine line we walk as sinner and saint simultaneously. However, we continue to delight in our ability to reason, dissect, explain and rationalize God’s Word and make it fit our lives.

Then we read in our Bibles and hear from the lectern and pulpit on Sundays that God delights in childlike faith and trust in His Word and promises.

How does this dichotomy come about in us, the jewel in God’s crown of creation?  We enter this world at our birth as full blown enemies of God and He turns that around with the gift of His Holy Son as our Savior, Redeemer and the Holy Spirit as the perfector of our faith.  We receive this blessing at our baptism where the old Adam is buried in the water of baptism and the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us.

We are then nurtured through the hearing of the Word as we grow in Christian families through daily family devotions; we attend Divine Services and progress into Sunday School and later Catechism.

Then what? Where is that childlike faith we had from cradle to catechism?

We enter the grown up world of competition to do good, get ahead, make a life, learn our way in the world. We take our eyes off the cross. In our ‘faith walk’ we either live in the theology of the cross or live in the theology of glory (The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Veith, Jr.)

But, peer pressure is rampant; and we think we are on track.  And we are…but whose track are we on – God’s or Satan’s?  Matthew 12:20a states “He who is not with Me is against Me, …”

Indeed, we have to make sense of the world we live in as we can maintain our childlike faith while living in the world of the flesh.

We need to keep tethered to God and nurture our childlike faith by regular attendance at His Divine Service, receiving His gifts through His Holy Supper where He comes directly to us in body and blood to remove from us all of our sins and by earnestly joining our brothers and sisters-in-Christ in a Bible study.

We need to be aware that our flesh leans toward the theology of glory which is outside of us.

We need to turn in God’s direction to the empty cross, the empty tomb and embrace the theology of the cross which is our spiritual self that comes from God to us.

That is a tall order for us.  We can’t help but fall short, Paul is clear on that point in Romans 7:19 where is says “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”

But, thanks be to God, He helps us out.  For every command that we can’t keep He has an answer and that includes having and living in childlike faith.

When God turns His countenance toward us, He sees Jesus’ childlike faith.  All of Jesus’ good works are imputed to us as baptized children of the King.  Our shortcomings (sins) and failures are forgiven, removed from us and our loving God remembers them no more.

So, what we are left with is His grace and mercy and the childlike faith God commends.  Hallelujah, God be praised.

Working That Christmas Feeling All Year

‘That Christmas feeling all year’ is a line from a popular secular “Christmas” song, which begs us to know just what is meant by Christmas feeling.  You may ask a dozen people, ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’ what that means and you will get a dozen different descriptions.  You’ll hear words like it is a personal thing or even it’s an individual thing – there is no wrong answer.

For the purpose of this article, we will go with the universal feeling of being charitable

 (1. Benevolent; 2. Indulgent; kind, lenient, merciful; 3.  Philanthropic).

Now, we as Christians, nay, Lutheran Christians do not relate to feelings where our faith is concerned. We relate to the gifts we receive from our heavenly Father through His son Jesus as delivered into us by way of the Holy Spirit.

These gifts include, but are not limited to, justification, sanctification, contrition, repentance, faith in God’s promises and the forgiveness of our sins. These are purely gifts for which we do not work for or deserve.  It is through the pure love  God has for all people.  These gifts are for everyone – like Tiny Tim in the Christmas Carol “God bless us – everyone”.

For us as receivers of these gracious and merciful gifts, love becomes a verb, an action word.  We show our thankfulness and gratitude for these gifts by sharing the love of Christ with others; we call it serving our neighbors.

Now, the world does not understand this concept. As feelings ebb and flow and so they want to wish the charitable feelings of the Christmas season to last all year.  That takes conscious effort, even work to sustain, even for a day.  This is an impossibility, yet very desirable.

What the people of the world do not know, understand or accept, is that they as we Christians are not capable of any good feelings or outpouring of charity on our own. It is only through the gift of faith in the crucified and risen Lord we can stand before our heavenly Father and receive His gifts as we confess ourselves to be sinners and in need of His forgiveness.

It is our joy in His Word, spoken, heard, read, taught and preached that we can “experience” Him in truth, purity and substance in the sacraments rightly given as His real presence in the Holy Supper and Holy Baptism.

For us, His children, this, the Joy of Him is sustained throughout the year. We do not need to wish it so.  God says it is so and it is so.

So this is our message to the world, at Christmas time and anytime. We proclaim it, the Holy Spirit blessess it and God the Father and Son bestow it.

Our prayer as Christians, nay, Lutheran Christians is that the whole world will hear these words of saving faith delivered as a gift of God’s love and shared with others so that His joy will abound in us and those who hear and believe His gifts.

So, the sentiment of the secular song to wish we could keep that Christmas feeling all year is not so far off the mark.  We should be charitable and love and serve our neighbors all year, but we don’t need the feeling, what we do need is the real and tangible gift of God; the joy of being His child through Christ, the genesis of the season. Jesus is the reason, ever since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden.

So, whatever time of year you read this, the same joy of being served by a loving God is real and powerful. Let us savor the Joy.

Faith Lutheran Church to hold open house for new Rogue River radio station.

There is a new sound in Rogue River on the frequency of 94.3FM. On Monday, Faith Lutheran Church in Rogue River began broadcasting their new radio station called “The Bridge.” In addition to the station’s Christian talk shows by day and sacred classical music by night, The Bridge also brings a special focus to Rogue River and the surrounding communities. With local news, weather, and sports, they hope to use the new radio station as a service to the community in ways that keep citizens informed and get the church’s message out. Pastor Evan Goeglein hosts a live weekday morning show called “Rogue Talk” at 7:00 a.m. which re-broadcasts at 4:00 p.m. Pastor Goeglein interviews various local guests and highlights matters that are important to the community.

Faith Lutheran Church had worked on launching this radio station for over 18 months, beginning with authorization with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to broadcast in the area. They were permitted by the FCC with a Low Power license (LPFM) which allows non-commercial broadcast on a power level of 100 watts. According to the FCC, 100 watt Low-Power stations have approximately a 3 ½ mile radius signal range. The Bridge can be heard in Rogue River, Wimer, and Gold Hill with a strong single.

Faith Lutheran Church is holding an open house on Friday, April 10th from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. This will be open to the community so the public can view the broadcast studio which is located within the church at 8582 Rogue River Hwy. Participants willing to record their comments on what makes their community great will receive a free t-shirt (while supplies last). The Bridge will be broadcasting everyone’s comments on the air throughout the month of April.