Month: June, 2014

“Paying The Price”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our father…

Please pray with me…

I have to admit, when I first read our readings for this Sunday, I was sort of frustrated. I sat at my keyboard going from Matthew to Romans back to Matthew back to Romans then to Jeremiah and finally to our Gospel lesson again. I felt that all three readings are somewhat harsh. I think what scared me the most is that all these verses are so matter-of-fact. If you get a divorce and remarry while your first spouse is still alive, you are committing adultery. God did not come to bring peace but a sword and we are to love God above our parents and our kids or we are not worthy of God. Most of us know these things but we choose not to think about them too much because of their call to obedience. Just in reading this Jesus proves His point. He did not come to bring peace but a sword.

God asks a lot from us because we are set apart as His disciples. He expects a kind of discipleship from us that would be impossible were it not for the gifts He gives us in His Word and Holy Spirit. We all know this. I know I said it many times in my sermons to you. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as signing our names on an application or pledging our undying love. To be God’s disciples, there is often a level of difficulty that’s hard for us to master. To be a disciple of Christ is to go against almost everything that the world is teaching us.

Most Christians are OK with a certain level of discomfort. You know, like when you have to stick up for your faith because someone you know challenges it or having to resist certain things that temp us or taking the time to spend a few moments in Bible study apart from church. But when it comes to genuine hardship, we feel that maybe God is asking too much. After all, what good is being “saved?” If it’s not from hardship, then what are we saved from? There is often an implied expectation that if we make the decision to surrender our lives to God that our lives should be easier somehow.

Yet in the Gospel lesson for today, it seems to say that it’s just the opposite. It talks of trial and disunity in a family. It pits father against son, mother against daughter and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law. It even goes so far as to call them enemies. It calls us to claim our own crosses and to carry them in humility, following Jesus all the while. He makes it clear that if you cannot do all of these things then you are not worthy of Him.

We fashion ourselves as true martyrs because of all the trials we have to overcome to live up to the expectations that God has for us. “I had to work too hard for that promotion, I have more bills than money, my spouse just doesn’t understand me.” We’re all good at feeling sorry for ourselves sometimes but, even these challenges cannot compare to what God really expects of us.

Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a man who truly lived his life as a dedicated disciple. He learned how large the cost of discipleship could be when he forfeited his life rather renounce his faith. The SS Doctor who pronounced him dead said, “I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” He knew that God wanted more than just that part we’re willing to give Him. He wants His disciples to commit their very lives to Him in every way, 100% just like Bonhoeffer did.

So, knowing this, what exactly are the costs that we have to be willing to pay? What’s the charge for following Jesus? Well, obviously, Jesus tells us that following Him could cost us relationships, even the ones we cherish the most.

This week I got a call from a fellow Warrior from the motorcycle ministry I belong to. He‘s our newest member and there is just something about him that I really like. This kid has seen some hard times but to speak to him of his faith, it can inspire any man. He called because he had a dilemma. It seems he had, in his words, kind of implied that he would give his brother a certain car someday. Well, it had been awhile since that pledge and now his brother wanted the car.

My friend hesitates now because his brother has been involved in some unrighteous living. He parties too hard and drinks too much.

He has fallen away from God and has become more and more a victim of his worldly whiles. My friend worries that this irresponsibility will only become enhanced should he have transportation. He has a tendency to drive while drinking and he has had no insurance while doing so. His choice was to go against the wishes of his brother and even his mother and not give him the car he had once promised or to give the car and risk enhancing a problem. If he withholds the car, his brother and mother would be very upset, if he gives the car he would have to live with the consequences. Jesus was offering him the sword.

Ultimately he came to the decision to give him the car as he had promised but to use it as an opportunity to share his faith by telling his brother his concerns in love. I pray all works out.

Jesus said, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Matthew 10:35) here Jesus is quoting Micah speaking of a time when the people had fallen away from the Lord, a time of apostasy. This was not a popular message, I’m sure, from Jesus. Often He would be so black and white that it left nothing to chance. The apostle Paul said that sometimes His message was a stumbling block. Because, although the Gospel is good news, it is often proceeded by some very bad news, the news that tells us of our sinful inclinations.

Jesus didn’t speak to be popular, He came bearing the truth. He spoke to convince us of our need for a Savior and to accept a Savior we must confess our own moral bankruptcy. Something few look forward to because we know the ugliness that must be dealt with.

There is something in the human spirit that is annoyed by the prospect of facing our own moral shortcomings, there is something within us that wants God to affirm us the way we are and for God to say, “well done good and faithful servant,” even when we know it’s far from the truth.

To be the person God expects us to be, it means dealing with issues we would rather ignore. It means doing the things that are expected of us even if they cost us relationships. It means putting God first in all things even those things you cherish in this world the most. Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. Part of the cost of discipleship is division.

Another cost of discipleship can be found in the choices we make. Verse 37 of our text says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Sometimes your choice to follow Christ pulls you away from those you love. If this happens, you have a choice to make, do I continue to follow Jesus or do I give him up to bring peace between me and my family.

What is going to be your priority when it comes to making these kinds of choices in your life? Is Christ going to be worth it to you or do you still find your faith too week to walk away?

This is the Abraham test. Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his own son. If that had been you instead, what would you have done? Abraham was prepared to do what he most passionately did not want to do because he put God first in his life. For this faith he was rewarded and his son was unharmed. God calls on all of us from time to time to make a choice. It may not be as drastic as what Abraham had to face but they are choices we have to make non-the-less.

God calls on us to make choices that make Him the priority in all we do even above career, family, or any personal dreams we might have. This is a hard request to honor because the world is so good at telling us the opposite. Do I sleep in or do I go to church? Do I take the time to do devotions at home or do I choose to do something else for myself? Do I get involved in ministries outside my church or do I convince myself I just don’t have the time? Do I share my faith with my unchurched friends or do I avoid it because I don’t want to answer the hard questions? The cost of discipleship often calls us to make tough decisions.

Following Christ also takes determination. Jesus says in verse 38, And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Very black and white, no alternatives, you’re in or you’re out.

The cross was a terrifying instrument of torture. Just mentioning it here had to make his hearers uncomfortable. Jesus was not interested in being politically correct, he was interested only in the truth, no matter how uneasy it may make us feel. Jesus is telling them and us, that the journey in faith He is calling us to may not be an easy one, but it’s one we must take to be worthy disciples. And to do that takes a lot of determination.

One of my favorite songs to sing is a song by Bebo Norman called “Yes I will.” My favorite lyrics from that song is in its chorus, it says, “I will follow you Jesus all the way up that hill, to the cross where the river runs crimson even still, yes I will follow you Lord, I will.”

We are asked to look at the example Christ set for us and the determination He showed as He walked up that Hill carrying His own cross. If we are to follow this example it will take all the determination we can muster, a willingness to be transformed no matter the cost.

So, now we know the costs but are we willing to pay the price? It’s only going to cost you everything. Is Christ worth it to you? Are you willing to pay the price in relationships? Are you willing to make the right choices? Are you determined enough? Are you willing to be transformed?

Because the message of Christianity is not just that we can be saved, but that we can be transformed. As we place God first, as we become determined to carry our cross, we become transformed into God’s image and we shed the image the world tries to mold us into.

We learn that we don’t have to follow our own sinful desires or become a slave to them. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be made new, willing followers of Christ and fellow heirs to the kingdom of heaven. We are not just forgiven people, we are children of the most high God. We aren’t perfect, but can always be striving for perfection, growing in our ability to understand the kind of life God wants for us and the ability to live it.

The more we understand what Jesus came here to do, the more we can appreciate just what He expects from us, the more we can rejoice in who He has made us to be. We can come to a point where we say. “Thank you God for all that you are. Thank you for your love that guides us. Thank you for caring enough, even before I was born, to teach me the lessons you have, so that I may follow you more faithfully and thank you for your Son who has made all these things possible by His blood. Thank you for being the answer to so many of life’s questions, I am yours 100%, Use me in great and mighty ways.”

God is demanding and His requirements are impossible. Luckily, we have been given the greatest of gifts in His Son who has paid the price. He was willing to pray the price for our salvation and we are now called to follow that example by surrendering to God all that we are and all that we will become. His plan is complete and He invites all of us to enter into a state of wholeness and unity as redeemed children.

Our goal is to receive the righteous reward and we do that by trusting in Jesus to lead the way in our lives, carrying our own crosses with determination and faith. Life without Jesus is shallow and empty, when we surrender our lives to Him our hearts feel like they’re truly home. We were created to be in relationship with Him. When we finally make the choice to become devoted disciples, our life’s purpose is fulfilled. We have life and we have it more abundantly. Real life the way it was supposed to be.

On the surface, it seems that God almost wants the impossible. How could we ever meet the qualifications. Well, we can’t, but God made that all possible through His Son. Yes, the road towards heaven is a hard road at times full of lost relationships, bad choices and unrealized potential, but God has shown us the way. Claim the reward He is offering you by doing everything you possible can to become a worthy disciple. The reward is much greater than the cost. Amen

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 10: 34-42

If Jesus is the “Prince of Peace,” what do you make of verse 34? Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:10-14, 12:49-51; John 14:27; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:15-19

Is the sword the effect of His coming or the purpose of His coming?

What are Jesus’ explicit conditions for true disciples? Vss. 37-39; Acts 5:29

 

Why do you think that Jesus needed to be so blunt?

 

Is God saying we must hate our immediate family? 1 Timothy 5:8 If not, what is He saying? Philippians 2:12-16; Galatians 1:10

 

Why might family members who love each other become enemies?

 

What does it mean to “Bare your cross?” James 1:2; Acts 5:40-42

 

Martin Luther describes this kind of suffering well in his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, saying “For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all he has on earth—possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life. Now this grieves our flesh and the Old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.”

 

What is the benefit of giving everything here on earth up for loss, and clinging to Christ alone as our true and only possession?

 

What does it mean to find one’s life and lose it? To lose one’s life for Jesus’ sake and find it? Matthew 16:24-27

 

Why do most Christians naturally assume all will be well, believing the plan for us is good and wonderful?

 

What does God see as good, and how does it compare with what we see as good?

 

Who needs to change?

 

What does it mean to receive a disciple of Jesus? A prophet? A righteous man? What are the rewards?

 

If you had known ahead of time all the pain and suffering you would or could go through as a Christian, would you have made the commitment of faith in Him? Why, or why not?

“The Mystery of God”

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

A while ago I finally broke down and got myself a Facebook account. It was a long time coming but I have to admit, Its been nice to catch up with some old friends and classmates from days gone by. I’ve been able to find many of the people I went to high school with and it’s been fun to see what they have done and the kind of people they have become.

Recently I came upon a message from one of those friends, a friend who was one of my best friends growing up and I was so disappointed in what I read. It was something he thought was funny and it severely demeaned anyone who believed in God. All believers were the victims of its attempt at humor.

Well, I rarely add much as far as comments but I couldn’t help myself. My comment was that it wasn’t funny at all, in fact it was sad. This friend of mine, who obviously knew what I did for a living shot back at me for not “getting it,” but that it shouldn’t surprise him because I lived in a fantasy world believing in any God. I have to admit, what I wrote back was rather sarcastic and immature.

It’s then that another of my past classmates who is also bold in her faith as an atheist, rightfully chastised me. She told me that those words couldn’t have been from the Danny that she always knew. She was right.

I apologized for my trying to fight fire with fire. I added that it was because it hurt that someone, who I knew so well, would say that my faith, that thing I held most dear, would be a fantasy to him. I then took the chance to outline my faith a bit, hoping it would start a conversation. And it did, but not with either of them. Another woman by the name of Sandy got involved in the conversation. She said she was an atheist but her daughter was starting to ask questions about God and that she would be fine if her daughter became a believer. I thanked her for giving her child that opportunity and I, again, outlined what faith in Christ meant to me. She said she had trouble believing in anything that was such a mystery and that left so many unanswered questions. I told her that God was a mystery because He is largely beyond our comprehension and besides, would she really want to believe in a God who had no mystery about Him? If there was no mystery, He’d just be like us and who would want a God like us. Her last comment was. Good point. I’ll probably never know if the seed that I planted germinated in anyway, but I know I planted a seed.

Today is Trinity Sunday and it’s probably the best day in the church year to talk about mysteries.

After all, the mystery of the triune God perplexes many. How can three be one and one be three? Let’s see if we can answer that question this morning. Of course there is only so much you can cover in 20 minutes. To try and fully explain the mystery of God, even if we could, would take a lifetime.

When we talk of the Trinity, it common to go to John 1: verses 1and 14, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

So today we’ll try to sum up these words and it won’t be easy. Our words could never describe the glories of heaven, let alone the mystery of God. There have been many attempts to do it with varying degrees of success and readability. Some have said the Trinity is like the three phases of water liquid, solid (ice) and mist. Or three parts of an egg, white, yolk and shell. Others have said that the Trinity is like one person with three titles, such a woman being mother, daughter and sister all at the same time. Others have tried to explain the Trinity by comparing it to a cherry pie which is cut in three distinct pieces yet the filling in the middle all runs together as one. Looking at all of them, however, we see that none of them would be a perfect illustration.

 

The Trinity is three distinct persons in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They have been around for all of eternity. They co-exist in equal parts so that all can be apparent at the same time and in the same place as we have seen during the Epiphany season reminding us of Jesus’ baptism. God the Father speaking, Gone the Son being baptized, God the Holy Spirit descending upon the Son.

Each of the three communicate with the others as three distinct persons. And the presence of one can be emphasized over the others as we saw in today’s Gospel in Matthew when Jesus said, “”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”A greater promise has never been spoken.

 

The Athanasian Creed says that, “We worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in unity. If you know of the history of the church and its creeds, you would know that this concept of trinity was one that was battled and prayed over for centuries. St. Athanasius himself was exiled five times in his struggles to bring others to an understanding of it.

 

There were many, called Arians, at that time who denied that Jesus Christ was fully God.

That is why we say in the Nicene Creed “Being of one substance with the Father” and “Very God of Very God.” When we say them now, many barely pay attention to the words. We don’t realize that people went through all kinds of hardship, even death, to get them there. Once they were there they were shouted from the rooftops so that all would come to an understanding of the Glory of our God in Trinity.

People, still today, try to minimize one or the other. Last week we spoke of how many minimize the Holy Spirit, but the Son also has been relegated to a lesser divinity by others. Today, in many respects, people try to bring Jesus down to their level. They make Him their buddy and their confidant. They thank Him for talking to the “Big Man” for them but they don’t really see Him as equal to God the Father. They see Him as God Lite with a third less glory then your regular God.

 

But if Christ is not fully God, His death would have not been sufficient to pay for our sins. No, it had to be the perfect sacrifice and nobody is perfect except God. God Himself cannot be in relationship with sin nor could he be in relationship with someone who is not perfectly sinless, so He could not, therefore, be in relationship with us were it not for the fact that He sees us through the prism of Christ. Because Christ was sinless, we have been endowed with His righteousness. He took all of our sin upon Himself and gave us all His righteousness in return. Because of the perfect sacrifice of His Son, who is perfect because God is perfect, we can be seen as perfect in the eyes of God, who claims us as His own and heirs to His kingdom.

Last week we spoke of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He is not an “it.” He is not a divine influence. He is not a fleecy white cloud. He is not a ghost or a concept.

He is a person possessing a will, intellect and emotions. He is God — with all the attributes of deity. He is the third person of the Trinity — co-equal with God the Father and God the Son. If it were not true then our very faith would have no use because Scripture tells us that faith in God has to come from God by way of the Holy Spirit who is God. It seems that the only person of the Trinity to get full credit from everyone is the Father. But I’m sure if we searched hard enough, we would find others who question even that.

 

Athanasius wrote, “We worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in unity,” three persons, one God. But what does that really mean? Why does it seem like such a mystery? Athanasius said that we should consider our own souls. He said, “our souls were made in God’s image. The soul remembers, it knows and it loves. These are three activities, and yet they are the activity of the one soul.

In us this is an imperfect unity because our reasoning and our love do not coincide because of sin. But God is the perfect unity of personal activity: He is, He knows, He loves, and with Him, these three are one.”

 

Dr. Wilbur Smith, once shared in his seminary class, “The man who denies the Trinity will lose his soul. The man who tries to understand the Trinity will lose his mind.”

 

Well, I think It’s important that we try and I’m not afraid of losing what little brain I have left if you aren’t. I think there are three good reasons why we should never quit searching for the answers to the mystery of God.

 

First, it’s very good to know about those you love. If someone loves you, they wish to share all they are with you, even the parts that aren’t so flattering. Love has no secrets but it does have mystery. Ask any guy about his gal and he’ll tell you that there is lots of mystery. But that’s one of the things that makes relationship’s so great. That mystery keeps us interested. In my opinion, without mystery there would be less attraction. If God were not mysterious in some way, He would not be as interesting. I think God wants us to try and figure Him out and He’s given us just enough information about Himself to make us want more. Will we ever know all the mysteries of God?

I hope not.

Secondly, While we might not be able to figure out the Trinity, we can recognize the Trinity as the perfect modal of harmony and unity. When we look at the God-head, we can use that modal as a way to live our own lives in harmony and unity with others.

Each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses, our own talents and challenges. Each person in the Trinity serves a unique purpose and they serve it in perfect compliment with the others. Back to our gals, I think that’s why opposites attract. Cheryl says she helps to keep me out of the clouds and I help her get her feet out of the cement. If we can use our unique talents to help those who might not have them then we both win. The unity of the God-head works in perfect harmony as our example.

Finally, as we read together in our Old Testament lesson, we learn that we were created in the image of God. You and I, in the image of God Himself, now that’s kind of exciting. Therefore, since Jesus has revealed to us the essence of the Trinity in perfect harmony we can know that our own goal should be called to that same perfect harmony, community and relationship. This is the loss of individualism past the point of service to our neighbors and it’s the biggest challenge we face in our society. When we see three in one in equal shares with each other, we see what God wishes for all of His children.

He wants us to resist the devil as he tries to bring disunity to the world. In His church He wants us to focus more on the things that bind us then the things that separate us. He wants us to celebrate the relationship we have with him by being in a right relationship with each other.

 

The Trinity is one of the hardest things to comprehend or explain in Christian doctrine, despite the fact that we confess our faith together every week. But the one thing we can certainly do, is to continue to praise God, even with our lack of understanding sometimes.

 

We praise Him because He is our Creator and our King. We praise Him because He is our Shepherd and our intercessor. We praise Him because He had provided for us our faith and has guided us on our journey in life. All these things provided by the one true God are worthy of our praise.

As for God the Father we praise Him that He is the perfect example of a loving Father on Father’s Day. As for the Son, we praise Him for His obedience to live as a servant and to suffer and die upon the cross so that we might be seen through Him and therefore gain eternal life with Him. As for the Holy Spirit, we praise Him because His presence in us, which never ends, will continue to reveal God’s Word to us so that we might become faithful witnesses to that Word.

The awesomeness of God is impossible to comprehend but that’s OK. If we knew everything about God then we would no longer need Him.

 

 

I think David says it best in Psalm 8:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Amen

 

 

 

Bible Study – The Mystery of God

Bible Study – The Mystery of God

Is the Holy Spirit a person? John 14:26, 16:13-14; Acts 8:29, 13:2, 15:28, 16:6-7; Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews 10:29

Is the Holy Spirit God? Acts 5:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21

Why Did God Send The Holy Spirit? Luke 24:49; John 14:16-18; Acts 2:33; Romans 8:26-27;             1 Corinthians 2:9-11,13; 1 John 2:18-20,27

Is Jesus God? Isaiah 9:6, 44:6-8, 45:5; Matthew 2:1-2,11, 28:16-20; John 1:1,14, 5:18,21-23 8:57-58, 10:27-28; 20:26-28, 21:17; 1 Corinthians 1:2 (kurios); Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-4,8;

In the OT God was seen Exodus 6:2-3; 24:9-11; Numbers 12:6-9; Acts 7:2, yet no man can see God Exodus 33:20; John 1:18. It was not the Father that was seen in the OT John 6:46. Who, then were they seeing?

Why does God keep some things a mystery? Genesis 3:1-19; Proverbs 3:31-32, 25:2; Job 10:12-13; Isaiah 45:9; Romans 16:25-26; Colossians 1:26-28; Ephesians 3:1-11

What are some of the mysteries of God both answered and unanswered? John 3:4; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Ephesians 1:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelations 1:12-20

Why does God reveal His mysteries sometimes? Deuteronomy 29:29-30; Psalm 19:1-3; Matthew 13: 11-13; Acts 17:26-27; Romans 1:20-21; Ephesians 3:14-19

How can we distinguish what is from God and what isn’t? James:13-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21

How has God chosen to reveal Himself today?

Why doesn’t God answer everything with a yes? Proverbs 15:29; 2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 John 5:14

Why does it seem that God is not listening sometimes?

Will we ever know all the answers to some of our questions?

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-18,23; 1 John 1:8; John 16:32-33

“Turning The World”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

In Idaho, I had just finished my deacon training when I was asked to help a church get through a very difficult situation. It was faced with its third split in just over 20 years and many in the church were questioning themselves wondering how everything could have gone so wrong. I was there to provide healing and advice because I was very close to this church having served them as a Thrivent representative and once a month lay speaker.

The meeting started as you might expect with every emotion from anger to sorrow. All the younger families had left to start their own church and the remnant that was remaining pondered on the future. What are they to do? Where was God taking them and who would lead them?

That’s when the words that would change my life happened. “Dan, you know what? I think you would be an excellent shepherd for this church.” Coming in to provide support, I was now the focus. The leaders of the church immediately jumped on the idea and before I knew it, I was a lay pastor full-time. Deacon Dan. An incredible three year journey followed and, by the grace of God and the work of His Holy Spirit we were able to weather the storm and get the church on good footing.

So, why did all this happen so quickly? Why did I seem, all-of-a-sudden qualified to lead this church? I believe it had everything  to do with the Holy Spirit. I had just finished a Bible Study I was doing with them on that very topic. They ate it up and wondered out loud why they had never really studied the work of the Holy Spirit before. That Bible study got them excited and, in a way, it paved the way for me to stay there and preach that message every Sunday. In fact, that’s why I introduce my sermon’s a little bit differently, adding the Holy Spirit in because one man in that congregation wondered why the Holy Spirit was left out. I couldn’t give him a proper answer so it’s remained in my introduction as part of God’s greeting ever since.

The Holy Spirit seems to get missed so often in so many Lutheran churches. We’re really great in focusing on the works of Christ and the grace of the Father, but when it comes to the person of the Holy Spirit, it’s as if we don’t know what to say sometimes.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, called so because it designates the 50th (Pente) day after Passover, which is a Jewish Feast Day. Pentecost is also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest. It was on this day that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Christ who were gathered together in Jerusalem. It was on this day that the Church was born.

In our lesson in Acts, we learn that the Church began with tongues of fire. It was born with passion as the Holy Spirit was given to the followers of Christ that day. Lives were forever changed. The Apostles no longer faced doubt, their whole demeanor had changed. The power of the Holy Spirit was palpable as the promise of Christ to provide a helper was realized.

That same power is available today. The Holy Spirit is as alive and well as when He first touched the hearts of the Apostles, but it seems we have relegated Him to the back seat of life. He’s there when you need Him but He’s certainly not riding shotgun.

When I think of the Lutheran church today and its relationship with the Spirit, I sometimes think of the words in Acts 19. Paul is in Ephesus and he asks the people of the church, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” and the church replies, “No, we have not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit.”

No, I’m not trying to imply that we are ignorant of the fact that there is a Holy Spirit. I’m just saying that sometimes we act as if He doesn’t really exist. Like many people, we treat Him as if He’s this “thing.” We call Him one of the Trinity but we relegate Him to the least important position of the three. Many don’t understand the role of the Holy Spirit so, in effect, they’re not taking full control of the gift He is offering.

Many churches have become flat. I think that’s why evangelicalism is so popular. Our faith has become boring so we try to pretty it up with fun music and flashy light shows. Many churches take the path of least resistance, so liturgy and worship suffer, replaced with shots of excitement and drama. It seems that so many are more interested in the show then they are the worship. We equate the power of the Holy Spirit with the feeling we get when a song really moves us or a sermon inspires us. Now, I have no doubt that the Spirit sometimes works in this way, but to relegate Him as simply our source of momentary excitement is totally missing the Mark.

Today is the day of the Pentecost substitutes. We whip up our own flames…our own fire, but we lack the warmth and the ultimate power of the real thing. We substitute true faith for shallow feelings that are here today but gone tomorrow. We lack the understanding that the Holy Spirit lives within in us to lead us to those places God has chosen for us from before we were born. We take the easy way, even when we know sometimes that the easy way could easily lead to destruction. We’re excited for the show but we afraid of the commitment.

The Holy Spirit is so much more than a source to stir our emotions. He’s so much more than a momentary shot we get when something moves us. He is God in equal shares with the Father and the Son. He is not an ordinary Spirit. He is the Spirit who is God Himself dwelling within us.        In Psalm 139:7-10 King David says,  Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

God sent His Holy Spirit to guide His children to everlasting life. He has sent us His Word so that the Holy Spirit could work through those means to shape and direct all true believers.

Martin  Luther said that without the Spirit all is worthless. He said, “Whatever the Holy Spirit does not perform – however good, just and holy it may appear to be – is flesh. D.L. Moody said, “You might as well try to hear without your ears….or breathe without your lungs,….as to try to live a Christian life without the Holy Spirit in your heart.”

The Holy Spirit is so much more than a momentary shot of adrenaline, He is God in us and vital to our faith. In fact, without Him we could not have the faith we have in Christ. He is indispensable in our Christian walk. He is the helper, the counselor, our God-breathed advocate. He leads us to faith and convicts us of sin. He is God’s seal on His people. He is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross.

I think our calling is to get back to what the church once was, filled with passion and humility, full of trust in the Holy Spirit to guide her, thinking first of others, doing things in the name of Christ for the simple fact that they should be done. J. B. Phillips writes in the preface to The Young Church in Action, that one cannot spend several months in close study of the book of Acts, “without being profoundly stirred and, to be honest, disturbed. The reader is stirred,” he says, “because he is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in human history…Here we are seeing the Church in its first youth, valiant and unspoiled…a body of ordinary men and women joined in an unconquerable fellowship never before seen on earth.” But the reader is also disturbed, “for surely,” he adds, this “is the Church as it was meant to be. It is vigorous and flexible, for these are the days before it ever became fat and short of breath through prosperity, or muscle-bound by over organization. These men did not make acts of faith, they believed; they did not say their prayers, they prayed. They did not hold conferences on psychosomatic medicine, they simply healed the sick. By modern standards they may have been naïve, but perhaps because of their very simplicity, perhaps because of their readiness simply to believe, to obey, to give, to suffer, and, if necessary, to die, the Spirit of God found that he could work in them and through them, and so they turned the world upside down!
We are blessed to live in an age that the works of the Holy Spirit can be seen in all its glory. There are numerous examples we see of the true power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. In trust people are reaching out with the Word of God so that the Holy Spirit can move them. With bravery instilled by the Spirit others fight against forces like Islam and Fascism to bring God to those in need. We are privileged to witness God in His power continue to save the lost, feed the hungry, heal the hurting, console the suffering and right the wrong. Many Christians have surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s direction and now find themselves doing incredible things for God’s people, living the life of a servant.

We have that same right to change lives. As God’s children, in fact, we are called to follow their example. No, the real question is not whether, as a Christian, we have the right to the gift of the Holy Spirit working through us, but whether you, yourself, have claimed that right and made yourself available to the promise.

The outpouring of the Spirit is not reserved for a special few or for a certain age. This outpouring is available to us today, at this very moment. Like the examples I have mentioned, we too have the promise of the Holy Spirit within us to do amazing things in the name of Christ. Yet many that have received salvation and have received the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament, are not filled with the Holy Spirit. They ought to be, they are free to be, but they choose not to be.

At Pentecost, the crowd was amazed because of the miracle of Tongues. They were wondering how this could be, they made fun of them saying, “They have had too much wine.”  But Peter answered “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not some intangible Mystical experience we automatically feel when something moves us. Jesus explained it this way in Luke 11:9-13, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

Jesus breathed on His disciples and said receive the Holy Spirit. He said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water,” His way to describe the work of the Holy Spirit within us. That’s what He wants from all believers, to let the Holy Spirit flow from us to be seen in who we are or what we do.

I was trying to find one last illustration to describe how the Holy Spirit works in us and I came upon the story of three year old Grayson Clamp, a little boy born deaf. He never heard a sound in his life until last year when he became the first child in the United States to receive an auditory brain stem implant. The device allows his brain to process sound the way a hearing person’s would.

This video captured Grayson’s awed expression as he heard, for the first time, his father saying, “Daddy loves you. Daddy love you.” Grayson has a long road ahead as he learns to interpret the sounds he is now hearing, and some adjustments may need to be made to his device. But, no doubt, the world has opened up to him in ways he would otherwise have never known.

To “hear” the voice of our Father in Heaven, we must first receive a device implanted within our souls–the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit’s ministry we can not only hear, but truly understand, all that God is saying to us in His Word.

And what are the most important words we’ll hear? “Abba [Daddy] loves you! Abba loves you!”

“The person without the Spirit does not accept [hear] the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

We are people of God with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that awesome!! We not only read the Word of God but the Holy Spirit leads us to its understanding. Don’t waste this precious gift, trust in the Holy Spirit and put what He teaches you to good use. And as you do, you will help all believers turn the world upside down. Amen

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Acts 2:1-21

Bible Study Questions – Acts 2:1-21

What was the day of Pentecost? Exodus 23:14-18; Leviticus 23:15-22;34:22 Acts 2:1, 20:16;       I Corinthians 16:8

How was this setting the birth of the Christian Church?

How was the Holy Spirit active in the Old Testament? Numbers 11:17; 27:18; Judges 3:10;               1 Samuel 10:9-13

God promised an age characterized by a new work of the Spirit. Where do we find evidence? Joel 2:28-32; Isaiah 32:15; 59:21

What three impressive phenomena occurred when the Holy Ghost was first given? Verses 2-4

What is the difference the Spirit’s work in in the Old Testament and his work in the New? Compare Numbers 11:29 with Acts 2:17

How does the Holy Spirit speak through us? John 14:25-26

What does this Romans 8 teach us about the role of the Holy Spirit in our relationship with God and in our daily lives?

 

What is the significance of the fact that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost? Verses 5-11

Why is the Holy Spirit essential for God’s mission? Acts 1:8; 4:29-31; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Peter stands up with the Eleven and addresses the crowd, rebutting the charge of drunkenness, and then announcing that Joel’s prophecy has now been fulfilled. What was the purpose of

prophecy? 1 Peter 1:10-20

According to Joel’s prophecy, what are some of the benefits of being filled with the Holy Spirit?     Verses 17-21

Is this THE fulfillment of the Prophet Joel’s message or is there some kind of later fulfillment?

 

What is it about Peter’s sermon that pierces the hearts of the listeners that causes them to ask what to do? Verses 14-36

 

How would people today, Jewish and non-Jewish, respond to Peter’s sermon?

 

How do you know if you are filled with the Spirit?

 

How should being spirit-filled affect what you do? 1 Cor 12:12-26; 2 Cor. 3:17-4:12; Gal. 5:16-26