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You Are the Pepper of the Earth. Not.

  • January 31, 2017 - 6:48 am
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HE NEVER SAID, “YOU ARE THE PEPPER OF THE EARTH”

In our Gospel lesson for February 5th, Jesus said an amazing thing about those who believe in Him and are following Him.  “You are the salt of the earth.”  (Matthew 5: 13)  Notice He did not say, “You are the pepper of the earth.”

Why did Jesus not say, “You are the pepper of the earth”?  My experience is that pepper has a way of drawing attention to itself.  Pepper says, “Hey, that’s me you are tasting.  Aren’t I wonderful?”  While salt, if applied to food in the right amount, does not draw attention to itself.  Rather salt brings out the flavor – brings out the best – of that which it salts.  

In the first several verses of Matthew 6 Jesus talks about people who make a big display of their piety, their giving, and their praying.  His description of them is, “They do it in order to be seen by and praised by others.”  They do it to look good, to get noticed, to draw attention to themselves.  They are like pepper – not salt.  They are as-sault-ing people with themselves.  Instead Jesus said, “Do your giving and your praying in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  (Matthew 6: 4 and 6)

Reminds me of the time in Mark 12 when Jesus was watching people putting money into the temple treasury.  Mark tells us that many rich people put in large sums.  I get the sense that they wanted other people to see how much they were giving.  They were like pepper.  

In contrast a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins.  Together they were worth a penny.  She was like salt.  Jesus called His disciples’ attention to her gift, because it represented a true sacrifice.  It was a tremendous expression of how much she loved God and how deeply she believed that God could and would take care of her.  Her gift did not draw attention to her, the giver.  Rather it drew attention to God, the provider.  May your witness draw people’s attention to God and show people that He is good and that He can be trusted to provide for all of their needs.       

What else does salt do?  In ancient times, before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food.  For many years Lutheran CORE has worked to maintain a high view of the authority of the Bible, orthodox and confessional Christian theology, and a traditional Biblical perspective on such issues as human sexuality.  Thank you for joining with us in seeking to be a preservative – a force that works to maintain and even nurture a Christian worldview and Christian values in a society and culture that is rapidly deteriorating.  

And then one more thing.  Salt in a body of water will make a person or object able to float in that water.  Think of the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the Dead Sea in Israel.  May your witness to Jesus Christ help people maintain a buoyancy in life.  May it give them a lift.  And may the way that you handle the challenges, setbacks, and disappointments of life demonstrate to others the truth of what Paul wrote in Philippians 4: 13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  

 

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE      

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Devotion

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”  (Psalm 16:11)

The Lord will lead those who trust in Him.  Be led by the Lord in His ways and know that He knows you better then you know yourself.  He knows what will prosper you and keep you from evil.  He knows the plans He has for you.  Learn to trust in the Lord and go the way that He leads, knowing that He will work all things together for those who learn to love Him, for He is love.

Lord, the obstacles of my mind get in the way of trusting You above all things.  I want to figure things out first before trusting.  I want to be in control and be the one who leads.  Strip me not of my life, but of those things which get in the way of trusting You and leaning on Your understanding.  Help me become a person of faith who trusts You now and always for all things.

Lord Jesus, time and again, You demonstrated complete trust in the Father.  Help me to enter into a life of prayer that seeks the Father’s will in all things.  Guide me along the right paths to pursue what You would have me pursue knowing that only in You can I be led along the right paths of life, preparing for life eternal.  Lead me, O Lord, according to Your perfect knowledge and the Father’s will.  Amen.

Monday, January 30, 2017 Devotion

“Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.  For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”  (Psalm 16:9-10)

Though we die, yet shall we live.  The life that God has given us is a gift.  He shall bring all who live by faith unto Himself.  Though the body pass away, the mortal shall put on immortality and the perishable the imperishable.  Where then is the fear of what shall come?  Is not the One who created all things more than able to accomplish all that He has promised?  Trust the Lord and know life everlasting.

Lord, in the quandary of this mortal and temporal existence, I fear and do not understand the mysteries of eternity.  Bring me to the place where I trust in You above all things.  Above my understanding, above my reasoning, above what I see in this age of sin; help me learn how to trust You above all things, in all things and through all things.  Guide me in Your Spirit to learn and trust.

Lord Jesus, You have called all who hear Your voice to trust in the provision You have given by grace.  Lead me in the way You would have me go knowing that You, who is the One for whom and through whom all things were made, are the only One who can lead all who will learn to trust in Your eternal glory and provision.  Lead me in faith today and every day to trust in what You have in store for all of creation.  Amen.

Sunday, January 29, 2017 Devotion

“I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.  I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:7-8)

The Lord does counsel those who will listen.  Throughout the day, in your dreams, through all that you take in, if you will listen, the Lord will guide your thoughts.  Test what you receive against His Word and learn from Him, for He is gentle and kind and will guide those who draw close to Him.  Learn from the Lord by being willing to listen and heed the One who is the Wonderful Counselor.

On the day of Pentecost, You made known that Your Spirit would move through all who are Yours.  Help me O Lord to be discerning and willing to receive what You give.  Give me wisdom to know when it is You and when it is the adversary.  In all things, help me to draw close to You that You would draw close to me.  Guide me into fulfilling the purpose for which You created me.

Lord, You have sent the Holy Spirit that all who are willing to take the guidance You give may be directed in Your ways.  Open my ears to hear and my eyes to see all that You give knowing that You are with me always.  Lead me in the way You would have me go, Lord, for You know the plans You have for me.  May I listen and learn from You today as You guide me gently in the way of Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2017 Devotion

“The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”  (Psalm 16:5-6)

Those who are so blessed think in terms of where their life is heading and what its outcome will produce.  Rather than thinking in terms of things, the Lord offers life and the blessing of His presence and perfection itself as the inheritance for those who righteously come to Him.  He will give the good things to those who cease the rebellion and come back into the way things were created to be.

Lord, I get wrapped in this world’s way of doing things and do not see clearly the futility of doing what everyone else has done which leads nowhere.  Help me to see that in You is the true hope that breaks free of the repeating cycle of this age.  Help me learn to live according to Your will that I may walk in Your ways and live as life is meant to be lived.  Guide me, Lord, in Your way.

Lord Jesus, You have come to lead the way that those who come through You would have a heavenly inheritance.  Support me in the desire of coming to the Father and help me learn from You the steps I need to take.  Take me ever deeper into Your Word that I may learn from You the heritage into which You have brought me.  May I this day take these steps as You give them to walk with you.  Amen.

Friday, January 27, 2017 Devotion

“As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.  The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will I take their names upon my lips.”  (Psalm 16:3-4)

The saints are the ones who trust in the Lord.  For those who trust Him, there is pleasure in knowing the eyes of the Lord are on them.  All other struggles of those who turn away from the Lord just compound the problems, for only in the Lord is there hope and a future.  The Lord will listen to the godly ones who turn to Him.  Turn to the Lord and see His goodness unfold in your life now and forever.

Lord, over and again You speak the truth of the call You give for all who will listen.  Lead my heart and mind to turn to You in all things so that through the grace You have given I might see the truth of the ages.  Lead me in the way of life that You have established that I may walk according to Your will.  In all things, may my heart be inclined to You as one of Your saints.

Lord Jesus, You have come to make saints out of sinners.  Lead me this day to live into the life You have established that I may walk in the way of the saints.  Help me through the obstacles that will come that I may learn faithfulness.  In all things, may I be found faithful and true to the call You have given me knowing that only in You is there hope and a good future.  Amen.

Images and Evocations: Hermeneutic Handles for the Harried Herald

  • January 26, 2017 - 9:29 pm
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Images and Evocations: Hermeneutic Handles for the Harried Herald
Epiphany 4 – January 29, 2017
Micah 6:1–8
1 Corinthians 1:18–31
Matthew 5:1–12

As we never tire of reminding parishioners, Epiphany means “manifestation,” and the readings of the season between Christmas and Lent make manifest to us realities about God that we fallen human creatures would never guess apart from a revelation of God.

Take the famous (and in some circles infamous) line, Micah 6:8, “and what does the LORD require of you   but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Every religion has ethical demands: things its god, gods, philosophy, or reason (yes, secularism is a religion!) define as “good” and which they command their adherents to do.  That holy writ should include guidelines for the behaviors of the faithful is not only not an epiphany, it is not even exceptional.

The preacher who uses this text as a platform to give his or her congregation a moral shellacking is missing the point of the text and why for the Christian it appears in Epiphany and is paired with the other texts of this Sunday.  This famous text is not so much an exhortation as a sigh of exasperation from the living and true God.  God has done so much for His people; why are they weary of Him?  Why do they turn to the false gods who never deliver on their promises?  Why do they invest their ultimate hopes in idols, especially in our day idols like power, romantic love, professional achievement, identity politics, a fat bank account, or the paltry consolation of knowing they are “on the right side of history” when the living God has revealed Himself to us in mighty acts of salvation, for Christians, preeminently the resurrecxtion of Jesus of Nazareth?

What is amazing about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is that He does so much for us and what little He requires, He requires as a response for salvation given, not a command for salvation to be earned.  To give into the temptation to preach the faith as any sort of self-improvement program is to betray the Gospel, whether you fall into the conservative temptation of thinking you can preach “too much gospel” so that moral chaos results or the liberal one of construing the demands of justice, kindness, and humility as empty vessels into which we can pour ethical particularities informed by modern values.

Indeed, the inability of human intellect to grasp the values of the true and living God is focus of the reading from 1 Corinthians.  If we would understand how to please God, God Himself must tell us how, which He does first and foremost in the crucifixion of His only Son.  This word from God—the Word of the cross—confounds our every expectation and inverts our understanding of every passage like the previous one.  How is justice fulfilled?  The cross.  How is the kindness of God known?  The cross.  What does true humility look like?  The cross… and if we would respond to God in faith, we must “pick up our cross and follow Him.”

And it is only the cross of Christ that can make sense of the beatitudes that are the centerpiece of this Sunday’s Gospel reading.  If the cross of Christ is not true, then the beatitudes are patent nonsense.  The word that is translated as blessed, makarios, has not only the denotation of being looked upon favorably by God, but carries with it the connotation of happiness, which the mourning, persecuted, and those hungering and thirsting for righteousness clearly are not in anybody’s experience.  Only if reality is not what it appears to be from the standpoint of our fallen human reason—only if the word of the cross is objectively true—can the beatitudes be anything other than utter nonsense and false consolation.  Only if the word of the cross is true can Christianity be anything other than the slave religion Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx believed it to be.  For if God is anything, He must at least be the ultimate reality, and if what reality requires is “nature red in tooth and claw,” then the ethics of Christianity and by extension its God is false.  Only if the word of the cross is objectively true—will the meek inherit  the earth, do the poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven, or the pure in heart see God.

What do you believe?  We must believe it enough to preach it straight, for God requires so little of us for our salvation—in fact, nothing—so our response to such grace can be from a truly pure heart, one unsullied by self-interest, that we may see God.

Rev. Brett Jenkins, Lutheran Core Board Member

Thursday, January 26, 2017 Devotion

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.”  (Psalm 16:1-2)

In moments when you are reminded that you are not in control of things, to whom or what do you turn?  Where is your refuge?  The Lord God who created all things is that refuge in times of trouble and in times of peace.  Do not just turn to Him when times are bad, but at all times and know the comfort of the Lord, for He is good and His love endures forever.  There is no good besides God.

Lord, those around me seem not to care whether You are there or not except when they are desperate.  Help me to trust in You always and know that in You is hope and a future.  Help me to see that in all times I can come to You and You are there to lead and guide me along the good paths You have established.  Lead me, O Lord, to walk in the ways You would have me go.

Lord Jesus, You demonstrated with Your life the truth that all things are in Your hands.  You also showed that we need not worry about our daily needs, for You have already provided.  Guide me, O Lord, in the trust I need to see that in You is the hope of every generation and the goodness of the Father is with every step I take in this life.  Lead me according to the eternal purpose You have established.  Amen.

“If you could interview a dead person, who would it be?”

  • January 25, 2017 - 1:19 pm
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Image by A Little Perspective

 

Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

If one thing renews the Christian life more than anything else, it is this: the conviction that Jesus is real, and He’s on His way.  Pop Him out of the story books, puppet shows, and cartoons, and for God’s sake, don’t leave Him in the past.  Stephen Colbert once set Larry King straight on this very point:

Colbert: “If you could interview a dead person, who would it be?”

King: “Christ.”

Colbert: “Larry, you know he’s not dead. You know that, right?”

That conversation took place on the Colbert Report in March, 2007, but Jesus started it 2000 years ago when He said, “Repent!  The kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  It wasn’t just an idea or a hope: it’s what God actually did as He sent believers into the world with the Word of God.  He interrupted lives rushing towards the grave, promising forgiveness and a new creation, and by that Gospel He welded a fellowship of believers who pursued peace and protested the power of sin.  

He does the same today!  Jesus is risen, and therefore, the kingdom of heaven is at hand!  Our lives interrupted by grace—the way lunch interrupts work—we join our hearts, hands, and voices in protesting the power of sin, death, and the devil even as we await the coming of Christ in glory.  The kingdom is right here, in our midst, and even more is coming, because Jesus lives.  Repent!  Now’s the time!

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, You have called me to follow You.  If You weren’t You, I would ask if You really meant it.  Yet Your word and will never fail, for You are risen, glorious in Your victory over death.  For such grace and power, even more than I know, I worship, adore, and thank You, with Your Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.  Amen

Pastor Steven Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

(C) 2017 Steven K. Gjerde

The Unborn Person by Frederica Mathewes-Green

  • January 25, 2017 - 1:09 pm
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In the Roe v Wade decision, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that, if the fetus is a person, the right to abortion collapses. (Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 [1973] Section IX.)

How can we tell whether it is a person or not?

Here’s what science shows. From the beginning, the unborn is:

1. Alive. It is living and growing, always increasing in size and complexity.

2. Human. Its body is composed entirely of human cells.

3. Individual. It has unique DNA. If a cell from the mother, the father, and the unborn child were examined side by side, it would reveal that they came from three different people.

The case against abortion rests on scientific facts: the unborn is a unique, living human individual.

The case for abortion rests on personal opinion: adults who think the unborn is not a person, for whatever private reason, are legally allowed to kill them.

Justice Blackmun said that the right to abortion collapses if the fetus is a person. Yet, all these years after Roe, pro-choice people are still unable to prove that it is not. The abortion debate would end if they could prove it’s not a person, but they’re unable to do that.

Instead, they change the subject. When I used to do debates, long ago, I noticed that if I attacked abortion, my opponent would not defend abortion. Instead, she would attack me.

But even if pro-lifers were terrible people, it would not make the unborn child a non-person.

Even if a child is abused, it does not make her a non-person.

Even if a child is sick or disabled, it does not make her a non-person.

Even if a child is rejected and unwanted, it does not make her a non-person.

Even if a child is helpless and dependent on its mother, it does not make her a non-person.

The child in the womb is the same person she was as a single cell, a cell already marked with her unique DNA. She is the same person she will be as a newborn, a toddler, a teenager, a grandmother. A person’s life is a seamless continuum.

Pro-choice people are unable to disprove that. All they can do is change the subject.

Her blog is here.

Frederica Mathewes-Green