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April 29, 2017, 6:54 PM

Oh, How The Devil Doth Set Himself Against Thee


Lo and behold, there's a great chance you will become bored with the Christian life at some point in time. How do I know? First, it's happened to me personally. And more than once: both before I became a minister of the Gospel, and after. I took consolation in the fact that many Christians over the centuries have noted how hard it is to follow Christ when things are prosperous; when we have enough to eat and drink, and all of our phsyical needs are taken care of. It's the hardest then to "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5)!

Second, feelings of boredom are something the Devil loves to promote. Consider how many exhortations to listen, obey, trust, and follow there are in Holy Scripture. There wouldn't be so many of those exhortations if we were A-ok in the faith & works department! We need the Spirit's help. Daily.

Consider the words written for posterity in The Large Catechism of Martin Luther--which was originally just sermons on the Small Catechism. In discussing how we should eagerly use the Lord's Supper (Communion) as often as possible, Dr. Luther preached:

"As in other matters that have to do with faith, love, and patience, it is not enough just to teach and to instruct, but there must also be daily exhortation, so that on this subject we must be persistent in preaching, lest people become indifferent and bored. For we know and feel how the devil always sets himself against this and every other Christian activity, hounding and driving people from it as much as he can."  LC 471.44

I recall that the most insidious times in my life--when I suffered the most from a lack of purpose, energy, or motivation--were when I had no spiritual compass. When I had ignored the teaching of my upbringing in the faith, and/or tried to find my own direction in life.

Our direction in life is given by the Lord in His Word, and no where else! And in the reception of the Sacrament, we are handed more encouragement and love for the journey, and free of charge.

As I might say colloquially: We have enough to say grace over just to live according to God's will. This is a Divine Command that we do-- not a suggestion from the lifestyle section of a magazine! This is a holy, heavenly Command. "Love one another" being the Greatest of the Commandments.

We have enough to study and learn in Baptism, the Word itself, and the Lord's Supper to last our whole lives on Earth.

Let's get to it!

In the power of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, in which we are born again into a living hope (I Peter 1:3-9, 22-25),

PD

pastor_joel@live.com

 

 

 

 




March 30, 2017, 3:32 PM

Habitus Regali


"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation-- a people for [God's] own possession..." I Peter 2:9

No, I don't know much Latin-- I had to use Google Translate to come up with this month's headline. But I DID want to drive an historical point home. One that would have been around when Christians were speaking Latin. (At least, the free and educated ones.)

The headline means "regal habit." And the end of Lent here is a wonderful time to examine your habits. To ask, "Which of my habits would I gleefully share with Jesus if he were standing next to me each day? And which habits would I want to hide from him?" We are instructed to "live in a manner worthy of the Gospel" in Philippians 1:27 and "no matter what happens." (Among other, equally salient verses about this subject in the New Testament.) 

Useful habits are...well, useful. They produce or effect something within us. If we are "creatures of habit," as they say, then we should be mindful of what kinds of habits we are continually generating. The sum of those habits will define us: our lives, our families, (and not overdramatically, I hope,) our legacies. 

If you are in need of replacing some bad habits with good ones, may I suggest:

1. Get a devotional book at church called "Portals of Prayer." Take it home. Read it as often as you can remember, using the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers in the back. Also use the special holiday prayers, especially for this Holy Week and Easter. The April to June issue is on the literature talbes at church. 

2. Read an excellent historical or historical fiction book about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. 

3. Learn some new things about the Scripture and your faith from reputable Web pages. Some of these include: biblegateway.com, blueletterbible.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheranism (or go to Wikipedia and search for "Lutheranism.") There is also www.cph.org

In so doing, you will be amazed at the applicability and power of God's Word each and every day. 

There will be an occasion to use it, and that is a promise: 

"All Scripture is God-breathed, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." 2 Tim. 3:16

"The Word of God is powerful and active, sharper than any double-edged sword..." Hebrews 4:12

Regular time with the Word of God is the habitus regali of all habits. Imbibe this habit, will you, if you have not already? They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. What will you do for the next 21 days? 21 years? May it include God's Word as the bedrock and foundation.

In Christ our Glorious and Victorious Risen Lord, 

Pastor Joel

 




February 2, 2017, 10:43 AM

Better than Punxsutawney Prophecies


Well, here it is: Groundhog Day! And on this cold, foggy, and icy Thursday I am told that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted "six more weeks of Winter."

Yeah. Only thing is, 6 of the 8 other groundhogs around North America that also predict the weather have said--just moments ago as I write this--that we will have an "early Spring." And I should probably mention that, according to Stormfax.com, ol' Phil has correctly predicted the weather pattern only 39% of the time since 1887. 

So, not to rain on the Groundhog Day parade, but aren't we glad biblical prophecy is a lot fuller and more satisfying than Punxsutawney Phil's?

Allow me to explain. Even more important than “telling the future” in biblical prophecy is knowing whose we are and what we are doing here. And, aren't those two things very, very important to us also?

Let's say for example that you have the information that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem in one hand, and I Peter 1:10-12 in the other hand. Well, okay, let's say you have the entire letter of First Peter in your other hand.

  1. In the midst of the troubles and doubts of this life, you see from the Scriptural witness that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as it was predicted in Micah the prophet. You yawn. You are thankful for this, but tired. Life goes on.

  2. In the midst of the troubles and doubts of this life, you hear that many prophets also had troubles and doubts, and you feel at one with them. You say a prayer based on the words of St. Peter and feel held by the Heavenly Father. You rejoice in who you are in Christ Jesus. Your life is enriched and your heart is drawn closer to the Lord.

    See?

    What is arguably more important for your walk with God right now is knowing whose you are and what you are doing here, than enumerating the ways in which Old Testament prophets predicted certain events.

    To add to this thought, when we read of King Saul going in to consult a medium, you don't get the impression God's in favor of it! (I Samuel 28) At first, Saul had done the right thing and actually expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land (verse 3). But then he breaks his own rule and consults the witch of Endor; the prophet Samuel wastes no time rebuking him from the spirit world. Saul's time is over; a new boy-king is about to take over (David son of Jesse). Saul's train wreck started when he forgot whose he was and what he was doing there, as the Lord's anointed servant!

We also are “anointed servants,” St. Peter drives home to us:

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5)

And,

“[Y]ou are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)

Momentary clouds and passing storms (and thoughts of a longer Winter) do not change these things.

I will let St. Peter close this article, as he opens his letter so well to the people of God (“God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout...” I Peter 1:1...)

“Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the suffering of the Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by the those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

Even angels long to look into these things!" (I Peter 1:8-12)

In Him,

Pastor Dieterichs

pastor_joel@live.com




January 25, 2017, 2:39 PM

Using SWOT, SMART, and MILE -- But.... Remaining 'Easter People'


Recently, I stopped by a local sandwich shop for lunch and found copies of all three military bases' newspapers.     Here's what I discovered, upon perusing them:

1. Our military leaders love to use acronymns--that funny stereotype holds quite true! 

2. Military officers and enlisted make New Year's resolutions. They also struggle to keep them, like we do! 

These two tidbits explain the title of this Blog post, and I will get into what the acronymns mean. Then, I hope to write a few intelligent thoughts about our mission at church, and how we can move step by step to accomplish it. We already are. Perhaps it's best to start there, then: at the Great Commission / sending of Jesus' church, for his mission, into his world. 

I am frequently amazed that, when I reference "the Great Commission" among Lutherans, there are some who know exactly what I mean and probably an equal number of people in the group who have: No. Idea. What. I'm talking. About. 

Thus I feel it's important to stop and speak the words of our Lord's "commission" to the Eleven disciples at the end of Matthew: "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, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And, lo, I will be with you to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20)

Now, don't get lost in the many words! Here are two simple verbs: Baptize and Teach. These activities, then, are HOW we "make disciples." And, what's a disciple? One who follows Jesus without question, hears often from his words in Holy Scripture, prays to him, expects deliverance from him in this life and the next, and confesses/speaks of him before the world.

So, that is our mission.

And when there is a mission to accomplish, who does it better than the U.S. Military??

To get us into this topic, I will quote Lt. Col. Gregory Karahalis, deputy commander-50th Operations Group, from the Schriever Sentinel:

"Goal setting is traditional in January. Take the time now to think ahead about your year and what your team needs to do to take advantage of the the opportunities ahead. SWOT, SMART, and MILE provide you a structured set of tools to develop, define, and prioritize strategic goals."

"Huh?!" You might be saying to yourself. Let me explain the acronymns therein. 

SWOT = forecasting tool that looks at our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

SMART = goal-setting tool that requires all goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound

MILE = assessment tool that helps us remember to look at how we are: Managing resources, Improving the unit, Leading people, and Executing the mission. 

Forecasting, goal setting, and assessing. How often to we do these in the church?? It seems like we often do the goal setting. But our goals OFTEN (not always) suffer from being too general, abstract, and obtuse to serve us that well. And...the other two? I can remember assessing things occassionally, but not in a way that could be called detailed or thorough. 

Now, lest you think this is an article for the church council only, let's take a personal example. I like this inspiration from the Lt. Commander, don't you? 

Take this time to prayerfully try again with the toughest of personal goals AND your goals at church, if you are involved in a project here--and yet, through it all, remain an Easter person!

Huh? What do I mean by that?

If you think about it, the techniques that we can use for forecasting and planning and doing things are actually NOT the things of faith! Let's take one passage for example:

"Now to him who is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21) This "power" is via his "Spirit, in our inner being" (verse 16) so that Christ may dwell in our hearts (verse 17). 

The power by which God raised Jesus from the dead is the SAME power by which he sustains us, feeds us, leads us, and uses our hands and feet for his mission. 

Thus, we should plan and work as hard as we can. But BELIEVE as though nothing at all depends on us, our planning or working. We should hear these words of the preacher St. Paul and smile at the old joke, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." 

Once I prayed that God would lead me, step by step, through the minefields of ministry. I think the Schriever Sentinel article is one way God has now answered that prayer, yet again. 

Focus. Learn. Study. Grow. 

Set goals, or close down. 

Close down, or live as Easter people! 

I much prefer the latter, and I hope you do as well. 

"All engines high gear"

Pastor Joel

"...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection..." Philippians 3:10

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

 

 

  




December 23, 2016, 8:38 AM

This Christmas: All Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go!


The commentary that I follow for preaching Luke translates what we usually know as "swaddling cloths" as "clothing bands." This was an unsual phrase to my mind! Curious why the author chose those words, I read deeper into the commentary. Essentially, he is trying to indicate that these "cloths" were a poor woman's swaddling cloths. These are bands of some fabric, not even close to a Babies'R'Us triple package for comfort and warmth. I jest. More chronologically, not even close (probably) to the dressing Moses received by Pharoah's daughter when he was pulled from the Nile River. Not even close (probably) to the dressing David and Solomon's babies received during the height of their God-granted power in Jerusalem.

The commentary goes on to note how humble clothing for Jesus bookends the Gospel of Luke--I cannot take credit for this insight--the second "dressing" of Jesus is in burial cloth, it notes; for a borrowed tomb, after He is crucified, after the seemingly worst thing possible ever has happened to Him. The Roman war machine had done the bidding of corrupt religious leaders (who should have known better) and two-bit puppet kings (who, by all accounts, never did know any better); they had done everything earthly possible to clothe Jesus in ridicule, lonlieness, and pain. 

Yet I will be adding a third "dressing" of Jesus for this blog and in the sermons, that of Revelation, Chapter 1, beginning at verse 12:

"Then I (John) turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.

The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow.

His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword,

and his face ws like the sun shining at full strength."

I will not go into detail like I will in the sermon(s) about what these images mean, if one carefully unpacks the Revelation to St. John. 

But I will ask you this: Don't we know in Colorado what it's like when the sun is "shining at full strength"? And when something is as white as snow? Don't we know those two things very well?

They are calling for snow this weekend--a white Christmas. As you go about getting ready for the holiday and see the bit of snow left over from last week's snow storm, and if that snow is added to by God's gracious and providential Hand, think of these verses in Revelation! Think of how the snow blankets the earth and how the clothing bands of a poor virgin were, at one moment in time, all that covered the Prince of Peace. On the day of His arrival. 

Not how a Prince usually enters a scene! But, indeed, how our Prince entered, with His mind set firmly on salvation (Luke 9:51).... Salvation for us. 

How are you dressed today? Are you all dressed up with nowhere to go? Then know this! God has put on a spiritual dressing over all mankind, called Christ the Lord if you will accept it, and now he welcomes you to the Feast with those garments on your person. They cover the old, the sinful, the dirty, the sullen... the prodigal: 

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

[T]he father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate!" (Luke 15:20, 22-23)

Grace. This Christmas--NOW--you and I are all dressed up with somewhere to go! 

In Him,

Pastor Dieterichs

 

 


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