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Preview: Preaching the Word

Preaching the Word

Preaching the Word of God to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Beulah, North Dakota and to all who will hear.

Updated: 2017-02-21T09:36:56.940-06:00


Watch Your Mouth


“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”(Colossians 4:5-6 ESV)            As we talked about the Second Commandment on Sunday, we noted that language, in our culture, has grown increasingly vulgar and irreverent.  Cursing and insults have become a part of our everyday speech.  Vulgar jokes have become the norm.  And, as this practice has become more common in society, it’s also become more common among us as Christians.            We think that we must talk in this way as a demonstration of strength.  We believe it reveals to others that we’re not to be trifled with.  We will not be a doormat.  We will not allow ourselves to be trampled upon.            Yet, in the above passage, God calls us to something different.  He tells us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of our time.  He then goes on to say that we’re to let our speech be gracious at all times.              What does this mean?  Grace, as we know, is unmerited favor.  This tells us that we’re to speak to people not according to what they deserve.  We are to speak favorably to them, no matter how they are behaving toward us.            I don’t mean by this that we can never say no to anyone.  I mean that we’re to speak lovingly, even when their speech is unloving.  We’re not to hold their wrongs against them, but speak to them in a way that demonstrates mercy and compassion.   Our speech is to reflect the love and the grace that God has demonstrated toward us and all mankind.            This does not make us weak.  It, instead, points people to Christ.  It reveals to them the love of God which has been given to us and which he offers to them.            Our natural tendency is also to blend in with the world around us.  Our tendency is to speak as they speak.  And we do this so that we’re not made to feel different.  We do this that we might not be excluded.However, we’re told in this passage that our speech is to be seasoned with salt.  In other words, it’s to be distinct from that of everyone else around us.  It’s to stand out from the rest of society.  And, again, this is done as a testimony.  It reveals to others that there’s something different about us.This, then, guides us in our response to others.  We are to speak to them as God would speak to them.  We are to share his heart for those around us, desiring their blessing and salvation.I realize that this is easier said than done.  After all, we’re not Jesus.  We’re not perfect.  We continue to possess a sinful nature.  And that sinful nature often spills out of our mouth.It’s for this reason that we seek the mercy of God.  It’s for this reason that we ask him to work in our heart.  And it’s for this reason that we ask him to speak through us, as we interact with the world around us.  [...]

The Sins of the Father?


“…for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”(Exodus 20:5-6 ESV)            The verses above come at the tail end of the First Commandment.  God tells us that we’re to have no other gods before him, and that we aren’t to make for ourselves an image and bow down to it.  He then informs us that he’s a jealous God, that he will not share us with another.            We all understand this command.  But, at this point, he says something that causes many of us to struggle.  He says that he visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him. As we read this, we begin to wonder what this means and why he would do this. It initially sounds to us like God is promising to punish children for the sins of their fathers.  It sounds as though they will be condemned for the sins of their father.  However, God tells us elsewhere in Scripture that this is not the case. In Ezekiel 18, starting in verse 19, we read:  "Yet you say, 'Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?' When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”            God tells us clearly in this passage that we aren’t punished for the sins of our father.  We are punished for our own sins.  So what is this whole business of generational sin talked about in the Ten Commandments?            It reminds us, first of all, that children will often bear the worldly consequences for the sins of their father.  For example, if dad has a gambling problem, it may leave his children in poverty for years to come.  And if one spouse chooses to break up the family, it can have a lasting impact upon their children.              We, then, must consider how our actions will impact our children.  We must consider how our sins might influence the generations to come.  Might our sins cause a lasting impact to fall upon those we love?            However, it also brings us to a place where we must search our heart.  We must recognize the fact that our sins are often inherited.  I don’t mean they’re inherited in the sense that they’re genetic.  They’re inherited in the sense that they’re learned behavior.  The sins of our father are normal for us.  And, in the same way, our sins become normal to our children.  And, because it’s normal, because it’s what they know, they tend to act out in the same way.  This is why we see that children of alcoholics have a greater tendency to become alcoholics themselves.  This is why we see that those who grow up in an abusive home have a greater tendency to be abusive.We can all likely recognize certain tendencies that we picked up from our father and our mother.  This can be true of simple mannerisms.  But it can also be true in terms of sin.The question we must ask ourselves is this: What sins are a regular part of our life?  What sins might our kids be learning from us?  What sins might we be normalizing for our children in the way that we live?This is a difficult question.  None of us want to think that we might be teaching our children to sin, even if it’s in[...]

A Reminder to a Politically Charged Era


“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong,  but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.”Isaiah 31:1-3As I’ve been reading the news, and as I’ve been surfing social media, just about everything is politically focused.  I honestly thought that, once the election was over, this would die down.  But apparently I was wrong...very wrong.Frankly, it's driving me nuts.  I believe that people on both sides of the political aisle have been making a serious mistake. I'm guessing that they don't even realize it. And this is true of people in the church as well.The mistake they've made is that they're placing their trust, not in God, but in man. They trust in political leaders to keep them safe and to preserve their rights. They look to alliances for security. They look to the government to ensure that their needs are provided for.Although I realize that our government has a huge impact on world affairs, and although I realize that our political leaders have enormous influence on our nation as a whole, we fail to recognize the sovereignty of God.  We fail to realize that he is ultimately in control of everything that happens in the world around us.  And, for this reason, we must trust in him, and in him alone.This is something about which the Lord warned the people of Judah.  They were facing the threat of the Assyrian Empire.  And, for this reason, they sought safety in an alliance with Egypt.  God warned those who went down to Egypt for help.  He warned those who relied on horses and trusted in chariots.  He warned those who did this rather than looking to the Lord.He reminds them that the Egyptians were mere men.  He reminds them that horses are mere flesh. They are not God.  They were not deserving of the people’s trust.He then gives a threatening statement.  He says that, when he stretches out his hand, when he acts in judgment, both the helper and the helped would fall.  They would perish together.This is a warning that we must heed today as well.  Those placing all of their hope in the Republican or the Democratic party, those placing their hope in NATO or in the United Nations, must recognize this truth.  Those in whom we are placing our trust are mere men.  Their armies are mere flesh. And trusting in them will lead to our downfall.We must trust in the Lord, and in the Lord alone.  He alone can provide for us.  And he alone can ensure our safety.I understand that we want those in leadership who best reflect our values.  I understand that it’s desirable to have those in office who we believe will lead our nation down the right path.  And I would encourage all citizens to vote.  But, at the same time, we must bear in mind who they are.  We must bear in mind that even the best of them are fallen sinners.  And no matter how good their intentions, no matter how wonderful their promises, and no matter the influence they seem to have, it’s the Lord in whom we must trust.  Trusting in man will lead only to our downfall.[...]

The Mark of a Disciple


“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34 ESV) We live in a time where love is defined primarily by emotion.  Our sense of love is based purely on feelings or on our emotional attachment to another.  This is true of friendships as well as marriage. However, as we see in the above text, Jesus gives us a different standard of love.  He tells us that we’re to love one another as he’s loved us.  And there are a couple of things to consider as we think about Jesus’ love. First of all, we must recognize that Jesus loves us even when we’re not all that lovable.  We tend to think that we’re good people, deserving of his love.  But the opposite is actually true.  We’re not good people.  We aren’t deserving of his love.  He loves us in spite of our continual sin and rebellion against him. If we measure our love by this standard, we fail miserably.  When people are unlovable, our sense of love for them all but disappears.  When they hurt us, whether it be intentional or not, it often creates within us an unwillingness to love them.  We love others only when we feel they’re deserving of it.  We’re unwilling to give to others the grace that God has given us. The second thing we must recognize, when it comes to the love of Christ, is the sacrificial nature of this love.  His love is a giving of himself to us.  And we all know the great length he went to in showing his love.  He sacrificed his very life for us.            And we see that his love is not conditional in any way.  It’s not something that wavers depending on the love he’s receiving in return.  In fact, according to Scripture, while we were still sinners, while we were still his enemies, he gave himself for us. Once again, our love pales in comparison.  We are often willing to give of ourselves for those we love.  But it’s very conditional.  We’ll love, we’ll give of ourselves, if we’re receiving love in return.  And if we’re not receiving, we often cease to give. When it comes to those who hate us, when it comes to those who possess no love for us, we are typically unwilling to love them.  We tend to hate those who hate us.  At best, we’re willing to ignore them or tolerate them. Here’s where it gets really challenging.  Jesus tells us that people will know we’re his disciples if we have love for one another.  What, then, does our life demonstrate?  What does our love demonstrate? When people look at us, when they look at the love we have for one another, is it clear to them that we are followers of Christ?  Is our love so much like that of his that they can conclude nothing else?  I think that, if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer to this is a resounding “no.” What must we do then?  The first thing we must do is recognize our failure.  We must recognize our sin and confess it to the Lord, seeking his forgiveness.  And we must ask him to work in our heart.  We must ask that he’ll instill in us the same love for others that he has for us.  This isn’t something we’ll attain on our own, or by our own effort.  It’s only as the Spirit of God works in us that this is possible.  It’s only as we submit to his leading that this is possible.[...]

What Do We Know?


“But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”” (Mat 22:29 ESV)            Jesus was sometimes challenged by the religious leaders of the Jews.  They devised questions in an effort to trap him or to prove him wrong.  We see an example of this in Matthew 22.            This question was posed by the Sadducees, a sect of Jews who didn’t believe in the resurrection.  Knowing that Jesus did believe in it, they challenged his belief.  According to Jewish practice, if a man died without having children, his brother was to marry his wife and conceive a child on his behalf.              They put forward a hypothetical situation where a man died, leaving no children.  So, the man’s brother married his wife.  But, before he could have a child with her, he too died.  This continued on until a total of seven men, all brothers, had been married to this woman.  They then asked Jesus: “In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be?”            Jesus began his answer with the above statement.  He told them that they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.  He then went on to explain that, in the resurrection, we will not be married.  In this sense, we will be like the angels in heaven.  And, based on Scripture, he assured them that the resurrection would, in fact, take place.            Just as Jesus was challenged by the skeptics of his day, so too are we.  Those who don’t believe in Jesus bring to us questions in an effort to stump us.  They bring to us questions in order to prove us wrong.  And, just like the Sadducees, it’s clear that they know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.            However, as believers, we must consider something important: What about us?  Do we know the Scriptures and the power of God?  I don’t mean to imply that we should immediately know the answer to every question that comes our way.  But do we know the Scriptures well enough, and do we know the power of God well enough, that these questions fail to rattle us?            Many of us are shaken up by these questions.  They can intimidate us or even cause us to question our faith.  However, if we’re people of the Word, and if we have a living faith in the Lord, they need not have this effect.            If we are truly people of the Word, we’ll be able to recognize these deceptive questions for what they are and point our attackers to the truth.  And even if we don’t know all the answers, we’ll know that God’s Word answers our questions and doubts.  We’ll faithfully turn to his Word in order to resolve them.  And, because we know the Lord, we’ll realize that these questions don’t pose any real threat.  [...]

Baptism 7


            I’ll conclude my look at the Lutheran understanding of baptism with this post.  Another reason why Lutherans baptize babies and young children is because Jesus welcomed them.  We see this as we look at Luke 18.

            Starting in verse 15 of that chapter, we read: Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

            Some might object, as they read this passage, that it’s not specifically referring to baptism.  And this is true.  However, in it, we see the attitude of Jesus toward infants and young children.

            We see that the people were bringing their babies to Jesus, that he might touch them.  The disciples didn’t think this appropriate and rebuked those who did so.  But Jesus called them to himself.  He said that those bringing their children were not to be hindered.

            We continue to hold to that perspective as well.  Those seeking to bring their children to Jesus are not to be hindered.  Instead, they are to be welcomed.

            Jesus adds to this that those who don’t receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.  Infants and young children, then, are a model for us.  Just as children must trust in others for the care that they need, and just as they need to have everything provided to them, so too do we.  If we’re to be saved, we must first recognize our helplessness.  We must recognize that we must fully depend upon God to provide for us everything we need for life and salvation.

Baptism 6


            We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.  This is true.  This is Scriptural.  But this is also one of the reasons many insist that infant baptism should not be practiced.            We’re told that infants should not be baptized because they cannot have faith.  After all, they’re too young.  They can’t understand the message of the gospel.            This thinking may sound reasonable.  However, Scripture tells us something very different.  It tells us, in fact, that young children and infants can have faith.            We can see this, for example, in Psalm 22.  Starting in verse 9, David writes: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.”            David states, in this passage, that he trusted in God when he was at his mother’s breast.  He says that God gave him this faith.  So, from the time he was a nursing baby, he had faith in the Lord.            However, he doesn’t stop there.  He says that, from his mother’s womb, the Lord had been his God.  This implies an even earlier faith.  It implies that he had faith even before he was born.            And this isn’t the only passage that reveals to us the reality of faith in young children and babies.   In Matthew 18, starting in verse 2, we read: “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.””            We note in this passage that, using a child to make his point, Jesus refers to “these little ones who believe in me.” So, in this way, he tells us clearly that these little ones can have faith.  And if this is true, if it’s possible for children and infants to possess faith, then why would we deny them the gift of baptism?             We may struggle to understand how this is possible.  However, we must realize that faith is not based on our ability to reason.  If this were the case, those who lose their ability to reason based on Alzheimer’s, or those who lose their ability to reason because they are comatose, would be unable to possess faith.  We wouldn’t even be capable of faith when we’re sleeping.            According to Scripture, faith is God-given.  We can only come to Jesus because the Father draws us (John 6:44). We can only understand the things of God by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). We can only confess that Jesus is Lord by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). So, if God can draw to faith those of us who are lost in sin, who don’t seek him, and who don’t understand him, then he can certainly draw to faith an infant or a young child.            Just as we’re draw[...]

Baptism 5


               As we continue our look at the Lutheran practice of baptism, we come to another interesting passage of Scripture.  In Colossians 2, starting in verse 11, we read: In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

            In this passage, Paul equates baptism with circumcision.  He tells us that, through baptism, we have received not a physical circumcision.  We’ve received, instead, a circumcision made without hands.  We’ve received a circumcision performed by God.  We’ve received a circumcision by which we’ve put off the body of flesh.

            Circumcision, you remember, was a practice given by God to his people in the Old Testament.  In this way, they were marked as the people of God.  In fact, if they were not circumcised, God said that they were to be cut off from their people.

            Here’s the interesting point: the boys, who were born to Israel, were circumcised when they were only 8 days old.  They received this mark, they were made part of God’s people, when they were infants.  And, again, Paul equates this practice with baptism.

            No, Paul doesn’t specifically tell us to baptize infants.  He doesn’t specifically say to do so when they’re eight days old.  But, if this was the practice given by God to Israel, and if baptism is equated with circumcision, it seems reasonable that baptism is also a blessing that can and should be bestowed upon infants.  It doesn’t seem that there is any reason to refuse them until they reach a certain age.

Baptism 4


               We’ve established, in my previous posts on baptism, that babies and young children are in need of salvation.  And this is where baptism itself comes in.  It comes in because baptism is a means of God’s grace.  In fact, Scripture tells us that God saves us through baptism.            In 1 Peter 3, baptism is compared to the flood.  And, in verse 21, we read: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” Just as Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the flood, so are we saved through baptism.Many of us tend to think of baptism as nothing more than a ritual.  We think of it as an act done by man.  However, this isn’t the case.  Baptism is an act performed by God.  It’s a work performed by God to accomplish our salvation.Many Christians object to this thought.  They object to it because there are many who have been baptized, yet have walked away from the Church.  There are those who were baptized as children who have no faith in Jesus.  And they don’t believe that these people are saved simply because they were baptized.This is something with which Lutherans would agree.  As Martin Luther points out in the Small Catechism, the water is not magic.  It’s not the water that saves.  It’s the water in connection with God’s Word that saves.You see, in baptism, we receive the gospel.  In it, we receive the promise of God.  In Acts 2:38, Peter encouraged the people to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, telling them that they’d receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We can see this again in Acts 22:16.   And, in Mark 16:16, Jesus says: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” When we receive this promise in faith, we receive the promised blessing of God. For this reason, when we present our children for baptism, they receive the gospel.  When we present our children for baptism, we bestow upon them the very promise of God.  And it’s this Word, bestowed through baptism, by which they are saved.[...]

Baptism 3


`           As we continue our look at the Lutheran understanding of baptism, today’s post ties right in with yesterday’s.  We saw in my previous post that young children, and even infants, are sinful.  And, in addition to this, we see that they are also subject to the consequences of sin.            When the first sin entered into the world, we see the consequences that came along with it (Genesis 3).  Life would now be filled with pain and hardship.  And man was also, now, subject to death.            This truth is applied to us all in Romans 6:23, which tells us that the wages of sin is death.  This means that death is what we deserve because of our sin.  Death is what we’ve earned by our sin.            We see no exceptions to this truth in Scripture.  Even young children and babies are included in this reality.  They are born into the world in a state of sin and, therefore, they are subject to the consequences of that sin.            As I mentioned previously, we like to believe that babies are innocent and pure.  However, Scripture tells us that they are sinful.  Yet, even if we accept the truth that they are born in sin, we still don’t want to believe that they are accountable for their sin.  We don’t want to believe that they will be held responsible for it.            But, as we look at the world around us, there’s no denying it.  There’s no denying it because we see that children do, in fact, die.  They are sometimes born with abnormalities that lead to their death.  They sometimes become seriously ill, which leads to their death.  They are sometimes involved in accidents that lead to their death.  And this reveals to us, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are held accountable for their sin.            If they were not sinful, if they were not guilty, they would not be subject to death.  If they were not accountable for their sin, it wouldn’t be possible for them to die.  Even though we don’t like to face it, the simple reality is that they too bear the consequences of sin.            We struggle with this because they have no choice in the matter.  We struggle with this because they haven’t consciously chosen to sin.  However, the sinful nature that they bear makes this a reality.            A similar truth is mentioned in Romans 5.  In verses 13 and 14 Paul points out that sin is not counted when there is no law.  And God didn’t give his law until the time of Moses.  However, even though the people who lived between the time of Moses and Adam didn’t have the revealed law, they continued to experience death.  And this shows that, even though they may not have violated a specific command of God, they were sinful.  They had a sinful heart.  They’d been born in sin, and they were subject to the consequences of sin.            The same truth applies in the case of babies and young children.  Even if they don’t fully understand God’s law, and even if they haven’t made a deliberate decision to violate his law, they are still sinners.  They are still guilty.  And they remain subject to the consequences of sin.        [...]

Baptism 2


            As we continue our look at baptism, we come to another reason why Lutherans baptize infants and young children.  And the next reason we do so is because we are sinners from the very beginning of life.  We do so because even infants are sinful.            I realize that this challenges contemporary thought.  In our society, we like to believe that infants are innocent.  At the very least, we want to believe that they are blank slates, having done nothing good or evil.  After all, they haven’t yet had the opportunity to violate God’s commands.  In fact, we believe that, because they are so helpless, it’s not possible for them to sin.            Scripture, however, teaches us something very different.  It teaches a concept that we refer to as original sin.  It teaches us that we enter into the world with a heart of sin.            We see this, for example, in Romans 5:12, which says: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” Paul tells us, in this verse, that sin came into the world through one man, Adam.  He says that death entered into the world through sin.   And, for this reason, death spread to all men because all sinned.            What he’s saying is that the sin of Adam brought sin to all mankind.  We’ve inherited his guilt and are born with the same desire for sin.  And no one, other than Christ himself, is exempt from this reality.            David also testifies to this truth in Psalm 51:5, where he says: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” He tells us that he was born in sin.  In fact, he tells us that he was sinful from the time he was conceived in his mother’s womb.            We see this again in Genesis 8:21. God tells us, in this verse, that the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.  So, from the time we’re young, the intention of our heart is evil.            Anyone who’s spent time with children can testify to their sinfulness.  They don’t have to be taught selfishness.  It comes quite natural.  They don’t have to be taught to lie or to manipulate.  But we do have to teach them to share.  We have to teach them generosity, honesty, and integrity.            In short, we baptize our children because they are sinful.  Like us, they too are in need of salvation.  And this is exactly what baptism provides for them.[...]

Baptism 1


               In the Lutheran Church, we practice infant baptism.  And, as many of you know, this is an issue that divides Christians of various denominations.  There are many faithful, Bible believing, Christians who disagree with this practice.  There’s also a large number of people who fill our own pews on a regular basis who don’t fully understand why we practice baptism as we do.                 For this reason, I’m going to present a series of blog articles addressing baptism.  They are not intended to attack our fellow believers in other churches.  They are intended to explain our position on this issue and to help you gain a better understanding of it.               This is too big of an issue to address in one post.  So, for this reason, post by post, I’ll present our understanding of this practice.  And, if they aren’t considered in total, you’ll come away with an incomplete understanding of our view.               The first reason we baptize infants in the Lutheran Church is because baptism is commanded by Christ.  And, as he gives his command, there are no age limits or restrictions that are given.  He simply says to us, in Matthew 28:19-20: “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."            Jesus tells us that we are to make disciples of all nations.  And we’re to do this by baptizing them and teaching them.  Again, he doesn’t tell us to wait until a certain age or to reserve it for those who’ve reached a certain stage in life.               In fact, as we look at the New Testament, we see entire households being baptized.  And it’s hard to imagine that there were no children, whatsoever, in these households.  We see examples of this in Acts 16:15 & 33, and in 1 Corinthians 1:16.            So we baptize our infants in obedience to the command of Christ.  We make disciples of our children by baptizing and teaching them.  And we find no cause to withhold this blessing from them.[...]

New Year...A Time for Looking Back


“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever…” (Psalm 136:1-3 ESV)            We typically spend our time focusing on what we want God to do for us.  We look at the promises, given to us in Scripture, and long for them to be fulfilled.  We offer to him our prayers, again and again, laying our requests before his feet.  And we wait anxiously to have our requests satisfied.            The longer we wait, the more discontent we become.  The longer we wait, the more we begin to question God.  The longer we wait, the more we doubt his love and goodness.            However, have you ever taken the time to contemplate God’s faithfulness?  Have you taken the time to consider all that he’s done for you?  In Psalm 136, the Psalmist does just that.  He then responds to each remembrance of God’s faithfulness with the reminder that the love of God endures forever.            He remembers, first of all, God’s work of creation.  He goes on to remember God’s work of deliverance, in bringing Israel out of Egypt.  He then remembers God’s work in leading his people through the wilderness.  And, finally, he remembers how God granted the people victory over the inhabitants of the Promised Land, giving it to Israel.  Like the Psalmist, we can remember that it’s God who made us and who’s given us life.  We can remember his deliverance from sin and death, provided to us in Jesus.  We can remember his guidance and provision.  And we can remember how he’s brought us into the good place in which we find ourselves.            As we do so, as we look back upon the work God has done for us, as we remember the blessings he’s bestowed upon us, it changes our perspective.  No longer do we question God.  No longer do we become frustrated as we await his answer to prayer or the fulfillment of his promises.  We, instead, live life in the knowledge of his unending love.              This is a great practice for us as we enter into the New Year.  As others spend their time looking ahead, as they spend their time focusing on changes they want to make in their life, we can focus on the blessings God has given us.  We can look at where we are and remember from where he’s brought us.  And this will only encourage us as we anticipate his continued provision and blessing, along with the fulfillment of the promises he’s given us.[...]

Our Response to Christmas


“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”(Luke 2:15-17 ESV)            Most of us are familiar with the Christmas story found in Luke 2.  We remember how, as they took care of their flocks, an angel appeared to some shepherds.  He announced to them the birth of the Savior, telling them that they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  A whole host of angels then appeared singing praises to God.            As we see in the above passage, upon receiving this news, they went to Bethlehem to find the newborn Savior.  They found Mary and Joseph, and baby Jesus lying in the manger.  They then went out and shared this news with others.            This isn’t a terribly new insight.  However, whenever I read this account, it forces me to ask an important question of myself.  It forces me to ask: “What is my response to the message of the Savior?”            For many of us, the story of Jesus’ birth is very familiar.  The message of the gospel is very familiar.  Perhaps it’s even too familiar.            What I mean by this is that, because we’ve heard it so many times, it’s old hat.  It doesn’t fill us with awe, as it should.  Like the carols that we sing, it’s simply a part of the season that we enjoy, and that we go on to forget for another year.            I’m reminded, as I read this passage, that my response should be like that of the shepherds.  Upon hearing the news of Jesus’ coming, my first response should be to go to him.  My response should be to receive him for myself as my Savior and Lord. As Jesus himself says to us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”            This should be my immediate response because this is why Jesus was sent into the world, to save us from our sin.  And, in response to this news, I should gladly receive this gift God has given.  I should receive for myself the blessing of the Savior.              Then, like the shepherds, I should share this message.  I should share it because the Savior didn’t come for me alone.  As the angel announced, in verse 10 of Luke 2, this is good news of great joy for all the people.            Knowing that the Christ has come to provide salvation for the world, I should take this message to all I encounter.  I should share with them the hope that they have in Christ.  I should share it with them in hope that they too might turn to him in faith.[...]



Since we cancelled worship at Prince of Peace due to the extreme cold, here's an Advent devotion to start your day.



My latest publication, Reflections on Suffering, is now available in paperback.  It has not yet linked to amazon at this time, but it can be seen and ordered at



Announcing my most recent publication, Reflections on Suffering. It's now available on the kindle store, and will be released shortly in paperback.  You can check it out at:

The Fullness of Time


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”(Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)            It seems unreal to be writing about Christmas.  It seems unreal because this year has just flown by.  And, perhaps, it also seems unreal because of the exceptionally nice fall we’ve had here in North Dakota.            However, here we are at that time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus into the world.  And what a fitting event it is to celebrate.  It’s fitting because, in the birth of Jesus, salvation was provided for mankind.  The salvation, promised by God since the fall of Adam and Eve, was now at hand.            This happened, we’re told, when the fullness of time had come.  This means that the time was right.  The time, determined by God for the birth of the Savior, had arrived.            What made that moment the right one is known and understood only by God.  However, it was at this point that God sent his Son into the world.  It was at this point that he sent his Son to redeem us.            We needed this redemption because we were under the law.  Man was not only living under the law, obligated to carry out God’s commands.  He was also under the condemnation of the law.  Because of his sin, because he’d violated the law of God, he deserved the punishment prescribed by the law.  Mankind, as a whole, was deserving of both death and hell.            It’s from this that Jesus came to redeem us.  It’s from this that he came to buy us back.  He was born into the world that he might pay the necessary price that we might once again belong to him.              The price that he paid was his very life.  Jesus, after living a perfect life, was put to death on the cross.  He offered himself on our behalf.  And, in this way, he secured for us salvation from the penalty of the law.            This is a familiar story.  It’s one that we’ve heard many times before.  Yet its meaning is often forgotten.  Although we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we often forget the primary purpose of his coming.  We, along with the rest of the world, tend to think that Jesus came for some other purpose.  We think that he came primarily to teach. We think that he came only as an example for us to follow.  And, for this reason, his sacrifice becomes more of an afterthought.Others, in the liberal or “progressive” churches, go to a much greater extreme.  They tell us that God would never have sent Jesus to die.  They tell us that, if this were true, it’s a case of divine child abuse.However, Scripture is clear regarding Jesus’ purpose in coming.  As we see in the above passage, he came to redeem us.  And we see clearly throughout Scripture that he did so by giving his life on the cross.We see this, for example, in 1 Peter 1:18-19 which says: “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, b[...]

A Unique Opportunity


"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."
(Philippians 1:12-14 ESV)

There's fear among believers in our nation today. They fear that our freedom of religion will be taken from us. They fear that our freedom of religion is being taken from us. And I believe that this is, in fact, happening.

There's concern about how this will affect our life here in the United States. There's concern about how this will affect our ministry as Christian believers and congregations. It's felt that the restrictions being placed upon us will hinder our ability to reach out with the gospel. It's felt that they will hinder our ability to carry out the call God has given us.

I certainly don't want my freedoms to be restricted or taken away. I thank God for the freedoms we've enjoyed up to this point. However, I've become convinced that, even if these fears are realized, it will present a unique opportunity to the church.

We see, in the above passage, that this was the case with Paul. As he wrote to the church at Philippi, he was in jail. And it seems to us that this loss of freedom would severely restrict his ministry.

No longer was Paul able to move among the people. No longer was he able to teach and to preach as he once had. And no longer was he able to move from town to town. In this way, it seems that he'd lost his ability to carry out his calling.

However, his imprisonment presented him with a unique opportunity. He says that it served to advance the gospel. He said that it was known to the whole imperial guard, along with all the rest, that he'd been imprisoned for Christ. And what a witness this was.

He also said that, because of his imprisonment, most of the brothers had grown more confident. He says that they'd been emboldened to speak the Word without fear. So, instead of one man fearlessly proclaiming God’s Word, there were now many.

None of us want to see our freedoms removed. None of us want to be jailed, or worse, for our proclamation of the gospel. But we can be assured that, even if it comes to this, God’s work will continue. It will bring to us unique opportunities that we wouldn't otherwise possess.

So don't lose heart, no matter what happens to our freedoms. Whether they remain intact or are stripped away from us, the Word of God will go forth. No matter our circumstances, God will provide us with opportunities to serve him and to bless others.

Thank Who?


“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1 ESV)            As we come to November, Thanksgiving is what instantly comes to my mind.  I think this is true for most of us.  We anticipate this day, when we’ll stop and offer thanks for all of the blessings we enjoy.            As Thanksgiving gets closer, we’ll be reminded to give thanks by many.  We’ll see these reminders on TV.  We’ll hear them on the radio.  It will be shared by those who surround us on a daily basis.  However, as we begin our anticipation of this holiday, we must first ask ourselves this: To whom are we thankful? To whom do we offer our thanks for each of our blessings?            The answer to this question should be obvious.  But, unfortunately, it’s not understood by most in our society.   Everybody in our nation, believer and unbeliever alike, celebrates this day.  Yet, even though so many take part in this celebration, and even though we’re reminded by so many to offer our thanks, it’s often directed to no one in particular.  We’re simply giving thanks for the sake of giving thanks. It’s as though we’re thankful to no one for the blessings we enjoy.            However, when we rightly offer thanks, we’re expressing our gratitude for a kindness given to us by someone.  It’s our recognition of their generosity and their gracious spirit.  And, as we look to Scripture, we find that God is the source of every blessing we possess.            God is the source of life.  He created us in the beginning, and he sustains that life from day to day.  He provides for us the resources we need in life, such as food, clothing, and shelter.  He provides for us our family, with whom we share life and the responsibilities that come with it.  And, of course, he provides for us eternal life.            This is the point in the verse quoted above.  And this refrain is repeated throughout the entire psalm.  We’re reminded to give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.  And his love is seen in the blessings he bestows upon us.            So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s make sure that we’re properly giving thanks.  Let’s make sure that we’re directing that thanks to the one who has provided each and every one of our blessings.  And let us also share with others what God has done for us, that they too might come to know him, to recognize his blessings, and to trust in him for all that they need.[...]

Evangelism: The Product of Faith


“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”(2 Corinthians 4:13-14 ESV)            We live in a society, today, where we’re encouraged to keep our faith to ourselves.  Evangelism is discouraged and is characterized as intolerance and hate speech.  It’s branded in this way because our intention is that people would turn from their current belief to a faith in Jesus. Our intent is that people might turn from their current practices that they might follow Christ.            Many who profess the name of Christ have bowed to the pressure.  They seek to practice their faith on their own, and don’t speak of it outside of church or their home.  They’ve bought into the lie that we’re to be accepting of other people.  And, because of this, they allow others to continue along the path to destruction.            Paul, in the above passage, paints a different picture.  He paints a picture that is very convicting and challenging.  He tells us that his proclamation of the gospel results from his faith.            His hope in Christ, his hope of the resurrection, caused him to speak out.  It caused him to proclaim this hope to those around him.  It caused him to speak out regardless of the circumstances that he faced (he references this in verses 7-12).            I find this convicting because it forces me to ask this question of myself: Does may faith do the same?  Does my hope in Christ cause me to share the gospel with those around me?  And if not, why is this true?            Our faith will naturally lead us to share the gospel with those around us.  Realizing our sin, realizing the suffering that we deserve, and knowing the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, how can we not speak out?  This hope implants within us the desire that others might receive the same blessing as us.  It implants within us the desire that others might receive the forgiveness and salvation that Christ has provided for them.            This, after all, is God’s desire.  We’re told in Scripture that God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11).  He desires for all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).            This is also the calling that Christ has entrusted to us.  He's called us to make disciples of all nations.  He's called us to proclaim the gospel to all creation.            Our hope in Christ will cause us to speak out even if it means suffering on our part.  It grants to us a willingness to suffer for the sake of others.  We know that, even if our very life is demanded of us, no one can take away the salvation that has been provided for us by the Lord.            If our faith in Christ does [...]

Why Should I Go to Church?


            Every so often, I hear someone say something to the effect of this: “Why should I go to church?  You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”            Now, in one sense they’re right.  We aren’t saved because we go to church.  It isn’t a work by which we gain the mercy of God.  We’re saved only by the grace of God. And this grace is received only through faith in Jesus.  However, that being said, someone who truly believes in Jesus will want to go to church.  We see several reasons for this in Scripture.            We see a couple of reasons in Hebrews 10:24-25, which says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”            We see, first of all, that we’re called to gather together.  We’re told that we’re not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some.  And we’re told that we’re to do so all the more as we see the day, the day of Christ’s return, approaching.  If God desires that we should meet together, why would we refuse him?  As people of faith, we naturally desire to live life according to his will.              Yet there’s more to it than this.  We find that there are blessings God intends for us to receive through the church.  We see in this passage, for example, that we’re to go to church that we might encourage one another.  The Christian life is not designed to be lived alone.  It’s designed to be lived in community.  And by gathering together, we’re able to stir up one another to love and good works, and to encourage one another in the faith.            We see another reason for going to church in 1 Corinthians 12.  In verses 4-7, we read: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” And in verse 12, we’re told: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”            We see in these verses that the Spirit of God gives gifts to his people.  And he gives them not for our own good, but for the common good. In other words, the gifts that he gives to us are given for the benefit of the church as a whole.  For this reason, when we gather with our fellow believers, we’re able to bless them with the gifts God has given us.  And, in the same way, we’re able to be blessed by the gifts he’s given to others.            In this chapter, Paul uses the human body to illustrate his point.  The body is made up of many parts with many functions.  Yet each of these parts, along with their functions, serve the good of the body.  And the same is true of th[...]

Before It's Too Late


“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”(2 Corinthians 6:1-2 ESV)            It’s so easy to take for granted the many blessings we enjoy every day.  It’s easy for us to take our freedom for granted.  It’s easy for us to take our family for granted.  It’s easy for us to take our job, our home, and our wealth for granted.            We do this because these blessings have always been there for us.  We’ve never been without them.  And, because of this, we seem to think that they always will.            We often do the same thing when it comes to God.  More specifically, we do the same thing when it comes to his salvation.  We understand the love he has for us.  We know the sacrifice he’s made for us.  We know his desire for our salvation.  And, for this reason, we take it for granted.  We just assume that his salvation will always be available to us.            Many people approach life thinking that they can turn to God later on.  They want to enjoy themselves now.  They want to satisfy their sinful desires.  And they think that they have plenty of time to confess to God and receive his mercy.            Many people simply believe that, because God is loving, and because he desires their salvation, it doesn’t matter what they do.  No matter the life that they live, they believe that God will forgive them.  No matter how great their rebellion, they believe that God will save them.            However, as we see in the above text, salvation is not something we can take for granted.  In this passage, Paul urged that the Corinthians would not receive God’s grace in vain.  He didn’t want them to receive it in an empty or meaningless way.  He didn’t want them to take it lightly.              He also makes it clear that God’s salvation will not be available forever.  He tells us that now is the favorable time.  He tells us that now is the day of salvation.            We all realize that, as far as our life in this world is concerned, tomorrow isn’t promised to us. A sudden accident could take our life.  We could suffer a heart attack or go into cardiac arrest.  We could be unexpectedly diagnosed with a serious illness that brings our life in this world to an end.            We also know from Scripture that Jesus will soon return.  We don’t know when that day will come.  But it could come at any moment.  And, for this reason, we must be prepared.            We must make sure that we are not treating God’s grace lightly.  We must make sure that we receive his mercy while we still can.  We must make sure [...]

Hell No?


“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5 ESV)            Lately, I’ve run across several blog posts from “progressive” Christians.  And, in these posts, they’ve challenged the traditional Christian doctrine of hell.  They don’t believe in hell.  They don’t believe that God would send anyone to hell.            The only way they can make this challenge is by dismissing certain passages of the Bible.  After all, hell is a theme that runs all throughout Scripture.  They have to, essentially, cherry pick the Bible that they might hold to this view.            They use their reason and emotion to justify their belief.  They tell us that a righteous God, that a loving God, could not condemn people to an eternity of suffering in hell.  And they defend this by pointing to passages of the Bible, like 1 John 4:8, which tells us that God is love.            We must remember, first of all, that we can’t use our reason or emotion to make a determination of truth.  Both our mind and our heart have been corrupted by sin.  As we read in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…”             In the same way, we read in Romans 1 that God has given man over to a debased mind.  We see, in Colossians 1, that we were alienated and hostile in mind before coming to faith in Christ.  And we see in 1 Corinthians 1 that the wisdom of God is foolishness to those who are perishing.            The simple fact of the matter is that we cannot trust our human mind or emotions to guide us into a true understanding of God.  They will lead us only away from him.  They will lead us only to sin and judgment.            For this reason, we must look to the Word of God to discover what is true.  We must not make ourselves to be the judge of God and his Word.  We must, instead, submit ourselves to God and his Word.            We see, from the very beginning of the Bible, that suffering and death are the consequence of sin.  And the only way we’re able to escape this fate is through Jesus.  Through faith in him, through faith in his promise, we’re able to receive the blessings of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.            If we fail to look to Jesus in faith, we remain under the consequence of our sin.  And this is essentially what hell is.  It’s the place where we suffer the consequence of our sin in eternity.            Does the reality of hell reflect a lack of righteousness on God’s part?  Does it reflect a lack of love on his part?  Absolutely not.            After all, because of our sin, we deserve God’s wrath.  We in no way deserve God’s forgiveness or s[...]

Thank you, Prince of Peace!


“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34 ESV)As a pastor, I’m expected to be there for people during difficult seasons of their life.  This is part of my calling.  And I love the fact that I can be a support and an encouragement for them.  However, I want to publicly thank my congregation, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Beulah, North Dakota, for the support they’ve recently shown to me.            So often, pastors are not given the level of support I’ve received.  Unrealistic expectations are frequently placed upon them as they labor among their flock.  It seems that congregation members don’t realize that, although we’re called to serve God and his people full-time, we too are human.  We too experience hardships.  We too get tired.  We too are burdened.  And this often ends in pastors becoming burned out.            As my mom was suffering from terminal cancer, and as she passed away, the people of Prince of Peace were incredibly gracious.  I was told at the outset of her illness that I should take as much time as I needed to be with her, and that this would in no way be counted as vacation.  And these were no idle words.            Having a big family, summer is really our only opportunity to travel.  And, on top of personal vacation, I also had two ministry related trips scheduled.  This made it seem that my time at the church was extremely limited.              Yet, in addition to a week with my parents in late May, I was able to schedule two trips to see my mom as her condition worsened.  And the church had no hesitation when, on the Friday before her death, I made a last minute decision to jump on a plane to be with her and the rest of my family.            Her funeral required that I be gone yet another Sunday.  And, once again, the people of Prince of Peace were so supportive.  Our youth pastor jumped in to cover for me, as he always does.  And I was told repeatedly that I was not to worry about anything at the church.            I so greatly appreciate the time that was given me to both be with mom and also to mourn.  It’s been an extremely stressful time, and the flexibility given to me made it so much easier.  I did have some feelings of guilt, being away so much.  But these were the result of my own sense of responsibility, and were in no way placed upon me by the church.            I also appreciate the cards that were sent, the prayers that were raised on behalf of my mom and my family, and the condolences that were expressed.  I appreciate the congregational leadership who stopped by to simply check up on me and to reassure me that all would be taken care of.   And I appreciate the beautiful flowers that were sent to her funeral.              I am truly blessed to labor among you.  I am ble[...]