Friday, September 30, 2011

It Doesn't Matter Anyway, Or Does It?

A lot of people dismiss discussions about God with the words, "It doesn't matter anyway. Everybody believes what they want to believe." The impression these people give is that beliefs about God are like beliefs about which type of pizza is the most tasty. Everybody has their own opinion, but in the end, which kind of pizza each person likes best doesn't affect anyone else. That kind of logic would make sense if God were just a part of our imagination. Then we would have the liberty to make him out the way we think he should be, like an artist painting a picture on a canvass. The only problem with an imaginary God is that the help he might give us would also be imaginary.

If God is actually going to make a difference in our lives, he must be a real, separate being, totally distinct from the people he created with the ability to be involved on our behalf. And that is exactly the way God is described in the Bible. However, if God is real, then we don't have the option of making him out to be the way we want. Instead of saying, "I think God is like....", we need to find out what God says about himself and then take him at his word.

The New Testament book of Galatians is a crucial statement about the way God makes people right with himself. Some people read this short letter and wonder what all the fuss is about. But for those who are looking for clear answers to life's most important questions, Galatians is like a lighthouse on a foggy night. God has spoken about himself and how we can be a part of his family. There is no more important subject which a human being can ponder. Join us this Sunday (October 2) at 10:00 am as we consider beliefs that matter not just for the moment or a few years, but for eternity.

Friday, September 23, 2011

When To Take A Stand

What do you think of when you hear the word "bullheaded"? Regardless of the image, it probably isn't a positive one. Typically we use the word "bullheaded" to describe a person who makes life incredibly difficult by fighting over every little thing. No matter how much you try to compromise, with the bullheaded person it has to be either his/her way or the highway. For such people, there is no room for the kind of compromise and cooperation which are absolutely essential to getting along with other people.

In recent years, however, the "bullheaded" concept has been very mistakenly applied to any individual who feels strongly enough about an issue to disagree with the majority or those who are in power. Nowhere is that more evident than in the increasingly hostile language appearing in our media directed at Christians and Christian teachings. Whether the issue be evolution, sex or stem cell research, Christians are portrayed as "bullheaded" simpletons whose only motive is to control the behavior of the rest of society, when in reality the debate should be about truth. Taking a stand for what one believes is the truth should never be mistaken for "bullheadedness".

Beginning this Sunday we are going to be studying the New Testament book of Galatians. This short letter was written by the Apostle Paul less than 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For two thousand years the words Paul wrote have served as a Christian manifesto on truth. It is a letter full of intense emotion, reflecting a man who has staked everything on the message that eternal life comes through faith alone in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. God took a stand for you when Christ went to the cross. The result of what happened on that cross enables us to take a stand for God. Compromise can be a key to getting along with people, but it is always disastrous when it changes the truths of God.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Too Good To Be True?

When you were young you probably heard these wise words from your parents, "If it is too good to be true, it probably is." Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are looking to take advantage of others. They know just how to manipulate feelings and emotions so that the other person is lured into some type of agreement or commitment that appears fantastic but which in reality is a disaster. Afterward, when the person realizes the deception, their reaction is, "At the time I just couldn't refuse." Getting burned in a business deal or relationship leaves us not only bitter, but cynical. We start to question or doubt the sincerity of all people. We develop an attitude which questions, "What's your angle? What's in it for you?" That kind of thinking may help us in defending ourselves from being taken advantage of by other people, but it undermines our relationship with Jesus Christ.

When it comes to the Lord's promises, he is good for them. If you ever have any doubt, revisit the tomb he left empty on Easter Sunday. His resurrection is your confirmation that he is good for everything he promises. One of the more incredible promises he makes to his followers comes in the form of what we call Holy Communion. When Jesus instituted this Sacrament he said, "Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-27) To our doubting minds those words sound "too good to be true". We wonder how something so simple as believing that by eating a little bread and wine a human being can be put into a right relationship with the eternal God. Something in us wants to drag our intellectual feet. That's when we need to remember who spoke those words. One of the great tragedies of life is that we are naive in regard to human schemes and cynical toward the promises of Jesus Christ. Join us this Sunday (September 18) at 10:00 am and be ready to take Christ at his word. You'll never regret it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Personal Touch

My dad was not someone who enjoyed writing. You could even see it in the shape of his fingers. They just weren't made to hold a pen or type on a keyboard. His fingers were more like thick strands of cable, strong and ready to work. But when it came to writing my mother's birthday cards, my dad would turn into a poet. It wasn't easy. He would trudge upstairs to a little room in the attic where he wouldn't be disturbed. To grease the literary wheels he sometimes even took a glass of wine along with him! But each year he would come down with a masterpiece. Without fail, my mother cried when she read them. Dad was the kind of guy who could have gotten away with just signing his name at the bottom of mom's birthday cards. You didn't have to spend much time with him to see he wasn't the "touchy feely" type. But he ventured into an area of life where he wasn't all that comfortable because he knew how much a handwritten, personal note meant to my mom on her birthday.

The personal touch--it makes all the difference, especially in a world of recorded telephone calls, mass e-mails and bulk mailings. We receive all sorts of communications from people who pretend to know us but have never met us. What a treat it is to receive a handwritten note in the mail or even a personal e-mail from a friend! The personal touch--it's one person saying to another, "You are special to me."

Have you ever wondered what it might be like if God personally touched our lives? It wouldn't take much, we think, a short note, a quick conversation. And yet, God does come to us with that personal touch. Each time we receive Holy Communion, that is his way of coming to us individually and saying, "You're forgiven. You're mine. You're going to be with me forever." Regardless of what is happening in your life right now, the God who made you wants to personally touch your life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Are We All Just Victims Of Circumstance?

Are we human beings responsible for our actions? The answer throughout history has always been a straightforward, emphatic "Yes"! Times have changed in this regard and we can see this change in all aspects of our society from our legal system to our schools to the work place. People, today, commit the most outrageous crimes which would have led to extended time in jail years ago, and yet are excused because of some psychological condition or an extenuating circumstance in their life which is blamed for their grossly inappropriate behavior.

Can we human beings choose to avoid harmful behavior by denying ourselves something we want? Historically, that question has also been answered "Yes"! Today, however, "scientific" studies try to tell us that we really can't control our emotions or desires. A tragic example is the mass distribution of birth control in our public school system which is based on the thinking, "Well the kids are just going to have sex anyway so at least we should give them 'protection'." Given the lowered moral standards of our society one might think, "That kind of makes sense." However, a much greater principle is at stake; the principle: Can humans make good choices? If we cannot, then where does such thinking stop? Do we just let people continue to take drugs, steal, hurt each other because they can't be any other way?

Jesus Christ made it very clear that his followers are not at all victims of circumstance, but have at their disposal everything necessary to make wise, healthy choices in life. This Sunday we continue to study the meaning of baptism in the life of a believer. While some may relegate baptism to the category of cute family rituals, the Bible places it at the forefront of this whole question of human accountability and behavior. Baptism provides Christian disciples with the motivation to be able to rise above our circumstances and do what is right, regardless of what our desires tell us or what the rest of society encourages us to do.

If you want the power to rise above the situations in your life which are holding you down, making you a prisoner to sinful, destructive behavior, join us this Sunday (September 4 at 10:00 am) to discover how God will set you free through your baptism.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

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Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.