Friday, November 25, 2011

Are We Just Fooling Ourselves That Things Will Get Better?

The poet Alexander Pope wrote "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" to describe the optimism of the human race. No matter how bad things get, according to Pope, people believe that sooner or later their quality of life will improve.

Those who are optimistic will point to emotionally encouraging stories of people who struggled through incredibly difficult situations and overcame their problems with the result of a dramatic change in their fortunes. The more pessimistic will simply point to a cemetery and say, "That's where we will all end up so how can you talk about hope?"

Is hope just a self-delusion or does there exist a type of hope that is so certain and solid that we can build our lives on it? The Bible certainly describes hope in a way that leads one to believe we can put our trust in it. This Sunday we begin celebrating the season of Advent, which is a four week period of preparation before Christmas. One of the important themes of Advent is hope. This Sunday we're going to study what the Bible said about hope during the Old Testament and how it describes hope now that Jesus Christ has come.

There is a saying that people can survive a few weeks without food, a few days without water, but we can't live a moment without hope. Hope is the difference between giving up and going on. Hope is what distinguishes winners and losers, success and failure. But more importantly, the hope which is described in the Bible is the basis for life not only today, but for eternity.

Are you starting to lose hope? Join us this Sunday (November 27) at 10:00 am. Let the Hope of Christmas start to change your life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Didn't Jesus Heal Everyone?

"Why didn't Jesus heal all the sick people when he was on this earth? In fact, why didn't he just take care of all of humanity's problems?" Those are good questions not so much from the perspective of questioning Christ's decision making but rather to help us understand our role as Christians living in a world full of what seem to be insoluble problems. The Gospel accounts describe the ministry of Jesus Christ as one of non-stop action. He was always preaching or teaching or doing something for someone. One time when people told him to slow down he said, "Look, there's only a certain amount of time to work so let's get to it." And yet, when we count up the number of people Jesus actually healed in a physical way, it comes to about 3 dozen or so. A drop in the bucket of human suffering.

Christ made it very clear that his number one priority was to provide healing for the souls of all human beings through his death on the cross and his coming back to life three days later. His spiritual and eternal mission, however, did not keep him from helping people on a physical level, even if the affects of his help would not last. In a sense, one could say that in regard to Christ's social ministry, he was fighting a losing battle. And yet, he kept on fighting that battle, even to the end of his life (remember how he healed the severed ear of one of the men who arrested him). The way Jesus intensely worked to right the wrongs in this world is the inspiration for Christians to make a difference in our world as we wait for Judgment Day.

Last week we heard repeated warnings from the sermons of Jesus concerning the certainty of Judgment Day and the two alternatives people have as they face that moment. However, he didn't leave his teaching on Judgment Day there; he tells his followers how to live while they wait for that great day. He says we are to be working, to be using all the abilities and talents we have to be his representatives in this world. Does he hold out hope that someday this will be a perfect world? No. But that's not the point. He told us to love others the way he loved us. How the world changes is not up to us. Instead, it is our part to do everything we can to live each day as Christ would if he were still walking this earth as he did 2000 years ago. This is not a time for waiting but for action. We have all of eternity to enjoy the rest Christ will give us then.

Join us this Sunday (November 20) at 10:00 am and let's inspire each other to work for Christ while we look forward to his coming at any moment.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Judgment Day: Reality or Scare Tactic?

It's a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon with the trade winds blowing gently in your face. The work day is over and you are walking to your car ready to enjoy a quiet evening at home. Suddenly you hear the sickening sound of metal crunching and glass shattering. What you see ruins any prospect of an enjoyable evening. A teenage Steve McGarrett wannabe has simulated a Hawaii Five-O chase scene in the parking lot of your workplace. But instead of booking the bad guy he has banged into your car.

When the police officer asks for his insurance card, the young man responds, "What's that?" It becomes clear the only way you will get reimbursed for the repair bill is if you take the offender to court. Six months later after four court appearances the judge finally gives his judgment: he rules that the young man does not need to pay you anything. You are stuck with all the repair costs!

What are the first words out of your mouth? Probably something like, "THAT'S NOT FAIR!" The judge did not do his job and justice was not served. You are upset (That's an understatement)!

If someone were to ask you why you were so angry about not getting justice, you might feel a little frustrated at trying to explain something that seems so obvious. Your car was correctly parked when the boy hit it. The damage done to your vehicle was entirely his fault. Therefore, justice demands that he pays for the repairs. But why do we all have that sense of justice? No one teaches it to us, we all just have it. And when we meet people throughout the world, we find they have the same sense of justice.

You are probably thinking that the story above has got to have something to do with God, Jesus, the devil or the Bible, and you are right. We are in the season of the Church year when we study the end times: Judgment Day, heaven and hell. Hell is a very offensive concept to many people. The stock question about it is, "How can a loving God send people to hell?" That question, however, misses the point of God's justice. The fact that God effectively serves justice on every form of evil that exists is the basis for our human justice. If God is not just, we cannot positively know what is just in human life nor can we even begin to talk about life after death. Without God's justice, human existence has no meaning.

Join us this Sunday (November 13) at 10:00 am as we work to understand how God's justice is as important as his love.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Proof of the Pudding Is in the Eating

No matter how delicious a certain type of food looks, what matters most is the taste. It helps to have a good salesman present a certain product, but in the end, what the customer wants most is for the product to work well for a long period of time. Results--that's what we're interested in. Talk can be interesting, thought provoking, even captivating, but we need to see that talk become reality.

Listening to non-Christians describe the way they see Christians live out their faith, it seems that some are asking to see more proof that Jesus makes a life changing difference in our lives. They hear us say we have been "born again" or that we are "conquerors through Christ", but how they see us live on a daily basis, according to these folks, presents a much different picture. And sadly, research does demonstrate that many Christians have a moral life very similar to that of non-Christians. Jesus Christ had a very different view of how his followers would live. He said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

The love of Jesus Christ was never expressed only in words, it was always accompanied by action. Reading the narratives of his life in the Gospel accounts one finds Jesus almost constantly demonstrating a loving commitment to people on a very practical level. And people noticed. Even those who hated him couldn't find anything he had done wrong with which to accuse him.

It may possibly be that Christians today have misunderstood Christ's promise to change our lives and have the idea "he will give us the kind of life we want, all the time". Jesus never taught self-gratification as the "good life". His teaching of a life worth living centered on a personal relationship with him which then worked itself out in our relationships with other people.

In our last sermon study from the New Testament book of Galatians we are going to discover what authentic Christian living looks like. Instead of a selfish grab for pleasure and comfort, the Apostle Paul (who wrote Galatians) describes the Christian life as one of restoration, burden bearing and humble hard work. Certainly it is not a glamorous lifestyle by society's standards, rather it is a life meant for eternity. Join us this Sunday (November 6) at 10:00 am and together let's commit ourselves to living a Christian life that makes a difference!

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.