Friday, February 22, 2013

The Cross or Our Culture: You Have to Choose One or the Other

As Jesus nears the day of his crucifixion, he becomes increasingly confrontational. It’s not that he is trying to give people a hard time, no, it’s nothing like that. Instead, he is showing us that we have to make a choice – a choice that has profound consequences on our lives.

Often people like to feel religious without getting serious about what Jesus Christ says concerning what it practically means to follow him on a daily basis. There is something attractive about “feeling” God’s presence and comfort when we’re down and out. On the other hand, we human beings feel it intrusive for God to tell us we are to live in a way that inconveniences us.

We have just begun to commemorate the season of Lent, a period of about 6 weeks just before Easter, during which we focus on the meaning and application of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. This Sunday we will study an event that took place only a few weeks before Good Friday. We will hear Jesus explain to his disciples that his life must end at the cross, but then assures them he will rise from the dead. Immediately following that emotional revelation, two of Jesus’ closest followers ask him to make them the leaders of the other disciples. It’s a pure grasp for power on the part of James and John. It is at that point Jesus contrasts the cross with popular culture. What will it be? Will we give up our lives to Christ out of thankfulness for the Lord giving up his life for us? Or will we choose the path of our culture which is a daily grasp at self-centered power and control?

Jesus makes it clear, he didn’t save us to serve ourselves, he saved us to serve him. And so we must each ask, “Who am I serving?”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Where Self-Esteem and Reality Collide

“I am somebody! I am somebody!” A number of years ago children were encouraged to chant these words in some of America’s classrooms.

“I a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins…” For many years these were the words Lutheran Christians spoke at the beginning of a Communion Service.

The first set of words was spoken in an attempt to improve self-esteem. The second was prayed in repentance.

Self-esteem is an important part of a person’s makeup. Low self-esteem can result in low expectations and failure. But, bold words are empty if they do not rest upon reality. So, where does that leave us? Are we “somebody” or are we “poor and miserable”? Actually, what we decide does not determine the matter. What we need to know is: “What is God’s answer?” Our Creator and Redeemer says that we are both. We are poor, miserable sinners that he has lifted up to be people of awesome worth and ability.

Job was a happy man of great worth until a series of traumatic events stripped him of most everything he held dear. He tried in vain to find the cause of this disaster. He ended up wishing that he could haul God into court. In effect, he called out to the Lord: “I am somebody! At the least I deserve an explanation for your conduct!”

It takes four chapters in the Book of Job to record God’s answer. But, the reply provides no explanation for the way God works. It does not reveal how disaster fit into the overall plan for Job’s life. It simply demonstrates that the Lord is God. He created all things. He controls all things. He knows all things. Nothing and no one is like him. To challenge his decisions is to disrespect him. To disobey his orders is to invite his crushing judgment.

Faced with this reality, Job declares: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

These must also be the words of everyone who has ever doubted, challenged, and disobeyed the holy God. We are indeed poor, miserable sinners.

But, that same holy God is also the friend of sinners. If we ask how much we are worth, he points to a center cross and says, “I was willing to pay your ransom with the death of my only Son!” Talk about something precious! Talk about the basis for high self-esteem! Nothing exceeds this. God calls us his royal priests and kings. We can ask for nothing greater in time or in eternity.

It is the Season of Lent. We look again at the suffering and death of Jesus and we see what our sin cost him. We repent in humility and then our God lifts us up to honor and glory.

Thank you to Pastor Paul Ziemer for this week’s devotion.

Friday, February 8, 2013

If Jesus Says He Answers Prayer, Why Do So Many Go Unanswered?

If you’ve ever experienced a “no” or divine silence to a prayer you offered intensely and persistently, you have felt a frustration and even anger towards God. From our point of view, it made absolutely no sense for God not to give us what we requested. And that spiritual confusion may have led to doubt and even more questions about God and his goodness. To make matters worse, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

So what went wrong? Was the problem with us, our faith? Or is God really not able to do everything he claims he can? Join us this weekend for one of our worship services as we work through the gut wrenching reality of “unanswered” prayer. What we discover from Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount may not take away your pain, but it will certainly enable you to overcome!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Does God Grade on a Curve?

We’ve gotten so used to grading on a curve that it would almost seem to make God out to be a big ogre if he didn’t use a curve to judge people. On the other hand, if God does use a curve, one has to wonder what heaven would be like with so many people bringing all their unsavory baggage to Paradise. Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place, right? But it won’t be perfect long if God grades on a curve. So there’s the dilemma: if God judges us justly according to the way we’ve lived, heaven is going to be empty. If God judges us on a curve, heaven won’t be heaven, it will be a repeat of what were living out right now.

According to Jesus Christ, the answer to the question about God grading on a curve is two sided with bad and good news. The bad news is that Jesus tells us God doesn’t grade on a curve. This week we are continuing our study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In that preaching he takes obedience to the 10 Commandments to another level. He goes so far as to say that God holds us accountable for our thoughts!!! No curve there.

The good news though overcomes the bad. Jesus also said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:17).” When it comes to the single most important part of our lives – our relationship with God – we need to stop looking for curves and loopholes. We have deluded ourselves into thinking we’re better than we are. The purpose for Jesus’ coming to this world as a human being was to show us what we are and what our future will be without him so that we would receive his forgiveness and his rule in our lives. Christians of long ago used to say, “The way up to God begins on our knees.” They were on to something.

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.