To The Early Church

To The Early Church

Let me begin by printing a reading from a study I’m doing with my congregation on Sundays. It is interesting since it is so challenging a passage with the turmoil our nation is going through right now:

For those of you following along in our Sunday Study of 1 Peter at Bethany – here is the reading for this coming Sunday January 29:

1 Peter 2:13-3:7 New Living Translation (NLT) 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

18 You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. 19 For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

3 In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do. 7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

This is not a passage that anyone would tackle with ease but let me begin by saying that it speaks to respect for those who have authority. We have in many ways, and for good reasons often, lost respect for authority. Some of the things that are in 1 Peter many no longer be relevant – slavery is unlawful, Kings and princes most often have ceremonial roles, beatings for disobedience are generally and properly frowned upon, and women have a much different status. However, the idea of respect for leaders and for leaders to respect those they lead is important.

The key verse to me is v. 20 But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. Suffering is not something anyone wants to enter into voluntarily but if you live long enough it will come to you. Schools, churches, states, and nations endure hardships and suffering as well. Sometimes this was interpreted as “discipline” sent by God. What Jesus said was that God “loved the world” and by extension we should too. That includes our neighbors wherever they may be in this vast world. If we were to “follow in his steps,” we would naturally want to share this message. Love transforms.

Be Well…

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Facts

Facts

There is a lot of commentary the last few days about facts – whose facts – what facts – alternative facts (whatever any of those things mean) and the fact is that presidents lie – all of them. This is not excuse making or placating it is just my honest assessment. Even Jimmy Carter who boldly declared, “I’ll never tell a lie. I’ll never make a misleading statement. I’ll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me. And I’ll never avoid a controversial issue.” The only thing that was true was the last part of that statement. So where does that leave us? I’m old enough to remember the “Tricky Dick” statements that made a generation cringe as Richard Nixon presented his so called facts to the nation.

So what are we to do? Jesus said to his followers, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. Truth is not just a set of facts – truth is a person. My belief is that a people who embrace the Man of truth will make them desire truthfulness as a way of life. People twist facts every day but we ought to strive to be more transparent and authentic. I need someone who can set an example for me. In fact we need a supernatural transformation not just the will to do it.

So spin truth any way you want but the “truth” for me will always be a person who came to show God’s love to the world. Remember this, Jesus was either truthful in every way possible or he was a crazy man. I suggest to you that he was totally and completely truthful.

Be Well…

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Name Sake

Name Sake

Martin Luther King Jr. was not always “Martin.” The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

There is power in a name. Can you think of examples of how God changed a name for a person when they received a great calling. Abram became Abraham, Simon became Cephas (Peter) and there are many other examples too. What’s in a name? Not only did King, Sr change his name but the name of his son. I need to do more research now to understand what inspired this change. How can someone live most of their life and then, boom, “I’m changing my name?” What great calling would motivate someone to make this radical shift?

Now in hindsight we see what a tremendous world changer Martin Luther King, Jr was. Yet, to have that vision in 1934, when his son was five is quite amazing. Can you imagine the conversation with his wife or the grandparents? The “Great Reformer,” as Luther was called is the perfect moniker for the Great Civil Rights Leader. Caring about each persons value no matter what their color is a godly thing. We need people of vision, hope, and courage today to carry on the vision of both of these reformers.

I was privileged to speak at Rotary yesterday and share another pastor’s story during the Civil Rights Era. Matt Christy wrote, “This pastor’s name is Robert Graetz. On Monday, Bethany Lutheran Pastor Dennis Meyer told his story to the Rotary Club of La Porte.

“When asked about his decision, Graetz replied that the oppression of African Americans was so blatant in Montgomery, and was done in the name of Christ, that he (had to) get involved,” Meyer said.

Graetz was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery — a white pastor of a black congregation. Meyer told Graetz’s tale as an example of the Lutheran Church’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement, but reminded everyone it was just but one individual story from one domination. Hundreds of stories from dozens of denominations are out there to tell. http://www.heraldargus.com/news/people-of-courage/article_8562635c-fae2-5679-8dfe-0b7d90fe9ad4.html

As we honor King in the same week as the peaceful transition of the power of the president remember, we are called to stand together – even with the people we find disagreement. Conversation and compromise is necessary to find common ground.

So what name would you give yourself if you were to change it? What calling are you willing to take up to change the world for the better? Be courageous and…

Be Well…

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Alone

Alone

It has always surprised and impressed me when you see various people with an entourage. As though their importance required several people to coordinate their lives or perhaps record their comings and goings. Of course there are those families that provide their own entourage, like the Kennedy’s or the Bush family. Films of them traveling, playing football on the yard, boating in some sun splashed sea were recorded for posterity. Then there are the athletes or rock stars who have sycaphants that just want to bask in the glory of the stardom or drink the Courvoisier with the other hanger’s on.

It’s amazing how alone I feel at times. I carry the weight and worry of hundreds of families around with me with no recording secretary or well groomed assistant with a bow tie, no chauffeur to whisk me from appointment to appointment. The phone might ring 24/7/365 and it’s almost always personal because their is a persnonal reason they call. It’s hard for my own family to understand at times what the weight feels like. They have their lives and their callings. So it often feels very alone.

My morning prayers are always a quiet time of reverence and reflection as I come to God. I mostly listen. It’s perhaps my favorite time of the day. This morning someone texted me and told me that they were praying for me – thank you. It meant a lot to hear that. It was just before I sat down to read the word as it always speaks that living dynamic Word to me – I try so hard to listen attentively. Then I wait as each passage opens like a gift box to reveal a treasure. Not alone. There is an entourage of Holy Spirit, saints, martyrs, prophets, priests, and apostles. Then toss in a few tax collectors, harlots, and sinners – and my morning entourage is complete. Thank God for that time – I really don’t think I could do it without them.

Be Well…

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Actual Hope

Actual Hope

Hope makes a great little political slogan. Audacious hope, the promise of hope, the return of hope all sound very, well, hopeful. Yet, if you are putting your hope in political leaders past or present you are putting your hope in the wrong place. Pragmatism is a better approach to politics. We wish that our spiritual, political, and military leaders have hope. However, I think hope is reserved for the one who can actually give me hope. God does that through faith.

Optimism is not hope either. Realism can shake the optimism right out of you at times. Yet, hope can’t be taken away. St. Paul wrote in Romans 15:13, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. That is truly an audacious statement. God plants hope in the human heart.

We can see the brokenness of the world around us. We may speculate with fear and trembling what crazy leaders might do next. Yet, we know that faith and love from God can change the human heart. So get on your knees with hope and pray to the giver of hope.

Be Well…

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Listen

Listen

Have you watched the OA on Netflix? It is a disturbing and engaging sci-fi program about dimensions and death and a bit of a warped spirituality. I’m not going to tell you about it. You may watch it or read about it online but one thing stood out to me in this growing secular society. People need spiritual engagement and they are looking everywhere except where they should. Gone are most of the historic and traditional ways to connect with the divine. It is a new age and science is the new way to connect with other dimensions, travel time, and live forever. The good thing is that people want to live forever and that is what God offers. In fact the Bible says:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Eccl. 3:11

Humans long to understand eternity. It is the search and the engagement that we need. Jesus even said, “Seek and you will find.” The fear might be what we find. However, the right question is this – “Who will we find?”

Eternity is found in relationships. Jesus even said that when he offered the greatest commandment, which essentially was “Love God and Love People.” Love is the essence of the journey. When the Wise Men journeyed to Bethlehem they were looking for an answer to the Star. That answer was a person who embodied love.

Listen to your heart. Listen for the voice inside of you that tells you it is all about love. Love does not exist without a relationship – so love – live it. Listen to that still small voice that tells you the truth of eternity found once long ago in Bethlehem but that now lives wherever you are and wherever you go.

Be Well…

 

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Resolution or Revolution

Resolution or Revolution

Forget the New Year’s resolutions – waste of time. What most of us need is a personal revolutionary change. We need to move from consumption to connection. We spend so much time being told to consume, collect, and buy that we miss what Jesus said, according to St. Paul, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.

Let me ask you, would the story arc of your life be more interesting if you focused on the things you bought over time or the things that you shared and gave away? Some collectors might say that their collections were much more interesting than where they got it or how much they paid for it but that, I think, is an aberration from my point. How you spend your time and how you share your resources will make a far more interesting life than what you have collected over the years. We buy too much. Advertisers hate what I’m saying. Economists would point out that it is the American consumer that drives our economy. Boring.

We need a personal revolution to change the way we live 2017. Live a more interesting life. You will have greater influence on the world if you give of yourself – your time, your talents, and your treasures. Don’t be stingy either. Don’t hold back. I believe our impact is proportional to our sacrifice. In fact it is greater because God takes what you give and multiplies it.

Be Well…

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