Lost Grounds Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Resolutions! Resolutions!

December 20, 2017


Another new year is upon us. For many, it’s a time of making resolutions. “I will lose weight.” “I will swear less this year.” “I resolve to be a better person.” But, how many of these resolutions are ever kept? Sure, the intentions are good, but rarely, if ever, do we follow through on our new year’s resolutions. They become just another batch of empty promises filled with good intentions that lead us nowhere. Promises! Promises!

This coming year holds many wonderful and challenging opportunities for ministry here at CtK. We have many exciting outreach events, programs and initiatives planned (Summer Long VBS, weekly children’s program, Cruising with the King car nights, as well as four major outreach events per year. . .). We will be reviewing our constitution and bylaws, and looking at reorganizing our congregational leadership. I am planning on doing a weekly Table Talk night at a couple local pubs. Lots of things are happening, and there is an air of excitement and anticipation that goes along with all this activity.

In all this whirl wind of possibility, we may become tempted to:

1. View these efforts the way we do our personal New Year resolutions. In this case the excitement and momentum will fade, just like it does in our resolutions. We lose our enthusiasm and we can quickly become tired and worn out.

2. We may become fearful, for we’ve never done things this way before. What will the future hold? Will we grow? Will we get young families into the congregation? How much will it cost us? Do we have enough liability insurance? The spirit of fear then drives out God’s Spirit of love, power and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

So, how do we maintain our enthusiasm and momentum without becoming worn out, fearful or apathetic? We devote ourselves to God’s Word, His means of grace of Word and Sacrament, to prayer, worship, devotion, fellowship and service, as did the early Church in Acts 2:42-47. I have been speaking a lot about this passage since Jen and I arrived in your midst last August.

Jesus teaches us to “seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Luke 12:31). We may fear that our membership is declining. We may be tempted to think that it our efforts and initiatives alone will make the congregation grow and thrive. We may be tempted to place too much emphasis upon our feelings and emotions, and upon our efforts, when all the glory belongs to God alone. When we seek first and foremost after God, He will give us all things to support our lives, including our ministry life here at CtK.

We become tired, worn out, lose momentum, and freak out when all the emphasis is placed upon us, and not faith rooted firmly in what God does for us through His Spirit. Remember what Paul taught us in I Corinthians 3: 7-9, “So neither the one who plants, or the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

This is a passage I need to read and re-read often, for it shows where the emphasis should be placed- God alone is the one who causes faith to sprout and grow according to His will, time, place and purposes, not mine, nor by any human will.

God promises to bless His Word and ministry. He sends His Word forth and it does not return empty, but accomplishes the purposes for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11). It’s all about Jesus, His ministry, His Gospel, His grace. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). We respond to God’s great love for us by the way we live our lives in devotion to His means of grace and in love and service for one another.

During this time of resolutions, we may be tempted to make resolutions to do more effective ministry. Jesus warns us: “Let your ‘Yes” be ‘Yes” and your ‘No” be ‘No’. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). James warns us of the same thing in James 5:12. We don’t make promises or resolutions we can’t keep. We remain devoted to God’s Word and Teaching, His means of grace, devoted to study, fellowship, service, and worship. He does the rest! He will make us grow in faith. He will bless His ministry. He will bless His Word. But if we starve ourselves from the means of grace and we treat ministry the way we may treat our New Year resolutions, then we can do no good thing. The focus is placed solely upon us, and not where it belongs in Jesus Christ. We seek, ask, knock and the door will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7-12). He provides for us, and He cares for us, loves us and serves us always, even to the very end of the age.

My prayer for our CtK family (please pray with me) is that God would bless us this coming year; that He would cause His Word to sprout and grow, and bear lasting fruit. I pray that He will equip us for every good work, so the body of Christ, His Church is built up to His glory. I pray that He will enlighten, enliven and embolden our hearts and minds with His Spirit of power, love and self-control, so that we may be used as effective tools of His Gospel- loving and serving others, as He loved and served us. I pray that God would drive the timid spirit of fear, anger and dissention out from among us, and that He will leads us not into temptation but deliver every day from the power of the Evil One, that Satan may not hold sway or have a foothold in our lives. May God hold us and keep us in His loving hands of grace, and heal our wounds, ease our fears, and bless us to be a blessing. I pray that our hearts and minds- our entire lives will be devoted to His teaching, preaching; His Word and Sacraments, and that through these means of grace we grow in our faith and lives. May we also know and accept your will to be done, and that our will take a backseat to Yours. To you Father, be glory, honor, and might forever and ever! I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!


Journey of the Magi

January 6, 2018


Epiphany- when wise men from the East came to worship the new born King. Sometimes these wise men are referred to as kings. They were not. Tradition dictates that the visit of the wise men took place the same night when Jesus was born. It didn’t. Tradition also dictates that there were three. We don’t know this for certain. There may have been more, or less. Tradition gives their names as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. We have no idea what their names really were, for scripture does not tell us their names.

So, let’s sort out fact from fiction, and see what and who these wise men really were.

The term Epiphany comes from the Greek “that which is revealed”. It is a light shining in a dark place. Epiphany is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Is. 60:1-3).

This ties in with John 1:4-5, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.”

Sin brings darkness- blindness. We can’t see God, know God, or come to Him because of sin. Sin separates us from God. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to save ourselves from physical or spiritual death. We are blind- wandering around in darkness and death. No choice, or decision on our part can ever change that fact. We simply can’t save ourselves.

That is why God sent His Son to be incarnate in our flesh- He became man- fully God, yet fully man, to save us from the eternal darkness of sin and death. Epiphany is not about what we do for God. It is not about wise men coming to God to offer Him gifts. It is about what God has and continues to do for us through Jesus. He revealed Himself to the wise men. He revealed Himself to the Shepherds. He revealed Himself to all people through the incarnation of His Word.

The wise men simply responded to this Epiphany by worshipping Christ. Is that not how we also respond to God’s love for us- by worshipping Him with the way we live our lives as the “light of the world- so that all men may see our good deeds, and give glory to our Father in heaven, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5?

We also hear that there were three kings. Scripture never refers to them as kings, but rather as Magi- wise sages. Wise men are much more accurate a term. We don’t even know exactly how many of them there were, for again, scripture does not say. We assume they were three in number because they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There may have been more, or less- we simply don’t know for certain. Scripture also never discloses their names. To try to give faces to the wise men, tradition came up with the names in antiquity. In Armenian tradition they are: Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India. Again, the text does not say where they came from exactly, simply that they came from the east.

We do know they came from the East. They most likely were Zoroastrian priests from Persia, what is today Iran. Zoroastrians are a monotheistic religion, meaning they worship only one God. Not many religions of the earth of ancient times were monotheistic in nature. Zoroastrians clung to a kernel of truth, as they sought to worship the one true God. In the Epiphany, the one true God reveals Himself to these monotheistic priests- the true light of the world, and it is by the light of His star which led them to the incarnate Christ, thus again fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, “The nations shall come to Your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. . . They shall bring gold and Frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord” (Is. 60:3, 6b).

Tradition also places the magi in the manger the night Jesus was born. The visit of the magi took place up to two years after the birth of Jesus. First, the text states that the men entered the house, not before a manger. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary. . .” (2:11). Also, remember the Holy Innocents, the infants killed by Herod’s decree? Herod had consulted with his scribes and priests who told him where the child was to be born, “but you O Bethlehem, you are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel” (2:6). Based upon the information gathered from the magi, and the prophecies, Herod determined that the birth must have taken place within the last two years. That is why he had his guards kill every male child from newborn up to two years in age. “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (2:18). Herod, ever the narcissistic megalomaniac, took no chances in maintaining his power and control. He had these children slaughtered in thinking he was protecting his earthly throne.

Yet, ultimately, God’s will is fulfilled. Jesus is protected in Egypt, thus fulfilling the prophecy “from out of Egypt will I call my Son” (2:15). Herod died a miserable death of being eaten alive by worms, while the Messiah still fulfilled the purpose for which He was born- to reveal the light of God’s salvation to all people- that He was born to suffer, die, rise and ascend to the glory of God’s right hand, so that we may be saved by grace through faith in His name.

The light still shines in the darkness of our world today. The light shines in our hearts and minds through the power of His Word and sacraments. These means of grace reveal to us the true light of the Gospel- the mystery long hidden due to sin now revealed by God’s will in Jesus Christ. The Epiphany is just as alive and shining for us today, as it was more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. You strip away the myths, legends and traditions, and what you are left with is the pure, unadulterated Word of God’s grace shining in the darkness of a society who does not know the light of God’s grace, nor is able to comprehend it.

The journey of the Magi is our journey of enlightened faith- our response to God’s love for us by living in that light of Christ- shining it, reflecting it in all we do, say and think. Being a Christian is supposed to be a life of enlightenment. It is supposed to be a life of self-sacrifice- putting others ahead of our needs, turning the other cheek, not judging or condemning, for that is God’s job alone. It is a life of loving and serving others as God has loved and served us in Jesus. It is a life of response to God’s love for us in worship, praise, and using the gifts and talents He has given us for the building up of our faith, and sharing the light of the Gospel with people of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything He has commanded us. Truly the light of the revealed Gospel, incarnate in Jesus Christ, the very Word made flesh, is with us always, even to the very end of the age. Amen!


Wheels, Not Silos

January 18, 2018


Silos are used by farmers to hold one thing. How often do we segregate our lives into separate silos? Family, money, work, vacation, religion—each in their own separate container never to be mixed or comingled. In today’s Epistle, Paul invites us to bring our marriage relationships into harmony with our relationship with God through faith in Jesus, who is at the heart of all our human relationships. This way, our lives are more like wheels, with many spokes connected by a hub. Jesus is the only hub of the wheel of our lives that can hold together all our spokes in an integrated and fully functional manner. God’s gracious invitation is to live life not as silos but as wheels—with Jesus at the center of everything.

All too often we are tempted to privatize our faith- like it is a great and grand secret that nobody else is supposed to know about. We may be afraid of offending people through the Gospel. We may not want to come off as too preachy or weird, or zealous. It is much easier to stick our faith life in the silo of fear than it is to actual be equipped to live it every day.

We are not called by grace thru faith in Jesus Christ- we are not justified to keep the grace of the Gospel separate from every other aspect of our being. We are called to be wheels of faith- with Jesus at the center of everything we say, do and think. We are like spokes of a wheel emanating from the center hub, and bound together by the rim, which is the Holy Spirit which binds our hearts and minds together and keeps us strong in true faith. We are the wheels of faith, called to keep rolling over the bumps of this life- not judging, not condemning, not being self-righteous hypocrites, but congruent in our thoughts words and deeds- bound together by the Holy Spirit who works to equip us, teach us and counsel us through the means of grace of Word and Sacrament.

Jesus called us to be fishers of men- that is to go out and spread the word about what He has done for us- how He saved us by His incarnation; His suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. That He alone has saved us from sin, death and Satan, because we could not save ourselves by our own reason, power, choice of decision. As Paul says, no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3). And as Jesus taught us: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:44).

Jesus calls us to faith- a faith which has him as the center of all things in our lives. In the epistle lesson for today from I Cor. 7:29-35, Paul teaches us that we are not to put Jesus aside in our lives. We are not to lose focus of who He is, what He has done, and continues to do for us, and will do for us, nor are we to lose sight of how He wants us to live our lives as His saved disciples- “Freely you have received, freely give”. He wants us to live our lives in love and service for all people, just as He has loved and served us- not picking and choosing who to love or serve, but to love and serve all people- period! Paul write:

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Many thinks that Paul is against marriage here, or is calling for a form of forced celibacy. He is not. As he says, he’s not trying to lay any restraint upon us, but to promote good order and to secure our undivided devotion to the Lord. Did you hear that last part? We are not to be divided in our devotion to God. That is exactly what we do when we place our faith in a silo, or decompartmentalize our life into various silos each for a different purpose. We are to stop living our lives as Christians in privacy- sticking God in a silo because we may be afraid of what others may think. I tell you the truth, others will think what they want about us anyway, but let them not think we are a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites who refuse to admit that we are self-righteous hypocrites, when everything about our lives points in that direction.

All too often we are tempted, by our sinful nature, to be self-righteous and hypocritical in our faith. We become incongruent in our thoughts, words and deeds, which don’t match up to the lofty message we proclaim. People are very quick to pick up on these inconsistencies, thus we are called to strive with this temptation every day. How do we strive with it? Only by and thru God’s grace and Spirit working thru His Word. If we block out the Spirit’s teaching by neglecting the Word, by not devoting ourselves to it and being holistically focused on it as wheels, bound together by the hub of Jesus Christ, then we are nothing more that silos- standing alone, with a segregated faith, not living it in all ways- that is the inconsistency people will be quick to point out to us.

Jesus said that “I am the vine, you are the branches . . . apart from Me you can do nothing” John 15:5. He can very have said, “I am the hub, you are the spokes. . .” When we aren’t devoted to Jesus in all areas of our lives, we are divided, and cut off, and unable to bear any fruit of good works. But if we remain in Him, connected to Him as the living hub of our lives, then we can’t go wrong- we can and do produce a harvest of righteousness, not for our own glory, ego or pride, but t the glory of our Father in heaven. “You are the light of the world, let your light so shine before men, so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

We truly are bound together as a wheel- His Church family- the body of Christ, when we devote all and everything we are to Him and fellowship to one another, and service to all people. Then we are a wheel- an unbroken circle of believers, being fed and served by our living God in and thru His Word and sacraments- one in mind and spirit, so we may be fishers of all people by the way we love and serve them in Jesus Christ and via His Gospel. That is why the Church exists- who we exist as Christians- not to come and worship in our silos of church building once a week and thus fulfill our duty, but to be united as wheels- Will the circle remain unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by. There’s a better life a waitin’ in the sky Lord in the sky- where our true citizenship lies. Amen!

Become All Things to All People

January 31, 2018


I have always said that living the Christian life is not easy. It is not​, as some false teachers teach, that being a Christian is a happy cake walk of a life. God does not want our best life now. Our best life is waiting for us in heaven, our eternal reward through the blood of Jesus Christ. We don’t earn it, but it is the gift of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Living the life of discipleship is costly, and it is difficult. It takes discipline, self-control, and strength we can get only through the Holy Spirit working through the Word. It’s not a life of cheap grace, taking God and His gifts for granted. What God has declared costly, we must never cheapen. It is a holistic life that encompasses all our being. It is a life of striving and struggling with our sinful nature- the nature that says, “Do as thou wilt”. Our culture thrives in this kind of undisciplined, unrestrained debauched mind of thinking.

Last week we spoke of the responsibility we have when it comes to exercising our freedoms in Christ. We should be looking out for the weaker, immature person in the faith; those new to faith whose conscience may easily become burdened by seeing us exercise our freedoms. Paul was talking about eating meat offered to idols. He said he would rather never eat meat again, even though he is free to do so, for the sake of the weaker brother or sister in faith. He challenges us to lift the person out of immaturity and raise them up in the meat of the faith- to maturity.

This week Paul is teaching us: 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Do you hear what Paul is saying to us here? First, we are confronted by a paradox: “I have been set free to be the servant of all.” When a slave or a person in bondage is set free, we generally think that they are no longer a slave to anyone. Here, Paul is saying that through Jesus’ blood we have been set free from all sin, free from the power of the Law as a means of salvation, free from the power of death and the grave, and set free from constant enslavement to our sinful nature, and the power of Satan. But with this freedom comes the freedom to become the slaves of all people. We are called to a life of freedom from sin, death and Satan, so that we may be like Jesus Christ who came not to be served, but rather to serve. We are to continue the pattern of humble service and love for all people, just as Jesus loved and served us. Thus, we have been set free from slavery to sin, to live as the servants of all.

Now Paul is illustrating how he puts his personal preferences aside to serve all people. He becomes all things to all people. What does this mean? Does this mean that Paul became some sort of social and religious chameleon? No, not at all! He is saying that outreach and service of the Gospel entails us being challenged to know what other people believe, think and live. We should become familiar with all world views and beliefs, so as to develop relationships with them, speak their language, understand where they are coming from, so as to better witness our faith to them in a way they are able to understand. To the Jews, he became like a Jew, understanding how the Jewish mind worked. To those unbelievers still under the Law, he became as one of those out siders, (though he himself was set free from the Law), so as to develop relationships with them- build trust and be able to more effectively share the Gospel with them.

To the weak, he became like them, to develop relationships with them, so that he may win some of them for Christ. “I have become all things to all people, to win some for Christ.”

Then Paul uses the illustration of an athlete. The runner of a race goes into hard training, so they may win a laurel wreath- the victor’s crown. We too enter strict training, through the Word of God. By being devoted to God’s Word, and means of grace, we are being trained, and disciplined to run the race set before us, and thus realize the goal- the crown of everlasting life, won for us already in Jesus Christ.

Paul also uses the illustration of a boxer, who beats his own body, training it to take the blows of the opponent, and not simply wasting time beating the air. He beats his body and makes it his slave. He does not become a slave to his body, or his wants, desires and emotions. Instead, he disciplines his body, to master it. This is the exact opposite of how many people live their lives in our culture. He makes his body his slave- his desires and emotions his slave, not the other way around. He does this to win others for Jesus Christ by being more effective in building relationships, speaking their language, understanding where they are coming from, and building up trust.

How many of us know how the person outside our fellowship thinks? What do they believe? How do they live? What do they value? Do we simply sweep in with our big leather bound floppy bibles and start beating them over the head with the law? “Stop doing that!” “Don’t do this!” “Do this!” “Stop living that way!” “Stop believing that way and believe this way!” Do we fly in and think we will get them to believe like we do by simply preaching to them? Do we think that we can not associate with them, for they might tempt us, or corrupt us? Do we run the other way from people who are different from us, because we fear them and their ways?

Well, this is not how Paul lived the life of discipleship. He challenged the Corinthians, and us today, to rise to a higher standard. He calls us to get out there and develop relationships with all people, from all backgrounds and beliefs. Paul never spoke to anyone without knowing where they were coming from first. When he preached in Athens, on Mars Hill, he did not get up there and quote scripture, which these philosophers knew nothing about, right off the bat. No! Instead he quoted their own philosophers to them. He challenged them, and impressed them by knowing their philosophies, and teachers. Once he had their ear, then he brought in the Gospel and showed how Jesus is the fulfillment of what their philosophers were seeking. Some listened, while others thought he was crazy.

We too, in our effort to spread the Gospel, need to understand where other people are coming from. We need open dialogue and communication. It is only through these that we can establish lasting, trusting relationships. If we yelled and screamed at each other all day long, what good would that accomplish? Nothing. Nothing at all. Paul is urging us to take the time, invest the effort to develop relationships with people. To Jews, become like a Jew. To the weak, become like the weak. To the educated, become like the educated. Become all things to all people, so we may be used as tools of the Gospel of Christ, and thus win some for Christ.

This takes effort. This takes discipline and hard training. It takes time and effort. It is not easy. That is why Paul used the illustration of athletes in hard training, disciplining their bodies. Today is Super Bowl Sunday. The Olympics are coming up later this month. These athletes bust their butts to win the gold, or the ring. The kind of training they do, the sacrifices they make, are unimaginable to most of us. But that is what it takes to be an Olympian. That’s what it takes to win the Super Bowl. That’s the kind of effort, sacrifice and discipline it takes to be a Christian, too. It’s not an easy life. It is a life of cross bearing and self-sacrifice, becoming the servants of all, just as Jesus served all people. This is the cost of discipleship.

Don’t think you can do it? Don’t think you can be that well versed, knowledgeable, strong in faith, and dedicated to outreach? You’re right. In yourself, in ourselves, we are not strong enough. We are worthless and weak- fat and lazy- with willing spirits, but weak flesh. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can become strong, built up, disciplined, devoted and dedicated to the mission of Christ. It is only via the means of grace of Word and Sacrament that we can be trained and disciplined. The Holy Spirit becomes our trainer and teacher. He alone builds us up to make us the champions God has called us to be, not to our glory, or to win a perishable crown of glory, but rather to come to faith in the crown of glory that Jesus alone won for us- and that by faith in Him, we may walk in the good works that God created before hand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). We are trained, disciplined, educated, made strong, run with perseverance, and dedication, not by our own power strength of choice, but only by God’s grace.

My brothers and sisters, we have been called by God Himself to get off our butts, stop being lazy in the faith, be enlightened by and thru His gifts of grace, trained and disciplined in the faith, so that we may become all things to all people, so that He may use us to win some for Jesus through the power of the Gospel. Amen!

Transfiguration!

February 7, 2018


The Transfiguration. This is when Jesus went up on the mountain with Peter, James and John, and there He was blessed by His Father and transfigured before their eyes. Hear the words of Mark: 2After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" 8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


The Transfiguration is the pivotal event in the Gospels. Everything that happened before this event led to it, and everything that happens after it leads to Jerusalem and the cross of Calvary. All the Gospel readings for the Epiphany season have shown Jesus’ power. He has been revealing Himself as the Son of Man. He has power to heal the sick, raise the dead and drive out demons. He has power to forgive sins. Everyone marveled at his teaching because He taught as one with authority, not like their teachers of the Law. His fame was spreading, and people were brining their sick to be healed by Him, and to hear His words.


In the Transfiguration we get a glimpse of Jesus’ true nature- He is the Son of God. The literal meaning of the word transfiguration is: A metamorphosis, or complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. This is exactly what happened to Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration. His garments glowed, His face shone like the sun- the light was blinding. The voice of the Father confirming Jesus as His Son, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” Elijah and Moses, the two great prophets were both present, also acknowledging Jesus to be God’s one and only Son, the culmination of their prophecy- God’s Word fulfilled.

Peter, always being the one who had to say something, remarked that it is good to be here. He then wanted to build three tents: one for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He was terrified and didn’t know what to say. You ever been in a completely terrifying situation and didn’t know what to say, or how to respond? Perhaps you uttered nonsense. This is what is happening here to the disciples who witnessed this Transfiguration of their master.


Once they descended the mountain, the road to the cross was set. It was for this purpose that Jesus was born- to save all mankind through His death; becoming sin for us, though He knew no sin, and thus fulfill the Law of God that demanded blood- as the writer to the Hebrews stated, “There is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). This week we begin the Lenten season. Wed. is Ash Wed- a time of reflection on our sins which nailed Jesus to the cross. It is a time of introspection, sacrifice, and devotion as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus for our forgiveness. The Transfiguration transformed Jesus, and we see a glimpse of His true nature- “very God, of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us men came and died and rose from the dead on the third day and sits at the right hand of the Father.” This is the glimpse of the glorified Christ here in the transfiguration. We see Him transfigured- transformed and nothing is ever the same from this moment on.


How does this Transfiguration transform us, today? Are we not forever changed through Jesus Christ? Are we not forgiven by grace thru faith in His death and resurrection? Are our lives not transformed, and our spirits transfigured via His means of grace of Word and Sacrament? Are we not transfigured in our baptism- the washing of water and Word, marking us ones redeemed by Christ the crucified, thus creating a new person, a new nature in us? This new person is now seen by God through the eyes of Jesus, and His justification. God sees us as His glorified people, no longer as worthless sinners- sinful and unclean. We are now transformed into new people, possessing a new nature, a saint nature. We still have our old sinful nature to contend with. It is always at war with our new nature in Jesus, causing us to do the things we do not want to do, as Paul contended with in Romans 7- “The Good I want to do I do not do . . . “God alone saved us from this body of death!


Are we living transformed lives as His people? Are we struggling with the sinner/saint nature in us? We should be. If we aren’t, we are not living the lives of discipleship He wants us to live. Seeing the Transfigured Lord Jesus, transforms our lives. How are we living the faith that has been given us freely via Jesus’ blood and resurrection?


This is a season of repentance. Repent of selfishness. Repent of laziness in the faith. Repent of taking God and His good gifts of grace for granted. Repent of neglecting being fed by God in Word and Sacrament. Repent of having mixed up priorities in life, putting anything and everything ahead of our relationship with God in Christ. Repent that we sin in thought, word and deed, by what we do, and by even what we do not do. Repent that we judge our neighbor for their sins, when we so freely refuse to see the log sticking in our own eye. Repent that we do not love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Repent that we don’t freely give as we have freely received. Repent that we have lived as self-righteous hypocrites, caring more for our appearance than for the needs of others. Repent that we are gossips that ruin the reputations of others, while making ourselves look good. Repent that it is our sins that nailed Jesus to that blood-soaked tree!

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we claim that we have no sin, we make Him out to be a liar, and His Word has no place in our lives” (I John 1:8-10).

In this season of repentance, we are called by God Himself to struggle with our sinful nature, be fed and equipped by Him in and thru His Word, and by remembering that in baptism He has called us, and in the Lord’s Supper He gives us assurance of our forgiveness, and equips us for every good work, so the body of Christ is built up.


“Return the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful- slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13-15). Thru the Prophet Joel God was calling His people back to Himself in repentance. Repentance means to do a 180 degree turn- stop the sin we are doing willfully and turn around and return to God. That is what we are called to do everyday we live, not just during the Lenten season.

As Christians, we are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The only way we can repent is through the Holy Spirit working thru His Word. They only way we can return to the Lord is through His drawing by His Spirit. The only way we remain strong in true faith is by and through God’s Spirit- the Teacher, the Equipper, the Counselor- our coach and trainer.


My fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, it is to you I cry, it is to you I implore- Repent! Return to the Lord Your God! Return, stop being hypocrites! Stop being self-righteous! Let us stop taking God and His grace for granted and let us strive to live the life of true costly discipleship- daily denying ourselves and taking up our cross to follow Jesus down the mountain of Transfiguration to the mountain of Calvary. This lent we get down on our knees and earnestly pray along with David in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with Your Free Spirit” Amen!


Trials and Temptations

February 15, 2018


This past week we have entered the Lenten season. This is a time of reflection, introspection, repentance, sacrifice, and devotion as our hearts and minds are focused on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross of Calvary, so our sins may be fully covered in His blood.

He became sin for us, though he knew no sin. He suffered in every way, yet remained without sin, for our full salvation. Therefore, we have a Savior who shares in our troubles and knows our every weakness.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged—Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness—Take it to the Lord in prayer.

The encouraging words of the familiar hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” reflect the text of today’s Gospel. Mark reminds us that God knows all about trials and temptations. He sent His only Son to suffer them as we do. In Jesus, He gives us all we need in Word, Sacrament, and prayer so we can persevere through the trials and temptations of this world and receive the crown of life!

When we are faced with the trials of life, we can view them in two ways: We can see them as curses, stumbling blocks and face them with dread. Or we can see them as gifts, opportunities and challenges that shape us, mold and strengthen a right spirit within us.

You see, its all a matter of perception. In our unregenerated, sinful human nature, apart from the grace we have in Christ, we perceive the trials and temptations of life as something to be feared, something to dread, or something which causes a sense of helplessness in our lives. We want stability. We want riches, and power, and position, and respect, and love, and great relationships, and everything that will keep us safe and secure in life. What happens when we don’t get these things, or we may lose these things in life? What happens if we don’t seem to be living our best life now? What happens when the trials, the tragedies and suffering in life comes upon us? Do we allow it to wash us away in regret, fear, and despair?

This is how many people face the trials and temptations of life. They get broken and the stay broken. They wallow in regret and may feel like abject failures. I know that there was a 10 plus year period in my own life that I felt this way. Nothing in my life turned out as I planned it. I seemed to have lost everything a man could lose in this world: I lost my marriage, my career, financial stability in bankruptcy, my car, my home, my stability and even my cat! I had to move into my parent’s basement for awhile until I was able to rebuild a semblance of a life. I felt depressed, rejected, a complete loser- I felt like I was over educated, under skilled and economically unviable. I felt like I was being overwhelmed by the trials and temptations of life- and I easily lost myself forever in shame and guilt.

Even though God felt very far from me at times, He was always with me, using the trials and temptations of life, so that I could lose some other baggage: pride, ego, arrogance, and self-reliance. I was in a wilderness wandering- like Israel in the dessert.

Israel was not left in the desert forever. God used that wilderness wandering experience to humble them, to shape and mold them, and prepare them to enter the land of promise. He was sanctifying them and teaching them to rely on Him alone for their daily bread. They were a rebellious people, and they needed humbling. I too was rebellious and in need of humbling.

When I was a young graduate of Concordia seminary, I thought I had all the answers. I thought I had the best ideas, and the best solutions for everything. I was not one who wanted to be criticized. I did not like to be challenged, especially by senior pastors. I was not viewing my Call in the ministry as a divine vocation, but rather just as a career, with advancement opportunity. I preached the Gospel every Sunday, but I was not living it. I turned to material stuff and things to find fulfillment. Guess what? I was never fulfilled. I literally owned dozens of classic muscle cars, vintage and custom-made guitars and amps, and designer clothing of all kinds. I drove my then wife absolutely nuts with spending and ego. I took God’s gifts for granted, and His blessings I did not see.

So, God took an opportunity to teach me a very valuable lesson. He took it all away from me! He alone humbled me through trials in life. He broke me, compressed me, and reshaped me into someone He was able to use. At the time I didn’t see any good in any of the trials I was going through. I felt defeated. But in that defeat came a bit more humility than before. In that defeat came brokenness, and in the brokenness, I cried out to God for help and he answered me!

He restored me in His own way and in His own time. They say that hindsight in always 20/20. This is most certainly true. It is in hindsight that I can see His truth and His hand at work in my life, although I couldn’t see it at the time. I am reminded of the poem Footprints in the Sand. During the most trying times of life there appeared only one set of footprints- it was during those times He carried me.

I could have been overcome by my trials and simply saw them as a curse. But God had other plans for me. It is by His grace alone- not my work, not my efforts, not my power or strength, that I am here today, but only by His will through Jesus Christ!

I have not achieved perfection. I never will as long as I live in this world. None of us will ever be perfect in this life. Only in heaven will we be perfected. We are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection- this not of works lest anyone should boast. He alone is sanctifying us, making us holy and teaching us what it means to live a costly life of discipleship.

We have a Savior that has been tempted in every way as we have yet remained without sin. Hear the words of Mark 1:

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[a] with you I am well pleased.”12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;[b] repent and believe in the gospel.”

First Jesus is baptized to fulfill all righteousness- that is everything that was written about Him in the scriptures. The full God-head of the Trinity is present: the Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove, and voice of the Father confirming Jesus to be His one and only begotten Son- “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is fully present at Jesus’ baptism.

Immediately after this confirming baptism, Jesus is driven out into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan- He was surrounded by wild animals that wanted to devour Him. For forty days He faced this trial and temptation, and in the end He stood fast. Note, no mention is ever made in the text that Jesus used His divine power to defat Satan and overcome temptation. In the Gospel of Luke, we have a much fuller picture of what is going on in this wilderness experience. Satan came to Him three times.

The first time he tempted Jesus in His humanity by playing up on the fact he was hungry: “Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus responded, “Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

Next Satan tempted Jesus in His humanity of covetness- to have all the riches and power of all the kingdoms of earth: “I will give you all these if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus responded, “You shall worship the Lord your God and only shall you serve Him.”

Finally, Satan temped Him in His humanity to be proud, and prove His divinity: “If you are truly the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you” and again, “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike a foot against a stone.” Jesus responded, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

In all three of these instances Jesus quoted scripture- God’s Word alone. He didn’t succumb to temptations, but through God’s Word He defeated Satan. Thus, Jesus shows us the only way we too can defeat Satan during times of trial and temptations- turn back to the Word of God. Fix your eyes upon Jesus- look to His Word, and never are we to rely upon our own reason or power, or strength. If we rely on those things, we will and do fall- every time. It is only through God’s means of grace of Word and Sacrament that we can stand in times of trial and temptations and see them as gifts that are used to strengthen us in true faith to life everlasting.

This Lenten season, repent, turn away from the evil and return to the Lord your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us, and rise again in victory, so we may have life in His name, our best life in heaven, and strength to continue to fight the good fight of faith as His people in this life, loving and serving all people as He loved and served us.

God is not wanting to break us to toy with us. God does not use trials and temptations to punish us. God does not want us to wallow forever in despair or to see trials as a curse. He wants to build us up, to use us as His tools of the Gospel, and to equip us in every good work for the building up of His church. Our God is gracious and loving, and He disciplines us for we are His children. He works out everything for the good of those of us who love Him and have been called according to His purpose in Jesus Christ. Amen!


By Love Serve One Another

March 1, 2018



“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. The entire Law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-15).


Loving is one of the most difficult thing we humans can do. Our love is limited and comes with strings attached, expectations and stipulations. What happens when the other person does not treat us the way we think we ought to be treated? What happens if they don’t live up to our expectations? What happens if they don’t reciprocate our love? What if they yell at us, or get upset with us, impatient with us?

Our relationships are filled with sin. Because they are corrupted with sin, we don’t love as God requires us to love. The righteous Law of God demands that we love God with all our heart, mind, strength and being; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This sums up the just demands of God and fulfills the reason we were created in the first place.

However, sin is now in the equation. Ever since our first parents (Adam and Eve) fell into sin, our entire human race is corrupt. We no longer know who God is, nor can we see Him. We can no longer please Him or come to Him by our own means. We can’t love Him or one another as He desires us to. Sin bastardized our existence, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

Our love may be limited, conditional, sinful and corrupt, but God’s love is unconditional- it is Agape! His love knows no bounds or limitations. It is not self-seeking, selfish or corrupt, but pure and holy. God knows that we can’t save ourselves, so He did something about that. God became man in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, so that we may have eternal life. “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). You, see the wages of sin is death, but God has done something about it by paying that steep wage in the blood of His Own Son, Jesus Christ. Lent is a time of reflection upon our sin, our conditional shallow love, and our corruption that nailed Jesus to the cross of Calvary.

We have been set free from the powers of the unholy triumvirate: sin, death and Satan. We now have complete freedom in Jesus Christ. Paul cautions us in Galatians that we are not to take the opportunity to use our freedoms to indulge the flesh, but to love and serve one another as a fruit of faith. How do we use our freedoms to indulge the flesh?

• When we only think of ourselves and our needs, wants and desires.

• When we don’t deny ourselves and daily take up our cross and follow Jesus.

• We come up with every excuse under the sun not to be involved in worship, bible study, prayer, fellowship, and service.

This all shows very limited and sinful human love, not the love which flows forth from the fact that we are justified freely by grace thru faith in Jesus. When we come up with every excuse under the sun for why we can’t be involved in regular worship, bible study, fellowship, prayer, devotion and service to one another; then we suffer from a huge “But” disease.

“But I had a long day at work.” “But I am too tired.” “But I do everything around here already.” “But Bible study is boring.” “But how does the bible apply to me today?” “But I don’t know enough to do outreach.” “But church interferes with my football watching.” “But we already spent time at church on Sunday and midweek service, I think I’ll break from bible study.” The list of Buts goes on, and on.

Christian comedian and evangelist Fabien Bouchard calls this kind of thinking, having a Big But problem. We all have a big butt problem. We all have the excuses of the big “but”. He said, “We have “buts” for everything. “But, it’s the pastors job.” “But I just don’t have time”- the biggest “But” of all. We have a lot of “Buts”, and excuses. God has given us a real simple Word. If we learn it, study it, fix our eyes on it, share it, teach it and live by it, then God gets glorified, people benefit from it and come to faith by the hearing of the Word, and we get blessed by it. That is the why of what we do. It is the why behind the “But”. If your “But” is bigger than your why, then your “buts” are too big.” He says it’s time to make our “Buts” smaller, downsize our “Buts” and stop making excuses. The only way we can downsize our big “Buts” is to be focused on Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.

Paul is urging and exhorting us here in Galatians five to use the freedoms we have been given in Christ, not for our selfish means, but to love and serve all people. This is the raison d’être (reason for existence) of our lives! It is the why behind the “But”. Paul reminds us that the entire Law is summed up in the single command of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). Yes, our love is limited, filled with expectations and sin. But we have a new nature in us made alive in our baptism, and this new nature struggles with our old nature, and vice versa. We are called to a life of struggle. There is full pardon and grace in the struggle.

We have been blessed with the Means of Grace. People ask me all the time, “Pastor how do we do the things you want us to do regarding outreach?” We start and end by being focused on God’s Word. We are grafted on the vine via baptism, and we grow and bear lasting fruit when we are fed by God’s Word. It is only through these effective means that the Holy Spirit works to bring us to faith, give us assurance of our forgiveness, and equip us in every good work. If we remain in His Word, the Spirit will bless us. He always blesses His Word. He will give us the ideas. He will equip us in His own way and time. He will make faith sprout and grow. It is only up to Him alone to make His Church grow, and we are the tools He uses to build up His body- the Church.

If we starve ourselves from God’s Word, and being devoted to prayer, worship, fellowship and study, how can we grow as disciples to make disciples of all nations? If we give into our big old nasty “Buts” all the time and have every excuse imaginable, then how are we ever going to mature in faith? Simply put, we will never grow. We will never begin to learn to love unconditionally as we are already unconditionally loved. We will never be able to stop judging, condemning and devouring each other, if we give into our “Buts” of excuses to keep us away from God’s Word and grace. We will devour each other with conditional love, judgmental attitudes, allowing our perceived wants to exceed the needs of others. Paul warns us in admonishment: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

Do you hear what Paul is warning us of here in this passage? This is a most serious warning! If we fail to be devoted to God’s Means of Grace, we neglect worship, we neglect Bible study and devotion, we neglect fellowship in love with one another, and we neglect serving one another as a fruit of faith, then we simply cease to be Christian. We are then acting no differently than anyone else in our society. We then cease to be “salt and light” and are good for nothing more than to be trampled under foot (Matthew 5:13).

My brothers and sisters of CtK, we have many wonderful and exciting things happening here in our congregation! We recently had 7 college students come for a visit who asked me if we could team up together to do service projects and outreach to Natchitoches together. We had a visitor, Nathan from Nigeria, who is looking for a church home and would like to come back to CtK for worship. We have Clara Kolterman from LSMSA who is willing to speak to us about the challenges kids face today, and what attitudes they have toward Christianity and church. Thomas White from the nursing home loved worshipping with us and wants to join us again. We have the upcoming Cruising with the King cruise nights starting in April. Here, we have an opportunity to develop relationships with people in our community. John Dykes and I met with our town Sheriff to discuss ways we may be able to reach out to families in need. He put us in touch with one of his deputies, who heads the Community Services Division, Merry Byers. She is going to put us in touch with families in true need that can benefit from our Love and Care Bags. We also have our Pub Talk nights beginning as soon as the Cane River Brewery opens this summer, and even sooner once the Pub reopens.

We have many opportunities to put Christian love and service into practice. The only way we will be blessed by God is to remain in Him and His Word. “Let’s not neglect the regular meeting together, or fellowship, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). God will bless us here at CtK, especially if we remain focused and with eyes fixed on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We are his tools used for planting and watering the seed of faith (I Corinthians 3:1ff), God alone makes it sprout and grow (I Corinthians 3:7). He will make us grow in His own time and in His own way, when the time is right. Until then, He is equipping us to be His tools of the Gospel; His hands and feet of love and service to all people. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7). This is how we use our freedom in service and love for all people. This is how we begin to stand firm in faith and be equipped to fulfill the Law of love. This is how we love and serve one another, instead of biting and devouring each other in loveless spite and jealousy. Praise be and thanks to God in Jesus Christ who gives us the faith, and equips us for every good work, teaches us to love and serve as He loves and serves us, and continues to keep us in true faith, unto life everlasting.      

By Love Serve One Another

March 1, 2018



“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. The entire Law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-15).


Loving is one of the most difficult thing we humans can do. Our love is limited and comes with strings attached, expectations and stipulations. What happens when the other person does not treat us the way we think we ought to be treated? What happens if they don’t live up to our expectations? What happens if they don’t reciprocate our love? What if they yell at us, or get upset with us, impatient with us?

Our relationships are filled with sin. Because they are corrupted with sin, we don’t love as God requires us to love. The righteous Law of God demands that we love God with all our heart, mind, strength and being; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This sums up the just demands of God and fulfills the reason we were created in the first place.

However, sin is now in the equation. Ever since our first parents (Adam and Eve) fell into sin, our entire human race is corrupt. We no longer know who God is, nor can we see Him. We can no longer please Him or come to Him by our own means. We can’t love Him or one another as He desires us to. Sin bastardized our existence, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

Our love may be limited, conditional, sinful and corrupt, but God’s love is unconditional- it is Agape! His love knows no bounds or limitations. It is not self-seeking, selfish or corrupt, but pure and holy. God knows that we can’t save ourselves, so He did something about that. God became man in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, so that we may have eternal life. “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). You, see the wages of sin is death, but God has done something about it by paying that steep wage in the blood of His Own Son, Jesus Christ. Lent is a time of reflection upon our sin, our conditional shallow love, and our corruption that nailed Jesus to the cross of Calvary.

We have been set free from the powers of the unholy triumvirate: sin, death and Satan. We now have complete freedom in Jesus Christ. Paul cautions us in Galatians that we are not to take the opportunity to use our freedoms to indulge the flesh, but to love and serve one another as a fruit of faith. How do we use our freedoms to indulge the flesh?

• When we only think of ourselves and our needs, wants and desires.

• When we don’t deny ourselves and daily take up our cross and follow Jesus.

• We come up with every excuse under the sun not to be involved in worship, bible study, prayer, fellowship, and service.

This all shows very limited and sinful human love, not the love which flows forth from the fact that we are justified freely by grace thru faith in Jesus. When we come up with every excuse under the sun for why we can’t be involved in regular worship, bible study, fellowship, prayer, devotion and service to one another; then we suffer from a huge “But” disease.

“But I had a long day at work.” “But I am too tired.” “But I do everything around here already.” “But Bible study is boring.” “But how does the bible apply to me today?” “But I don’t know enough to do outreach.” “But church interferes with my football watching.” “But we already spent time at church on Sunday and midweek service, I think I’ll break from bible study.” The list of Buts goes on, and on.

Christian comedian and evangelist Fabien Bouchard calls this kind of thinking, having a Big But problem. We all have a big butt problem. We all have the excuses of the big “but”. He said, “We have “buts” for everything. “But, it’s the pastors job.” “But I just don’t have time”- the biggest “But” of all. We have a lot of “Buts”, and excuses. God has given us a real simple Word. If we learn it, study it, fix our eyes on it, share it, teach it and live by it, then God gets glorified, people benefit from it and come to faith by the hearing of the Word, and we get blessed by it. That is the why of what we do. It is the why behind the “But”. If your “But” is bigger than your why, then your “buts” are too big.” He says it’s time to make our “Buts” smaller, downsize our “Buts” and stop making excuses. The only way we can downsize our big “Buts” is to be focused on Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.

Paul is urging and exhorting us here in Galatians five to use the freedoms we have been given in Christ, not for our selfish means, but to love and serve all people. This is the raison d’être (reason for existence) of our lives! It is the why behind the “But”. Paul reminds us that the entire Law is summed up in the single command of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). Yes, our love is limited, filled with expectations and sin. But we have a new nature in us made alive in our baptism, and this new nature struggles with our old nature, and vice versa. We are called to a life of struggle. There is full pardon and grace in the struggle.

We have been blessed with the Means of Grace. People ask me all the time, “Pastor how do we do the things you want us to do regarding outreach?” We start and end by being focused on God’s Word. We are grafted on the vine via baptism, and we grow and bear lasting fruit when we are fed by God’s Word. It is only through these effective means that the Holy Spirit works to bring us to faith, give us assurance of our forgiveness, and equip us in every good work. If we remain in His Word, the Spirit will bless us. He always blesses His Word. He will give us the ideas. He will equip us in His own way and time. He will make faith sprout and grow. It is only up to Him alone to make His Church grow, and we are the tools He uses to build up His body- the Church.

If we starve ourselves from God’s Word, and being devoted to prayer, worship, fellowship and study, how can we grow as disciples to make disciples of all nations? If we give into our big old nasty “Buts” all the time and have every excuse imaginable, then how are we ever going to mature in faith? Simply put, we will never grow. We will never begin to learn to love unconditionally as we are already unconditionally loved. We will never be able to stop judging, condemning and devouring each other, if we give into our “Buts” of excuses to keep us away from God’s Word and grace. We will devour each other with conditional love, judgmental attitudes, allowing our perceived wants to exceed the needs of others. Paul warns us in admonishment: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

Do you hear what Paul is warning us of here in this passage? This is a most serious warning! If we fail to be devoted to God’s Means of Grace, we neglect worship, we neglect Bible study and devotion, we neglect fellowship in love with one another, and we neglect serving one another as a fruit of faith, then we simply cease to be Christian. We are then acting no differently than anyone else in our society. We then cease to be “salt and light” and are good for nothing more than to be trampled under foot (Matthew 5:13).

My brothers and sisters of CtK, we have many wonderful and exciting things happening here in our congregation! We recently had 7 college students come for a visit who asked me if we could team up together to do service projects and outreach to Natchitoches together. We had a visitor, Nathan from Nigeria, who is looking for a church home and would like to come back to CtK for worship. We have Clara Kolterman from LSMSA who is willing to speak to us about the challenges kids face today, and what attitudes they have toward Christianity and church. Thomas White from the nursing home loved worshipping with us and wants to join us again. We have the upcoming Cruising with the King cruise nights starting in April. Here, we have an opportunity to develop relationships with people in our community. John Dykes and I met with our town Sheriff to discuss ways we may be able to reach out to families in need. He put us in touch with one of his deputies, who heads the Community Services Division, Merry Byers. She is going to put us in touch with families in true need that can benefit from our Love and Care Bags. We also have our Pub Talk nights beginning as soon as the Cane River Brewery opens this summer, and even sooner once the Pub reopens.

We have many opportunities to put Christian love and service into practice. The only way we will be blessed by God is to remain in Him and His Word. “Let’s not neglect the regular meeting together, or fellowship, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). God will bless us here at CtK, especially if we remain focused and with eyes fixed on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We are his tools used for planting and watering the seed of faith (I Corinthians 3:1ff), God alone makes it sprout and grow (I Corinthians 3:7). He will make us grow in His own time and in His own way, when the time is right. Until then, He is equipping us to be His tools of the Gospel; His hands and feet of love and service to all people. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7). This is how we use our freedom in service and love for all people. This is how we begin to stand firm in faith and be equipped to fulfill the Law of love. This is how we love and serve one another, instead of biting and devouring each other in loveless spite and jealousy. Praise be and thanks to God in Jesus Christ who gives us the faith, and equips us for every good work, teaches us to love and serve as He loves and serves us, and continues to keep us in true faith, unto life everlasting.      

Do we Really Want to Drink This Cup?

March 14, 2018





Over the years, Jesus’ twelve apostles have been assigned different symbols or “shields,” which bear emblems that remind us of an aspect of their life. The symbol often used for John, one of the sons of Zebedee, is a chalice with a serpent in it. This unflattering symbol comes from today’s Gospel, where John and his brother James ask to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand. Jesus responds, “The cup that I drink you will drink” (Mark 10:39a). John does not understand what He asks for. But in time he will see that Jesus will drink from the cup of suffering, the cup of death, the cup filled with the sin of the world—because it was the will of His Father. Thanks be to God that Jesus drank this cup for John and for us to give salvation.

Mark 10:32-45

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

James and John were typical brothers. They were always fighting with one another, competing with one another, and vying for love and attention. In fact, they fought so much that Jesus gave them a nick name: Boangeres, which literally means “The Sons of Thunder!” They constantly were making loud noises over who was the greatest, who would sit at the right and left-hand pf Jesus in His kingdom. Isn’t that so very typical?

It is in our nature to want to be the greatest, to be the best and to stand out from the crowd. James and John were no different. But look at what Jesus is teaching His disciples and us in this Gospel-

1. They don’t know what it is they are asking. “Will you be able to drink the cup from which I drink, or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” They answered, “We can”. They had no idea what they were saying. Note how they asked it,

“We want you to do for us whatever we ask”. How demanding! How arrogant! How ignorant. They asked this right after Jesus just told them all how He would suffer and die in Jerusalem. That seemed to go in one ear and out the other! Jesus had to give them direct teaching.

The cup Jesus was drinking from was the cup of wrath on all mankind. He took upon Himself the sins of the entire world, though He knew no sin, so we may have eternal life. Jesus was about to be baptized with fire and Law- the judgement of sin, and death. They had no idea what was about to take place.

2. He tells then they will indeed drink from that cup and share in that baptism- it is the hatred of the world, sin, death and Satan against Jesus- “If the world hates you, know it hated me first” (John 15:8). All His apostles would drink from that cup of suffering and be baptized with violence on account of the name of Jesus.

3. The other disciples became indignant with James and John- they too wanted Jesus’ full love and attention. Jesus then has to teach them all about humility and service. Note what Jesus said,

“42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Wow! This is a completely different view that runs contrary to our sinful human nature. In our nature we believe that to be the greatest, we must possess power, authority, riches and strength. After all, it’s a “dog eat of world” and only the strongest survive and rule over the weak. This is typical human understanding. What Jesus is teaching us here flies directly in the face of that sinful nonsense. The greatest is to be the least, and the servant of all people.

Jesus teaches us that we are different than the rest of the dying world around us. We have been saved by grace thru faith in Jesus death and resurrection, thus we are to live lives of discipleship as fruits, or results of that justification. That means we are to live a life of suffering servanthood to all people, just as Jesus, our suffering servant, lived, suffered, and died to save us. “For the Son of Man did not come into this world to be served, but rather to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). This sums up the costly life of discipleship.

How many of us really want to drink from the cup that Jesus drank from? How many of us can, by ourselves and apart from God’s grace? Drink from this cup? None of us can! We are not hard-wired to think or live in the terms of servanthood. Sin blocks the original purpose for why we were created- to love God above all else, and to love and serve others as ourselves. The last thing we are about, by nature, is loving and serving with no strings attaches- nothing in it for us- just loving and serving as God loved and served us in Jesus.

How are we like James and John and the other disciples? When we think we earn God’s love and favor by and thru our own efforts, reason, choice or decision. Then we think we ought to be rewarded with special favor or recognition. When we compete with our brothers and sisters in faith to be better than they are- then we are being self-righteous hypocrites. When we become indignant over some one else who is living their faith in a congruent and genuine manner, and we think they are showing us up. Then it is just our guilty conscience poking at us, showing us how much we fall short. But instead of repenting of our sin, we dig ourselves deeper in the hole by besmirching another person.

In all these actions we are just like the Sons of Thunder- loud, obnoxious- banging gongs and clanging cymbals; lacking love. Jesus is teaching us that to be a true disciple, we are to be concerned about others before ourselves. We are to love and serve all people, even if they hate us and may even want to kill us. We turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give them the shirt off our backs. All of this is so very difficult to wrap our heads around! It all goes contrary to our sinful nature.

But we have a new nature made alive in us via the washing of water and Word in baptism. In our baptism we are marked as God’s people and set apart from the rest of the world around us. We have been given the Holy Spirit to teach us, counsel us, enlighten us on how to live the life of discipleship. How does He do this? He does it through the means of grace of Word and Sacrament. Through these effective means He gives us faith, insures us of our forgiveness in Jesus, and teaches us to live lives of love and service. He alone gives us the strength to stand up under persecution, fear and pressure, so that we may drink from the same cup Jesus drank from, and live.

Being a Christian is not about who is the greatest, but rather who is the least. Jesus Himself gave us an example to follow- the example of foot washing. Washing of feet is among the humblest acts we can do. Jesus, the Master, got down and washed His disciples’ feet. He gave us an example of love and service to follow. I know I hate feet! I think they are smelly and gross! I can’t stand looking at them, and I prefer them covered up in socks and shoes. The thoughts of having to stoop down and washing stenching feet grosses me out to no end! Yet, that is exactly the kind of service God has called me, and all of us to do. The student is not above the master. If the Master set us this example to follow, then we are to follow it. We are to love and serve all people as He first loved and served us. This doesn’t come easily to us. That is why we are in desperate need of His teaching, His strength, power and love to live the life of servanthood He expects out of His people- drinking from the cup of suffering, so that our cup of blessedness may over flow to life everlasting. Amen!

Fickle Crowds?

March 21, 2018


This Sunday often seems caught between two poles. On one hand, we recall Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem to the shouts of hosanna. On the other hand, the Gospel seems to jump the gun at Holy Week and tell the whole story nearly a week ahead. The Epistle forms a bridge between the two, reminding us that Jesus did not enter for the accolades of the crowd but to be obedient unto death, even death on a cross, to save us. The crowd’s welcome was prophetic in this regard—calling on Him who would save them, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Today we add our voices in welcome, knowing that in order to save us from sin and its death, our Lord had to suffer in our place on the cross and die in our place to set us free from sin and its death. What a great entrance into Holy Week!

THE HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 21:1-11, The Triumphal Entry

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

What a site this must have been! to see Jesus entering Jerusalem to such a welcome. In Luke’s account from Lk. 19:39-40, the Pharisees demand Jesus to silent their cheers and shouts of worship. Jesus responded, “If these remain silent, the stones would cry out!” There was no stopping their shouts of praise. Yet, as we see, Jesus did not come for the adulation of the crowds. The people were fulfilling prophecy when they cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:26). They had no idea of what they were actually saying, nor did they realize that this good teacher was actually the long-expected Messiah in the flesh.

So why did they have this reaction upon Jesus entering Jerusalem? It was in the manner of the way He entered, along with His fame that preceded Him. Jesus entering Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey, was very significant to the Jewish psyche of the day. You see, this is the same manner in which King David entered Jerusalem upon its inauguration as the capitol of a united nation of Israel. David humbled himself, and instead of entering his capitol as most kings would’ve done, riding on a great stead, David entered in humility before the living God. It wasn’t His capitol. It was God’s capitol! David made that distinction very plain.

Now, when the people of Jesus’ day saw Him entering Jerusalem in like manner as the legendary King David, they thought that the one who was going to deliver them from the oppression of Roman rule was upon them. They thought another David, who was going to unite the nation, had arrived. How right they were, but not in the way they thought they were right!

Indeed, Jesus is David’s Son and Lord. He is from the kingly line of David and is the fulfillment of the covenant God made with the people of Israel so many years before. But He did not come to set captives free from physical slavery. Jesus came to set all people free from the slavery of sin, death and the devil. He didn’t come for the cheers of a crowd. He came not to be worshipped as a leader of a rebellion. He came in humility, as David did, acknowledging God as the Sovereign Lord of the people. He came to Jerusalem to fulfill the purpose for why He left His heavenly throne and was incarnate as man in the first place- to suffer, die and rise again for our justification- our salvation.

So, why did the people turn on Jesus less than a week later? Why were they crying out His praises on day, and a few days later crying for His crucifixion? Well, there are many things at work here as we read scripture.

First, upon His arrival, the Scribes and Pharisees demanded that Jesus shut up the crowds. As we saw in Luke 19:40, Jesus responded, “If these remain silent, the stones would cry out.” In John 12:19, the scribes say, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” They were jealous. Jesus threatened their power and authority. But it went much deeper than that.

In order to better grasp why the crowds became so fickle, we must further look at scripture. What did Jesus do immediately upon entering the temple? He over turned the tables of the money changers and chased them out of the temple. The leaders of the people wanted to arrest Him then and there but dared not for fear of the crowds.

Right before His entrance into the holy city, Jesus was anointed by Mary in Bethany. While in Bethany, He raised Lazarus from the dead. This was the final straw for the Scribes and Pharisees. The Gospel of John reads that from that time on they plotted to kill Jesus. Why? The answer is found in the words of Caiaphas the high priest: “It is better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish” (John 11:50). Why did he say this?

Caiaphas said this in relation to a rebellion that took place a generation before the birth of Christ. A zealot leader and self-proclaimed messiah rose up to free the people from the rule pf Rome. He led a rebellion that failed. In the wake of the failed rebellion, Rome sent a punitive expedition to Judea and killed and enslaved any of the people. Caesar gave a strong warning that of any further rebellion would break out, He would crush the Jews completely. They would cease to be a nation. He would kill every last one of them. He will destroy their temple. They would forever cease to be a nation. This is exactly what happened in 70 AD when the zealots once again rose up in rebellion. Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. Upon visiting the temple, and after clearing it out, Jesus’ authority was questioned by the rulers of the people. He responded, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). Again, He said, “Do you see these things? Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left standing upon another, everyone will be thrown done” (Matthew 24:2).

In the first passage Jesus is predicting His ultimate resurrection from the dead. In the second, He is predicting the destruction of the temple and the nation. This is what Caiaphas is afraid of. This is why the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Jesus. They thought that it was better for one man to die, than for the whole nation to die. They thought that the people would rally behind Jesus in rebellion. The Scribes who should’ve seen and known better, did not grasp the fact that Jesus was truly the Messiah, and that He wasn’t there to lead rebellion, but to free all people from sin.

So, we know why the leaders wanted Him dead, but why did the crowds want Him dead? Weren’t they just singing His praises? Let’s take a look at scripture to find out.

We know that Jesus was arrested at night. According to Matt. 26:57, Mark 14:53, and John 18:1 ff, the hour was around 2 am. He prayed for roughly three hours. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane three times, each for one-hour periods of time. The disciples couldn’t keep their eyes open and fell asleep. The temple guards came for Him and arrested Him well before sun rise.

The trial was hasty. They had no time to waste. The Sanhedrin tried Him, sent Him to Herod, then back to Sanhedrin, and finally to Pilate. The Sanhedrin didn’t want His followers to know what they were doing thus the hasty trial.

So, who were the crowds that were yelling for Jesus death? They were the families of the Sanhedrin, the families of the temple guards and the families of the temple merchants, the money changers who were still reeling from Jesus over turning their tables. They were the ones yelling for Jesus’ crucifixion!

By the time the sun rose, it was already too late. Jesus was tried and condemned to death for treason against Rome. The crowds who were in Jerusalem for the Passover- the ones who were shouting His praises, awoke to find their master in chains, carrying a cross to Golgotha. The crowds were not necessarily as fickle as it first appears. The majority of the people had no idea what was going on. They were still asleep. Remember, the Scribes and Pharisees always wanted to arrest Him, but they were afraid that His followers would rise up and kill them. Everything they did they did in secret, out of fear for their own lives.

Now we see that Jesus was not completely abandoned by all the people. His disciples who were with Him in the garden fled. They fled in terror of their lives. Peter disowned Jesus three times before the rising of the sun, just as Jesus said he would. Thus, marks the Passion of our Lord. This Triumphal entry would end in death and seeming defeat. All the hopes and prayers of His flowers seemed to be dashed to pieces. Jesus was betrayed by one of His own, handed over to the Scribes and Chief Priests, mocked, spat upon, ridiculed, beaten, scorned and condemned to death on a cross. Remember the words of Is 53, “He was stricken, smitten of men and afflicted. . . and by His stripes we are healed.” This is why Jesus came- to suffer and die, but not to stay dead. On the third day He rose in victory over sin and the grave! Now, by grace thru faith in His blood, death and resurrection, we too shall rise up to eternal life on the last Day of judgement.

Holy Week is a time of repentance, contemplation and sorrow over the sins, our sins that nailed Jesus to that cross of Calvary. This is the holiest week of the Church year. This week we weep and mourn for Jesus, but on Easter Sunday, the grave is broken, the stone rolled away, and Jesus comes forth as the savior of all. Christ is risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen!