Archive for April, 2010

ABC Extra – Be Reconciled Today

This weekend in worship and ABC, we continued our series “Five Family Fiascos!  Is There Hope For Us?” with a look at the fiasco of familial estrangement.  Certainly the scene is familiar:  one family member betrays, embarrasses, or even inadvertently hurts another family member and retaliation ensues.  But this retaliation does not take the form of a fistfight or of cutting words or of a heated demand for an apology.  No, this retaliation takes the form of a cold shoulder – a refusal to speak to, or sometimes to even acknowledge, the other person.  And the longer this goes on, the further these two family members drift apart.  This is sad story of estrangement.

The story of King David and his son Absalom follows this all too proverbial pattern of estrangement.  As we learned this weekend, after Absalom’s brother Amnon rapes their sister Tamar, Absalom becomes furious at his father for not stepping in and meting out justice against Amnon in the face of such shocking wickedness.  Absalom subsequently becomes estranged from his father.  Indeed, we read, “Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face” (2 Samuel 14:27).  Two men, two years, in the same town – and they never so much as catch a glimpse of each other.

Tragically, it’s not as if they didn’t want to see each other.  We read in 2 Samuel 13:39:  “The spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom.”  But David defies his spirit’s yearning.  He never goes to see his son.  Indeed, he even prevents his son from seeing him.  “He must not see my face,” David says just verses later (2 Samuel 14:24).

Eventually, the estrangement between father and son becomes too much for Absalom to bear.  He rebels by staging a coup against his father.  Battle lines are drawn, strategies are devised, and, in the end, David proves victorious – but only after Absalom is killed.  When David hears the news that his son has been killed and the threat to his throne has been removed, a wave of remorse and regret comes rushing over the king:  “O my son Absalom!  My son, my son Absalom!  If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Samuel 18:33).  Interestingly, this is the first time that David calls Absalom, “my son.”  Before this, he referred to him only as, “the young man” (cf. 2 Samuel 14:21, 18:5, 12, 29, 32).  But now he longs for the relationship he could have had.  Now he dotingly calls Absalom, “my son.”  Now he wishes, “If only I had died instead of you.”  But now it’s too late.  Trading his own life for Absalom’s life would do David no good.  Absalom is already gone.

Certainly one of the weighty lessons of this story comes in the utter tragedy of leaving relationships estranged.  Indeed, this story ends on a terribly tragic note – with a wailing monarch riddled by regret.  And yet, through David’s tear-choked words, we hear a distant note of hope.  For though David cannot die in the stead of Absalom and restore their broken relationship, there is someone who can.  And there is someone who has.  For when our sins separated us from God, God traded His Son’s life for our lives so that we would no longer be estranged from Him, but reconciled to Him, even as Paul declares:  “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).  God is in the business of reconciliation.  And His reconciliation is truly the most challenging and most glorious reconciliation of all – for He reconciles imperfect people to His perfect Person.  Will you, as an imperfect person, seek reconciliation with other imperfect people from whom you are estranged?   Remember, the remorse of estrangement will always be heavier than the challenge of reconciliation.  Be reconciled today.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

April 26, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Too Busy for God

In 2007, the Gallup organization took a survey of the reasons Americans do or do not go to church.  According to this study, the number one reason that people go to church is to receive “spiritual growth and guidance.”  This is good.  But what is the number one reason Americans do not go to church?  They don’t have enough time.  They are simply too busy to worship the God who created the heavens, the earth, and them.

It saddens me that what the evil one could not do to the Church for thousands of years through persecutions, threats, and ghastly tortures, he does through something as insipid and stupid as busy-ness.  For when Satan violently persecutes the Church, it grows.  But when Satan draws our attention away from God’s Church and its Gospel and instead distracts us with the things of this world, we seem to fall for it every time.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we continued our series “Five Family Fiascos” with a look at what happens to families and individuals when they are stretched too thin.  In our text for this weekend from Exodus 18, we saw how Moses became stretched too thin when he “took his seat to serve as judge for the people of Israel, and they stood around him from morning till evening” (verse 13).  There were simply too many cases for Moses to hear and arbitrate.  Blessedly, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, guided his son-in-law toward a saner schedule:

What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.  But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. (verses 17-18, 21)

Long before management gurus peddled the value of delegation, Jethro suggested it to Moses.

In ABC, I mentioned that the Hebrew word for “heavy” in verse 18, where Jethro suggests that Moses’ workload is too “heavy” for him, is chabed.   This is the same word that is used for “glory,” and specifically God’s glory, in the Old Testament.  It is in this word that I think we find the sinful root of so much of the busy-ness that plagues our lives and our world.  Rather than looking to the glory of God, we look to the things that the world considers glorious.  Whether these glorious things be a job, or a product, or a leisure activity, or a lifestyle, this world invites us to trade in God’s glory for the glories which it has to offer.  And sadly, many people make the trade.  Sadly, as the Gallup poll betrays, many people spend so much time chasing after the glories of this world that they’re too busy to worship the glory of God.

The greatest danger in being too busy is that we can easily become too busy for God.  And this is a grave travesty.  This is why Jesus invites us to reject that which would pack our calendars and starve our souls and instead find rest in Him:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Jesus invites us, rather than being busied by the cares and concerns of this world, to find peace in Him.

So this week, I would challenge you with a little exercise.  Beginning today, find one thing each day that you can cut from your calendar and use that time instead to worship and pray to God.  I would guard you against cutting any activity that involves time with your family, as those times ought to be honored and cherished.  Instead, cut an errand and instead say a prayer.  Reschedule a meeting and instead take a walk and praise God for His good creation.  Use the time that you would normally check the headlines to instead read your Bible.  Take a reprieve from the some of the glories of this world so that you can better focus on the glory of God.  And the promise is, you’ll find rest – not just rest from your calendar, but rest for your soul.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

April 19, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – How Could God Allow the Fall?

This weekend, we continued our series in worship and ABC titled, “Five Family Fiascos!  Is There Hope For Us?”  This weekend’s topic was, “When You’re Caught in Blame.”  Blame, as we learned this weekend, is as old as the Fall itself.  God gives to Adam and Eve a single command: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  But Adam and Eve transgress this commandment.  And when they do, rather than confessing their blame before God, they try to “pass the buck” of their sin:

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13)

Adam and Eve, though they ‘fess up to their sin, refuse to take responsibility for their sin.  They are all too ready to blame someone else for their failing.  Adam blames Eve.  Eve blames the snake.  It’s a tragic – if not even a somewhat comical – scene.

One of the perennial questions I receive concerning the story of the Fall is, “If God knew that Adam and Eve would break His command and bring sin and pain and death and despair into this world, then why would God create them – and, by extension, us – in the first place?  Why couldn’t God just not have created anything and saved us all a lot of heartache?”  Though I would certainly not presume to try to answer every facet of this question, for we are not called to “fathom the mysteries of God and probe the limits of the Almighty” (Job 11:7), there is an answer, I believe, that at least partially and appropriately answers this familiar inquiry.  Perhaps an analogy will help us understand God’s willingness to allow us – and Himself – to endure the Fall of Genesis 3.

Before a husband and wife have children, they are no doubt vaguely aware that raising a child can be a burden at times – both for them and for the child!  There will be problems which call for a heavy disciplinarian hand.  There will be times at which a child feels as though his parents do not understand him.  And yet, countless couples have chosen to become parents regardless of the future problems they know they will encounter!  Why?  Because parents have a strange, truly indescribable way of loving their children before they’re even conceived.  The prospect of having a son or daughter excites them.  And so they are willing to take on the pain of the future they know they will soon have to endure for the child they love.

So it is with our heavenly Father.  According to His omniscience, God knew all about the Fall and all the pain it would bring into our world long before the Fall ever happened.  And yet He created us anyway.  Why?  Because He loved us even before He created us and so was willing to endure the pain and suffering He knew we would cause.  As the apostle Paul writes:  “God chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).  God loved us before He made us, Paul says.  Indeed, God’s love for us was so deep that He even made arrangements for our salvation from creation.  This is reflected in Revelation, where we read of “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  According to eternity, God was planning to send Jesus to be slain to forgive our sins from the very beginning of the world.  Thus is the depth of the love of our God.

The Fall of Adam and Eve was truly the greatest fiasco this world has ever known.  For from this Fall springs every subsequent fall into sin and fiasco from sin.  And living under the effects of the Fall is not always fun.  And yet, God’s love for us is stronger than the Fall.  And so, when you fall, rather than trying to pass the blame on to others for your sin, pass the blame on to the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.  For He willingly takes on your blame and takes away your sin.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

April 12, 2010 at 4:45 am 2 comments

Good Friday

On this Good Friday, the words of the prophet Isaiah are especially striking to me:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3)

It is important to remember that before Good Friday was “good,” it was ugly.  As Isaiah explains, Jesus, in His hours on the cross, because the most ugly, hideous, depraved, grotesque creature this world has ever known – so ugly, in fact, that people hid their faces in repulsion.  For Jesus, in His hours on the cross, bore the sins of the world.  Martin Luther explains:

God sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!” And so it attacks Him and kills Him. (AE 26, Galatians 3:13)

History’s most infamous sins were heaped upon the head of Christ.  What an ugly Friday this so-called “Good Friday” must have been!  What an ugly Christ the people gathered around the cross must have beheld!  Indeed, at the cross, it looked as though the ugliness of sin had overtaken the very beauty of God.  But then, all the ugly sins of humanity encountered something for which they never bargained.  Again, Luther explains:

The sins of the entire world, past, present, and future, attack Christ, try to damn Him, and do in fact damn Him. But because in the same Person, who is the highest, the greatest, and the only sinner, there is also eternal and invincible righteousness, therefore these two converge: the highest, the greatest, and the only sin; and the highest, the greatest, and the only righteousness. Here one of them must yield and be conquered, since they come together and collide with such a powerful impact. (AE 26, Galatians 3:13)

One of these – either man’s sinfulness or God’s righteousness – must yield and be conquered.  So which one yields?  Which one is conquered?

It is here that we find what’s “good” in Good Friday.  For on the cross, a truly bloody battle was waged between righteousness and sinfulness.  And righteousness won. This is the good news of Good Friday.

As you gaze upon the ugliness of cross today, remember that God’s beautiful righteousness is hiding there.  And righteousness won. And not only did righteousness win, but righteousness is now given to you and me by God’s grace on account of our faith.  And this makes this Friday a very good Friday indeed!

April 2, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,898 other followers

Questions?

Email Icon Have a theological question? Email Zach at zachm@concordia-satx.com and he will post answers to common questions on his blog.

Calendar

April 2010
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

%d bloggers like this: