Archive for July, 2011

ABC Extra – Friend Me!

True friendship is not easy.  Many people do not understand, or refuse to accept, this.  Guys hang out at the bar after work.  Ladies go on shopping sprees.  But these times together, even if they’re fun, do not usually foster deep, meaningful relationships.  When a friendship gets complicated – when a buddy runs into a problem in his marriage or when a lady struggles with her self-worth – these so-called “friends” have little to nothing to offer in the way of support or guidance.  True friendship is not easy.

The Proverbs understand the burden true friendship brings.  For true friendship involves many weighty things.  True friendship involves sticking with someone through thick and thin:  “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).  True friendship involves loving someone even when they’re utterly unlovable:  “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).  True friendship involves pouring time, energy, and trust into a select few people, rather than being content merely to hang out with many “acquaintances” who know little about you:  “A man of many companions may come to ruin” (Proverbs 18:24).  True friendship involves faithfulness in saying things to a friend that may be hard for them to hear: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).  True friendship is not easy.

Sadly, the term “friendship” has been largely stripped of its biblical content in our day.  For many people, “friendship” means nothing more than a person they happen to know.  This is not to say that it is bad to know many people, but when you are “friends” with everyone, you become close companions with no one.

One of the things I enjoy doing is checking my Facebook page.  It is fun for me to keep up with a whole bunch of people, some of whom I haven’t seen in years.  I like to read about what’s going on in their lives – their joys and their challenges.  Sometimes, when it seems appropriate, I’ll even drop someone a note on Facebook letting them know I’m praying for them.

Currently, I have 550 Facebook “friends.”  Though I do care about every single person with whom I am “friends,” I also know that I am not a friend to every one of these people, at least not in the biblical sense.  For I do not live up to what the Proverbs have to say about friendship.  Nor could I.  I simply do not have the time, strength, or smarts to be a perfect friend to everyone.  The good news is, where I fall short when it comes to friendship, Jesus does not.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).  Jesus says these words to His disciples shortly before He is betrayed by Judas to be crucified.  He calls His disciples His “friends,” even Judas, who is no friend to Jesus.  And Jesus is indeed a true friend – to each and every one of His disciples – even when His disciples are not faithful friends to Him.  And He is a true friend not only to His original twelve disciples in the first century, but to the countless billions of disciples that have since followed.  He is a friend to you!  As the song says, “What a friend we have in Jesus!”

Are you a true, biblical friend to others?  If not, you are called to be.  Do you have true, biblical friends for yourself?  If not, you need them.  We all need friends to share in our joys and support us in our sorrows.  Finally, is Jesus your friend?  If not, He can be.  By faith, you can be a friend of Christ, for Christ wants to be a friend to you.  I can’t think of a better friend to have.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Krueger’s
message or Pastor Josh’s ABC!

July 25, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Unbaptized Money

Though I’m almost sure it’s apocryphal, Martin Luther is credited with saying, “There are three conversions necessary – the conversion of the heart, of the mind, and of the purse.”  Regardless of whether or not Luther actually spoke these words, this quote can serve to remind us of the importance our Lord places on faithful stewardship.  What we do with money matters.

In his book The Money Map, Howard Dayton writes, “When the Crusades were fought during the twelfth century, the Crusaders purchased the services of mercenaries to fight for them. Because it was a religious war, the Crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting. As they were being baptized, the soldiers would take their swords and hold them up out of the water to symbolize that Jesus Christ was not in control of their swords, that they retained the freedom to use their weapons in any way they wished.”  Like Crusaders wielding swords in whatever unbaptized way they saw fit, many people wish to use money in whatever unsanctified way they see expedient.  But God wants our money to be “baptized,” so to speak, in that He wants us to steward our money faithfully and well.  And first and foremost, stewarding our money faithfully and well means being generous with others even s God has been generous to us.

In our text from this past weekend, Solomon writes, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).  God wants us to be generous and refreshing toward others.  Notably, the Hebrew verb for “refreshes” in this verse is rawah, meaning, “to water.”  In Hebrew, this word is in the Hiphil mood, which is an intensive form of the Hebrew verb.  Thus, when Solomon encourages us to “refresh others,” he encourages us to do so intensively.  That is, we are to be as generous as we possible can be.  And as we do so, we ourselves will “be refreshed.”  This phrase “be refreshed” is in the Hophal voice, another intensive Hebrew verbal form.  Thus, as we intensively refresh others through our generosity, God will intensively refresh us through His generosity.

Money that is not baptized by the gospel only causes harm and grief.  Judas, when he sells his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, despairs and commits suicide (Matthew 27:1-5).  Hezekiah, when he shows off his temple treasury to envoys from Babylon, seals the demise of his nation (Isaiah 39).  And Ananias and Sapphira, when they duplicitously hold back some money from the sale of a field, claiming that they had given all the proceeds to the Church, are struck down by God (Acts 5:1-11).  Money used apart from the purposes of God ends in disaster.  Conversely, money that is “baptized” by the gospel can be used to illustrate the gospel itself!  The apostle Paul writes, “You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).  What is this price?  It is the price of Christ’s blood.  The monetary picture of a price is used to describe our redemption.  Indeed, the very word “redeemed” is monetary, for it describes how Christ purchased us “from the empty way of life” (1 Peter 1:18), that is, from the empty ways of sin, death, and the devil.

Do you allow the money with which you have been entrusted to be used at God’s pleasure and for His purposes?  Or, are your finances an area in which you remain functionally “unconverted,” holding your pocketbook out of the water while the rest of you is baptized into Christ, too afraid to heed Christ’s invitation to steward your finances in a way that is commiserate with His Kingdom values?  True financial joy and freedom is found only when your money is brought under the authority of Christ.  Jesus has been generous enough to give you all that you have.  Do you trust Him to be wise enough to use the money you have for your good and His glory?

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

July 18, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Sermon Extra – Glorious Work

Work is a blessing from God.  Do you believe this?  I have talked to far too many people who do not believe this – at least if the way they talk about their jobs is any indication of what they believe.  Complaints about the incompetence of co-workers, the ineptitude of the boss, and the inequity of one’s paycheck are all commonplace.  Granted, even Scripture admits that work involves frustration and difficulty.  This is a result of the Fall into sin.  God tells Adam after he has eaten from the fruit of the forbidden tree:  “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19).  The Hebrew word for “painful toil” is isabon, which refers to both physical and emotional pain.  And certainly this can be true of our work.  There are days at the office, in the shop, or on the site that are not only physically exhausting, they’re emotionally exhausting as well.  But it must be remembered that the isabon of work is a result of sin and not part of God’s original design and desire for work.  Work was originally created to be a privilege and joy.  Indeed, work was part of creation even before the Fall.  Immediately after God creates Adam, God takes  “the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  God has weaved and woven work into the fabric of His creation.

Such a high view of work is unique to Christianity.  Ancient pagan literature takes a much grimmer view of labor.  The ancient eighteenth century BC Akkadian Epic of Atra-Hasis has its own account of the origin of human work. The epic opens:  “Great indeed was the drudgery of the gods, the forced labor was heavy, the misery too much.”  The gods, according to this epic, were tired of having to work.  They considered it “drudgery.”  How do the gods solve their drudgery dilemma?  They declare, “Let us create, then, a human, a man. Let him bear the yoke! Let him bear the yoke! Let man assume the drudgery of the god.”  In Atra-Hasis, humans are created to do the work the gods do not care to do themselves.  Work, in and of itself, is, in this epic, an awkward annoyance, to be pawned off and passed off by any means possible.  This, however, is not Christianity’s view of work.

According to Christianity, work was not originally created to be a burden, but a high and holy privilege.  It was part of the authority God graciously allowed human beings to exercise over His creation.  God says in the creation account, “Let man rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26).  The work of ruling the earth was meant to be an awesome honor, not a cumbersome curse.

The German sociologist Max Weber coined the phrase “Protestant work ethic” to refer to the premium on which Protestants, and the Puritans especially, put on work.  Unfortunately, Weber understood this ethic moralistically, glorifying the “self-made man” and trumpeting the tangible rewards of hard work, rather than understanding one who works hard as carrying out his divinely ordained vocation before God for his neighbor, regardless of the earthly rewards.  The true “Protestant work ethic” is wrapped up in the doctrine of vocation, which sees every job, be it stately or homely, as a gift from God as long as it is not immoral in its nature (e.g., prostitution, drug dealing, etc.).  Thus, work – all work – is a gift from God to glorify Him and to help one’s neighbor.  Work – all work – is meant to impart dignity, not drudgery, to human beings.  In the words of John Milton:

Man hath his daily work of body and mind
Appointed, which declares his dignity,
And the regard of Heaven on all his ways.

Heaven regards your work well.  So praise and thank God for your work and stand honored at eternity’s acclaim.

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

July 11, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Wising Up with Christ

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off our summer message series called “Wise Up!  Lessons from Proverbs.”  The purpose of Proverbs is explicitly laid out for us in its prologue:  “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight” (Proverbs 1:2).  The book of Proverbs was written so that we may read them, apply them, and so be wise.  Of course, we do not always apply the Proverbs as we should.  Even Solomon, the author of the bulk of this book, did not always follow his own advice.  Solomon sings:  “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19).  Later in his kingship, however, we read about how “King Solomon loved many foreign women…from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love” (1 Kings 11:1-2).  Solomon did not remain satisfied with the wife of his youth.  And the result was apostasy:  “When Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).  Thus, Proverbs ought to call Solomon – and all of us – to repentance.  For none of us completely heeds its call to wise living.

Interestingly, at the same time Proverbs reveals to us our shortcomings, it also introduces us to one who is perfectly wise.  Indeed, this person seems to be the very personification of wisdom.   This person says:

I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion…The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old.  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth…When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He made the firm skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him, like a master workman. (Proverbs 8:12, 22-23, 27-30)

This person named Wisdom is as ancient as God Himself.  He was with God even as He laid the foundations of the earth.  Who is this perfect personification of wisdom?  The evangelist John gives us a clue:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-2).  This incarnation of wisdom is none other than Jesus.  He is wisdom personified and exemplified.  The apostle Paul explains it this way:  “Christ Jesus became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

A famous theologian of the Lutheran Church, Horace Hummel, offers one of my favorite definitions of wisdom.  He describes wisdom as “the ability to cope.”  I like this definition a lot, partly because there is a whole genre of biblical literature known as “wisdom literature.”  This genre includes Proverbs, of course, but also books like Job and many of the Psalms.  Especially in the case of Job, Hummel’s definition of wisdom proves to be spot on.  For Job had to cope with tragedies and terrors on every side as his life fell apart around him.  And yet, through it all, he coped and hoped in God.  And at the end, He got to see God.  I finally appreciate this definition of wisdom because Jesus is its supreme embodiment.  For when we act in unwise ways – when we sin – Jesus, as wisdom personified – “copes” with our sin through His cross.  He takes us foolish sinners and saves us.  By His Spirit, He then gives us the capability to cope with the trials and tests we face with wisdom that comes from God and with wisdom that finally is God.  For we cope with this broken world with Christ by our side.  I thank God He is kind enough to share the wisdom who is His Son with a fool like me.

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

July 4, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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