Patriotism

Yesterday in my sermon, I mentioned the word Patriotism, and asked the question about who in the congregation thought of themselves as patriots. It is a loaded word these days, I know. It got their attention at the beginning of the sermon anyway.

But today I wanted to take the time to write a little more about that word, and then give a little bit more of the Christian perspective on who and what we are to place our trust in.

Do you consider yourself a patriot? What do we even mean by that word? Webster defines it as :

one who loves and supports his or her country.

I think that the majority of people living in these United States, by THAT definition, would consider ourselves patriots, perhaps even taking into consideration what side of the political spectrum we would place ourselves on.

A look back at the Webster’s Dictionary from 1828 gives a bit of a different perspective on what a patriot is….

a person who loves his country, and zealously supports and defends it and its interests.

Now THAT definition is a lot less general than the more modern version. It seems more focused and specific. To me, it speaks more to the purpose of patriotism. It is my belief that as the definition has changed, and been watered down, so then has people’s understanding of what true patriotism is. I think with the 1828 definition, we would find far fewer people today who would identify themselves as patriots. It has become quite evident that many do not love their country at all, and do not wish to support it, defend it, or protect its interests. It would seem that many today would rather unravel everything and start over.

I am certainly not one to toss my opinions into every instance of social media amateur politicking, in fact, I rather like to avoid all such nonsense. Most of it is not thoughtful or helpful in any way. Though I pay proper attention to the posts that are, regardless of which side of the aisle they might be coming from.

To be sure, if someone were to directly ask me, say over a fine Lutheran beverage, what my stance is on this or that issue, and why I think that way, or what leads me to support this or that person, I would be more than happy to have that conversation. But when the screaming in my face begins, or the how dare you think that kind of attitude starts, as far as I am concerned the conversation is over. And it IS over at that point, because the person who behaves in such a way doesn’t REALLY want to hear what I think; or have a proper conversation with respect and attempting to gain insight and understanding with someone they might disagree with.

I’m happy to sit and have a civil, respectful conversation with anyone about any issue. We may not agree on everything. We don’t have to change each other’s minds. That is usually not a life and death matter. I say usually, because some of the issues ARE life and death. As a pastor I am dealing with eternal life and eternal death matters every single day. I see how sin in the lives of ALL people affects not only their own lives, but also those around them, and sometimes even more far reaching. I see how most people do not understand first of all that they are sinful, and how their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds have consequences, and not just for themselves, but for others. I see, every single day, the brokenness in people’s lives, the loss, the hurting, the pain, the suffering that people go through because there is sin in this world and in their lives, and how the consequences negatively and adversely affect many, in sort of a concentric circle outward manner. And this brokenness affects me every day as well, both directly and indirectly; internally, and externally; as it does for every person on this earth.

Usually, when adversity strikes in this nation, on a national scale, we see people coming together. People of all races, religions, creeds, etc. People who have never met. People who might be as far apart on the political spectrum as you could be. But not in this period of time. Not in this current adversity, or series of adversities. I do not see people coming together. There is so much darkness in our land, fueled by so much hatred that it’s getting hard to see–and I am not referring to the smoke caused by the fires out in the Western U.S.

Which brings me to the point of all this. Patriotism is fine, though I think we shall be finding ourselves devoid of it if we are not careful, no matter WHAT definition is used. But I know of something FAR, FAR better. Because, you see, I belong to a nation that is FAR, FAR better, even than these UNITED STATES, which I hold so dear. I belong to the Kingdom of God, an eternal kingdom. A kingdom with love, and forgiveness, and mercy, and hope. A kingdom that looks like it is topsy turvy to the world, but that is simply the way that God does things. He likes to flip them over. His ways are not our ways. His time is not our time (His is eternal-and we have trouble thinking in that way). And you can be part of His Kingdom as well. This Kingdom in fact is for “all who believe in Christ”. And I WANT you to be part of God’s Kingdom of believers. I WANT you to have that hope, to know God’s love for you in Jesus, to have the assurance, the guarantee of eternal life in Him. After all, I desire to have the same will as my Savior, Jesus. And His will is the Father’s will. And the Father’s will is that “all believe and come to a knowledge of the truth.”

And Jesus IS that truth, dear friends. I would never scream at somebody and tell them that they HAVE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS, OR ELSE. But with gentleness and respect, I will invite you to believe in Him, place your TRUST in Him, and FOLLOW Him.

We place our trust in so many things, and people, that can NEVER give us what we truly need. We turn these things into personal idols without even realizing that we are doing so. When you fear, love, and trust in anything above God, then you have yourself an IDOL, that cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot see, cannot touch, cannot really do anything for you of real value.

We have a hymn in our Synod with these words:Trust not in rulers, they are but mortal. Earth-born they are and soon decay. Vain are their counsels at life’s last portal, When the dark grave engulfs it’s prey. Since mortals can no help afford, place all your trust in Christ our Lord.” (LSB 797, CPH).

I urge you with the love of Christ, to think about these words. I pray that you would give them much consideration in these difficult times. And instead of throwing blame here and there and everywhere about everything under the sun; I pray that you would humble yourselves, and think not only of your own interests, but also the interests of others. Think about how you can show love to your neighbor, and not hatred. Think about how you can support, and build up, and help those in need.

I pray for peace in your hearts and minds, both during these difficult times, and always. And I exhort you to exercise kindness toward one another. Life is hard enough without all the hatred. And be kind with your words, as the tongue is a dangerous and lethal weapon that kills a person’s spirit.

Thank you for reading!

With love in Christ to all of you!

Pastor Dave

Sign Of The Times

Do this, No do THAT, man it’s so confusing.

Stop with all the rhetoric, I don’t find it amusing.

Riots here and Looting there, what does it mean?

Corona Virus everywhere it makes me want to scream?

I see my sheep, they’re trembling, I venture close to feed them.

With God’s Word, and Sacrament, but some don’t think they need them.

It’s like they said, I’m frustrated, tell me people, what do ya think?

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

It’s the sign of the times.

It’s the sign of the times.

The whole world has gone mad, we cry out “Lord, how long!”

So much anger, so much hate, where’d it all go wrong?

Mommies cryin’ in the corner, daddies want to flee,

it’s no wonder everyone’s got high anxiety.

It’s the sign of the times.

It’s the sign of the times.

I remember growing up worship was a given,

Now it seems what people worship is their sinful livin’

Erase each trace of God, His grace, in every place, says the whole human race

Until we see and hear no more of this guy Jesus, don’t preach His name, if it’s all the same, just get Him out’ our face.

It’s the sign of the times.

It’s the sign of the times.

But God is good, it’s understood, by all who trust in Him ,

Father Son and Spirit, One, and yes we will confess Them,

His Word remains, it’s still the same it is the truth we cherish,

And those who trust in Christ our Lord will surely never perish.

It’s the sign of the Times.

It’s the sign of the Times.

Christ is coming soon my friends, so don’t you fret or worry,

Even though it may not seem that our Lord is in a hurry.

His promises for you and me He always sees them through,

So to live in faith and hope and love is all we’re called to do.

It’s the sign of the times.

It’s the sign of the times.

I know that things are rough right now everyone, but the Lord our God is with us always. He has given to us His Word, His Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, that we may receive His grace–that we may receive Jesus. That is what we need, above anything else. There are so many things that we can fall into the trap of fearing these days. But with Jesus we need not fear, but we can live in hope instead.

It is my prayer that you do not give up on Jesus, for He has not given up on you. At just the right time, when we were still sinners, Christ died for us…for YOU! My dear friends, that is how much God loves each of you. With so much sin and ugliness and hate in the world, we are called to love, because Jesus first loved us, and gave His life for us. Dear Chrstians, One and All Rejoice! God’s love never fails.

Finally, with everything going on that makes the world seem like a cesspool, and does cause so much anxiety and so much fear, I am reminded of a hymn by Martin Luther, specifically the last stanza:

And take they our life…goods, fame, child, and wife. Though these all be gone, the Victory has been won! The Kingdom ours remaineth!” (A Mighty Fortress, stanza 4, Public Domain)

Devotional–Excerpts from my sermon for this Sunday.

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Week after week, as we meet for corporate worship of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the very body/the very BRIDE of Christ Jesus, the pastor invokes the Triune name of God reminding us that we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and then says these words:
“LET US THEN CONFESS OUR SINS TO GOD OUR FATHER”
There is a slight pause and then the congregation, YOU…respond with these words:
MOST MERCIFUL GOD, WE CONFESS THAT WE ARE BY NATURE, SINFUL AND UNLCEAN. WE HAVE SINNED AGAINST YOU IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED, BY WHAT WE HAVE DONE, AND BY WHAT WE HAVE LEFT UNDONE. WE HAVE NOT LOVED YOU WITH OUR WHOLE HEARTS, WE HAVE NOT LOVED OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES. WE JUSTLY DESERVE YOUR TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR SON JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON US. FORGIVE US, RENEW US, AND LEAD US, SO THAT WE MAY DELIGHT IN YOUR WILL AND WALK IN YOUR WAYS TO THE GLORY OF YOUR HOLY NAME.

I want to explore that time of self-examination and confession of our sins, by taking a deeper look at these words of REPENTANCE that I just shared with you—with the framework of our OT lesson for this coming Sunday to guide us through it.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.         –Deuteronomy 30:15ff

You are indeed sinners, no doubt about it. But God in His grace, God in His MERCY, gives you an opportunity—like He gave to the Israelites so long ago—an opportunity for REPENTANCE—to TURN from our sinful lives—to put to death, DAILY, our sinful selves…and TURN TO GOD!
RETURN TO THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL, SLOW TO ANGER AND ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE, AND ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE. ♫

Choose life, God says, “That you may love the lord your God. That you may listen to His voice. That you may hold fast to Him.” “THAT WE MAY DELIGHT IN YOUR WILL, AND WALK IN YOUR WAYS, TO THE GLORY OF YOUR HOLY NAME”

Real life, true life, is found there, in Christ alone. And the fruit of the faith that God gives us moves us toward Christ, and toward a life where those things are what we desire—To delight in the will of God, above your own will. To walk in God’s ways, instead of forging a path of your own. To bring glory to God’s Holy Name (FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT), instead of seeking out/and demanding such glory for yourselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!  Blessings on your lives as you walk in the ways of God, who gives you LIFE in Christ!

–Rev. David Lindenberg (Dakota Dave)

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Closer Now Than When We First Believed

 

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NEW Sermon for Advent 1—December 1st, 2019

TEXT: Romans 13: 11-14

THEME: “Closer Now Than When We First Believed”

Grace, mercy and peace be yours this day and always from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This morning, in the tail end of a Blizzard, those who made it here this morning, and are worshiping right now, as well as those of faith who are in our hearts and minds, are together beginning a New Church Year, as we enter today into the season of Advent.  Advent means “coming” and for us refers most specifically to the coming of our Salvation through the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.  It also can mean the 2nd Advent of Jesus when He fulfills His promise to come AGAIN.  It is this second Advent to which we turn our attention this morning as we take a look at Paul’s words in Romans 13.  This is a passage that has its roots in the second table of the Law.

Please read with me now the commandments of the second table of the Law of God on page 321 in the front of your hymnals, and their meanings—beginning with commandment 4 on the bottom left hand column.  The second table of the Law includes commandments 4-10.  We ought to read these to know what St Paul is getting us into in this text.

(THE 2nd Table COMMANDMENTS AND THEIR MEANINGS ARE READ)

The Law leads us to know our sin and our need for a Savior.  In a way, that makes this a perfect text to begin the season of Advent, a season of preparing for the coming of the Righteous One.  The King of Kings, the Savior of sinners—Jesus.

And really, the only way to prepare for Jesus to come is the same way that John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord when Jesus came the first time.  He preached repentance.  The same message we still preach today.  Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  Law and Gospel.

We recognize that repentance liturgically by eliminating a certain particularly joyful song – the Gloria in Excelsis – from our Sunday Service.  Let us consider the Epistle lesson for the First Sunday in Advent.  Paul presents us with the urgency of faith and salvation by reminding us how short our time is, and how swiftly things will be over and done with.  He tells us that the night is almost gone and the day is at hand.  Of course, Paul wrote these words almost two thousand years ago.  If the night was almost gone then, imagine how it must be today.  If you believe these words, you must know that it is time to get serious about the gospel.

The night that Paul wrote about is the night of this world and of sin.  Sin and evil are always dark and black and night in the Bible.  We do not have to look to hard to see that night and how dark and evil it is.  We have an enormous drug problem in our nation.  We have an out of control sexual immorality problem running rampant throughout our society .  We have violent crime rates that stagger the imagination, and gangs, and drive-by shootings, murder, suicide, euthanasia, and abortions at about       125, 0000 per day , and the love and concern of one man for another is at low ebb in our culture today.  We may certainly find our current conditions in the economy troubling as well, but the social decay of our society is a better barometer of just what time it is.

Primum non nocere  (Pre-Mum  Nun  no-chair-A)  First do no harm.  This is part of the Hippocratic oath, the oath that physicians take: to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, to preserve a patient’s privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on…

If I didn’t know better, I would say that Hippocrates had read from our Epistle lesson for this morning in Romans 13 prior to writing the Hippocratic Oath.  Because it sounds an awful lot like Do not put to death…Have love for your neighbor as for yourself. 10Love does no wrong to his neighbor, so love makes the law complete.

DO NO WRONG!

After all, isn’t that what St. Paul is telling us in our lesson?

Kind of putting a damper on our Holiday celebrations isn’t it?  Our text is certainly one way to put a halt to our festiveness…DO NO WRONG!  That’ll wake you up from your turkey drug-induced slumber.

But pastor, it’s ADVENT.  Aren’t we supposed to be preparing for the birth of Christ.  Ah, yes, dear Christian believers, but in order to properly prepare for the birth of the Savior, we must understand what He was coming to be a Savior of.

The King of Kings salvation brings.

Say it with me!  “The King of Kings salvation brings.”  That’s got a nice ring to it doesn’t it?  If one were to take a worldly approach at this, however, one might take on the following attitude:  But what do I need a Savior for?

Foolish world!  Don’t you know you are perishing?

Why would you say that?  How could I be perishing?  I assure you, I am quite alive, you see!  Besides, I am basically a good person.  Wouldn’t you agree?  What should I have to be worried about?  I just mind my own business.

And you Mary shall give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save people from their sins.

The King of Kings salvation brings, FROM SIN!

Let us be reminded that, “If we say we have NO SIN, we deceive ourselves and the TRUTH is not in us.”  Jesus said, “I AM the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.

            The King of Advent, Jesus, comes on the scene, and breaks into the world.  Immanuel, God with us.  And He performs many signs and wonders, yes, but Jesus does His best work when He comes to be king in your heart.  Immanuel, God WITH us….The TRUTH, Jesus, Savior of Sinners, IN our hearts!

Savior of the Nations Come!  Come, Lord Jesus!  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  The Spirit and The Bride say, Come!

The day that Paul wrote about is the Last Day, the Parousia, the day of the resurrection of all flesh and of the ushering in of eternal life and full salvation for all those who believe.  It is the day of the end of the world.  That is the day that is almost upon us….in God’s time.

Paul writes, now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  What he meant we would say today like this, “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Knowing the time, knowing that it is almost time for the resurrection of all flesh to commence, and knowing that it is now two thousand years into the very brief wait, we must stand convinced that we are on the verge of Christ’s second Advent.

Knowing how near we are to all things eternal causes us – or should cause us – to get serious about the gospel.  There’s that URGENCY again.  We want to do that because the gospel holds forth the promise of resurrection from the dead and of the life of the world to come.  Now, part of repenting means refocusing on the Gospel and believing it with all of your heart.  But, as we see clearly by looking at the Old Testament example, faith is not simply an intellectual exercise.  It reflects itself in real behaviors.

Our behaviors.  One’s that we ourselves have control over.  Those who have Jesus, who put on Christ, whose Old Adam is drowned daily in repentance, those who walk by faith and not  by sight, those who have hope in the promises of God in Christ Jesus, behave or act in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ, and do NOT continue chasing after their former lives of sin.  They do NOT look to do harm to others, but seek ways to love others as Christ loves us….To show mercy to others as we have been shown mercy.  To forgive one another as we have been forgiven.  To reconcile with each other as God has reconciled us to Himself in Jesus Christ, His Son.

We are different now, changing each day, being formed and re-formed in the likeness of Christ. St Paul writes earlier in Romans chapter 5:  Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

And before that, within the same passage Paul tells us what this all means… Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We live in that same hope now, in this interim time, with that urgency of spreading the Gospel to all nations ever before us, and the 2nd Advent of Christ always on our hearts.

Before the Dawning Day

Let Sin’s dark deeds be gone

The sinful self be put away,

The new self now put on.

May it be so in our lives for Jesus’ sake, who is coming again soon!

Amen.

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O Give Thanks Unto The Lord For He is Good, and His mercy endures forever!                                                                                                                              –Psalm 136:1

 

What a thing, to give thanks!  It is one thing to give credit where credit is due, but giving thanks is more than this.  To be truly thankful in our hearts is to acknowledge where the good things we are grateful for all come from.  The verse above from Psalm 136 reminds us that the one who we return to again and again to give thanks for all good gifts in our lives, is the Lord our God, the Maker of heaven and earth and all things.  It is not just on this day that we have dedicated as a nation as “Thanksgiving Day” that we should be giving thanks to God.  For it is every single day that God provides and sustains and guards and protects your very lives.  Because He cares for you.  Because He LOVES you!  Because Jesus, His only Son, died for you and forgives you all of your sins.  

Last night in our Thanksgiving Eve Prayer and Preaching service, I gave a sermon about remembering all that God has blessed us with.  I talked also about receiving what God gives to us now through His means of grace (Word and Sacrament).  And I talked about returning to God in repentance and thanksgiving as we wait for Jesus’ future return in all His glory.  So much to be thankful for, in past gifts, present grace, and future promised blessings!  

So as the song goes, “Give Thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks, because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.” (LSB 806)

Blessings to you on this Thanksgiving Day and always!  In Christ our Lord,

Pastor Dave Lindenberg

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Having the tools….and the courage!

 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.   1 Peter 4:10-11

Writers Block

Recently I have been working on my very first novel, an historical fiction novel set in World War II.  I am on the last part of this novel now.  But I am finding it difficult to start this third part.  For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why.  I enjoy writing.  I enjoy using this gift that God has given me of crafting words together until they sound right to me.  Words are fun to me.  I can use my thoughts, emotions, ideas, daydreams and imaginations and pour them all in to a volcanic explosion of verbiage on a blank page, and then as if I were doing a finger painting, move all the words around into the order that I think works best, editing and changing this word and that phrase until the “masterpiece” unfolds on the white canvas.  

So, why if I love to do this, am I having such trouble getting started on what arguably is going to be the most exciting part of my novel?  What is the stumbling block?  It is NOT writers block.  I have given that one a lot of thought.  I figured that had to be it.  But I know exactly how I want things to unfold, who the characters are that I am introducing in this section of the book, and how much development I want with each one.  The images are very vivid in my mind.  Writer’s block is not my hangup.  So what can it be?

Surprisingly, the big hangup is ME!  That’s right!  I am the stumbling block to myself.  Instead of using the gifts that God has given me, I have been letting FEAR get in the way.  Fear of WHAT, you may be asking.  Fear of what to do once I have finished the novel.  Fear of what comes after that.  I know, editing, editing, and more editing.  I know that much.  It is the whole publishing world that grabs hold of my anxieties and puts my writing to a halt.  The fear of rejections I suppose.  I hate rejection.  [And to listen to all those writers out there who have been through the whole process, there is so much rejection in the publishing world that its flowing like mud.  Quicksand is more like it!]  And the thought of it makes me feel like I’m suffocating.  I know, I should just suck it up and just start writing part 3.  The fear that paralyzes me sometimes makes me feel like a lazy bum, because I accomplish nothing when it hits.  It is not until I sit down and actually start typing that the words start coming like an avalanche.  Then I can’t stop.  I don’t want to stop.  The fears disappear and I am in the world that I am making.  Immersed in the world of characters and places, times and events that I am constructing from my imagination.  The creative part of my brain is in charge now.  And it’s not listening to anything else.  Maybe that is what I am scared of.  It’s that age-old Stephen King like motif of the writer being thrust right into the world of his own imagination, only now that is the new reality.  Or the artist whose paintings are not just realistic, they actually come to life.

 

 

Sorry, I had to take a little break there and get a glass of water.  I got the chills a little bit.  Maybe it would help if I closed the window by the kitchen table on this cold November afternoon.  There is actually snow falling now.

I want to switch gears off of myself for a minute, and pose a question.  What is it that keeps YOU from using a gift that God has given to you?  What is the stumbling block that gets in your way?  Is it time?  Our schedules are often over saturated with things we HAVE to do that we are perhaps too exhausted to do those things that we ought to be doing with the gifts God has given to us.  Is it entertainment?  I must admit, I enjoy a good movie or television show, perhaps too much sometimes, (especially if they have really interesting characters).  But when I cut out much of that, I find that I have plenty of time and energy to do some of those other things.  And most of the time, I even enjoy it MORE.  Is it FEAR?  I already explained how fear gets in my way sometimes.  A Lot of people, I have found, are not using their God-given gifts because fear is getting in their way.  Or perhaps it is because you do not know what your God-given gifts are.  Perhaps you need a friend, or family member, or even a pastor to help you discover what your gifts are.  I know that you have them.  God says to us in His Word that each person has received different gifts from God’s varied grace.  And that we are to use them to serve one another.  What are your God-given gifts?

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I promise you this…Even though it might be scary initially to venture into finding out what your gifts are–sometimes it is WAAAAY outside of a person’s comfort zone–it DOES get easier, but you have to make that first little baby-step.  And yes, you might fall down a couple times trying, and you also might discover that you are NOT good at something that you thought you might be, or wanted to be good at.  (I totally wish that I could just sit at the piano and play any song I want to play, like some people can do.  That is THEIR gift, not mine.  But I have been given gifts that they do not have.  That is how God does things.)  Regardless of what gifts God has given to you, or not given to you, we are to make use of the ones that we DO have.  And we are to use them as a blessing for others.  And I have found that doing this ends up being a blessing to me as well.  A blessing of happiness and satisfaction that somebody else gets joy out of what I have done with my gifts.  It fills me up in a way that I know about but almost never anticipate.  That is part of the satisfying aspect of it I suppose.

 

Well I have babbled on enough for now.  I hope that you have discovered some of the gifts that God has given to you.  If you haven’t, seek out someone who can help you find out what they are.  And don’t be afraid to move outside your comfort zone either.  There are a lot of good surprises in those areas for all of us to discover.  And quite often, God likes us to move outside our comfort zones to find out that we have those gifts.  Then He can do amazing things with you in His kingdom.  Try it!  And I promise I will try not to let my fears keep getting in the way of using my own gifts.  Everything done to the glory of God!

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Blessings to you today and always in Christ Jesus our Lord!

-Dakota Dave

 

Sin disturb my soul no longer!

 

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READING: Romans 6:1-11

       10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

October.  Probably one of my favorite months.  No, not because it is supposed to be Pastor appreciation month (although admittedly that has a nice ring to it).  The truth is I love the season as much as the month.  Autumn.  Leaves turning colors; crisp, cool air; HS soccer season (at least where I am from); football games and tailgate parties; bonfires; Homecoming parades; spice cake (with cream cheese icing); apple cider, apple butter; apple pie; APPLES; or for that matter: pumpkin pie; pumpkin muffins; pumpkin bars; pumpkin bread; my new Fall favorite…pumpkin spice lattes; PUMPKINS!  I’m getting hungry just writing this.

But this blogpost isn’t about food.  I could start a whole other blog for foodies.  This is a devotional blog.  And this post is about identity…our identity….our identity in Christ!  Sure the things above describe things that I like, things I look forward to this time of year.  And that gives you a small glimpse into who I am, but only a glimpse.  It does not define me at all.  You can’t take that list of things and think, “Oh yes, I’ve got this guy’s number.”  Just because a person likes/dislikes things, appreciates/doesn’t appreciate something, or has an opinion one way or another about something, doesn’t mean that particular thing defines everything about them.  But that seems to be how the world likes to view things.  We think we know the whole sum of a person based on one relatively unimportant aspect of their lives.  

But what if that one thing IS important.  What if it is of such great importance that the Scriptures, our Confessions, our hymnody and other writings speak about it to our consciences in such a way as to cause us to understand it as the sum and substance of who we are and whose we are?

God’s own child I gladly say it”: I am baptized into Christ! (Lutheran Service Book #594 st. 1, CPH St Louis, Mo 2006)

This hymn has quickly become one of my favorites as I am daily reminded of my baptism into Christ Jesus, and my relationship to my Savior from sin.  In my own daily struggle with sin (Read Romans 7:7-25) I need this daily reminder that I am connected to Jesus in such a way that He who paid the full price for all of my sins imparts his righteousness to me.  I am reminded that all of my sins have been washed away and that I emerge a new person in Christ.  

Stanza 2 of hymn #594 states it quite well: Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.  Should a guilty conscience seize me, Since my Baptism did release me.  In a dear forgiving flood, Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

So you want to know who I am?  Start with WHOSE I am.  That is my identity now.  Nothing less, nothing more.  I am baptized into Christ…I’m a child of paradise! (Hymn #594 st. 5,  CPH 2006)

Ray Ray Baptism

 

Not OF This World

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12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  Romans 12:1-3

It is interesting to read that even in St. Paul’s time people had trouble with conforming to worldly ideas, and imitating worldly ways.  We certainly are seeing this in our lifetime.  So what?  Why is this a problem?  We live in this world don’t we?  I think there is a big clue for us in Paul’s words to the Roman Christians above, as to why this matters for us who are in Christ.  IN VIEW OF GOD’S MERCY.  In His mercy, God sent Jesus to take on flesh like ours (INCARNATE WORD), and to live perfectly obedient to God, because we could not.  Ultimately, Jesus came to bear the sin of us all on the cross, and to die in the place of sinful human beings, that is, ALL OF US.  That is what God in His mercy has done for us, though we certainly did not deserve this mercy, this wondrous love from Him.

Jesus also reminds us that in Him, we are now different from the world.  In John chapter 17, while praying for His disciples, Jesus has the following words…1I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

John also reminds us of this reality once again in his 1st Epistle, chapter 4, Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.  You, dear children, are from God and have overcome thembecause the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the worldThey are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to themWe are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

So, it also helps us in discerning and recognizing the difference between a Spirit of Truth and a spirit of falsehood.  But if we become like the world, and imitate it, I suppose that difference will become more blurred for us. It is something to be very aware of, and pay close attention to, and test our hearts on.

One thing is for certain, we are most definitely changed by the faith that God has given to us; and that change means that even though we live in this world, we are not to be of, or LIKE the world in what we think, say and do.  But as Paul reminds us, “Be TRANSFORMED, by the renewing of your mind.”  In this way, through studying God’s Holy Word, we are able to know what the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God is.”

Thanks for reading!

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APPROACHING GOD WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE

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READ Job 38:1-40:2                     

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without KNOWLEDGE?  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”—Job 38:1-3

Holy cow!  I read this and think, whoa, I hope Job had a change of underwear handy.  Truthfully, when many people think of Job, it would seem that they prefer to think of the God of Job 42:10-17

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a] and a gold ring.12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part….16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

            Now doesn’t that sound much better?  But the God in Job 42 is the same God of Job 38-40, the same God in chapters 1 and 2, where He allows Satan to take everything from Job, including his health.

            We, like Job want to question WHY?  We want to approach God as if we understand the Lord and His will and His ways enough to try and TEACH the One who created all things, sustains all things, the one who redeems and sanctifies and makes things NEW.  How could we possibly understand God completely, or the completeness of His will, or the depth of His love, or the complexity of His ways?

            And so when we come at God, as Job did, to try and TEACH God something about His own attributes, or will, or ways, that is when we need to be humbled.  That is what God is doing with Job, who had been a faithful servant of God.  (Even faithful servants of God need to be humbled—trust me, I know).  If we are truly repentant we will at the very least have an understanding that in our sinfulness, we have no right to come before a HOLY God and approach Him with foolish pride and contempt and attempts at justifying ourselves. 

            When we read a text like the three verses in chapter 38 above, we may even wonder if we can/should approach God at all.  This is where seeking out Jesus in the Word of God becomes so important.  In searching the Lord and His ways through reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting His holy Word (regularly), we discover that Jesus makes it possible for us to come (humbly) before the Lord (as beggars—like Luther said).  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

            We do not have to be terrified of approaching the Lord, but because of Jesus being the mediator between God and Man, and because Jesus died for each one of us, we can approach the Lord our God with confidence and even boldness.  But we should remember who is the Creator, and who are His Creatures, and never get that wrong, or try to teach God about Himself.  You won’t find anything good in the Scriptures about somebody being arrogant in approaching God.  Yeah, that doesn’t usually turn out too well.

But when we do humbly come before the Lord we are not treated like beggars, but as His dear children, brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus—God’s only Son.  We have a special place because of Christ and His work of redemption of mankind through humbling Himself to die on the cross in your place.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for making it possible for us to come before our Father in heaven at all times and in all circumstances.  Help us to search for You in Your Holy Word, that we may know the Father and His will, and walk in His ways, through knowing You.  May we always approach You in humility, and with fear, love, and trust in You above all things…especially over and above our feeble and sinful understanding.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  AMEN.

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Thank you for reading!

 

He Wounds and He Heals

See now that I, even I am He, and there is no god beside me;  I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.–Dueteronomy 32:39

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Greeetings readers, and thank you for taking a look at my blog.  It has been a while, once again, since I last posted anything.  Thank you for your patience.  I have been getting myself ready and making lots of plans for returning to work in my pastorate at Peace Lutheran here in Rapid City, SD.  It has been almost 6 months since I was placed on medical leave by the elders of my congregation.  I praise God, who kills and makes alive, who wounds, and who also heals.  His own Word bears this out in Deuteronomy chapter 32, our OT reading for Palm Sunday, this weekend.   

It has been a very difficult road.  Pastoral burnout, depression, and situational anxiety, with added grief due to multiple deaths in our extended family, all played a major role in my sinking into “the pit” so to speak.  Most of those things a lot of people do not understand, so you can add that to the mix of what I was constantly dealing with.  But after months and months of not receiving any relief for all of that, God gave me a wonderful gift.  I got placed on medical leave.  This alone did not solve all my problems or fix everything that was wrong.  There was a lot of hard work to be done and several different physicians of differing specialties to consult; medications to be tried out in order to find the right combinations.  There were difficult talks and challenging meetings with officials from the congregation, and officials from the district office.

It seemed like every step of the way I was being challenged on this journey, or my faith being tested in the things I was learning from God in His Word, or confronted with something in therapy, or from some of those other difficult conversations.  I would also say that thankfully, most people were nice and supportive, but there were some who were not and took a much different approach where I and my wellness were concerned.  And it was very hurtful, and injurious to my healing process. Why would God allow these things to happen on top of what I was already dealing with?

Why me?  We often ask that question, don’t we?  In fact, it is usually the first question that comes to mind when things become difficult for us.  And then we must remember that God is the one who kills and makes alive again.  God is the one who wounds and then heals.  He tests our faith to see if we have really learned anything, and moves us toward repentance and further trusting in Him alone, above all things.  The only real question is in whom do we trust when things become so difficult in our lives.

That is what this text from Deuteronomy is really about.  In the beginning of the text is the Lord reminding that He “will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants.” And He follows this up by mocking those who place their trust in other gods and practice idolatry.  Now idolatry can come in many different forms.  It is always fearing, loving, or trusting in other things above God.  We can fear and love the one true God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but still trust in other people, or things, including ourselves.  More likely than not, when things get difficult, we trust in ourselves.  That is what happened in my case, and I ended up trying to give to others from an empty cup so to speak.  What can you give from an empty cup?  Nothing good, I can tell you that!  

The good news for us is this…We DO have a God who vindicates us, and has compassion on His servants.  Though it may be hard for us to understand, we have a God who also kills and makes alive; who wounds and also heals.  We have a God who nobody can take us out of His hands or snatch us away from Him.  “Nothing can separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

REMEMBER THAT!   

God’s peace to you as we prepare to meditate on our Lord’s Passion!

Thanks for reading!

DAVE

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