Thursday, February 13, 2014

Devotions - What Is Worship?

 "It's singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people - and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships."

Sounds like the definition of worship in a lot of churches today doesn't?  But it's not. This definition came from Sanderson Jones, a comedian in England who has started a mega-church for atheists. The idea is catching on. According to an Associated Press article, there are more than three dozen such "churches" in the United States and Australia. Jones and his fellow comedian Pippa Evans want to raise $800,000 to "help atheists launch their pop-up congregations around the world."

Worship is not just singing awesome songs and hearing interesting talks about self-improvement. 

Worship is being with God through His Word and Sacrament and receiving His blessings. Worship is praying, confessing sins, and receiving absolution (forgiveness). Worship is not singing vague songs of praise, but it is praising God very specifically (theologically) as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.  Worship is focusing on God's word to understand it and to realize its impact upon us.  The Holy Spirit is always coming to us through the Word to bring us and to keep us in the faith. Worship is confessing the faith with all Christians who have ever lived using the ancient creeds, the very same words they used in their worship. Worship is bowing and kneeling before God, who speaks to us and comes to us in Word and Sacrament. 

The writer of the Book of Hebrews said:  "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" (12:28-29).  

Prayer:  Dear God, we thank You for the gift of worship.  You come to us in Your Word and Sacraments to give us faith and to strengthen us for faithful living. We thank You for the truth of Your Law and the mercy of Christ, who died on the cross to bring us into Your Kingdom. Teach us to serve You in our worship and in our work with reverence and godly fear. Amen.

Hymn:  Blessed Jesus, at Your Word  Listen

Blessed Jesus, at Thy word
We are gathered all to hear Thee;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
Now to seek and love and fear Thee,
By Thy teachings, sweet and holy,
Drawn from earth to love Thee solely.

All our knowledge, sense, and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till Thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, Thyself impart,
Light of Light, from God proceeding;
Open Thou our ears and heart,
Help us by Thy Spirit’s pleading;
Hear the cry Thy people raises,
Hear and bless our prayers and praises.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Praise to Thee and adoration!
Grant that we Thy Word may trust
And obtain true consolation
While we here below must wander,
Till we sing Thy praises yonder.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Devotions - No Condemnation!

Romans 8.1-4

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order thatthe righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  

In the name of Jesus, Our Savior, Amen.

     Dr. Sam Boda was one of our former members at Good Shepherd. He told me once about his 50th class reunion from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Since he was in charge of it, he asked all his classmates to send him information about their ministry. One the questions he asked was this, "From which chapter of the Bible did you preach the most sermons?" The number one chapter for all those pastors was Romans eight.  

     This really is a tremendous chapter of the Bible. In Romans 1-6 Paul explains the situation we are in with sin and the salvation that we have from Jesus Christ. He became the ransom for our sins through His life, death and resurrection. Through Him we are declared righteous apart from anything we do. We are saved by faith. But that doesn't mean we don't struggle against sin. In chapter seven he talks about that terrible struggle and that no matter how hard we try, by ourselves, apart from Christ we can't win. In chapter eight he explains how we battle against sin by faith.

     People take different approaches to the problem of sin. Some deny that it exists. Some try to cover it up. Some try to will themselves to moral improvement. Picture the child in school who is caught misbehaving and told to go to the marker board and write, "I will not talk in class" fifty times.  Such drills, whether imposed by others or imposed upon ourselves as we tell ourselves over and over that we will not do what we are not supposed to do, only work temporarily.  

     There is something, however that we can do over and over that will overcome the power of sin in our lives.  Our sins were forgiven in our baptism, and the Holy Spirit came into our lives to give us faith. Every Sunday we gather with other Christians, confess our sins, receive forgiveness and pray for God's help. In our daily devotions we repent, believe and look to the renewing help of the Holy Spirit to live by faith.  In this scenario we stand at the marker board and write: "I am sorry. I am forgiven. I want to live by faith in Jesus." This routine, done over and over and over in the Christian life is what it means to be "in Christ."  

     In Christ, there is no condemnation. Our sins are forgiven. And in Christ we live by the Spirit through the means of grace. We will never be able to stop sinning in this earthly life. But in Christ we are free from condemnation, and in Christ we will see the work of the Holy Spirit who will help us to improve in our outward righteousness.  

Prayer:  Renew Me, O Eternal Light   Listen

Renew me, O eternal Light,
And let my heart and soul be bright,
Illumined with the light of grace
That issues from Thy holy face.

Destroy in me the lust of sin,
From all impureness make me clean.
Oh, grant me pow’r and strength, my God,
To strive against my flesh and blood!

Create in me a new heart, Lord,
That gladly I obey Thy Word
And naught but what Thou wilt, desire;
With such new life my soul inspire.

Grant that I only Thee may love
And seek those things which are above
Till I behold Thee face to face,

O Light eternal, through Thy grace.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Faith of Evolution

Last Tuesday evening Bill Nye and Ken Ham debated for three hours about Creation and Evolution. I was glad to see that over three million people tuned into the debate. That shows how much interest there is in this subject. I wondered how many people actually watched the whole debate. Like many of these debates, a great number of significant statements are made, but most of them are not really examined carefully.

Bill Nye tried to claim that the creation point of view is anti-science and will do great harm to the progress of science and technology. Ken Ham pointed out that there are many creation scientists and inventors. He also pointed out that in the past it was creation scientists such as Johannes Kepler who said "Science is thinking God's thoughts after Him." Kepler once thought of becoming a theologian, but then concluded: "I now see how God is by my endeavors, also glorified in astronomy, for 'the heavens declare the glory of God.'"

Ken Ham stressed the Biblical teaching of a young earth by appealing to the Bible. Bill Nye provided several observations indicating a much older earth (ice cores, ancient trees, etc.). Ken Ham responded with a slide that showed there are over a hundred different observations about the age of the earth. Most of them contradict each other. I wish Ken would have shown a few specific examples such as galaxies winding up too fast or the decay of earth's magnetic field.

It wasn't until late in the program that the problem of complexity was really discussed. As far as I am concerned this is what lies at the heart of this whole debate. The universe is infinitely complex. The more complexity we discover the more we realize there is to discover. Both creationists and evolutionists can agree on this. The disagreement comes when we ask, "How did it get here?" Creationists argue that it had to be created. Evolutionists insist that complexity can and does emerge by a random process of change. Does that really happen? Do things become complex by themselves without intelligence?

Evolution has tried to explain the origin of life without God's involvement. Instead of the Creator, evolutionists believe in a mindless, random process of improving changes. They happen so slowly they can't be observed.  The probability of this happening to the extent that this could have created the universe as we know it is beyond all comprehension. But, as evolutionists will tell you, given enough time and enough universes, anything can happen.  Evolutionists see this as a marvellous mystery. But at what point does it become their faith?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Duck Dynasty Controversy

The following notes are from our Saturday Morning Men's Ministry Bible study of January 10, 2014. If you would like to listen to the entire Bible study, you can find it at our website under the Bible Study Archives menu.

1. Background of Phil Robertson, from the book Happy, Happy, Happy...

Youth – Phil Robertson and his family grew up in poor circumstances. But he has many happy memories of hunting, fishing, and playing football.

College – Phil received a scholarship to Louisiana Tech to play quarterback. Before he finished, he quit football so that he could spend more time hunting and fishing. The second string QB who took over was Terry Bradshaw, who played for the Pittsburgh Stealers.

S.A.D. – Phil slowly descended into a lifestyle of sex, alcohol and drugs. His wife, Kay, left him with their children.

Conversion – Phil eventually realized the destructive nature of his lifestyle. He begged Kay to let him come back. She allowed this on one condition – that he talk with her pastor. The pastor was busy that day, but Kay insisted because a soul was at stake. The pastor led Phil through a study of God’s word. Phil often refers to his conversion as the time when he “repented.” He also stresses the importance of studying God’s word.

Hard Work – In order to take care of his family, Phil began working as a commercial fisherman. When a friend noticed how good he was at calling ducks, he called Phil, “The Duck Commander.” That was the beginning of an idea that would eventually become a multi-million dollar business – making duck calls. But it was not easy in the early years.

The T.V Show – A & E approached the Robertsons with an idea for a reality show. Phil didn’t think it would work because all the reality shows he had seen show people who were having problems. Phil told A & E: “We’re not messed up!” Eventually he agreed to the program providing he would always be able to end the program with a spiritual lesson and prayer.

2. The Controvesy – Phil paraphrased 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 in an article published in GQ magazine. His paraphrase was coarse, but not necessarily in conflict with what the Bible says. Some members of the homosexual community were greatly offended and called for his suspension. He was suspended, but after a tremendous outcry from fans, he was reinstated. The controversy raises some important questions to which Christians who still believe the Bible need to respond.

3. The Bible condemns homosexual behavior in Leviticus 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1. When it does so, it always includes homosexual behavior along with other sins such as adultery, idolatry, greed, etc. Why is there such an outcry when the Bible condemns homosexual behavior but not when it condemns adultery and pornography? The reason for this is that most people see adultery and pornography as choices that people make. But they do not think homosexual behavior is a choice. This, however, is a very controversial issue. There is no proof that homosexual behavior is determined genetically. However there are many studies that are trying to determine if same sex attraction is influenced by nurture. As Christians living in a fallen world we understand that there are many things that might cause people to suffer from various temptations. People struggle with heterosexual lust, anger, a proclivity to addictions, depression, etc. This does not mean that we should accept these behaviors but rather seek God’s help to overcome them.

4. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was saying when he wrote to the Corinthians church: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6.11). Our confidence for ourselves and for all is that God, by His grace in Christ, has forgiven us of our sins of every kind, and that He will help us to resist those temptations.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Funeral Sermon for My Father-in-Law

This is the sermon I preached for the funeral of my father-in-law last November.  He was a great blessing and influence upon me along with his wife, Mary, and my own parents. 

Farm, Family, Faith
Psalm 119.65-72

Funeral Sermon for Robert Edward Bauer
Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments… The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. (Psalm 119.65-66, & 72)


     Dear Mary and all the children, grandchildren, great grand children and friends and neighbors of Robert. I am glad to be here today and so glad that we can gather together in the name of the Lord to thank Him for all the blessings we received from God through His servant Robert and also that we can ask God to help us serve Him and reach the same heavenly home that God has prepared for all who believe in Him.

How God Has Blessed Us All Through Robert?

     I know that all of you have, in many different ways, experienced blessings from God through Robert. My personal experience began when God allowed my to meet his daughter Carol and eventually be married to her and to become part of this family. I was blessed to see how Robert considered himself a servant of the Lord.  He served the Lord in his devotion to his farm, to his family, and to Jesus.

     The summer after we were married I worked for Robert and got to know him fairly well. I admired how he worked so steadily and wisely. He was always thinking ahead, and he was always ready to try new ways to improve. He loved the land, the cows and the horses, and he saw all of these things as great blessings from the Lord that needed to be managed with care.

     Robert loved and cared for his family even more than that. He knew the gift that God had given him in his wife, and though he teased and sometimes aggravated her, he loved her and knew he wouldn’t have accomplished anything without her. To see how he loved his children of each generation you only had to watch his face and to see how happy he was whenever they could be around. He always worked to instill in them the same faith and wisdom that God had given him.  He loved his extended family as well, and it was always one of the highlights of his life to make that long trip back to Illinois to see the kin up there!

    To be very honest, from my point of view, it was his faith in Jesus that was the greatest blessing for me. Sunday morning always started on Saturday night as he got out his Bible and prepared to teach the adult Bible study. He was a good teacher of God’s word, and I still try to use his methods. I remember how closely he stayed with the text, line by line, word by word. Whenever the class ventured into speculations he would often bring them back to the inspired word.  What does it say? What has God called us to do? What has God done for us?  For the rest, he would say, “We’ll have to wait until we get to heaven.”
How God Will Continue to Guide Us in Our Lives?

     That brings me to the second question I want to answer in this message, and the one that I know Robert would like us all to really think about:  “How will God continue to guide us in our lives?”

     We can’t just look back. We have to look forward. More important than that, we have to move forward in faith. There are so many ways that we can go astray; and Satan, and the world, and our own sinful natures are more than happy to separate us from God, from what is true, and good – from life itself.  My greatest concern for myself personally, for my family, and for the church is that we are tempted to think that as long as were not quite as bad as the culture around us, we’ll be okay.  This culture is sinking, and it is sinking fast. You will never reach the goal of faith if you just try to stay above it. God has called you and me to a better way.  With the writer of Psalm 119 we need to pray:  “Teach me good judgment and knowledge.”

    That is what God has given us in His word – and particulary in the Word made flesh – Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus Christ came into this lost and sinful world and redeemed it by being perfectly obedient to God, by teaching the perfect will of God, and by giving up His life as the perfect sacrifice for every last one of our sins. That is the way of life. That is the way of everlasting life. It is better than anything. It is better that all the pleasures this world offers. It is better, as the psalmist says, than thousands of coins of gold or silver.  


    The last time I rode with Robert in the pickup he and I were driving through Winnie. As we drove past the Arboretum Nursing Home, he said, “I’m going to be there one of these days, but God will be with me.”  Not long ago I got to spend a few days with him there even as he was battling the fraility of his body and the feebleness of his mind. I tried to imagine what was going on behind his eyes as we talked. I imagine he was fighting against some kind of fog, some confusion that takes over as life begins to ebb.  He was trying to stay connected to this world. He was trying to realize why he couldn’t go home. He was trying to live while the body was trying to die.  But when I would say, “Robert, let’s have our devotions.” Immediately his big hands came together to listen and to pray. Those were the hands that so often held the saddle and the reins, the hands of his wife and children, and his big black Bible.  They were the hands of the soul that holds one gift that even death cannot take away – the gift of faith in Jesus.  He certainly would agree with our psalm, “Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant, O LORD, according to Thy word.” May the LORD deal well with us according to His word.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

Obituary for Robert Edward Bauer

Robert Edward Bauer, 85, of Winnie, died Wednesday, November 6, 2013, at The Arboretum of Winnie. He was born on June 1, 1928, in Jefferson County, to Ruby Louise Gaus Bauer and George Richard Bauer.  Robert was brought to Jesus in Holy Baptism in 1928 at St. John Lutheran Church in Hamshire, Texas. He publicly affirmed his faith in the Rite of Confirmation in 1943 at St. John Lutheran Church in Beaumont, Texas. Robert was married to Mary Heiner at St. John’s in Beaumont on June 26, 1949. He and Mary, along with other area Lutherans, helped establish Hope Lutheran Church in Winnie, Texas. He loved to teach adult Bible class and Sunday school. He was a prayerful and generous supporter of many Christian ministries and Christian educational institutions.
Mr. Bauer was a cattle rancher and farmed rice in the area for many years.

Mr. Bauer was involved in many organizations within the community. He served on the Board of Regents, at Concordia Lutheran College in Austin. He established an endowed professorship in religion at Concordia, as well as a music scholarship in memory of his daughter, Marilyn.  He was a representative of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund; President of the Texas Rice Improvement Association for twenty five years; Hardin Jefferson Independent School District School Board, President; Coastal Cattle Association Board of Directors, President; Gulf Coast Bank Board of Directors; East Chambers Agricultural Historical Society, President; ASC Board of Directors; Vice President of Southeast Bancorp of Texas, Inc.; Director of American Rice Growers, Beaumont Division; and LCMS Foundation Board Alternate.

His many honors include Concordia Lutheran College Christo et Ecclesiae Award of Excellence; Concordia University Christo et Ecclesiae Award of Excellence; Texas Rice Festival Honoree; Texas Rice Festival Pioneer Farmer of the Year; FFA Honorary Chapter Farmer and Honorary State Farmer; Friend of Texas A&M Agriculture; Winnie Area Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Award.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Heiner Bauer of Winnie; son, Jack Bauer and his wife, Christie, of Winnie; daughters, Carol Walther and her husband, The Reverend Michael Walther of Maryville, Illinois; Janet Taylor and her husband, Tim Taylor, of Houston; and Linda Bauer of Austin; grandchildren, Gerald Bauer, Sherri George, Jennifer Abshire, Brandon Erickson, Katherine Dube, Emily Penney, Jonathan Erickson, Aaron Walther, David Walther, Paul Walther, Stephen Walther, Lydia Walther, Travis Taylor, Everett Taylor, and Grant Taylor; nineteen great-grandchildren.

Mr. Bauer was preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Marilyn Erickson; and brothers, Orland Bauer and Leroy Bauer.

A gathering of Mr. Bauer’s family and friends will be from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., Friday, November 8, 2013, at Broussard’s, 134 West Buccaneer Drive, Winnie. His funeral will be 10:00 a.m., Saturday, November 9, 2013, at Hope Lutheran Church, 9th and Leblanc Street, Winnie, with interment to follow at Fairview Cemetery, Winnie.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to one of the following: Hope Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 701, Winnie, Texas 77665; East Chambers Agricultural Historical Society, (Ag Museum), P.O. Box 1715, Winnie, Texas 77665; or to Concordia University Texas, 11400 Concordia University Drive, Austin, Texas 78726.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jesus Didn't Condemn Abortion or Homosexual Behavior?

How does a Christian respond?  

1.  Jesus said the Hebrew Scriptures cannot "be broken" (John 10.35). Those Scriptures affirm that life begins at conception: "You formed my inward parts. You knitted me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139.13).  

2. Jesus commissioned the Apostle Paul to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles:   "I am sending you  to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26.17-18).

3.  Paul brought the Gentiles out of numerous sins including homosexual behavior:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6.9-11)

Monday, September 16, 2013

O Happy Day!

      In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, my text for my sermon this past Sunday, Jesus said "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15.7).

     The joy of repentance and forgiveness has been expressed in many ways in Christian music. One the most beautiful examples is that of a hymn written by Philip Doddridge in England in the seventeen hundreds.  Doddridge’s grandfather had been a Lutheran pastor who fled from Prague because of persecution.  Doddridge, who also became a pastor, went on to write 400 hymns.  One of those hymns was titled “O Happy Day,” which included the refrain, “O happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away. He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day. Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.”  

     If that sounds a little familiar, it’s probably because of what laterhappened to that old hymn.  In 1967 Edwin Hawkins wrote a Gospel version of the refrain and recorded being sung by his church choir in a service.  A local disk jockey heard it and began playing it on the radio. By 1968 the hymn had become one of the most popular songs in America. The song rose to number five in the pop charts and won a Grammy. It was the first time a hymn had crossed over.  Hawkins changed it from 3/4 time to 4/4, dropped the verses and used only the chorus. 

      Doddridge's hymn, O Happy Day, was often used at baptisms and confirmations as you can understand by the lyrics below.  The opening words "O happy day, that fixed my choice On Thee..." point to an Arminian view of conversion (that we cooperate with God). But I find the phrase in the third verse interesting:  "Charmed to confess the voice divine."  This could be taken as a more Biblical interpretation of conversion... That I have been called, led by the Holy Spirit, to repent and to confess my faith in Christ.  

     Philip Doddridge also wrote:  “And Will the Judge Descend,” “Great God We Sing Thy Mighty Hand,” “Hark the Glad Sound, the Savior Comes,” “O God of Jacob, By Whose Hand,” “Our Children Jesus Calls,” and “The Savior Kindly Calls.”  One of his most popular books was "The Rise and Progress of Religion of the Soul."  Wilberforce said that it led to his conversion. Spurgen referred to it as "that holy book."  


O happy day, that fixed my choice 
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
 Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
 And tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
 He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.
O happy bond, that seals my vows 
To Him Who merits all my love!
 Let cheerful anthems fill His house,
 While to that sacred shrine I move.
’Tis done: the great transaction’s done! 
I am the Lord’s and He is mine;
 He drew me, and I followed on;
 Charmed to confess the voice divine.
Now rest, my long divided heart,
 Fixed on this blissful center, rest.
 Here have I found a nobler part;
 Here heavenly pleasures fill my breast.
High heaven, that heard the solemn vow, 
That vow renewed shall daily hear, 
Till in life’s latest hour I bow
 And bless in death a bond so dear.