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?