2 Corinthians 6

 

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

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We live in a world that is uncertain and unstable and this critical situation can become defining of everything. But neither the challenging world or our broken lives are the last reality. We do not have to spend ourselves in endless efforts to remain in control. Jesus tried hard to impress this on His hearers. He still does.

When Jesus reduced all the commandments to the simple and concrete love of God and the neighbor, He pointed us to a Kingdom within the darkened world, the light of which addresses universally the true hopes and aspirations of all people. The Kingdom of God, therefore, most passionately proclaimed through the Cross of Jesus, appeals to us to live in the freedom which creates the capacity to live within the sobriety of God’s kingdom – the kingdom for others – a kingdom at odds with the world, superior to it and destined to prevail.

If you find the Christian life perplexing, unsatisfying or even boring, the solution may not be as difficult to come by as you think. For, the Christian life is not about self protectionism, lived primarily inwardly. The Christian life is lived outwardly (for the sake of others). This is the great freedom of the Christian: that we may live without any self-consciousness, trusting in God’s grace alone, expecting nothing, yet having everything.

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“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

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From Pastor Mark Anderson’s daily devotional blog, 2013.

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Thanks to wooderice.com, for the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the power of God unto salvation…”

 

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Romans 1:16

 

I don’t remember his first name anymore but his last name was Carlson or Larson or Hansen or Johnson or something like that. OK, I don’t remember his last name either! Anyway, this wiry old Norwegian came up to me after the Reformation Sunday service at First Lutheran Church, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, October 1977. During the offering the organist and I had performed a rousing rendition of ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’, she on the pipe organ (somewhat nervously as I recall) and yours truly adding a withering obligato on the electric guitar ( a bright red 1966 Gibson 335) complete with distortion pedal and major rock n’ roll attitude. Mr. Han-Carl-John-Lars-son was neither inspired or edified. “I want to congratulate you, Pastor Anderson, he said dryly. “You have managed to overshadow the Word of God this morning and drag Luther’s hymn into the gutter at the same time.” Ouch! At the time of course, I dismissed him out of hand. Now I can only marvel at the miles of passivity that old Scandinavian had to cross in order to confront one of his pastors. I also wish I could sit down with him – which I should have done then – and listen to him. He was onto me. He came from a Lutheranism where laity understood they had a responsibility to the Word of God just as much as the pastor. He was exercising his stewardship of that Word but I was too full of myself to hear him. I was too busy being ‘relevant’ instead of being his pastor.

What I finally did hear while sipping coffee with those old Norwegians – and a few misplaced Swedes – was that faith in Jesus Christ and His promises was the marrow in their lives. And they had not come to this faith because some clergy person stuck his\her finger in the wind and then blathered on from the pulpit about the indelible wonderfulness of now. The message that gripped them was the Gospel; the old, old story of Jesus and His love often expressed in their favorite hymns; Beautiful Savior, The Old Rugged Cross, Abide with Me, and yes, In the Garden. During the years I was their pastor I had to bury some of these folks. Often, in those last days before the end sitting by their bedsides I would sing these old hymns accompanied by a guitar and read passages from the Bible. And that is when I learned something that had taken me too long to learn; if you can’t sing it or say it at someone’s deathbed it probably isn’t worth singing or saying at all.

“May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

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From Pastor Mark Anderson’s daily devotional blog, “1 Minute Daily Word”

Originally posted March 14, 2012.

 

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photo from flickr and côte d’ivoire

 

 

 

 

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2 Corinthians 6

 

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

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We live in a world that is uncertain and unstable and this critical situation can become defining of everything. But neither the challenging world or our broken lives are the last reality. We do not have to spend ourselves in endless efforts to remain in control. Jesus tried hard to impress this on His hearers. He still does. 

When Jesus reduced all the commandments to the simple and concrete love of God and the neighbor, He pointed us to a Kingdom within the darkened world, the light of which addresses universally the true hopes and aspirations of all people. The Kingdom of God, therefore, most passionately proclaimed through the Cross of Jesus, appeals to us to live in the freedom which creates the capacity to live within the sobriety of God’s kingdom – the kingdom for others – a kingdom at odds with the world, superior to it and destined to prevail.

If you find the Christian life perplexing, unsatisfying or even boring, the solution may not be as difficult to come by as you think. For, the Christian life is not about self protectionism, lived primarily inwardly. The Christian life is lived outwardly (for the sake of others). This is the great freedom of the Christian: that we may live without any self-consciousness, trusting in God’s grace alone, expecting nothing, yet having everything.

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 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

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From Pastor Mark Anderson’s Daily Devotional blog site

 

 

 

 

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“The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and on your heart…”

Romans 10:8

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“The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and on your heart…”

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From  Pastor Mark Anderson’s Daily Devotional blog site

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Matthew’s gospel is arranged in five major sections. The data that Matthew uses from the life of Jesus is packed into these five sections. Each of the five sections has an A part and a B part. The A parts contains material setting forth things Jesus did while the B parts contain long discourses.  This is Matthew’s way of  ‘enfleshing’ the Word that is Jesus. Mark, Luke and John do not use this arrangement. The shape, order and sequence of the material in each of the four gospels reflect the fact that reports of  the works and words of Jesus have come to us through the church differently, in varying contexts, meeting unique circumstances. 

God has chosen to make Himself known in and through the messiness of history, of real events, becoming part of the story. The God of the Bible is no spiritualized ghost. How else could God come so near, be so close to us? For that, after all, is the great narrative of our faith. God is with us. This kind of retail, material sort of stuff puts off some people, even some Christian people. It’s not spiritual enough.

But God does not send us on an ethereal quest into the spiritual unknown in order to know Him. The Word of God is never disembodied. The Word of God was incarnate in the grace and grit of the man Jesus. That same Word comes, is embedded in paper and ink, gospel speech, church tradition, information, data, splashy baptismal water, the spongy bread and so-so wine of the Lord’s Supper. The Christian narrative is about the down-to-earth God keeping it real – for us.

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“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Thank you, Pastor Mark.

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“And the Word became flesh…”

sj0m0Ted.Waters

John 1

“And the Word became flesh…”

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In the Old Testament God is the one who led His people out of Egypt. In the New Testament God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead. In both testaments God is revealed as the God who acts and is involved in what we call history, in temporal time and space.

The progress of the Gospel throughout human history has had real and demonstrable effect not only on individual human beings but also on the whole range of human reality. Institutions, cultures, ideas, etc. have been shaped by the Gospel and its implications. This has often been not because of the Church but in spite of it. For the perpetual temptation of the religious impulses that we naturally associate with Christianity (which is not a religion) always want to spiritualize, internalize or spatialize the Gospel. The Bible, on the other hand, reveals the God who is temporalized in the real world of people and events, including sacraments.

Non-sacramental Christianity which emphasizes reason and the internal character of faith, skates dangerously close to the brink of gnosticism which discounts the temporal for the sake of the spiritual. Martin Luther ran into this mentality among the ‘anabaptists’ of his day. The following is a quote from Luther on this score as it applies to infant baptism.

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The  anabaptists pretend that children, not as yet having reason, ought not to receive baptism. I answer: That reason in no way contributes to faith. Nay, in that children are destitute of reason, they are all the more fit and proper recipients of baptism. For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but – more frequently than not – struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. If God can communicate the Holy Spirit to grown persons, he can, a fortiori, communicate it to young children. Faith comes of the Word of God, when this is heard; little children hear that Word when they receive baptism, and therewith they receive also faith.”

                   – Martin Luther (1483-1546), Table Talk CCCLIII [1569] .

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“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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From Pastor Mark Anderson’s daily devotional blog:

Pastor Mark Anderson’s Daily Devotional blog site

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Thanks to flickr and sj0m0 and Ted.Waters, for the photos.

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Colossians 1:18

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“He is the head of the body, the church;…”

Our faith is personal and corporate. Both are well-represented in the Bible. Noah, for example, was commanded to build an ark – in the desert. Needless to say, his reaction was less than enthusiastic. Why did he do it? Obviously, his relationship with God was something intense and personal. So much so, he overcame his reluctance and set to work.

At the same time, Noah was commanded to fill the ark with critters and to bring the family. A new beginning would emerge from the flood for the creation and the covenant people.

Isaiah had a profound, personal  vision of the Holy One. That vision brought him face to face with his sin. “I am a man of unclean lips”, he was brought to confess. 

At the same time, Isaiah’s vision brought him to see the larger implications. “…and I dwell among a people with unclean lips”, he concluded. Sin is personal and corporate.

The prophets, generally, were perceived to have a unique word from God. At the same time, that word was always for the people of God. The word was personal and corporate.

Our Lord Jesus called Matthew at the toll gate, the first of twelve. Each disciple was singled out. At the same time, Jesus made of them the nucleus of a new Israel. Twelve disciples, representing the twelve tribes of the covenant people.

St. Paul was singled out on the road to Damascus. Christ appeared to him, called him, set him apart. At the same time, bearing witness to this experience was neither the burden nor the focus of Paul’s message.  He rarely mentions his dramatic, personal encounter with Christ. His letters were written, in large measure, for the sake of congregations, Christian communities, the body of Christ.

We have just celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord. We believe He lives. But this risen Lord is not the private property of the individual. Through Word and sacrament He makes us His own, one by one, to be sure. At the same time, Christ Jesus never leaves it at that. He makes us members of His body. That’s what the Resurrection looks like here and now; persons called by the grace of Christ into community. We are each a unique, living member of the body. This means faith is personal but not private. Like it or not, we belong to one another.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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From Pastor Mark Anderson’s Daily Devotional blog site

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Thank you, Pastor Mark Anderson

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And thanks to flickr and Capt Kodak, for the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John 1 …

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from Pastor Mark Anderson’s Daily Devotional blog site

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…”who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

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The holy trinity of American evangelicalism were Moody, Finney and Sunday. You can Google them and learn more if you wish. These three were the original purveyors of mass revivalism, mass evangelism and “Big Box” tents, the forerunners of “Big Box” churches. The actual peak of this form of evangelism was in the decade prior to World war I. Well over a thousand itinerant evangelists plowed the country, while hundreds of others, in established communities, developed that unique American version of showmanship religion which made the ministries in neighborhood and country churches seem dull in comparison. Sheep stealing was rampant as these free-will purveyors railed against established churches and their meaningless sacraments. During the height of it’s lather, from about 1910 to 1913, church membership in America actually declined slightly. Go figure.

 

For many people, confrontational revivalism (the gospel at gunpoint, as one called it) is assumed to be the default way in which the church does evangelism. Give people a choice; heaven or hell, which will it be? Everyone must make a decision. First, accept Jesus as savior, then you must make Him Lord of your life. Salvation and this life are in some strange way unrelated, separated. Salvation becomes adherence to an ideology. The Christian life becomes a morality project, a striving after perfection.

 

What we have going on here, it seems to me, is the religious equivalent of a sales pitch for a consumer decision about a product, rather than the proclamation of the decision God has made about sinners. And it is no accident that what has characterized these ministries from the 19th century up to the present is a reliance on the end justifies the means. All that matters is closing the deal. No method or gimmick is too outrageous, provided we can bring people to the point of decision. Then, once the decision has been made, the job is to keep the whip of spiritual growth on their backs so that Jesus will really become their Lord.

 

But since when does the manipulation of a sales pitch play a part in the open and free proclamation of God’s grace? The only possible way to find any of this in the New testament is to ‘cherry pick’ verses and bend them out of all shape and context.

 

The New Testament witness does not separate the saving work of Christ, His will to save from His will to be Lord. His Lordship and salvation are inseparable because He is the one who has done the deciding and He is the one whose life now defines the life of the Christian and Christian community. The only will that is free to do any choosing where God is concerned is God’s will. For us to claim such freedom is not the key to salvation, it is blasphemy. For it is claiming something for ourselves that belongs to God alone. 

 

Evangelism, therefore, is being brought by God’s grace – through Word and sacrament – to be with those whose great need is God’s concern. To trust God, to believe the Gospel, is not a consequence of my decision, it is the form God’s decision takes for me.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Thank you, Pastor Mark.

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And thanks to flickr and O, for the photo.

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  A  sermon by Pastor Mark to go along with this post for those so inclined:  Strength-and-Effort-to-choose-Jesus

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