Grace and peace to you as we round out the month of June together.
Welcome to this week’s vlog. If you have just found us, I’m Pastor Lee Harder from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. It’s good to have you be a part of our fellowship.
For the past few weeks I’ve been wrestling with the consideration of showing a DVD of a theatrical play entitled “St. John in Exile” as a Sunday afternoon family movie time for our own folks and for our community at large. It’s an impressive portrayal by Dean Jones of the Apostle John, but whether it’s for younger children is another issue. Its description of the deaths of the other apostles is a bit gruesome. I’m forced to choose between two images.
It’s very much like the choice we must make between the Jesus we will serve as Christians. Will we choose historic Christianity founded on the eyewitness testimonies and teachings of the Apostles regarding the good news of Jesus Christ, or will we choose the new, modern approach of interpreting the Bible to meet the times and attitudes in which we live?
Do we create a new understanding, a “Jesus of our imagination”, so the Church can be more relevant and acceptable to a modern, skeptical culture?
It will be an easy choice for many since they live in a church and a culture that has already changed the ideas and beliefs concerning Jesus and who He is. We’re changing ideas every handful of years now based on the latest scientific developments and politically acceptable teachings of the age.
The choice might not be hard for many today, but it would be for the Apostles who followed Jesus. Their concern was not the acceptance of the culture in which they lived nor the current morals of the day. Their concern was for the truth and reality of Jesus Christ based on His life, His sacrificial death and bodily resurrection from the dead. In their passion to know the real Jesus they were willing to face persecution, rejection, humiliation and even death, just as countless numbers do daily around the world in our own time.
We face the same choices the Apostles faced. As the portrayal of John by Dean Jones reminded me, all of them died and many horrible deaths, save John. The hardest choice we will ever make is to resist the Jesus of our imagination and seek instead to know and serve the real Jesus of Scripture.
The real Jesus is often intolerant of our desires, demanding to the point of human impossibility, and offensive to our modern sensibilities. Jesus of the Bible claims to be alive today, to be God in human flesh, and to have the power of life and death. To ignore Him is to invite destruction. To recreate Him in our own image is the height of arrogance. To submit to Him and worship Him as the one and only Savior is life-giving unto eternity.
We have to choose which Jesus we will serve. How we make that choice will determine our future. We can choose the Jesus who will entertain us and keep us content or we can choose the Jesus who will challenge us right down to our core. We can pay for our choice today or for eternity. And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a great week.
Pastor Lee from St. Paul Lutheran of Bulverde with you again this week. May the joy in our Lord fill you with His peace.
The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 — “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Simply, we do what we do to please God.
Again, in his letter to the Christian community in Colossae, Colossians 3:23-24, he writes — “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving . . .”
I firmly believe in putting forth my best effort in everything I can. It is one of the great principles my parents instilled within me. I’m not always successful because there are times when I get lazy and do just enough to get by, but thankfully they are the exception not the rule in my life. In addition, if know that if I put forth my best effort, it doesn’t really matter that I might fail. Sure, winning the prize is always preferable, but if I gave it my all I can be content because I have pleased my Lord. This principle used to be the way we operated as a nation and as a people, striving for excellence. So, when did mediocrity become the accepted norm and governing rule for the day?
With this season of graduations upon us, I have again heard about more longer the scholastic goal toward which we strive. The attitude now is that the other students who did not achieve this level of excellence would be sad and disappointed. It wouldn’t be fair to them. I think it is called the “participation trophy” syndrome.
As proof of such a reality, there was a story recently about high school cheer leaders who had the usual demanding tryouts at which time several were chosen to be a part of the team. However, as has always been the case, not all who tried out were skilled enough or had the necessary qualities to do the job. Their participation in the tryouts was appreciated, but they just didn’t make the cut. Apparently, one of the girls complained which resulted in all who tried out getting a spot on the team. This had the backlash of having those girls who had worked hard and made the necessary sacrifices feel, justifiably, that all their efforts were negated. Why bother if in the end it doesn’t matter?
I’ve noticed that life isn’t fair. In the real world there are winners and losers and being a loser in a job or competition doesn’t mean you have no value as a person. I’ve endured loses more times than I care to remember. Yet, in every case, upon a little personal reflection, I realized I had learned important lessons for life. Losing isn’t a bad word if one truly gave it one’s best. It just means one must try harder or try something else at which you can excel. God loves tryers.
This standard of mediocrity which is becoming more and more prevalent in all aspects of our culture (and the church) is a frightening thing. When did it become okay to do just enough to get by or worse get a prize for just showing up? In everything God does for us He never blesses us with anything except when God made all of creation, He declared it good because it was His finest.
When God made us, humanity, we became the pinnacle of all He made with a potential of being all He intended, His best.
When God took on flesh and came into this world as Christ Jesus to free us from the bondage and slavery of sin it was nothing less than His best.
How dare we do anything but our best in return, if not for His glory, then for our own personal pride and integrity in who we are as human beings, God’s children. Abraham Lincoln put it this way, “I do the very best I know, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
You can keep your participation trophies and effortless mediocrity. If a steady diet of bland, tasteless gruel satisfies you, knock yourself out. As for me, I like life with spice and texture, a good chew that satisfies the soul and pleases my Lord. I strive to win and if I can’t win, then I will do my very best. And those are my thoughts.
Pastor Lee R. Harder