I’m back. It’s great to be back in this new year sharing some thoughts with you. So, let me wish you a Happy New Year filled with God’s blessings. Welcome to our blog from the Red Roof Church. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church here in Bulverde, Texas at the junction of Hwy 281 and FM 1863. The good folks of St. Paul welcome you to worship with us every Sunday at 8:30AM for our traditional celebration or at 10:45AM for our contemporary worship. You can also check us out at www.redroofchurch.org on the internet where our morning worship can be viewed after 2:00PM via our website on Facebook and YouTube.
I haven’t written any blogs or recorded any vlogs for the past few weeks because of Christmas responsibilities and I finally took a few weeks off from work. I didn’t go anywhere, but just relaxed at home with Karen and our girls (our Golden Retrievers, Jessie and Molly). It was great. I came to realize that in the last three years I hadn’t taken any official vacation time, not counting a long weekend to marry my oldest daughter (kind of like work) and a stay in the hospital with recovery for heart surgery (stints). Within a few days the tension pressures melted away and I actually slept good.
It’s not easy for a workaholic to let go and take time off. Add to that a touch of being a control freak and it becomes almost impossible to get away from the daily routine, but I needed to in the worst way. Friends were telling me how I needed to and were overjoyed when I finally scheduled the time off. Taking time away, call it vacation, call it sabbatical, call it anything you want, we all need time to renew and rejuvenate ourselves. I forgot that.
God knew it all along. Why else would He provide for us a day of rest which He Himself took. And by the way, that seventh day of rest was not called the Sabbath or Sunday in Genesis, but what it was for God and for us — a time of rest. It was later on that we made the false connection under Moses and the Law to the idea of a day of rest and the Sabbath or Sunday as one in the same. They aren’t.
First, we definitely need a day of worship and reflection on our relationship with God in the framework of family, a community of believers (a congregation or church body), and in the world. This day is a blessing that helps guide us in the way we live, work, play and relate during the rest of the week.
Second, we need to take a regular day of rest. Oh, maybe it will be a time of energetic activity, but if it gets us away from the regular day to day, week to week activity — our work — the change is what provides our rest and restoration.
It’s not like I did nothing for the weeks I was off. On the Sundays, I went to worship with Karen just like regular people. It was different, but it was nice, too. (We don’t get to do that too often. Besides, after preaching and teaching our need to NOT take time off from God, I didn’t want to be branded a hypocrite.) It was fun to worship without the pressures of leadership.
The rest of the time I relaxed, watched some old movies, played some games (Skyrim rules) and did a fair amount of writing. I’m currently working on my second cookbook with stories about Karen and I in our early years of marriage. Throw in some devotionals and some dynamite recipes and I hope to have another winner for anyone interested. We give it as a gift to new disciples joining the congregation.
So, vacation is over and I feel rested. I suspect it won’t take too much for the old tensions to return. It’s part of the job, but it was nice not to have to feel their pressure every day. So, I’m back in the pulpit, back creating and leading our regular Bible studies, teaching confirmation, counseling, problem solving and, of course, sharing blogs with you. Rest assured though, I’ll be taking some more time off this year because I’ve got it coming; but, more importantly, it’s a good thing to do. Better than that, it’s a God thing to do.
Don’t you forget to do the same when you can. God insists. And those are my thoughts. God bless.
Final Preparation. This Advent season we’ve been using Paul’s love chapter from 1st Corinthians to get us ready for the Advent of our Lord. This text isn’t normally associated with Advent, but it sure seems to fit perfectly. Advent is about having FAITH in the promises of God to deliver us from sin. Advent is about having HOPE because we know God’s Word is true and sure. Advent, as we’ll see tonight, is the culmination of all these as God makes His love real and undeniable. Advent is readying us for Christ’s coming at Christmas so that we can behold the suffering servant who will free us from sin out of Love. Advent is preparing us for the time when Christ will return as the King of all creation in glory to make eternal life a reality because of Love. That’s why even though this whole text from 1 Corinthians 13 spends a fair amount of time talking about spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues or moving mountains, they pale in comparison to Love. Simply — If you don’t have Love, you have nothing. Love trumps every spiritual gift or every miracle God may work through us.
What Is Love? God’s coming into the world is God revealing the full extent of His Love for us. But that takes some preparation to understand. More than that, it takes patience to appreciate. In 1 John 4:8, we see that God is the very definition of Love. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Our Lord’s coming at Christmas 2000 years ago and in the untold future is a portrait of Love. Jesus IS the role model on how to Love. Paul uses the word "agape" to describe this godly love. It's so much more that romantic or sexual love, "eros", which, for the record, also come from God. It is more that the friendship bond of "philia" which comes from God as well. Agape is a sacrificial Love which seeks to do what is best for another. For God so loved the world (loves us), that He gave Himself totally. Agape love is giving love. This is the love that Advent seeks to help us understand, appreciate and embrace. It is what God did by coming into this world. It is what God will do by bringing us into His eternal realm. Love In Action. God’s Love is revealed and proven by His coming — then and in the future. It put our needs first. This is the kind of Love that serves, that builds us, that helps. Does the world need this kind of Love? More than anything, especially at a time when more & more people are separating themselves from God. Advent us trying to help us see how much God loves us. God gives His love to us, and wants us to share it with others. The fact is God commands us to love one another as He has loved & still loves us. John 13:34 has Jesus speaking those very words to His disciples & to us. The first letter of John tells us 5 times “You must . . . love one another. If Love is commanded, then it must be important & just maybe, the greatest of all.
Keep the faith. Don't lose hope. Above all else, let your lives be filled with Christ's Love. If we can do this , Advent has done its job - then we are indeed ready for Christ's coming.
Let us pray. Dear Lord, thank you that you are the very definition of love. Help us to receive your love shown first in your coming and then most visibly at the cross. Help us to take that most perfect model of love and pass it on to others - those we like being around and those we do not, those who love us and even those who hate us. We need your help to do this, God, so we commit ourselves to you, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Linked But Separate. Faith, Hope & Love remain — so Paul tells us. We continue Paul’s Advent message that ultimately brings us to the supreme testimony of God’s love, our Savior’s birth. Yet, while Faith can & does build Hope, the two are distinguishable from one another. They’re not the same. Faith has work to perform today; Hope cheers Faith along the way encouraging. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God as Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17; Hope comes by experiencing the Word of God as he tells us in Romans 5:4 — And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Faith accepts the gift of promise; Hope confidently expects the fulfillment of promise.
No Hope. Advent is very much a time of hope as we look forward to the coming of our Lord. Yet, not all see hope in the same way. In fact, it seems as if some in the world have no hope at all. I see hope revealing itself in one of three ways. There are those with No Hope. There are those with False Hope. There are those with True Hope. What’s the difference? One of the reasons I feel such concern for our younger people is that many have not just drifted away from a relationship with God (as many do in life), they have stopped believing in Him all together. They are people without Hope & without God in the world. For anyone of any age to be without Hope is a terrible thing indeed. God knew how important Hope is for the human soul. Adam & Eve, when they had sinned, were without Hope. That’s why God gave them Hope in the first covenant promise declared in Genesis 3:15.
False Hope. Sadly, False Hope is even worse than No Hope. A person who is hopeless (No Hope) may be inclined to accept True Hope, especially through the living faith of another. False hope may look good, initially, but only until trouble arises. Then it collapses because like the one who built his house on sand, there is no firm foundation. False Hope is the addict who thinks they can escape their problems by getting high. The church member who thinks baptism, membership or deeds is all that is necessary to escape hell has False Hope. Those who believe in religions without Christ have False Hope. Our list of False Hopes is almost limitless, which is why Advent’s preparation for our Lord’s coming is so important. It points us toward where our True Hope is to be found.
True Hope. What is True Hope? There is only ONE in regard to salvation. That’s what Advent is getting us ready for.
Titus 2:13-3:7 — while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
1 Peter 1:3-5 — Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
True Hope can only be found in Christ. Our Hope is in the love of Christ. Just as is our Faith. And that’s where we arrive next Wednesday at the greatest of these — LOVE.
The First Word Is Faith - Paul’s Advent Contribution.
If you have been to a wedding in the last 20 years or more, you have probably heard the “Love Text” from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians 13:4-13. Brides seem to prefer it to the older, more traditional (from a far more conservative generation) text from Ephesians 5:22 & following. You know, the one that starts with “Wives, submit yourselves to your husband. . .” and so on. Paul is SOOO misunderstood in what he wrote there, often unfairly branding him a chauvinist. He’s not, but that’s a sermon for another day & series. Equally unappreciated for the whole message of its content is the 1 Corinthian text. Sure, it gives a beautiful, thoughtful & intuitive summary of love, but it is so much more. This text is also very much an Advent text to prepare us & draw into the coming of our Lord, both in Bethlehem as a baby & when He returns as King & Lord of all. It’s the last verse, 13, that stands out for our Advent message this year: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” For the next three Wednesdays lets examine each one separately finishing with the greatest — LOVE. But let’s also remember, that without the FAITH & the HOPE LOVE would not be as great as it is.
Understanding Faith. - Faith is defined by secular sources in a number of ways, but let me focus on two, neither of which encompasses all we need to understand as Christians. First, complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Second, strong belief in God or in the doctrine of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. I’m very comfortable with the first definition, especially if the someone is GOD & if the something is something like gravity. In the case of God I will provide proof in a moment. As to something like gravity — I know, no, I have absolute trust & confidence that, without seeing, any object that possesses mass in the entire universe will be attracted to any other object possessing mass. Let me demonstrate — drop something to the floor. My difficulty with the 2nd definition rests not in believing or having FAITH in God, but in two other points which helps realize the SECULAR definitional aspect. I do not have the same absolute faith in doctrine, since it is often man made, hopefully based on God’s Word; but, it seems not always, which is why I’m not a big fan of religion but go all out for FAITH. And to say there is no proof of FAITH is the world’s continued attempt to diminish God & our need for Him over worldly substitutes. You want proof? Think on this. For some 2 thousand years, the Church &, yes, the world, has spent it’s efforts at this time of year — ADVENT — getting ready for the coming of Jesus into the world, Christmas. No other event or happening can even come close to rivalling this singular purpose of preparation, much less equal it, in recorded time And this is only a beginning.
Proof of Faith - Scripture abounds with examples of people of Faith putting their complete trust & confidence in God & His holy Word. How about Noah who built an ark in the middle of a barren, parched land with no bodies of water anywhere near, nor the rains to provide them. Yet, he build an ark, not a boat or even a ship, but an ark. Then there’s Abraham & Sarah being the parents from which a nation will form, all nations will be blessed & a Messiah — a Savior — will come to save the world from sin. In their old age they step out into the unknown, totally trusting, having FAITH in God’s promises to them. And let’s not forget the willingness to sacrifice his only son at an age when he isn’t even firing & Sarah is without the seed to make anything happen, just because God says so. As proof goes, that’s called FAITH. Let’s not forget Daniel in a lion’s den, Elijah taking on almost 500 priests of Baal, Nathan telling David the king he’s a murderer & adulterer, or Saul who persecuted & killed Christians becoming Paul who brings Christ to the world. AM I making my point? Shall I go on? There’s one story after another, Old Testament, New Testament, they all share the same FAITH in God, His Word & His promises of salvation in Jesus Christ. The history of the Church only adds to the proof of FAITH. Martin Luther refusing to compromise God’s Word for the sake of convenience. Believers who risked violent seas & an uncharted land to be free to worship God is all about FAITH. And let’s not forget all those who have done the same without notoriety or public acclaim, but did so because of FAITH.
Faith Is a Gift. We’re here this evening because we have FAITH in God’s promises to save us from sin. We believe that Jesus is the source of that salvation. So, we prepare for His coming at Christmas & for when He returns in glory — that’s FAITH. We also need to be clear in understanding that faith is not without its bumps in the journey, which is to be expected. Abraham & Sarah had them otherwise there would be no “call me Ishmael.” A prophet Elijah would not have fled because a queen had a fit. We all have those days, those moments in our faith journeys. Those who say otherwise are the ones who give religion a bad name. It is God’s gift of FAITH, trusting in Him that makes way for our HOPE, which is where we prepare for Advent next week.
Welcome to our blog from the Red Roof Church and the wonderful, Spirit-filled folks here at St. Paul. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, inviting you to spend some time giving thanks to the author of all our blessings not just the coming Thanksgiving Day, but each and every day. We have much to be thankful for. If you’re in the neighborhood of Hwy 281 N. and 1863 this Wednesday evening, November 27, stop by for our worship celebration of Thanksgiving at 7:00PM. We offer warm fellowship and a seat at our Lord’s table of Holy Communion. If you can’t make Wednesday, join us this Sunday at 8:30AM or 10:45AM as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. You’ll always find us here ready to welcome you into our family.
Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside by Abraham Lincoln for a nation to give thanks to God. Yes, you hear correctly even in these “PC” times, thanks TO GOD for all His blessings. Barring a few minor changes, every president and this nation’s people have made it a point to thank God, the one and only true divine presence, for the love He gives to each of us and every day in a myriad of ways.
Sometimes it’s not easy to remember to give thanks. Like children who need a gentle push to say “thank you,” we must often have some formal nudge so that we bow in humble gratitude to the author of all our blessings. In addition, we can easily fail to realize an event that causes us worry, concern, disappointment, sorrow or difficulty today, is being used by God to build us up for tomorrow. Thus it, too, becomes a blessing for which we should give thanks.
I cannot help but think of the many challenges facing our Church. The current trend of vast branches of the Christian Church toward a secular agenda empowered by a social gospel causes great sorrow in my heart. I fear for our Christian heritage, our children and the direction of Christendom as a whole.
Yet, these very concerns have resulted in a renewal in study and examination of our Confessions and Scripture itself. Personally, I have learned and come to understand more about the bedrock foundation of my own faith because I seek God’s Word for guidance. Even in adversity, God’s work is being done and I am thankful.
Again soon in the body of believers I serve, we are daring to engage in another bold adventure of recommitting ourselves to God’s great commission of proclaiming the gospel and loving the church which is His body on earth. It’s not our first endeavor to move ourselves into true discipleship nor will it be our last. The work progresses, sometimes slowly, but always forward. We are coming to know that we must not underestimate the work of the Spirit. Some have truly risen to take first steps toward dedicated service in God’s name. That’s cause to give God our heartfelt thanks.
We have so much for which to render our thanks to God. His blessings shower us with witness to His ever present love and support. The most precious gift is our Lord, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself so that we might have life and forgiveness of sin in His name. There are not enough words or ways we can respond in thanksgiving.
As disciples of Christ, called to bear testimony to the Gospel of Salvation, our difficulties and hardships, the times of testing we confront, must cause us to raise our prayers of gratitude. It is in adversity that our lives are tempered for strength in God’s service. So, for these, too, we gave thanks to God.
May we remember to give thanks for all our Lord provides for us, that which we know to be good, as well as those things which God puts to good use within us. As Paul said in Romans 5:3-5 — We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
And those are my thoughts. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Greetings from the good people of the Red Roof Church. I’m Lee Harder, senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bulverde, Texas, wishing you God’s blessings and much joy at this time of thanksgiving. We invite you to join us every Sunday for worship at 8:30 AM or 10:45 AM as we celebrate Christ in our lives. With the celebration of Thanksgiving soon upon us, I would offer a special invitation to come worship with us Wednesday evening, November 27th at 7:00 PM as we give thanks to our Creator for all He has done for us.
This past week Karen got a picture from someone that speaks volumes. She ended up sharing it with her Facebook friends and I’m sharing it with you. It was actually a collage of four pictures. The top picture showed the massive crowds that gather along the streets lining a Thanksgiving Day Parade. The city in question doesn’t matter because the amount of humanity seeking to catch a glimpse of the floats & marching bands is pretty much the same any where you go. It is mass humanity. The second picture was a shot of the huge crowds pushing at the doors of some store ready to stampede for the Black Friday specials on sale. (I wonder if the crowds will be as big the day after Thanksgiving this year since Black Friday seemed to start last week already. Probably, since people can’t pass up the big screen TV or game system on sale, even if they have several already.) They’ll be out in force. The third picture was of an stadium packed to over whelming at a Saturday sporting event, probably football; but, other sports are drawing their share of crowds, too. People, people, people, packed so close together that one could faint and never fall to the ground due to the closeness of those standing near.
Then came the last picture of the collection. It was a picture of a church service. It wasn’t difficult to count the people attending because there were so few. You could almost hear the echoes coming from the empty space.
It’s a sad epitaph on the state of affairs in our world today.
According to one of the latest revelations from the Pew Foundation, research indicates that people who consider themselves to be Christian and religious are leaving the church. Every age group is leaving even if some are doing it more energetically than others and they are not coming back. Oh, they shuffle around for a while, departing from the mainline churches and checking out the non-denominational, “happy” churches, but they are in the long run leaving. Apparently God is too demanding and restrictive.
Similar things happened in the days of Solomon when the people migrated away from God and found a fascination with the pagan gods he imported thanks to his many wives. This went on for the second half of his forty-one year reign as king over Israel. In the end, after he died and his son Rehoboam took over the kingdom, it was divided and ultimately, lost as Babylon destroyed the temple and much of Jerusalem, carting off the cream if Jewish society to slavery.
Judging by the diminishing church involvement today and the rise in pursuing the pantheon of modern day false deities we seem infatuated with, we may find ourselves facing the same kind of challenges.
As we approach a national time of thanksgiving, it might be the right time to remember the God who loves us, died for us, and seeks nothing less than to spend eternity with us. We have much to be thankful for, even in our modern world, with which God has blessed us. I hope you’ll find a church that offers a thanksgiving service and in worshipful praise, give thanks to the author of our lives.
And those are my thoughts. God bless and see you in church.
Welcome to this week’s blog from the Red Roof Church in Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor at St. Paul, welcoming you and your family to join us in our regular blog and at worship this Sunday. We have worship celebrations of Word and Sacrament at 8:30 AM and 10:45 AM. We would be honored to have you be a part of our spiritual family.
This week I’m preaching from the Old Testament. Specifically, I talking about the call of Moses from the burning bush. Now this might sound strange, but I connected it to the purchase this week of a new dishwasher for our home. I make the connection under the title “Truth in Advertising.”
When I searched the internet for dishwashers I settled on getting a Bosch 100 series in black. All the reviews were great & it might be nice not to have to turn the TV up to a deafening level to overcome the sound of the running washer. We also got a good price. We only paid $700.00 for a $449.00 dishwasher. Apparently, the well advertised price did not include “EXTRAS” that were absolutely essential if the machine was actually going to wash dishes. Delivery was free since it’s Black Friday (I thought that was the day after Thanksgiving. Silly me, what do I know because everybody has got Black Friday sales on now and it’s not even Friday.). That was the only extra that was free. There is sales tax, I dig that. The kit cost (Bosch is German & requires a special kit which they do not give away), the installation cost (expected), the special plug cost (I suppose plugging it in is necessary) & the charge to take the old machine away. In any event, we got to pay a whopping $250.00 more for a machine advertised for sale at $449.00. Where is the truth in advertising?
When God called Moses from the burning bush, He made it clear what He expected of Moses to do. Go to Egypt and free His people from slavery. Do whatever is necessary, but convince Pharaoh to “Let my people go!” God would help him, but it wouldn’t be easy and it wouldn’t be quick, but God expected Moses to deliver the people.
Jesus had the same expectations of us when it comes to being disciples. He expects us to go out into the world and spread the word of salvation in Christ. Let people know that Jesus died to pay for our sins. God loves us that much. When Jesus gave that assignment to all who believe in Him, He didn’t lie and tell us it would be a piece of cake, easy and no problem at all. Instead, He told us that it would be hard. People in the world would persecute us and hate us and maybe even try to kill us to silence God’s message.
I think we would have to say that God is all about truth in advertising. He means what He says and doesn’t hide any of the extra costs. Wouldn’t it be great if the world operated the same way.
I’m a big fan of truth. That’s why when it comes to my preaching on Sunday mornings, I don’t mince words and I don’t pull punches. You will get the truth based on God’s Word in the Bible, not how our culture would like it to be but how God intended it to be understood. There will be both Law that reminds us we are sinners in need of God’s salvation and Gospel that gives us hope that our sins can be washed away and our relationship with our loving God restored. God has expectations of us when we enter into His family as believers and calls on us to respond truthfully in our devotion and commitment. Moses came to understand that and so did Jesus’ disciples and so must we as Christians today. Truth in advertising.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a great week.
Greetings from the people of the Red Roof Church in Bulverde, Texas located near the exit of 1863 on highway 281. I’m Lee Harder the senior pastor welcoming you to our regular weekly Blog. I hope you check in with us every week at redroofchurch.org to see the latest edition. We’re also on Facebook and YouTube. If you are someone looking for a church to call your spiritual home, then I would like to invite you to join us for worship this Sunday at 8:30AM or 10:45AM. Our friendly folks will make you feel welcomed and a important part of the St. Paul family.
This Sunday is a special day in the Christian Church. It’s All Saints’ Sunday. On this day across the Church, we remember and honor the saints, those men and women who were pillars of the Church by their examples of faith and devotion to God and discipleship in Jesus Christ. They believed in Jesus as the source of our salvation and surrendered their lives before Him. While we honor all that they did, we also recognize them as an inspiration for our own love of the Lord Jesus.
Yet, as Christians we know there is more to the saints than those great names of biblical history and the Church in the past who have gone on to their heavenly rewards. There are also those saints who have touched our lives by their commitment to Christ and the work of the Church they did while they lived among us. Even more intimately connected to us, these are the people, family and friends, witnesses and examples of Christ-like living that were a model for our lives. They not only inspired us, they became the guides and patterns by which we built our lives and relationships in the world and in the church. I know that each of us have loved ones and people we care about that are still very much an influence on how we live our lives. They, too, might be gone from this life, but they will never be gone from our personal lives because they are forever a part of us.
However, understanding the saints doesn’t even end there. It can’t, because we also need to see ourselves as saints as well. While we are still very much works in progress, we are saints. And that’s what is so neat. The Holy Spirit in His work of sanctification in each of us is making us holy, preparing us for heaven. That process is a life long one. It starts in our baptism and doesn’t come to a completion until we breath our last. Let me explain with this: Today, the Spirit of God is making me holy. I am more holy today than I was yesterday, but not as holy as I will be tomorrow — A work in progress. Simply, if we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are counted among the number of the saints and the Holy Spirit works within us.
That’s fantastic! It is also a little overwhelming since it means we are to be an example and an inspiration to those around us. Being a saint carries with it an awesome responsibility. Saints need to let others come to know Christ and the salvation He alone offers. To accomplish that goal, people need to see Jesus living in us with the things we do, the things we say, and the way we conduct ourselves.
So, to my fellow saints, I bid you God’s love and blessings. Let the world see our love for Christ in everything we do.
And those are my thoughts.
Take care and God bless.
Greetings from the Red Roof Church, St. Paul Lutheran in Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder the senior pastor and I would like to invite you to join us for worship this Sunday at 8:30 AM or 10:45 AM as we celebrate the birth of the Lutheran Church.
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg castle his sole hope and desire was to help move the Christian church back to Scripture and the authority of God’s Word which takes precedent over our human rites and traditions, as much as we may love them. Sadly, over the years, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church had become entranced with the power, prestige and wealth they had accumulated. As the expression goes, “They started to believe their own press.” They moved from being servants of God to the people and began to think of themselves as lords to be served by the people.
Jesus faced the same problem and attitude in His day with the religious leaders of Israel. They, too, had an attitude problem. As Jesus told them, they heaped upon the people rules and regulations which they themselves did not follow. (Boy, that sounds a lot like what our elected leaders in Washington are doing to us. We should have health care or retirement packages or fringe benefits like they have. Better yet, maybe they should have to deal with the same garbage they dump on us.) God called these religious leaders to be caretakers of His Word, not corruptors. He called them to be ones who nurtured and helped people in their relationship with God, to know Him, not a source for driving them away from God’s truth.
I mention this sad reality this week because it is Reformation for many of us. In Jesus’ day, He stood against those who had failed in their office and responsibilities and called them “Hypocrites!” In Martin Luther’s day he faced a civil government and a church hierarchy that wanted him silenced and dead, even at the cost of God’s truth in the Bible. Luther was given the chance to take back what he had written and said, but rather than do that he declared, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures and by clear reason (for I do not trust in the pope or councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by Scriptures I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”
Time moves on but things don’t seem to change. In our own times we have church leadership that has abandoned God’s truth in the Bible because it is inconvenient in our modern, politically correct church and world. Likewise, we have an elected leadership that wants to re-write or discard our founding documents. More than ever, we need for people of faith to stand on God’s Word because the world continues to seek the silencing of His truth so the world’s standards of morality and ethics can prevail.
Our founding fathers understood that as they forged a nation that put God first, our existence seen as a divine gift. As they declared in our independence almost 250 years ago, they did so standing on the presence of God as vital to our existence. Jefferson wrote in the conclusion of the Declaration: And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence (that’s God for the poorly informed) we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. He also wrote: God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God?
It’s time we reform ourselves to have the courage to stand boldly in the face of those who attack and act upon our faith in God and His Word. If those who attack through diminishing, discarding & denigrating the Word of God are allowed to go unchallenged, Satan wins and the forces of evil prevail over truth.
Both in the Christian Church and in the governing of this nation, we have been silent for too long.
When they took prayer out of our schools — we were silent.
When they removed the Ten Commandments from the halls of Justice — we were silent.
When they re-write our history and condemn it or fabricate falsehoods about it, denying divine Providence — we are silent.
When they set aside the Old Testament as well as selective verses of Christ from the New Testament because they don’t fit in the world’s standard of morality — we are silent.
It’s time we break our silence and make a bold stand on God’s Word.
Soon our nation will again vote for the persons who will represent “We The People” across the width and breadth of this Judeo-Christian nation. Shouldn’t the people who are nominated to serve “We The People” in all branches of government be willing to stand on the principles and morals that established this Republic in the first place? Our founding fathers established a nation that had “Freedom OF religion, not “Freedom FROM.” Yet, on both sides of the political spectrum, supported by large swaths of the Christian Church, we see a growing trend of movement away from God’s truth to embrace a secular humanism that will destroy us.
Look, I’m not trying to be political because I speak for no party. However, I do speak for the values, ethics and morality that the grace of God in His infinite love has generously given to us for our well-being and benefit. For the one who confesses to being a disciple of Christ, if we compromise our values and morality for worldly gain and acceptance, can we really call ourselves Christian?
At this time of Reformation, as we hear the God-given courage of Martin Luther and others, when we consider the candidates, all the candidates, let us stand firmly on God’s Word as we determine their worthiness to serve as our representatives in government. I want persons who will uphold our Judeo-Christian, God given values to serve “We The People.”
And those are my thoughts.
Welcome to our Blog from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor of St. Paul known as the Red Roof Church. I’d like you to join us each week as I share some thoughts with you. Better yet, why not check out our web page at redroofchurch.org or join us for worship this Sunday at 8:30AM or 10:45AM. We’re anxious to share our love for Christ with you.
This week I’ll begin by demonstrating the advantages and disadvantages of a classical education in a Christian Liberal Arts College of 60 years ago. Yes, that would be from the last millennium, but then, so am I. The Bard (that’s Willy Shakespeare for those never introduced to real, classical literature) wrote in his work, Hamlet, a line spoken by the chief protagonist (fancy way of saying “Hamlet said it”) — To Be, Or Not to Be: That is the Question. Well, allow me (with the permission of the master) to paraphrase it by applying it to the act of blogging and/or vlogging — To Blog, Or Not to Blog: That is the Question.
You see, I have discovered that the honest, sincere, exchange of ideas, concepts, realities and perceived truth doesn’t matter. Someone is always going to feel that what is said shouldn’t be said because it will offend, upset or disappoint them. After all, this venue is a method of advertising a particular goal or product. If what is said offends, then the source for the offense (in this case me) could possibly adversely impact the church I serve. Yet, this can be a source for venting and elaborating on topics that need addressing even if some maybe offended, alienated, conflicted or upset.
Look, I’m just sharing my thoughts. While I certainly mention who I am and where I can be found, it is to provide the source for where that is. If you find me irascibly or intellectually stimulating, you could come and learn more, especially about our Lord Jesus. I have a passion for sharing our Lord and helping people think. I am certainly not trying to keep a neutral view on life and subjects of interest to me. Simply, I share my thoughts (underline “my thoughts” not the church’s because they are mine) honestly and sometimes bluntly, while having a little fun even by poking fun at myself. It’s also a way to keep in practice writing to keep me sharp. After all, there’s a sermon which must be prepared each week. I’ll use humor, metaphors, stereotypes, exaggerations and more all for the purpose of getting people to think. Could it turn some people off? Yes. At the same time, it might turn some people on to a train of thought that makes them think. Whether spiritual, political, social or cultural, getting someone to think is always a good thing. God made us to be intelligent creatures. I suspect He intended we should use it. So, the answer to the question as to whether to Blog/Vlog or not is, as far as I’m concerned a big “YES!”. I’m having fun & I like thinking and stimulating others to do the same.
That said, I came across some material on why people leave a church. Certainly the topic is one that affects all churches, regardless of denomination or lack of denomination, in Christendom. There are dozens of sites showing why people move from upbeat, modern contemporary churches with their driving beat and pyro-technic light shows surrounding a moderate Scripture based message to more traditional churches or away from church altogether. There were just as many sites with the reverse explanations of people moving out of traditional mainline churches to contemporary settings or, again, outside the church entirely.
I think of it as a churchy version of shopping at HEB. People used to shop for themselves, you know, walk the aisles, compare prices, fill their carts, bag their groceries, drive them home and unpack them. Now, with ever growing numbers, more and more are having someone else do the work for them so they can just pick the groceries up or even have them delivered to their front door.
People used to be loyal to a church, specifically a congregation, because it was their spiritual home and they identified with it. They invested themselves in it through their involvement. Through thick or thin, good times or bad, they would remain loyal. They understood that to be a member of a church or better yet a disciple means you have to do the work yourself. It isn’t going to be done for you.
Today, I accept the growing numbers of those either incapable of shopping for themselves (We’re getting older — me, too, but I still do my own shopping. We’ve already established in past vlogs I am an in control kind of guy.) or just not wanting to be bothered for less than positive reasons. The number of people in churches wanting a free ride with God delivering a painless, less demanding or critical expectation of their role in the church as a disciple is growing, too. Instead of working to make things better in a church setting, many are now shopping for a church that is better now, at least for today. If things change (and they will) it will be time to go church shopping again. I thought it was about our relationship with Jesus and not what makes me satisfied in church. But I could be wrong.
Too bad! One day I suspect the Lord just might have something to say about all this.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a good week.
Pastor Lee R. Harder