Greetings to you and yours from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, wishing you the warmest welcome in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you are in our area of Texas, the beautiful hill country, and looking for a church to call your own, then I invite you to St. Paul where we worship every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 AM. We’d love to have you consider us for your spiritual home.
Ever so often I come across something that makes me think, “Well, now I’ve seen everything.” That happens a lot with stuff inside the church as a great many Christians try to secularize the church to make it fit into the world’s image. After all, we just want to get along. When Christians started preaching and teaching that Jesus isn’t the only source of salvation, I thought, you know, that thought “I’ve seen everything.” Well, I was in error. Apparently there’s always somebody willing to step up to the plate and hit a record home run in stupidity. California just did it.
Under a new California law, those who work in health care who use the wrong gender pronoun when referring to a transgender patient could face prison time. The new law, signed last week by California Gov. Jerry Brown, will punish any health care worker who “willfully and repeatedly” does not use the “preferred name or pronouns” of transgender patients. Behind the bill is Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener who argues that no one will face criminal prosecution for using the wrong gender pronoun — even though the bill leaves the possibility open.
The bill states: It shall be unlawful for a long-term care facility or facility staff to take any of the following actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status.
The law states that violations can be punishable by a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars” or “by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both.
Now as a pastor somewhat familiar with how GOD created the universe and all that exists, a student of English who has been referred to as a “wordsmith” denoting some working knowledge of the language, and someone familiar with human anatomy possessing a mirror, a wife of 47 years, three children, two girls and one boy, (oops, I suppose that might be considered gender insensitive) and 10 grandchildren of the usual mixtures, I thought I had a handle on pronouns. As of now I know otherwise.
For my blog today, I do not wish to get into the pronoun discussion on the basis of sexuality, preferred or otherwise, nor to seek debate on the basis of why about 10% of the population of the world (4.1 % in the US) can demand that their lifestyle is to be considered a norm for everyone.
Do I agree that there are shortcomings within the English language? Yes. However, these additions of gender neutral pronouns sound more like gibberish that has not been thoughtfully worked through or an agenda that seeks to establish the LGBT lifestyle as normal. It might be “normal” for the small percentage of the population that deals with it; but, it is not for the rest of the world, nor should it be used as a vehicle to teach our young, vulnerable, impressionable children seeking to create in them something they are not.
Now, if you were to ask me if LGBT persons should be treated with the same respect, love and consideration as everyone else, I would agree. As a pastor, I welcome them into the life of the church to use God’s gifts to them in furthering GOD’S PURPOSE & AGENDA in the great commission. Yet, they, too, fall under the realm of God’s rule, creation, and defining of what is right and wrong. Like for everyone else — that’s ALL PEOPLE — so there can be no doubts, I call sin for what it is sin. Sin also includes sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman, gossiping about anyone at anytime, doing anything that tears down a person’s self-worth and does not build and support them as a child of God to name but a few things that fall in the realm of sinful living. The list is quite endless because we are all guilty of sin. As I tell my students of all ages, we human beings are by nature sinful and unclean. That’s why Jesus came into the world, to pay the price of our sinfulness.
God created us, He made us male and female and placed us in this creation to be its stewards. I won’t deny that the world in its sinful nature has managed to mess things up royally, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to establish the world’s vision of what should be a reality for all. God is still the landlord in charge and those who occupy His holdings had better take it to heart.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless us, everyone.
Greetings for this new week from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, inviting you to celebrate Christ with us every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 AM. In between worship celebrations we offer Christian education for all ages & plenty of refreshments to tide one over. Join us this week.
Let me begin by apologizing. I just might go a little over the top this week, but I have good reason. It seems nobody wants to deal with the topic of sin and that’s not just bad, that’s dangerous. Case in point, apparently the Ten Commandments are no longer to be followed by Christians in today’s modern church. A pastor, Andy Stanley, at a popular Georgia megachurch (I’ll take their word for its popularity since I don’t get out and around much on Sundays.) called North Point Ministries has declared that “Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of the Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He also added, “Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.”
For the record, he has a lot of company in several mainline Christian denominations. There are those Christian denominations, including a Lutheran one, that have declared that the Old Testament scriptures no longer apply to Christians. They are merely a collection of old stories, like fairy tales, to entertain children. Pastor Stanley also has the support of many of his various non-denominational colleagues, both mega and a little more modest, that avoid Old Testament stuff like the plague, especially as it pertains to sin because it might upset the crowds (that and impact contributions).
To all this ignoring, dismissing and voiding of the Old Testament by such brilliant minds like Pastor Stanley’s and the church leaders and theologians of mainline Christian denominations like the ELCA and Methodist Church, among others, I say this: God gives us ALL the right to be stupid, but some of us feel the need to abuse that right. Those who dismiss the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments as no longer applying to our Christian faith, fall into the abusive category.
One could say that Pastor Stanley with his mega church crowd are like so many others that I referenced in last week’s blog when I said how many Christians want to believe in God on their terms, not God’s. We want God to fit our definition. Doing away with the Ten Commandments is precisely what I meant. We find their adherence difficult, challenging and impossible causing us to be guilty of sin. Since we don’t like the thought of our sin, we simply eliminate what we believe to be the cause of our sin.
It doesn’t work that way!
The whole Bible is the inspired Word of God, not just the New Testament. Jesus did not come into the world to discard the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, and replace them with the New or Christian Scriptures. The Old Testament is the account of God building the Hebrew people into a holy and chosen nation from which His Messiah would come into the world. The New Testament is the account of the birth and initial growth of the Christian church from which the message of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus would come to the world. What part of that do persons who call themselves Christian, much less pastors, or Christian denominations as a whole fail to grasp?
Dismissing the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, is heresy. It is a false teaching and Jesus warned us the there would be those, including those inside the church, who would serve the forces of evil, the devil, attempting to diminish the influence of God’s Word for us.
The Law serves the invaluable purpose of making us aware of our desperate need of Gospel’s hope in Christ. The law condemns us because we can’t keep it. We need to know that. Without that knowledge, we will not turn to Christ and the salvation only He makes possible in His death and resurrection. The Law opens us to the power of the Gospel.
Our preaching and teaching as Christians in the pews and pastors in the pulpits MUST count on the balance of Law and Gospel for God’s Word to be understood. The Law is to condemn us and the Gospel in Christ is to save. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
I suggest that these so called authorities on Scripture spend a little more time in God’s Word before they start dismissing portions of it as non-essential. And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a great week.
Greetings for a new week from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, inviting you to consider St. Paul as your spiritual home for worship and growth. We celebrate Christ every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 AM. Check us out with our streaming worship services at our website on www.redroofchurch.org.
In the lull that follows the rush and hectic time of Christmas, I had the chance to relax at home. For me, that includes a recliner, handy beverage, and an old movie on our new large screen TV. One of the movies I chose this time was Cecil B. DeMile’s “Ten Commandments.” I’ve been on an epic kick lately.
Anyway, my favorite scene is when Yul Bryner, playing pharaoh, returns from pursuing the Hebrews where have his army is crushed in the waters of the Red Sea. Confronted by his wife, Nefretiri (this isn’t history folks), when explaining why he has not killed Moses, says, “Because his God is God!” I love that line.
I mention this because many of us need to experience the same kind of reality check that pharaoh did. Far too many Christians want God on their terms and not His. They want to believe the way they want and find God can sometimes be difficult to work with and understand. Here are a few examples I’ve dealt with over the years.
1. In worship — we want it to be an entertaining and painless experience, not instructional that is conditional and demanding.
2. In believing — we believe in Jesus, but we don’t want to exclude others who don’t believe in Him from eternity. In other words, I’m okay and you’re okay. We’re okay together.
3. In confronting sin — Sin shouldn’t bother us or be an issue since we are all saved.
There are more examples, but I hope you get the point. It’s as if we Christians have never read a word from the Bible because these notions are not biblical. What they are is us defining how God should act. Bad move!
The Christian faith lays out some definite specifics as to how God works. I’m not talking about the man made church stuff that can and does frequently get in the way of our relationship with God. That’s religion. I’m more concerned about the faith stuff. You know, the God stuff, the stuff about Jesus from Jesus as it is revealed in Scripture.
I would be the first to admit, there’s a lot of stuff about God, the way He works, the things He has, is and will do that I do not understand and probably never will. However, there is a lot that is crystal clear when defining a relationship with Him. For the Christian the path is Jesus, period. That is the path I choose to walk, aided and guided by the Spirit. When I fall off (and I do fall off) I believe that God will help to get me back on the path. The rest, other belief systems, what God will do in the future, and a whole lot more, I don’t have a clue about and am content not to understand unless He decides to make something clear. I leave it all in God’s more than capable hands. I have tried to stop putting my agenda for God before His. I’m more than willing to let God be God because He is God and I’m not. More of us need to learn that lesson.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless. Hope to see you next week.
Merry Christmas! And yes, it’s still Christmas until January 6th. So, Merry Christmas! Oh, and let me add a hearty Happy New Year. Lee Harder, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bulverde, Texas wishing you greetings for a new year.
Before I launch into our first Blog of 2019, let me invite you to join us this January 6th, Epiphany Sunday, as we return to our regular schedule of worship celebrations at 8:30 AM (traditional) in our sanctuary and 10:45 AM (contemporary) in our Christian Faith Center. In between these celebrations, we have refreshments of coffee, lemonade and sweet rolls along with Christian education opportunities for ALL ages. We would very much like you to join us.
With New Year’s Day only hours away (from the time of writing this blog) I suspect one or two of us have made some New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know what it is about starting a new year, but we have a desire to better ourselves. So, we make conscious decisions to improve our lot in life.
1) We’ll eat better.
2) We’ll exercise more.
3) We’ll save more.
4) We’ll spend more time as a family.
5) We’ll go to church more.
(Naturally this last one is a favorite for pastor to hear.)
I personally am falling into point number two. I am getting a piece of exercise equipment (another one) — a walking treadmill — that will support my weight. As noted, I have other pieces of equipment, but they rest in rooms where I must go off by myself to exercise offering no real incentive and no social contact. With this walking treadmill, I’ve talked Karen (no small feat requiring firm commitment and agreements of consequences with failure to use by myself) into having it set up in the family room near the kitchen. I can walk and watch TV or work in the kitchen at the same time with our girls (our two Goldens) and Karen close at hand. My hope is that this will inspire me (along with my promises to Karen) to begin and maintain some kind of exercise regiment. Besides, my cardiologist has done such a great job in fixing my heart, it would be a shame not to try to keep his handiwork in good shape. So, I’ll try my best.
It’s funny, though, how many of us make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, only to fail to keep them. I’ve made them before and broken them. You, too? What makes it so hard, what really challenges us, is the ability to break bad habits. We are reluctant to do so.
The experts say if a person does something 21 times in succession, it will become a habit. But, 21 times? How come the bad habits come so easily? I mean, once or twice and we have it nailed.
I can’t speak to the other resolutions, but I can speak to the one about church or more precisely a better relationship with God.
Having a relationship with God in His church is a good thing. We know that. One hour on Sunday morning as a minimum, isn’t really too great a demand. Few would deny that. However, as many declare, having a relationship with God doesn’t require going to church. A person can pray and believe without church attendance, which is true. That’s not why we make church worship part of a healthy regiment. (Yes, we need to be spiritually healthy, too.) Worshiping with other believers enriches us in ways that worshiping alone cannot.
Yes, we can read and seek to interpret God’s Word from Scripture as we apply it to our lives, but that’s not the same as a sermon (even a mediocre one) that tries to expand our understanding of a text with others.
Yes, we will be surrounded by sinners, and probably a few hypocrites too (like ourselves) who are also seeking a healthy spiritual lifestyle. We can learn from and be enriched by fellow believers which is impossible in seclusion on our own.
Yes, there is a power that is evident when people engage in worship of God as a community together as opposed to being alone with God. It isn’t tangible, but it is real and rewarding.
My suggestion and recommendation for this New Year is that if [IF, mind you] you make a New Year’s resolution, you try to live by it a dozen times. 21 seems an impossible goal. For 12 days, I will walk at least 10 minutes, twice a day. Maybe, I can work up to 15 minutes. One step at a time.
If you want to start worshiping as a family and develop or enhance or begin a relationship with God in the church setting, then pick a certain Sunday and go. Don’t let any other activity, event or excuse prevent you. If after going, you weren’t turned away, publicly embarrassed or totally uncomfortable, pick another Sunday and go again. As a pastor, a sinner, a believer and a preacher — I will try to do my part and make worship as interesting and rewarding as possible. We need you there. You need you there!
It’s a resolution worth keeping, but then all the good ones really are, if only we would. Maybe, I’ll see you at church this weekend.
And those are my thoughts.
Pastor Lee R. Harder