The past few days, I’ve been working on a variety of subjects all geared for the season of Lent. It starts on Wednesday, March 6th, which liturgical churches, such as St. Paul, know as Ash Wednesday. To my surprise, I’m beginning to learn there are many Christian churches, including some mainline denominational ones, that don’t have the same appreciation or awareness for what the church seasons, like Lent, are all about. It’s as if with the move in Christendom to be more socially relevant, old church stuff like seasons (except, of course, Christmas and Easter which tend to be seen as days and not the seasons they are) don’t matter any more. Too bad, it’s losing out on something very valuable when it comes to understanding our Lord Jesus.
For this reason, the seasons (well, at least half of them) focus on the life of Christ. The church year begins in late November or early December with the season of Advent, an exciting, anxious time of getting ready for Christmas (both the day and the SEASON — 12 days in number — you know, like the song). Christmas and Jesus coming into the world moves into Epiphany revealing who He came for — everybody. Those plucky, non-Jewish, Gentile type wise men who were the first to worship the newborn Savior prove that truth.
The Epiphany season makes way for the season of Lent, a time of penitential preparation for Jesus’ journey to the cross and our forgiveness of sin. This first half of the church year culminates with the joyous and glorious celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning which starts the season of Easter for the next seven weeks. The rest of the church year is Pentecost with the Holy Spirit coming into the world and the building and growing of the Christian Church from its early beginnings.
So, what’s the big deal? Why should it matter? It’s a relic of the old church and I suppose it is. Yet, I think it offers the Christian, and the one searching for a solid spiritual home, the chance to see an over all picture of our Lord’s work, which is still going on. As a pastor and a preacher, I would admit there are times it would be nice to ignore some of the seasonally assigned texts from the Bible. I mean, some of those lessons are real “hummers” in the “how do I explain this” department. Yet, to avoid them means I don’t grow as a Christian or a preacher. It sure isn’t going to help the person in the pew wrestling with God’s Word who might find a little insight beneficial.
Maybe, just maybe, if we took a more seasonally, old church view, of the church year we might be able to see and celebrate, understand and appreciate that days like Christmas and Easter are more than one shot wonders. They are the book ends of God’s Word in the flesh, Jesus Christ, restoring us to a loving relationship which had been broken by sin. That might be worth it.
And those are my thoughts.
Welcome to our blog for this week of February 17th. I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day with your favorite valentines. I’m Lee Harder, the senor pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. We celebrate Christ in worship every Sunday at 8:30 AM and 10:45 AM. If you can’t stop by, then please check out our streamed worship instead. St. Paul just might have what you’re looking for in a spiritual home. Come see us and find out.
Since the middle of January, we have been in a spiritual campaign as an exercise program to strengthen the heart of a believer. We’re trying to come to the realization that there are dark forces at work in the world that seek to silence God’s Word of hope in Jesus Christ. That truth took on a new reality this past week.
Apparently, several months ago a former Muslim, who has become a Christian and trained to serve as a pastor currently leading a congregation elsewhere in the nation, was arrested in Minnesota’s Mall of America. Here in his own words are the events that transpired.
I was speaking at a church yesterday in Minneapolis, Minnesota and after the church one of the pastors and his son took me to the Mall of America. We randomly ran into some Muslims and we began a casual conversation. They asked me where I’m from and I told them, Iran. The conversation led to whether I’m a Muslim or not and I said I used to be a Muslim but I converted to Christianity. They asked me why? What happened? Why did you change? I told them after I heard that Jesus died for me and rose again, I gave my heart to him. And I was giving them my testimony. Another Muslim lady who was hearing us went and told the security that, “I’m harassing them.” The security came and arrested me, filed a report and the police came and took me to jail. I was charged with “illegal soliciting” and “criminal trespassing.” I need to appear in court sometime soon.
This event happening scares me in ways I haven’t been before. As a Christian and a pastor, I am only too aware of the painful truth and reality that Christians are no longer, how shall I put it, “The flavor of the month.” We are seeing the Christian faith, an integral part of the foundation of who we are as a nation and a people, being discarded which is sad enough. The Christian faith has been locked out our schools, the marketplace and the halls of justice; but, of greater concern is how other belief systems are being not just tolerated, (as they should be in our free nation) but embraced with enthusiastic acceptance where Christianity is not.
I truly believe God has blessed this country so richly as a Christian nation for a reason. We are to be an example of freedom and liberty for all regardless of creed or race. While we are far from perfect, by any means, we still are a model that the world could pattern itself after in generosity, freedom and compassion, despite our flaws which we do not deny, but seek to outgrow.
Yet, now there seems a concerted effort to silence who we are as believers in Jesus Christ. I have heard examples of pastors in Canada who have been silenced in their pulpits because of threats that their sermons can be considered “hate speech” because God’s Word runs contrary to current public standards of correctness. It would not surprise me if such would eventually happen here with current political and social trends. Now arresting a pastor because he is witnessing, not proselytizing or evangelizing, but sharing how he became a Christian to some Muslims who asked him how and why seems just wrong?
I continue to be shocked and dismayed when I see and hear how Christians are being attacked and ostracized from different elements of our culture because they are Christian. I am angered and enraged when I see people, especially leaders within the Christian community, treating forces that threaten our faith and the freedom of this nation as acceptable and equal in status to the Lord they confess.
Here’s where I stand concerning these outside forces. We do not worship the same God, but I accept every one’s right, in this free nation, to worship a god or deity any way they want. I expect the same from them in this free America. This is especially true of those who have the responsibility and duty to protect those rights. We all have freedom of speech and of worship as we see fit, regardless of our religion or faith. From a Christian perspective, acknowledging Jesus is not the same as believing in Him for our salvation, but we will respect another’s right to choose a different path. Every Christian should know that truth and act accordingly.
The church has been persecuted before, it is now and will be again in the future. However, I also know and believe it will never be destroyed or silenced because it is the body of Christ. It is His church, not ours. He is in control as these others continually discover to their regret. Fear not for He is with us.
And those are my thoughts. God bless us everyone!
I wish I could greet you with joy in my heart. I can’t. I will invite you to be a part of a family of believers that hold life sacred & humble ourselves before our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. We have worship celebrations every Sunday at 8:30 AM & 10:45 AM and you are welcomed to join us. I make this promise: You WILL hear God’s Word preached without compromise and that word does not condone or tolerate the murder of unborn children.
As I drove to church this morning I was dumb struck with the news that the state of New York has passed a law that…Well, let me quote — The law allows abortions to be performed by non-doctors up until the point of birth for many reasons. They actually cheered when it passed. It seems this same law will find its way into other states very quickly.
The murder of unborn children, children who have been conceived and grown within their mother for nine months, children who could survive and thrive outside the womb, is now acceptable in our society & heralded as wonderful news by the progressive left and the vile forces that pay them homage — the leftist media, the democratic party, the feminist movement, and more. Normally, I refrain from political statements about a party one way or the other, but on this subject I cannot be silent. Those who have taken the murder of unborn children to new, absurd levels have forced me, for the sake of personal conscience, to take a stand. I know, it’s all about the woman’s right to choose & control her own body. I get that.
I recognize I’m a man and know nothing. However, if a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body involving a pregnancy (and I believe she has), then explain why she doesn’t make the CHOICE not to get pregnant in the first place. Put aside the extreme circumstances where a pregnancy is the result of a violent act and let’s focus on willingly getting pregnant. YOU DON’T HAVE TO. For crying out loud, my teenage granddaughters can get all the birth control aids of all sorts for nothing, just ask. Some of them are not that old, but that doesn’t seem to matter to our modern schools. They will hand out birth control stuff just for the asking and mom and dad don’t have to know. For a woman, regardless of color, try saying “No!” If that’s not possible, for whatever reason including lust, then I say “You made your choice.” But there are still options. If you find yourself pregnant, which shouldn’t take that many weeks to figure out (if it does, you really aren’t smart enough to be a parent), seek out one of the countless free abortion clinics available, if you must. After all, isn’t that one of the benefits of tax payer supported places like Planned Parenthood?
However, if you feel you can have an abortion after nine months of carrying this child (Yes, it is a child.) then, please don’t kill it. Someone else will gladly take on the burden of responsibility you were too incapable or unwilling or too cowardly to do. Make a good choice!
Our nation is no longer sliding down the slippery slope to destruction. It has arrived when it is legal and acceptable in the name of choice and women’s rights to murder the unborn. You want proof it’s that bad. Check out the Animal Planet and the pet police. Persons who abuse and cause injury and death to a dog or cat will receive more punishment and condemnation in the state of New York than someone who seeks to have or performs an abortion of a child ready to come into the world as a real human being after nine months in the womb. That’s pathetic.
And those are my thoughts. May God bless us and have mercy on us.
Grace and peace to you and yours from the great folks of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, and I invite you to come to worship with us live and in person or via our website where we offer a live stream of our traditional and our contemporary worship celebrations. Join us at 8:30 AM or 10:45 AM and celebrate the Word of God in Christ Jesus.
It’s Monday morning, my day off according to rumors. On TV, TCM is showing 2001: A Space Odyssey — they’re walking down the ramp to the monolith on the moon right now. I usually write my blog on Mondays, even if I don’t record and upload it until Thursday or Friday. As I struggle for this week’s topic, I find it amusing to think that such an old movie, one made back in the late sixties (about 60 years ago), still packs a punch in what it reveals and contemplates. And why not! Old doesn’t mean the absence of dynamics, value or substance. I’d stack the multiple, thought provoking messages and the methods of presenting them in this old Syfy movie (which was a ground breaker in its day that still challenges today’s high-tech, computer generated new stuff) against most of our modern equivalents. Why am I mentioning the qualities of “old stuff”? For two reasons. (I have a feeling I should have phrased that better, but we’ll see when I let Karen see it.)
Karen, my better half for the last 47 years of marriage (not counting those before) and I just celebrated her birthday last week. I refuse to mention years since I do not yet have a death wish. We’ve shared our years together for what many today would consider a long time. Yet, I would triple it and still find it too few. Sure, the years have left their mark on both of us, but I look at her and still see the woman wearing the yellow, long-sleeved blouse, white jeans, blowing long dark hair and sunglasses sitting in the back of the boat or that athletic young woman exercising in our first home. They are two pictures I have etched into my memory and can view faster than any cell phone or computer can display. I love my wife more today than ever.
The second reason is the Bible/Church stuff that seems to have less and less importance in the lives of many who call themselves Christian. Even the Church and so much of its intellectual leadership wants to modernize our relationship with God. I see God’s Word and the basic tenants of what we believe in the same way as I see my beautiful and much needed and desired wife, Karen. I can’t live without it.
If we love someone or a special relationship, truly love, then that love becomes richer and deeper, more meaningful and precious the longer we live and the older we get. I cannot, will not, think of my life without Karen. Yet, as important as her being with me is to my existence, even it pales next to my desperate need for the love of my Lord. I dare not, could not contemplate life without all He has done, is doing and promising to continue to do in the future.
I still see my relationship with God having the simplicity and purity, the assuring confidence of those Sunday school stories of my past or the trust of my youth knowing “Jesus loves me, this I know.” It may be “old stuff” but it possesses a dynamic presence that has no modern equal.
This past Sunday as we entered into our spiritual campaign recognizing that we are at war with evil in this life, I preached on the reality of Satan and how Job remained true to his faith and love of God. At the services, our Melodic Minions sang the old song “This Little Light of Mine.” The line “Don’t let Satan blow it out” with proper actions and sound effects I might add, reminded me that we need to do the same.
Too many of today’s moderns in the church and in the world want to discard or update the “old stuff” (blow it out) because it doesn’t fit their image. I submit: Maybe the problem is with their image and not the “old stuff” they seek to ignore or snuff out. Sure, Karen adds color to her hair every once in a while and I’m trying to lose some weight and eat a little better, but we’re not trying to change who we are. It’s okay to put a new polish to God’s Word so it communicates to more people the message of His love, but not at the cost of His Words of promise, integrity and absolute truth being altered.
I want a God who is beyond my ability to control (like my Karen); who challenges me to be better than I am (like my Karen); and who loves me despite me (Karen again). An awesome God like that doesn’t need changing or improving, just more loving and trusting.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a great week. God is watching.
Pastor Lee R. Harder