October 25, 2009

The Way of Life - Oct 25, 2009

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Do you have any idea how many times the term “Christian” is used in the Bible? This week I was surprised when I found out. What do you think? How many times is “Christian” used in the Bible?

“Christian” or the plural, “Christians” is used only THREE TIMES in the whole Bible. It’s used once in Second Peter, and twice in the book of Acts.

Followers of Jesus were first called Christians in the city of Antioch. Open your Bibles to Acts 11, verse 25.

“25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26 NIV).

You know, the funny thing is, we don’t even know whether this was a name that they chose for themselves, or whether it was a derogatory term that others put on them, “Oh, they’re just a bunch of ‘Christ-ians’”.

Either way, it’s a great name. Christian: one who belongs to Christ. Christian: a person who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the chosen Savior of sinners.

But this wasn’t the first name for Jesus’ followers. There was another title and it was a good one too.

Turn to Acts 9, verse 1. What we’re going to read here takes place before Saul became a follower of Jesus. This is when Saul was still trying to round up the followers of Jesus in order to stamp them out.

“1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NIV).

The term for “Christians” here is “The Way”. What a fitting name. For we all are on a journey. That might sound a little corny, but it’s true. All people, not just us here in this church building, but ALL HUMAN BEINGS in the world are on a journey. That’s what the Greek word “hodos” means: a road, way or journey.

All people are headed down one road or another towards some final destination.

But Christians are on the road of Jesus. A Way that is not obvious. A Way that is in some ways very narrow and restrictive. A Way that is not heavily travelled.

The Way of the Christian faith is the Way of Life. That’s what Jesus is going to talk about today in the Sermon on the Mount. Turn to Matthew 7, verse 13.

“13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

This is the picture that Jesus paints: There is a grand, wide archway. Like an archway cut into a castle wall. It’s huge. And this huge archway stretches over a grand, wide road. A six lane highway of sorts. And this roadway stretches out to the horizon, where it drops off a cliff into the abyss of hell. This roadway is filled with travelers. There is plenty of space for everyone, but the road is full of people. All of them shuffling steadily down the road like lemmings.

But off to the side, set in the wall, there is a small door. It’s about the size of a man. It’s unobtrusive and easily missed. It’s almost hidden by its simplicity. Unlike the huge archway, this door must be pointed out to travelers or they will miss it altogether. Which would be tragic indeed, for behind this little door is a way, which though it may be narrow, leads to the very throne room of the Creator God. This way leads to heaven. These are the two Ways that Jesus describes.

So, what is this small gate? What is this narrow road? It is Jesus Christ. The small gate is Jesus Christ. The narrow road is Jesus Christ.

The Turn to John 10, verse 7. Here Jesus says…

“…“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:7-10 NIV).

Jesus also calls Himself “the Way”. Turn to John 14 verse 6.

“6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV).

Jesus is the Way of life. He is the Way to heaven. But like the little door in His parable, this fact is not obvious. This truth doesn’t come naturally to the minds of sinful people like you and me and everyone else. This truth has to be revealed by God. God uses His Bible to do that revealing. The Holy Spirit speaks to the sinner’s heart through the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

If you were going on vacation to a new place, you wouldn’t pack up the car and start on your way without having a map. Or at least some good directions.

If you were going to meet a friend at Starbucks you would want to tell them which one, and how to get there.

If you want to watch a TV show you have to have directions! Which channel? When?

These things are pretty obvious. Pretty common sense to most people. But when it comes to getting reaching heaven, people are naturally stupid. We naturally figure we can find the way ourselves. But we need directions. The Way must be revealed. For there is ONLY ONE WAY.

A while back I got a Global Positioning System as a gift. This thing is awesome. I just stick it on my windshield and turn it on, and I’ve got an instant navigator to tell me which way to go.

The satellites communicate with this little gadget and give numerous choices for how to get to a location. I can pick the fastest way, the shortest distance, the way that uses most highways or the way that uses least highways.

Usually there are a number of different routes that will get me to my desired destination. But, not always. Sometimes there’s just one dirt road that will bring me to where I’m trying to go.

That’s the way it is with the Way Jesus describes. It’s a restrictive Way, for there is only ONE Savior.

Some religious teachers say that there are many roads to heaven, and it really doesn’t matter which path we pick. That obviously isn’t what Jesus says. And that isn’t what the rest of the Bible says either.

The Way of Jesus says that He suffered Hell on the cross so that sinners wouldn’t have to. All who trust in Jesus ALONE for COMPLETE salvation are forgiven. They are on Jesus’ Way. The Way of Life.

Any faiths that DO NOT look to Christ alone for salvation are not teaching the Way of Life.

There are religions that completely reject Jesus. They are directing people to the broad road.

There are religions that use Jesus’ name, but deny that He is the Son of God and the compete and only Way to heaven. They are directing people to the broad road.

There are people who claim a connection to Christ, but whose hearts do not trust in Him. They are on the broad road.

There are people who claim to be Christians who’s real hope is in their own righteousness. They compare their own lives to the lives of others, and believe that because they’re not as bad as others God will accept them. But God doesn’t grade on a curve. They are on the broad road.

Some people claim that they believe Jesus is their Savior, but live lives which deny Him. Like the practicing homosexual who says, I follow Jesus also. He is on the broad path.

Jesus teaches that all sin is utterly unacceptable. It is damning. But Jesus also teaches, that He is the only Savior. And that He has completely served the sentence for our crimes against God.

The Way of Jesus is as wide and as narrow as His Word teaches.

There are two very sad words in this section of Jesus’ sermon: Many and Few. Let’s read it one more time concentrating on these two words.

“13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

It’s hard to stand alone. There is strength in numbers. But numbers alone do not decide the truth. Jesus says that there are MANY on the road to destruction, but only a FEW on the way of life. But it’s still the way of life.

I mentioned my Global Positioning System earlier. You know, sometimes I don’t even use it to get to a place. I just use it as insurance in case I get lost. If I get lost, all I have to do is turn on the GPS and put in my address.

When this happens, sometimes the directions are not at all what I would have expected. I can see a busy road up ahead. It’s got stop lights and lots of cars. It looks like the road I should be on to get home. But the GPS says, turn left down this alleyway. And then turn left again because your going the completely wrong way.

Sometimes the obvious way is the wrong way. The road with the most people on it, leads away from home. But it doesn’t matter to me what the road looks like when I know the GPS is leading me home. I know it’s the right way, even if there’s hardly anyone else on it.

Sadly, the Way of Jesus is the road less traveled. But it is not God’s fault that only a few find it. Satan would love you and me to blame God for this, when instead we should rejoice that God has taken us from the broad road and placed us on the Way of Jesus by faith in Jesus.

Instead of being saddened by the few travelers, let’s be thankful that we are among them. And let’s direct others to that small door, that narrow way. For it may be small and narrow, but it leads to life. And let me tell you, life’s not all about the journey, it’s really about the destination.

Imagine for a second how this might have sounded to Jesus’ listeners. To the Jewish people crowded on the hillside around Him. To the Pharisees who put so much stock in the consensus of opinion among their scholars. To the little band of disciples sitting at His feet. Might they have had doubts about Jesus? I’m sure they did. Perhaps some of those doubts huddled around numbers. There were so few of them. They were the only people in the world that believed Jesus was the Savior. Maybe they were wrong. Could they really think the whole world was wrong and they were the only ones who got it right?

But Jesus said it. Enter through the narrow gate... small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

It’s not the number of people who testify to it that matters. It’s the Holy Spirit that testifies with them saying, this is true.

And the same comfort comes to us today, so far away in time from this Sermon. We have doubts too, don’t we. Most of the world says the Bible isn’t to be trusted. Most of the world says Jesus is not God. We’re part of a small group of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior. Is the whole world wrong and we’re on the way of life?

That’s what Jesus says.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for taking us off of the broad road which leads to eternal destruction. Thank you for calling us by the Good News of Jesus. Thank you for washing our sins away completely through His Sacrifice. Thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit so that we can believe this precious thing. Guard our walking on Jesus’ Way, so that we NEVER put our hope or trust or sense of worth in our own lives and actions, but let our everything be Jesus. To whom we belong. To whom we owe everything.

And help us to be joyful followers Jesus. Help us to be filled with light and happiness because we remember our failings are erased. Our sins are forgiven. Our souls are cleansed. And help us to joyfully get the attention of those who still walk on the broad path. An by our message and Your Spirit make them our brothers and sisters.


The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

October 18, 2009

The Christian Life - Oct 18, 2009

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Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Risen and Living Savior, Jesus Christ.

We just sang hymn 454 from The Lutheran Hymnal. In the fifth verse of that hymn we sang…

“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath”

The point isn’t that a person has to pray in order to become a Christian. The point is that prayer is an ongoing part of a Christian’s life. It’s as much a part of spiritual life as breathing is a part of physical life.

Jesus talks about the Christian’s life of prayer in our reading for today. Open your Bibles to Matthew 7, verse 7. In this part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sums up the life of a Christian. It is a life of trusting God and loving others.

One way a Christian expresses faith is through his constant prayers to God. Another expression of his faith is the way he treats those around him.

Jesus says…

“7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened“ (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV).

Jesus appeals to our common sense. Those who ask, RECEIVE. Those who actually seek what they want, FIND IT. If you want to enter a building and the door is locked, it’s a good idea to KNOCK on that door until someone comes to open it. Jesus tells His disciples, Pray to God like this.

It might be a THING that we’re praying for. It might be an ANSWER to a Bible question that we have. It might what we should do in a certain situation. Whatever it is, Jesus says, talk to your heavenly Father about it. Then, also make an effort to find what you are asking for.

Bible study is a good example. When we read a puzzling verse in the Bible we should ask God to give us the correct understanding of it. But, then we need to listen to Jesus and go further. We need to PICK UP our Bible and read the chapters surrounding the verse in question. We need to read the cross references that connect that verse to other parts of the Bible. We need to ask our brothers and sisters in Christ how they understand this verse. We need to ask our pastors to help us consult the original Hebrew and Greek.

Jesus adds one more thing, Keep on knocking. Keep on returning to God in prayer. Keep on going back to the Bible, expecting an answer, until God opens the door.

A Christian prays persistently because he KNOWS that when his prayer isn’t answered IMMEDIATELY that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care. When we pray persistently we are telling God…

…Hey, I believe in You. You promise that because of Jesus my sins are forgiven and I can approach You as Your own son or daughter.

…I know that You WANT TO BLESS ME, because Jesus died for my sins long before I came to know You. I know that You WANT TO BLESS ME because You sent Your Holy Spirit to ME when I was a unbelieving sinner! You took the time and effort to make me Your own by faith in Your Son.

…Of course I know You want to bless me in this littler thing that I’m praying about. So I’ll wait until you do. I’ll keep praying, until you do.

Persistent, expecting prayer expresses our belief that God’s promise of forgiveness is true, and His love and power are real.

Think about it like this. When a miner believes that there is gold in a mountain, he finds a good place and begins to dig. But if the miner really believes that there is gold to be found there, he digs deeper than two feet. With the first shovel full of dirt the miner ASKS. With the shaft dug deep into the mountainside he SEEKS. And with repeated days, weeks, months of digging he KNOCKS on the mountain’s door.

We know that all good gifts, spiritual or otherwise, come from the God of the Bible. So we knock on His door.

Jesus appeals to common sense again in verse 9. Turn to Matthew 7, verse 9. If God is our Father, than let’s take a look at what fathers do. Jesus says…

“9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV).

My daughter Marnie a very happy child. She flits around like a little beam of sunshine. But the weather of her mood can change very abruptly.

When she was younger she would get terribly upset about the most trivial things. One time I was sitting at the kitchen table when I heard Marnie let out a horrible wail of anguish.

I jumped up and rushed to her room expecting a broken bone or a bleeding cut or some kind of injury. But when I reached the bedroom, there she was, sitting on the floor trying to get a shirt on without unbuttoning ANY of the buttons.

Over and over we would tell her, Honey, settle down. It’s okay. You don’t need to get so frustrated little things like this. All you need to do is ASK FOR HELP.

And her sad little voice would come back: Dad, will you help me?

Dad: Of course I will. Come here.

Brothers and Sisters, don’t get so frustrated. Your heavenly Father is beside you, WANTING TO HELP, WAITING to help. Ask him.

Or how about this one. Ever have a child trying to find something?

Mom, I need my shoes for practice!

Well, did you look in your room?


Thirty seconds later…

Mom, I still can’t find my shoes! I need them for practice!

You didn’t look very hard, you were only in there for thirty seconds!

That’s us sometimes isn’t it?

Heavenly Father I need an answer to this question. It’s very important, but I just don’t know where to find the answer! Help me!

Did you look in the Bible?


Try looking there. And don’t just glance. Dig in and root around in there till you find the answer. My Holy Spirit will help you. And I bet you’ll find some answers you’ll need for tomorrow too.

It’s common sense. He who seeks, finds. So lets make sure that seeking is an ongoing part of our life. Seeking through the Lord’s message to us. Mining the Scriptures. Finding answers for today and gems for tomorrow. Let’s USE the precious gifts that our Heavenly Father has given us. Let’s PRAY! Let’s HEAR His Word!

Turn to Matthew 7, verse 12. Up to this point Jesus has been talking about our relationship with God. Now He changes direction and talks about our relationship with one another. Jesus says…

“12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).

In the Old Testament God gave the Israelite Nation a handy summary of His will. We call that summary the Ten Commandments.

The first part of that summary deals with how God wants us to treat Him (Commandments 1-3). The Second part of that summary deals with how God wants us to treat each other (Commandments 4-10).

Here Jesus takes that second part and condenses it further. He gives His followers an axiom, a rule of thumb, a guide for knowing how to treat each other.: Do to others what you would have them do to you.

Now, if you study other religions you can find statements similar to this “Golden Rule”. Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all have teachings that sound like Jesus’ Golden Rule. But they’re not quite the same.

A famous Rabbi, Rabbi Hillel is quoted as saying, “What is hateful to thyself do not to thy neighbor”. But here’s the difference. Jesus doesn’t say to be REACTIVE. He doesn’t say to wait till someone does something bad to us and then be sure not to do that.

Jesus teaches His followers to PROACTIVE. He says, Think about how you want others to treat you, and then do that to them FIRST!

It’s just like Martin Luther explained the Seventh Commandment. You shall not steal. Sure God doesn’t want us to take what isn’t ours, but there’s more to it than that. God also wants us to, as Luther put it…


As Jesus said in another place,

“…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV).

And here lies the greatest reason why prayer truly IS the Christian’s vital breath. Because we haven’t done either thing. We haven’t loved God with all that we are. We haven’t loved our neighbor as we love ourselves. We have sinned against God’s whole Law, over and over and over.

These sins weigh our hearts with guilt, fill our minds with regret, and make our souls unfit for heaven. But when the Christian feels this unworthiness, he prays: Father, forgive me. Wash away my sin in the blood of Your Son. Without Him, I am lost.

And God hears, and answers that prayer. By His Son’s death on the cross He has put away our sin forever. By His Holy Spirit and through His Word He makes this known to our hearts. He breathes LIFE into the one who trusts His Son.

The Christian life is one of persistent prayer to our loving Father, who teaches us to love others by revealing how much HE loved us. So pray to Your Father in Heaven, for He loves You dearly and wants to bless Your in every way. And love each other as yourself.


The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

October 11, 2009

Bertram J. Naumann Memorial - Oct 11, 2009

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Obituary of Bertram Justus Naumann: (sermon address below)

Bertram Justus Naumann was born on June 19th, 1931, at Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He entered God's kingdom of grace through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism three weeks later, being baptized by his father, the Rev. Paul George Naumann, Pastor of St. Jacobi Ev. Lutheran Church of that city. Bert received his entire education in church-sponsored schools. In May of 1941, when Bert was nine, his father was called to his eternal rest. A few months later the nation was at war. In order to support the family, his mother moved them to New Ulm, Minnesota, where she was employed as a house mother at a girl’s dormitory, Hillcrest Hall. Bert attended St. Paul’s Lutheran school. He was confirmed in the Christian faith on March 25, 1945. He attended high school at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, graduating in 1949. He enrolled at Northwestern College in Watertown, Wisconsin, for one year. He graduated from Concordia Lutheran Junior College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the following year. He completed his pre-theology and entered the seminary at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. It was at Bethany where Bert was to meet his future wife, Alice Marion Dahle, of Emmons, Minnesota. After Bethany, Bert continued his studies at the Wisconsin Synod Seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin, from which he graduated in May of 1957. Bert and Alice were joined in holy wedlock at Lime Creek Lutheran Church in Lake Mills, Iowa, on June 15th of that year. After this, Bert took up his duties at the two church to which he had been called by God: Calvary Lutheran Church of Marquette, Michigan, and St. Paul's Lutheran Church of neighboring Green Garden.

The early years of Bert’s ministry were tumultuous ones in the history of the Synodical Conference. False doctrine had entered the conservative Lutheran church. Teachings concerning the inspiration of Scripture and the origins of the universe were being corrupted and challenged in Lutheran schools, colleges and seminaries, and many resultant loose practices regarding the doctrine of church fellowship threatened the unity that had once existed in the Synodical Conference. Again and again the Wisconsin Synod delayed dealing with the false teachings of the LC-MS, and in the fall of 1959 the two congregations Bert served voted to suspend fellowship with the WELS. A number of other congregations around the US had taken the same action, and Bert began attending meetings of the group then known as the Interim Conference, later in 1960 to be voted its present name: the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Bert was a founding member of this new fellowship.

Bert served in Marquette from July of 1957 until December, 1966, when he accepted a call to Messiah, Milwaukee. He was pastor there through June of 1973, when he was called to Redemption Lutheran Church of Alderwood Manor, WA. He served Redemption for 27 years, retiring in May of 2000.

Bert served his Lord in the public ministry for a total of 43 years. Over that time he saw duty on numerous synod boards and committees, including the Boards of Doctrine and Trustees. He authored the adult instruction course, "Learn From Me," which has been used to instruct thousands of people in the basics of the Christian faith. Bert was always looking for new places to proclaim the Gospel - while in Milwaukee he was instrumental in the establishment of new congregations in Madison and Chicago. After moving to the Pacific Northwest, he had a hand in starting our missions in Ketchikan AK, Vernon BC, and Tacoma WA. Following his retirement, Bert was a faithful member and church officer at Ascension Lutheran of Tacoma. He continued to lend a hand with synodical affairs through active participation in conventions and pastoral conferences. The Pacific Coast Pastoral Conference, particularly, appreciated his wise counsel and steadying hand over the years - the conference that was meeting on the day he died was the first one he ever missed.

After a brief illness, His Lord granted Bert a peaceful death on October 7, 2009, at his home in Puyallup, Washington. His age was 78 years, three months and eighteen days. He was preceded in death by his father, Rev. Paul G. Naumann, his mother, Dora (nee Koehler), brothers Paul and Ben, and granddaughter Jesse. He is survived by Alice, his dear wife of 52 years, sisters Lois Neubauer and Eunice Roehl, children Paul (Carol), Ann (Scott Radcliffe), David (Desirae), Bruce (Paula), Gail (Allen Richardson), Thomas (Jennifer), James (Sheila) and Steven (Eve-Lynn), as well as 31 grandchildren, and many other beloved relatives and friends.

"Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Cor. 15:57.


Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Comforting someone can be difficult. A loved one may come to us in rough shape. We see they need comfort, but we don’t know exactly how to give it. We don’t know what to do or what to say. We want to say SOMETHING, and we want to say the RIGHT thing.

We don’t want our words to be cliché. “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.” Sometimes things aren’t “okay”. Sometimes horrible things happen, and just having a positive outlook isn’t enough.

We don’t want our words of comfort to be empty. When a famous person dies we hear things like, “He will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all who knew and loved him.” If my wife or one of my daughters were to die tomorrow, DON’T comfort me like this. Memories are fine, but they aren’t the person.

When words of comfort can’t be found, people may try to distract their loved ones instead. We might be told, “Don’t dwell on their absence but on all the good times that you had with them.” And there’s some comfort there. Some wisdom. For the Bible tells us to focus on the good, and not on the bad (Philippians 4:8-9). But even the best of distractions are of limited value. We can’t live the rest of our lives walking backward, gazing into the past.

I hope that I haven’t offended anyone here by saying these things. For there is some comfort in these things I’ve mentioned, just not enough.

(Pastor holds up a box of band-aids. Out of it he pulls a very small square one)

If we were to comfort a friend by using these things alone, it’s be like putting this band-aid on an amputated limb. It doesn’t cover much, and can’t do anything to heal the wound.

Full comfort, lasting comfort, for ourselves and for our loved ones can only come through Jesus Christ. That’s what the apostle Paul says to his Christian friends living in Thessalonica.

In First Thessalonians, chapter 4, Paul writes…

13But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The apostle Paul knew the Christians who lived in Thessalonica. He had preached the message of Christ to them.

The book of Acts tells us that when Paul came to Thessalonica he first taught about Jesus in the Jewish synagogue. To the Jewish bible class. And through Paul’s preaching, the Holy Spirit convinced some of the Jews that Jesus was the Savior.

But the majority of the congregation in Thessalonica was made up of Gentiles. Pagan people who had come away from worshipping idols to worship the true God. In Thessalonians chapter one it says…

“…you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Paul was concerned. These new Christians had come from pagan backgrounds. Who knows what kind of superstitious nonsense they still believed. Apparently, some thought that Christians who had died would somehow be left behind when Christ returned.

We know from inscriptions on ancient tombs and from the pagan literature of the day that the pagans viewed death with horror because they believed that it was the END OF EVERYTHING.

Paul didn’t want these people to grieve for Christians who had died as if they would never see them again. So Paul reminds them, that IF Jesus died and rose from the dead, that means that all our friends in Christ who have died in faith WILL BE THERE when Christ returns.

For those who trust in Christ, death is not the end.

Paul talks is absolutely certain that all who trust in Christ are guaranteed a place in heaven.

He DOESN’T say, IF our loved ones HAVE SUFFERED ENOUGH in purgatory so that their sins are all burned away, then they’ll join Jesus on the last day.

Paul DOESN’T say, IF the living have done more good than bad by the time Jesus returns THEN they’ll be accepted by Him. This kind of thinking has NO PLACE in Paul’s message.

For those in Christ, salvation is not in question.

Those in Christ have a sure hope. Not because of anything we have done. We’re sinners just like everyone else in the world. God is holy, and we are anything but. We have taken God’s love and squandered his blessings, and we deserve nothing but suffering now, death later and hell forever. Bert would have agreed.

But Jesus took our sins away when He died on the cross. He suffered in our place and used up the judgment that would have fallen on us. And by faith in Him who died and rose for us, our future has been changed.

That’s why Paul wrote,

“…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b NIV).

That’s why Peter wrote,

“…the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6b NIV).

That’s why Jesus Himself declared,

““I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

The future of those in Christ is secure. That’s why Paul can tell the Thessalonians, exactly what their future will be.

When Jesus descends from heaven. There’s gonna be a lot of noise. Our Christian brothers and sisters will rise from the dead. Then any followers of Christ who are still living will join the newly resurrected to meet Jesus in the air where we’ll begin our eternity with Him.

Because this is the Lord’s Word, our resurrection and reunion with Christ and all our fellow believers is inevitable. This is no BAND-AID, no pie in the sky, no distraction to cover up the horror of death. Christ declares death’s power destroyed. Christ HEALS the deadly wound called sin.

Paul says, comfort one another with these words. So, I’m going to keep it simple today. I’m going to say to you,

…for Bert, death is not the end.

…for Bert, salvation is not in question. We know what He believed and preached throughout His life. His hope of forgiveness and life was in Christ alone.

…for Bert, his resurrection and reunion with Christ is inevitable, and the next Naumann reunion he attends is gonna be something else.

There is sorrow today. We feel it, because we wish that Bert was here, even as we are glad that he is not. But our sorrow is not like that of the pagan world. Our sorrow is temporary, because of Christ.

I’d like to say one more thing. There is a large group of people here, and I do not know you all. In our Bible reading, Paul talks to his fellow Christians. These are Paul’s words of comfort FOR THEM.

Perhaps you do not trust in Christ. If you don’t, know this. He wants you to have this comfort also. For God desires that all people be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth. Jesus died not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. If you are a sinner, then Christ died for you. Trust in Him.


Don't Be Judgmental - Oct 11, 2009

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Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 7:1-6 (NIV)

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

What does it mean to judge? Interestingly enough, the Greek word here means the same exact thing that the English word means. To judge is to say that someone or something is either good or bad. Thumbs up, or thumbs down.

Jesus doesn’t mean that we should never make a judgment about anything. What He is saying is that we should never make a SHALLOW judgment. That’s what He said to the Pharisees. Turn to John 7, verse 24.

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24 NIV).

There are lots of ways that people make shallow judgments about other people. One person might see someone with tattoos so thick on their arms that it looks like sleeves. That person is probably not a good person. Probably spends most of his time in bars and other places of sin. Maybe he does drugs. I certainly wouldn’t want my daughter to go out with THIS kind of guy.

That’s being judgmental. Assuming you know all about a person because of one outward characteristic.

Sometimes we judge people who belong to other churches. We might say, I know that Baptist churches teach that baptism is only a symbol and isn’t for infants at all. They say it’s a something we do for God, not something He does for us. They probably believe this because they think Christianity is all about doing things for God, not trusting in what God did for us. Baptists are not very faithful to God, and certainly not to be trusted.

That’s assuming quite a bit about a person’s faith because of their church connection. That’s judging their whole character without even knowing them. Without even having a conversation with them.

Pastors can be judgmental too. For example, I know that the Bible says that Christians shouldn’t give up meeting with each other. They should gather together to worship God. In the Old Testament God even told the Jews to dedicate one day every week to worshipping Him and hearing His Word.

So, when I see one of our members who I NEVER see at church. I think, they’re not reading their Bible at home. They’re not praying. They’re certainly not growing in faith. I wonder what they really believe? I mean, if they really value Jesus and His forgiveness, then WHERE ARE THEY ON SUNDAY?

But their bad habit doesn’t justify my excessive judgment. I don’t really know all those things about their faith life. One person I asked about this actually said, well yeah, pastor, I am studying the Bible at home. My sister and my brother and me study together over the phone.

Yeah. My judgment of her faith was shallow and wrong. If I’m concerned about someone’s church attendance and what it means, I should talk to them. I should reach out in Christian love and say, how are you doing? How’s your Bible reading going? What about your prayer life? Where do you think you can grow in your relationship with Christ? How can I help you do that? That’s what my response should be, not a shallow, self-righteous judgment.

Now, what this passage doesn’t mean. Lots of people are familiar with this part of the Bible. Well, at least the first part, “Don’t judge”. When a Christian what someone is doing is wrong, the reply comes back, “Who are you to judge me? I thought Christians weren’t supposed to judge? How dare you judge me!”

A response like this means, “You’re not allowed to tell me something is wrong, because that’s judging.”

But like I said earlier, Jesus doesn’t mean that we should never make any judgments of any kind. What he means is that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. We dare not make shallow judgments. We don’t want to be JUDGEMENTAL.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of judgments that we are supposed to make. Turn to Matthew 5, verse 20. Jesus says…

“20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 NIV).

Jesus is judging the faith of the Pharisees! He’s saying, they don’t have any! They think they’re righteous before God because they don’t sin as much as other people. That’s not righteousness before God! Jesus wasn’t being judgmental. He was making a good judgment. He knew what the Pharisees were like.

Jesus doesn’t tell His followers NEVER to make a judgment. Never tell someone, what you’re doing is wrong. That’s the kind of judgment that we should make. Point it out to them and help them.

Another way of looking at judging is this. Judging people is like drawing a circle around someone and saying they’re bad, and I’m good.

That’s what the Pharisees did. They looked at people around them and saw tax collectors and prostitutes and they said, these people are bad. They circled them and said, these people are hopeless. They will never be anything other than damned sinners, so don’t go near them.

Jesus doesn’t want us to do that with people. He doesn’t want us to go, I’m so much better than this other person. They’re a sinner, I’m not because I don’t do what they do. No! That’s now what matters. We’re all sinners. Any sin that you say about someone else, oh, look at them they’re a sinner in this way – you have broken that same commandment.

Turn to Romans 2, verse 1. Paul just got done listing off a bunch of things that godless people do. They’re greedy, envious, murderers, liars, gossips, arrogant, boastful, disobedient to their parents, heartless, ruthless and so on. But then in chapter two Paul turns the finger around and says,

“1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1 NIV).

The same sins we see in the world around us, we can also find in our own hearts and lives. We’re not righteous before God because we’re better than others. We’re not righteous before God because we’re not prostitutes or career criminals. The only reason that you and I are righteous before God is because we are covered with Jesus’ righteousness.

He lived a perfect life to God, so that He could take that life and, through His sacrifice on the cross, offer it to us. Through faith in Jesus we put on His righteousness like a long white coat. THAT is how we are righteous in God’s sight, through faith in Jesus.

Turn to Matthew 7, verse 3. Jesus continues by saying…

“3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV).

This is what the Pharisees were doing to the sinners around them. With the “plank” of their own self-righteousness, they were looking around at everyone else saying, here, let me help you get that sin out of your eye. Here, learn to live your life as good as me and then you’ll be right with God.

But they had the “plank” of self-righteousness in their eye! They weren’t righteous before God! And even if they could convince a prostitute to stop and to live like them, that wouldn’t help at all!

Turn to Matthew 23, verse 15. Here Jesus is laying into the Pharisees. They told everyone, we’ve got the way to heaven and we’ll teach you what you need to do. But all they were teaching was self-righteousness that leads to hell.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15 NIV).

I don’t have to point out that Jesus is judging again, do I?

The Pharisees needed have their self-righteousness removed before they could EVER help anyone else spiritually. They needed to understand they were sinners. They need to see that only Christ could clean them of their sins before God.

With their self-righteous replaced with repentance and faith, THEN they could help others. They could say, Look, I’m a sinner, but in Jesus I am forgiven. I see you have something in your eye, but Jesus can help you with that.

We have to do the same. We have to come to people AFTER we have confessed our sins to God. We have to say, Lord, look, I’m a sinner. I do these things wrong just like they do. I don’t want to do that anymore. Forgive me. Change me.

By faith in Christ that’s what happens. We are made new. We are declared righteous by Christ. Then after repentance and faith, after the plank is out of our eye then we can go to people and say, look, I see you’re sinning. Let me show you how to get rid of that. Let me introduce you to Jesus.

People look at this section about the plank and the speck and they say, what that means is that I can never tell someone they’re doing something wrong unless my life is perfect first.

But it’s not about being perfect before you can reach out to someone else. It’s about being repentance and forgiven by Christ. Then you can turn to other people and say, I had something in my eye, and so do you, let me show you the Man who can take it out.

Turn to Matthew 7, verse 6.

6“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

This last part here kinda seems to come out of nowhere. Jesus was just talking about not judging people and then all the sudden we’ve got dogs, pigs and pearls. So, what’s up here?

There is a definite connection to judging, but before we see that we need to study up on dogs and pigs. If you look through the rest of the Bible for dogs, you’ll find that dogs were considered to be low animals. Incapable of much. They were also disgusting animals. They ate dead things. They had the lovely habit of puking up something and then returning later to eat it again.

Sorry. I know it’s gross, but those are the things that the Bible associates with real dogs. It’s not to hard for us to understand what’s being said when God calls people dogs.

Turn to Revelation chapter 22, verse 14. There John is quoting Jesus. Jesus is describing heaven and those who are locked out of heaven. He says…

“14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:14-15 NIV).

Dogs are people who refuse God and embrace evil instead.

Pigs are pretty easy to understand too. In the Old Testament God told the Jews they were not to eat pork. The pig was to be considered a ceremonially unclean animal. It wallowed in the mud. It was dirty.

Figuratively, pigs and dogs are the same. People who hate God and His Word.

Jesus doesn’t want us to judge people around us as “sinners” who will never change. But there are people we will meet who show their hatred for God and their opposition to anything that comes from Him.

There are times when the Christian must not lay the Good News of Jesus before a person like this. It would be like offering communion wafers to a rabid dog, or trying to put your expensive pearls on a pig. They’ll only make fun of the precious message of Jesus, and they may even turn on the messenger.

Be compassionate. Be forgiving and not judgmental. But don’t be foolish in your personal ministry. Take care of what is sacred and precious, and take care of your self as well. Don’t be a martyr unless that is God’s will for you.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, help me not to condemn and shun people because of some THING they say or do. Even if that thing is a sin. Make me wise and compassionate, enable me to reach out in love – pointing out sin, but also pointing out Your Son who died to take our sins away.

Father, don’t judge me by my sins, for they are many. Instead judge me by Jesus, who’s righteousness covers me by faith. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all our understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

October 4, 2009

Mission Festival - Oct 4, 2009

This week we have a guest speaker, Missionary Matthew Ude. While there is no manuscript version of his message available, you can listen online to him presenting his message to our sister congregation in San Fransisco, CA. To do so, scroll down to find "THE WORD OF CHRIST LEADS US TO SERVE HIM!" after clicking here.

In Christ,
-Pastor Caleb Schaller