Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Jesus Fooled the World

Sidney Herald religion column published November 30, 2014

Messiah is a person foretold in Hebrew prophesies. The prophets spoke during more than 1000 years. Each added specifics to who Messiah would be.

To fool the world, all Jesus had to do was fulfill a few hundred prophesies. Let’s look at a sample.

Jesus was choosy about his parents, to make himself a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David.

He was fussy about the year he was born, the one foretold by Daniel.

He was picky about where he was born, the little town of Bethlehem, population 500-600, smaller than Culbertson. He had the Roman Empire slap on a tax at the right time to drive Joseph and Mary there when he would be delivered. That placed him among one to two dozen boys born there per year.

He hired the wise men who visited from the east through a temp agency. He ordered his own star in the sky marking his birthplace from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

A prophet said Messiah would be called out of Egypt. Another said that during his infancy, mothers all around would weep for their dead children. So Jesus enlisted King Herod, in an effort to get rid of Messiah, to kill off all baby boys up to two years old. That drove his mom and dad to flee for safety to Egypt and left mothers all around weeping.

A prophet said Messiah would be called a Nazarene. So after Herod died and the family was returning from Egypt, he talked Joseph and Mary into moving to Nazareth.

Those prophetic fulfillments already narrowed it down to Jesus being the only man in history who could be Messiah, but Jesus was an over achiever. He kept up the act through his life and even after his death.

He got Judas to betray him into death. He fixed the price of betrayal at 30 pieces of silver. He got Judas to throw down the silver pieces in the Temple. He got the Jewish leaders to use the 30 pieces to buy the potter’s field.

Since Jews executed by stoning, the Romans came in handy again. Jesus used their governor, Pontius Pilate, to execute him by crucifixion, as prophesied. Pilate was so accommodating, he executed Jesus with two thieves, and he placed Jesus between the thieves, as foretold.

The soldiers killing Jesus helped him fulfill prophesies surrounding the cross. They gambled for his clothes, offered him gall, pierced his side, and, though ordinarily they would have broken his legs with bats so he would die before the Sabbath started, oddly, they did not break his legs.

Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus’ body in his own tomb, so Messiah, though poor, was buried among the rich.

Why believe Jesus? It’s not the best reason, but one reason is, it’s too much work not to. I don’t have the brain power to refute all these prophesies and fulfillments. This Jesus is the Messiah who has power and authority to forgive your sins, and He’s willing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Focus of Life is "None of the Above"

The focus of life is, "none of the above."

The Pagan and secular worlds say we have three options for emphasis in our lives:

1.  Doing.

2.  Being.

3.  Thinking (or believing).

Which is it? None of the above.

They overlook the fourth option:

4. Receiving.

Yes, receiving.

The Doer is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God creates.

The Father creates us, and He creates the rest of the creation for us. Pagans and secularists say this is too self-centered, but since God is love, He doesn't seem to think it is so self-centered for him to create creation for us, nor for us to be occupied with receiving it. Check out Luther's explanationa> o of the First Article. You'll see it there. God is for you.

God redeems.

The Son becomes incarnate. The Son lays down his life. No one takes it from him. He works blood atonement on the Cross. For whom does He do this? He invites you to say, "for me." In the words of Luther's explanationa> of the Second Article, you can say, "Jesus is my Lord, who has redeemed me ... purchased and won me ... that I m may be His own." God is for you.

God sanctifies.

The Holy Spirit is the holifying, sanctifying, the making-holy Spirit. Holiness is not just an inert attribute or property of the Spirit. The word Holy in the name Holy Spirit says what the Spirit DOESem>. . He makes holy. He calls, He gathers, He enlightens, He sanctifies you, and the whole Christian church on earth. God is for you.

God delivers.

He delivers justification, faith, and regeneration by the Word using watera>. He delivers his true body and blood by the Word using bread and wine. . With the blood received in your mouth, He delivers to you what the blood was shed for, the forgiveness of sins. In the Word and Sacraments, God is Immanuel, God with us, who visits with consolation for sin and joy in salvation. God is for you.

True Worship.

The true worship of God is to receive his gifts.

And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the latreiva [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the latreiva [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, IV.49)


Immerse your life in his gifts, and don't worry, you'll have all the doing, being, and thinking anyone could use. We cannot do, be, or think rightly without his gifts. But mostly, you will have life, and that abundantly and eternally, as a reception by faith of gifts from our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, the God who is for us and gives us his greatest gift: Himself.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

You Are Nominated for the King's Choice Award

Sidney Herald religion column published November 16, 2014
Hollywood royalty. Millions watch them in theatres. More millions watch them when their movies are on television. Still more watch them receiving Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, and People’s Choice Awards. In those pageants, the media rank their glory by what they wear, who their designers are, who does their hair, and who arrives with whom. They are royalty, so they go from glory to glory.

Not so with the King of Kings. Jesus is a strange king. He kept voluntarily hiding his glory. He hid his royal glory by his birth in poverty, life of suffering, crucifixion, and death. In burial, the hiding was complete. To feel the weight of his humiliation in burial, it helps to recall the prominence of his Kingdom in the Gospel.
The Gospel is called the “gospel of the kingdom.” John the Baptist and Jesus announced the kingdom. The Twelve and the Seventy taught the kingdom. Between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus taught the kingdom. He sent out the Apostles to teach the kingdom. The end comes after the kingdom is preached in the whole world.
The Beatitudes begin and end with the kingdom. The kingdom is what most of Jesus’ parables are about. In them, He repeatedly says, “The kingdom is like.” Jesus says to seek the kingdom first. The purpose of being born again is to see the kingdom, and the purpose of being converted is to enter the kingdom.
Jesus entered Jerusalem in the style of a king. He was crucified as King of the Jews. Soldiers mocked him with a crown of thorns. People mocked him, saying if He was a king, He should come down from the cross and save himself. The repenting thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when Christ came into his kingdom.
The hallmark of kingdoms is their glory. In a doxology sometimes added to the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” As King, Jesus was entitled to glory. With the prominence of his Kingdom in the Gospel, we could expect a display of glory. Instead, He was buried in dust.
The Bible pictures dust as the opposite of royal glory. The Lord said to King Jehu, “I lifted you out of the dust and made you ruler over my people Israel.” (1 Kings 16:2) In Hannah’s prayer, she said, “He raises the poor from the dust … to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.” (1 Samuel 2:8)
Instead of going from dust to throne, Jesus went from throne to dust. He buried himself in the grave we deserved, to give us his glory. He “calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12) He is “bringing many sons to glory.” (Hebrews 2:10) In the resurrection they “will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Through the word of his burial, you are nominated for the King’s Choice Award, his gift to you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jesus' Senior Picture Was Not in the Newspaper

Sidney Herald religion column published October 19, 2014

I redesigned my Dad’s ’69 Chevy pickup. From a stop sign on a side street, I pulled into an intersection entering a 4-lane avenue. Wham! I hadn’t seen that car to my left. The officer gave me a date to appear. Wearing my Sunday suit, I walked 20 blocks to court. The judge asked, “How do you plead?” “Guilty.” “Your fine is $40.” In 1970, that was a pile of money for a high school junior. The judge wanted it all, now. I didn’t have it. My imagination conjured severe consequences.

The judge’s laser-targeted eyes shifted from me to something behind me. I looked where the judge looked. My Dad had followed me to court. He had been sitting quietly in the back, but now was coming forward with a check already made out. His love for me was showing.
The next year, our class was supposed to submit our senior pictures to the newspaper. Local businesses sponsored them in the graduation edition. Dad was the manager of a business that was going to sponsor mine. Through neglect, I failed to get my picture to the paper. When the edition came out, Dad was deprived of showing his regard for me. He suffered.

God the Father likes to show that He loves his Only Begotten Son. At Jesus’ baptism, He said so everyone could hear, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In Christ’s transfiguration, the Father said it again and added, “Listen to him.” Jesus always was aware of his Father’s love. (John 11:41-42; 15:9; 17:23-26; Mark 12:6; Luke 20:13)

But in his state of humiliation, Jesus passed through five steps: birth in poverty, life of suffering, crucifixion, death, and burial. In that fifth step, one of the things that made it a humiliation was that the Father's love for him was silenced.

In Psalm 88, Jesus speaks ahead of time about his burial. He said, “Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?” (v 11) It is not declared. The grave silenced the Father’s love. Jesus was deprived the honor of love’s declaration, and the Father was deprived of showing his regard for his Son. They both suffered. Instead of a senior picture in the newspaper, Jesus went to the grave. Burial humiliated Christ because dust hid the Father’s love for him under wrath for our sin. The Psalm says,

I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.
You have laid me in the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,

Derek Kidner says, “There is no sadder prayer in the Psalter.” For our sin, Jesus descended from the bosom of the Father to burial and banishment by his Father. He did this to bring us to his Father. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) Through the burial of Christ when the Father was silent about his love for him, the Father openly declared his love for us. In our burials, we have the hope of the resurrection. Through the humiliation of his body being buried, we shall be raised in glorified bodies.