The Real World

Easter 4 – Acts 20:17-35

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What are you praying for?

On this National Day of Prayer, one cannot help but think of Genesis 22.

Genesis 22 is commonly referred to as The Sacrifice of Isaac.

One can easily imagine that Abraham routinely prayed for a stronger faith in God.  After all, God had really stretched the bounds of Abraham’s comfort zone, taking him from his father’s house and having him wander around, sometimes aimlessly, in search of this Promised Land that God would give him.

Abraham surely would have prayed for faith when God pointed to the stars of heaven and told him that he, childless Abraham, would have more descendants than these.  Abraham surely prayed for faith as the years passed by and he and Sarah grew older and ever more barren.

On this National Day of Prayer, people are surely praying for all sorts of things, many of them indeed good and beneficial things.  But there is often a disconnect between how we pray for things and how God answers those prayers.

Abraham’s prayer for greater faith was answered in the command to go and sacrifice Isaac.  Now don’t get me wrong, what better way to strengthen your faith in God than to take the son you have long prayed for and sacrifice him and see how God provides for all those descendants now, without an actual descendant.

Yet this was surely not how Abraham envisioned God answering his prayer; and one can only imagine the heartache, when Isaac asks in verse 7: Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

Abraham gets his prayer answered: his faith was strengthened; just not in the fashion he may have wished.

So on this National Day of Prayer, are you ready for the answers to your prayers that God may give?

If you pray for God to strengthen the faith of the believers in this country, are you prepared for God to bring the nation to its knees in an effort to turn hearts toward Him?

If you pray for God to raise up strong and faithful voices to defend life and natural marriage; are you prepared to be that voice, that must endure mock and ridicule?

If you pray for God to correct the many wrongs in society, are you prepared to endure the suffering that such repentance would require?

If you pray for God to tear down the idols that are in front of your eyes, are you prepared to drink the bitter water that their ashes are mixed with?

If you pray to the Lord for anything on this National Day of Prayer, are you prepared, like Abraham, to endure the answer to your prayer?

Because in the end, Abraham definitely had stronger faith in God than when he started.

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Recreating Easter

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

May, 2019

St. John 20:19-31, records Jesus appearing to the disciples, first without Thomas, and then with Thomas present 8 days later.  As far as we know, there are no appearances recorded during the eight days between the two mentioned here.

Thomas is of course famous for doubting the reports of the 10 who tell him they have seen Jesus alive.  And of course, Thomas has good reason for doubting those reports; after all, he saw Jesus die.  Thomas has never seen someone who was dead come back to life, except when Jesus brought them back, and now that Jesus is dead, how do you bring Him back to life?

One can picture this argument going on for the entire week: the disciples insisting on one hand that they have seen Jesus alive; and Thomas insisting on the other hand that unless he places his hands in the holes in Jesus hands, feet, and side, he will never believe.

How do you prove something like the resurrection?  About the only way for the disciples is to literally show Thomas that Jesus is alive, to literally have Jesus stand in front of Thomas and show him the holes in His hands, feet and side.

But how do you do that?  How do you recreate a moment?

Does everyone need to stand in the exact same place as before?  Wear the same clothes?  Say the same words?  How do you make something happen again?

Perhaps you asked yourself that question today.  April 21 was Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord.  That Sunday seemed special.  That Sunday there was a big meal.  That Sunday everyone was in their finest dress.  That Sunday, there were some extra people in worship.  That Sunday, stores were closed as the whole world seemed to stop for this celebration.

What about today?

Does today meet the levels of Easter Sunday?  There is no big meal.  There are no new clothes being worn for the first time.  The extra people are gone.  The world is bustling about as though it were just an ordinary day, because it is.  Even the alleluias that were so fresh and joyous Easter Sunday, now seem stale and old, much like the candy left in those Easter baskets.

How do you recreate that special moment again?

The calendar says that it is still Easter; it will in fact be Easter until the beginning of June.  Easter hymns and processionals and the Christ is risen greeting, for another 6 weeks, but it will never match Easter day, at least based on our emotions.

But thanks be to God that our emotions have nothing to do with the validity or the celebration of Easter.  It is Easter not because of the food or the clothes or the number of people who show up for church on a given Sunday, it is Easter because Christ Jesus has risen from the dead, never to die again.

It is Easter because of Christ, and His victory over death and the grave; and it is Easter whether you are in a massive church with thousands in attendance, or if you are in a small house church with only a few in attendance.  It is Easter whether you are sitting down to a massive feast after the service, or if you are sitting down and eating a can of soup and a box of macaroni and cheese.  It is Easter whether you are in a brand new suit straight off the rack at the store, or if you are dressed in a potato sack.

If you really want to recreate Easter, there is actually one place you can do it though, one place where you can recreate the whole experience: at the Lord’s Supper, where we gather to feast upon the flesh and blood of our resurrected Lord, who comes to us and shares with us the fruits of His victory.

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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Unplanned

Saturday, opening weekend, I went and saw the movie Unplanned, in a theater that was surprisingly full, and perhaps not so surprisingly, made up of a mixture of mostly senior citizens and teenage girls.

Much has been said about the movie; particularly its R rating.  What follows, are my own thoughts.

I found the movie, and the book which I finished reading at midnight on Friday, to be particularly well done, and also particularly personal.  And in many ways, I felt I could relate to Abby Johnson, even though as I have been alerted to many times in an internet discussion concerning the movie, my anatomical make up does not allow me to carry a child, or to actually be faced with the decision of having an abortion.

Abby Johnson’s story starts as a college junior at a career fair, where she meets a Planned Parenthood representative, who convinces her to volunteer at Planned Parenthood.  The story continues over the course of several years, with Abby following along with the Planned Parenthood mantra that abortion is necessary, and that their goal is safe, legal, and rare.  Abby believes all of this, and by her own admission, is rather naïve and gullible.

And that is where I come in, and perhaps most people as well.  The media, the government, Planned Parenthood, and countless others prey on that misinformation.  Growing up, right until I was in Seminary, I was indifferent at best on abortion, because I was blind to what was going on.  I believed the arguments of how bringing unwanted children into homes of unprepared parents was wrong.  I believed that sick children should be aborted, because their lives would be miserable anyway.  I believed that abortion was safe; that it was being done in only extreme cases; and that after all, it was legal, and if it was legal, it must be ok.

Like Abby Johnson, I was naïve.  I was left out in the open, where I would one day be cast down and shown the truth of what abortion truly is: murder.

For me, it was in a Seminary classroom, watching a video, hearing from women who had undergone abortions, and the gruesome way in which it was carried out; the babies butchered like animals, and then sucked out with a vacuum.  A friend recounted later how he had to assist a vet with such a procedure on a calf stuck in a cow, and how even that was dreadful for all involved; how much more so on a child?

You can say Abby Johnson should have known better working for Planned Parenthood; and maybe she should have.  I was a Seminary student preparing to join the Ministry of a church body that was unapologetically pro-life, and I should have known better.  One day, a whole lot of people will admit that they should have known better too.

Unplanned shows the lie that the safe, legal, and rare argument truly is.  It is definitely not safe for the child, and this movie proves that the mothers are not safe either.  It is hardly rare; Johnson recounts how the clinic she oversaw did 40 surgical abortions on a typical Saturday, and gave out who knows how many pills for a chemical abortion.  That is common, not rare.  And while it may be legal, the question should be asked, why?

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer showed essentially what a back-ally abortion clinic would look like; a dump, filled with cats, and garbage.  Ironically, during the trial the ‘good abortion doctor’ was put on the stand to show the contrast to Gosnell’s clinic.  The clinic in Unplanned is spotless; and yet the result is exactly the same: children are murdered, and women are left scarred physically and emotionally.

There is one other thing that Unplanned shows; and it again relates to my own time at Seminary.  Every Saturday, a group would meet early in the morning, about 100 yards from my dorm room, and go the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic and pray for an hour.  I never went; I wish I had.  Unplanned shows that prayer works, maybe not always immediately in the case of the mothers going inside, but in the case of Abby Johnson, and countless others who work in these slaughterhouses, prayer works in opening their eyes to what is going on.

May we all join in prayer, that one day the eyes of all America, will be opened to the horror that abortion truly is.

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Minimalism & The First Article

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

April, 2019

One of the latest trends in the world is minimalism.  Curious about what this was, I picked up a new book on minimalism called The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker, to see what it was all about, and because like most people, it would not hurt if I got rid of a few things.

To start with, the minimalism I knew was what so often appeared on my Facebook feed, where you throw everything out and only keep the things you absolutely need.  One principle is that if there are only 2 people living in the house, all you need are 2 plates, 2 forks and 2 knives, and likewise only 2 chairs.  You keep the absolute minimum of what you need, and no more.

That is certainly one way to go about it; but when we think about minimalism and when we think about hoarding, we always go to the extremes.  The minimalist home is completely empty; and the home of the hoarder is filled with stuff.

Minimalism, just like hoarding, can be sinful.  Anything can be made into an idol, and just as keeping everything you’ve ever come into contact with is sinful, so too is throwing everything out and only keeping the bare essentials.  To only have enough for what is in front of you, removes any and all efforts of helping your neighbor who is in need, or of gathering together as Christians in a spirit of fellowship for the building up of the body of Christ.  If all you have is the absolute bare minimum, you are removing yourself from any and all opportunities to participate in the body of Christ.

We should also recognize that material goods are First Article gifts given to us by God the Father for life in this world.  Now you may not need 12 of everything, but there is nothing that forbids you from owning possessions either; just so long as they do not become idols that distract you from the true Word of God.

It has long amazed me as I have sat in some homes, that years ago, there were upwards of 6 people living in a house that now only holds 2 people.  As Americans, we have filled our homes with stuff; and that stuff has consequences of what else can go into a home.  Televisions, computers, even bookcases all take up space, and if something fills a void, that means that space cannot be filled with something else.

So what have I learned about minimalism?  Well, Becker is actually an Evangelical Christian, and while he never mentions the First Article, the evidence is clear.  He says you can own stuff, you can keep all the stuff you want, but ask yourself why are you keeping it?  In one chapter on the living room, he says that your home should reflect, even confess who you are to others who come to see you.  What will people say when they enter your house?  Is your faith reflected in your home?

Another chapter on the dining room emphasizes how eating together is where family bonds are built and strengthened; and how this happens so much easier at a table that is not covered with ten other things that distract or prohibit the family from eating together.  The office likewise allows for more work to be done when it is not cluttered with so many other things.

I’ve kept some stuff for years, and yet I’ve never looked at it other than to decide I need to keep it in a box a little longer.  All well and good; but one day I need to admit that I should get rid of it; and that it is taking up space that could be used by something else.

Minimalism is interesting; and somedays it is tempting to just throw everything out.  But what remains must be in confession of who and what you are today, no matter how many First Article gifts you can fit into your home.

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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Crying over spilled Jerusalem

Lent 2 – St. Luke 13:31-35

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The Lenten Fast

Lent 1 – St. Luke 4:1-13

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