June 2019

Forbidden—Not Allowed

“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:6-7).

          We praise God, as the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to “teach (us) all things and bring to (our) remembrance all that (Jesus) has said to (us)” (John 16:26). The Holy Spirit gathers us to receive God’s Law and Gospel. In the Law we are reminded what is forbidden and not allowed, in order that we have life to the full now. In the Gospel we are motivated to adhere to God’s Law and receive life forevermore. As Baptized believers, we have everlasting life now but not yet in its full glory. Forbid us, do not allow us, O Lord, to pursue evil, corrupt, and/or filthy paths in this fallen-in-sin world!

          So, were Paul and his companions, on this Second Missionary Journey, pursuing some sort of evil, corrupt, and/or filthy path? No! As we check the immediate context, we see they desired to “speak the Word” (God’s Word) in Asia and Bithynia (inland north of the Mediterranean Sea, present day northwest Turkey).  As we check the preceding context, we read that “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). Paul and his companions were having success. Now Asia and Bithynia were before them and were a logical place to go. Surely, it seemed, this is where they were to go.

          Nope! They were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” They had been doing God’s work; they were having success; they were full of zeal; but now they were forbidden and not allowed. That would be challenging. Anytime we are forbidden and not allowed, our old man will rise-up to say, “What?” even when we are on a bent path. Yet when we know we are doing the Lord’s work, and we are forbidden and not allowed, we can be confused and frustrated. Help us to draw near to You, dear Lord, at all times, especially when we are forbidden and not allowed. Increase our faith O Lord to trust that You will bring good out of our changed paths

          How were they forbidden/not allowed? This was first century Christianity with visions (Acts 16:9), exorcisms (Acts 16:18), and earthquakes that freed prisoners (Acts 16:25-26). So maybe some direction came through some sort of direct or inner revelation that Luke did not record. Or they may have been forbidden/not allowed due to circumstances of hostility, illness, or the like. You and I can have direct revelation as we hear or read a commandment that we are tempted to transgress. We will have further support of an inner revelation as we memorize the commandments with the “What does this mean?”  interpretation. We also have a variety of circumstances that lead us to analyze the situation: “count the cost” and “deliberate” (Luke 14:28-32) what to do.

          Because they were “forbidden/not allowed,” Paul and his companions were able to be with Lydia, and her household (Acts 16:13-15), and the Philippian jailer, and his family (Acts 16:25-34). Those dear souls received from God through this. The area of Asia and Bithynia did receive the Word at another time. O Lord, keep us steadfast in our duties as You guide, lead, and provide, as well as forbid and not allow us.  

The Lord be with you,               Pastor Sam Wiseman

May 2019

What Do You Think?

          “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

          What do you think? With the above Scripture before us, we pray for God’s revealed Word to keep us on the right track: humbled, and knowing that we will be incomplete, lacking, and/or just plain wrong when we go beyond, or do not accept, what God has said. There are many examples of our thoughts in conflict with God’s Word. There are many diverse teachings, understandings, and interpretations (doctrines), even when we all the use same Word as the source. We are Biblically urged to pursue the behavior of the Bereans who were Divinely complimented: “Now these Jews (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they receive the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

          At a SHINE Preschool chapel in the week following Easter, I had two plastic eggs. One had little stones in it, and the other had popcorn kernels. I asked, “What do you think is inside these eggs?” They said, “Candy.” A logical answer based on their experience. When I opened them, they were disappointed. I explained, “It is good for us to examine things carefully. The rocks are not good for us to eat and the popcorn needs further work.” Some thoughts that I did not share with the preschoolers are that some teachings should be immediately discarded and others are beneficial with further work. That work can be someone experienced with theology furthering our understanding, as we are always mindful that we are in submission to God’s Word.

          The next SHINE Preschool chapel, I had the same two plastic eggs. This time one was empty, showing the great joy of Easter, the empty tomb. The other egg had metal trinkets with a Christian’s response to Easter: “I love Jesus!” When I rattled them and asked “What do you think is inside?” I again heard “Candy,” but others said “No, rocks in one, and popcorn in the other.” I shook one egg at a time. One had no sound, and the other did not sound like rocks or popcorn. One child, perceiving the metallic sound said, “Money.” I complimented them for being observant and applying previous experiences. I finished the lesson proclaiming the joy of Christ’s empty tomb--He is Risen! and our response--He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

          What do you think concerning Scripture? People from almost every walk have some previous exposure. We receive instruction and expect the same truth from all sources. The deceiver, father of lies, Satan, is on the prowl and does his wicked woe in order to have false ideas about what to think circulating among mankind. We are to be careful where we receive our information about God’s Word.

          Let us be persistent in letting God’s plain Word stand as it is presented. Humbly approach Scripture; it is God speaking to us. We are to be submissive to God’s Word, His ways, and His thoughts. We dare not move into a judgment seat as we receive what God has said. Always be alert if a teaching tries to lead us to think God’s Word does not mean what it says. Examples: “This is My body” (Mt 26:26, Mk 14:22, Lk 22:19, 1 Cor. 11:24) or “God our Savior…desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).

The Lord be with you,              

Pastor Sam Wiseman

April 2019

To Forgive is Not to Condone

          “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

          When our heavenly Father forgives our trespasses, He is not condoning our behavior. He is not saying, “It is OK; don’t worry about it.” Rather, as Jesus dealt with a sinful person caught in adultery, He provided forgiveness with the admonition of “from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). I forgive you, but it is not OK. What you did is wrong. I am releasing your sin into the authorities’/Authority’s hand. You will need to deal with them/Him. Praise God for the shedding of His blood that deals with our sin.

          I know a lady who is experienced in working with children. When she witnesses one child cross boundaries/sin against other children, she teaches an important lesson that forgiving is not saying what was done is OK. It is not condoning bad behavior. For example, Billy cuts in front of Bobby, stepping on his toes. “Hey, stop it!” followed with a shove from Bobby. There is continued pushing and squawking until the lady steps in. The children are settled down and taken aside. Billy is led to tell Bobby, “I’m sorry.” Billy responds, “It’s OK; no big deal. Don’t worry about it.” They are regular playmates.

          The lady responds, “That will not do. It is not OK to cut in line, push, and argue. Billy, tell Bobby what you are sorry for.” Billy looks a bit bewildered and kind of says/asks, “I’m sorry for cutting in front of you and stepping on your toes?” The lady says to Bobby, “Remember, it was not OK that he did that, so what can you say?” Bobby also kind of says/asks, “I forgive you?” “Yes,” says the lady, as she leads them to apologize for the exact behaviors with the resulting response, “I forgive you.” (This is a powerful sensation.) The lady also levels consequences for their behavior.

          Forgiveness is central to Christianity. God is trying to tell mankind two things:

1) We are sinners, and 2) You are forgiven in Jesus Christ as He has already paid the consequence. When we forgive someone, we release them into God’s hand. He is the Authority. In so doing, we are not condoning their behavior. We are freeing ourselves from the heavy burden of unforgiveness.

          Does that mean we, as earthlings, forget about how the person sinned against us? Do I continue to hang around them? Surely not. The lady set consequences for Billy and Bobby, one consequence being that they could not sit by, stand by, or play at recess with each other for a week. She would see how they did. Jesus told the person caught in adultery to have a major change in lifestyle. The details of “sin no more,” meant breaking some relationships and nurturing others.

           Please apply forgiveness to painful sins others have inflicted on you. You are not condoning or saying, “It is OK; don’t worry about it.” However, you are faithfully setting yourself free and trusting God to care of you. And yes, God’s desire is to turn sinners from sinful ways. God and Christians rejoice when sin is not practiced any more. May we all be brought to contrition (being sincerely sorry) and repentance (turned from evil to receive from God).

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman

March 2019

Behold the Man!

          So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” (John 19:5).

          As the Holy Spirit enlightens Christians, we realize that Pilate was partly correct. Jesus is “true Man, born of the Virgin Mary” (SC). However, Christ is also “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity” (SC). In Jesus, we “Behold the God-Man!” He is the eternal God inhabiting a human body.

          This Lenten season the Wednesday evening services will expound on some of Christ’s human characteristics: Ash Wednesday, March 6: “A God Who Hungers”; March 13: “A God Who Prays”; March 20: “A God Beaten”; March 27:  “A God Exposed”; April 3: “A God with a Mother”; April 10: “A God Who Thirsts”; Maundy Thursday, April 18: “A God Who Loves”; and Good Friday Tenebrae Service, April 19: “A God Who Dies.”

          Jesus had a human body that died, and He resides in that body which is now resurrected. For forty days, in His resurrected body, He was seen, touched, and heard. He talked, He ate, and He comforted people. All this He did in the same, recognizable body that had been crucified and pierced. He continues to inhabit that resurrected body. This is beyond human comprehension, a 2000 plus year-old body still inhabited! This is okay, for this is a God thing, and His ways and thoughts are above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nevertheless, I find it helpful in thinking to contemplate details of the resurrected body in 1 Corinthians 15:42ff: “Sown” is Christ’s, and the believers’, bodies while going through this existence. “Raised” is Christ’s, and the believers’, resurrected bodies. “Sown perishable…raised imperishable…sown in dishonor…raised in glory…sown in weakness…raised in power…sown natural…raised spiritual” I Corinthians 15:23 tells us, “Each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then, at His coming, those who belong to Him” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

          As we approach the Day of Resurrection (Easter), we focus on Jesus Christ who lived in a human body, like ours, with nose and knees, toes and bones, and the like. He had human sensations of hunger and thirst. He desired fellowship with God the Father and mankind. He had a mother, He drank wine, He ate, and the like. With all this God Almighty confirms that He knows about the human condition. Now, of course, He is and has always been, omniscient, but in His incarnation He verifies for us, so we know that He knows. It is comforting to have it confirmed that God Almighty can have empathy. He has walked for miles in our shoes. Mankind’s compassion is enhanced when we empathize with others. We are delighted to be on either end of compassionate, gentle care as we empathize. We also are enriched, matured, and loved when others have used words and actions that are prodding and demanding passion as we received corrective measures. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son (or daughter) whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). God knows us. He is compassionate and passionate for our good and for His pleasure, in order that He will have us with Him forevermore.

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman

February 2019

God-Yes Indeed!

          Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:1-2).

          Job was challenged with many hardships.  Things had not gone the way he would have liked. He finally expressed some of his frustrations. The following is an excerpt from Echo: Unbroken Truth Worth Repeating Again by Jonathan Fisk, page 14.

“Think back to the last time life didn’t go the way you thought that it should….think of the last time you got annoyed, you were frustrated. You got angry. It doesn’t matter what caused it or if it was justified…. On that day, during that moment, you were less than perfectly happy, and the reason you weren’t perfectly happy was that for a single moment the world around you gave you an experience that made abundantly clear this obvious fact: ‘You are not in charge. You aren’t in control everything. You don’t rule the universe. You are not God.’ There was nothing you could do about it, and that is why you got mad.”

          Job had this truth made perfectly clear to him. Previously God had high compliments for Job, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). However, after turmoil with loss of resources, family, and his own health, Job wavered, lamenting his own life: “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’” (Job: 3:3a). What followed were accusations from people close him. Job drifts away from the teachings and behavior that had received compliments. Job was frustrated. Life did not go the way he thought it should. So he spoke against his antagonists; he laid out numerous examples of how “righteous” he saw himself. He was not in charge. He struggled, for he was not God.

          Job needed to be reminded, instructed again in the things he already knew: an echo of God’s truth. God sent a faithful servant, Elihu, to instruct him and then God’s direct word continued to subdue Job.

          We learn the summary of our church’s teaching in Luther’s Small Catechism.  We are guided to memorize forty-five questions and answers. When we have completed the lessons, there is a celebration for the church, family, and the person who confessed Biblical truths before God and man. 

          This confession is wonderful; however, and battle rages. Our flesh strives toward its natural ways, which gives our sinful inclinations another chance to take root. The world entices us, and Satan works his woe of deceiving mankind. Satan’s original and continual deception is “Did God really say….?” (Genesis 3:1).

          Echoing the Catechism’s teaching is a healthy practice to keep us at peace with God, even when all our vices (flesh, world, and Satan) throw turmoil in our paths, and we dare not get too relaxed when things seem so smooth.  Starting in February, the Sunday morning Bible study will be using the above quoted book. In this study, Luther’s Small Catechism’s points are “echoed” from a unique angle, worthy to be discussed.

The Lord be with you,

Pastor Sam Wiseman