August 2019

Thus Far

…[God] said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?” (Job 38:11).

          The above passage is after Job had questioned God’s way with him. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me….Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?...and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther….’”

          Charlotte and I were privileged to have a vacation the end of July.  We went hiking up the North Fork of Deer Creek in central Idaho.  This is an area in which my family had spent a fair amount of time when I was growing up.  However, I had not hiked up the trail of the North Fork of Deer Creek. We usually stopped at a little valley, and I fondly remember my grandpa teaching me to shoot the .22 there fifty years ago. “Hold the gun firmly, site in the can, and squeeze the trigger. Do pull quickly, just squeeze the trigger.” 

          I wonder what’s up that trail? So Charlotte and I took off. We thought there was an amazing number of wildflowers still in bloom for the end of July. Charlotte took many pictures and did a masterful job of identifying many of them.  I looked forward and saw what I thought should be the top of the hill. “I think just a bit further,” I said. We hiked on thirty more minutes, with a cross-back climbing of a hill that I did not foresee.  From that vantage point, I looked to another ridge: “I think just a bit further.” I was thinking five minutes; however, it was another thirty minutes when we reached the ridge with a small pond that started the North Fork of Deer Creek.  “Thus far shall you come, and no farther…” at least for that trip. We had hiked longer than planned and the grade had been steeper than anticipated. What did we see at the top of the ridge? Further mountains beyond mountains--way more than we could explore on that day.

          The next day we were at Redfish Lake with the opportunity to rent a canoe. Charlotte and I got in and started paddling. Where were we going? Don’t know, just going. I suggested, “How about going to that point of land up there?” Charlotte was agreeable, and when we got to that point, the water was beautiful, it was so peaceful and we kept paddling to the next point, only to see a couple more “points” farther up the lake. This time I suggested, “Before we get too far into this ‘just a bit further’ situation, let us pick a stopping point now.” Charlotte suggested two points forward with, “that should be the end of the lake.” We paddled on. When we got to the “two points forward,” we looked around the point and saw that we were only about halfway up the lake.  We arrived at our spot of “thus far shall you come, and no farther.” Good thing, because we had paddled longer than planned and the lake was bigger than we thought--way more than could be explored with a one-hour rental of a canoe.

          The trail and the lake offered many more sights for our exploring that we could do.  My application with this is God’s Word; It has more exploring that can always be done. However, we must remember He has set limits with what He has already revealed. We shall not go further than Scripture as we appreciate it vast grandeur.

The Lord be with you,                                                                   

Pastor Sam Wiseman

July 2019

A Washing

“When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of the works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

          A lady had been backpacking in remote areas for a week. It had been hot. The hiker sweat daily. There had not been a lake or stream in which to clean up. The smell of campfire was in her hair and clothes. The smell of her daily exertion wafted from her. The trail she hiked brought her to a small town. She went into a store and was looking at the antiperspirants, deodorants, lipstick, etc. The kindly clerk noticed her enter the store. Other customers would start down her aisle only to go part way, turn back, make a face, and hold their nose. The kindly clerk approached the hiker. “Ma’am, I will gladly help you get some supplies. But before you use any of these supplies, it would be good for you to have a through washing”; the kindly clerk handed the hiker a token for a shower at the park, and a bar of soap.

          I have been the filthy, smelly person coming into a store after days backpacking. There were also other times that I had an aroma after bucking hay, picking rock, digging ditch, chopping wood, athletic practices or games. However, I was usually looking for food or drink, not the personal hygiene products. I planned on taking a shower soon.  What the hiker needed and what I needed was to be cleansed with a washing, not the application of something to try to mask or cover up our condition. Regularly, deodorants and the like are applied after the cleansing in response to being clean; to compliment the cleansing that has been completed.

          We live in a fallen in sin world that continually pelts us with uncleanliness. Satan, and his hoard of demons, watch us carefully for weak spots to smear further grime onto us. As with the hiker and myself, much of the filth oozes right out of our sinful flesh. When our conscience is not hardened, by persistent denial of the obvious, we experience guilt because of or dirtiness. On our own, we will try to mask that uncleanliness with good works. In our own eyes, and often in the eyes and noses of those around us, the good works help mask the filth.

          These good works can be an addictive game of “tit for tat” to massage our self-esteem: “O, I should not have been so gruff with grandma on the phone. I will send her a text message with hearts and flowers.” “O, I should not have taken that which was not mine. I will give back (maybe even fourfold) what I have taken.” The use of good works to atone for wrong, filth, and sin is disgusting. Isaiah proclaims, “We have all become like one who is unclean; and our righteous deeds are like polluted garments” (Isaiah 64:6). The Holy Spirit will bring good works from those Divinely cleansed, to compliment God’s refreshing cleansing work within that person.

          O Lord, continually lead us to (make us to lie down in Your green pastures of) Your means of grace in the Word and Sacraments. Therein we receive a Divine “washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”       

The Lord be with you,              

Pastor Sam Wiseman

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