RECENT DEVOTIONS

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WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 7

Tuesday, FEBRUARY 7, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“A Carrot or a Tomato?”

READING: Matthew 13:3-9 – Then he told them many things in parables, saying, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow, but when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”

The other day I finally got around to cleaning up my garden. I still had tomato vines, sunflower stalks, and other odds and ends in it that made the whole thing look rather neglected and forlorn. Between a busy fall schedule and some back trouble, I had never gotten around to cleaning up last year’s remains. I am already looking forward to the new spring season and planting once again. Must be the old farmer in me, but I love to watch things green up and grow.

Two common plants one finds growing in most vegetable gardens are carrots and tomatoes. These two have something interesting in common: both of them were once very different and considered poisonous to human beings. Carrots long ago were purple in color, terribly bitter, and originally cultivated only for their aromatic tops and seeds. Only as people began to cross-pollinate and hybridize, did their color change to orange and they developed enough sugars to become sweet enough to eat.

Tomatoes were native to the Americas, and when explorers brought them back to places like Spain, Portugal, and Italy, they were cultivated only as ornamental plants. Their fruits were tiny, extremely sour, and unappetizing. Word was that they were poisonous and good only to look at. Again, when people began to cross-pollinate and hybridize them, the fruits became larger, sweeter, and made their way into a myriad of food items from soup to juice to sauces, pastes, sun-dried, and fresh.

Now while they have these origins in common, they are vastly different plants. Carrots are root crops, so-called because beyond the frilly green tops, the carrot consists of a tap root that gives it tremendous purchase on the soil. It goes down four, six, even twelve inches, and it often takes a tool to get the really long ones out of the ground. They fear no wind or storm because they have gone deep into the soil. Even drought finds carrots thriving because they reach deep for moisture other plants can’t reach.

Tomatoes on the other hand have no tap root. They have what is called a “dendritic” root system. Like an upside down tree, the root system of the tomato plant spreads out just below the surface of the ground. The whole system is often no deeper than four or five inches. When the stem and leafing branches grow up and out, the plant can actually become unstable. It gets top heavy, especially once the fruits come on and get large. That’s why tomatoes have to be grown in “cages”. The wire structure surrounds the upper part of the plant and is anchored in the ground with 3 or 4 legs. Without a cage, a strong wind or heavy rain will cause the whole plant to tip over, even pulling the root ball out of the soil altogether. And when drought strikes, tomatoes must be watered or they will wither before your eyes.

In Jesus’ parable of “The Sower” he speaks of the plants that spring up on rocky ground where the soil is shallow. Their roots never get a good purchase on the soil. When it gets dry and the sun stays high in the sky, they wither and die because they cannot reach moisture. Like the tomatoes, these plants have no tap root that goes down deep.

Jesus explains later in the chapter that these plants represent those who take joy in the Gospel when first they hear it. They are quick to join a church. They come regularly to church. But they never go deeper. They haven’t time or interest in Bible study. They allow any little thing to irritate them. They begin to find reasons to miss worship. They drift away a little at a time because their faith never put down a tap root. They never went any deeper into Jesus – what he said, what he did, what he asks. When some problem or trouble comes along; when some new church becomes popular or some new attraction appears in their lives, off they go. Faith and faithfulness wither and fall, just like those tomatoes.

Now, you and I, we want to be carrots! Good old solid, squat carrots – of the orange and edible variety, of course. We want to drive that root DEEP. We want to read, study, and digest the Word for all that it’s worth. We want to be prepared for the storms, the droughts, and the occasional worm! We want to drink deep of God’s goodness and his Spirit. Tomatoes are showy and get better press, but the carrots stay the course, rooted in Christ and filled with his goodness. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1. If you are a person “of a certain age”, let me invite you to our SENIORS MARDI GRAS PARTY this Thursday, February 9, noonish, in the Fireside Room. Bring a dish to pass. The main course will be pulled pork BBQ. Everything else, including a “King Cake” will be provided. Some games, some amusements, and some prizes will be in the offing. Call Karen and tell her to put your name on the sign up list and join us. And, by the way, if you have a “White Elephant” that you’ve been wanting to get rid of couldn’t bring yourself to throw out, put a bow on it and give it away at the party!

2. A heads-up: ASH WEDNESDAY falls on February 22. We’ll have church that evening at 7:00 with the Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion. Mark your calendars!

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/ivhhGbxuXz4

PRINTABLE PDF: WDFeb7.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION FEBRUARY 6

Monday, FEBRUARY 6, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Following the Recipe”

As you watch this today our church will have had its Chili Cookoff. However, full disclosure, I am filming this the day before the event. Along those lines I want to talk about recipes.

As you have probably heard, each year I make my veggie chili for the cookoff. I have never intended it to win. I started bringing it because one of our members was a vegan but couldn’t eat any chili because they all had meat in them. So I started making it for her in hopes that she would at least have one chili to eat. I’ve been bringing every year since.

The recipe is simple. A red pepper, yellow pepper, green pepper, orange pepper all get diced up along with an onion and then put into a bowl. Then I pour into a crockpot, a can of strained chick peas, a can of corn, a can of whole tomatoes that I chop up in the crockpot, kidney beans, and mix those altogether. Then I mix up a sauce made of Ketchup, chili powder, honey, cayenne pepper, and some garlic and mix that together in a separate bowl. Once everything is ready, I pour in the bowl of peppers and onions and pour in the special sauce. I let it cook on high for about 5 hours and then let it mellow in the frig for a day before bringing it in to church.

I’m a meat eater but I like this particular chili. It’s got so many veggies in it that it remains pretty thick and hearty. For those who want it, a little cheese can be added to the bowl and viola…mmm good!

So, what happens if I leave out the chili powder? Or if I neglect to put in the garlic or the onion? Chances are, it will not taste the same. It will not be as intended and therefore, anyone who tried it would not be able to enjoy what is intended by the recipe. Yet, by following it I am able to feed a lot of people. It often goes fast because PK has unintentionally given it so much advertising in his envy (Wink) that people go looking for it now.

God is good at recipes too. Look what He does with creation. Some daylight, millions of stars seasoning the skies, plants, animals, and of course, humanity. Imagine if He left something out. What kind of place would it be if he didn’t create dogs for example, or cats? Or what if He left off the moon, how would the tides know how to behave?

The human being is a brilliant recipe of skin, bones, brains, cells, RNA, DNA helixes, complicated and amazing. Some of us don’t have to image if God left out something like kidneys? But what if he left off something as simple as an ability to smile? Or smell or hear? Usually when such things are absent a person learns to adapt in amazing ways—something else a human being does well. As Psalm 139 says, we are beautifully and wonderfully made.

I would also argue that the Law of God is a recipe as well…a recipe of righteousness. Remember what Jesus says in yesterday’s Gospel from Matthew 5? Let’s remind ourselves real quick.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For 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.

First, Jesus says the Law is meant as a whole without leaving out “the smallest letter or the least stroke of the pen” as if there is a least. As anyone would know with a recipe its often the little dashes of spices and things that make it all work. Keeping this in mind Loving the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength in the first commandment is just as important as not committing adultery, or murdering anyone, or bearing a false witness. The Law is meant as something like a recipe where all the ingredients matter if we want to get the intended final product, namely righteousness. It’s not really up to us to leave out the 8th commandment or the tenth. If we do then we really do not have righteousness at all. The righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law was is “least” in the kingdom…by Jesus’ estimation will certainly not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

But notice the other word that Jesus uses in keeping the Law. Verse says, “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Poesis the word for “practices” is an interesting Greek word. Literally it means to bring something to be that wasn’t there before. The Law is not something we create but something that is followed. Like creating a chili it is something that is learned and taught. The first, time I made my veggie chili I had to lean on the recipe heavily, reading every detail. After years of practicing the making of the chili I can do just about all of it by heart. It’s like this with everything; golf, learning to back up a trailer, and even learning to tie one’s shoes—which Kaden will do soon enough. The Law of God is learned. We don’t perfect it, but practice the Law so that it becomes more and more familiar to us until more and more of it becomes natural to us. I’ve always said we get good at what we practice. A talent that wasn’t there before comes to be much in the same way we learn how to tell the truth. We can get pretty good at telling the truth in love and with tact for example or we can get good at yelling and losing our temper. One way or the other we get good at what we practice more.

The Lord’s recipe for the Law is spelled out throughout the chapters of Matt 5-7. And it concludes with the famous Parable of the Wise and Foolish builders in Matt 7:24-27 where Jesus emphasizes the practice of His teachings and the results of following those teachings.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” So putting into practice the teachings of Jesus draws us closer to Jesus while not practicing His teachings leaves one far from Jesus, which Jesus calls ‘foolish’.

The most important recipe that Jesus follows is for our salvation. From Genesis 3 on we can trace a recipe that had been painstakingly developed through Israel, taught by the Prophets, and finally fulfilled in Jesus. He describes Himself as fulfilling the Law not destroying it. That’s right! The Virgin Birth. His Circumcision. His descendance from Abraham, Judah and David. Overcoming Temptation in the wilderness for 40 days. Raising Lazarus. Even His sermon on the Mount. The betrayer. The denier. The nails. The scourge. Breathing His last and giving up His spirit. And most importantly, rising from the Tomb.

All to include us in His recipe of salvation. It all blends together perfectly for an eternal feast of the wedding of the Lamb with His bride, the church. From a believer’s point of view this is the true prize-winning recipe.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDFeb6.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/8oayMLREwQg

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 31

Tuesday, JANUARY 31, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“I GET IN THE WAY”

READING: James 4:1-4 – What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Let me read you something I came across a couple of weeks ago. It was written by one Flannery O’Connor in his book, “A Prayer Journal”. It goes like this:

“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to put myself aside.”

My, oh my! Did he hit the nail on the head, don’t you think? What a marvelous way to picture one of our most necessary truths: “My sin blinds me to God and his ways.” I can say with real truth that I get in the way of God, his Word, his grace, his Kingdom. If I could just stay out of the way! But that Old Adam is strong in me. Every day he wants to be in charge and call the shots. And when I let him have his head, he’ll always move my “self shadow” so it covers more and more of God and his beauty.

St. James says much the same thing in our reading. He says, “You want something but don’t get it.” That irritates our sinful self, especially if this is something ungodly and proscribed. We let greed, lust, jealousy, apathy, judgementalism, and so forth cause an eclipse of “the Moon”. God is hidden from us, and so is his wisdom and his will. The deeper we let ourselves sink into those sins, the less and less of Him we see. Then we make up our own rules. We decide what is good and what is not. And, without Him shining his light on us, we go right ahead and declare ourselves to be “good little boys and girls.” We judge ourselves by “the shadow that is nothing.”

St. James says rightly that the friendlier we get with the sinful things of this world the more grows our hatred of God. But here’s the good news – the flipside of the lesson: the less we see the things of this world as our friends, the more will grow our love for the Lord. The better we become at walking in his ways and living by his Son, Jesus Christ, the more we appreciate what God has done for us in him. The more we read, learn, and inwardly digest his Word, the brighter God shines on us and in us. The crescent moon can become a waxing moon, one that gets bigger and fuller and all the more beautiful.

Ending his prayer, O’Connor asks God to “help me put myself aside.” That’s the ticket! That’s the essence of living the Christian life: put myself aside so that Jesus can shine in me. That means I have to constantly and consistently work to decern God’s will. I want to live as a loving, serving, praying, worshipping, giving, caring child of God. And that will only happen if I make diligent use of God’s gifts: his Word, his Sacraments, and the children of God around me – my church family.

As O’Connor says in the prayer, “…perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see…” We will not see God in his full glory, his full beauty until we stand cleansed and washed in the blood of the Lamb, clothed in white robes of his righteousness, and welcomed to stand before the throne. There we will “see him as he really is” and shout and sing his praises. Until then, we see just that beautiful crescent of ‘the Moon”, but that’s enough if we don’t let our sinful selves get in the way.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1. And announcing the return of the CHILI COOK-OFF AND DESSERT AUCTION, this Sunday, February 5 from 5-8 P.M. You can cook and enter a chili or two at luthyouth.com. You can bake one of you favorite cakes, pies, or cookies for the youth to auction off. Or you can just come and taste a variety of chilis and buy yourself a scrumptious dessert. This is one of our most entertaining events. Come and enjoy.

2. If you are a person “of a certain age”, let me invite you to our SENIORS MARDI GRAS PARTY on Thursday, February 9, noonish, in the Fireside Room. Bring a dish to pass. The main course will be pulled pork BBQ. Everything else, including a “King Cake” will be provided. Some games, some amusements, and some prizes will be in the offing. Call Karen and tell her to put your name on the sign up list and join us. “Laissez le Bontemps tulle!”

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/k3eLWWK4vG0

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan31.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 30

Monday, JANUARY 30, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“No Karma In Heaven”

Every season of Griefshare class includes a session on heaven. One of the unusual topics of that discussion that comes up more than I would have imagined is the idea of Karma and Reincarnation. You wouldn’t think so but once again this week I had one person ask me if it was possible that her grandparents were in two squirrels that keep hanging around keeping an eye on her. Or if those squirrels were somehow “sent” by her grandparents to comfort her.

First, never underestimate the little things that can and do give us comfort when we mourn. Whether it is rays of sunlight hitting us during an emotional moment, or seeing two squirrels who seem to take an interest in a person, or a dream that a loved one has visited again, if that gives us some peace that is still a blessing. But I am more likely to leave such things in the grace of God category than in the ability of any loved one who has already died.

As far as Karma and reincarnation, their origins are not of Christianity or of scripture. Hank Hanegraaf, host of the Bible Answer Man speaks about this in his broadcast in May of 22. He reminds us that “Hindus believe that the ultimate reality called Brahman is an impersonal oneness that transcends all distinctions including personal and propositional differentiations. As such there is not distinction between morals and mice. The goal, according to a Hindu, is liberation from an endless cycle of death and reincarnation. Until then the Law of Karma will dictate that the deeds in previous lives will determine what we do in the next incarnation.”
https://www.equip.org/broadcasts/hinduism-and-the-hell-of-reincarnation-and-qa/

Some who make the argument that the teachings of Jesus and Krishna are compatible often speak of John the Baptist as a reincarnation of Elijah. It has been argued that Jesus himself is cited as suggesting that Elijah is reincarnated as John the Baptist in Matthew 11:14 (“And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”) Hanegraaf points out that Scripture dismisses this itself. When priests and Levites asked John if he was Elijah, he replied, “I am not” (John 1:21). The scriptures are clear that Elijah and John are not said to be two incarnations of the same person, but rather two separate people who function in a similar prophetic role. As Luke 1:17 puts it, John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”

The notion of Elijah coming to prepare the way of the Messiah is found in Malachi 4:6 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” John and Elijah are very similar. The both preached a message of repentance (1 Kings 18:21; Matthew 3:1-2). They both had the same fashion sense (2 Kings 1:7-8; Matt 3:4). They both lived of the Land (1 Kings 17:2-3; Matt 3:4). They were similar. However, John came in the spirit of Elijah as one would come in a spirit of grace. This spirit has more to do with purpose and message; preparing the way for the Lord, and making straight paths for Him.

In another interesting place some have argued from John 9:1-2 that the man born blind was made blind to pay off some karma like debt for himself or his parents. Jesus is quick to set this straight in vs. 3 by saying that neither his sin or his parents sin caused the man’s blindness. Jesus would later go on to heal the man, effectively violating the law of karma.

Fundamentally, karma falls into the same category that most religions espouse. Some kind of works righteousness is put into practice that allows a person to save themselves. The Gospel that centers itself in Jesus being crucified for our sins is completely separate in that it alone depends on grace.

The centerpiece of the Christian faith is Jesus not self. God’s grace is everything. C.S. Lewis in his gifted way tells us, “The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or—if they think there is not—at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.” https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/resources/amazing-graces-how-complex-the-sound/

The notion of karma is shattered when we see how Jesus dies to pay for our sin on the cross. Forgiveness removes all of our sin as far as the east is from the west. Karma is blown up in Jesus’ cross. Jesus pays for everything. Romans 3:21-24 makes this very clear. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Our redemption is a completed picture.

If then a Christian looks to God’s Word as the truth of the matter (John 17:17 tells us it is) then karma cannot be a legitimate way of salvation. Who would want to come back to this miserable world anyway? What kind of hope would that be? Who would want to go through Jr. High or High School again? Not me. And the idea of coming back as a squirrel or any other animal is also unscriptural when one looks at the uniqueness of humanity. Human beings are made in the image of God. Human beings were set apart to rule and subdue what God created. For us it is one and done. The results of Jesus dying and rising from the grave is that we too will not only be forgiven but also resurrected with Jesus. The promise is that we will rise to heaven.

Heaven is given to us not earned. It is gifted to us. A relationship with Jesus is the key. We go where He goes. John 14:1-7 famously points out that Jesus is going to the Father’s House to prepare a place for us and promises that He is coming back for us so that we may be where He is. Heaven is defined by being where Jesus is. And our life in heaven is defined by Jesus remaking us into His image where the old, broken, sinful person is remade into a new creation. (1 Corinthians 15). Therefore, we do not do good to earn salvation. The good we do reveals us as followers of Jesus who have already received God’s grace and promises.

The Christian faith is unique. Our faith centers on the person of Jesus, not on self or in doing something. We are saved by grace and not by works. In these most basic of ways our Christian faith is unique from all other religions of the world. Therefore, there is no karma in heaven.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan30.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/QrxAFVQ1rls

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 24

Tuesday, JANUARY 24, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Rewrite, Revise, and Reinterpret”

READING: II Timothy 4:1-5 – In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

A friend gave me some issues of The Lutheran Forum, a monthly newsletter published by some fairly conservative pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In one of the issues was a report on this past summer’s National Convention in Columbus, Ohio. At one point a contentious issue was on the floor and tempers were getting a bit frayed. So one of the delegates moved a “point of order” and asked that one of the members of the “Prayer Team” be asked to lead a prayer to settle everyone and get refocused on the issue at hand. (Evidently they had a standing committee of pastors who were there to offer appropriate prayers when called upon.)

The designated pray-er came to a microphone and read from their I-phone a prayer that began with this invocation, “Brother Wind, Sister Water, Mother Earth, Father Sky…” Do you recognize those words or the ones to whom they refer? I hope not, for neither do I. I do not recognize those words as Christian, let alone appropriate in a so-called “Lutheran” setting. Those words refer to something that is rank paganism, specifically “animism”. They have no place on the lips of Christians, neither lay people nor pastors.

There is a current that runs strong through many of the Protestant church bodies these days that I find alarming, frustrating, and sad. So many of the leaders in these churches are “chasing the culture” rather than addressing or even confronting the culture. In order to be current, in order to be fresh and cutting-edge, in order to appeal to the Biblically illiterate within and without the church, these leaders “rewrite, revise, and reinterpret” the Scriptures to attempt to fit the Word into the lifestyles and life-choices they see around them. Mostly this has disastrous consequences.

As we just read in II Timothy, St. Paul predicted nearly 2000 years ago that this day would come. What God said clearly and plainly in the Bible grates hard on the ears of so many in our day. They want all manner of sins to be declared righteous. They want sexuality to be a menu of “choices and preferences” rather than a beautiful gift given by God to secure the blessings of family and fidelity. They want to gild certain lifestyles and hold them up to the light to see how they sparkle. They want to define for themselves what is a good work and what is sin. They talk about “haters” with real venom, then take every chance to ostracize and shame those who have a viewpoint different than theirs.

As St. Paul says, “The time will come when they will not put up with sound doctrine…” And we can see just that happening in the public square. When the “itchy ears” need relief, teachers jump up to tickle those ears with “rewrites, revisions, and reinterpretations” that are more myth than truth, more humanism than Godly.

But to you, Christian, St. Paul lays the charge to hold to God’s word and to sound doctrine that is clearly taught in that Word. He encourages you to “keep your head in all situations”. When you hear something new that seems at odds with what you have been taught all your days, trust your “stink-o-meter”! You are probably hearing something “itching ears” are eager for, but you want the truth. When a “documentary” tries to tell you that Jesus had a wife and children, when the History Channel tells you that “Ancient Aliens” showed the Egyptians how to build the Pyramids, when you hear a prayer to “Brother Water, Sister Wind, Mother Earth, and Father Sky”, turn away and thank God that you have his Word in your Bible and in your heart. If anything points you to a savior that is not Christ Jesus, our Lord say, “Get thee behind me Satan!” He’s the One and Only! Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1. Watch for information about the SENIORS ANGEL TREE. We are going to give you an opportunity to adopt a Senior Citizen from our congregation or from our community who needs some basic items like toiletries, tissues, snacks, and other items they may not be able to afford. The Discipleship Team will collect and deliver what you have provided just in time for Valentine’s Day next month.

2. For younger families, pass the word that we will be having “CAMP COCONUTS” this year on Friday, January 27, 8:00 P.M. to Saturday morning at 8:30. This is a whole family event that will let them camp out in the church building with pop-up tents and sleeping bags. There will be games, a fire pit for hotdogs and S’mores, and a movie to put everyone to sleep. There is no cost beyond bringing snacks to share. Sign up at the office or call Karen.

3. And announcing the return of the CHILI COOK-OFF AND DESSERT AUCTION, Sunday, February 5 from 5-8 P.M. You can cook and enter a chili or two at luthyouth.com. You can bake one of you favorite cakes, pies, or cookies for the youth to auction off. Or you can just come and taste a variety of chilis and buy yourself a scrumptious dessert. This is one of our most entertaining events. Come and enjoy.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/GAN1Q4XXalI

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan24.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 23

Monday, JANUARY 23, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Look Up!”

It all started in middle school. Tricia was in fifth grade and was playing volley ball. The little school had an A team and a B team. The A team was just what it sounds like. The A team was made up of the better players who were mostly from the older 7th or 8th grade, one of whom was an 8th grader named Sandy. However, the A team didn’t have enough players so Tricia and one other classmate were asked to play for the A team because of their skill sets at the time. And the A team is where Tricia stayed for the remainder of middle school. This was a big deal to a young girl who was shy and introverted.

Fast forward to high school. Tricia was a shy freshman by this point and once again qualified to make the volley ball team where she would play alongside of Sandy who was a senior by then. During a practice the girls would make two single file lines directly across from the other. The two in front would face each other about ten feet apart. The drill was to bump the ball to the teammate directly across to the person at the front of the other line. As soon as one bumped the ball she would run straight across to the back of the opposing line on the other side. Well, as this drill was carried out Tricia bumped the ball and then ran to the other side passing the senior, Sandy as she made her way to the other side. Tricia was running with her head down and eyes on the floor as shy people often do. As she ran by Sandy, she yelled out to Tricia, “Look up!” In high school when a senior says something to a freshman a freshman listens.

Tricia told me those two words from Sandy really hit her. Tricia remembers telling herself after that day to look up. Yea, one needs to look up to bump the ball but for Tricia it was like discovering a whole new world. Those two words were a kind of turning point for Tricia one that still affects her to this day.

Being extroverted or introverted is not good or bad. But confidence is not easy for introverts. Yet, all it takes is two words by the right person at the right moment to instill just a little bit of a boost that shifts a normally self-reflective mind to see themselves differently. I see it all the time in kids, especially in middle school kids. Shoulders sort of slump, heads down, and eyes that look away in fear of being seen themselves. Something in their world holds them back from stepping out so they tend to keep the world small even though somewhere inside they crave more. As an introvert myself back in the day I remember the envy I felt when I saw a classmate who didn’t have my “limitations.” My way of compensating was to be a class clown at times. I made my poor 5th grade teacher, Mr. Griffiths a basket case. But something that is always powerful for an introvert is for someone to inspire them; for someone like a senior to notice and then say just two words, “look up.”

Let me share two other words, “Mighty Warrior.” In Judges 6 the Angel of the Lord (which we know is the preincarnate Jesus) appears to Gideon. When we meet Gideon he is threshing wheat in a wine press. Threshing was usually done on a hill where the wind can carry away the chaff. Instead, he was using a wine press to keep any of the Midianites from taking it. The Midianites had been bullying Israel for a generation at this point. The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and says, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior.” He didn’t greet Gideon as “Mighty Wheat thresher,” but as “Mighty Warrior.” And then the Lord says, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. I am after all sending you.”

Listen to Gideon’s response in verse 15ff as a response of a person who is hiding himself from the world. Sometimes I wonder if he was still a teenager at this point. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Translation, “I think you have the wrong guy. I am a far cry from a mighty warrior.” Notice the classic nature of where Gideon is at this point. First, he feels that he exists in an environment that he cannot change. The Midianites (the bullies) have forced him to adapt and thresh wheat in hidden wine press. Second, notice how he compares himself to others; “He’s from the weakest clan in Manasseh”. His home, his family, his life is “small,” “least,” compared to the other clans; compared to other kids in school, the other guys at work, etc. “I am just not that important.” “Even within my family I am ‘least’”.

What comes next are a series of events that encourage Gideon. Gideon asks for signs to confirm his calling. A sacrifice of a goat is made with flour and it evaporates when the Lord touches it. Secondly, he tears down the altar of Baal, and then sacrifices his father’s bull and roasts it over a fire made from the wood of the Asherah pole. The next morning the neighbors rebel and are ready to stone the kid. But his dad has his back. And this is so important if we have a kid who is introverted and struggles with being social. The best thing is to let them know that we love and care about their struggles too. But here his dad argues for Gideon, “If Baal is real, then he can defend himself.” This was the moment gained Gideon a nickname, “Jerub-Baalf”—”Let Baal deal with it.” Finally, there were a few more signs but with each step we can see Gideon growing more and more into his new role as Mighty Warrior.
Gideon started with “Mighty Warrior” when all he saw in himself at that time was “Mighty Thresher.” “Look up” were two words in a moment when one would look down.

Three lessons. First, never underestimate what a few words can do. If there is anything we learn from being Christian its that Words have power. God created with mere words and saves us through His Word. Your words can build up or they can tear down.

Second, being introverted or extraverted is a character trait that will have a huge effect on us. Such things are to be wielded with care. Introverts and extraverts need each other to even one another out. Introverts who are reflective, meditate on things, can over analyze life to the point of paralysis. Extraverts may be fearless with people and quick to act, but can become impulsive or even too aggressive. Extraverts and introverts need each other to temper themselves and learn from one another.

Third, often others see more about us than we do. Gideon was afraid of the Midianites. Gideon doubted God’s love. Still God calls to Gideon as Mighty Warrior. And along the way Gideon slowly develops into what God saw in him. Like a giant cargo carrier on the ocean the wheel was turned but the change in direction came slowly. The Lord looks at all of us as someone who has something to add to the body of Christ. The Lord looks at us not as mighty threshers, a person in the here and now, but also in the what will be. Likewise all it takes is a pastor to suggest that I might be a good choice to be a pastor. All it takes is just one or two with a few words of encouragement to shift our thinking to what may be possible. To an introvert two words can stick in our head for the rest of our lives.

“Look up.” Perhaps those words are a good way to sum up Gideon’s call. To look toward heaven. Look past what you are doing right now and see where things are going. Isn’t that the point of hope in Jesus in general. Look up. Hope is not lost. It’s just getting started.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan23.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/1npzrXdF68k

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 17

Tuesday, JANUARY 17, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“God Made Me This Way”

READING: Genesis 3:11-12 – And [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 4:13-14 – Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 27:34-38 – When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me – me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

I recently read an article in a theological paper in which a gay pastor wrote, “I am the way God intended. He made me this way, and I am glad.” “He made me this way.” That is a statement often used in all manner of media, especially whenever the topic of gender or sexual preference is discussed. I cringe a little inside whenever I hear it, not because I am homophobic or a hater. No. I react to it because it is such a dangerous statement to make in any circumstance. Every one of us would like to use that statement as a shield from guilt and judgement. It is used again and again in the Scriptures as an excuse for ungodly behavior of all kinds.

Let’s start with the Fall in the garden. When God asks Adam a direct question, his response and excuse is, “The woman YOU put here with me gave me fruit!” In essence he says that God made him susceptible to Eve’s temptations, so God must share the blame for what’s happened. “You made me that way…and I fell.”

Look at Cain. Having murdered his brother and been sentenced, he responds by accusing God of being too harsh. After all, it was God who made him a jealous and violent hothead. Now God is driving him from the land and out of His presence. It’s not fair! It’s more than he can bear. God is being judgmental! “He made me this way!”

How about Esau? When he discovers that Jacob has tricked his father into giving him the blessing reserved for the eldest, he weeps and pleads and speaks ill of his brother. He says, “He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright…” Wait a minute! “He took my birthright”? Really? No, Esau, you sold your birthright for a bowl of lintel stew! You thought so lightly of your place in the family that you shrugged it off because you were hungry. In essence he says, “God made me this way. I’m a hunter and outdoorsman. I couldn’t be bothered with future stuff. I’m all about the here and now. He made me this way!”

What God calls sin in the Scriptures always makes us uncomfortable because of the Law’s mirror effect. We see our sin and unworthiness when we take God’s commands seriously. The serial adulterer says to his wife, “I can’t help it. God made me this way. I’m just over-sexed.” The woman who leaves her husband and children for another says, “God would want me to be happy, right? That’s how he made me.” The arrogant person says, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. Thank God he made me this way and not like those lazy, ignorant people down the road.”

“God made me this way” can become an excuse and a cover for all manner of sin. Instead of recognizing that “we are by nature sinful and unclean”, we can lay it all on God and claim we can’t help our weaknesses and our failings – he made us this way. The only healthy path lies in acknowledging our sin, repenting of it, confessing it before God, and doing our best to steer clear of it in the future. God is clear in his Word that ALL of us are broken in some way; that ALL of us fall short of the glory of God; that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” We all need his forgiveness. No one sin is worse than another, and no one sin is better than another. Jesus died for all of them, and only in his blood and righteousness can we stand before our Maker in hope. Only in His forgiveness can we truly rejoice and say, “Thanks be to God – He made me this way!” Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1. Watch for information about the SENIORS ANGEL TREE. We are going to give you an opportunity to adopt a Senior Citizen from our congregation or from our community who needs some basic items like toiletries, tissues, snacks, and other items they may not be able to afford. The Discipleship Team will collect and deliver what you have provided just in time for Valentine’s Day next month.

2. For younger families, pass the word that we will be having “CAMP COCONUTS” this year on Friday, January 27, 8:00 P.M. to Saturday morning at 8:30. This is a whole family event that will let them camp out in the church building with pop-up tents and sleeping bags. There will be games, a fire pit for hotdogs and S’mores, and a movie to put everyone to sleep. There is no cost beyond bringing snacks to share. Sign up at the office or call Karen.

3. And announcing the return of the CHILI COOK-OFF AND DESSERT AUCTION, Sunday, February 5 from 5-8 P.M. You can cook and enter a chili or two at luthyouth.com. You can bake one of you favorite cakes, pies, or cookies for the youth to auction off. Or you can just come and taste a variety of chilis and buy yourself a scrumptious dessert. This is one of our most entertaining events. Come and enjoy.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/xaN9Da7Pi3I

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan17.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 16

Monday, JANUARY 16, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“No Added Preservatives”

Have you actually looked at what goes into our foods these days? So, one of my bad habits has been drinking a certain diet drink that starts with a “c”. Recently, I have consciously tried to avoid the stuff and have switch to water and diet tea. Water’s fine if you don’t care if what you are drinking has flavor or not. It’s fine once in a while but I prefer some flavor and I like having something quick to grab. So, there it is. I know that I am not alone. Everything it seems, has some kind of preservatives in it.

Now I’ve just this week read an interesting article from webmd.com. The article spoke about one of the most common preservatives in drinks and food called, Sodium Benzoate. It’s designed to keep away harmful bacteria, mold, and spoilage. By the way, it is also used as an anti-corrosive and preservative in things like mouthwash, toothpaste, sunscreen, moisturizers, and baby wipes. Who knew!?

It is also been said that people who drank beverages containing high levels of sodium benzoate have increased deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. And the most interesting thing about Sodium Benzoate…when mixed with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is that it can become a carcinogen that may cause cancer. So, watch out for drinks with both at the same time.

According to the article, the FDA believes that our exposure to such sodium benzoate is minimal and does not harm our bodies. The FDA allows for 0.1% concentration relative to the portion provided. The good news in all of this seems to be that our bodies do not retain the preservative for long. Our bodies metabolize and excrete it through our urine within 24 hours. Interesting stuff. I’ve linked the article below so you can go and read it for yourself.

Here’s the thing. Added preservatives presume that a product is going to break down; it needs help to keep going. This also presumes a shelf life to the product that must be artificially kept fresh long after the item is actually “freshly” made or grown. We have all seen how long leftover last in our frig. Such are the things of men create. This is the nature of the world. But Jesus makes a distinction between the artificial and that which lasts.

In John 6 Jesus says, “48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Jesus speaks of eating Flesh and drinking His blood which give off strong connections to the Lord’s Supper. But this also alludes to something significant for us on a more common level. Jesus never spoils and neither do the things He gives us. To digest something is to make it a part of our lives, integrate it into our very cellular make up. Jesus and His Word are to be digested, integrated into the cellular structure of our lives.

The problem however, comes with the artificial stuff that makes things colorful and delicious that don’t actually last and don’t always produce anything eternal. In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus tells of a rich man who had a great crop. He’s already rich and can afford to be generous. Instead of being gracious he goes after an artificial happiness He decides to build bigger barns and keep it all for himself and then eat, drink, and be happy. The Lord concludes the parable by calling this man a fool because none of those things can give him the same thing as the bread of life.

Something else that is artificial is religion. The Religious leaders were very religious in their observance of hand washing, sabbath keeping, tithing, praying, and even going to church. They looked the part but Jesus called them white-washed tombs. On the outside they looked great, but on the inside they were lost souls. Such is life of all the causes and movements that have come in these most recent years. They all do a good job of framing their cause as spiritual in some way. But they are all artificial in their wisdom and often tend to make idols out of their focus. Like the religious leaders of old, those chasing a cause frame themselves as champions, protectors of the people, animals, and the world, and anyone like Jesus or His Word as dangerous.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s message at church it is surprising how subtle those artificial things can be. The disciples, those closest to the Lord, were still very much influenced by the artificial teachings of the religious leaders. As part of their teaching Jesus had to teach them the eternal things. For example, in John 9 they assume the blind man or his parents had sinned because of his blindness. That was a pharisee message not Jesus’. The Pharisee’s always associated illness with sin. Luke 9, when Jesus wasn’t well received by some Samaritans they ask Jesus, “Do you want us to call down fire on these Samaritans.” That was a pharisee message believing such people outside of God’s grace. The disciples also fought over who was the greatest in the kingdom which was a pharisee and Gentile message but Jesus says, “unless you change and become like little children you will not see the kingdom of God.” In Matt 16:5-6 Jesus says to His disciples, “Be careful…Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The yeast of a cause will not be satisfied until it has spread and commands every corner of one’s life.

The good news is that we still hold all the cards for what we digest or consume. It takes a little effort to eat right. We may have to adjust our diets much the same way one who has to with a peanut allergy or for those who have to be on a gluten free diet. Such folks pay lots of attention to what they buy and eat. We are no less called to evaluate and discern what we consume with our ears, our eyes, our minds, and let into our hearts. Like almost everything in the grocery store, most things have a lot of artificial preservatives that in the long run have no real eternal value to our bodies or souls.

Often the Word tells us to set our hearts and minds on things above and not on earthly things (Col 3:2). Why do that exactly? Well, go to the bottom of John 6. When Jesus was done teaching in many of the disciples who were following Jesus left and went back home because what Jesus was teaching was hard for them to accept. Seeing what was happening Jesus asked the twelve if they wanted to leave too.

Two things to notice. First, Jesus didn’t beg the people to come back. He didn’t adjust His message to make it more palatable so people would stay. Jesus was never concerned about lots of numbers as much as He was focused on the Truth of His Word. It is only by the Truth that we are set free. That truth is being honest about our sin which loves the artificial. The freedom is the deliverance from that sin in Jesus’ cross. Remarkably, when the people decided to leave Jesus let them go. Jesus is not going to force feed anyone.

Secondly, Jesus’ teaching then as it does now is meant to evoke a response. Peter responds with a very wise response in verses 68-69. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus gives us all the opportunity to stay with Him or go as well. They chose to stay.

Note the reason why. “You are the Holy One of God.” He didn’t say, “Because You love us.” Even though that was true. He didn’t say, “Because Your cause is just.” Though it was. He didn’t say, “Because You make us happy.” Which by the way, wasn’t always true. He didn’t say a lot of things that could have been said. Jesus is the Holy One of God. They realized right there and then that there is nothing artificial in Jesus. There is only Truth and what He brings is eternal. Peter’s response was not only a confession but a declaration to remain and feed upon the bread of life. It was also a declaration to follow Jesus even when He conflicts with all the popular ideas, causes, and religions. Jesus evokes a response. Bear fruit or don’t.

Artificial preservatives are a major part of our food supply. They do not have to be part of our faith.
https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-to-know-about-sodium-benzoate#:~:text=Sodium%20benzoate%2C%20potassium%20benzoate%2C%20and,used%20as%20an%20antimicrobial%20agent.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan16.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/eXciDwg1tQQ

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 10

Tuesday, JANUARY 10, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Fifty-four Channels”

READING: Matthew 13:18-23 – Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away,. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

The other morning I was channel surfing as is my want. I started at Channel 3 and I paged up to channel eighty-something. I don’t have all the channels, but there’s roughly 54 of them available for “my viewing pleasure”. I paged through all of those channels but did not find one that even remotely interested me. Isn’t that something? When I was a kid, we had three channels (four if the VHF channel out of Saginaw was coming through that day!). We always seemed to find at least one of the channels that captivated us. Now, with more channels to choose from than ever, I often find nothing but junk and trash and meaningless offerings.

A couple of weeks ago I watched my eight grandchildren open their Christmas presents. Each one of them must have received six or seven gifts, maybe more. The tree was almost obscured by the mountain of gifts “Santa Becky” had put around it. They dove in, paper flying, box tops flipped, and quick examinations of the contents. Then that one got laid aside, and it was on to the next gift. Now and again there would be exclamations of joy when one opened a gift they were really hoping for, but often as not there was a shrug of the shoulders and on to the next one.

Once again, when I was a kid, my Christmas gifts numbered in the low fives. I had three sponsors who each gave me a nice gift that I may have asked for. Mom and Dad would add one (plus some clothing, but nobody counted clothes as gifts when I was a kid!). That was about it. So I treasured every gift I got. There just weren’t that many of them. And the only other chance you had of securing some toy or game you really wanted would be for your birthday. The folks did not and could not afford to buy you something every time you went to a store. Didn’t happen!

In our text for today Jesus explains to his disciples the Parable of the Sower. In it Jesus describes how faith seems a hit and miss situation. Four people hear the same Word of God. One never pays any heed to it, given over to the evil one. The second is the enthusiast who is a quick convert until trouble or a challenge comes along, then he’s out. The third is the one who comes to Christ only to later drift away because of all the choices, diversions, and temptations the world holds out to him. Finally the fourth one is the one in whom the Holy Spirit takes permanent residence, and all manner of good things are produced.

The one who especially came to mind for me today was the third one – the one who was overwhelmed and drawn away by all the leisure and luxury of our culture. We are inundated by STUFF and SHALLOWNESS. Everyone is trying to sell us something. Every ad tries to tell us that just one more THING or one more EXPERIENCE will make our lives rich and meaningful. It’s all a lie! No one ever lay upon his deathbed and wished he had bought one more bauble or eaten one more delicacy or seen one more ancient ruin. All of those things mean nothing at that moment. Millions of our countrymen fill their days and waste their lives chasing after the wind without much thought to their eternal destiny. And even those who have grown up in the church, been baptized and confirmed in the faith, all too often let their faith wither and produce stunted fruit because they have so many choices and so many opportunities they cannot decern what is most important.

Let us not lose sight of what is most important. Feed your faith. Fan into flame your desire to know the Lord better. Worship with real zeal. Serve the Lord with gladness. Then you will have treasure that the world cannot provide and does not understand. Having just celebrated our Lord’s Nativity we know what a great gift was given us, so let us keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, who lived with us and gave himself for us that we might live with him forever. Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

1. Watch for information about a SENIORS ANGEL TREE. We are going to give you an

opportunity to adopt a Senior Citizen from our congregation or from our community

who needs some basic items like toiletries, tissues, snacks, and other items they

may not be able to afford. The Discipleship Team will collect and deliver what you

have provided just in time for Valentine’s Day next month.

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/eBt4eTnWLf0

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan10.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 9

Monday, JANUARY 9, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“A Response Part 2”

Good morning. I hope that you doing well as the New Year as gotten itself rolling. Today I would like to continue our response to an article written before Christmas. As I said last week, because the author wears the title of “pastor” and because she is of a Lutheran background I felt I needed to respond. The topic of same sex attraction is often a delicate subject that deserves a respectful discussion because personhood is often confused with sexuality. In last week’s devotion we share a lot about this.

When Our Creator created us male and female in Genesis 1 and 2, He placed the image of our Creator upon us. And then later said, “be fruitful and multiply.” The Multiplying had two purposes neither of which had anything to do with sexual identity. The first, was to produce children. Effectively, make more images of God. Secondly, it was the binding point, the consummation of a covenant of marriage. On this in Matt 19:5-6 Jesus says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh so they are no longer two but one flesh.” But the action of becoming one flesh does not determine personhood. Personhood is established and settled before God said be fruitful and multiply.

Again we also remember what happened in Genesis 3 where everything God designed was distorted and ruined by sin. The way in which temptation came to Adam and Eve was to doubt God’s specific words not to touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “Did God really say…you will not surely die….you will be like God knowing (in fact, determining) good and evil.” And this is where we start this week.

The Word of God is either the truth or it is not. The author’s article states that we are “reading a translation of what is originally written. Throughout time and through the process of translation, the meaning of the Bible as we know it today has lost much of what the original authors actually intended.”

We could spend the rest of our time just on this segment and topic so I will do my best to keep it brief. For starters Luther was big on scripture alone as the sole authority of faith, truth, and practice. Today it is still a fundamental doctrine of the Lutheran Church. Councils and popes often tried to read into scripture things that were not there as well. And so, the practice of indulgences, for example, were put into practice and even incorporated into the culture of the church. Luther challenged all of it based on the authority of the Word of God as the sole authority. Not by popes or councils but solely by the grace of God are we forgiven as is taught in the Sacred Word of God. For a Lutheran to suggest that the Word is incomplete without adding modern interpretation falls into the same realm of rebellion against the Word of God. When we defend our sin in any form, we replace God as the final authority of things; we determine good and evil and usually justify our sin. Like indulgences we find ways to sanctify our sinful behavior as something the church should endorse. “We all sin and fall short of the glory of God” when it comes to following God’s Word.

But let’s take a moment to hear what the Word says about itself. And for the sake of time, I will stick to John knowing that everything John teaches is also repeated in and throughout scripture. John 1 tells us that Jesus and the Word are inseparable. Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and was there in the Beginning, would not His Word also remain the same. Since, Jesus himself defends Himself as Savior in John 8 and declares His word to be truth in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17:17 should we not take Jesus at His Word? After all we want to believe in things like heaven and love right? Why wouldn’t the rest of what the Word says also be in tact as truth. And since Jesus tells us in John 10 that as the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life with authority to take it up again shouldn’t it stand to reason He can preserve His Word as well. Wouldn’t the same one who created all things as John 1 tells us also be able to preserve His Word for as long as the Word remains? Of course! The error is not in the Word of God but in the sinner and the sin that has ruined us, spoiled our thinking, and skews our hearts toward ungodly things. The Word of God is perfectly preserved and intact regardless of whether we believe it or not. And I say this without having the time to go into the mountain of extra Biblical evidence such as the number of manuscripts available to check the accuracy of the Bible. Or that when the Dead Sea scrolls were found with complete books of Isaiah that those books were nearly word for word with texts written a thousand years afterward. No one who believes the Word as Sacred would be as careless as is presumed or implied by this article. A Lutheran pastor should know better than that.

Finally, I go back to the article with the words, “It is also written…” When Jesus was confronted with temptation in the wilderness the devil tried to quote scripture to defend his position. To quote an authority is one of the oldest tactics of debate. However, rather than argue the text that was misquoted Jesus simply says, “It is also written…” One of the hermeneutical principles is that scripture interprets scripture. Hermeneutics is the study of interpreting and understanding scripture.

To remind ourselves again this week, the author writes of “diverse examples of marriage that are found in the Bible. The bible endorses monogamous marriages between one male and one female in addition to polygamy, sexual slavery, incest, and forced marriages to virgins and blesses all the varieties of marriage.” Last week we made the point using the example of David and Solomon’s polygamy to say that the mention of something is not the same as an endorsement of something.

What she is referring to are passages like Deuteronomy 21:10-14 which lays out a purification ritual to prepare a captive woman for life as a concubine. In another example, a Hebrew man who rapes a woman is required to pay 50 shekels to her father and then take her home as his wife, (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). The point is not to justify the crime but to put the responsibility on the man to care for the woman as a legitimate bride. The money paid is a dowry not slave money as is often implied. A dowry was traditionally paid to the father of the bride if the proper marriage process was followed. The price Jesus paid to the Father for His bride (the church) was His life on the cross.

In each case the law included such things because God’s people are sinful too. The law was to limit the damage or the actions of the Israelites much in the same way laws are written today. The writing of a law is not to legitimize or endorse the crime but to put limits and punishments in place to enforce godly behaviors.
At this point it is worthy to mention what is also written. Jesus teaches in Mark 7:20-23 about what is sacred in terms of sexuality. Jesus is not neutral on the subject of sexuality.

“20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” The word for sexual immorality is the Greek word, porneia. Porneia, a word where we get pornography from, is a cover all word that would include any act of sex outside of the marriage covenant. The word applies to all forms of sexual practice outside of the original marriage design including, sex slavery, human trafficking, incest, promiscuity, pedophilia, pornography, prostitution, even any consensual sex outside of marriage, and the practice of homosexuality. The word implies a deliberate, conscious action that dismisses oneself as an image bearer designed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. The word is also deliberately separate from adultery which involves a conscious giving of one’s heart to someone other than the beloved, a covenant breaking. This passage is certainly uncomfortable to any who are sexually active in any other form outside the original pattern of Genesis 1 and 2. And historically, it is no accident that just about every culture that has endorsed idols has also become sexually immoral. Porneia is a strong sign that a culture is drifting from the Lord.

So, here we go. This was part 2 of my response to the article I mentioned last week. Of course, I welcome ongoing conversation and encourage any exploration of God’s Word on this subject or any other. So, if you have other topics you would like to explore here I welcome your suggestions. Again, I appreciate that the article gives us opportunity to study the Word deeper. This is always good. After all, look how much we gained over a discussion about indulgences back in the day. I pray that in the end what I have given to you here is helpful. I share it in humility and in absolute trust in God’s Word. May the Lord bless you in this new week.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan9.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/3IKwwhu0BGs

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 3

Tuesday, JANUARY 3, 2022

Pastor Bruce Kischnick, Grace Lutheran Church, New Albany, IN

“Shoulder to Shoulder”

READING: I John 1:1-4 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it. And we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Early in September driving through the wilds of southeastern Kentucky I chanced to see along the highway a paddock in which there were six sheep. They were rather ordinary sheep; nothing special about any one of them. They were rather interchangeable, in fact. Nor was what they were doing at all unusual. What was weirdly wonderful about those six sheep is how they were going about their business. You see, they were grazing. That’s pretty much what sheep do for a living. They graze and produce wool (and meat). But those six sheep were grazing SHOULD TO SHOULDER! I mean they were packed in against each other, shoulders touching, in a straight row like the Michigan offensive line. They moved as one unit, contentedly munching grass like some big, weird lawnmower. I’ve never seen animals do something like that. I don’t know if they were trained to it, or if they developed this process all by themselves, but it was weirdly wonderful to see.

St. John in our text for today writes to people he calls his “dear children”. Many are already Christians firmly established in the faith. Some are waffling, drawn to some of the Gnostic doctrines that had drifted into Christianity in that day. The Gnostics were Gentiles who had been adherents to Roman “mystery religions” that sprang up all around the Roman Empire. They claimed to have secret knowledge and mystic revelations that one could only gain and understand after a period of indoctrination and study. They taught that only “the spirit” meant anything while the body and other material things were base and of little or no value. They taught that the man, Jesus, was just projecting his humanity. They could not accept that God, pure spirit, would ever have allowed himself to really become flesh. They taught other ideas that they carried over from their past.

St. John in this letter will warn Christians that to doubt or disbelieve Jesus’ humanity would rob his birth, life, death, and resurrection of all meaning and all their power. To reject Jesus’ true humanity would be to oppose the prophecies and all that the Scriptures had indicated about the Christ. St. John says in effect, “This Jesus, whom we heard, saw, touched, listened to, and testify of, is God’s only Son and is fully, completely, and with a doubt truly and fully human.”

He encourages his listeners to stand together like those six sheep. To stand shoulder to shoulder in the truth of God’s word, and to live in the fellowship of faith with the Church that then brings them into fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He wants them to stand shoulder to shoulder, contending as one man for the doctrines they have received through the Apostles. He wants them to be assured of the truth and the eye-witness testimony of Paul, Peter, James, himself, and all the rest of those who walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, touched him, saw him alive and whole on Easter, saw the nail marks and the gash of the spear in his side. He wants them to know Jesus as fully God and also fully man, “…born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those born under the law,” as St. Paul says.

So when St. John speaks, he speaks to us as well. We, too, live in a time where many different “Jesus’s” are proposed and imagined. Seldom is his humanity doubted, but his divinity is also rejected and maligned. We, too, should stand “shoulder to shoulder” with one another in professing the truth of the Scriptures and the accurate picture they give us of the One who was born, lived, taught, died, and rose again for us. Our Lord Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” Amen.

PRAYER:

ANNOUNCEMENT(S):

Youtube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2fBzqekKig

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan3.PDF

pastork@glcna.com — (502) 797-7407

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WEEKLY DEVOTION JANUARY 2

Monday, JANUARY 2, 2022

Pastor Matthew Woods from Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana

“Making a Response to Biblical Claims”

Happy New Year. I pray that 2023 is a year that favors a closer walk with the Lord and is filled with opportunities to grow in our faith. As I begin this new year with you all I begin with a response to an article that was handed to me right before Christmas. It was written by a local Lutheran pastor in defense of Homosexuality. It was titled “Bible Verses Don’t Justify Hatred.” Since this author wears the title of “pastor” and is of a Lutheran denomination and because she attempts to wield the Word of God to defend her position on homosexuality, I feel compelled to respond. I believe her use of the Word is a creative Biblical contortionism that tries make God’s Word say something it doesn’t. And so, I cannot leave it unchallenged. So, as a way of response I hope to react to her article. I will attempt to be fair and take each of her points one at a time.

First, let me begin by saying I do not pretend to be anything more than a pastor myself. I am always a student to God’s Word and grateful to those who can open up its verses in a meaningful way. I study it often and gladly listen to arguments regarding its teachings. I also find that disagreement often breeds an opportunity to learn something. However, if I believe something isn’t right, I can’t just leave it unchallenged. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me but I am one who tries to present another thought like a UPS driver delivering a package. I deliver what I can for people to chew on and then let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Secondly, perhaps like many who listen here today I too have friends and family whom I love dearly who are same sex attracted. I am always grateful for them, look forward to being with them each time we get the chance, have greatly enjoyed their company, and have never treated them as subhuman and they have never called me a hater. We have worked together, cried together, prayed together, joked together…It is a mutual joy. Scripture is very clear about treating people with gentleness and respect and I cannot conceive of doing anything less with any person I love and care about.

So, let me begin with what is likely to take me a couple of sessions with you to unpack and even then, it will be too little time for such an important topic. To be fair to the pastor who wrote the article, a few paragraphs in a newspaper are also not sufficient to flush out in total the passages she presents to make her case. I will also link her article if you would like to read it as well.

I will now start where she began. Her stated goal is an effort “to further this community’s Biblical literacy and reduce hate in people’s hearts.” I obviously can’t disagree with Biblical literacy or with a community that emphasizes more love in our hearts. However, where there is disagreement, I do not agree that it is the same thing as hatred. Being emotional or passionate about a belief is also different then hatred. I also do not assume hatred of anyone simply because they disagree with me.

In Genesis 1-2 the pastor who wrote the article recognizes the verses that speak of God creating people as male and female but then goes on to compare sexuality to the creation of Night and day. She also says, “The creation of night and day are not merely two things; it’s actually a spectrum that includes things like dawn midday, dusk, and twilight. Similarly, gender is a spectrum.”

This is an interesting interpretation that I haven’t heard before. Yet the creation of Day and Night and male and female couldn’t be more different. Day and night are an indication of time. When Genesis 1 speaks of “evening and morning” the emphasis is not on spectrum but on “first day, second day,” etc. Each day’s distinction plays out by what is created on that day. But Night and Day are not made in the image of God, neither are plants, animals, nor “the stars also” of which God has provided great variety. The image of God has to do with personhood. Human beings, as male and female, were made “to rule over the earth and subdue it, over the fish of the sea, birds of the air, all the living creatures” distinct from the rest of creation. This puts human beings in a special place in God’s heart distinct from all other forms of creation.

In Genesis 1 and 2 God also does not define humanity in terms of sexuality nor of people being on a spectrum that is never mentioned in scripture. Sex is separate from personhood and is something done rather that something that is. God created sex and designed it to flourish in the context of marriage. Sex is designed to bring about a physical union specifically for the marriage covenant. It is designed to reflect the spiritual union. It is deliberately created by God to be a reflection of Jesus and the Church (His bride) (Ephesians 5:20-31). This spectrum presented here is a modern creation rather than a biblical one. Personhood is to be an image bearer. Sexuality is action taken within the marriage context. And yet we also know from Genesis 3 that our fallen nature does something very destructive to the human nature. All human beings are literally born… “this way”—fallen, skewed, and literally hell bent by sin. In this we are all equally ruined and equally in need of our Savior. We are always more than one thing at the same time—saint and sinner (Romans 7:19-25). In this understanding of scripture, we are all created to be image bearers and all equally ruined by sin.

The author of the article also strongly implies that God blesses all forms of sexual relationships simply because there are mentioned in the Bible. She writes of “diverse examples of marriage that are found in the Bible. The bible endorses monogamous marriages between one male and one female in addition to polygamy, sexual slavery, incest, and forced marriages to virgins and blesses all the varieties of marriage.” First, the logic here is severely permissive in its implications. For example, the Bible certainly acknowledges that David had eight wives, and Solomon had 1000 wives, which by the way did not work out very well for either of them. Their polygamy had more to do with their sinful ambitions and lusts then what God wanted. Here the key is simple, the mere mention of a thing is not the same as an endorsement of a thing. It is merely description and in no way negates the standards set by Genesis 1 and 2 or Matthew 19. If the mere mention of something is the same as an endorsement, then mentioning hatred, adultery, or theft could be justifiable. Yet, this logic is usually only applied to sexuality and marriage. I’ll take the time to dive into this point more next week.

However, to round things out for today I ask you to consider an example in Matthew 19:3-6 when Jesus is asked about whether it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. It was a trap question for starters. To answer unfavorably about divorce would have put him in an unfavorable light with many Israelite men who had become frivolous in their view of divorce. On the other hand, any defense of divorce would have put Jesus in a difficult position with the Law of God. Instead, Jesus responds by saying, “’Have you not read,’” he said, ‘That at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So, they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Jesus deliberately takes his challengers back to the beginning when God created marriage implying an intention and a purposeful design. These religious leaders, know this scripture and have probably read it many times. The conversation should be about marriage keeping rather than about how to read something into it that isn’t there. Jesus’ challengers believed that because they were more permissive toward divorce and divorce had become so widely exercised that somehow everything was different now.

Taking the text strictly on its face any argument that suggests Homosexuality was part of the plan from the beginning is just not supported any more than divorce. To assume that it is one has to read into God’s Word things that are not there using our current context.

Alright. That’s a far as we go today. Lest I become like Luther and become too windy, for the sake of time I will stop here and call this part one. I appreciate the article in terms of the opportunity it brings to talk about it. Thanks for that. At any rate may the Lord bless us all to know His Word truthfully and fully and thereby, Believe in the Lord Jesus with all of our hearts. God bless you. I hope that this is a blessing to you. We’ll see you next week.

Pastor Matthew Woods

John 3:30

Link to Article:
https://www.newsandtribune.com/opinion/guest-column-bible-shouldnt-be-weaponized-against-lgbtqia-community/article_eb56c5fa-7b01-11ed-bab0-7753a122dae3.html

Consider also checking our any videos by Sam Allberry or Rosaria Butterfield or Becket Cook. There are many.

PRINTABLE PDF: WDJan2.PDF

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/hTMhbavvhHk

matt.woods@glcna.com — (502) 523-9327