Join me as I was graciously invited to sit down with the pastors of Trinity Lutheran Church in Algona, Iowa for one of their episodes of “Ask the Pastors” to discuss biblical manuscripts, translation, and how we get our Bibles today. Audio Only YouTube
This episode I’m joined by Rev. Dr. John Denninger to discuss his story in ministry as well as the new SED Lay Deacon Program. Dr. Denninger currently serves as president of the Southeastern District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and has a heart for reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Available on: YouTube … Continue reading NEW PODCAST: 02 with Rev. Dr. John Denninger
Before the crucifixion, the people hadn’t seen the glory of God yet. Even after seeing the miraculous signs of Jesus, they hadn’t yet seen him give up his life for the world out of love. They hadn’t seen him defeat death itself. Isaiah stood in the throne room of God, a vision of heaven itself, and he was tantalized by it.
These are all too common responses—postures—when we as humans find ourselves in hard situations. We see it all around us today. The outright villains and the false heroes—designations which are increasingly relative these days. The hero of one is the villain of another.
Often it takes us time to work out ideas and give real attention to what others are saying. This kind of discovery is a life-long process.
This week saw the launch of the new video series “At the Edge of Faith,” which explores the concepts of faith and identity in a nihilistic world. Constantly forced to question what’s real, how do we know whom to trust, and where do we fit into it all? Where do you go when your account … Continue reading New Video Series: “At the Edge of Faith”
Jesus, the true light, is counterintuitive to the darkness of this world. Which is so hard for us, isn’t it? When the world is saying one thing and God is saying another, it’s so hard for us to walk away from the darkness even when we know it’s wrong, even when we know it goes against Jesus. Even though Jesus is our beacon—our salvation—we’re constantly drawn to the world’s lies. The only way to fight the darkness is to focus our eyes on the light.
We can trust Jesus in difficult times. We can trust him in times that we doubt ourselves—in times that we make our own share of mistakes. We can trust him even as we come to him as sinners, who don’t deserve his love. We can trust him in times of change—times of uncertainty. We can trust him as we live in exile—dispersed—even in our own land. And when we need someone to be there. When we are all alone and nobody will come near, Jesus is there. Jesus can’t be quarantined. The 6-foot rule doesn’t apply to him. Jesus is there. He’s not going anywhere.
When Jesus invites us to join him, it’s with the promise that he will see us through it. The crowds proclaimed Hosanna, save us now we pray. Well, that’s how he saves us. And even to this day, we pray the same thing. Jesus, save me from my sin. Save me from myself. Save me from all evil. Save me from the darkness of this world. And he does.
Mary knows that the world brings death even upon the one through whom it was created in the first place. I think that’s a good lesson for us—especially now. As everyone is trying to deal with life as it is now, we could be facing a future that looks radically different from the past—even within the Christian church itself.
I think that this time of physical distance between us and the ones we care about might be an opportunity—a time of honest reflection. How do I normally interact with those around me? How might I better endure for the sake of those around me? Not just to feel good about ourselves or to do the right thing, but all inspired and captivated by the unending love that Jesus has for us. In his enduring he forgives us for when we fall short and promises us mercy and grace in his kingdom.
As Jesus stands there with Martha and Mary—with all those other people who have followed Martha and Mary to Jesus in their mourning—even as he himself mourns, Jesus has his mind on something greater than anything that they could have expected. And he tells Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Martha, you’re going to see something that you never thought was possible.
God wants to be in a good relationship with the whole world. And that sounds really nice at first, and it might seem obvious because God is merciful, but that means that God has mercy even on those with whom we’ve had to bear. God has mercy on those who have hurt us—all who repent.
At that moment, John writes, “Jesus wept.” Jesus wept. Jesus sees the people in their sorrow. Jesus sees Martha and Mary, and something inside of him changes. He’s shaken to the core, and he just can’t take it. On the way to the tomb, knowing fully well what he is about to do, surrounded by so many mourning the death of Lazarus, crushed by what has happened, Jesus finally just loses it.
They believed God. They believed that they were evil, and that judgment was coming. They knew that God was serious, and they mourned Jonah’s message. What a surprise of a reaction from this mighty city. Whereas Jonah took it for granted, the Ninevites—along with the sailors from the previous chapter—took the word of God seriously. Isn’t this how it often happens?
The love that Jesus has for Lazarus, the love that Jesus has for Martha and Mary, which will become increasingly more evident as the story unfolds—this selfless, unending, unconquerable love—is something so valuable that Jesus will risk his own life for it. Later in the story, he will give his own life for it—that God might be glorified.
This is our sobering reality. Is this world evil? Yes. Is there evil within our own hearts? Yes. Does God forgive us for what we’ve done wrong? Yes. But it doesn’t magically make all of our circumstances right again.
Jonah wasn’t just fleeing the presence of the Lord in Israel, by going to Tarshish—to the other side of the known world. Jonah is fleeing from the presence of his creator by running as fast as he can into the place of un-creation. But, the Lord is God even over the sea, and he forces Jonah to face the chaos head on.
When Jesus cried out in agony, this time he got no confirmatory voice from the sky. Instead, it was the Roman soldier overseeing his crucifixion—his murder—that confessed who he really was.
Jesus fulfilled the Law, so just look to him. When our focus is on Jesus, when we listen to him and trust in him, we don’t need to worry about ourselves—our righteousness, our salvation—because he’s taken care of everything for us. Instead we can live for those around us. We can show them Christ. We’re free to be the light; we’re free to be the salt.
Jonah tells them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Jonah finally acknowledges the fate that he deserves for running from God and putting all of these people in danger—the consequences of his actions. But now it’s the sailors who don’t listen. The text says, “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.”
Like us, Jonah lives in a pluralistic world, and he hides from it—afraid to proclaim what God declares to Nineveh. He’s afraid to tell the sailors about his God until they press him on it. Jonah thinks that he can take control of his life by hiding. Are we afraid to engage our world as God has called us? Sometimes, just like Jonah, we look for ways to escape, convincing ourselves that we’re in control when we’re not, afraid of not knowing what God will do next.
Jesus reveals it to them, makes it known to them, embodies it in his own life, and transfers that life to them—transfers the power of the Kingdom. Those who’ve encountered Jesus—no matter status or perception—are blessed. They are the beginning of the transformation that he brings. This is a proleptic act—one that he will bring to completion on the day of his return and restoration—but it’s already begun!
So, the action on earth is the actualization of the reality of something that’s already happened. The church, the priesthood of all believers, is the mechanism through which God works, and Hades—Sheol—doesn’t stand a chance. Jesus doesn’t just save us from Hades, he completely dominates it in his death and resurrection.
Before you call someone else’s attention to Christ you yourself must be turned toward him—facing him. You have to experience his love and his daily forgiveness. You must emulate it, show mercy, have a Christ-centered disposition. A mind transformed to see all things through Jesus—the same Jesus who lives inside of you and loves through you—is not something to be taken lightly.
Jesus overcame these temptations from the very outset of his ministry leaving Satan powerless over him. The Spirit that was with Jesus at his baptism and in the wilderness, is the same Spirit that was with us in our own baptisms and remains with us throughout our lives. The angels who ministered to Jesus after what I can only imagine was a grueling 40 days—they’re watching over us as well.
As Jesus invites us into his home, he also brings us along to be a part of what he’s doing here and now—to be a part of the transformation that he has brought and continues to bring. He invites us to bear witness to his sacrifice as the Lamb of God, that we ourselves might embody his love and his mercy, which he has freely given to us.
When Jesus comes to John to be baptized, a gesture showing Jesus’ own faithfulness to his heavenly Father—mourning the sins of his own people—something else happens. Mark writes, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”
In Jesus’ own body—in his own existence, the human and the divine are reconciled to each other. We talk about it during Christmas. We talk about it at Epiphany. But we see it in Jesus’ own baptism. Humanity is reconciled to God now and forevermore. That means your humanity is also reconciled to God through the existence of Jesus Christ, who would go on to show his faithfulness even in the face of torture as his humanity is put into question by those around him—as they try to strip it from him on the cross.
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