Trinity Lutheran Church McAlester

September 20, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

What does it mean to be good?

Trying to understand what it means to be good is harder than trying to nail down what it means to be loved. Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary lists 58 meanings and usages for the word. Talk about too much information! The first definition may be the slipperiest of the lot: “morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, pious.”

If a person’s worldview includes the Creator God, then he set the standard with his creative work, which he deemed, “good.” Unfortunately, his perfect, good creation was ruined when Adam and Eve broke the one rule God gave them. They ate the forbidden fruit – the first sin or “wrong” against God. Consequently, God cursed the snake, the woman, the man, and the universe that was no longer perfect. The good that remains in this world is a mere shadow of the Eden it once was.

But let’s consider the behavioral aspect of goodness. The economic worldview suggests something of value given by both parties. So goes the thinking that “good behavior” is the work exchanged for eternity in heaven. One weakness in that thought is disconnecting it from belief in God. How can goods works be done for someone they don’t believe exists? They would not. They would do them for themselves. Psalm 16:2, (ESV) states, “I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”” That is, only the good done in faith toward God can be good. Jesus amplifies the point that even a believer is not “good” in the sense of the perfection required for the economic way to heaven. He says, ” And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”” (Matthew 19:16-17, ESV). Here we see Jesus as the only one who is good – God himself.

The emerging worldview on goodness comes from the humanist philosophy, which says that persons define it for themselves. Each person decides what good means in a particular situation, realizing that other persons may see it differently. Sadly, much confusion and contention come when good and bad, right and wrong have no absolute standard or metric. Especially, truth becomes elusive when that position devolves to its final endpoint.

Thankfully, God’s Word, the Holy Bible is truth. It not only contains truth but is truth. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, ESV) So it seems the options for understanding good comes to two choices. First, the truth-based definition of “good” from God that only things done for him in faith are good. Furthermore, God’s word gives commands to follow God’s will so that one can objectively know what is good and what is not. The option is the fully subjective, humanist way of letting anyone define good anytime, regardless of what other people think. That kind of good is impossible to capture. It just keeps shifting according to the whims of the one in charge at the time.

It seems so much easier to just follow God’s definition of good. The economic model breaks down. Figuring out good by some big consensus consumes time and energy and leads in no single direction.  That leaves … God’s good – done in faith – leads to knowing and following the way to heaven.

September 6, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

Do I need to watch for the signs that the end of the world is near?

What sign of lunacy can we all recognize? Maybe the man wearing a sandwich sign stating: “The end is near.” Most people would look at such a behavior and think the man must be crazy. Why would anyone spend their valuable time with such a message when the world is doing just fine (though some people wonder how long it might be fine)?

Scientist Fraser Cain projects that the sun will gradually get brighter until by 3.5 billion years from now, the oceans will boil away. I’d say that would destroy the earth as we know it. Whether Mr. Cain is accurate in his life cycle of the sun or not, it seems like the end of the world from the sun’s demise is too far away to imagine in human terms. So why worry?

People worried about watching may be concerned because Jesus led people to believe he was “coming soon.” He said: “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that thekingdomofGodis near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:31-33, ESV) This sounds like the end of the world, but it plays out much sooner. ThekingdomofGodcomes when Jesus dies and rises again after three days. That event marks the coming of thekingdomofGod– the rule and reign of Jesus after defeating the devil.

Yet “heaven and earth will pass away” when Jesus comes again in his glory. It will be soon in God’s terms, not like soon for me. For the Bible says, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8, ESV)

The watchful attitude Jesus wants for his people is to keep faithful to his wishes. People are tempted to party up to the last possible moment, much as revelers do through Fat Tuesday before Lent begins. The idea is to get things right with God later. The danger is to wait too long and miss heaven forever.

The final answer lies in what Jesus says about that glory day – Judgment Day: ” “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-39, ESV)

So if the Son of God doesn’t know and the scenario will play out that all people will be completely surprised, then why watch for signs? Apparently, whatever signs we think will point to the event aren’t valid. So the answer is: I don’t need to watch for signs that the world is ending soon. It is, but no one can know when except God the Father.

August 17, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

Is there a single god, many gods, or just mythical gods?

People seem to be created such that they need a god or several gods to make them feel secure. From the earliest times, people have turned to the creator God, Yahweh, or devised their own gods. The Bible is emphatic on the singularity of God, ““Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, ESV) This verse is held dearly by the Jewish faith; they call it the Shamah. Yet, the God of the Jews is not the triune God of Christianity, composed of three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Any God other than the Triune God, Yahweh, has no power or authority in the universe. The various gods of other world religions, such as Buddha or Allah, or even those of ancient religions like the Baal, Dagon, or Chemosh cannot prove their existence.

In the book of 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah is pitted against 450 prophets of Baal in a contest to see which God is real. In the contest, each team builds an altar of stone, loads it with wood and then a sacrificial bull. The 450 prophet team wailed as their danced around their altar, calling on Baal to answer and burn up their offering. At noon, Elijah mocked them that their god must be on a trip or asleep, so they cut themselves and limped around until near twilight. Then Elijah called the people, dug a trench around his altar, had the people fill four jars of water and pour it over the bull, the wood and altar three times until it ran down and filled the trench. Then Elijah called on God. Immediately, fire from heaven came down, which burned up the bull, the wood, and even the stones.

I’d say that hands down, Yahweh won over a lifeless, mythical Baal. Uniquely, the Bible is filled with well-known historically verified accounts where Yahweh acted in miraculous ways to demonstrate his power and existence. Yet people wonder if he is real? All other gods must be false, but are there other gods that people choose?

Reality of human nature is that we like to make money, things, certain people, or especially ourselves gods. Anything that becomes the central, most important thing in a person’s life is their defacto “god.” In a world that is very much trending toward narcissistic behavior, the self-god is leading the pack. Still, people try to glom onto every god they can. They worship money at the top spot, but also sports heroes, movie stars, pop stars, spouses, children, cars, houses, jobs, and dabble in the gods of various religions like a smorgasbord.

So what is the answer? God says, ““No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, ESV) Yahweh demonstrated that he lives throughout history and continues to live today and forever. He’s proven time and again that all other gods are mythical, having no power. So there is one true God in existence, not many gods.

July 19, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

What happens when I die?

Humans were created immortal by God in the beginning, but Adam and Eve broke God’s one rule: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2.16-17) They ate the forbidden fruit and suffered the consequence of losing their immortality, eventually dying as promised. Because of them, the world was cursed along with all of its creatures including humans so that all people die. (Num. 16:29)

Skeptics may not believe all that the Bible offers, yet what better truth is there in the world to put your faith in than the Bible? Scientific theories and proofs and formulas change – get redefined — over time with new insight and discoveries. Yet the God’s Word remains the same today, yesterday, and always. So why not just go with what God says on life and death? He’s the one that offers hope – the certain kind.

God’s Word says that when you die, your body is either “buried or eaten by sharks,” according to a prominent theologian. (think about it) Meanwhile, the soul of those believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior goes to heaven/paradise.

For the unbeliever, the future is not so good. Ever since Satan and all his evil angels were cast out of heaven for rebelling against God, hell has existed as their final destination. 1 Peter 3:19 says that the souls of unbelievers are immediately imprisoned in hell – a place of eternal torment. That would be the fate of all people born since the first couple sinned, except for Jesus dying and rising again to bring God’s forgiveness to all those who believe Jesus died for their sins.

1 Thess. 4.13 describes the scene when Jesus returns on the Last Day of the universe to judge the living and the dead. In short, it’s like this. The dead are raised to bodily form and join the living in the clouds where all of them meet the Lord God. That event is the final judgment and the unveiling of a new heaven and new earth. The righteous (believers) go on to the new heaven, while the rest are doomed forever to hell.

So when you die, your body decays some place – that’s a given. Your soul goes to heaven or hell. No second chances exist. No appeals. Just eternity based on what you believed about God while you were alive. Think what you believe matters now?

May 17, 2012
by Pastor Glenn

Why is there suffering in this world?

Some years ago, I came to know a 21 year old man born with cerebral palsy. Doctors estimated that his mind was like a three-month old child. He couldn’t speak words or control his limbs. He suffered from terrible seizures and other health problems. Yet the smile on Davy’s face when I talked about Jesus to him was positively glowing. Though I’m not particularly gifted to recognize the Holy Spirit in people, praying with Davy made me sure that the Holy Spirit was strong in him. That presence was clearly felt!

So I feel grateful that I got to pray and share Jesus with Davy. I will never forget this child of God and the way God used him to speak to me and you. I learned that a three-month old mind can know God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I learned God’s mercy to answer constant prayers for Davy’s specific health needs to keep him alive so long in such a frail body.

And why was Davy born that way instead of perfect? Perhaps it is just the way the broken creation is weak and imperfect. Some children are born with defects. Yes, the world is cursed – broken because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 3.16-17). When God cursed the formerly perfect, now sinful couple, he cursed their children and the entire universe with the promised death they chose by eating the forbidden fruit. In this way, suffering entered God’s perfect creation and exists to this day. (Scientific studies readily confirm the deteriorating human condition through accumulating random DNA defects.)

The wonderful part of our God is his mercy. He chooses to intervene at special times in miraculous ways to help suffering. It is only through his goodness and mercy that anything good happens. When it does we thank him as we see his glory demonstrated. It’s like the case of the man born blind in the Bible. “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3, ESV) Jesus healed the man to reveal his power to do so as the son of God.

Summing up the points, suffering exists in the world because we are sinful, broken people living in a broken universe, all brought on by the failure of the perfect first couple, Adam and Eve. So the suffering is necessary as the consequence of deliberate defiance of God’s one command in the Garden. Yet, God in his mercy intervenes when it suits his purposes to alleviate or mitigate certain suffering to demonstrate his power and glory. So God doesn’t deserve our malice for allowing suffering that mankind deserves, but only our thanks for his mercy and goodness to care for us, answering our prayer requests with yes, no or wait for my time.

March 16, 2012
by Pastor Glenn
1 Comment

How do I find personal peace?

As I watched the movie: “Eat, Pray, Love,” I couldn’t help but think that the main characters quest for peace would have been easier if she really knew the one true God. Her life was challenged with failed relationships and in the end, the fact that she blamed herself for all of the things that were wrong in her life. So she might find peace with herself by forgiving herself. Her source of such simple inspiration came through various yoga practitioners. And, the journey lasted several years.

God’s peace comes from a different place, as in Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV): do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here, it points to praying to God as a source of peace. Yet, the movie character’s prayer to some unnamed, indefinite god lacked it. Praying to God only makes sense if we believe in God’s personality — his ability and willingness to interact with us — his personal control of all things, and of all creatures and all their actions.

So when the cares of the world make us anxious, or the big questions of the world leave us searching aimlessly, seeking out the God who created and sustains this world makes perfect sense. Moreover, the fact that “his word is truth” means we can let go of all the subjectiveness — the worldly, humanist means — to offer peace  so that we can cling to hard, solid promises of God.

One of God’s promises is forgiveness to those who repent and change their hearts from the place of sin. His forgiveness also is the power for those who believe to forgive others and oneself – regardless of the actions by others. Usually, we are caught up in guilt over our wrongs or angst over things done to us. Faith to let God rule our heart is the best way to overcome all guilt and angst.

Thus, God Gives Peace: For Us to Not Worry, But Pray And Give Thanks


November 4, 2011
by Pastor Glenn

Wrestle with God

Jacob was a born wrestler. He wrestled with his twin brother in the womb. He was born holding onto his ankle (Genesis 25:22, 26). He wrestled away his brother’s birthright for a pot of stew. He wrestled away the blessing from their father Isaac for the prime inheritance.
Then, Jacob wrestled with a man all night (Genesis 32:22-32). And the man, seeing that Jacob kept on wrestling, touched his hip and dislocated it. But, Jacob would not give up until the man gave him a blessing. Even more, the man changed Jacob’s name to Israel (“He wrestles with God”).
The saints of the faith wrestled with God. They went to the Lord in prayer with petitions for people who suffered in body, soul and mind. They still wrestle with God. Perhaps someone is wrestling for you right now.
Do you wrestle with God? Some people try to ignore God and go their merry way doing whatever they please to do. But, God cannot be ignored. He is the creator and we, being mortal creatures, will have to wrestle with Him one day whether we like it or not.
Or, would you prefer to wrestle with evil spiritual forces who wish to do you harm? (Ephesians 6:12) Wrestling with them without the protection of the Lord Jesus Christ is futile. Evil will win.
The Lord Jesus Christ has won victory for all who hold onto Him through faith. He wrestled until His work was finished – by His death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.
Go ahead, wrestle with God. Be blessed. He is the victor who loves you, protects you and saves you unto eternal life. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” Amen.

September 14, 2011
by Pastor Glenn
1 Comment

Why would God forgive a murderer?

God our Father is generous, abounding in blessings, overflowing with love, and sharing of all good things with us that He might save us to live in His eternal Kingdom.
Jesus told the disciples about a vineyard owner who hired workers at different hours of the day (Matthew 20:1-16 ESV). When it was time to pay them, he gave each the same pay. Now, one who had come to work early expected to get more than the last hired. But, the owner replied, “’Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius [a day’s pay]? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ [And Jesus noted:] “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Sometimes I run across a person who has been an unrepentant sinner his whole life but shortly before dying, he hears the Gospel and converts to faith. I have had people say, “It is not fair that he is in heaven. You don’t know how bad he was.” But, the point Jesus is making in Matthew 20 is not how bad the last worker was and how little he did for the kingdom, but how good God is and how He has made the man new in Christ. God is generous beyond belief. His loving kindness endures forever. The Bible tells us that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
The person who begrudges God’s right to save people (even murders, child molesters and terrorists) does not understand the meaning of grace and its purpose to save sinners of all kinds who hear the Gospel and repent. On the other hand, I sometimes hear at funerals that such-and-such certainly earned a place in heaven by his good works. That is dangerous talk. If someone thinks he earned a place in heaven, the likelihood is that he is not going there. Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
The greatest in the kingdom is the “last,” the person who knows that he is most needful of grace and mercy from God. He loves much, because he knows that he has been forgiven much. “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner!” Amen.

August 26, 2011
by Pastor Glenn
1 Comment

Why Does God Say: Love Your Enemies?

Saint Paul instructs us to do good things for our enemies so that they may be won over by our good deeds (Romans 12:9-21 ESV): “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Perhaps you have heard the story of the woman who had a horrible mother-in-law.  Every time the mother-in-law did something evil, the woman baked her a cake.  Eventually the mother-in-law developed diabetes and died.  Well, perhaps that is not exactly what Saint Paul had in mind.

But, Jesus calls us to love our enemies, win them over by our actions, so that we may show ourselves to be true sons of the Father and receive a reward in heaven (Matthew 5:43-48).  Disciples are to be humble followers of Christ.  He bore the cross of our sin, guilt and shame to win our freedom from eternal condemnation.  And, He calls us to carry our own crosses of serving others to glorify His name and expand His kingdom.

When we do good things for those who hurt us, we may well win them over.  How many times have you seen a student act out at school or a fellow employee react in anger and later find out what was really behind their actions?  They were undoubtedly having trouble dealing with problems in their lives.  Something was going wrong and you became the focus of their rage.  It is at that precise moment that you need to show them the love of Jesus Christ.  Ask them questions. Take time to listen to the issue that is behind their behavior. Express your concern for them and desire to help.

Saint Paul reminds us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).  And, what changes people is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  People often learn about that Gospel by seeing it in action in our lives.  And, if after repeatedly praying and showing your enemy the love of Christ, he persists, do not worry.  God will deal with him some day.

So, go ahead.  Do good deeds for your enemies.  Share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Bake that mother-in-law a cake or perhaps fix her a nice salad.  Amen.