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The Journey of This Pilgrim, Part 7 - Advent Reflections

We are in the 2nd week of this Advent Season..a season I have loved and walked in for several decades of my life.  The story is profoundly simple:

Luke 2:8-14
8
 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”



Over the 1000's of years Israel's prophets had been told the day would com…

The Journey of This Pilgrim, Part 6

Advent is just around the corner...it's as the song writer declared:  "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  Growing up as a child in the 1950's my world was small.  Fox Lake had the basics, but it was Beaver Dam, a few miles away, that was the "big" shopping city.  Our town was dressed with lighted decorations on the light posts, the stores decorated with Christmas trees in the window displays, and swags of greenery across the walls and doorways.   The village held a Christmas gathering for all kids at the community building.  Santa arrived on a Fire truck, and distributed bags of candy, popcorn balls, and other treats.    Television was relatively new at the time and yet old versions of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus coming to town, and other shows created even more anticipation for Christmas eve, and day.











We had a Christmas program at the church and we were rehearsed to sing and speak a verse of Scripture according Sunday school classes.  …

The Journey of This Pilgrim, Part 5

As the Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Corinthians, he is obviously troubled.  He's heard about their divisions, which seemingly are all based on a cult of person:  some adherents to Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and some so bold to say they only follow Christ.  What was clear was that they had an incorrect concept of what it meant to be a leader.

I was 16 years old when I got a job working at the local Green Giant canning company.  I started in the Warehouse, driving a fork lift.  At age 16 driving anything was a thrill.  I learned how to wiz around the warehouse with the greatest of ease, and had a few races with other guys I worked with.  Yes, not very wise, but when you're 16 stupidity is just around the corner of almost every thought.  I worked there for about three weeks when one day the night plant manager, Frank stopped me and asked: "I am looking for a night canning foreman.  You would be in charge of sending the vegetables to the correct canning machines …

The Journey of This Pilgrim, Part 4

I am a Christian and have been a committed one since the Fall of 1970.  Growing up in my small town, everyone seemed to be connected to one church or another.  My best friend, Larry, was a Catholic altar boy.  The girl I had an early crush on was Presbyterian.  The Catholic church was "kitty-corner" from the Lutheran church my family belonged to.  The Congregational church was nearby on the same street, and the Presbyterian church was just a block to the west. Being a Christian was to be identified with a church. There was no such thing as "I'm a Christian, but I don't belong to any church." - at least none that I ever knew.
I have little memory of any one growing up whose faith was an influence to me.  I'm not saying there were no faithful people, because I'm sure there were.  I remember delivering papers to one household - the Ipsens.  Lloyd was a guy who told jokes, smiled and laughed, and did the unexpected things...but was really nice guy.  Jea…

The Journey of This Pilgrim, part 3

I've come to love God's word and have had the privilege to study it, teach it to others; but most of all to be transformed by it over these almost 50 years of time that I've given my life to Christ.  I'm now 69 years old and His word is where my faith is founded, where my sin is confronted, where grace is discovered, and my hope is found.  Here's a passage that I love:

Romans 5:6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


While we were still sinners...Christ died for us.  Breathe, relax and release...He's done what I could never do on my own.

As a young boy I had wonderful experiences in a small town.  Fox Lake could have been Lake Wobegon of Garrison Keillor lore where "all the women are strong, all t…

The Journey of this Pilgrim, Part 2.

I wanted to share my story with my grandchildren that they might know where they've come from, and what kind of a person God worked in their Grandfather to become.

When still a young boy I got my first job - delivering newspapers in my home town of Fox Lake.  My best friend, Larry Baszynski and I, had the entire city of 1200+ to deliver to.  I had anywheres between 40 to 50 houses and businesses I delivered to.  It was a pretty good way to earn some money except in Winter when it got cold, snow came, and it got slippery.  Very occasionally my Mother would take pity on me and drive me around in order to avoid trying to ride a bike.  Oh yes, the bike.

My first bike was a single speed Schwinn.  Nothing fancy and fairly straight-forward.  You didn't have extra speeds for either up or down hills.  Just pedal power.  My greatest nemesis was chains that came loose - and if not that, the occasional broken pedal.  For 2-3 hours a day...Sundays were longer...I made about $5-7 a week.  I…

The Journey of This Pilgrim - Part 1

I have often liked the word "sojourn" as a reflective way of describing my journey through life, here on earth, as a child of God...now 69 years old.  Over the course of a few times, I want to write some reflections on my journey as a Pilgrim...if not for anyone else, my hope is that it will help my Grandchildren know a bit about at least one member of their family's past.

My journey began in Sept. of 1949.  I was born a twin with my brother Ed.  We were #'s 5 & 6...there was one more to go.  I was raised in Fox Lake, Wisconsin...a small city of about 1200+ souls at that time.  My parents attended a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church and therefore by birth and their choice I was raised Lutheran.  I didn't mind it and didn't know there was a difference.  My best friend for years was Catholic.  Larry would tell me about being an altar boy and the mere description of assisting the Priest, standing by to hand him this or that, etc...made me envious.  Still, trut…

The Christian and the Politics

As I write this week I'm aware that a national debate is taking place concerning the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court Justice.  I am genuinely grieved by the character of that debate, and for a number reasons.
Last week I taught from Philippians 1:27, where Paul says: "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ..."
Conduct is an interesting word.  Paul uses a particular Greek word, politeuma, which as you can see contains two of our English words:  Polite and Politics.  Together it seems oxymoronic doesn't it?  Who has ever heard of polite politics?  The Greeks used the word to describe conduct that was civil, discourse that was listening as much as speaking;  a desire to reach a consensus through understanding.  
One could only wish couldn't we?  
Conduct...worthy of the Gospel.   The Gospel is a message of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus, our Savior.   The Gospel is a reminder that we are all unredeemed…

Completing a good work

Here's some thoughts from Philippians 1, where the Apostle Paul writes the words:

"in all my prayers for you, I always pray with Joy...because your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now...and I'm confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

I live in a rural area where life is slower...not much changes over time.  There are no tall buildings, no large construction booms building apartments and shopping centers, with endless road construction as life in Madison, Wi. once was.  

The land means everything...life comes from the work on the land.  The people look at life rather simply....but don't think for a moment they are simple.  These are people who with high school educations (often) are running multi-million dollar businesses.  They are smart, hard-working, and no nonsense.  They value family, honesty, goodness and kindness and hate duplicity and stupidity.  Common sense - n…

Joy For the Journey

I've come back to writing today after a vacation time, and another week off because of surgery.  I am beginning a new series of teaching from the book of Philippians.  Philippians is a Joyful book.  It is filled with Paul's effusive love for this church he founded in Acts 16.  As he writes to them the word Joy appears over and over... which begs the question, "What do we mean by Joy?"

For a lot of people Joy is related directly to their circumstances especially in terms of their happiness.  Yet Biblically speaking Joy is not necessarily conditioned by "happenings" that "happen" to bring "happiness".   Now, I'm not saying that Joy cannot accompany happiness.  
Nehemiah spoke telling the people in the renewal of the temple and the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem to "enjoy food, drinks...this day is sacred...for the Joy of the Lord is your strength." (8:10).
The angel Gabriel came in Luke 1 to Zechariah, the aged priest, wh…

Pleasing God, Pleasing Others

I have been thinking, musing if you will, about how to live in the balance of what it means to "Please God" and how it intersects, or doesn't intersect, with pleasing others.  As a Christian I want my life to be ordered around doing things that will please God.  After all, it's scripture itself that reminds us of the necessity of ordering our private and public worlds to be lived in such a way that God is pleased with our lives.

For example, Paul in writing to the Corinthians sums up the goal of our lives in a simple sentence.

2 Corinthians 5:9
 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 

Later as he writes to the Galatians, he reminds them that there is no other Gospel other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is by grace through faith.  In defense of that Gospel, he writes:

Galatians 1:10
 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of …

My Son-in-law explains Why he teaches Children the Gospel

I have two great son-in-laws.  My daughters married excellent men and I'm grateful for both of them. My son-in-law Greg (married to Kelly) is doing his Post-Doctoral work at UW Madison Hospital.  He's not a doctor, but a researcher with a Doctorate in his area of expertise.  He also is a mentor, teacher and youth leader in his church.  He wrote this article to explain to his own church family why he teaches the kids who come to his youth group.  Greg is not a theologian or a Pastor, but he has a pastor's heart and a mind that thinks, and that is a good starting point in serving God wherever he calls us.  Here it is:


Why I teach children the gospel, (Greg Barton)
It is sufficient to say that everyone here would agree that we want all of the children in the church to reach their potential in life. To reach one’s potential, it will require answering the question; “What is the reason for life?” Christian doctrine tells us the entire reason for life is to be “In Christ”. Jesus sa…

He Cleanses Completely

He Cleanses Completely by C.H. Spurgeon (from Truth for Life Daily)
The blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7



"Cleanses," says the text—not "shall cleanse." There are multitudes who think that as a dying hope they may look forward to pardon. Oh, how infinitely better to have cleansing now than to depend on the bare possibility of forgiveness when I come to die.
Some imagine that a sense of pardon is an attainment only obtainable after many years of Christian experience. But forgiveness of sin is a present reality—a privilege for this day, a joy for this very hour. The moment a sinner trusts Jesus he is fully forgiven. 
The text, being written in the present tense, also indicates continuance; it was "cleanses" yesterday, it is "cleanses" today, it will be "cleanses" tomorrow.  This is the way it will always be with you, Christian, until you cross the river; every hour you may come to this fountain, for it cleanses s…

Is Believer's Baptism necessary

I have been a Pastor for over 40 years but more importantly have been a committed follower of Jesus - one that I hope can be described as a disciple of Jesus - for over 47 years.  In my early days of following Christ I ran across the issue of baptism.  It was a moment of crisis because I had been baptized as an infant and now was confronted by the Scripture about believer's baptism.

The Scripture reminds us that Salvation is by Grace through Faith, not of works, it is a Gift of God.  So Baptism by no means is a work of Salvation.  Yet, Baptism is introduced in Scripture by Jesus himself and along with the Lord's Supper is given to the Church as a matter of confession of faith in Jesus Christ.  Baptism - as Peter points out in his letter - does not save, but instead it makes a confession of salvation already done.

Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptism as a way of identifying with the need for repentance and salvation - even though he did not need to repent, and was in …

Faithful to God's Message and Ways

I'm sorry for the lapse of writing...blame it on moving.  We have moved to a different place and it has taken a bit of time to get settled.  Still I've continued to teach weekly and continue to work through this series that covers the entire scope of the Bible's story.
The story is rich because it is a story of God's unrelenting love.  When God the Father sent his Son into the world it was the highest form of love - Sacrifice.  Jesus walked through Israel from North to South, East to West proclaiming "the Kingdom of God is at hand...enter..." and many did.  But it was one experience in John's Gospel that highlights for me - through a narrative - what His coming was to accomplish.
In John 12, the Apostle tells us that it was six days before the Passover, which means six days before Jesus would be hung on the cross, that Jesus came to Bethany where his close friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived.  Mary anoints him with expensive oil which turns out to be …

Walking that Fine Line

Our Church has persevered in this LONG series entitled, "From Garden to Glory".  It was/is an attempt to tell the whole story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  It has been a desire on my part for several years; but I do admit, it's outside of my comfort zone in terms of teaching, and it is almost like remodeling: "It will take longer than you thought, and cost more than you hoped".

We are in the Epistles right now...trying to understand the way in which the early church saw the unfolding revelation of God's redemption - which they had just seen up close in Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension.  The book of Acts serves as a historical picture of what they went through.  That is one reason I'm including the two videos of Acts at the end of this blog.

What is absolutely clear in reading both Acts and the Epistles is that the GOSPEL of Jesus was, and therefore is, the message the Church proclaimed, and therefore must Proclaim today.  I…

The Gospel as Our Foundation

The Foundation of Our Faith is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote to his young son in the Lord - Timothy and reminded him of this too:



2 Timothy 2:19
 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

"God's firm foundation stands...."  Musing on Spurgeon's words, I rewrote this:
The foundation upon which our faith rests is this, that "in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them."(2 cor. 5:19).   The great fact on which genuine faith relies is that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,"(John 1:14) and that "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God"; (1 Peter 3:18)  "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree"; (1 Peter 2:24) "Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with…