- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 22 August 2018 22 August 2018
We all know many people who are outside the faith; those who are un-churched, those who are of a different religion, those who are atheists, and those who believe nothing and simply don't care. We know many people who need to hear and know about the good news of Jesus Christ! Every one of us is called to be salt and light in this unbelieving world (Matthew 5:13–16). Every one of us is also called to give a witness to the faith. St. Peter calls each of us to be prepared to give a reason, make a defense, for the hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).
Sharing the faith, witnessing, starts with relationships. Effective witnessing starts with sharing the faith with those whom you know and have a relationship. That is, there must be a level of trust. Most of us won't give the person knocking on our front door, trying to sell us something we don't need, the time of day! Why? Because we don't know them and we don't trust them.
Sharing the faith starts with sharing the good news of Jesus; His death for sins of the world and His resurrection from the dead! There is no substitute for the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified and risen! But what do you say to the person who rejects this good news out of hand? Is the conversation over? Do we simply say, “well, you've just gotta believe!”?
Effective witnessing also needs to be prepared to respond to and deal with roadblocks. There are always roadblocks. How can anyone believe in God anyway? Why should anyone believe the Bible is really God's Word? How do you know the Bible wasn't written by drunk monks in the fifth century? What makes Jesus so different? How do you know that Jesus is really who He claimed to be? How is Christianity any different than any other religion?
We believe the Bible is the Word of God, and it is. But why do we believe such? Do we simply believe it is because it says so? What separates the Bible from the Koran or the Book of Mormon?
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, who died for sins of the world and rose again from the dead. This the heart of soul of the Christian faith. But what is this faith, our faith, based on? Is it based on subjective feelings or is it based on sound historical evidence?
In an age of religious confusion, pluralism and persistent attacks on the Christian faith, a basic orientation in Christian apologetics is becoming increasingly vital for all Christians. What is Christian apologetics? Apologetics is a Greek word (apologia) that means "to defend a person or thing." The task of Christian apologetics is about removing the roadblocks of skeptics so that one can give a clear witness to and reason for believing in Jesus Christ.
Our evangelism committee is excited to host professor and Christian apologist Dr. Adam Francisco to speak here at Saint John's September 28–29. Dr. Francisco will give a Friday evening presentation titled “Is There Good Reason to Believe that God Exists?” He will also lead a half day conference on the basics of Christian apologetics on Saturday; “Confessing the Faith in an Unbelieving World.” I strongly encourage you to attend one or both of these events. I know that all of us will find something beneficial for the task of giving a reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ!
- Written by Jeffrey Hemmer, pastor of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois Jeffrey Hemmer, pastor of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois
- Created: 12 July 2018 12 July 2018
Long, long before it was trendy to decry “toxic masculinity” on social media, we had a serious problem with masculinity. Although distortions of masculinity—played out in the lives of self-indulgent men who think that sex is for self-gratification and that women are objects to be taken, conquered, traded or sold—have been much in the news this year, our modern predicament is hardly new.
Indeed, it could hardly be older.
At the dawn of creation, Adam was the first man to distort real, godly masculinity, and Eve was the first woman to be let down and left hurting by a man’s inability to understand and live out his manly calling.
Adam was called to protect his bride, to provide for her, to populate the world with her. He was given to be selfless in his service toward her, caring more for her own good than his own. And things were going swimmingly until he and Eve suddenly found themselves face to face with the father of lies in the form of a serpent.
When the serpent approached the woman with his wicked distortion of God’s Word (“Did God actually say … ?”) and outright lies (“You will not surely die”), where was Adam? When Eve saw that the fruit was pleasing to the sight and good for food, where was her husband? Hint: he wasn’t out cultivating a garden, checking on the animals or otherwise exercising his lordship over creation.
He. Was. Right. There.
“She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine) It is almost as if Adam has been treating his wife as a kind of lab rat with which to test the veracity of God’s Word. Will she die? Only when she doesn’t immediately keel over does he join her in eating the forbidden fruit. Eve, Paul tells us, “was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2:14) Adam “was not deceived,” and yet he sinned. He failed to intervene to shield his wife from the attack from the serpent, to wield the Word of God he had been given to preach against this slithery deceiver.
Then, when they hear the sound of their Creator walking in the Garden and Adam has the opportunity to emerge from the fog of selfishness, what does he do? He tells God, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) In other words: “If we’re being honest, God, the blame falls first to her and second to You for giving her to me in the first place. Keep that in mind as You’re doling out punishments.”
This is toxic masculinity. Adam would rather throw his wife under the bus than expose himself to divine wrath. He shamefully and selfishly cowers behind his wife’s fig-leaf skirt.
Since then, every man has been an heir of Adam’s selfish distortion of manliness. We men are all selfish jerks by nature. We all are more inclined to save our own hides than to offer our bodies and lives for the good of others entrusted to our care. We’re born rebellious against God, with our shoulders slumped and our eyes downcast, curved in on ourselves. This is sin.
Only one Man in history has not been guilty of this kind of selfish, toxic masculinity. He is the Man born of Mary, the Eternal Word who became flesh—the One who, though Man, remains fully and distinctly God.
Jesus was, is and always will be the perfect Man. He is everything Adam was created to be. Where Adam was self-centered, Jesus is centered on the good of those He comes to save. Where Adam was self-preserving, Jesus is self-sacrificing. Where Adam was self-serving, Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28).
Real masculinity is not a matter of having big enough muscles, big enough tools, guns or trucks. Those things are fine, but they don’t exhibit masculinity. The strongest man can still be selfish.
Real, God-pleasing masculinity exists in seeing one’s self and giving one’s self for the good of others. Men were created to serve, to give, to love, to be instruments for the benefit of their neighbors and the flourishing of creation.
And no one except Jesus exhibits that kind of masculinity perfectly.
The cross is the perfect display of masculine giving. Nothing is more manly—in the theological sense of the word—than Jesus’ selfless sacrifice on the cross. There, He holds nothing back, spends Himself completely for the good of His Bride, the Church. He succeeds where Adam—and all men—failed. And even Adam, along with all the rest of us cretins, is saved from his own selfishness by the perfect self-sacrifice of Jesus.
Jesus alone, true God and perfect Man, is the solution to toxic masculinity. His Bride is the only one who has no cause to lament having suffered at a man’s selfishness. He loves her selflessly and perfectly. He endures abuse so that she can be adorned with His own righteousness. In this Church, then, men—and women—have hope.
Right now, the world needs men. Real men. Manly men. Strong men. Courageous men. Christ-like men. Masculine men. Men who will give of themselves for the good of their wives, their children, their communities, their congregations, their countries. The Church needs men, too. She needs men to be the spiritual leaders of their families—husbands who will love and forgive their wives as Christ loves and forgives His Church; fathers who will catechize their children in the faith and set the example for them in the pew of what a man forgiven by Jesus is and does. The Church needs older men who will mentor younger men. She needs martyrs who will boldly confess Christ in the face of persecution. Above all, the Church needs men who will work to solve the problem of toxic masculinity by embracing God’s call to embody the higher, holier, selfless masculinity they find in Jesus.
The problem of distorted, defective masculinity is older than our modern predicament. But so is the solution. The solution is the Man up on the cross, the savior of sinners and the example for men.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.1 Peter 2:21–24
Jeffrey Hemmer is the author of Man Up! The Quest for Masculinity. Article reprinted, with permission, from the June/July 2018 Lutheran Witness (Vol. 137, No. 6).
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 27 June 2018 27 June 2018
We had a great week of Vacation Bible School! 56 children joined us over the week as we focused on our faithful God who keeps all of His promises on life’s wild ride!
Life can indeed feel at times like were headed down a raging river with no paddle, no life jacket and sometimes not even a raft! And while God does not promise to rescue us from life’s trials and storms, He does promise to see us through them. Christ Jesus is God’s yes to every promise He has ever made to His people. As we reflected on God’s promises in Christ and in our baptism into Christ, we rejoiced that our faithful God who has already defeated sin and death for us will see us through every trial, challenge and obstacle that we face in this life.
Our VBS mission project this year was Mission Madagascar. This mission outreach sends Bible-based literature to children and families in Madagascar. The children’s response was quite impressive as they did an excellent job bringing in their daily offerings and giving $147.99 to support this mission project! Well done!
Thank you to everyone who donated various items and to everyone who volunteered their time and energy to plan, decorate, teach, organize and lead a fantastic week of VBS!
Serving with you in Christ,
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 30 May 2018 30 May 2018
With the summer season upon us, many of us are looking forward to some time off from the daily grind to get away and find some rest. Appropriate rest is very much a part of God’s design for His creation. It’s much too easy to get caught up in the business of everyday life, making it all the more necessary to find time to rest and rejuvenate ourselves.
Rest, in fact, was built into the rhythm of life by our Creator. On the seventh day, after completing His work of creation, God Himself rested. Certainly, God did not need to rest, but did so to give creation a pattern to follow. By His own rest, God sanctified the seventh day as a holy day of rest. In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is two-fold, it is for both physical and spiritual rest (Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath brings rest for both humans and animals and is a time for sacred assembly. Even the land was to rest on the Sabbath to remind God's people that it was His land and they lived in dependence on Him. In other words, this two-fold rest was a way of teaching God's people that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that come for the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
After the disciples returned from their first mission trip, presumably exhausted from the demands of their work and their journey, Jesus invites them to rest. In fact, our Lord's words could hardly be more emphatic; “Come away, by yourselves, to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Come away and rest! Jesus invites His disciples to go with Him to a solitary place, a quiet place, a place where they can go and rest for a while! Mark tells us that they were so busy that they had no time to sit and have a meal (6:31). Presumably they ate, but probably on the run. So Jesus takes them to get some much needed rest.
Author Dick France writes, “Some Christians, governed by the ‘Protestant work ethic,’ have thought of ‘rest’ as at best a concession to human weakness, to be enjoyed, if at all, only with an underlying sense of guilt!” 1 For some of us, it seems as though it's ingrained into the fabric of our being that we always need to be doing something and if we're not, we tend to feel guilty. Sound familiar? I know I'm as guilty as the next person for failing to rest for these very reasons!
Jesus made getting away for rest and prayer a priority. And if He needed this, what does that mean for the rest of us? Rest is not just a seasonal need, but a weekly need! We may think we can work 24-7, seven days a week, but we will soon find out that this is not how God designed us. We may also think we can survive without the second part of God's Sabbath design, rest for our souls, but we will soon find out that this too is not how God designed us.
As much as we're run down from the daily grind and in need of rest for our bodies, we're also run down by our daily sins and failures and in need of God's grace, rest for our souls. Jesus is our Sabbath rest and, even in these summer months, His invitation still stands; “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need rest from our sins, from our worries, from our burdens, from our struggles and from the crosses we bear in this life!
Wherever Jesus is, there is rest for weary hearts and burdened souls! We have been given the gift of receiving His rest where He has promised to be for us—in His Holy Church, in Holy Absolution, in His Word preached and proclaimed and in His Holy Supper. This is where Jesus continues to give us rest and healing for our weary hearts and burdened souls! God knew what He was doing when He gave His people the command to rest and gather for sacred worship (Leviticus 23:3). We need both and we need them regularly!
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 29 March 2018 29 March 2018
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye waste away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.Psalm 6:6–8
It has been said the Psalms are a “mirror of the soul." The prayer and words here in Psalm 6 especially bear this point out. We've all prayed these words even if not word for word. At some point, maybe more than we'd care to admit or have ever wanted or desired, our weeping over sin, over death, over the brokenness of this life have flooded our lives.
Thankfully, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord has heard the sound of our weeping. Our tears are not empty or in vain! The Lord has done something about them! Outside Jesus' empty tomb on that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene wept bitterly. The horror of Friday was still fresh; the grief, the pain, the sorrow were still raw. And without Easter, without the resurrection, Mary's tears would be forever empty; her grief, pain and despair never ending. But the Lord heard her weeping. He answered her cry. He answered her prayer.
As her tears flowed, perhaps uncontrollably, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, called Mary by name and revealed to her the great miracle of Easter; death could not hold Him in the grave! He is risen! Sin and death did their best to Jesus, but they could not and did not win! He is risen and holds the victory over then now and forever!
The Lord indeed heard Mary's weeping! He hears your weeping. He knows your pain, your grief and your suffering. Christ's death and resurrection for you prove it. His whole life is the answer to your prayers, your cry for help. His coming, His perfect obedience, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of the Father is the Lord’s answer to your weeping and mine.
As we await the final victory and the day of the resurrection, we still grieve the death of our loved ones and feel the deep pain that accompanies such loss. We still shed tears. But one day, God will wipe every tear from our eyes forever! (Isaiah 25:8) For on that day, there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying and no more pain! (Revelation 21:4) Until then, our tears are not in vain, they are not empty. They are filled with hope in Christ's victory.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Happy and Blessed Easter!