Isaiah 12:4

Make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

Mark 16:15

Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” 

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An intentionally over-processed image of the steeple of what was the first building of First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

When I was in college I encountered the “Kennedy Method of Evangelism.” Named after Dr. James Kennedy, this method is famous for asking two questions. After getting permission to delve into a personal spiritual matter, we asked, “Have you come to the place in your spiritual life that if you died tonight you know for sure that you would go to heaven?” Most folks we spoke with were hopeful but not sure of their eternal destiny. A second question followed: “If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and he would ask, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” Most would say that they had tried to live a good life. Some would mention Jesus’ death. Others would say they did not know.

Those questions offered us an opportunity to talk about the Good News of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection; the forgiveness of sins; and God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It was a unique means by which we were able to declare the word and works of God.

Those questions, however, seem rather disconnected from today’s affluent, materialistic, assisted-suicide-prone culture. People today often think of death as a friend, and have little care about eternal judgment or life after death. Even many religious people think of life after death as a given, and something to which they give little thought. In today’s thinking, all paths lead to God – however you may define him/it/her.

I think there may be a better question for today’s culture: “Do you think Jesus rules over all things in heaven and on earth?” That would sure open the possibility of conversation about bad and good things, God’s rule, and man’s sin. A second would be, “Would it be a good thing or a bad thing if he ruled your heart?” That would give us an opportunity to talk about personal faith, the goodness of God, and how he rules our hearts (graciously, lovingly, through faith). It would open the door to questions about godly living, loving God and neighbor, mercy, justice, and humility (cf. Micah 6:8).

The command to declare the rule and reign of God among all peoples – the good news of Jesus’ salvation – has not changed. Perhaps these questions could frame some conversations with friends and neighbors, family and co-workers in a new and engaging way.

Isaiah 10:1–2 (NIV)

Woe to those who make unjust laws to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed.

2 Corinthians 6:14

What partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? 

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This stitched photo combines three frames to retain detail and provide panoramic view of the former B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Cape Girardeau, MO

You might be familiar with the movie Ghostbusters, and the line from it in the midst of a fierce battle against a ghost of gobblin of some sort when one of the characters yells out, “Don’t cross the streams!” Two busters were spewing some sort of anti-ghost plasma streams on their enemy and grave damage would result if they crossed their streams.

If we are to battle the real enemy of our souls, the concern is not that we might bring harm on ourselves or our world by mixing the multiple strands of the Holy Spirit’s work in us, but much more in mixing our confession of truth and word of God with things other than truth, and a godly life.

This is not just an issue of nuanced theological minutia. We’re not talking about opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt, or not – important as that may be. [If you want to read further about the mystery of the Triune nature of God, click here.] We are talking about the danger of undercutting the message of the Gospel by works of unrighteousness, godlessness, or injustice.

God’s truth, revealed in Scripture, centered in Jesus, and confessed by believers is pure and true no matter how the persons who confess it sully that truth with ungodly behavior. But not everyone can see past evil behavior to the pure goodness of God’s truth. And even the best behavior cannot undo a lie about the Gospel.

Our words and lives must align with each other to the greatest extent possible if we are to have the impact God desires to have through us. We dare not hide a false confession behind supposed good works, or undercut our confession by evil actions. Jesus put it this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, …and love your neighbor as yourself.” Thankfully our love for God flows from his love for us, and that love moved him to forgive our failures and sins. We live that out not by sinning more, but by loving our neighbor and doing good to all people.

Leviticus 19:32 (NASB)

You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged.

Romans 12:10

Outdo one another in showing honor.

I'm trying to get out of my photography funk by taking photos and publishing them. This is the side window of the former B'Nai  Israel Synagogue in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

I’m trying to get out of my photography funk by taking photos and publishing them. This is the side window of the former B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

If we are to honor others we must do the very opposite of our natural (sinful) inclinations: we must put others before ourselves. We must put others’ interests before our own. We must put others’ comfort before our own. We must put others’ convenience before our own. These are not things we are inclined to do. We like our comfort. We want our own way. Whether it’s getting the best parking spot at the grocery store, the best deal on a car, or seat on the airplane.

What if, however, rather than taking the best seat on the plane, having the first and last word of a conversation, or focusing on the pursuit of our own pleasures, we considered other’s feelings, needs, and privileges?

This will take patience as well as an intentional thoughtfulness toward others. In particular, moreover, such a patient and intentional thoughtfulness is even more necessary when offering the proper honor to elderly folks. They move more slowly. They think more deliberately. They might even offer different values and perspectives quite foreign to us. We may not easily understand them.

We too easily forget that we stand on the shoulders of all those who have gone before us. By honoring those who are older than we are, we honor God who has given us all life, wisdom, and the opportunity to gain from the experiences of those who have gone before us.

Psalm 112:1, 4

Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

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Suzie with our mom, Evelynne Bahn, less than a month ago.

My mother is in the hospital in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She fell again the other day, injuring her head, and my sister is there with her now. She did not recognize Suzie yesterday, nor could she name the color of the pink shirt Suzie wore. This is difficult.

This morning – as I do most every Sunday morning – I posted quotes from five Psalms based on the day of the month. This being the 22nd, I posted quotes from Psalms 22; 52; 82; 112; and 142. This particular quote from Psalm 112 seemed especially appropriate. I am praying that the light will dawn for my Mom very soon. She is 92 years old and has become ever more feeble in rapid pace over the past two weeks.

I have determined that I hate cancer, the disease that took the lives of my dad, of Niki, our daughter-in-law, and Barbara, my sister. I’ve decided just now that I hate death. It so seldom comes when we want it, and intrudes too frequently in moments it’s not welcome. And when it does finally come for our mom, it will be as though the dying has stopped. And we will have that sad combination of feelings: grief, sadness, relief, hope: all mixed together.

That’s why this passage is so welcome now: Two thousand years ago light dawned in the darkness of a borrowed tomb of the man from Galilee: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, Lord. I thank God for that victory and look forward to celebrating it on the Great Last Day, and hold fast to that hope now as we live in this vale of tears and shadow of death.

Yes, Lord, let the light dawn in the darkness for my Mom, for my sister, for me, and for all who face the darkness of sin and death. Thank you Jesus!

BTW, here are the other Psalm quotes I shared this morning.

Psalm 22:1-5 (Jesus quoted v.1 from the cross, so we don’t have to experience being forsaken by God. This is very good.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Psalm 52:9
I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.

Psalm 82:3-4
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Psalm 112:1, 4
Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

Psalm 142:5
I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

Exodus 23:1

You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness.

Ephesians 4:25

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors.

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Lighthouse Church now occupies the B’nai Israel Synagogue in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

When I was a boy I was truth-challenged. Most often it was because I had done something I should not have done, and would lie to try to get out of trouble. I would most often get caught, and have to admit that I had not told the truth. I’ve since learned better.

When we tell a lie we are trying to do something that only God can do. He spoke the world into existence. He said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. When we speak something that is not true, we are trying to create a world that does not exist. We’re not very good at that.

That would be a foundation of speaking truth to our neighbor, but there is yet another reason to refuse to join hands with the wicked and act as a malicious witness, and it’s even more important and far-reaching. Love would constrain us from such unkindness.

That seems to me to speak to our current political climate. No matter your political affiliation or candidate of choice, our calling as followers of Jesus is to speak the truth in love. Negative ads and campaigns may win elections, but truth spoken in love flows from hearts steeped in the love of Christ.

Isaiah 40:6,8

All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

Mark 13:31

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

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My 92-year-old mother at the dining table at The Lutheran Home in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. 

It got a phone call last night at 1:19 AM. My mother had fallen again and this time hit her head. Don’t know how that happened, but I do know her falls are becoming more frequent, and this time more serious. She had hit her head and was acting a bit strange. So, I’m not certain what will happen today, or the next few days. But I’m certain we are seeing up close and personal that “all people are grass.” Grass withers. Human life does not go on in this world forever. At nearly 93 years of age we are facing that reality “up close and personal.”

After that phone call, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t worried per se, but I was troubled. I had just seen her the day before last, and realized she was getting more frail and feeble. And I couldn’t put my prayers so eloquently as my sister expressed to me how she was praying, “That the good Lord will take her home if it is time.” That seems so appropriate to me. I tried to form the words for a prayer that expressed that sentiment, but couldn’t find them. So I did what I often do when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night: I prayed the Lord’s Prayer. Several (but not many) times. I prayed for about an hour before I finally fell asleep.

Grass withers. Flowers fade. But the Word of the Lord stands forever. That is why I can pray such a prayer, and why I pray the Lord’s Prayer. God has promised in his Word that our sins are forgiven, that Jesus Christ has overcome the sharpness of death, and delivered us from the realm and rule of the devil to the rule and reign of God – a gracious, life-giving, glorious, joyful rule and reign under his love.

So it goes. We will see today what my mom’s situation is. That is an ever-changing reality. But the words and promises of God are eternal. Thanks be to God for his grace and truth, and the glorious gift of Jesus!

Isaiah 61:6

You shall be called priests of the Lord; you shall be named ministers of our God.

2 Timothy 1:6

Paul wrote to Timothy: I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you.

The B'nai Israel Synagogue building in Cape Girardeau, Missouri which now serves Lighthouse Church

The B’nai Israel Synagogue building in Cape Girardeau, Missouri which now serves Lighthouse Church

Jerry was a junior in high school when I first met him. He introduced me to photography. We became close friends, and I soon learned that he wanted to be a Lutheran pastor. That was somewhat unusual to me; few kids in high school really knew what they were going to do with their lives. Even fewer would admit to wanting to become a pastor. Jerry was different in other ways as well. He was an earthy guy – no goody-two-shoes that’s for sure. Yet he believed in Jesus Christ and wanted to serve him as a pastor. Jerry had a huge impact in my life, for which I am thankful. Jerry was the one who convinced me to be a pastor.

Jerry served as a pastor for only about 10 years before dying suddenly of a heart attack. But Jerry had served as a minister of God and a priest of the Lord for many more years than that. He recognized – even while in high school – that he had gifts to share. He realized that it wasn’t only pastors who relayed the word and shared the Good News of Jesus.

We tend to think in terms of a hierarchy of religious involvement and faithfulness that is shortsighted to say the least. We think of worshipping regularly as the first step of religious commitment and faithfulness. Next comes singing in the choir, serving as an usher, or helping out on the AV team. When we take on teaching Sunday School, working with the youth, or even serving on a committee, we imagine we’ve climbed a little higher on the commitment/faithfulness ladder. To climb to the top we become a pastor or full-time church worker, and if we become a foreign missionary we have launched into orbit!

Those are wonderful things to do; I am deeply thankful for all who serve in various ministries of the church. But faithfulness starts in the heart of the believer and may or may not lead one to do any of those things listed above. Sadly, one can serve in the most noble of callings and fail to be faithful. But when we take the gift of eternal life and salvation that Jesus has won for us, embrace it fully in our hearts by faith, and let his grace and truth shape our every-day decisions and activities, we are being faithful. That can be true of a photographer, CPA, teacher, parent, student, secretary, attorney, or friend.

We are redeemed children of God. As such we are priests and ministers of God. That is true no matter what our earthly vocation may be.

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