Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A recovery story

Jesus said, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Mark 2:17 One of the most meaningful things in my pastoral ministry so far has been learning from people who have addiction in their story. When they give me permission to walk with them through the darkness, I gain an understanding of how they got there that I never had before. I see how alike we really are. As I learn what is all behind the addiction, I find that I am flawed in similar ways. Tears come to my eyes when I see Jesus come between us, take both of our hands and lead us to the light of his forgiveness and a new life of healing and service. I am beyond thankful to have permission to share one such story with you from someone who continues to teach me so much through their faith-filled struggles.
-Pastor Aaron Schulz

I’ve kept the job, my family loved and supported me, I even had a church family. I struggled in isolation surrounded by many. I cannot pinpoint exactly how, why, or when things became unbearable, unacceptable, and desperate.

In my journey I had been given the suggestion to go into detox, because the person feared, in my situation, I had been drinking far too much to quit on my own, that it could possibly turn fatal. Rare for an alcoholic, I took the advice. After a long month of wanting to get on with the next phase of my life, which was terrifying, on December 26th, 2015 I was admitted to a treatment center. From there I was given choices, suggestions,  and a direction. 

I learned that in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that I could have a stronger connection with God. I was blessed with the opportunity to contrast a Sunday morning church service that I regularly attended with what I had just heard shared at the meeting. Almost always there was a God connection and a solution to any thoughts I may have been struggling with.

A few months after I became sober my family relocated across the state. God had removed the obsession to drink. The community in which we were transplanted offered a variety of meetings to go to. Again surrounded by a church community and with the help of AA, my sobriety was on a well maintained path. I met with my pastor, my sponsor, and a therapist. All three expressed the importance of each of their roles and also the others to my early recovery. 

The problem with addiction is not the substance, but the thinking. Attitudes need to be shifted and our brains need to be retrained into focusing on a solution and not on what is unacceptable to us as addicts. It is cunning, baffling, and powerful when alcohol or any substance enters an alcoholic or addict, all goodness and light is clouded by the darkness of the disease. 

About a year after settling, I was approached by the pastor, he told me that there was a need for recovery in our church and wasn’t sure how to get a group started. I offered to start a group or two, one in the evening and one in the morning. I gave the pastor all the literature I could to educate him on the way an AA meeting is run. The success of the program is based in christian values and principles. Traditionally the meetings close with the Lord’s prayer. By using Alcoholics Anonymous our church has reached a greater part of our community. A wide variety of the attendees do not attend church at St Paul’s, however we are opening the doors and offering a safe place for recovery. I have many inquiries about our church from questions about our organ to how to register for our school, or even about services and times. Some of the attendees were raised in the church and at some point in their life and were treated badly by church leadership at the time. The meeting offered those individuals an anonymous way to reconnect to the church, and to receive some healing. 

My experience has allowed me to be of service and connect the suffering to a solution, if they will listen. The stars aligned in a way I can only attribute to God. The meetings are held at St Paul’s are not only vital to my recovery but help so many others, from the addict to their families. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience, strength, and hope.  

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The wedding ring that won't come off

I have been missing a significant item in my Every Day Carry (EDC) for nearly 6 wedding ring.

I actually felt embarrassed that I was missing it and could unintentionally give the wrong impression. If anyone knows me, you know I adore my wife and want to show that to her in every way possible.

But I couldn't bring myself to buy a replacement ring. There were plenty of options, of course. We could go pick one out. We could order one of those silicone ring sets online. In fact, my wife did order one of those sets (an off-brand). I tried them on and couldn't get over how "cheap" they felt. I value our marriage so much that I wanted a proper ring to symbolize that. And in my mind, it had to be the original!

I've taken my ring off to split wood and do yardwork. When I head into the woods to hunt, I leave it in my cupholder so it won't fall off in the "pursuit" of wild game for dinner. I've even had it slip off my finger while pulling a fish into the boat or through the hole in the ice, so I've been extra careful. I couldn't resize it because it is tungsten. This time, I had no idea where it went. I held out hope that I'd find it when I clean out the garage, shed and truck in the spring.

But after 6 long months, I came home, and my wife is going down on one knee, laughing, "will you marry me?" A few days before, I had been thinking about the significance of the man going down on his knee, laying his life and his future down for the woman who may say yes or no. He is laying his heart on the line along with all his hopes and dreams for their life together. And here is my wife on her knee.

Where did she find it? In the glove compartment of our van, inches from where the passenger sits. She promptly ordered inserts that can be put inside the ring to make it a snug fit. Alissa comes through again!

I'm going to take this beyond marriage now, to the enduring spiritual thing marriage really points to. Marriage is for this life, but marriage points to a love that outlives this one. Marriage is a vivid picture of Jesus Christ's love for his people, for all people really. A love that's so true. A love that's really love. Jesus' love is the ideal we all strive for but seem to fall short of. But that doesn't make his love any less "ours".

Jesus got down on his knee for us. At creation, he envisioned a people who did not yet exist. A people he could love and bless. And his vision became reality when God got on his knees in the dirt, formed man, and breathed life into him. But he wasn't done. Man was not complete. He was missing something, someone. God put Adam to sleep and knelt down again. God took a rib from Adam's side and made woman.

Man and woman lived to lay down their lives before God and each other. They knelt in a position of mutual love, respect, and service. But, they wanted to stand on their own two feet. They stood up against God's purposes for them to live in harmony and stretched for the fruit. And as they stretched and ate, they fell horribly. Marriage and family life and work life went to pot.

But God didn't ask for the ring back. He didn't serve them papers. He came and found them as they hid in regret and shame and fear. And he promised to keep laying everything on the line for them so he could lift them up once again. He promised to lay down his Son for them.

When you read the Old Testament or study it in this fantastic podcast, you will see this story of trying to be independent from God repeating over and over. You and I will find this attitude in ourselves if we look in the mirror. But you will also find that God keeps coming after you. He keeps warning you of the heartache of living apart from him. Hear these as calls to come back! Come back to where you belong! And in the Old Testament, you will see God doing everything within his power to preserve a people from which the man of true love could enter the world.

This man knelt down before God and agreed to do whatever it would take to bring us back. As he knelt before God, he let himself be placed into a woman's womb. He knelt before God his Father and before his parents in everything he did. He knelt down to the sick, to the mentally ill and the demon possessed, to those who knew little or nothing about God or who thought they knew a lot about God. Finally, he fell onto his knees as the weight of his cross, our guilt, shame, and regret, drove him into the ground.

He comes to you today and kneels before you and me, offering us a ring that will never come off. He holds out his hand, "come, follow me." He will teach us to lay down our lives with a truer love than ever before. We have nothing to lose because with him there is no more guilt, shame, or regret. There is only forgiveness, approval and a new tomorrow. Only unconditional love. A ring that will never come off.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A prayer for the distressed

I often find myself coming face to face with reality. A whole lot of it. I have a friend who is not afraid to speak of reality. I appreciate that. When you really know what you're dealing with, you can actually work on it. Or, more and more often, pray more specifically about it and look to wise ones for counsel.
When people bring their realities to me, I try to 1. help them understand that reality as a fellow human being with my limited abilities 2. help them understand that reality with the wisdom God gives in Scripture and 2. assure them that God is with them in that reality, no matter how dark the road.
I remember praying this one Psalm daily, if not several times a day during some rough stretches of college.
I recently opened up a Bible study on "Dealing with Depression" with this Psalm to give those who suffer in the "cloud" a light. Does it make the cloud go away right now? Not necessarily. Is the light there in the cloud? Yes, even if you can only see a sliver of it. And even if you're wondering why you can't see the light yet, remember how the star led the wise men to see Jesus even as Herod sought to kill Jesus. Remember how God's smile glowed from heaven when he was baptized, even though Jesus would later be condemned for what we have been and said and done that God frowns upon.
Our light, Jesus, had much more darkness in front of him after those moments in the spotlight. In fact, the darkness was always all around him while he was here. But every time he came up against darkness, his light pierced it. Demons fled. Diseases reversed. Life came from death for Lazarus and for him. Jaw-dropping perfection came from his life instead of oh-so-common sin.
And even though he now sits in the most brilliant light in the heavens, he is with us in our darkness. He has rescued us from the darkness of not knowing God or where we stood with him. He has brought us into God's light. Why would he turn the lights off on those he has already rescued? His light can't go out because in him there is no darkness at all. He will finish what he started. He will lead us all the way through the darkness. He will light our way through our present darkness until light is all there is and all we see.
Psalm 13 English Heritage Version (I love the guidance in praying this Psalm that the headings provide)

Anguished Questions

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I experience worries in my soul,
sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy tower over me?

An Urgent Prayer

Look at me. Answer me, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes
    so I do not sleep in death,
    so my enemy does not say, “I have overcome him,”
    so my foes do not rejoice when I fall.

A Solid Answer

But I trust in your mercy.
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he has accomplished his purpose for me.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Be courageous in 2020!

As for man, his days are like grass.
Like a wildflower he blossoms.

Then the wind blows over it, and it is gone,
and its place recognizes it no more.

Psalm 103 gives us a liberal dose of reality at the end of 2019. You might even say a harsh dose of reality.
That’s why you’ll  want to pray the rest of the psalm.

In this new year, the Psalms give us a liberal dose of reality. And the Psalms give us a liberal dose of
courage. That’s why it’s good to look at the world every day and year gone by, every new day and every new
year, through the Psalms.

You might argue that we get enough reality just by paying attention to the global and national news. You may
be right. Partially.

We get one side of reality. We get the human perspective on what’s going on. You remember when the Notre
Dame burned this past year. Horrific. 12th century religious architecture that will now take years to repair. And
it was almost gone forever. From a human perspective, what a relief that it didn’t burn to the ground! We can
rebuild it! Wow, just like that, something so iconic can melt away in the flames. We better be more careful. We
better improve our wiring systems so this doesn’t happen elsewhere. Human progress will win after all! We will
always rise from the ashes! Do you see where the human view of reality can lead us?

But what if we look at this event from God’s perspective, through Psalm 103? “As for man, his days are like
grass. Like a wildflower he blossoms. Then the wind blows over it, and it is gone, and its place
recognizes it no more.” A liberal dose of reality. We are but mortal. We are like the grass. We have our time to
grow and produce and build and accomplish and blossom. And then something comes along. A windstorm. A
fire. Winter. And the grass is gone. It dies. Goes brown. Blows over. Unless you’re in southern Wisconsin,
apparently people are still cutting their grass there during the holidays. But winter will soon move through there
as well. 

So that’s the reality God wants us to see? Yes. Part of it. A liberal dose of it. Why? He wants us to see our
condition as it really is. He doesn’t want false hopes to mislead us. He doesn’t want our trust to be placed in
human progress and achievement. He wants us to see our limitations. Our frailty. That “the wages of sin is

And once we have drunk that reality down and it’s burned our throat and our nostrils like that nasty medicine
we have to take this time of year, then he gives us another dose to follow it up. A liberal dose of courage.
The very next verses of Psalm 103...

“But the Lord’s mercy is from eternity to eternity
over those who fear him,
and his righteousness is with their children’s children,
with those who keep his covenant,
with those who remember his precepts in order to obey them.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his royal power rules over all.

Buildings burn down, people die of ebola and tropical storms, Walmart shootings, synagogue shootings, Isis,
and old age. But the Lord’s mercy doesn’t vanish or fail us. The Lord blankets us with his mercy through all of
this. The Lord does not forget to be merciful to us! No matter how many times we have abused his mercy or
taken advantage of his patience. No matter how often we have sinned knowing full well what we are doing and
all those other minute by minute sins of attitude we don’t even realize. You know what does vanish? You know
what is forgotten? All of our sins from 2019!

His mercy is over those who fear him.  We fear him because we see reality. We see our frailty. And we see God
putting his hands around us through the winter storms and the chaos of this world like a gardener cups their
hands carefully around a tender new plant. He takes delight in us. His mercy will do anything to keep us in his
care. How can we be sure of this going into 2020?

We just saw again this Christmas how our Lord Jesus sprung up like a tender shoot. He grew into full maturity,
full blossom, exactly what God’s will was and is for everyone he has created! To borrow the words of Psalm 1,
Jesus did not walk the way the wicked world walks. He did not stand in line with sinful humanity, going with the
flow. He did not sit in the company of mockers and demean others and spend his whole life griping about
everyone and everything. But his delight was in the law of the Lord. He meditated on his Father’s law day and
night. He truly was like a tree planted by streams of water, which yielded its fruit in season, his leaf did not
wither—whatever he did prospered!

Until he walked the painful road towards God’s judgment on Calvary, the road to the slaughter that we would
have walked. Until he stood in our place right between us and God as if he were the guilty one. Until he sat
under the mockery of the crowds, the soldiers spit and games, the sign over his head, and the thief next to him
on the cross. And ultimately, worst of all, God hid his face from Jesus because he could not stand the sight of
him who took our place. And then he was assigned a grave with the wicked, though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

But the Lord’s mercy is from eternity to eternity! He did what we cannot do with our bodies, our aching joints,
our failing organs and forgetful minds, our things and buildings that rust and break down...he sprung back to
life, better than ever! My friends, he has blanketed you with his mercy as a quilt covers you in the cold. He has
covered you and blanketed you and your children and all those who fear him with his righteousness before
God! You are under God’s mercy, not his judgment in 2020, no matter what happens. You are righteous, not
wicked, in his sight. Fear him. Respect him. Be amazed by his mercy again this new year, just one year in an
eternity of years to come. Meditate on his Word, the Psalms, his mercy, his law and how he would have you
live. In 2020, you live underneath his throne no matter who is elected. In 2020, his power rules over you, no
matter what other powers threaten you.

We appeal to his mercy every day in 2020 as we continue to see humanity and our great works blossom and
then blow right over and be forgotten. Here’s what it could look like to process current events from now on like
Psalm 103 does.

Be courageous in 2020. Get your courage from God, from the prayers in the Psalms he has given you.
A liberal dose of reality. A liberal dose of courage!

We pray the rest of Psalm 103 courageously together.

“Bless the Lord, you his angels,
you strong warriors who obey his word
by listening to what he says.
Bless the Lord, all his armies,
you who minister to him,
you who do whatever pleases him.
Bless the Lord, everything he has made
in all places where he rules.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The gift of repentance

Repentance is like that pair of socks you open on Christmas. Some of us say, "Ohh! Socks" Some of us think, "Ohh....socks again." Socks are such a practical gift. Our socks get holes in them and get stinky and we need new socks. But maybe some of us wanted something else than socks. (Just for the record, I'll take socks anytime!)

We get worn out in life. We get worn out by frustrations that pile up and don't seem to have solutions.  We lose our cool and get angry and resentful. We get worn out by flaws in our character, "I can't believe I said that again. I can't believe I treated her that way again." Maybe you feel like a pair of worn out socks much of the time.

We need new "socks" every day. We need repentance every day. But maybe we don't want repentance because it can be painful to come face to face with our true selves. Maybe we would rather have God take away all of our problems. But where would we be then? If he did away with all problems, he'd have to do away with us, right?

His gift of repentance is much better than what we may tell God to give us. Repentance is the gift that keeps on giving. Repentance is the blanket that comes wrapped around that baby Jesus in the manger.

"Repentance" has been the topic of a lot of my teaching in December. I recently learned that the early church emphasized this gift of God before the Christmas season as well. When the church began to celebrate Christmas, they used the time leading up to Christmas to intentionally practice repentance. This helped long-time Christians enjoy the gift all over again like a little kid running downstairs Christmas morning. This helped teach new Christians about how the gift of Jesus in the manger and a "new birth" in their baptisms would be followed by a lifetime of enjoying the gift of repentance. 

Emphasizing repentance a few times a year gets us into the habit of "repenting" all year long.

We've all seen the young boy who gets in trouble have a hard time looking their parent in the eye. They may even have a hard time admitting what they did wrong. We can be much like this when God "catches" us in the act of wrongdoing. I'm ashamed to admit that I'm more embarrassed sometimes about losing the respect of other people than I am about offending God. This, too, I repent of.

But the gift of repentance invites us to look God in the eye and see that look of loving concern on his face. The gift of repentance keeps us from pulling our hand away as God reaches for it. The gift of repentance allows us to walk with God as he takes us to the manger to peak over at our sleeping Savior. We then walk with God as he shows us "family videos" of Jesus' life. We see a man much like us who didn't fall into the same traps we do. We see a man who lived life to its full potential. The last video clip we watch is that grown up Jesus breathing his last. 

We gasp, "Why him? That should have been me!" God gives us that look of understanding and then points behind us as we see our long lost brother Jesus coming on the clouds with his welcoming party. "Welcome home!"

Repenting means to turn. Turn from offending this wonderful God. Turn to his Son this Christmas, every morning, noon and night and when he comes again.

Enjoy your gift. Repent with me, my friends. Repent.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Stand firm: in a living faith

You might be a Sadducee. After some deep reflection this week, I have concluded that I am more
of a Sadducee than I ever thought. A “Sad-You-See” you say? What is a Sadducee? Chapter 20 of
Luke’s gospel where he records the bump-in Jesus had with the Sadducees tells us enough to be
able to understand the Sadducees and see how similar to them we might be. We will learn to
distinguish between a living faith and a dead one so we can stand firm in a living faith in Jesus.
27 Some of the Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to him. 28 They asked
him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but
no children, his brother should take the wife and raise up children for his brother. 29 So
there were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died childless. 30 The second took her
as a wife, 31 and so did the third, and in the same way the seven died and left no children.
32 Finally the woman died too. 33 So in the resurrection, whose wife will she be? For the
seven had her as a wife.”
34 Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But
those who are considered worthy to experience that age and the resurrection from the
dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 In fact, they cannot die any more, for
they are like the angels. They are sons of God, because they are sons of the resurrection.
37 “Even Moses showed in the account about the burning bush that the dead are raised,
when he called the Lord: ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all are alive to him.”
So how do I know if I’m like the Sadducees, you might be asking? First you need to understand
who they were. They were a denomination of Jews. Yes, there were different churches, or groups,
even at that time. Just to name a few...the Pharisees, the Zealots, the Herodians. Yes, people
have always gathered together with others who think like them. What made the Sadducees
unique at that time is that they denied much of the supernatural. They respected the first five
books of the Old Testament that Moses wrote, which the Jews called the Torah.. Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. But, as Luke states here, they did not believe in
the resurrection. They thought this world was all there is. So far so good, you might say.
I believe there are 66 authoritative books and I believe that because Jesus lives, so will I. 
The question they flung at Jesus reveals their beliefs and why they did not like Jesus.
They did something right, though. They came and talked directly to Jesus. If only we did
the same with one another. Many of the problems I see could be addressed through direct
conversations. They go to Jesus, you see. And they ask him a hypothetical question. They
give Jesus a highly unlikely situation to think about. “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a
man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother should take the wife and
raise up children for his brother. 29 So there were seven brothers. The first took a wife
and died childless. 30 The second took her as a wife, 31 and so did the third, and in the
same way the seven died and left no children. 32 Finally the woman died too. 33 So in the
resurrection, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as a wife.”
Notice how they quote Moses because they respect his writings. Moses laid out this practice of
a brother taking his dead brother’s wife so she and the kids would be taken care of. This was
their life insurance because they didn’t have American Family Insurance. At first, you may
assume they are asking an innocent question…”whose wife will she be in the resurrection, in
the life to come? Will all seven be her husband? Will The first one? The last one? 
Jesus’ answer to their question exposes what is wrong with the Sadducee mindset, though.
Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.
Marriage is for this age, this life. Elsewhere, Jesus clearly identifies that the purpose of
marriage is to become one flesh with one person of the opposite gender. Human anatomy
and biology tells us the same thing. 
But those who are considered worthy to experience that age and the resurrection
from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Wait, no eternal love?
You mean, some of our love songs are wrong, Jesus? Yes. Jesus says marriage is for this life.
It has beautiful purposes for this life and Jesus uses marriage care for us in this life. But in the
resurrection, in heaven, Jesus will take care of all our needs without marriage. The bride of
Christ, the church, will not need marriage in heaven. That spouse you’re with now, even if you
adore them, which is good, will be your brother or sister in Christ in the resurrection. You will be
friends. You will worship God together. But you won’t need to be married there. Marriage is for
this life, as long as you both shall live.
Jesus is a straight shooter here and gives a very direct, clear answer. But the rest of his
answer shows that he knows the Sadducees have more in mind with their question.
In fact, they cannot die any more, for they are like the angels. They are sons of God,
because they are sons of the resurrection.” You don’t know how radical this was to the
Sadducees, my friends! Jesus takes their question as an opportunity to give a bold and loving
witness about the resurrection! “They cannot die any more, he says. He even says they are
“like the angels.” He doesn’t say we will be angels, but like the angels, meaning that we cannot
die. We will be closer to God than ever before, face to face, in front of his throne, praising him,
serving him, ruling with him, day and night. They are sons of God. What? THEY are sons of God,
sons of the resurrection! How bold! Yet again! Who are the sons of God? Those counted worthy to
experience the resurrection! Think of how offended the Sadducees may have been. Not only does
Jesus tell them there is a resurrection, which they don’t believe in, but then he says that “they”,
other people, will be counted worthy of living after death.
But how do you know, Jesus? What gives you the right to say that? He goes back to Moses’
words again, the Moses the Sadducees respected. 37 “Even Moses showed in the account
about the burning bush that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord: ‘The God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but
of the living, for all are alive to him.” If God appeared to you in a burning bush and told you to
take your shoes off and listen to him, would you? I would hope so. That happened to Moses.
He’s stumbling through the desert, watching over the sheep. He sees a random fire burning that
doesn’t die down, so he goes and investigates it like any of us would. God speaks to him through
his angel from the bush. “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
I am. But they were all dead by Moses’ time! But he is their God, which means they are alive!
Every one of those Sadducees learned this story as a kid or read it as they perused those 5
books they knew so well. And now Jesus reminds them that Moses came face to face with the
living God, the God of the living. How can you respect Moses’ words and not take this story at
face value, dear Sadducees?
There is something else incredible in that bush. This angel of the Lord character that spoke to
Moses at that bush appears throughout the Old Testament. The angel of the Lord appears a lot
when there is some kind of saving to be done. In this case, the angel of the Lord tells Moses what
he doesn’t want to hear, that he will go back to Egypt and lead God’s people out of slavery. The
angel of the Lord delivers the Word and will of God to people, in this case, Moses. The angel of
the Lord appears FOR God.
And now the one answering the Sadducees questions answers authoritatively for God. He delivers
a message about some saving that needs to be done...saving people from death. He tells the
Sadducees what they don’t want to hear, that there is in fact a resurrection and that their dear
Moses heard the living God talk about the resurrection through that bush and then recorded it for
them to hear. He delivers the Word of God from Moses to the Sadducees. And he delivers an
explanation of that Word as he answers their question. He delivers the will of God...that those
who are counted worthy will be raised and will not die!
Jesus knew the Sadducees were very earthly-minded people, you see. They believed in what was
visible, what was known, what was right in front of their face. They could trace their bloodlines to
Moses, so they respected what he had to say that fit with their ideas about the universe. They saw
a closed universe, not an open one that included life after death and angels. The history of their
people, the land they lived in, the places of prominence they had in the temple, that was all real.
That was all they thought they needed. And it would all be better if they could take it all back from
Rome. They were invested in this life. Jesus knew they needed to hear about the resurrection
from him and from Moses. In fact, they were so dumbfounded by his answer to them that they said,
“teacher, you have spoken well.” And then they no longer dared to ask him any question. 
Do you see why I think I’m more like the Sadducees than I ever realized? Do you see why I think
many of us are? How often are our minds fixated on earthly things, not heavenly, spiritual things.
The things of man, not the things of God. The stock market and the state of our nation can control
our happiness when we let it. How often we think if we can research it and figure it out, we can fix it.
And still, we fall apart inwardly and can’t explain why we do and say the damnable things we do and
have such a hard time fixing ourselves. How often we turn to heaven only when we want God to
weigh in on the outcome of something, “God, help my team win. God, help me be successful in this.
God, help me get a job or have my offer accepted on that home. God, help us all get along for once
this Thanskgiving.” And then our happiness and our faith can be directly tied to the outcome of
those earthly things. There’s nothing wrong with these prayers, but is this all that matters? Is this
all God tells us to pray about?
The only part of the Lord’s Prayer that has to do with physical things is when we pray, “Give us
today our daily bread.” God promises to take care of our daily needs while we are on this earth.
God invites us to turn to him in every need, to cast all our cares on him because he cares for us.
But God wants to turn our eyes higher than our daily bread, higher than physical, earthly things.
Listen to the Lord’s Prayer in a few minutes and let him open the very door of heaven for you.
Listen to how many things we pray about that are spiritual, heavenly. And start to notice how
many of his promises have to deal with spiritual, heavenly, higher things in comparison with how
many deal with the state of things in the here and now. God wants us to be more focused on the
life that goes on forever than the things that will perish, spoil, fade, change, and die. He wants us
to have a living faith, not a dead one. A faith in Jesus, not the faith of the Sadducees.
It’s time to see God as Jesus wants us to see him, as he wanted the Sadducees to see him. The
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! The living God of the living. Jesus was in that burning bush,
my friends. Jesus appeared to Moses and went with Moses to save his people from slavery in
Egypt. Jesus was the burning light that led them to the Promised land by night and the pillar of
cloud that led them by day. Jesus brought them into that land despite their wavering faith. But
that was only a temporary home for his people. It was a picture of a better, heavenly home that
Jesus has now prepared for each of us and all those who know him. 
How is this home ours? You see, Jesus loved his people so much that he came to live in a body.
The eternal God bound himself in a human body. And he lived a life that was worthy of God’s love.
He deserved all of God’s love forever and ever. If anyone was worthy to live forever with God,
it was Jesus. If anyone was worthy to leave this dying world without dying, it was Jesus. And you
know what, God counted him worthy.. to die! What? Yes, he was the only one who was worthy
enough to die for those whose faith in God was dead, who had the dead faith of a Sadducee.
His life was worthy and satisfactory to God, so much so that God does not treat you and me as
our Sadducee faiths and sometimes dead faiths deserve. He died for the dead in faith so our faith
could be made alive again. He died for those who didn’t really know God so we could know God
again. He died for those who would have died apart from God so we could be raised forever with
God and never die again. Jesus died for those who would have been in hell so we can be in heaven. 

Stand firm in this living faith! Amen!