Epistle for Aug. 19, 2018

Ephesians 5:6-20 NLT

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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Ephesians: Life in Christ

Ephesians—Life in Christ

Bible Study, Sunday 9:15 AM

Three weeks ago in Sunday morning Bible Study, we began studying Paul’s letter titled Ephesians. This letter does not address specific problems in a congregation; rather Paul gives an overview of what the Church is, how the church is put together by God, and how that works out in daily life. We have already discovered how often the phrase “in Christ” occurs in chapter 1 alone.

Here is a simplified diagram to emphasize the connections

1:2 To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.

Eph 1 in Christ

If you have not participated yet, I encourage you to come and see the wonders of this letter.

Sermon series

During the next month the sermons will be based on the epistle readings from Ephesians

Aug. 12 Ephesians 4:17-5:2

Aug. 19 Ephesians 5:6-21

Aug. 26 Ephesians 5:21-33

Sep 2     Ephesians 6:10-20

Each text emphasizes a key aspect of relationships in the Church. And how those relationships in Christ are lived in daily life.
As believers in Christ, we have a life with Christ but also with one another. Let us walk together in this walk through Ephesians.

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Bible study at SMLC

Saturday mornings we gather at the church to study the Bible at 9:30 AM. Our current topic is 1 John. This Saturday we will cover 1 John 4. We all use the same translation: the handouts are from the CSB(2017) translation.

What is Bible Study?

On of the problems with most approaches to studying the Bible follows this line of thinking:

1. We read the text.

2. For clarity on some passages we read the commentary notes.

3. Ah ha! Now I understand.

In reality we may have only understood the commentary note, not Scripture itself. We depend more and more on the commentary and footnotes. not the text of Scripture.

Our approach in this Bible study is different than previous ones. We use the text of Scripture, and the text only—hence the handout with the same translation for everyone. No footnotes, no commentary notes, no outside resources. This forces us to read the text of Scripture and depend on it.

A second aspect of this study that is different is that we will study the text twice. Our first look at 1 John will be with the text only, focusing on how the sentences are constructed. What are key words/themes that appear? Is there a theme that runs through the text. Are some statements meant as commands? As encouragement? As statements of the Gospel? We are in this step right now.

The second time through the text (starting after Easter), we will examine it in light of our life as members in Christ at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church. 1 John was written in the first century AD to a specific group of Christians gathered together as church. We live in the year 2017, a specific group of Christians gathered together as church. The questions then move in this direction:

What are the implications for us today?
How can we apply this individually and as a congregation?

If you have not yet attended the study, you are welcome to come this Saturday as we study 1 John 4. Bring a friend. and ask “What does the text say?”


1 John 4 (CSB)

1   Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.

4  You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

7  Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

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Beatitudes in HCSB

A short look at the oral reading of Matthew 5:3-10.

Beatitudes in HCSB

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Whose righteousness?

Continuing our look at Matthew 5, consider these verses:

Matthew 5:17-20

Matthew 5:17-20

[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20 NAS)

The words in 5:20 (last verse above) is the one that catches me. My righteousness? I can’t even compete with the person down the street or illegal person across valley or the prisoner. My righteousness is, in fact, not very righteous. Then Jesus lifts the bar of righteousness above that of the most righteous people in Israel. But even if I could meet their standard, I will not enter the kingdom of God. Where is the hope?

Jesus raised the bar even higher than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. In the beginning of this section, Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law, entirely. Everything stated, no, demanded, in the Law finds its fulfillment in Jesus. He will accomplish all this.

Jesus as true man lives up to the perfect standard in the Law. Even more, as true God whatever he does is righteous. Thus, the perfection of the Law is not seen in our achievements, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ. While the Law tells us in shorthand what is the will of God, Jesus is the living reality of the perfect will of God.

If I want to meet the standard that Jesus establishes, then my own righteousness will fail. Is there any hope? Paul brings us the good news on this point. It is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus, the divine swap.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS)


Righteous by faith

…that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,(Philippians 3:9 NAS)

Jesus’s righteousness is ours, not by effort, not by begging, not by coercion, not by manipulation, not by impressing others. It is by the gift of God, 100% free, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

You heard and believed the message of truth, the Good News that he has saved you. In him you were sealed with the Holy Spirit whom he promised. This Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive our inheritance. We have this guarantee until we are set free to belong to him. God receives praise and glory for this.   (Ephesians 1:13-14 GW).

The demand of the Law and established in its fullness in Jesus is also met by Jesus. Then God considers (reckons to our account) Jesus’ righteousness as ours. There is no better news than this.

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Who we are? Matt 5:1-12

From the previous post, we look at who we are as the people of God. This Sunday our Gospel reading is Matthew 5:1-11, which makes this plain, who we are in Christ.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. (Matthew 5:1-11 NAS)the-sermon-on-the-mount-by-harold-copping1

If we look at these words as demands/expectations, they seem almost impossible. Am I merciful? Am I pure in heart? No, that is beyond me. Ideal, yes, but not realistic on my own.

But what if Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of each of these descriptions? What if to know purity in heart is found in Jesus himself? That changes each of these characteristics from demands to descriptions of Jesus. Then those descriptions apply to everyone who believes in Jesus, not by performance but by faith.

Theses descriptions then fit with the poster from the previous post.

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Something to reflect on

Who are we as the Body of Christ? Sometimes we let others define us, rather than Scripture. There is an individual aspect to this question, as well as a community aspect.

The most important aspect is that God is the initiator in every one of our lives: forgiving, renewing, restoring, and reconciling us to himself and to one another.

The following photo emphasizes the result of God’s initiatives. That has implications for how we respond to God’s love.

We do All Well


All because God does…

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Table Talk 2014-02

Last night’s question seemed simple enough, but led to a wonderful series of questions and answers (and timelines and diagrams!) The question: How much water is required for Baptism?

As often the case, there are questions behind the question. And there are  unspoken presuppositions as well. We began our study by asking those other questions. In Greek, the word is baptize (βαπτιζω), which can be translated as wash, apply water, immerse. The word itself does not indicate how much water is used or how it is applied.

So now the first question is: who is doing the action in Baptism? A common presupposition is that the person is the active one in Baptism.

Let’s take a look at some Scripture passages:

Acts 2:38-39 NAS

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

Note that the verb “be baptized” is a passive imperative, which means it is done to the person, not something the person does. Also, note what accompanies this baptizing:

In the name of Jesus Christ
For the forgiveness of sins
Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit

This diagram lays out the issues in Acts 2:38-39:


To see who is the active one, we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (2:1)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (2:4-5)

Note that Paul describes the reality: humans are spiritually dead, unable to do anything, spiritually. On the other hand, God “makes us alive.” Back to our diagram, we can determine to the direction of activity:


In other words, these are all gifts from God. When we look at 1 Peter 3:21, this understanding is confirmed. 1 Peter 3:18-21

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Peter uses the saving through water of the eight people (Flood and Ark) as a type (forerunner) for the saving through the waters of baptism which is the antitype (greater thing). So, we can add another element to the diagram: saving.


Now that we see that God gives and the person is passive, receiving only. Thus, the amount of water is really not an issue. God is bringing his gifts to his people through the means of baptism.

When we look at Matthew 28:18-20, we see that baptism is one of two means (Baptism and Word) by which disciples are made:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of call the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The real significance of Baptism then is one of assurance and God’s continuing presence with the believer. Paul writes in Romans 6:1-4

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was braised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Thus, in Baptism we become united with Christ, both in his death and his resurrection. As Paul points out, this has practical implications, not just for the one time event of the baptism itself, but for daily living, dying to self, and rising to life.

May we live in the reality of what Baptism is, who acts in Baptism, and the ongoing significance of Baptism in our daily lives.

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Table Talk 2014-01

With short notice a few gathered last night for our first Table Talk of the summer. Good question and discussion—one question took 1¾ hours to answer and address related topics.

Question: Why do so many Christmas celebrations include the magi in the manger scene? Is that accurate?

Let’s look at the two “birth” narratives: Matthew 1:18-27; 2:1-16 and Luke 1:39-56 and 2:1-7. Note that Matthew’s account focuses on events from the perspective of Joseph whereas Luke’s account gives the perspective of Mary.


Text Matthew 1:18-27; 2:1-16 Luke 1:39-56; 2:1-7
Focus Joseph Mary
Ruler(s) Herod (Jewish) Augustus; Quirinius (Roman)
Location “house” (2:11) “inn” “manger” (2:7)
Those attending Magi (wise men) (2:7-11) Shepherds (2:8-20)

Notice that the descriptions do not support the idea that the magi came the night of the birth of Jesus.

Historically the Church has celebrated the two events separately: Luke 2 is the basis for the Dec. 25 celebration of Christmas and Matthew 2 is the basis for Jan. 6 celebration of Epiphany (“showing forth”). Jan. 6 then focused on the “nations” coming to the Savior to worship, which in Matthew’s Gospel finds its highlight in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.

The eastern Christian churches have traditionally celebrated Christmas on Jan. 6. In either case, the separation of the two events maintained each proper focus without combining and confusing the events.

Expanding the discussion


This led to a review of how the Christian yearly liturgical calendar developed. (Here is a short article on liturgical calendars):







This chart shows the colors associated with each season of the liturgical church year.



The discussion expanded even further to include the historical development of the liturgical church year observances. The key point was that such development was not done independently of Scripture copying and translation through the centuries, nor was it isolated from mission work of the church. And the doctrinal creeds (statements of faith) developed in response to false teachings that arose throughout the centuries.

The key is that we cannot separate each of these topics and study them independently. There is considerable discussion about the relationship of these topics (see one example http://lexcredendilexorandi.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/hello-world/#comments), I am not commenting on that post, rather my point here is that we cannot separate development of worship especially liturgically, doctrinal formulations, Bible copying and translation, and mission. To separate means to not do justice any of the topics and to misunderstand what was taking place in the broad sweep of Christian history.

Additional topics:

As we continued the discussion I observed that in our Lutheran Confessions, the repeated phrase “as the church has always taught” emphasizes that what we “believe, teach, confess” is not something new or original with Luther.

Rather, we are consistent with the Christian Church throughout the ages from the first century. Our confessions do not add to what Scripture teaches, our worship services do not add nor subtract from Scripture. No, both reflect what Scripture teaches and what and how the church worships throughout the history. And justification is central in all of this, as evidenced in the Scripture readings and sacraments (gifts from God for the forgiveness of sins).

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Fred Cable

We lost a brother in the faith Monday night when Fred Cable died at his home; but he received the crown of life. He is survived by his wife, Donna. Fred had just had knee replacement surgery on June 9, was home by Thursday and doing well. So much so that he worshiped with us on Sunday, and looked good considering the surgery.

I had the privilege of baptizing him in January 2013 (he chose Joseph as his baptismal name), then confirming Fred and Donna as well as others in March 2013.

Fred was always inquisitive, never afraid to ask questions. And I appreciated that. We will miss his smile and easy going manner. But we also rejoice with him in his victory in Jesus Christ.

Lord, look with favor upon Donna and all who mourn Fred’s death. Encourage and comfort them with the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He has fought the good fight, living by faith in Christ alone. Grant that we all may remain steadfast and hear the words spoken to Fred: “Well done, good and faithful servant”;  through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Confirmation for Fred Cable 2013

Confirmation for Fred Cable 2013

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