Reverence for Divine Things


This is the second time in recent years I have watched the Lombardi trophy being caressed, fondled, and kissed by the winning team. As I watched this, I thought, “Why is this kind of adoration acceptable to many American Christians, but not reverence toward the things of the true and living God?” What if a Lutheran pastor in a mid-Western parish, after explaining to his members what he was doing, were to genuflect (bow the knee) and kiss the altar, which is the symbol of God’s presence in the Church? What kind of outcry would ensue? What would happen if a pastor elevated the Host and the Cup during the Lord’s Supper, and then reverently knelt to one knee in adoration of the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and the wine? More than likely this would be seen as “Catholic” (and therefore, bad) or even as an idolatrous practice by evangelical Christians. Is there, perhaps, a disconnect in the minds and hearts of God’s people today?


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Sermon for Epiphany 4 – Matt. 8:23-27

Epiphany answers the question: Who is Jesus? Who is the Son born to Mary? Let’s see what we have learned so far:

  • Epiphany Day showed us that Jesus is a king, and not just any king, but one who is to be worshipped as Lord. This is seen in the worship and the gifts of the wisemen.
  • The next Sunday was the Baptism of Jesus. What did we learn there? That Jesus is the beloved Son of God. At his baptism the Triune God was manifested as the Father spoke from heaven, the Son stood in the Jordan River, and the Spirit rested upon him.
  • Then came the wedding at Cana. There we learned that Jesus has divine power—power to change water into wine.
  • Last week was the healing of the leper and the centurion’s servant. This showed us that Jesus, the divine king and Son of the Father, has power to heal, and that his word carries divine authority.

Each week something new is revealed about Jesus. Another piece of the mosaic is put in place, which in the end shows us a complete picture of the One who is both true God and true Man. Today Christ’s divine power is on display once again as he rebukes the wind and the sea and saves the disciples.

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Sermon for Trinity 10 – Luke 19:41-48

Jesus came with peace, forgiveness, and healing for the people of God. He did not come to destroy but to save. This was proclaimed by the angels at his birth, as they sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace, good will toward men.” He was the great Peacemaker. The Man who came to deliver the goods of heaven to them. The Prophets foretold him. Moses wrote about him. Even the Psalms testify of his coming.

And many received his gifts of peace and healing gladly. Many did come to him and find rest. Many believed that He was the Son of God, and welcomed his Words of peace into their hearts. But it wasn’t who you’d expect. It was the people who were far off from God. People like the Samaritan leper, who returned to give thanks to Christ. People like the Canaanite woman, who clung to him in faith even when it seemed as though he was rejecting her. People like the Roman soldier, who trusted the word of Christ to accomplish what it said.

These all entered the kingdom by God’s grace, through faith in Christ. They looked to Jesus and found peace with God. Oh, there were some Jews who believed in Him. Matthew, the tax collector, Peter and James and John and several other Jewish men became his disciples. But the majority of his people—people who ought to have known better!—despised him and rejected him. John says: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Rightly did Isaiah say of Him: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

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Why We Care

I wrote the following for our church newsletter. Perhaps it may be helpful to others. 

Why We Care

I can imagine that there are many in the Church, and even outside of the Church, who wonder, “Why do you care?” Why do you care about this or that court ruling? Why do you care how other people live their lives? Why does it matter? And probably, under their breath, they are saying, “And who are you to judge, anyway?”

It can appear as though the Church is all about trying to win battles here on earth. It can appear as though our chief concern is morality, and how other people live their lives. I get it. I can see how for some it may appear that we who call ourselves Christians just want to see everyone follow our “rules.” That we are all just a bunch of control freaks who want to squelch everyone’s freedom.

The truth is, we do care about how people live their lives. We do care about morality. But this is only because we care about souls. We are not about trying to improve the condition of this world. We know it is dying. It is a terminal patient. There is nothing we can do to stop that from happening. We do not believe, as some do, that if we can just elect the right people and enact the right laws, then all will be well. We are not about making this a nicer world. We know the reality. Sin has corrupted everyone’s hearts. The only way out, the only cure is the blood of God’s Son, which purifies us from all sin.

In order for souls to be delivered from God’s eternal judgment and damnation, however, there must be repentance and faith. People must be shown from God’s Word that they are sinners, and that their only hope for salvation is in Jesus Christ. When any sin is pridefully celebrated and embraced as if there was nothing wrong with it, as if God didn’t care one way or another, repentance cannot happen and souls are lost.

Here’s the deal: One may say he believes in Christ. One may say that he has a relationship with Christ. But when someone persists in what is sinful without remorse or sorrow there is a certain hardening of the heart against God that eventually results in a loss of faith altogether. That is assuming, of course, one had faith to begin with.

Our motivation in telling people the truth about sins such as homosexuality or same-sex “marriage” is that we do not want anyone to perish eternally. We earnestly desire the salvation of all sinners. It is not just about being “right” or about winning an argument or about making the world a more comfortable place to live in. Our hope is not in this world or what it offers. Our chief concern is always the salvation of sinners.

There are churches and pastors that do not think it is necessary to tell people that they are sinners. Many Christians believe that if you are just nice to people, they will eventually want to worship God too. They believe that the worst thing you can do to people is make them feel bad about themselves. That, so they say, is what really keeps people from heaven.

We beg to differ. The most unloving thing anyone can do is affirm people in their sins, and act as if there will be no divine Judge to face at the end. God had some pretty strong words to say about the false prophets in the days of Jeremiah who cried, “Peace, peace!” when there was no peace. We do not want people to go on in the lie and the delusion that all is well with God when it is not. That doesn’t help our neighbor one bit.

So, why do we care what people do? Why do we care about court rulings? Is it because we just want everyone to behave? No. It is because we want to be able to proclaim the Gospel of free forgiveness for sinners. We want to share with people the wonderful news that God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ. We want other people–including  our LGBTQ (and whatever other letters there may be) friends and neighbors–to join us in confessing Christ as Savior, and to live eternally with Him in heaven.

As long as they go on living under the delusion that there is nothing wrong or immoral about what they are doing, as long as they are enabled and encouraged to celebrate sin, then it becomes that much more difficult for them to enter the kingdom. That is what saddens us the most. We know this world is full of evil. It always will be. This is not ultimately what drives us to proclaim both God’s Law and Gospel to sinners. What drives us to do this is our desire that all sit at the heavenly banquet table, having turned away from sin and turned in faith to our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s not about morality. Well, it is a little bit about morality. But it is mostly about the Gospel. It is about sinners coming to know their sins, and learning to believe that Christ, out of great love for His Father and for us, died for their sins, and rose again from the dead. If anyone tries to tell you differently, then they are probably selling something.

May God grant us faithful and loving hearts, that we might both cling to Him and His Word, and also desire to share that saving Word with those who do not know His love in Christ.

Pastor Beisel

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I’m a Terrible Husband, and other Overgeneralizations

At the recommendation of a friend, I have been doing some reading on some common thinking errors and the effects of faulty thinking on one’s mood and behavior. For those who know anything about the world of psychology, this is basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy stuff.

It interests me because I am interested in people and how people think, including myself. And I have come to realize that I am “guilty” of many of these common thinking errors. (If you want to read more about this, just Google “Common Thinking Errors” and you’ll find a wealth of information on this. This is a link to a website I found helpful.)

If you’re a theologian and reading this and are immediately skeptical because it is talking about psychology, feel free to tune out. I’m interested in this topic because I am interested in being more productive, less discouraged about myself, and combating self-defeating thinking and behavior. That is all.

I have spent years telling myself that I am an idiot, that I am worthless, that I don’t have what it takes to achieve great things, etc. etc. etc. I have spent years listening to the negative and irrational thoughts that bombard my mind, and I am looking for ways to change this thinking.

Here is a classic example of thoughts that are not true to reality. I frequently have thoughts that sound something like this: “I’m a terrible husband.” This is what therapists would call “overgeneralization” or “Filtering out the positive/Focusing only on the negative.” It’s where you take one particular event and generalize it to the rest of your life. If I make a mistake, or do something not quite right, I am, in my mind, a “Terrible husband.” Really? Is that a realistic statement? Is that a balanced outlook?

Certainly I have done some not-so-good things in our 14 years of marriage. I have certainly sinned against my wife. But is it really true that I am a “terrible husband?” My wife doesn’t think so, at least, I don’t think she thinks so. I try hard to please her. I try to be helpful and not a lazy butt. I try to show love to our children, act in a way that is respectable and responsible, etc. If I make mistakes or do things that are hurtful, I do apologize for them and seek my wife’s forgiveness. Is that really what a “terrible husband” does? Am I a “sinful husband”? Yes. Do I cause my wife pain on occasion? Yes. But “Terrible?”

I’m also guilty of “Catastrophizing.” In my mind I think of the worst possible outcome of an action (like calling on someone who is living contrary to God’s will) and I often become paralyzed out of fear. This hinders my ministry because it causes me to hold back when I need to act. Or there is the all-too-common “All or nothing” thinking. It’s black or white. “This always happens!” Everything is either a success or a failure. Good or Bad. No “shades of gray” (No reference to the recent movie.)

What fascinates me about this whole thing is how sin is involved. How is it that sin has so damaged us that we can have such irrational and not-true-to-reality thoughts that enter our brains? This is not really about replacing negative thoughts with other untrue, but positive, thoughts. It’s not about being idealistic, but simply realistic.

Is it “self-help”? Yeah, I suppose so. I’ve always (there’s that word again) “poo-pooed” stuff like this as being beneath me or something that only fluffy, non-theological types need. And, I think that there is a lot of useless stuff out there in the market. But if I can be a happier person in general, and more productive, then I might be able to do my job better, and help more people because I’m not thinking about myself all the time (Personalization).

Maybe other people don’t suffer from most of these faulty thinking errors like I do. But believe me, I do! My inner thoughts on a daily basis can be so hateful and negative toward myself that I can’t even share most of them publicly. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

If anything, this only affirms what we know to be true about our emotions and thinking–they aren’t always based on reality, and, in fact, they can be false and misleading. And, if we believe some of these thoughts that we have about ourselves or about others or our lives in general, we may find that our mood and behavior are negatively affected by them. Even to the point of being detrimental to our health. Or dangerous.

I plan to read some more about this in the future. Let me know if you have thoughts regarding this topic, or would like to see more written about it in the future. The overlap between theology and psychology is interesting to me, at least for the moment. 🙂

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When Sorrow Over Sin Is Lacking

There are three little words that I believe are sorely lacking in the Church today: “I am sorry.” I’m sorry. Please forgive me for __________. I think we have lost the fine art of taking responsibility for our actions, owning them, and being genuinely sorry for them. Maybe we haven’t lost anything. Maybe we never possessed that art in the first place. But I was always taught that when you do something wrong, when you hurt someone else by your words or actions, you tell them you are sorry. You ask for their forgiveness. You seek reconciliation.

What a blessing it would be in the Church and in our families if this simple rule was followed. In thirteen years in the Ministry, I think I can count on my hands (maybe even one hand) the number of times I have actually heard anyone express genuine sorrow over their sins to someone, whether that is a wife towards her husband, a husband towards his wife, children towards their parents, congregation members toward their pastor, and church member to church member. I hear a lot of defensiveness. I don’t hear much in the way of contrition.

The Bible says: “Confess your faults to one another.” If I have hurt someone by my words or actions, then the right thing to do is to confess. Apologize. Seek reconciliation. It’s true that today, people seem to be offended easily and by everything. And we need to evaluate our words and actions and see if we have truly wronged someone. It may sometimes be the case that someone is wrongly offended.

On the other side of that coin is the willingness to forgive, from the heart, someone who sins against us or offends us in some way. There have been times when I have expressed sorrow or remorse to someone over the fact that I had clearly wronged them, and received no word of forgiveness or compassion from them. In addition, I have witnessed numerous times in my Ministry this same thing happening between other people. These are supposed to be members of Christ’s Church!

Confession and forgiveness are at the heart of our relationship not only with God but with each other. Christ spoke very strongly to this in the holy Gospel, saying, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This is not optional in the Christian life. Refusal to forgive and strive to live at peace with your Christian brothers and sisters is grounds for suspension from the Lord’s Table. That is how serious this is.

To live as a Christian means that we confess our sins not only to God, but if we have wronged our neighbor, to him as well. And it also means forgiving from the heart those who have wronged us. We should be ready and willing to speak a word of forgiveness and peace to those who come to us confessing their sins against us. Where this happens on a regular basis, great blessings will be reaped. Where it does not happen, where people fail to take responsibility for sin and refuse to forgive those who sin against them, then anger, resentment, and hurt feelings will be the result.

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Sermon for Invocabit – 1 Samuel 17:40-51; Matthew 4:1-11

Still needs a bit of editing and condensing, but here’s the raw material for Sunday.

Beloved saints in Christ:

David must have looked pretty puny next to Goliath. How silly he must have looked with his five smooth stones and a sling. It reminds me of a scene in the Monty Python classic “The Search for the Holy Grail.” A guy has all his arms and legs cut off, and still he comes at the knight saying, “I’ll head-butt you to death.” It’s laughable.

David had all his arms and legs, but still. This was insanity. This was suicide. What kind of a fool would think that he could defeat a Philistine giant like Goliath with nothing more than a few stones? And then to say such crazy things like, “I will strike you down and cut off your head.” He must have been the laughing stock of his whole family. What was David thinking?

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