Goes Without Saying No More

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell….
Matthew 13:3

Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower and in it the “seed” is the Word of God.

For generations, so many Christians have taking it for granted that the Word of God is authoritative and reliable.

It certainly is. But for too long this has been one of those things that “goes without saying.”

We now have a generation living that thinks of the Word of God – the Bible – as, at best, just another book.

In the “Gospel of Jesus” Bible study that has been used here at St. Matthew, we start by looking at just why we can trust the Bible.

Historians and academics – especially those on the university level – seem to have no trouble at all accepting the veracity and authenticity of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars that he wrote sometime between 100 – 44 BC. Same with Plato’s philosophical writings – 427-327 BC, and Homer’s Iliad, believed to have been written about 900 BC.

The earliest 10 manuscripts of Caesar’s writing date to 900 AD, about a 1000 years after he wrote it. The earliest 7 manuscripts of Plato’s writings also date to 900 AD, about 1200 years after he wrote. And the earliest manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad – of which there are over 600 – date to about 400 BC, or about 500 years after he wrote it.

Again, most historians and academics have no trouble at all accepting the authenticity of these writings.

But today, most historians, academics – and a large majority of non-Christian Millennials (those born after 1980) – relegate the Bible to, at best, equal status with these other writings. Far more common is to consider the Bible as “an outdated book with no relevance for today,” “story,” “mythology,” “symbolic,” “fairy tale,” and the worst I’ve seen is: “a dangerous book of religious dogma used for centuries to oppress people.”

But getting back to the evidence of Caesar, Plato and Homer using the same criteria of manuscript evidence – of which there is relatively little evidence and that 500 to 1000 years after the original writings.

Compare that to the manuscript evidence of the New Testament:

The New Testament was written over a span of about 60 years – 40-100 AD. And our earliest copies of at least fragments of the New Testament date to 125 AD – only 25-40 years after it was written. And here’s the most interesting fact: there are over 24,000 pieces of these fragments in existence today!

The overwhelming evidence of the authenticity of the New Testament Scriptures has, for too many generations, been one of those things that “goes without saying.” I want to change that and will continue to say that we can trust the evidence of the manuscripts of the Bible.

The truthfulness of the Bible can also be trusted – although that, too, has “gone without saying” for far too long.

O holy and most merciful God, you have taught us the way of your commandments. We implore you to pour out your grace into our hearts. Cause it to bear fruit in us that, being ever mindful of your mercies and your laws, we may always be directed to your will and daily increase in love toward you and one another. Enable us to resist all evil and to live a godly life. Help us to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to walk in steps until we shall possess the kingdom that has been prepared for us in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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Your Why

[Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Luke 4:33

“So, what is it you do?”

That’s a typical greeting between two people who just met. Especially among men.

Upon meeting at a dinner, a party, or some such, guys typically shake hands and ask about what they do, what their job is, things like that.

A typical answer is, “I fix cars,” or “I write computer programs,” or “I deliver packages.”

Another answer to this question is to tell someone not so much what they do but who they are.

“I’m a mechanic.”

“I’m a software engineer.”

“I’m a UPS driver.”

These are not wrong answers, but they are incomplete.

What you do and how you do it are very important aspects of your life.

But they tend to be unfulfilling. This is the reason so many people end up working in so many different kinds of jobs or at different companies.

The job can be important. And it can fulfill a desire, in a way.

But unless you know why you are doing what or how you do it, you will be hard pressed to find true fulfilment and joy in your work and life.

Imagine if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had started Apple Computer by telling people this is what they did:

“We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. What to buy one?” (quoted from the book Start With Why, ©2009 Simon Sinek, p 40)

You wouldn’t be reading this on your iPhone, iPad, or Macbook Pro right now if this is how Jobs and Wozniak started Apple.

There’s nothing factually wrong with that, but it isn’t their answer to “So, what do you do?”

Their answer – Apple Computer Company’s answer – is more along these lines:

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers. What to buy one?” (ibid  p 41)

The answer has been “yes” for over four decades! Apple sold over 200 million iPhones in 2016 alone!

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Apple Computer know why they exist (or existed, in the case of the late Steve Jobs).

Knowing your why is crucially important. Another way of saying that is that you know your purpose.

Jesus Christ knew his why.

Jesus’ why was to “preach the good news of the kingdom of God.

Jesus knew his why and that shaped everything he did and how he did it.

He lived perfectly, loved people, approached the unapproachable, healed the sick, the blind, the lame. He raised several people from the dead. He went against social and religious norms by “eating with sinners.”

His why shaped how he would ultimately save us – by dying on the cross and rising from the dead.

That is the “good news” (Gospel) of the kingdom of God.

And before Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise that he would come back to take believers in him to paradise forever, he gave his followers (his Church) their why.

Proclaim the Gospel. Live the Gospel.

Our why (if you are a Christian) is to “make disciples of all nations by telling and living the love of Jesus.”

How you do this is by making use of the Means of Grace (God’s Word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper).

What this looks like will be different for each of you, since God has gifted us differently. For me, it is through preaching, teaching, writing devotions, and producing blogs, vlogs and podcasts (your what is probably different).

The what will be different. The how is important.

But the why is where it all starts – just as it did for Jesus.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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Least Among You

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Luke 9:46-48

In the early 1990’s my wife and I were visiting my dad and his family in Las Vegas, Nevada. While we were out there, a championship professional fight was scheduled at Caesars Palace.

We didn’t have tickets to the fight – those were well beyond our financial means. But we could go down to the casino and walk around during and after the fight just to experience the myriad of people.

As we walked by one of the more quiet corners of the casino, I looked over at a small group of people and there, sitting in the center of the group on a stool, was a somewhat elderly black man “holding forth.”

I looked and then I looked again and nudged my wife and said, “That’s Muhammed Ali!”

We walked over and I held out my hand and said hello. He stood up and we looked eye-to-eye as he shook my hand with a warm smile on his face.

We were both about the same height, but I remember him being so much bigger than I.

I think it was his confidence and attitude that made him bigger than me.

After all, this is the man who boldly proclaimed, “I AM THE GREATEST!!!”

We chit-chatted for a few seconds then we moved on and left him alone.

I haven’t met that many famous people in my life, but of the ones I have, Muhammed Ali stands out in my mind as the most memorable!

About 2000 years before Ali proclaimed to be “THE GREATEST”, Jesus’ disciples argued about who among them was the greatest.

None of them had won a gold medal or held the title of “heavyweight champion of the world.” None of them was the leader of a country. None of them was one of the richest men in the world. None of them invented a life- or world-changing device.

In fact, the Scripture isn’t really clear on why they were arguing over who among them was the greatest. It doesn’t give us any standards they were using to measure their greatness by.

But Jesus steps into the argument and settles it once and for all time!

Jesus calls a child to himself and I can picture Jesus turning the child around to face the arguing disciples and resting his hands on his or her shoulders.

The child is not the greatest, either, however. Jesus isn’t about to say that children or being child-like will make them great.

Instead, Jesus points out a truth that needs to be understood all the more today, considering the cultural climate we find in the world.

“Greatness” – as defined by Jesus – is attained by being least among all people. I believe what Jesus means is that we serve others first, rather than ourselves and our own self-interests.

Receiving” a child in the name of Jesus means stooping down from our lofty perch of selfishness and meeting the needs of others – any others.

That’s what Jesus did, after all! He is the Second Person of the Trinity! He is the only-begotten Son of God, through whom the entire universe was created!

Yet Jesus gave it all up and literally humbled himself – became a human being – in order to take all our sins as his own and pay the full and complete punishment we deserve because of them.

In response to this amazing love, we are to receive any and all people in Jesus’ name. Not in order to achieve greatness, but in order to proclaim the greatness – and love – of God.

The world will not consider you great when you do this. But that’s not the goal, is it.

God will consider you great and, in his love, will call you his own child and welcome you into his great – and eternal – kingdom!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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Salt Is Good

[Jesus said], “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”
Luke 14:34-35

Summertime! Here on the Illinois prairie it is a time of warm, humid days. Sunshine and wind rustling the corn fields.

Picnics and backyard BBQ’s with hamburgers, hotdogs and watermelon.

Ah, watermelon. I love a sweet, juicy, chilled watermelon on a hot summer day.

I have fond memories of sitting in my grandparent’s yard along the banks of Squaw Creek in Ingleside, fishing for bluegill and crappie and eating watermelon in the shade of their huge and ancient willow tree.

As I look over to my right in my memory I see my grandmother – Nana – sitting there with a cane fishing pole eating a big slice of watermelon.

Before she takes each bite, she sprinkles a little salt on it!

Now, I like salt. I like salt on my popcorn, on my salad (along with lemon juice), on my potatoes and chips.

But on watermelon?

It was a delicacy to her, but I never understood it.

Salt is an important part of a person’s diet. According to the website fitday.com salt helps retain water in the body, stimulates muscle contraction, and contains nutrients vital to the digestive system while low levels of salt in the body, along with low blood pressure, leads to shock.

It is also known that salt, like just about everything else, is only good in moderation. Excessive intake of salt is very bad for a person.

Salt has also been an important economic commodity, especially in its importance in preserving food. So much so, it is thought by some, that early in the Roman era soldiers were paid in salt.

Both the words salary and soldier have their roots in the Latin word for salt.

The benefits and commodity of salt seem to be on Jesus’ mind when he tells us that “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”

He would go on to call his followers the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).

Our faith is what makes us “salty” – that is, what makes us beneficial and precious to others. As long as we have faith and continue to grow in our faith, we can be of benefit to others in this world. A benefit by sharing the Good News of Jesus with them.

We are precious because of our response – in faith – to God’s love for us. Our response is to love and serve others. Loving and helping others is how we are “salty.”

Like real salt, we can lose our saltiness. If we do not strengthen our faith through the use of the Means of Grace (most notably the reading of God’s Word regularly and receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion regularly – if appropriate) we can suffer from weakened faith that will not be considered “salty” by Jesus’ standards. See what Jesus says about what to do with such salt!

Let’s stay salty! Let’s continue to be a benefit and precious to the people of our world by salting their lives with the Gospel and the love that responds to the Gospel!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.