Friday, May 27, 2022
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
The taking of human life is horrible. We have to say it. With the horrible murder of 19+ individuals in Uvalde, Texas, It is incredibly important to seek God’s guidance and insight into the problem of evil, how we approach this evil as individuals and as a nation, how do we get through this to reduce such evil in the future with God’s help? We are looking for the source of this evil, the control of this evil and the solution to this evil.
Source of evil
Our culture has many approaches to this issue. Some have worked and others have not; the majority fall somewhere in between. How can we, as the people of God, governed by the Word and will of God, encouraged by the presence of God, seek God‘s advice in a situation like this? Very simply, we go back to the Word of God and discover God‘s holy, perfect and wise insight on the topic of sin, evil and wicked behavior. We need to know what it is that leads to murder (source) and then also learn how we can avoid it (control and solution). Let’s begin with the very first murder that ever occurred in this world: Cain kills Abel.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
(Genesis 4:1-5 NIV)
Adam and Eve, after they were kicked out of the garden, followed God‘s direction to fill the earth by having two of their own children, Cain and Abel. There apparently was a rivalry between the oldest, Cain, and the youngest, Abel. The rivalry seems to be more on the shoulders of Cain than his brother because God comes close to Cain and seeks to help him with the sin that is brewing inside of his heart.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”(Genesis 4:6-7 NIV)
Here is where we can see the beginnings of murder - the source. I was not happy with one particular headline in a newspaper article this week: “Gun violence has killed more children and destroyed another community.” The reason I’m not comfortable with this headline is that it does not point to the source of evil: the human heart. We cannot blame inanimate objects like knives and guns and bombs for the murder perpetrated by humans and stemming from the human heart! If that were the case, then the Waukesha parade murders would lead us to ban SUV’s and other vehicles. God addressed the root cause. God took Cain back to his own sin, growing and brewing in his heart but not yet reaching the capacity of murder. That infantile sin would soon sprout and grow into the world’s first murder. So God initiates a solution and asks Cain questions.
Asking questions is excellent and wise step because it engages the frontal lobe of our brain. Asking questions addresses something that we all need to do; that is, we need to examine the consequences of our action or lack of action. Spinalchord.com records it this way: “The frontal lobe is the home of much of what makes us human. It plays a role in everything from movement to intelligence, helps us anticipate the consequences of our actions, and aids in the planning of future actions.” God wanted Cain to see where his current emotions were leading him. “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:6-7).
Then we see God pointing Cain and all of us, to our role in the growth of sin: “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”(Genesis 4:7 NIV) We must learn to rule over the sin that crouches in our very soul. Sin is crouching in us. Are we allowing it to take control? In what area of our life are we allowing it to control us? In our anger, in our pride, in lust, in selfish miserly living, in disdain for others, etc.? Or are we, with God’s help, mastering this sin (and any sin)? The minor sin of pilfering will grow to petty larceny and eventually to an act of felony. The sin of hate and anger leads Cain to murder.
The Book of James tells us how this works also.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 NIV)
The origin is inside the person - “their own evil desire”. This is within the person. It is not the gun in their hand or the ax, the stone, the sling, the rope or any other violent tool of aggression. Since the issue is in the human heart, the solution must take the person’s heart (soul) into account.
Genesis 9 and Romans 13 provide the control factor. First, let’s look at Genesis 9.
And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:5-6).
God invokes corporal punishment as the means to control the outbreak of sin. This is a deterrent that stems from self-preservation in the sinner. If you value your life, then such “accounting” for the life of another will cautiously lead you away from murder because of the threat of equal and just punishment. You don’t want to be killed. The heart is not changed but the crime is deterred or prevented in many cases. This is extreme, especially in our modern American setting. But this is not me speaking about a deterrent, this is God.
He also says this in Romans 13.
The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4 NIV)
The government (the rulers) are God’s servants to be “agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4 NIV). If anyone commits murder, or a felony, even larsony, the government is there to be an agent of wrath - bearing the sword and bringing punishment. There is to be a chastisement fitting of the crime for the sake of preventing crime. This is not a complete fix because some are so driven by sin that even the threat of punishment will not hold them back. But it is, as God described, a deterrent.
Solution to the problem of evil
The second way to prohibit events like murder and theft comes from a deeper and more permanent solution: repentance. Since the source of evil is in the human heart, deterrents like capital punishment can only slow down the fiery soul. The human heart will still brew and stew with vengeance, one day breaking out in the most vile manner. Even the harshest of punishments do not reform the heart of a man or woman bent on evil.
Since the source of the evil is in the human heart, this is the place where we must go to find a solution to this human perpetrated evil. President Biden wants to have an impact on this carnage. So does God. Here is God’s solution.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)
As individuals and as a nation, we are to humble ourselves and see our own selfish, ungodly desires. Then, after humbling, we are to be led to seeking God’s face and turning from wickedness by His mercy and grace. God’s promise to those who humble themselves, seek his face and turn (repent means turn around) from evil is that He will forgive their sins and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). The fix to the issue is the cleansing of the human heart. This is not just for the murderer. This is for all of us. Jesus even punches this point (Matthew 5:21-22) higher by saying that anyone, ANYONE, who has ever had a hateful thought or word toward another is guilty of murder. The apostle John also emphasizes that point: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (1 John 3:15).
If this article, which I quoted earlier, would have simply said, “Another evil-hearted human has killed 19 people in Uvalde, Texas,” then such a headline would line up more correctly to God’s perfect diagnosis. God’s insight into the source of murder comes from seeing the evil in the human heart and addressing it with truth (“this is evil”) and with forgiveness when the person is humbled. Let us all be on our knees, in humility, confessing our many sins and the sins of this nation so that forgiveness and charity reign in our hearts instead strife, anger, lust, greed, disdain, laziness or even murder.
And don’t forget from where that forgiveness comes. An innocent man had to hang, bleed and die the most horrific form of capital punishment in order to satisfy the justice of our holy God. Jesus is that man and our salvation and forgiveness was accomplished in that one very selfless, painful act. Thank you Jesus, for taking my punishment! Thank you, Jesus, for bearing the cross I should have borne. Thank you, Jesus, for delivering us from the dominion of darkest evil so that we could live forever in Your kingdom of Light!
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
On Sunday, June 19, you are invited to attend the four o'clock worship and installation service of Pastor Timothy Otto. The eight-thirty am service is cancelled. We do not have a pastor for that Sunday, so we are hoping for a large attendance at the afternoon service. It will be a wonderful opportunity for us to publicly thank our gracious God for seeing us through a three-and-a-half year vacancy and providing us with a new pastor and a new ministry.
Monday, May 23, 2022
This coming Sunday will be Pastor Al's last Sunday at St. John after serving us so faithfully and lovingly over the past year and a half. To show our appreciation, we want to provide you with an opportunity to help demonstrate our appreciation for the blessings received through his efforts on our behalf. You may bring cards of thanks to church next Sunday - include a monetary gift if you wish - and place it in the box that will be provided in the narthex. Words of thanks and appreciation, of course, are always a nice touch.
Thursday, May 19, 2022
The four great festivals of the church year include Christmas, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. Sadly the latter two have fallen from the radar of many. All celebrate the life and victory won by Jesus for us. Because Ascension falls on a Thursday (40 days after Easter) it is easily forgotten. Yet it is as important to our lives as Christians as Christmas and Easter. Ascension focuses our attention upward - toward heaven and our eternal home. It reminds us that Jesus will return to take us there. We need Ascension to help us from being distracted by the less important things of this world and this life. On Ascension Day (May 26 we are invited to a special service celebrating Jesus' Ascension and rule where he intercedes for us at God's right hand. The service is at 6:30 at Crown of Life, West St. Paulat 115 Crusader Ave W.
How many times a day do you say thank you? “Thank you” for the person who lets you go in front of them because you only have a couple of groceries and their cart is packed full. “Thank you” to the person who opens the door for you and shows kindness to your gender. “Thank you” for a firm recognition of a job well done.
Hopefully “thank you” will remain on our lips as a way to express gratitude for people’s gracious behavior. But what if you say “thank you” to the wrong person? How much harm could really come from a misdirected “thanks”?
In the case of Paul and Barnabas, this misdirection could allow an eternal distraction, preventing people from seeing the gracious behavior of the One True God, Jesus Christ.
Here is our text:
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. (Acts 4:8-13)
This incident of divine healing almost takes a very negative turn. Why? Because the people of this region knew of an ancient legend (myth) of Zeus and Hermes coming down to earth in human form, only to be ignored and uncared for. According to the myth, only one elderly couple cared enough to be hospitable to them. As retaliation for the lack of concern on the part of the vast populace, the gods destroyed the people but rewarded the elderly couple.
When Paul healed the man who was crippled from birth, the people of Lystra were fear bound and concerned that they would miss another chance to redeem themselves. This is why they shouted, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” They did not want to be destroyed.
In essence, they were sacrificing as a way to say “thank you” to the false gods, Zeus and Hermes. Now look at how Paul and Barnabas react:
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (Acts 14:14-18)
Paul and Barnabas could not let the sacrifices (thank you) of the people fall on them. The people looked at the two of them and assumed that they were Zeus and Hermes. But this distraction would create a false hope in a false divinity. Paul and Barnabas were appalled because the Real Living God, the source of the healing, was being ignored and lost in their thanksgiving. This could not be.
The actions of these two men (they tore their garments) displays not only anger but sorrow at how the people miss the real Savior in this healing. Jesus is the Great Physician of body and soul but His saving power was almost lost in the accolades to Zeus and Hermes. Thankfully Paul and Barnabas were able to convince some of the people that the real “thanks” belongs to the One True God.
In our world, we don’t believe in such myths as Zeus and Hermes. Yet the danger to have misdirected thanks is just as large in our day as it was in Paul’s. How? I see it on bumper stickers that remind us to thank our “mother” [earth] for life and health. I see it when we raise fellow humans to the ranks of the divine and attribute great healing to them. Humanism is one of today’s rampant diversions for stealing the “thank you’s” from Jesus and giving it to human efforts instead.
May we forever remember that our God is the One True God who provides rain from heaven, controls the climate and the seasons, provides us food for nourishment and joy, and is the only source of salvation. To God alone be the praise and the Thanks!
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Why should I get up in the morning and live life?
I always wanted to be a morning person. You know, the kind of people that whistle on the way to the shower and sing while they dress. Unfortunately, I am not that kind of person. I am one whose addiction to the snooze button almost always has me rushing around in the morning, trying not to be late for the day’s events.
God’s Word is like an alarm that is ringing. Every time we have lust in our hearts, it rings. Every time we utter an obscenity, it rings. Every time our mouths are full of coarse joking, we hear it ring. The temptation is to hit the snooze button of our conscience and continue sleeping in sin. But snoozing through the alarm of God’s holy will is more serious than showing up late for a meeting. If we ignore what God commands, we are in for a rude awakening. In the Bible, we read, “God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 5:6). No matter how much we cover our heads with the blanket of denial, we cannot and will not escape the alarm of God’s justice.
God’s alarm is ringing for us, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).
Jesus is the light of the world. He came to dispel the darkness that shrouded us by sin and death. His light shone brightly when he was lifted up on a cross to die in order to take away our death. And his light exploded in brilliance when he rose from the dead to prove that he is the world’s Savior. Through the good news of God’s Word, the light of Jesus Christ shines on us to awaken us from the slumber of sin and darkness of death.
I have work to do on my morning routine. I need to strive to not keep hitting the snooze button. But praise be to God for Jesus, whose light from the cross and empty grave shines on us. Led by his light, we can get up in the morning to live life, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
Upcoming Events at St John
Worship Service: Sunday at 8:30 AM
Adult Bible Study: Sunday at 9:45 AM
Visit our website at stjohnev.net
Call us at 651-771-6406
Friday, May 13, 2022
Pastor Otto's furniture will arrive on Friday June 10 via PODS. We are planning to help him move the furniture into the parsonage on Saturday, June 11, at 9:00 AM. If you would like to volunteer to help with the move-in contact Tony Wimmer at 612-306-5329.
Thursday, May 12, 2022
What is heaven like? I’ve probably had dozens of conversations with individuals who directly or indirectly have that question: “What is heaven going to be like?” What concepts did you grow up with when you thought about heaven? Did you picture little thinly clad cherubs with chubby cheeks? Were there bright fluffy clouds and sparkly castles in the distance? What is your vision of heaven now? Do you like thinking about heaven? Does it cause questions in your mind or settle you with the firm repose of a settled faith?
One of the most common reflections from believers contemplating the concept of heaven is an uncomfortable concern. I even hear some believers
The Jewish understanding of “heaven” involved three points. The first was the arena in which birds flew and rain fell. In Matthew 5:26 Jesus talks about the birds of the air and the word used is the Greek word for heaven, ouranos. We might simply say, sky.
The second word use for ouranos is designated for talking about the location of the sun, moon and stars. They exist in the “heavens.” In Psalm 19:1, King David expresses a universal truth that the glory of God is seen in the heavens: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” We might say, outer space or the universe in today’s vernacular.
For the Hebrew believers, it is the third heaven (ouranos) that is the place where God Himself dwells. The apostle Paul speaks about it in 2 Corinthians 12 as he mentions being caught up to the third heaven. This is the usage of ouranos that points to our ubiquitous reference to the afterlife or Paradise.
That is also the same expression of ouranos that we see as the apostle John shares with us the vision of heaven in Revelation 21:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
What will heaven be like? The one thing that stands out to me is the word, “new.” God is making all things new. WHat is old and broken in our current situation under heaven, will no longer be ancient and decrepit - it will be made new. John shares with us some words of encouragement and insight from Heaven’s throne: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
The word used for our English expression, “new,” denotes and understanding that all in heaven will be new in quality. It will have a freshness of quality and provide new opportunity.
Here is where our hearts can start to stir and be excited. Like a new book fresh and crisp, just removed from the plastic wrap, all things old and stained in our life will be new. Our failures will be erased and we will have, brand new, an opportunity to do perfectly what became a disappointment on this pale ground called Earth.
We can look to every thought and action that was trodden down by age and regret - no longer any such disturbance; all will be made new. THis doesn’t necessarily erase or extend any pictures in our minds of what heaven may be like but hopefully it will cause us to see heaven as a fresh and brilliant, eternal opportunity to succeed at living. All that we experience here, with sin removed and flawless opportunities to enjoy who God made us to be, unfettered by mistakes and guilt. “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5)
Praise Jesus, the Lamb, who makes all things new. Until then, we anxiously wait for His return!
Blessings to you!
Thursday, May 5, 2022
“He” is the Good Shepherd. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in order to contrast all the other shepherds that are out there in the world. We all follow some type of “shepherd” but what are the qualifications and character traits of the shepherds we follow? What is the path that they would have us trod? How does their voice sound and do they lead us in a good direction?
The Good Shepherd leads His people in paths of righteousness. Such a statement sounds rather mundane and simple-hearted. A path is a way of life based on a way of thinking. A path is a lifestyle. Yet to walk in a path means that we are turning our backs on other directions. We are leaving other “paths” behind in order to pursue God’s well designed pathway.
The lifestyle that the Lord Jesus Christ has for us IS the right path; He calls it the path of “righteousness”. It is the right way as compared to the wrong way.
THat should be easy to choose the right path, is that correct? Of course we should daily choose to go the way that God would have us go. That is assumed. But we miss the reality that myriads of other voices are in our world, growing ever stronger, leading society and even Christians away from the path of righteousness (Matthew 24:10-11).
How far will sin drive humanity away from God’s order for life (the path of righteousness)? Sin sprouts and grows; it will cause angrier and larger fists to rise in opposition to what God says is right and true. Sin seeks to push the limits and call into question the validity of God’s directions for life. It is an ancient argument first thrust on mankind in the Garden of Eden - we fell for it then and fall for it now. Sin’s very nature does not want to be told what to do and will squirm and squeeze out any piece of legislation, any loophole to create a niche for what it calls “good and right,” “safe and acceptable”. But anything that opposes God’s eternally pure standard is not just a malformation; it is EVIL.
I saw this in a headline story this week. It was a news clip that bemoaned the fact a sinful lifestyle and evil, destructive course of action was possibly going to be prohibited by a court decision. In very clever wording it said (paraphrase), “we can’t choose our own path anymore; our rights are being restricted.”
This is an era of humanity that is not being driven good logic or a pure moral compass. We are being led by our emotions; we are being driven by our personal desires no matter how skewed and distorted and wrong they are. We want what we want!
Would that be so bad if we just got what we wanted? Could that be good for us in the long run. What’s society grow? The sinful human heart can only create distraction. The sinful human heart cannot truly lead to a path that is good. We desperately need the Good Shepherd. And in our world today the floodgates have been opened up and even religious institutions are agreeing with the worldly narrative by saying “go for it.” “Do what’s in your heart!”
Every broken creature, every sinful heart, leads in a path toward distraction and eventual destruction.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3)
The contrast to a life committed to insurrection is a life governed, enhanced and guarded by the Good Shepherd, Jesus. This is a life of searching out what is pleasing to Him who rescued us from hell. This is a life that recognizes the pain sin brings directly or indirectly to this world and to the very relationships we hope to build, to our own hearts and minds.
Why does the Good Shepherd lead us with His voice? Because He knows how quickly we would turn from him. He knows that we still possess a broken spirit that daily rises in opposition to Him. That part of us is led and coerced by many voices in our surrounding horizons. Blogs and newscasts are never neutral - they lead down a path. Sometimes they lead congruent to the truth of God. But often they are askew of God’s right path because they don’t know right; they only know the press of a sick, sin stained world. And how can sinful humans find the right path? We can’t!
We need the shepherd.
Please pray for our world, our neighborhood, our own Christian brothers and sisters. The days are coming when even believers will find it hard to put up with the Good Shepherd's voice (2 Timothy 4:3). Let’s continually get back to center and listen to His pure, perfect Voice; “He leads me in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3).
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Spring in Paris Gala was Magnifique!
While Spring hasn’t arrived in the rest of MN yet, many St. Croix supporters arrived for “Spring in Paris” at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel in Eagan this past Saturday. By all standards, it was a resounding success, and a great time was had by all! Thank you to all who participated!
You helped us meet our goal of $50,000 for “Make a Difference,” a fund that supports student tuition assistance. This goal covered seven students’ scholarships for one year! If you’d still like to give, the donation webpage is open through Friday, May 6 at 11:59 p.m.
The preliminary total raised the evening of the gala is
a new SCLA record! Thank you!
Post-Event Special- Tickets for the 3M Open.
One new item was just added to the auction site and is up for bidding through this Friday at 11:59 p.m. Get two 3M Open Tickets to be used one day from July 19 -July 25, 2022. Spread the word! Anyone can bid.
A few silent auction items are still up for grabs.
Get a sweet deal! Bidding closes Friday at 11:59 p.m.
All gala gifts and purchases will be processed shortly.
Receipt letters will be mailed within two weeks for your records.
Event photos from Michelle Wirth Photography are coming soon.
Access will be emailed to gala attendees.
Sunday, May 1, 2022
- Gift Card Shower - Throughout May, we are collecting gift cards to ease the burden and expense of starting over in a new place. In addition to the practical Target, Walmart, and gas card options, you are encouraged to consider a gift card to one of the Mexican restaurants near St. John (i.e. East 7th/Payne Ave/Arcade.) That way, we can help Pastor Otto make connections in the neighborhood while providing meals for the family! Cards may be dropped off in the church office. Please enclose in an envelope and mark "Gift Card Shower."
- Picture directory - To help Ottos get to know us, we are asking each household to submit a recent photo of your family along with preferred names. These will go into a homemade directory. Please email them to the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 22.
- Continue to PRAY for Pastor, Jenny, JJ, Evan, Paul, and Mayah!