United Lutheran Presbyterian Parish

26 East Faville Avenue

P.O. Box 43

Dolgeville, New York 13329

1-315-429-3622

email: ulpp@verizon.net

June 28, 2020

Welcome Back United !!

It's been so long since we had the opportunity to worship together.  Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 11:00 am will be our re-opening. Hallelujah!!!  However the following guidelines need to be followed in order to help everyone stay healthy.

Come Worship with us Every

Sunday Morning

11:00 am

Preschool Playhouse of:

Dolgeville, NY

Our church building is handicap accessible to all levels of the building via an elevator.  The outside elevator entrance is located on the right side, on the East Faville Street entrance.

 

The Message by: John Hoffman

Sunday, June 28, 2020

4th. Sunday after Pentecost


In my recent messages I have commented that we, as a nation, are currently going through one of the most trying periods of our lives, with fear and apprehension concerning the Covid-19 virus. Since then we can add additional serious concern about the future of our country, given the massive - and frequently destructive - social protests that are still occurring. The country is at a tipping point.

We as Christians need to increase our focus on Jesus Christ, and to increase our trust in Him. I believe that the action , or inaction, of THE CHURCH is more concerning than the Covid-19 virus and the social unrest. (Now when I speak of The Church I mean all who profess the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e., all the various "tribes" of Christianity - Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran et al).

The Church could speak with one great voice that calls upon the world to repent of sin, sin that is clearly defined and enumerated in the pages of Holy Scripture. After all, Matthew reports Jesus' first words of ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The Church could be a great moral voice, denouncing sin and evil in any form. Instead:

  1. The Church has largely de-emphasized many of its foundational doctrines. "Man is by nature sinful and unclean" are words from The Confession in the Lutheran Common Service Book with Hymnal (1917). And it is foundational to our historic, Biblical faith that: "Our hope is in the Name of the Lord."

  2. Meanwhile, The Church has been largely silent about the lies told about the Bible and Christianity itself, preferring to emphasize a watered-down social gospel.

  3. Also, THE CHURCH has been largely silent for years regarding the violence against people and property by anarchists and groups like Antifa, BLM, and others. Instead, many in society and in the Church have emphasized that: "We have to understand their frustration and rage". (Really? This sounds like justifying the violence to me.)

  4. And THE CHURCH, along with much of society, has been silent regarding the lies that have been told about this country and its origins.

I believe that is important, with Independence Day approaching, to once again take an honest, objective look at U.S. history. We find that no nation throughout history has offered more freedom, with opportunity, to its people. We have the right and freedom to rise above our 'station' at birth, a freedom to achieve and "succeed" - whether financially, or in prestige, or in peace and joy.

  1. It is possible to be born "dirt poor" and still be elected to the Presidency of the U.S.

  2. It is possible to be born in considerable poverty in the rural South, experience outrageous racial prejudice, and
    still be educated at a prestigious university, become a successful lawyer, and be appointed to the Supreme Court.

  3. It is possible to be born into the middle class, but with great ideas and hard work, to become a multi-millionaire -
    if that's your goal.


This "freedom" is possible because of .... Christianity! Our freedoms are grounded in the Judeo/Christian belief, based  upon the Bible, that mankind is a special creation by God. We are "made in His image."


Enshrined in our founding documents - The Declaration of Independence and Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) - are the unique ideas: that "all men are created equal [in the eyes of God]"; that all "have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights". This foundation says that the individual is more important than the King, than the government (President, Governor, Mayor, legislature, the courts), because the individual is more important to God.


Those with totalitarian motives seek to destroy the nation's trust in God. Government in a democratic republic exists to protect its people - their lives, their liberties, their property, and their right to pursue happiness (so long as the individual respects the life, liberties and property of others.) So the institutions of U.S. government have been established to serve and protect the people - law enforcement; the military; the various courts; et al.

And why is the individual so important within our system of government? Well, we have the testimony of the Bible that God put the highest value on His human creation. As John 3:16 puts it: "For God so loved the world ... that whosoever believeth...". Clearly, 'whosoever' is any human being:

  1. man, women or child; righteous or unrighteous

  2. white, black, red, or brown;

  3. old or young; rich or poor;

  4. brilliant, or intellectually challenged;

  5. healthy or infirm


No one is outside of the redeeming love of God. Those who accept what Jesus Christ did for us, and accept Him as God's only Son, have their sins forgiven, and receive the promise (i.e., the assurance) of eternal life - eternal life in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Note: A promise of God is an assurance, a guarantee. God does not lie or change His mind.)


Our understanding of what happened in Jerusalem during the first Holy Week, and why - as reported in all four Gospels - is so very crucial to our faith and belief. (That's why I've felt such regret that we've been shut down since March 15. If we follow the lectionary series, we won't hear the Passion and Resurrection stories again, as a Church, until Lent/Easter of next year.)


This brings me to the heart of today's message:
I've reminded you many times that the main rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation was: "Sola scriptura", i.e., that "The Bible alone is the source of all true doctrine". "Sola scriptura" raises various questions. The claim that mankind is a special creation also raises the same questions.

  1. How do we know that the Bible is true?

  2. How do we know that Jesus is the Only Son of God?

  3. How do we know that Jesus lived and died, as God in human form?

  4. How do we know that Jesus truly rose from the dead?


Indeed, how do we know?


The following story may answer the questions for you:
Lee Strobel was educated as a lawyer and a journalist, and worked for 14 years at the Chicago Tribune, specializing in covering criminal investigations. Due to his diligence in pursuing the truth, wherever it took him, Lee broke many stories that others missed, finding evidence that exonerated the "guilty", or evidence bolstering the case against the accused.


Lee was a self-described atheist when he began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ, following his wife's announcement of her conversion to Christianity. Prompted by the results of his 20-month long investigation, he himself became a Christian at the age of 29. (But I'm getting ahead of the story.)


Lee decided to read the Bible with an open mind, taking copious notes, and travelling the country to interview various experts - 13 in all. Among the questions Lee pursued:

  1. Do the Gospels contain reliable eyewitness testimony?

  2. Is the New Testament today consistent with documents that were written nearly contemporaneously with events?
    I.e., are the copies of copies of copies reliable?

  3. Do secular and Jewish historians confirm important elements of the New Testament?

  4. Does archeology confirm, or does it undermine, the New Testament?

  5. Is the Jesus of the Bible the same as the Jesus of history?

  6. Can the claims of skeptics be successfully rebutted?

  7. Did Jesus actually see himself as the Messiah and as divine? Did others?

  8. Does Jesus match the profile of a liar? or of a madman? or of a fraud?

  9. Does Jesus, according to the Gospels, fulfill the attributes of God?

  10. According to modern medicine/pathology, what did Jesus experience during his scourging and crucifixion?

  11. Did Jesus actually die, or could he have survived?

  12. Is there historical evidence of "an empty tomb"?

  13. Is there confirmation of Jesus appearing to his disciples and to many others after his death? I.e., was there really a "resurrection". (There could be an empty tomb without a resurrection - no burial, perhaps; a stolen body, perhaps)

  14. Could many of the New Testament claims have developed as legends, after the fact?

  15. How did Jesus' death and resurrection affect his close followers?


After all this study, Lee Strobel declared: "... My mind could not conjure up a single explanation that fit the evidence of history nearly as well as the conclusion that Jesus was who he claimed to be: the one and only son of God." He believed that, if Jesus were to be put on trial, He would be "convicted" - beyond a reasonable doubt - of being the crucified and risen Son of God.


Based upon his exhaustive study and experience, Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ", was published 17 years later, in 1998. In the final chapter, he described his decision to take the next step. He had come to believe, so now he decided to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and to surrender his life to his Lord. And he described a 'recipe' from John 1: 12:


believe + receive Christ's sacrificial gift = become a child of God


Lee Strobel's life was transformed, and he subsequently became a teaching pastor at a suburban Chicago church.


Lee Strobel's transformation did not go un-noticed. He says in his book, "The truth is that I had been living a profane, drunken, self-absorbed and immoral lifestyle.... I was a liar, a cheat, and a deceiver." The change in Lee's life became so radical that, a few months after his conversion, his 5-year old daughter went up to her mother and said: "Mommy, I want God to do for me what he's done for Daddy."


But it's not about Lee Strobel's personal, life-changing experience. It's about truth. The Gospels are true biographies of God's Only Son. God himself paid the price for our sin, so that we might have eternal life. This is the ultimate message - a message of amazing love. The message should always be central in the worship, and praise, and prayer, and ministry of His Church. No fear, no embarrassment, certainly no silence.


It would be well if we all could declare, in our hearts, the words of our opening chorus:


I will proclaim the beauty of the risen Lord

Who once was slain to reconcile man to God

Forever You will be the Lamb upon the throne

I gladly bow my knee and worship You alone


AMEN



(By the way, I highly recommend Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ" [1998; paperback, 2002]. It's available through Amazon for $18.95 plus shipping. I've read it twice since late March.)