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Was the Lord Born to Suffer?

Worship Service: Sermon only - December 03, 2006

"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10) When we think about the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, words like "afflicted", "bruised", and "slaughter" do not come immediately to mind. "Innocence", "love", "peace", and "joy" are words of the Lord's birth. But the description of the Lord's life in Isaiah 53 is at once chilling and uplifting. Viewed wrongly, it seems as if the Lord was born on earth to suffer punishments from above so we wouldn't suffer. But "bearing the sins of many" doesn't mean that our sins are removed from us, but that the Lord, because of His victory over the hells during His life on earth, fights our battles for us when we shun evils as sins. The Lord was not born into a life of suffering, but a life of battle and of victory. Combat is not a pleasant thing, but the Lord loves us enough to fight our battles for us. When the angels heard this prophecy, they did not grieve for the Lord, but celebrated the victory that would save them and all of creation from the hells that threatened to overwhelm heaven. Take time this season to reflect on the circumstances surrounding the Lord's advent into your life. They may not always be joyful times, but then continue reflecting onward to the results of His coming and there you will find the angels bearing tidings of great joy. To see that this is true, read John 12:37-47, Isaiah 53, and Arcana Coelestia 9937:1-3, then listen to the full audio sermon, and finally try it out in your life in the coming week. This sermon is archived at www.PittsburghNewChurch.org and is also available at www.NewChurch.org and at the Apple iTunes store as a free podcast. | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (15m 27s)
How to Prepare for the Holiday Pandemonium

Worship Service: Sermon only - November 26, 2006

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3) Too often, we allow the "holiday season" overwhelm us. What starts out with happy anticipation of joyful gatherings and peaceful worship, instead ends up covered with anxious shopping and distracting office parties. This is not to say that gifts and office parties are bad, but our culture allows the evil spirits to push us into thinking more about the correct celebration of Christmans than about what is being celebrated. I call this "Holiday Pandemonium," the craziness that distracts us from what we really would rather be doing, enjoying friends and family and the peaceful holiness that surrounds us. "Pandemonium" has taken on the meaning of "wild, lawless confusion" but originally was the name John Milton used in Paradise Lost for the capital city of hell (from the Greek "Pan-" meaning "all" and the Latin "demonium" meaning "evil spirit"). Both of these senses are meant in "Holiday Pandemonium". How do we prepare ourselves for the Holiday Pandemonium so that we might avoid the chaos and anxiety as much as possible? The prophecy in Isaiah, repeated in the New Testament, tells us to prepare the way of the Lord, or more literally, to "sweep" the path of the Lord. We start the beginning work of repentance by reading the Word and thinking about our lives and what we really want. By doing the preparation work ahead of time, before the Pandemonium sets in, we allow the Lord ino our lives in ways that, though unseen, are powerful. It is like a baptism before the work of regeneration takes place. To see that this is true, read Isaiah 40:1-8, John 1:19-27, and True Christian Religion 531, then listen to the full audio version of today's sermon, and then try putting it into practice. This Christams season sermon is archived at www.PittsburghNewChurch.org and is available as a free podcast at the Apple iTunes store. | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (11m 53s)
Why Are the Ten Commandments So Negative?

Worship Service: Sermon only - November 19, 2006

"From these considerations it is clearly manifest that so far as a man shuns evils, so far is he with the Lord and in the Lord; and so far as he is in the Lord, so far he does good, not from himself but from the Lord. Hence results this general law: SO FAR AS ANY ONE SHUNS EVILS, SO FAR HE DOES WHAT IS GOOD. "(Doctrine of Life 21) When we turn away from hell, which way are we facing? We often think of the Ten Commandments as a list of "Thou Shalt Not"s - the Lord telling us, like parents tell their children, all the things they are not allowed to do. But as we have learned over the past weeks, the Ten Commandments are not about limiting our freedom or making us suffer. So why are they so negative? The Doctrine of Life, which is drawn directly from the Ten Commandments, teaches that everyone in this world is suspended between heaven above and hell below. We are kept this way so we can freely choose which direction we want to turn. By birth we would naturally turn towards hell, but the Lord maintains our freedom and equilibrium and then educates us on how to turn towards heaven. We would assume that we would therefore be taught about how to do good. But in the 10 Commandments, we're not taught how to do good, but how to not do evil. Why? Good and evil are opposites and destroy each other when they meet. Since we are born with an inclination to evil, we cannot do good right away because the evil within us would destroy it. So our first job is to get rid of the evil. And as we shun those evils as sins, the Lord replaces them with good. We cannot do good without first shunning evil. The amazing result is turning toward heaven, not because we are choosing to turn towards heaven, but because we are turning away from hell. If we choose to not look down at the ground, we can't help but look at the sky. Obeying the Ten Commandments by shunning evils as sins against the Lord is the surest way to reach heaven. To see that this is true, first read Doctrine of Life 53, Isaiah 1:10-20, and Doctrine of Life 18-21, then listen to the full audio version of this sermon, and, finally, try practicing it for a week. This is the tenth and final sermon in our Journey series, celebrating the Ten Commandments. It is archived at www.PittsburghNewChurch.org. | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (20m 33s)
Listening to the Teaching of the Lord: The Eighth Commandment

Worship Service: Sermon only - November 05, 2006

"'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'" (Exodus 20:16) The commandment not to bear false witness is one that does not obscure its spiritual meanings too much; we easily leap from giving false testimony before a judge to lying in general, and from there to the spiritual meaning of this commandment: to not call the truth falsity, and to not call falsity truth. In the highest meaning, of course, it is a warning not to blaspheme against the Lord, for the Lord is Truth Itself. The great sin described in Isaiah 28 is false witness. The source of this sin was drunkenness, that is, the purposeful confusion of the understanding part of the mind as to what is right or true and what is wrong or false. This "drunkenness" was not an accident, but was the result of people pridefully and selfishly searching for truth with their own reason alone, confirming their own ideas with a mixture of falsified truths from the Word and "proofs" from the natural world. The result of this "intoxication" is extreme uncleanliness, representing the possession of the mind by the evil spirits. Once this state sets in, the Word is no longer the source of truth, but an obstacle to be overcome in fulfilling one's own selfish desires. How could a person live this way and call it good? That is the greatest lie of all: that the hells are the source of happiness, safety, comfort, strength, and peace. The hells promise us "glorious beauty" and delicious fruit from verdant valleys, self-esteem, success, and power. But when judgment comes, that covenant is annulled and our relationship with the hells is revealed to be terrible and the real source of suffering. How do we prevent this from happening to us? The short answer is to let your Yes be Yes and your No be No. Let truth be true and falsity be false. Acknowledge that the Lord is Truth itself and the source of what is right. The Lord simply says to us, "Give ear to My voice, Listen and hear my speech." We are not the source of our understanding of the truths of the Lord's Word; the Lord's Word is the source of our understanding of everything else. We break this commandment when we turn away from the Word when seeking answers to life's questions. Instead, we will listen to the teaching of the Lord. To see that this is true, read Matthew 5:33-37, Isaiah 28, and True Christian Religion 324, then listen to the full audio of today's sermon. This is the eighth sermon in our Rise Above It series on the Ten Commandments. It is archived at www.PittsburghNewChurch.org. | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (17m 03s)
Consider the Source of Adultery: The Sixth Commandment

Worship Service: Sermon only - October 22, 2006

"'You shall not commit adultery.'" (Exodus 20:14) To not commit adultery seems to be one of the commandments that our culture has the most trouble supporting. As a nation, we wouldn't tolerate the sacrifice of animals to Baal in the name of religious freedom. Many states use even the threat of death to deter murders. But we've seen a President of the United States admit to committing adultery and be punished, not for the adultery, but for lying about it. Even if a state does technically have laws against adultery (as Pennsylvania does), no state today could expect a guilty verdict to be upheld. Since 1965, the U. S. Supreme Court has been concluding that consenting adults have a right to privacy in sexual intimacy, making adultery very difficult to punish or deter with civil means. This is not to say that such laws would be useful or necessary (though perhaps they would). The message we are hearing is that marriage is not valued as it should be. By 1970, every state had no-fault divorce laws, making it easier to get a divorce than get married in some states. Unlike almost every ancient or primitive culture, we no longer consider marriage to be sacred. But this did not happen in a vacuum. The dishonoring of marriage is not the cause, but is the effect of a much deeper and more terrible problem: the denial of any absolute set of values. We could translate that as the denial of the authority of the Word as the source of instructions for right living. Our post-modern culture tells us that what is "right" for you may not be "right" for me and both are equally "right". But we know that cannot be true. Even in cultures where the Old and New Testament did not exist, there was a set of standards that were considered to be sacred and applied to everyone equally. Sadly, much of the spiritual history of the human race is the story of repeatedly falling away from those standards. In Genesis, Joseph seemed fairly alone in his conviction that lying with his master's wife was wrong, even if they didn't get caught. In the prophets, Israel and Judah are regularly called "harlots" and "adulterers" because of their inability to remain true to the Lord and his laws. In the New Testament, the Pharisees were condemned because of their hypocrisy and their twisting of the laws of Moses to suit their own desire for power and wealth. This is all spiritual adultery, and it is the source of natural adultery. Denying the holiness of the Word, treating it like any other book and taking from it only the parts that agree with your desires is the essence of spiritual adultery. Natural marriage gets its holiness from its correspondence with the marriage of good and truth, which is heaven itself. Trying to join good to falsity twists that good into evil and destroys the heavenly marriage. Not treating the good and truth of the Word and of religion as heavenly leads only to hell. Celestial adultery, then, is the denial of the Divinity of the Lord. If you do not believe that the Lord is God, then the things He teaches in the Word are not sacred and become subject to re-interpretation. And if there is no longer any objective truth with which to restrain and reform your life, you are left only with the desires the hells give to you. Belief in the Divinity of the Lord is to behave as if the Lord is God. It means nothing to believe in something if you don't act as if it is living your life in accordance with those truths. Not living this way is to commit adultery in your soul, in your mind, and eventually in your life. To see that this is true, read Genesis 39:5-10, Revelation 17:1-6, Arcana Caelestia 8904:1-2, listen to the full audio sermon, and then try living your life as if it is true. This is the sixth Rise Above It sermon on the Ten Commandments. It is archived at http://www.PittsburghNewChurch.org/ | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (17m 26s)
Spiritual Murder Leads Only to Spiritual Death: The Fifth Commandment

Worship Service: Sermon only - October 15, 2006

"You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13) Similarly to the fourth commandment to honor your father and mother, the commandment against murder is clearly to be viewed in terms of both width and depth. Instead of adding numbers of people to achieve a wider point of view, as we did with the fourth commandment, we include all the stages leading up to murder. This includes wounding or mutilation that proves fatal, but also the feelings of hatred, enmity, and revenge that are the causes of the wounding -- even if the actual murder never takes place. Because of this, those who injure another's name or reputation have the same motivations and fears. The hateful or vengeful person, even if they never hurt anyone, lives "in danger of hellfire." But this commandment also goes much deeper than the life in this world; a person's real life is in their soul. Making the Word or the life of religion the subject of a joke can be spiritual murder if it then prevents another from thinking reverently about these things. Persuading someone to reject something of religion or worship is spiritual murder because it destroys that person's ability to live the life that leads to heaven. Of course, you do not have the power to close heaven to another, but you can provide real assistance to evil spirits as they try to drag another soul into hell. Both of these levels of murder come from a rejection and hatred of the Lord. All in the hells want nothing more than to destroy the Lord, the dreadfulness of which is pictured in the final days of the Lord's life on earth. But since they cannot, they instead try to destroy those who would follow Him. Real murder is the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who attempt spiritual murder only end up bringing spiritual death on themselves by choosing the life of hell. To see that this is true, read Matthew 5:21-26, John 8:37-59, and True Christian Religion 310. This is the fifth Rise Above It sermon on the Ten Commandments. (Archived at http://www.PittsburghNewChurch.org/) | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (14m 40s)
How to Find True Rest: The Third Commandment

Worship Service: Sermon only - October 01, 2006

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exo. 20:8) When the Lord was on earth, He clearly taught that the natural, external interpretation of the commandment to rest on the sabbath day was incapable of truly reflecting the Lord's will. When the Children of Israel killed a man for gathering sticks on the day of rest, they were thinking strictly literally. But spiritually, this commandment is not talking about the efforts we make to feed ourselves, care for our families, have fun, or mow the lawn. The Lord is teaching us to keep the Lord's salvation before us at all times. Spiritually, it's not us that does the work, but the Lord -- just like the six days of creation. The six days of labor that are referred to are the spiritual struggles that the Lord went through while in the world to fight against the hells, to reorder the spiritual world, and to unite His Divine to His Human. When that process was completed, there was rest, there was a new peace because the Human had become Divine. The Lord uses a similar process in our lives. He has already reduced the hells to order, but we must undergo our own spiritual struggles as if they are our own. But even then, it is the Lord who does all the real struggling, who does the real work. Our job is to remember that it is the Lord who does this work for us. Remembering the sabbath means to worship the Lord, Jesus Christ with our whole lives, not just on Sunday mornings. To understand this, read Exodus 20:8-11, Matthew 12:1-14, and Arcana Caelestia 10360, then listen to the full audio of this third Rise Above It sermon. | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (11m 31s)
Take the Name of the Lord - Just Not in Vain: The Second Commandment

Worship Service: Sermon only - September 24, 2006

Rise Above It with the Pittsburgh New Church: The Second Commandment "'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.'" (Exodus 20:7) Unlike our culture's ability to uphold the natural and external meaning of the first commandment, using the Lord's names unthinkingly and disrespectfully is everywhere around us. This influence makes it more difficult to teach our own children the importance of this commandment. But following the commandments naturally and externally is the first step in following them internally and spiritually; unless we are conscious of and thinking about the Lord in our lives, we cannot begin to behave in ways that are genuine worship of the Lord. And that is the goal of this commandment. It is vital that we use and understand the names of the Lord because it is an important way that the Lord becomes Human to us. Everyone has a name that is used to talk with them, and it is no different with the Lord. Taking His name, in the most internal meaning, is to acknowledge that the Lord is Human and that everything comes from Him, that He is a person we can talk with and relate to through His Word. Blaspheming the Lord's name, His Word or holy things cannot be forgiven, not because the Lord is especially angry, but because disregarding these things removes the only means by which we can learn of and accept the Lord's forgiveness. When we take the name of the Lord in vain, whether externally or internally, we are destroying the connection between the Lord and ourselves and making genuine worship impossible. To see that this is true, read Exodus 20:7; Matthew 12:31-32; and True Christian Religion 299. | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (12m 53s)
How to Worship the Lord Only: The First Commandment

Worship Service: Sermon only - September 17, 2006

Rise Above It: The First Commandment "'You shall have no other gods before Me.'" (Exodus 20:3) In our basically monotheistic culture, we often dismiss commandment number one as finished. We never go to satanic rituals, we never bow down to a golden statue, and we don't burn incense to icons in our homes. Congratulations! This is a success not to be disregarded, but it is obeying the first commandment in only its most natural and external form. This may have been enough for the Children of Israel, but the Lord wants us to be more spiritual. Through the New Testament and the Writings for the New Church, the Lord teaches us about internal and spiritual ways of understanding and obeying His law. In its spiritual meaning, the Lord is teaching us to worship Him in His Divine Human only, the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, we learn that true worship does not consist solely in standing and kneeling, saying prayers and singing songs. True worship of the Lord is living according to the true ideas that you have learned from the Lord's Word. It is in life that genuine worship exists. Anything that prevents you from living what you know to be true is also an idol. Evil spirits are skilled at distracting us away from thinking about the place of the Lord in our lives. They want us to pay attention to, and live our lives in dedication to, anything other than the Lord. Drugs, money, and sex are the easy ones to see, partly because they can be so spectacularly destructive. More difficult to identify in our own lives are the subtly destructive things like anger, pride, revenge, control, reputation, and cynicism. These can be idols that we do not wish to abandon as we learn to worship the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts, minds, and strength. This is the first commandment and it is the center of all religion. The acknowledgement of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and earth, Creator and Redeemer, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the essential feature of the life of religion. It is because of this acknowledgement, and only because of this, that the rest of religion contains anything of genuine life. "Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10) To see that this is true, read Exodus 20:1-6, Revelation 19:6-10, and True Christian Religion 294, 295, 296:1. Full text available at http://www.PittsburghNewChurch.org/ | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (14m 10s)
How Does a Good Pastor Feed the Lord's Flock?

Worship Service: Sermon only - September 10, 2006

"The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them." (Ezekiel 34:4) The Lord gives a sort of job description to His New Church priests in Arcana Caelestia 10794 when He says that... "It is their duty to teachpeople the way to heaven and also to guide them. They must instruct them in the teachings of their Church and guide them to lead lives in keeping with those teachings. Priests who teach truths and guide people by means of them to goodness of lifeand so to the Lord are good shepherds; but those who teach yet do not guide people to goodness of life and so to the Lord are bad shepherds." In Latin, the language the Writings for the New Church were written in, the same word is used for "pastor" and "shepherd". To be a good pastor, then, requires that a priest teach the truths of the Church, not what he believes to be true. But that's not all. These truths are to be taught in such a way that those learning the truths are led to the goodness of life, like sheep are led to green pastures and clear water. Just telling the sheep that there is such a thing as green pastures and clear water is not enough to be a good pastor. As the Lord said in Ezekiel, "The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who are sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost" (34:4). A pastor doing his job justly, faithfully, and sincerely, will be doing all of these things. Why do you care what the pastor's job is? There may be many reasons, but one of the biggest is so that you recognize what your pastor's goals for the congregation are. Pastors are in unique positions to see the weak, sick, broken, driven away, and lost in the congregation. And it is the goal of a good pastor to strengthen, heal, bind, bring back, and seek, both individuals in his congregation and for the congregation as a whole. And he does this by teaching the truths of the church and leading by them to the goodness oflife. A good shepherd cannot lead "with force and cruelty" but can only suggest, encourage, and challenge. And then get out of the way! People have a direct connection with the Lord, not one through the pastor. The Lord is the door of the sheepfold through which both pastor and congregation must pass. In the church community of the Pittsburgh New Church, I hear about and see many examples of people who are feeling weak or sick or broken. And I try to bring them the strengthening, healing, binding leaves of the tree which are the Lord's truths. But most of all, I see and talk with people who are feeling distant and separated, people who feel like the sheep are wandering away from each other, or are being driven away from the flock. And this issomething that is not best addressed on an individual level. Instead, it is the pastor's responsibility to teach the whole church community about what holds a community together like a flock, and then to use those teachings to guide the whole into re-strengthening the ties that bind them together. Remember what the bishops told the priests in Conjugial Love: church communities are bound together and filled with goodness by working on bringing forth the fruits of love, that is, doing the Lord's truth. Working as a community to bring the Lord's truths into your individual lives is how congregations are really made because then people are performing a common use: helping each other find the green pastures and the clear waters where they will no longer be prey but will dwell together in security and peace. To see that this is true, read John 10:1-6, Ezekiel 34, and Conjugial Love 9. Archived at http://www.PittsburghNewChurch.org/ | By Rev. R. Amos Glenn | Pittsburgh, PA
See Event (21m 00s)

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