Fiiled with Joy – A sermon based on Isaiah 29 (manuscript)


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Filled with Joy!

Is. 29:11-29

 In Jesus Name!

May you be so filled with fresh joy from seeing and hearing the love of Christ at work in your life, that you humbly welcome His molding you into His image!

The fear of the unknown

It is that sense you have, the night before you take on a new job.

Or maybe as you sleep for the first night in a new place and have to struggle to remember where the bathroom is, and where the light switches are.  You hear strange groans and creaks and noises, and your heart it trying to decide to dive under the covers or find a weapon, or both!

Or maybe it is that call from the doctor’s office, you know the one where the doctor himself calls you and asks that you come in, right now…

I don’t know what the official phobia is called, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear that most of us will ever face. It doesn’t matter what the unknown is, a matter of fact; that is why it is so scary!  We just don’t know!

As we look at the lesson in Isaiah today, we see that problem, the unknown future, the kind of future God prophecies about, but are we willing to hear, to see what He has in mind?

The message of God’s love

At the beginning of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, the future is compared to a sealed book.  The future is explained in a message from God that reveals all that is needed to know.  A message that would calm the fears, that would bring the heart peace, and give assurance that all will be good to those souls who are stressed and anxious.

But those who the message are given too, perhaps scared of the unknown, don’t bother to read the message.  They say, “we can’t read it because it is sealed”, even though it was given to them to read.

It’s like getting that certified letter from the IRS, or from the Superior Court.  You stand there looking at it, unable to open it, as if not reading it somehow makes things less terrifying!  Every morning you see it on the table, and you don’t want to even touch it!

And the message from God goes unheard, unread, unseen.

Others will claim that they are unable to read it, that the words are beyond their comprehension, so they too leave the message unead, unseen, unheard.  It’s like those people who haven’t read the book of Revelation, for they fear what they will read will scare them.

The future becomes even more concering, it terrifies us even more.

We tried to fill the gap

Which is where our hypocrisy comes in, according to this passage from Isaiah.  You see, rather than face our fears, rather than dealing with God directly.  The world does this by creating other gods.  Gods who will give them what they want, who will allow them to chase after what is worthless.

Unwilling to hear what God says, we make up our own rules, our own traditions, and then judge others by whether they follows what we say.  We will say that we are God’s, we will say and sing the right things, but do we really understand the heart of God?  Do our hearts beat in time with His?  Is what He desires what we desire more than anything else?

Or is our worship, and the things we do that “prove our righteousness” simply empty, going through motions without realizing that they don’t please God?  The prophets called Israel out on this over and over, telling them their sacrifices meant nothing, that their gatherings were worthless.  The Pharisees were accused of this as well, as they tithed everything, even down to the seeds for their gardens.  But they overlooked mercy, and helping those in need.

Our attempts to fill in the gaps, to prove we are good are worthless, and when we think about it, they don’t rid us of the fear of dealing with a God who seems to perfect, so righteous, that we don’t, we can’t stand being in His presence.

If only we saw His words, if only we could read them!

We’ll even go farther, we will tell God, our creator, that He doesn’t know what he is doing.  That His laws don’t make sense, that we understand and know better.  That his idea of life, or right and wrong, is wrong.  We are like Isaiah’s jars – telling the potter who made them that he is intellectually challenged.

Or as Chris will soon hear from some student, that he just doesn’t understand, because the sophomore knows what he is talking about!  And compared to God, we often act like sophmores, a term from the greek meaning “wise fools”!

We didn’t have to, He knows what He is doing

The idea that Isaiah is trying to get across is that we don’t have to play God, we don’t have to step in and fill in the gap when we don’t see God doing what He wants to!  He is far smarter, and if we try to take control, our lives will be full of sorrow.

Yet even then, God will not abandon us!  He has promised to amaze us with amazing things!

For what God had planned for us causes us to disguard our own wisdom, to drop the plans, to come out from the darkness, to be able to see and hear His words,

or we are in the days of verse 18,

In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19  The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel..

Foe we, like Israel of old, like the believers who followed Jesus and struggled, have been told what the future holds, a future that has hope, that has peace, that has glory beyond our imagination.

Paul revealed that when he wrote,

9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

It is seeing this plan come together, as we beging to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection, that this was the plan, this was the gospel even back in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Paul and Peter is amazing.

To realize that as He hangs from the cross and says Father, forgive them, Jesus is thinking of Dustin, Chris, Tom, Jim, Chuck, and Al and all of Concordia,

To know that when He said said, take and eat, this is my body, given for you, He was revealing our future.  And when He said this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, He was making our eternity possible.

This is why we can see, it is what we heard, even though we were once dead to the words of God.

So hear, see and rejoice in God’s presence

It is as we see this, we lay aside our wisdom, our plans, our self defensiveness and know the presence and love of God.

We, those who are humbled by the love of God, are filled, as Isaiah promises, with the fresh joy of the Lord, and we, who were poor, rejoice in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God of Israel!

And our hearts and minds, finally enjoying His peace, relax and praise Him.  AMEN!

Isaiah 29 Filled with Joy! (audio and slides)


A Lesson for those Depending on Christ, Learned Emptying a Sand Box


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

14  “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16  In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (TEV)

313 It seems to me that we shall have our hands full to keep these commandments, practicing gentleness, patience, love toward enemies, chastity, kindness, etc., and all that these virtues involve. But such works are not important or impressive in the eyes of the world.

Of great importance are the things which are said about closely joining spiritual formation with the doctrinal and pastoral; about living a life patterned after the Gospel without looking out for one’s own comfort or that of one’s family; about cultivating a deep appreciation of the mystery of the Church. From all this, they will be well taught to dedicate themselves wholly to the service of the Body of Christ and to the work of the Gospel

844    Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!

Today a parable is being written, the kingdom of God is like, changing the sand in a sandbox.

Where people today are investing their time, their laughter, one man acquired the use of a little tractor, another supplied the money for the sand that fundraisers didn’t.  Some will pay with sore muscles, sore and blistered hands, and weary bodies.  Others sacrificed to buy and prepare the lunch.

In a week, the place where they toiled will be filled with children, laughing, playing, their joys of laughter floating through the window to where I presently sit. None of them will think about the workers that toiled this day, neither will their parents. But this is the place where they will hear of Jesus’ love for them, where they will learn the songs that will praise Him, where some will be baptized. It is here where souls will be given life, and hope, where they will come to know the love of God.

Yes, moving sand, literally tons of it, just like cleaning furniture and toys may seem unimportant in the eyes of the world. But the blessing to these children, to their parents will bring glory to God.  The faith, the trust in God which drives such action, is not always even a conscious decision.  It is simply what a community does, it comes together, it serves, alongside each other, in ways most will not ever see.  Just like a heart beating, unseen and powerful, bring blood and oxygen to give life.

The resulting light shining bright, and it  bring glory to God! The work the sweat and tears, lead to laughter and joy, and little ones coming to know Jesus.

This is the church, this is the Kingdom over which God reigns….

Come join us!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 407). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11. The Way (Kindle Locations 1950-1952). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Conversion of Faith and The Transformation of Our Works


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day
18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” 19  Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe—and tremble with fear. 20  You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless? 21  How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his actions, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. 22  Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions. James 2:18-22 (TEV)

10 For, as Luther writes in his Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, “Faith is a divine work in us that transforms us and begets us anew from God, kills the Old Adam, makes us entirely different people in heart, spirit, mind, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Oh, faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good.
11 Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active.

This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God’s love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ. For, by the workings of divine grace, the new convert sets out on a spiritual journey, by means of which, already sharing through faith in the mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, he passes from the old man to the new one, perfected in Christ (cf. Col. 3:5–10; Eph. 4:20–24). This bringing with it a progressive change of outlook and morals, must become evident with its social consequences, and must be gradually developed during the time of the catechumenate

It is seen to be one of the most divisive arguments in the history of the church, and it has been since the days of the Apostles.

It was one of the core issues that resulted in the Reformation, and in the Counter-reformation.  It is more than semantics, yet there is a part of the argument that I am not sure is always necessary.

For what God has put together, we cannot divide.

The quote in Green above is from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.  A document that is part of the confessions of the Lutheran Church. The underlined verse is clear. One who has been given life by the Holy Spirit, converted from death to life, does work.  They are not optional, even as they are not always willed.  They occur in the nature of the one who depends, who trusts, who has faith in Christ. They occur just like breath in a mammal; they are life. This is not debatable, it is not an option.Faith cannot be separated from works.  So confident were the early Lutheran scholars that they followed that quote with this.

Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works.

That doesn’t quite sound like works are non-essential to the Christian life, but then scripture doesn’t claim that either.

This is the journey that the quote from Vatican II’s Ad Gentes (the mission of the church) discusses.  The works, affected, no transformed by the Holy Spirit, cause a change in how we view life and the world, and the moral system by which we live in that world.  Again, it notes that while works are not the cause of conversion, conversion results in the journey being taken, and Spiritual growth occurring as a matter of the life of the believer.

This is of course what James is talking about, and the pattern of Paul’s letters.  The need for conversion, God converting, quickening bring us to life as we are united to Jesus, and then the impact of that on our lives.  An impact the empowered, guided and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, as it works in the community of believers.  And good works become as undeniable as the breath we breath.

My we rejoice as God works in the lives of His people, as the Holy Spirit empowers us to do and will what brings joy to our heavenly Father!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 552–553). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Pastor and Priests are Shepherds…That is Our Life


Devotional Thought of the Day

34  Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like shFeatured imageeep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 35  Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36  Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.” 37  But Jesus said, “You feed them.”   Mark 6:34-37 (NLT)

14  “Return home, you wayward children,” says the LORD, “for I am your master. I will bring you back to the land of Israel one from this town and two from that family from wherever you are scattered. 15  And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NLT)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)

14 We lay hold of him when our heart embraces him and clings to him.
15 To cling to him with all our heart is nothing else than to entrust ourselves to him completely. He wishes to turn us away from everything else, and draw us to himself, because he is the one eternal good. It is as if he said: “What you formerly sought from the saints, or what you hoped to receive from mammon or anything else, turn to me for all this; look upon me as the one who wishes to help you and to lavish all good upon you richly.”
16 Behold, here you have the true honor and the true worship which please God and which he commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart should know no other consolation or confidence than that in him, nor let itself be torn from him, but for him should risk and disregard everything else on earth.  (1)

By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. But whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, He frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its maker, who overthrows the devil’s domain and wards off the manifold malice of vice. And so, whatever good is found to be sown in the hearts and minds of men, or in the rites and cultures peculiar to various peoples, not only is not lost, but is healed, uplifted, and perfected for the glory of God, the shame of the demon, and the bliss of men.24 Thus, missionary activity tends toward eschatological fullness.25 For by it the people of God is increased to that measure and time which the Father has fixed in His power (cf. Acts 1:7). To this people it was said in prophecy: “Enlarge the space for your tent, and spread out your tent cloths unsparingly” (Is. 54:2).26 By missionary activity, the mystical body grows to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13); and the spiritual temple, where God is adored in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23), grows and is built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme corner stone (Eph. 2:20).  (2)

This morning I had the greatest 15 minutes of my week since Sunday. I met and visited with a lady who was an incredible blessing to me.  Her words though few, and with a tired voice, encouraged me to be what I am, a pastor.  As I prayed with the lady who has lived in 10 different decades, I watched a beautiful smile, and her tired body relaxed, as she knew again the love of God.  It is the first time we’ve met, and I am already looking forward to seeing her again.

It is not why I do what I do; It is who I am.

That is being a pastor, a shepherd.  It what those called into ministry are called to be. I’ve included a lot of citations above, because they explain it far better than I can.

The reading from Ephesian starts it out by expressing that we aren’t born to be pastors/shepherds, but we are chosen to do it.  Chosen to shepherd (that is what pastor means) and to guide people as they mature in Christ, as they struggle with living out the promise of being someone united to Jesus, as they struggle as the Holy Spirit transforms them into His image. As they struggle with their growing pains. As we hear Jesus command us to feed them (and he had to tell Peter that THREE times according to St. John’s gospel!)

I love how Vatican II puts it, as we see the transformation, even the exorcises all evil from them ( Paul calls this circumcising the heart and Ezekiel speak of it as well)  Paul talks of us pleading with them to be reconciled to God, to being drawn to Him, to bring them to be embraced by a God who is both merciful and loving.

It is of the greatest of joys when this happens, as it did this morning as I sat next to my new friend, the new person I had the honor of reminding that Christ is indeed with her.  Something she indeed knew… but loved to hear again.  There are other times; it is not so easy.  When showing them what Luther wrote of in the catechism means bringing about healing. Treating that which hurts and is painful.

This is why Jesus said pray for the shepherds, that God would send them as promised.  It isn’t easy, it is heart-breaking and frustrating, it is ministering to people who might be angry at you, mad at you, that may think you are intentionally trying to hurt them.

A pastor stays with them, doesn’t discount them, and continues to point them to Jesus.  He keeps encouraging them to cling to Jesus. He keeps reminding them that Jesus is there.  Though it may be tempting, he doesn’t run from wolves or alligators or those who are crying in pain.  He doesn’t run when it hurts him, or even those he loves. He helps them cling to Jesus. To trust in Him rather than their idols.

He is who he is; it isn’t a job, is a vocation.

If you are a pastor or priest, spend lots of time being amazed at what God is doing through you, for it is still He who will provide the food, the word and the Lord’s Supper which nourishHis people with the knowledge and experience of His presence.

If you are served by one of us, pray for us, encourage us, be patient with us, knowing we have to draw you into God’s presence, sometimes even as you are kicking and screaming. As you can help us to – for there are more broken people that we can minister too at times…

At all times – may we cry out together, Lord Have Mercy!

And may we encourage each other by crying out, “the Lord is with you!” and hearing “and also, with you!”

(1)    Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 366). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2)    Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The End that Justified the Means


The End that Justifies the Means

John 6:51–69

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may that love and mercy be revealed to you, and may it assure you that in His presence you will remain!

Is the Journey more important than the destination?

Four years before Martin Luther would nail to the door an invitation to discuss indulgences, a man in Italy, the man who would become the father of political science, and the first to write on political ethics finished his best known work.

Though not in the book as a direct quote, a summary of it gave us one of the best known proverbs that is not contained in the Bible.  A proverb many a businessman and many a politician see as foundational.

The end justifies the means.

Basically, Machiavelli held that, a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.”  (Wikipedia)
One example given on Wikipedia of that is this, “Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”

As odd as it sounds, there is one example of that proverb, that you and I must be grateful, one time in history where the end justifying the means was not only appropriate, but a blessing.

As the Jewish people struggle with Jesus teaching that they must eat His body and drink His blood, they will struggle even more that in order to receive the promises of God, in order to be His people, they would have to depend upon the greatest injustice in history.

The Journey

There is a part of me that wants to preach on this passage from the safety of focusing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  After all, there are theologians who say this passage where Jesus demands us to eat His Body and drink His blood as being primarily about the Lord’s Supper.  And there are some that say it is not.  Fascinating arguments on both sides.

It is safe, it would help you comprehend what we do during communion, and it would miss the point.

This passage isn’t about communion, in the way that a journey isn’t about the journey, it is about the destination.  Because the Jewish people were worrying about the journey, they missed the message of the destination.

That God would remain in us, and we in Him.

We’ll get back to that in a moment, but we need to see that we are no different than the Jewish people, who though knowing God’s law, struggled with what Jesus was saying, struggling so much that they would say,

“This is very hard to understand, how can anyone accept it?”

It was so hard to understand, that most of the disciples would leave.

Because they were focusing on the means, rather than the end.

We do the same thing today, when we toss aside God’s word.  Maybe we consider it out of date in the moral standard.  Or when we dismiss something because those rules were okay back then before people were educated, but they don’t apply to us smarter and more sophisticated people today.  We argue with God, we try to define what is right and what is wrong.  We try to change the rules, rationalize our way out of things, or create a different standard.

A great example is how we treat our enemies, adversaries and those who are a pain in the butt.

Do we really love them?  Do we really pray for them?  Do we really want to forgive them and welcome to commune with us?

Or do we try to find a loophole, an exception to God’s desire that we love all our neighbors?

Or what about when God says to embrace persecutions and suffering, for the sake of the gospel.  He just means pastors and worship leaders and elders.  Not bass players and sound men, and ushers, right?

We don’t get it, it seems too hard to understand.  We don’t like it when God confronts us and challenge our agendas, or rules out what we like and what we dodo.  Sometimes, confronted by God’s wisdom and unable to get it, sometimes we walk away.  Just like the disciples did.

John’s gospel shows how hard it is, as it records Jesus’ words, The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.”

We need it, we need a God we can relate too, trust in, depend upon…

for our very lives.

Remaining in Christ Jesus

One of the things that we look at, when studying the passage, is the frequency something is mentioned.  For example – if a thought is repeated, even if a little different, that is called a parallelism – and it is important.  Especially if it followed by AMEN! AMEN! or “This is True!”  Three times is even more critical to understand.

We know this well.  If our parents or our wives or our bosses repeat themselves, it is critical we are listening.

In this passage, the body and blood being sacrificed is mentioned frequently.  But even more frequently is something else.  Here it is….

“will live forever”
“so the world may live”
“have eternal life within you”

“has eternal life”

“I will raise that person at the last day”
“remains in me, and I in him.”
“will live because of me”
“will not die”

“will live forever.”

“The Spirit alone gives eternal life”

“Very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”

68 
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

This is what it is all about, this life we have with God.  That we are His people, that He is our God.  That we are fixed to Him, we remain in Him, and He in us.  United from the very moment of our baptism, united by a promise, the very new covenant, a promised renewed as He sustains us with His body and blood.

A life given, and shared.

A glorious eternal life.

That is our destination, that is the end that justifies the means that seem beyond unfair.

For  one of Nicollo Machiavelli’s summaries became true, at the cross.

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”

Or let me phrase it a little differently

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of God’s reign and introduction of a new covenant.”

The violence of a Cross, the creation and stabilization of a righteous people of God, gathered in His presence, by the enactment of a new law, a new covenant.

That is what this is all about… it is why we know Jesus words are true.

Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

So eat, be nourished, understand the gift of life in Christ and remain in Him, for there is His peace.  AMEN.

Imitate God – Live a Life filled with love


Imitate God
Live a Life Filled With Love!

Ephesians 4:17–5:2

In Jesus Name

This is my prayer for you, that because of the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, you would desire to live a life filled with His love, and imitate Christ Jesus in everything you do.


The Difference Between Playing God.. and Imitating Him

It was once said that the sincerest form of compliment was for someone to imitate you.

Well, it is a compliment as long as they imitate something you like about yourself.

For example, a lady asking another lady for a recipe.

That’s a compliment.

Another pastor asking if he can use a sermon, or learn Chris’s liturgy music, those are compliments.

Someone choosing to become a teacher, or a doctor or even a pastor, because of the impact that a teacher, doctor or pastor had on their life.

Those are compliments as well!

Is someone trying to duplicate my golf swing?

That’s not a compliment; that is insanity!

In today’s epistle reading, there are two different models to imitate, to mimic.  One is insanity; the other seems impossible, but it is actually rather simple.

One is imitating the Gentiles.

The other is imitating God.

One possible, the other insanity….

Imitating the World is Simply Playing God  The Sin of Self Idolatry

Let’s deal with imitating the Gentiles.  Or as Paul says, living like the Gentiles, following the patterns and lifestyles of the world.

It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Psychology to see how crazy the world is.

Paul describes it well by saying that those living without a relationship with God are hopelessly confused, that their minds are lost in a darkness that consumes them.  Paul goes on to describe them as close minded to God and having no sense of shame.  They are people that live for whatever seems pleasurable, chasing after whatever is popular, no matter how degrading, how filthy, how degrading, how evil.

As long as it meets what they consider their needs….

Need for pleasure, for fun, for comfort, for approval. Or simply if it helps them get what they want.  It is narcissism, self-centeredness Or put more simply, it is telling God his guidance is worthless, and replacing his rules with your own.  Don’t worry about those ten commandments, or loving our neighbor, the world says.  Scripture isn’t relevant or real! Do what seems right in your own eyes, and if peopled question you, tell them to not judge you.

That was the gGentilesattitude, it is definitely the world’s attitude today.

But there is a problem here… one we need to think through.

Lest we only judge those out in the world, I need you to recognize what Paul is telling this church, perhaps the most mature of all the churches he ministered to.

Look at this carefully

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do,

Now, let’s think about this.  You don’t have to tell people to not do something, unless they are doing it!

And if you are an apostle, you don’t have to add, “with the Lord’s authority”, unless you know they are really going to struggle with you on the matter.

The people in the church in Ephesus struggled with living like the world.

If we are honest, we struggle with it as well.  It’s not that we really want to, but some habits are hard to break.  Temptations can be hard to overcome.

Paul lists a bunch of sin, buts the key is in verse 22.  Sin is the result of lives corrupted by two things, the first is lust, desiring things that aren’t yours.  The second thing that corrupts our lives is what is translated as deception, but is more like seduction.  The things that distract us, attract our attention and cause us to hunger for them.

The sin dominated one is a insane life, for we don’t have the wisdom to choose wisely.  It is crazy to say we know better than God. That we know what is good for us.

But there is an option to imitating the world.

Imitating God  The life of the Transformed

We need to make sure we understand the difference between playing God, and imitating God.

The gentiles and the world, and yes often we play God.  That is sin.

But Paul calls us to imitate God, to follow the example of Jesus.  That requires something important.  You see a hint of it on the cover of the bulletin.  It is a transformation as incredible as that which occurs when a hungry caterpillar becomes a majestic butterfly.

A transformation that begins when you were baptized.

A transformation that happens as Paul describes, in verse 23,

let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

and

Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Unlike the butterfly, our transformation is started, empowered and completed by Christ.  It occurs as we spend time realizing His presence in our lives, the promise of our Baptism.   It happens as we contemplate how much He loves us, and the freedom that gives us.

For the old controlling forces that corrupted our lives have been broken and we are free to see God’s reconciliation spread, even as Paul describes

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

This is not a command as we think of it, and imperative you must.  It is more like discovering something incredible, a blessing of proportions!

Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, gossip, all evil behavior can be stripped off of us, and as we are united to Jesus, we find ourselves being dressed with God’s love, with His mercy, even as we begin to resemble Christ…even as we are being healed.

Because we are imitating God.

Like a child, wanting to be like his dad…

This is what happens when you trust in God, when you depend on Him.

We are changed, we are transformed… and instead of being locked into a life shaped and modeled by the world, we find something incredible, a journey through life, that as we mature, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus… causes us to resemble Him more… and these words become our life

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love,

AMEN!

Imitate God – Live a Life Filled with Love (Sermon for 8/9 – Audio-Video)


The Simple Mission of the Church…Help Heal the Broken…


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mk 2:17 New Living Translation ).

10 Nothing is so effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it, and meditate on it. Psalm 1 calls those blessed who “meditate on God’s law day and night.”  (1) 

820    Don’t judge by the smallness of the beginnings. My attention was once drawn to the fact that there is no difference in size between seeds that produce annual plants and those that will grow into ageless trees.(2)

If I am writing about as a simple Christian, a simple pastor who seeks to guide people to Christ, the mission as well is a simple one.  Not my mission rather it is His.  Because it is His, it is ours.

Jesus didn’t come for the good people, the holy people who sit in church, righteous and perfect. He came for the people struggling with health, spiritual health, physical health, financial health, mental health.  He came for those who relationships aren’t healthy, those with broken marriages, broken families, whose work relationships suffer.

The people in church hopefully realize this! They are there because they recognize the brokenness, and the hope that comes from knowing Jesus, the One who can do something about the cause of the brokenness.  We call it sin, or disobeying God, failing to love Him, and failing to love those around us. That is the source of brokenness, this inability to love, that becomes a vicious circle, breaking us down more and more.

Bringing people to Him, is like bringing a friend who has been badly hurt to the emergency room.  We aren’t always sure of what to do, but if there is to be hope, it is found as God ministers to them.  We don’t do such because we have to, but because there is no other hope for their brokenness.  It is what Love causes to happen in our lives, as we respond to those who suffer the brokenness we are healing of ourselves.

Simple – bring broken people help, bring them Jesus to them so that they can know His love for them.  So He can enable them to love again, as deeply and fully as He does.

Luther, as He introduces the faith, notes the need to contemplate the word of God, because there we hear of His love, we learn to know it, to count on that love as the people of God have, calling out to Him.  The more we hear the promises, the more  realize that HIs love is beyond and scope we could ever measure, the more we hunger for it,  St. Josemaria notes that this work, this mission of bringing people to know the healing power of Christ’s love starts out small, with the simple things.  The cup of water, the sharing of a meal, the kind word, or the offer of a prayer. The kind of things that people who are healing of their own brokenness can do.

This is what the church does…working alongside the God, who came to us, as He calls all sinners to be healed.

May this work bring us great joy, even as we see our own healing assured as we see others heal.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 359–360). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  Luther’s Preface to the Large Catechism

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1883-1884). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Horrific Response by Pastors…


Featured imageDevotional Thought of a New Day

4  “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Matthew 27:4 (NLT)

805    Listen, where you are … mightn’t there be one … or two, who could understand us well?  (1)

Some point to the man and claim he was the most evil man that has ever lived.

Some say his sin was one that could never be forgiven, that he was so sold out to the demons that possessed him, that there was no hope.

He would hear the words from those who were supposed to be his shepherds, those who were spiritually responsible for him, who were to call him to repentance, to nurture him back to spiritual health.

Their words, without mercy, without hope, left him no other option.

He went out and hung himself.

And until reading this today, I never wondered if anyone ever cried for him, if anyone did anything but respond with “he got what he deserved.” Or, “Good riddance.”

Judas Iscariot, another man, another sinner, another man who cried out, looking for mercy, confessing his sin, and the answer of the ages has not told him there was mercy.

The mercy Peter would know, and Paul would encounter, after killing a servant of God. David knew it though he too thought he had lost any chance of knowing it. So did Jacob/Israel, and even the people of Nineveh.

But not Judas.

When he turned to the shepherds of Israel, looking for absolution, looking for mercy, looking for some peace to alleviate the pain of guilt and shame he found none.  It’s no our business, Your sin, your problem.  You don’t belong to our denomination, you certainly are guilty, live with it. You are a sinner. (even though they were his PARTNERS in the sin!)

Hours later, the answer Judas needed wold be provided, as the sun darkened at noon, and that which separated people from the glory of God was torn apart. The Answer that every prophet, ever priest, every king, had pointed to, the love and mercy of God.

I know pastors today, me included, may have seemed as heartless at times. Or we dismissed the pain you felt   Churches too have failed to call people to dare to draw near to Jesus, to see Him on the cross.  Forgive us, call us to hear the sweet words of forgiveness as well.

For no one, no matter their ethnicity, their political party, their age, should ever go without hearing that God has forgiven their sins.  Indeed, that He commanded the church to forgive them. Look around you, they are there… even those you would never expect to repent.  For know this, God doesn’t want any of them to perish. God doesn’t rejoice in the death of any wicked person. Even Judas, ever us.

We cry out, “Lord have mercy!”

We find peace in hearing His voice, “I have!”

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 1856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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