Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Forging of Holiness, and thinking through what we read…

Discussion/Devotional point of the day…

“Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and the correspondence of man. As one of the early Christian writers says, referring to union with God, “Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big.”12 So I say to you, if you want to become a thorough-going Christian—and I know you are willing, even though you often find it difficult to conquer yourself or to keep climbing upward with this poor body of ours—then you will have to be very attentive to the minutest of details, for the holiness that our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of small realities.”  Escriva, Josemaria

There is a reaction in us, at times -to immediately react to what we read.  So it was this morning, as I read this quote – I love the beginning – and the idea that holiness is forged in us, as Escriva uses something in his life, the forge, to replace the illustration of the potter’s wheel.
The  I have to start and think – for surely the forge includes the interplay of God’s grace in our lives – it is that grace that constantly hammers away our impurity, but what about this correspondence of man?  How much do we have to do with becoming holy, becoming the tools of God – set apart for His usage. Surely it will happen in communion, in unity with God, yet, do we have a role?

The apostle Paul talks of a race – of striving to grasp that which took hold of him.  The author of Hebrews talks of laying aside every burden, and every sin which would hold us, even as Christ starts and completes the race in us.

But what is this correspondence of grace?  Perhaps it is found in not in our maturity leading to independence, that somehow our maturity results in our needing God less, but precisely the opposite, by becoming more dependent, to desire His presence, to yearn for the times we spend with Him.  That communion with God, confidence of His make us His craftsmanship – leads us to be that new creation, to be the ones who do walk in the works (vocation) that God has prepared for us to walk in… to walk in that love…even as we exult in His presence, as we remember what He accomplished in our baptism, as we rejoice in the Feast that He invites and welcomes us to, to feast upon His Body and Blood and know we have life.  To rejoice as we hear – “your sins – your sins – they are forgiven.  To be so filled with joy as we read of His incredible love and mercy, the gifts of peace and comfort that are ours and are found in scripture, to rejoice at the times of fellowship we have in prayer…

These may seem little to us, the details… and perhaps we see them now as only duties..but continue in them – they will soon be revealed to be something more, the very charisma of God…as they bring us more and more aware of His presence in our lives… of the peace in which we truly dwell, that results in a manner of Holiness which is somewhat foreign to us at first – and truly foreign and needed in this world…

Lord, Have mercy… my friends, know He has!

Keeping God’s Commandments… a deeper look..

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all I have commanded you, and lo I will be with you always, to the end of the age.!

It’s an incredible passage, one Christians and pastors – especially those who are focused on the mission of the church know well, at least we think we do.

Some focus on the going..

Some focus on the making of disciples…

Some focus on what it means to baptize,

Some focus on what they think teaching them to “keep” all that have I commanded you”

Some rightly focus on the incarnational presence of God – with us  – for there is no way we could live our lives in Christ without knowing we do that which we do…

Been there, done that, have the t-shirts, the bible studes, the sermons i have written on all five of those great things….heck – talked people into going places and doing things – and those who did the right thing… may have done it for the wrong reason….

In the last few years – I’ve spent some time thinking and dwelling on this idea of Keeping and what is that which is “commanded” .  Obviously this is a major part of our responsibility of the church – the vocation of all of us.  So it bears a look into it.

First let’s deal with “keep”, which is sometimes erroneously translated “obey”.  It is far more than simply obedience.  And understanding the difference between keep and obey is critical.  Keep in English is from the old English term for that place where you put that which you treasure, the castel keep was where the kings heirs, his wife, and the treasure – his and that of the people – when they are under attack, with they are oppressed.   So to it is in Greek – it comes from the word for guard, to protect – to keep safe because it is a treasure.  You can obey someone – without treasuring them…

That is far greater than the simple idea of blindly or knowledgeably obeying that which we are directed to do.  We have something which is a treasure – it is more incredible than anything else we have!  This which we teach to those who walk with Christ and those we are instrumental in bringing to walk with Christ  – is something they are to treasure, something that will mean more to them than anything else that they have – could ever have.

So what is the treasure?  What is it we ar to guard, to hold onto, to KEEP?

Our translations call it what Christ has commanded.

I have always thought it referred to the Ten Commandments, or the entire list of do’s and don’t in scripture.  It’s more – to grasp that – we have to look at what did God “command”

Look to Creation…

He spoke the word, and there came into existence..

Look to our Re-creation…

The centurion’s cry, “only say the word and my servant shall be healed..

the demoniacs were dismissed by the command of the Lord…
We were declared righteous and holy… by the command of the Lord…

Our being called – our being cleansed and brought back to God, as St Paul says – “we are His worksmanship, created  in Christ Jesus for good works”  He commissioned us, He has commanded that we are cleansed and given life…. life  with Him.  Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones… and the Son of man commanding the bones to join and become enfleshed, to stand – and the command given to the Spirit to breathe life into those bones….

Yeah – that’s the treasure that Christ has commanded.. the Creation and Re-creation – of our lives with God.

That’s our treasure… that is what, as we make disciples, as we baptize them…. that is what we teach them to treasure, to keep, to guard….


A Reminder of What’s Important….

Discussion Quote/Devotional thought of the day…
I want you to realize that, even looking at things humanly, concern for souls follows naturally from the fact that God has chosen us. As one of the Fathers of the Church points out, “When you discover that something has been of benefit to you, you want to tell others about it. In the same way, you should want others to accompany you along the ways of the Lord. If you are going to the forum or the baths and you run into someone with time on his hands, you invite him to go with you. Apply this human behavior to the spiritual realm and, when you go toward God, do not go alone.”  Escriva,

Something to think about – where evangelism is not a duty… but a reaction to the grace we’ve been given.

I’ve used the illustration before – if someone was writing 1 million dollar checks to whoever stopped at the intersection of Carmenita Ave and !83rd Street – and you received one and realized there were thousands more available – who would you call?  When would you stop calling people?  Would someone have to actually tell you that you are commanded to tell them?

Is God’s grace worth more – and given as freely?

Take a few minutes – think about the promises God gave you when He cleansed you in baptism, think about the Body broken and Blood shed – the feast of the people of God are given… think about the freedom of being forgiven your sin, of having guilt and shame erased, of burdens and the things you resent being as if they didn’t exist… of walking this day… knowing God is with you – lifting you up, encouraging you, guiding you….

who do you know who needs those blessing – even more than they need 1 million dollars?

Good timing? Coincidence? or orchastration Divine

Last night I was up late – a friend had asked me to drop them at LAX – for a midnightish flight. I thought – hey, at least I won’t have to deal with traffic!  The request was a couple of weeks ago, and I general like driving people places… but I thought I would be tired coming home.

No problem – turns out I was talking to another friend who is flying into LAX – and can save his family getting out of bed.  Get this – they are even at the same terminal!  Little things like that – and I get to spend some time with friends (btw – anyone need a ride to the airport next Monday night late?)

Makes me think though – of how God knows us, and our lives, and uses them.

Does He put us in places in life – where we get to be with people who minister to us, while we minister to them?  Do our experiences end up preparing us for other things, other times, other places?  What does God mean when He says, “all things work for good….”  Is that just He can spin it to us?  Or does He really keep everything set up in such a way it is a blessing?

The latter is the answer of course, and yet… it is amazing… mindblowing to witness, even more when it is not a short drive to and fro… but a friend’s daughter in the hospital, or a co-worker having an accident, or a deacon-friend taking on seminary while seeing a little church come to life….while he tells them about Jesus presence in His life – that makes the many serious personal challenges…something which gives him the strength to sacrifice more.. not hide…

Timing?  Yeah – it’s amazing…. it’s evidence of God’s love and mercy… and wisdom….. His handiwork, His craftsmanship displayed not only in saving us, but in making our lives a masterpiece, as we walk in what He has planned for us… and you know something… it is good …. (even if we don’t see it that way… sometimes)

Lord have mercy on us, this day… and may we get a glimpse of Your plan… Your will, the way in which we be that which You have crafted – for a purpose… to be the work of God!

Abandon yourself to God

Discussion/Devotional quote of the day…

“As soon as you truly abandon yourself in the Lord, you will know how to be content with whatever happens. You will not lose your peace if your undertakings do not turn out the way you hoped, even if you have put everything into them, and used all the means necessary. For they will have “turned out” the way God wants them to.”  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow

It is difficult to do that which is encouraged here, what is encouraged. Completely entrusting oneself to Jesus, allowing Him to not only judge if an “undertaking” is a success, but allowing Him to determine how it is to “turn out”.
This is one thing to say we trust in, as  we gather in worship – as the sermon and music and liturgy all call to us to trust, to realize we are entrusted to the one who is more than capable of creation, of re-creation.  It is another thing to see that faith build, the commitment grow stronger, as we weigh important decisions in our lives, as we suffer pain and anxiety in a hospital bed, as we mourn a friend, as we get home after a long day, and find demands on our time and attention – even there.

Think again on the passion of Christ, the feast of His Body and Blood of Christ, the promises again of our baptism, the faith that shines from a child… who simply asks… don’t they know God’s love… It is there in realizing the depth, the breadth, the height and the width of God’s love for you, revealed in Christ’s work, known in the comfort, the consolation, the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

It is there we find our purpose, our love, our life… there in His arms… there as He comforts, strengthens, guards,….. loves us.  It is there we find contentment – whether dwelling on mountain tops, or in the blazing hot desert.. or in the urban jungle.  As yesterday’s epistle reading and sermon focused on… we can open our hearts wide.. and let our God fill them…and He does, as He promises… and proves that love.

Rejoice, my friend this day, this Monday, for the Lord is with you… and you can abandon yourself… knowing you are entrusted into His care…

A Sermon written by Deacon Mark Jennings

June 24th, 2012

2Corinthians 6: 1-13

 Deacon Mark Jennings, soon to be Vicar Mark Jennings is a deacon who I’ve enjoyed working with for nearly four years.  He actually is to enter the SMP pastoral preparation program this fall – having shown the aptitude to be a pastor, as he cares for a congregation that has responded to that care – and urged him to continue his preparation – that he may serve as their pastor. Together they have committed themselves to together to make it happen… to raise up there own, that God’s word be shared in their presence…here is one of his sermons.. read and be blessed!

May you know His grace, His mercy and His peace as you live in this temporary time knowing that through Him you will be eternal.

To Him be all the glory!

Alleluia, amen.



Have you heard the story about the reporter who is sent to a senior citizen’s home to do a public interest story? Now you might ask what is so special about a facility for seniors?

Well this one was a little different because it was a home for seniors who had been in the entertainment industry and they had been primarily stand up comedians. When this young reporter travels up the steps he notices on the front porch that there is a bunch of rockers filled with people. Suddenly one of the guys stops rocking, stands up and yells out the number ‘21’. At that everybody starts busting out with laughter. After that another yells out ‘17’ and everybody giggled and laughed some more.

This keeps going on and the reporter is becoming more and more perplexed. He finally asks what this was all about. They proceeded to tell him that being comics, they knew all the jokes so to save time they assigned each joke a number.

The reporter thinking this is pretty ingenious decides to try it out and proceeds to stand up and yells out,’21’. Nobody laughs.

The reporter tries calling out other numbers but to no avail. Nobody laughs. It is dead as a doornail. He can’t figure it out.

Just then one of the retired comedians stands up, goes to the reporter, puts his arm around him and says,” Son, it’s all in the timing.”

It’s all in the timing.

Time and timing.

They are such important things in our lives. Let’s face it; they make the world go round! It’s hard to know when to do things sometimes. It’s not always easy to discern that perfect timing for something. When is the perfect time to ask your boss for a raise or maybe to ask that special someone out on a date?

The battery in my watch died this week and it was like losing a hand. I felt lost without it.

So much rides on time and timing. If you say the wrong thing at the wrong time that could turn into a less than pleasant situation (trust me, I know). If you are not on time for work everyday you’re gonna get canned. And just so some of you won’t squirm in the pew I won’t even mention about being late for church, which starts at 10:30 A.M.

By the way, does anybody know what time it is? Whenever I asked my grandpa what time it was he would always reply, “it’s time all fools are dead, don’t you feel sick?” And no, it’s not Howdy Doody time or Miller time.

Paul knew the time and in verse 2 in our Epistle reading, he quotes from Isaiah 49: 8.

“At the time of my favor I have answered you; on the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Our time of deliverance and rescue is here now and it’s found in the grace of our Father who in His perfect timing and who on no merit of our own sent His Son who is Jesus the Christ to rescue us from certain destruction and death.

That time has come when God’s grace, which knows no bounds, pours out and overflows upon His people. Jesus the Christ dies for all so that all would live forever in that perfect gift of love, mercy and grace.

Because of His grace. He has answered us with the free gift of eternal life.

We have this incredible thing but yet we don’t always put it first. We sometimes put God in a glass box to be opened only on Sunday morning or broken open and used only in the event of an emergency. Other things become so much more important and crucial to us that they become our god and that grace is received in vain. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s cheap. So much so that Paul talks about it in verse 1, “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”

It’s not about us. When we depend on ourselves or this world that we are visiting, we aren’t focused on God and His grace. It’s like gambling. You may think that you win in the short time but in the long run you will lose and you will have used your money in vain. That’s a proven fact. Just ask any Vegas casino!

What looks good isn’t. Looks can be deceiving, empty, lifeless and hollow.

1 Corinthians 15:2. “By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.”

If your not holding on to the Gospel given to us in grace for dear life then you’re already dead and it was and is all in vain. But if you trust and have faith and depend on God… You know that God’s grace never deceives. God’s grace is never empty and lifeless. God’s grace is always teeming with abundant life, it is the new life that we now have in Christ. That is what we hold on firmly to. It is perfect and His timing is perfect.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

God’s timing to call all to him is right now. It’s not after the game or starting Monday morning, it’s right here, right now. It began before this planet was even created. This day of salvation was accomplished by Jesus the Christ on that nasty, horrible chunk of wood at Calvary and finished at that empty tomb.

We are called and chosen people not because we are good people but because YAHWEH is so great and extends that gift of grace to us simply because He loves us.

“Behold, now is the favorable time.”

Now is the time. Through Christ you have received faith. Don’t worry about whether it is the right time to talk to God and ask for forgiveness. God does not keep regular office hours and your timing could never be better. Don’t worry about the timing. Any time is the right time. God is waiting for you. Hurry, don’t delay! He wants to hear from you and unlike we who sometimes don’t listen to each other, or our children, he hears everything his beloved children say.

So we know that God’s timing is right and favorable and because of that our day of Salvation is here and we are saved as Ephesians 2: 8 says,

“ For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God.”  Because of God’s grace we now through Jesus have a new relationship with our Father and we find that in the Word.

Paul also says something I thought was very interesting in the opening verse when he says, “ As His fellow workers.”

Does he mean that we partner with God? We work together? The answer is yes! Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t partner in our salvation, that is God and only God who once again in His perfect timing calls us and bestows on and in us His grace though Christ.

But God has called us and chosen us to work in the vineyard and we do it with Him. It is fitting today that after the sermon we will be installing our new officers for the coming year today!

The Holy Trinity is like a general who leads his troops into actual battle and is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

As we are called and sent, God will provide the timing and the time to witness and tell about His glory and that perfectly timed plan of salvation. While we live in this world temporarily we are given the tools we need from the Holy Spirit or the Paraclete who walks alongside us and strengthens us as we tell those who don’t yet know or understand the glory of the cross and what that means.

We are servants of God, which, by the way in Greek is the word diakonos, which is where we get the word deacon from. We are able to stand through these temporal afflictions and hardships and struggles because of that grace given to us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works together with us to make our timing right and to know when and what to say so like Paul says in verse 3,

“ We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found in our ministry.”

The only obstacle that we put in the way of anybody is the truth. The truth of God’s grace, which calls and chooses and lifts up and changes people. It is the truth that the time of the day of salvation is here, praise God!

The truth of Christ crucified is an obstacle for sin and for death and for that evil deceiver who would have us focus on the world and ourselves.

But for those who believe, it is sweet comfort and relief to know what God has done through His Son for not just you and I but for all people.

We trust and have faith knowing that God’s time is not our time and we know with confidence and hope that our Father’s timing is perfect as we await that glorious day of resurrection when our King returns to take us home for eternity.

It’s all about the timing.

It’s all about His timing!

To Him be all glory forever!

Alleluia, amen.


You Must Open Your Hearts too!

You Must Open Your Hearts…too
2 Corinthians 6:1-13


In Jesus Name

May you indeed find God’s grace, His love, His peace, His mercy so incredible, so beyond imagination, that you receive it with great joy, and grow to adore Him more and more!


A Scary Thought…


Nothing scares a pastor more than the possibility that Paul writes of, in his letter to the church in Corinth.  We heard it this morning,

6:1 As his fellow-workers, we urge you not to let your acceptance of his grace come to nothing.

That what you have received, the promises of Baptism, the blessings of sharing in Christ’s feast, that the words of Grace that we have shared as we have heard the word of God read, as we’ve discussed it in sermons and Bible studies and conversations, that it would become of no value to you?  That it would be in vain?  Could it possibly be such?

The writer of Hebrews describes this as well,

2:1 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:1-3 (NLT)

Can we let God’s grace that we have known “come to nothing? Can we ignore this great salvation?  Can we turn our back on God?  Is this just Paul being human and worried about the people he ministered too, or is there something insidious out there, ready to devour the people of God?

Like Paul, I urge you not to let your acceptance of His grace come to nothing…

that is, what ministry is really about – our ministry together, the ministry of the entire church – encouraging each other to know His grace, to receive it with joy, and to not neglect it – but to grow in your trust and dependence on it.


No Obstacles…
Nothing but the Blood of Christ for you

          The chief purpose of all ministry.. is to give you Christ!


As Paul desires that no one should ever accept God’s grace in a way that is of no value, his ministry reflects that desire.  That’s why he talks of putting no obstacle in the way of those he ministers too, including the church in Corinth.  Indeed, as you read the letters of Paul, he seeks to rid any obstacle, anything that blocked people from God’s grace.

That includes things like misusing the law of God in order to guilt people into behaving, adding practices and obligations, or teaching people that they must have some secret level of knowledge.   The more I read him – even the “difficult” letters like Romans, the more pragmatic he becomes – as he tells over and over – that the gospel – the good news of the Father’s love, seen in the work of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit – that’s the power of God to save all – Jew and Gentile, now matter who we are, where we are from.

It is something that is so incredible, for as we say in baptism – God makes His sign that of the cross – He places His seal on our hearts and our minds.

Those who were the earliest of Lutherans, got this idea down – no obstacles.  When describing the liturgy, the times where we are gathered by God to receive the promises of His word, the blessings of the sacraments, they wrote:

“after all, the primary purpose of all services is to teach people what they need to know about Christ”  [i]
Deacon Mark says it this way – we preach the same message every week – we just use different words!   It is the purpose of all we do, that all may be presented to the Father, perfect in Christ!

In this time…why we adore God, why we rejoice that someone was tortured more than we could ever imagine – it is because of His love for us, and that he went to that cross for the joy that was set before Him.  The joy that was set before Him – the idea that we would be re-united with our loving Father in heaven, that we would be made complete – returned home – that salvation and deliverance would be ours….

No other message – for nothing else is as valuable as knowing this, nothing else brings comfort – the kind of comfort the word of God brings…


The Challenge of Consistent Trust…



That is why Paul will discuss to some length how God proves them authentic servants of His, as they serve people.


That they are compelled by the love of Christ to endure all the pain, all the oppression, all the stresses, being arrested and beaten and hungry.  That during those times their faith was pure, they were able to rely on what they knew of God, and find the strength to be patience and kind, comforted by the Holy Spirit and truly loves their friends and enemies, that doesn’t speak of human strength, but divine.

I would almost say that it isn’t natural to be able to endure that they endured, or that we can endure.   The world calls it supernatural – strength beyond that we can be explain.  However, for the children of the Creator, for the sons and daughter of the God who reigns, it is not just natural, it should be the norm.

Think about a young couple in love, and getting married, naïve to that which goes on around them, they truly just enjoying and yes – adoring each other.  Do they notice how rundown their first apartment is, or the low level of their income, or perhaps the opposition they face to their marriage this soon?

Such is the adoration we have towards God – less and less makes sense in our life, as we realize His love.  Unlike the young couple with no clue to their surroundings, God promises that He has all in hand!  That He, with every bit of His power and His love,  He promises it will work for good, for those that love Him.

The Challenge of the Distress..


This passage we have heard ends in a unique way – as he urges them not to receive grace in vain, and he assures them both of his desire and action to remove any obstacles to grace, and testifies of its permanence, no matter the situation, he then urges them one more time concerning the love of God,,,

11 People of Corinth, we have spoken frankly and opened our heart to you. 12 Any distress you feel is not on our side; the distress is in your own selves.


There are times when the prophets and apostles in the New Testament deal bluntly with people, and of the churches in the New Testament, Corinth is the dealt with bluntly, and without apology.  They have sacred cows that need to be barbecued slowly and with care – and Paul does.  But its not just for fun that he does this, but because those sacred cows get in the way of the people’s relationship with God…

That is why Paul says that he speaks frankly!  That if there is distress that its not that Paul caused it! Rather that the distress is internal, caused by a heart that is bearing burdens it need not, a distress caused by focusing on distractions and things that would try to rob from you the joy of your salvation.  It may be caused by the oppression of sin, sin that needs to be cleaned out, and the Holy Spirit trying to do that very thing.

That returns us to the beginning – the incredible words of Paul,

Now is the real time of favour, now the day of salvation is here.

It’s the time to do that thing we almost fear… that we shrink from for we do not know the changes that it will bring.

Paul’s last words… “you must open your hearts…too.”  (long pause)

Remember, Paul is speaking to the people of God, those baptized into Christ, those who have come to live in Him. This is not a call to faith!  Rather it is a call to believers to abandon that which would separate us from God!  It is a invitation to realize that the most important thing in our life is what was begun here, when God chose and marked us as His, and celebrated here,

I urge you – live in a life where trusting in God! Live full in His grace, know Him and rejoicing in your relationship! Live in Christ fully, as you come to know that which He promised you, the riches that scriptures teach are yours, as His children, the children He loves.


For then you will realize that His grace is not nothing… but everything….
And knowing that – will help you realize the incredible peace that God created for you to dwell with Him in, the peace of God our Father, which goes beyond comprehension, a peace in which our hearts and minds rest – guarded and kept there in Christ Jesus.


[i] (pr. Parker’s paraphrase – Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession)

Anxiety, Temptation, Fear, or Peace…. Choose you this day…

Discussion Quote/Devotional THought of the Day:

“God is with you!” So cast far away from you that fear and spiritual agitation.  They are reactions to avoid in the first place, for they only serve to multiply temptations and increase danger! ”  St Josemarie Escriva,

Within our worship service, multiple times a phrase is said by the pastor, noting that the presence, the peace of God is with His people, and then we pray together, or feast together at the Lord’s table. It is a powerful thing, this knowing that the Lord is present, that He is here, that we have a relationship with Him, and that He is the Paraclete, the Encourager/Comforter/one who comes alongside and supports us.

To lack that presence is to invite in something else, Escriva says agitation,  I tend to call that anxiety, the peace robbing emotional reaction that doesn’t trust in God, but wonders about all the permutations of the situation and starts spinning our hearts and minds out of control, as fears take over. We seek to escape such, and there is Satan, holding out temptations that will kill the anxiety, or at least hide it, for a few hours, for a few minutes.  Those temptations often become addictions, because we turn, over and over, for some kind of release, some kind of escape, a vacation from the stressful strain of the world.  With those temptations is always danger, always a struggle, always…..more stress

The  option to it is simple – to simply rest and find yourself in the presence of God.  To know His peace is with you.  Luther talked of dwelling on the promises of your baptism, others talk about contemplating the incredible truth found in the Lord’s Supper – that there, we come face to face with the truth of how much the Father loves us, how much Christ was willing to sacrifice.   ( Our brothers and sisters in the RCC talk about Eucharistic Adoration – a complex devotional time before a host that is saved for that very time – it is my thought that it developed simply from stopping and considering what the Lord’s Supper reveals, and not wanting that moment to just come and go so quickly)  How deep the Father’s love for us… for me… to dwell on these things…. how the burdens, the transient, temporary burdens disappear! How the escapes that we had planned, as we broke before temptation now seem so.. empty… because we know that which makes a difference.

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with you always……

And even as I write, I can hear my people say “AMEN!”

(and under their breaths… utter.. Thank God!)

Taking Sin Seriously…?

Devotional Question/Discussion point of the Day…. Do we…. do I take sin seriously?

It seems to be a trend in my life, and even more visible in society, that we take sin less seriously.  Thankfully, it is beginning to bother me again, and maybe I haven’t been as lulled to sleep, or maybe I am beginning to wake up some.

There is a way in which we shouldn’t take sin seriously, because of the cross – it has already been dealt with – the sin, the shame, the little nagging feeling that “this is wrong”.  Sin, no matter whether it is on the scope of someone being sentenced to serve their life in jail, or a junior high prank/theft, we shouldn’t take it so seriously that we can’t bring it to God, confess our sins and know, absolutely and without doubt that we are forgiven.   That God would heal us, not only of the specific sin, but indeed the disease.

It is exactly because we aren’t healed in our eyes until we get to heaven, that we need to hear of that forgiveness often.  Otherwise we lose heart, we think that it’s no big deal – and we begin to take being restored from that sin less than seriously.

And that is where we need to take it seriously – realizing that it cannot separate us from God, yet also realizing we need to deal with it, so it doesn’t.  For the believer, this is a matter of realizing God is responsible for cleaning it up, has promised He would, and not letting our pride get in the way of it.   Not easy!  And I believe, that the more we do confess our sins, the more we ask God to comfort us and assure us of the forgiveness of them, the more we realize how wonderful He is….

And sin begins to break our hearts as it does His, the idea of people living in bondage to sin breaks our Hearts as it does His…. and we desires that they be freed, we desire that we are freed…. and healed.

Sin has little power, only the power we give it, only the mastery of us that we allow.  We do need to take it seriously enough to take the cure of it seriously enough to realize that the forgiveness and healing is something wonderful something incredible, something so important that we adore the One who cares for us…

And realizing that… Paul’s words from Romans 6 come to mind…

 6:1 What should we say then? Should we remain in sin so that grace may be given the more fully? 2 Out of the question! We have died to sin; how could we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2 (NJB)

This day, Lord Jesus, help us to realize the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, cleansing our lives, setting them apart to serve You, guiding us and strengthening us.  Help us be so aware of your presence and work in our lives, that we adoringly join You in that work in others.  AMEN.

Sanctuaries, Symbolism and Highlander

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, one of my favorite movies was Highlander.  ( Any movie with Sean Connery in a supporting role is awesome! )

One of the things  I loved about it, besides the incredible swordsmanship, was the use church grounds, and especially Sanctuaries.  If you are in a sanctuary, you are safe – end of story – no fighting ever allowed.  They were places of peace, places where even evil had to bow and follow the rules.  A place of respite, a place to calm one’s nerves and remember what life – even eternal life, was about.

I think our world is in desperate need of such sanctuaries – to know they exist, to know that they are in their midst – to know that they are welcome in them.  The roof won’t collapse if they come in, lightning won’t strike, but instead they will find rest, restoration, healing, peace as they, for a moment can re-focus that they are loved by God, that the price of freeing them from anxiety, freeing them from fear, from death and sin, and freeing them from the oppression of Satan has been long since taken away.

It’s not that God isn’t with us  24/7/366, but that we need to remember His presence, we need to heal, and yes, we need a safe place to witness God restore relationships long thought destroyed…

By the way – Christian sanctuaries aren’t a place restricted to  holy people – but don’t be surprised if when you come – you leave knowing that you are Holy, declared so by God himself.  To use a olde english term – found in our confession of our trust in God  (aka a creed)  and in the movie Highlander – we’ve been quickened.  Which simply means – that God, through His word, through His word and actions – we’ve been brought to life.  In a way we could never expect – and still struggle to comprehend.

So visit a sanctuary this weekend, spend some time reveling in God’s peace, and realize – that you never are missing that peace… even on Friday….