Monthly Archives: September 2013

Look! There He is!


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God
Son of God
You take away our sin
Lamb of God
Son of God
You take away our sin

Grant us peace!  Grant us peace!
Grant us peace! Grant us your peace!
Your peace

In a little less than an hour, those words , so familiar to Lutheran deacons, will be reintroduced to them with a new melody, as they kick off the afternoon session of their annual continuing ed conference.

They are the words we sing – after the words of institution, after the the passing of the peace, as we re-focus, and think about the Lord, and about His supper, and about why we find this feast to be The Feast.

When I got to my present church, this was when the pastor and the elders communed – while everyone else sang.  Now, we wait till after to sing, because I need the time to realize His presence, to examine myself and realize my incredible need for that presence, to comfort, to heal, to make me aware of His love, His mercy, His peace.  To welcome me to the feast where He is the host (and the double meaning of that word intended)

But I would advise you, to do the same – to take that time before communion, to stop and consider….

There He is!  There is the Lamb of God, the very one John the Baptist pointed out to His disciples.  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…. So let our cries go out to Him.  Lord – grant us peace, grant us your peace!!!!!

And as we leave every burden at the rail… as He takes them from us…may we walk away with a smile that betrays the fact that because He has invited us there…. we do know His peace.

Look – there He is… the Lamb of God… for you!

And so may you voice with Simeon – as you take and drink, as you receive His gift…

Nunc Dimittis

O Lord now let your servants depart in heavenly peace
For we have seen the great salvation of Christ our Lord

For-told by the prophets
fulfilled for all to see
A light unto the nations
and Israel’s glory

 All glory to the Father

All glory to the Son
All glory to the Spirit

The Great God Three in One

As it was in the beginning
Is now and shall ever be
Amen! Amen! Amen!

For you are His…forever!

Lamb

Lamb (Photo credit: freefotouk)

What you need to know about Spiritual Warfare…


      Mission Briefing #3:

What You Need to Know about Spiritual Warfare

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revelation 12:7-12

 † In Jesus Name

 

As you encounter the temptations and trials of this life, may you know that God’s grace, the mercy, love and peace the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ covers you with, will sustain you to victory!

 

Our Mission has…

 

This fall, we’ve been focusing on the mission of this church, of the church as a whole.   To do the work that God has planned for our lives, to do the very work Christ commissioned us to do. The work He has started, that we have a part in, as we reveal His love to the world.

Our mission?  To make disciples of people of every ethnicity, as we go about our lives.  To do so by baptizing them, cleansing them of their sin, and teaching them to treasure everything Jesus has taught us.

It is why the church is here, it is why we have a pre-school, it is why we have pastors and teachers and elders.  To reach out to the hurting, to those living in guilt and shame, to those whose lives are locked into destructive ways of life.

That is our job – to reach out to them, with the hope that comes from knowing the love of Christ, and the fact that He is with His people. That He is with you!  The world needs to know that, they desperately need to know His love, His presence, His healing, and His love.

It is our mission; it is why He sends us out where ever we go.  It has been the mission since the day Adam and Eve left the garden.  God gave the mission to Israel as they left Egypt, as they were ruled by judges and kings, and called to repentance by prophets.  It was their mission as they entered captivity, as they were restored to their land, as they waited for the Messiah.

They were to point to the One who was the light for gentiles, the glory of the people Israel.

Today, the readings all deal with opposition to our church’s mission.

For be sure, as we share God’s love with the world – we will face opposition.  A very ticked off and upset opposition.  An opposition whose only mission seems to be to drive a wedge between God and His people…

An opposition that has lost…but even so, won’t give up. For our opposition is demonic.

The Nature of Satan’s Mission…
Satan has a number of names, or descriptions in this passage, each revealing his evil character and the mission that has become his over time.  Scripture calls the dragon, the primeval serpent, the devil, Satan, and the accuser.   SO let us deal with them.

Dragons in Hebrew thought were large serpents, known especially for their patience, and their keen eyesight.  The very root word for them comes from one of the words for sight.  Their tactics were to kill their opponents by finding and striking at their weakest point – and so it is with Satan, as he looks out at our weakness
The primeval serpent did that, finding the perfect way to deceive Eve and tempt Adam.  Working on their pride, and on curiosity, he was able to deceive them into knowing evil, for all they knew before that was good.  He got in and poisoned their relationship with God and with each other. That’s his strategy, to cause division.
He tried that with Job, and even thought Job struggled, Job’s God proved faithful. Which is the point we need so badly to learn!

Devil and devils simply mean those who throw against, basically they are spiritual gossips and mudslingers.  The devils best tool is to bring light on our failures, to show our sins and character weakness. God, don’t you know your favored people, the people you called your own are a bunch of silly sinners?  These people and their pastor, God, don’t you know what they did this week?

Lastly, Satan simply means our Adversary.  The one who opposes us and uses all of His cunning to hurt us, for if he can drive a wedge between us and God, then he is happy, for that is all he can try to do, and even that… is but an illusion.

His Weapon?  Our Failure, our Guilt

You see, Satan’s only weapon is try to deceive us, to literally lead us astray from the love and mercy of God.  He will greatly use temptation, guilt and shame to try and separate us from the love of God.

Which means Satan’s best weapons are our sins, and our weak points where He can tempt us. He wants to uses our failures.  He desires to cause us guilt, to cause us shame, to create an illusion that God does not want to forgive us, or that we do not deserve the love of God, and that we stand condemned.

Because he is no longer in heaven, accusing us before the throne of God, his only option is to work on us, to convince us that God will not fulfill the promise of Christ’s blood, to cover our sin.

This was part of our conversation this week in a college class on the Lord’s Supper.  That we feel guilty when we do not think we feel guilty enough!  When we think our attitude has to be perfect before we can come to church. We have to get our lives in line that we have to become saints prior to coming here, otherwise the roof might fall in, or the apocalypse might happen.

That is Satan’s only goal, to divide us from God, and if God will not listen to his accusations, maybe we will.  Either to his accusations about us, or the gossip that accuses others, both of which can cause division.

But if our prosecutor isn’t there?

 

What we have to remember is the victory is won.  The only judge who can condemn us has determined that Satan’s accusations are not worth listening to, and has tossed the one accusing us out of heaven.  The battle was not some heaven splitting war, it was simply that it was time to stop listening to the accuser.

Because Christ had come.

Because the blood of Christ has covered every sin.

That is the word that we bear witness! This love of God that sent the Son to bear the guilt of every sin! The word that we testify to is His promise to cleanse us of every sin, to unite us to His death, so that we will rise again.

 

Which is why we do not have to cling to life, for we know what death brings.

For our life in Christ means more than our physical life, for one is eternal, and one is passing. Think of it this way… in our baptism we meet Christ in His death, and at our death He meets us again, to bring us life.

Salvation and power and God’s empire have become known to us, for in Christ dieing on the cross, the bonds that hell had on us because of sin were shattered, for the gates of hell cannot ever stand against the revelation of God’s love for us, so clearly revealed in the cross of Christ.

It makes Satan’s role as our accuser meaningless, his accusations in heaven not even being heard.  For in Christ, our names are written in the record of life. If the prosecutor is not there, if the Judge will not listen to him, those who are guilty are freed, declared innocent.

We don’t have to listen to Satan’s charges, we don’t have to pay heed to the illusion of Guilt and shame, the agony of dealing with sin.  We have been declared free in Christ.

That’s why we come to this altar – to be reminded of the blood, to be reminded of that to which we confess, the truth we state when we say, I believe in God the Father…and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit who calls us gathers us together.  Satan cannot do a thing about it, for He is powerless.

And knowing this, we live, forgiven in the unsurpassed, indescribable peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN…

Where are our Bridges? A Lesson From My Past..


Devotional thought of the day…
 18  Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! 19  Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to treasure (do)  everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.   Matthew 28:18-20 (CEV) adapted

Monday, Wednesday and this mornign I returned to my undergraduate alma mater, the school were 30 years ago I started my journey towards becoming a pastor.  I had the pleasure of working with some senior students, talking to them about sacramental views of the Lord’s Supper.  It’s been a great experience, and provoked not only much thought about what I beleive and why I trust in God, but many memories.

As I walked across campus, I saw where the escalators were, and even though they never ran, it still seemed odd that they weren’t there.

Even odder was that the walking bridge that cross Nutwood Avenue is no longer there.  Though never an “official” symbol of the school, it was a valued object lesson in missions, and in going to “all nations”.  For across that bridge was the world, or at least the 28,000  students of California State University at Fullerton.  A veritable mission field, and one of the reasons my alma mater, Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University), was re-located from Long Beach to Fullerton.  28,000 students, their faculty and staff, and our little school of 400 students had a mission field.

That bridge was our access point.  Sure, you could cross at crosswalks – crosswalks that were still there.

Doug Dickey was one of my professors, as in his retirement he served as a professor of homilatics (preaching) and as the pastor of Campus Christian Fellowship.  He led the students who did outreach over the CSUF.  He constantly encouraged and molded us to keep our sermons and our ministry focused on Jesus, on Christ crucified.   When i would write a sermon about some great theological truth, the question asked was, “where is Christ-crucified in your sermon Dustin?  How will it save anyone, how will it give them hope?”

The Bridge….. was a way to share Christ… it was a way into others lives… it was a way to get to the what Peter called, “the words of life!”  The words that were the reason Peter and others stayed with Christ.  Words that made even more sense after the cross.  A Bridge Doug would cross – leading us in prayer, zealous to engage our peers and friends in conversation, conversations that would eventually focus them on the cross, and on the love of God, and the presence of God in thieir lives.   That bridge, it was the way to get the message out to the world, to people of every ethnicity, of every imaginable type.

It leaves me think ing….

Where are my bridges today?  Where are yours?  Were are the places we can go – to teach people of all nations about a Lord who loves them enough to die for them?

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The local coffee shop?  A Doctor’s office?

Where are our bridges, where we can teach everyone to treasure what Jesus has taught us…

To teach us His love…

May we never forget those people – or how to get to them….

 

 

 

Faith, Hope, Love – they are verbs… not nouns


Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...

Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….

James 2:17-18 (TEV) 17  So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead. 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.”  

479      Whenever you speak of the theological virtues, of faith, of hope, of love, remember that, rather than to theorise on, they are virtues to be practised. (1)

I was reading this morning about the church – and one man’s ideas of re-invigorating it, of restoring it to its prior glory.  There were a lot of things he thought could be done to restore it in this “post-Christian” age in which we live.  And then he went on with his list – fix this, restore that, and basically laid down His law.

I closed the book, (well, the Kindle Ap) and was frustrated.  For one, I don’t believe we are in a post-Christian age – I think that sort of speculation is based on frustration and a lack of identity and mission in the church.  Specifically, we know what we are to save people from – but then what?  Salvation is a synonym for deliverance  – but a delivery takes us from one place – and brings us to another.

Or to paraphrase Jesus – what happens to someone who is demon-possessed and is freed – and does nothing?   What happens is the demon comes back – this time with friends – because the feasting on a empty soul is what they yearn for.

We have to deliver people to something – specifically to the relationship that Jesus provides us the opportunity to enter – with the Trinity.  To dwell with God – here when the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and then eventually, in the full presence and glory of the Father.

That’s what we are meant for – that’s what we are called to, this covenantal relationship…

That is where these verbs come in – the verbs faith, hope and love.   That is why James teaches us that they are not in a vacuum – things to be dissected, exegeted, studied by theologians who come up with libraries of books about them.

We are called to “do” faith – a better word- to trust in our God.  To do that which is basically laying every burden we’ve ever had, every worry, every pain into His care – including our very lives… and let His use it all.  To realize that every moment is our interaction with Him – and that He walks with us.

We are called to “do” hope – – to eagerly live life expecting Him by our side – expecting Him to fulfill His promises.  Not just hope like someone might hope their team wins the world series – but hope as in basing our entire lives and actions on what God has promsied us.

And love – the greatest of actions – for love is an action – maybe it is better to say it is ever more than action.  It is that which compells, directs, causes, guides and drives and defines our action.   It changes the very nature of all we do – and all that is done to us.  It is life itself – but life that lives with another as our core.

Even writing this – I am doing what I say shouldn’t be done – talking about these things…

So its time to do these things….

So trust in God…. expect His word to be true in your life… and love as you are loved.

AMEN

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1829-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Eucharist and Its Effective Work on our Hearts:


Devotional Thought of the Day….

1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (TEV) 15  I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 

5 Through the Word and the rite God simultaneously moves the heart to believe and take hold of faith, as Paul says (Rom. 10:17), “Faith comes from what is heard.” As the Word enters through the ears to strike the heart, so the rite itself enters through the eyes to move the heart. The Word and the rite have the same effect, as Augustine said so well when he called the sacrament “the visible Word,”5 for the rite is received by the eyes and is a sort of picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word. Therefore both have the same effect.  (1)  (from Article XIII of the Augsburg Confession)

“XXV. Of the Sacraments.  Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.”  (2)

 

“What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?  Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. ”  (3)

530    Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar?  (4)

 

Yesterday I had the great blessing of going back to my alma mater, and teaching a class on the Lord’s Supper (also known as the Eucharist and Holy Communion)   it was really a good experience for me, and I think I caused some of the students to think.

I started the class with my own “personal theology” regarding the Lord’s Supper.   I’ll briefly state it here:

You have a 16 oz cup that contains 8 ounces of wine.  Do you:
(1)  Agree and argue the position alongside the optimists that it is the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.
(2)  Agree and argue the position that it is only grape juice, and it only is a act of faithful obedience….

(pause)

or (3) find some bread and with the people of God celebrate (give thanks)  the gift of God given to the people of God as you commune with Him?

As always, there is a third choice, as I I thought through the lesson, I was struck by something truly astonishing.  While the sacramental churches disagree on what I would call the mechanics of the Lord’s Supper – exactly how and when and in which ways the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ, they don’t disagree that the Eucharist has a dramatic and transforming effect on those who trust in Jesus, on those in a relationship with Him.

For it is highly effective, and as a means of grace, brings into our lives so much, it is a wonder that anyone would ever avoid it, or not be glad to celebrate it.

The challenge is that how it affects us is not academic, or philosophical, but rather deeply spiritual, and if I dare us the word, emotional.

Maybe that is why we can’t agree on the mechanics, but can agree on its effect.  We can’t academically and logically dissect the Bread and Wine, we can’t scientifically prove the presence of God there… and our post-enlightenment minds struggle with what we can’t forensically prove, what we can’t observe and demonstrate in regards to the elements.

It’s not knowing about God that is important when it comes to the sacraments, it’s about knowing Him.  About realizing the depth of His love, the “sure-ness” of His presence, of resting in His comfort and peace, of being in community with Him, every part of us.

Melanchthon (author of the first quote from the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession) was absolutely right – this is about God’s work in our hearts.  Like the very word of God it cuts our hearts open and circumcises them, cleansing us, as in our baptism – of the sin which ensnares us.  Bathing us in God’s presence, His glory, His love, and bringing healing to our very hearts, our very souls.  It is God working in us, the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us into the image of God – as the sacrament ( the physical element and the word of God – takes hold of us. ) is there.

I didn’t include the RCC quote I used – because of its length, but instead a quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a favorite writer of mine.  I can begin to understand their practice of adoration and contemplation about the “mystery” of this  – the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ.  Of sitting silently in wonder at the depth of God’s love, at the incredible power of the Holy Spirit within us, to take the time to think through what we’ve shared in, this body and blood, this precious gift, that causes faith to well up within us.   For far too often as he points out – we rush through such times – we want to get it done, move through it.  Yet think about a good meal – bacon wrapped bacon wrapped shrimp for example.  You want to savor the smell, the enviroment, the flavor.  Could we take such a time with the Lord’s Supper as well, to let the moment nourish our hearts longer – to set aside our intellect and realize how precious it is, that God comes to us, that He is here?  To realize the Spirit’s work in us, drawing us to Him, transforming us, healing us, taking our burdens…

If I, in this week of returning to my alma mater – convince them of nothing theologically – that’s okay.  It’s not what I am aiming for. it’s not what the sacrament is about.  Doing a dissertation explaining 5000 years of sacramental theology?  Cool – but what is needed – knowing our need for God’s presence… and knowing He responds to that need, for this He has promised, this blessing is ours…in Him.

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So my friends, take and eat…. take and drink often, and know that the Lord is with you…  AMEN!

 

 


——

(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 211–212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  The Articles of Faith (Anglican) http://anglicansonline.org/basics/thirty-nine_articles.html

(3)   http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2311293/

(4)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1282-1284). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Persecution, Martyrdom, the Love of Christ…. and a hard lesson in prayer


Crucifix

Crucifix (Photo credit: LeChinchi)

 11  They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)

 43  ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;  Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)

 23  Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)

The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines.  The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.

This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ.   And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.

I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.

Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”

Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this?   Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?

My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.

Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.

This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life?  Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death?  We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it.   The Blood of Christ?  Sure  – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus?  yes definitely!

But… death?  Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ?  You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death.  And will embrace it because of that truth.

That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.

And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.

God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them.   Not for a second.  Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.

And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.

This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.

Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…

So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.

And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

 

 

Our Church’s Strategic Plan: Prayer


The Mission:  Briefing #2
Our Strategic Plan:  Prayer

John 12:20-33

 

Jesus, Son and Savior

 

As You look around you, may you realize the great need there is for the grace, the mercy and love that is yours to give, for that is your gift from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

At least we can? Not..

It’s probably a matter of semantics, just the way people phrase things, but I have heard it a lot this week.  It’s been said different ways, but it still sounds the same…

“Pastor, we’ll be praying, but if there is anything we can do….” Or

“Pastor, we know there is probably nothing we can do, but we’ll be praying for you and your family…”

By the way, if you’ve said that, I know that isn’t how we mean it. Or at least I don’t think we think that way.  Or maybe….. we do.

In contrast – today’s epistle reading takes a different tact…


I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

In our Lutheran Confessions, Melancthon wrote of it this way,

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.[i]

So I repeat Paul’s words – and will more and more today, I urge you, first of all… to pray for all people!

Where is our faith?

       

Whether we realize it, or not, when we set prayer as a secondary action, as a safety valve, we are breaking the first and second commandment.  You heard me, we are sinning, by placing another god in our lives, by not calling upon God in both prayer and praise.
Luther wrote about it this way:

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?

Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart;

 

For faith is not just about salvation, it’s about deacon Mike’s favorite theological phrase! It’s about that intimate relationship we have with God. It’s about trusting Him in everything – and running to Him first when we don’t know what to do, or how to love and care, all that we know is that He is where we find hope, and comfort, and love.

So Paul urges not just Timothy, but us to pray for all people.  To get God involved in their situation, to deliver them from whatever is oppressing them, especially the sin and unrighteousness of this world.  To pray that God would save them, even as He has saved us.  That His grace, His mercy and love that we know – for that is why we praise Him…would be revealed to them so clearly it would knock them over…like Paul was knocked over on the road to Damascus.

You see that’s how we deal with all people!  Yes – I mean all people.  Pray for those who annoy you, who irritate you, who’ve hurt you, who’ve betrayed you!  Put them in God’s hands, let God help them with their hurts, and your will find yourself healing as well.  For that is what it means that God is our God – that we trust Him with our who heart – even with our bruised and battered hearts…

For He is faithful and He will reconcile us all in His heart.

We have to grasp the heart of God!

That is really what prayer is about, and why it makes so much sense to put those we care for, and those who we struggle to care for, into the very hands of God.  He’s the one who can take care of their burdens, and the burdens and anxieties that they can cause us.

That is why Paul brings in God’s will.  He just does not want everyone to be saved – that is a weak translation there.  The word is desire; it is a word full of passion and zeal.  It is all about His heart yearning to know each and every one of us, to bring healing to us, and you know – that means He has to deal with those we love whose situations break our hearts… and those who simply break our hearts.

For Jesus came and lived and died for each of us, even as we broke the Father’s heart, and occasionally still do. As we get to know God’s heart; as His love is revealed to each of us.

That’s why the great prophecy about baptism in Ezekiel 36 talks about God cleansing us and removing our hard stone hearts and putting in them a heart of flesh and His Spirit – that’s part of the transformation that begins in us when we are baptized, when God gives us His Spirit.

The closer we come to God, the more His love is revealed in our lives, the more we find ourselves trusting in Him enough to give Him our pains and anxieties, which so often include, or are about, or caused by others.

The same “others” that Jesus also hunt on the cross and for whom He died.

That’s what we have to understand, that is what is true – the love of Go, seen as Jesus, the only one who can act  as an intermediary between God and man – does that very thing.

We’ll talk about that more in Bible study – but think about this – the reason Jesus can bring God and man together.. is because He is… God and Man.

His heart is for us, and He brings us into His sacred heart – He brings us into a relationship so clear that the more we spend time in it, the more we heal and our new heart is revealed to be His.


But our first step isn’t to go on a crusade…

        Protos panton

 

That is why our first step is not some crusade to go save the world.  Our first step is to fall on our knees and ask God to bless people, to help them, that’s why we intercede on their behalf.

It’s not something we do as a last resort, or when we can’t think of something else to do.  Paul urges us, literally he comes along side to help us and points out our first step – is to reach out…not to them, but to the Father who will have Jesus intercede in their lives.

This is the strategy of our mission as believers, our mission of the church.

I urge you, first of all to pray for all people.

And Paul repeats the concept – Ask God to help them..

Intercede with Him on their behalf.. even if you don’t like them… ask God to be with them..

Four times in four ways… God asks us this.  It’s called a parallelism.

It’s like when you wife, or your mother, tells you to do something… if she tells you twice..  uhm you better listen…

But if she gets to three…

But this is even more important…we’re talking about our eternity here, and about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God…. Like communion its not an individual thing – but a God pulling us all into Him thing. That’s what He does – that’s why we go to Him, and as Paul says – as Paul urges us, we go to Him first.

 

A last thought:  Why give thanks?

As we chew on this, for the heart of God is something we cannot just academically “get”, as we strive to realize what it means that God wants us all, in Christ, reconciled, as we learn to pray for all men, I would ask one more thing….

Why do we give thanks for them?  Why are we urged by Paul, along with praying for them, to give thanks for them? Even the politicians and bosses and all that oppress and antagonize us?
Because, when we realize God’s heart toward them, our hearts melt as well… and even more..
Because whether positive or negative influences in our lives…when we are urged to bring them and their situation before God.. wefind we are in His presence… and there…

 

There is peace. And may your realize that unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pray for All Men


English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

September 21, 2013

1 Timothy 2: 1-8

 

Greetings in the name of our Mediator, Jesus the Christ who reconciled God and humanity through His being lifted up in glory for all to see.

 

Alleluia, amen.

 

“ I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”

 

Those are powerful words that Paul has written and my question for you is, as a community of believers in this church and in a personal sense, are you ready to hear them?

What is this church about? Is it ready to hear these words and do what God says through Paul? Are you?

Are we an introspective church scared and concerned for the future and feeling sorry for itself? Do you?

Do we see only the shortcomings and the sins of fellow members? Is that what you see?

Is this church full of anger, strife, and quarreling and is it just under the surface ready to boil over and fueled by gossip and slander and false witness? Are you?

Do we only see the condition of the facility, the peeling paint or the stained carpet or all of our little friends in the kitchen? Is God’s Word less effective here because the floors are not waxed every week?

An introspective church, that is to say a church that only looks internally assumes a cowardly, fatalistic and anemic and defensive stand rather than an offensive stand to the world. That church doesn’t evangelize, it doesn’t witness, it doesn’t share the most incredible and perfect gift of the Gospel. It becomes a country club with an exclusive membership rather than an inclusive one.

Now I don’t want you to think I am just picking on Our Savior. These symptoms and problems can effect all churches no matter the size and how big or little of a budget they have. You see when a church starts focusing and looking only inward and focusing on its own problems rather than focusing and looking at God, it gets caught like a fly in molasses.

A church that looks at God is a church that believes in God’s plan formed before the foundation of the world of salvation for all people. It sees it in the cross of Jesus Christ who was, like that bronze serpent lifted up on the pole for all to seek healing, lifted up and glorified on the cross. He was lifted up and glorified so that all would be drawn to Him.

Paul says in verse 5,

”For there is only one God and one mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Jesus Christ. He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave the world at just the right time.”

A church that looks at God rejoices in hearing this because this is what we are about! The church rejoices in the Mediator, Jesus Christ sent by the Father at just the right time to reconcile and save all. Seeing and knowing that, the church worships the God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Creation, the God of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Now I guess before we go any further we have to figure out what the church is. What is the church? Is it just these four walls that surround us that we inhabit a couple of hours a week?

This is where we meet to worship and this is where God calls us to worship as we begin that worship in the name of the Triune God and this is where He serves us in Word and Sacrament. But ultimately the church is the priesthood of all believers. It is the community or church that God has gathered as He calls His people to Him in baptism through His Son. That community like any community it is made up of people and who are those people in that community or church?

You are the church, I am the church, we are the church! The church is made up of you and I and all others who profess and confess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Master and Mediator.

So If the church is made up of you and I, that brings it to a personal level doesn’t it? It brings our lives into play and what they are about and Paul urging us to pray for all people. Not just your family and friends or the brothers and sisters who are part of the church but all people. Friends, enemies, strangers, Paul says, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”

This is a hard teaching isn’t it? Who here wants to pray for an enemy or maybe even a president and congress that they didn’t vote for. What about leaders who subjugate and mistreat their own people? Or maybe closer to home, what about a fellow believer that you have a problem with in the congregational community or members who are not here this morning for whatever reason or excuse?

What about all those people who as we are in worship right now don’t know what that is because they don’t have an intimate relationship with God meaning they don’t believe?

You see the church that looks outward instead of inward sees the world and feels sorry for it, not for itself. It sees people suffering and hurting and disenfranchised because they don’t see or know Christ.

Look around and you can see the brokenness and the guilt and shame that this world offers and does to people. Just drive down the street. You see people substituting and trying to compensate for something that is missing. They are trying to justify themselves and fill in the holes with all sorts of idols and quite often we try to do the same thing. They are searching and floundering and this hurts and saddens God.

God has no desire to see anyone enter into eternal damnation. It breaks His heart to see that. He wants everyone to know the truth and it will set men free-that truth is Christ Jesus who through His dying on the cross justifies us to God and mediates sinners before God. We are free and made righteous in the blood of the Lamb.

The church must never forget this and it must answer this call to arms. The church must answer the call of Christ found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all nations.

The priesthood of all believers must pray for all people that they would hear the call and believe and see and know the grace, mercy and peace given freely because of the love that our Father has for His children.

We as the church can pray for all people, we can go on the offensive and now look out not because we are so smart and better than others but because the grace of God has been given to us. We have been equipped and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do just this, to share the Gospel.

The church that looks to God and depends on and has faith is mission minded and knows that it can relay and witness the message that God gave to the world at the right time. We can show and tell about the relationship that God has reconciled with us as we depend on Him, living in faith and trust that God is with us faithfully.

The church that is focused on God is fully dependent upon  Him and His mercies and testifies through prayer and the Word that the sinful human race, His very creation from the greatest to the least and in every corner of existence where there is human life desperately needs the Triune God whom we adore and praise.

Through Jesus we can be bold and not worry about making mistakes and messing up because we will, oh trust me, we will! We along the way are going to sin and we are going to err but the truth is that God forgives sin, all sin. What man does for evil or bad, God will use for good. Remember the bumper sticker.’ Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven?’

We can be bold because our faith and trust are in Jesus Christ who serves His children by taking our sin and becoming sin for us.

Through Christ, we are that church, His church, His bride.

We might be small in numbers here at Our Savior right now but that doesn’t diminish us because we are large in the blessings that are bestowed on us from the manger to the empty tomb.

We look to the cross and see Christ lifted up in glory and we know that the cross leads us to the resurrection. We can only through Him, as Paul writes in verse 8, “Pray with Holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”

Through the forgiveness of sins and the redemption bought and paid for by the Christ, God has called you and I to be no less than representatives to a fallen and corrupt world, sharing the ongoing good news of the Gospel and praying for all, asking and depending in His grace and love and knowing it pleases God our Savior.

You are the church, we are the church through Christ!

Alleluia, amen.

 

Looking into Eternity….


English: Center Ossipee, NH in 1909; from an o...

English: Center Ossipee, NH in 1909; from an old postcard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3  Moses went and told the people all the LORD’S commands and all the ordinances, and all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has said.” 4  Moses wrote down all the LORD’S commands. Early the next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 5  Then he sent young men, and they burned sacrifices to the LORD and sacrificed some cattle as fellowship offerings. 6  Moses took half of the blood of the animals and put it in bowls; and the other half he threw against the altar. 7  Then he took the book of the covenant, in which the LORD’S commands were written, and read it aloud to the people. They said, “We will obey the LORD and do everything that he has commanded.” 8  Then Moses took the blood in the bowls and threw it on the people. He said, “This is the blood that seals the covenant which the LORD made with you when he gave all these commands.” 9  Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the leaders of Israel went up the mountain 10  and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath his feet was what looked like a pavement of sapphire, as blue as the sky. 11  God did not harm these leading men of Israel; they saw God, and then they ate and drank together.  Exodus 24:3-11 (TEV) 

459      Whenever you see that the glory of God and the good of the Church demand that you should speak out, don’t remain silent. Think about it. Who would lack courage before God and in the face of eternity? There is nothing to be lost and instead so much to be gained. Why do you hold back then?  (1)

When you have to deal with death….there is a sense of looking both forward and yet back.

Memories come to mind, in my case walks along shore road in Ossipee, NH, and my dad sitting on the hood of his 75 Monte Carlo, watching me finish a cross country race.  Our time working on the boat, and our time outside of Oaklahoma CIty where we waited for a tire to be changed on the U-Haul.  Time where he cried as I gave Him communion at the communion rail in Anza and he was so overwhelmed that he was unable to speak the quietest ‘amen”.  The jokes and times of seriousness.   I dont’ want to deal with the flood of memories, yet they come.

Yet I have to look forward as well – as I’ve written often this week – to the time where we will be together again, in front of the throne of God, sharing in all of God’s glory.

It’s something to remember – and indeed, it is something to consider – as we live our lives.

You see, most of us live our lives for the day… some may plan somethings out weeks or months in advance, but it is challenging to live for those days.  Our society is quickly becoming the “eat, drink and be merry… for tomorrow we… die.” society, yet not in view of great battles that occur tomorrow, but just more meaningless, causeless life.

If it wasn’t for death.  It shocks us out of our plondering, mundance lives.  It makes us actually stop and consider, why are we here?  What is going on?  Is there anything to this life.  And for a moment – we make the changes that mean something.   For death makes us evaluate life – our life.  And ask ourselves, “why do we hold back?”  Why don’t we say the things that need to be said?  Why don’t we love more, share God’s love more?  Why don’t we help those around us.. forgive those who hurt us? Why can’t we  lovingingly challenge those behaviors and words which will bring pain and separation from others, including separation from God?  Why do we carry burdens we are not meant to carry?

Even as I try to evaluate my life, my mind went to this passage from Exodus. Israel is walking away from Eqypt – away from a bitter and painful past with God’s help, with His delivering them, with His fighting to free them, and then guiding and protecting them.  They enter formally a relationship with God, this generation that Moses leads.  The blood is shed, it covers the people’s sins,… it is offered to God…

And then there is a feast, a look far foward to a feast that is to come. A feast in the very presence of God, a feast where they are safe and secure and unafraid in God’s presence… a feast that is a foretaste of the feast tomorrow, as my church gathers and celebrates God’s love for us. A feast that also looks forward to us all being face to face with God, to share in another feast – no, not just another feast – the THE FEAST.  God and Man – all of Mankind… dwelling together,  In Peace, In His glory, dancing together, celebrating His presence.

Oh what a blessed day that will be…..

It is not hard to hate death… it is not hard to feel it’s sting, to know the anguish, the hurt that comes from “losing” someone.  It’s harder still when we don’t live life expecting death.. and what comes after…

Pray for each other, love each other, even if that means confronting sin… for that is death’s primary sting….

and know…always know… in Christ… we find rest and healing.

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1757-1760). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In Hard Times Like These… hug Christ


Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1  That is why we must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so that we will not be carried away. 2  The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3  How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. 4  At the same time God added his witness to theirs by performing all kinds of miracles and wonders and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will.  Hebrews 2:1-4 (TEV) 

When the branches are united to the vine they grow to maturity and bear fruit. What then should you and I do? We should get right close to Jesus, through the Bread and through the Word. He is our vine… We should speak affectionate words to him throughout the day. That is what people in love do. (1)

Been through a bit of stress this week… and part of me wants to lock myself in a room – or dive into a book or a video game.  It takes a lot to make me go introverted… and while it is a defense mechanism… it is dark at times when you are alone. (What is really hard is when I need to do the opposite – and have many people encouraging me to climb into my hole and lock them out..)

I added 10 people to our prayer list this morning…. people recovering from surgery.  People mourning friends who we won’t see until we are before the throne, I’ve talked too others, very afraid of another war, and others whose finances are so stretched beyond belief.  These are hard times, for so many, times of tears and weariness and emotional exhaustion.

THe strength we have, if at all, in these times, is remarkable and extraordinary.  It comes from deep within us… yes, even as it is not ours, and is clearly something alien to our basic nature.  It is because at such times, everything is cut away, and we find ourselves in Christ’s embrace.   And there, we find His heart, and the strong beat of life that calms our soul.

When my 6 year old was an infant, he used to go to sleep at night in my arms with his head over my heart.  Because I have two artificial heart valves – my heart literally clicks. Its funny – on the nights when he 2-4 and was scared or sick and desperately asks to sleep in our bed – he usually ended up with his head pressed (not just touching) about the same place – or against my back – where he could hear my heart click.  I can only imagine it brought him comfort and security.  He could rest.

We need to be like that with Jesus, that close, that spiritually aware, that intimate, that involved in the relationship.  As Escrvia says – we do this with the Bread and in the Word, as we connect to Jesus, to our Lord.  As Lutherans our way of saying this is through word and Sacrament.  For as we hear the word, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life does more than just “teaches” us, that word is planted in us and grows, and we don’t just know it academically, but intuitively, with all that we are.  The same thing as we commune with God, and notice it is not you or I, but we…. the family of God.  It is these times we see Christ, revealed to us is His very Heart, the love He has for us… and how He has taken us into His heart, even as the Holy Spirit abides in ours.

There is a part of me that hates these hard times… I despise the pain, the abslutely… stripped feeling I have.  The seeming loneliness, the emotional rollercoasters…

Yet there is a part of me that has learned to deal with them… to welcome rather than run… because I know in these times… the Lord who makes us one with Him is there… ready to love, ready to show mercy… ready to embrace us….

And for that… what else can we do but adore Him?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1683-1686). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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