Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Perspective of Death… and Eternity


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
13  “I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! 14  Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. 15  You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. 16  For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins. 17  My sins would be sealed in a pouch, and you would cover my guilt. Job 14:13-17 (NLT)

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said .1 Corinthians 15:1–11

I woke up this morning, exhausted in body and spirit and especially soul.

In the last 6 days, six families i know have had to face grief and death.  Four deaths in a forty-eight hour span. Not to mention 4 or 5 other things that are pretty high on the trauma scale.

I don’t feel like Job, exactly, for I am not the one who is directly suffering.  Just praying and trying to comfort those who are.  I do understand his weariness, and the above quote, wishing there was a way to put life on hold until the day when this broken world that seems so futile ends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be frozen, and didn’t have to endure this complicated and broken life?

Yeah, I resonate with Job’s thoughts.  More often than I would like you to know.  Even this week, as I face so much, I really resonate with them, so much I wanted to shout amen when I read them.   For if only that would happen, and the next thing to hear from God would be, “welcome home!”

But what Job hopes for, Paul reminds us that we have.  We have a God, a Father who doesn’t want to look at sin and injustice.  He wants to see things made right, and if broken, healed.  In the middle of wanting to know if Job found an out, in the midst of death, there is another death to consider.

The death of Christ.  The only death I know of, where the answer to “why” is answered.

“For you”, the Father whispers.  We hear it again, as we proclaim and celebrate His death in the Lord’s Supper.  Take and eat, the Body of Christ, given FOR YOU!.  Take and drink, the Blood of Christ, shed for you, f or the forgiveness of sins.

The answer is staggering..

For me?  Broken, sinful, confused, anxious, depressed, mourning – that me?   Trusting in this, is the key to our faith, that God would do this, for us.

Job’s dream, come true,

You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork.”

The words of Paul in Ephesians 2:10, says Job was right, his vision of what would be glorious is found to be true.  His hopes exceeded.

That is the perspective death brings, it causes us to ask the questions we dare not,  and here the answers that we can only dream of in our brokenness.

An answer we can hear, and know, passed down to us.  For He died, was buried, and rose again.  United with Him, this is seen in our baptism, and as we feast at His table, as we look forward and cry out with hope, with great expectation for Him to return.  AMEN

We Cry our Hosanna (save us!) Because our World is Upside Down!


We Cry Out, Hosanna

Featured imageBecause Our World Is Upside Down!
Zechariah 9:9-12

IHS

As we adjust from living in a world that is upside down, may the grace of God turn our world right side up, and help us be at peace with the change!

Discomfort and the Poseidon Adventure
Vicar Mark made a comment in Bible Study the other night that made so much sense.  Talking about Palm Sunday, (aka the Sunday of the Passion) he compared it to an old movie, the Poseidon Adventure.

He indicated that Palm Sunday is like the few hours after the people on the upside down ship were rescued.  When they were still so disoriented because what had been upside down, was now right side up. Where what had sadly become normal, was not normal any longer.

It is like trying to adjust to the sermon being the very first thing in the service.

It’s odd, and we aren’t comfortable with it.

Yet when God comes into our lives, it is to put everything back the way it should be.

We have to get used to it as well! Even as we have to get used the paradox of this being both Palm Sunday, and the first day of Holy Week; also known as Sunday of Christ’s passion.

The world shifts back to normal, but will we recognize it?  Will we adjust to God making everything right?

Our Discomfort with the Meek Ruler

When in a few minutes, you hear the words of Zechariah read, I want you to think through the words, 

Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.

That was why the people of Jerusalem were so happy, this was the King, their King that was entering Jerusalem, the one to whom they cried out Hosanna. By the way, that isn’t just a cry of victory, it is a cry asking for it, a cry of despair, a cry for Jesus to go out and win.

Even as they recognized and cried out to Jesus, knowing this, they didn’t see what the salvation they cried for entailed.

For instance, instead of coming on the White Warhorse, proud and ready to lead, he comes on donkey’s foal – a young ass barely able to carry him.

That’s not what we want as our leader, we want someone strong, ready to take on everything, ready to go to war, ready to conquer everything.  The kind of King we can follow in triumph.

But that Is upside down thinking.  If our God is God and nothing can stand against Him, then Jesus doesn’t have to come decked out for war, He can come humbly and peacefully.  He can come in a way that is relaxed, in a way everyone can reach out to Him.

That is how it would be, if sin didn’t rule over people.  Jesus knew why He came, and the kind of kingdom He would establish.  Confident of the Father’s love, and their plan to set everything right side up, He comes with that in mind.

Our discomfort with the Peace He Brings!

We see the same disorientation, when you start to think about the peace this prophecy about Jesus’ promises.  Usually we think of creating peace by disarming the enemy, making them submit to us.

Look at the verse again.. and hear this when it is read later,

10  I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

The prophecy wasn’t about God disarming the world, it was about God disarming Israel!   That doesn’t sound quite right! It sounds quite upside down in fact!  At least from the perspective of living in a broken, sinful world, we want a country well armed!  After all, isn’t It the world against us?  Shouldn’t we make it submit to us?

As God moves to set make everything right, Jesus shows us the greatest victory through dropping the defenses, and loving and serving those who would be our enemy.  His example isn’t from forcing them to obey, but by giving us the confidence to obey.

A confidence that realizes that we don’t have to be offensive in dealing with our enemies, for Jesus will provide them a level of peace, even as His kingdom spreads throughout the world.

As Israel, under the watchful eye of the Roman military as well as the religious authorities calls out for Jesus to save them, Zechariah’s prophecy should point them to the paradox of the cross, where Jesus brings the Father glory, where He wins us the victory, by disarming himself.

They never saw it coming.  They couldn’t see it right, for their world was upside down.  The question is will we see it here.. And now?

Or has sin disoriented us too much?

He is our answer, our place of Safety.

Zechariah saw it coming.  Perhaps it is a better to say the Holy Spirit inspired His perception, and led Zechariah to write this prophecy.

Here some more of it,

11Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the Vicar and an Elder process this morning, you will note that the procession moves towards the altar, toward the place where you will be given Christ’s body and blood this morning, the place where you cry of Hosanna – God save us! Is answered.

Before a cross, remembering that it was at the cross where the blood of the covenant was poured out, even as the wine and blood will be poured out this morning.

Everything turned upside down. A Kingdom won by surrender, peace gained by allowing violence, leadership found in humility, Life created in death, freedom found in submission. Saints found as sinners are revealed to be in Christ.

A life lived in safety and security, for eternity.

Because of God’s passion, because of the peace He came to bring, riding on a donkey.

So we celebrate that Christ, the one who flips everything, making it right, making life the way it was supposed to be.  We celebrate Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to give us the strength to deal with the disorientation is revealed to be something need to know – the peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

A Challenge to Christian Podcasters/Bloggers/Tweeters


Discussion Thought of the Day:
Featured image8  Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9  and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:8-11 (CEV)

11 1. Hence we reject and deem it as false and detrimental when men teach that the Gospel, strictly speaking, is a proclamation of conviction and reproof and not exclusively a proclamation of grace. Thereby the Gospel is again changed into a teaching of the law, the merit of Christ and the Holy Scriptures are obscured, Christians are robbed of their true comfort,….

32    You’ll never be a leader if you see others only as stepping-stones to get ahead. You’ll be a leader if you are ambitious for the salvation of all souls. You can’t live with your back turned on everyone; you have to be eager to make others happy.

This week before Holy Week has been incredibly thought provoking.

One of the reasons is the amount of death that has affected people I care for, not just because I am their pastor, but because God has joined us together.

The other reason is the constant bombardment of negative Christian podcasts, blogs, tweets and comments, especially from those within my own small section of Christianity.

Finally, the gulf between those two reasons, and the grief and concern it raises in me.

St. Paul’s words above stand in sharp contrast to what I read.  His desire, to know Christ, to see the Holy Spirit at work, revealing, transforming, and drawing people to Christ, even as He was drawn to Christ.

Certainly, in the face of death, that is all that matters. to know and be known.
Certainly, in the face of our sin, and the injustice and unrighteousness of the world, to know Jesus is what gives us hope.
Certainly, as we encounter the world, it is what makes the difference between anxiety and peace.

So why don’t our words reflect this hope?  Why do the words posted by those in the church focus more on topics that are condescending and divisive? Do we somehow feel we aren’t good Christians unless we step on others, crushing their beliefs, rather than gently reforming them?  That we have to humiliate those not like us, mock them, spit on them and nail them to Christ’s cross?

Don’t we realize if we lift Him up in our praises, that He will draw all men to Himself?

We need to grow in desire to see all men saved, but that answer to that isn’t found primarily in better understanding of theology, where though accurate, the gospel is never mentioned.  It isn’t in some better use of some program or initiative.

it is at the foot of the cross, where broken sinners find healing, and joy and peace….and forgiveness, and the hope of being quickened to life with God, for ever.

As Jesus glory, the very love of God, welcomes us home and overwhelmed by joy, we find a desire for everyone to join us, with Him.


Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 479). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 235-238). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

WHen You Want to Run Away….should you… or not?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image12  When Mordecai received Esther’s message, 13  he sent her this warning: “Don’t imagine that you are safer than any other Jew just because you are in the royal palace. 14  If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” 15  Esther sent Mordecai this reply: 16  “Go and get all the Jews in Susa together; hold a fast and pray for me. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days and nights. My servant women and I will be doing the same. After that, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. If I must die for doing it, I will die.” 17  Mordecai then left and did everything that Esther had told him to do. Esther 4:12-17 (TEV)

29    The limited and pitiful happiness of the selfish man, who withdraws into his shell, his ivory tower … is not difficult to attain in this world. But that happiness of the selfish is not lasting. For this false semblance of Heaven are you going to forsake the Joy of Glory without end?  (1)

There are times in our lives where we want to runaway.

There are times we want to run because of conflict, and we think that peace is found in avoidance.  

There are times we want to run away because of the sacrifice we know we will need to make.  Sometimes it is not even a major sacrifice, sometimes it is an inconvenience.

There are other times, when we are weary, when we are afraid, when we just want some time to kick back, and rest, because the battle is to hard, the suffering we encounter is to overwhelming.

There are also times when we need to retreat, when we need to walk away and pray. There are times I struggle with this more than I struggle with staying.  Sometimes it is a war within myself, as I question myself.  Should we stay in place, even beyond our strength?  Should we run?

We have to ask a couple of questions, even seek out a confidant to help us examine our situation. We need to ask Why and Where.

Why – am I simply running for my own comfort, my own survival? There is a point, like Esther faced, where running was a matter of selfish self-preservation.  A door was opened so that she could do God’s will, in this case to save the people of God.  There is a time for a rest, to be ready to re-enter the fray, that is the idea of the sabbath.

Where – This is ahar question.  Do I want to run to where the grass is greener, where there appears to be more peace, an easier life?  Or do I need to find  cave like Elijah, a place to find respite and allow God to bring healing. (if you have encountered this before, you know that it isn’t the easier path.)  Am I running from God, or to Him?  We need the latter.

Ultimately, the answer isn’t found in a logical examination of our thoughts and desires. And our perceptions can be shaded, and if our lives are turbulent, our thoughts may be as well.  The answer is going to found, not in whether we run or not, but whether we realize we are in God’s presence wherever we are. When we realize his unexplainable peace, a peace so different from the world, can sustain us in the harshest of times.  That is the key in the times that challenge us and make us want to run, and in the times where we need to find rest and a time of prayer and communion.

Ultimately, it boils down to this:  are you where you are at for such a time as this?  To be there, that people would know the Kingdom of God is near, that His presence is there to pardon, to love, to heal?  Are you depending on your own strength, or on His?

Then you are there for a purpose – take time to rest, ot know God’s presence… and then glorify Him as He works in your life and community… bringing hope and peace, healing and love.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 228-230). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The most important day in your life….


The day mentioned in this old blog was incredible. For some reason, a number of people read it yesterday.

it is the very thing I need to get through this day, to remember the promises God made to these three girls, and rejoice.

A Simple Christian

This afternoon, a couple will become husband and wife, as they are married at my church.

It will be a special day for her, as every wedding day is for every bride.  A day that they look forward to most of their lives, a day they dream about.  

As we went through the practice for the wedding, I made the comment, that for three of the people in the room, the day is even more important, than it will be for her.   Which indeed grabbed everyone’s attention, for who in a room can a wedding day be more important for, than the bride?

The answer is, for the three children of theirs, who, as the first act the family participates in as a family, will be baptized,  Who will be cleansed of all their sins, pastor, present, and to come. Who will be marked and sealed as the children…

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Love Includes Gently Correcting Each Other


Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image2  And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. Hebrews 5:2 (NLT)

10    Never reprimand anyone while you feel provoked over a fault that has been committed. Wait until the next day, or even longer. Then make your remonstrance calmly and with a purified intention. You’ll gain more with an affectionate word than you ever would from three hours of quarreling. Control your temper.  (1)

It is one of the most challenging parts of being a pastor or a parent, or a good friend.

It takes not only courage, but a level of love for the other person, that embraces the discomfort and the threat of rejection.

Still it is essential, it is necessary, and it can be done with gentleness and compassion. It must be done.

We have to learn to correct each other, and as the priesthood of all believers.  We can’t afford not to be there for each other.

But this correcting has to be done as Hebrews describes the high priest doing it, with gentleness!   Not in anger, not as a reaction to the error. But mourning over it, crying out to God in prayer for the wisdom to communicate the correction completely.

Gentleness doesn’t mean we become a pushover.  The term in Greek there means a measured or precise amount of compassion.  With the coolness and calmness that doesn’t come in the middle of a situation.  But to take a step back, look at the cross, and remember that God desires that the other person to come to repentance.  God wants them to be transformed, to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus..

That has to be the motivation for the correction. To help them, to break down the walls, and seem them benefit from the correction.

It will be challenging, they might reject you for a time, they might get angry, even if you do it as precisely as Christ woul have.  Remember, they nailed Him to the cross.  And that worked out all right, for that measure of compassion is so evident to see.

Walking this way through life will be a blessing to you as well.  For to correct others and to allow them to correct you, takes great faith.  We have to trust in God the Father to at His promises. Which means we have to walk with Him, constantly talking and listening to Him!  And that is a wonderful place to be!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 185-187). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Assistance We Need to Endure Part 1


The Assistance to Endure

Hebrews 5:1-10

May the grace of God our Father and our High Priest Jesus Christ sustain you as your endure, waiting patiently for His return

 

If Life Were Only Like a Commercial

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like the way it is pictured in commercials?  For example, if we get ourselves into trouble wouldn’t it be great to be able to sing a little tune, and in a split second an angel would appear! He would be ready to cut a check, to do whatever it took to make things appear like new?

Wouldn’t it be great to have someone to act as our agent, our friend?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone act our advocate, and to intercede with everything involved, till everything was restored as best it could be?

It would be an amazing thing if such were possible.

It would make life a lot easier when we got into trouble, we knew we could call out, and we would be heard.  Knowing that, we could simply rest, confident in the one God sent to take care of us, to make everything work out for good.

As the author of Hebrews describes the high priesthood, he is describing such a role.  The High priest who is our advocate, the intercessor, the one assigned to be the mediator who would make everything work.

That is the role of Jesus, for He is who the Father chose to care for us, to help us endure this life.

He deals gently… yet

In the job description of the high priest, our intercessor, our mediator, there is an interesting comment.  It is both a bit challenging and yet, very comforting.  Let me read it again,

2  And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. Hebrews 5:2 (NLT)

Hmmm.  How many of us like to be described as wayward or ignorant?

It is hard to admit we are ignorant.  That we don’t know what is good, or what is best for us.  After all, who knows us better than us?

Well, yes besides our wives.

And yeah, God too!

That’s the point, it isn’t too easy to admit that we don’t know.  We like to be the experts, seen as the experts, We are not, and when we act in ignorance, without God’s counsel, we often find ourselves sinning.

We do things we don’t know are wrong or we don’t want to admit are wrong.  We fall prey to sin, and to Satan.  We need to admit that, acknowledge that we don’t know it all and let our high priest intercede.

The other challenge is that we do go astray. The word is a passive very, we are led off course, we find ourselves lost, unable to go the way God would have us go.

Neither ignorance nor getting lost is a valid excuse.  Being separated from God is being separated.

It is hard to admit that, for most of us are quite proud of our knowledge, or that we don’t need to ask for directions.  Some of us are stubborn, and the more we see that we need help, the more stubborn we get.

Ignorant and lost, we need someone to help.  Someone wise enough to bring us back on track, someone we can trust, someone who has been through what we’ve been through.  Someone who can find us, and gently show us the way back.

Someone who is able to deal with us gently, even when we are caught up in our ignorance, even when we are wayward and lost.

Someone God qualifies and equips to do that very thing; who is precise as He compassionately works on our behalf. Someone who will intercede and is willing to pay the cost.

Do We Realize the Cost He paid?

I think we need to take time to read another part of the passage again,

7  While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8  Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
Hebrews 5:7-8 (NLT)

We know Jesus cried, for he cries over Jerusalem, and at the death of Lazarus.

Yet to realize that He would cry out to the Father, is more challenging.  To see him escape the crowds from weariness, from knowing the suffering, He would pray, crying out to the Father.  And He would endure, for them.  Even more perhaps for us, who understand what the cross is, and why he would cry in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus heard the Father’s desire for us to become the Father’s.  He knew the desire of God, and lived it out, fully man, and fully God, caring gently for those broken by disobedience, and ever those who wondered off, distracted by life.

Even as he cries in the garden, for the Father to take away the trauma that was coming yet was as sure to him as Judas’s betrayal.  As sure as our own betrayal.  He still endured.

For the joy set before Him, this letter to Jewish Christians will tell us.  He endured all the pain, all the suffering.  He endures and

9  … became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.
Hebrews 5:9 (NLT)

The Arch-hierus… a Testimony to His Assistance

It is amazing to see how complete Christ’s rescue is, to see how great this salvation is.

For God takes the ignorant and the wayward, and binds them to Christ.

We will talk about it more in our Bible Study; for in that rescue, in our being joined to Jesus, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. And as God cleanses us in baptism, we take on the priesthood with Him.

You see, the title high priest, is actually “first priest” or lead priest, the one from whom all other ministry is given.

You and I, and now, little Jason, are to follow Jesus’ lead as God’s priests.  We will learn to deal gently with those who are ignorant of God’s love and mercy, and with those who have wandered off, and been led away from God. We may even embrace some suffering in order to accomplish God’s will. We will learn to love as Jesus love’s, to hear God’s desire to bring others into the family, as Jesus heard.

That is the transformation of the Gospel, the work of our high priest, the one anointed by God, to be our Savior, our Lord, our High Priest.   To bring us into the peace of God and make our hearts and minds safe, for we dwell in Him.

AMEN!

Do We Serve God, or Does God Serve Us?


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

Featured image18  And I told them how God had been with me and helped me, and what the emperor had said to me. They responded, “Let’s start rebuilding!” And they got ready to start the work. Nehemiah 2:18 (TEV) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

When elected President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy directed the citizens of the USA to ask themselves a question.  Occasionally, I’ve heard that question adapted to the church, especially when a church is low on funds or wants to start a new ministry.  The adapted question reads something like this:

Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God (or at least for His church).

When I hear such motivational malarky (an old-fashioned word for bullshit) it irritates me slightly.  Okay, more than slightly.  Not because God’s people shouldn’t be active in ministry, they must be. But the reason for such activity is not to do something for God as if to earn His favor.  Or to do something for God, as if to repay some debt.  Our living as Christians isn’t something that has to be manipulated.

I’ve heard a similar question asked about church.  Do we go to church to serve God or to let God serve us.  Matter of fact, there are great debates about this, with judgment being poured out on those who think otherwise.  Both sides take up their positions, prepare their defenses, pump up their disciples, and start tossing cliche’s and one-line statements of wisdom.

It is the same question – do we serve, or are we served?  Is it all about pleasing God, or do we expect to be made happy.

It is neither.  Both sides of the question have overlooked the obvious.

it is not about who does what for whom.

It is about communion.  It is about knowingly living in the presence of God.  As Nehemiah wrote, “God had been with me”. as St Josemaria wrote, “with the fire of Christ you carry in your heart”  For them, what is to be done pours out of that intimate relationship with God. Not from demanded obedience, but from hearing Him,  (Greek and Hebrew scholars who are struggling with this, go look up the word for hear.)

Whether it is giving a thirsty man a cup of cold water, buying a homeless lady breakfast, visiting that person who is bedbound and can’t live a normal life, or kneeling and receiving the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you; our actions aren’t about who benefits.  it’s not a God scratches our back, we will scratch His.

It’s about walking with God, about rejoicing in His presence. To use an old phrase, it is about abiding with Christ or practicing the presence of God. (Except it isn’t practice!)

It is a Heavenly Father, walking through life with His children, even when our Father has to pick us up and carry us, because the road seems too tiring, to long.

So don’t ask what God will do for you, or what you will do for God.  Don’t go to church expecting to be served, or struggling with whether your service will be acceptable.

Simply be in the presence of God, enjoy His company, let Him be your Father and know you are His children.

The rest?  It will become obvious.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Don’t Preach Expository or Exegetical Sermons… (for the most part)


Devotional Thought of the Day:
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

This fact does give us the historical context of quite a few points of The Way, but above all it emphasizes one of the basic traits of the book: the fact that it was written facing the world, looking for men and women who want to sanctify themselves in their earthly interests and activities, and proposing a teaching which can be applied to any type of age, circumstance, or work: “What amazes you seems quite natural to me: God has sought you out right in the midst of your work. That is how he sought the first, Peter and Andrew, John and James, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the customhouse” (799). “You have the obligation to sanctify yourself. Yes, even you! Who thinks this is the exclusive concern of priests and religious? To everyone, without exception, our Lord said: ‘Be ye perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect’” (291).  1

Back when I was in college, I was taught and encouraged to preach a specific way.

To take a book of the Bible, and walk through it verse by verse, gaining nuggets of wisdom from the passage, especially from the Greek text. You also spend extensive time exploring the background of the passage, and how the people of that day would have understood the passage.  All of the great preachers of that day claimed to preach this way! The preachers in my old non-denominational denomination and its sisters movements, and among that broad grouping know as evangelicals, and those who claimed to preach ‘through the Bible.”  Many still do preach this way, and a lot of people prefer it.

Let me explain a few of the reasons I have moved away from expository and exegetical preaching. ( for the most part)

1.  Exegetical Preaching Doesn’t Face the World
The line above, from the introduction to one of my favorite devotionals, describes the problem with expository/exegetical preaching. It doesn’t face the world.  To be faithful to the passage and words in the text, your focus can become isolated from the people and focus only on the text, and what the text means.  It is like the old priests and pastor tradition about doing most of the liturgy facing the altar, even if it means they have their back to the people.
When I was doing some doctoral level studies in preaching, one of the courses dealt with exegeting your congregation, your listeners.  I struggled with this at first, but it makes sense. If you are going book by book, verse by verse, word by word through the scriptures, you may not be shepherding your people.  You can be 100% faithful to the text, but to be faithful to what the people need means knowing them, understanding them, guiding them.  If you are consistent with expository teaching, you will have to overlook their needs, or bend the passage.

2.  The Issue of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the huge historical begat lists
The Book of Job sometimes astounds me, if you are going to preach it exegetically/ expositional.
Think about it.  How much of the book is advice and counsel from those who will be confronted and humbled by God?
Going verse by verse through that book, or through parts of Ecclesiastes will be challenged by this.  Do you want to take 15-20 minutes (or 45) talking about what isn’t a Godly message?  Do you want to take all that time, week after week, with your primary emphasis on why it’s wrong, in that context?

3.  It’s not the practice of the New Testament writers, even though they could have used the Old Testament that way.  Romans isn’t an exposition of Isaiah.  But the New Testament writers brought in texts from all over the Old Testament, to do one thing… the biggest thing!

4. THE BIGGEST ISSUE   It doesn’t always preach Jesus.
Ultimately, in regards to my preaching, my job is to do one thing.  As the Lutheran Confessions discuss, we are to give to people that which they need to know about Jesus.  Why He was born, lived, why this is something that gives you the hope of salvation.  That is what preaching is! It isn’t about making sure people know why all 613 Old Testament laws are there,  We can talk about that at other times and other places; in Bible Studies and individual discipleship when those passages come into play.

People – all people – need to know God’s attitude toward them, and that is revealed by understanding the dimensions of His love, which is seen in the life and work of Jesus.  That is gospel preaching, that is the good news, the giving of hope.

This is why our sermons reveal Him!  It is why they are focused on God reconciling us to Himself through Christ, reconciling us into His glory! It is fulfilling His desire, helping you to know His love and mercy, to know He will give you the gifts He has promised….

That’s the job of a sermon.

You might call it an Apocalyptic preaching style, the unveiling of Christ to a people who need him, who need to know Him. For that is what the word apocalyptic means – to draw back the curtain and reveal that which is

To bring the message of all of scripture, the one message, to the people who God wants to hear it.  So they can be cleansed, healed, and most importantly, His.

1  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 128-134). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The God Who Would Be Involved With You…


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
19  I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:19-20 (NLT)

Saint Luke tells us of some fishermen washing and mending their nets by the shores of Lake Genesareth. Jesus comes up to the boats tied up alongside and goes into one of them, which is Simon’s. How naturally the Master comes aboard our own boat! “Just to complicate our lives,” you hear some people complain. You and I know better; we know that our Lord has crossed our paths to complicate our existence with gentleness and love.  (1)

I once was told “God wouldn’t be involved with the likes of me.”

Actually, I’ve been told it more than a few times.  From people who were incarcerated, from people on the streets, from people with multiple graduate degrees but with a past that wasn’t just broken, it was shattered.

While I understand, heck I know the feeling, whenever I hear that, I cannot help weeping.

Not because of their past.  But because they believed something that is a lie.  Because in trusting in that lie, they miss out on what we call grace.  More simply put, the blessing of knowing that God loves you, that His love means that He will show mercy to you, and knowing the miracle of that mercy, you will know peace.

To those that believe God won’t be involved with you, the lesson of Peter’s boat is a good one.  Imagine Jesus getting into your car. Just walking up, opening the door, getting in and saying, “let go for a ride”.   Or the passage from Revelation, he knocks at your door, comes in and asks, “where is dinner””  That is what Jesus does throughout all of history.

He get’s involved with people.  Involved with them to where there is no protective comfort zone.  Deeply involved, for that is where we need Him, even if we don’t like Him that intimately involved in our lives.  He comes in, and would make Himself at home with us. Celebrate the good stuff, comfort us as we grieve. He would bring healing to the brokeness of our lives, even to those who are shattered.  He would make everything brand new.  Not like brand new, He will make us completely brand new.

That’s what Jesus does when He determines to get involved with us.  Which is why it doesn’t matter how broken we are, or from what kind of life we have survived.  He is here to get involved, and that may be a little uncomfortable at first… but the depth of His Spirit’s involvement is guaranteed to be glorious.

He’s going to get involved because He wants a relationship with you.  Once that relationship begins, expect Him to make Himself at Home in your life, and rejoice as you walk together, for you are loved.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 532-535). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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