Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Madness of God….proven on Mondays


Devotional Thought of the Day….
19  Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 (MSG)

24  ” ‘For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. 25  I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26  I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27  I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. 28  You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!     Ezekiel 36:24-28 (MSG)

2      God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.  (1)

This morning one of the first things I read was this…

We wait for years for an extra day, and it is a Monday. A Monday?  Really?  I mean why couldn’t we have the extra day be a Sunday?  Or at least a Friday?

Why did it have to be a Monday?  What kind of Madness is this?

I could make the point it is a divine sort of madness.  A reminder that God doesn’t want us just on Sundays.

God, our Father, doesn’t want “visitation” rights.  he doesn’t want to be our God on a part-time or occasional basis  He doesn’t just want to see us when we are on our best behavior, expecting times of great joy.  He wants to be in our lives on Monday mornings, before we shower, or have that first 32 oz coffee (or in my case, diet Coke with line) He wants to be beside us at 10 am – when we realized we had a deadline at nine a.m.

What madness! How insane!  He wants to be there, to show us His love, even when we admit we aren’t all that lovable, or all that ready to be loved.  He not only loves us on Mondays when we are unbearable, but He also loves us as our sin crucified Jesus, His only begotten Son, our Savior and Friend.

What comfort that gives, what peace it brings, when we take a moment and catch ou breath, and realize He is still God, our God.  And we are still His children, His beloved children. He has marked us as His, and not just for the good times, for the challenged times, for the times where we throw a tantrum and whine, because it is Monday…..

So know His peace…for God is mad enough to love us even now….

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luke 13 The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance


The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance

Luke 13:1-9

† I.H.S †

 May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ make the call you hear to repentance one that you must answer.  AMEN!

A Week of Why’s

As I look back over this week, it seems rather convenient that I would preach on the gospel.  For in nine different very traumatic situations, no, ten situations, it would be easy to sit back and ask with the gospel, “is this why they suffer?”

Why is a family mourning they son/boyfriend was shot dead?

Why is a sheriff’s station wondering why one had to shoot someone, and why a community that normally is so supportive, could so quickly turn against them?

Why is a family being torn apart,

Why is someone facing a brutal betrayal of a friend?

Why did a 50-year-old mother die, just after burying her child last November?

Why did these things happen?  Who is to blame?  Was it their evil, or what God wrong to allow what happened?  Ten situations, hundreds of questions asked, so few answers to offer in response.

In a way, Jesus response to these traumas seems cold, even harsh.

Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”

What first seems heartless Is anything but.  For the questions we ask we may never be answered sufficiently, though we might have a thousand theories, not of which will help us grieve, never mind heal.  They just spin and spin our mind around.

Jesus asks us to move past the questions we cannot know the answers to, to contemplate, to meditate on something that has a real consequence, something that we don’t want to talk about, but we need to face.

Will we hear a call to repentance, or will perish?

I Won’t’ Perish, Will I?

I think we all need to ask regularly ourselves if Jesus came back today, would we perish?

We have to be careful with that question because it can lead to both self-righteousness and severe guilt.   Both those options are deadly.

Self-righteousness that would lead us to false confidence in our holiness leads to perishing because we will grow to assume we can be holy on our own, and don’t need God.

Severe guilt leads us to believe we are beyond hope, that there is not ability to recover from where we at, stuck in sin.

Even so, we still have to ask regularly the question.  Would I perish?  Do I love my sin and resentment more than I love God?  Have I set up false idols to worship, things that I put more trust in than God?  Do I even bother with God in my life except for on Sundays and Wednesday nights for an hour or ninety minutes?  Is God welcome in every part of my life?

St Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth talks about this, as part of preparing for communion,

31  But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32  Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 (NLT)

 

Most of us would prefer not to do this, to not have to face the unpleasantness in our own lives.  It seems much easier to bury it, to ignore it, or more than likely to justify it by pointing to others sins.

It is not the reason others undergo trauma, nor would I ever suggest that God puts us through trauma just to convert us and lead us to change. But Jesus is telling us to take stock of our lives, as these things happen.  To really consider where we need Him to change us. To really see the sin that we engage in as the horrible thing that destroys our relationship with God.

Unless we repent… we will perish.

A hard line to hear – even during Lent when we expect it!
The Patience of the Gardener

So how do we repent?   How can we be sure we have?  Where do we find the strength to do so…

We need to understand this parable of the Owner and the Gardner.  We need to realize that the Gardner is God in this passage – that the heart which is patient and wants to give special attention and plenty of fertilizer, to cultivate and cause us to bear fruit.

I love to watch Al or the Chinese congregation members tend the plants on campus.  There is a tenderness there, and you could see their mind church as they decide where to dig next, or which rose branch to prune.  If they do such a wonderful job, you know God will be doing the something special as He calls us to repentance.

That’s what he does at the altar, as He assures us of grace, as he lovingly nurtures us, as He provides a safe place for us to confess our sins, and hear His promise of forgiveness.  It is what he does as we read of the grace and mercy of God, as we see it as we picture Him on the cross, His blood pouring out. This is where he continues to give us special attention, where he nurtures and cultivates our faith in Him.

This is how we come to live a life of repentance, assured of His work nurturing us, pruning us, cultivating us.  It is an ongoing process of our faith in Christ. It starts here in Baptism, as God grants us faith and repentance, and keeps on going here at the altar, here as we worship, as we pray, as we study God’s word together as His people.

Because of His work, giving us special attention and yes, plenty of fertilizer, we are assured that we will not perish, that He has called and brought us to repentance, and is transforming us daily.

This is why we live in peace, peace that God promises is beyond understanding, peace He guards us in, our hearts and minds….  AMEN!

Discouragement, Weariness, and Walking with Jesus


Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. 20  Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.    Galatians 2:19-20 (MSG)

“We are children of God, bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can be never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed” (1). Responding to our divine vocation demands a constant warfare. Our fight is not a noisy one as it takes place on the battlefield of our ordinary life, for to be “a saint (…) doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end” (60). We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei constantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.

There seems to be today a resurgence in the concept of the superhero.  People who take on great odds, and despite fighting in themselves a war, work for righteousness  There’s the movies, of Captain America, Iron man, Thor and their crew.  There is always the Star Wars and Batman and Superman.   There are now television shows that link the Flash and what has become a favorite, the Arrow.

It thinks they are becoming popular for the same reason their comic books became popular after World War II.  In times of great stress, if we can’t be the heroes, we need someone to inspire us, to assure us, to help us know the heroic is possible. In a recent episode I watch, the hero was away, and it was left to the non-super heroes to save the day. But there were interesting discussions about how to survive when the hero wasn’t there to inspire.

As believers, we want to  be heroic.  Most of us probably not the martyr for the faith type heroism, but the kind that lives the kind of life that a Christian should live.  We want to be good people, those who are respected for their moral character, and their love for their family and maybe even community.  We might not desire true holiness, but we want to be better than the evil world out there.

In the process we don’t like the struggle, we don’t like what St Josemaria calls being “threatened with discouragement.”  It means accepting their will be defeated, but never using that as an excuse.  Defeats where sin and temptation get the best of us, where anxiety overwhelms us.  We don’t want others to know of these struggles, because if they did, our illusion of righteousness might fail us.

Paul knew this failure well; I love the simplistic nature of Peterson’s The Message as it translates here the struggle.I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work.

That would be most of us, and often as we get more tired, beyond just normal weary, the harder it is not to fall into that trap. The harder it is not to presumptuous about succeeding on our own strength.  Our ego calls us to “get er done”, and we push a little more, go out on the edge a little more,

We don’t even have the wisdom, reason or strength to know when we approach the point of burn out; so how can we avoid it?  We can’t – and Paul’s epistle explains it.  We don’t have to prove Christ lives in us, we just have to trust Him, We have to identify with Him, really to recognize that He identified us as His. He provides the strength, the ability, the power to serve, and His presence, so clear that we trust Him.  It knows His presence, His omnipotent presence that allows us to have the humility we need.  It is crying out, Lord, help, have mercy, save me, that sees Him answer.

That is where the secret of holiness lies, not in the outward acts that reveal it, but in the discouragement and weariness, where the only option left is to rely on Jesus.  Can we bear our cross and walk with Jesus?

Yes, because we are walking with Jesus.

Whether you are weary or energetic, may you have the humility to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the love and peace in which you life, for you life in Christ.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 154-162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Prophercy Self-fulfilled: The Church Life-Span


Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20  May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21  May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.    2 Chronicles 6:19-21 (NLT)

1  If GOD doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If GOD doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.
Psalm 127:1 (MSG)

About 12 years ago, I was in a program that trained pastors for what is called Intentional Interim Ministry, or what I prefer to call Transitional Ministry.  It trained pastors, many retired or about to retire, in how to help a conflicted church or a church whose identity was found in relationship to their old pastor prepare to be shepherded by someone new.

A lot of the material was excellent, but there was one theory I questioned then, and I question even more now.  It was called the “life-cycle” of a church.  It proposed that most churches were lasting about 40 years, and 25 years into that cycle they began to decline.  Often overlooked in that discussion was the exception.  I questioned the theory and the basis for it.  I have seen too many churches that have existed for hundreds of years and are still a cornerstone of their community. I also wondered about the correlation of the theory to the generation it originated in – the baby boomers.

Now, I see the theory has become self-fulfilling.   But I still don’t think it is accurate.  Here is why.

1.  How we use our talent.
If we buy into the fact that a church has a specific life-cycle, then we will see a move to use our human resources and gifts accordingly.  Our brighter seminarians will be taught that the best will be the large church pastors or church planters.
After all, the statistics infer that the biggest “bang for the buck” is not in established parishes and congregations, but in doing something new.  Those churches in the decline or approaching 40 years will be relegated to men who go through the motions, or as the clergy crisis draws nearer, to retirees who are great preachers, but don’t have the energy or drive to disciple and work in the community.

2.  How we use our money.
What we will see here is similar,  Rather than invest in the costly upkeep of 40-70-year-old churches, we will fund new initiatives, and ministries that make us feel like we are accomplishing things now.  Effectively we will teach the next generation that sacrifice and determination are not as important and that it is better to give up and abandon, rather than dig deep and care for a community. (we already see this in the wastelands of cities that have been abandoned)
By the way, I am not just talking about the gothic cathedrals, but the store front chapels, the inner city, and extreme rural churches.

3. We devalue the people in a place
The first church I was called to pastor was a little place with 14 senior citizens left by the time I got there.  I was told by “the experts” that the most effective strategy was to drive off the people, close the doors, and re-open the church six months later with a new name.  They were willing to put their money where their mouth was and offer me a generous salary if I went with their logic.

But they couldn’t answer how these people would be cared for, where they would hear of God’s love.  I have since heard other leaders say it doesn’t matter; they will find some place to go, if they can’t travel to the new church plant, well they can go to some other church in their community.  These people of God didn’t matter, what mattered more were the resources they were hoarding, that they weren’t using. They didn’t see any value to them.  They didn’t see them as children of God, as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Where there’s is no prophetic vision, scriptures tell us, people will perish.  When we teach them that their church must leave a legacy, rather than have them share what God is doing, then that is all that is left.  A legacy.  We’ve robbed them of what is theirs in Christ Jesus.

4.  We dishonor God, and dismiss His promises
As I look at scripture, while the church is the people of God, there is always a special bond between the people and the land where they gather with God.  The promised land to Abraham, the altars of Jacob/Israel, the role of the tabernacle and then Solomon’s temple.  God always talked of a place where He would put His name, where He would gather His own.  The only time those places “closed” and something new was started was during times of sin and rebellion.  Times where people did what was right in their own eyes.  Times when the people forgot the promises of God, and leaned on their own strength and understanding.
While a church building today isn’t the same as the Temple – it is still dedicated and set aside for a purpose.  There are still those who are baptized there, where the Body and Blood of Christ is a feast of our communion with God.  Where we celebrate new life, both physical and spiritual, and where we give thanks for those who are part of us, who have died and gone home.

When we invest in the new, as if it is the best, if not only hope for the church, we dismiss God, and we discount people.

But what if we invested in these places, in the communities?  What if we sent pastors who would sacrifice and strive, who would guide and be patient?  What if we rededicated those buildings, and re-read the gospel as the Jews were told to do regularly.  What if we treasured what happened in those buildings, and invited people to join us there.  What if we realize God was with

What if we sent pastors who would sacrifice and strive, who would guide and be patient?  What if we rededicated those buildings, and re-read the gospel as the Jews were told to do regularly.  What if we treasured what happened in those buildings, and invited people to join us there.  What if we realize God was with us there, and put His name there for a purpose, for people?

I bet that would fulfill a different prophecy, and we would see that God doesn’t abandon a congregation, that God doesn’t forget His promises.

That God hears, and forgives, and reconciles and bless His people.  What if that vision were given, in such a way, that the people and the church didn’t perish?

Could we give that a try, rather than just abandoning people and planting new wildernesses?

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest – for these fields are still ready for harvesting..

The Repentant: King David


The Repentant

King David: Pride and the Altar

1 Chronicles 21:1-19

In Jesus Name

May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross!

This is not that story

As we hear the stories of the Repentant, the lives God would change so much that all heaven would rejoice, most people who know the Bible would expect me to bring up David at some point.

I won’t disappoint you.

Well, I will, because I am not going to talk about the little affair he had with Bathsheba, and killing her husband.  Simply because that sin, while horrible, doesn’t measure up to the sin of counting his soldiers, of counting the people God entrusted to His care.

Wait, are you saying that counting people is a grievous, horrendous sin?

Hmmm. Dane, have you counted how many people are here tonight?  If not, maybe you shouldn’t?

There are, and there are not, greater and lesser sins.  In this case, the sin was directly disobeying God, which adultery and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband also are.  SO in one way, the sins are equal. It is in their impact on others that these sins differ.

One affects two families and children.  That is the sin we know about, the story of lust and jealousy. This one has far more serious repercussions.  David chooses his punishment even, and even that stands out.  His sin, this time, affects 70,000 of the people for whom he was responsible.

70,000.

For disobeying God.

He was tempted by Satan, and he sinned gravely.

Innocent people had to die because of it.  Well, they were innocent of the sin David committed.

Just like every sin we commit has consequences that affect others.

Even though we might repent, even though we might ask forgiveness, the impact of our sin’s damage on others is felt.  Families are divided, friendship’s shattered, lives crushed, because we chose our way, rather than listen to God’s direction, to the life He clearly describes for us to live, that we might bless others.

Disobedience, which boils down to telling God that we know better than He does, that we should be God.
Distressed by the realization of the impact
David asked forgiveness, but there are days where we ask for forgiveness, and while we want to be forgiven, we think that is enough. We don’t always want reconciliation; we just want to be free from punishment.  We don’t always want to be repentant, and we just want to be sorry….

As David looks upon the innocent suffering, as David sees the Angel of Death ready to destroy his people, the reaction is different.  He is distressed by his sin, he realizes the consequence, hear His words,
“I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O LORD my God, let your anger fall against my family and me, but do not destroy your people.” 1 Chronicles 21:17 (NLT)

This is part of what repentance is, the distress of realizing the depth of our sin, and that sin isn’t victimless.  It is what drives us to confess our sins….and beg God to spare the innocent, even as David did.

(after this first half of the sermon, we have a time of silent confession and prayer, and express our hope in God, that is described in the Creed)

The Repentant

King David: Pride and the Altar

1 Chronicles 21:1-19

In Jesus Name

May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross

The Altar & the Promise

Even as David and leaders are face down, praying that God’s wrath will be limited to those who are guilty, there is a strong lesson in grace, a lesson that is overlooked.

You see, that place where the angel stands, the place where God commands the angel of death to stop, where he tells him it is finished, is a special place in Jewish history.

It is the temple mount, the very place in the temp that would be called the Holy of Holies.   A place of grace, a place where sin would be atoned for, with the blood, portraying the blood of Jesus, the innocent, holy Son of God, taking on the curse of sin, once and for all.  The plague would stop, the power of death would be shattered, and repentance, the transformation that occurs to us because of Jesus, is made sure.

For repentance is not just the feeling of sorrow, it is not even just the distress caused as we look at the effect of our sin, repentance is not just the removal of sin crushed hearts and minds, but it is effected by the blood of Christ, the love of God being poured out upon us.

You will notice that God ordered the stoppage before the repentance was complete, and that’s because of His desire to bring us back, the joy of the father seeing his prodigal son seeing the dust from his son’s feet in the distance.

I can’t make this point enough – our repentance, our realization of how badly sin has crushed us.as that repentance becomes real, as it occurs in even just one of us, the joy of heaven is beyond belief.  It is as if the entire company of heaven is looking done in wonder as God takes us and heals us.

A moment of great joy, a moment beyond our comprehension… a moment to find His peace and rest and healing… for like David, and Naaman and Josiah, we’ve become the Repentant.

AMEN!

 

Not Again! The Problem of Evil….in…


Devotional Thought of the Day:
21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.    Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)

But again I said, Who made me? Did not my God, Who is not only good, but goodness itself? Whence then came I to will evil and nill good, so that I am thus justly punished? who set this in me, and ingrated into me this plant of bitterness, seeing I was wholly formed by my most sweet God?

There is no doubt that the world can appear evil at times.  All we have to do is look at news, and whether local, national or international, we will hear of evil being done, sometimes even in the name of Jesus.

But the evil that is most ominous, that is the most dangerous is the evil that lies within our hearts. In the quotes above, we see Paul and Augustine reaching a level of transparency, a level of honesty, where the struggle becomes real.  Both are writing from the perspective of a believer, a believer deeply in the process of conversion, exhibiting what we call a repentant spirit; they are experiencing a transformation of their nature.  Repentance that allows them to face evil straight on, but not the evil external to their life.

It is, quite obviously, a pain=filled journey into the darkness of their souls, one that most of us do not want to participate in, and get anxious when someone else call us to make it.  We know we need to repent, but the hold that sin on us is great, or at least the appearance of the sin’s possession of us is great. 

We need to encounter that sin, a journey called penitence.  For until we do, we cannot see that the darkness, the sin, doesn’t have the grip on us that we think it does.  Until we hit the despair that Paul and Augustine encounter, we can’t really how desperate we are to escape sin’s hold on us.  Until we admit we are unclean, we can’t truly understand the joy of repentance, of finding the hope that removes the despair, the sin, the guilt and shame.

For there, as we encounter and face our sin, as we would “own” it, and take responsibility for it, we encounter the Cross as well.  We find that evil that we once tried to justify, that we once entered into proudly, be taken from us, and laid on Jesus.  That which caused us to despair is lifted from us; its hold on us shattered.  The damage it has done begins to heal, and we can learn to dwell in peace.

This is repentance; this is the transformation that Ezekiel describes as God taking our stone dead heart and replacing it with one that is alive, and which the Spirit breathes life through, as our lives are cleansed.  It is the repentance that Paul describes as a change of our mind , a being clothed with Christ, a change of our schematics, a being conformed to the image of Christ, which we reflect into the darkness of the world.

There is hope for dealing with evil, and it is finding the faith, the courage to cry out, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” and knowing He has, and does, and will.  And in faith and confidence, embracing the peace He calls us to in repentance.

Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

It’s Monday, do you know where your faith is?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2  Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3  Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4  And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (NLT)

” Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits.212 They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peace makers—whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed.213 In a word, “Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.””(1)

It may seem odd, to read the quotes I start my blog out with this morning.  One is about pastors and leaders in the church, and the other about every other believer, every other member of Christ’s people, also known as the church.  

But this is Monday, and these passages talk about our faith, the visible actions that result in trusting God.

For those in leadership, it means not to focus on the authority we think we’ve been given, but with the responsibility we have been given, to lead people towards Christ, to guide them into a relationship with Him, where the love they experience spills over into every part of their life, from the holiest to the darkest.  Maybe especially the darkest, for there the love of Christ transforms them, so that they begin to reflect His light even there.

The quote from Vatican II is also essential, for it well describes what the ordained are to model, the result of which is that people take on that same attitude of Jesus. For if we are to bear witness to the Resurrection, it is seen in our living the life of one who is united to Christ’s death and resurrection.

In this common life, there isn’t one of us strong enough, holy enough to do this on our own.  This is the result of trusting Jesus, of being in communion with Him, of trusting in Him.  That is faith, and as we do, we walk with Him into places of peace, places where He guides.

So go back up to the top – read the quotes again, and ask God, in faith, to transform you into Christ’s image.  It will change your Monday, I promise!

 

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

God’s Schematics, the Hope of our New Life in Christ


God’s Schematics

Phil. 3:17-4:1

I.H.S.

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the transformation that is making in your life.

It’s nearly 25 years since professional sports underwent a radical change in America, because of a partial quote.  A professional basketball player named Charles Barkley was quoted in 1993, saying, “I’m not a role model, just because I dunk a basketball.”

Like many quotes of the man named as “Sir Charles” (and quite a few other people, it was taken apart by the media. Many thought that he was saying he wasn’t responsible for living a life that others look up to when he was saying that parents should be the role models for their kids.

It didn’t matter, people accused him of not living up to the responsibility he had as a public figure. After all, many of us grew up with sports heroes, or military heroes, or even political heroes.  Since then, the short comings of many of the potential heroes of our children have felt no compulsion to be a role model.

Not just athletes, though, just about every vocation you imagine has determined that they are not to be a role model.

I understand.

It’s why I reluctantly preach on the passage today from the epistle reading.

It’s a scary thought to preach this,

17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine and learn from those who follow our example.

It is a heavy burden to be a role model, whether it is too a nation, a congregation, or to a child.

Even more, when what we are to model is a life that encourages them to strive to live a life God would call righteous, to live apart from sin and shame, a life where we love. A life where we even love our enemies.

How many of you are comfortable with people imitating you, when they will be judged by God for what they did, and didn’t do?

How many of you are comfortable with people imitating your faith, and the holiness of your thoughts and words?  Knowing that they will be responsible for those thoughts and words before God?

NO wonder people don’t want to be role models…

The Option?

The problem is that we are, and there are two kinds of role models out there.

The first kind Paul weeps over, and that gives you a hint about what the second kind is like.
He talks of their conduct being such that they are enemies of Jesus.  That they are on the course to destruction, on the road to hell.  What is their crime?  What is so evil about them?

Paul says their god; their idol is their appetite, not just as in what is for lunch, but their need to get what they want when they want it.  Whether it is food, or power, or sex, or money.  They consume, and use what they consume, rather than bless others with it.

He goes on to say that they brag; they are focused on shameful things, disgraceful things.  This is a little different than just desire because you can focus on things that are bad, not to enjoy them, but to condemn those who are caught up in them.  You get obsessed with evil or the conspiracies.  We can actually be obsessed with what we hate, to the extent that our desire to be free from it enslaves us.

The last thing that identifies someone as heading for destruction and hell is that they can only think about life on earth, they live for the moment, to enjoy life to its fullest because they don’t know anything else.  They can’t even imagine that life has eternal consequences, and that means that life is a do what feels good, or do what you think is correct.  This is the ultimate form of idolatry, as we put ourselves, our feelings, our logic and emotion as the final judge of what is right, and what is wrong.

It is these people that too often become role models because the burden seems to great, and those who should abdicate the responsibility.

The Grace of Transformation

Paul doesn’t leave us in that position; there is another group of people, those who have learned to follow Paul’s example, even as he followed the example of Jesus.

They are people who realize being a good example, being able to encourage others to imitate you, is not because your that good.  Rather it is because they need the hope you have found as God works in your life and through your life.

The hope of God coming to us, in our weakest, most sinful state and changing us,  I love the word for the how God takes and changes us.

Meta-schematizo

God changes our schematics, our wiring our blueprints.  Last week we talked about repentance being a change of mind, this week scripture talks of God changing us at a level that is so deep and so simple.  He changes us at a level that changes not just how we act, but how we think, subconsciously, consciously, how we plan and how we react.

This is what we need; we need to be that transformed, and God is working on it.  That is why Paul talks of us patterning our lives, living in symmetry with him, even as he lives in symmetry with Christ Jesus. This is what happens at the cross, as we died with Christ, and as we come alive in Him.

God is the potter; we are the clay.  He shapes us, transforming us from brokenness to Christlikeness, from concerned only about today, to living our life in expectation of our reunion with Him in heaven.  The Holy Spirit brings about these promises in our lives, as both God’s word and sacraments reveal to us His love, His promise, His faithfulness. That is what He does when He changes our schematics, when He brings us to repentance.  When He makes us role models for those who will follow us, not because of any other reason than we trust Him to keep His promises.

This is why we are here; this is why we invite people, to see God give us hope, to transform us, to make us like Jesus.

Which is why we worship and praise Him. AMEN!

What Are We Bringing Them To See?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

17 David also commanded all of the officials of Israel to help his son Solomon: 18 “Is not the LORD your God with you? Has he not given you rest on every side? Indeed, he has delivered the inhabitants of the land into my power, and the land is subdued before the LORD and his people.k 19 Therefore, devote your hearts and souls to seeking the LORD your God. Proceed to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, that the ark of the covenant of the LORD and God’s sacred vessels may be brought into the house built for the name of the LORD.” 1 Chron. 22:17–19  NAB-RE

995         A Christian always triumphs from the Cross, through his self-renunciation, because he allows God’s omnipotence to act.  (1)

As I read through the Old Testament, I am often amazed at how the kings and priests could allow, never mind encourage their people in idolatry.  To think that they would replace the things God directed to be set in the temple, and replace its idols, seems beyond belief.

Until I consider the worship wars and realize that both sides of the war are struggling not to see God glorified, but rather their idols. They want what brings them comfort and peace; they want what they want, what they think has the answers to their problems, the solution for their lives.  They will fight unto death to see their idols glorified and put in place in the house of the Lord.

It doesn’t matter whether it is the organ and cantor, or the praise team and guitars and drums.  People aren’t hyper-focused on these things because they are adiaphora, they are focusing and fighting for them because they have become their gods, their idols, the source of their comfort and peace.

Except they aren’t the source of the peace, they are just a conduit for it. the means by which the grace and peace were revealed.

Instead of thanking God, we defend the pipeline that brought us to this place.

Instead of bringing others to meet our Lord and Savior, we bring them to see our contemporary service, or our faithful traditional service, to hear relevant sermons, or to hear good doctrinal teaching.

We aren’t called my friends, to making ourselves comfortable in church.  Or being comfortable with our church services.  In fact, we need to expect a little discomfort, just as we expect discomfort at the gym.  Our selfish nature, our sinful nature, what scripture calls “the old Adam” needs to be curbed, reigned in, killed off.   So that we can see the life we have in Jesus Christ.  The wonderful, amazing, real comfort, peace-that-the-world-can’t-know-or understand the life that we have, when we are united with Christ.

There are 1002 reasons why a visitor will come to church.  They can range from a sincere desire to find God, to looking for hope in a broken world, to looking for healing, or to save their marriage; to thinking they might meet a potential spouse, to plain old curiosity.  It is usually because you asked them, not because of the reputation of the pastor.

For you my friend, there is only one reason why you want them to come, the same reason you should desire to be here.

To encounter the God, who comes to you, who gives you eternal hope, who forgives your sin, who walks with you every day.  A God, who doesn’t abandon you, and won’t abandon those you love to sin and shame, but instead comes to you, heals you and promises you life eternal.  That’s whom we want them to encounter; that’s why we want them to join us at church.

So invite them to come, to cry out with you, “Lord have mercy”, and to hear the answer from the cross…

I have…

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4024-4025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

the Repentant


Naaman’s Sin
2 Kings 5:1019  Part I

In Jesus Name

May you hear God’s call to repentance…until you answer it with joyous expectation!

It is one of those things they tell you when you are trained to help people.  Expect the backlash, even hatred, when you tell them what they don’t want to hear, but desperately need to hear.  It may be the rehabilitation therapist who pushes you or the doctor who orders that invasive test that we only see as uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Lifeguards are told to expect it when saving the life of someone who is drowning.  To the point where the technique of knocking the drowning person unconscious is practiced.

Too bad they don’t have a similar technique for prophets and pastors when we are called to do that which is uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Like calling a person to repentance, or calling them to let God heal their hearts, souls, and lives.

Like Naaman in the reading this evening.

A powerful general, in fact, Naaman is the one, the armies of Israel, feared more than any other.  This isn’t just the equivalent to ISIS, but the equivalent to Hitler’s best generals.  A man feared, honored, respected.  Enough so that a King would call for peace so that he could be healed by the God of his enemy.

It’s all set up, healing has been promised, not just a procedure recommended, but after all the trips, after all the investment and travel is made, Naaman’s sinful pride reacts.

10  But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” 11  But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! 12  Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.    2 Kings 5:10-12 (NLT)

Do you believe this man?  He has been promised complete healing, absolutely complete healing, and he rejects it because he doesn’t like what God calls him to do. Instead, he wants to rely on his own wisdom, his own strength and do it himself.

I mean, who does he think he is, to bargain with God?

I mean, it’s not like he’s an even a believer, he’s not even Lutheran.  Why does he think he knows better than God?  Who does he think he is, to say those other rivers are better than the Jordan? Who is he to get mad at God and storm off?  Really???

What kind of self-righteous sinner is he?  The worst of the worst, to turn away angrily from the loving mercy of God our Father…

Yes, he is the worst kind of sinner, the same sort of rebellious sinner as you and I, and the rest of the sinners in the world.

We do the same thing when we ask why we have to repent, or why we have to obey commands which we don’t like.  I mean, how many of us really like and eagerly obey the command to love our enemies and pray for those who would persecute us?

Or how many of us understand the mind of God when he tells Peter to repent and be cleansed of your sin, and be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

We don’t, so we argue that our sin isn’t as bad as theirs, or that it’s not that bad of a sin, that we are just doing fine spiritually, that there is nothing to repent of.

You might even get mad at me, when I remind you that there is, or you might not like it when Chris plays that song, that reminds you that you need to have your heart and soul and mind healed.

But you do, he does, I do….

But we need to the Spirit to work in us, to guide our confession and prayer, to lay all this sin before God… and that is what we shall do right now.

(time of confession, followed by reading of the gospel and a sung Creed)

Naaman’s Sin
2 Kings 5:1019  Part II 

Peter’s epistle tells us that God is patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We see this in the passage, as first the slave girl to a general comes to him with the hope of a cure.  A slave girl, addressing the top general of the land?

Then, as he stormed off angrily, so violently that he was going to miss the healing God has promised, his officers were used by God to call him to repentance.  For those of you in the service, does anyone just walk up to the commanding general and tell him he was wrong?  They did, they reasoned with him, and he heard the call to hear God, and he listened and obeyed.

And God healed Him.  God had mercy on him and transformed him, just as God promised through Elisha.

It cost him nothing to be transformed, the man of God didn’t even want an honorarium.

Something more incredible happened than the healing.  Hear Naaman’s words,

Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. 2 Kings 5:15 (NLT)

That is the gospel that is repentance; that is the transformation that happens when God works in our life when we trust Him.  Naaman came to repentance, to the realization that we aren’t God, that God is not to be manipulated, questioned or controlled. Instead, we embrace Him and become calmed by His love.

Naaman tried to honor God, to give him something back, through the prophet.  When that happened, he did something odd, he took home some dirt, a trunk or two full.  Something that would bring home the memory, and help him be humble, to help him remember that God is in charge. Seems like an odd thing to bring home, doesn’t it?

We need such reminders, both of our need to be humble, and of the grace of God, which brings us to wholeness.  We need to celebrate the joy of repentance, of restoration, of reconciliation.  This is why we remember our baptism, why we celebrate the Lord’s supper, why we gather together.  To be reminded of His presence, and the joy of God’s work in our lives.

Can you imagine Naaman’s words upon arriving home?  Hey Honey, I’m home, and you will never guess, not only am I healed, I brought home some…dirt!  For the God of Israel is the true God, the God who cares for His people!

And something else, the blessing of the prophet, who said, Go in peace.

And now, as one of the repentant, he did

Amen.

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