Monthly Archives: June 2021

The Value of a Hug

Devotional Thoughts for our Day:

11  No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:11 (NLT2)

On the day of the Innocents12 [Martin Luther said], “If God were to withhold our necessities from us for a year, what a cry there would be throughout the world! But now that he lavishes them upon us we’re all ungrateful, and there is no one who gives thanks.”

COVID has shown us, very clearly, what we’ve taken for granted. Simple things that were part of our lives, that we have had to not engage in, or at least we were supposed to to avoid.

Among those things are hugs (and strong firm handshakes for those who are afraid of hugs)

There is something about them that go far beyond the physical contact. It can bring comfort, peace, the assurance that we are not alone. It can be the hug given to those who grieve, the hug given joy in celebration of a victory, the hiug given to someone you haven’t seen for a while. Even the holding the hand of someone who has been broken by life….as you silently pray for them.

We’ve lost this necessity for a year, and its loss is visible.

Yet as social distancing becomes less a thing, as people return to churches, as life begins anew, hugs and handshakes and contact will come back into play.

But will we continue to appreciate them?

During this last year, God has been faithful, and we’ve been able to put our trust in Him. He has sustained us trhough things we could not have imagined. He has been our hope thourgh this all, for everything else was stripped away, or simply was a shadow of what it was in the past.

And so we trust in Him….in His unfailing love.

And as we receive His body to eat, His blood to drink, in awe consider the closeness and contact He desires with you!..

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 131.

Renewing the Spirit: A Sermon and Service Based on 2 Cor. 4:13-15:1

Renewed in Spirit
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you life to begin again, regularly!

  • Context!

@@ St. Paul wrote, “But we continue to preach..” 

We continue to speak about God he says, and that is all well and good! But to understand that comment in all of its power, we need to understand why the “but” was there. And to do that, I need to go back a few verses.

8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NLT2)

Pretty exhausting week St. Paul and his crew had. Not quite as bad as dealing with COVID, but still pretty bad, don’t you think?

The question is how do you keep talking about Jesus, when in the midst of all of that turmoil?  Perplexed, stalked, knocked down, suffering, living under constant danger, dying, enduring masks and not being able to give or receive hugs.

And yet, Paul is able to keep on talking about Jesus… and since the word there is to talk – and not proclaim, it is something we can do as well….

but how?

  • The Psalmist’s real words (Law)

@@  The first step is to understand what Paul and the Psalmist meant when talking about faith in God. Paul wrote, 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”

That sounds pretty good – he just pushed through, or maybe muddled through, depending on how exhausted he was. He just kept speaking, or so it seems.

That works well into our upbringing. Most of us were just trained to keep on working until the work was done.  Didn’t matter how tired, how many times the computer deleted our files, or what was going on – we were to get the work done! And get it done right!

If we check the Psalmists words though, it clarifies things. What the psalmist wrote was,

“ I believed in You, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, LORD.’” Psalm 116:10

Notice the difference? The Psalmist that Paul agrees with is not our there on his own strength, he is leaning on God. He, like Jesus in the garden, is going to the Father in prayer, and sharing the aches and pains, the anxieties, and the doubts.

To try and do it all on our own is sin, and act of pride. It is telling God, even if unintentionally, that we don’t want to walk with Him, that we want to do it on our own.

And then, rather than finding a second wind, a renewed Spirit, we burn out.

But St. Paul and the Psalmist cry out to God, using God’s personal name, sharing the brokenness and burden.

And that changes everything, for as we depend on God, our hearts and souls are renewed, even if our bodies are failing.

  • Why We don’t Give up

In the midst of the brokenness, St Paul writes something that is truly amazing,

14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

The promise of the resurrection from death is so powerful, that it reinvigorates the physically, mentally and spiritually broken disciple. This is why he can keep speaking about God, because of this incredible, awesome promise!

I can share from my own story, this week I was pretty tired twice.  The first time I was revived by the pictures than Amanda, our banker, put up on Facebook the pictures of her daughter’s baptism right here, 5 years ago. ( I did needle her a little about bringing her back more often) Another day, I received an email from Colleen – about the miraculous healing that her friend’s wife has had, a lady we’ve been praying for.

That means far more to a tired pastor, or elder or deacon than giving us a million dollars, right Bob?

This is the power of seeing God at work in and through us, the work of the holy Spirit. That is how our life is re-invigorated, our spirits renewed, as we see the work of the Spirit, drawing people closer and closer to Jesus.

  • Everything else is less

That is why Paul can say,

17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

No masks or social distancing in heaven, no getting crushed, or driven to despair, never abandoned by God, just simply the life of Christ seen in our Bodies as the effect of our dying with Him, and rising with Him.

Nothing else compares…. For we are with Him. And being with Him, aware of our presence, crying out to Him when wea re struggling, we find a peace that passes all understanding, for we are His.  AMEN!

When Trusting God is Challenging…

Devotional thought for this day:

31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32  Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. 33  For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. Lamentations 3:31-33 (CSBBible)

O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee?

This is not the only time where the Scriptures declare God can cause suffering.

Jeremiah is clear, God doesn;t like afflicting or causing us to suffering, Yet trusting Him when it happens is certainly a challenge. Especially when the lesson is not for those who are suffering, but for those who are simply witnessing the suffering.

It is one thing if we deserve the suffering, or the person suffering does. We deserve enough of it, we need to be disciplined, in a way that only God can. That is, God disciplines us with great love, and with the specific aim of causing growth and restoration, to draw us back into the realization that He is present in our lives.

But what about when the lesson is for someone else, when our suffering serves as an example for those who are not suffering? The story of Job, the suffering of Paul, the embracing suffering of Eric Liddell and so many martyrs, people whose lives were cut short or damaged. How do we justify their suffering?

Or how are we able to trust in God, when it is our turn to suffer?

The only way I know, it to look to the heart of Jesus. We must allow the Holy Spirit to drive our intimacy with God so deep that we are sure of His love and care! We need to know this even as Jesus knew that the feeling of the Father’s abandonment would lead to the greatest of praise! (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) Intinacy with God causes us not to trust Him in the moment of suffering, but to rejoice in it!

This is why I love the altar, the place where peace is so clear, as the Lord’s Supper is being given, a momnet in time where we realize that Christ suffered for us, and that sharing in His sufferings is sharing with Him.

This doesn’t make the suffering easier…the pains still are there, the exhaustion, the mental anguish, and yet in its midst, there is peace.

For He is there… and seeing Him with us, we find ourselves in peace…..

And I will take that peace, that peace beyond all understanding, over things going “perfectly”.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 301.

He is Qualified! (for what?): A sermon on Psalm 29

He is Qualified… (for what?)
Psalm 29

In Jesus Name

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and cause you to dwell in His peace!

  • We have an applicant!

As we look at Psalm 29 this morning, I want us to consider it as we would a job application.

Our question for the day? Is the person being presented to us a good fit for the position we need to be filled in our church? Are they needed in our lives?

This may seem an odd or different way to look at this scripture. Still, I think in the end, it will prove an important point, that God is qualified., incredibly qualified to be a productive part of Concordia’s team.

  • The References ( What do people say about him?)

When I look at a job application, I want to know what people say about the applicant. Is he or she worth interviewing? I may even call their references and former employers before interviewing them. Even in a church, this is true. Do they stand out, does the employer or reference have to think about what they are going to say, or immediately praise them.

Or what if they have to think about it for a moment…. Trying to remember who this is?

Well, King David had no problem serving as a reference for God.  In verse 1 & 2, he says,

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings! Honor the Lord for his glory and strength! Honor the Lord for the glory of his name! Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness!

David isn’t just trying to get the people of Israel to praise God. He is trying to get all of creation to do so!

I don’t think you could get better references, as the angels praise him for his power, ability, and ability to lead. Those are the concept behind glory and strength, splendor.

So, God, the Lord God Almighty, has a solid reputation with those who

  • Look at these qualifications!

But David doesn’t leave it at the references,

He will then spend a significant amount of time talking about the qualifications and abilities God has, just by the sound of his voice.

First, David explains it in theoretical terms,
3  The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The LORD thunders over the mighty sea. 4  The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. Psalm 29:3-4 (NLT2)

This talks about sheer power! God’s voice so powerful it can divide the sea, as it did in Moses’ day, and again as Joshua crosses the Jericho River in flood stage! God’s power, simply the power of His voice, creates, Divides, and destroys – as He wills, as He desires!

I don’t think we truly understand the connection between power and ability – but if we are looking for someone to be here, working alongside us, knowing God’s power refers to His ability to work, is something we need to understand.

God has all the ability; we see that as the power of His voice is further described.

5  The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. 6  He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. 7  The voice of the LORD strikes with bolts of lightning. 8  The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9  The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare!”
Psalm 29:5-9 (NLT2)

If we weren’t sure of God’s ability and power before, this should do it!

You want a few tables moved around?  It shouldn’t be a problem for the God who can make Mount Baldy and Mount San Jacinto play hopscotch. … Hmm, do they still play hopscotch in schools today?

This is actually all child’s play for God, but it gets us thinking about how powerful He is…!

Qualified to do what, though?

As we’ve been considering God’s qualifications to be part of the team at Concordia, there is one thing we haven’t considered yet.  His role.

I mean, we’d probably let him have any role He wants, right? 

But a good manager helps someone find their perfect role in an organization, if at all possible!

But Psalm 29 includes a description of the job that God wants.

11  The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11 (NLT2)

There is it… there is what God wants to do to the people of our community through this church.

The Hebrew is exciting in both these words; the strength He wants to give them is His strength! It is the word for protection, protecting them from everything that would assault and stress them out. 

It is like God taking us in His hand and protecting them as He deals with our enemies.

He’s taking on the sin that has so easily attached itself to us and freeing us from it.

The second term Is to bless us with peace, to bless us with serenity—something we so desperately need during this broken, messed up world and in the corner of it.

All this work happens because Jesus was lifted up, as it says in the gospel. “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15  so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

That is what happened at the cross! That is where His voice was heard, as He pleaded with the Father to forgive us… for we don’t really know what we have done.

That is where our salvation took place. That is where God’s voice was heard; that is where He took us in His   hands and gave us peace….

That is where He proved what He is doing here in and through Concordia in this community.

He is qualified to be our God….AMEN!

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