Monthly Archives: January 2022
How do I Get Like That??
† I.H.S. †
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform us, that our lives are lived in praise of God!
- Intro – I so wanna be this excited about my faith!
When I read the Psalm preparing for this week, I immediately wished I could always be this excited about my relationship with God.
The second was to blast the translators for missing out on their punctuation. I mean, this is how they wrote it…. (read flatly)
“15 I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.”
Compare that to this (pumped up!)
15 I will tell everyone about your righteousness! Though I am not skilled with words, all day long, I will proclaim your saving power!
How I wish I could, every waking moment of the day, find the energy to be like that. Even more, I want my sermons to reveal the amazing love that God has for you, that that was your attitude and behavior.
- Young and Old
One of the lines I really want to look at in this passage is verses 17-18. Hear those again,
17 O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. 18 Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
Again, I love the energy of the Psalmist and the idea that God has been teaching us from our youngest moments. For it is often in our youth, or our earliest days walking with God, that telling others about the “wonderful things God is doing” occurs. That is an amazing time in our faith, as our dependence on God just soars.
- Present things – aren’t the future –
But there is the second half of it there – which is all too real. As we go through life, there are times when we might wonder if God has abandoned us. Times where our understanding of God wavers and where we don’t see His power and mighty miracles so easily.
Where did God go?
Why don’t we see Him at work in this?
And while we respond “and also with you,” we aren’t so sure He is with us. The Psalmist was there – and prayed accordingly.
That is why He could also rejoice – for he knew, “20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth!21 You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again!
That is the kind of trust, the kind of faith that we should have! Not the type that denies the downtimes exists but embraces them – knowing the promises of God for the future and for our eternity.
That is trusting God. That is finding joy knowing His promises overwhelm the present challenges that we face. God will restore us, even as He restored Job. And He will comfort us, His presence there, always.
That is what I desire each of you have, even more than I want it for myself. The confidence that allows you to look past these days of COVID, these days of uncertainty, knowing the love of God will sustain you.
- Look to His wonders – to His faithfulness – to His righteousness
For it is by knowing His promises that we can join in worship with the Psalmist,
22 Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises! O my God. I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel! 23 I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me! 24 I will tell you about your righteous deeds all day long!
In the adult Bible Study, we will also talk about this as we end chapter 8. Promises that God will use everything to bless us, and nothing can separate us from God. But that is the same focus David has here…
That God will be dependable, that what He has promised – He will do!
And that realization should get us excited… We can sing and shout for God has made us His own!
He has done what is right, and He has made us His own children. As we are invited and drawn into His presence, we know that that is the purpose of this sermon, this service.
To help you know this. God loves you, has saved you, and you are welcome in His presence, both now and for eternity.
And knowing this, may you realize that you dwell in peace, even though you can’t explain how wonderful it is. And until we are before His throne, that peace of heart and mind is guaranteed to us in Jesus. Amen!
Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus…
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT2)
After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
In the beginning, emotional hang-ups are the chief obstacle to the growth of our new self because they put our freedom into a straight jacket. Later, because of the subtle satisfaction that springs from self-control, spiritual pride becomes the chief obstacle. And finally, reflection of self becomes the chief obstacle because this hinders the innocence of divine union.… Human effort depends on grace even as it invites it. Whatever degree of divine union we may reach bears no proportion to our effort. It is the sheer gift of divine love.
In the 70s and 80s, the church talked about the need for discipleship.
Then in the 90s, authors encouraged our Spiritual Growth. After the turn of the century, Spiritual Formation became one option; having a life coach became another. Sadly, most people have left the seats of their churches, looking for something outside the church that the church was always meant to provide.
The Apostle Paul talks about it here as having “right standing with Him.” He speaks of His people having been given His glory. He doesn’t talk of them attaining it; God doesn’t talk of giving them 4 steps to spiritual fulfillment or 10 stages of a spiritual journey. God does the work, choosing, calling, justifying, sanctifying, and sharing His glory with them.
Please understand me; I love the work of spiritual formation, discipleship, and guiding people in their spiritual growth. But I think it starts and finds its power in the gathering God’s people, in revealing to them God’s love for us. That is the purpose of Absolution, of the public reading of the word of God, of that thing we call the sermon, the homily, or “the message.” And by all means, that is the reason for regularly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
It works, not by stages or steps, but much as Balthasar notes occurs the same way a baby learns to respond to their momma. We experience God’s glorious love, we experience His presence and welcome, and we learn to love. We learn what we can’t understand and explain. The glory, the love, and peace of being accepted into God’s presence.
That is why I think Keating is correct in his analysis – that our constant reflection hinders our growth. Our desire for a diagnosis or a spiritual progress report hinders us because it takes us away from the innocence of looking to God and seeing Him at work in and around us. Of simply kneeling there at the altar and knowing He is there. By taking our eyes off of Him, we neglect the union with God that leads us to spiritual maturity spiritual completeness.
Am I saying the church service is enough? That all we have to do is sit there passively? Of course not – but it starts there and is nourished there, and what drives us in our daily lives centers there – for there we experience His love together….
Lord, help us to innocently receive Your role in our lives, as You cause us to dwell in You. Sharing in Your glory, in Your peace, and Your love. May those who lead and shepherd Your people see Your work in those You gather together…. AMEN!
Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
“It was by faith that...” Hebrews 11:4,5,7,8,11,17,29,21,22,23,24,27,28, 29,30, 31,33,
The astonishing wonderment is that God condescends to place his consoling, comforting word on human lips like ours. And so we, like the prophets of old, open up our mouths to speak that word with the confidence and trust that it does what it says. We have an incredible front row seat seeing God at work as his word has its full effect, creating order out of chaos and bringing solace in the midst of horrific hurt and bitter pain.
But the person of faith who can go alone into the wilderness and get on his or her knees and command heaven—God is in that. The preacher who will dare to stand and let his preaching cost him something—God is in that. The Christian who is willing to put himself in a place where he must get the answer from God and God alone—the Lord is in that!
“it was by faith…that”
Over and over the writer of Hebrews calls our attention to those people who had the ability to depend on God. They weren’t heroes, they weren’t especially holy, if you define holiness as being somehow perfect in your attitudes and actions.
They were like us, wounded by sin, broken by this world. Men and women who doubted who they were, and yet, found a refuge in God’s presence, even as they experienced His love. Within that place of peace, they were compelled to act. They were guided in the “that” by the Holy Spirit.
That guidance isn’t listened to because of the strength of our character – but because the Holy Spirit has been revealed in our weakness, in our wanderings, n our time in the wilderness. Tozer talks about it as finding ourselves in a place where we must hear from God. Those times seem more and more frequent presently than they did in the past, or perhaps they were always there, and I am simply realizing it sooner.
But out of those places comes the amazing things we witness! Senkbeil’s words for pastors are true for all people. There are times that we know are words don’t address the issue as fully a we desire, yet they bring peace, they help the people we minister to in the midst of their wilderness, in the place were they have no option but to trust the God who is there… who sent us to demonstrate His love and presence.
That is the ministry of the church – that is what we have freely received, and freely give. This ability to trust God, to depend on Him, is priceless. It is even more amazing when we realize it is what He desires.
May we learn to rejoice with Him, as this faith grows deeper and deeper… and causes us to do that, and that…by faith.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
I WILL NOT! I CAN NOT!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ remind you constantly of God’s desire to be part of your life.. and His committing to be part of it.
- What does God Look like?
It is one of those questions that pastors cannot honestly answer, but we get asked on occasion….
What does God the Father look like?
Here are a couple of paintings of Him, most from the renaissance.
Look at them carefully; they all show an old man with a beard and a receding hairline that is grey and white.
But there is one thing I notice above all – that these pictures don’t show God with a smile; they don’t show him with His eyes lit up with joy, with the determination to see His people come from home
Especially this last one, I am not sure what He had for dinner or whether He was watching me this week. He looks either a bit sick to his stomach or severely disappointed and sad…
Today’s sermon is based on the Old Testament passage, where Isaiah’s words paint a far different picture…
Hear again how the passage begins,
Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch!
That doesn’t sound like it comes from the mouth of the One pictured in the painting. Neither does the last verse of the reading,
Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride!
That is the picture I want you to take with you today… that is the picture I want you to share with others. The image of God who loves you so much that it is indescribable…. Except to know He rejoices when you are in His presence.
- Never again… (which means there was a time)
As Isaiah goes on, these words just stuck in my mind,
3 The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land!
We have to read this, knowing the past, but realizing the truth of the present. We have been saved, God has got us in His grasp, but there is a “before,” a state we were in, where God says, “never again!”
As we go into it, it reminds me of Paul’s words to Titus,
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—Titus 3:3-4 (NLT2)
We know this “but” is coming, but part of understanding who God is, is realizing in the midst of our sin – in the midst of our sin that will leave us feeling abandoned and desolate, there is God, saying,
Because I love you, I will not keep still, because My heart yearns for you – I cannot be silent.
I will not! I cannot!
In the middle of it all, God is there; He’s always promised to be there! Right in the middle of our worst battles with sin, He was there, relentless working to get to the point He descried with these words…
I will not stop interceding for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness.
That is where God the Father’s heart is…what His desire is,
That is why He sent Jesus, while we were sinning, to rescue us, and still does. That is our hope for those caught in our sin… that is our hope when we struggle with temptation…. That is our hope until we hear God’s voice… calling us…
- Delighted & Committed
And look what He calls us…
Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride.
I would translate these names for you, these names God calls us. I think most of the translations are more than a bit weak in this…
The first – the “City of God’s delight,” Hephzibah – is simply the “one I find joy with….”
That is you, the one who God enjoys being in the presence of…. Imagine that…
God’s greatest joy is found when we realize we dwell in His presence.
The second… Ba’aulu – is just as profound.
It means, “You are the one I am committed to..forever.”
Bride doesn’t quite say that… this idea of God committing Himself to you, forever.
I gave you the part of Paul’s words to Titus… let me give you what comes after the “but.”
4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
Eternal life with Him, the LORD God who finds His greatest joy when His children are with Him, who has committed Himself to us… to make us holy and perfect, for that is who His children, His beloved are…
That’s why Paul’s words end with this…
8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT2)
So let’s help the whole world know this… God finds great joy in being with us and commits Himself to us, And He will not, He cannot stop until He makes this true for all His children. So let’s help the whole world know… AMEN!
Thoughts encouraging our devotion to Jesus… as we are reminded He is devoted to us!
And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:8-9 NLT
Nor can godly minds be fortified against despair unless they think that through mercy on account of Christ and not on account of the law they with certainty have both righteousness and eternal life. This conviction consoles, uplifts, and saves godly minds.
It seems to me that having watched the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea, the descendants of Abraham should have been ready to see God defeat the giants. That they would be prepared to follow him, abiding in His presence.
My view is unrealistic, those people struggled just like we do today, and while they had the pillar of fire and the cloud with them, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
It is when we forget He has declared us righteous and given us the promise of everlasting life that our eyes look to what they see below.
Too often, we forget Jesus and His promise to never abandon us. That is when our anxiety runs rampant, when our fears overwhelm us when we fall, as Israel did.
This is nothing new; Solomon wrote, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
There is the key to surviving when we know we are up to the challenge. It sounds so easy, so elementary, to simply know that God has promised our righteousness and our eternal welcome into His presence. A presence we boldly enter because of Jesus and the cross. If He has made that sure, then the rest of life’s challenges become acceptable, tolerable, endurable.
One last thing – even thought those people in Numbers did not enter the Holy Land in this life, they were still God’s people. Christ would die for their sins as well as ours. While they didn’t see the promises in this life, He never left them, never stopped providing manna for them, and walked with them through it all Even in ths midst of their wounds… He was there… and at the cross, they truly became righteous, and entered into His rest.
He is here, and will be during our journey, until we are home…with Him. He will walk with us, through our troubled times, and He will bring us home. For we are the people He has declared righteous….and He is faithful to that promise.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV Justification, Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are! Numbers 13:11 NLT
27 On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Mark 14:27-28 (NLT2)
Thus the saintly Job said after he had lost his children and all his property, “The Lord gave it, and the Lord has taken it away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Job, indeed, was a just man from whom no one could take anything because he had nothing that he called his own. God declares in Job 41 [:11], “Whatever is under the heaven is mine; I created it.” Why, then, do you boast about your possessions and wail about an injustice done you? If anyone touches your honor, your reputation, your possessions, or anything else that you have, he is encroaching not upon what is yours, but what is Christ’s! (Martin Luther)
Twice men believed they had lost it all, that they were capable of nothing.
The first time, they were going against giants. They forgot about the promises of God and HIs very presence at the tabernacle. They were not ready to take on the challenge, and they would choose to enter 40 years of trials rather
than recognize that God was there…
The second time is similar and even prophesied. The apostles would see Jesus taken – and even before the cross they ran away, they denied him; they could not stand beside Jesus, as they believed they should. They wanted to be there,
to stand with Him, even against the threat of death. They, too, failed, overwhelmed by their lack of strength and the conviction to hold to the One they trusted in…
So why do we think we shall be any better?
Actually, I think we can do better, but not by the strength of our conviction. Instead, we need to acknowledge not only our weakness but God’s wisdom.
Notice that I did not write God’s strength?
In our weakness, as Luther notes, everything is actually God’s. What He gives, what He takes away, He does out of His love and care for us. He makes a decision – in our favor! That we don’t understand that is challenging, very challenging.
Too many times in my life, I have second-guessed God, complained to Him (and to some others), and struggled with what has happened. Have a situation or two (or five!) like that going on right now! There is nothing I can do to change the situation except turn to God.
I wish I could say that is my first reaction, but like Israel and Peter, my faith in God, my trust in His wisdom waivers. Eventually, I will, as Israel would enter the Holy Land, as Peter would respond to Jesus’s love. At this point in my life, I know how things will end… that I will remember God is God, and He loves me. That doesn’t make the present battle more palatable – I just now have to depend on God’s love to endure… for I don’t walk alone. It may feel like I
do, but that feeling is one I have learned by experience is false. He is here… I’ve seen it too often in the past.
He is here… He is far greater than what oppresses and opposes me. Romans 8:28 and 8:38 are still promised….
If you are struggling in the darkness, I pray for you –that you don’t beat yourself up for not being faithful enough to shatter the darkness by yourself. Look to Jesus, remember the cross – where you were united to Him…where He claimed you as the Father’s child. Breathe deeply of His peace, let His love wash over you. And know there is a morning coming… where you will be able to see God’s love clearly – and how He cared for you through the night.
He is with you… and also with me.
So whatever happens, let us learn to say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Thoughts encouraging us to be devoted to God.
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34 NLT
43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44 NLT
God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.
Furthermore, we have frequently shown what we mean by faith. We are not talking about an idle knowledge, such as is also to be found in the devils, but about a faith that resists the terrors of conscience and which uplifts and consoles terrified hearts.
There is nothing more affirming, in fact, than the experience of God’s presence. That revelation says as nothing else can, “You are a good person. I created you and I love you.” Divine love brings us into being in the fullest sense of the word. It heals the negative feelings we have about ourselves.
I think the teacher of religious law knew he was right, but he didn’t understand why he was right.
The old lady knew why she did what she did but didn’t know she was right. She just did it.
My quest as a pastor is to help you, my friend, know both sides of the coin. To help you discover what to do in life and why to do it. I want you to love God with everything you are and to do so realizing His presence and love for you.
The quote from the Book of Concord shows why we should depend on God. In those times where problems and anxieties overwhelm us, our dependence on God reminds us He is our Comforter. In those times, we find peace in His presence as we take a breath, and in that still moment, remember the cross and His love.
The old woman knew that – and she responded with everything she had. She knew God loved her; she knew something special about being in God’s presence – so she gave. The idea of affirmation was not on her mind, but it was what was happening…
More often than not, I dwell in Tozer’s spot – I know I should be there; I know I should desire His presence and be more aware of it than I am. I struggle like the teacher of the law- knowing what should be but forgetting why I need to love God with everything. I need, like Tozer, like the teacher of the law – to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, to desire God’s presence more than a bride can not wait to see her husband-to-be on her wedding day.
It may sound self-serving, but there is nothing in our lives that compares to being in God’s presence – it is where we find peace, it is where we find love, and therefore meaning to our lives.
A meaning that goes beyond this life into the next, which is God’s desire in the first place…
To have us with Him – because He wants us there…
This is why we love Him… this is why we can give up everything… even our 2 cents.
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Lift Up Your Eyes and See!
They are coming to you!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to shine… as you reflect God’s love and glory into the darkest aspects of life!
- Epiphany is not a one-time event!
On January 6, the church throughout the world celebrated the feast of Epiphany.
Simply put, it is celebrating the recognition that the light of God’s glory entered the world, and the prophecy from Isaiah 60, read a few moments ago, was fulfilled.
My question for you is…
Before I ask it, I want you to know it will tell me a lot about this church, its trust in God, and its future.
It’s all on the line; everything depends on your answer to this question!
When was the prophecy of Epiphany fulfilled?
How many people think it was totally fulfilled when the caravan of wise men from the east showed up?
It’s a decent thought – but the answer is wrong…
If the church is to grow – it has to understand Epiphany better!
Good thing we can take care of this – this very morning!
Epiphany isn’t one day in history to be remembered and preached about once a year. It didn’t stop 2000 years ago when the crew loaded up the camels like a band packing up from a concert.
Epiphany is an ongoing, everyday celebration. The more you realize it, the more this church will grow, as the glory of God shines from this place, for God’s glory, reflected through your lives… will change this community. For Epiphany – the light of the glory of Christ – will draw people to Him.
You will see it as you grow in your awareness of His glory in your life.
- The Darkness
Isaiah gives a great idea of what life is like before the light of Christ shining forth from our lives,
He describes it as a “thick darkness covering the earth” and a “thick darkness covering the people.” The idea is the kind of darkness that sucks the air and all hope from you.
We have another name for that darkness – it is sin. The damage it does is brutal as it destroys everything, relationships, families, our sanity. Sin creates anxieties that aren’t normal – it causes us even to fear death.
In fact, many of us react pretty negatively when our particular sin is confronted when we are revealed to be in the darkness….
If you don’t think so, come on up, and we’ll take you through the ten commandments and see your reaction!
We don’t even need 10; listen carefully to these words from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession…
For, there is no law that accuses us more, that does more to make the conscience enraged against the judgment of God, than this summary of the whole law, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” For who among the saints other than Christ dares to boast of having satisfied this law?
I love how the reformed noted that – confronting our sin causes us to be enraged – as if God doesn’t have the right to confront us and bring us to healing. We react – How dare God show us that we don’t love Him more than everything else! Doesn’t he realize there are far worse sinners over there in Azusa, or maybe over there in LaVerne…
That shows how powerful sin is – theologically, we will all agree that we are sinners. But if we dare deal with sin… its darkness consumes us, just as it did prior to the beginning of Epiphany.
The change begins…
That consuming darkness is only brought up in the Old Testament to talk about the glory of the Lord shattering that light. Initially, this refers to Jesus, and the star focuses on Him, which guided the wise men to Him….
But it likewise is God’s light dawning in our lives, as we are drawn to Jesus.
For when the Lord is with you…… there is Christ, His glory, His love.
That is what I mean when I say Epiphany didn’t end when the last wise men departed. As long as Christ is Immanuel – as long as He is here, then the light of God’s glory illuminates our life.
So when scripture talked of Jesus, saying He will “see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and exult,” it is talking about us as well!
Our eyes wide open! We are experiencing the multi-dimensional love of God, which is beyond all explanation – and the peace that comes from knowing you are loved and forgiven and welcome in the presence of God. In His presence where His glory makes everything brighter than the brightest day – where everything is cleansed and perfect – for that is why Jesus came, that is why He died and rose.
And people are still coming
There is one last thing to talk to you about this morning…
Scripture promises And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
The Magi represented the nations, but this promise is for more than that – notice the children of God being gathered together. Sons and Daughters finally coming home from wherever they were, no matter how far off they had wandered.
There is your hope – dear people, it doesn’t matter how far people wander from God – the Spirit lights up the lives of the people of God as we resonate and reflect the love of Christ in which we dwell. God’s glory will illuminate their life, as the word of God is heard, as they are drawn to faith…as they are given hope.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, know you are loved, know God loves the people in your community… and let the hope of His love shine through you – a beacon to all the lost.
For you dwell in the peace of God, which is beyond all comprehension – and He guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
 Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Surprised by Christmas!
What Do You Want now?
1 Kings 3:3-15
† Jesus, Son, and Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to worship God…in His Presence!
Just curious – how many of you have heard this story about Solomon before, that instead of asking God for money or fame, or victory in battle, he asked God for wisdom to govern and lead his people?
How many of you knew that God said because He asked this, God would not only grant Solomon the wisdom he would need, but would give him all the other stuff, too?
Curious – I wonder how many of us would follow Solomon’s example – not really wanting to have the understanding about right and wrong that was the basis of wisdom, but secretly thinking that is the shortcut to getting “all the other stuff?”
You all mean I am the one that ever failed at using reverse psychology on God?
As we look at this passage, there is a reason we find it here, on the last Sunday of Christmas…
It isn’t because of the wisdom or the other gifts that Solomon received.
It is because this passage is really about worship, about praising God in a meaningful way… as we recognize we dwell, as Israel did, as the shepherds, as the apostles would, in the presence of God.
- Heterodox Worship – Solomon’s Sin
In the Old Reading, we see something a little confusing. Solomon leaves Jerusalem, his father’s city and heads to Gibeon and there slaughters 1000 head of cattle in a huge worship service.
The reason it is confusing is that the Ark of the Covenant was back in Jerusalem. Remember, David brought it there, dancing in his underwear? David wanted to build a temple around it, and God said no. Of the Ark, God told Moses this, for every generation to know,
21 Place inside the Ark the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you. Then put the atonement cover on top of the Ark. 22 I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NLT2)
So God promised to meet the people of God at the ark, which is in Jerusalem, and outlined a very clear way of worship – worship that was a response to what God had done….
And instead of that, Solomon leads them off to Gibeon, to worship at a empty tabernacle, the tent formerly used to house the Ark.
God didn’t promise to meet them there though, he promised to meet them at the Ark. So despite the show of 1000 cows being slaughtered to provide burnt offerings, the worship was useless – because of disobedience, because they didn’t seek God, they just sought what was familiar.
Basically, they were worshipping God in vain. They were there, they might have been using His name, but the used God’s name in vain, because they weren’t where His promises were, and they didn’t know the Lord was there… with them.
We do this too….
We sometimes come to church, and we aren’t looking for God. We have something else in mind, we have some agenda, or something is distracting us. It might be stuff we think is good, family stuff or church stuff…
But if we aren’t where God is… if we don’t recognize His presence here… we are just like Solomon…in the wrong place, doing what we do… and missing what we need.
And we are caught in our sin….
- God moves us to Worship Him… in His presence.
It tells us something about the character of God that He didn’t fry Solomon right there or allow one of Israel’s many enemies to do so.
Instead, God comes to Solomon, and works with Him.
Just as He does with you and me….
Whaddya want Solomon? I’ll give you whatever you want….
In the process, Solomon looks at his dad, and what he treasured the most – the love of God. He saw the reaction of David to that love – how David became a holy man, who struggled to depend on God when things were upside down and backward… and God loved him, still.
Of everything David had – this is what mattered the most!
Solomon could think of nothing better than to ask God for that kind of relationship – which was why he asked for the wisdom to govern hem, that they would know the difference between what is righteous, and what is evil. For that only comes through knowing God. That is what changed David.
One pastor wrote about this relationship this way,
prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists
Solomon sees the relationship his father had with God as the priority for his people, there is nothing else more important for them, or for him.
The way to see this is simple.
What does Solomon do after his time talking to God is over?
Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet
His reaction, when given the wisdom of God to lead his people to what was good and not evil was simple – he took them where God promised to be there for them, when the burnt offering would be acceptable, where the peace offering would celebrated – Israel would now experience a peace with God that would last Solomon’s life.
Solomon would have his ups and downs, but he would build the temple – a place for the people of God to meet God, to be cleansed and lifted up by God. Until Jesus came..
Today’s it’s not about location – where we gather is where God is, where He feeds us, because He offered the sacrifice.
But there still is a feast – for His people to celebrate that they dwell in peace, for they dwell in the presence of God….
You dwell in the presence of God…
As we go through this next year, let’s pray that we realize this all the more.
 Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.