Monthly Archives: May 2023
We need to learn to hate everything that…
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to His cross!
Solomon moved his wife, the daughter of the king of Egypt, from David’s City to a house he built for her. He said, “She must not live in the palace of King David of Israel, because any place where the Covenant Box has been is holy.” 2 Crhonicles 8:11 GNT
(Luther states) “We are free from the Law, which ceases with Christ in a twofold sense: first imputatively, when sins against the Law are no longer imputed to me, but are remitted for the sake of the most precious blood of the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, my Lord; then, by expurgation, when the Holy Spirit is given me, so that, having received Him, I begin to hate from my heart everything that offends His name and to follow good work.”
But here’s the Question: Do we cry out to Jesus to save us right now When you sing hosanna do you really cry out, or do we just mumble the words? Cry out!
As I read what Solomon did with one of his wives this morning, I felt convicted of my sin, but it took a while to process why.
And then I saw it – he stashed his wife away because the relationship he had with her wasn’t holy. Not saying it couldn’t have been holy, but he married her, interacted with her, and allowed her to keep worshipping the gods of Egypt.
And I wonder how often we do that with our sin, and our “religious life.” How often do we compartmentalize our lives, placing our favorite sins and idolatry in a different place? That way we can attend church, or a Bible Study/prayer meeting and not feel the conviction we feel. But it also means we don’t pray as we should, we don’t look for mercy as we should, we don’t “cry out” as JMT urges us to do.
We won’t cry out to Jesus to save us, until we see that there is something from which He needs to save us.
It can’t just be, “oh, I sinned again, I will confess it on Sunday,” as if there is no big issue involved in our sin, that we can deal with it anytime–this week, this month, next year, 10 minutes before Jesus returns.
Luther is right, – we need to learn to hate our sin, and everything in us that offends God.We need to hate those actions, those words, those thoughts, and what tempts us to do, say and think them. We need to realize the damage they do, and hate that as well. SO that we can – with JMT and all the angels and archangels and company of heaven cry out hosanna – save us! We need to desire God’s power reconciling us, and look forward to both private confession and absolution, and the confession and absolution given to us all as we gather together as the church.
This is a need in the church, in all believers, and the answer to our cry for mercy will transform the church, it will bring a time of revival, as people begin to live in hope–freed from the bondage of our sin. What joy will be seen and experienced as this happens! For happen it will.
Lord, help us to hate that which was never meant to be part of our lives, and let the desperation that hate causes lead us to the cross, where that sin is removed. Thank you Lord, for saving us, cleansing us, and making us Your Holy people. AMEN!
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 13.
John Michael Talbot , The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival. (Berryville, Arkansas, Troubador of the Lord Publishing, 2023) 71
He Has Now… and Therefore… A Pentecost sermon on John 7:37-39
He Has Now… and Therefore!
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the presence of the Holy Spirit which fills your hearts kindles in you the fire of God’s love, as you learn to love others by showing them God’s love!
- Do you like waiting?
You are sitting in the drive-thru, and you realize there is a mini-van in front of you, full of kids in uniform…
Or maybe you are at Ralph’s or Trader Joes, or Costco – and the lines stretch down the aisles…
Or maybe you are waiting for that package from Amazon, and they text you at 9 o’clock on Friday that they are delayed and won’t deliver that package you needed until Monday, maybe!
How many of us like waiting?
Frustrating, isn’t it?
I mean, at least we are not like Moses, who was waiting 40 years to see the promise land, and then wasn’t able to, because of his sin. Or David, who had to wait for years to become King, waiting patiently for Saul to be removed, as God promised!
Or the apostles, who had to wait for Christ’s Kingdom to be established, and then had to wait with no hope for three days… and then an undetermined time after the Ascension, for Jesus’ promise for the Spirit to come…
As John’s said, ‘But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.’
And they had to wait…
I don’t think that they were any better that we are, and they were waiting for something far more important!
- Do We Live Like the Spirit is Here
So here is the harder question of the day.
Are you living like you are waiting for the Holy Spirit to show up?
Are we living like we know God is present in every moment of our lives?
Are we living in the age prior to Pentecost?
It’s a hard question…one I don’t want to answer…
Because I live more like I am waiting for God to show up, then living like I know He is here. It’s not just acts of sin that show this, but it is the loving others, sacrificing for them, that is challenging.
I mean, is there anything more important in life than seeing people come to know God loves them? And the only way they will know, is if we depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us to them, and empower us to share with them that love.
So often sin is described as doing this which God said not to do.
But sin is also not loving our neighbor, which includes no loving them enough to want them to live in the presence of Jesus, both now and for eternity. Sin includes not sharing with them the gospel and the freedom from guilt and shame which comes with sin.
I don’t want to give us an excuse, but the reason we don’t share Jesus’ love with others is because we are living as if the Holy Spirit hasn’t come…yet. We are waiting around for God to make a move…
Forgetting He has…
- No – Jesus is in His glory therefore
Hear John’s comment again,
39 When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.
During Easter we proclaim that because He has risen, We have risen. That means this has now happened as well,
That Jesus has entered His glory, and He has given us the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean?
First, “25 “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)
This is everything from the day Jesus told Peter that Jesus would cause him to be fishers of men to the very words at the Ascension. Where He said,
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT2)
If we are looking to grow the church, the preschool—the other ministries we may start on this campus—it depends on us doing what Jesus taught us to do, to love each other, to care for those around us—physically for sure, but also spiritually. To make sure their burdens are lifted, that they are free from oppression, to continue to the work Jesus gave to all of us..
To lift Jesus up, that He may draw all men to Him.
Not to argue with them – that’s worthless, not to debate with them, that will only result in winners and losers.
As we realize the Spirit is with us, we come to rely on God’s lead more and more. As we encounter people in our lives that need to know His love and His mercy.
Evangelism and Discipleship aren’t programs of the church, they are the side effects of walking with Jesus, of the Spirit comforting us, freeing us from sin,
This is how Paul told a young church leader
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.” 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)
This is what started at Pentecost… it will keep going on in our lives, for Jesus not only is risen, He has been glorified, and given us the Holy Spirit to comfort, sustain, guide and empower us, as we share with people why we have hope.
Because Jesus loves us all.
Are You Where You Are Supposed to Be?
Thoughts that drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross.
10 One day spent in your Temple is better than a thousand anywhere else;
I would rather stand at the gate of the house of my God than live in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 GNT
For the entire gospel testimony is unanimous that Jesus’ words and deeds flowed from his most intimate communion with the Father; that he continually went “into the hills” to pray in solitude after the burden of the day (e.g., Mk 1:35; 6:46; 14:35, 39). Luke, of all the Evangelists, lays stress on this feature. He shows that the essential events of Jesus’ activity proceeded from the core of his personality and that this core was his dialogue with the Father.
Thus the spiritual life of the minister, formed and trained in a school of prayer, is the core of spiritual leadership. When we have lost the vision, we have nothing to show; when we have forgotten the word of God, we have nothing to remember; when we have buried the blueprint of our life, we have nothing to build. But when we keep in touch with the life-giving spirit within us, we can lead people out of their captivity and become hope-giving guides.
A good deal of my time this year has been spent contemplating the question that is the title of this post. I’ve had three distinct possibilities, three times I was a finalist for a position, and once I received a call to pastor a different church. All three interested me, and I dread the idea of having to decide between my present call and them.
But the question about where I am supposed to be is far deeper than a geographical location, or what vocation I have. In fact, the locations where we live and what we do are meaningless without the insight of “where we are” offered by the psalmist.
We have to imitate Jesus, and rely on our location in response to our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our identity is determined by our awareness of our proximity to God. If we know we are in HIs presence, everything else takes on a new dimension, a new meaing. Our families, our workplaces, our hobbies all become a way in which to experience God’s love, and to see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
This is essential for the entire church – and it resolves with all of us taking our positions as ministers, as those who serve people, that they might know Jesus. Intimacy with God is the core of our spiritual leadership–it is also the core of our spiritual lives. Without interaction with God prayer, meditating on the gospel and the sacraments, there is little that we can and should attempt to do. Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI ) is correct – all we are and do flows from our intimate – yeah – intimate connection with God.
I believe that is what the psalmist knows, and puts into words… it is being there in God’s presence that is the most desirable place to be.
And then we can give people the hope we find there, with Jesus,… as they are called and drawn to the One lifted up on the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 17–18.
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 73). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The Necessity – a sermon on 1 Peter 3:13-18
1 Peter 3:13-18
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give the desire to share the hope you have in Christ with everyone around you!
- Apologetics – The Necessity
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, two terms became important in the church in America. The first was “evangelism” as program after program was developed to guide the church in evangelizing the world.
The second, which became needed as people started to try to evangelize their neighborhoods and the world, was Apologetics. Since that time, you can now take college courses in apologetics, even get a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in it, as one learns to “defend” the faith.
The term apologetics comes from the passage in 1 Peter read this morning.
“And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. “
Where Evangelism is defined as bringing good news, Apologetics is very simply “giving the reason,” in this case, giving the reason we have hope in this life. The question then becomes, how do we explain why we have hope?
What is necessary to explain this hope we have, which means we also define what isn’t necessary.
What have we learned or experienced or do we have in our lives that they need to know in order to have the hope we have?
- What isn’t necessary?
Somehow, in the midst of the church movements of the 70-80’s, the idea of evangelism and apologetics almost became a profession. Radio shows were created like “The Bible Answer Man” with and “Christianity on Trial. Books were written “evidence that demands a verdict, and later-the Case for Christ. Universities created Masters and Doctoral Degrees in evangelism and apologetics. The latter has been re-defined to meaning to “defend the faith”, whether historically or from the basic of logic. Lots of things to memorize – and all of it is good – and somewhat interesting.
But it isn’t what you need to explain to people why you have hope!
I don’t have hope because I can argue about how the Bible was written over 2500 years. I don’t have hope because I can explain some complications inherent in the describing how the Trinity functions and relates to each other. I don’t have hope because I can teach on all the different views about baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
I am not saying that we don’t need to know – and don’t need to pursue the truth about Jesus> We need to, and it must be based on what He’s revealed to us in scripture. We need to do that – that’s why we study the scriptures together! That’s why we test what people teach against the scriptures.
But when someone wants to know why you have hope in the midst of this crazy, messed up world, they don’t need to know the 5 different views about the Lord’s Supper, or be able to express arguments about how much water is needed to baptize someone, or how to accurately explain what the Trinity is, or what the difference between free will and predestination…
All that stuff can encourage hope once we have it—but it doesn’t explain why we have hope in the middle of this broken world.
It just makes us feel good to know we know more than them…which can easily lead to the sin of pride, and hurting our neighbor because we didn’t explain why we have hope.
- What is of value – what is necessary to tell the unbeliever?
What we need to tell them is why we have hope….
The fact we know God loves us, as Peter said because “Christ suffered for our sins, once and for all time,” so that, “He died for sinners to bring us safely home to God.”
That’s where we can start – just the facts – God loves us, He died to set us free of sin, to set us free from the fear of death.
If we bring up the sacraments, it’s not to debate them! It’s to simply to relate the promises they give us: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Spirit, and eternity in God’s joy-filled, glorious presence.
That is what we have hope for, to enter the presence of God, the creator of everything that is,
And as Peter said, the way we do it is through Christ’s death on the cross.
That is why we have hope….
- You’ve brought safely Home
That hope is what the people we come in contact need to hear. Manny’s lesson in Sunday School takes this even farther, as it looks at an example in Acts of this very thing. It talks of people who were curious about the resurrection of the dead, because their religions and idols had nothing like it.
Nor did they have the Son of God, Jesus, who would be appointed judge of all, who loves us so completely that He would come and dwell among us.
Some people have reached the point where they are ready to hear of that hope, others we are simply planting a seed for the future. The hope that comes because, as Peter wrote, “He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
Therefore… we have risen… ALLELUIA!
He Knows My Name(s?)! Their Name (s?) too!
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross…
It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon’s house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?” Acts 10:3-18 GNT
St. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was a master wordsmith, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. It comes as a surprise then that he vacillates so much on St Peter’s name in this passage. Talking to others, the angel uses his full name – “Simon Peter.” Yet when addressing the the Lord in a vision, the Lord only uses the name Peter was given by God, “Peter.”
Is it only a curiosity? Is it only something with a hidden message, that only those who have been introduced to the full mysteries of the faith are to understand? Or is it a message to Peter, to prepare him for a lifetime lesson?
For sure Cornelius’ men don’t know – all they have been told is to fetch Simon Peter.
But for Peter to hear Simon again, the name he had before he encountered God, should have shaken him. It would be like me calling one of you Saint and Sinner, identifying the before Jesus you and the you who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. But identifying you as well as the Saint you are becoming… and are.
For Peter it is the lesson in a microcosm – the vision retold, personally…
God declared Simon Peter clean.
And as Peter hears the voice from heaven speaks, it addresses him… not as Simon Peter, but simply as Peter.
Peter the cleansed, Peter the one restored to ministry after he denied Jesus 3 times. (John uses the same Simon/Peter description on the seashore in the same way)
Peter will go and minister to those God would declare clean – even though the world sees them as sinners. He understands what Luther noted,
“Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, in as much as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other. Christ also pleased not himself, hence we are to do as he did.”
As we look at equipping the saints in the churches we serve, understanding the sinner-saint dynamic will be important. We aren’t any better than Peter as we judge what we see in the brokenness of the churches and the schools we serve. We need to consider the work God can do with those who are broken, as we bear their infirmities, as they see God at work in our lives, so that they know that God can work in theirs.
We talk about the fact that we don’t have authority as ministers of the gospel. We only have the ability to influence people. And the greatest influence we can have… is helping them see how complete the work of Jesus is, in those weak enough to depend on Him.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 169.
Now… at last! We Celebrate!
Thoughts which bring me to Jesus, and to His cross
10 And then he said, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king.
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:10,21-23 GNT
It is in the intimacy with God that we develop a greater intimacy with people and it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that we indeed can touch the heart of the human suffering to which we want to minister. Do we really believe this? It often seems that our professional busy-ness has claimed the better part of us. It remains hard for us to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed, in order to be with him from whom all good things come. Still, it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that the minister becomes minister. There we remember that if anything worthwhile happens at all it is God’s work and not ours.
Something happened to King Josiah as the gospel, contained in the word of God was read to him. It went far beyond doing church, “right,” and being good, ethical stewards of the money entrusted to their care.
He didn’t have a time of silence and solitude as we normally think of it, but as the gospel was read to him from the word of God, the miraculous happened.
The Holy Spirit created the intimacy with God which made King Josiah unlike any other king, including Hezekiah and David.
He became a king who was also the pastor of his people. He realized part of his work was to free them from bondage to false idols, to bring them to the point of celebrating the Passover–something long forgotten among the people.
They celebrated it, in a way that reflects on their hunger and thirst for the presence of God, and to see and celebrate the work of God in their midst…now!
The people of God came back to life, they realized again what God was doing! Revival broke out–not because they were running the business of church right, but because their time was dominated by God’s revelation of His presence and care.
Nouwen is correct though, it is not our work that makes us pastors, priests and ministers. It is not from our agendas that we find the strength and ability to minister. It comes from the time when our darkness was invaded by the glory of God’s love, where His comfort and peace sought us out to heal us.
It is time, to gather around the gospel, to hear it–to realize the intimate presence of God–who loves us, cares for us, comforts and heals our brokenness..and then uses all of that, as we serve and minister to those around us…. as we guide them to the Altar– to our Passover…
Lord, may it be said of our time, that our moments of being gathered together and celebrating Your work in us is unlike any other, as You revive Your church as you did the people in Josiah’s day!
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 51). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The Reminder…. is our Ministry
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross
And so he left his country and went to live in Haran. After Abraham’s father died, God made him move to this land where you now live. God did not then give Abraham any part of it as his own, not even a square metre of ground, but God promised to give it to him, and that it would belong to him and to his descendants. At the time God made this promise, Abraham had no children. Acts 7:4-5 GNT
So it is in keeping with the core of Biblical tradition to look at the ministry in the context of remembrance. Therefore I will discuss our spiritual resources by looking at the minister as a reminder: first, as a healing reminder, second as a sustaining reminder, third as a guiding reminder.
We are a people who have been taught to live in and for the present. That we need to be free our past, and we cannot let our anxieties about the future color our present life. We only live now, in this moment… ( o wait – that moment is now passed..hmmm…)
There is a point to it – that things past and future should not handicap our present life.
That doesn’t mean that we should divorce ourselves from either. We need the lessons from the past, the remmbrance of God’s promise to work in our lives, to intimately be involved in healing what is broken, in sustaining us in the present, and in guiding us into the future. Fr. Nouwen was right – our ministry is based in these reminders, both from the scriptures, and in the promises given through the hands of priests and pastors who baptize, absolve and give us the Body and Blood of Christ!
Abraham is a great example of counting on such promises. Stephen talks of his trust, his faith in God such that it was generations before the promise would be realized. It didn’t matter, the faith was there. Abraham depended on God being faithful to His promise, even thought he wouldn’t see Moses guiding people to the Holy Land, or Solomon’s Temple, or the death, burial and resurrection of His Lord Jesus Christ.
He would pass that faith on through the generations, some would have it, some would neglect it, but it was there, as God called people back, to bless them, to continue the promise. To trust and walk with God, sieing tht the promise is not just for us in this moment, as Peter notes, “39 For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the “‘Lord our God calls to himself.'”
This is our ministry, facilitating the trust and dependence people have on God. It is not done with the strength of our character, rather by our ability to remember His presence, as He fulfills His promises to us, and those who come after us. And using the phrase, “our ministry,” I am referring to the church, not just to pastors, deacons and the like.
God’s promises will make the difference, and knowing about them is critical.
Lord, help our faith to grow like Abraham’s, and help us to minister to others – helping them remember Your promises and recognize Your presence! AMEN!
Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder: Service and prayer in the memory of Jesus Christ. Seabury Press; 1977, page 13