Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

Confession of a Tired Pastor….


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional thought for our Day:

3 He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise me.” 4 I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.”  Yet I can trust the LORD to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do. 5 Before I was born, the LORD appointed me; he made me his servant to bring back his people, to bring back the scattered people of Israel.  IS. 49:3-5 TEV

795         To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love.

Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of my installation as Concordia’s pastor.  We’ve had some hard times here, as we closed our elementary school. And harder times, as we’ve lost many to people who were a part of our identity, those people who you can’t imagine our church without their smiles, their laughter, and their antics.

We’ve had our times of great joy as well, as children are born and baptized, as others have realized how incredible the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist is, as prodigals have come home.

But there have been days where I have been tired, where I understand the words from Isaiah above.  It is the challenge that many in ministry face when we know we are exactly where God wants us, and yet, we don’t see (in that moment) the fruit of our work.  When we’ve used up all “us” and don’t see anything beneficial. 

I’ve been there a time or two in the last 9 years, I’ll confess it, I’ve been tired.  And as I read these words this morning, as I looked at the bulletin that someone saved from my first “official” moment here…. I felt the tiredness again.  And when you are tired, your eyes close, your vision isn’t as sharp, and fail to see the beauty around you.  For the moment. 

My mind focused on the words of the frustrated prophet, they resonated deeply, and I failed to see the words around the passage.  

Words that talked about God’s call on our lives, that our vocation, our service to Him is something from birth (see Eph. 2:10 as well)  (v.1 & 5 & 7) 

Words that promise He is the source of our strength (v.2 & 5) 

Words that remind us our task is greater than it appears, (v.6 ) for we have the world to reach with this gospel.  (Gee more work?)

But what strikes me after catching the entire context, is that miraculously, this passage isn’t describing just Isaiah’s feelings, or yours and mine.  This passage is about Jesus. About his work, not just in the world, but in our lives.  

There could be the temptation to give up on us, for the suffering He endured for our sake was great, and seeing the results in our lives, takes an eternal perspective.  There is the hatred and dismission, not only that the world has for him, but sometimes seen in our lives, as we fight against His word and promises, as we dismiss our time with Him to do something “more productive)  

And yet God continues on, loving us, even when it isn’t easy. And yet, in loving us, we find God full of joy, as He shares with those He calls His glory and the glorious acts that call and reconcile the world to Him.

I wouldn’t say the last 9 years were easy.  Our church’s mission statement and motto bear that truth plainly.  Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.  But as we see God dealing with that brokenness, as we see Him working in the lives of those we love… there is a special joy and an incredible peace that can’t be explained – only experienced.  

For God has called and is calling us together.  

To Him be all the honor and praise.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3290-3291). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Cost of Fixing Injustice


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for our day:
22  Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this. “God bless you, Master! Nothing like this must happen to you!” Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter, “Out of my way, Satan! … you stand right in my path, Peter, when you look at things from man’s point of view and not from God’s”
24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What could a man offer to buy back his soul once he had lost it? Matthew 16:22-26(Phillips NT)

When you want to control your abandonment in the hands of God, the tenderness of your filial relationship is lost. Neither ideology nor psychoanalysis or sociological interpretation of the mystery knows of tenderness. Rather, they know the art of manipulation, not of caress.

You want the world to change.

You can’t understand why the problems in our society exist, why there is hatred, why people can’t work together.  You want them to change (whoever “them” is) and you easily get frustrated by their actions.

I get that, I am tired of my own anger at people who are angry at people who are angry because they are reacting against what they perceived as unjust.

I’ve got some news for you (and it applies to me), the change and the peace we seek doesn’t begin with their change, it begins with the change that needs to happen in us, in you and me.  It starts with your giving up all rights to yourself.  It starts with your relationship to God.  It starts with you letting God be God and trusting Him to do exactly what He promised to do in our lives.  You need to let Him guide you in life, and listen and follow. Not partially, but totally.

As Pope Francis notes, you can’t really control your abandonment in the hands of God.

There is a reason for this, which he explains as “the tenderness of our filial relationship is lost”.  What that means is that as we play God, as we determine we are in control of our lives, we forget and lose track of our relationship with God.  We forget about the fact we are His beloved children (hence filial – that of a son), we forget that He desires we walk with Him. , we forget about the love our Father in heaven has for us.

All this happens as we try to take control of our destiny, for 10 minutes or for a lifetime.  THat is what Jesus talks about in that trying to save our life, we lose, but if we abandon it to the care of the Father, to the guidance of the Spirit, to the work of Jesus on the cross, we gain it.

And we gain a sense of justice, a sense of righteousness that God fills our life with.  We realize that righteousness means we love those we consider unlovable, and rather than just condemn those who acts are unjust and unrighteous, we put them in God’s hands,  We pray that He would spare them by transforming them just as He is doing to us.  We work to help them realize they are His beloved children and that He has saved them from their sin.  That is how injustice is fixed, first as we remember that Jesus’ work has committed us into the Father’s hands, and then, abandoning our will, our destiny, our life into his hands, we see Him work miracles, reconciling others through our work, as He guides us to love them.

Easy?  No, and yet yes.  He does the work!  We have to just stop fighting Him…..

The cost?  Already paid for on the cross of Calvary.  The blood of Christ that was spilled that sin would be covered, and separated from the sinner.

This is our hope, whether the injustice is minor, or national.  That Christ came to redeem the ungodly, and we have seen it happen in our lives.

So go, in His name, and love.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

God says, “I WILL BRING…” A Sermon/Homily on Isaiah 56


church at communion 2God says, “I WILL BRING…”
Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8

I pray that you realize the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ which has gathered you into His presence here and that you would realize you aren’t just invited to be here, God desires your presence here!

Doing Right and Good defined…

In the first verses of the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, we heard this morning that God wanted us to do this,

“Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you, and to display my righteousness among you.  Blessed are all those who are careful to do this,  Blessed are those who honor my sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong….”

That’s a great promise, but perhaps a bit vague.  What is right and good to do, what is just and fair?  We might have our own ideas, but God gives us a great picture of it in the verse that follows us,

“Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will never let me be a part of His people.”

This isn’t just God commanding us to do this, this work He asks us to do is revealed in the 6-8th verses as His action, as He blesses those who are committed to His care.  He pours out the blessings upon them, even as He has on every single one of us.

And so what God is calling us to do is imitate Him, to share His heart towards people He has created, to have His heart and love all those He loves.

It’s not going to be easy… it is, in fact, it will cause us to take up our cross, this call to follow him.

Who are these outcast & foreigners?

This passage shows two groups of people God loves, foreigners and those who are called outcasts.  Or as Deacon Bob is preaching about right now, those people who think they can’t be admitted to our club.

And we need to make sure they never, ever think this…. We can’t let them say, “The Lord will never let me be a part of HIS people!”

The first group is simple – they are people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our genes, or our language, or our culture, or economic or social status. Some translations use foreigner, some describe them as alien, some stranger.  Given our church’s makeup, I think he’s talking about Australians because we have members from just about everywhere else!  Guyana, Germany, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Indonesia, we even love people from places like Boston and Hemet!  Yet the command is to make sure they don’t think and say that God won’t let them be part of us.

Some people still struggle to feel comfortable in our presence, and it is our role to help those who God brings here to know they are welcome, that they are part of His people, and therefore part of us.

God is calling us to proactively make sure they know they are welcome,

In verse 8, God adds in another group – those who are outcast.

Back in the days when Moses and Israel left Egypt and were wandering around the desert, hen the Old Covenant was given to the people of Israel, there were a number of sins that could be committed that would require the sinner to leave the camp of the people of God.

Sometimes it was for a day, sometimes it was for life.

Basically, until they served their time, they were outcast, they had to make do for themselves, they weren’t welcome among the people of God. They were the recognized sinners, or those that condoned the sin that was committed. They were the outcasts, the sinners rejected by their own people, who also rejected themselves.  Never again would the joy be theirs, or so they thought.

Ever been there?  Ever been in a situation where you weren’t in the in group, where you didn’t understand what was going on, or wonder whether you were part of the church?

Ever wonder if you were beyond God’s desire to forgive, beyond His mercy?  Either because people treated you that way, or because you simply felt to guilty?

Ever treated people like they weren’t?

Or maybe, like me, you have been all of the above…

Time to hear God, time to make the foreigner and the outcast welcome..

Filling us with joy!

I want you to hear the gospel from the Old Testament again,

6  “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7  I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8  For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.” Isaiah 56:6-8 (NLT)

These promises aren’t just basic entry, by saying that God will accept their offerings, because God is hearing their pray- the prayer of all people, he’s talking about full membership in this family.

Not half-sister, or step brother, but complete membership in the house of God….
For those who were once outcast, victims of their own sin, and who were once foreigners.  They are family, because of the love of Jesus on the cross, the cross where we were all made family.

We need to understand, and we need to share with people – that Christ died for all.  For you and for me, for people from every language, every tribe, ever culture.  For people of every economic group and from every generation.

Jesus died for them all. Every person in Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, Whittier.

All those who are different, all those who have sinned and belong somewhere besides a house of prayer.

Jesus changed all that, as Isaiah prophesied, as God unites us to him on the cross, cleansing us of the sin that could have prevented us from being here.

We need to know this, we need to understand that God died for us, that we might live, and we need to welcome all who would know this, that would come to adore the God who loves us all.

Which is why we have hope, no matter where we’ve come from, no matter what we’ve done wrong. HE can and will restore us!  We have hope because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us all.
AMEN!

 

What We Pass On…. Is it Truly Good?


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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for Our Day:

5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.”  Isiah 38:5-8  TEV

802         When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.

The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me.  Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin?  Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering? 

What kind of king is that? 

What kind of father?

Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?

I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation.  I am talking about you and me. 

In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies.  Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass.  How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony? 

I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people.  That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.  

I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them.  (and a couple of times, I didn’t) 

My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need.   It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)

The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism.  To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways.  And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone!  Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us.  (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_

It is in His work, that I must trust.  Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.

My hope?  In the one who loved me enough to die for me.  Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it.  My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.

May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Tired of Living on Auto-pilot!


DSCN0014Devotional Thought for the Day:
17  Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Colossians 3:17 (MSG)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.

780         You suffer a lot because you realise that you don’t make the grade. You would like to do more, and do it more effectively, but very often you do things in a complete daze, or you don’t dare do them at all. Contra spem, in spem!—live in certain hope, against all hope. Rely on that firm rock which will save you and help you on. It is a wonderful theological virtue, which will encourage you to press on, without being afraid of going too far, and will not let you stop. Don’t look so troubled! Yes, cultivating hope means strengthening the will.

One of the reasons I like St Josemaria’s writings is because they speak to me.  The words in blue resonate deeply within me.  There are days I seem to be on autopilot, moving from one crisis to another.  Like the disciples in the boat last Sunday, I am not seeming to make headway.   I would love to be a more effective pastor, a better husband, a better dad, but things are so overwhelming, and I often consider myself a failure at all three.  I look at the quote in Green from the Augsburg confession, and wonder what good fruit and works are the results of God forgiving me?  Do I do things for the glory of God, thanking Him along the way?  Or I caught in a lifeless vacuum?

And I know I am not alone.  Too many are overwhelmed by anxiety and even paralyzed by the day to day drag that they feel.  We move through life, as I said, on autopilot.

There are enough life coaches, self-help books, counselors and others who exist to get you out of the doldrums ( at least they claim to!) out there.  Billions of dollars a year are spent by people who want more out of life, even if they can’t define what the more is.

St Josemaria describes how we grow in all of this.  It is not by our own strength or determination.  It’s not by being “forced” by someone’s manipulation, using guilt or reward to motivate, critique or praise to push you into the next level, the next phase.

So how do we get past auto-pilot?  How do we find a life that is full of good fruit?  How do we get to the point where every detail of our lives praise and honor God?  How can we show our Lord the gratitude for all of His work that He has done, from creating us, (and the world we live in ) to His redeeming and reconciling us to Himself, to making us Holy?  How can we accomplish this?

St. Josemaria notes a theological virtue – actually a simple one which cultivates hope, that diminishes the anxiety and overcomes that sense of sluggishness.  This fantastic blessing of theological virtue?

Faith!

Dependence on God!

Relying on God who is our solid base, who will support you and help you through life 

That reliance is what we need so that even when we have no option but to be on autopilot we realize He is at work, He is guiding you, He is not going to let us stop, for He is the author and perfecter of our faith.  He is our shepherd, our Master, our God.

Knowing He is there can help us when dealing with mundane as well as the overwhelming.  It gives life to those moments, those places we serve in our vocation.  

Remember He promises to make all things work for good, and He does.

He is with you… rely on Him.  That isn’t law, but the purest of gospels, for He desires you to have the blessing of knowing He is your God, and you are His beloved people.  AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3230-3236). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let Them Make Peace With Me! But what does that mean?


20170124_103703Devotional Thought for This Day:

5 “But if the enemies of my people want my protection, let them make peace with me. Yes, let them make peace with me.”  Isaiah 27:5  TEV

748         Let us make a firm resolution about our friendships. In my thoughts, words and deeds towards my neighbour, whoever he may be, may I not behave as I have done up to now. That is to say, may I never cease to practise charity, or allow indifference to enter my soul.

It is very possible to misread Isaiah in the passage above, to think that the burden of reconciliation God is placing on those who are the enemies of His people.  That are the ones to “make peace”, therefore it is their effort, their work.  We hear it as a demand from him, as the thundering voice of God’s law, with the undertones of wrath below it.

We choose to hear it as God’s law – as the prophetic voice that will allow us to thrash them unless they prove their intent to make peace.  Which means, of course, that we can then have the same attitude, because the enemies of God’s people are our enemies, because we are God’s people, right?

This gives us full license to be holier than thou – or at least holier than those racists, or those politicians, or those other people, you know, the ones that don’t go to our church but go to “that” church, or no church at all.

I even heard that to preach “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is law, therefore we don’t have to obey it, just confess it when we fail too! ( We need a refresher in Augsburg Confession Article VI)

St. Josemaria’s words caught my attention this morning. He described a desire to change his attitude toward his neighbor,  whoever he maybe!  He then describes a life that is charitable, that loves, that has compassion, and never allows indifference to enter his soul.

What if that neighbor was an addict to drugs, or dealt them?  what if that neighbor was into porn, or and it was wrecking his life and family? What if that neighbor was a militant atheist or someone who morality and ethics we question.  What if they murdered someone, deliberately or by neglect? What if that neighbor was one of those in Charlottesville that was rioting?  (It doesn’t matter which side, or whether they were those who just wanted to “amp” up the tension)

Each of those people may be identified as our neighbor, and we need to rid ourselves of our apathy, we need to find the ability to be compassionate toward him or her.  We need to invite them to make peace with God, and then perhaps, over time, with us.

Which brings us back to Isaiah, and the question about God’s intent about these enemies.  Does He mean they have to make peace with Him, atoning for their own sin, proving their intent?  Or is it an invitation to be at peace with God, to be drawn to Jesus, and the cross which cleanses us from all sin?

From St. Paul,

8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10  For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11  So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 (NLT)

Let them make peace, a peace for which the price has already been paid.

It is an invitation, one that will result in them (and us) being cleansed of all sin and unrighteousness.

It is there, in this invitation, that we ALL can find hope. …

Lord Jesus, help us to shed our apathy, our indifference toward our neighbor, and with great compassion and love lead them to where God reconciles them with Himself.  And remind us constantly of the wonder of the peace you give us, as by grace you save us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3115-3117). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

American Bible Society. The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation. 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1992. Print.

I AM here! A sermon on Matthew 14


church at communion 2I AM here!
Matthew 14: 22-33

As you hear and think about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize as well, that is only possible because He is here, with you!

 An Interrupted Prayer time?

As I study a passage of scripture to preach on it, I look at other passages that are similar. With the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is pretty easy, as they cover more than 2/3rds of the same stories.

In this case, Mark’s gospel adds one interesting note, that Jesus’s prayer time, his time talking with God the Father was interrupted.  Mark’s gospel adds this little note in

47  Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48  He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them,
Mark 6:47-48 (NLT)

While Mark doesn’t mention Jesus praying, it does mention that HE SAW THEM!

So Jesus heads out – checks on them as He is passing, and that is when something interesting happens.

No, not their freaking out, as they’ve been struggling for 9 plus hours to row and sail a boat against contrary seas.  That isn’t interesting, it is tragic.  They are tired, and to see someone walking across the sea, in the midst of a horrible eastern Mediterranean storm… well – it’s got to be supernatural, a phantasmic (not fantastic) experience in Greek.

What is interesting is Jesus response to their cries of fear.  I AM here.

Sounds like what I keep telling you, you know, “the Lord is with you!”!!!

The Struggles are Real

We need to know that, and some weeks, and some Saturdays, we need to know it even more.

Sometimes we are like the disciples, tired from fighting contrary winds, feeling like the world is going to overwhelm and drown us.  Sometimes the other guys in the boat aren’t much of a help, or at least we don’t thing they are.  And the wind – there is nothing we can do…

A few years ago, when Kay came back from a mission trip to Siberia, they had a team reunion near a reservoir in San Diego.  The reservoir had little sailboats, brand new, in fact the one she and I got in had never been used!

We found that out as we get maybe 100 feet away from the dock, and the rudder, not fully screwed in , because it decides to float away!  Then I notice they didn’t insert the centerboard, so there is nothing to keep the boat stable,, and then of course, the wind picks up.
We got blown across the reservoir, where a park ranger met us.  She then told kay to get out of the front of the boat, and I learned they didn’t insert the ballast either, and the boat flips over with only my weight on board!   Funny it was.. but more than a bit frustrating!

And we didn’t even get to see Jesus walking on the water, and when I got out – I didn’t walk on it!  But life sometimes feels like it was that day, failing miserably, helpless, unable to go where I should, and ending up soaking wet!

But Jesus still sees us struggling, even when we aren’t aware of His presence, or His care for us.  We don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t freak out, or scream like the disciples did, in fear of their lives.

We often talk about sin as this action, or that action.  This evil thought, or those words that hurt that we say.  But sin is also when we ignore God, when we try and play God, or choose things our way.

Please hear me, I am not saying the struggle is sin, absolutely not!  By no means! But during the struggle, have we forgotten Jesus?  Do we remember He cares?  If not sin, or often the effect of sin in our lives is evident, for we’ve lost sight of our Lord, our Deliver.

I am here, compared to I AM HERE

Which is why we need to hear his voice, we need to be reminded of His presence. We need to realize it,, we need to let Him calm our fears, put to rest our anxieties, heal our souls and bring peace to our hearts.

By the way, there is a spelling error on the Bulletin, and I may have set this one up when I told Cris the sermon title.

It isn’t I Am Here…. It is I AM here.

That doesn’t seem like much does it?  It would be to Peter and Andrew, James, Hahn, Mathew and the rest. You see, in both Greek and Hebrew, Jesus didn’t just reveal that he was walking by.
He revealed he was God, and that He was involved in their life.  You see, that I AM is the I AM Moses heard at the burning bush, it is the name of God that is translated as LORD throughout scripture, the name God gave us to call out to him.  Yahweh, Ego Eimi, the I AM THAT IAM .  The name that was put on the temple for people to know who to pray to, and of course, the name we aren’t to take in vain, but use to pray and to praise God.

During the storm, and at the cross, God is there for you.  In the trauma of everyday life, He answers us, and to finally get to that other guy on the water, He says to us as He did to Peter.

Don’t be afraid, I am here – come on – walk with me!

And so we shall, trusting in the Lord who is with you!  AMEN!

The Priceless Blessing We Cannot Afford to Neglect…


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional thought of the Day:

23  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1) 

The intercessor is a worshipper who has understood the deepest feelings of God and clings to them, despite contrary appearances.

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit, and through the Son.
He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

I am sitting in my office, as I do most Saturdays.  My primary task is finalizing my sermon, the two Bible studies I teach tomorrow.  As I do, there is another task I do… on that can be heartbreaking at times.

It is receiving the prayers that people drop into mention, that text or message me or email me about.  They want to make sure they are included in the bulletin for our people to pray about, or if more confidential, that I will include them in my private prayers. 

This morning has been no different, in fact, one could say “business” has been a bit brisker than normal.  A military person going to Korea, another beloved friend diagnosed with cancer, a friend dealing with diabetes and other health concerns, people with family problems, people looking for a new home, people with family struggles.  There are a lot of people we pray for, an act often called intercession, or petitioning God on their behalf.  Or more simply – we ask God to bless them and care for them in their situation.  That includes praying for healing, for strengthening their trust and dependence on Him, which will give them hope.  Mostly that they would see God acting in their lives. 

This is prayer, this is, in a very real way, communing with God.  Or as the Lutheran confessions (in green) call it, a sacramental time.  Pope Franci echoes this sentiment when he calls it the mystery that is unfolded and revealed, a time of intimate communion, a time where we understand the deepest feelings of God and cling to them.

As I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon, this hits home strong.  Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, he sends the crowds away, and he heads in to the hills to be alone, to pray.  Specifically, the word for prayer is the word for petition.  He has to talk wiht the Father about the people he encountered, He has to bring them into the relaitonship He has with the Father because they matter to both of them!

Add to this the action of the Holy Spirit, seen in the passage from Romans. This incredible thought that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well, praying when we are too overwhelmed when we cannot find the words when we can’t find the words or thoughts to pray.  It is then that the Spirit is definitely interceding with and for us, with words that are inaudible, because the Spirit’s groans,, the Spirit’s pleading is beyond expression. 

That is how much the Spirit cares, how much the Spirit is in touch with our needs, with the needs of those we love, and those they love.

Prayer isn’t some empty time of waiting for an appeal to be heard and decided.  It isn’t a time to do out of a sense of obligation, either to God or to those who ask.

It is the time we have been given to walk with God, to see His heart, to realize His love for them is even deeper than ours.  THat He cares more for those we intercede for than He does for flowers and birds, and if he cares for them and makes them beautiful bow much more for us is He active, then we can relax, we can be at peace.

Such is this priceless gift of prayer, our time with God. And like the other sacramental times, we need to slow it down hear his voice. To let Him comfort our tears, to let Him still our anxious hearts, to help us realize He is with us….even when we don’t know what to pray.

He is with us…

If that is all prayer did,, was make us aware of that, it would be worth it.

Yet to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocating for us, pleading for us, praying with us….. how that helps us… how incredible, how much more does it help us understand the heart of our incredible God who loves us!

Be at peace, the Lord is with you!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

The Truly Important Ministry….is Unseen but by a few.


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional thought for your day:

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2  When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3  But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)

718         If only they could see the good things I do!… But don’t you realise that you are carrying them around like trinkets in a basket for people to see how fine they are? Furthermore, you must not forget the second part of Jesus’ command: “that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Nearly a year ago, I did the memorial service for an incredible lady.

The bulletin of that service still resides on the little refrigerator in my office, a reminder of our very simple, very special relationship.

Every Tuesday at 9 am, I would travel about 500 yards from my office, enter the house she had a bedroom in, and talk a moment, then pray for her.  No more than 15 minutes, more likely ten or so. On occasion, I would bring her the leftover flowers from church on Sunday,

And every time I left, even when she was too tired to talk, I felt lifted up.  She ministered to me far more than I ministered to her.

I knew she had a couple of incredible jobs in her life.  The executive assistant to a seminary president, the producer of a mega church pastor’s television ministry.  She didn’t talk about those things.  Rather it was the joy of hearing from this friend or that pastor.  It was about reading the sermons of those she knew.  It was always about someone else,

Given the honor of officiating at her service, I realized that day how much of an honor it was.  Men who served the church for decades and trained thousands of preachers were there.  They told me of the things my friend did, and how she ministered to them for decades.  How she helped and raised money for seminarians and worked for equity among the staff. How she interacted with world famous preachers ( I still love the story of her moving a bicycle rack to protect a parking spot for Billy Graham – and how he helped her move it back where it belonged when he got there! )

Yet I knew none of this as I visited her, as I prayed for her, as we looked at Roses and carnations and lilies and marveled at the hand of God that created the beauty we observed.   I simply knew a lady whose bright eyes ministered to me as I prayed for her, a  lady who lived so simply, so beautifully that I looked forward to visiting her each week.

I think she got the passages above and the incredible things she did in life weren’t paraded around, for her reward was to hear Jesus welcome her home.  Looking back on a life full of incredible service to God wasn’t her style, it wasn’t what she counted as important. Rather it was finding God’s peace, as a neighborhood pastor stopped by, and she could fill his life with God’s peace, even as she rejoiced in a small time of prayer.

I miss my friend – but thank God for what she taught me about ministry and walking with God, watching Him at work.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2995-2999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Strange Result of Forgiveness….


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for your day!

6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?”
I answered, “I will go! Send me!”
9 So he told me to go and give the people this message: “No matter how much you listen, you will not understand. No matter how much you look, you will not know what is happening.” 10Then he said to me, “Make the minds of these people dull, their ears deaf, and their eyes blind, so that they cannot see or hear or understand. If they did, they might turn to me and be healed.”
11 I asked, “How long will it be like this, Lord?”     Isaiah 6:6-8 TEV

 

 

673         Once you used to “enjoy” yourself a lot. But now that you bear Christ within you, your whole life has been filled with a sincere and infectious joy. That is why you attract other people. Get to know Him better, so that you can reach all people.

He should have asked what the message would be…

He should have wondered what the people’s response to the message would be.

But it didn’t matter, he still had committed himself to go, he still was willing to bear the stress and the cost of bearing a message to a people that didn’t want to hear it.

Was it done without thinking?  Was it done without counting the cost?  Was it stupidity or naivete?  Or was it something else?

As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness the power of forgiveness, or reconciliation.  Sometimes it is between a husband and wife, as one forgives the other.  Sometimes it is the joy of a parent, who has forgiven all their prodigal has done, now that they’ve finally come home.

The greatest moment is when a person, fully aware of their sin, as they look up at me through their tears as I tell them (on God’s behalf and by His command) that they are forgiven.  As their shame and guilt, which one had them convinced that there was no hope, is brushed aside by the Holy Spirit’s embrace, as they come alive with joy!

Looking in their eyes at that moment is hard to explain.  It is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, like watching a soul being born. It is seeing joy erupt like a volcano, a joy that was too long blocked, under way too much pressure, and now exploding with light and power beyond expectation.  You see it in Isiah – who hears the people’s initial reaction, and doesn’t say, “no, I am not going,” he simply asks “how long will they not list.”  Still his heart is set on going and his own forgiveness, his own being welcomed by God will sustain him.

Like the old camp song explained, you want to shout it from the mountain top, for I want my world to know, the Lord of Love, has come to me, I want, to pass, it on!”

And that is why Isaiah says, “I’ll go!

The love we’ve encountered, the power of forgiveness, it is hard to explain, but it is impossible to keep to ourselves.

The hope for the church today in America will not be found in it being conservative enough, or inclusive enough.  It won’t be found in having perfect theology, or the perfect worship service.  It’s not going to be found running this program, or emulating that church, or using this liturgy or that one.

It is found when a sinner, crushed beyond recognition is picked up, cleansed, made whole.  When the unrighteous person finds they are not just allowed, but accepted and truly welcomed into the presence of God and His people. It is going to happen when we hear our Lord’s voice, when the Spirit reveals to us the power of God at work in us, when we realize what it means to be loved.

This is the impact of the cross, and the resurrection, it is the result of realizing we are free, we are forgiven.

Lord, help us to reveal your message to people, to be patient with them, and do this by helping us see what it means to be forgiven, to have you walk beside us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2816-2819). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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