Category Archives: Devotions
We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ fill your life, as the Holy Spirit turns on all your lights – and may your glow attract many others to Jesus!
- The Lights Coming On
It was different being at the pastor’s conference this year, as I was talking about my first church – just a few desert minutes away. All of a sudden I was back at my computer desk, reading Luther’s Catechisms, realizing the role the Holy Spirit had in my life.
One of those passages comes from the Small Catechism, where it says,
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith
This word, “enlightened” or “illuminated” or as I prefer to see it, God turns the lights on.
You know that moment, if you were a cartoon there would be a lightbulb come on over your head, and all of a sudden you understood a lot more than you did a second ago? When you make the connections, you didn’t make 20 seconds before.
There is far more to the Holy Spirit turning the lights on, for that light becomes visible to all, as the Holy Spirit shines through us into the darkness caused by crooked and perverse people.
- If there’s any… then why aren’t you
As Paul starts chapter two, one can read a little that at worst he’s mystified, at best he is frustrated more than can be believed. These people, who have come to know Jesus, are struggling with living like Jesus. I want you to hear this passage this way
Haven’t you been encouraged by knowing Jesus has take responsibility for your life? Are you comforted knowing He loves you? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit being there mean anything to you? Hasn’t he changed you, causing you to be gentle with people and want to relieve their burders?
Then why don’t you have one reason for existence as people of the church? Why don’t you love each other, and why don’t you have one mind and purpose? Why are you selfish? Why are you trying to impress others? Why aren’t you humble? Why do you think you are better than….them?
The basic question–with all that God’s done for you—think about it – why aren’t you living more like Jesus?
It’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves today!!
Okay – it is a hard question to ask but it is good for us to ask it!
Why don’t you act more like Jesus?
Why can’t I act more like Jesus?
- I Want to Share Your Joy!
Paul’s answer to that is simple…
Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.
There in the middle of the passage you see what it critical to living innocent lives without as the children of God.
It is to hold on to the LOGOS ZOE – the Word and the Life.
This isn’t just about reading the scripture, it is about knowing that Jesus Jesus is the Word, and that Jesus is the Life.
It is His promise that we are justified – that we are declared innocent, this is what we have to hold onto – the fact that Jesus promised that He would always be with His people—we have to hang onto Jesus and His promise…
It’s a good thing that “the Lord is with you!
But it that Word of Life that the Holy Spirit uses to cause that enlightenment – that causes the lights to go on in us.
Which causes what described earlier, as the light is seen in our lives. “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
The light which comes on in us is Jesus – who is the light of the world. It isn’t some natural light in us that causes people to want to come it is Jesus.
This is what it boils down to – what people see and why they come to trunk or treat, or the women’s tea, or the health fair. You can find all that stuff somewhere else.
But you can’t find Jesus, healing us while we help heal others….
Keep your eyes on Him, remember and rejoice in His promises,
Like the fact He will lift you up.
He will comfort you as you realize He loves you,
The you dwell in communion with the Holy Spirit,
And that the Lord will transform you into His image.
 Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 345.
16 “I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick; but those that are fat and strong I will destroy, because I am a shepherd who does what is right. Ezekiel 34:16 GNT
5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT2)
If the poor wounded man had desired to help himself he would only have done harm to himself and irritated his wounds. Had he remained lying quiet, he would have suffered all the same. This parable pictures us perfectly.
Let me tell you about the true Christian, the Bible Christian, and his view of this troubled and uncertain world in which he lives….He knows that the day when Christians should meekly apologize is over; that they can get the world’s attention not by trying to compromise and please, but by boldly declaring the truth of divine revelation with the affirmative signature, “Thus saith the Lord!”
761 Christ is nailed to the Cross. And you?… Still taken up with your whims and fancies—or rather, nailed by them!
Luther, talking about victim tended to by the Good Samaritan, describes the how completely broken and hopeless he is. Unable to help himself, unable to survive on his own, completely hopeless.
And yet it is such broken men and women that can and must provide the hope that this world needs.
Yes- they are the hope of the world… for they, as beaten and broken as they are… they have heard Jesus say, “thus saith the Lord!” Which really means “You are mine!” And that is the hope for the world, to hear those incredible words. It is as we are nailed to the cross because of our brokenness that we are united to the hope that is Christ. Those whims and fancies are killed off ( and ohh they struggle to come back to life)
The hope is actually found in Christ, through the Spirit who makes His home in us, who shines through our lives, who hope and love so fill out lives that it overflows, and draws people looking for answers in this broken world. For it is He who has come to look for those of us who are lost, to bring us home.
This is the truth we have to declare – the presence of the Lord Jesus in the lives of His people. No other religious tenet, no other truth works unless we bring that to the attention of those who are His people. From there we explain the cross – and how that means He is there… there to help, to cure, to cleanse, to bless. Any “truth” other than that tends to distract from that, and from the peace that God would have us know..even as we know His love.
The Christian’s view of this troubled and uncertain times is not to give up on the world, but to see the need for Christ’s love being brought to the world, as it was to us.
The Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 341.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is shown to you, affect more people than you can imagine!
- Intro – The Harvest Focus today
Usually, when the story of Joseph and his brothers come up, the pastor will try to get you to see yourself walking in the shoes of Joseph, trying to encourage you to deal with those who’ve hurt you. (Oddly enough Joseph never says he forgives them, only that he doesn’t have the right to judge them.)
Today, I want us to think through what the brothers had to process. I want us to walk in their shoes, to feel their pain, their relief, the comfort they were given and the most incredible thing of all, the awe at what the Lord truly made of their sin….
- The Sin
So let’s deal with their sin, originally how they reacted to Joseph’s dreams.
5 One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. 6 “Listen to this dream,” he said. 7 “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!” 8 His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them. Genesis 37:5-8 (NLT2)
That is where it all started, and now that the brothers realized the vision had come true, that it was prophetic, the brothers are scared for their very life, and so the same self-centered nature that would not believe the dream. This time, instead of getting rid of a pain in the neck little brother, in fear they lied, about what their father had said.
The sent this message – they didn’t even have the guts to say it to his face, ““Before your father died, he instructed us 17 to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.”
Like Dad would have needed to say that! He either assumed Joseph would do this, or that the 10 deserved whatever they deserved. They had already apologized, but now with dad dead, they thought revenge would be total and swift.
They would eventually get to the place were they would throw themselves at his feet, and indicated they were his slaves.
Their sin finally broke them, their guilt and shame caused the fear that they would get what they deserve.
If all the world could ever get to the point where they felt the need to do something like this, to feel the pressure of the sin, then being to drawn to God like the brothers went to Joseph would change the world.
- The Redemption
As we, and by me I mean the entire world, go to God finally broken by our sin, we can realize what Joseph told them…
“Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
Joseph couldn’t forgive his brothers, he realized this was all in the hands of God Almighty, it was all in the hands of God who would come and visit his great grandfather, with whom his dad wrestled. Who would come and live among His descendants, and die on the cross.
Who could punish us for every sin that would damn us to hell, but instead chose to use even what we meant for evil not just for good – but for the greatest good, for something that would bring pure contentment and joy.
I watched the movie about the first successful heart surgery on a baby the other night. A remarkable story I’ve watched a number of times, as it was the story which eventually led to my own heart procedures. When the baby’s skin turns from blue to pink, because of the success, the operating theater explodes in awe.
Even more awe must have been known by the brothers.
To realize their sin God was able to use for good, what a profound miracle!
God does that, even with ours today…
- Who was saved!
If we only see the awe in God forgiving us, we are still self-centered and missing the point. When god heals our brokenness it does something far more,
Hear the scriptures again, “20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
This is what leaves them in awe… that the salvation wasn’t limited to the 10 brothers. It wasn’t even limited to their dad and their children.
God was able to use their sin ot bring Joseph to a place where millions would be physically saved.
So who knows what happens, what could happen, when we are forgiven, and realize God can us even that to bless others. We see that already in the lives of people here, like Vanessa – whose co-workers ask her to pray – and have us pray for them, or like the Chinese congregation, which has four new believers going through a new membership class, or the children in school age care who asked me questions for 30 minutes about this place – hungry to hear about the windows that teach the catechism and the banners and candles and how they teach about Jesus.
All of that God has done, because a bunch of sinners were forgiven. And the impact of that in 10 years, or 20 or 50…
God will use everything – including the sins we’ve committed, to bring people to a place where others are saved..
And while it happens, you dwell in the peace of God which goes beyond all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you as you walk through this time of Harvest!
- Context! Context! Context!
I recently began riding a bike again, and I am amazed at how much more you are aware of everything around you than you are in a car. From the potholes to neighborhood dogs to whether you are going uphill or down.
You end up so much more aware of your context!
As we look at scripture, we need to be aware of the context of the passage! Not just who is talking to whom, but what surrounds the passage we are looking at, what bookends the passage.
Today we see these bookends:
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
4 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish…
And so there is a lot of focus on those God considers His little ones… and the rest of the passage gives us insight into who they are…
- Take Care of the Little Ones
So who are these little ones? We start to see who they are in what the two comments book end.
12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
So this isn’t just about those we normally think of as “little ones.” It follows through their lives, and God is the Shepherd who never gives up. So God’s little ones include those of us who have occasionally wandered away, whom He is working to return.
God cares about each of us, as much as every parent cares for their child. It is something that never changes, this care that God has for us. The only difference is God doesn’t worry like a mom whose son just got a new bike. (Even if he is a 58-year-old pastor!)
But God rejoices when we He is able to forgive and restore us. His joy is so enthusiastic that Isaiah says He will dance when we arrive at the point where all of God’s children are home! And that, even now, when someone comes to depend on God and the promises He has made to save them, all heaven rejoices!
That’s something that to me shows God’ love. It doesn’t stop because we throw a tantrum, or we tell Him off, or we decided we would rather have it our way, and dwell in what we call sin – the destructive behaviors God has warned us about—because those behaviors destroy our relationships, with God, with others and our internal peace.
What is worse is that when we are caught up in such behavior, we are like that lost sheep, we don’t even see the mess and the danger we’ve gotten ourselves into!
Which is why God sends Jesus, and his followers out to find us, and bring us home.
And He does do that—He searches for us, He sends friends and pastors and other believers to find us, He might even drag us to see a friend or family member prayed for, or a child’s back blessed and to see them sing…
All to bring a lost wanderer home to where they can find peace, where they can know they belong, where their souls can find rest and healing.
Because we are God’s children, this is what He wants for us!
- Those Needing Forgiveness
Which brings us to the last section of our gospel reading this morning.
15 “If another believer* sins against you,* go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid* on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit* on earth will be permitted in heaven.
We have to see that this passage isn’t about just correcting someone who has done us wrong. It’s about bringing that little one, that sheep that is wandering lost, back into the family, to make sure they know they are welcome at home.
Notice it doesn’t put the emphasis and the work on the sinner, but rather on the one who was sinned against, the one still in the family, still part of the church. It is our job to restore people, to take on the sin and work for reconciliation in a process.
Not just one conversation, several, then several involving wise men of the church skilled in reconciliation, then even bringing the entire church into the discussion – that the lost sheep might be restored…
That is the responsibility of forbidding and permitting, what is called the authority of the keys. To use the responsibility God gives us to say sin is forgiven, or not, to rejoice in the announcement of reconciliation—this is even the end of treating someone like a pagan or tax collector – the people that Jesus reached out to, and died to save.
It’s all about bringing the children of God back to Him – no matter how far we have wandered.
SO let’s go bring everyone who is lost and wandering home, even as God has brought us here.
Thoughts which draw me closer to the cross, and to Jesus.
My people are like sheep whose shepherds have let them get lost in the mountains. They have wandered like sheep from one mountain to another, and they have forgotten where their home is. 7They are attacked by all who find them. Their enemies say, ‘They sinned against the LORD, and so what we have done is not wrong. Their ancestors trusted in the LORD, and they themselves should have remained faithful to him.’ Jeremiah 60:6-7 GNT
14But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 3:14-15 GNT
Segments of Christianity have made every possible concession in efforts to win young people to Christ; but instead of converting them to Christ they have “converted” Christianity to them. Too often they have come down to the modern level—playing, teasing, coaxing and entertaining. In essence, they have been saying to them, “We will do everything as you want it,” instead of giving them Christ’s insistent word, “Take up your cross!”
The Jews were stubborn and depended on God’s promises. They vainly thought they owned the temple, and that God dwelt there; besides, they thought they had mighty men, money and treasures enough to defy all their enemies. They trusted in their own glory and built their own confidence on a false delusion, which finally deceived and destroyed them.
Jeremiah, Luther and Tozer, from different periosds in the story of God and His people talk aof the same problem. One which I hear people in the church complain about, a lot, today. A world without direction, devoted to compromise and self-determination. Therefore, both on the liberal and legalistic sides of the journey, they sin.
That sin is easily is described in the words of Luther, people think “they own the temple.” THey think they are in charge and whether it is a progressive agenda or Chirstian Naitonalism, they seek to remake God and the relationship He’s created with us according to their thoughts. Tozer calls this converting Christianity to them, as their wander aimlessly, either encouraged by those originally taksed with shepherding them, or just ignoring the Shepherd’s existence. The church is even mocked today for not following God, and deserving the redicule they earned, by creating visions that are not faithful to God.
This would be a very negative post, except that it points out our need to be freed from the false delisuion, to be converted (transformed) into the image of Christ, to hear and to treasure what the Shepherd and His shepherds teach about the cross, the grave. and the resurrection… and the life found there.
This is what Paul is telling Timothy to focus upon the truths which he learned from those who taught him from the scriptures. The message that teaches us how Christ saves us, and that is the message we can and must depend upon. THis is the message that matters, This is the truth that will guide our lives, and bring us home, rather than leaving us wandering around.
This is our hope – so look there.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 317–318.
17 Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 GNT
Especially would he teach them to be useful and bring comfort to the poor flock of Christians by their good example of faith and love in order to strengthen their faith and love. He here shows how he gives and will give rich blessings to the end that such office and service may accomplish much good, and bring forth much fruit.
He knows that he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be. Paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing! In God, everything!
751 Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.
Luther’s words comment on Jesus commanding the apostles to feed thousands upon thousands of people, with not even enough food to feed themselves. One might think they are poor, yet in the presence of Jesus, are they really? The example of faith and love is more important than them having a fleet of food trucks (you would need at least 60?) available. For it is only by realizing the incredible power of God at work in their lives, that they can see the potential they have as servants of the people of Jesus.
This is the same point as Tozer, as a man looks at himself, and realizes his brokenness, his inability. Then the paradox can be revealed, and the man sees how God truly values him, for Jesus was sent to restore to the Father that which He treasures the most. You need to take a moment and think that through. Jesus was the investment God made, the payment for our restoration.
This is not something just made up, this is the point of scripture, to show that God loves us enough to heal and restore us, and counts that work, started as we were joined to Jesus in our baptism (see Col. 2) All of scripture points to this work of Christ, even though we will not see it fulfilled until He returns, it is true now, and the effect of it is as sure as those people were no longer hungry. As the St. Paul tells Timothy, God provides everthing we need, not just for us, but for us to minister to the world, and not just a little here and there… we are to give generously – without concern, but with reliance on God for what is needed. For this is what it means to have hope – to expect something. TO act on the fact that God wants your neighbors to know Him, to love Him, this is what we have to realize is our life–for it is lived in Christ.
This leads us all to St. Josemaria’s prayer – that recognizing God’s presence in our lives, we should plead for Him to use us as He wishes (think Romans 12:1-15).
Pray those words with me, “Heavenly Father, ‘You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!’ AMEN!”
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 314.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.#751
Thoughts which Drive me to Jesus, and to the cross in which we are partners
2This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says about the rulers who were supposed to take care of his people: “You have not taken care of my people; you have scattered them and driven them away. Now I am going to punish you for the evil you have done. 3I will gather the rest of my people from the countries where I have scattered them, and I will bring them back to their homeland. They will have many children and increase in number. 4I will appoint rulers to take care of them. My people will no longer be afraid or terrified, and I will not punish them again. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jeremiah 23:2-4 GNT
I think it very significant that our word occurs in this scene of Luke’s, which is like a vision of what is to come: James and John are referred to as κοινωνοί of Simon (v. 10), which is translated inadequately as “partners”—obliterating the associations of the word which particularly interest us. The three men, whose fellowship (as we saw) will be continued in the “pillars” of the Letter to the Galatians, are there at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and form a “commune”. It is clear that the word at this point has no theological connotation; it is used as a generally current term for fellow tradesmen. James and John are Simon’s “associates”, “partners” in fishing; the three of them are in “partnership”. They are joint owners of a small business, with Simon in overall charge. Here, then, is the original, secular sense of the word, which will remain important for an understanding of its new religious sense: κοινωνία implies common property, working together, shared values. In Jesus’ “Henceforth you will be catching men”, Simon’s erstwhile trade becomes an allegory of his future vocation. Similarly the fishing partnership becomes a sign of the new “partnership”, the new communio. Christians will be the “company of the tiny bark of the Church”, one in their calling by Jesus, one by the miracle of grace which harvests the wealth of the sea after nights of hopelessness. Since they are one in grace, they will also be one in their mission, which is itself grace.
Fifteen years ago yesterday, I was installed as the pastor of my present church, and then installed 2 deacons to work beside me, to be partners in the ministry we share with all who are called by God through the church – to care for His people.
I thought of that this morning, as I picked up the devotional reading I missed yesterday, and saw how it addresses those who shepherd God’s people, or at least try to lead them. Jeremiah doesn’t pull his punches, he nails us to the wall for the sins we commit, when we don’t shepherd them, but rather, put other things in front of them.
You see, God doesn’t care about our buildings, about the financial state of our 501(c)3 corporations, our districts/diocese, and our national or international headquarters. He cares about the husband and wife in a walker and wheel chair, those who take in or move in with others to care for them, the young man whose family is struggling, the 70 year old homeless couple in the back pew, and even the pastor and deacon–each with their own trauma, that try to guide the people.
God cares for them – even as he cared for the 6 partners in the fishing business. (remember – they left dads behind)
Pastors, priests, deacons, ministers, whatever you title them–are sinners. We can be described as Jeremiah did on occasion. And when we realize it, we grieve.
Our hope for not being total failures, is not in the grief, or even in the corrective action (which hopefully we learn to take). It is based in what Cardinal Ratzinger refers too, (yes later he was Pope Benedict 16) about all our work being done with our Senior Partner, Jesus Christ. This doesn’t excuse our sin in the sense of we can avoid the grief, but it does mean He will care for the people – bringing them home just like the load of fish the fisherman caught after their night of futility.
Our hope is in Jesus, picking us up, reminding us of the shared love, and them kicking us in the tush – so we get back to caring for His/our people. Our hope is in our communion, our common work and His uncommon ability–and His love, which will become common to us.
It is being His partner- being in communion with Him that any ministry has value, or efficacy. It is there we learn of His love for the people He has charged us to care for, to love, to shepherd–even if that means at great cost. Even at the risk of failure or burnout.
Ministry happens there, in the church, at the altar, at bedside..
Where we help them know God is with them…
Anything else isn’t the ministry we are grateful to share.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 82–83.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be evident in your life in the Harvest field!
- You are that answer to Prayer
For the next 11 weeks we are going to be talking about God working through us, turning us into an answer to prayer—a prayer Jesus taught us to pray. It comes from Matthew 9:38, There, we find written:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT2)
And so we pray, and then we find that we are the answer to pray – each one of is not just sent into the harvest fields once in a while, God has called us to live in the midst of the field that He has planted.
As we look at this, there are a number of lessons to learn experientially, before we get to the reading of Revelation 7, and the final eternal celebration of the Harvest:
We will hear that description on Reformation day,
“9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, (have everyone read this part) “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT2)
I can’t wait to hear you say that in heaven!
Today’s reading from Psalm 67 talks about it… we see the promise of the harvest, 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us. 7 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
So what happens before that…
- Before the harvest
Is prayer – a prayer that God’s blessings be known, not just to us, or to the Israeli people, but to everyone. Hear it again!
2 May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. 3 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 4 Let the whole world sing for joy, because you govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world.
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you.
I still wish Bible translators knew of the existence of exclamation points!
People throughout the whole earth, people everywhere, need to know what God is doing! How He is using all His power to save people everywhere! We need to know, everyone needs to know God is there, to the point where their reaction is simply to praise Him.
Which means to know what it means to be saved.
We need to explore that – because to just say, “hey, you were just saved.”—especially without a exclamation point…. Doesn’t inspire a lot of praise and adoration.
Our salvation – yeah that does. Or it should!
- Justice and Guidance
So to understand salvation – we have to look deeper into the passage, to where it talks about God governing the nations with both justice and guidance.
The first is justice – everyone thinks they want justice in this world, until you really think about what it means. I had two instances where I had to think about what justice truly is this week. One situation has played out in the news, the other was regarding something I witnessed.
The first case, I urged patience in, the details of the court case was only given by one side. And the other side is only beginning to be heard. Rumors abound, which doesn’t help anyone, it just divides people. The second case, I thought I wanted what I thought would be justice… and then, when it didn’t go quickly or easily, I became uneasy, and when the dust settled – my thought was the accused got way too light of a sentence for the suffering he caused.
And then I looked at my sermon notes again…
If anyone of us got the sentence that justice demands for our sins, the sins we commit in our thoughts through our words and what we do, not one of us should be here. Not one of us should be allowed to receive communion, in fact, Bob and I should be struck dead as we approach the altar…
So God’s justice cannot be what we call justice. It must be something more…
It has to be God’s justice, or to use the other word that is translated as–His righteousness. God governs us, which is about judging us and our lives.
And in His righteousness, He sees us as righteous.
His level of righteous…for in Christ’s death and resurrection, Jesus was credited with our sinfulness, as He credited us with His complete righteousness. So, God is completely just, His judgment is unquestionable.
After judging us as righteous, God does something even more phenomenal. He invests in our lives. He guides us and takes responsibility for our lives.
This is why we praise Him! He makes us His own, caring for us, cleansing us, walking with us through life, simply because He loves us.
These are His ways that need to be made know throughout the earth, the effective way He will save everyone who depends on Him..
- The Harvest that is now – and not yet
As we spread that message, as those seeds are planted, they grow until the harvest at the end of time. We heard it from the Psalmist earlier, but let’s hear it again,
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us
Or as Jesus said it
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:13-14 (NLT2)
So its simple – we work in the fields we live in, sharing the work of God, knowing His presence, and then, the harvest happens, and we are all brought before the throne of God. Until that day, God governs us and guides us, His people as we dwell in His peace…doing His will, sharing His love with the world. AMEN!!
He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God 2 Cor. 1:4 GNT
I think we can say that most Christians have no clear end toward which they are striving.
The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. Here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for he himself came with this office and the external Word.
Psalm 119:59 tells of a time of self-examination, a time where the Psalmist looked at his life and probably sight, stood up and began the journey again. It is a hard course of action to take, but one that we each need to do, and perhaps, need to do as congregations as well.
But 30-30 years after Tozer originally noted that we strive without a true direction, we still don’t find it. We get caught up on crusade after crusade. THe latest is to fignt human trafficking, prior to that there were battles on both sides of the CRT issue, and the LGTBQ issue, and this political issue and that one. It’s nothing new, I remember the church being directed to strive against rock & roll, promiscuity, divorce and greed growing up.
And in all of this, we’ve lost what it means to be the church, to have Jesus revealed to us, to believe, trust and depend on the work of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
and then to share that work with those who need it. Which is everyone we encounter. That’s the basis of what Paul is telling the church in Corinth. We need to strive to maintain the hope given to us in the life, death, resurrection and eventual return of Jesus–and then we need to share that with all who are broken.
I need to do this, but so do you. Luther’s clear about this being the work of both those called to shepherd the church. and those who are the church.
This needs to be our focus, our life, this hope of being a relationship with our creator, who loves us.
To strive after anything else, to think spiritual warfare is about anything else, is vanity
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 255.
Who Am I?
† In Jesus Name †
May the love of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you realize who you are…in Christ.
- Paul hits hard…
When I read stuff by the Apostle Paul that I don’t like, I remember the words of the Apostle Peter about Paul:
Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction. 2 Peter 3:16 (NLT2)
And I agree, some words of Paul take a lot of thought, something I don’t want to invest.
I will admit, I want to apply those words of Peter’s to some of the clearest words of Paul, like where he says,
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Romans 12:14 (NLT2)
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. Titus 3:1 (NLT2)
Unfortunately, there is nothing hard to understand about those two passages, and really, there is nothing hard to understand about today’s passage either.
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” Romans 7:18-19
This bothers the heck out of Paul, ever after talking about the glorious truth that we died with Christ, and because, praise God, He is Risen, we are risen indeed. It bothers the heck out of me as well, because it is true, and I understand why Paul felt like a wretch!
Too bad Peter wasn’t right about this!
- Ergon versus Poieo
It gets even worse when you look at it in Greek.
You see, when Paul is talking about desiring, not just wanting, but to desire to “do” what is right, he uses the word we get “ergonomics” from—simply work that we do, even without thought. Paul wants to do what is right like he breathes—to simply do it.
And he cannot.
But when he talks about doing what he does instead, doing what is wrong, what is contrary to the plan and order of God – he uses a different word—the word we get poetry and poem for—a word that means to artistically craft something, putting effort and imagination into it.
So Paul wants to do what is holy and right automatically, just because of being alive, and he puts a ton of effort into his sin, planning, executing and defending it.
Thank God that none of us are like the Apostle Paul! (let the sarcasm drip like water flowing over Niagara Falls)
This is where John Newton, when he wrote Amazing Grace, found the line he adapted to describe himself—“that saved a wretch like me!” Here the translators went with “what a miserable person I am,”. How much we suffer, both because of the consequences of our sin, and when we realize we sin and we get down on ourselves, as Paul is doing here. The word picture for this feeling is even darker.
- Your living conditions!
You see, Paul talks about living with sin, and being a slave to it. The word picture is that sin, makes its home with you. It dwells incredibly close to you. It is that body of death Paul wants to be delivered from…
Back in Paul’s day, you literally had to live with your sin and the consequences of your sin. If Bob killed me, the Emperor could and order me to be tied to Bob for the rest of Bob’s life, or until all my body parts fell off. Imagine Bob inviting you over for steaks, about 3 months after that sentence. Wouldn’t be a pretty sight to see, or to smell!
That is what Paul is talking about, when he asks who will deliver him from the body of death tied to him.
But that is where this principle of life comes in. Let me read the first two verses of Chapter 8 again,
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Here is our answer, if God declares you are not condemned, that body of death that is sin cannot be attached to us.
This is the greatest statement about you that has ever been made. It defines you as one of God’s precious children,
That body of death, the sin that you live with, it is gone.
Was it there? Yes
Did it create a war inside your very soul? Yes
Did it cause guilt and shame? Yes
Did it win? No
You have been freed from it, you are welcome in the holy, glorious presence of God because you belong there, for you belong to Jesus, and you find life, not with sin strapped to your back, not with it making its home in your life… but you finding your life is in Jesus.
The reality of our struggle with sin is that we need to realize Jesus killed off the sinful part of us, that He has freed us from the guilt and shame.
In the last two weeks, Bob has pointed us to the altar and the blessing of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I would point us to the third sacrament in Lutheran theology… hearing that the power of sin and death, and the grip it has on you has been shattered in your baptism, and confessing it and hearing you are forgiven, for you dwell in Jesus, bring you to the table of the Lord.
You are free, you are forgiven,
For you dwell in Jesus, because the Spirit has given you life. Not because, as the song said of what you’ve done, but because of who you am, in Christ. AMEN!
For those interested in the pushishment refered to, here is one citation. There is also a reference in one or Virgil’s poems to the concept for an older source. It is graphic… but powerful things often are!
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
This is a reference to the Roman method of punishment in which the body of the murdered person was chained to the murderer. The murderer was then released to wander where he might, but no one was allowed to help or comfort him upon penalty of suffering the same punishment. In the hot Eastern sun the dead body would soon begin to decay, overwhelming the sentenced person not only with the smell but also with infection from the rotting flesh. It was perhaps the most horrible of all sentences that the imaginary Romans ever devised. To Paul our putrefying body of sinful flesh is like this, and only Christ can rescue us from it.
James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 537.