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…

Did God Cause the Corona Plague To Get Us To Repent? My answer from scripture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A friend of mine wrote:
Dustin, I have seen the following posting recently. It bothers me and I’m not sure why. I would love your input.
“In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, “you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don’t want to go to church and worship me, I will make it where you can’t go to church.” If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”Maybe we don’t need a vaccine, maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival where we focus on the ONLY thing the world that really matters. JESUS”

My answer –

Personally, I think there are a number of critical errors – and overall it borders on blasphemy.

First, the people in Egypt weren’t in a relationship with God when they were afflicted by the plagues. The descendants of Abraham were not so afflicted. So that point is way out of whack.

Second – God has promised to not curse the entire world at once again in Genesis 8:21-22. “21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Genesis 8:21-22 (ESV)” SO a global pandemic like its is not God cursing us, as the quote describes

Third, this paints God as one who isn’t himself long-suffering and patient with us, not willing that any should perish.but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9. The kind of thing the quote you reference assumes is that God isn’t patient. It looks to repentance as a demand, not a blessing offered.

Fourth, Luke 13:1-5 describes a concept – Jesus never says these tragedies are caused to punish sin (which Idolatry is) but that we can realize that life is short because of them, and welcome the repentance the Holy Spirit grants/ gifts us.

5. Next look at this, “25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NLT2)
Again we see gentleness at work as God changes the heart ( this is what repentance truly is – God’s work changing us. See Ezekiel 36:25ff – the promise of baptism

6. Again, more on repentance
31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Acts 5:31 (NKJV)
and
31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Acts 5:31 (NKJV)
notice how God gifts/grants repentance? It is not something God browbeats people to do?

Will trauma be instrumental in bringing people to repent? It can, but it is not the primary way God has ever worked.

7. One last thing – the end of the quote where it talks about a personal revival is completely in error God always works in and through His people as a community. The church, the people of God is the bride of Christ, not billions of brides of Christ. We are 1 Body (see Romans 12, 1 Cor. 12, and Ephesians 4) united with Christ together.
Remember – there are 2 commands – Love God and Love Neighbor (the one Sunday I preached at NOCC – it was on this – as you reminded me years and years later!) This would seem to indicate that we don’t have to do that anymore, – that it is us and God in isolation.

Not that I feel strongly about this quote… 🙂

Ultimately, while I understand the zeal of the person, I really disagree with the approach because it doesn’t portray God as either just or loving. It is this kind of theology drives people away from God, more than draws them to Him. Yes – we need to repent – but repentance is something the Holy Spirit generates in us, alongside of the faith needed to do so.

At any rate – these are my opinions, based on scripture, and more than a share of dealing with trauma and those traumatized.  Please dialogue below.

So Longed for…the Sacraments and the Return of Jesus!

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day

23  I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign LORD, then the nations will know that I am the LORD. 24  For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. 25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Ezekiel 36:23-27 (NLT2)

23  For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24  and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25  In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT2)

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . James 5:16 (NLT2)

Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ,33 which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church.

18 A sacrament is a ceremony or act in which God offers us the content of the promise joined to the ceremony; thus Baptism is not an act which we offer to God but one in which God baptizes us through a minister functioning in his place. Here God offers and presents the forgiveness of sins according to the promise (Mark 16:16), “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” By way of contrast, a sacrifice is a ceremony or act which we render to God to honor him.

I saw a friend share part of the Ezekiel reading the other day, and my mind flashed back to a baptism 5 years ago this week,

A pastor I know and admire posted about baptizing someone yesterday in their front yard with family looking on from an appropriate distance.

I’ve talked to pastor and priest friends, who all agonize over not being able to provide the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper to those whose faith is so challenged in these days.

Sacraments are not some magical incantation, the words accompany the promise, and the means God promised real to those whom HE blesses in that moment.

That water, because God promised, because He is pour/sprinkling/immersing people with it, give what He promised – the cleansing of our sin, the change of heart  (and mind) that we need, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

That bread that we place in their hands, it is the Body of Christ – given and shed so those people can realize GOd’s love, His mercy, His presence in their lives.

The words of forgiveness, which ring out, not because the pastor likes you, but because God wants you to hear them – YOU ARE FORGIVEN!

This isn’t about us doing the work, about our obedience, about our religious acts.  It is about God coming into our lives,  about God doing His work.

Those who are ordained to make sure these gifts are delivered are crushed, because we hear the need across phone lines, through texts and messages, and in the posts on social media. We can and are responding to some of those cries in person, but it is another thing to celebrate it all in person.

We look forward to the days when services and masses are the gatherings they should be.  But this time helps a little I think. For we begin to understand a little more clearly what it means to cry out for Christ to return, for the great gathering that will happen, when He welcomes us home.

I think we take heaven for granted at times, as we might the Lord’s Supper or our baptism, or that moment when you hear your shepherd tell you that you are forgiven because Jesus said so.  One has seemed so far away – a lifetime.  The others, the sacraments have always been there, they always should be.  Their removal, and the threat of death, combine to help us think of the biggest reunion.

We learn to yearn for the future, because of the absence of the present.  We learn to look to eternal life, as we are reminded that this life is easily threatened.  We long to have Jesus return to us in the sacrament, even as we are learning to yearn for His second coming!

Let me say it again, for it is worth saying!  I long for the day when the people I pastor can re-gather, and celebrate Christ’s feast together.  But even more, I am understanding why I should long for the feast to come when all of God’s people are welcomed home…and the celebration begins.

May God’s peace, poured out on you in Christ, nourished through word and sacraments, sustain you until the re-gatherings.  This will happen, for He has promised, and He is faithful!  AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 289.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 252.

Measuring a Church’s (and Its Pastor’s) Effectiveness

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

41 Many more Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they heard him say. 42 They told the woman, “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!” John 4:41–42 (CEV) — 

1. Liturgy is for all. It must be “catholic”, i.e., communicable to all the faithful without distinction of place, origin and education. Thus it must be “simple”. But that is not the same as being cheap. There is a banal simplism, and there is the simplicity which is the expression of maturity. It is this second, true simplicity which applies in the Church

I often hear church leaders talking about how effective a church is, and I hear some trying to measure churches to determine whether this church is viable, whether it is still worth the “investment” of talent and treasure made in it over the years.

A lot of these studies are based on numerical analysis – has the church grown, have their offerings been stable, what kind of turnover has occurred among staff and other leadership. Consultants will come in and do surveys for larger churches and denominations.  They, in turn, pass this information on to smaller churches, which but into the theories and lose morale, and eventually close. (That larger churches often benefit statistically from this is another story)

After all, numbers are important, and statistics tell a story that might be hard to refute without knowing the true story of the faithful. In fact, we often do not hear the stories, because the statistics seem so conclusive.

No one would have believed that a church community would have been viable in a remote Samaritan Village. Never mind that the person that got the ball rolling would have been a woman with a past. No one except Jesus.

But look at the statement they make to her!  They had moved from believing in God because she had told them, to believe in God because they had experienced Him. What an amazing statement this is!  One that every pastor should desire to hear! To know our people are experiencing the incredible, immeasurable love of Christ  – not just hearing about it second hand!

I am not saying they go past needing the guidance of spiritual shepherds and prophets, that is part of our role, but they resonate with the teachings of Christ – they realize that God is speaking to them, especially during sacramental times, or when God is silent. Or they recognize that it is the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin, and comforting them as the Spirit cleanses and heals them.

This level of maturity makes a huge difference in a church. And it will see the church do things that go beyond logic, as they serve those around them. People will care, (and struggle when care is difficult) they will give beyond what is reasonable, they will be there when no one else would.

So how does a pastor do this?  I think Pope Benedict wrote about it well. To present the gospel in a simple yet mature way. To not cheapen the masses, worship services, and Bible Studies that we give. Rather  – we need to make them communicate the incredible love that God has for His people – so that they know it – so that they experience it, so that worship is full of the joy that comes, even in the midst of trauma and lament.

The more they know, the more they experience, the more mature they get, the more they can echo what the lady was told  – “we are certain that He is the Savior of the World.

Therefore… out savior.

If our people know this, then we’ve done our job… and the work of the Holy Spirit through us has been effective.

Let us rejoice when we see God working hits way through our churches.  And may e find a way to support it, whether it is 25 people working together in Southgate or 150 in Cerritos, or 5000 in some other place.

AMEN!

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 122.

Encounter God… and See! A Sermon on John 9 during the pandemic

Encounter God… and See
John 9

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see Him, and see Him at work in your life!

DO you believe

Towards the end of the encounter of the Blind man and Jesus, Jesus asks a question to the man that was formerly blind.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

What Jesus is asking him is whether he believes in the Messiah and whether He believes He has come.  It is one of the titles a Jewish person would have known referred to the Messiah,

Do you believe in the Messiah?  Jesus asks.

The man encountering Jesus replies, “Who is he, sir?  I want to believe in Him!”

The encounter then takes a new direction – as Jesus reveals to the one born blind he is the Messiah.

Before we deal with that, I want to ask another question, an interesting one.

Did he only believe because he saw Him?

Did the Blind man only believe in Jesus because he saw Him?

Or another way to phrase the same question, if the man had encountered Jesus, but Jesus did not give him the ability to see, would he have believed in Jesus?

It is an important question and one we need to face….

Will we only believe and trust in God, if He does what we desire most?

Will we only turn to Him if He keeps us safe from the flu or the coronavirus?  Will we only trust in Him if He heals our broken land, and ends the isolation that is so affecting all of us?

Will we only believe if God does things our way?

And if He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, will we reject Him?  Will we refuse to believe in Him? Trust in Him?

Depend on Him?

There is our question for the day… and a hard one.

The Dark Question

It’s one, if we are honest, we are afraid to ask.  Even if we aren’t sure of the answer.

Matter of fact, that is why we need to ask this!

Because we need to come face to face with the question.

Is our faith in God, is our being a Christian based on God doing what we desire?

Is it based on God caring for us the way we want?

If I am honest, the answer would be yes, at times. My faith wavers, it struggles, and I have to be able to admit that. I get frustrated when things don’t go my way, and I hurt in times like this.

And this passage gives me the comfort to admit this… and then reach out to God… and say where are you?

Why I can

The first is this – Jesus was working in the man’s life way before he asked the question. He was giving the blind man the ability to see and doing things that though the guy didn’t know who Jesus was, he knew something was happening that could only be accountable to God.

Back in verse 17 the man stated, “I think He must be a prophet!”  And then in verse 33 he said, “If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it!”

He saw God at work – even before he truly understood Jesus was the Messiah before Jesus was the Savior. He recognized something out of the ordinary was happening, something that couldn’t be normal, or just a coincidence.

While for us that may not be healing, God is still going to be at work in our lives way before we recognize that the Holy Spirit is carefully opening us up, and calling us into that place where we begin to heal, where we see God at work

Where we can then hear the question asking us whether we believe and as we go… uhhh… or ask this question or that one, we see Jesus revealed to us. And as He is revealed the Holy Spirit grants us both faith and repentance.

The Holy Spirit does that as well, working in us, revealing to us Jesus’s work through the gospel and then sacramentally, as God cleanses us from Sin and sets us up in a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Then, the Spirit has worked in us, we are no longer blind to the work of God, we can say with the man in today’s gospel, “Yes, Lord, I believe!”

How can we behold Jesus today?

You see that is the key, not saying I believe because of this argument, or that apologetic.  We believe because God is at work, and we, even as limited as our vision is, begin to see Him at work. We encounter Him doing something in our lives.

I am not saying our salvation is based on our experience or our emotion. I am saying that as God is at work, it becomes hard to deny it.

So how do we “see” Jesus at work today?

I mean he’s not down at the hospital, or the Braille institute, opening the eyes of the blind. My eyesight isn’t that bad, so where is He? Where can see that He has worked?

I see Him in the eyes of those who commune, I heard Him in the words of those who respond to me, “and also with you!” and “he is risen indeed! And therefore, we are risen indeed!” In the voices of those singing His praises.

But I see Him the most as His word and sacraments breathe life and power into the lives of the people around me. As I see people reconcile with those they have offended and forgive those who have offended them.  I see it in the eyes of those I tell that God has forgiven them of all their sin, and as people ask the hard questions, the ones that cause us to have no other option but to trust in God, and in the midst of that trauma, find peace and serenity that goes beyond anything we can logically explain.

The Spirit is at work within you – because He has promised to be, and God always keeps those promises.  This is our encounter today – wherever we are.

So be still… and know and see, He is God!  AMEN!

Come Back to Me.. and be Happy! A sermon on Romans 5

Come Back to Me
and Be Happy
Roman 5:1-8

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so real in your life that you now true joy and happiness!


What am I thinking?

As I looked over the reading for tonight, the one word I would choose to describe my emotions was “mad”.

The only problem is I couldn’t figure out was whether I was mad as in angry at God, or mad as in insane. I honestly don’t know.

This isn’t right, to have this place of peace so empty, so devoid of smiles and laughter, of even the tears that come as we find it easy to lay our burdens down.

It has been a hard day, our preschool “chapel” time was just Susan, three teachers and myself. Looking forward to tonight, with just a few of us here, was difficult.

I so want to share the Lord’s supper with every person possible!

And as I looked at the sermon schedule, planned months ago, based on readings set in place decades ago…. I realized I was supposed to preach on happiness.

Come on God, what are you thinking?

And the madness elevated to another level.

But look at the verse again,

 Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.   Romans 5:2 (CEV)

So are happiness comes from more than this life, it comes from looking forward to sharing in the glory of God forever….

We know we will be happy then… but what about now?

The process of suffering?

Paul continued this passage… now please remember this was planned months ago… don’t blame me  – I am just the messenger…

3  But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4  And endurance builds character,

How in the world do we gladly suffer through a pandemic, through watching people whose anxiety levels are maxed out, who are challenged beyond our ability?  I know that a lot of you aren’t worried by the virus, as much as you hurt for those who you love whose lives are more impacted.

Some of you will understand what I mean when I say that watching people suffer, watching them struggle is harder often than struggling ourselves.

And yet, the saints I know who are my age and older, have seen God work through wars, and earthquakes, through sickness, and economically challenging times, and they know God will be with us in these times.  God will be there with our laughter, and with our tears.

And His presence will give us hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.

For that Hope is found in the presence of God, a presence we can faintly see now, but will see in all its glory one day.

This is why He calls us back to Him, to give us this hope as we realize how …. beyond words His promises are.

In times like these, we need to be able to focus, to realize how much God loves us. That is how we find the strength to get through.  That is why Paul goes from hope – the right to explaining why we have hope.

 All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. 6  Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7  No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8  But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:5-8 (CEV)

We need to hear that right now, that even before we knew God’s love, back when we were even more rebellious and sinful, GOD LOVED US.

And if he loved us then, He certainly has not given up on that love, or the mercy that sustains us, and calls us back to Him, even in the deepest depth of sin….

He still calls us to come back to Him,

He still will forgive us when we ask

He will still throw a feast for us, as we come home.

He loves us, the children who finally realize our need for Him…

That is how we find happiness in the midst of trauma, tragedy, and yes pandemic.

That is how we gladly embrace our suffering, knowing He is here…

This is our God… who loves us…

And happy are all He calls to His feast.

AMEN!

Encountering God in the Midst of Isolation

Encounter God amid Isolation
(and be happy!)
John 4:5-26

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ simply leave you praising Him…

What is God Looking for

What do you preach on, when the world seems, unlike anything you have ever experienced? What do you wen everything doesn’t make sense, and you seem to be holding on by the edge of your fingers?

How do you cope, when the new term for the day is “social distance.” And we are being told and telling people not to shake hands, or even exchange elbows.

How do we cope?

Of all the people in scripture, the Samaritan woman at the well knew the frustration of isolation, She went to well at lunchtime, in the middle of the heat of the day, because there was no one there.  Five times she had been abandoned by her husbands, and the latest jerk didn’t respect her enough to marry her, he just used her… and therefore the women in town treated her like trash if they even thought of her at all.

She was isolated, lonely, probably more than a little bitter.

And then it happened, she encountered God.

We need to hear her story today, and realize we encounter Jesus the same way,

The problem – do we really know Him

As the encounter goes on, as they move from an odd discussion about water to an odder discussion about her past, Jesus then says something that seems a bit… abrupt.

You Samaritans know very little about the one You worship

The original language is blunter – you don’t know the one you worship.

That is harsh, especially if you want to keep a conversation going!

This God you claim to worship – you don’t know who He is, or anything about him.

I am surprised she didn’t run off at that moment!

Or at least say, “What do you mean, I don’t know who God is? Who do you think you are?”

But it is true, that there are times in our lives when we wouldn’t recognize God if He was standing right in front of us, or if He dropped right into our hands.

That is one of our challenges in life, that when we all to often isolate ourselves from God. That all to often we self-quarantine and miss out on the love we so desperately need. It is not coronavirus that does this, but our own sin, as if we think w could infect God, or maybe he has some kind of scanner that will toss us out of His presence.

How the problem is being taken care of.

How we need to encounter Jesus the way this lady did!

Right in the middle of her self-isolation, right in the middle of her questioning what was going on in life, right in the middle of her brokenness.

God showed up.

It wasn’t even the normal route from Jerusalem to Galilee, not even a secondary route.  Peter must have been navigating for them to come to this place.

That day, that moment, she encountered God, and of all the people in the middle east, this Palestinian woman with a life that didn’t make sense encounters God, and hears Jesus confess something he was vague about until the resurrection.

Then Jesus told her, I AM the Messiah!

This lady would run to her village, and without realizing it, shatter all her isolation, her self-imposed quarantine would disappear, as she shared with all the others the Messiah. Jesus would stay with them a while, but the change he made in her life, in that encounter was amazing.

It is the encounter He would have with each one of us this morning.

In the middle of our brokenness, in the middle of our questioning, in the middle our frustration, our questions, our fears.

He is here.

I am the Messiah is an incredible statement, for it means God anointed Him to come here for her, and for you.  To be more than your savior, more than someone who lifts you up and gives you hope.

To be the Messiah, your Messiah means to reveal to you that you are loved by God.

It all begins there, with the love of God, that brings God to weird places, like beside a well, or to a church in Cerritos in the middle of a pandemic in Lent.

To people who need to know that their past will be forgiven, that their deepest thirst will be satisfied, that God will reveal Himself to them…

This is our miracle today, whether here in person, or “out there” watching the service. You are not alone, you are not quarantined from God, you are not isolated any longer from Him, so let us worship the Lord.

The Lord God is with you!    AMEN!

Is God Causing Pandemic To Make You Suffer for Your Sins? Here is the answer

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”3“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,”Jesus answered.“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.4We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.The night is coming, and then no one can work.5But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”   John 9:1-5 (NLT2)

But some may say, “It is my complaint that my sufferings cannot be compared with the sufferings of the saints. I am a sinner and do not deserve to be compared with them. They suffered for their innocence, but I suffer for my sins. Little wonder that they bore everything so blithely!” That is a very stupid statement. If you suffer because of your sins, then you ought to rejoice that you are being purged of your sins. Then, too, were not the saints also sinners?

During my life, I have noticed that after disasters and major challenges, some groups come out and blame the trauma on the fact that someone has sinned. They blindly say this epidemic or that earthquake, or whatever tragedy is because of this groups’ sin.

Glad I haven’t seen that so far… I really don’t want to get that angry.

But it is a question that has been asked before.  While I wouldn’t call it stupid the way Luther did, it does show a lack of knowledge about God., about His love for you and the incredible depth of His mercy.  These things aren’t new, the love and mercy is gloriously rampant throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.

God doesn’t punish this group of sinners less than that group.  For all have sinned – we see that in the world, and of course scripture acknowledges it.  Even the “heroes” and holy prophets did. They had their time of weakness, scripture has no problem showing us that!

But even in the midst of our suffering, we can see God at work, using the moment to bring us back, to cleanse us of our sin, to reveal to us again that we are saints, that we are the people He is healing who have been broken by sin, even shattered by it. Yet God can and does put us back together.

The power of God seen in us… healing our brokenness, while using us to help heal others.

What a glorious thing!

Lord, help us just look to you!  Help us to depend on Your love and mercy. Help us to rejoice in Your glorious work that is revealed in our lives, even during this time of pandemic.  We pray this in the Namr of the Father, and of the Son † and of the Holy Spirit!  Amen!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 140.

The Kind of Faith We Need in These Days

Devotional Thought of the Day:

David sneaked over and cut off a small piecen of Saul’s robe, but Saul didn’t notice a thing. 5 Afterwards, David was sorry that he had even done that, †7 and he told his men, “Stop talking foolishly. We’re not going to attack Saul. He’s my king, and I pray that the LORD will keep me from doing anything to harm his chosen king.”  1 Sam. 24:4-7 CEV

One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King’s mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, “Our Father.”
Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace.

Of all the things King David did in his life that demonstrate trust in God, there are two that stick out as incredible.

Twice he had the opportunity to kill the man who was hunting him down, who was stalking him.  He could have killed him right there, and the nation would have never batted an eye.

He didn’t though, and he demonstrated the kind of faith we need in this time, a faith that can obey God, even when disobeying would make life easier, or less worrisome. Faith that isn’t content with self-preservation, but trusts God when we are oppressed, when we are struggling, and when we are being tempted

Spurgeon is right of course, that those who are weak in faith, yet still have it, will find themselves in heaven, but the earth will be more like hell. Anxieties and self-preservation will lead to temptations which will lead to the brokenness of sin.

Yet trusting God, hearing His voice as He cleanses us of all sin and shows us how to truly love others, is what faith is all about.  It sets aside our fears, knowing that God is bigger than what our minds imagine.

He is with us… and His love inspires and empowers our ability to love more than seek after our own needs and preservation.

even in the presence of those who think they are our enemies…

God is with you and loves you….

AMEN!

 

 
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Priorities in a Time of Plague

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT2)

Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!

There is a balance to life, especially a religious life.

It is hard not to worry about the food we will eat this week or next.  It is hard not to see the pictures of the lines. It is hard not to try and make large plans, and make decisions that affect our people. It seems every other day that the government is changing what restrictions are out there, and foreseeing the impact on our people is hard.

As I get to work, my instinct is to lay aside my devotions, to get right to work. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to, care for, so many different things to consider, how do I have time for 30-45 minutes (or preferably 75-90 to catch my breath and remember I  dwell in God’s presence?

My devotional readings this morning were kind of bland.. which didn’t help. I didn’t see anything much to think through that was applicable to my day until I got to St. Josemaria.

Soul care!  What German Lutherans call seel-sorge – this is our calling as the church. Making sure our people are looking to God – realizing that even now, we still need ot seek Him, and lay our burdens down.  Then take the guidance He offers, and go about our lives, assured of His peace.

So I will let those who make the decisions, make the decisions.  I will care for those who come to me and go to the ones who are mine. I will point them to Jesus, and find ways to help.

God is with us, and the peace that news brings gives us the ability to live, and love those around us.

Seek Jesus first!

It will make a difference.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Encounter God – Sermon #1 Encounter God in the Midst of Sin

Encounter God… in the Midst of Sin?
Genesis 3:1-21

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to know He ill always provide for you.

 Where are you?

In the series we are starting today, we are going to look at a number of people who encountered God in scripture. Each one is different, each has a story to tell, a story that many of us will relate to, stories we can learn from, which will cause us to grow in our faith, that will help us to depend on God longer.

Just as these people did, many of them the hard way.

Just like us!

So we start with Adam and Eve.

Where it all started! Or perhaps one may say ended.

The encounter we are looking at is probably the scariest encounter with God that could exist.

And it is one of the best that you can have, prior to judgment day.

The Encounter

I’m not going to rehash Adam and Even’s sin, most of us know the story, and they acted like most people.  You tell them not to doo something, and they do it.

Well, most people except Tom and Chuck.  They always do what they are told to do…
That is assuming they hear it.
So let’s start with the question God asks,

WHERE ARE YOU!!!

Adam, Eve?  Where are you?

Are you over here???  No.  What about here???  No… Hmmm, I wonder where they are!

Some people I know think that God is outraged, furious, storming all over the place.

I think this worked out more like a very concerned parent, but one that wants to care for His children.

He knows exactly where they are.  He knows what they’ve done, and that they are scared, that they feel guilty, they are buried in shame, and they even know what it means to be ashamed.

And He cries out with the care and compassion that is appropriate for God who is love,

Adam, Eve, where are you!?!?!

God’s Action

Every sermon I have written or heard on this passage focuses on what Adam and Even have done, and sometimes takes a theological side trip talking about who is to blame. But I think we need to look closer to God’s action.

First, He goes after them

Then, He gets to the basic issue, patiently brushing aside the blame game.

You ate… yes?

uh..uh.. yeah, but…

And what did you do,…

Uhh.. yeah I did, but I was deceived…

Despite their “explanations”, despite their trying to minimize what they did, despite all of their fears and anxieties, They knew the punishment now, and the idea of death was no longer a stranger. I would like to say I don’t know what they are going through, but been there, hiding from God.

Waiting for Him to tell me I was completely lost… completely beyond His forgiveness, beyond His love.

And as God shares the complications they invited into their own lives, the curses they chose, Includes something else.

What Luther called the first gospel ever preached, and it was preached at the Devil, “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”

By the way, that is why you see a snake in many of the old pictures of the crucifixion, for that is where Jesus crushes that snake, Satan.

And then, there is the second prophecy,

21  And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.

The LORD God kills something, to cover the sins, that should have resulted in His killing Adam and Eve. He provides what is needed, and though there are consequences, the result is that they are still His children, they are still the ones He loves, that He will always care form that He always has…

So where are you?

So now I have a question, well, I don’t,

God does.

Here Him asking you “Where are you?”

Where are you?

What have YOU done?

Don’t worry about excuses, don’t worry about the name game,

Just respond, and hear this,

14  Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 13:14 (NLT2)

Does that sound familiar?  God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. Animals had to die in order for the guilt and shame to be taken away.

He’s done the same thing with Jesus.  He died for one purpose, to ensure that the Father doesn’t have to cry out, “where are you?

And can instead cry out, “I love you!”

No longer do we have to hide, for we are beginning to know His love and compassion will find us, and the promise of forgiveness applied, even more surely than the promise was made and forgiveness applied to Adam and Eve.

This is what it means when we say in a couple of weeks, “Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!”

O wait, we aren’t supposed to say that… yet.

Too bad!

We need to hear it.

For sometimes still think we need to hide, sometimes we still think that guilt and shame are the norms.

No more my friends, for we have, in the midst of our sin, encountered a God who wouldn’t let us hide anymore!

He’s been calling, and the best thing you can do is listen, and hear Him say, I love you!

Then, as He carefully deals with your sin, you will realize this is one of the best encounters you will ever have in this life…

and His peace, a peace beyond comparison, a peace beyond all logic, will replace the guilt and shame… and you will realize you always have dwelt in His presence.  AMEN!

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