Category Archives: semons

His Mysterious Plan: A sermon on Ephesian 3:1-12

His Mysterious Plan
Ephesians 3:1-12

† In Jesus Name †


 May the grace of God our Father help you see your role in the church, as God displays His wisdom, found in the mystery of His eternal plan carried out through Jesus Christ our Lord!

A mysterious plan

As this sermon will be translated in to Mandarin, I decided to look into how to translate the word mystery.  It is one of those words, that doesn’t translate easily, there could be at least 4 ways to translate it.

The Cambridge-English dictionary suggested clarifying what is meant in our usage of the word mystery. What comes closest to my understanding of the Greek word is this option:  †

“something strange or not known, that has not yet been explained, or understood”  Another way to phrase it would be an enigma, and in this case, a divine enigma. 

Oddly enough, the word google translate suggest is Chinese is 谜, pronounced “Me” ( Mi)

So “Me” is a mystery and an enigma.

Makes sense in English!

But we are talking about God’s mystery today, this plan that has been in existence since before time began.  A secret which Paul would reveal, which is still challenging for us to comprehend, and it is still a challenge for us to use in our lives.

Not revealed? Kept secret?

Twice in this passage, Paul mentions that his mystery, this plan of God that is not yet completely known or understood was kept secret.  In verse 5 he says,  

 God did not reveal it to previous generations,

And then in verse 9,

I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

There is a challenge here, that we need to deal with, this idea that God hides His mystery, that God doesn’t lay out His entire plan for us to deal with, for us to accept, for us to know.

That doesn’t just sound right, after all, shouldn’t God just be completely honest with us?  Why wasn’t He completely transparent with His people?  Why where His plans such a mystery? 

There is tendency in mankind to want to know, to understand, but along with that we want to be able to raise questions, to criticize, to help adjust the plans.  We want to be advisors to God, and we see that throughout history. 

Peter did this, when Jesus talked about the cross, and Jesus called Peter Satan, and told him to get lost.

We do it now, when we choose to give in to temptation, when we decide to sin, when we choose to ignore God’s commands, especially the two great commands,

To Love God with all our heart, soul and mind

To love our neighbor as ourselves.

Every time we do something that Is not loving, every time we sin, we tell God that we don’t trust Him.  How much more would we have done this, if we knew everything from the beginning?
The plan – all united in Christ

So God didn’t share the plan, but now He has.  And it is about that very thing, loving God and loving those people God brings into our lives.,

To bring us all into this incredible relationship where God is our Father, where we all become one body in Christ.

Where we all share in the riches that we have, because we are the children of God, the endless treasures of God’s grace and love.

For we dwell in Christ, united to each other, even as we are united to Him, at the cross.

That is why the cross is the center of the plan, for Paul will tell the church in Rome and the church in Colossae that we were united to Christ at His death on the cross, so that we could be brought to life with and in Him, when He rose from the dead.

And as we are all united to Him, we find ourselves united to each other.  Jewish person, Gentile person, Taiwanese, those of European extraction, Mainland Chinese, Filipino, people from South America, or Africa, or India or Indonesia. 

We are all one in Christ, that was the mystery that Paul revealed, the plan we needed.  For we needed to see what the cross would make possible. That cleansed of all sin, restored and reconciled in our relationship with God

The fulfillment of the plan – we come boldly

Every plan has a final goal, a final measurement when you know the work is done.

Even those plans that seem vague, have that moment when everything becomes known, when everything becomes clear.

In this case, the plan’s goal, is stated clearly in verse 12. 

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

So now you see God’s ultimate goal, the reason for everything He has planned. 

That we would be able to confidently dwell in the presence of God.  

No fear

no guilt

No shame

no doubt

Just simply dwelling with Him, find comfort and rest in His presence, depending on Him to guide us, and take care of us.


For that is what it means to have faith, to depend on God completely, no longer hidng behind illusions, but to trust God with everything…

For He is our God


And we, we are all His people!  AMEN!

The Battle of Our Lives: Knowing this

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21  So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. 22  My inner being delights in the law of God. 23  But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24  What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25  Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God’s law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin. 8:1  There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:21-8:1 (TEV)

“The devil can devise the most extraordinary arguments: ‘You sinned. God is enraged against sinners. Therefore, despair!’ In this matter, it is necessary for us to proceed from the law to the gospel and grasp the article concerning the forgiveness of sins. You are not the only one, my brother, who has suffered such anguish. For Peter also admonishes us not to be surprised when the same suffering is required of us in the community of the brothers and sisters [1 Pet 4:12; 5:9]. Moses, David, Isaiah suffered much and often. What kind of anguish do you suppose David may have felt, when he composed the psalm, ‘O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, etc.’ [Ps 6:1]. He would much rather have died by the sword than experience these hard feelings against God and those of God against him.

At the end of a show I watched last night, a older priest looked a man in the idea, and told him he was heading to hell. The other charachter acknowledged this fact with a smile, as Jason Bull indicated he knew he had a suite reserved.

Oddly enough, the conversation was one of the most respectful I have ever seen dramatized. You might even say the dialogue was done in a very loving way.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, my mine recalled so many recent conversations about sin, and the grief it causes. The shame and guilt with which Satan and his minions try to crush our soul, The anguish that haunts us, and prevents us from finding the healing so easily available in Christ Jesus.

We have to grasp, and hold on to four our spiritual lives this doctrine of forgiveness, and the teaching of Christ’s mercy that so changes our very lives. We have to get past the sin, and let the law which convicts us drive us to our only hope, Jesus.

Sin isn’t something to hide, it is something to be treated.

It is not something you should fear telling your pastor or priest about but run to them, so they can tell you, that in Christ, you are not condemned. Rather you are reconciled to God, your relationship to Him restored, you are considered by Him to be innocent of sin, He declares this with all the love within Him, as He looks at you and I, His beloved children.

Knowing this, not just with our minds as a theological doctrine, but with our hearts and souls is the battle of our lives. To be convinced with every part of our lives that we are forgiven means we believe it, to the point where we can even forgive ourselves.

Then, we find ourselves dwelling in peace… a peace that is more than the absence of conflict but is the deepest, most unexplainable experience. An experience that occurs as we comprehend the dimensions of God’s love.

So my dear friend, confess your sins to God, and as you need, come to church and confess them, so you can hear the word that you are made new, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. AMEN



Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 16–17). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

C

Be Full of Joy: A sermon and service based on Phil. 4:4-7

Be Full of Joy
Philippians 4:4-7


† In JesusName †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine!  AMEN!

Irritating tunes…

There are in life some very irritating tunes.

You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?

A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…

“It’s” (a small world after all…

There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.

Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..”   (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to rejoicealways

and sometimes we are not in the mood!

Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging.  (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)

And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.

One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
 
Things that joy needs to replace.

But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be.  Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.

The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress.  Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.

Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives.  Those too take a lot of room in our hearts and minds.  And even if we get them, we aren’t always satisfied.  And chasing after, or hyper-focusing on these things takes up room that should be allocated for joy!

Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us.. And when it does, it steals the place for joy.

I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.

For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree.  For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.

9 What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;  1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)

And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.

How did I come up with the list?
          Our conversation with God revolves around these important things

So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?

From the passage of course.  Though I changed the words slightly.

Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other.  Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.

Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.

He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need.  We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.

We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do so, and to fill us with joy, This is the comfortingwork of the Holy Spirit!  As He cleanses us,and fills us with God’s joy!

For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do.  You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it. 

His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…

That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Faith in Action is Active in Christ (The Faith in Action Finale) A sermon on Jude 20-25

The Church Service!

Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
Jude 20-25

In Jesus Name

May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!

Faith in Action…

Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like.  We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue.  We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step.  Faith in action learns to be content.  We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.

Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.

For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”

Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”

For that is how “faith in action” is active.  It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.

The Evidence of Faith in Action

You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.

The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.

Look at the things we are called to do,

To build up each other in our most holy faith.  In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God.  A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.

To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy.  To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.

Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering.  Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.

We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that.  Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort.  That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.

And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves.  It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.

This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment.  That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate.  Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.

The need for caution

In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives.  As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices.  The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God.  The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.

Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination.  To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.

We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way

24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24(NLT2)

We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin.  Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.

He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.

Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN!

 

Faith in Action is Blessed: Matthew 5. Sermon manuscript and video of service link 11/4/18

Annual All Saints Service – Matt 5:1-12 

Faith in Action….is Blessed!
Matt 5:1-12

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ open your mind to see how God has, and is, and will bless you!  AMEN!

 

The Shopping List

If you were going to start a new project, part of the process is making sure you have the material you need to complete the project.

Whether it is making a fancy dinner, or building a shed, or, in our case, building the church.

You need to make sure you have everything you need because once you are started, stopping to go get a missing peace slows down the process, and could even require you to start all over.

The reading from the gospel of Matthew this morning provides such a shopping list.

Matthew lays out the kind of people we need to build the Church.

Not just the service in Mandarin, or the service in English, and not even Concordia.

But the Church throughout the world.

These blessed people are the components to the Church, and a church that contains such people very simply grows.

Are we so described?  

So if we are going to look at Concordia, as a part of the church, let’s see how we do.

In the English translation we use, the first item is, “those who are poor and realize their need for God.”  Do we have such people?

Do we have people that continually see their need for God, and desire to dwell in His presence?

What about people who mourn and grieve.

Not just because we have lost someone, but also because of the brokenness in the world, and in our lives?

Are we all humble?  Are we all meek and willing to deal with people in a caring manner, not being competitive or angry?

Do we all hunger and thirst for justice? Real justice, not just justice that favors us?

Do we all show mercy?

And how many of us can say our hearts are pure, that we never ever sin, or even think sinful thoughts? Or who work for peace in every situation?

We could go on and talked about the rest of the checklist, but it looks like we are already falling short of who we need to see the God designed built.

There might be a few people here who meet one of the checkboxes, but none of us meet all of them.

I also am pretty sure that there are some boxes, especially the mercy and pure in heart that has no boxes checked,

Not one.

We are blessed!

But what if we are looking at the wrong thing to check off?  What if, instead of what we are described as, we find the box to check off is the “being blessed”?

As an example, we can find people who are blessed because God has shown them comfort.

We can find people who are blessed because they have been shown mercy,

We can find people who have become pure, because their blessing is having seen, having encountered God.

Now the passage takes on a whole different perspective.

It focuses on the work of God.

It focuses on the blessing.

As we and every person in the church should focus upon.

God’s work, God’s blessing, poured out on us!

Those who are poor and need His presence (all of us!)  are blessed

Those who grieve and mourn…  are blessed

Those who have nothing, but will inherit everything… are blessed

Those who need and desire justice… are blessed

Those who need mercy… are blessed

We are blessed by God, we know His presence, His comfort, his justice.

The Greatest blessing

You see, that is what makes the Church grow,

It is what will make Concordia, both the multi-cultural ministry in English, the ministry in Mandarin thrive and the Tagalog ministry grow.

It isn’t because of how intelligent, charismatic and good-looking your ministers are.

(And that’s probably a good thing! )

The reason a church grows, or the Church grows, is when it realizes how God has blessed every single one of us.

When we realize we have received mercy, and we are satisfied by God’s justice.

When we realize we will inherit the whole earth, and the Kingdom of God.  When we realize we have been comforted, when we realize we shall see God,

These are the blessings poured out on us, even as Jesus was loving us and dying for us on the cross.

Even as our sins were paid for, and cleansed from our souls.

Even as we are given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the glory of God.

this is who we are, those who depend on God, and trust in Him, for we know..

We are blessed!

AMEN?

AMEN!

Faith in Action: Makes Sure! A Sermon on Hebrews 3 (with video of the service!)

Faith in Action…
Makes Sure

Hebrews 3:12-29

I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin.  And when they come to support you, that you will let them.

Be Careful

I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death.  They avoid death,  if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely.  (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)

The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.

In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include  a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.

Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….

For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.

Who Was it?

We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.

The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled.  Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.

And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.

They didn’t believe.

For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.

They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled.  They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts

And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.

Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.

We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him.  Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.

For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time.  We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.

We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses.  We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.

And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!

Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)

It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.

It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.

I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.

You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body.  And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.

We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.

So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.

You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall.  It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…

Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments

We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.

As James wrote in His epistle,

19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)

So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God.  Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

Faith in Action: It Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality

Worship Service 10/7 Faith in Action

(above link takes you to the link for the entire service!

Faith In Action V
Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality
Hebrews 2:1-13

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God, the love, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you that you can never ignore it.  AMEN!

 Overlooking the Treasure given

It was sitting in a garage, next to an old doublewide trailer in a small high desert town.  Covered with some canvas tarps, realtor after realtor overlooked it.  After all, the doublewide trailer was old, and while kept nicely, needed a lot of restoration.

In fact, our agent suggested removing it and just putting a brand new on in its place.  The value was the property, with its beautiful trees, and the redwood decking, and the 3 car garage with a playroom

So, curious what was next to the 1940’s pickup, under all the tarps, I lifted the tarp.  And there, underneath was a car. And oh… what a car.

A 1965 Shelby Cobra, a car worth more than the double-wide, the garage, the acre of land.  It looked like it was in mint shape, just simply forgotten about.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come with the house.  Yeah – I asked if the old vehicles on the property came with the property.

The son who inherited the house, and was trying to sell the property, had not forgotten what his dad had treasured.  But he had neglected it over the years, and so instead of being driven, it had sat, with tarps piled upon it.

What a waste!

Even more of a waste is those who live as if they didn’t know Jesus, as if they didn’t know He loved us, as if they didn’t realize the mercy and forgiveness that would bring healing to our souls, the souls so shattered by sin and its companions, the pain-filled and shame, and grieving over our brokenness.

This is the strongest challenge to the idea of faith in Action, for we need to hear about God’s reality, and really let it soak in and heal our souls, even as we help others heal.

We need to hear, and soak in God’s reality, for that is what faith in Actions does.

Every Violation, Every Act of Disobedience

I want to read the first two verses of our reading again,

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

If we don’t remember God’s truth, it is too easy to drift away, to be swept away in the rapids of life.  For that is what sin does, it picks us up, and takes us for a ride, until we are so far from where we should be.

God is serious about this, every violation of the law, every one of them is punished.  As is every act of disobedience.

No excuses, no negotiations, every violation, every act of disobedience. No exceptions, no mulligans.

Every time we have been jealous or envious,

Every time we’ve gossiped, sharing rumors or even the truth with the intent of hurting someone’s reputation.

Every time we steal, or take advantage of someone, not giving them what the items is worth.

Shall I go on, and expand on adultery or murder in thought word and deed, or how we disrespect our parents or those in authority?  How we don’t treasure the time God would have us rest and relax and heal in His peace or do I need to mention our disobedience as we fail to pray, calling on His name as He urges us to do?

Every sin, every violation of the law committed or by failing to act in love, every moment lived in disobedience, punished.

Do we hear that?

I am not sure we do.

Jesus tasted death for everyone

What I think we hear is,

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience will be punished.

and what is actually written is

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

 there is a big difference between will be and was.

And that is the truth, the gospel that we can’t neglect.

It is said in a different way toward the end of the passage,

and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.

Past tense, suffered, past tense, tasted, past tense, was punished.

We need to hear this, we need to celebrate it, we need to understand and cling to the hope tightly that Jesus paid for every violation of the law, every act of disobedience, and therefore we are free from the guilt, the shame, the eternal consequences of our sin.  Because Jesus suffered death for us, because he tasted death, fully embraced it for everyone.

That changes everything.

We realize it, our lives should resound with praise, with gratitude, with living life in an incredible way…

Not ashamed is He!

And then this of this…

11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

You and I, all those who trust in Him, or will come to trust in Him.  Who live life, trusting in Him, depending on Him for this work He does, making us Holy.  He sets us apart for a life with God, a life where we relate to Him as His children, where we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

This changes everything, far more than finding a quarter of a million-dollar sports car under some tarps.

This is life. so don’t neglect, it, rather explore the love of God who does this for us, bringing us into our salvation, this amazing wonderful life, free from guilt a shame, a life that will last enterally, with our incredible Father.

AMEN!

Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Is in Dialogue
James 5:13-20

† I.H.S. 

May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them

People in trauma

The people that James was writing too sound like us.  Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia!  Hear how James describes them

verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14  ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.

Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.

As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?

This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches.  But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.

Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way.  And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.

Pray.

There is an answer

Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other

Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick  call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins?  Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.

Pray… Pray… Pray…

Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for  reason.

We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.

It is what you do first, and always.

Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.

That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray.  It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.

But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.

James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather.  That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)

You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.

In other words, he is a man like us!  And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,

24  “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)

God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.

And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.

To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.

We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.

Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.

This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life.  That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,

Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
[1]

So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  AMEN!

[1] Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Faith in Action IV – Come Close

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Comes Close
James 3:13-4:10

IHS

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer to them, and overwhelm you with love and peace, as you help draws others in!

Divided Loyalties

Have you ever been caught between two friends who are fighting?  Both whom want you attention, who want you to be on their side?

What if one has been a longer friend, who you have had a lot of fun with over decades, and the other, while a close friend, is somewhat newer?

But what if this newer friend is the one who is right?

That is the picture we see in the apostle James’s letter this morning.  Even as he urges us to draw close to God, he recognizes the draw of the world on us,

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world

This divided loyalty is something that creates trauma, that causes us more problems, yet the hold of the world on us is so strong, even though we know how broken it is.

It so challenges the relationship we have with God, it so prevents our drawing close to God!

The Struggle with Zeal….

James talks about the world’s ways using primarily two thoughts in this passage.  Bitter Jealousy and ambition.

Bitter Jealousy is described as sour, or poisoned zeal, a desire to chase after something for the pleasure it brings. The second problem is related to it, the ambition that drives us to get what we want because we want it.  It is a word that is used to describe mercenaries, those who do what they do only for the rewards that they will receive.

Not for love, not out of honor.  Just for what they get out of it.

No wonder James calls such things worldly, unspiritual and even demonic.

He even notes this self-centeredness can influence our prayers when we pray for what will give us pleasure, what we want and desire.  As our desire grows, we find ourselves justifying what we do to get what we desire, eventually we don’t even consider the cost.

For what we desire demands our loyalty, and we find ourselves involved in a war….

And remember, James isn’t writing this to heathen unbelievers, he is writing it to believers, those struggling to live life in a broken world, torn between God and that world.

He is talking to us.

And we struggle with being caught between the world and God all the time if we admit it.  It isn’t just about pleasure, it can be about seeking comfort, or security, or happiness, when those things are more important to us that God, or other humans.

We see this all the time in the lives of others, especially those who think different than us, as we oppose them, not interested in justice as much as being right.

So how do we break free of the grasp the world has on us?  How do we break free of the sin that so easily ensnares us?

The Healing Humility found before God

I think most would suggest that James is teaching that the hope is found in the humility that he mentions a few times in this passage. Particularly these two places
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom

And

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

Yet in both these statements, humility comes not from our work outside of God’s presence, in the first it comes from understanding God’s ways, and in the second place, it comes as you are before God, as you are drawn close to Him.

This is where our hope is found, this is where the power of sin, driven by our desire for what we want is broken.

For it is when we experience the love of God, that real humility comes into play, as we stand in His glorious, wonderful presence. When we realize He loves us, that is when all else falls away, and we simply and humbly find that with Him, we can dwell in His merciful, loving peace.

For what else is there, standing in front of God, but realizing His love and peace?

Prodigals Lifted up!

It is from there, simply in awe of His love, that God’s will makes sense.  His desire that we would love each other, and even those who drive us crazy.  It is there we can see the needs of those around us and find ourselves responding to them way before we respond to our own wants and desires.

It’s that kind of thing I saw in the eyes of one man this week, whom the church provided a stack of gift cards for, who was amazed that we would care for him, and his family.

That is what happens when our loyalties are less divided when we give up being prodigals and come to the altar, when we come home. As God sees us before Him, in awe of His love, humbled to be in His glory… and He lifts us up as He gathers His children to His side.

As we wait for that day, I pray you come closer and closer to God, as you realize that you dwell in His peace, the peace that is beyond explanation, as He guards our hearts and minds!  AMEN!

Faith in Action: A sermon on James 2

church at communion 2Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18


In Jesus Name

May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!

Faith isn’t invisible

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,

1  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.

We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.

That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.

And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live.  It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,

it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,

Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.

So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.

so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.

Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike started an ad campaign this week.  Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator.  Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,

This is their new slogan,

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,

I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.

Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it.  And act on that faith.

The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help

In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.

I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:

How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.

How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.

How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?

How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?

How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them?  A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there

How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.

O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy?  Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.

But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.

Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord

When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.

These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.

For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,

Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father.  That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.

It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!

A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.

For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!

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