Category Archives: semons

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!

Chew on This! A sermon on John 6:51-59

church at communion 2Chew on This

John 6:51-59

†  IHS  †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to contemplate the love you experience, as you eat Christ’s body and drink His blood, and remain in Him!

Bothered by an Attitude

The disciples of Jesus today had an attitude and said something I just can’t believe.  It bothers me a ton, as a pastor and as a fellow disciple.

This is what they said, This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”

And a moment later, they did something that shouldn’t just bother us, it should bring us to tears.

But there is Jesus, who has fed them, healed them, taught them in such a manner that they are in awe, and they don’t want to listen to Him.  It is too hard to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them.

Even though it promises life, and life eternal.  The life lived in joy in the promise of God. Rather than simply giving up trying to understand, rather than refusing to accept Jesus teaching that He was the Bread of Life, they needed to do something…

They needed to chew on what He told them about Himself.

just like we do.

They left the Building… would we?

They didn’t. And not only did they not accept it, in verse 66 they did something even worse.

They walked away.

They abandoned the man they thought was at least a prophet, and very probably, the long-awaited Messiah, the hope, and savior of God’s people.

They couldn’t accept what He said, so they gave up.

They walked away from the free food, from the healings, from seeing miracles happen.

They walked away because they didn’t understand, they couldn’t accept it.  Despite the evidence, despite the miracles, the teaching, the food

They walked away.

But many of us do as well.

We don’t like what God reveals to us in scripture.

The simple lessons about what is right and wrong, the lessons about loving your neighbors, and your enemies, the lessons about the fact that we all have sinned, or how the church and the family should be arranged around mutual submission as we will hear in next week’s lessons.

We don’t understand, we think we can never accept it.  Some leave. Others just ignore the parts that make them uncomfortable or say that it may have been that way in Jesus’ day, but its changed now….

And we walk away, ignoring the blessing.

In the case of Jesus talking about eating His body and drinking His blood, we walk away from the promise of eternal life.

We need to stop ignoring what we don’t understand, we need to stop giving up on what is hard to accept and just chew on what God gives us, what He reveals to us for a while.

Chewing on the Words that give life…eternal life.

I’ve used the word “chew” intentionally during this sermon, even as I titled the sermon “chew on this for a reason.

I am not talking just about thinking about and deeply meditating on the Lord’s Supper and what it means.  Though doing that is a very healthy exercise, especially when you are struggling life.  For the Lord’s Body and Blood, what he calls true food and true drink, reveal a lot about His love for you.  But that is not what is talked about here.

Where I got the word “chew” is from the Greek.  Up until verse 53, when Jesus talked about eating the Bread of life, eating His Body, he used a generic term for eat.  (Phage) But in verse 53, he changes the word to another Greek word, the to chew or chomp down on what is in your mouth.  (trogon)

Jesus isn’t just talking about understanding the imagery of the Lord’s supper, he is talking about participating in the act of remembering Him, eating His body and drinking His blood, in and under the bread and wine.  Communion is not just an intellectual or heartfelt thought, it is receiving these gifts, and trusting what Jesus says they are.

His body, His blood, given and shed for you, given to help you know your sins are forgiven. Given to help you know you are in a relationship, a relationship defined by the covenant.

it is like our benediction for the service, turn a couple of pages over to it. These last words of the service,

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is for you! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Here, as we receive the bread, as we drink the wine, we experience the love of God, the love of God that is far beyond anything we can understand.  Chewing on this is not about in-depth thought, it is about the awe of communing with God, experiencing His love. You can’t comprehend it all.

And that’s okay… for knowing you are loved, knowing the width and length, the height and depth of His love for you are more than our brains can process.  This time at the altar, this time of communion with God is beyond words, for we know His love, and accept it.

We know it in our heart and in our soul, as Christ makes us one with Him.  Not in a magical way, but in a holy sacramental way. In a way, we experience that unity, as we trust Him at His word, and come and share in His feast.  As we eat His body, as we drink His blood, and find that we remain in Him, that we have a place with God. A place made secure for our heart and mind, by Jesus himself.  AMEN!

 

 

 

What Brings the Greatest Pleasure? A Concordia sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14

church at communion 2

What Brings the Greatest Pleasure?
Ephesians 1:3-14


† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you as much pleasure as you receive it and share it with others as it brings God!

 The Pleasure of a Job Well Done

This week I had to drop off nine cases of books at Concordia University. Mark Siegert, one of the professors in the Cross-cultural Ministry Center and I used dollies to bring them from the car to the building, a distance of about 100 feet up a gradual hill.

As we finished, we both laughed.  For we both managed bookstores before we got into ministry, he ran Concordia’s and I ran Pepperdine’s.  Back in the day, we would unload with our crew, shipments of 200 plus cases. And barely be tired.  That day, we were both exhausted after three simple trips! On the way back, I thought of those days, I remember the feeling after a long day shuttling cases of books, and watching the sun go down over the ocean, drinking a coke with my employees.

There is something special about doing a good job, and the sense of pleasure from accomplishing it with people you call your friends.

If that is so, how much more pleasure would God have, from accomplishing His greatest work, and celebrating it with those he loves?

The Job He Has Done

In Paul’s epistle to the church in Ephesus, we heard this morning about the work of God and the pleasure it gives Him.   In fact, Paul was so impressed, he told us about this work of God in 12 ways, which I want to go over again.

1.  He blessed us with every spiritual blessing as we are united to Jesus

2. He chose us to be in Christ to be holy and without fault, any fault, as He looks at us!

That I think is a bit of work!  At least in my case!

3.  He adopted us into His own family! He did this, again, by uniting us to Jesus, to His death and resurrection!  This wasn’t just down to make us happy, to give us joy, but this is what said gave God the greatest pleasure!  Making us His kids in every sense of the Word.

4.  He poured out His glorious grace on us, for we belong to Jesus

5. He is so rich in Kindness He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son

We need to pause here, and stop and think that Jesus’s blood paid for that sin you committed on Wednesday, yes, that one sin you thought you could hide, that no one would know about.  He paid for that sin, with the blood poured out, there on the cross.

We need to understand this, not just the thousands of sins that we commit over a lifetime, but that sin that haunts us, that we fear if it became known, it would ruin us. That sin, as well as all the others, paid for so that we could be adopted.

6.  He will bring everything together as one, at the right time!

What a day that will be, no more division, nor more struggle!

7.  Because we are united to Jesus, we have an inheritance waiting for us, we have a place!

8. Because He chose us, everything in life will work out according to His plan!

now there are days I don’t understand how everything works out into His plan, and I have to be honest with that.  There are those times I don’t see it, yet, what gets me through those times is refocusing on His plan, on His desire that all would be with Him!  When I refocus on that, the suffering is still there, but somehow its grip on me diminishes in strength. For the more we look to Him, the surer we are of His love, and therefore His promises

9.  Even though others were saved first, God made sure that because we have heard His word, He has saved us as well!

Number 10 in this recounting of God’s work is amazing, and I wish we had hours to go into it.

10.  He identified us as HIS! He picked us out of the lineup and said, you are mine, and He did this by giving us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, just as He promised long ago!

11. The Holy Spirit, given to us in baptism is the guarantee of the promises He gave us.

This wonderful comforter counted here as the guarantee of our salvation is just eh beginning of it.  Again, another sermon series could be on each of these points that Paul is sharing with the church in Ephesus!

and the final one, something that expands on an earlier point.

12.  He purchased us to be His people.

We are His people, and this is the work, the thing God has labored at, and suffered to see happen.

We are His, identified as His, adopted as His, united in Christ’s death where He paid for all our sins and freed us from them so we could have this wondrous relationship with Him!.

And someday, the sun will set for a final time, and all of us will arrive home.

This is what brings Him pleasure, not the

And find God rejoicing, with the largest of smiles, pleased at the work He has done, making us all His own.

Christianity is not just about getting us to heaven or avoiding hell, it isn’t just about doing good and not doing evil.  It is about being in a relationship with God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ whose blood was shed so that relationship would become possible.

Not just for you and me, but for every broken person that Christ died for, for every person He would save, for every person that God would adopt, for we know the pleasure it brings Him.

May he work through each one of us, helping us to see many more come to hear His of His work in their life!  AMEN!

 

How Ministry Works – A Concordia Sermon based on Mark 4

church at communion 2How Ministry Works
Mark 4:26-34

I.H.S.

 May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you mature in trusting God and serve those around you!

 Cornfields of Dandelions?

As we look at the kingdom parables in our gospel reading this morning, I imagine you think the Farmer creates a farm like the ones we may be had driven by, where the seeds are planted in nice neat rows.

But the scripture says he throws the seeds, just slings them across the field, so a better illustration would be those beautiful flowers that spread their spores across the fields of my youth.

You know, those lovely things we call dandelions!

The spores fly where ever there wind blows, and overnight your beautiful yard is covered In bright yellow flowers, though some might call them weeds.

That is how the Kingdom of God is, as the seed of the gospel is blown about, and creates life from seemed barren, lifeless, and even dead.  Yet that seemingly dead and lifeless seed, like the spores on a dandelion, produces incredible abundant life.

Without any manipulation of the farmer.

Which is why Jesus shared this parable with the disciples, and with us.

We’ve lost control!!!!

The first commandment is, I believe the simplest, and yet the hardest to put into play.

“You shall have no other gods to rival me. 4  ‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. 5  ‘You shall not bow down to them or serve them.; Exodus 20:3-5a (NJB)

That bow down part needs to be explained a little.  In the culture of the time, it was more than a mark of respect, it was a mark of submission, of recognizing that the other person was responsible for you and had the right to direct your life any way they wished, including ending it.  It was the kind of complete submission that occurs to one who has lost a war, or who really trusts the person they bow to, knowing the character of the person that they entrusted themselves to, as they bowed.

TO have a God means to trust them with your life, to run to them in times of trouble and need, and to trust their compassion, to trust them to make things right.

There is a problem with that, and it is not a new one.  It is the reason Jesus told this parable.

We like to be in control, we like to know the outcome of our days, and whether the times we endured are worth it.  We want to be able to have the right to question God and tell Him how we want the universe ran, or at least our tiny corner of it.

So too in the church, the challenge is to be focused on the gospel, on sharing God’s love as far as we can fling it and trusting the Holy Spirit to provide the result that our Triune God desires.

Except it always doesn’t work quite the way we like, and the Kingdom of God, which we would like to see nicely organized and ordered, in our opinion, seems messy and slow in its growth, and we can’t stand not seeing what is happening.  We can’t wait for the blade to explode out of the seed, and the heads of wheat to form, and the plant to mature.

So we might get impatient, and rather than trust God, we trust ourselves.  We strive to control and determine how and when growth happens. And in making ourselves God, we fall deep into sin.  Believe me, it is easy to do, to become distracted from sharing the reason we have hope in what seems to be a dark and trying life.

It is pretty easy to move from frustration to sin, from impatience with God’s process to trying to take over and play God ourselves.

And yet the seed lies there, about to burst into life, all under the control of God, and not ours.

So how do we learn to trust Him, to look to Him to provide the growth, while still planting the seeds?

Time to find rest in the trees!

The other parable gives us the idea of how to do so, as we realize the seed of the gospel is simply Christ, who was planted in the ground.

This seemingly simple man, in the most remote part of the Roman Empire, dies, killed by his “own” people, those that claimed to follow God. And even as He is planted in the ground, the apostles had no idea of what we think of as Christianity today.  They could see nothing but pain.  Yet in His being planted, life is formed and created in us.  A Billion people have found life in Christ, and in the second service, as a lady is baptized, another finds rest, like the birds that find a home in a mustard tree, safe deeply within from the predators.

It is when we know we are there when we can breathe deeply, and rest, and realize how God cares and provides for us that we learn to trust Him when we learn that He is the Lord of the church when we realize that He is God.

For we find our refuge and our hope in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in the promised God gives us, as we are united to Jesus in our baptism.  He cleanses us of all our brokenness and all the times where we’ve tried to play God.

This is what God does, hiding us so completely in His grace that we simply trust Him, that we simply relax and know His love, so incredible that we simply get back to work, throwing out the seed of the gospel, the very love of Jesus.

The gospel that draws people into a relationship deep within Christ, a place where we are revived and renewed, as we dwell in His love!  AMEN!

I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life!

church at communion 2The Gift of Pentecost:
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and Giver of Life
John 15:26-27-16:4b-15

In Jesus Name

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!

The gifts of Pentecost 

Advocate, Paraclete, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, these are words that describe the incredible gift gibe by God to us in the Holy Spirit.

The gift was given to the church at Pentecost and given to every member of the church ever since when God cleansed them with water and His word.

That is the great gift of Pentecost, that we can count on, that we can depend on the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us life, and life that is full, for our brokenness is healed.

25  I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26  I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27  I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)

 This is the Advocate, the Spirit who will testify to us all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts, transforming us, this is the Spirit that came because Jesus went to the Father until the day He returns.

The World’s Sin

One of the things that Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will do is convict the world of its sin.

But Jesus is very clear about what sin is, and what the Holy Spirit will convict us of, which is not trusting and depending on Jesus. That is the bottom line, sin is not having faith in the promises Jesus has made us.  To lack faith is to not believe in Jesus’s words, His promises of love, His promises to guide and shepherd us.
That is where sin begins, in the attitude or action that proclaims, “I know which way to go, God,!” or “I know what is right FOR me” rather than hearing, “this is the body broken FOR you”, “this is the blood shed FOR you – for the forgiveness of sin!!”

That is what the Holy Spirit is going to remind us of, that the Spirit, our Advocate/Comforter/helper who will convict the world of its sin, of it’s not trusting God and depending upon Him…

I want to go back to verse 8 for a moment,

And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

Between Conviction and Judgment

I asked a bunch of people this week this question:

When you hear “judgment” is your first reaction negative or positive?
It was not surprising that most said negative, even one lawyer who said “always negative”.  (do I want him defending me?) Note in the quote in scripture, there is something between convicting us of sin, and the coming final judgment.

The righteousness of God.

There is what the Spirit reminds us of, most of all.  That God is just and righteous, but that righteousness includes fulfilling in us what is lacking, healing what is broken, forgiving that which is marred by sin.

The Spirit picks us help, helps us, comforts us, acts as our counselor, our advocate in these situations.   The Spirit’s role is to bring us to Christ, to help us to cry out to God for mercy, even using the term of endearment, ABBA!

You see, putting the righteousness of God in between our realizing we are sinners and the final judgment turns that judgment from something negative into something positive.

For those who come, by the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, that judgment of God is this.

“You are righteous, innocent, holy, and mine!

That is what the insertion of God’s righteousness does, it makes sinners who trust in God holy.  That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Lord and giver of life.

And this is what Jesus is talking about when He promises that the Holy Spirit will testify all about Jesus. Everything that Jesus has been, and done, and will continue to do.

That the Holy Spirit would comfort us, counsel us, help us, come alongside, be our advocate, and testify to us of the love of Christ, which draws us to the Father so we can live in peace.  AMEN!

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
Acts 8:26-40

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip

How Accurate is our Sight?

Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.

We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side.  Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.

But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.

Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of.  He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country.  He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.

And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.

And how differently he must have thought.

How accurate was His,

This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome.  Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.

The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.

1  “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)

The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.

What this means is that this man would face rejection again.  Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.

The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God.   But it also divided him from his own people as well.  No wife for a eunuch.  No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.

Like many of us today.  We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin.  Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.

And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?

That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?

His hope…

Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,

32  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)

And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.

His Hope realized

I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain.  He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..

And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count.  That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing.  We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.

Just like eunuch.

God had prepared this man’s heart.  Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.

As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone.  No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God.  His prayer was answered.

He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.

The lesson we learn..

Maybe you are feeling alone today.  It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world.  Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others.  This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.

And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week.  Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are…..  And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.

God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.

Let’s pray…

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection We see things differently! A sermon on Acts 4

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
Acts 4:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!

A Matter of Perspective

There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.

I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.

And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.

If we are talking about the gospel it does.  It bothers me tremendously.

The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does.  Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.

His love for us..

A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.

This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.

And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure.  We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.

As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.

What they saw… something to reject

As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment.  It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene.  They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back

And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should.  It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.

They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant.  They were looking for logic and reason.  They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.

That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”

As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening.  As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.

But humanity does that all the time.  We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.

Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans.  ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)

Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin,  or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal!  When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.

And we find ourselves there too often.

What we see – the basis of our hope

Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data.  They did, they just didn’t understand it.

This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.

The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.

it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.

There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though.    The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything.  Paul talked about it this way,

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.

And we need to!  We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord!  We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.

You, me, him, her, each person here.  Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.

This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love.  Let’s pray

 

 

Walking with Jesus through the trials to the triumph! Part 7 The Mind for the Walk (on Easter)

church at communion 2 Our Lenten Journey:  Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph
Part 7:  The Mind for the Walk
Luke 24:13-35

In Jesus Name

May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause your hearts to burn, as His love for you is revealed!

 Do we walk unaware?

This morning we finish a journey we started some 46 days ago, on Valentines Day.

We’ve walked with Jesus through trials, we talked about the different things we’ve encountered, and today we cover the last bit.  It is a hard journey, as we walk in the steps of men who are in a steep decline; both physically as they walk down the steep decline to their home in Emmaus, and spiritually, as they struggle with despair, as they lost their hope, and descend into depression, and despair, oblivious to God’s work.

But it is only from their that they can finish the journey,

It’s a journey each of us makes, that each of us endures, unaware of the fact we don’t make it alone…..

Even though we think we do…

The Struggle of our minds

As I look at the story of the two men, what amazes me is how oblivious they were.

First, they made the typical mistake that men make, they heard but didn’t listen to the women in their lives.  They heard that they came back with an amazing report, that Jesus was gone.  Did they listen?

Yes.

Did they really hear what was being said?

Nah.

Luke tells us as they were struggling with everything, as they tried to toss around answers to all the question ripping them apart they stopped and sadness and gloom were written across their face.

That gloom wouldn’t leave, even while Jesus took them through all of scripture, as Jesus explained to them every scripture that testified about Him.

We have days like that, when all the knowledge we have about Jesus, when all the information passed onto us doesn’t compute when we remain oblivious of God’s presence, and all the while there He is, teaching us, guiding us, walking with us.

Yet we remain oblivious, too worried about how we interpret what’s going on around us.  Just like these two guys who followed Jesus were oblivious.

At least their minds were.  Their hearts were a different story…. The hearts were on fire!

The Heart and Soul Knew Better.

Here’s a question to consider.  If they were still struggling if they still didn’t understand, then why did they beg him to stay the night?

It wasn’t until a little later that their eyes would be open, so why was it so important to stay with this person they had just met?  What made them want to do this?

Again, we go back to their hearts afire, the work of the Holy Spirit bringing them comfort and peace through the word of God that was being explained to them.  They couldn’t let Him go, they needed Him there in their lives, they needed the Holy Spirit working through the word!

They couldn’t let God go, even though they didn’t know it was Him

And some days, we need to do that, and knowing this story, we see that God is still with us, that He still is guiding us, just as He promised.  Even when we are struggling in a downward slide.   The Lord who is Risen, is with you indeed!

As He broke the bread!

As they hit bottom, as they get to their home, something happens that changes their mind about where they belong.  Enough so that they climb back up the mountain without thinking.

I mean, what kind of attitude do you have to have to run 8 miles, uphill, in less than an hour. I don’t know about you, but I can’t run that fast, anymore.!

He broke bread with them, He blessed it, he consecrated, just as He had in the upper room, and He gave it to them… and they recognized him the scripture tells us.

But recognized doesn’t tell us the entire picture.  The word there is epiginosko – they knew Him.  They deeply and completely knew Him.  This is the word for the level of intimacy a couple has for each other, not just the physical stuff we think of as intimacy, but the level intimacy when people can finish each other’s sentences, where they can communicate with just looks, without words, where they know what each other is thinking.

This is what happens when God opens their minds, their hearts as He gave thanks to God and broke the bread.  What they knew in their hearts becomes revealed in their mind, and the road they traveled in despair becomes somehow different, less challenging as they know He is with them, as they know they can trust Him, depend on Him

That’s why the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper means so much to so many of us, as we realize that God has not left us alone, that He who is risen, is risen indeed, Praise God!

And because He is… we are risen indeed, ALLELUIA!

And because we are risen, because He has opened our minds, we intimately and completely know Him, and we are loved.  AMEN!

Walking With Jesus from Trials to the Triump: Part VI Finding Hope on the Walk

church at communion 2

Our Lenten Journey:
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Finding Hope on the Walk
Zechariah 9:9-12

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the hope you need, as we endure this journey, depending on His faithfulness!

 The Steps of the journey

Imagine being on the side of the road, leading up to Jerusalem.  Jesus, the one some are claiming to be the Messiah starts the long climb up to Jerusalem on a small donkey.  As it meanders up the pathway, the crowd is growing in size and in energy,

Expectations are building, even though the man is a mystery,

He does miracles, incredible miracles.  He teaches like no one else, and those who’ve met him, are more aware of God’s love, of God’s presence in His life.

He’s coming!  Everything is going to change!

It is no different today, as we journey through life, as we walk, guided by the Holy Spirit, and await Jesus coming into our lives.

The Prophet Zechariah told them what to be looking for when Jesus came, He told them what to expect, from how Jesus would arrive, to what He would do.

Understanding this prophecy, this promise gives us real hope,

First – He is coming

As we hear the words rejoice, as we hear that Jesus, our Lord is coming to us, he comes to us in a way that is a paradox.

He’s righteous and victorious, even before the cross there is no demon, no power that can withstand Him. Think about that for a moment, the prophet is using words that are present tense, righteous, victorious, and this is known before he goes into Jerusalem.

Before He goes to the cross, he is already described as victorious.

But then he doesn’t enter as the conquering hero, and that is where we see the paradox.
Maybe that is why he goes to the Jerusalem without the armies, without the majestic horse and the flashing sword. He comes not to conquer, but to provide for His people.

And so he comes, riding on a small donkey, simple and humbly, to be with His people.  Just as He promised to back again, and we await Him….

Second  – He’s here… working

The second thing we see God doing in this passage is very interesting.  Hear it again

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

I want you to notice something very important, He’s not removing the ability of our enemies to do battle, but rather, he is removing our ability to do battle.

The coming of the Messiah doesn’t equip us to do warfare, it enables us to live knowing that our God is victorious. He is bringing peace into our lives, even as He prepared to the cross, so much more now should we be living in peace?

Yet you and struggle and fight, sometimes we try and fight the evil in the world, sometimes we fight the evil in each other, and sometimes, we fight the evil within ourselves.  We know we should not sin, that we shouldn’t be so easy to give into temptation, and yet we do. Yet we don’t always turn this over to God, we might even swear we will do everything in our power to be good, rather than depend on Him, and on the work on the cross.

God has to remove our ability to fight, for as long as we do, we will not know His peace. For as long as we fight, we won’t depend on Jesus, we won’t depend on His work at the cross.

We have to let Jesus take over, it isn’t easy at times.  Who am I kidding, it isn’t easy at all.

Yet Jesus took care of our need to prove ourselves right.  Because of the cross, because of Jesus death paying for our sin, for our unrighteousness, we are now counted righteous.  He strips from us not only the way to do battle but the desire to, for we begin to realize that God is taking care of us, that Jesus has made things right.   That is His role, as He is our king,

Third Step, He frees us.

He describes that here, in verse 11:

11  Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the prophet is speaking and writing for God, the plan is set, it is by the blood of Christ that all who were imprisoned by sin are freed from it. Even as Christ rides up the mountain to Jerusalem, the plan which was set in place from before the creation of the world is as good as done.

This was the promise to Abraham, this is the promise made to Moses,

He frees us from all that imprisons us, all that causes us to fight, to struggle.  Our anxieties, our fears, our sin, our brokenness. He brings us to a place of safety, a place of security, a sanctuary where we dwell with Him. A place where we learn to trust Him more and more, as we begin to experience and see His love for us.

For we are safe with our King leading us, with our King, Jesus, providing for us.

This is what we hope for, understanding it better than the people in the prophets day, or even the disciples in Jesus day.  But we still need to understand it better, this love of God, revealed to us in the cross of Christ.  This is the hope we have, given to us as Christ died on the cross, yet sometimes hard to see,,,

That is why as I close, I pray for you as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

AMEN!!

 

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