Category Archives: sermon
I WILL NOT! I CAN NOT!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ remind you constantly of God’s desire to be part of your life.. and His committing to be part of it.
- What does God Look like?
It is one of those questions that pastors cannot honestly answer, but we get asked on occasion….
What does God the Father look like?
Here are a couple of paintings of Him, most from the renaissance.
Look at them carefully; they all show an old man with a beard and a receding hairline that is grey and white.
But there is one thing I notice above all – that these pictures don’t show God with a smile; they don’t show him with His eyes lit up with joy, with the determination to see His people come from home
Especially this last one, I am not sure what He had for dinner or whether He was watching me this week. He looks either a bit sick to his stomach or severely disappointed and sad…
Today’s sermon is based on the Old Testament passage, where Isaiah’s words paint a far different picture…
Hear again how the passage begins,
Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch!
That doesn’t sound like it comes from the mouth of the One pictured in the painting. Neither does the last verse of the reading,
Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride!
That is the picture I want you to take with you today… that is the picture I want you to share with others. The image of God who loves you so much that it is indescribable…. Except to know He rejoices when you are in His presence.
- Never again… (which means there was a time)
As Isaiah goes on, these words just stuck in my mind,
3 The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land!
We have to read this, knowing the past, but realizing the truth of the present. We have been saved, God has got us in His grasp, but there is a “before,” a state we were in, where God says, “never again!”
As we go into it, it reminds me of Paul’s words to Titus,
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—Titus 3:3-4 (NLT2)
We know this “but” is coming, but part of understanding who God is, is realizing in the midst of our sin – in the midst of our sin that will leave us feeling abandoned and desolate, there is God, saying,
Because I love you, I will not keep still, because My heart yearns for you – I cannot be silent.
I will not! I cannot!
In the middle of it all, God is there; He’s always promised to be there! Right in the middle of our worst battles with sin, He was there, relentless working to get to the point He descried with these words…
I will not stop interceding for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness.
That is where God the Father’s heart is…what His desire is,
That is why He sent Jesus, while we were sinning, to rescue us, and still does. That is our hope for those caught in our sin… that is our hope when we struggle with temptation…. That is our hope until we hear God’s voice… calling us…
- Delighted & Committed
And look what He calls us…
Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride.
I would translate these names for you, these names God calls us. I think most of the translations are more than a bit weak in this…
The first – the “City of God’s delight,” Hephzibah – is simply the “one I find joy with….”
That is you, the one who God enjoys being in the presence of…. Imagine that…
God’s greatest joy is found when we realize we dwell in His presence.
The second… Ba’aulu – is just as profound.
It means, “You are the one I am committed to..forever.”
Bride doesn’t quite say that… this idea of God committing Himself to you, forever.
I gave you the part of Paul’s words to Titus… let me give you what comes after the “but.”
4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
Eternal life with Him, the LORD God who finds His greatest joy when His children are with Him, who has committed Himself to us… to make us holy and perfect, for that is who His children, His beloved are…
That’s why Paul’s words end with this…
8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT2)
So let’s help the whole world know this… God finds great joy in being with us and commits Himself to us, And He will not, He cannot stop until He makes this true for all His children. So let’s help the whole world know… AMEN!
Surprised by Christmas!
What Do You Want now?
1 Kings 3:3-15
† Jesus, Son, and Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to worship God…in His Presence!
Just curious – how many of you have heard this story about Solomon before, that instead of asking God for money or fame, or victory in battle, he asked God for wisdom to govern and lead his people?
How many of you knew that God said because He asked this, God would not only grant Solomon the wisdom he would need, but would give him all the other stuff, too?
Curious – I wonder how many of us would follow Solomon’s example – not really wanting to have the understanding about right and wrong that was the basis of wisdom, but secretly thinking that is the shortcut to getting “all the other stuff?”
You all mean I am the one that ever failed at using reverse psychology on God?
As we look at this passage, there is a reason we find it here, on the last Sunday of Christmas…
It isn’t because of the wisdom or the other gifts that Solomon received.
It is because this passage is really about worship, about praising God in a meaningful way… as we recognize we dwell, as Israel did, as the shepherds, as the apostles would, in the presence of God.
- Heterodox Worship – Solomon’s Sin
In the Old Reading, we see something a little confusing. Solomon leaves Jerusalem, his father’s city and heads to Gibeon and there slaughters 1000 head of cattle in a huge worship service.
The reason it is confusing is that the Ark of the Covenant was back in Jerusalem. Remember, David brought it there, dancing in his underwear? David wanted to build a temple around it, and God said no. Of the Ark, God told Moses this, for every generation to know,
21 Place inside the Ark the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you. Then put the atonement cover on top of the Ark. 22 I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NLT2)
So God promised to meet the people of God at the ark, which is in Jerusalem, and outlined a very clear way of worship – worship that was a response to what God had done….
And instead of that, Solomon leads them off to Gibeon, to worship at a empty tabernacle, the tent formerly used to house the Ark.
God didn’t promise to meet them there though, he promised to meet them at the Ark. So despite the show of 1000 cows being slaughtered to provide burnt offerings, the worship was useless – because of disobedience, because they didn’t seek God, they just sought what was familiar.
Basically, they were worshipping God in vain. They were there, they might have been using His name, but the used God’s name in vain, because they weren’t where His promises were, and they didn’t know the Lord was there… with them.
We do this too….
We sometimes come to church, and we aren’t looking for God. We have something else in mind, we have some agenda, or something is distracting us. It might be stuff we think is good, family stuff or church stuff…
But if we aren’t where God is… if we don’t recognize His presence here… we are just like Solomon…in the wrong place, doing what we do… and missing what we need.
And we are caught in our sin….
- God moves us to Worship Him… in His presence.
It tells us something about the character of God that He didn’t fry Solomon right there or allow one of Israel’s many enemies to do so.
Instead, God comes to Solomon, and works with Him.
Just as He does with you and me….
Whaddya want Solomon? I’ll give you whatever you want….
In the process, Solomon looks at his dad, and what he treasured the most – the love of God. He saw the reaction of David to that love – how David became a holy man, who struggled to depend on God when things were upside down and backward… and God loved him, still.
Of everything David had – this is what mattered the most!
Solomon could think of nothing better than to ask God for that kind of relationship – which was why he asked for the wisdom to govern hem, that they would know the difference between what is righteous, and what is evil. For that only comes through knowing God. That is what changed David.
One pastor wrote about this relationship this way,
prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists
Solomon sees the relationship his father had with God as the priority for his people, there is nothing else more important for them, or for him.
The way to see this is simple.
What does Solomon do after his time talking to God is over?
Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet
His reaction, when given the wisdom of God to lead his people to what was good and not evil was simple – he took them where God promised to be there for them, when the burnt offering would be acceptable, where the peace offering would celebrated – Israel would now experience a peace with God that would last Solomon’s life.
Solomon would have his ups and downs, but he would build the temple – a place for the people of God to meet God, to be cleansed and lifted up by God. Until Jesus came..
Today’s it’s not about location – where we gather is where God is, where He feeds us, because He offered the sacrifice.
But there still is a feast – for His people to celebrate that they dwell in peace, for they dwell in the presence of God….
You dwell in the presence of God…
As we go through this next year, let’s pray that we realize this all the more.
 Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
He is Qualified… (for what?)
† In Jesus Name†
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and cause you to dwell in His peace!
- We have an applicant!
As we look at Psalm 29 this morning, I want us to consider it as we would a job application.
Our question for the day? Is the person being presented to us a good fit for the position we need to be filled in our church? Are they needed in our lives?
This may seem an odd or different way to look at this scripture. Still, I think in the end, it will prove an important point, that God is qualified., incredibly qualified to be a productive part of Concordia’s team.
- The References ( What do people say about him?)
When I look at a job application, I want to know what people say about the applicant. Is he or she worth interviewing? I may even call their references and former employers before interviewing them. Even in a church, this is true. Do they stand out, does the employer or reference have to think about what they are going to say, or immediately praise them.
Or what if they have to think about it for a moment…. Trying to remember who this is?
Well, King David had no problem serving as a reference for God. In verse 1 & 2, he says,
Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings! Honor the Lord for his glory and strength! 2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name! Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness!
David isn’t just trying to get the people of Israel to praise God. He is trying to get all of creation to do so!
I don’t think you could get better references, as the angels praise him for his power, ability, and ability to lead. Those are the concept behind glory and strength, splendor.
So, God, the Lord God Almighty, has a solid reputation with those who
- Look at these qualifications!
But David doesn’t leave it at the references,
He will then spend a significant amount of time talking about the qualifications and abilities God has, just by the sound of his voice.
First, David explains it in theoretical terms,
3 The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The LORD thunders over the mighty sea. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. Psalm 29:3-4 (NLT2)
This talks about sheer power! God’s voice so powerful it can divide the sea, as it did in Moses’ day, and again as Joshua crosses the Jericho River in flood stage! God’s power, simply the power of His voice, creates, Divides, and destroys – as He wills, as He desires!
I don’t think we truly understand the connection between power and ability – but if we are looking for someone to be here, working alongside us, knowing God’s power refers to His ability to work, is something we need to understand.
God has all the ability; we see that as the power of His voice is further described.
5 The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with bolts of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare!” Psalm 29:5-9 (NLT2)
If we weren’t sure of God’s ability and power before, this should do it!
You want a few tables moved around? It shouldn’t be a problem for the God who can make Mount Baldy and Mount San Jacinto play hopscotch. … Hmm, do they still play hopscotch in schools today?
This is actually all child’s play for God, but it gets us thinking about how powerful He is…!
Qualified to do what, though?
As we’ve been considering God’s qualifications to be part of the team at Concordia, there is one thing we haven’t considered yet. His role.
I mean, we’d probably let him have any role He wants, right?
But a good manager helps someone find their perfect role in an organization, if at all possible!
But Psalm 29 includes a description of the job that God wants.
11 The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11 (NLT2)
There is it… there is what God wants to do to the people of our community through this church.
The Hebrew is exciting in both these words; the strength He wants to give them is His strength! It is the word for protection, protecting them from everything that would assault and stress them out.
It is like God taking us in His hand and protecting them as He deals with our enemies.
He’s taking on the sin that has so easily attached itself to us and freeing us from it.
The second term Is to bless us with peace, to bless us with serenity—something we so desperately need during this broken, messed up world and in the corner of it.
All this work happens because Jesus was lifted up, as it says in the gospel. “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
That is what happened at the cross! That is where His voice was heard, as He pleaded with the Father to forgive us… for we don’t really know what we have done.
That is where our salvation took place. That is where God’s voice was heard; that is where He took us in His hands and gave us peace….
That is where He proved what He is doing here in and through Concordia in this community.
He is qualified to be our God….AMEN!
Just Deal With It!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to rest, knowing God has a plan!
- Somebody’s Day
In 6 weeks, it’s Mother’s Day!
You know what that means, right? Mom’s all over the United States will pretend that they are doing exactly what they want to do that day!
A few weeks after that is Father’s Day, and dads everywhere will “choose” as their favorite restaurants those their kids like!
There are other days, grandparent’s days, teacher appreciation day, even Tom Brady Day, the first Sunday in February.
All these days have in common is that the person who is honored usually ends up doing what everyone else wants! Moms, Dads, teachers, don’t get those days off! They spend time entertaining rather than being cared for by those who say they want to honor them.
With that in mind, hear verse 24,
But before the ink is even dry on that thought, comes…
PLEASE LORD, please save us!
Please, LORD, give us success!
And the Day the Lord made, to rest and walk in the presence of His people… becomes another day of work for God!
- But I want it my way!
Growing up, I still remember some old guy singing a song about the end of life, and facing the final curtain, sure of his fate, because, in his words, “I did it my way.”
I pray at the end of our lives that we aren’t so…proud? Self-centered? Ignorant?
And we wonder why the younger generations seem so self-centered when people applaud Sinatra for choosing to do it his way, rather than Gods!
This may sound like a minor thing, a song written in the 1960s or 70s. But it shows that self-centeredness is nothing new, and it wasn’t then. It is what Satan appealed to, as he convinced Eve and then Adam to eat the apple. It is what makes politics so captivating, the fear that someone else will get what is ours or that our plans must be fulfilled. That self-centeredness challenges marriages. It appears in workplaces and demands that we get ours, even if it is illegal or immoral.
Our way leads to a mess. Look around, and we see that! People are arguing over water bottles. People are at war with each other over this right or that one. Couples struggle with each other while their kids look on, and the world has become a brutal place simply because people want what they want when they want it.
And at the bottom, we finally cry out, either in sarcasm or in despair, for God to save us. Lord, Just deal with it! Deal with it YOUR WAY!
And as we do, we are yelling out with the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Son of David, Save us!”
- This is the Day the Lord Has Made!
Hear the words again, the words before the people of God crying out for God to deal with it…
19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the LORD. 20 These gates lead to the presence of the LORD, and the godly enter there. 21 I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory! 22 The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. 24 This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Jesus, the righteous one, would go through those gates and thank the Father. He walks through Jerusalem’s gates that are opened, and as He does, the way into the presence of God the Father is opened to all!
See there that what was rejected! He has become the cornerstone/Archstone. He is the stone that not only sets the foundation, but He is the stone that locks it all together.
His plan, His work, and it had one focus, saving us. That is the purpose of this Palm Sunday, and why it is called the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – he went through those gates for us…
He would be fastened to the place where He would be the sacrifice! He is both High Priest – and the Atoning Sacrifice.
That is why, when this is realized, there is nothing but worship…
Hear it again,
You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever!
It all boils down to this: when we cry out for the Lord to deal with it… He did already… at the cross.
That was His intent all the time, as He looked to those gates, as He heard the people of cheer, and cry out praises and cries for deliverance….
He knew how He would respond to both…by taking on the cross.
And there, having dealt with it, He has led us into a peace that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds, for they are in Christ. AMEN!
Walking in Christ’s Light:
We are concerned about others walk
1 Cor. 8:1-13
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you and those you encounter in life.
Anyone offer any food to idols recently?
I would like to start today’s message by asking an odd question.
When was the last time you ate a mean that was spiritually unclean because it was offered to an idol?
How many even know what that means?
So most of you couldn’t see arguing about that in a congregational meeting? You can’t see Tom and Dane or Jim and Manny, or Bob and Bob yelling and screaming at each other and threatening each other with physical harm over some bacon-wrapped shrimp?
However, other things that people contend are a big enough issue to divide a church or the Church.
Sometimes, the issue is big enough, like whether we are justified by grace alone. Or that Jesus was fully man and fully God. Another issue would be that the elements there on the altar are the body and blood of Christ un and under the bread and wine.
But with most things, even things we think are “religious”, we need to listen to that famous theologian, Captain Jack Sparrow:
“The problem is not the problem. Your attitude about the problem is the problem!”Law – Depending on what we know, rather than seeing people as people
We see this is in the words of St. Paul,
“Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.
Here is the problem – we all think we have all the knowledge on a subject. Whether it is about eating meat offered to idols, or how to properly be Lutheran, or about Politics, or Football or COVID. Our knowledge knows what is right, and that’s the end of the story, right?
No, if you think you know everything about a subject, then you know nothing. The knowledge you have, scripture says, makes you feel important, but it isn’t all there is on the subject.
And while that knowledge makes you feel important, there is a problem. Yo
Important compared to whom?
Who do you think you are better than? Who has to be brought down low so that you can be more important?
There is the first sin, the sin against your brother or sister who you demand bow to your superior knowledge…
The second reason such an idea is sin is that if we claim to know it, all and scripture doesn’t mention it directly, we merely are playing God.
And while the Corinthians were arguing about food offered to idols, they were making themselves the idol, the final judge who condemn people based on their own knowledge.
You and I do the same thing. Our pride in our knowledge judges and condemns people for things that our preferences, rather than what God clearly reveals.
Or just the opposite… we don’t address the sin we know needs to be addressed because we know better than those judging us…
And the way we act, our attitude about our knowledge shows how we use it, that our idol is more important than the people of God.
Paul begs us to not worship idols, these things that we make to be the gods we rely upon, whether in heaven or on earth. Because we have something more.
Gospel – seeing for whom we live in through whom we have a life!
Hear Paul again,
6 But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live! (exclamation point mine)
Instead of relying on our own knowledge, instead of turning the knowledge we have collected from man and making that data the basis for our lives, this matters
There is God the Father, who created you.
And there is God, our Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Father, through whom we have been recreated, and through whom we live.
In other words, everything we are, everything that defines us, everything that makes a difference in our lives is found in our relationship with Jesus…
The relationship defines everything about us, for God is our God.
I need to repeat that,
The relationship defines everything about us, for God is our God.
Through the scriptures, the knowledge He gives us – even that needs to be used in a way that draws people to Jesus.
For He died to do that! That is why our sins are forgiven so that we realize we live for God and that we live through God!
Looking at Him – people matter
The last point in this sermon comes from the first verse.
But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.
If knowledge causes us to feel important, love helps us realize that others are important.
That our freedom isn’t worth driving a wedge between them and God because they feel guilty for doing things they feel are wrong, but that we know is okay.
That is why Paul says he will go without meat or bacon. Too many didn’t know their freedom there, and rather than force them to approve of what they consider sin, he would go without…
For man doesn’t live by Woodranch alone. But man because of the very word of God… the word of God which declares our sin forgiven, that declares this bread and wine to be the Body and Blood of Christ, that declares us to be the family of God, and invites us to this feast…
Where we can pause, and find rest and peace in the presence of God…. AMEN!
The Power of Focus: NOW!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so mesmerize us, that His presence in our lives consumes and transforms all our thoughts!
Desire – but how do we?
There is no doubt in my mind, that the people of Concordia know what it means to joyfully adore God. I’ve seen you do it.
I’ve even seen it in the hardest of times, when God’s joy overwhelms everything else we encounter in life.
And that is one of the marks of revival, this joy that lifts us up, that incredible joy that comes as we realize that God is here, that God is at work.
He is at work here!
In each of our lives, whether we are here in the courtyard, or watching it live right now, or watching it a year from now on YouTube, God is at work in our lives.
One of the challenges we face in realizing this revival is focus, and Psalm 27 is going to help us stay focused on the fact…
The Lord is with you!
At He is at work!
That is why the Psalmist wrote,
The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.
This is the attitude we have, when we realize God is at work, a work we name revival – bringing life into the church. When we see that, we want more, we can’t help it, we want to see God at work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
So how do we stay focused upon this work of God? Where do we look for it?
Well let’s keep looking at the psalmist, who knew this revival.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 6 Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.
David’s joy comes in the midst of troubles,
He tells us he realizes that not only is he in God’s presence during these times, but the reason why he does. He realizes that God is protecting him, that God has him, right in the midst of his holiness, for that is what it means to be in the sanctuary.
The Apostle Paul taught this to the church when he wrote,
Focus on His Call
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
Paul and David agree – even as we live in this world, our real reality is found in the presence of God, that is where we belong, and Jesus will make sure we get there. Remember that, rejoice in it, whether in the midst of COVID, fires, heatwaves, earthquakes, even as we mourn, or get anxious because of the world.
You can shout for joy, and sing and praise God with music….
For He has promised that everything will work out for you, and nothing can separate us from God!
Focus on His Promise
How do we do that? The psalmist helps us there as well!
Even in the midst of the Old Testament, here is the realization, we can hear God say, Come and Talk with Me!
Come and talk of your struggles, come and talk of the heartache, and pain. Come and talk of your dreams, asking God to bless them, to fine tune, them, even correct them, and our thoughts, come and talk to Him, here, even when we struggle with sin, or feel so ashamed that we can’t imagine Him calling to us.
The Lord God, creator of all, says, Tom, come and talk with me. Bob, come and talk with me. Debbie and Cyndee, come… come and talk with me.
And our heart learns …. to respond… Lord, I am coming!
And revival has been realized!
This is so mind-blowing
To realize God wants us to come to Him, to talk to Him, as a child should talk to a Father,
That time with God is so powerful, so incredible, so reviving and resuscitating that we can’t imagine life without it. This is what our last words from the psalmist testifies to…as He pleads with God!
9 Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation!
I don’t think this is really a fear, as much as it is a realization, hearing Him, hearing the invitation to come and talk with Him, knowing He will listen, knowing He will act brings such life to our lives, we have to ask, is this going to end….
And hear God’s answer.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age!”
Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)
Assured of this, there is revival… and we realize it…
Holy Spirit, come open up our hearts, show us how you are reviving our lives, our church and the community in which we live. Re-kindle in our lives the joy of Your salvation! And may the revival You are helping us realize, change the world!
Come Back to Me
and Be Happy
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so real in your life that you now true joy and happiness!
What am I thinking?
As I looked over the reading for tonight, the one word I would choose to describe my emotions was “mad”.
The only problem is I couldn’t figure out was whether I was mad as in angry at God, or mad as in insane. I honestly don’t know.
This isn’t right, to have this place of peace so empty, so devoid of smiles and laughter, of even the tears that come as we find it easy to lay our burdens down.
It has been a hard day, our preschool “chapel” time was just Susan, three teachers and myself. Looking forward to tonight, with just a few of us here, was difficult.
I so want to share the Lord’s supper with every person possible!
And as I looked at the sermon schedule, planned months ago, based on readings set in place decades ago…. I realized I was supposed to preach on happiness.
Come on God, what are you thinking?
And the madness elevated to another level.
But look at the verse again,
Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (CEV)
So are happiness comes from more than this life, it comes from looking forward to sharing in the glory of God forever….
We know we will be happy then… but what about now?
The process of suffering?
Paul continued this passage… now please remember this was planned months ago… don’t blame me – I am just the messenger…
3 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4 And endurance builds character,
How in the world do we gladly suffer through a pandemic, through watching people whose anxiety levels are maxed out, who are challenged beyond our ability? I know that a lot of you aren’t worried by the virus, as much as you hurt for those who you love whose lives are more impacted.
Some of you will understand what I mean when I say that watching people suffer, watching them struggle is harder often than struggling ourselves.
And yet, the saints I know who are my age and older, have seen God work through wars, and earthquakes, through sickness, and economically challenging times, and they know God will be with us in these times. God will be there with our laughter, and with our tears.
And His presence will give us hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.
For that Hope is found in the presence of God, a presence we can faintly see now, but will see in all its glory one day.
This is why He calls us back to Him, to give us this hope as we realize how …. beyond words His promises are.
In times like these, we need to be able to focus, to realize how much God loves us. That is how we find the strength to get through. That is why Paul goes from hope – the right to explaining why we have hope.
All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. 6 Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7 No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8 But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:5-8 (CEV)
We need to hear that right now, that even before we knew God’s love, back when we were even more rebellious and sinful, GOD LOVED US.
And if he loved us then, He certainly has not given up on that love, or the mercy that sustains us, and calls us back to Him, even in the deepest depth of sin….
He still calls us to come back to Him,
He still will forgive us when we ask
He will still throw a feast for us, as we come home.
He loves us, the children who finally realize our need for Him…
That is how we find happiness in the midst of trauma, tragedy, and yes pandemic.
That is how we gladly embrace our suffering, knowing He is here…
This is our God… who loves us…
And happy are all He calls to His feast.
The Light Streams in Our Lives
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ shock you!
- Kreeft and Love
I just started a new book, one I didn’t know a favorite author named Peter Kreeft wrote. In the introduction, he writes something quite startling,
“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.
Even as I encountered this in my readings this week, It took me a moment to think about it. Do we know what love is? Do we really know understand it, have we experienced it?
Does it shock you when I tell you that God loves you enough that Jesus died, for you! For you Tom, for you Sandy, for you Missy, even for you who are watching this…
God loves you…
Does it still shock you, this love, when you hear the words I speak at Jesus’ command, “Your sins are forgiven you!”
Or when, into your hand, or on your tongue I place the Body of Christ, and the deacon gives you the cup containing His blood? Are you startled then?
If you aren’t, I apologize.
I haven’t revealed to you clearly enough what it means that God is love… and that love is aimed at you.
- Would we recognize Him today? Or would we reject Him?
In the St. John’s gospel, there is something as staggering to hear,
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
I still don’t understand this, how in the world could they miss Him with the way he taught, so different from all the others. He who brought healing into their lives, He who dared to forgive the vilest of sins.
He who had compassion on the most broken, those haunted by their sin, those possessed by demons, those who couldn’t be faithful to Him, like Peter and James and John…who even doubted when they saw Him risen from the dead and about to ascend to heaven.
How could they not recognize Him? Consider what Peter would write, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Yet they did not recognize Him, and I am not sure we do either when we encounter Him in the lives of the people He so dearly loves. And even if we realize it from a theological perspective, that doesn’t mean we realize His love for us.
We need to have Jesus revealed to us, through Word and Sacrament, we have to be reminded of His presence and His love.
His love streams among us
So what does it mean when John’s gospel and Peter’s epistle say that saw His glory, His majestic splendor. What is that they saw, when Jesus came and made His home with them, with us?
Simply put, it is the fact that God is love. And that He loves us- this is what they saw… God, in Christ, had compassion on them, he was charitable towards them. He loved them, just as He loves us.
From Peter Kreeft again (did I start the right week to read this, or what?_
Jesus does not merely give us advice about agape. He gives us agape. He exchanges selves with us: we are put in Him, and He is put in us. He is the Love that “does not insist on its own way”. First Corinthians 13 is a description of Christ. His love can be in us only because He is in us. We attain agape not by trying a little harder but by faith, by believing and thus receiving (Jn 1:12), by letting Him in, letting Him invade us, possess us, haunt us.
This is it, we can love because He loves us.
We are loved. How much? Look at the cross, see what He experienced there, so you can experience His love. Look at the font, where He brings you into Himself, fuses your life to His own. Come to the altar…. And realize how much love it takes to forgive every single sin you have committed. No, how much it cost to forgive just that sin.
All this stuff about Christmas, the gifts, the tree, the flowers, the manger, it is all there to convince you of this.
So that you can believe in Him, trust in Him, and know that you have become the children of God. Shocking isn’t it… You are loved.
God loves you. He wants you with Him, now and forever
I can’t explain it any clearer than that.
God loves you… and always will. AMEN!
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
May the grace, the mercy and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris show you, enable your dependence on them to grow strong as the Holy Spirit sustains you!
The oddest question (and perhaps craziest? 😊 )
The question the disciples ask in the Gospel reading today must be one of two things. It must be ignorant, or if not, it is completely, without doubt, insane.
Let me explain the first. If by “increase our faith” they are asking Jesus to increase their knowledge of the faith as in the doctrines and understanding of religious ordinances, then they are ignorant.
Faith is not our doctrine, faith is not a belief statement, or even all the teachings found in, or taken from scripture. Though we use the word as a noun in these days to describe what people believe doctrinally, it wasn’t so then. So if they were asking God to increase their knowledge of doctrine, of theology, then their question was simply ignorant.
But faith means to trust and depend on something or someone. Let’s say I decided during the week that there was too much dust on the lights up there. So, I decided to clean them myself. I would need to have faith in the ladder’s ability to hold me up, I would depend on it, and that the warning that it can only support 225 pounds was somehow… wrong.
So for the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith, what they are really asking is, “Lord, give us the opportunities to depend on You and nothing else” Or to put it another way, “Lord, get rid of all the things that we can’t depend on in our life, so that we only depend on you!”
Any ideas of what you are asking God to take away there?
Any one ready to pray that?
The challenges of Faith – Sin in its various forms
If we look at why the disciples ask the question, you see there in the gospel the conversation that occurs before the question, and you see it deals with sin. Specifically, it talks about the sin we encourage in others, or passively encourage by not confronting it, by not rebuking it.
Talk about something that requires the greatest level of faith.
I mean, how easy would it be for Bob to pull me aside and talk to me about my sin? To confront it, to challenge it, to remind me that he can run with me to God, and it can be forgiven?
Or is it a lot easier for our deacon to simply say, “Well pastor is mostly a good guy, except for being a Pats fan, and he lets me have fun preaching and teaching, so I will just ignore the sins he committed, or the heresy he teaches, after all, he’s a good guy…”
How much faith would he need to depend on God to bring up the sin, and encourage me to seek God’s forgiveness?
And yet to not do so, to allow people to linger in sin, to give into temptation, to remained trap there, is sin for us.
So whether the sin is gossip or unrighteous anger, whether it is using God’s name in vain, or being jealous to the point where it dominates, we need to trust God enough to be the one God uses to start the redemption process, and the wisdom to listen to God as to what is necessary at this point in time.
You see, “rebuking” isn’t going up to people and wagging your finger in their face. It is working for the repentance and redemption that can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is placing a value on the sin – realizing something has to be done for the person, because of the damage sin will do!
Rebuking them is going to them in love, and caring for them enough to address the issue
The answer – recognizing the Master
So back to the
question – how do we increase our faith?
Jesus answer is, uhm… really? If you had any…then…. everything is possible.
Not quite the answer I would expect from Him, really.
And then He goes into this parable about the servant and the master. The Master gives instructions and the servant simply does it. It’s about that nasty word “obedience”. To do what we are supposed to do, because our master is here.
Or as we say it around here, “The Lord is with you!”
This isn’t doing what we are told to do, as Jesus leaves us on our own, it is our responding to His wisdom, to the fact He has responsibility over us, to ensure we get to be with the Father in heaven. It is listening to Him here, and now, hearing His concern for those who get caught in sin, or who are convinced what they are doing is right, because people of God haven’t confronted them.
It’s about faith and trusting and depending on the God who is here. About talking to Him and hearing His voice. About realizing His love for us is so complete that He won’t lead us astray.
Depending on God is
easier, when you know He is here, when you know He is in charge, when you
realize that our Lord is the one who loves us.
When we realize He will make all things work for our good, even the
tough stuff, then we are able to craft what He has called us to do…
Faith is found, not in your will, not in your strength, but in the fact of God’s presence in your life. You can trust Him, He is here, with you… you can depend on Him, He loves you and is working for your best.
Faith isn’t something that is increased, it is simply something realized… I can trust God, because He loves me! AMEN!