Category Archives: sermon

Just Deal with It – Your Way: A sermon for the Sunday of the Passion based on Psalm 118

Just Deal With It!
Your Way!

Psalm 118:19-29

† 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 with Him

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. 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,

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!

Revival Realized: If Only?…? A sermon on Amos 5:18-24

Revival: Realized
If Only….   ????

† Jesus, Son, Savior †


May the grace and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus bring you such contentment in these times… that the idea of “if only” doesn’t come to mind!

What are you wishing for?

When I read the first verse of the Old Testament reading this week, my thought was simple.

“why didn’t I have Bob preach this week!”

Seriously, hear it again…

“What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the LORD were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for.” Amos 5:18

And the passage gets harsher after that!

Why didn’t I have you preach on this one Bob?

I think, especially as we dealt with the trauma of an election, as we deal with the trauma of COVID, as we all deal with other hurts, other grieving, there is a necessity to look toward the second coming – never think I believe otherwise.

This passage doesn’t say that is wrong, but it addresses a major issue, one that we need to address.

And understanding that helps us see the revival that God is working in our midst.

If only… we didn’t say… “if only!”

If you are seeking “if only”… what is missing?

I want you to hear what it means to say, “if only”

That day will bring darkness, not light. 19  In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion— only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house— and he’s bitten by a snake.

Of course, there is the modern version. When you run from the political discussions, you end up running into another COVID scare, and when you escape that, and rest, you have to deal with a household of people with cabin fever!

The “if only” attitude creates a problem for us, simply because it shows where our faith is, in a weak and even dangerous place. We go looking for God to come back, simply because we want to escape our problems here and now.

I know that desire all to well, but it is so dangerous!  For it means that we have forgotten that God has promised everything, including these times, will work out for good, and that nothing can separate us from Him.

Which means sin is having and impact on us. Either the sin of the world weighing us down, or the damage our sin does, hiding the presence of God from our eyes. In fact, it is usually both, both.

Both because we usually don’t react to the sins of others without sinning ourselves. Be honest…. as all the stuff has been going on this week, how many of yousr thoughts were about God providing for you caring for you? How many thoughts, and how many words recognized that God was here, that you were being cared for by God?

And how many were doubting the future, and complaining about the present situations we are enduring?

Those thoughts, those sins, are all sin.

That is the problem with the “if only”! 

We are looking for an escape from our situation, that is the reason we want God to come back. Not to dwell in His presence, simply to get out of the problems we are dealing with here.

And that attitude is a lack of trust in God, and a desire to not depend on Him to deal with us. It is one thing to seek salvation from our sin, another to seek being rescued from situations beyond our control, but not beyond God’s.

So how do we learn to trust Him, to depend on His keeping His promises, in such a time as this?

The time for a flood

The answer is a flood….

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. 
Amos 5:24

Going through the motions won’t do it.  We can sing loudly, we can memorize the entire liturgy, we can even receive communion every day… but what matters is Go’s justice, and God’s righteousness.

God’s justice, God’s righteousness needs to flood over us.

We need to see the world, and see God’s way of declaring people right with Him as the answer to our lives. We need to see His idea of justice come to be our reality.

The idea where sinners are justified, not faking it, but being justified by the blood of Christ.

To trust God, to know the power of the cross, to be drawn to receive the forgiveness of our sins. To live in the ministry of God reconciling us to Him, and cleansed of sin.

This is what it means for revival to happen in our lives.

We realize the presence of God in our lives, a presence so powerful that we can be righteous, we can look at the sin and realize God has the answer for it.

So instead of sin, we see God’s work, making all things work for good. He is our protection, so we can run to Him, we can bring others to Him.

This is the flood we need! To see that we dwell in God’s presence, no matter what… that this flood is the Holy Spirit coming into out lives, washing away every that is not holy, not pure.

This is revival. Right now, in this moment. This is why we are here… to see the Holy Spirit cleanse us, and so many others! For only He can bring the justice and righteousness we have.

This is a time to rejoice, and to desire God’s presence, now and for eternity.

Not because we want to escape… but because we are content, and at peace in His presence, and desire it more!

For in His presence, we know a peace that is beyond explanation… for Jesus rules our hearts and minds…even as we long to see Him face to face!

AMEN!

Revival Realized Sermon 3: The Power of Focus: Now

Revival Realized
The Power of Focus: NOW!
Psalm 27:4-9

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.

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. 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!

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…

Let’s pray,

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! A sermon on Romans 5

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

† In Jesus Name †

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


What am I thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on God, what are you thinking?

And the madness elevated to another level.

But look at the verse again,

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

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

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

The process of suffering?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He still calls us to come back to Him,

He still will forgive us when we ask

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

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

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

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

This is our God… who loves us…

And happy are all He calls to His feast.

AMEN!

The LIGHT Streams Into Our Lives: a sermon based on John 1:10-14

The Light Streams in Our Lives
John 1:10-14

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.
[1]

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.[2]

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!

[1] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.

[2] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85.

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus! Walking with Jesus means Our faith grows! A sermon on Luke 17:1-10

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
Luke 17:1-10

In Jesus Name!

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!

Sermon Series: Let Us Every Walk With Jesus – Are YOU ready?

Let Us ever walk with Jesus!
Are You Ready?

Luke 14:25-35

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draw you into this journey, knowing He is there with you!

Don’t go it alone!

In my “down time” I am reading an interesting set of books.  The main character is a retired army officer, who has volunteered to work with the British.  It was at the time they are forming the first commando units in World War II, the kind of group the old show Rat Patrol was based upon.  It is interesting because of the 10 rules that Colonel Randal set up for his raiders.

I like a couple -especially the first

Rule 1:  The first rule is there ain’t no rules

Rule 2:  Keep it short and simple

Rule 4:  Right man ( or woman), right job

Rule 6.  It is good to have a plan B

Rule 7:  Expect the unexpected

It was because of rule 7 that the unofficial rule 8 was born – never go out alone.  So whether it was a mission of one of his jeep teams, or his special sea going raiders on motor boats, or missions to drop paratroops or supplies, no jeep, boat or plane every went out alone.

And that is true today for us as well.  We can’t go out into the world on our own, for there is a spiritual battle which will destroy us if we try.

That is why our sermon series for this fall is based on the hymn we are about to sing, Let us ever walk with Jesus.  It is why Sunday School is about Joining Jesus on His mission, and why Wednesday Night will be about seeing who God has revealed Himself to be, because we can’t survive on our own,

God’s honesty…is scary…

That is what the reading from Luke’s gospel talks about this morning, this invitation to be with God on the journey of our lives.  Allowing Him to disciple that and all that He commits to, when God makes a disciple.  That commitment is a 24/7 commitment on God’s part!  He is responsible to

Teach you

Guide you through problems
comforting you

Provide for you

Help you heal

Fix the things you break… including yourself

Those are all the things God will do and more, doing what you need Him to do, what He sees all you need!  And He makes it happen. For those who make the decision and endure it, those who are willing to give up everything,

I always read this passage as God is asking so much of us. To potentially give up family and friends, to consider how much having a relationship with Jesus could cost you.

Part of me wants to say, Lord, that is too much!

How can you expect us to give up everything?

Are you ready to give it all up?

Have you counted the cost?

Rule 7

Remember rule 7?  Expect the unexpected?
That’s what God has done, the unexpected.

You see when Jesus told us to give up everything, when He told us to count the cost before we followed Him, he wasn’t talking hypothetically. He wasn’t fooling around either. That is what He expects, when we

It is not easy walking with Christ throughout life.  It may require great sacrifice, it may result in family not understanding, and even abandoning you. But that is what Jesus himself did, in order to invite you to journey through life, into the afterlife, with Him guiding you, teaching you, comforting you, making sure you get there.

He has saved us. But to do so, Jesus gave up everything in order that we could walk through life with Him.  Philippians 2 is clear, He gave up heaven to come and dwell with us, and to let us put him to death, and that death was on the cross.

He counted the cost as well, knowing that a sinless sacrifice for our sin would need to be paid. He knew the amount of sin we would commit. He knew that he would bear God’s wrath for it all, He knew the anguish, physical, mental, spiritual anguish,

He did the unexpected, he took it all, so we could be His disciples, His friends.

This is why we walk with Him, God loves us this much,  Despite our sin, for He chose to die for us while we were sinning.

He restores us as we confess our sins, forgiving all of it.

He remembers the promises made in our baptism,

He nourishes us at His feast, even as He looks forward as much as we do to the feast that will be our welcome to heaven.

This is God, who gives it all up for you…

Let us ever walk with Him


Who is Your Man? Luke 14:1-14

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Who is Your Man?
Luke 14:1-14

I.H.S.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace, allowing you the chance to look around, and see others need for that comfort and peace!

Who is “this man”… for you?

As they settled down for dinner, all attention was on Jesus, the “honored” guest.

I say “honored” that way, because the Greek is clear, they were on guard, not sure about what he was going to say.  They had heard cool things about His ministry, the miracles, the crowds. But they also heard about the concerns, that people had claimed he was a blasphemer, that there had been mobs that had tried to stone him, and that many of the pharisees stood against them, perhaps even the one who invited him this night!

and off in the back, was a man no one noticed.

How he had gotten there, it doesn’t say.  The pain levels he was encountering were severe.  Whether the swollen legs were cause by heart failure, or by blood clots, or diabetes, we don’t know.  But they didn’t have water pills in those days, and his legs were many times larger than they should be.

Even still, he was there, this man that was overlooked, and not one noticed.

Except Jesus.  He did, and despite the opposition, he performed a miracle, and healed this man!

Which brings us to my sermon question for this day.

If we apply this passage to your life, who is “your” man?  Who is the person in need that you are overlooking? Who is in need? Into whose life had God drawn you, so that you could help them?

The Parable and the Man

After Jesus heals the man, he sends him off.  Then he talks to the pharisees and the experts in religion about what He had done and whether it was kosher to do it on the Sabbath. They had a paradox to work through, an ethical dilemma.  Minister to someone in need, and break man’s interpretation of God’s law, or obey God’s law and leave the man in pain and in danger of dying?

They can’t answer.

So Jesus tells the parable, and gives them direction.  We need to realize that Jesus wasn’t changing the subject, this is the same context, the same conversation.

So who is the more distinguished person Jesus advises everyone to leave the best seat for?

Looking at the text of the entire passage, I think it is the man who is hurting, the one whose body is broken.  The reason I say this is the words from verse fourteen,

Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

The most distinguished people in God’s way of thinking, are those in need.  Whether it is because they are physically broken, mentally broken, or spiritually broken by sin and its partners, guilt and shame, these are the people that have value in God’s mind. 

For when you care for them, you are caring for Jesus

I mentioned those broken by sin, by guilt and shame. I think we need to examine how we treat those people. I am not just talking about sinners like murderers and rapists, I am talking about those who have trouble with envy, or gossip, lust, or using God’s word in the wrong way, to curse or swear.  We can add those who don’t use God’s name to praise or pray to Him as well, or who run to other gods, like drugs or sex or work, rather than depend on God to bring healing to their brokenness.

They are the people, these people that are broken and crushed by the weight of sin, that we need to be aware of, that we need to see, that we need to serve.  They are the people that we need to invite to feast, and it was for such people that this place, this altar was put here. 

Not for people who think they have a right to them

But for those who are broken, for those who are sinners

For you and I…
.
The Gospel – for Jesus, “this man” is for you

You see, you and I can have several roles in this story. Far too often, we are like the ones who try to get the best seats in the house.  That needs to stop! We can be like Jesus, seeing those who need to see and hear and find healing.   That should be our goal, and every single one of us needs to become accustom to seeing and inviting those God is preparing, those who God would see us help. 

But before we are ready to imitate Jesus, we all need to see our role in this story as being the man with the swollen arms and legs, the man who is broken and needs healing. 

The sinner who Jesus comes to and says, “Friend, we have a better place for you!”

We have to realize that is where we start, and as you come to communion this morning, hear Jesus’s voice calling to you, bringing you here, and remember that He is healing your brokenness.

For that is why He died on the cross, to take than sin from us. That is why we united to His death and resurrection in baptism.  That is why the book of Hebrews echo’s Jesus invitation,

16  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)

My friends, we need to think through what He’s done, to remember this death we proclaim every time we commune, to remember the forgiveness that is ours because His blood was shed for us.

As we look around this room, and around our community, looking for these broken people God values, may we never forget He looked around, saw us broken, and invited us to dine with Him.  AMEN!

The Apostle Paul and “Marie Condo’ing You Spiritual Life:

Decluttering Your Life
Philippians 3:4-14

† In Jesus Name †
\

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so give you peace, that everything that at all the trash in your life would disappear.

Office Talk

When you work in the office, there is often interesting conversations going on.  One of them I heard about a month ago was about this lady named Marie Condo. She wrote a book and has a show focused on two things – “tidying up” and “the art of decluttering”

Her theory is that decluttering gets rid of all the things in life that bog you down, that consume time and space, and to be honest, make you life look like someone’s garage that doesn’t have enough room to park a bicycle in.

Not that I am thinking of anyone’s garage in particular!

I don’t know if the theory works in regards to our physical lives, but I know the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Philippians makes a case that our Spiritual lives need to be de-cluttered!

By the way, Marie Condo’s key phrase for decluttering, when you pick something up, is “Does this bring me joy”, and if it doesn’t, just place it in the back of Chuck’s truck!

Seriously, that is one of the considerations we will see Paul use, as He describes this to the church in Philippi, does this bring me joy?

Our Spiritual life is like our Garage.. it needs to be de-cluttered

How many of you have a garage that you can’t list the contents of in less than … three hours? How about that extra closet?  And if you have an attic? 

Oh my gosh, do we clutter up our lives.

We do that spiritually as well.

We need to declutter by getting rid of the common things that have brokenness us.  The sin, the resentments we build up, the judgments that crush us, the things that we have an inventory of, going all the way back to our youth!

Paul includes some other things, things we would normally count as positive! Our citizenship, our heritage, our lineage, even our religious practices and the holiness that people praise us as they witness our “goodness”.  Think about the stuff he is talking about tossing out!

Anything that demands we pledge our loyalty and depend on it, those things becomes our idols. those things we count on for security, to demonstrate that we are blessed, and that we are the people who are in the right,

Those are the things that clutter our lives…

Those are the things that Paul the Apostle called crap. 

Some translations clean it up, refuse, garbage, trash, but even the old King James called it dung.

They clutter our lives because they demand the attention we need to save, the attention we need to realize what God is doing in our lives.  They cause us to depend on them to prove we are good, and in the right, and even holy. 

Every time we said we are better than “they” are, that we are more blessed, that this is “God’s country” as if others aren’t, what we are doing is saying that being God’s child isn’t enough.

That our citizenship, that our heritage, that our culture is truly why God loves us, that we are blessed

And those things don’t matter.  They are crap

If it doesn’t bring us joy…

Marie Condo said it well, get rid of the clutter if it doesn’t bring us joy, ditch it.  Declutter your life, don’t count on those things.

Hear how Paul says it,

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

There it is, what you can use to compare to, the joy of becoming one with Christ, the joy of being declared holy, trusting in God’s declaration that we are righteous, depending upon it….and knowing that while we suffer with Him, we will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Paul goes on to talk about trying to learn how to possess this incredible place in life, the place Christ has possessed.  This place of the greatest security, the greatest peace, knowing we are loved more than anything.

It’s not easy to achieve, but it is worth all our effort.

It is worth throwing away everything else, even the stuff we count on as defining us in a good way.

to know Him as intimately as He knows you. To be in awe of His mercy, to rejoice in His love.  

Time to declutter… spiritually!

The way it happens is this… you have to do so little.  Just realize how broad and wide, how high and deep God’s love for you is, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus… and all else will fade away…

(you can all come and declutter my garage later)

AMEN!

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