Category Archives: Sermons
† In the Name of Jesus †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you will celebrate with God!
- We miss 2/3rds of the Story
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and they are droning on about everything, maybe even complaining, and then you realized you missed something incredibly important?
Or maybe you are laying in bed that night, and you are drifting off, reliving the day and you realize the most important thing was skipped over, as if it was not important, but it’s the most important thing you’ve heard in months.
I think we usually do that with the gospel reading this morning. We listen and we focus in on the third guy in the room – the one who didn’t do anything—the one who is the bad example, the one whose actions resulted in the worst consequences imaginable.
The one who went to hell…having lived in it here.
And we skipped over the two men whose lives were lived in such a way that they were invited to celebrate with God.
- Why do we always go that way?
Which brings up a good question – why do we always focus n the negative? Even if it is in the minority, as it is in this parable about the kingdom of God, we focus on the one who fails? We analyze what he did, we point out his fear, we saw his judgment and we either rant and rave about his foolishness and lack of faith, or we wonder if he is us.
If we make the same mistake he made, if we have the same ignorant fear, no, I am not going there.
- So do we see the 5-2’s God creates in us?
The easiest way to ensure that isn’t us, is to look, not at what the 2 and 5 did, but their relationship to the master.
Look at verse 19,
“19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’”
Where that other guy went, worrying and be afraid, the 5 and 2 do not. Life is as it is, as if the master had never left. He entrusted them with significant sum, and he used it as he knew his master would want him to…
It wasn’t a big deal in his mind—it wasn’t a point of bragging, or pride, or anything No reward was promised, yet one is given. It was business as usual. Life with in the Master’s
Let me rephrase that—no other reward or honor is expected, because they just did what the master expected them to do…what He entrusted them to do. It wasn’t a big deal to them, it was the life they led—which was why God entrusted them with what He did….
Except He didn’t leave them alone—He empowered them to do what they do, and was there with them.
We see that kind of thing around here, as people do what God leads them to do.
That can be something we think is big—like a health fair, or a women’s tea that brings in 2-3 times our attendance. Or being the speaker at such, even though you don’t like being up front. Or it can something like Pat caring for cats, or someone deciding to paint the front doors,
It is things that do not make sense, like a deacon going and ministering to people whose brokenness looked much different than his own – as Deacon Bob did, ministering to others on a retreat last week. Or an old codger, who found it cool that he could talk to two teenage twins on a vacation. It’s another person arranging for people to celebrate Birthday’s and making sure others aren’t alone on thanksgiving.
It is ministry where we are at, whether in the doctor’s office, on a school campus. It’s doing what God wanted us to do , with what He’s entrusted us with in life.
- The Kicker
And that is the issue – it is what God entrusts and empowers us to do. That’s why it doesn’t seem special, its just what we are meant to do…. And we do..
Not because we fear His wrath—this kind of stuff comes out of a love for God because He first loved us.
We can’t always express it in perfect verbiage – but this love causes us to do these things – inside and outside of our comfort zone—simply because the one who died and rose for us leads us into these things.
For we died and rose with Him, proving that He isn’t a God to be terrified of, a God who isn’t harsh, whom we don’t have to worry about disappointing.
He is a God who wants to embrace us, cleanse and restore us, a God who we trust in, and know…
That’s what we celebrate by the way, not that we did good, not that were faithful, we celebrate the relationship that made this all possible….
Which is why we don’t dwell in terror, but in a peace that passes all understanding, as we celebrate with our Master, Jesus, and His Dad, and the Holy Spirit – and all the people of God.
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ fill your life, as the Holy Spirit turns on all your lights – and may your glow attract many others to Jesus!
- The Lights Coming On
It was different being at the pastor’s conference this year, as I was talking about my first church – just a few desert minutes away. All of a sudden I was back at my computer desk, reading Luther’s Catechisms, realizing the role the Holy Spirit had in my life.
One of those passages comes from the Small Catechism, where it says,
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith
This word, “enlightened” or “illuminated” or as I prefer to see it, God turns the lights on.
You know that moment, if you were a cartoon there would be a lightbulb come on over your head, and all of a sudden you understood a lot more than you did a second ago? When you make the connections, you didn’t make 20 seconds before.
There is far more to the Holy Spirit turning the lights on, for that light becomes visible to all, as the Holy Spirit shines through us into the darkness caused by crooked and perverse people.
- If there’s any… then why aren’t you
As Paul starts chapter two, one can read a little that at worst he’s mystified, at best he is frustrated more than can be believed. These people, who have come to know Jesus, are struggling with living like Jesus. I want you to hear this passage this way
Haven’t you been encouraged by knowing Jesus has take responsibility for your life? Are you comforted knowing He loves you? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit being there mean anything to you? Hasn’t he changed you, causing you to be gentle with people and want to relieve their burders?
Then why don’t you have one reason for existence as people of the church? Why don’t you love each other, and why don’t you have one mind and purpose? Why are you selfish? Why are you trying to impress others? Why aren’t you humble? Why do you think you are better than….them?
The basic question–with all that God’s done for you—think about it – why aren’t you living more like Jesus?
It’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves today!!
Okay – it is a hard question to ask but it is good for us to ask it!
Why don’t you act more like Jesus?
Why can’t I act more like Jesus?
- I Want to Share Your Joy!
Paul’s answer to that is simple…
Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.
There in the middle of the passage you see what it critical to living innocent lives without as the children of God.
It is to hold on to the LOGOS ZOE – the Word and the Life.
This isn’t just about reading the scripture, it is about knowing that Jesus Jesus is the Word, and that Jesus is the Life.
It is His promise that we are justified – that we are declared innocent, this is what we have to hold onto – the fact that Jesus promised that He would always be with His people—we have to hang onto Jesus and His promise…
It’s a good thing that “the Lord is with you!
But it that Word of Life that the Holy Spirit uses to cause that enlightenment – that causes the lights to go on in us.
Which causes what described earlier, as the light is seen in our lives. “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
The light which comes on in us is Jesus – who is the light of the world. It isn’t some natural light in us that causes people to want to come it is Jesus.
This is what it boils down to – what people see and why they come to trunk or treat, or the women’s tea, or the health fair. You can find all that stuff somewhere else.
But you can’t find Jesus, healing us while we help heal others….
Keep your eyes on Him, remember and rejoice in His promises,
Like the fact He will lift you up.
He will comfort you as you realize He loves you,
The you dwell in communion with the Holy Spirit,
And that the Lord will transform you into His image.
 Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 345.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you as you walk through this time of Harvest!
- Context! Context! Context!
I recently began riding a bike again, and I am amazed at how much more you are aware of everything around you than you are in a car. From the potholes to neighborhood dogs to whether you are going uphill or down.
You end up so much more aware of your context!
As we look at scripture, we need to be aware of the context of the passage! Not just who is talking to whom, but what surrounds the passage we are looking at, what bookends the passage.
Today we see these bookends:
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
4 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish…
And so there is a lot of focus on those God considers His little ones… and the rest of the passage gives us insight into who they are…
- Take Care of the Little Ones
So who are these little ones? We start to see who they are in what the two comments book end.
12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
So this isn’t just about those we normally think of as “little ones.” It follows through their lives, and God is the Shepherd who never gives up. So God’s little ones include those of us who have occasionally wandered away, whom He is working to return.
God cares about each of us, as much as every parent cares for their child. It is something that never changes, this care that God has for us. The only difference is God doesn’t worry like a mom whose son just got a new bike. (Even if he is a 58-year-old pastor!)
But God rejoices when we He is able to forgive and restore us. His joy is so enthusiastic that Isaiah says He will dance when we arrive at the point where all of God’s children are home! And that, even now, when someone comes to depend on God and the promises He has made to save them, all heaven rejoices!
That’s something that to me shows God’ love. It doesn’t stop because we throw a tantrum, or we tell Him off, or we decided we would rather have it our way, and dwell in what we call sin – the destructive behaviors God has warned us about—because those behaviors destroy our relationships, with God, with others and our internal peace.
What is worse is that when we are caught up in such behavior, we are like that lost sheep, we don’t even see the mess and the danger we’ve gotten ourselves into!
Which is why God sends Jesus, and his followers out to find us, and bring us home.
And He does do that—He searches for us, He sends friends and pastors and other believers to find us, He might even drag us to see a friend or family member prayed for, or a child’s back blessed and to see them sing…
All to bring a lost wanderer home to where they can find peace, where they can know they belong, where their souls can find rest and healing.
Because we are God’s children, this is what He wants for us!
- Those Needing Forgiveness
Which brings us to the last section of our gospel reading this morning.
15 “If another believer* sins against you,* go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid* on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit* on earth will be permitted in heaven.
We have to see that this passage isn’t about just correcting someone who has done us wrong. It’s about bringing that little one, that sheep that is wandering lost, back into the family, to make sure they know they are welcome at home.
Notice it doesn’t put the emphasis and the work on the sinner, but rather on the one who was sinned against, the one still in the family, still part of the church. It is our job to restore people, to take on the sin and work for reconciliation in a process.
Not just one conversation, several, then several involving wise men of the church skilled in reconciliation, then even bringing the entire church into the discussion – that the lost sheep might be restored…
That is the responsibility of forbidding and permitting, what is called the authority of the keys. To use the responsibility God gives us to say sin is forgiven, or not, to rejoice in the announcement of reconciliation—this is even the end of treating someone like a pagan or tax collector – the people that Jesus reached out to, and died to save.
It’s all about bringing the children of God back to Him – no matter how far we have wandered.
SO let’s go bring everyone who is lost and wandering home, even as God has brought us here.
Be An Influencer!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ influence others through you, even as it has influenced you!
- Word of Mouth
IT has been true for a long time that “word of mouth” advertising is the best way to build a business, a school or any other ministry. You can have the greatest media campaigns, the most state-of-the-art equipment, the greatest of staff people, and if no one recommends you to their friends, nothing happens!
Some people have made this a fine art and use the internet and social media to help people hear the words of their mouth, and they are called influencers. For one reason or another, people trust them, listen to them, and try what they say. Some of the infleuncers are teenagers, not even old enough to work at McDonald’s. But they make significant money because millions of people trust the words that come out of their mouth and the pictures they post on Instagram.
Jeremiah foresaw this, or actually God did, when he had Jeremiah write, “You must influence them; do not let them influence you!
So how do you become an influencer?
You start by sharing your story…like Jeremiah did…
- The Journey
For Jeremiah, the journey began with these words, “15 Then I said, “LORD, you know what’s happening to me. Please step in and help me. Punish my persecutors! Please give me time; don’t let me die young. It’s for your sake that I am suffering.
So many of our journeys start when we give up, and we turn in despair to God. We may be believers who have been around forever, some of us are newer, and all of us try to do it on our own, But there is a point, where we realieze the presence of God and reach out in desperation.
This call for help can only be heard because God has been waiting for us, gently drawing us closer, until we call out… and He answers.
That answer explains the next section of Jeremiah’s prophesy, “6 When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.”
For someone desperate enough to call out on an unseen God, the promises sin the word of God are a breath of fresh air! That’s why Jeremiah wants to devour them – the blessings and the curses, the sin and the reconciliation. The hard times and the rescues where God comes ot the aid of His broken people.
You see, reading God’s word isn’t because Greek and Hebrew are so interesting, nor is it to become the world’s greatest theologian.
The reason Jeremiah found such joy in reading scripture, the reasoned he devoured them is because it is told Him that God would be there for Him, as God was for so many across the pages of Scripture.
- Righteous Indignation?
The next phase of growth is different in fact, Jeremiah’s words describe someone who is going backwards,,,,
17 I never joined the people in their merry feasts. I sat alone because your hand was on me. I was filled with indignation at their sins. 18 Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.”
I think there is a part of Jeremiah here that is like the prodigal son’s older brother. He is so into God’s word, and trying to do what pleases God, that he forgets his responsibility to his family and friends.
That’s the danger we have to watch out for, the more we see how much God loves us, we have to remember that God loves them just as much.
To say it another way – the first 3 commandments tell us how we relate to God, but we fail at that, we sin, if we don’t follow the next 7, and love our neighbor, even our sin plagued neighbor. The more we focus on their sin, the more our own weaknesses haunt us, that is why Jeremiah says the wound is incurable.
And why we feel our sin, and the brokenness of the world – even now. The more we look at the sin of the world, the sin of those who oppose us, the more we feel the guilt and shame of our own.
However, the more we try to reach out with His grace, with His love, the more we realize the power of Christ that has cleansed us.
- How is this possible?
Hear Jeremiah’s record of God’s response, “19 This is how the LORD responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!
Here is God’s idea of an influencer!
It is each one of you! Just as it was each one of Israel, who remembered the promises of God that hade made them. So the natural reaction to His drawing us back to Him, to our returning, it s to serve God as His messengers to the world. Each one of us, from Manny and the elders to Jonah and Violet. Each of us has the ability to be influencers with something far more influential than a car, or a new computer. Our influence leads people to peace, to freedom from guilt and shame, into an eternal relationship with God.
And not just any relationship – a relationship where God adopts us as His children, where Jesus welcomes us as His brothers and sisters.
This won’t be an easy journey, we will face some opposition, even as Jeremiah did.. but hear what God promised,
“They will fight against you like an attacking army, but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze. They will not conquer you, for I am with you to protect and rescue you. I, the LORD, have spoken! 21 Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men. I will rescue you from their cruel hands.”
He will rescue us, for He has invested in us the blood of His Son, And He will always save us, grabbing us when we take our eyes off of Him and begin to sink.
He will be there for us, He is there for us now.
For the Lord is Risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) therefore… (we are risen indeed! ALLELUIA!)
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be evident in your life in the Harvest field!
- You are that answer to Prayer
For the next 11 weeks we are going to be talking about God working through us, turning us into an answer to prayer—a prayer Jesus taught us to pray. It comes from Matthew 9:38, There, we find written:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT2)
And so we pray, and then we find that we are the answer to pray – each one of is not just sent into the harvest fields once in a while, God has called us to live in the midst of the field that He has planted.
As we look at this, there are a number of lessons to learn experientially, before we get to the reading of Revelation 7, and the final eternal celebration of the Harvest:
We will hear that description on Reformation day,
“9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, (have everyone read this part) “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT2)
I can’t wait to hear you say that in heaven!
Today’s reading from Psalm 67 talks about it… we see the promise of the harvest, 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us. 7 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
So what happens before that…
- Before the harvest
Is prayer – a prayer that God’s blessings be known, not just to us, or to the Israeli people, but to everyone. Hear it again!
2 May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. 3 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 4 Let the whole world sing for joy, because you govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world.
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you.
I still wish Bible translators knew of the existence of exclamation points!
People throughout the whole earth, people everywhere, need to know what God is doing! How He is using all His power to save people everywhere! We need to know, everyone needs to know God is there, to the point where their reaction is simply to praise Him.
Which means to know what it means to be saved.
We need to explore that – because to just say, “hey, you were just saved.”—especially without a exclamation point…. Doesn’t inspire a lot of praise and adoration.
Our salvation – yeah that does. Or it should!
- Justice and Guidance
So to understand salvation – we have to look deeper into the passage, to where it talks about God governing the nations with both justice and guidance.
The first is justice – everyone thinks they want justice in this world, until you really think about what it means. I had two instances where I had to think about what justice truly is this week. One situation has played out in the news, the other was regarding something I witnessed.
The first case, I urged patience in, the details of the court case was only given by one side. And the other side is only beginning to be heard. Rumors abound, which doesn’t help anyone, it just divides people. The second case, I thought I wanted what I thought would be justice… and then, when it didn’t go quickly or easily, I became uneasy, and when the dust settled – my thought was the accused got way too light of a sentence for the suffering he caused.
And then I looked at my sermon notes again…
If anyone of us got the sentence that justice demands for our sins, the sins we commit in our thoughts through our words and what we do, not one of us should be here. Not one of us should be allowed to receive communion, in fact, Bob and I should be struck dead as we approach the altar…
So God’s justice cannot be what we call justice. It must be something more…
It has to be God’s justice, or to use the other word that is translated as–His righteousness. God governs us, which is about judging us and our lives.
And in His righteousness, He sees us as righteous.
His level of righteous…for in Christ’s death and resurrection, Jesus was credited with our sinfulness, as He credited us with His complete righteousness. So, God is completely just, His judgment is unquestionable.
After judging us as righteous, God does something even more phenomenal. He invests in our lives. He guides us and takes responsibility for our lives.
This is why we praise Him! He makes us His own, caring for us, cleansing us, walking with us through life, simply because He loves us.
These are His ways that need to be made know throughout the earth, the effective way He will save everyone who depends on Him..
- The Harvest that is now – and not yet
As we spread that message, as those seeds are planted, they grow until the harvest at the end of time. We heard it from the Psalmist earlier, but let’s hear it again,
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us
Or as Jesus said it
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:13-14 (NLT2)
So its simple – we work in the fields we live in, sharing the work of God, knowing His presence, and then, the harvest happens, and we are all brought before the throne of God. Until that day, God governs us and guides us, His people as we dwell in His peace…doing His will, sharing His love with the world. AMEN!!
The Kingdom of God is like
Sewing a Quilt
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain us, as we share His word, and look to see what He produces!
A Needed Parker Parable
- I have a question to start this message off.
How many of you tilled 10 acres of land and planted seed in the last 3 months?
Maybe a follow up – how many of you are going to go harvest an acre of tomato plants? Jim, do you have a couple of trucks filled with your cucumbers for us all to share in?
SO maybe I need to use a slightly different illustration to help us understand this passage abut the rain washing down the ground and causing the seed that is sown to grow and provide that which is needed.
So a pastor parker poignant parable…. And I will do a play on words, and instead of comparing the Kingdom of God to sowing seed, we will see that the Kingdom of God is like sewing a quilt…
We might not know much about sowing fields, but most of us have seen the incredible quilts that are made with love and care, and receiving one has a lot to do with receiving the blessings of Christ Jesus.
- The Benefit of what is sown v.11-13
10 The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
When God sends the rain, or the sower sows seed, or a lady (or maybe a guy) sews together a quilt, and most definitely when the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness is shared, there is a purpose, and a person/people who are to be blessed by the creation.
The quilt isn’t just made to toss into a closet somewhere; it has the care and work put into it, even if the recipient isn’t well known to the maker.
In the same way, even the rain, and the seed is worked into the purpose of God—to provide, not just what people want, but what they need. It is amazing to me that Isaiah would write this, not knowing fully what God meant by the word, “Word”.
He’s talking, not just about the scriptures, but Jesus, and the work He would do as He was born, taught and healed, died for you, rose with you, and ascended into heaven until he comes back for us.
Going back to the idea of the quilt in the closet, these things are provided because of need. And we need what Jesus would provide.
Freedom from guilt and shame, that’s surely part of it. Healing for the broken part of our lives. Healing for relationships shattered by sin, and the restoration of the most important relationship we have—the relationship with the One who sends the rain, who provides the seed, the bread, and the life. Just as those who receive a quilt find a special connection with the ones who made it.
There is a relationship that is sewn together, just like the panels of the quilt, according to a pattern that was long provided, just as God planned for Christ to come and dwell in us
- It’s more about the warmth and comfort than just the beauty!
Isaiah described the nature of this plan, with these words,
12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
Both at this church, and in Anza, I saw groups make a bunch of quilts. Those crafting them, and even praying for the people who would receive knew the joy of the work, even as, on occasion, things didn’t fit together just the way they wanted.
But there would be even more joy, when I visited the people who received them, and they had them on their laps, or around the shoulders. Even when it was hot in their living room or hospital room, the quilt was there.
You see, quilts are beautiful and they are warm, but that isn’t the reason they are special. It is the comfort they give, knowing someone cared enough to invest their time and energy and probably a decent bit of money, into making one, for you. Or for someone you love.
It is the same thing – the reason Christ means so much to us, is because God the Father invested Jesus’ entire life – from Birth to the cross, to even now, as He intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father,
And He invests the Holy Spirit in us as well.
Remember Isaiah talked about the rain that pours out? Similar language is used about the Spirit,
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.” Titus 3:5-7 (NLT2)
Or to keep more in line with the parable, 27 And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 (CEV)
Or wrapped yourself in a quilt, surrounding yourself in the comfort that comes from knowing that since your baptism, you have dwelt righteously in Him.
He’s Gonna Tear Us to Pieces!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ encourage you to accept the work of the Holy Spirit, who purifies you and makes you holy!
This News is Awesome!
In the middle of the lesson from Hosea this morning, there is some of the greatest news I can share with you!
God is going to meet a critical need this morning…if He hasn’t already!
As surely as the sun came up, He has either done this, or He is about to do it.
Here is what Hosea credits with God with doing,
“He has torn us to pieces…
He has injured us…”.
Like I said, if God hasn’t done this to you, He will… and that is good is a good thing.
And if you need God to tear you to pieces, I hope this sermon will make you look forward to it!
- A Need to Be Met!
- Self-inflicted, here and Ezekiel 6:9
Let’s go back to the first verse of the reading, the last verse of chapter 4, “Then I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and turn to me. For as soon as trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.”
God tells the prophet Hosea that he’s going to let Israel realize their need for Him. He’s just going to wait for them until they realize they need it!
I think that is what they call “tough love.” Letting someone walk away as a prodigal, knowing the pain and suffering they would endure.
It is an amazing thing to see God be that patient with us, I mean how patient are we with everyone around us? God has the advantage of being God, and knowing that as Father, Son and Spirit, they had planned to redeem us all, but still, we, every human from every language, culture, age group, have walked away… and chosen sin at times.
But the response is more challenging, ““Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds
It takes a lot to say this! Not only to realize that God will heal us and bandage our wounds, but that He was the One who disciplined us, and did so in a way we might consider harsh.
Though what it often is, is not God’s intent, but what He warned us about. HE won’t always withhold the punishment that we earn with every sin, He will let us experience the consequences.
That is something each of us has to face, to come to the realzieation of the prodigal – that I had it better back home.
What God promised in regard to sin is true, but so is what He promises in regard to grace.
One leads to pain, punishment
- The Doctor is In!
- Heal, Bandage, Restore
But when we come to our senses, God is right there.
That same verse says he will heal us, that He will bandage our wounds providing long term healing and growth to health and He will restore us to the image of Christ that He created us to shine into this dark world.
This all became true for people starting at Pentecost – and it comes true for us this day as well.
If we are running from God, its time to come home.
It’s time to stop being torn to pieces, its time to stop getting injured by the consequence of sin, it’s time to stop, and let God finally restore us to His image.
- Best News
- He wants this as much as we do!
The good news in this was that the Lord loves us enough to tear us to pieces, to allow ourselves to be wounded by the sins we so easily choose over him.
The better news – that God will welcome us back, heal us, bandage us,
But here is the best news, a response to the prophet’s plea to his people,
3 Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”
That is a critical example of faith, this ability to cry out to know God better, this encouragement to get to know Him, and the confidence that we shall – because we know He shall respond to us, even as we come back to Him.
And here is His response,
4 “O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the LORD. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. 5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. 6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
That God responds to us, knowing what we’ve done, knowing how much we struggle and how our love can be there one moment and not the next, is incredible.
Yeah – He did hit people hard judging them, but doing so with the purpose of reconciling us to Himself – of drawing us back to the only place, to the only One who loves us enough to heal and restore us…
Because He wants us to know Him, more than anything else.
He wants us to know Him,
Knowledge not is academics, knowledge as in experience, as in understanding how much love there is, of knowing how much He cares, and thinks of us, and wants the best for us, and designed and formed us specifically (mentally, physically, socially, intellectually) to interact with Him.
This is our God, let us return to Him, and dwell in His peace. AMEN!
1 Peter 3:13-18
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give the desire to share the hope you have in Christ with everyone around you!
- Apologetics – The Necessity
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, two terms became important in the church in America. The first was “evangelism” as program after program was developed to guide the church in evangelizing the world.
The second, which became needed as people started to try to evangelize their neighborhoods and the world, was Apologetics. Since that time, you can now take college courses in apologetics, even get a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in it, as one learns to “defend” the faith.
The term apologetics comes from the passage in 1 Peter read this morning.
“And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. “
Where Evangelism is defined as bringing good news, Apologetics is very simply “giving the reason,” in this case, giving the reason we have hope in this life. The question then becomes, how do we explain why we have hope?
What is necessary to explain this hope we have, which means we also define what isn’t necessary.
What have we learned or experienced or do we have in our lives that they need to know in order to have the hope we have?
- What isn’t necessary?
Somehow, in the midst of the church movements of the 70-80’s, the idea of evangelism and apologetics almost became a profession. Radio shows were created like “The Bible Answer Man” with and “Christianity on Trial. Books were written “evidence that demands a verdict, and later-the Case for Christ. Universities created Masters and Doctoral Degrees in evangelism and apologetics. The latter has been re-defined to meaning to “defend the faith”, whether historically or from the basic of logic. Lots of things to memorize – and all of it is good – and somewhat interesting.
But it isn’t what you need to explain to people why you have hope!
I don’t have hope because I can argue about how the Bible was written over 2500 years. I don’t have hope because I can explain some complications inherent in the describing how the Trinity functions and relates to each other. I don’t have hope because I can teach on all the different views about baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
I am not saying that we don’t need to know – and don’t need to pursue the truth about Jesus> We need to, and it must be based on what He’s revealed to us in scripture. We need to do that – that’s why we study the scriptures together! That’s why we test what people teach against the scriptures.
But when someone wants to know why you have hope in the midst of this crazy, messed up world, they don’t need to know the 5 different views about the Lord’s Supper, or be able to express arguments about how much water is needed to baptize someone, or how to accurately explain what the Trinity is, or what the difference between free will and predestination…
All that stuff can encourage hope once we have it—but it doesn’t explain why we have hope in the middle of this broken world.
It just makes us feel good to know we know more than them…which can easily lead to the sin of pride, and hurting our neighbor because we didn’t explain why we have hope.
- What is of value – what is necessary to tell the unbeliever?
What we need to tell them is why we have hope….
The fact we know God loves us, as Peter said because “Christ suffered for our sins, once and for all time,” so that, “He died for sinners to bring us safely home to God.”
That’s where we can start – just the facts – God loves us, He died to set us free of sin, to set us free from the fear of death.
If we bring up the sacraments, it’s not to debate them! It’s to simply to relate the promises they give us: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Spirit, and eternity in God’s joy-filled, glorious presence.
That is what we have hope for, to enter the presence of God, the creator of everything that is,
And as Peter said, the way we do it is through Christ’s death on the cross.
That is why we have hope….
- You’ve brought safely Home
That hope is what the people we come in contact need to hear. Manny’s lesson in Sunday School takes this even farther, as it looks at an example in Acts of this very thing. It talks of people who were curious about the resurrection of the dead, because their religions and idols had nothing like it.
Nor did they have the Son of God, Jesus, who would be appointed judge of all, who loves us so completely that He would come and dwell among us.
Some people have reached the point where they are ready to hear of that hope, others we are simply planting a seed for the future. The hope that comes because, as Peter wrote, “He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
Therefore… we have risen… ALLELUIA!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ point you out to what is most important in your life!
- The Best Thing in Life – Remain focused on it
In our reading from 1 Corinthians this morning, the Apostle Paul said this:
“3I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me.”
The most important thing.
So for fun, I googled “most important thing” and I came across an article written by Natalya Bannister entitled “What really matters—the 7 most important things in life.”
She has an interesting list.
- Peace!–and she said protect it!
- Health—so much for that one!
- Family and Friendships—not a bad thing to include
- Purpose—so she likes a purpose driven life!
- Time—someone gave me a box of thyme this week… supposed to plant it and wait a while…
- Learning—not education, learning and there is a difference!
About the last one, she said, “I have always said, we were put on this earth simply to love. Love one another, love what we do, love the Earth, and love each moment we are blessed to experience. Love is the most powerful force in the universe.”
That Lady put together a pretty good list.
But I think she’s dead wrong with it.
None of those things is the most important thing in life. What Paul passed on is the most important thing in life.
Let’s read the full thought together:
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said! (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
That fact is the most important thing you have in your life… well, most of it, anyway.
We’ll need to complete the thought in the rest of the sermon!
- The Best Thing in Life—Eyewitnesses of it
St. Paul describes some of the witnesses of the fact the Christ died, was buried and rose again.
It is pretty extensive, and while not complete, includes some events that show up no where else in scripture!
He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.
I really want more information about when Jesus showed up and was seen by 500 people at once. The only time in the scriptures this is mentioned – and there are many theories of when and where. Enough to get side-tracked in a Bible Study for at least 2 hours!
But all these people witnessed the fact that Christ had died, and as importantly, that He had risen!
We need to know both – that He died because we sinned. And that Alleluia! He is risen! (He is Risen Indeed Alleluia!) and therefore… (We are risen indeed! Alleluia!
- The Best Things in Life – Evidence – we all preach the message!
I said earlier that the first quote we started with contained the most important thing in life.. well almost. It read,
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said! (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
The rest of the thought St. Paul gets to in verse 10.
But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.
St Paul makes the connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and his own life, and then to our lives.
It is his version of the “and therefore”
God pours out His love and forgiveness as the blood of Christ is spilled upon the ground, as it is sacrificed for us on the cross. He dies and He rises from the dead.
And with Jesus, all who believe are raised from the dead, holy and righteous, for in His death He has separated us from all sin.
This is the greatest, most important, most glorious thing in your life…for it shows you have been given a new life, in Christ, and Christ in you!
Which brings us back to the list….that we saw in the beginning. She was on to something – if you include Jesus
- Peace!—we have it as we are raised in Christ
- Health—we have eternal life in Christ
- Family and Friendships—we have a family of all believers in Christ
- Purpose—we exist to be in communion with God
- Time—eternity in Christ
- Learning—we know God for we are in Christ
- Love!—not that we love… but that He loves us!
So trust in this – Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again! AMEN!