Category Archives: Sermons
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT
The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in
First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.
This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.
Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.
And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.
There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.
Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?
It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.
You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.
Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.
That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.
The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.
It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.
Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.
That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.
Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
The Place Where God Put His Name
Became our Home
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as It has during His work here at St Paul’s for decades. AMEN
I would like to read one verse from our gospel reading from a different translation.
the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love
and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and
only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)
The New Living Translation uses the word home instead of “dwelt”, and I think the difference is important. The word in Greek refers to setting up a residence in a community, it talks of establishing more than a house, it speaks of a home. It was used in the Greek Old Testament for the tabernacle, the place where God dwelt in the midst of His people.
More importantly, I believe it is why we are here today, and it is why this day is so hard.
You see, we call places like St. Paul’s Lutheran church our “church home” for a reason. This is the place were people have come home to God for decades, for generations. It was here we learned to feel at home in the presence of God, it is here where we came to be baptized, to celebrate Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, it is from this place we buried those who left this church home for their heavenly home.
For here God made us feel at home with Him.
You may not have realized why this place became your church home, we may have never reflected upon it. But it was a church home, and therefore leaving it is a moment of sadness, a moment of sorrow, a moment where we question what happened, what went wrong, why did this happen.
And today, as we move on from this home, we need to realize why this place was our home, where God made His home among His people.
The Place where God Has Put His name
In our Old Testament reading, we see Solomon addressing God at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. In that prayer, even as they dedicate this building, Solomon’s prayer includes the concept that God can’t live on earth. Yet the temple was the place where he put His name, and people could pray, and know they could
Hear the words again,
0 May you hear the humble and
earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place.
Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.
This place where God put His name served the same purpose. This is the place where God has made you at home in His presence. He cleansed you, he brought healing to your souls, He forgave your sin and fed you the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
and then, for others, this place was where they found him, even as aliens found God at the temple…again from the Old Testament reading,
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do.1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT2)
Over the years, the numbers of people baptized in this place is numerous, the number of people who discovered God because their prayers were answered has been significant. That is why we are here today, to celebrate how God’s mercy has been poured out in this place.
To realize that it is a special place, that it has been a church home, a place where God has put His name.
It is in that name we find out the hope Paul worked diligently, with all he had to preach and teach. The riches of the mystery of Christ in you! And in the end, Paul’s statement to another church will ring true about this church home, numerous people will be presented mature in Christ Jesus, because of the ministry that has happened here.
The Work Done Here, Has Honored His Name
The apostle Paul once said that the people he wrote to were the evidence of God’s work through Paul. In the same way, those who came to faith here, and those people whose faith was sustained here throughout the years are proof that this place has been home to God and man, communing together. It is the place where He put His name,
In a couple of hours, after we commune together, after we share in the stories of God’s work in this place, the doors will close, the lights will be turn off, and we will move on. It may take a while to get used to the new place where God draws you to Himself, these temporary homes on our pilgrimage to our eternal home with Him.
There will be some dissonance, just as when the red hymnal was changed out for the blue, and then the burgundy. Or when the King James gave way to the RSV, then the NIV, then the ESV or NLT. Yet the main thing does not change. The main thing is this: God will continue to draw you to a place where His people can realize the gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins that testifies that we are safe and at home in Christ. And that others will pray there and find themselves at home as well.
And until we are all
before the throne in heaven, we find ourselves drawn to where God has put His
name, that we can come and pray and be forgiven, where unbelievers can pray and
have God answer. In such places, we will know God’s peace, a peace beyond all
understanding, For Christ will guard you there, keeping your hearts and minds
safe in these earthly homes.
You might just get it!
† In Jesus Name! †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you in the midst of life, drawing you under His wings, where you can find rest and restoration!
All things? Including a death threat?
God has made many promises in scripture.
One of the promises that is one of the hardest to believe, but also is one of the most amazing is found in Romans 8. **
“And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according His purpose for them.”
I don’t know about you, but that is a promise that I sometimes struggle with in my life.
From my point of view, looking at the brokenness in my own life, I sometimes wonder whether that promise was made to me. Because I can’t always see how God can make some of the stuff I’ve done, and some of the things that happen to me work for good, at least my good.
But they do, even as we will see this morning, as we consider the desires of two men, desires that seem to be unlikely to be fulfilled, and one of which, cannot possibly be good, because it calls for someone to die.
But could it?
We shall see….and it is amazing!
Two Men, Two Desires
Herod’s (and Everyman’s desire)
Lets start with Herod first. **
His desire is that Jesus would die.** The scriptures don’t declare why he wanted Jesus dead, simple that the Pharisees indicated that he did. These normal adversaries of Jesus are so concerned that they warn Jesus of it.
It’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.”
**It could be because he feared Jesus was going to haunt him, as John the Baptist did. Some were even saying Jesus was John returned, a though that would have scared Herod. After all, Herod was manipulated into killing John, chopping his head off at the request of his daughter and wife.
As the guilt added to his already massive amounts of guilt, the more he would want to get rid of any Godly influence in his life.
**You know that feeling, when you are dealing with guilt and shame, and instead of running to God, you want to run away? Instead of seeking forgiveness, you try to bury the guilt and shame? You try to find a way to avoid it, and what better way than killing the person who is God’s messenger?
So Herod’s desire is delayed, and for the moment He can’t get what he has asked for..
Which leads us to Jesus, who speaks of a desire, the purpose that He is working towards, that he relentlessly pursues. The goal of gathering the people of God together, to ensure their safety, to care for them.
But they won’t let Him. Just like so many in the world today, including, at times, you and I.
Yet this is Jesus focus, to bring us all into a place where we are cared for, where our souls find peace and healing from the ravages of sin. The sins of the world, and our own. For the damage is great, the brokenness that steals away life. Yet that is the life we cling to for some reason.
While Jesus is trying to draw us into a life that is abundant, and free.
How He longed to do that to the people of Jerusalem then, how He longs to lift us up now!
They both got what they wanted
Only God could grant both
there desires and work it out so that as they are fulfilled, every one who
loves God, everyone called according to His purposes.
Jesus will die as Herod wants, and even as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Himself!
Both desires met. Both would get exactly what they wanted, and more.
You can’t read these chapters in Luke, from the transfiguration to the cross and not know it is coming. Herod couldn’t see that, nor how his desire to be rid of the prophets who confronted his sins would provide the solution to the sin which so easily traps us. He knew the answer to his guilt and shame would be found in the shedding of Jesus’ blood. But how it was solved, the solution that would cleanse anyone of sin, was beyond His thoughts!
Jesus knows that His death, his being raised from the dead will bring people in, that they will find the forgiveness they need, that they will be able to no longer fear God, but revel in His love.
That is why He is willing to die, to see us be drawn into His death, that we may share in His love. Hear again Paul’s words,
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Colossians 2:12 (NLT2)
So God made both of these thing,
turning the death of Christ, which Herod so wanted, into a blessing beyond
imagination as He gathered people together in the cross of Christ.
As He will do with everything in your life, and mine, and as He reveals His love for us, as we explore its breadth and width, its height and depth, the more we will be assured of this. Assured of it, we will rest, knowing His peace.
The Joy of Finding Refuge
† I.H.S. †
May this Lent be a time of deep self-evaluation that leads you to recognize how incredible the grace of God is, as it provides to us a refuge in Jesus. AMEN!
Groaning to God
The season we call Lent begins tonight. It is the darkest of seasons in the church year.
It is a season to cry out to God, in much the same manner as the psalmist did. Here the beginning of his cry again,
O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. 2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. 3 Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly
How many of you have groaned to God today?
How many people are willing to communicate
with God the way they post comments on Social Media? Or the way groan when
talking with friends over a beer, or over coffee and doughnuts?
How many of us groan about the absolute wickedness we see in the world, the sins that are so blatant, the pride that causes men and women to say the scriptures are wrong, and what they are doing is not murder, is not adultery, is not gossip, that what they think is not based in jealousy?
Pleasure in wickedness,
We want to rejoice in the psalm because it says that God destroys those who lie, that He hates those who hurt others, who will deceive people.
And the Psalmist prays that such people will be caught in their own traps.
Hmmm. Wait a second! do we really want to pray that? If we prayed that all sinners, all who rebel against God be driven away, we better examine ourselves.
Because some of you lied today.
and some of you wanted someone to get what’s coming to them, and you wanted revenge.
Some of you had a problem with thoughts of adultery. That you wished you had a romantic, fulfilling life like those people on television or in that book.
Others of you had a problem with authority,
not want to pray that God bless them, and perhaps you even asked God to strike
them dead, or damn them, or at least get them out of authority, to get them out
of our lives.
We need to evaluate our own lives, we need to see the depth of our sin, and grieve over it. Really grieve, because we realize the pain our sin causes God, because we realize the position we place Him in, where He has to punish the sin, He has to condemn it.
And therein is the problem that Lent is made for, a time to take seriously our lives, to examine them, and see our need to change, our need to repent.
Yet we can sing… we are safe, protected and because
At the same time, our sorrow is not without hope, it is Godly sorrow. Godly in the way that the Holy Spirit is convicting us of our sin, and yet guiding us to a confession of that sin that will lead us into a period of great joy The ashes we wear, they are not without hope, for the mark you are marked with, the sign of the cross, testifies to the end of lent. The cross where Jesus would hang by His wrists and His ankles, because of the joy set before him.
For in His death, as we are drawn into Him, we find refuge, we find peace, we find joy.
For as He dies, the power of sin dies as well, and we are finally set free.
Lent is about looking at our sins with Good Friday and Easter there, a time when realizing our brokenness results in realizing our healing.
When realizing that we approach the altar for forgiveness, and find we are drawn back, to share in Christ
And so like Jesus, we look to the joy that is set before us, and endure the cross, for it transforms us, it gives us refuge, it brings us peace.
Keep Confident and Hope in Christ!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ not just give you hope, but confidence in God walking with you through your life.
How cool to have a Leader like Moses!
I can’t even imagine the feelings that would run through the hearts and minds of Peter, James
I mean Elijah
The leader of all of the leaders in Jewish History, and the man through whom the greatest miracles in history were performed! Remember the water from the
I can imagine Peter asking, “so what was that stuff anyway?”
And Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments? (lucky
And what about the Red Sea? Man, can you imagine someone doing that today!
I can imagine the apostles being so incredibly excited by the leadership of Moses and Elijah! Wow – now we are really getting somewhere! Now things can really change around here!
I could even here James telling John, “Hey, Moses is with you!” and hearing him echo back, “and also with you!”
I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think the apostles were more than impressed, more than in awe of this. That’s why Peter goes to Jesus, and asks, “Hey can I build some tents for you guys to dwell in? We’ll even make one for you Jesus!
There is an obvious problem with this, something the apostles overlooked in the excitement! Something the reading from Hebrews recognizes.
How good are we at following leaders?
We need a better leader than Moses. I mean he was pretty good at handling what God wanted Mosses to be responsible for, with only an error here or there. But Moses didn’t do a good enough job. He was as faithful as any.
But he didn’t get all of God’s people to the Holy Land. In fact, an entire generation was left all over the desert. 600,000 men (and their ladies) didn’t make it.
Did some awesome stuff, but there is only so much you can do when you aren’t the owner of a place, but just one of the servants.
The problem wasn’t completely with Moses, it was just as much with the people that didn’t follow his leadership. Don’t get me wrong, Moses sinned, but he had a lot of people who didn’t listen, and what could he do about them?
We aren’t much different today when it comes to listening to leadership. We tend to dismiss them, we tend to think of them as our servants, not as those who are out there to help us and lead us.
I saw the meme yesterday, and it is exactly how people treated Moses,
We need someone better, someone, who can deal with our rebellious nature, someone who isn’t just a servant, someone who can really make a difference. And it would help if they had our best interest at heart.
We need the owner to show up, someone really in charge!
We Need Something More than a Boss!
We look back at the transfiguration, and we get that Jesus was there. But I’ve even heard that Elijah and Moses were there not just to talk to Jesus about his upcoming death, but to encourage and strengthen Him for the ordeal.
I don’t think so, to confirm it maybe, but Jesus’ strength was found in His love for us, and in His love for the Father.
The Father with whom He planned all this, with the Father who created all this through Jesus.
The Jesus who is Lord of all.
And we need to understand what it means for Jesus to be Lord. It means He is the builder of the
You see Jesus being the LORD, the builder of the house means more than just ordering us around, more than just saying “do this, don’t do that” and “here is the punishment, here is the reward.”
Jesus being Lord is all about His plans for the house, how He intends to build it and care for it. It means He has committed Himself to care for His house, for His people. It means He has committed Himself to dwell in the house He is building, building with us.
And because He is the builder and the designer of the church, there is something He can do, that Moses didn’t have the ability to do.
He can make our sin, our rebelliousness of no account. He can take our brokenness and make it part of the masterpiece of His dwelling.
And He does, because He paid the price, and that’s been part of the design from the beginning. It was the cost of building His home, a home we are part of, along with all those who depend on
That is why we can keep our courage, that is why we remain confident.
Because we know His plan, even as we begin to realize we dwell in His presence, as we realize that He loves us so much, the cross and the death of Christ were planned, so we could be at home with God.
So, may you know you dwell in His peace, a peace you can’t be stolen from Him, for He has claimed you and made you, His! AMEN!
Revealed His Glory
† In Jesus Name†
May the grace of God help you realize the glory of God that is revealed to you as experience His glory, may you grow to do what He asks, and depend
Who saw the glory revealed?
As I studied the gospel reading this week, one phrase kept grabbing my attention.
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory
This thought, that Jesus revealed His glory for the first time, just needed to be looked into, it needed to be meditated upon, and I think it is a key for us today.
There is a question that accompanies it though, something else we need to think through.
Here it is, “who was this glory revealed to?”
We are going to look at three different groups, those who experienced it, the servants who had done what He said, and the disciples who would grow in their faith and dependence upon Jesus, as they saw His glory revealed.
As we see and experience His glory, I pray we are changed even more dramatically that the wine was changed!
Experiencing it without seeing it
The first group is the “master of ceremonies” and the bridegroom, and probably most of the guests. They certainly experienced the miracle, yet they didn’t know where the wine had come from, they simply enjoyed the wine, and the fellowship it caused.
The master of ceremonies didn’t understand
it either, as he asks the logic of
serving the best, when people are drunk .
Yet that is part of the glory of God,
Even when we have been consuming the cheap stuff of the world, when we are tired and worn out, and even broken by
The world will do that, as it tempts us to believe we enjoy the cheap things it offers. Fame, pleasure, the things money can buy, or the security of having a solid financial portfolio, or our political party ascend in government.
These things are illusions, and like cheap wine, they will seem to satisfy for a moment. Compared to the glorious mercy and love of Jesus, they simply begin to fade away.
People encounter God’s glory all the time. But will they recognize it?
Will they see it in the hand of someone who comes to their aid, or their neighbor who tries to tell them about Jesus? Will they see God’s hand guiding them?
Will we recognize His presence, when we hear His word, will we realize His presence when we kneel here, when we
Or will we not discern His presence, and as Paul warns, and eat and drink judgment upon ourselves?
The second group to experience the glory of God, revealed in Christ, was the servants. They knew where the wine had come from, they played a role in the miracle’s occurrence.
Told by Mary to do what Jesus said, they did. I can’t imagine why they did, but they did!
Grabbing some huge stone pitchers, filling them with water, and then taking a ladle of it over to the master of ceremonies.
Seriously? Taking a ladle of water over, and …. A miracle happened…
I mean if that could happen, if water could
be turned to wine, what else could happen?
Could wine also be the blood of Christ? Could a little round piece of bread also be His body?
Could we be transformed into the image of Christ?
The disciples depended on him
The glory of Jesus revealed in that miracle had the greatest effect on the last group.
They had only recently started hanging out
with the odd rabbi, scripture tells us just a day or so, just after Jesus
baptism. I am not sure they knew all
that much about him, but they were invited to the party with Jesus.
So they went.
They would have seen the interaction of Jesus with his mother, and with the servants.
They surely would have sampled the wine and been amazed.
And scripture says they believed in Him.
Not believed in him like a mathematical fact, because the miracle defied all form of logic.
Miracles always do.
Believed in him, had faith in Him in a way that changed everything else in their lives.
That’s what truly seeing the glory of God revealed to us does,
It helps us see that we can and should depend on God.
We can toss aside every other thing that we would depend upon for joy, or the illusion of it, for we have found real joy! We have found real peace, knowing that God will provide what we need in life!
The disciples would do that, these men that would watch Jesus die, and then see Him, risen from the dead. They would experience the Holy Spirit, they would baptize thousands, and share every day in the body and blood Christ, as they prayed and fellowshipped with all that would be united to Jesus.
They believed in Jesus, for they had seen His glory revealed!
His glory revealed?
I need to make one thing clear. We need to define what it was that Jesus did that revealed His glory.
Some may think it is transformation of water to wine, and that is, I have to admit, a pretty cool miracle.
I think it is more than that though, it is the response of Jesus to those in need, the response to a plea from His mother to come to their aid. To make sure the celebration of two becoming one was not diminished.
Remember, a way for us to understand the love of Jesus for the church is the true love between a husband and wife. Ephesians 5 describes that so well, especially the mercy of Christ, which sees us as holy and perfect and glorious.
We understand this miracle in view of that,
and we realize that He loves us in the same exact way. That Jesus will transform us, just as He
transformed the water.
Even as His glory is revealed through scripture now, and when someone was baptized, and as we take and eat His body and drink His blood, in an under the bread and wine.
Jesus loves you, and the glory you see I that love, and know in that mercy is eternal.
And each day, the Spirit readies us for the final wedding feast, described in Revelation
I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty
ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us
give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and
his bride has prepared herself. 8 She
has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen
represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who
are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true
words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:6-9 (NLT2)
And as those disciples were invited to the wedding feast in Cana, so you are invited to this wedding feast. For you, church, are His beloved.
And until that day, you dwell, your hearts and minds guarded by Jesus, in that inexpressible peace of God. AMEN!
Let Nothing You
Dismay! – An Advent Prayer
Week 3 – The Day of Delight is Coming!
† IN JESUS NAME †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed to you, that the idea of dismay or disillusion be simply impossible, as you experience the dimensions of His love.
Announcement Will Be
As we consider the old hymn’s line, God rest you merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay, as we look at the advent readings out of the prophets about the day of Christ, we’ve see something incredible so far. These prophecies were all about a day that was to come, the day that Jeremiah described as the day of promise. Last week Malachi described it as the day of returning, and next week, Micah will talk about the day of peace.
But tonight we’ve heard from Zephaniah, and we will explore the day he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write about….
The Day of Delight!
Delight, the greatest of joys. The kind of joy that leaves us unable to speak.
A video is circulating on the internet, of this kind of joy. People born color blind are given these new special glasses, that enable them to see color for the first time in their lives. And these people’s body language and the tears of amazement are something to see.
So I think I will show you…
That’s the kind of joy, the kind of delight the prophet says God has promised on that day.
This is Amazing…
But what we really need to realize, is that he didn’t promise this delight to you and I. We aren’t the primary ones to know this joy, this delight.
Hear the passage again,
17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He
He will take delight in you, Al, and you Tom, He will take delight in you therein the back, yes you Doug and Frank, and you over hiding there behind
God will, on that day, take delight in you! Think back to the joy of the color blind man… can you imagine
I mean I get the idea that with all of our burdens we will know a
God finding that kind of joy, joy inexpressible, when we show up?
That’s what the prophet promises! He even says it again, hear this!
With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
The Hand of Judgement is removed
This is the incredible promise we have to understand, that as much as we findGod’s mercy incredible, as much as we are amazed when we hear our sin is completely forgiven, as much joy we find as we experience the width and breadth, the height and depth of God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus…
He finds the greatest joy in restoring us to Himself, reconciling us, cleansing us from all sin.
All of it.
Zephaniah tells us that God will remove his hand of judgment, he ends all
Where we will see God rejoice and sing and be delighted, as He makes His
Not yet? Or Now?
Now the really mind blowing part of this… this day when
God finds such delight in our presence, the day when He rejoices over us with
songs of joy…
While this will definitely be something that we see completely revealed on the day of Christ’s advent, this time has already happened, for John’s gospel tells us,
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT2)
And in Luke’s gospel
that the time of the LORD’s favor
has come.” 20 He rolled up
the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the
synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then
he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled
this very day!”
Luke 4:19-21 (NLT2)
In Christ’s incarnation, the thing we celebrate at Christmas, as Christ came, this truth became real, God again found great delight in His people, in dwelling with them. Even through the suffering, the death on the cross, we find that Hebrews tells us it was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross, and in the resurrection, and at the day of Pentecost and every day someone is baptized since, this promise becomes true,
God delights in His people, in you’re and I,, and He rejoices over us with songs of joy!
So let Him cleanse you once again, as we gather together and share in the Lord’s Supper… AMEN!
Faith in Action: Knows
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest! AMEN!
People who have faith need to pray
I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,
How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)
Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.
It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.
As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary. He is our peace.
The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God
Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.
Obstacles to knowing God
I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.
It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm. It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.
Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…
Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.
Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right! (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )
And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.
Is such anxiety sin? If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.
You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not. And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.
The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.
So how does this happen?
Come and see the glorious works
There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.
Come and see the glorious works of the Lord! See how he brings destruction upon the world!
The first part seems like a great invitation. Observing God’s glorious works! How awesome! How incredible! Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.
And then I get the second half and go “wait…
BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD? WHAT?
Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?
I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?
I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?
Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.
But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.
That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,
4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)
It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….
Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us. In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…
That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.
As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.
And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.
And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him! AMEN!
Faith in Action:
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
1.6 Billion dollars…. For what?
On Friday, I stopped by the local 7-11.
The parking lot was full, there were three clerks working instead of the usual one. There were people in line, and another line over in the corner, waiting for little pieces of paper to make little marks that they would put their hope in…
Seriously, putting all your hope in some little marks on a piece of paper.
And they will do it again this week, looking for a change in life because of that piece of paper, those little marks. Enough people doing so that the Lottery can easily put less than half the money back, and still raise the prize some 600 million dollars.
Some people buy those tickets out of curiosity, others buy them in despair and desperation. There was one guy, running through the “have you won scanner” what looked like 50 such pieces of paper.
I wonder how many of them realize what Solomon said some 3000 years ago,
10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!
We aren’t going to find contentment in things, we can only find contentment in something we have more than enough of…. But how do we realize it?
The Idol of Wealth
Solomon talked of reasons why wealth doesn’t breed contentment. The reasons it doesn’t bring happiness, why it doesn’t provide a beautiful life. I mean these reasons aren’t rocket science,
- You can never have enough. (Solomon would know!)
- The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.
- You can watch it slip through your fingers
- Investments can sour, and the money is lost
- We eventually end up the way we started, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
- You can’t take your riches with you
- You don’t make a lasting impact on the world.
And yet, we will, as a country spend 3 or 4 billion dollars on the lottery. And we still won’t find contentment, even the one who wins.
Or we will struggle and put ourselves into debt, trying to get the right college education, or the right career options, playing all the games and work our fingers to the bone, trying to get ahead.
And we won’t find contentment.
But that won’t stop us chasing wealth, riches, fame, and all its accouterments. For we make these things our idols, we put our hope in them, thinking that if only we get the right numbers for the lottery, the perfect job, or health plan, the perfect home or spouse and family, everything will be okay, and we can finally be content.
But idols can’t buy happiness, even if we could gain them all. But Solomon, the richest, wisest man of his day, tells us we can never get enough. Our hunger will never be removed, the idols will just hold out their empty promise… and we will line up to give them what we’ve worked so hard for in life
it’s like chasing the wind. Except that we do it all too often.
There is an option, there is a gift that God gives us, the result of the gift is seen in verse 19,
To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.
He says it there, whether you are the CEO or the janitor, there are people who find contentment in their work and their life because they realize it is a gift of God.
That’s hard for us to understand, hard for us to deal with at times. Doesn’t God realize what He’s putting us through? Doesn’t he realize the pain, the grief, the anxiety that comes with our lot in life, this place He’s put us in? Doesn’t He know our struggles?
Yeah, he does, and that is why Solomon says finding contentment is a gift.
A supernatural gift, and ability that isn’t natural to us, but divine grace that is poured over us, allowing us to find the beauty in our lives, to find that elusive contentment.
A contentment that comes as we have faith in Him, as we grow in our trust and dependence on Him. As we go to him with our failures and sins, as we abandon the idols that cannot bring us contentment, and we hear Him, welcoming us into His presence.
That is what the cross and the resurrection is all about, to free us to live in the presence of God, a presence where all our troubles are taken from us, as God promises us life everlasting in His presence. For there, in the presence of God, we find how incredibly He loves us, a love we are told every week this year that we can’t understand, but that we can experience, and we do.
Contentment, true happiness, or having what in Hebrew can be translated best as “the beautiful life” comes not what we have in terms or worldly value. It comes from finding out we are loved, loved beyond measure. Loved even when we failed to love in return, as God picks us off the ground, saving us to Himself.
And knowing we are loved changes everything, adding color to a gray landscape caught in the darkness before dawn. Bringing life that is gloriously eternal to a life that was once going to end with nothing.
And with our eyes on Him, on the Lord who loves us, we come to know that life Is incredibly beautiful, a life in which we find contentment, a life in which we dwell in the incredible peace of God…..
And so I end with the prayer of blessing we began with….
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
(if you would rather see the service, and hear the sermon, it is posted on my FB page and at Concordia.org_
Matters of the Heart
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May this grace, the love and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, show you how He is transforming your heart so that you can love Him and your neighbor! AMEN!
The Gospel? Really? ( O wait = there it is …Bacon is fine!)
Passages like the gospel always bring out my sense of irony.
I mean, we read these nine verses, talking about how our vile hearts defile us, and then I get to say, “This is the gospel of the Lord!”
Using less religious language, “This is the good news that Jesus has for you!”Yeah! Good news! You are defiled because your heart is vile! Not really a balance there between Law and Gospel…this passage is 100% law. Well, Bob found some good news in it, in our deacons and pastor study Monday night. There down within the parenthesis you see it, “Every kind of food is acceptable in God’s sight!” Which means bacon and shrimp and lobster are as acceptable as broccoli or kale or that horrid pumpkin spice stuff that is invading our stores! But how do we take a passage so focused on our failure, our sin, our being defiled, and find good news there? Where is the gospel in this gospel reading?Or put another way, while this passage tells us we really need help, how do we find it? Or are we always going to be defiled by our vile hearts?
We are defiled/vulgar (but that isn’t what you think it means_
Inigo Montoya, the famous swordsman in Princess Bride, uttered these works. “You keep using that word (inconceivable). I do not think it means what you think it means!”We’ve got a couple of those words in today’s reading. The first is the word defile. It sounds like it means rotten, disgusting, horrid, sickening, to use an old word, gross.
It isn’t actually bad as bad as it sounds, though, in reality, it is worse.
It is the opposite of holy, it means common. Which was the original definition of vulgar.
Using last week’s illustration about holiness, to be set apart for a special purpose, I said Missy’s guitar was meant to play music with, not to be used as a stepping stool to change a light bulb. You defile something when you take something that has a special purpose and use it for something… far less. Say instead of using it for playing beautiful music, Missy used her guitar to move fertilizer around her parent’s backyard. That would be defiling is, making it something used for something in common.
Or imagine you are going into surgery, and you see the surgeon opening his latest package from Amazon with the same scalpel.
Our hearts’ purpose had never been to be the place of origin for sin. We were meant to be set apart, our purpose to be the people, the children of God. We were set apart to dwell in His love, and love the family of God. Sin simply wrecks that, destroying our heart and soul, making us no better than any other biological creature, controlled by physical needs and desire for pleasure.
Sin changes us, from being the children of God, and that sin comes from a heart that doesn’t recognize God. And that sin finds its origin, not in the world, but in our hearts. That is what Jesus keeps coming back too…
It is not what is us that is wrong, it’s not the bacon, it is the heart that is a glutton that causes the desire to overeat. It’s not the beauty that causes the sin, it is the uncontrolled desire for pleasure.
It is what is within us, what controls our heart, and our will that causes us to engage in sin.
The gospel – a heart transplant The OT Promise
If this is true, then what hope exists for us, in this world so oppressed by the sin which has ensnared us? What hope is there for our friends, of children, our grandchildren? If all there is to life is living without a special purpose, without reason,
We find the law in the Gospel today, so let’s look back at the Old Testament to find the gospel. If sin originates in our hearts, then what is underlined in this passage is the only way to deal with it. Let’s read it together
26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
There is our answer, a cardiac transplant. To allow God to change our heart, from the one in which sin, passed down from Adam, and which dominates our heart. Changing our heart like he did with David, making us men and women after God’s own heart, men, and women who share His desire.
This is the promise made sure in us, as it was for Ethan last week, as God pours water on us, and cleanses us from all sin, and He makes us His people.
This new heart changes us… and enables us to do things that please God, it allows us to walk with Him, and relate to Him. For as He changes our heart, as He puts His Spirit in us, we return to being holy, a people are special to Him, for we are His children!
What does this mean?
How can we believe this, I mean, we still sin, don’t we?
How can sin still come from a heart that has been changed? From a heart that is supposed to beat in rhythm with God’s own heart? The simple answer is, that sin is the old us, and as we walk closer to God, depending on Him more and more, others may see the change in us, while we never do.
I think that’s so we never stop depending on God, so we learn to run to Him when we are tempted, so we learn to run to Him, assured of His mercy and forgiveness, so that we learn to run to the God who has poured water on us, cleansed us of sin, given us a new heart, put His Spirit within us…
and who promises this as well
6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT2) Amen!