Category Archives: Sermons
Renewed in Spirit
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you life to begin again, regularly!
@@ St. Paul wrote, “But we continue to preach..”
We continue to speak about God he says, and that is all well and good! But to understand that comment in all of its power, we need to understand why the “but” was there. And to do that, I need to go back a few verses.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NLT2)
Pretty exhausting week St. Paul and his crew had. Not quite as bad as dealing with COVID, but still pretty bad, don’t you think?
The question is how do you keep talking about Jesus, when in the midst of all of that turmoil? Perplexed, stalked, knocked down, suffering, living under constant danger, dying, enduring masks and not being able to give or receive hugs.
And yet, Paul is able to keep on talking about Jesus… and since the word there is to talk – and not proclaim, it is something we can do as well….
- The Psalmist’s real words (Law)
@@ The first step is to understand what Paul and the Psalmist meant when talking about faith in God. Paul wrote, 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”
That sounds pretty good – he just pushed through, or maybe muddled through, depending on how exhausted he was. He just kept speaking, or so it seems.
That works well into our upbringing. Most of us were just trained to keep on working until the work was done. Didn’t matter how tired, how many times the computer deleted our files, or what was going on – we were to get the work done! And get it done right!
If we check the Psalmists words though, it clarifies things. What the psalmist wrote was,
“ I believed in You, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, LORD.’” Psalm 116:10
Notice the difference? The Psalmist that Paul agrees with is not our there on his own strength, he is leaning on God. He, like Jesus in the garden, is going to the Father in prayer, and sharing the aches and pains, the anxieties, and the doubts.
To try and do it all on our own is sin, and act of pride. It is telling God, even if unintentionally, that we don’t want to walk with Him, that we want to do it on our own.
And then, rather than finding a second wind, a renewed Spirit, we burn out.
But St. Paul and the Psalmist cry out to God, using God’s personal name, sharing the brokenness and burden.
And that changes everything, for as we depend on God, our hearts and souls are renewed, even if our bodies are failing.
- Why We don’t Give up
In the midst of the brokenness, St Paul writes something that is truly amazing,
14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
The promise of the resurrection from death is so powerful, that it reinvigorates the physically, mentally and spiritually broken disciple. This is why he can keep speaking about God, because of this incredible, awesome promise!
I can share from my own story, this week I was pretty tired twice. The first time I was revived by the pictures than Amanda, our banker, put up on Facebook the pictures of her daughter’s baptism right here, 5 years ago. ( I did needle her a little about bringing her back more often) Another day, I received an email from Colleen – about the miraculous healing that her friend’s wife has had, a lady we’ve been praying for.
That means far more to a tired pastor, or elder or deacon than giving us a million dollars, right Bob?
This is the power of seeing God at work in and through us, the work of the holy Spirit. That is how our life is re-invigorated, our spirits renewed, as we see the work of the Spirit, drawing people closer and closer to Jesus.
- Everything else is less
That is why Paul can say,
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
No masks or social distancing in heaven, no getting crushed, or driven to despair, never abandoned by God, just simply the life of Christ seen in our Bodies as the effect of our dying with Him, and rising with Him.
Nothing else compares…. For we are with Him. And being with Him, aware of our presence, crying out to Him when wea re struggling, we find a peace that passes all understanding, for we are His. AMEN!
We Could Not Die Eternally
So He died…
† In Jesus Name †
May the Death of Jesus prove to you the love of God!
- Do we “get it.”
You have come here or are watching online because it is Good Friday. Hopefully, that means you know a little about Jesus and why we have a wooden thing hanging over a thing that looks like a table.
Your knowledge has to go deeper than that… and it has to go deeper than he died to pay for your sins.
That is important, but it is the first step on a journey. Perhaps it is better to picture it as having the door opened and being invited into a home built just for you.
What the cross opens up for you is amazing.
A.W. Tozer explained it well,
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.
This is what the cross opens up to us, a life that is acutely aware of the presence of God, and that awareness leaves us in awe, but not in terror.
We know we are welcome.
- Sin Exists
This is not to say our sin is meaningless. It would take the death of Jesus to atone for it.
Our sin is severe; it is not just waived away as if it was meaningless. The hurt and pain it causes are real. Very real. We can’t just dismiss it, saying that it is dealt with.
We must realize what it could have cost us.
We could be heading to hell, the place we deserve, because we chose to separate ourselves from God. We may think it a little sin, or we may know it is a humongous sin.
It’s real, it is no joke, and it is what the death on the cross saves us from, as Jesus took on the burden of all our sin….
Jesus once told the apostles and Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In saying that He was saying what comes at the cross, nothing can keep the sinner from being saved, from being rescued, for Christ has broken the power of sin and death.
But what happens next… what does this mean…
How do you make sense of His brutal death?
Especially when he could have stopped it, with the snap of a finger?
- This is love – we couldn’t
This is what it is all about! This ministry that we have here focuses on the cross, not as the most important thing, but as the entrance into that.
Just as baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are pipelines of grace, so is the cross a point of grace, the light that shines in the darkness – drawing us to Jesus.
This is the point of God’s love.
He couldn’t let us die eternally; that was not His plan.
We couldn’t die eternally…. So He died…
This is what grace is… this is what love is…
This is God’s desire to spend eternity with you.
Trust Him; he laid it all on the line… so you would know you are loved.
 A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Deal with it Lord!
Deal with our Ignorance!
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the gentleness of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, as you see revealed that Jesus is the source of your salvation!
- Instinct When Dealing with Ignorance
The illustration for today is simple.
You are going to teach someone who has never seen a old fashioned charcoal barbecue, how to cook a nice steak, and maybe a few beast loaf burgers on the grill.
Simple? Easy? Sure!
Except they are completely ignorant about the process.
So you tell them to make a nice pile of Kingsford charcoal in the grill, and they get the bag and do so.
Step two, you get some handy barbecue lighter fluid and tell them to squirt some on the briquets, and then using the torch, which you have demonstrated, light the fire.
A moment later you see them dousing the charcoal, and they keep dousing it, you go inside to grab a drink, come out and in their left hand they are still dousing the charcoal and in the right hand they have the torch, and they’ve lowered it into the grill, where there now ¼ of an inch of lighter fluid in the bottom.
What do you do next?
Wait!!! Before you answer than, I’ve got one question, which is more dangerous, an ignorant person with something flammable and even explosive, or an ignorant and wayward person tempted to sin?
- Will This Work with the Sinner?
I am going to assume you are all brave and honorable and would somehow try to save the person you were supposed to be teaching before he or she burns down the entire neighborhood.
But can you use the same technique with the person about to give into temptation? Can you reach the person ignorant of God’s grace yet caught up in sin the same way?
Imagine, you are the ignorant, wayward sinner about to gossip, and racing across the church comes Bob, and he is about to tackle you! Or maybe you were about to covet something, and Tom starts screaming at you to stop! I will not event get into what Manny might do if you don’t find a sabbath rest with God!
I do not think that any of them are going to stop you from sinning, in fact, they may create another response or two that is sinful!
So back to what is more deadly than lighting 3 cups of lighter fluid at close distance.
The acts of the ignorant and wayward person caught up in sin.
- Jesus Does it
Our passage in Hebrews tells us how Jesus, the great high priest will deal with him.
2 And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses.
I love that, he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people… like you and me.
Jesus doesn’t tackle us or scream at those caught up in sin. He deals with us, and he does it gently, with grace and compassion.
- How He does it
So how does Jesus deal with those who get caught up in sin, who don’t understand He is here to rescue us?
He does two things according to this passage. He identifies with us and our trials, and He offers the sacrifice that
Let’s deal with the identity idea first.
Remember it said that “he Himself is subject to the same weaknesses.”
Living among us wasn’t easy, even as God. Besides dealing with Satan, He had to deal with sinners like Peter and hotheads like James and John, and Matthew and Simon the Zealot on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
I imagine Jesus might have been tempted to let some of them light the barbecue grill once or twice…
Remember, he faced temptation, just as we have, without sinning. He lived our kinds of lives and didn’t give in to sin.
Knowing He went through what we do, it makes it easier to realize His compassion and sympathy for us.
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
That doesn’t sound like the easy life.
Jesus felt the pain and the anxiety of dealing with sin around Him, and He knew when death was coming, and how it would come… and for what reason.
Which leads to the second way in which Jesus helps us. He is not just offering the sacrifice for our sins.
The writer of Hebrews said this about Jesus’ role,
In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.
Going back to our illustration, as our playing with sin is likened to lighting half a bottle of lighter fluid on fire. Jesus deals with us by moving us away, and taking all the heat Himself. He protects us from the consequences of our actions and does becomes our salvation.
Every sin you’ve committed. Every single one. He takes your place and my place, taking all of God’s wrath as the ultimate sacrifice.
A sacrifice we realize as we take His Body and His blood at communion, and realize the penalty of sin was dealt with, as His body and blood were broken and spilled for us.
He moves us out of the way, and takes all the heat….
And the Holy Spirit recreates in us a holiness that reflects Jesus’s
We just confess our sins, and realize He did the hard stuff.
- Lent and Outreach
During Lent, we go back to these basics. We work through them, remembering Jesus gentleness with ignorant and wayward ones for two reasons.
The first is simple – we need to work gently with the ignorant and wayward ones in our lives. We have to not tackle them or scream at them, but bring them Jesus slowly, prayerfully and patiently. Gently, drawing them to Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit convert them.
The second is more touchy. Some of you here today are wayward, and if not ignorant of God’s mercy, it has been forgotten as we are buried under guilt and shame. If that is the case, knowing God’s nature, we stop hiding or fighting Him, and let Him bring healing into our lives.
That is where we are – either the ignorant and wayward, or called to gently minister to the ignorant and wayward…. Or of course, we are both.
Either way, Jesus is our high priest, and the one who offers the sacrifice. AMEN.
Tell God to Deal With It…
To Deal with What Lurks within….
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus so fill your life that all is made new!
1. Does Only the Shadow know?
Most of us wouldn’t know the name of Frank Readick and may only have a vague recollection of the words he said in the past.
But I thought of them while reading verse 12 of today’s Psalm. It says there,
“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?”
Here is the line from Readick,
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows!”
Anyone remember those words? They are old, from the 1930s. More than that, they are incredibly inaccurate. God knows, and unlike the Shadow – God can do something about it and will!
The only question is, will we tell Him to deal with it, or will we keep what lurks within, deep within, burying it deeper and deeper.
Before we get there… we need to understand why evil lurks there….
2. Getting anxious
When I read the beginning of the Psalm, I get more than a little anxious because I become aware that stuff does lurk deep within our hearts.
I become more aware of it as I hear about the glory of God. As I consider the works, as I consider the praises. I am in awe, but like Moses and Isaiah, there is some fear there, too, because sin lurks there.
And the dissonance between the all powerlful, all-knowing, glorious God and my darkness is just overwhelming. The more I read how radiant that glory is, how the sky proclaims it, how and nothing can hide from it, I am at once warmed and yet frightened by it.
For the light of Jesus, the glory of God is so bright that there are no shadows allowed, for He is our light.
And that means my darkness will be revealed.
Sin can lurk deep within us, as the pain it causes dominates our hearts and minds. We know it’s there, but we try to bottle it in to stop it from being revealed. That pressure builds, as that sin that lurks breeds its guilt and shame. It may even be telling you that you don’t belong here in church, that you really don’t belong here at the altar.
The Shadow would convince you of that, for his closing line was, “”As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay…The Shadow knows!”
If the Shadow was correct and only he knew, you would be in trouble…for indeed, all you could gain would be evil in return.
3. The Answered prayer
But He isn’t the only one who knows. God knows. We have to learn that this is a great blessing. For when we cry out for Him to “just deal with it!” He is ready.
Hear King David’s prayer again,
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
That is where we need to be in life. We need to come to this point where our frustration with our lives, both individually and corporately, causes us to cry out to God.
God is there, ready to cleanse you from hidden faults!
God is there, ready to guard you against the sins that are so tempting. He is there to stop them from controlling you!
We need to know this, not just as individuals but as a community.
We need to see this community be cleansed of all sin, of rebellion against God, of all the ways in which we all don’t love our neighbor.
We need to help people see that God will help them deal with those deliberate sins they struggle with and help them break free of sin’s control over them. And we do this together; the glory of God is revealed more and more!
For only He can deal with the sin and temptation that assaults us from what is within.
He is the one Who breaks us free from the Shadow.
He can break us all free from that Shadow as we enter His glorious light.
That is what Lent is, this glorious time like the moments just before the dawn. When you know it is coming, the shadows that seem to lengthen even as they fade. And then there is nothing but glorious light, and we can come to the final part of the prayer.
4. Final prayer
Knowing you are free from that which lurks within, that God is dealing with the deliberate sin and its control, we find ourselves “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”
Hear that again, you are, “”free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”
Hmm – maybe we need to say that together,,,
We are “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”
Knowing that, and knowing that God has cleansed what lurked deep within, we can, with confidence pray this.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Those words and meditations will be pleasing, for He knows what lurks in your heart… and when He is working, the answer is nothing. AMEN!
We could not…so He Did!
Guard this Treasure!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father help you to recognize the treasure given to you in your relationship with Jesus Christ!
The Dark Night of the Soul
As we walk with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we have the opportunity to witness the darkest night that has ever occurred spiritually. The night when evil was more powerfully present than ever when that evil created despair so powerfully it assaulted Jesus. It created a dark night, the darkest night, even for Jesus.
He would cry out to His Father, our Creator, in the depth of His despair, he would be so physically overwhelmed by anxiety and the darkness that He would sweat blood. The emotional and spiritual trauma was greater than anything ever experienced by mankind.
The Darkest Night of the Soul…
And perhaps a night of unshakable beauty…a night to not only remember… but to be in awe of the beauty of the darkness.
You see, we need to look at Jesus, the one Isaiah identified as the man of sorrows, and be in awe of the beauty. We need to treasure these moments.
Can We Keep the Watch? Can we stay aware of what Jesus went through?
Or will we be like the apostles… and fall asleep on our watch?
It had been an emotional week, with many ups and downs. Preparing for the feast was an enormous task for this traveling band of homeless missionaries.
The feast itself was a challenge, with two of the brothers fighting, with Peter nearly ready to walk away rather than let Jesus wash his feet. Then the comment by Jesus, about someone ready to betray him… a question that caused them all to question themselves, none of them confident in that moment…
The fiery scene with Judas, the long walk to the garden in the dark… and Jesus so serious, so perplexed.
It was draining.
We need to experience Jesus there; we need to pay careful attention to what He went through that evening. Our point of focus during these weeks of lent is a few hours described in just a few sentences… What will get in the way?
Will it be sleep? Will it be our own weariness? Will it be our own dark nights of the soul?
Will we be able to stay awake, to keep watch, to guard the truth of this night in our hearts, meditating on Jesus, being with Him there…
I am going to be bluntly honest. You will fail during this time… You will have the same level of t
You will sin…you might experience despair, and you might forget about the hope you have.
You will know the feeling that the 12 apostles had, as Jesus woke them up for the third time. There will be times where you will feel as guilty and ashamed as they did. As they witnessed His arrest, to follow Him at a distance as he was tried and beaten and crucified.
There have been times and will be times where you could not keep watch…where you did not treasure this suffering of Jesus.
We could not… so He Did…
I never want to tell you that it is okay to fall asleep on God, to fail to treasure what God is giving you in Christ Jesus.
But where we can’t keep our focus on Him, when we can’t guard the treasure of what He’s given us because of His passionate embrace of suffering, we find out He did.
He treasured that night, He suffered through it, He didn’t fall asleep.
And while He was disappointed that they could not treasure it, while Jesus is disappointed in our failures, He continues to come to us, to wake us up.
We have to realize the love that drives Him to do this is beyond our ability to understand. He doesn’t just love us if we fall asleep 7 times, or 70 times,
He loves us.
So He kept the watch that night. He treasured the relationship He has with you and me.
He kept watch over them, treasuring them, and not one of the apostles would die with Jesus because Jesus was faithful.
This is what we need to know in our dark nights, in our moments where anxiety and doubt take their toll when evil seems to have Jesus and obliterated God.
He is still there; Jesus treasures us. Because of that fact, we know a peace that passes all understanding, as He guards our hearts and minds.. in Him. AMEN!
Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 1
Bringing the Father Great Glory!
May the grace and mercy of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see how you please the Father, as you dwell in Jesus!
That simple chorus and prayer has a lot to do with the baptism of Jesus that was described in the gospel reading this morning.
In my life, in this church, in our homes, Lord, be glorified. Simple prayer… one desperately needed this morning.
If we start with those places, if we begin to see God’s glory revealed in our lives, in our churches, and in our homes, we will soon be seeing God’s glory revealed in our community, spreading out from there, much as the glory of God spread out from Jerusalem and Judea into Samaria and to the end of the Earth.
As this prayer is answered, as we see God’s glory revealed in us, we will realize we walk in the light of the Lord, in the light of His glory, and the result, that we will hear,
You are my dearly loved child, and you bring me great joy.”
- I get why we are baptized!
Why does He get baptized?
That is a big question.
I know why we are baptized.
It’s not because we decided to, or someone else put pressure on us or decided that we should be baptized. I mean, that may cause us to be baptized, whether we are 2 or 3 weeks old or 94 years old.
The reason we are baptized was to show repentance in our life.
Because our hearts, souls, and minds are polluted with sin, we needed a change; we needed repentance to become a reality in our lives.
But repentance isn’t being sorry for our sin.
It means to have the change of how we process things, consciously, and subconsciously. That does mean we grieve when we consider our sins, but also that we turn and cry out to God.
That kind of repentance, that transformation of heart, soul, and mind, is found throughout scripture.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 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. Ezekiel 36:25-26 (NLT2)
4 But—”When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5 (NLT2)
this is always God’s work… as Paul tells Timothy,
25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25 (NLT2)
This is because, as the reading from Romans talked about this morning – that baptism unites us with Christ’s death and His resurrection.
We are sinners, we need to be transformed, we need to come to repentance. God promises to do that to give us this new heart and mind and attaches that promise to our baptism.
But what does that mean for Jesus….
He didn’t need a new heart and soul and mind. He didn’t sin, so why did He get baptized?
- So Why did He?
We know in our baptism, we are identified with Christ’s death, so that we can be identified with His resurrection.
Working from that, we can see that Christ is baptized into our lives, to take on the sin of the world.
Consider these words,
Barth says, poignantly, that the situation “went right into [Jesus’] heart … so that their whole plight was now His own, and as such, He saw and suffered it far more keenly than they did.” Jesus “took their misery upon Himself, taking it away from them and making it His own.” 8
This is what God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had planned from before creation.
That Jesus would take on our suffering, our iniquity. “Our” as in the whole bleeding world. All that have been damaged by sin, all that have sinned. The baptism of Jesus pours on Him every sin, that every sin would be taken from Him, and paid for with the blood of Jesus.
He was baptized into our death, that when we were joined to His, we would be joined to His resurrection. He would take our dead hearts and replace them with His. It is seen in what Paul tells the church in Corinth, “But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
That is what this is all about – whether it is the epistle that tries to help us see the incredible blessing that being united with Christ in His death provides or the gospel that sees Jesus willingly embrace our sin and our death when He was baptized.
To see that occur, as the doors to eternity are opened to people who believe and are baptized… and united with Christ’s death and resurrection, we will hear the words of the Father…the same words that were said to Jesus…
You are my dearly loved child, and you bring me great joy.”
Because He came into our world, took on our sin, and gave us His life.
in that life, He will be glorified…. Just as we prayed as we sang.
8 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2: The Doctrine of Creation: The Creature, trans. H. Knight, G. W. Bromiley, J. K. S. Reid, R. H. Fuller (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960), 211.
 Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 52.
The Power of His Promise
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to trust in what has been promised to you, what has been guaranteed!
The Missing Feast
There is a promise in today’s Old Testament reading that means more to me that it did 7 months ago.
“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.”
We’ve missed too many feasts.
Maunday Thursday, Easter Sunday Brunch, the Women’s Brunch, the combined service potluck. Family fun night meals.
And how many haven’t had the most important meal in our present lives, a meal they were used to every week of their life.
No, I don’t mean the doughnuts between church and Bible Study.
There is something about being gathered at the communion rail together, to receive His body and blood together, to know we are being healed and forgiven, together.
All these feasts we’ve missed in the last 7 months! How many more are we going to miss in the months to come.
It can be discouraging
It sucks the life right out of us… and we need to revived.
And that revival is realized when we hear this incredible promise of God.
“The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.”
What Has to Be Removed!
In order for us to have everyone back in church, back at the altar rail together, to feast together, there are a number of things that have to happen. First, COVID as a threat has to be minimized. We have to have everything in place, and the government has to recognize it.
It is not as simple as what has to happen for the feast that God has planned and promised.
Let’s look what He h promised to do.
Isaiah, inspired by God, writes,
7 There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. 8 He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!
There is a cool description there, as God obliterates death and the threat of it. No doubt of it, death is crushed.
As it the grief it causes.
How does God do that? OF what has He spoken..
The Apostle Paul tells us,
56 Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin. 57 But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory! 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (CEV)
Without the power given to death because you and I have sinned, death can no longer separate us from God.
Your sin has been made of no effect, Christ died for it.
That is why not only has sin been made irrelevant, so has all the crud it goes with it. The tears, the mockery, the insults, all of the challenges that sin brings into our lives.
That is the picture in the gospel, as God the King sends His servants out into the streets – go get everyone you see God tells us. And God will fill this place with everyone good and bad alike!
Because He will take care of their sin, and it will no longer disqualify them from being there!
This isn’t just a hope, it is what is promised, and the more we realize that, the more we see it revealed, the more we are revived from all the stuff that sucks the life out of us!
On to the feast
But because of that promise, made before we were born, made before creation, we look to the cross, and realize it is true.
The feast will happen, and we aren’t just invited as guests, we are the church, the Bride of Christ! The one the Apostle Paul wrote about when he penned,
“26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27 Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws. Ephesians 5:26-27 (CEV)
I would quote Paul again,
“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!” 1 Cor.2:9
I want you to think of how it is going to feel when we can finally gather inside again. When all those who have had to stay away are home, how it will feel to see Wanda back in her seat, and Debbie and Tom back in their seat, When Tony and Myrna are able to walk in again, when everyone is back where they belong….
And if you think that is incredible, think of the days when we gather before God’s throne, and Pastor Meier and his wife are there, as well as the Lingos, and Al Anderson, and Warren, Hugh, Armando, and Ted jr. and Bonnie and Clyde… wait… that didn’t sound quite right.
Imagine that day… a day promised to you, a day of celebration and feasting a day when ever sin has been lifted off of us, and there is no more despair!
This is what we are holding on for, this day when every promise becomes tue, just as they became true on the day Jesus rose from the dead…
My friends, Alleluia, Jesus is Risen!
(He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!)
and therefore we are risen indeed! ALELLUIA.
This means we are in revival, a revival we realize because of the power of the promise of God! AMEN!
The Hammer or the Hatchet
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.
The Wrong Tool…sort of?
Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way. My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.
A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”
Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.
I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…
As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…
You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.
As a Hammer
So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area! Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.
I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.
I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.
Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him. Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!
If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.
As a Hatchet
A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.
So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!
Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.
Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!
The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,
Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.
God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!
This chapter is full of that message
You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.
You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart
You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out
Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.
Even in you face death, or covid19,
Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,
21 And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22 Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23 Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)
My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference. Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.
This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.
Concordia Lutheran Church
June 28, 2020
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to resonate with the Lord and with His people!
The more I looked at this passage, the more I think this message is critical.
Not only do you need to hear it, but you also need to hear it in a way you can take it with you, share it with others, and help them see that they are resonating with God.
Of course, that means you need to know what resonance is.
Let me explain it this way If I play a string on this guitar, let’s say the A string. Assuming this other guitar is tuned to the same frequency, the A string on that guitar will start vibrating. The closer they are in tuning, the more the resonance occurs, the more the 2nd guitar begins to play, with no one touching it.
There is another word for resonance – one we are familiar with here. I
It is Concordia. (the name of our Church)
We are and have always been, as a church, about resonating with God. He plays a note, and our hearts and minds begin to resonate with God. Another way to describe this resonance is the Greek word that shows up in the gospel – the word is dechomai – and is translated “receives” in today’s translation. But it means more than that, it means to welcome into agreement, to welcome into a relationship, the kind of intimate relationship where you finish sentences for each other. That is how welcome the person becomes in your life, that is how you receive them.
This is what it means to be Concordia, to resonate, to resonate with God.
That is who we are to be, it is what we need to get back to doing,
We need to resonate with God, we need to let Him tune our hearts so that we can sing His grace. That means we can’t cling to our old tuning… but to let the Holy Spirit tune us, and then we will sing His praise.
What stops this?
So there are a couple of things that stop our ability to resonate with Jesus.
The simplest thing is our taking our tuning peg and twisting it. It is no longer true to what the note really is, and often it isn’t even true to the instrument itself. It is off, and real music cannot be made until it is back in tune.
Maybe we desire to resonate with someone other than God, and we want to put them first. That is what it talks about when it says loving someone more than you love God. Who do you want to resonate with more? Whose approval do you want more, whose love do you need more? What is most important to you. Our lives go out of tune when we make others more significant than God in our lives.
Or maybe you do not want to take up the challenges God has in store for you. You decide not to love the people He has put in your life, whether it is because of any of the reasons we find to disassociate with people or people groups. There are several things God calls us to do that simply don’t make sense to us until we are in tune with God. That is the challenge, we need God to help us see this, but until we do, we turn away from the cross, the challenge God has for us, thinking it ends our life when it actually begins it.
That is the third-way resonance ends, when we cling to life more than we would cling to God. And if we cling to it, we lose it, for life isn’t the way it isn’t supposed to be, and while we may say it can become like hell here on earth, we don’t even realize what that word means. If I grab this string and hold on to it, it will never resonate, it will never make the sweet sounds it was created to make.
All these things – loving someone or something more than God, refusing to walk with Him through life, as He meant for you to live, and when we cling to life, smothering it, are what it means to sin. It means to so mess up our lives that we cannot resonate with God at all. That is the definition of sin, messing up how God would tune our lives.
Inbuilt into this guitar is a tuner, and we have one, given to us in baptism, the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus freed us from our sin, the Spirit comes along and helps us resonate with God, tuning us so that we can make the music in life we were called to make. We begin that tuning in baptism when the Holy Spirit beings to transform us into the image of Jesus.
The Spirit creates in us the music we were meant to make, not just of our life in this life, but eternally. This is what the death and resurrection are all about, this is what we need to remember from today – the work God does in tuning us! Tuning us so that when we hear His voice, our hearts and minds and our entire life resonate with Him. Now and eternally!
As He tunes us we look forward to the resonance more and more, we look forward to the moments when we realize life is so much more than what we would have without that resonance, we realize the resonance is our lives.
There is one last thing to the resonance.
As we resonate with God, we begin to see people differently. For we see their ability to resonate with God, and we can see God trying to draw them.
That is why Jesus moves from received Him to receive the Father, to receive those who would bring God’s word to you to receiving other people who have been forgiven. For if we are resonating with God, then those who resonate with Him will resonate with us, and our music and hearts will become more and more united. And that is why we will hand to someone a cup of cold water – in His name – so they will resonate with Him.
That is obviously easier when we are together… that is what ties us together; that is why Paul will say when one of us laughs, we all laugh, when one cries, we all cry…
It is a matter of having received each other in our hearts, where our Lord dwells, it is a matter of resonance together with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and with each other.
It is being Concordia…
And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard our hearts and minds as this happens! AMEN!
Upon Them All!
Numbers 11:24- 30
May the grace of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to us the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily!
An Incredible Desire Comes True
When most believers think of Pentecost, their minds sweep to Peter, the other apostles, and the one hundred and twenty or so believers and the incredible display of tongues of fire, and the sound of the Holy Spirit testifying to the glory of God, through the believers.
Others will think about the Old Testament feast, the feast fifty days after Passover, when people were to bring evidence to God the Father of His blessing them. They were to bring the first part of the harvest and celebrate it together.
After Jesus’ ascension, Pentecost takes on a similar proof of God’s work. Jesus prophesied about it this way…
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:23-24 (NLT2)
Pentecost is the proof that God’s love makes a difference in lives. It is when we realize the word God does and celebrate the new lives he has created.
Pentecost is the fulfillment of prophetic dreams! The dream God gave Abraham, that through his seed, through one of his descendants, the world would be blessed, the dream that Jesus referenced in that passage.
Many other prophecies in the Old Testament that promised salvation, that promised restoration, that promised God hadn’t abandoned His plan, a plan for His people.
Like the desire of Moses, we heard this morning,
Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them all!
Angst over what we don’t understand
It used to bother me that this young and Joshua were upset that two other elders, not with the 70 at the tabernacle, were prophesying. After all, what right did they have to judge the two leaders?
Why would Joshua beg Moses to make them stop?
Couldn’t he recognize the work of the Holy Spirit? The very same Holy Spirit that he had watched work through Moses?
I want to get mad at them for their immaturity, at their jealousy, at their inability to recognize God at work. I want to call it what it is, I want to judge them.
At which point, would I be any better than they are?
The two young guys judged the two old guys for speaking for God. That caused more trouble, and unless Moses had spoken up, who knows what would have happened!
We need more people like that, more people to speak up, not based on their understanding, but on God’s understanding. People who will speak as God would speak, who prophesy against sin, not to condemn, but to remind people that God will show them mercy. This is what speaking for God; it is what prophecy is all about.
That is why Moses was all for every person being able to prophesy, This is Moses wanted “that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them all!”
We can see what Moses Long to see!
This is what Pentecost is all about, the struggle to see what God is doing, the life that has come to be, because of the planting of Jesus, the seed of Abraham in the ground.
It is about us coming to God and saying, “God, you are amazing, look at what you are doing here! Look at what your love planted, and your mercy nourished, what the Holy Spirit is creating right here in our lives.
For when our eyes are open to the work of the Holy Spirit, when we are seeing what God is doing, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, when we know that because He rose from the dead, we have arisen as well; that is when all things become new.
That my friends have been possible for every single believer for some 1990 years since the very first Pentecost – when God poured out His Holy Spirit on all believers. It happens anew every time someone is baptized, as Paul wrote to Titus,
3 Once, we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ, our Savior. 7 Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
Titus 3:3-7 (NLT2) You have been baptized, if you haven’t – we can take care of that as soon as you get here!
So start looking for His work around you, it won’t take long.
For He has risen!
You are risen!
And that means the Lord is with You! AMEN!