Category Archives: Sermons

The Hammer or the Hatchet – A Sermon on Romans 8:28-39

pexels-photo-4205987The Hammer or the Hatchet
Romans 8:28-39

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.

Resonance! A sermon on Matthew 10

Concordia Lutheran Church
June 28, 2020

Resonance!
Matthew 10:34-42

† 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!

Dechomai God

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.

The Tuner

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.

Dechomai Community

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 – A Pentecost Sermon from Numbers 11:24-30

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!

And therefore

You are risen!

And that means the Lord is with You!  AMEN!

 

The God Whom You Worship!

 

0This God Whom You Worship!
Acts 17:16-31

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you worship the God you know…

I Don’t think that word means….

In one of the most quoted moves of all times, a Sicilian mercenary captain keeps on using the word “inconceivable.” Over and over, you head the word come from this short, balding guy, inconceivable, inconceivable, inconceivable!

Finally, his swordmaster utters this favorite quote, ““You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ( Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride)

Now, what was funny was all the inconceivable things, well, they were actually conceivable, and doable.

This sort of reminds me of the people of Athens in this week’s reading from Acts. They had all these statues and temples dedicated to “gods.” The Greek gods, the gods of the countries they conquered, any god which they could find someone worshipping, hear of someone worshipping, they even had the one shrine dedicated to a god they prayed to when all else failed.

The “unknown” God.

They had to have a shrine with that name, for they really didn’t understand what a god was, never mind who God is, and how He would relate to all of His creation.

This word god that they used, they simply did not mean what they thought it meant… and for some, that would change, this day.

So my question for you today, when you use the word “God,” do you know what the word means?  If not, I pray you to do by the end of the day!

Who is this God?

Man creates and searches for gods for a reason. They know they need someone else to connect to, they know there is a presence that is missing.

So they create a god for this, a god for that, and attach to these gods a dream. For example, a lot of people are looking to authorities to save us from COVID, or the economic downturn that it has caused.  We blame those we think are interfering with that recovery, even calling them evil or demons.

We put all our hope and the joy that accompanies hope.

And then that god fails, or that dream turns out to be false, and the contentment we thought it promised turns out to be more heartache and more pain.

We need a God that takes care of more than one problem, who is not created, who is more than someone who provides us what we want, or what we think we need for life to be right.  We need the God Paul described.

This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 24  “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25  and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26  From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27  “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28  For in him, we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.

This is what a God is, this is Who we need to find peace, to find fulfillment, to have a real hope at life – for as Paul said, in Jesus, in Him we live and move and exist.

This is what happened at the cross, when all that was not god that we invented, all our idols, and the sins they led us to commit, were stripped away.

We realized that we are the children of God, His beloved children!

Judgment is coming.

Which is a good thing, because Paul then moves his discourse into something that could be frightening.

30  “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31  For he has set a day for judging the world with justice.

Judgment day!

For those who don’t know God, who keep on going back to their idols, who keep on putting hope in some they think will solve all their problems, there is a day when God will ask why – why didn’t you trust in  Me?

Why didn’t you consider my love, which I laid out before you?

Why did you create or find answers that won’t provide the hope and peace you need in the long run?

Why not just cry out to me?

Why not let me save you?

For the judgment day surely has two parts – the full justice of God.

The judgment of idolaters, the judgment of those who would reject God, and the part that truly gives us hope.

31  For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”  

This is our hope… this is everything that God appointed on to judge us, would die to make things just and right. Jesus would not only strip away those things that draw us away from God but would heal us. That would heal the broken hearts, our broken souls, if we would but let Him.

It is time to call out to Him now, knowing this,

19  and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20  which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:19-20 (TEV)

I pray that you know this God and know what it means that He is your God and that you learn to depend on Him… and trust in Him…matter of fact, let’s pray right now…

Heavenly Father, help us to stop chasing after other gods, help us stop finding hope in things other than you… deliver us this morning, and surround us with your glory, that we may dwell in Your peace.  AMEN!

 

Why Was the Door Still Locked? A sermon on John 20:19-31

Jesus LaughingWhy Was the Door Still Locked?
John 20:19-31

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus cast a shadow on your doubt, as you dwell in Their Presence!

 The Little Details

One of my professors used to talk about the fact that everything in scripture is there for a reason, that there are some small details that are there for a reason.

His goal was to stop us from reading through the scriptures, to slow down, take time, and savor the words.

It took me about 20 years to realize how right Doug Dickey was!

It does cause some interesting observations when you slow down and try to savor each phrase and word. Those observations, in turn, make you realize some incredible things about God, and how He loves you.

Today’s insight comes from pondering a question form something I noticed in verse 26.

“The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before… “

Wait, did you say the doors were locked, the second time Jesus appeared without entering them?

Hence the title of the sermon, “Why was the door still locked?”

But they already encountered Jesus!

The first time they were locked, they were locked because they were afraid of the Jews,

But they had Jesus bless them with peace, not once but twice!

They had been given the Holy Spirit, as the entire church would be on Pentecost.

They had been given divine authority, DIVINE authority to forgive sins, or determine that people in bondage to the sins they would not abandon…

They had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, who had been crucified, and his side pierced with a spear….and had crushed death…walking out of the grave…

They were witnesses of this…and they were still afraid, hiding behind a locked and barred door like…. Cowards?  Like those whose doubts got the better of them?

They still struggled with doubt, in fact, on the day of the ascension they still struggled with it.

In the scene where Jesus ascends, right before the Great Commission is given, Matthew records, “17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!  “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”  Matthew 28:17-18 (NLT2)

You see, we talk about Thomas as being the one who was labeled as the doubter.  But he wasn’t the only one hiding behind locked doors.

Just like some of us struggle with things going on in our lives today. We might doubt, we might struggle, and while we need to grow, that is not something we should hide, or feel guilty and ashamed about.
That is important in times like this when we struggle to figure out what God is doing, or not doing in this pandemic. We don’t have to hide our struggle. It isn’t sin to struggle, it isn’t sin to doubt, it is sin to hide the doubt, or deny it, to pretend we understand it all.
Were the words only for Thomas?

When Jesus says, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” I don’t think he is talking just to Thomas, but to all the believers in the room.

For even though they see him, they are struggling with putting it all together. They are like the young father, who asked by Jesus if he believed, he had to say “yes, but help me in my unbelief!”

That should be our attitude – going to the very God we don’t always understand, or even when we do, we struggle with, and ask for His help.

We have to remember that He is there, that He loves us, and cares for us.

There are written that YOU may continue to believe!

That is the very reason that what Jesus did was written, here it again,

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

The entire scripture is a history of God acting in the lives of His people.  From providing Adam and Eve a sacrifice to help them cover the evidence of their sin, to the second coming that God promised will happen. 

Notice that it doesn’t say the doctrine is written, but the actual things Jesus has done. Not that doctrine isn’t important, but believing that He is risen, that He has the power to do all he did, enables us to believe that because He is risen, we are risen indeed.

And we can believe that, even when struggling behind locked doors, and trying to figure out what is going on, for Jesus Loves you.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And therefore… you are risen indeed.

 

Your Encounter with Jesus, revealed to all!

 

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

(if you would like to hear the message and the service, please go to bit.ly/concordiacerritos )

 

Your Encounter with Jesus
Revealed to All!
Colossians 3:1-4

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that because Jesus has risen, you have risen indeed!

Getting called to the front of the class

There are two types of people in the world.

The first type is the kind that is scared to get called up to the front of the class because it means they are in trouble again.  Or called on in the midst of the sermon… which I can’t do today.

The second type is the kind that is scared of being called up in front of the class period. They don’t like to be in the spotlight, and they are usually more upset when you call on them to praise them, than if they are in trouble.

Either way – most people don’t like being the center of attention.  And yet in today’s epistle lesson, every believer is going to find themselves in the center of attention. You will be in the spotlight!

Isn’t this about Jesus?

You may be saying, wait – this Is Easter, it is supposed to be about Jesus being the center of attention!  It is about the fact that Alleluia! He is Risen! (He Is Risen Indeed – and therefore We are risen Indeed!)

Did you hear that last part?

Now hear how Paul describes this,

4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory!

This idea that because Jesus has risen, so have we leads to that thought.  We won’t be sitting in the nosebleed section of heaven, nor will we be in the kitchen, or outback mowing the lawn.

We will be there, sharing In His glory.  The term in Greek means to be in the focus of the lights. Yes this is all about Him, and yet the reason it is, is because He is bringing us home!

The Struggle with not seeing ourselves the way God does!

Whether we are type 1 or type 2, the idea of being in the spotlight with Jesus might seem more than a little crazy, it might seem downright insane.

For the first type, the type always getting themselves in trouble, there is a more than a little fear that maybe God will figure out the mistake that was made, that let us into heaven in the first place.  Peter didn’t have a bookkeeper like Sandie, so there was an error that wasn’t caught, and that’s why we are there!

We know we are sinners, it is just a matter of time before we are caught. We think right now that we don’t belong, we are not good enough.

And the type two person may not see themselves as evil and rotten, but they don’t see themselves as anything spectacular, noting essential.

Sin robs us of the truth.

Even the sin we know has been forgiven, seems to leave a shadow hanging over us, convincing us that we might get into heaven, only because of technicality – Jesus had to forgive us, so we get the seats furthest out…

I wonder if that is why Lutherans like the seats in the back of the room?

You will share in His glory!

Seriously, we have to get used to this idea – that God did save us, that Christ didn’t die so that we could be stashed in some back corner of heaven.

He saved us to spend eternity with us.

(And that is a lot longer than a pandemic’s stay at home order)
God’s desire is not that we become some kind of audience in heaven, nor His fanbase.

We died with Jesus in Baptism so that we could rise to live with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forever.

That is what faith is, waiting to see Him, to see our real life revealed in Christ Jesus in heaven.

Jesus didn’t die just to save us from our sins, he died for this life to be created, for us to live with Him.  I love how Psalm 68 describes it

18 You have climbed the heights of heavens, having taken captivity captive, you have taken men as tribute, even rebels that Yahweh God might have a dwelling-place with them.   Psalm 68:18

Jesus, having died, burst through the gates of hell, and taken His ransom.

A ransom of people to call His own.

He broke down the walls of hell to rescue you and me,,, to bring us to the Father. That is why Hebrews say this,

19  So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. 20   21   22  So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23  Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word.
Hebrews 10:19-23 (MSG)

A promise that you will share in His glory, for He is risen Indeed Alleluia… and therefore… you are risen indeed ALLELUIA!

Encounter God, in Christ’s Death – a Good Good Friday Sermon

Jesus LaughingEncounter God…
in Christ’s Death
Galatians 6:14-15

† In Jesus Name †

May the cross of Christ reveal to you the grace of God, which frees you from the burdens you carry! 

Boast, In the Cross?

The words from our first reading bear repeating again.

14  For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. 15 Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!

I remember there was a time where my friends and I would boast about what we could do.

Who could lift the most… that wasn’t me

Who could run the fastest… that wasn’t me.

Who was the most accurate shooter (in basketball) … not me either

Who had the best batting average… who whit the most home runs… neither of those were me.

While I didn’t really have anything to brag about, that certainly didn’t stop me from trying.

I thought it would change when I grew up.. not the idea of bragging, but that maybe I finally have something to brag about.

Yeah, not really.

Except for today.

Now I have something to brag about – something that doesn’t make a difference for today, but for forever. You can brag about it as well!

It is the cross.

That God loved you enough that the Father sent the Son to die on a cross for you and me.

That as we joined Him death, everything we shouldn’t brag in was taken away.

For at the cross, we were separated from sin and its partners’ guilt and shame. We were separated from the ways that Satan would use God’s law to condemn us. And from the judgments of those who would condemn us as well.

All this happened at the cross…

Along with the greatest of gifts –we promised and given eternal life.

Not like life we know it now, but life where God’s love perfects and empowers our life.

A life lived in His presence.

By His invitation.

By His making it so.

Amen!

 

 

 

Encounter God with Everyone: A Good Friday Sermon

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737Encounter God with Everyone
Isaiah 52:13-15

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that God desires all to be transformed because He loves you!

 A Different Perspective

The Crowds stood there that day…. Looking upon Jesus, and they cried out for Him to die for Him to be crucified.

Isaiah’s description of it was all too accurate.

Beaten, whipped thirty-nine times, a crown of 1’inch thorns smashed on his head, beaten and slapped senseless.

Then carrying that beam, significantly over 100 pounds, out of the city, then up the mountain, to the peak of the hill, then spikes hammered through both wrists and through the ankles.

Is it any wonder that the prophet describes him as one so disfigured that he hardly looked human?  That stomachs were upset as they looked upon what they had cried out for?

Sunday is undoubtedly coming, but we have to pause a moment here, on Friday, and consider the way Jesus looked?

We need to consider what our sin did to him,,,,
We need to see Him, and the pain our sin caused…

Beautiful

We need to be part of the group Isaiah describes, that looks upon Jesus on the cross and marvels. We need to join the leaders of the world, who are unable to speak.

We need to understand how this wretched sight is a most beautiful thing…

We need to see and understand…

(long pause.._)

We need to understand that it is love that drove him to this point.

We need to understand what the author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus did this for the joy set before Him. The shame he despised, the pain he dreaded, but He volunteered to take this beating.

Not just the physical torture.

Not just the agony of seeing his friends betray and abandon him or his mother look upon his broken body.

But he bore the spiritual trauma of taking every sin, the millions upon millions of sins committed by you and me.

He accepted that weight, that burden, all the guilt, and shame.

See Him them, crushed, almost inhuman,

And now we see and understand, absolutely, stunningly beautiful.

He took this on… for us.  AMEN!

Encounter God and Commune – A sermon for Holy Thursday

Encounter God and Commune
Exodus 24:3-11

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the feasts to come, and that you will dwell in peace until those days are here.

74 out of 2.4 Million

It struck me, as I was starting to write this sermon tonight, that while 74 of the leaders of Israel communed with God that night, it was 74 out of 2.4 million people camped there at Mount Sinai.

Those their share in the covenant meal, on behalf of those who were below.

I have to wonder if those gathered in the presence of God, eating and drinking, were aware of those who were not there with them? Did it affect their mood?

What about for the apostles in the upper that night, some 1990 years ago.  Did some think of who they wished were there?

This is getting me to think of all those I wish could be here, when things are normal, and who are not.

Some of those people are far away, in places like New Hampshire, or Sicily, or Michigan.

Others are in heaven, friends, and family who rest in God’s peace.

Some have moved on to other places, other churches.

Some, sadly to say, are struggling with sin, and are losing. Or they don’t know God loves them, and are not ready to listen to that news… quite yet.

There are a lot of people that I wish could be here… and yet, there is just a handful.

Let’s look back to the feast in Exodus, for there, we will find peace, and hope – that is a vision for the future.

But look at the feast – and what didn’t happen.

I want to read one verse again, listen to it well,
1`11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!

I love this picture!

There they are – in a room blazing with brilliance, the glory of God reflecting off of everything. A light that only God’s holiness could create! Looking at God – gazing at him!  They mouths dropped open, then eyes bugged out wide,
Despite the fact they were sinners, they were welcomed into God’s presence, so welcome they were fed a meal guaranteeing the relationship with God – for that is what a covenant meal is – that is what communion is, a meal to celebrate the relationship. It is given as a guarantee of it.

Eating and drinking in the presence of God.

With no fear of His wrath, with no hint of wrath or even disappointment on the part of God.

This is a little picture of a more substantial feast to come.

As is this covenant feast at this altar tonight.

This isn’t the feast we long for, it just helps our desire for that feast.

Just as that feast in Exodus, pointed to this- yet, even more, pointed to the feast when we all arrive before the throne.

Knowing that we can share in the suffering…

While we cannot share in the feast together this evening, there is another way we can commune, something else that we are sharing in….

When Jesus asks the apostles to wait and pray with Him when he faced suffering.

We need to realize He was doing that for those disciples and for you and me.

It is the tears that Romans describes us sharing in together; as one cries, we all dry, and when we laugh, we share in that as well. This is what He invited the apostles to

We surely share in this, and as we do, as we find a bittersweet communion.  Bitter because what we are going through is hard, it requires us to forgo one of the usual ways God strengthens and nourishes our faith, and reminds us we are His family, that we are one.

And yet to realize how much we miss it, has an oddly similar effect, as we long to share in the feast that will eventually take place.

Desire the Feast – and yes, the feasts to come.

The feast that is yet to come, the feast of the bread and wine, the feast of being welcome home into not only Jesus’ presence but the presence of the Father.

Not just a small percentage, but the entire people of God, Old Testament and New, Jesus and Gentile, the entire one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, united in Jesus Christ.

This is our hope, our expectation, and nothing can separate us from it, for we cannot be separated from our God.  AMEN!

 

Encountering God at the Cross – A Sermon for the Sunday of Christ’s Passion

 

Encounter God
at the Cross

John 12:20-36

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear people when they want to meet Jesus!

An Odd Question

I have a question for you, one I wish I you were to here to answer.  Message me your answers, no cheating.

Did the Greek visitors to Jerusalem in the gospel reading meet Jesus that day?

Yes or no?  (Pause)

Come on, no cheating! No cheating!

Well, if you said yes, or if you said no, you have done what most people do – they give their opinion on what they think the Bible teachers, without really knowing.  The answer is simple – we do not know.

We know that Phillip, not knowing what to do, went to Andrew, who didn’t know what to do, who went to ask Jesus… but that is where the story transitions to Jesus teaching.

So did the Greeks get to see Jesus that day?

I don’t know, but they would before the week was out.

Which Jesus did they want to see? (Miracle guy, Great Teacher, The Amusement)

Which Jesus did they want to see, anyway?

There were a ton of rumors floating around. This was the greatest speaker ever, this was the guy who does all the miracles, this was the guy who was going to kick out the Romans or maybe they heard the rumor out of Bethany, that there was this guy with two sisters… who died.. and was buried for half a week – and he’s walking around town now.
For these foreigners, here to experience this Passover thing, this was one of the things on their vacation list.  This was a curiosity, and attraction, something special they may have thought, but they had no clue.

The Jesus they saw..

They had no idea they would see him, just a few days from now…beaten and bruised, with spikes that shattered bone and ripped though flesh into the hard wood of the cross.

Jesus had pointed this out, as He said,

 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33  He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

My friends, He knew….

These Greeks showing up simply confirmed it, he was drawing everyone to himself.

To forgive them

To save them,

To have them dance with God the Father….to be swept up in His arms the way the prodigal’s dad did.

It’s not what they expected, it was shocking, but it was amazing.

Be His voice

An abrupt change of direction here….one appropriate for the day Jesus was praised but not for why He should have been praised.

There are people all around us, that need to know they are loved by God.

They are looking for hope, even while they are stuck in their homes. But like the Greeks, and often like us, they are looking for someone to save them, to change the brokenness of life which crushes them.

Which crushes us.

These days we need to encounter God just as the Greeks wanted to so desperately.

But why do we want to see Him? Do we want to see the miracles?  Do we really want to hear what He wants to teach us? Do we want to see Him raise people from the dead?

Why are we seeking Him out?

Just like the Greeks, it doesn’t matter why we are going to seek Him, what matters is that we see Him revealed to us in all His glory, as the love is seen in the harsh light of the cross.

God brings us all there, to the cross – to not just encounter Christ, but to join Him.

To not just see us die with Him, but to raise us, free of all the brokenness, free of all the sin, free of the idolatry, where we decide to play God and control Him.

You can’t do that at the cross… it is not possible.

You can’t control the God who dies there

who dies there… to embrace you… and give you life,

We want to see Jesus – but we need to see Jesus crucified for us…

As do our Greeks visiting us.

That is the Jesus they need to see.. these visitors.

Yes – you want to see Jesus, it doesn’t matter why – Here he is.

He loves you…

Just let that wash over you, comfort you, cleanse you, heal you.

Then when someone needs to meet Him.. introduce the one who loved you from the cross you cling to.

AMEN!

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