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Why Is the Church Sterile?

Devotional Thought of the Day

28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29 He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority. Matthew 7:28-29 (TEV)

I would have been glad to see my books remain altogether in obscurity and sink into oblivion, because, among other reasons, I shudder at the example I am setting. I can well see what use it has been for the church to collect numerous books and large libraries in addition to and besides the holy scripture and indiscriminately store all sorts of writings, especially of the church fathers, councils, and teachers. Through that practice not only is precious time for studying scripture wasted, but the pure knowledge of God’s word is forever lost as well, until (as happened in the Book of Deuteronomy in the time of the kings of Judah) the Bible is left forgotten in the dust under a bench (2 Kgs 22:8). …

What we also had in mind, when we began translating the Bible itself into German, was the hope that writing would decrease and the studying and reading of the scripture would increase. For all other writing should lead into and point toward the scripture, just as John [the Baptist] pointed to Christ, saying, “I must decrease, Christ must increase” (John 3:30), so that each one might drink for himself or herself from the fresh source, as all the fathers had to do if they wanted their work to be done well.

927         Be convinced of this: your apostolate consists in spreading goodness, light, enthusiasm, generosity, a spirit of sacrifice, constancy in work, deep study, complete self-surrender, being up-to-date, cheerful and complete obedience to the Church, and perfect charity. Nobody can give what he does not have.

I have a lot of books, nearly 3/4 of my office is lined with bookshelves, and some of those shelves are double stacked. I have another large collection and home, and my LOGOS, Wordsearch and Kindle libraries double again my collection.

Some of those books have been quite influential in my life and ministry. Writers like Luther, St Josemaria Escriva Walther, Willimon, John Stott, Martin Lloyd Jones, Tony Campolo, Bob Logan, Paul Borden, Robert Schuler, Michael Card and Fulton Sheen have left their mark (Along with novelists like Alexander Kent, Frank Perretti, and WEB Griffin)

I’ve quoted such people in sermons before, even though many people don’t know who they are.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, I suddenly felt guilty, convicted of the very thing that Luther warned about. Have I allowed these men, even as they are men who have guided and led people closer to Christ, to have more influence on me that scripture itself?

Do I read them more often than I read scripture, are they more impactful on my spiritual formation than the scripture is, itself? While I have my issues with each of them, it is certainly possible that I rely on, that I am dependent on their works more than the source from which we all (prayerfully) receive our revelation of God’s love.

It was said that Jesus taught differently from the rabbis of his day, That He taught with authority, as someone with first-hand experience, first-hand knowledge of what he spoke. It is my assertion that this is true because He spoke directly for God. This is different than those of his day, he spoke of someone else’s opinion, a 3rd or 4th hand account of what someone saw in the scriptures.

Am I saying these other works are of no use, of no benefit? No, but I do believe that they must be secondary in our lives, and scripture first. We need to be able to speak with God’s authority into the lives of people as broken as we are, pointing them to the hope we have.

But when we rely on these works primarily, we aren’t receiving the gospel directly, the seed isn’t being planted, and we turn into unfertile, sterile ground. We need to give our people more, which means we need to hear this hope that God gives us, we need to hear that God loves us.

Hope found directly in scriptures, revealed by the Holy Spirit in the words recorded to benefit us, to reveal to us the heart of God, and what He does for His people. I need to learn to revel in His revelation as the writer of Psalm 119 did and pass that along, helping people look to Jesus, the author and One who completes their faith.

Then the church will be more alive, feeding from the source, growing from the gospel planted in them.

Heavenly Father and dearest Lord Jesus, thank you for the men whose lives and writings have impacted our lives, even so, Lord, help us desire to spend more time in Your word, and point our people to that word, that they may be refreshed, that they may know of Your love, and grace. As we spend this time in your word, help us see the revival you bring in your church. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 120). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3768-3771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who are We to Judge God?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  “I have been the LORD your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior. 5  I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. 6  But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me.    Hosea 13:4-6 (NLT)

Being wise with someone else’s head … is, to be sure, inferior to being wise oneself, but it is infinitely superior to the sterile pride of one who does not achieve the independence of being wise himself, yet at the same time despises the dependence of one who believes on the word of another.” The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.  (1)

Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: “See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another,” i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.(2)

When we read something brilliant, and quickly begin to use ti to judge and condemn others, I pray we begin to first use the same standard to judge ourselves.

As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, (those are the ones in green) I immediately thought of those who dismiss scripture.  Some of those are outside the church, who look at stories of miracles and cannot believe them.  Others are those inside the church who examine scripture with a scientific mindset, looking to judge whether this passage is valid, or that passage is not really accurate historically. `Both place themselves as the final judge and jury over the word of God.

But that is a temptation for every person, conservative or liberal, confessional or missional.  We see it when we apply the text to others, and not to ourselves.  We see it when we treat the scriptures from a perspective that is academic, as if it is the greatest theological treatise.   When we want to create a system out of the scriptures and use it to put God in a box.

I see this in myself all too often, as I approach the incredible wealth of the scriptures, mining it, being in awe of the words, and forgetting their purpose, that they are the means, not the end.  For it is easy to focus on the study and not the prayer and times of intimacy with God that reflecting on them should create.  We can, in the name of God, studying His word, become proud, and forget Him, even as we study His revelation to us.

It is when we forget that He is revealed, His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people that we end up being proud, that we see ourselves as the authority, not the supplicant.

Luther catches us when we get to this point and reminds us of what it means for God to be God.  He tells us we can creep and cling to God, that we can approach Him in the sure knowledge of the hope He has given us, that He will respond, that He will love and cleanse, that He will heal us.

That’s the ends, for us to realize that He is our God, that we are His people.  In Him we find rest, and that is what the scriptures are there to teach us, to reveal to us, to assure us of.  That is what the covenants describe, it is what Law and Gospel drive us to, it is the reason for the cross.  There is no other end of the discussion that is valid.  For here is our hope:

We are His people.  HE is our God. And as scripture tells us,

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. “  John 20:31 (NLT)


(1)    Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 166–167). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(2)  Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Part First: The Ten Commandments”.

How do we treat scripture? How do we teach people to treasure it?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  I keep your law in my heart, so that I will not sin against you. 12  I praise you, O LORD; teach me your ways. Psalm 119:11-12 (TEV)

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony

Yet I was forced; and this was well done towards me, but I did not well; for, unless forced, I had not learnt. But no one doth well against his will, even though what he doth, be well.

Augustine’s comment from my devotions this morning is something I need to think about, as I prepare my sermon for tomorrow.  How do I teach people to see the Bible?  Do my sermons, and what and how I teach lead them to treasure this incredible gift of God?  Or does what I teach and preach cause them to dismiss is, willingly twist it, and allow them to create a god that appeals to their desires, rather than meets the needs of their deepest brokenness?

The same for the scripture that resounds from within our worship – the liturgy which is so full of scripture.  Do I facilitate their worship with a passion that honors God as He blesses us through the words He dictated, that He breathed through prophets and apostles, kings and leaders of worship?

If we preach about other than Jesus, if we teach Christianity as a simple set of rules to follow or something that changes from what was written, we dismiss the blessing of scripture. If we treasure theology over the word, we again dismiss the word of God, for the word of mankind. We dismiss the message of His loving-kindness, His mercy, His presence in our lives, which the scriptures reveal.  The very treasure that reveals that we don’t need to be God, for He loves us.  That real, lasting pleasure comes through His word.  That peace is found in Him, and as we live in Him, we realize this incredible blessing, this incredible grace.

Scripture, the word of God, can make us uncomfortable.  If afflicts us in the places we need to be corrected, the very place of our brokenness.  It confronts our broken and twisted desire for pleasure, our love of self, our illusion that we are truly master’s of our fate.  It is hard to learn to love that which hurts.  Even so, when we realize the Holy Spirit applies it to our brokenness, even the discomfort is embraced, sure that God’s peace will comfort us, and bring us to wholeness.  If we are to find hope for our brokenness, if we are going to offer and provide it to those people we are to care for, where the Spirit reveals it is in scripture. It is there the Lord who is our hope of glory, of life eternal, is found.  There what He needs to heal us of is shown, as is the cure, His presence, His blessing of us through His word, joined to water as He baptizes us, as He nourishes us with His body and blood.

Back to the original thought, of teaching and preaching in such a way that the word of God is treasured.  That our words portray His word, which He, the WORD, is revealed.  That people know this isn’t just man’s words written on paper, proclaimed in our message. It is the word of God, the One who desires to love us, reveals to us that this love has no limits there on the pages of scripture.

If we show them we treasure it, they will begin to as well, and they will do well as they hear it, as they read it, as they treasure His word in their hearts.

As we do this, as we treasure the word that reveals to us the love of God, as we set an example for our people, we shall find that He has answered our plea.  That our thoughts and words are acceptable to God, our Rock and Redeemer.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

WE WERE ROBBED! yeah…so?

English: David's Joy Over Forgiveness; as in P...

English: David’s Joy Over Forgiveness; as in Psalm 32; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. 9  That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. 10  Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; 11  Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. 12  God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.1 Peter 3:8-12 (MSG)

12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.  Matthew 6:12 (TEV) 

454         Thank the Lord for the enormous gift he has granted you by making you understand that “only one thing is necessary.” And, along with that thanksgiving, may no day go past without your offering a prayer of petition for those who don’t know him yet or have not understood him.

Yesterday was a day full of injustice.

One of the “biggest” injustices of course (said partially toungue in cheek) was the Patriots being robbed of a victory, as a penalty was called because a player was mugged and couldn’t catch the touchdown pass.  He was robbed and assaulted… and we lost.

Another was set the Christian tweet world a fire, as someone labelled Bible in a costo with the department code for fiction when they priced them.  You would have thought by the reaction, that Christians were being fed to the lions and soacked in pitch and set aflame to light Nero’s garden again.

There are so many things that people are upset about these days, even ot the point of tempers boiling and relationships and reputations being completely devastated.

We expect others to be perfect – 60sigma perfect (a business term is 6 sigma – errors less that  0.000000 percent of the time – we expect 60 zeros, not 6)) and we get really, really frustrated we then expect us to be perfect 60% of the time.

Dare you bring in forgiveness to such conversations, forgiving their wrongs, or forgiving our own failues, well, let’s just say I expect stress bringing up forgiveness. The storm caused may settle, or may not settle for a while, as people find forgiveness a difficult task.  Indeed, we often don’t want to , we don’t thinki it is needed.

If forgiveness is made law, if we say, “you have to forgive your brother, you have to forgive that clerk, your must forgive those refereess.. you can’t help that they are blind!” then forgiveness won’t happen.  It just won’t.  You will find a myriad of excuses, a thoughand arguements about why forgiveness, God style forgiveness is neither possible, nor prudent.

But forgiveness that comes out of our times of communion with God, times where we see Him take the sin that burdens us and cleanse us of its filth and infesction.  Times like prayer, times like when we meditate on our baptism, when we receive the Lord’s Body and Blood, times when we read of His love and mercy, and the peace He gives us to live in, the peace in which He keeps our hearts and minds secure. It is from that place, sitting at the feet of Jesus, that mercy flows, that forgiveness is not a decision, it just happens, Where the person’s salvation, where their ability to live in the presence of God becomes more important than their error. Forgiveness flows from realizing you have been rought into the glory of God, and seeing them trying to live without it.

Yeah – so a refereee made the 2nd worst call in Patriots history..The referees don’t need to be ridiculed – they need Christ.

Yeah – so a sticker said the Bible was fiction?   The people involved don’t need condemnation – they need Christ.

Ultimately, it is a matter of trusting Christ, that all things will work for good for those who love Him.  If it is a matter of faith, then the place where our trust is strongest in Him, is when we realize we are in His presence, living at His feet. As to dealing with things that were unjust and unfair and being robbed,,, He let us rob Him of his dignity, of his righteousness, and of His lifee.  So that we could share in His glory…. and His reason He allowed the injustice, was to be able to forgive!

Let us go into His presence.. and become people of mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2007-2009). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Second Call to Biblical Teaching/Preaching… appeal to Christ and His word…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

 28  When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29  He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority.  Matthew 7:28-29 (TEV)

405      Draw close to Jesus who has died for you; draw close to that Cross, outlined against the sky on the summit of Golgotha… But draw close sincerely and with interior recollection, which is the sign of Christian maturity. That way the divine and human events of the Passion will sink deep into your soul.  (1)

This morning I saw a FB thread that brought this topic to my mind – how do we teach, how do we prepare, and do we have authority.

The thread itself is not important enough to identify, save that it was about who was more orthodox, the author or those critiquing him.  What amazed me was that the appeals for orthodoxy were based, not in Scriptues (our baseline) or the Lutheran Confessions (which we have found to be in agreement and a sound explanation of scripture) but rather in this theologian or that theologian in recent historiy.

It reminded me of other discussions I have had recently where the “stars” of recent Lutheranism are held up, and their writings are held up, as if they are our baseline, as if their writings must be held as authoritative.  Or the class I recently took, where the professor said questioning the textbook author’s position was not allowed – even though all he did was quote other “expert theologians”, appealing to some and questioning others.  There are others, who are trying to show their expertise and their theological acumen, wanting to become the “next” theologian worth quoting or attacking, by quoting this person, or criticising that person.

In my opinion, they are not far from the scribes (the religious and theological experts of their day)   They were more concerned with the talmud and traditions of their forefathers, than they were with the texts that were given to them… by God.

So when Jesus quotes scripture, when He teaches, not appealing to some other authority, people note the difference.  He isn’t appealing to others thoughts to justify His own, but rather – He is focusing on the text, letting the Holy Spirit work through His words, that the people would have, as Peter called itthe words of Life.. 

That is why Paul will write:

5  For it is not ourselves that we preach (or your theologian of choice) ; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6  The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (TEV) 

Please, note, I am not saying we should dismiss these scholars of our past or present. They have some good stuff, and they can help us when we struggle.

English: Engraving of Jesus Christ on Golgotha.

English: Engraving of Jesus Christ on Golgotha. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But their works are not our basis, it is not to them we should appeal.  They are not our hope, their are not the glory of God incarnate and present in our midst.  They are not our word and sacraments.  They can help us, but the conversation should never be about them, nor should they be the standard to which we aim.

That has to be Christ. that is who we want our hearers to draw close to, that is who we must be drawn close to, if we want to teach/preach/worship in a way that leads to change. Theology is His logos, His reason, His revelation to us… that we may come to know Him.

We don’t cry, “theologian have mercy on us,” for they cannot…

We cry… “Lord, have mercy….”  and He has.  So cling to Him.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1572-1575). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Your Life, what is the Return on its Investment?

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is our ROI?

Luke 12:22-34


†  In Jesus Name  †

May you be have the power to comprehend how wide, how long, how high and how deep the loved of Christ for you…

Introduction:  Will we look back and say… we got our bang for the buck?


As we look at the gospel passage this morning, I have a question I want each of us to ask ourselves.

At the end of our lives, as we look back over them, will we think we spent it well?  Did we get, as the saying goes, “the biggest bang for our buck”?   Or as businessmen and investors would describe it, did we get the largest possible return on investment?

What would happen if we looked at how we have spent our time in the last month?  What about our talents – have we used them well? What dominates our thoughts, our time, our career choices?

Is our investment of our lives done wisely?  Is it in something that will truly pay off in the end?  The man in the parable did things that the world would consider wise.  He did things that made sense.  Yet, in the end, the value of his invested life faded.  This parable today asks a hard question of us, especially in the culture of these days, where the rich’s man’s situation is more than common.  That question strikes at the root of what is ours, and what is.

As we look at our lives…two questions we will face


“Where and how do we invest our lives?”

“What do we do when we realize we’ve been wasting them?”

The challenge of where to invest
Solomon’s cry of “worthlessness”

Jesus responds to the man’s request by telling him a story with a clear lesson.  The businessman is all business!  He does what any normal executive would do, the profits are soaring, work is going well. It is time to expand!   The very same conclusions one would make if they were a graduate of Harvard or Pepperdine’s MBA program. He plans and puts his money where his mind is, looks to a future relaxing on the long-range investments he makes, and then, Jesus’ point is driven home.

“Life is not measured by how much you own.”  We do not measure our lives by our retirement portfolios, or by our investments, or our fame.  Remember the context; the man calling out from the crowd wanted Jesus to force his brother into liquidating the inheritance – that he could have his share.   He was willing to break a relationship up over something as fleeting as money.  He was willing to divide his family over what he thought he deserved.

So it was with the man in the parable.  He did not get to fulfil his plan of eating and drinking and being merry.  He did not see the results of how he invested his money, his prophets, or his life.  Just like Solomon in the Old Testament passage, he realized that all is vanity; all is worthless.  The difference is Solomon comes to that realization prior to death, and the businessman in the story learns it in death.

His life was judged worthless!  He did not reach His goal.  At the end, there was nothing, someone else enjoyed what was supposed to be his dream.  Yet this is the very attitude so many people in our world have today.  What is there at the end?

In hoarding his wealth, in chasing after bigger and better things, how many people in need did he ignore?  How much time did he spend with the for whom he cared, or should have cared. Did he obey the Bible’s commands to love God and love his neighbor?  Could he have made a difference in the lives of his family, teaching them about what is important in life?  Could he have enjoyed himself a little more?

How would we have a different life, if we regularly evaluate them by what matters?  What does matter?


What matters when the day is done???

          The relationship

Back to the original question– what will Christ judge?

Verse 21 of the gospel tells us, “21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”   Solomon said it similarly in the Old Testament reading,

“24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? 26 “

hear the last verse again,
25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? 26 “

There is the key, this relationship we have with God, This rich relationship we have with God.  The fact that He is present in our lives, that He cares about us, that He is willing to invest in us, the people of His kingdom.  He is unlike the businessman in that His investment doesn’t serve just His pleasure, but He shares that with those He calls to be His children.

He invests in us…. So He can share with us eternally the joy He has from seeing that which He invests in return gloriously.  People of every nation, of every language, of every culture, of every time, gathered as His family, even as we are gathered together now.  Gathered to feast together as we celebrate the union of Christ and His bride the church. That is why our feast, this communion, this celebration of the Lord’s Supper can be so precious.  It is a foretaste, a sampling of the feast that is described in Scripture.

It is a feast worth investing our lives in, even as Christ did, making sure others will be there.  So the church is called to go out into the world, into our homes, our workplaces, our gyms, the places we go to, and invite others to share in that feast to come, and yes, this feast we share in here.

To build relationships, to serve each other, and yes, to even invest our time and our talents and treasures so that others can come to know God’s love, to enjoy the relationship.

What about our bad investments?

My final question then is, what do we do when we take a look at our lives, and realize that we have not chosen wisely with how we’ve spent our lives?

The answer to that question is answered by how we see God investing in our lives. For His investment covers our poor investing. His choice corrects our bad choices.  For that is what forgiveness is, and the transformation He made in us, when we were baptized.

He guaranteed to forgive our life-debt when Jesus was sent to die on the cross.  Matter of fact, the word Jesus uttered on the cross, saying “it is finished” is an accounting term.  The debt is paid, the books are closed.  Your mistakes, the bad investments of your words, your thoughts, your time, your talents, all of those negatives were erased when Christ died for you.

That is how God invested His son’s time and talents.  Because He loves you, because He wants a relationship with you.  That is what this is all about… and that love binds us to each other, and our sins against each other are forgiven as well.

All we have to do, is what we did earlier – we ask God for forgiveness, and rest in His promise that it is so.

Knowing this love, knowing this relationship God has invested in, may you find your hearts and minds at peace… for you dwell in Christ, who keeps you in God’s peace!


I Am the Lord Your God!

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

I Am The Lord Your God!
Lev. 18:-1-5, 19:9-18


†  In Jesus Name

May you always thank the Father, as filled with His joy, your find yourselves filled with all His glorious power, and having all the endurance and patience you need in your lives today!

It’s Not as Heavy A Burden as we Think!

At first glance, the Old Testament reading reminds me of my trainer at the gym.  Every time I think I am working with the right amount of weight, he’ll walk over and add 10 or 20 pounds, and I will have to really push myself to get another set completed.  Even as I dislike it when he adds the 10 pounds, the reason I have a trainer is to make sure I get the most out of my working out – so that I become healthier and stronger.

Often, our first reaction to lists of commandments like this is similar to a work out – we know we are going to struggle, we know we are going to be pushed past what we think our breaking point is.  We get anxious knowing we are going to be faced with failure, like when I try to bench press 60 pounds, we just give up.  The same thing here – how many commandments can we focus on at once, how will we grow spiritually and fulfill each of them?

It is easy to look at what God expects out of us, and look at the burden and wonder how Jesus expects us to be as perfect as He is.

What we are going to look at this morning, in both church and Bible study is this idea that the burden is too big, that it is too heavy, that we cannot live as God calls us to live.  The illusion we are only sinners, those who fail God.  Really, the burden is not too much and we can be described as Paul describes the church in Colossae.

…The way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. (Colossians 1:11b)

So let’s look at this list of commands, and consider whether it is a burden to obey these commandments….and walk in this life.

A Challenging List!


God makes it clear that His standard goes beyond that of the world.  It’s not just their behaviors we aren’t to follow, the very laws they established were not reflective of God’s standard.  Sounds familiar, yes?


What is legal in the law of the Egyptians and Canaanites and for us according to the Supreme Court isn’t beneficial or proper for us, according to God.  We can’t say to God, we didn’t hear your laws, or we chose to do what is appropriate here.  His desire for us is to for life to be lived to its fullest, not just to make do.  We are called to live life in a way that Jesus did, valuing what He did, serving those He would serve, sacrificing things we want, and knowing that what He has in store for us is so much more fulfilling!

Look at the “commands”, look at the way God commissions us to live.

God’s law is all about caring for our neighbors, nor matter their race, their religion, their role in society, whether they are in LA or the OC or Cambodia.  That is the bottom line at every one of these commandments.

It starts with the “law” of leaving part of what is ours provide for others. God asks us to give part of what is ours by right, to help those who have nothing, the poor and the stranger – or in other translations, the alien – literally those “not of our people” or “the one who doesn’t belong”.  We are to care for them, to help provide for them – whether the government is involved… or not.

The list moves on to not cheating others, not deceiving, slandering, or exploiting them.  Luther would add that this obligates us to care for them, and their property.  Remember, sin is disobedience! It is walking away from God’s plan in our thoughts, words, or deed – and that includes what we fail to think, fail to say, and fail to do.  Again – God’s desire isn’t just about not harming them, but caring about them, even as God cares for us.  God’s love in action, through us.

We see this as well in not mocking or cursing the deaf, or tripping up the blind – whether they are deaf and blind physically – or spiritually. Our actions should be that which help – and comfort and guide those, not give them reason to hate us.

Caring for them goes to the extent of our not allowing resentment to build in our hearts!  If we do, how can we love each other, or prove that love in the way we care for each other?  We are called to carefully reprove those who sin, in such a way that reconciliation can occur.  It should go without saying, but sin isn’t any more individual than grace and faith are – and it is a sign of our love for our neighbor that we would carefully try to deliver them from their sin – even as Christ has done for us….

This is the way of life God that has commissioned, this is the way of life that He desires us to live and treasure. It is easily summed up as the young man and Jesus talked about… loving your neighbor as yourself… and Jesus will remind the young teacher – that our neighbor is simply the one in need…

What we’ve got to remember He’s Yhwh   
That is what God has commissioned our lives to be – lives invested in each other, and in those who are broken in this world, that our love for them would bring healing and hope – even as we are found in Christ – and are finding healing there for our sin-caused wounds.

Which would be a struggle, an incredible burden except for one thing.  The nature and character of God.   You see, He will not give us a burden we can’t carry, In the midst of this passage, we are reminded constantly of who He is, for that very purpose!

I chose the NJB translation for that reason this morning for our reading.  I’ve mentioned it before – when the Bible spells our LORD in all capitals – it is not the word for Lord or Master or King in scripture.  In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite – it’s God’s personal name… Yahweh/Jehovah.  Translated it is “I AM” and it reminds us of God’s power but even more, His presence in our lives.  For He “is” and that means He is here.. with us.

Knowing that is the key to understanding all of the passages of scripture where God lays out how our lives are to be lived.  Nine times in this passage, God reminds us of Who He is, not with titles that we see in Scripture – like, “God of heaven’s armies” or God on High, but rather His name.  Reminding us of what He desires most – for us to so trust in Him that we call on His name – that we realize that He is our God! He is with us.

This is what the cross is all about!  It isn’t just about forgiving our sins, though indeed that is where they were paid for.  It’s about getting rid of the things that stand in the way of our calling on His name,  Jesus living the way He did, being crucified and raised from the dead – it’s all about His restoring us to the Father, sharing with us their glory, as their love envelopes all of us.

Which is why this way God commissions us to live is not about rules and obligations, as much as it is the natural outcome of our relationship with Him.  This relationship, as we walk with Him, as we realize He is our God, results in a change in us, as we begin to love as He does. Our priorities change, not by our strength or character, but by living in His presence and knowing His mercy.

That is why I said this list is not a burden, The more we dwell in Him, the more we are conscious of the fact that He is Yhwh, the more we are sure that He is here, the more we find ourselves changed – the more we find out that we begin to live in this way.

For we find, in His presence, we dwell in His peace…a peace beyond all comprehension, for He guards as a great treasure, our hearts and minds.


Are you sure you want the Holy Spirit to come?

Icon of the Pentecost

Icon of the Pentecost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7  But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8  And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9  The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10  Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11  Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.  John 16:6-11 (NLT) 

In some Christian ministry, we assess how mature a believer is based on how much he knows. But the New Testament assesses the maturity of a believer based on how much he obeys (e.g. John 14:15; James 1:22-25) Think about every sermon, Bible study and Bible passage you have heard or read (knowledge). Estimate what percentage of that you consistently obey. It can be a bit embarrassing. You may say, “I consistently obey about 30% of all I know.” In a knowledge-based assessment of maturity, can we be comfortable with disobeying 70% of all we know. Is that really biblical maturity? If one has been a believer a long time he may have lots of knowledge, but may also have a low obedience factor. Despite his knowledge-based “maturity,” his disobedience factor is high! (1)
I know a lot of people who talk about the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s coming on Pentecost, and others who long for a restoration of spirituality in the church in America.

I am not sure they are as ready as they think they are!

Look at the promise above from John 16.  Are you ready to have the Holy Spirit convict you of your sin?  Are you ready to be purged of your sin?   Are you ready to face how often you are disobedient you are to God?  How often you betray Him and His plan for your life?

Do you welcome God working in your life?  Many of us say we do, yet when push comes to shove, we struggle to confess our sins, choosing instead to hide it, justify it, say our sin isn’t as bad as those other people,  ignore it, or even… run from God.  I think we do far too often…

We rejoice in our salvation – but are we ready to let go of that which Christ saves us from?

We talk of His righteousness – the righteousness that comes from heaven, do you see it as something so much more valuable than any of the sins that we cling to?

May we be found, may we find ourselves, hidden in Christ Jesus, His righteousness ours, His cleansing us of sin, so that He can bring us home to the Father…

And may we strive for not just obeying His word, but treasuring it, for it is our life… in Him

(1) Smith, Steve; Kai, with Ying (2011-09-21). T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Kindle Locations 1186-1192). WIGTake Resources, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Why our Idolatry is Worthless

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
(From Today’s Adult Bible Study  – Special thanks to J!)

•3  “Worship no god but me. 4  “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5  Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 6  But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey (keep/treasure) my laws. Exodus 20:3-6 (TEV)

Presently in our Sunday morning adult Bible study we are looking at the way we worship.  The theme is The Dance of the Liturgy, Learning to Partner in Life with God.  We are now in the third class – and we were talking about the Choreography of our lives – and focusing on Eph 5:21-24 and Ex. 20.  The basic questions were, “Who leads”, “Why do we try to lead”, and “the Steps of our Life – the Decalogue/Ten Commandments.  It may be the best study I have ever written and is quite fun.  I have the blessing of growing up with parents who were master Ballroom Dance instructors, so I have a few stories…that illustrate things well.

As we got to the first commandment, after talking about the necessity of trusting our Partner as He leads us through life, one of the newer ladies to our congregation spoke up and said something that too me a couple of minutes to process.

“Pastor, the reason we shouldn’t worship and idols is because they cannot lead us through life.”

What a brilliant observation – these idols – whether they are celebrities, or statues, whether they are numbers ( like back accounts) or liquids (alcohol ) or anything else – will fail us.  An idol is this – it is what you turn to, when life is stressful, what you trust to get you through the hard times  what you credit for the blessings.  Often, the idol is ourselves – we think we are God. It doesn’t matter who we create as our “gods”, our “idols” they will fail for the reason mentioned – they can’t lead us, they can’t create out of our missteps something beautiful, and graceful and loving.

They cannot do what Paul instructs men to do, following the example of Christ,

25  Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. 26  He did this to dedicate the church to God by his word, after making it clean by washing it in water, 27  in order to present the church to himself in all its beauty—pure and faultless, without spot or wrinkle or any other imperfection. Ephesians 5:25-27 (TEV)

That’s something an idol can’t do – it can’t lead you on the dance floor, or through the dance of life, or even through the dance of the liturgy……

Only God can…. so relax, know the hands that hold you, realized that He created the dance, and He will assure its completion and its beauty….

Location, Location, Location (of a favorite BIble passage)

Devotional /Discussion thought of the day… 

1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross. 9 For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. 10 And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, 11 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:1-11 (TEV)

“How often you will find yourself inundated, intoxicated with God’s grace—and what a sin if you do not respond!” (1)

The Carmen Christ – the great hymn of the faith that is found in the passage from Philippians above (verse 5-10) is one of the most memorable scriptures in the Bible.  It was our epistle reading last week in Church, as we considering the Passion of Christ entering what we call “holy Week”.  Truly indeed is our way to the cross such a blessing, such a thing to stand in awe of, and it makes such a difference.

Yet this great hymn, the majestic and glorious passage cannot be removed from the context in which it is written.  We are called to have that same attitude towards others, that Christ has towards us.  We are called to serve, to love, to show mercy, to work towards being of one mind.

All things that are counter to our culture. This kind of radical humility and mutual submission (see Eph 5:21-6:9) is often lost in our independent and driven culture.  And while we are good at realizing often the narcissism and self-centeredness is simply another name for sin.  Even to hear that – we rebel a little – but to hear the call to lives of deliberate simplicity, that we can use our resources to help others?  What about our comfort, what about what we’ve earned (and therefore deserve?)

I love and hate that the new pope has taken such a thing seriously, that he is setting an example of it – within some incredible constraints – the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.  I love it – because I know how much the Church ( Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist) need such encouragement, and such and example.  I hate it, because it confronts me with my own wealth not being used well, my own self-centeredness, and such a confrontation leads to guilt or shame, or



Could we live in the shadow of the cross, not just gratefully soaking in the mercy and love, understanding the passion of Christ for his people, and see the model for our own lives, lived as He commissioned them?  Could we imitate the suffering servant? The one who humbled himself and died….for us?

Not by our strength, not by our wisdom… but by being inundated, and yes intoxicated, with the very love of God!  For then, there is no option but to respond!

May we seek His mercy and grace, and as we focus on His love, and as we do – may others see that He is present in our lives!



(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3551-3552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


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