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The Five Words You Need to Hear, that You Must Hear at Church!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA devotional thought for your day:
20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT)

23  “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)

659         If you had presence of God you would remedy many things that have apparently “no remedy”.

You need to hear these words.

They are critical for you to hear, not just with your ears, but with your heart, your mind, and into the depth of your soul.  They make the difference in your life….

“The Lord is with You”

If you’ve ever attended a Lutheran liturgical serve, or a Catholic Mass, or even some Anglican or Orthodox services you will hear these words repeated several times throughout the service.

Do you ever wonder why?  Are we just saying this as a form of greeting, or in order to mark a transition in the service?

Or is this what church is supposed to be doing, helping you realize you dwell completely in the presence of God!  That the Holy Spirit has brought you to that place, in that moment to realize you aren’t alone,  That God wants you there, and will do anything to make it possible for you to be there in His presence.

It might be that it is a time to be still and know God is your God.Maybe it is time to celebrate the freedom of Jubilee, when God erases every debt you incurred by your sin and unrighteousness, maybe it is time to offer a cup of water to someone who is physically or spiritually thirsty and dehydrated.  Maybe it is to receive that cup of water.

As St Josemaria notes, it is this presence of God that remedies that without remedy, that heals relationships to shattered to be healed.  It is the fulfillment of the greatest of prophecies, the very name attached to Jesus, Immanuel – God with us.  It is the promise of the last words He tells the apostles as he ascends to heaven.

It makes the difference in our lives, and incomparable difference, for the peace that comes realizing and depending upon it is beyond anything we can express.

A peace that is there and starts to impact you, as you realize their truth.

The Lord is with You!

(and yes  – and also with m)

Lord, have mercy upon us, reveal to us the presence of your Spirit, cleanse us of sin, and help us dwell in your peace! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2767-2768). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lord, You Really Want Me to do this? Don’t you have a better option?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

17 When the seventy-two n came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”
18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20  NCV

 

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.

For priests, pastors and all those who minister to others, there is a fine balance between humility and confidence.  And if we are honest, it is when we are struggling with the latter that we don’t act all that humble.  I imagine there may be one or two of us that think they are God’s gift to the church. (In a way they are0  But many of us still wonder why God has put us here, why God has entrusted to us this incredible, sacred, beautiful, demanding ministry.

I love Pope Francis’s words about our ministry. He nails it when talking about the awe that hits you when you pray over someone, or see their body loose every bit of tension and anxiety as they realize God’s forgiveness, as they realize He is present.   I still can recall the eyes of people after I have baptized them, or their children.  (Two incredible “devout” atheist/agnostic types come to mind as I baptized their children – eyes bright and full of tears… and God isn’t done with them either!) But his also occurs when we pray with someone over breakfast, or see people having an “aha” at work, as they realize another dimension of God’s love because we said something.

It is in those moments that our lives do feel like a work of art, as God weaves our lives with others, and creates something wonderful. If it iis awe-inspiring to consider sinners in the hands of an angry God, how much more incredible is it to see God work through the hands of a repentant sinner who trusts in Him?

Still, my heart cries out… why?  Why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Nothing of course.

Which is where the first gospel reading helps us maintain some manner of balance.  As wonderful it is that God can use us, the even more wonderful thing is that we already are certain He’s got us, we are HIs, our names are written in the Heaven,

That is even more amazing.  As broken, as sinful, as able as I am to screw up something, God has claimed us as His.

SO tomorrow, as you go to preach, or lead worship, to distribute communion or work with the children’s ministry, or just tell the person next to you – God is with you, indeed, you are being used by God, you carry His presence within you, and it is blessing others.   Remember though, that is simply proof of a greater mystery, a greater blessing.  You are one of God’s people, He is your God, and He loves you!  (me too!)

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Are We Too Solemn, too Reverent in our Worship?


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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day

15All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant with all their heart. They took delight in worshipping the LORD, and he accepted them and gave them peace on every side.  2 Chronicles 15:15

In the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we detect the enthusiasm of the new converts, for whom being Christians was an unexpected gift, a blessing, great riches bestowed on them by God. It is good for us to realize this—for us who, as Christians, live for the most part with wrinkled brows and such an anxious awareness of the problems it entails that we feel almost guilty when we are happy about being Christians—that might be a form of triumphalism! Fundamentally, the joy of this epistle derives from the fact that the Apostle has dared to look directly at the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and his eternal love.…  (1)

There is a part of me that misses the old days when I would enter church and its silence would lend itself to the awe I felt being in the presence of God.  Reverence wasn’t just an attitude one took on to appear pious, it was something you were assimilated into, it consumed you. It was a very solemn reverence, one that facilitated dropping all your defenses, dropping you guard, and collapsing in the arms of God, in His sanctuary.

Those were precious times, and I still need them on occasion.

But then I need days like yesterday when as our mass ( our worship service ended) some people spontaneously began to clap.  Not sure who, not sure why, but it was appropriate to applaud God at that moment.  TO thank Him fo the work He does in us, work wrought with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For in His resurrection, in that moment of glory, we find ourselves taken up into Him.

His death we share in, even as He takes from us our sin, our shame, and our pain.

When I was younger, my dear devoted teachers would be angry? hurt? shocked? by the idea of people applauding and rejoicing in the presence of God.  But what else can you do, when you, as Pope benedict XVI describes, “dare to look directly into the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and His eternal love”

That love is so overwhelming, so precious, so deep, we must respond, we have no option.  Even when overwhelmed (see Jeremiah 20 – he tried to keep silent! )  This is what Christianity is about – to know we are loved beyond measure, to know we are loved by God, Father, Son, and Spirit.  He has accepted us as His own, given us peace beyond explanation, and therefore we delight in worshipping Him.

We are His… and even on Monday, that is incredible news.

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

How they/We Recognize(d) Him. A sermon on Luke 24


How they We Recognized Him

Luke 24:13-35

I.H.S.

 This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.

The walk – 

I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.

Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples?  Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus?  (significant pause)

Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel.  She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus.  She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body.  It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…

Why hide?

Why hide in plain site?

In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.

It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.

And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.

So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered.  He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.

He Listens

The first thing Jesus does is listens.  Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him.  They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!

Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him.  There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony.  Think about it!  They are telling Him what happened to Him!

But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on.   Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.

We do too…

The Revelation of the Word

Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”.  He explains what we need to know about Him!  The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.

And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.

But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,

The glory of the Resurrection

For Praise God, He is risen!  (He is risen indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore, we are risen indeed!

And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.

But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.

We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.

And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….

And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him.  And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.

They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.

The Revelation of the Sacrament

He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart.  For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.

And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes.  This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.

Not only was Jesus the Messiah.

He was their risen Lord.

He had entered His glory.

And they were there to share it with Him.

What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.

He lives and because He Lives, we live as well.  We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.

That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….

Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.

Where we learn to rejoice.

Where we share in His glory.

The Ministry of Word and Sacrament

This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.

For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you!  And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.

AMEN!

 

News That Will Knock Your Socks Off:


Sermon of the Day

News that Will Knock Your Socks Off

Isiah 52:7-10

I.H.S.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ knock your socks off, and may people exclaim the beauty of your feet as you share with the the Gospel!

One of “those”moments

In 2 Kings 6, there is a great story that illustrates the lesson found in Isaiah’s words today.

A King and His army are determined to capture Elisha and his servant, and his entire army, the infantry and chariots to a place called Dothan.  Elisha and the servant wake up, and the servant panics, as the place they are staying is completely surrounded by the bad king and all his minions.

The servant’s reaction, knowing the enemy is so large, so angry, so prepared is to cry out, “Master, we are doomed! What shall we do?”

Elisha’s response is simple, “don’t be afraid,” and then he prayed for the servant’s eyes to be opened and as God opened his eyes, he saw the Army of God surrounding the King and his forces, ready to pounce if need be. Interestingly enough, the prophet of God had mercy on the invasion force, and they would return home.

But can you imagine the servant, go from full-fledged panic to struggling with the change, knowing that God was with them?  Can you imagine the joy?  We don’t’ hear a response from him but maybe it was because he couldn’t speak….

For the beauty of the prophet’s words, this message that they weren’t alone, was overwhelming.

Such is the news Isaiah is describing when he says that those who bring the gospel have beautiful feet, In Hebrew it is not “hey – those are good looking feet….”  It is a jaw-dropping exclamation, beauty that leaves you nearly speechless, a joy of realizing that everything has changed.  It is that kind of message, so incredible, so beyond anything you could hope for,  it could knock your socks off!

It’s only good news if…

There is a problem with receiving good news, to seeing those beautiful feet that we need to realize.  We have to be ready for it.

In our reading from Isaiah, we see the watchmen, the city guards, standing on the wall.  They are at war, the enemy is threatening, they are about to be plundered, ransacked and robbed again.  The city itself is described in ruins in verse 9, as their Redeemer, their kinsman-redeemer arrives with all of His army.

The servant in Elisha’s story as well, he too was overwhelmed, thinking they were doomed, that there was no hope…

This is why good news is… well… good news. 

The gospel is the greatest news of all, those who bring it have beautiful feet because the level of hopeless that we have without it is beyond words.

Think about the damage that sin does to people, as it divides people from each other.  The damage that resentment and hatred does, as the unrighteousness of the world crushes is, as we become so defensive, so way of the pain that we isolate ourselves from those around us, fearing what they might do, or say or think.

But it is not only external sin and unrighteousness that affects us, our own sin eats us up from the inside, as it breeds guilt and shame.  This too isolates us, it turns our lives into the spiritual equivalent of Pompeii or Jericho,  Just a bunch of ruins and ash.

Heck, this can happen even to us, and we know how guilt and shame, resentment and hatred can affect us….we’ve seen it isolate us from others, convince us that everyone else in the world is against us.
Can you imagine how it would be if we didn’t have any hope?

The Lord Demonstrated His power…

Isaiah will then describe that hope we have, that hope which overcomes the loneliness, the hope that reminds us that we are not alone, that we can love again, that God will remove the guilt and shame and help us to know, we are loved, by Him.

Hear the words again.

The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem.

Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song, for the Lord has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem.

10 The Lord has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God.

 This is what is amazing, no matter how bruised or battered by sin, no matter how isolated, God reaches into our lives. He comes to us, and even as we aren’t sure what will happen next, His very presence brings us comfort, it assures us we aren’t alone, that what we thought was a ruined life will be restored, made whole, made holy.

This is what the His holy power has done already, Isaiah looked forward to it, Mark and the apostles bore witness to it, they became the men with a message, because the power of God, the love and mercy of God was seen at the cross, and understood when Christ was revealed, and stood in their midst and comforted them with the words,

Be at peace!

That is what He is doing in our lives, in these moments, as we hear His promise of redeeming us, and the Holy Spirit brings us to the point where depending on the work of Christ is more important than justifying our sin, or defending ourselves from the sins of others.  It is realizing the incredible presence of the God who redeems us, who repairs our ruins, who gives us life.

That is why, despite an army massing against him, determined to capture and enslave him, Elisha was able to tell his servant, “don’t’ fear!”  and the apostles could live in a time of great persecution, knowing that the Lord who is with you is greater, far greater than anything we encounter in life.

This is the message that knocks our socks off as we hear it, which prepares us to go and bring the message to others, who will realize how beautiful our feet are, as we share God’s grace, His love and mercy, with them.  AMEN!

Christmas Eve: He Will, He Has!


For He Will: For He Has….
Matthew 1:18-25

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!

 What does this Mean?

As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.

Why are these cars here??

I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music.  It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.

It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.

For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known.  The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.

We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words.  Both times unable to really understand what is going on…

Anxious Joseph…

The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken.  Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed

His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father.  In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could….  what is a man to think?  The story Joseph was told?  How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?

Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control.  Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words.  Speechless, he struggles through the night.

Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.

Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain.  Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil.  We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.

It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer?  He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.

Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.

We are the one who betrayed us.  I betrayed myself, you betrayed you.  We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it.  We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..

And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.

We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more

The Second Joseph

When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.

He hears the news from an angel,

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)

He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb.  He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family.  He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.

This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary.  No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful.  No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.

The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.

It gave him hope it restored what was broken.

If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message.  For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.

For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.

Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed.  Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.

God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross.  A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.

This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension.  It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God.  It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.

Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men.  AMEN!

Struggling in Your Relationship with God: A Absolute Necessity


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
24  This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25  When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26  Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27  “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob. 28  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29  “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. 30  Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.Genesis 32:24-30 (NLT)

21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)

158         You have become more keenly aware of the urgency, of the “preoccupation” of being a saint; and you have gone into battle daily with no hesitation, convinced that you have to root out bravely any symptom of being fond of comfort. Later, while talking to Our Lord in your prayer you understood that fighting is a synonym for Love, and you asked for a greater Love, with no fear of the struggle awaiting you, since you would be fighting for Him, with Him and in Him

It is one of the hardest things to accept as a Christian.

That I will continue to struggle with sin, especially the sin of idolatry, especially the concept of self-idolatry.  Not that I worship and praise myself, but that I depend on myself more than I depend on Jesus.  That I listen to my own reason more than I listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   An idol or a god isn’t just whom you worship with your voices, and maybe with an act to appease anger.  It’s so much more than that, as we enter into a relationship with God, on His terms.

A relationship between God and man is not just about praise and worship a few hours a week.  It is an intimate, dependent relationship.  Where we turn to Him, rely on Him, in every situation in life. We rely on Him to rescue us from the sin that entraps us, from the despair of dealing with death and in dealing with Satan, and the temptations that would see us crushed.

As St. Josemaria says, the life of holiness, of being a “saint,” one separated from the world to have that relationship with God, is a nearly constant fight.  Sometimes that fight is a battle against the spiritual powers in the world as He guides us in redeeming and reconciling the world to the Father.  But as often, the fight is our human nature, battling for supremacy, rather than simply realizing that God is God.  Such battles leave us tired, weary, even depressed seeing our lives not dominated by God as we would like, but by the sin that leaves us broken.

The hope is the hope that Jacob, the one re-named Israel finds in his dark night of the soul.  Where he wrestles with God, trying to dominate, trying to show his mastery over God.  When he can’t, the struggle changes – I won’t let go until you bless me, God, I won’t relax the struggle until I know your peace.   It is one of those things that amazes me, that the name of God’s people was taken from the last of the Patriarchs.  Not Abraham, or Issac, or even Jacob, his given name.

But Israel, the one who wrestles with God.. the people who would wrestle with God.  They entire history is a similar fight, and in Christ, the blessing comes, through the fight on a cross, and through a grave until the morning comes and the grace is revealed.

So you like I, struggle in your faith.  This is good.  May you learn to, like Israel, struggle through the darkness of night, and refuse to give up, but hang on for dear life, and hang on until you knw the blessing of His peace.   For that is what it means to not only fight for God, to not only fight with Him, but to fight in Him.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 865-869). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Most Overlooked Blessing…


Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29  May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30  May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.  1 Kings 8:28-30 (NLT) 

 20  As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.John 20:20-23 (NLT)

If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9  if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.1 John 1:8-9 (NJB) 8

192  If ever you fall, my son, go quickly to Confession and seek spiritual guidance. Show your wound!, so that it gets properly healed and all possibility of infection is removed, even if doing this hurts you as much as having an operation.  (1)

 

It is one of the major events in the history of Israel.  it is right up there with the events at Mount Sinai, and the walk through the Red Sea.

As one of the wonders of the Ancient World was dedicated to God’s glory, the thing that the king prays for… is… forgiveness?
Really?  Not to dominate the world?  Not to have all his people become wealthy and successful, not for the kids to all be brilliant and well behaved… but blessed?

Forgiveness?

That’s the key to the Temple?

A Jesus appears before them in the upper room, after assuring them that there is peace – the very first thing He does there, is bestow on them the responsibility of fogiving (and retaining) sins.  Even as He breaths His spirit on them, this incredible ministry becomes theirs…this ministry of reconciliation, this ministry of forgiveness.

Forgiveness again?  Really – that’s the first thing Jesus wants them to know they have the power to do – as His apostles?

It’s still a amjor issue with John when he rights his first epistle – an epistle devoted to love.  Because I tell you something – you can’t love others, if you don’t know the forgiveness of God in your own life.   if you don’t know you are forgiven and cleansed, if you don’t get that God isn’t out to “get you” and “condemn you” for those sins, but would so much rather clanse you and bring healing into your life – you won’t get life. You will live defensively, your cynicism will rule over you, and anxiety will so cause you to defend yourself, that you won’t see the people you are called to love – much less be able to love them.

Forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness.  Complete, cleansing, healing, redeeming, reconciling, restoring…

Forgiveness.

I need it, you need it, we need to hear that we are forgiven, that God will make all things work for good, that everything is okay.

Years ago, there would be lines of people at Lutheran Churches, at Catholic Churches, waiting for private confession at mourning benches in Methodist and Holiness churches, people seeking the freedom of knowing their sin was forgiven, that they were purged of all unrighteousness, of all unholiness.  That God kep His promises. That’s what happened at the dedication of the Temple, it’s what the Tabernacle celebrated, it’s the story of the upper room – both on the night before He was betrayed, and on the night He appeared, wounds in His hands and side.

it is a blessing we need….

So as Josemarie is quoted above – even if it hurts to confess your sin – rush to those who are set apart to help you with this – to proclaim on God’s behalf that you are forgiven.  Don’t let it rot your soul, your heart, your mind…. Rush, confess your sins – as James says in his epistle – to another… and hear that you are forgiven.

And know the depth of the love of God, is greater even than your sin……

God’s peace… for you were meant to live in it.

Forgiveness?

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 866-868). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Blessing for you, that “Works”


Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 20  Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21  may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen!  .Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)

So many times we say, responding to someone’s sneeze, “God bless you!”  But what kind of blessing do we actually desire?

As we pray, as we ask God to bless people, do we consider how God would have them blessed?  Is it all about our lives being pleasant, or rescued from the place we’ve gotten ourselves into?

Or is there more to a blessing?

The author of Hebrews ends this incredible epistle with the blessing above….one that we often end our church services with, because of what it says

First it deals with who God is, defining the Father and Son and the role they have in our life.  How they establsihed a relationship with us (the covenant) where resurrected Christ guides us, and guards us in the very peace of God. This can occur because of His death (the blood that establishes and guarantees that we are found in this incredible relationship.  God is identified as such so we know who the blessing is from – and therefore – knowing this is God’s blessing – are assured that the blessing will come to pass.

It is as when we pray the Lord’s prayer.  We pray that certain things will happen – from God’s will, to having food, to protecting us from evil. We don’t pray this because if we do not, God will not have these things occur, but because as we pray, we realize that He is doing this!  So we are assured who is “backing” this blessing, who will make it happen.

Secondly, this blessing is one that has a clear idea of what the blessing is.- that our lives, transformed by the gospel, would be what God desires and plans for them to be.  That we become the masterpiece of God (see Eph. 2:10) That like little children wanting to please our Father, this happens, we really can, for the power of the Holy Spirit empowers us, even as God’s promises to us, happen because of Christ!

This is something that amazes me, as I struggle as we all do with sin.  So much like Paul I want to please God, but feel I don’t – because sin seems ever present. I don’t do what I want, I do what I don’t want to do.  Yet my heart cries out to God, for I want to please Him.  There are days I know I do, but just as often, if not more, I wonder what I did for God during the day. Yet this blessing goes beyond what we are aware of, the little things we do naturally, because we are being conformed to image of Jesus. Just as there are sins we commit that we are unaware of, so there are words we do, where God directs our words, or our works, and we are unaware of it.  Yet these things – these acts of love, bring joy to the Father as well.

So my friends, know the God who blesses you, and be amazed at what He empowers and transforms your life into – the actions and words that will bless others.

And remember to pray such for those around you, that they two would share in this blessing!

And know and rejoice in this most of all – for God to promise and bless you in this way… means that the Lord is with you!

 

God Blesses


(Twice a year, the three congregations that use our facility combine for one incredible service.  People who were born in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia as well North America God has gathered here…. The entire service is in both English and Mandardin and people are welcome to pray during the prayer times during the Creed and the Lord’s prayer in their own language.  Sometimes the songs alternate languages, sometimes the song is sun simultaneously in Mandarin and English.  I was very blessed to have an incredible translator work alongside me today, helping me deliver this sermon.  Cindy’s translation will be up later.
All praise to God, who brings us through all challenges, and unites us in worship. AMEN. 

God Blesses!

Matthew 5:1-12

In Jesus Name 

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in us the trust to know that He has blessed us, and the patience to wait for that blessing to be revealed!

God Blesses….

The English Translation of our gospel reading this morning from the New Living Translation adds a small three-letter word that the older translations assumed we would read into the passage.

Yet it is critical we hear that word, it makes all the difference in the world.

The word is “God”.

For it is God who blesses.  It is His blessing, His favor, His healing, His touch on our lives. The word in Greek for blessing is one that is used only for divine, supernatural blessing.  Not just luck, or coincidence, but the touch of God’s hand in our life.

In this life many are crushed by sin, and the world’s pressures crush many of us as well.  The pressure might be financial pressure, or challenges with physical health, psychological health, it could be family issues or even anxiety over death. Pressures that Satan is trying to use to crush us and humble us….

God comes to us, even in those places… and God Blesses.

God Blesses us, (pause)  and God desires to bless all of those outside of this place… even blessing them through us.

It is God, who would bless us all, and that is what we are here to celebrate… AMEN?

Why can’t we always see it?

This is more challenging than it sounds though.  More challenging for a simple reason we see when we slowly read verses 4- 9 slowly. When we see what is common to all.
It says God blesses those, (or Blessed are they) and then it describes people caught in a challenging situation.

Those who mourn,

Those who have been humbled,

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice…. Which means they haven’t seen it, yet. 

Those who have had to show mercy… which means they have been brutally sinned against.

Those whose hearts are pure, which means they have been tempted and either overcome the temptation, or been cleansed of the sin when they failed…

God blesses those who work to make real peace. Not covering up or hiding that which divides people from each other, but those who actually engage the problem and try to reconcile people together.

Each of us, caught in those situations are blessed.  God blesses us.

We rejoice in that!  We truly do.

The challenge appears when we look at how God will bless them.  The challenge is that word I just said.

Will.

God will bless them as He comforts them, as He gives them the earth, as He satisfies their craving for justice and righteousness.  God will show them mercy and they will see Him and they will be called His children.

Will.  Future tense. Something that does not always appear to us yet!  Even though it is promised to be reality. Even though it is reality. Even though God already blesses us, we do not always see it in the moment.

That causes a problem with most of us, as patience is not always something to admit we can exercise.

We want to see healings now, we want the heartaches to fade away in a moment, we do not want to hear we might have to work at our relationships and that being merciful requires to interact with those we need to show mercy towards.

Knowing we are blessed by God is now, realizing how God Blesses us, that may take time, and lot of faith and patience.  It takes remembering who it is that blesses us.  It takes remembering that God does not break promises, He doesn’t change His mind and what He has done, He has done.

God Blesses…  He always blesses us, He always does.  Guaranteed.

Even when we struggle to see the blessing, Even when we struggle to see Him.

He is with us. The Lord is with you!

Except for the two “is”

So how do we deal with the time when we have to be patient, when we have to trust in God that we will receive the blessings, the comfort, our hunger and thirst for righteousness quenched?

We need to look to the two blessings that are not in the future tense. The promised blessing for those poor in spirit, for those who are persecuted for being just, mistreated for living in Christ, for living life in view of God’s desire that all should come to know Him, to be granted repentance, to be transformed.

You see the two beatitudes tell us we’ve become part of the Kingdom of God.  We are in Him, His reign over us is now.  Brought into a relationship where God is our Lord, our Master, we have been made His children. He has made promises, bound Himself covenant promises to us.

You see, God being our Lord is an awesome thing.  That means He has committed to us in a relationship and dwells with us, working on us, in us, and yes through us to reach the world, to reach Cerritos and all in this area.

In Biblical times there was more an obligation on the Lord, than the servant, just like there is more obligation on the parent than on the child. God commits to us in ways that go beyond our understanding… but that is okay, He is God.

It is the Master’s responsibility to care for the servant, His obligation to provide for them and assure their welfare, just as it is parents responsibility to care for their children.  Not our wants, but our needs, and always n His wisdom, which is pure and holy and loving.

We have been brought into the Kingdom of God.
We’ve been brought into the relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That is why the Father sent Jesus to be our blessing.  Why Jesus came and defined each of these blessings.

Why he became poor in spirit, allowing sin to crush Him.

Why He mourned over all the people of God as He mourned over Jerusalem

Why He chose to be humbled and He hungered and thirsted for righteousness so much He died to see that hunger satisfied, He humbled Himself and became a servant to the point of death as Paul writes to the Phillipian Christians.

That is what all these blessings are about, it is what the Kingdom of God is about.  God’s love for us, His uniting Himself to us through the death of Christ.  The mercy of God shown to us, the way in which are hearts are purified even though we have sinned, as He worked to make peace for us, peace with us, for He is the Son of God.

We are blessed, because we are united to Jesus, to His death, to His resurrection.  We have been brought to Christ, marked as His, as has every believer, everyone who trusts in Him. It doesn’t matter if we are from Germany or Taiwan, from Boston or the Philippines, or from South America or Africa or you are a native California.  It doesn’t matter whether we are 6 months old, or 6 years old or 100 years old, God has called us into a relationship to care for us, to provide for us, to heal our souls and make us His children. He brings us into this relationship and commits to us…

He commits to bless us, to be our God, to be our Lord, to be our Father.  

To bless us.

Today we celebrate All Saints Day, we look back at the saints who God has blessed in the past, we realize that He has blessed us and is blessing us, and we know He will bless the next generation of Concordia and Passion.  For He has always done this, He has always taken care of His people, His children.

Even when we struggle to realize it.

For God is always faithful.  He can be counted on, for all of the blessings we find in scripture, including one last one I would leave you with one final blessing, from today’s reading… a look at the day when all of the blessings are fully revealed

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

that’s us, and here is the blessing…

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne

and serve him day and night in his Temple.

And he who sits on the throne

will give them shelter.

16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;

they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.

17 For the Lamb on the throne

will be their Shepherd.

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.

And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

May it be that we, to whom this blessing speaks, and our children and children’s children, both physical and those children who come to faith as God works through us, may it be that we all realize we dwell secure in His peace… the unsurpassable peace of God.  For it is there we dwell, for we are in Christ, and He guards our hearts and minds in that peace.

AMEN?

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