Blog Archives

Who is asking, “Come Stand by Me” A sermon based on Acts 16:9-15

Our worship service and the sermon

Who is Asking,
“Come, Stand by Me”
Acts 16:9-15

† I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear those who cry out for someone to stand by them, even as the Holy Spirit stands with you!

The Vision – Mission Impossible!

A long.. long time ago there was a television show that every week started with a line like this.

“You mission Jim, should you choose to accept it….and then after describing int, ended with, “As always, should you and any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.  This tape will…. (self-destruct in 5 seconds.)

In the reading from Acts this morning, the Apostle Paul gets a similar message.  Not on tape that self-destructs, but in a dream, a vision from God that is so clear, that Paul and his team of missionaries knew it was God calling them to tell the people about God’s love and mercy.

The vision of a man crying out for help, pleading with them, “Come over to us and help us!”

In Greek, that is two simple words, Paraclete – to call alongside to help someone stay standing– and boetheo – a word used to describe a doctor’s rushing to come to the aid of someone mortally wounded. 

I hope we realize that St. Paul isn’t the only one given that mission, to go over and stand by people, to lift them up and help them find healing.

It is our mission, too! 

The Lady

Like the crew on Mission Impossible, which for 49 missions included Captain Spock by the way, Paul and his band of merry missionaries get to their destination.  They look for people who are searching for God, who are searching for hope.

They find someone who deals with the most expensive cloth, who cuts it and sews it.  This is Armani of her day, or Michael Kors, and she dealt with the kind of folk who she dressed up for the ancient Grammy’s or Academy Awards.

Not the kind of person that you would encounter at most small churches, but there she was, praying and hoping for an answer.  Like many people, she tried to worship God, but wasn’t clear who that God was.

As Paul started to share about Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened her heart, and she accepted it, the Greek says she held for dear like to what Paul was saying.

It’s like the story I read of a priest yesterday.  He encountered a young man who was struggling with heroin addiction.  They spent the night in the sanctuary, all night long, thinking about the Lord’s Supper, about the Body broken for this young man.  The priest described him holding onto the altar so tightly he thought he left his nail marks in it. 

And that is the way Lydia received the revelation of God love for her.

Except she wasn’t someone we would normally think of being that “needy”, that desperate, that amazed at finding out something we probably take for granted all too often.

That God loves us.
Oddly enough, Lydia, after Paul baptizes her and all her household (which includes her employees by the way, uses the word Parakaleo when she asks Him to come and stay at her home.

She’s not being hospitable, she realizes she and her household needs continual help to start growing in the faith. There is a sense of desperation in it, as her begging forces them to agree to stay there.

The Church and Apathy about its Mission

How do I know we take our mission for granted? 

How many people do we hear calling for help, whether they are the foreigner trying to adjust to living here, or the homeless guy, or the rich people we don’t think would bother with the likes of us?

How many of them do we hear cry for help and then take the time to respond to their cries for help?

I think we need to realize that not hearing them, not seeing their need is to sin, breaking the second commandment.  For we need to use the Name of God in those situations, sharing with these people in need the love of God, revealing to them His mercy, and His abiding presence. 

The need Him, and we need to remember this mission became our in our baptism, and we take it on every time we greet each other with God’s peace, and when we leave this sanctuary.

No-disavowal here

You know, I always wondered why they called it Mission: Impossible. 

Do you ever remember them failing one of their missions?  Ever?

They just kept solving mission after mission, week after week.

Our real life mission, while a little more difficult, is even more possible.

God doesn’t threaten us by saying He will disavow any knowledge of us, should we fail.

His call to us to go alongside and reveal to people His love and mercy includes His power, as the Holy Spirit empowers our work, and ensures it all works out for good for those who love God, for those He calls according to His purpose, His will.

Sure it may take a while to help some people see His love – but the days and years and decades are worth it. 

For while we are on this mission, Jesus promises He will never abandon us, that He walks with us, that we are united with Him, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us in our failings, as we are cleansed of our sins.
This is our mission.  To share with people.

The Lord is with you!

And that because He is risen,….. (We are risen indeed – and they are part of the “we”)

And therefore, invite all whose lives cry out for someone to Come, stand by them, to enter into the peace of God, the peace you experience, even though it more that you could ever describe, the peace in which you are guarded, heart and mind, by Christ Jesus. 

AMEN!

His Mysterious Plan: A sermon on Ephesian 3:1-12

His Mysterious Plan
Ephesians 3:1-12

† In Jesus Name †


 May the grace of God our Father help you see your role in the church, as God displays His wisdom, found in the mystery of His eternal plan carried out through Jesus Christ our Lord!

A mysterious plan

As this sermon will be translated in to Mandarin, I decided to look into how to translate the word mystery.  It is one of those words, that doesn’t translate easily, there could be at least 4 ways to translate it.

The Cambridge-English dictionary suggested clarifying what is meant in our usage of the word mystery. What comes closest to my understanding of the Greek word is this option:  †

“something strange or not known, that has not yet been explained, or understood”  Another way to phrase it would be an enigma, and in this case, a divine enigma. 

Oddly enough, the word google translate suggest is Chinese is 谜, pronounced “Me” ( Mi)

So “Me” is a mystery and an enigma.

Makes sense in English!

But we are talking about God’s mystery today, this plan that has been in existence since before time began.  A secret which Paul would reveal, which is still challenging for us to comprehend, and it is still a challenge for us to use in our lives.

Not revealed? Kept secret?

Twice in this passage, Paul mentions that his mystery, this plan of God that is not yet completely known or understood was kept secret.  In verse 5 he says,  

 God did not reveal it to previous generations,

And then in verse 9,

I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

There is a challenge here, that we need to deal with, this idea that God hides His mystery, that God doesn’t lay out His entire plan for us to deal with, for us to accept, for us to know.

That doesn’t just sound right, after all, shouldn’t God just be completely honest with us?  Why wasn’t He completely transparent with His people?  Why where His plans such a mystery? 

There is tendency in mankind to want to know, to understand, but along with that we want to be able to raise questions, to criticize, to help adjust the plans.  We want to be advisors to God, and we see that throughout history. 

Peter did this, when Jesus talked about the cross, and Jesus called Peter Satan, and told him to get lost.

We do it now, when we choose to give in to temptation, when we decide to sin, when we choose to ignore God’s commands, especially the two great commands,

To Love God with all our heart, soul and mind

To love our neighbor as ourselves.

Every time we do something that Is not loving, every time we sin, we tell God that we don’t trust Him.  How much more would we have done this, if we knew everything from the beginning?
The plan – all united in Christ

So God didn’t share the plan, but now He has.  And it is about that very thing, loving God and loving those people God brings into our lives.,

To bring us all into this incredible relationship where God is our Father, where we all become one body in Christ.

Where we all share in the riches that we have, because we are the children of God, the endless treasures of God’s grace and love.

For we dwell in Christ, united to each other, even as we are united to Him, at the cross.

That is why the cross is the center of the plan, for Paul will tell the church in Rome and the church in Colossae that we were united to Christ at His death on the cross, so that we could be brought to life with and in Him, when He rose from the dead.

And as we are all united to Him, we find ourselves united to each other.  Jewish person, Gentile person, Taiwanese, those of European extraction, Mainland Chinese, Filipino, people from South America, or Africa, or India or Indonesia. 

We are all one in Christ, that was the mystery that Paul revealed, the plan we needed.  For we needed to see what the cross would make possible. That cleansed of all sin, restored and reconciled in our relationship with God

The fulfillment of the plan – we come boldly

Every plan has a final goal, a final measurement when you know the work is done.

Even those plans that seem vague, have that moment when everything becomes known, when everything becomes clear.

In this case, the plan’s goal, is stated clearly in verse 12. 

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

So now you see God’s ultimate goal, the reason for everything He has planned. 

That we would be able to confidently dwell in the presence of God.  

No fear

no guilt

No shame

no doubt

Just simply dwelling with Him, find comfort and rest in His presence, depending on Him to guide us, and take care of us.


For that is what it means to have faith, to depend on God completely, no longer hidng behind illusions, but to trust God with everything…

For He is our God


And we, we are all His people!  AMEN!

Faith in Action is Active in Christ (The Faith in Action Finale) A sermon on Jude 20-25

The Church Service!

Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
Jude 20-25

In Jesus Name

May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!

Faith in Action…

Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like.  We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue.  We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step.  Faith in action learns to be content.  We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.

Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.

For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”

Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”

For that is how “faith in action” is active.  It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.

The Evidence of Faith in Action

You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.

The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.

Look at the things we are called to do,

To build up each other in our most holy faith.  In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God.  A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.

To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy.  To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.

Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering.  Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.

We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that.  Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort.  That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.

And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves.  It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.

This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment.  That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate.  Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.

The need for caution

In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives.  As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices.  The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God.  The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.

Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination.  To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.

We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way

24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24(NLT2)

We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin.  Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.

He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.

Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN!

 

If I Only Had A Fork

If I Only Had a Fork!

Luke 14:1-14

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you rejoice at the thought of a meal, knowing it is a foretaste of the most wonderful of feast, that you’ve been invited to…

A portable feast…

Last Sunday, on the way back from dropping off our trailer in Hemet, we stopped in Riverside for dinner.  I was kind of tired, and ate less than half my dinner, but it was so good, I had them pack up the rest to bring it home.  It didn’t make it.

There was a man in the parking lot, and as we left, he asked if we had any money for food.  He didn’t look homeless necessarily, and as my first thoughts doubted his sincerity, I decided to test him, and asked him if what he really wanted was food.

A simple nod, and I was hooked, I handed over the cashew nut chicken….

He didn’t even look me in the eyes as he said thanks, and quickly took off across the mall parking lot.

As we drove through the parking lot, I didn’t see him until we got to the street at the light.  There he was, sitting on the curb devouring the food with his hands, oblivious to how sticky and messy it was…..

If I had only known how hungry, if I had only known how desperate,

Then the light turned green, and as I pulled out onto the road and then onto the freeway, I struggled with my thoughts, I could have got him a drink, or a gift card for more food – or at least a fork.

The challenge

As people entered the rabbi’s house, their neighbor was in severe discomfort.  I assume no one tried to help him, not one asked Jesus if he would heal this man.  Instead they rushed to find a place to recline, close to the host, and able to easily hear the conversations between him and this guest, this wandering miracle worker.

Why didn’t they ask the miracle worker to care for their friend?  Why was their first priority to make sure they got the best seat, the freshest coffee, the perfect donut?

Are you and I any better?

Do we rush by people, seeking to talk to someone else? Are we more concerned with getting to “our place”

Jesus also talked about who we invite over, or those we go out with, do we only invite those who can invite us back?  Its the same thing – not that we should be hospitable, but that we have agendas going, agendas that serve ourselves, but also cause us to look past those struggling around us….

It’s a question about why we are here really, are we hear to love God and those He brings in our lives, or do we live to serve ourselves?

I encountered that question in my devotions yesterday, as the author wrote,

“They confuse renewal (God’s work in our lives, healing us) with comfort.”

And often we do this – and get upset with God when things aren’t as comfortable as we would want.

Sometimes it is better to be uncomfortable, if in doing so, we understand the incredible love of God that we see revealed in the life of Jesus.  As He embraced discomfort to care for people, for us.

The Invite

As we consider the lesson – the idea of stopping to care for the broken, the being humble and taking a seat in the servant’s area, and in inviting those who can’t pay you back, we see Jesus being not only one speaking this, but living it.

He doesn’t just stop to heal the man with edema, as He came to the cross, he came to die to heal you and me.  His blood, poured out on the cross brings healing to our brokenness.

He didn’t run to the top spot, to lose the world, but he became a servant, and God the father would call him to sit at His side, He embraced the servant’s role, the life lived in the poor section, to minister to you and I, to care for us, to make sure we knew we are invited to the feast in heaven, even at the cost of his death, and that death on the cross.
He is our host, He says we belong here – with Him.  He shares His life with us, even as the Father makes us co-heirs with Christ.

When Jesus offers us a feast – when he says, “

Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, from the creation of the world!”

That’s what He is talking about here, and making sure, than in our desire to be there, we leave no one behind.

What a Blessing!

In the original division of the readings the gospel reading stopped at verse 14.

One of the nice things about doing our own bulletins, is I get to fix it, when I think they made it too long, or in this case , too short.

Let’s read verse 15 together,

15  Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

There is a man hungry enough for God’s kingdom that he wouldn’t care if he had a fork or not!  It’s time to dig in…

 Because of Jesus – that is you and I are attending that banquet, and in a moment, we get a little taste of it.

We’re invited, we been saved and healed and we’ve got great seats, and even a fork!

AMEN!

Our Confident Hope of Real Life IN HIM! A Sermon on Col 1:1-11

The Simple Christian Life – Love, HOPE, Faith

Our Confident Hope of Real Life IN HIM!

 In Jesus Name

May your eyes be opened more and more to the reality of your life in Christ, as you know the transformation found in God’s peace.

What is Real?

Paul, in the words to the Colossian Christians, gives them something to think about, something to spiritually chew on.

He tells them that they don’t know what reality is, that what they think is real, the things of earth, those things are not real. What is real is found in what we can’t see, the life we have in Christ.

You’ve heard about people who are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good?  Paul says we’ve got that wrong – we are good, when our eyes are on Christ, when we realize that our reality could be phrased as this…..

Alleluia!  He is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

And therefore?  ( We Are Risen Indeed!)

And since you have been raised to your new life in Christ, then it’s time to redefine what is truly reality – to understand that our life is in Christ, that it is not subject to the things of earth.

That sounds easier than it is, to live a life that is holy and as righteous as God would have us be, as God sees us.
But the struggle to be holy, can be frustrating, and if we go about it wrong, we will fail, giving up as we don’t see the growth we think God expects.

But when we understand what it means to dwell on the things of heaven, this transformation makes sense.

What needs to be stripped away

The first thing is to understand that since we have been baptized, the sin which can so easily ensnare us is has been defeated – we have been cleansed of it, the sin we commit and the unrighteousness that affects us.

That is why Paul says “since you’ve been raised to new life”  Since – it has already happened.  But we need to understand it, with our head, but even more with our heart and soul.  Which means we aren’t looking at those sins we’ve committed, we aren’t dwelling on the unrighteousness that affects us.

I can’t see any of us arguing for the list of unrighteousness Paul notes, Let’s look at it again.  Do any of you want to be affected by these things, or the consequences of them?

Sexual immorality,

impurity, or basically being unclean
Evil and what it causes us to crave

Greed?  (Which Paul properly identifies as idolatry – to serve that which we can’t take our eyes or hearts off of)

uncontrolled emotions

malicious behavior – having the intent by word or deed to try and destroy someone.

Slander – that is denigrating speech – whether it is true or not, saying things which will hurt the character of another person,

Filthy language

The list isn’t exhaustive, it simply helps us understand what this world does to us, what sin causes us to do.  How it breaks us, even when what starts out with good intent turns, and a desire for justice turns into a desire for revenge.  Looking at something special turns into coveting, envy and a desire to get something for less.  Frustration turns into gossip – and then slander, because we can’t figure out how to trust God and care for those who are difficult

It is as if these things are struggling for control of our life What a struggle that seems at times!  Paul, talking of that struggle to the church in Rome declared himself a wretch.
Where is our hope?  Where is this hope – our confident hope for this new life?

Remember the Since at the beginning of the readings?

Where it said, “Wince you have been raised to new life in Christ?  The answer begins there.

and in verse 10, putting on the new nature – or as one translation describes it – getting dressed like Christ.

Put on New Nature = Live in Christ

Look at verse 10,

 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

The renewal that happens in your life and in mine happens to us, as we come to know God our creator.  Knowing God who creates and restores us, making us become like Him.  As Paul urged the church,


I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!
Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

How wide, how deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know that love ourselves, love so far beyond comprehension, and may you be filled through all your being, with God himself

That is the same concept as setting your mind on things above –

Spend the time necessary thinking of the love shown you here – at the font when Christ died for you, and you were joined to that death.

To the place where you will kneel and again – be a participant, not just an observer and receive the Body broken for you, the blood spilled to cleanse you of your sin.  Know the power of sin was shattered there, as you begin to comprehend His love, it changes you… you become like Him, as He transforms you.  This is what is real, this is where our focus of life needs to be.

Being holy isn’t done by sheer will, but recognition of need, and the wonder and awe that comes from seeing that need met.

God loves you…loves you enough to unite you to His son.

The son who, alleluia is risen!

and therefore

AMEN

%d bloggers like this: