His Mysterious Plan
† 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
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, †
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
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
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
And as we are all united to Him, we find ourselves united
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.
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!
Devotional Thought of the day!
15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (ASV)
365 You became very thoughtful when you heard me say: I want the blood of my Mother the Church to run in my veins; not Alexander’s, or Charlemagne’s, nor that of the Seven Sages of Greece.
When human time is no longer tuned to God’s time, it becomes repetitive, boring, unbearable, infinitely long or too short and, what is worse, deadly “times.”
Economic deadlines, for instance, do not consider hunger or the lack of schools for children or the unhappy situation of the elderly. Technology produces a kind of time so instantaneous and full of images that it does not let the hearts and minds of young people mature. Political time often seems circular like a carousel where the free-ring ride is always taken by the same people.
As I read the words of Pope Francis this morning (the words in green) the phrase “redeeming the time” came to my mind.
Too often we lose time, worrying about things like our personal economic situations, or by those in the world. By political maneuverings, by wasting time on technological pursuits.
Our time isn’t tuned to God’s time, and I don’t think that Pope Francis is exaggerating when he talks of such time becoming deadly. Such time lost is dead, whether it is stolen by anxiety, or wasted in pursuit of some escape.
It’s gone, we can’t get it back, and even if we did, would we make the most of it this time?
Most modern translations don’t talk about “redeeming the time”, they talk about making the most of it. But looking at the word in greek, it is definitely redeeming, of buying it back, to pay the ransom to see it returned.
That may seem impossible, we can’t go back in time, we can’t purchase the time machine. It seems more logical, what the modern translations advising us to make the most of the time we have in front of us.
Except that isn’t what it says. It talks of redeeming the time, not just the present, or preparing to do so for the future, but redeeming the past. And in context with the light of Christ, His glory shining upon us, revealing all.
And in that glorious light of Christ’s love, we can find our pasts redeemed, the sin and unrighteousness that cause our brokenness touched and healed. We begin to see that even there, in the past, God is able to use that past for good, because that is what He does. Redeeming the time isn’t about our making the nest of the future, it is about letting Christ has our past, our present our future.
FOr He is the God of Abraham, and Issac and Jacob, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end. And as we allow Him to redeem the time in our lives, free of what haunts us, we find an amazing thing.
He is with us, now
I added in the comment by St Josemaria, this idea of the blood of the church running through our veins, rather than the blood of leaders, or the wise. But rather the blood of the church, Christ’s blood, poured out to redeem everything, to create everything anew. That is where we begin to realize this, in those moments of sweet communion, when God simply reminds us that Jesus died…for us.
So redeemed the time… let God have it, and watch what he does with it.
Even last Monday.
God’s peace flow over you my friend…know He is with
question for you to consider (and even answer)
What is the challenge of letting God bring healing to your past?
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1677-1679). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Let Nothing You Dismay
May the mercy of God of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so clearly revealed, that when you have strayed into disobedience and sin, you simply remember the promise and return, knowing He will cleanse you from all sin and unrighteousness. AMEN!
There are words that we hear God speak through Malachi this evening that are brutally scary.
“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?
That’s a hard question, will you be able to face God when he appears? When he brings our the Law and compares your life against it? Will you be ready?
Or will you be one of those who Jesus spoke of, when Matthew records,
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
Matthew 7:21 (NLT2)
While my head knows I can count on God’s grace, my heart and soul struggle to hear those words. And it gets scarier,
At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I wonder if we have lost a healthy fear of God, a fear that drives us to Him, to ask for the mercy He has promised us?
Or do we just keep dwelling in our sin, in the guilt and shame that drives us into the ground?
You see, our fear of God shouldn’t drive us away from Him, but it should drive us toward him. That is what God is talking about through Malachai when he says,
God doesn’t Change
6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them.
We have to understand that about God, that while he abhors the sin, He doesn’t hate us. He wants to be in a relationship with us, not destroyed for what we have done, and what we’ve not done. A healthy fear of God realizes that He is patient and merciful, and has always intended to be.
That’s why he hasn’t wiped us out and destroyed us, pouring out His wrath upon us.
He has never wanted to, it is not what He desires, and so He is patient, waiting for us to remember the promise and return.
Here is that promise,
Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Return to me, and I will return to you! What a promise, what a God who promises not to leave us alone in the midst of our brokenness, but promises forgiveness, cleansing and healing!
The people of that day struggled, they ask how they could return when they never left.
We don’t have to do that, we know that He wants us to return, so we don’t have to play that game. We see how much He wants us return, as we think about Jesus coming into the flesh, dwelling with us, teaching us about the love of God then demonstrating it on the cross.
Return to me He says, and so we do, as we move into our time of confession, knowing God will be faithful to forgive us…knowing that He will return to us.
Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
† 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.
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.
Faith in Action….is Blessed!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ open your mind to see how God has, and is, and will bless you! AMEN!
The Shopping List
If you were going to start a new project, part of the process is making sure you have the material you need to complete the project.
Whether it is making a fancy dinner, or building a shed, or, in our case, building the church.
You need to make sure you have everything you need because once you are started, stopping to go get a missing peace slows down the process, and could even require you to start all over.
The reading from the gospel of Matthew this morning provides such a shopping list.
Matthew lays out the kind of people we need to build the Church.
Not just the service in Mandarin, or the service in English, and not even Concordia.
But the Church throughout the world.
These blessed people are the components to the Church, and a church that contains such people very simply grows.
Are we so described?
So if we are going to look at Concordia, as a part of the church, let’s see how we do.
In the English translation we use, the first item is, “those who are poor and realize their need for God.” Do we have such people?
Do we have people that continually see their need for God, and desire to dwell in His presence?
What about people who mourn and grieve.
Not just because we have lost someone, but also because of the brokenness in the world, and in our lives?
Are we all humble? Are we all meek and willing to deal with people in a caring manner, not being competitive or angry?
Do we all hunger and thirst for justice? Real justice, not just justice that favors us?
Do we all show mercy?
And how many of us can say our hearts are pure, that we never ever sin, or even think sinful thoughts? Or who work for peace in every situation?
We could go on and talked about the rest of the checklist, but it looks like we are already falling short of who we need to see the God designed built.
There might be a few people here who meet one of the checkboxes, but none of us meet all of them.
I also am pretty sure that there are some boxes, especially the mercy and pure in heart that has no boxes checked,
We are blessed!
But what if we are looking at the wrong thing to check off? What if, instead of what we are described as, we find the box to check off is the “being blessed”?
As an example, we can find people who are blessed because God has shown them comfort.
We can find people who are blessed because they have been shown mercy,
We can find people who have become pure, because their blessing is having seen, having encountered God.
Now the passage takes on a whole different perspective.
It focuses on the work of God.
It focuses on the blessing.
As we and every person in the church should focus upon.
God’s work, God’s blessing, poured out on us!
Those who are poor and need His presence (all of us!) are blessed
Those who grieve and mourn… are blessed
Those who have nothing, but will inherit everything… are blessed
Those who need and desire justice… are blessed
Those who need mercy… are blessed
We are blessed by God, we know His presence, His comfort, his justice.
The Greatest blessing
You see, that is what makes the Church grow,
It is what will make Concordia, both the multi-cultural ministry in English, the ministry in Mandarin thrive and the Tagalog ministry grow.
It isn’t because of how intelligent, charismatic and good-looking your ministers are.
(And that’s probably a good thing! )
The reason a church grows, or the Church grows, is when it realizes how God has blessed every single one of us.
When we realize we have received mercy, and we are satisfied by God’s justice.
When we realize we will inherit the whole earth, and the Kingdom of God. When we realize we have been comforted, when we realize we shall see God,
These are the blessings poured out on us, even as Jesus was loving us and dying for us on the cross.
Even as our sins were paid for, and cleansed from our souls.
Even as we are given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the glory of God.
this is who we are, those who depend on God, and trust in Him, for we know..
We are blessed!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 Then the word of the LORD of Hosts came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh months for these 70 years, did you really fast for Me? 6 When you eat and drink, don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves? l 7 Aren’t these the words that the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and secure, m along with its surrounding cities, and when the southern region and the Judean foothills were inhabited?” Zechariah 7:4-7 HCSB
Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things e have passed away. Rev. 21:-3-4 HCSB
Speaking with God must be a progression in and for ourselves—a progression in the literal sense of the word, that brings us forward, that moves us toward God and away from ourselves.
Many Christians have a routine for how they relate to God. For some, it is a walk, every day meeting Him, and traveling with Him. For others, it is a weekly, thing, as they pray with others on Sunday and Wednesday night. Some only react to God when facing a challenge.
While I would desire that all interact with God more and more, it is not just the amount of time invested that matters. It is also about how we interact with Him. The prophet Zechariah writes of this, as the words of God are given through the prophet to challenge us all.
Why do we pray, fast, go to church and Bible study? Is it just to feel good about ourselves? Is it just to appease our own feelings of guilt or inadequacy? Is it just to be assured that we won’t spend eternity in hell?
Or is it because of the glorious promise we see in Revelation. When we shall dwell with God, in all of His glory! Is it because, having seen revealed in part how much God loves us, we need to explore it, we need to adore Him, we find ourselves craving His presence? For as we find we are loved, that unbelievable fact must be explored, its height, its depth, its width, and breadth. We want to experience it more, no, we need to!
This transformation we need to be patient with, it needs to be nurtured, it needs to be guided. This journey happens in community, it is the nature of communion. It ebbs and flows, and this means we need to look out for each other and be there for each other. For it is to easy to be dragged away by the cares of the world, it is too easy to be trip and fall off the path (one of the definitions of is exactly that!)
And yet it happens, as we look to the end of the journey, as our hope is found in God’s promise that He will draw us to Him. As prayer, speaking and hearing God causes that progression, and the Holy Spirit’s presence assures us, comforts us and enables us to see God’s love.
Prayer isn’t important in and of itself Every religion prays, even atheists. Gathering with people to study religious doctrine doesn’t either, every religion does that, including those who are agnostics, or secularists. What makes the difference is the loving God who loves us is who draws us to pray, to commune together, to celebrate the love which drove Jesus to cross, looking forward to the eternal relationship cleansing us from sin would bring.
It’s all about the end, the end which is a glorious, wonderful moment, when we see God face to face!
Lord Jesus, help us to encourage each other, as the day of Your return draws closer, as the Holy Spirit draws us closer, and into the relationship that You have with the Father. Help us to do the things we do, adoring You more and more, as we realize Your love for us. AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 344). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Faith in Action: Knows
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest! AMEN!
People who have faith need to pray
I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,
How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)
Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.
It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.
As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary. He is our peace.
The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God
Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.
Obstacles to knowing God
I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.
It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm. It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.
Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…
Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.
Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right! (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )
And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.
Is such anxiety sin? If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.
You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not. And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.
The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.
So how does this happen?
Come and see the glorious works
There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.
Come and see the glorious works of the Lord! See how he brings destruction upon the world!
The first part seems like a great invitation. Observing God’s glorious works! How awesome! How incredible! Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.
And then I get the second half and go “wait…
BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD? WHAT?
Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?
I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?
I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?
Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.
But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.
That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,
4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)
It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….
Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us. In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…
That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.
As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.
And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.
And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him! AMEN!
Faith in Action:
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
1.6 Billion dollars…. For what?
On Friday, I stopped by the local 7-11.
The parking lot was full, there were three clerks working instead of the usual one. There were people in line, and another line over in the corner, waiting for little pieces of paper to make little marks that they would put their hope in…
Seriously, putting all your hope in some little marks on a piece of paper.
And they will do it again this week, looking for a change in life because of that piece of paper, those little marks. Enough people doing so that the Lottery can easily put less than half the money back, and still raise the prize some 600 million dollars.
Some people buy those tickets out of curiosity, others buy them in despair and desperation. There was one guy, running through the “have you won scanner” what looked like 50 such pieces of paper.
I wonder how many of them realize what Solomon said some 3000 years ago,
10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!
We aren’t going to find contentment in things, we can only find contentment in something we have more than enough of…. But how do we realize it?
The Idol of Wealth
Solomon talked of reasons why wealth doesn’t breed contentment. The reasons it doesn’t bring happiness, why it doesn’t provide a beautiful life. I mean these reasons aren’t rocket science,
- You can never have enough. (Solomon would know!)
- The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.
- You can watch it slip through your fingers
- Investments can sour, and the money is lost
- We eventually end up the way we started, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
- You can’t take your riches with you
- You don’t make a lasting impact on the world.
And yet, we will, as a country spend 3 or 4 billion dollars on the lottery. And we still won’t find contentment, even the one who wins.
Or we will struggle and put ourselves into debt, trying to get the right college education, or the right career options, playing all the games and work our fingers to the bone, trying to get ahead.
And we won’t find contentment.
But that won’t stop us chasing wealth, riches, fame, and all its accouterments. For we make these things our idols, we put our hope in them, thinking that if only we get the right numbers for the lottery, the perfect job, or health plan, the perfect home or spouse and family, everything will be okay, and we can finally be content.
But idols can’t buy happiness, even if we could gain them all. But Solomon, the richest, wisest man of his day, tells us we can never get enough. Our hunger will never be removed, the idols will just hold out their empty promise… and we will line up to give them what we’ve worked so hard for in life
it’s like chasing the wind. Except that we do it all too often.
There is an option, there is a gift that God gives us, the result of the gift is seen in verse 19,
To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.
He says it there, whether you are the CEO or the janitor, there are people who find contentment in their work and their life because they realize it is a gift of God.
That’s hard for us to understand, hard for us to deal with at times. Doesn’t God realize what He’s putting us through? Doesn’t he realize the pain, the grief, the anxiety that comes with our lot in life, this place He’s put us in? Doesn’t He know our struggles?
Yeah, he does, and that is why Solomon says finding contentment is a gift.
A supernatural gift, and ability that isn’t natural to us, but divine grace that is poured over us, allowing us to find the beauty in our lives, to find that elusive contentment.
A contentment that comes as we have faith in Him, as we grow in our trust and dependence on Him. As we go to him with our failures and sins, as we abandon the idols that cannot bring us contentment, and we hear Him, welcoming us into His presence.
That is what the cross and the resurrection is all about, to free us to live in the presence of God, a presence where all our troubles are taken from us, as God promises us life everlasting in His presence. For there, in the presence of God, we find how incredibly He loves us, a love we are told every week this year that we can’t understand, but that we can experience, and we do.
Contentment, true happiness, or having what in Hebrew can be translated best as “the beautiful life” comes not what we have in terms or worldly value. It comes from finding out we are loved, loved beyond measure. Loved even when we failed to love in return, as God picks us off the ground, saving us to Himself.
And knowing we are loved changes everything, adding color to a gray landscape caught in the darkness before dawn. Bringing life that is gloriously eternal to a life that was once going to end with nothing.
And with our eyes on Him, on the Lord who loves us, we come to know that life Is incredibly beautiful, a life in which we find contentment, a life in which we dwell in the incredible peace of God…..
And so I end with the prayer of blessing we began with….
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
66 As a consequence of this, many of his disciples withdrew and no longer followed him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “And are you too wanting to go away?” 68 “Lord,” answered Simon Peter, “who else should we go to? Your words have the ring of eternal life! And we believe and are convinced that you are the holy one of God.”
John 6:66-68 (Phillips NT)
Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!
It is too easy to lose hope in this world.
We can lose hope after a doctor’s visit or from balancing our checkbook. We can become dejected because of the words of a friend, or a family member, we can begin to dwell in pessimism after reading the news, and seeing the discord that is prevalent in every part of four society.
Yet, we have to have hope to survive, and we have seen incredible things that have occurred because people dwell in hope, not despair. Because they know what God has promised, and they have learned to expect God’s intercession, that God will make what is going on work for good for those who love him, who are called according to His promises.
But how is that hope created, and in view of our broken lives, our broken society and broken world, how is it nourished, sustained, how can it grow when the world hammers away at us?
In the little devotional from Pope Francis that is one of the books I use for my devotions this year, he notes the strong correlation between following Jesus and the hope we have, that we can infect the world with.
Following Jesus, letting Him accompany us, letting Him carry us, not just walking in steps 2000 years old, but walking with him today, Monday the 8th of October, and tomorrow the 9th, and the 10th, and every day from now on dwelling in His presence.
This is why the Apostle Peter would proclaim that there is nowhere else to Go, for only Jesus can provide the words that give the hope of eternity, and the joy that will come in the presence of the Father in heaven. To share in a relationship, where God the Father identifies us as His children, where Jesus identifies us as His brothers and sisters. This is the love He spoke of, and the life He invites us all to have. To learn of His mercy, to explore the dimensions of His love, to even be corrected by Him, so that we don’t drift away. This begins the hope we so desperately need.
Walking with Jesus, meditating on His love, on His sacrifice, on His resurrection which we are joined with, that provides hope. Hearing His promises, knowing that He who created everything stands behind those promises, this gives us hope.
This is what matters in life, so please, please, don’t neglect this hope, or the times of prayer and fellowship that will nourish it.
And may you know God’s peace…. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 325). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
(if you would rather see the service, and hear the sermon, it is posted on my FB page and at Concordia.org_
Matters of the Heart
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May this grace, the love and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, show you how He is transforming your heart so that you can love Him and your neighbor! AMEN!
The Gospel? Really? ( O wait = there it is …Bacon is fine!)
Passages like the gospel always bring out my sense of irony.
I mean, we read these nine verses, talking about how our vile hearts defile us, and then I get to say, “This is the gospel of the Lord!”
Using less religious language, “This is the good news that Jesus has for you!”Yeah! Good news! You are defiled because your heart is vile! Not really a balance there between Law and Gospel…this passage is 100% law. Well, Bob found some good news in it, in our deacons and pastor study Monday night. There down within the parenthesis you see it, “Every kind of food is acceptable in God’s sight!” Which means bacon and shrimp and lobster are as acceptable as broccoli or kale or that horrid pumpkin spice stuff that is invading our stores! But how do we take a passage so focused on our failure, our sin, our being defiled, and find good news there? Where is the gospel in this gospel reading?Or put another way, while this passage tells us we really need help, how do we find it? Or are we always going to be defiled by our vile hearts?
We are defiled/vulgar (but that isn’t what you think it means_
Inigo Montoya, the famous swordsman in Princess Bride, uttered these works. “You keep using that word (inconceivable). I do not think it means what you think it means!”We’ve got a couple of those words in today’s reading. The first is the word defile. It sounds like it means rotten, disgusting, horrid, sickening, to use an old word, gross.
It isn’t actually bad as bad as it sounds, though, in reality, it is worse.
It is the opposite of holy, it means common. Which was the original definition of vulgar.
Using last week’s illustration about holiness, to be set apart for a special purpose, I said Missy’s guitar was meant to play music with, not to be used as a stepping stool to change a light bulb. You defile something when you take something that has a special purpose and use it for something… far less. Say instead of using it for playing beautiful music, Missy used her guitar to move fertilizer around her parent’s backyard. That would be defiling is, making it something used for something in common.
Or imagine you are going into surgery, and you see the surgeon opening his latest package from Amazon with the same scalpel.
Our hearts’ purpose had never been to be the place of origin for sin. We were meant to be set apart, our purpose to be the people, the children of God. We were set apart to dwell in His love, and love the family of God. Sin simply wrecks that, destroying our heart and soul, making us no better than any other biological creature, controlled by physical needs and desire for pleasure.
Sin changes us, from being the children of God, and that sin comes from a heart that doesn’t recognize God. And that sin finds its origin, not in the world, but in our hearts. That is what Jesus keeps coming back too…
It is not what is us that is wrong, it’s not the bacon, it is the heart that is a glutton that causes the desire to overeat. It’s not the beauty that causes the sin, it is the uncontrolled desire for pleasure.
It is what is within us, what controls our heart, and our will that causes us to engage in sin.
The gospel – a heart transplant The OT Promise
If this is true, then what hope exists for us, in this world so oppressed by the sin which has ensnared us? What hope is there for our friends, of children, our grandchildren? If all there is to life is living without a special purpose, without reason,
We find the law in the Gospel today, so let’s look back at the Old Testament to find the gospel. If sin originates in our hearts, then what is underlined in this passage is the only way to deal with it. Let’s read it together
26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
There is our answer, a cardiac transplant. To allow God to change our heart, from the one in which sin, passed down from Adam, and which dominates our heart. Changing our heart like he did with David, making us men and women after God’s own heart, men, and women who share His desire.
This is the promise made sure in us, as it was for Ethan last week, as God pours water on us, and cleanses us from all sin, and He makes us His people.
This new heart changes us… and enables us to do things that please God, it allows us to walk with Him, and relate to Him. For as He changes our heart, as He puts His Spirit in us, we return to being holy, a people are special to Him, for we are His children!
What does this mean?
How can we believe this, I mean, we still sin, don’t we?
How can sin still come from a heart that has been changed? From a heart that is supposed to beat in rhythm with God’s own heart? The simple answer is, that sin is the old us, and as we walk closer to God, depending on Him more and more, others may see the change in us, while we never do.
I think that’s so we never stop depending on God, so we learn to run to Him when we are tempted, so we learn to run to Him, assured of His mercy and forgiveness, so that we learn to run to the God who has poured water on us, cleansed us of sin, given us a new heart, put His Spirit within us…
and who promises this as well
6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT2) Amen!