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Are You the One? A sermon on Luke 17

Are you the one?
Luke 17:11-19

† I.H.S. †

May the love of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you have to give Him thanks!

 

Are you the one?

A friend of mine asked a bunch of his preacher friends if it was possible to preach the on the gospel reading in a way that praised the man who offered thanks, without making the other nine look bad.

I considered his words as I was completing the sermon yesterday. The question impacted me enough to change up the sermon to answer it.

I don’t think you can speak of what the 1 experienced, without looking at what the 9 would miss out on, because they didn’t recognize Jesus working in their lives.

And that is the critical lesson for this day. Will you be the one whose faith will see them saved?

Or will you be the like the nine, who Jesus talked about when He said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

We need to be like the 1, and not the 9. We need more than a rescue from a real and present trauma.

We need to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, enough to see what He is doing, and value Him and His role in our life…

Law–we need healing—from sin, of memories, physical, mental, spiritual

Like many churches, this gather of lepers started out right. They gathered together to offer each other comfort and support during trauma—and leprosy was a horrid trauma they had in common.

They even reached out together to find help. I am pretty sure that Jesus was not the first rabbi they approached, begging for some assistance, any assistance.

Not sure they knew healing was in the offer…

In the same way, the church, this church, needs healings to happen. There is no doubt, and we cry out “Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!”

But what do we mean by that?

Mercy, what we call compassion which compels action to address what?

That is part of the question.

I don’t know if they were asking for financial assistance or healing, for someone to bring them food and water or take messages to their loved ones. All were things that they struggled with, cut off from the world by their disease.

And the cry for compassion – how many times had it gone unheard, never mind unanswered?

How many times have our cries for help gone unanswered by others, as we have tried to deal with those things that afflict us?

I need to be clear – their trauma wasn’t the issue here, nor were they looking for some compassionate act… those are the things the church does for each other, as we cope with our brokenness.

That part is all well and good – and they even reached out to a Rabbi—a man everyone said taught about God’s love.

So where did their sin come in?

Jesus says – Go.. for us—as we are going  – we can begin to recognize the healing

The separation occurs, as they all obey Jesus – to go show themselves to the priests… and as their bodies are made healthy…

All good so far—all great so far!

Can you imagine—if all the cancer and heart disease and arthritis was healed in our church tomorrow? Would we be excited?

Would we be off like a rocket to celebrate? To show everyone how healthy we were? I am not even sure there is a sin by action in this! Nothing they did was wrong…

Remember that sin isn’t just what we do, say or think…

It is also what we fail to do..

In this case, their sin was not recognizing God in their midst. They didn’t make the connection between heir healing and the presence of God, and so didn’t think about how they were healed…

Somehow, the Samaritan made the connection. He realized this could only be God that would make this difference in his life.

He saw God – and realized God’s compassion—and had to go back…

He had to praise and show God that he valued what God was doing in his life. That is what mattered. The relationship Jesus initiated by responding to a cry for compassion—that meant more to this man than the very healing he needed…

A relationship that Jesus acknowledges—when He tells the man stand up — your faith has SAVED YOU. Not just healed you – that is one word, this is the word for salvation, deliverance.

This is the difference—the nine had a good desire and a good request! Nothing wrong there.

But they missed it, the chance to know the love of God that makes more of a difference. Nine miss it—one sees it—and glorifies God

It probably is a good thing to define what it means to glorify something, or someone. It means to recognize the value of the thing or person that far exceeds anything else..

That is what the Samaritan, the odd man out of a group of odd men out realized. The love show to him, while he was cleansed of leprosy was something he needed more of..

And it was all his.

et’s come back and give thanks – and realize we are saved not just healed as we trust in Him.

We haven’t been cleansed of leprosy, but we’ve been cleansed of our sin.

Think on that again…they sin that would kill you spiritually, that would cause your heart and soul to rot, God cleansed you of…but for one reason.. that you would come to treasure your relationship with Him, as much as He treasures His relationship with you…

Which is why we are here… to fall to our knees, and share in Christ’s body and blood, treasuring God’s work in us, kowing it was His work.. in us. And trying to struggle out words of thanks.

For we dwell in His peace, that passes all understanding – in which we are guarded by Christ himself. AMEN!

 

An Inventory of Blessings: Peace and Comfort! A sermon on Isaiah 66:10-14

An Inventory of Our Blessings
Peace and Comfort!
Isaiah 66:10-14

† In Jesus’ Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize God’s desire that you come close to Him, and let Him give you life!

  • This is what the Lord Says!

Often, I have people, mostly unbelievers or agnostics, tell me that they picture God in two different ways.

The Old Testament God is a God of wrath, who condemns people to hell as he smites them with fire and brimstone.

Then they see a different God in the New Testament, one that is, if anything, too merciful and tolerant.

When they hear the words that we did today, “This is what the LORD says, it is with a deep dark voice, almost like Darth Vader, or James Earl Jones, with every word punctuated and emphasized, rolling out like thunder. They anticipate what follows will be a harsh lesson, a caustic disciplinary correction or worse.

THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS…..

And while hearing God’s voice may get a little uncomfortable, it is not because it is strong and harsh and demanding.

Rather, I think that is it too comforting, too intimate, and it reveals us needy as it pictures us drinking in God’s glorious love, much as an infant would be content and filled…

  • Why does this make us uncomfortable?

There is a part of us I think likes to picture God as the mean and distant authority figure, of whom it is said, “just wait until your Father gets home!”

We aren’t as comfortable with God being the nurturing, comforting God that He is compared to in these words He gave to Isaiah. Just studying the passage is Hebrew, which is far more blunt and descriptive, was overwhelming, never mind projecting that level of care and intimacy on my relationship with God! Knowing God is that close, that aware of our needs, and that willing to provide for them–no matter the mess we make, is astonishing.

More than that, it is frightening to think we can be that dependent on God.

The same God who sees the mess we make of life, which is nowhere near as nice as that baby’s diaper.

It amazes me, and to be honest, I struggle with the idea that God knows us that intimately. He knows when we have messed up our lives. He even warned us about it, told us not to do it, but assured us He would be there to clean up the mess.

But we struggle with God being that close, that aware… We can be like the 2-3-year-old who’s done wrong and tried to hide it. Go all the way back to the garden, and you see men and women trying to hide their sin, trying to hide their brokenness. And so rather going with God when He calls us to spend time with Him, we hide out, thinking we can delay our getting in trouble, and maybe even escape getting in trouble.

As if any kid could fool their parents at that age…

Yet we still try, and we still mess up our lives, sometimes in spectacular ways.

And during cleaning us up, God gives us what we need, just as He taught us to pray for it, as we pray the Lord’s prayer. Just like the momma in Isaiah.

  • The closeness we need!

That is what we really need! For God to be that close! For Him to care for us.

The joy that comes from realizing not only can we depend on God that much, but that He desires us to, is amazing.

One pastor I was reading said it this way, this week.

Before our response to his invitation — well before! — there is his desire for us. We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us.”  (Pope Francis)

The think that I still try to grasp, that I want each one of you to realize, is that God wants us to be there with Him. He loves caring for us, just as much as a mom loves caring for her baby.

He knew we would sin, prepared well to clean us up and make us perfect, and comforts us even as we grieve.

This was what the cross was all about, proving to us that God cared this much for us, that He desires for us to dwell in His presence.

And by us, I don’t just mean those of us in this room, but all of those whom He created, and calls to be changed, and then changes them. People we help by sharing this understanding that God told Isaiah to record for all the people of God.

This is something we need to count on, and make sure we understand is always ours, this comfort and peace given to us through Jesus Christ. AMEN!

God is Making Your Body Change!

God is Making Your Body Change!
Phil. 3:17-4:1

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you as God transforms you!

Change –

We started last week looking at this theme of “God is making you….”  A look at the work that Paul wrote to the Philippian church, saying, “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ.

Last week we saw that God is making us righteous. That His masterpiece is recreating us in a way that there we are holy, that there is no sin we can be accused of, that we are innocent. So we are not just allowed to be in the presence of almighty God; we are expected there and welcomed.

This week the work is described as Jesus taking our weak and mortal bodies and changing them into glorious bodies like His own!

Imagine that – our bodies will be perfect and glorious. No more aches and pains, no more need for physical therapy, no more medicines, no more diets… no more sin affecting us, not only spiritually, but physically.

Sounds like a much better change than, say… moving your clocks ahead one hour!

We need to understand the change… and compare it to our feeble, broken down, sin-damaged bodies…. Lives that are so ugly and pathetic that even discussing them causes Paul to cry.

The Enemies of the Church – conduct

Paul describes those who aren’t changed this way, “18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction….”

No wonder Paul is crying! These people he is crying over are people he cares for, people he was raised with, and they are, in context, his people. He wrote about them to the church in Rome,

1  With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. 2  My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3  for my people, my Jewish brothers, and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 (NLT2)

Each of us has similar people in our lives, or at least we know of them. People who walk about, not knowing the love and peace of God. They reject Him because they do not know Him. But here what makes them different…

Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

Remember how we define a god. A god is what you turn to in time of trouble for help. It is who or what you depend upon to get you through life.

Which leads them to brag about whatever helps them in their time of weakness. Another way of phrasing it – they glorify that which exposes their weakness and shame. They end up defending the very things that hurt them, the same things that cause their brokenness – because they do not realize that God can save them from the brokenness… they accept it as reality and then defend it.

We aren’t just talking about sinners like Putin. We are talking about anyone who doesn’t count on Jesus and turns to other things in place of God…and these are people we know- and people we pray for…

The reason Paul would cry is simple, he was once like them, as we were. He describes us that concept this way, 3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. Titus 3:3 (NLT2)

But notice – he said once… for our transformation – God making us into glorious bodies – is already underway!

A Different Schematic – Syn-mimic

Ezekiel describes the change as getting rid of our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. In other places – our mind is replaced with the mind of Christ, or we are dressed with Christ.

Here, Paul describes the change with two ideas.

The first is to follow the pattern of their lives on Paul’s life. The picture words there are we get to be born and mimic from! Our new life in Christ should be that we move like Paul as he mimics Christ! Where Jesus moves, we move in reflection of His love and mercy….

The second is the word for change –the idea of changing the schema -the word and concept from which we get the idea of schematic. Or, as we would say these days, God makes a DNA level change in us. For the computer geeks – a complete reboot with a new operating system.  

That is the work God is doing in us – a complete change!

What is fantastic is both these things are God determined – and God-driven. He changes us in a way that allows us to live, mimicking Christ, for Christ lives in us. He changes the schematics in us, miraculously recreating us…

The challenge is being patient with the change in our lives and those around us! But know God is at work… and here is the amazing thing…. He makes this change with the same power by which everything is cared for by Him.

The same power that entered into the world, and healed people, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in every believer. God is drawing into a relationship every one – as He works through us….

Like the family who Marvel contacted – because they needed a minister for a memorial service. Or the people Manny and Gloria invite to the Tagalog Bible Study, or Violet inviting people to Family fun night…

Or any of you are praying for 8 people… to simply see Jesus revealed in their lives.

You see, those tears of Paul that we have for others, know that it is part of this change in us. We see their emptiness and brokenness and realize that as we find healing in Jesus… so can they… so we want to help them find it!.

This is the change He makes in us… a change that will be complete when we see Jesus face to face…

And until then – the very idea that God is at work in you – and will complete that work… should help you know His peace – which you dwell in… for the Lord is with you!

(hear a slightly different version of this sermon – at our church YouTube Page… bit.ly/concordiacerritos )

Keep Your Enemies Close! A sermon on Genesis 45:3-15

Keep Your Enemies Closer!
Genesis 45:3-15

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ transform you into people who call people to come closer… to you… and therefore God!

Typo Alert?!?

As I was working on this sermon about Joseph and his brothers, I would type out the title. Thinking about how God was working in their lives, I would look at it, and something seemed wrong.

It was the exclamation point. Maybe it should have been a question mark. 

Keep your enemies closer?

Na… back to Keep your enemies closer!

Well, wait a minute… closer! Closer?

Which you think works better as a title might depend on who’s shoes you are wearing and what your agenda is…

But either way – make sure you repeat to those people what Joseph said to his brothers, Please come closer! And bring him here quickly!

Don’t Be Upset – Don’t Be Angry

Even though it has been a decade or more, Joseph knows his brothers all too well.

And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.!

The first reaction to sin is denial, but they cannot do that anymore. The one they sinned against is standing right in front of them! So they go to the second and third steps in the getting caught process.

Fear – pure fear. Translated here as being “upset.” To be caught by the person who you sinned against, and for that person to have all the power and authority to do whatever he wanted to, to you. The amount of fear that would create – could probably be seen and even smelt.

And so Joseph says… calm down, don’t be upset!

The third step for a sinner caught in sin is to beat themselves up over it. We are all pretty good at that, aren’t we?

“Don’t be angry with yourselves!”  he says to them – as fast as their mood is changing.

Even as God says that to us today.

Did you sin this week? Did you sell out Jesus? You thought everything would be perfect if you could get rid of God, sending Him away?

You will stand before Him, just as the brothers had to stand before Joseph.

Don’t be afraid or anxious; His desire is to draw you close….

Don’t be angry with yourselves; God the Father sent Jesus into captivity, just as God sent Joseph into Egypt. Hear Joseph’s words again,

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you!

Hear that – as Jesus says it to you from the cross! As Jesus dies, our life would be eternally spent with God the Father!.

God has sent me ahead of you to (the cross) to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here (to the cross!), not you!

So come closer, and don’t be upset or angry with yourselves…. God is in control….

Our hope – understanding grace like Joseph… bringing enemies near to embrace us!

I can imagine that the brothers saw themselves as Joseph’s enemies when he called them to “come near.” They struggled to believe how blessed they could be in the moment the truth set them free of their past and present sins.

But there he was… just as Jesus is for each one of us today. Ready to cry with joy over us, even as Joseph did as he embraced first Benjamin, then the rest of his brothers.

It is what we need to pray for, for those people who should be our brothers and sisters but struggle as they think they are our enemies.

Even as Jesus brings his enemies closer and reveals us to His brothers and sisters, Joseph could look back at what God did, what He was doing in providing for all the people of God. As He did, he found the ability to trust in God’s plan, in what God provided.

That is how we draw people to Jesus… we fall in love with Him as we see what He is doing in our lives, and we realize “our enemies” need to see it happening to them as well.

In our prayer circle – I had you put two names – the names to pray for, that God would come to be so natural to them… that when they walk through those doors, you dance with joy. These might be the people that betrayed you in your life, the way Joseph was betrayed. Or they may be the people you sold off into slavery. Either way, these enemies are drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Are revealed to be your brothers and sisters!

Call them to come near, tell them, “please come closer!.” Describe what God is doing, how you see God using the worst challenges in life as blessings,

And when that happens, weep because you are so overwhelmed with joy!

God is with you – so calling them to come closer. Praying that they do… is simply bringing them into the presence of God. AMEN!

The Sixth Sola – Serve God Alone! (a sermon based Joshua 24)

The SIxth Sola –Serve God Alone!”

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

† I.H.S. †

May the grace and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ amaze you to the point where you only serve and worship God.

Three Solas, Five Solas, or is there a 6th?

If you look on the church’s back wall, you will see the early rallying cry of the church.  A simple cry, expressed by the word “Solas” or in English, Alone. 

We are saved by Grace ALONE, through Faith ALONE, in Jesus Christ ALONE!

Later they would add –  as revealed in Scripture alone, to the praise of God ALONE!

That’s a pretty good rallying cry! It is a simple phrase, and people have remembered it and preached on it for 5 centuries.

But I think in today’s Old Testament reading, Tom stumbled across a sixth sola. Or maybe it is a part of the fifth, the one that all the others and everything is to the glory of God ALONE…

What is said over and over in this passage Joshua is to serve or worship God alone.

So the question today… will you take on Joshua’s challenge… and serve and worship God ALONE?

Serve, or WORSHIP?

Just for clarification, the words in English for serve and worship are the same in Hebrew. It has even more profound meaning  – to acknowledge that the Lord is God. Therefore our actions are in response and obedience to Him.

What that makes clear is that there is no difference between serving God and worshipping Him. The word is really about that we are His, and we do what He gives us to do.

And we do that because we trust Him.

Luther explained it this way,

The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but all works are measured before God by faith alone.

The point is simple – serving God and worshipping Him is when we are doing what He’s asked us to do, and we do it because we trust and love Him, and for no other reason…

So if we clean our house to honor our parents, or because we love our wife, that is worship. If we lead worship or preach or teach because we want people to be able to praise God for what He has done and is actually doing, that’s worship. If we, knowing God has called us all to make disciples, ask friends or relatives or even a person we just met to church, praise God.

God calls us to do all those things, and to do them in love is worshipping and serving Him. He is our Lord, and because He loves us, we want to make Him happy.

But will we follow through and do so?

Struggling with worship and serving God.

In the time of Abraham’s father, Terah, people didn’t know about God, so they found other gods to serve and worship. They did not know Him; therefore, they did not know any better.

But the people that walked with Moses and Joshua from Egypt did, and they struggled with false gods – from the golden calf to so many other things they wanted to care for them…, and they serve, and they enslave themselves to other things… false Gods, idols

We do the same thing today, though maybe more or less sophisticated. Who or what do you do when facing stress? What do you do when life just is upside down? When you don’t understand what’s going on…

There is your god, and if it isn’t the Trinity, that god is an idol, and it will become your master. It will enslave you, as it has so many others.

And Joshua is saying, no longer.

Choose today – that idol, whether it be another religion or a version of God that you know contradicts scripture, whether it be a sin-filled coping mechanism, whether it even is another person.

Choose believer; will you trust in God? Will you depend on Him.  Will you worship and serve Him alone?

Now is the challenge – its time to put away the idols

The people’s answer was simple – they took stock of what they had seen God do in their midst.  Hear their words,We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. 17 For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. 18 It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.”

Notice that people based their faith on what they knew God had done even before the cross and the resurrection!

He rescued them! He provided for them! He cared for them! And amid pressures, He preserved them.

Even as He did for us at the cross! Now, the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us because of Jesus.

This is what keeps us focused on worshipping and serving God ALONE. The answer is considering what he’s done for us.

Look at the cross… receive His body and blood at the altar. Consider how God is providing for you…

And allow Him to teach you how to live, how to worship, how to minister to those caught in this broken world, and know you dwell in His presence.

AMEN!

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

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

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.

 

The Wrong Tool…sort of?

Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way.  My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.

A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”

Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.

I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…

As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…

You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.

As a Hammer

So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area!  Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.

I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.

I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.

Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him.  Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!

If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.

As a Hatchet

A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.

So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!

Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.

Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!

The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,

Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.

God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!

This chapter is full of that message

You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.

You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart

You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out

Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.

Even in you face death, or covid19,

Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,

21  And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22  Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23  Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)

My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference.  Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.

This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.

The God Whom You Worship!

 

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

In Jesus Name

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

I Don’t think that word means….

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

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

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

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

The “unknown” God.

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

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

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

Who is this God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judgment is coming.

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

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

Judgment day!

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

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

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

Why not just cry out to me?

Why not let me save you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Encounter God
at the Cross

John 12:20-36

In Jesus Name

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

An Odd Question

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

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

Yes or no?  (Pause)

Come on, no cheating! No cheating!

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

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

So did the Greeks get to see Jesus that day?

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

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

Which Jesus did they want to see, anyway?

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

The Jesus they saw..

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

Jesus had pointed this out, as He said,

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

My friends, He knew….

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

To forgive them

To save them,

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

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

Be His voice

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

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

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

Which crushes us.

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

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

Why are we seeking Him out?

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

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

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

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

You can’t control the God who dies there

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

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

As do our Greeks visiting us.

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

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

He loves you…

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

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

AMEN!

Encounter God and Live: A Sermon on John 11 from Concordia

Encounter God and Live
John 11:14-45

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to live!

Two odd focal points

Like most of the gospel, I have preached on reading from Luke before.  I thought I had attacked it from every possible point and hadn’t missed anything in the story before.

I did pick up on a couple of things I missed, two different phrases that are repeated twice. I was also trying to work on how you preach on the miracle of someone rising from the dead in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, if there was a time to repeat the miracle in the Valley of the Dry Bones, wouldn’t it be a great thing to do it now?

Back to the two things I missed – these two phrases.  As we deal with them, I pray that they will help us learn to live, to really live.

The first is that twice it describes Jesus as being Angry.

The other is a phrase that Jesus uses, that is translated as, “for your sake!”

Angry

The gospel records this,

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

Did you catch this?

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

Other translations make this seem that he was simply bothered, that he was upset – and yet word describes someone who is enraged, indignant, and storming about angrily.

Does that make sense?  After all, what is he angry about?

My first reaction was the lack of faith, the absolute raw pain he is witnessing! Here he is, and Martha even acknowledges he is the Messiah.

Is Jesus truly mad at the lack of faith?

If so, perhaps he is mad at me for this week. After all, watching the fear and anxiety affect so many has been brutal. Hearing of friends whose families have contracted the virus has been brutal, especially as I can’t go to them, pray with them, give them a hug.

I don’t want to entrust these friends and their loved ones into God’s hands, and that, as brutal as it sounds, is a lack of faith.

Is that the reason God is upset?  Because they couldn’t trust that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead?

I don’t think so.

But I think we beat ourselves up too often for our lack of faith, and this time is definitely not a time to be doing so…

This epidemic is not about our lack of faith, and God hasn’t abandoned us in this time.

We might not see what He is doing, but that is true in other times of our lives as well.

We have to understand it is okay to struggle, it is okay to ask the hard questions, it is okay to weep, because then, having admitted where we are, we can see Jesus at work.

For your sake

Which is where the other duplicated phrase comes in to play.

Verse 14, “So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”

and then verse 42, Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”

When you see these verses bracket this story, it is not a major leap to see that Jesus’ anger isn’t toward those whose faith is struggling. For it is to strengthen our faith that this occurred.

So why would He be mad at the lack of faith?

God worked something out of this situation that led people to have more faith in Him, to depend on Him more than they ever did before.

In this case, it was a miracle, the resurrection of someone dead 4 days.

But that too – was something God had planned – remember – he said we are going to him. Even though Jesus said he was dead, they were going to him.

But that isn’t the end of the story, for God was going to demand more of their faith, which we get a hint of in Thomas’s comment, “Let’s go, too – and die with Jesus.

A Greater Demand on their Faith?

This story is about the fact the disciples would need even greater faith when Jesus dies just a little while after this. They would need to depend on God for the darkest three days of their lives.

Not knowing what any of it meant, not knowing what darkness would hit next…

As God would sustain them during those dark days between the cross and the resurrection –

For that is the place where God’s anger is purged – as the power of death and sin was crushed.

The sin which so separated us from God, and from each other – Jesus’s anger at that sin was made evident, there as He is with those dealing with the consequence of sin, death. He understood that death for the sinner would be final, which is why a short time later, the Father would deal with death through Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection.

He had to do something about the sin and death that so scares and scars us.

And so he did… Jesus would die,

For their sake…

And for ours.

And that is why we have a faith that is stronger, that is why we know we can depend on Him, not just for the forgiveness of sins, but that He will be with us always…

Caring for us, loving us, dying for us…

And know,

Alleluia – He is Risen!

and I can’t wait for you to say the next part

He is Risen Indeed Alleluia and therefore we are risen indeed! Alleluia!

AMEN!

Encounter God… and See! A Sermon on John 9 during the pandemic

Encounter God… and See
John 9

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see Him, and see Him at work in your life!

DO you believe

Towards the end of the encounter of the Blind man and Jesus, Jesus asks a question to the man that was formerly blind.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

What Jesus is asking him is whether he believes in the Messiah and whether He believes He has come.  It is one of the titles a Jewish person would have known referred to the Messiah,

Do you believe in the Messiah?  Jesus asks.

The man encountering Jesus replies, “Who is he, sir?  I want to believe in Him!”

The encounter then takes a new direction – as Jesus reveals to the one born blind he is the Messiah.

Before we deal with that, I want to ask another question, an interesting one.

Did he only believe because he saw Him?

Did the Blind man only believe in Jesus because he saw Him?

Or another way to phrase the same question, if the man had encountered Jesus, but Jesus did not give him the ability to see, would he have believed in Jesus?

It is an important question and one we need to face….

Will we only believe and trust in God, if He does what we desire most?

Will we only turn to Him if He keeps us safe from the flu or the coronavirus?  Will we only trust in Him if He heals our broken land, and ends the isolation that is so affecting all of us?

Will we only believe if God does things our way?

And if He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, will we reject Him?  Will we refuse to believe in Him? Trust in Him?

Depend on Him?

There is our question for the day… and a hard one.

The Dark Question

It’s one, if we are honest, we are afraid to ask.  Even if we aren’t sure of the answer.

Matter of fact, that is why we need to ask this!

Because we need to come face to face with the question.

Is our faith in God, is our being a Christian based on God doing what we desire?

Is it based on God caring for us the way we want?

If I am honest, the answer would be yes, at times. My faith wavers, it struggles, and I have to be able to admit that. I get frustrated when things don’t go my way, and I hurt in times like this.

And this passage gives me the comfort to admit this… and then reach out to God… and say where are you?

Why I can

The first is this – Jesus was working in the man’s life way before he asked the question. He was giving the blind man the ability to see and doing things that though the guy didn’t know who Jesus was, he knew something was happening that could only be accountable to God.

Back in verse 17 the man stated, “I think He must be a prophet!”  And then in verse 33 he said, “If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it!”

He saw God at work – even before he truly understood Jesus was the Messiah before Jesus was the Savior. He recognized something out of the ordinary was happening, something that couldn’t be normal, or just a coincidence.

While for us that may not be healing, God is still going to be at work in our lives way before we recognize that the Holy Spirit is carefully opening us up, and calling us into that place where we begin to heal, where we see God at work

Where we can then hear the question asking us whether we believe and as we go… uhhh… or ask this question or that one, we see Jesus revealed to us. And as He is revealed the Holy Spirit grants us both faith and repentance.

The Holy Spirit does that as well, working in us, revealing to us Jesus’s work through the gospel and then sacramentally, as God cleanses us from Sin and sets us up in a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Then, the Spirit has worked in us, we are no longer blind to the work of God, we can say with the man in today’s gospel, “Yes, Lord, I believe!”

How can we behold Jesus today?

You see that is the key, not saying I believe because of this argument, or that apologetic.  We believe because God is at work, and we, even as limited as our vision is, begin to see Him at work. We encounter Him doing something in our lives.

I am not saying our salvation is based on our experience or our emotion. I am saying that as God is at work, it becomes hard to deny it.

So how do we “see” Jesus at work today?

I mean he’s not down at the hospital, or the Braille institute, opening the eyes of the blind. My eyesight isn’t that bad, so where is He? Where can see that He has worked?

I see Him in the eyes of those who commune, I heard Him in the words of those who respond to me, “and also with you!” and “he is risen indeed! And therefore, we are risen indeed!” In the voices of those singing His praises.

But I see Him the most as His word and sacraments breathe life and power into the lives of the people around me. As I see people reconcile with those they have offended and forgive those who have offended them.  I see it in the eyes of those I tell that God has forgiven them of all their sin, and as people ask the hard questions, the ones that cause us to have no other option but to trust in God, and in the midst of that trauma, find peace and serenity that goes beyond anything we can logically explain.

The Spirit is at work within you – because He has promised to be, and God always keeps those promises.  This is our encounter today – wherever we are.

So be still… and know and see, He is God!  AMEN!

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