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More Blessed to Give Than Receive

Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
https://youtu.be/R6SQ4TMMvQs

More Blessed to Give than Receive!
Acts 20:17-35

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…

Mother’s Day

If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…

“It is more blessed to give than to receive”

and then think

Mother’s Day. 

Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,

Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms!  Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college.  The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms.  Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games!  I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.

Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.

So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.” 

And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.

The struggle and the answer

The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us.  We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry. 

We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.

Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role.  That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids.  They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.

And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”

But it did….

Well, I think it did!

But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!

That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum.  What?  You don’t think adults throw tantrums? 

We are quite good at it!

Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!

Remember, we are called to love.  Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…

That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.

Let me give you an example.

Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.

Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan?  Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?

That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!

Context! Context! Context! 

And that brings us back to the context of our passage. 

You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.

He says this,

24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken.  A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life. 

Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.

For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.

And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints.  Including all that depend on Him.

For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it.  The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.

This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive. 

As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!

50,000+ reads, 578 subscribers, 1866 posts, and a thought

This underground church blessed m with great peace…
I pray my blog has helped you experience it over the years.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT

The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in it there was no light. The second was the holy place; here stood a lampstand with seven arms and seven lamps. The third was the outer court; it was open to the sky and to the sun’s light. This is a metaphor for the Christian person, whose spirit is the holy of holies, God’s dwelling in the darkness of faith without light. For the Christian believes what is neither seen, nor felt, nor comprehended. The soul is the holy place with its seven lamps, that is, every form of reason,18 discrimination, knowledge,19 and understanding20 of bodily and visible things. The body is the outer court that is open to everyone, so that everyone can see what one does and how one lives.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.

This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.

Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.

And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.

There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.

Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?

It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.

You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.

Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.

That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.

The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.

It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.

Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.

That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.

Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


Be Careful What You Ask For… A Lenten Sermon on Luke 13:31-35

https://www.facebook.com/DaPastor/videos/10156216640650878/

Be Careful for What You Ask for…
You might just get it!

Luke 13:31-35

In Jesus Name!

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you in the midst of life, drawing you under His wings, where you can find rest and restoration!

All things? Including a death threat?
God has made many promises in scripture.

One of the promises that is one of the hardest to believe, but also is one of the most amazing is found in Romans 8.  **

And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according His purpose for them.”

I don’t know about you, but that is a promise that I sometimes struggle with in my life.

From my point of view, looking at the brokenness in my own life, I sometimes wonder whether that promise was made to me.  Because I can’t always see how God can make some of the stuff I’ve done, and some of the things that happen to me work for good, at least my good.

But they do, even as we will see this morning, as we consider the desires of two men, desires that seem to be unlikely to be fulfilled, and one of which, cannot possibly be good, because it calls for someone to die.

But could it?

We shall see….and it is amazing!

Two Men, Two Desires
Herod’s (and Everyman’s desire)


Lets start with Herod first. **

His desire is that Jesus would die.**  The scriptures don’t declare why he wanted Jesus dead, simple that the Pharisees indicated that he did.  These normal adversaries of Jesus are so concerned that they warn Jesus of it.

It’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.” 

**It could be because he feared Jesus was going to haunt him, as John the Baptist did.  Some were even saying Jesus was John returned, a though that would have scared Herod.  After all, Herod was manipulated into killing John, chopping his head off at the request of his daughter and wife.

As the guilt added to his already massive amounts of guilt, the more he would want to get rid of any Godly influence in his life.

**You know that feeling, when you are dealing with guilt and shame, and instead of running to God, you want to run away?  Instead of seeking forgiveness, you try to bury the guilt and shame?  You try to find a way to avoid it, and what better way than killing the person who is God’s messenger?

So Herod’s desire is delayed, and for the moment He can’t get what he has asked for..

Jesus’ Desire

Which leads us to Jesus, who speaks of a desire, the purpose that He is working towards, that he relentlessly pursues. The goal of gathering the people of God together, to ensure their safety, to care for them.

But they won’t let Him.  Just like so many in the world today, including, at times, you and I.

Yet this is Jesus focus, to bring us all into a place where we are cared for, where our souls find peace and healing from the ravages of sin.  The sins of the world, and our own.  For the damage is great, the brokenness that steals away life. Yet that is the life we cling to for some reason.

While Jesus is trying to draw us into a life that is abundant, and free.

How He longed to do that to the people of Jerusalem then, how He longs to lift us up now!

They both got what they wanted

Only God could grant both there desires and work it out so that as they are fulfilled, every one who loves God, everyone called according to His purposes.

Jesus will die as Herod wants, and even as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Himself!

Both desires met. Both would get exactly what they wanted, and more.

You can’t read these chapters in Luke, from the transfiguration to the cross and not know it is coming. Herod couldn’t see that, nor how his desire to be rid of the prophets who confronted his sins would provide the solution to the sin which so easily traps us. He knew the answer to his guilt and shame would be found in the shedding of Jesus’ blood.  But how it was solved, the solution that would cleanse anyone of sin, was beyond His thoughts!

Jesus knows that His death, his being raised from the dead will bring people in, that they will find the forgiveness they need, that they will be able to no longer fear God, but revel in His love.

That is why He is willing to die, to see us be drawn into His death, that we may share in His love. Hear again Paul’s words,

12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Colossians 2:12 (NLT2)

So God made both of these thing, turning the death of Christ, which Herod so wanted, into a blessing beyond imagination as He gathered people together in the cross of Christ.

As He will do with everything in your life, and mine, and as He reveals His love for us, as we explore its breadth and width, its height and depth, the more we will be assured of this.  Assured of it, we will rest, knowing His peace.

AMEN!

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

His Mysterious Plan
Ephesians 3:1-12

† In Jesus Name †


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

A mysterious plan

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

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

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

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

So “Me” is a mystery and an enigma.

Makes sense in English!

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

Not revealed? Kept secret?

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

 God did not reveal it to previous generations,

And then in verse 9,

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Love God with all our heart, soul and mind

To love our neighbor as ourselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fulfillment of the plan – we come boldly

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

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

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

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

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

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

No fear

no guilt

No shame

no doubt

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


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

For He is our God


And we, we are all His people!  AMEN!

Escaping the ghost of Monday’s past

Jesus asks, “can i cleanse your past? can i redeem it for you”

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 you, and has promised you great things!


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: The Returning – A midweek advent message!

MidWeek Advent Service II  

Let Nothing You Dismay
The Returning

I.H.S.†

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!

The Trial

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,

Malachai continues,

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

“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 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.

The Promise

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

The Church Service!

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

In Jesus Name

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

Faith in Action…

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

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

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

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

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

The Evidence of Faith in Action

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

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

Look at the things we are called to do,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The need for caution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN!

 

Faith in Action is Blessed: Matthew 5. Sermon manuscript and video of service link 11/4/18

Annual All Saints Service – Matt 5:1-12 

Faith in Action….is Blessed!
Matt 5:1-12

† 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,

Not one.

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!

AMEN?

AMEN!

Where Are We Headed?

Jesus foot washingDevotional 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: Know! Psalm 46

Faith in Action:  Knows
Psalm 46

† 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…

And know..

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!

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