Devotional Thought of the Day:
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 1 Peter 5:1-3 (NLT)
If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9 if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.1 John 1:8-9 (NJB)
402 People have to be taught how to work, but their training need not be overdone, for actually doing things is a way of learning too. They should accept in advance their unavoidable shortcomings: the best is the enemy of the good. (1)
It is one of the hardest lessons that pastors and other Christian leaders have to learn. I still struggle with it, the guys I mentor, yes they do as well.
It seems a paradox, counter-intuitive to the responsibility for them that we have been given. We want them to succeed, we want them to grow, we want them to rejoice in all things.
So we have to let them fail?
Yes! And yes, it hurts, yes we want to go in and fix everything, to make an event succeed, to help a couple before they need counsel, FOr oto wait, the problems will be worse, the pain to correct them more intense. The question then arises, will they blame us for their failure?
But I think it is caring even more to embrace the pain of their failure, to be their, waiting for the prodigal to come home.
Two reasons for letting them fail.
1. We learn better from our mistakes. It stops the learning process if everything always goes smoothly, They have to learn when to ask for help, when to admit they are overreached, and how to do the work to correct their errors, For it is there, that the most significant
2. They need to learn about God’s presence there, ready to cleanse them. They need to know that failure doesn’t result in condemnaiton, but in reconciliation. People have to realize that God loves them, (and so should we) even when we fail, so that we run to Him first, so we know we will encounter grace not condemnaiton. That they will realize what it means for God to be God. To be their Father. They have to get that, and it is more important than their doing everything right the first time.
Two reasons for those around them…
1. We all need to learn to be graceful to those around us. If failures are treated with grace this will happen. We don’t want to encourage people to fail, but we want them to know that some failure, some shortcomings is unavailable.
2. We, as servant leaders, need to grow in our faith of God. Every servant leader in scripture failed, some dealt with it (King David, St. Peter), many didn’t (king Saul for example). But to let our people fail, to even stand by and watch it happen, requires us to have both a pastor’s heart and a deep faith that knows that all will work for good for those that love God. That in failure, our people will have to meet Christ crucified, that they will adore the God who knows their sufferings and will rescue them. We must trust God…. and that trust has to grow…that expectation of His grace has to be so ingrained in our lives, that it is lived in view of our people. THat we realize that the sins of the people of God and all unrighteousness and evil is cleansed from us.
So let them fail, and be there with God to lovingly pick them up, be there to see the wounds heal, and to help them learn the lesson.
FOr that is what we do….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1816-1818). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
“Stirred but not Shaken”
Acts 2: 14a ,22-36
† Father, Son, and Holy Spirit †
May you realize the grace of of knowing the Triune God desires and works to know you, and make you perfect, perfect for a relationship
Anybody get the number of that creed?
Even though I dearly love the Athanasian Creed, even though I love how it lays out the relationship of the Trinity, even though I love spending a couple of hours with it, and highly recommend that to you, there is a certain feeling I get, reading it in a worship service.
Two ways to describe it…
The first is, I feel like Wiley E Coyote at the end of every scene in the old Roadrunner cartoons….
The other, I wonder if anyone got the license plate number of the theological 18 wheeler than just hit me. I almost wonder if Anthony of the Desert, who is credited with writing it, and Athanasius, a deacon who presented the creed to a gathering of pastors and bishops – comprehended the depth of the creed’s teaching….
Maybe it overwhelmed them a bit two… as if as they read it, they wondered who was driving the chariot that ran over them….
Even as I love this incredible Creed, as I love how it teaches us about the mystery of the Trinity – the Tri-une God, the Three yet One, I realize it has one shortcoming. It was written to challenge all the false teachings about the Trinity, and about the nature of Christ…it seeks to teach us to know about how the Trinity is, and how Jesus is both fully God and fully man…
But it assumes one thing…. That we know this Trinity, this Triune God.
It does a wonderful job stripping away many, if not most of the false teachings about Jesus… yet leaves us there… needing to get to know Him…
May this day, we rejoice, in not just knowing who God is not, but may we rejoice in knowing our Triune God…..
And as we grow in knowing the Trinity, this God of ours, may we be just the opposite of James Bond’s famous drink – may we be stirred, and know we cannot be shaken.
Still a little overwhelmed by the theological semi that ran over my brain, I’m going to do the sermon backward today – and give you the gospel, before the law…
Hear King David’s words again, really hear them….
‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
The very God we proclaimed that we trusted a moment ago, David said is right before his eyes. As God is here, right in our midst. Here to protect, here to be our shepherd, here to be all that we need as our Father, as our Lord, as our God.
He is here…The Triune God who has been at work in our lives since we were created, is with us. He has called us together, He has brought us here, in order that we can know His love, that we can remember His mercy. The Holy Spirit drew us that we can literally taste and see that the Lord is good.
Walking with Him, on this way, which He has revealed, is what our lives are to be, and are, because of that presence of His. To know He is here, To realize that love which causes Him to cleanse us, to assure us that our souls will not fade into nothingness, even as Christ’s body was not meant to tor in the grave.
Paul explain this, in this way,
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14 (TEV)
That is what the presence of God in our lives means… it’s the time to rejoice in everything that has opened up to us. It is time for a party, for the feast – for the incredible life that God has given us…. And would live with us.
No wonder David says that His heart dances, it rejoices, (forget this line “glad” GRR) and his tongue SHOUTS his praises – the special shout reserved for the jubilee – that one time in life, everything you are shout!
He is here – He has given us life – He has given us the joy of His presence….
He is right beside me… and I shall not, will not, cannot be shaken…
That is where the Law comes in, this idea of being “shaken”. Being shaken is like being out in the middle of Lake Galilee with 80 mph winds raising waves much bigger than our fishing boats, or a spiritual earthquake. Those are the words that are used for those traumas, when life is so in turmoil that you cannot determine which way is which – not just east and west or north and south, but forward and back and upside down.
The Trinity’s presence in our lives takes care of that – for it completely changes our point of orientation. It is no longer us that is spinning out of control, even as the world is spinning – and in such a way that people have to realize God is with us.
As we do, as our lives, as our desires, as our dreams ocme into line with His, as we see that our redemption, our deliverance has been the Father’s goal all along, things change.
The law – which is the way in which God orders the universe, which we struggle with, is revealed to be what drives us to Him, looking for hope, looking for something which will cause the storm…
And when we are with God, Triune, majestic, beyond our ability to comprehend, at least during this life, we do find ourselves able to rest in hope, our heart finds that gladness, and we shout His praise, as we realize His desire is to be here – with us, His people.
It’s His plan…no, we are His plan..
It’s His plan, the reading calls it His pre-arranged plan…
Even to the point where Jesus was betrayed, and fixed to a cross, and murdered. As Peter preaches to the very ones who killed him,
That He could, for the people the Father created, pay the price of redemption, and pour out His Holy Spirit, that we would become His Holy and Righteous people…
Yeah – no wonder our hearts are glad…joyous – know His presence, having been shown the way of life – through the death of Christ.
May we indeed know His peace, as we wait, resting in the hope that comes from knowing He is beside us. May such knowledge stir us to love and good deeds, even as we trust, as we know we’ll never be shaken…
Discussion/Devotional thoughts of the Day…
20 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” 21 Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23 and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? 24 Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. 25 Hosea put it well: I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. 26 In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.” 27 Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by (God’s) personal selection. 28 God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus. Romans 9:20-28 (MSG)
They appear in some of my favorite books an movies, Bilbo Baggins, (not to mention his nephew Frodo), Thomas Covenant, Nicholas Seafort, the apprentices Pug and Thomas and Jimmy the Hand. Arthur Dent…..the quarterback in Longest Yard, the general in “the Last Castle”.
It is, I suppose, a special genre…. that of the Anti-hero. The ones who succeed despite themselves, matter of fact it is their weakness, and their mistakes, that endear them to us… and because of which, they find success.
But they are also my favorite people in scripture, REAL PEOPLE – like Gideon, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Hosea and of course, the last person anyone would have thought would have been a hero (except maybe in his own mind) – the apostle Peter. They too are the people that were not considered the brilliant, the connected, the famous, the wealthy and powerful. Yet God used them, incredibly, as He formed them, empowered and equipped them to do what others could not do.
And everyone is surprised… as if God can’t work through the means He chooses.
Which brings me to you and I.
We are God’s artwork, His masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10) We may not be much (or some of us, like Peter and I – often – too much!) but God uses us, and uses us to do extraordinary things. It may be what we accomplish, it may be what we endure. It may simply be the example of trying to cling to God’s hand with our last remaining bit of strength – then realizing we are safely nestled in the palm of His other hand. It could be that we are the forefront of a major revival – one where the church is reformed because we were the remnant not to surrender to dreams of past glory, or the machinations to create a future one.
We don’t know – we cannot… we can only trust in God… we can only walk with Him, dance with Him, be cleansed and strengthened by Him…loved by Him.
That is the time – when He receives glory, for the like the cornerstone which the builders rejected – we are found to be an essential block (in my case blockhead) in His building the New Sanctuary… the Body of Christ, those who have been brought to trust in Him, and cleansed by Him.
We are His people – we are His clay…
and He is at work in and through our lives. AMEN
How Important is our Salvation?
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May we realize how precious this love and mercy is, which we have been given by God our Father, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
What Changes Men
In the gospel reading this morning, and in the one from Acts, we have too long narratives, the stories of the conversion of Paul, and the renewal of Peter.
Amazing stories – as men who struggled with God, find themselves, and the healing of a relationship that no one would have ever thought possible, heck most of us wouldn’t even think they had a chance of making up for what they did.
The man who murdered and imprisoned believers… and the man who, when given a chance to confess his friendship, his relationship with Christ, betrayed him…not just once – but three times.
And they were changed, their lives, as Paul would write to Titus, were re-vitalized – quickened – born again – and renewed. Everything changed in a flash of light, in a moment, as the darkness they dwelled in, was dispelled by the love of Christ, by His mercy, by His presence and comfort in their lives.
Such a great salvation, such a great deliverance and rescue of their hearts and minds. How sad would it have been, if they had just dismissed it, and went about their daily business, as if nothing had happened.
Such is the experience of David as well, the one who wrote our other reading, Psalm 30. A Psalm whose words describe this incredible work of God, as God saves David, as God brings healing to David’s wounds, as God restores him…
As God has promised to do in our lives, as indeed He is doing.
Sing Praise – Remember what the Holy One Has done, and give thanks!
David starts the Psalm out in such an upbeat manner – he’s seen God’s had at work, freeing him from what oppressed him, freeing him what is against him. No one can point out David’s shame, no one can gloat over the situation he has found himself in, God has rescued him from the situation. He hasn’t just been revitalized – he has been completely renewed – as He himself testifies to in verse 2 –
“I cried to you for help, O Lord my God, and YOU healed me!”
He was healed, He was delivered, saved, everything changed – life changed, it began anew – David was given a new life! In verse three, we see that, for David thought his life was heading for the death and hell. God restored David’s life, – we call it being “born again’ these days, and it was brand new. A life unmarked by the strife, by the sin, but dwelling secured and safe.
Of the ways David describes God’s delivering him, my favorite is found in verse 4, as we worship Him – remembering what He did, and giving Him thanks. For those words are the ones we find – even as we will hear in a few moments – as we hear Christ’s words about the true nature of the bread and wine, the Body and Blood. Echo His praises, give thanks, and when you do this.. remember me. Know me, Know intimately my presence, my love, my promises, my presence – know me.
David understood the way that God works, even as he points to the day of the feast – of the celebration of God’s goodness!
So with Jesus, let us give thanks – and we comprehend, as we remember He is here….
not quite yet… for David reveals something next…that is shocking… for its clarity.
But what about the terrifying days…when we don’t see God?
King David a number of his times experiences the trauma that he describes in verse five to seven. They aren’t part of his life before God revealed his love to him, but were very much a part of his life as a believer, as one who trusted in God – who walked with the Lord and was given the ability to address God by His name, Yahweh, the IAM.
Hear again verse 5-7
5 His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning. 6 I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7 You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid.
There is a famous, probably in the history of the United States, entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. Having known God’s love, having known how He delivers those He loves, those who trust in Him, it is not being in God’s presence that scares the life out of me, it is when I think God has abandoned me, when He has looked away. That is when the tears – can last through the night, when sleep fails, when as David says – “I was terrified”.
O, how my anxiety soars, when I’ve lost sight of the fact that God has me, not just in His sight, but in His son, We can, we indeed do walk with God through just about anything. I can look around this sanctuary and see incredible saints, who have walked with God through incredible challenges. Yet it is the times, where we aren’t sure God is with us, that drive us to despair, that rob us of the life God’s given us. Or at least Satan would like us to think that God has abandoned us, that God has forsaken us…
That’s when we play games like David mentions. Our version goes like this. “Hey God – remember me? I’m the one you saved so I could worship you – do you want all your hard work to go to waste? Who’s going to go out and save the world? Who’s going to teach my grandkids about you, Lord? or make sure this place stays open to proclaim your faithfulness.”
It is in the darkness of night, the sleepless night that we ask those kinds of questions. Forgetting that God can raise up the rocks to praise Him. It is when we get what it must have been like for Peter… why he had to run to the tomb, and why it took a few weeks to sink in, Until Jesus took him on a walk along a beach and reminded him… I am with you… and reminded Peter that Peter knew this – because Peter loved him!
Hear me – o wait… you did!
That is why there is such a quick transition from the whining of David, into the rejoicing. He remembers…well what He was supposed to remember – that God has changed everything.
From the mourning that exists in the depth of your soul, the grief that causes those tears to last all night, into the joyous dance that comes as dawn breaks – that joy that comes as we hear God’s joyous cry of jubilation! That’s the reason we dance – that is why we are changed from clothes of mourning, into that fit for a celebration, a time of great praise –
Because God commanded – everything is restored, everything is renewed, life is given!
I love how a pastor 15 centuries ago described this psalm,
John tells us most fully how and when this appearance took place. But the Lord rose in the morning from the sepulchre in which He had been laid in the evening, that those words of the Psalm might be fulfilled, Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)[i]
It is that moment – the moment of the stone being rolled away, the empty tomb, the cry He is Risen, that we need to comprehend – for it was then our salvation was made sure – it was not just a guarantee – it was real.
That tomb – it is …
That means Praise God – He is risen!
and that means – The Lord is …
and if the Son has set you free – you are free
So rejoice – praise Him, glorify Him, never be quiet – always know, even when you don’t feel it, that you dwell in His undescribable peace…
For He keeps you there… your heart, your mind… AMEN!
[i] Thomas Aquinas, S., & Newman, J. H. (1842). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 2: St. Mark (340). Oxford: John Henry Parker.
- The Tomb is Empty? Yeah! He is Risen and The Lord is With us! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- When Darkness Hides God’s Face…and all hope (justifiedandsinner.com)