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Who are We to Judge God?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  “I have been the LORD your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior. 5  I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. 6  But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me.    Hosea 13:4-6 (NLT)

Being wise with someone else’s head … is, to be sure, inferior to being wise oneself, but it is infinitely superior to the sterile pride of one who does not achieve the independence of being wise himself, yet at the same time despises the dependence of one who believes on the word of another.” The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.  (1)

Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: “See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another,” i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.(2)

When we read something brilliant, and quickly begin to use ti to judge and condemn others, I pray we begin to first use the same standard to judge ourselves.

As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, (those are the ones in green) I immediately thought of those who dismiss scripture.  Some of those are outside the church, who look at stories of miracles and cannot believe them.  Others are those inside the church who examine scripture with a scientific mindset, looking to judge whether this passage is valid, or that passage is not really accurate historically. `Both place themselves as the final judge and jury over the word of God.

But that is a temptation for every person, conservative or liberal, confessional or missional.  We see it when we apply the text to others, and not to ourselves.  We see it when we treat the scriptures from a perspective that is academic, as if it is the greatest theological treatise.   When we want to create a system out of the scriptures and use it to put God in a box.

I see this in myself all too often, as I approach the incredible wealth of the scriptures, mining it, being in awe of the words, and forgetting their purpose, that they are the means, not the end.  For it is easy to focus on the study and not the prayer and times of intimacy with God that reflecting on them should create.  We can, in the name of God, studying His word, become proud, and forget Him, even as we study His revelation to us.

It is when we forget that He is revealed, His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people that we end up being proud, that we see ourselves as the authority, not the supplicant.

Luther catches us when we get to this point and reminds us of what it means for God to be God.  He tells us we can creep and cling to God, that we can approach Him in the sure knowledge of the hope He has given us, that He will respond, that He will love and cleanse, that He will heal us.

That’s the ends, for us to realize that He is our God, that we are His people.  In Him we find rest, and that is what the scriptures are there to teach us, to reveal to us, to assure us of.  That is what the covenants describe, it is what Law and Gospel drive us to, it is the reason for the cross.  There is no other end of the discussion that is valid.  For here is our hope:

We are His people.  HE is our God. And as scripture tells us,

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. “  John 20:31 (NLT)

AMEN!

(1)    Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 166–167). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(2)  Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Part First: The Ten Commandments”.

Why Teaching People to Obey God Isn’t Nearly Enough…..

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:
16  The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18  Then Jesus approached and said to them, All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NAB)

280      You know that you will never lack God’s grace, because he has chosen you from all eternity. And if this is what he has done for you, he will grant you all the help you need to be faithful to him as his son. Go forward, then, with assurance and try to respond at every moment.

As I continue to see debates about faith and works online, as I continue see to people demand full obedience to one commandment and not another, I am saddened.  For people hyper-focus on the law, and debates about it, much as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Herodians did in the age of Christ.

Because of this, I know quite a few people who leave the church, dismayed either because of hypocrisy, or because of a burden that they are expected to keep, that they cannot on one hand.  On the other, they are dismayed because despite what scripture says, they don’t see the life of those claiming to be believers to be all that different.  There are the same kind of sinners, justified not by the blood of Christ, but because of their own justifications, they still go about life, unchanged, and in chains to sin.

My contention isn’t that we need to teach people to obey the commandments, or to simply live free of them.  My contention is that we don’t do nearly enough in teaching people to obey God.  We go about it wrong in teaching them to obey, and when we reduce it simply to God’s commands, we do something even worse.

First let’s deal with “obey”.  In the very well known passage called the great commission, about half of my translations use obey, some use observe, and a few older translations use keep.  I think the idea of obey comes from that old KJV era use keep, but they in doing so, they cause a problem.  The word in Greek comes from the word to watch over, to guard, to treasure, to protect.  As I have noted before, the keep in a castle was the place of the greatest possible defense, the final point of resistance, the place where children and wives were kept, along with the treasure.

Guard them, treasure them, doesn’t make as much sense when we combine it with command.  or at least it seems awkward.  But consider how much the psalms rejoice in God’s law, in His commandments.  (for example in Psalm 119) Consider the opening of Proverbs 7,

1  My child, remember what I say and never forget what I tell you to do. 2  Do what I say, and you will live. Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes. 3  Keep my teaching with you all the time; write it on your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (TEV)

1  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2  keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3  bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (ESV)

I put the two translations here for a reason, there is something more to commandments than what meets the eye.  Normally we think of commands as God’s law, the Decalogue, what are referred to as the Ten Commandments.

I would contend that we would be less confused if we replaced commandment with a synonym, commissioned (we call it the Great Commission, don’t we?) But we have a slightly different meaning.  Commissioned doesn’t reduce what is taught to the “do’s and do not’s”.  It beings out the scope to include all God has ever commanded about you, as well as what He has commanded you.

For instance, the declaration of our righteousness, the work of Christ’s life, lived with one mission.

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed 19  and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” Luke 4:18-19 (TEV)

it includes His work in completing what He began in us, and in the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us.  It includes the entire covenant – promises as well as regulations.  That is why spending time heaing and meditating upon what God has commissioned brings such joy, not just bondage to a law.   (btw, the commission concepts works with the Decalog/Ten Commandments)  as well, including what some dismiss as the prelude – the key to understanding it.

This is why the joy is so complete, for what God has commissioned for you and I is wondrous.  It is the full measure of His love, not just His plans for our lives.  It is that we are to become His worksmanship (Eph 2:10), a people He made for His own.

Teach His people, those He has claimed in baptism this Truth, for they are His disciples, His children.  And the joy will be unsurpassed.  As they treasure what God has called and commissioned into their lives, the obedience will follow, naturally and assured of His empowerment.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1137-1140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

With Christ, We’ve Been Raised to New Life!

Treasuring God’s Gifts:
You’ve Been Raised to New Life!  
So Set Your Eyes on God Alone

Exodus 6:1-6, Col. 3:1-4

In Jesus Name

As we think about the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, because we know of the Grace of God our Father, may we realize it is our resurrection as well, and knowing that, may we live life focused on Him.

 

Jesus is the Way….

One of the things I am in awe of, is the way in which Jesus deals with those who doubt, especially those who are bluntly, like the Apostle Thomas.  With one exception, Thomas is always pictured as the one who doubts, the one who struggles with his faith in God.

Each time we see Thomas struggling, Jesus turns it into a moment to minister to Thomas, to strengthen Thomas, to build his confidence that God is at work. Because the gospels record the words of some of these circumstances, Jesus ministers to us as well. One of those stories is seen in John’s gospel, chapter 14.

Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.     John 14:5-6 (NLT)

We talk about those words a lot, or at least we quote them, usually in regards to conversations about providing that Jesus is the only way to the Father.  Or that it is “His way or the Highway”.    Today though, we are going, in view of His death and resurrection, we are going to see that this is literally true, and not just figuratively….

That Paul’s words to the church in Colossians, and the words recorded by Moses in Exodus, are talking about this very thing.

That because Jesus is the way, because we’ve been raised to new life in Him

The Decalog –

The LAW I’ve Rescued you, I am God – No other God’s

We’ve been travelling through the decalog, through what we commonly call the Ten Commandments since Ash Wednesday.  As we’ve gone through each, we’ve realize that God didn’t give the commandments to restrict our lives, but to show us how we live life in Him, a life God considers and makes a masterpiece.

We finally get to the beginning, to the core of the message, to the one that resonates with the fact that jesus is “the Way.”  The first word that we usually hear as, “THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.

We always hear it with a deep rumbly voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones, or maybe Darth Vader, going onto describe all the ways in which we create false gods, all the ways we create idols, and worship the things which we create.

Luther was correct in talking about the close connection between worshipping these idols, these false gods, and our putting our trust in them.  For surely he points out – that is what an idol is, what we primarily trust with our lives.  We put our trust in all sorts of things to bless us, to bring us peace, to protect us, to prosper us.

An idol is what we run to first in times of trial, it is where we find the support we need to keep on going, that which is bigger than us, even if we have to lie to self and say we can do it on our own.

We may not make our idols out of wood or clay or stone any longer, but that doesn’t make them any more reliable.  The are the things that run our lives, that we give power over us, that convince us that we will make it, that we shall survive this and that we might even prosper

Money can be our God, or some possession. Perhaps a relationship, or even a vision of what our life should be like and what it takes to serve that vision.  Paul touches on it, when he tells the church folk in Colossae to set their sight on Heaven, on God’s reality.  For idols grab out attention, they put a lockdown, a stranglehold on our hearts and minds.  These things cause envy, they division, they cause pain and unfaithfulness, they wreck out relationships, they cause us to distrust and dishonor authorities, they rob us of rest, and distract us on calling God for help.

Idolatry, having these other gods, including the god of self, lies at the heart of every other sin we have to deal with in our lives. Idols can obscure and attempt to destroy the masterpiece God has planned for our lives.

        You don’t need any other God:  I AM HE

No wonder he says, “Have no other gods,”

He doesn’t want us damaged by them, when they prove to be not our creator, but our creations.  God wants more than just well-behaved people who hide their brokenness.  He wants His kids, even if that means cleaning up their mess at the cost of Jesus.

Remember when I said the commandment was far more than just the “Have no other gods?”

The first word, the first “commandment” starts with the bold text in verse 2 of Exodus 20.

 

2  I am GOD, your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. 3  No other gods, only me.

Eqypt, the land of 1000 gods, the land where even the King, the Pharoah was considered a god.  We’d never do that, would we? Egypt, the land of idols, and idolatry.

The land of sin.

What is your Egypt?  What is the earthly place where sin rules, where temptation gets you, where life isn’t truly living, because you live in captivity.  What is it that in dieing and rising Jesus you’ve been rescued from?

He has rescued us, it has happened, He has sent Jesus to die, not just to pay for the sins which divide us from Him, but because as we are united to Him, in His death and resurrection, we are united to God and brought into the presence of God.

That is why Paul tells us we are hidden with Jesus Christ and therefore in God. I love the Greek there – the word hidden is the word we get encrypted, We are guarded protected, and even all of the hackers in the world can’t corrupt what God’s given us.

That is why we set our eyes on heavenly things – because that is where we are in Christ – that is where life is, where reality is.  We are the children of God, raised with Christ Jesus, just as our sin was put to death with Him at the cross.  We trust Him at His promise, we know that what we deal with here is simply temporary, but reality is lived united to Christ.  Saved from the idols, sure, but raised to live in the presence of God Almighty

We have no other go because we don’t need one… we have the God who came to us, made himself known to us.
You, revealed with Hm in Glory!

        Because of the cross and resurrection

Jesus is not just a way, He didn’t set us on the way, but He is the way we get to the Father. We get to the Father because we are united to Him, and travel with Him through His death and resurrection.  in Him we encounter the holiness of God, the glory of God.

That is why this day, as we celebrate the fact that God has raised Jesus is so critical.  In Him we died to sin, in Him we have been raised to life.  The resurrection is more than just history,  because we find life in Christ. United to Him we are brought to the Father… where we are revealed to be the very children of God…where we find ourselves being healed of our brokenness.

That’s the promise of our lives, it has been since our baptism.

He is our way, our truth and our life…. And because of that, Paul can tell us

4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.Colossians 3:4 (NLT)

All His glory, revealed as the place where we shall be, for this is what we’ve been promised, it is why we are hidden and protected, encrypted in Christ.

So look to Him, keep focused on God, know Him, trust these promise of God.  For there is His indescribable glory, we find His indescribable peace, a peace that keeps us there… for we are encrypted, hidden in Christ.

For Alleluia, He is risen

And therefore….we are risen indeed!

 

 

 

Treasuring God’s Gifts: Valuing our Parents

Treasuring God’s Gifts

Means We Value our Parents and all authorities
(rather than look down on them or provoke them)

Eph. 2:10, Exodus 20:12, Luke 10:25-38

  † In Jesus Name †

May you be so overwhelmed by God’s grace and peace that your trust in Him overwhelms you anxieties and doubts, enabling you to know His work in your life.


As I look around the room, it would seem that it has been a while since most of us lived under out parent’s roof.  Which is what comes to mind when we talk about the fourth commandment, the idea of honoring your father and mother.

We think that commandment that part of God’s plan is for children and young adults, those who still should be hearing their parent’s directions, and immediately going and obeying.

Take out the trash,

Clean your room!

Be home by 10.

Remember, the Bible says you have to honor your father and mother!

Of course, it is usually the parents reminding their children of this…

And the children always ask in confirmation – “what if they are wrong”, or “what if they want me to do something God knows is wrong….

As we have said throughout this series, this is not about being a robot and obeying the commandments of God.  If we treat it that way, it is no wonder that scripture is used as a weapon, and that people react to it in “self-defense”, trying to prove they are not as bad as the next person is.

But when we see this “word” this part of the design that begins with God revealing Himself to be our creator, revealing Himself to be the Lord who delivers us from our slavery to sin and the devil, then it takes on a different understanding.

For we begin to value our parents and all authorities as gifts from God, we realize it is not about them or us, it is about God. Trusting Him at His word becomes more dominant in our life than our frustrations that come when we have to interact with fellow sinners, whose lives and decisions impact our life.

or at least sometimes we think they impact our life negatively.

What does it mean to Honor

Looking a little deeper into this, we need to define “honor”.  It means to value, to treasure.  That is very different from simply obeying people, or simply submitting to them.

Why would we treasure these people, why would we value them? I mean after all, aren’t they sinners just like us?  We know they had bad days, challenges, maybe a temper or a rush to judgment.  Maybe their faith seems week, or they didn’t believe at all.

How do we honor them, how can we value them then?

Again, valuing them is not based in their value as we perceive it, but in the value of God, and in trusting in His word, especially promises like Romans 8, that all things work out for good for those who love God.  Or Jeremiah’s words about God having a plan for our lives, or of course our epistle for this season of lent….

That God is making our lives a masterpiece.

It’s a matter of trusting in Him.  About knowing His love, about realizing the power of the gospel in your life,

The Extension

I mention before that from the responsibility of the parents, Luther extends out that responsibility to others.  People who have callings like teachers, doctors, police officers, and even government.  These people take a portion of the role of the parent, and we entrust people to their care.

This where faith is seems to be a challenge!  How can we trust God in this! Their sins are usually much more public, and we have to wonder about their judgment, their care for our sake, their trustworthiness, how can we honor and value them?

We have to keep re-focusing, to know it is not about our trust in men, but our trust in God.  Whether we are the three men thrown into the furnace, and were kept safe, or the one who uttered, 56  “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” Acts 7:56 (TEV)  

Those words come a short time before the rocks were piled on him, as Stephen asked God to forgive those who were tossing them. That takes trusting in God, and knowing His promises.

But that is where is all keeps coming back to, this God who reveals Himself as our God, as our deliverer, as our provider, as our protector.

Who throughout scripture, is always faithful, who always hears His people call, A God who desires all to be saved. A God who delivers His people from oppression, who calls us His children, His people.

Who invites sinners to gather in His presence, that He can pronounce them clean, and welcome and give them faith and repentance, and transform them>>

As we trust in Him, as we realize the power of the death and resurrection of Christ, as we dwell in their presence… more and more… we know this…

The Lord is with you…

Therefore we dwell in His peace, in His glory, in something more incredible that we can conceive of, and know that we are guarded in this peace, our hearts and minds, by Jesus.

AMEN?

Midweek Lent III Treasuring God’s Gifts is Helping other s See God’s Blessings

Treasuring God’s GiftsMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

Means We Help Others See God’s Blessings

Exodus 20:15, Eph. 2:10, Luke 10:25-28

† IHS †

As we experience the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, may we grow in appreciating how He has gifted us all, and grow in stewardship of all of His blessings!

 

The Expert’s question

 

I would have loved, in preparing for this sermon, to walk around a bunch of churches on a Sunday, with a television camera and ask people the question the lawyer poses to Jesus.

Sort of like the street interviews, Jay Leno does.  He goes onto the street and he asks people what seems to be the simplest of questions, and their answers are… well there is a reason that they end up on late night television.  Thinking about last week’s message about not damaging people’s reputations, and about putting the best construction on everything, let’s just say they weren’t ready to be on camera with a legend. They were so overwhelmed, that they did not think clearly.

The young expert in religious law asks Jesus a simple question, “what must I do to inherit enteral life.”  Curious to know what so many would say these days, simply because people aren’t all that sure.

Jesus puts the question back to him, and the young man answers very wisely.

Love God completely, love my neighbor the same way I love myself.

Not rocket science, this young man gets the answer right.  He sums up the entire decalog, the 10 commandments, very simply.

Love God completely, love my neighbor the same way I love myself.

Give the man credit, he knows what it takes, but the very next phrase he will ask what this love looks like, when he asks,

Who is neighbor?  And what does this love look like?

In these days of lent, as we go backwards through the ten commandments, we see the same commands, the same structure.  We are looking at it differently, in view of the very first words,  I am your God, who rescued you…. Therefore… from your neighbor,  tonight’s phrase,

You shall not steal!

Do this, Jesus says, and you shall live!

We might think it’s easy, but is it?

What it means to “not steal” in Luther’s view

Luther didn’t think so, for stealing can be done both actively, and passively. Here how he explained it:

We must fear and love God, so that we will neither take our neighbor’s money or property, nor acquire it by fraud or by selling him poorly made products, but will help him improve and protect his property and career.

Wait this makes it sound like we are supposed to be our brother’s, (or sister’s) keeper. The truth of the matter is, we aren’t and yet we are.

If we define being our brother or sister’s keeper as we have the authority to boss them around, to condemn their works, to rule over them with an iron fist, we do not.  If we think that being their keeper means we get some material benefit from them, no, we do not.

Being our brother’s keeper means we have responsibility, responsibility to help them, even as we would need help.  Helping them to know God’s love, helping them to see what God has blessed them with, and helping them to enjoy it, even at our own cost. Helping them to see that God is the source of every blessing they have, material, physical, spiritual.

Helping them not waste what God has blessed them with, when we are able.

How it reveals our trust in God

 

We continue to see that this life that God has designed, that He has called us to live, that He has described in the Ten Commandments, is one that is impossible on our own.  Without God, we revert back into self-preservation, and eventually into self-centeredness.

It takes faith, confidence in the very wisdom of God, and in His love for all of us, to find the love we need to share with others.  To realize that God’s plan, that how he provides for each and every one of us.

To trust in His love, in His wisdom.

That kind of trust is a challenge!  We have realize it was the same wisdom that drove Christ to the cross, That He loved us, more than He loved His own life. That is why we trust!

Jesus, the Lord who saw us tossing away our greatest blessing, and did what it took to help us value it, to help us keep it.

The blessing of being the Father’s great masterpiece.  He not only kept us from letting something go to waste, He rescued God’s great work…saving what the Father cherishes.

Us.  The people of God, His very children.

Nothing can steal us from God, because of Jesus.  Nothing can separate us from Him, because of Jesus.  Because of His love for the Father, because of His love for us.  Jesus showed that love to the Father, while showing it to us.  Both summaries of the law, fulfilled.

The more we see this, the more we understanding the depth of His love, the more we can’t stand to see others waste the blessings God has given to them. Whether or not they realize that God has given them this blessing, whether they even realize that God exists.
That’s the nature of God’s love, the deeper we explore it, the more we are immersed in it, that we appreciate and are in awe of all He does.

The more we want others to see all the blessings He pours out on them, and thereby see the depth of His love even more clearly.

In seeing it, they know the peace we’ve come to know, the peace that living in God’s peace brings.  AMEN?

 

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