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The More Incredible Victory and its Unintended Blessing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for our Day:
so David inquired of God, “Should I go to war against the Philistines? Will You hand them over to me?”
The LORD replied, “Go, and I will hand them over to you.”
11 So the Israelites went up to Baal-perazim, and David defeated the Philistines there. Then David said, “Like a bursting flood, God has used me to burst out against my enemies.” Therefore, they named that place the Lord Bursts Out. 12 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David ordered that they be burned in the fire.   1 Chronicles 14:10-12  HCSB

The Lord has shaken you; he has done it without anesthesia, like he did to Abraham, asking him to give up his son, his dreams, his projects.He tested him without explanation, introducing him to the school of detachment to be truly a free man and completely available to the projects of God who was planning to make him a collaborator in the great history of salvation


If you must be heard, let it be like the babbling brook,
laughing over the rocks.
If you must be seen, let it be like sunlight
giving warmth and comfort to all.
If you must be acknowledged, let it be as the eyes
behold the skies in all their glory.
If you must lead, let it be like the wind and all its unshackled direction.
If you must learn, let it be like breathing, the natural flow of in and out, and done without thinking.

I love the naive thoughts in the last of the quotes from my devotional reading this morning.  I say naive because I know that the only way to accomplish such communication and leadership  You have to be naive, you have to be blessed with a simpleness, that simply does things naturally.

Like Abraham sacrificing Issac, you have to be freed from the things that keep us from living in the freedom we need to be naive, to simply rely on God, detached from all that would possibly separate us from God.

To separate us from our idols, including the idolatry of our dreams, our plans our visions.

Which is something hard to give up, these visions and plans we carefully set up, after careful study, deliberation, and even prayer.  (Most churches go through this regularly, trying to craft vision stations, mission statements, delineating core values in a precise and pragmatic way)  But what if we have to sacrifice this on the altar, what if we have to realize that while we think we know God’s plan, we may not?

Will we do so as willingly as Abraham did?

Or will we need someone like David for us?

It may seem overlooked in the tremendous victory David had over the Philistines, but there is a more incredible victory that blesses the Philistines more than it blesses the Israelites.

It’s there in verse 12, that because of God working through David, God delivered the Philistines from their idols.  In fact, the victory was so complete, they walked away from their idols. They were freed from them, and the emptiness they offered. The Philistines were freed from the brokenness, and though they had other issues to deal with, they weren’t bound to worshipping the dreams, the desires that these idols represented.

While I would wish my relationship with God was so strong, that my faith was so strong I could do what Abraham did, I am not that strong, I am not that devoted, I am not that willing to sacrifice my idols.  So I need to pray that God sends a David to bless me, to win the victory for me that only one I count as my adversary could win.

In reality, isn’t this what Jesus did?  While we were His enemies, He died for us, freeing us from our idols, freeing us from our self-centered idolatry.   And as we are freed, then the Holy Spirit works in us the kind of selflessness that some would count as naivete, the selflessness that is so blessed.  He won the victory against our sin and idolatry but won the victory for us.  Just as David did.

Lord Jesus, free us from our idolatry, as David freed the Philistines from their idols.  (and if necessary, use our adversaries to bless us in this way!)  Help us to be like your Son, our Lord Jesus, who was able to love selflessly, and naturally love, show mercy and care for those around Him.  AMEN!

Are you willing to be delivered from that which you depend on more than you depend on God?  Do you even know what your idols are?


Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Delivered from Demons, Now Return Home and Love!

Before the sermon, the Gospel had been read, and the heard again as our special guest Bob Bennett sang the song at this link  I would ask you listen, as it frames the sermon well…

The Simple Christian Life – Love Hope Faith!

Delivered – So Return Home and Love!
Luke 8:26-39


May the grace, that mercy and peace that comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the grace which delivered you from the power of demons, be the hope you share with those you dwell among!

 It bothers me….

Even as I love the story of this man being delivered from the power of demons, there is something that bothers me about this story.

No, it is not the destruction of several tons of bacon.

I mean it’s not like it would have lasted two thousand years anyway.

There is something ominous that hovers in the background of the story, that even as we celebrate one man being healed, being redeemed, being freed from thousands of demons, there is something that is frightening going on.

The reaction of the town, the community that is so paralyzed by anxiety, that they drive off the hope that is in their midst.  Unlike other towns, they turn down the chance for Jesus to be in their midst, healing, teaching, the Lord God dwelling in their midst…

Living in the presence of God, that is the simple Christian life, a life full of love, hope, and faith.   So why would they beg Jesus to leave?

What were their issues?  Why would anyone want to reject the hope of the man of the tombs knew?

To quote Bob’s song

Underneath this thing that I once was

  Now I’m a man of flesh and blood

  I have a life beyond the grave

  I found my heart; I can now be saved

  No need to fear, I am not afraid

  This Man of Sorrows took my pain

  He comes to take away our sin

  And bear it’s marks upon His skin

  I’m telling you this story because

  Man of the tombs I was
Why would they reject this for themselves?

Or the harder question to face, have you and I rejected this hope?  Have we driven tried to drive Christ away?  Or worse, do we ignore His presence in our lives?

Why do we avoid Jesus? 

I’ve heard a lot of guesses about why this group of people begged Jesus to leave them alone, and all are really conjecture. I’ve also heard some reasons people have given me over the years. Some are more about why they want to avoid the church, because of bruises and wounds that we’ve inflicted on each other.  Or they are afraid of the time commitment it will make in their life, a life already complicated and overloaded.
Others are more considered because of the idea that their lives will change.  That in order to change, they will have to deal with the pains of the past, the guilt, and shame.  Or that Jesus might confront them over something sinful and broken in their lives today.

That’s scary.  Maybe we aren’t wandering among the tombs, yelling and screaming, but to let Jesus come to us and work in our lives?  Remember – that is what Jesus told the man to share, what did Jesus do?

The man was naked, he had no home, no place to belong, he was the kind of guy that Jesus said the sheep who were welcome into the kingdom, because they helped him.

But what was it about the community that Jesus needed to address?

We say we know we need Jesus, but for what reason?  For most of us, it isn’t as easily seen as it as in the case of the man Jesus met.  Even so, it is there, some of us buried deep.

Don’t run! This time, don’t try to avoid Him!  Come and ask, trusting in His nature, knowing He will deliver you!.

Don’t send Jesus away, don’t beg him to leave. Let the Spirit come to you…

and bring you the relief and peace you need.

He’s come to us; He heals us…

For that is what Jesus does,

You see, the beach where he directed the disciples for, he came to those people, there is no other reason for a Jewish Rabbi to come to this place, but to meet people where they are at.

To come to free a man from thousands of demons, to bring peace to a village that only new fear, and now in their anxiety, sent Jesus away.

A Second Chance?

You need to know, that Jesus doesn’t quite accept their rejection.

For after they beg him to leave, he gives them a pastor, a prophet in their midst.  The man who was the possessed by the demon, which begs Jesus to come with him, is now sent to them to preach.  To announce salvation, to explain everything God has crafted, the poem God made out of his life.

A miracle they couldn’t deny, a life so dramatically changed that people notice.  A man tortured by the life he knew, freed now and so incredibly at peace.  Who lives in their midst, forgiven, saved, healed, and a testimony to the work of God, and that fact that God comes to us.  God hasn’t given up on them, any more than he gave up on the man with thousands upon thousands of demons.  He will come to them as he abides with this man…

That’s what the cross is all about, where Christ died to forgive us and to make us holy as we dwell in Him.


That is what this moment is about, as Christ comes to you, and saves you from the burdens that haunt you, from the life’s anxieties, from the pain you’ve endured, and even the pain you’ve caused.

For He has promised this, that you will know the serenity, both now and for all eternity.  For Christ has come to ensure you of that peace, and He shall keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.



After the sermon, Bob helped us focus on the hope we have in Christ by singing this song,,,  

Was She a Victim or a Hero, a Sinner or Saint; and her Overlooked Encounter with God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

7  The angel of the LORD met Hagar at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur 8  and said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress.” 9  He said, “Go back to her and be her slave.” 10  Then he said, “I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them. 11  You are going to have a son, and you will name him Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your cry of distress. 12  But your son will live like a wild donkey; he will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him. He will live apart from all his relatives.” 13  Hagar asked herself, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So she called the LORD, who had spoken to her, “A God Who Sees.” 14  That is why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” 15  Hagar bore Abram a son, and he named him Ishmael. 16  Abram was eighty-six years old at the time. Genesis 16:7-16 (TEV)

Her story struck me far different this morning that it ever had before.  Usually, she is just an aside, we acknowledge she is there and quickly pass her by.

She slept with another man’s wife, (even if at the wife’s direction).  She didn’t have a good attitude to either afterward, and they didn’t have a good attitude toward her either.  She tried to escape her situation and that is where the story gets interesting. 

God chased after her.

Even as I type that, I think, this is increible.

God chased after her. 

He chased after her, blessed her, made her promises and restored her.

Despite all the drama in her life.  Despite all the pain. 

As she so perfectly puts it –  He is the God who sees.  God saw her, in the midst of her brokenness, in the midst of her trauma, in the midst of running away, trying to escape the drama.  He saw her, and blessed her, and gave her the strength to go back, to return to the midst of the brokenness, 

And we have this encounter, with the one who was not favored with the one who would struggle, with the one whose descendants would constantly battle God’s people, until one of the descendants of Issac would be born, and die, and become the ultimately blessing to all peoples.  

Including Hagar’s descendants.

I asked in the title if she was a victim, or a hero, a sinner or a saint.  I also wonder what the relationship between Sarah and her was like upon her return.  The questions are interesting and I honestly don’t know.

But what is important. what I do know about Hagar is this.  She was the lady whom God saw, and she lived. 

May we as well, in our mixed up, broken lives, know the love of God who sees even those of us whom others overlook.  For we too are a part of Christ’s story… for He saw us, and died, and rose again, for us.  May we too, encounter Hagar’s along the road, and watch God minister to them, through us.

God’s peace my friend.


Matt 7 – THe Love of a Mother, the Love of THE Father

The love of a mother,

& the Love of The Father

Mark 7:24–30

  † I.H.S

As you go through life, may you be assured of the love God has for you, love that will go to extreme measure to free you from all that oppresses

What this isn’t about/What it is

As I preach about the gospel lesson this morning, I need to make something clear.

Yes, I know there are demons, and I am sure this lady’s story is exact and true.  It isn’t some parable. Her daughter had a demon.

Okay, now onto what the story is really about, the love of a parent for their child.

The love of a mother,

and the love of the Father.

Understanding the depth of that love will reveal the cross, and the reason that Jesus took a side trip from his home into a spiritual no man’s land.

It will also make the difference in your life, for you are His beloved child.

You see, the demons in this passage – they aren’t relevant, they are a side note. Although in a way it would be easier to preach about fighting them.

It is the love that matters, the love that we so desperately need to know.

The Love of a Mother

I don’t even think Jesus had unpacked at the home he was staying at when she showed up.  A desperate mom, looking for something to help her very young daughter.

I don’t have to have you imagine the pain, the desperation that leads her into Jesus presence the moment people realization it is a Jewish Rabbi – maybe even Messiah that has come into their presence.

But I will remind you that she is so desperate that she breaks every cultural norm, every piece of etiquette, and risks his very anger.  For to be in the presence of a woman in such situation would render Jesus unfit to teach as a rabbi.  As a man of God, being that close to someone outside the people of God would also render him unclean and able to serve, and to do a miracle for her?


She throws all decorum aside – she wants her daughter to be healed, to be delivered to, to be right.  When I first read that she fell at Jesus’ feet, I thought the word there would be the root word for worship – to bow and lay prostrate before someone, a position of worship, adoration, honor.

It’s not, is the word we get Pepto in Pepto-Bismol from, she collapses in front on him, a withering wreck.  And her only hope? A hyped up prophet from a country that hasn’t produced anything of value in 400 years….

She tosses everything aside, all pride, all loyalty to her people, everything if only there were hope.

She is so desperate she pleads, she begs, with everything she has.  Heck, she even argues for table scraps from this prophet from that oddball place with the oddball religion.

Such is the love for her daughter.

Even a daughter who, obviously, wasn’t easy to care for, wasn’t easy to love.

A daughter who was more trouble than any can imagine, a daughter who would be un-lovable, even one most people would be afraid of, except for a parent.   No one else would care, no one else would endure, but somehow she did.

As she collapses before Jesus, as she needed to depend on someone becomes more and more apparent, her responses grow stronger as if she intuitively knows that Jesus can help.

How could she know the love of God the Father, a God she was unfamiliar with, a love that would be revealed in Jesus coming near?

The Desperate Love of the Father
We have the benefit of hearing these stories, of knowing, even if we sometimes forget, a little bit about the depth of God’s love.   Usually, I ask Chris to say the word in Hebrew, (cHesed) but I think I want to keep our guest musician dry this morning.

cHesed – the love that would go to any length for the one who is loved.  That would go to any length to restore that which is broken,

it would drive a woman to the feet of a crazy prophet…

The same love that would drive a Father to send His only Son to her.

I want you to hear something in this passage again.  I want you to see it, think about it.

He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret
He couldn’t keep it a secret.  He wasn’t able to another translation says,  The Greek uses the word from where we get dynamic, dynamo, dynamite.  He was without any power in this instance.  The One through whom the universe was spoken into being, the one whose words sent demons scurrying, who calmed seas, whose words brought the dead to life, who spoke forgiveness and taught with authority.

He couldn’t keep where he went on vacation secret from anyone.

It’s as if someone was letting people know – here’s the prophet, here is your hope!

Because immediately, she found him.  And right after that, Jesus leaves the area and goes back to Galilee.  It is as if this wasn’t really a vacation, a chance to get away, but simply a trip to her, a divine appointment.

Think about this what stopped him, what took away his power to remain incognito?  What could make Jesus the Messiah incapable, powerless, vulnerable?

Jesus couldn’t keep his presence secret because God sent Him to be there, for this lady, for this daughter who would collapse at Jesus’ feet.

Because God loved her even as He loves us.  He didn’t send him just to deliver the child from the demon.  Jesus obediently went where the Father sent them, to deliver them from everything that oppresses them.

Even as He delivers us.

Even as Jesus was sent to us.  Even as He was sent to die on the cross for us.
Even though we weren’t clean and holy.  Even though Jesus would have to dwell in our sinfulness, even as He would take on every sin we committed. Even if we acted like we were demon possessed.  Even if our battle with sin is beyond belief.

Isaiah prophesied that the Father would lay every sin we’ve committed on Jesus.  His suffering and death would cleanse us, make us righteous, heal us.

That is what we have to understand – God doesn’t will that any would perish, God won’t let anything separate us from His love,

God gave us this ministry as well, this ministry of reconciling everything to Him, even as we plead with people to be reconciled to God.

As we enter this new school year, as we swing into fall, we are going to see this over and over, that God wants us to be in communion with Him.  That He loves us, that He will deliver us from evil. And that He sends us out, with His Spirit, to bring other broken people home to Him. To free others that are oppressed, by sharing with them His love.

It’s not about getting the scraps from the table.  It isn’t about our being “not good enough”

It is about even if we are there, completely collapsed, knowing God will restore us and care for us, and comfort us. That He will heal those we bring to Him.

The Father’s love is that deep.  And that love is revealed to us in the cross of Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the promises of our baptism, and the feast that is but a small sample of the feast to come.

May you dwell in God’s peace, the peace beyond anyone’s understanding, assured that you will be kept in that peace by Jesus.  For He has come to us, to deliver us from all evil.  AMEN.

Simul Iustus Et Peccator (simultaneously justified and sinner) Not a Justifiable reason for sinning

Devotional?Discussion THought of the Day:10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_n

30  And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Ephesians 4:30 (TEV)

1  What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? 2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? 3  For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. Romans 6:1-3 (TEV)

12  So then, dear friends, as you always obeyed me when I was with you, it is even more important that you obey me now while I am away from you. Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, 13  because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 (TEV)

 20  God has raised from death our Lord Jesus, who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep as the result of his blood, by which the eternal covenant is sealed. May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus Christ, do in us what pleases him. And to Christ be the glory forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20 (TEV) 

59      If you respond to the call the Lord has made to you, your life—your poor life!—will leave a deep and wide furrow in the history of the human race, a clear and fertile furrow, eternal and godly.

In the last month I’ve seen an alarming trend.  It is what I call the “Romans 7 defense”

People defending their sin, and even their intent to sin, by quoting the passage about the things we don’t want to do we, do, the things we do want to do, we don’t.  They stop there, They don’t admit that being in that situation is a wretched, horrible, and wrong.

I’m a sinner, I can’t help it, so why should I? 

Ill just go on as if nothing ever happened, and being a wretch is our normal state.  Right?  “It’s just the way I am wired….”  (funny, that excuse doesn’t fly for the sins we aren’t as appreciative of…)  Or the new favorite (said by at least 3 people recently) “I just don’t have a filter”

While they would deny trying to justify themselves, they will try an excuse themselves from their sin.  After all, it isn’t  murder, or perversion, or gossip.  Or I will here, “well I know its wrong, but it is not as wrong as xxx”.   The basic line, is a claim that since we can’t save ourselves, we don’t have to struggle to live as saints, right?  Those considered theologians will argue that there is no “3rd use” of the law.  Why is it, we want to make not just the norm of the Christian life, but the goal, a life of wretchedness?

But Scripture teaches differently, it calls us to have a mind like Christ Jesus.  Scripture reminds us of being bound to Christ, by being transformed by the Spirit.  It instructs us that we are given the desire and the power to leave God pleasing lives.  The author of Hebrews even makes that his parting blessing.

Why would these passages, and so many more in the Epistles and the OT prophets, describe a life lived in love and peace, if God just was satisfied with sin-dominated lives?

Why not live life where we are not satisfied with the wretchedness.  Where like Paul we recognize the struggle, and then focus our attention on His work in our lives.  Cleansing, Healing Justifying, Indwelling, Empowering a life where we have that attitude of Christ.

He broke the bonds of sin, why do we settle for staying in the prison?

The way out of this isn’t disciplining ourselves to stop sinning.  The answer isn’t found in having an accountability partner, (those can help) or even knowing God’s mercy will cover those sins.  The way to hear the author of Hebrews prayer for you to be answered is simple, keep hearing of God’s love, His mercy, His faithfulness.  Strive to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s actie presence in your life, know Christ’s presence as well.

Grieve over your sin, and that of the world, and look to Christ, where there is no condemnation, but there is mercy and love.

Live in Christ Jesus.

And when sin, confess and be cleansed….. but look to Christ for the power not to sin anymore….


(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 436-438). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


It Is Finished? Or it is Consummated?….

“It is Finished”Will new camera 12 2008 167
John 19:30


May you realize, not just what you have been separated from at the cross, but what you have been united to, for that is the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

One Word: Two Meanings

Have you ever heard someone, a teacher, your pastor, your spouse say something, and though you heard the words perfectly, you didn’t quite get what they are saying?

You heard them so well you could quote them back verbatim, and they would acknowledge you heard the words perfectly, but the message did not communicate?  I hope you were smart enough NOT to do that by the way.

When we hear Jesus words, there are two ways of hearing it, “it is done away with….”,  or ”it is completed”

The question is which we will hear,


and which we should hear…..

It is Finished!

The first way to hear these words, “It is finished”, is to consider all that has been dealt with, the bill that has been paid.

To think that sin has been made impotent, its power to cause guilt or shame has been eliminated.

The guilt and shame of being a sinner, wiped away in baptism, therefore the power of Satan’s accusation is no longer valid.
It is not that the Ten Commandments has been eradicated, it is that the curse for shattering them as we have, has been met.  The terms of our relationship with God have been met.

In this man, beaten, brutalized and scorned, that the complete burden of sin has been placed.

The debt for our envy, the damage done by our gossiping about others, the pain caused by our desires, our lust, our thirst for revenge, for the times when we would play God, or use His name to get what we want, rather than find rest and our burdens revealed by him.

All that debt, all that pain, all that brokenness….
It is finished.

It is finished……

Yet it is more than that….

It is Consumated/Completed!

As I looked through the history of the church, I saw something more than what we’ve been separated from as the focus of these words.  Augustine and the early church fathers used the equivalent of consummated, completed in regards to this phrase.  It is consummated, it is complete, complete, it has been accomplished.

They talk not just of the payment of sins, our being freed from sin and the devil, and the power of death.

They talk of what we are freed to, that the Holy Ghost, which Christ surrenders here, would soon be breath out upon the church.

It is completed, the work Paul talks of in Ephesian 2:10

10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

It is there, at the cross of Christ, this work has been accomplished, we’ve been taken into Christ, united with His death,

And with the hope of the resurrection, with that which we shall celebrate on Sunday.

It is completed this work to bring us to the Father, who finds us righteous, who welcomes us, His children, into His presence.  Sharing in His death, we now share in His resurrection.

That’s the point, what Jesus completed at the cross.  It is the so what, that changes a historical story into something that matters here in Brea, in the life of every person here this afternoon, that should matter to everyone who is driving by this church, to every person listed among our Facebook friends.  They all need to hear it – every person alive and every person that will be born until He come again. He has become the Way, the Truth and the Life, even as His head slumped, and He breathed His last breath.

We now can walk with Christ, we who trust in His work, who God has cleansed with water and the word.

Yes – He finished off all that would finish us off, but He completed that which He came to complete – to make for the Father a people who would be His, who would recognize Him as God their Father.

We have been united to Him, we dwell with Him, we are protected, our hearts and minds even as we dwell in the indescribable peace of God our Father.


Why a Crucifix can be so incredibly important… not just during Holy Week

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)

20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)

70  You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.

For some it is a piece of jewelry, or an art piece, and artifact.

For others, it is something they do not want to face, so they remove them from homes and sanctuaries.  They may say it’s divisive, or that they are afraid of it becoming and idol. Even a barren cross is seen as too close, and so they are removed, taken away, hid in a closet or irreverently thrown in a dumpster.

But there is something about a crucifix, about looking at a portrayal of a body wracked with pain, the crown of thorns, the nails through the wrists and ankles, the eyes that through the pain look out upon us.

The reason for the cross.

To make us the people of God,

This is what God the Father gave the son to endure, because He loves us……

This is what Jesus endured, hating its shame, but for the joy set before Him…. the joy of seeing us rise with Him.

This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to, the very power of the gospel that can save us all…..

Christ dying for us… and His crucifixion – the place where we died to sin…. the place where the promise comes home, we have risen with Him as well.

As i go through this life, as I see the effect of sin devastating marriages, crushing families, as I see the challenges of this broken world strike us with disease, as I see us choose, again and again, to tear down, to let resentment build, to seek after something that will quench our pain for the moment, whether it be sex or drugs or the latest television binge.  Escapes that mean little but a moment away.  We need something more substantial, something more enduring.

We need to remember when God came into our lives, dwelt among us, and the glory of God, displayed on a cross.  The love of God so incredible, so unbelievable, so needed. I need to stop and meditate on the wondrous love that would drive him there, to deliver us from all that assails us.  Crosses, crucifixes serve to call us to that point, to remember the love of God…. to remember His work – even now at work in us.

It is “the” game changer, that brings light to darkness, that dispells evil, that brings peace into chaos.

I don’t think we need less reminders… but perhaps far more.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ministry in the Spirit

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

” I pray every day with all my heart that God may give us the gift of tongues. Such a gift of tongues does not mean knowing a number of languages, but knowing how to adapt oneself to the capacities of one’s hearers. It’s not a question of “saying foolish things to the crowd so that they understand”, but of speaking words of wisdom in clear Christian speech that all can understand.” (1)

Yesterday, my sermon talked of how we boldly and with confidence enter the presence of God Almighty.  How we go there, without division – and how this incredible plan of God – to make us all HIs people, is something that it is a privilege to share.

Whether you completely agree with the concept above, in this day where language barriers appear to be broken ( how much of the world speaks either Spanish, Mandarin or English?) the language barriers aren’t as broken as we think.   It still takes, not only translating the Bible out of Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic/Latin, but also into a language, the language that people speak, the language that they really hear. Such is the challenge of a multi-cultural society – one that is different, not just based on ethnicity, but also economic, regional, age, musical (yes I believe this is a major aspect of culture that divides us) etc.  Our language, though it may seem common, is loaded with words that have different meanings.

I think most of us struggle with this, when it comes to personal conversation – we just assume people know the words that we have used for so long – words like redemption or faith, or baptism, or who Jesus is. ( most people think He came to show us how to live…) There is a lot to “unpack” for the people we minister to, those inside and outside (for the moment) of the church.  We need to assume that people don’t know our language.  But this is true for our gatherings as well – we need to ensure people feel comfortable with asking questions, and we need to continually, whether we have more traditional worship and Bible Studies, or more contemporary styles of worship.  ( people even then don’t know what to do, or when… they can feel out of place there as well!)

We have to remember, that this freedom, this grace, this mercy we live in, is so incredible, and so open to all!  And we have the great privilege to see God’s work, amazingly, through us – as we trust in His guidance, and rejoice in His presence… as we invite others to come with us. Paul talked of this plan of God – to bring us into the presence of God… Peter did as well..

 9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

May we this week – consider how we pray, that not only would God have mercy on us, but on those whom we encounter, and may we be instruments that communicate His word, the revelation of His plan for them in Christ.


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2334-2337). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Saved is more than making Par

Devotional thought of the Day:

He looked carefully at the situation, wondering how to get himself out of the rough.

Only 24 feet from the pin, but lying in the rough, just to the right of the sand trap, on this next to last hole.  Four inch high grass almost hid the ball from sight, but to dig it out without hitting the ball to hard… a challenge indeed!  The practice swing through the grass with the chipper only heightened the anxiety, as the grass slowed the club head down. The second practice swing – so hard the ball would go 30 yards at least. Tension settles in, as the golfer breathes out slowly, the club head comes down, and the ball comes out of the grass, lands on the green and is slowly rolling, its line looking to be about 6 inches off the hole.

Without warning the ball breaks sharply to the left and drops in the hole!  The crowd goes wild, as the spectator reacts as if I just won the British Open.  I “saved”  bogey, and would set a new course record, breaking two over par (avg per hole!)

What a SAVE!

We often talk about saves, from the pitcher comes into in the ninth inning, bases loaded and strikes out the clean-up hitter, to the catch of the previous vase I just knocked over, to my son “saving” his artwork forever!  Think as well about all the things cluttering our garages that we save because we might just need them, or the money we “save” for the rainy day.

With all these things we “save”, some of which we get incredibly excited about for the moment, (the bogey, the baseball game) and some that will never amount to anything – the word “saved” becomes weaker and weaker and when we talk about being “saved”, does it have the same impact?

Being “saved” by Jesus is a lot more than an instant “win”, and its far more permanent than even the stuff in our garage.  I think most of us know this in our mind, when it is being thought about, but how much does it affect our lives.  I love the words some translations use instead – “RESCUE”  or “DELIVERANCE” – because they bring into it the change that occurs,

as we are transformed from being evil to being holy.

as we go from wicked to righteous,

as we go from being alone, to sharing in the glory of Gods’ presence, welcome there, our presence desired there, and brought there because of the love of Jesus!

from blind to seeing, from deaf to hearing, from death to life….we are delivered from and more importantly delivered to…

As God’s name is made holy among us, among us!  The catechism describes it this way: ” When God’s Word is taught clearly and purely, and when we live holy lives as God’s children based upon it. Help us, Heavenly Father, to do this! 

Think about it, rejoice in it, love in it, with His patient help, and care…

You are saved – and its more than saving bogey, or par, or even getting a hole in one…

It is life…

Taking Sin Seriously…?

Devotional Question/Discussion point of the Day…. Do we…. do I take sin seriously?

It seems to be a trend in my life, and even more visible in society, that we take sin less seriously.  Thankfully, it is beginning to bother me again, and maybe I haven’t been as lulled to sleep, or maybe I am beginning to wake up some.

There is a way in which we shouldn’t take sin seriously, because of the cross – it has already been dealt with – the sin, the shame, the little nagging feeling that “this is wrong”.  Sin, no matter whether it is on the scope of someone being sentenced to serve their life in jail, or a junior high prank/theft, we shouldn’t take it so seriously that we can’t bring it to God, confess our sins and know, absolutely and without doubt that we are forgiven.   That God would heal us, not only of the specific sin, but indeed the disease.

It is exactly because we aren’t healed in our eyes until we get to heaven, that we need to hear of that forgiveness often.  Otherwise we lose heart, we think that it’s no big deal – and we begin to take being restored from that sin less than seriously.

And that is where we need to take it seriously – realizing that it cannot separate us from God, yet also realizing we need to deal with it, so it doesn’t.  For the believer, this is a matter of realizing God is responsible for cleaning it up, has promised He would, and not letting our pride get in the way of it.   Not easy!  And I believe, that the more we do confess our sins, the more we ask God to comfort us and assure us of the forgiveness of them, the more we realize how wonderful He is….

And sin begins to break our hearts as it does His, the idea of people living in bondage to sin breaks our Hearts as it does His…. and we desires that they be freed, we desire that we are freed…. and healed.

Sin has little power, only the power we give it, only the mastery of us that we allow.  We do need to take it seriously enough to take the cure of it seriously enough to realize that the forgiveness and healing is something wonderful something incredible, something so important that we adore the One who cares for us…

And realizing that… Paul’s words from Romans 6 come to mind…

 6:1 What should we say then? Should we remain in sin so that grace may be given the more fully? 2 Out of the question! We have died to sin; how could we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2 (NJB)

This day, Lord Jesus, help us to realize the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, cleansing our lives, setting them apart to serve You, guiding us and strengthening us.  Help us be so aware of your presence and work in our lives, that we adoringly join You in that work in others.  AMEN.

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