Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
† 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.
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.
Faith in Action….is Blessed!
† 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,
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!
Faith in Action: Knows
† 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…
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!
(above link takes you to the link for the entire service!
Faith In Action V
Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God, the love, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you that you can never ignore it. AMEN!
Overlooking the Treasure given
It was sitting in a garage, next to an old doublewide trailer in a small high desert town. Covered with some canvas tarps, realtor after realtor overlooked it. After all, the doublewide trailer was old, and while kept nicely, needed a lot of restoration.
In fact, our agent suggested removing it and just putting a brand new on in its place. The value was the property, with its beautiful trees, and the redwood decking, and the 3 car garage with a playroom
So, curious what was next to the 1940’s pickup, under all the tarps, I lifted the tarp. And there, underneath was a car. And oh… what a car.
A 1965 Shelby Cobra, a car worth more than the double-wide, the garage, the acre of land. It looked like it was in mint shape, just simply forgotten about.
Unfortunately, it didn’t come with the house. Yeah – I asked if the old vehicles on the property came with the property.
The son who inherited the house, and was trying to sell the property, had not forgotten what his dad had treasured. But he had neglected it over the years, and so instead of being driven, it had sat, with tarps piled upon it.
What a waste!
Even more of a waste is those who live as if they didn’t know Jesus, as if they didn’t know He loved us, as if they didn’t realize the mercy and forgiveness that would bring healing to our souls, the souls so shattered by sin and its companions, the pain-filled and shame, and grieving over our brokenness.
This is the strongest challenge to the idea of faith in Action, for we need to hear about God’s reality, and really let it soak in and heal our souls, even as we help others heal.
We need to hear, and soak in God’s reality, for that is what faith in Actions does.
Every Violation, Every Act of Disobedience
I want to read the first two verses of our reading again,
So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.
If we don’t remember God’s truth, it is too easy to drift away, to be swept away in the rapids of life. For that is what sin does, it picks us up, and takes us for a ride, until we are so far from where we should be.
God is serious about this, every violation of the law, every one of them is punished. As is every act of disobedience.
No excuses, no negotiations, every violation, every act of disobedience. No exceptions, no mulligans.
Every time we have been jealous or envious,
Every time we’ve gossiped, sharing rumors or even the truth with the intent of hurting someone’s reputation.
Every time we steal, or take advantage of someone, not giving them what the items is worth.
Shall I go on, and expand on adultery or murder in thought word and deed, or how we disrespect our parents or those in authority? How we don’t treasure the time God would have us rest and relax and heal in His peace or do I need to mention our disobedience as we fail to pray, calling on His name as He urges us to do?
Every sin, every violation of the law committed or by failing to act in love, every moment lived in disobedience, punished.
Do we hear that?
I am not sure we do.
Jesus tasted death for everyone
What I think we hear is,
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience will be punished.
and what is actually written is
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.
there is a big difference between will be and was.
And that is the truth, the gospel that we can’t neglect.
It is said in a different way toward the end of the passage,
and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.
Past tense, suffered, past tense, tasted, past tense, was punished.
We need to hear this, we need to celebrate it, we need to understand and cling to the hope tightly that Jesus paid for every violation of the law, every act of disobedience, and therefore we are free from the guilt, the shame, the eternal consequences of our sin. Because Jesus suffered death for us, because he tasted death, fully embraced it for everyone.
That changes everything.
We realize it, our lives should resound with praise, with gratitude, with living life in an incredible way…
Not ashamed is He!
And then this of this…
11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.
You and I, all those who trust in Him, or will come to trust in Him. Who live life, trusting in Him, depending on Him for this work He does, making us Holy. He sets us apart for a life with God, a life where we relate to Him as His children, where we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.
This changes everything, far more than finding a quarter of a million-dollar sports car under some tarps.
This is life. so don’t neglect, it, rather explore the love of God who does this for us, bringing us into our salvation, this amazing wonderful life, free from guilt a shame, a life that will last enterally, with our incredible Father.
Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18
† In Jesus Name †
May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!
Faith isn’t invisible
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,
1 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2 The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)
The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.
We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.
That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.
And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live. It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,
it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,
Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.
So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.
so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.
Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything
Nike started an ad campaign this week. Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator. Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,
This is their new slogan,
Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,
I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.
Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it. And act on that faith.
The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help
In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.
I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:
How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.
How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.
How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?
How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?
How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them? A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there
How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.
O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy? Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.
But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.
Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord
When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.
These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.
For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,
Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father. That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.
It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!
A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.
For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!