Blog Archives

Are You Ready for this? Do you really want this revival/renewal?

20141022_100825 - Copy - Copy - CopyDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
5  A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6  Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7  The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” 8  Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9  Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, John 5:5-9 (TEV)

211      Lazarus rose because he heard the voice of God and immediately wanted to get out of the situation he was in. If he hadn’t wanted to move, he would just have died again. A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.

XI. CONFESSION
1 It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse. However, in confession it is not necessary to enumerate all trespasses and sins,2 for this is impossible. Ps. 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”

XIII. THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS
1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.  2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.

I often hear people saying they miss the way church used to be.  They may indicate the music or the preaching. Mostly what they long to see are the full sanctuaries on Sunday morning, and church campuses that were busy every day and night of the week.   In dact, for a couple decades we can see the phenomena of people moving from one church to another, looking for the one that is coming alive, that seems to have a new life about them.

We want revival, much like the man who was at the pool wanted to be made well, much like Lazarus, to his surprise, found himself alive at the command of Jesus.  ( I love St Josemaria’s idea that he could have decided to stay there, as I think it is descriptive of many of us!)   

But are we ready for it?  Do we really desire it?

For what it will take is the sureness of our absolution.  Revival and renewal, whether individual or parish wife, requires something.  The realization that every one of our sins are forgiven!  Revival, being brought to life in Christ means we know and depend on the promises that nothing, including that sin, can separate us from the love of God. 

What an incredible thing these sacraments are, these sacred times are, when we realize that God is at work as He desires to be, awakening and strengthening our faith, our dependence on Him. 

For that is what having a strong faith means, we depend on God more, not less.  We realize His presence in our lives more, not less.  We let Him guide our lives, much like a leaf caught up in a stream…drifts and goes where the current takes it.

This kind of reliance on God’s mercy and love, these things we call grace, is at the heart of every revival, every renewal in the history of the church.  It is the hope that underlies the Lutheran Reformation, and the Catholic councils we know as Vatican I and Vatican II.  This is Escriva’s “The Way” and what Luther preaches so clearly in his catechesis. 

So Jesus says to His church today and to you and I,  

“Do you want to be healed?” 

“Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?”

“Do you want to be renewed, and revived”

It starts with trusting in God enough to pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!” 

Holy Father, Lord Jesus, and Blessed Holy Spirit, in your mercy, help us to say yes, letting you in to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness, helping us not to fear coming clean as much as we fear to remain trapped in our sin, which drives us apart from you.  We pray this in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 922-926). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

I’ve fallen, and how can I get up?

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our days:

15  After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16  JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17  A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18  “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19  Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)

8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?” 
“To find favor with you, my lord,”  he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.”  Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB

 

173      Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.

There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin.  We want to get past it, but we cannot.  It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.

Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him.  Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection.  Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.

Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit.  Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost.  But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.

We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!

That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off.  This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him.  Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us?  It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.

He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.

He holds us close to His heart,  so very close!  As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.

It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.

But He is there, with us.

For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.

Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Doing What is Right…. there is only one way.

Devotional Thought for our Day:

1  People of Jerusalem, run through your streets! Look around! See for yourselves! Search the marketplaces! Can you find one person who does what is right and tries to be faithful to God? If you can, the LORD will forgive Jerusalem. Jeremiah 5:1 (TEV)

804         That friend of ours with no false humility used to say: “I haven’t needed to learn how to forgive, because the Lord has taught me how to love.”

Unrighteousness is a contagious disease.

It spreads like wildfire, often consuming those who are trying to fight it the hardest.

We find ourselves caught hating those who hate, gossiping about those who gossip, seeking to be unjust to those who presume are unjust.  Not forgiving those who do something unforgivable.

We seriously need to send out search parties to find one righteous, just person.  Just one!

At least God lowered the standard from the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! Then Abraham got him down to 10 righteous people.  Now we have to find only One! If only there was some way to find that person, if only there was some way He could rise above the crowd, so that God could easily see Him!

The man has been found!  He’s been lifted up on the cross!  God forgave Jerusalem and all who look to Him for forgiveness!

God’s looked beyond our unrighteousness, beyond our betraying Him, beyond our brokeness and forgave us, not because He had to, but because He loves us.   He proved what St. Josemaria states, that one who loves doesn’t have to learn to forgive, the love they are compels them to do so.  Love will seek the course of reconciliation, it has to, and that means forgiving.

That is what the righteous and just do…

And that is contagious as well.

Lord, help us ot know we are loved, help us to be so overwhelmed by our experience the incredible height and breadth, depth and width of that love that we begin to love as well, and as we do, forgive as we’ve been forgiven!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3319-3320). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


 

A Strange Result of Forgiveness….

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for your day!

6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?”
I answered, “I will go! Send me!”
9 So he told me to go and give the people this message: “No matter how much you listen, you will not understand. No matter how much you look, you will not know what is happening.” 10Then he said to me, “Make the minds of these people dull, their ears deaf, and their eyes blind, so that they cannot see or hear or understand. If they did, they might turn to me and be healed.”
11 I asked, “How long will it be like this, Lord?”     Isaiah 6:6-8 TEV

 

 

673         Once you used to “enjoy” yourself a lot. But now that you bear Christ within you, your whole life has been filled with a sincere and infectious joy. That is why you attract other people. Get to know Him better, so that you can reach all people.

He should have asked what the message would be…

He should have wondered what the people’s response to the message would be.

But it didn’t matter, he still had committed himself to go, he still was willing to bear the stress and the cost of bearing a message to a people that didn’t want to hear it.

Was it done without thinking?  Was it done without counting the cost?  Was it stupidity or naivete?  Or was it something else?

As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness the power of forgiveness, or reconciliation.  Sometimes it is between a husband and wife, as one forgives the other.  Sometimes it is the joy of a parent, who has forgiven all their prodigal has done, now that they’ve finally come home.

The greatest moment is when a person, fully aware of their sin, as they look up at me through their tears as I tell them (on God’s behalf and by His command) that they are forgiven.  As their shame and guilt, which one had them convinced that there was no hope, is brushed aside by the Holy Spirit’s embrace, as they come alive with joy!

Looking in their eyes at that moment is hard to explain.  It is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, like watching a soul being born. It is seeing joy erupt like a volcano, a joy that was too long blocked, under way too much pressure, and now exploding with light and power beyond expectation.  You see it in Isiah – who hears the people’s initial reaction, and doesn’t say, “no, I am not going,” he simply asks “how long will they not list.”  Still his heart is set on going and his own forgiveness, his own being welcomed by God will sustain him.

Like the old camp song explained, you want to shout it from the mountain top, for I want my world to know, the Lord of Love, has come to me, I want, to pass, it on!”

And that is why Isaiah says, “I’ll go!

The love we’ve encountered, the power of forgiveness, it is hard to explain, but it is impossible to keep to ourselves.

The hope for the church today in America will not be found in it being conservative enough, or inclusive enough.  It won’t be found in having perfect theology, or the perfect worship service.  It’s not going to be found running this program, or emulating that church, or using this liturgy or that one.

It is found when a sinner, crushed beyond recognition is picked up, cleansed, made whole.  When the unrighteous person finds they are not just allowed, but accepted and truly welcomed into the presence of God and His people. It is going to happen when we hear our Lord’s voice, when the Spirit reveals to us the power of God at work in us, when we realize what it means to be loved.

This is the impact of the cross, and the resurrection, it is the result of realizing we are free, we are forgiven.

Lord, help us to reveal your message to people, to be patient with them, and do this by helping us see what it means to be forgiven, to have you walk beside us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2816-2819). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Thing a Pastor/Priest can do! (for you!)

A Devotional Thought for the day:

Sunrise at Concordia

Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9

486         That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!

When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger,  We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.

What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest.  The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life.  Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.

THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives?  For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,

“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins!  In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”

For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different.  The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language.  These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.

It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed.  We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us.  We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed. 

Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once.  Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day.  We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has.  Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.

This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.

So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)

See you soon!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. 

Why Do We Play Hide, and Not Seek?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought fo the Day:

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)

323         Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.

3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.

There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought.  So they had one of two easy solutions,  Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.

If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help.  If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same.   But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family?  How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?

St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us. 

That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception. 

Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace. 

It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.  

God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts.  He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.

Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.  

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

The Blessing of Knowing You’ve Screwed up!

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day”
6  If, then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. 7  But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:6-10 (TEV)

187      If your mistakes make you more humble, if they make you reach out more urgently for God’s helping hand, then they are a road to sanctity: Felix culpa!—O happy fault!, the Church sings.  (1)

Every once in a while, I get to help people reconcile with other people. During some of the conversations along the way, one of the two parties might indicate that the fault belongs only to one side of the fight.Usually, this is with one side taking all the blame, but on occasion, it will be laid all a the feet of their opposition.

Normally, the only time one side of the argument is completely right is when one side is God.

But even with God, people will play the game most call hypocrisy, where they indicate it isn’t really a fault that is theirs.  I’ve seen people (and my own thoughts/actions) trying to avoid recognizing the fault/sin/brokenness.  We can pretend to be in denial, we can try justify ourselves, we might even go on the offensive and get distracted by other people’s sins.

Bout ours still lie there, eating at us, causing damage to relationships. eroding the value we place on those relationships, even our relationship with God.

For if we hide in the sin, if we bury it and refuse to acknowledge it, we turn our back on God and those we love.  This is what the Apostle John is writing about – that if we refuse to confess our sins, if we refuse to trust in God, then we set ourselves apart from Him, and we ignore his love and mercy and care.

This is where St Josemaria’s words come into play.  The humility it takes to know the brokenness that sin causes is easily taken care of by God.

Humility, acknowledging the reality, not hiding from it, nor running from the responsibility, not pretending anymore, but just going yes, I screwed up, and realizing in that moment that God has already planned to take care of it.

What a glorious revelation!  One we couldn’t know unless if was for the fault, and for honestly, humbly, coming to the realization that we are sinners, and that God isn’t going to get rid of us because of it.

He will deal with it, He’s planned to!

Let’s stop hiding, let’s confess our sins, and rejoice!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 853-855). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There is Another Way: A Lenten Sermon on Romans 4

church at communion 2There is another Way

Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

 In Jesus Name

As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!

Parenthetical Statement

 In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis.  They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…

They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”

That seems simple.  No law, no breaking the law.

Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us.  They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”.  A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.

You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.

For one thing, it’s impossible.

For another… well you will see.

We can’t avoid it – because of Adam

Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.

All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.” 
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it?  You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!

Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.

Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…

You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.

Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.

 Hear David’s words again,

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”

This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed.  This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!

Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.

Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand.  Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.

That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart.  Paul gets this as well,

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.   1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.

His friends.

Let that sink in.

Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
His friend.

That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.

During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.

And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,

to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.

And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin.  And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.

AMEN!

Raising Cain! A sermon on Genesis 4

Raising Cain
Gen 4:1-16

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be heard in every part of you and transform your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.

Raising Cain – What if….

As you look at this title and think back on the words from Genesis we heard read a few moments ago, I wonder what you are thinking.

I mean if I gave your “permission” to think about raising Cain, would you think I was encouraging you to do something evil?  To cause great trouble, to be rebellious, to behave ( as one person said) like loud protestors at some protest rally?

Or is there another option to raising Cain?

And what you do you think about Cain?  Is he another like Judas that is beyond redemption, that is condemned because of the evil he committed?  Do we write him off like Pharaoh, or like King Saul or Ahaz and that rotten women Jezebel?

Aren’t we glad that we certainly aren’t a sinner like that Cain…?

Or like that tax collector,

Are we more like that Pharisee than we want to admit, thanking God that we aren’t sinners like everyone else, picking our sins we are proud we didn’t commit and proud of the things we do that “prove we are righteous?”
Could it be that instead of encouraging riotous living, the idea of Raising Cain is about trying to see how God called Cain to repentance and offered him hope, and life?

When we can see God working in Cain’s life, it will give us hope, as we struggle in our brokenness, in the midst of this broken world?

Look at the chances!

One of the things I see in this passage is that God doesn’t easily give up on Cain.  Nor will he give up easily on us, and we need to know that.

But consider a few of these things.

As Cain is upset about the offerings, God comes to him and says,

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

And like Cain, God comes to us, as we are struggling and says similar things.  He tells us we are His, which we are accepted.  But Jesus also warned Peter about potential sin, and then Peter would describe Satan this way…

6  So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.. 1 Peter 5:6-9 (NLT)
Does that sound familiar?

God knows his heart, knows that Cain is being eaten up by the sin, by the jealousy, by the nature he inherited from his folks and made his own.

And as God prophesied – sin caught him, his anger and jealousy and attempted to devour him,

He killed his brother. He did something only God has the right to do, to take a life.

What happened next, he could never have foreseen.

Instead of God taking his life, he comes back to Cain, and calls him to repentance,

Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!

As I read this, I had to ask, why does God ask where Abel is?  God is omniscient, isn’t He?  God asked the same question of Adam and Eve, where are you?  What have you done?

And of Peter on the beach, as Peter couldn’t get over denying Jesus three times, and three times Jesus asked, Simon Peter, “do you love me?”

We have to realize this; God didn’t give up on Cain.  He didn’t just take his life, as He should have. If God were only merciful and not just, he would have just taken Cain’s life.

But God cares for him, and for you and I when we fall into sin when we are trapped and in bondage.

Even when we realize we deserve to be punished for our sin and utter those words Cain did…

13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

If we didn’t have a pharisaical bias towards Cain, would we hear this any differently? Would we notice that Cain added in something God didn’t say?

14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence;

God didn’t – he is still with Cain.  God is talking to Him.  God is with him, there, and Cain is in the very presence of God.

Whether we hear those words of Cain as complaining, or fear, or pleading for mercy, they are said to a God who is there, who is listening, who is both just and merciful…

Just as He heard us a few moments ago, when we confessed our sin, when we pleaded for God to show us grace…

Even as He did to Cain.

Look at the grace – and what it pictures

We don’t see it if we just skim the passage, but it is there,

15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.

 I think we usually see that mark as one of punishment – a stay away from this evil person.

But it is there to protect Cain, to let people know that he was under God’s protection, that (gulp) God was with him. That no one had the right to condemn him, no one had the right to punish him.  Just like the woman caught in adultery.

Just like the mark of our baptism,

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Titus 3:3-6 (NLT)

You and I, we were no different than Cain, we were rebellious and sinned, despite God’s warning it devoured us.  God came to us again, and called on us it, showed us what we deserved, and then reminded us we are marked….. in our baptism, and no one has the ability to condemn us.  Nor will we ever be banished from His presence.

You are forgiven, just like the tax collector, and Peter, Paul, David, and me.

So go, and live in God’s peace, for Christ will guard your heart and mind in that incredible peace. AMEN!

 

It’s Time to Get Up, and Know you are Free from Sin!

Devotional THoguht of the Day:

1  Jesus got into the boat and went back across the lake to his own town, 2  where some people brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a bed. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the paralyzed man, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” 3  Then some teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is speaking blasphemy!” 4  Jesus perceived what they were thinking, and so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? 5  Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6  I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!” 7  The man got up and went home. 8  When the people saw it, they were afraid, and praised God for giving such authority to people.
Matthew 9:1-8 (TEV)

15 Note, then, as I have often said, that confession consists of two parts. The first is my work and act, when I lament my sin and desire comfort and restoration for my soul. The second is a work which God does, when he absolves me of my sins through a word placed in the mouth of a man. This is the surpassingly grand and noble thing that makes confession so wonderful and comforting.

In Luther’s Large Catechism, we see the words in blue above, as Luther exhorts (begs) his people not give up the blessing of confessing their sin. Only a man who himself experienced the overwhelming crushing weight of his own sin, and the relief he knew writes in such a manner.

Luther’s relief is found all over his works, and he gets a bit testy (okay even violent) toward those who would deny people as broken as he was/is the hope he found and the healing he experienced.

His explanation nails it, our confession and absolution is far more about the absolution that we receive, that we so desperately need, than it is about the crap we drop in the presence of God.  We may fear seeing it revealed, we may fear the surgery that removes it, what St. Paul calls the circumcision of the heart. We may even consider it impossible, a task beyond our ability.

Yet, the emphasis is not on the confession, but the cleansing.  The work is not ours, it is the work of freeing us from the darkness that consumes us. That can even physically inhibit and paralyze us, as the man experienced in the gospel reading. But Christ’s death, and the authority given to Him by the father shatters those bindings, those things that trap us.

The blood of Christ, which binds us to Him, already did this, as He hung on the cross and declared we are free from sin, and even while we get up – perhaps for the first time, His Spirit quickens us, strengthens us, restores that which had decayed and been destroyed by sin.

We need to stop buying into the lie that confession is difficult, a duty that is one that burdens us and breaks us.  It is a moment of incredible promise, a moment of being found in the presence of God, in peace that may be completely unfamiliar – but yet is home.

A little further down the section, Luther emphasised this again,

22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.

This prayer, this desire for mercy needs to be seen as a treasure, not because of the words we say, but because of the words said to us in love.  That changes our plea from one of desperation, to one of expectation, as the glory of God surrounds us, and we dind His love is still deeper, higher, broader and wider than we could have ever thought.

This is our God. We are His….gloriously his. 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 458–459). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

%d bloggers like this: