Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins. Mark 11:25 (CEV)
12 God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13 Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14 Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. Colossians 3:12-14 (CEV)
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
In the second place, this petition mortifies us through other people who antagonize us, assail us, disquiet us, and oppose our will in every way, who mock not only our worldly actions but also our good spiritual works, such as our prayers, our fasting, our acts of kindness, who, in brief, are never at peace with us. O what a priceless blessing this is! We should really pay such assailants all our goods, for they are the ones who fulfil this petition in us. They are the ones through whom God breaks our will so that his will may be done. This is why Christ says in Matthew 5 [:25], “Make friends quickly with your accuser.” That is, we must surrender our will and accept our adversary’s will as good, for in that way our will is broken. In the breaking of our will God’s will is done; for he wants to see our will hindered and broken.
The Letter of St. James notes that we should demonstrate our faith in our works. That is not always easy! Especially when it comes to demonstrating our trust in God when it comes to the adversaries, enemies, and jackasses we have to deal with in everyday life.
The Catholics have it right when they say sin originates in letting our trust in God die in our hearts. It is then, as we turn our back on the Holy Spirit that we take power into our own hands, and do what God says not to do.
Like seek revenge, or curse those who oppose us, or simply forget they were created by God, and treat them without the love and respect the children of God should receive.
We have to trust, when people oppose us, that God is doing what He has promised to do, that all things, even the opposition, will work for good. As Luther notes, God may be using them to break our will, so that His will may be done. Whether they realize this or not, we should be thankful to God.
That is why we can forgive them, realizing that their actions are actually blessings. That they show God’s love for us, although in ways that are pretty frustrating, and yes, humbling. We must realize that God is behind it. We must realize that His love is manifested in what these people are doing, saying, thinking. God’s will is being done, not theirs, and definitely not ours.
This is why St. Paul’s advice to “Put up with each other” and “forgive anyone who does you wrong” is preceded by words reminding us of the FACT that God loves us, and chose us to be His own That must come first, the relationship, the love that matters more than anything else. The love of Christ, that poured our in water and blood, the love that unites us all, cleansing us of ALL sin. Binding us together. Demonstrating how faithful God is to us, and how He, in His love, empowers our ability to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, even while persecuted…
Lord, we have faith in You, help us to have faith!
Lord, Have mercy on me, a sinner!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 100.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 44–45.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
1 John 3:1-2 (NLT2)
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT2)
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
God often speaks to us in obscure ways to allow us the room and time we need to respond. He lets us know he is speaking to us but also that we need to stretch out in growth in order to receive the message. Perhaps we think, “God, why don’t you just say it? Tell me in detail how to live.” But we are usually full of mistaken ideas about what that would actually mean. If it actually happened, it would probably kill us or unbalance us. So God in his mercy continues to approach us obliquely. Our minds and values have to be restructured, but God speaks anyway because he appreciates our interests. As we mature, this is less so, until that time when we can safely know him as he knows us
I’ve known many people who ask, “what in the world is God thinking?”
Some are doing so because they don’t understand the trauma and testing the are going through.
Some are trying to figure out what it is God is calling them to do, what “God’s will is for their life” This is something we do need to consider, yet to often we do not hear God, and we wonder why He seems… silent.
Some just can’t comprehend that God would love someone like them, or that God could love “those people.”
As the prophet Isaiah says, God thinks differently than we do. He works differently than we do, even to the extent He may work through us in ways that we would not expect, that we would never do if it was left up to our own choice.
We don’t get it, we struggle with our knowledge of God, and His thoughts and ways. The above scriptures indicate that part of that struggle is that we struggle with our knowledge of our own lives. We don’t know ourselves well enough to see what God is always doing in our lives. Remember Socrates’ one key goal? “know thyself?” We do not.
And because we know neither God’s own thoughts, (or His thoughts about us) nor who we truly are, we have a dissonance, a confusion that exists in our lives. This dissonance, this difference between what is real and what we perceive is more than challenging. Sometimes, it causes us great stress.
Dallas’ Willard’s words in purple above give an explanation that makes a good deal of sense. (We have to add in the stipulation that God would not communicate with us in a way that is contrary to His being revealed in word and Sacrament.) But the idea that God would communicate to us obliquely, in such indirect ways, is a measure of His love and care for us.
An example, He might have a specific mission or apostolate for us, a call and commission to reach out to a certain group, or help certain people. Let’s say you a 16th-century monk/priest/professor named Martin, how would you react when God told you not only would you become a priest, but an outlaw, revolutionary and cause the fracturing of the church? If Martin had the foresight of what God intended – he might have stayed a simple lawyer.
So God takes His time, He is patient and wise in how He reveals His will, He surrounds us with others when we are going to struggle with it. He loving and with great care shepherds us through life.
There are times where the Holy Spirit does make it clear, times that become easier ot recognize the more we are spending time with Jesus, meditating on His promises, hearing and exploring the dimensions of His love ( especially as it is delivered in His sacraments)
The more we understand of His mercy, the more we experience His love (which is also to great to understand) the more we grow comfortable with what He asks of us. The more we become comfortable with His desire that no one should perish, but all come to repentance, the transformation that the Holy Spirit effects in our lives.
That is why the Lord’s invitation to us to come and dialogue with Him, to come and reason with Him has the context of cleansing us from sin. It all starts there, as God justifies us, as God declares us free of sin, having laid that sin on Jesus.
But cleansed from sin, able to move into the presence of God with confidence, and swell there, that changes everything. We become less concerned with the “why’s?” and “what’s next?” We are more attuned to focusing on Christ, adoring Him, hearing Him through word and sacrament, and experiencing His love that wherever we are led happens. We become free of the anxiety caused by the unknown because we believe in Him, and trust His care for us.
Dear Father in heaven, knowing your love and care for us, we ask that the Holy Spirit help us focus on knowing You, on experiencing the Your love for us revealed in Christ Jesus, through word and Sacraments, helping us to be at peace with what we may not, or cannot understand. Rather Lord, help us to rest, knowing we are secure because we are yours. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
We Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional THought of the Day:
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who •fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust. Psalm 103:11-14 HCSB
When we say “God loves me”, we should not only feel the responsibility, the danger, of being unworthy of his love, but we should also accept the words of love and grace in all their fullness and purity, for, by implication, they tell us also that God is a forgiving and benevolent God
88 Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray, “Dear Father, forgive us our debts.” Not that he does not forgive sin even without and before our prayer; and he gave us the Gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness, before we prayed or even thought of it. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness.
So many songs that talk about how great the faithful love of God miss the incredible, glorious context of how and when His love is communicated to us. Even greater is the measure of His love when we realize that He doesn’t just love us when we are holy, perfect and mature in our faith.
The psalmist puts it into context for us, the reason we know His love, His compassion is that He has removed our transgressions from us. He loved us when we are broken, in bondage to the sin and sinful desires which so easily entrap us. Luther notes that this forgiveness, this removal of sin was accomplished even before we prayed or thought to pray. Pope Benedict writes that we should accept these words of love, for they tell us God is forgiving and benevolent. He desires the best for us, even when we aren’t at our best.
This is the love of God, and it is what Satan and the demons that work alongside him would have us forget.
Yet, we need to know our God and His love that is so clearly described in verse 14. The Lord knows us! He knows what we are made of and that we’re dust without Him. He realizes how broken and shattered we are. He realizes our struggle with temptation, and the guilt and shame we live in, which we hide or grow callouses to cover our guilt and shame.
He knows it all.
And still is faithful in HIs love, committer in His mercy and compassion. In Hebrew, the word cHesed is used for all those, the dedicated love, mercy, and compassion that is always faithful to those in the relationship with God.
And how wonderful it is! He loves you! He forgives you! He knows You – and still loves you! The context of His love for you is your brokenness, which He is healing!
How amazing, how glorious! This is our God!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 215). San Francisco: Ignatius Press
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 432). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press..
An Everlasting Sign
† I.H.S. †
As we walk though this life, may we continually see the everlasting signs of God’s power and love, at work in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
Walking by the lake… you can’t take it all in…
Walking by the side of Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire, I learned a lesson about photography, and perhaps about life.
Simply put, the camera can’t take all that we experience with our eyes. They can’t take in the gentles waves, little more than ripples, and the beautiful homes across the lake, never mind the mountains that are visible on the horizon. You can’t take in a 360-degree panorama of beauty, never mind the feeling that occurs when you walk down a road with your son, that you and your dad walked down before.
Likewise, even our eyes can’t focus on everything at once.
There is so much more than we can see and hear, never mind the stories that give the story more depth, and the experience that goes beyond words.
Either because the experience is so full of joy, or so full of the pain of being broken, or sometimes, because the experience is both, and how do you concentrate on the joy, when you are struggling with tears?
And if that is simply trying to process a vacation, how do we catch what is really important about life?
Maybe we need a sign or two to help us along the way, to help us focus on what we need?
Do we see the fruit God’s word accomplishes?
One of the things I don’t often see is what Isaiah recorded God telling us,
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
This illustration might be harder for us to understand here in California than it is sitting beside a lake in New Hampshire. After all, like looks little different at first today than it did a year ago when we are in a drought. Yet there is still snow in the high Sierras, the depleted reservoirs are again full.
We can’t see those signs, but we do know of the snow and rain from the crops that provide us food, from the grain that gives us bread to the grapes that provide us wine!
But like the camera view that cannot pick up everything, sometimes it is hard to see the blessings of God. They are there, just like the water that sits up in the High Sierras and the reservoirs. We may not regularly note the benefits of the blessings, but the blessings sustain us, none the less.
Again, do we see the rain and snow here? Not so much, but the evidence of that blessing we share see in a moment, just as we do every we eat, and with every sip we drink. His work is there, providing for us, even if all we can “see” are the end results of the blessings.
It is the same way spiritually, as God works through means, and delivers us grace and comfort, as He reveals His compassion and peace.
It will accomplish what God desires it to accomplish, and that is an incredible blessing.
The change is real – let’s see it!
So if in the physical life we see the end product, the food and drink that nourishes us, is there something similar spiritually.
Is there an eternal sign that proves God is at work, that He is blessing us?
Is there something that changes dramatically as a land that was once filled with thorns and weeds being filled with towering cypress and abundant colored myrtle trees, as verse 13 describes?
Yes indeed, we can see the effect of the blessing of God’s word, for the growth and change it does cause. The lives that do change, the lives that hear and know God’s peace in the midst of trauma, the lives that are reconciled.
I started this sermon by talking about the pictures that can’t take in everything the eye can see, and the eyes that can’t take in everything we experience.
Bu those eyes can take in a cross, and contemplate it’s meaning as we are joined to Christ’s death on the cross in our baptism. Those eyes can rejoice as we are welcome to feast on Christ’s body and blood, even as we try to meditate on that incredible feast. Our ears can celebrate as we heard our sin is forgiven, and rejoice as we hear that God is with us.
And as we know this peace, and share it, for so many need to know God’s gift of peace, given through His Son. That peace is the sign of His everlasting power and love, a peace bought for us at the cross and delivered to us in word and the sacraments. The word and sacraments used by the Holy Spirit to change us, for God is with us! AMEN!
Be Different: Act like God’s kids
† In Jesus Name †
May the gifts of God’s mercy, love and peace enable you to truly live life, as you learn to love those God brings into your life.
The hardest lesson to live!
The words of Jesus that I read this morning are hard to hear.
They are easily understood, but how easy are they to live up to?
Turn the other cheek! Give up more than you are sued for, give to those who demand of you, don’t turn away those who want to borrow.
And these hard words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, pray, that is, ask God to bless, those who persecute you.”
In a world where we are trained to look out for ourselves and those we love, how do we even do this? How do we set aside our resentment, our fears and anxieties, and the pain others cause, and love them?
Yet Jesus asks us to do exactly that….
And it doesn’t matter who our enemy is, whether it is a global one or the bully that lives down the street.
How can God ask this of us? What is really going on here? What is God up to?
What is God up to?
We see a clue in another of the verses,
In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Why would God give good stuff to those who are evil? Why would He rain blessings on those who are not just? And what does that have to do with the challenge we have, in loving those who are our enemies, or who we think are, and therefore are afraid of them?
The first answer is the old one, (First written by Augustine) that talked about the fact that in hating our enemies we are hurting ourselves more than we could ever hurt them.
A better answer is seen in one parable, where Jesus taught that He doesn’t remove the weeds among the wheat; because we can’t be sure of not uprooting wheat when we dig out the weeds. Likewise, the enemy of today may become the friend, the brother in Christ. The one which we are praying for may stop persecuting us, as Paul the apostle went from killing and tormenting Christians, to being one who preached about Jesus’ love from Jerusalem to Athens to Rome and perhaps beyond.
We don’t know, we just know the heart of God, who the apostle Peter tells us is patient, not willing that any should die in their sin, but that would come to the transformation that happens when our sin is forgiven.
To put it another way, what makes the different between a weed and what is not how they look, but what happens when they encounter Jesus. That’s why the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel would write this, “
21 But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. 22 All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. 23 “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:21-24 (NLT)
Knowing God’s heart, and knowing that neither we nor angels can know how someone will turn out, these are things that help us love those that others tell us can’t be loved. Knowing that every single one of them God loves and desires to be one of His own. This helps too…
Acting like God’s kids!
But what helps the most is knowing that God loves us, while we were His enemies, while we chose to live without him, choosing to do what we thought was right more than we cared what He thought, what He wanted.
Paul makes it clear – while we were all His enemies, Jesus died for us. He died, taking on the judgment we deserved. He died to make sure that our sin wouldn’t divide us from God. He died that we might live, and live life knowing God loves us and is with us.
So for us to be God’s kids – to live like that, we need to know what He loves, and how Jesus lived. Loving those the rest of the world considered unlovable, loving those who are our enemies, and asking our Father to bless those who make our lives difficult.
For when we know that, loving those who the world considers our enemies, is nothing more that loving those our Father in heaven would have become our brothers and sisters. And loving them becomes possible because we dwell in God’s glorious peace, peace that the world doesn’t understand, which is the peace in which Jesus guards our hearts and minds. AMEN!
Overwhelmed by Joy!
† Jesus Son & Savior †
As we begin this year, may the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm you, leaving you noticeably at rest and full of joy!
Standing in the wings
Isaiah, the prophet gives an incredible description of the new beginning we have in Christ in today’s Old Testament. It takes most of back a decade or two or five.
Back to when us guys were standing in churches, or chapels, and waiting for the doors to open. Back when you ladies were on the other side of those doors, in that moment of anticipation, in that moment of joy.
That’s what Isaiah starts the passage with, as he attempts to describe the joy he feels, as he catches a vision of the restoration of the people of God. Hear it again,
10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
All dressed up – and waiting, but what clothes! Salvation and Righteousness!
And Isaiah saw this coming – and the joy was overwhelming!
As we start this new year, this is what we need to realize, that our lives have changed, and changing as much as a young couples lives change, as the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day….
We’ll get back to that in a moment…
The prayer – for the new beginning
We need to understand that Isaiah is one of the prophets whose writings are filled with lament. With the words that people will hear, because they continually choose sin over God. They are self-centered, and ignore those in need, which Isaiah mourns over, even as he warns them what they are heading for, if they continue.
In between the woes, and the promises of judgment, there brief views of hope. He will talk about a virgin who would conceive, and the baby who would be the wonderful counselor, eternal Father, the prince of peace. He would mention the one who pleased God by taking on himself all the wrath of God, thus giving life to those crushed by their own sin.
But overall, the book is challenging to read, Lots of what we might call hell fire and brimstone. But then, sin is a serious issue, and it took a serious cross to cure and heal the damage done to sinners.
But you see God’s heart reflected in Isaiah’s prayer
Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
Even as the prophet has his moments, okay, more than moments, years of struggling to get them to listen to God, he has a desire for them to come into the relationship they were meant to be in.
God’s desire infused the heart of Isaiah, and even as he weeps over their disobedience, he longs for the change that God has promised.
He has to pray, and will pray until they are right with God, so right they shine like the sun rising, and the proof of God’s delivering them lights up the darkness like bonfire.
This is what the prophet longs for, and what causes incredible joy, as he looks to the future, and gets a hint of what Jesus, the one born of a virgin, the suffering servant whose wounds would provide our healing, when Isaiah realizes the work of Christ!
Even as it was His hope, it is ours as well, and we are so much closer to realizing it fulfilled.
We like Isaiah are dressed, and waiting for the doors to open, to see the promise come into its fullness.
The clothes and the name.
When I mentioned the joy of Isaiah being such that he compared it to a groom standing here, or a bride back at the door, all dressed up in their clothing of salvation and the robe of righteousness, I didn’t explain the depth of those words.
The clothing is that of the greatest finery – the same words are used for the special robes of a priest on the highest of holy days. As is the robe – we aren’t talking about a bath robe or choir robe, we are talking about the covering of a king… and the types of garments aren’t even the best thing!
The clothing of salvation – that is in Hebrew the being clothed with Yeshua – being clothed with Jesus! The very thing Paul will talk about, as we are united to Jesus – as we put Him on,
Which explains how our robes are righteousness – the purity and innocence of one who does not know sin at all.
This is what Isaiah saw as our future, this moment of pure joy, pure bliss, as the people of God are made so righteous that the world is amazed, because we will share in the glory of God, as He holds out for all to see.
This moment as God makes you His, this special moment that Isaiah prayed and prayed and prayed for, that the people of Israel and all the nations would come to know…
The moment we were united to Christ, it is already here, it happened at the cross.
In the beginning of the sermon, I mentioned waiting here as a groom would, or there, as a bride would, that is what Isaiah saw – but for us, we’ve come to that point where the pastor announces our name for the first time, for we have be claimed by Christ at this font, and again at this altar.
We are his, and though we can’t quite believe it has happened, it has, and the rest of life is the walk down the aisle, dwelling with Him in holiness, until we go out into eternity.
The thought of this occurring caused Isaiah great joy, so much so He was overwhelmed,
How much more can this overwhelm us, who don’t see it far off, but know it true now.
How much more can it affect our very lives, this incredible gift of God.
May we sing His praises, now and forever! AMEN
Devotion Thought of the Day:
11 The Lord said to him, “Get ready and go to Straight Street, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying, 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he might see again.” 13 Ananias answered, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and about all the terrible things he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come to Damascus with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who worship you.” 15 The Lord said to him, “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. 16 And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake.” 17 So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was, and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said, “the Lord has sent me—Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; 19 and after he had eaten, his strength came back. Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. Acts 9:11-19 (TEV)
Most believers know well the events on the road to Damascus, as Saul the persecutor of the church is confronted by Jesus, and is transformed into the Apostle Paul. This scholar, missionary, apostle’s repentance is easy to see, and often held out as an example of the work God does, in giving someone a repentant spirit.
But in the midst of Paul’s conversion there is another story of repentance. Notable because the man who repents is already a believer. Yet, even as Paul didn’t recognize God or God’s will, neither did Ananias. Until they both repented. Until they both responded to God’s intervention.
Perhaps it is because of Paul’s incredible story, that we miss the story of Ananias, and the transformation that occurs in his life. For he repents, and goes, and shows to Saul/Paul the love of God, and brings healing to Saul/Paul’s eyes, and to his soul.
I think for those of us in the church, we often forget to repent, we often forget to hear God’s call to love Him with everything, and to love other humans as much as we love ourselves. We hang onto resentment and fear, we allow rumors and generalizaitons to fire us up and fuel division, even leading to hatred. We get defensive and hostile.
Worse of all, we lose our faith. Ananias forgot the will of God, that desires that all come to repentance, to be transoformed. He forgot the power of God that would transform Saul, and he being overwhelmed by fear, his faith in God disappeared. He didn’t hear God, he didn’t trust Him. In fact, in disobedience, he tries to correct God.
The blessing is how God dealt with Ananias, much the same as God dealt with Paul. He revealed Himself, He revealed His love, and He welcomed Ananias to share in God’s plan. This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, “15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another.” John 15:15-17 (TEV)
Ananias repents, as does Paul. Both then God continues to transform, conforming them to the image of Christ. Both the believer and the unbeliever, brought deeper into relationship with God.
Two incredible stories of repentance.
Brought about by God, who desires we all experience this blessing.
Devotional Thought of the Day
22 “And now I am bound by the Spirit* to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. 25 “And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. 26 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,* 27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. 28 “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood*—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. Acts 20:22–28 NLT
10 9. We must learn about Christ from the Holy Gospel alone, which clearly testifies that “God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32), and that he does not want anyone to perish (Ezek. 33:11; 18:23), but that everyone should repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:2).
As most pastors do, I regularly get letters and packets, the “best advice” that I will ever hear. Or invitations to pastors conferences guaranteed to change my ministry.I have to wonder if they share the standard of the apostle Paul, as he writes,
..my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,
When churches are tasked with evaluating their ministries, there is some metric, some measuring standard that is to be used. The end result of that standard is a mission statement, and a core list of values, and a general direction for the ministries of a church. Consultants and coaches are often the givers of guidance, as our national and even international leaders.
But I wonder if these words from Paul, as he seems to realize his days of ministry are coming to a close part of the consideration of whether a pastor, a teacher, an elder, a parish or even an entire denomination can be content with their work?
Go back through the readings above, hear the Lord asking you if you measure up to these standards.
You may think I am going to give my super secret way of getting to that level of maturity, my 6 plans or some cute five letter acronym to remember to motivate you to do God’s work. I don’t.
Spend more time in God’s presence. Receive the Lord’s Supper more, contemplate the cross and your baptism more. Spend time being relieved of your sin, confessing and being absolved of it Find ways to know and revel in this simple truth.
The Lord is With You.
It is from there, from knowing God’s heart because His love has been shown to you – that is where the desire for ministry comes from, that is from where the dunamis power and ability comes. If you want you church to be able to follow Paul’s guidance, do the same. Feed them the word and sacraments that confirm the covenant, the declaration that they are His people.
Be sure that the Holy Spirit will work through you, and open your hearts and hands to do so.
And rejoice, for they will reach the measure of the fulness of Christ… for that is why you were called. And know this, He won’t abandon you forsake you – for that too is a promise.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Do we Dare Pray:
Thy Will Be Done On Earth?
May you be so aware of the grace and mercy of God our Father that you desire and to see His will revealed in your life!
A Picture of God’s Will, made Complete in heaven:
I want to re-read the Revelation passage, that describe what God’s will looks like, when revealed in Heaven:
9 When this was done I looked again, and before my eyes appeared a vast crowd beyond man’s power to number. They came from every nation and tribe and people and language, and they stood before the throne of the Lamb, dressed in white robes with palm-branches in their hands. With a great voice they shouted these words: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!”
11 Then all the angels stood encircling the throne, the elders and the four living creatures, and prostrated themselves with heads bowed before the throne and worshipped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength be given to our God for timeless ages!” Revelation 7:9-14 (Phillips NT)
It is the vision of the Nunc Dimitis, the incredible song Simeon spoke as he held Jesus. The song we will sing, having been given Christ’s body and blood…
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Luke 2:29-32 (NLT)
When we pray for God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, we are asking Him to save the world, to bring us all into a relationship with God the father, through Christ. To see the love of God revealed, to and in the people we know, to see them join the name of those whose names are written in the book of life.
What a thing to celebrate.
For every time a sinner is welcome home, cleansed and made a child of God, the heavens rejoice, and so should we!
Every time they learn to pray and trust to lay everything in God’s hands, including their very lives, the joy of heaven is inexpressible. God’s will had been revealed in our midst. Every time we approach this altar and share in His feast…. His will is seen again, for we take His body and blood into us, even as we have been joined to His death, and the resurrection, and added to the number whose voices will thunder His praises!
But Why Would We Hesitate?
To see this happen, what needs to happen to us?
Do we dare pray this happen?
Do we realize what we are asking God to do? How He will change us?
What will it take, for Jesus to be that well known here by people here, in our little corner of Cerritos?
it is the same question that Chris asked a couple of weeks ago, when He asked what it meant for God’s name to be Holy in this place. We are going to have to let God, not Chris or Albert or I, meddle in our lives.
We will have to embrace being uncomfortable, as we have to make sure our traditions and practices work to draw people to Jesus, that what we do and say and think reveal that our lives have been changed by God, and that we are eternally grateful.
We will have to embrace change, as God cleans us up, ridding our lives of our desires, our words and actions that aren’t consistent with His will, strengthening us against the temptation, ridding our hearts of anything that isn’t loving towards anyone.
We are asking God to invade our lives, and rip out anything that isn’t loving, that isn’t reflecting His love and mercy.
Because if His will is to be seen in our midst, it has to be seen in our lives.
You resent others? That has to go.
You hold on to things people have done and said to you? Those feelings and thoughts have to go.
You are jealous and envious of others things or relationships or roles because you deserve better – that attitude has to go.
You would rather be safe and secure, rather than be willing to give up all, that some would know Jesus? Time for that to change as well.
Frustrations, Anxieties, Lust, unrighteous anger, desire for revenge?
They all go, because they will stop you from realizing the will of God, and seeing what God desires happening in your life, in our life together.
Do you still want to pray this prayer?
Are you ready to?
Why We Pray this may be done among us.
So why do we pray this?
Go back to the vision, of people from every place and time, from every culture, from every language coming together in the presence of God – all of gathered as His people, as His family.
To a place where tears no longer flow, where there are no enemies, no adversaries. Where we gather to celebrate His love, to see the miracle that we are, when we have been saved, and realize that God wanted to do this very thing.
To realize that when we pray this, that God’s will be done, it is being done in our lives, personally, and as a community. Right now! When see someone baptized, and united to Christ means they are united to us as well, they become part of that crowd that will be there in heaven, with each of us. This service is a foretaste of that To kneel at this altar with people, to be part of the great company of heaven singing His praises.
You and I, despite our selfishness, despite our sin, welcome into His kingdom, and not just welcome, but welcome as His children, His blessed children He wants to share His glory with. His greatest desire, His will is that we would be with Him.
May it happen in heaven… and may it happen here and now….
For the Lord is with us, and we know we need to know His will, will be done here in our lives. So let us spend the rest of this service talking in prayer with our Father…. Amen!
His Mysterious and Awesome Plan!
May you realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace that reveals you are what they desired, as from before time, the manger and the cross became their plan in action!
18 times…. One Thought
Eighteen times in the course of eleven verses, the plan of God is either mentioned directly or indirectly or the plan itself is simply reveled.
In these beginning verses of Ephesians, we are told over and over about this plan of God.
Paul wants to make sure the church in Ephesus knows that God’s mysterious plan, this awesome desire of His is made clear, that it is full revealed.
The Holy Spirit didn’t stop there, as this plan from before the foundation of world was executed, as it was completed. As we, nearly 20 centuries later, see what God has planed and did impact our lives.
Right now, God’s plan is being revealed, and it is revealed in our lives..
18 times Paul mentions the plan….
It is that important to understand that plan for us…
…….And it defines who we are…..
The Amazing Plan….
We see the plan revealed with these words,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ
for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.
12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.
The apostle Paul is explaining the reason for the manger, for the cross, for the baptismal font, for the altar from which we receive the feast of all feasts, the Lord’s Supper.
This purpose, this plan, was to reconcile everything to God the Father, as it was united to Jesus.
Paul will use the gardening/farming illustration of grafting us to Christ, of binding us to Him, for He is the source of our life.
He will use the banking illustration of reconciling us to Christ, and of redeeming us from the debt owed. Everything we are, moved from a liability to an asset in God’s balance book.
He will talk of freeing us, and declaring us justified/righteous, judicial terms, and the medical concept of quickening – the bringing back to life. God uses the image of the travel agent even, delivering His people into the land of milk and honey, the image looking toward the day Paul mentions in Colossians,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NAB)
This is all why this exists, this plan of God to make for Himself a people, the masterpiece he will mention in chapter 2, verse 10.
A plan which no one could really understand prior to the cross, a mystery because no one could have understood that all this would be accomplished through a cross, through the violent death of God, as we killed Jesus, as God the Father raised Him from the dead.
The Amazing Reason….
If the plan for our deliverance, for our salvation, a plan put into place before the garden of Eden and is incredible and praiseworthy and glorious, there is a comment about this plan that is more astonishing.
It is mentioned a number of times as well…. The idea of bringing us home, of making us in Christ Jesus His children, is that this is His desire, this is what brings God, our creator great pleasure.
This is God’s goal for creation, it has been what the Trinity has determined to be their plan since the beginning. God desired to adopt you Bob, and you Ben, you Carol, and you Julie.
If God had a facebook account with pictures of His kids….it would include you!
That may sound silly, (or it might cause some great concern – He’d have the most embarrassing pictures ever!)
But you are God’s adopted kids, a process that He takes the greatest joy in….
You are His, and you are the one He wanted….
Hear that again… all of this… all of Christmas….all of the symbolism, all of the decorations, all of advent and lent, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost… it’s all about one thing….
God desire to make us His children, and doing what it took to make it so….
That’s why this passage from Ephesians is called a doxology – an ancient song of praise.
Because God has desired this, because He has done this.
He’s made us His!
He has blessed us in a way we know is promised, and occasionally we get a glimpse of, like when someone is brought into the family of God, whether as an infant, or as someone in their 90’s.
We are amazed at such love, and we have to delight in it – we have to praise Him directly and to others… it is the reaction that comes from knowing such great love!
It is why this is all here as well – to testify, to proclaim that this love is for every person that has lived – and celebrated, for those who are living now – to come and pray here, a place for this incredible, glorious plan of God to be revealed to them, for His desire to be His children to be made known.
For all the people who live with 20 miles of this place to know the height and depth, breadth and width of God’s love, for them to rejoice and praise Him, for them to dwell in the peace we know…. For in Christ, we live in that peace, awaiting the day of His return…with Him.
If you are interested in hearing this sermon – you can check it out at