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Setting Aside Sin Evil – Such An Easy Task? Why not?

Devotional Thought for our Days

 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. n In your past, evil life you also did these things.

But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God.   Colossians 3:3-10 NCV

3       My Father—talk to him like that, confidently—who art in heaven, look upon me with compassionate Love, and make me respond to thy love. Melt and enkindle my heart of bronze, burn and purify my unmortified flesh, fill my mind with supernatural light, make my tongue proclaim the Love and Glory of Christ.

“Hallowed be thy name.” 
What does this mean?
A
nswer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
5 How is this done?
Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

Paul’s words are difficult in verse 5, these words we hear as commands, as Law.

Put all evil things out of your life…

This sounds easy – that is until Paul defines it, then defines it more. 

How are you doing with that?  I pray you are doing better at it than I am.

It is a battle. A battle not between Good and Evil with Evil being those opposed to us, it is a battle inside each of us, to turn away from the evil we, to embrace good.  But even this battle is a paradox, for we cannot do this by our own strength or will-power.

When we believe we are the masters of our spiritual development, when we believe we can put all these things out of our life by ourselves, we’ve fallen back into the trap of the evil one. Yet that is what we hear often when we read this passage, it is what our pride focuses upon. 

What does it miss… the embrace of Christ as He died, that embrace that continues through His death to the resurrection.  The beginning of life in Christ, and the being MADE NEW AND ARE BECOMING LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE YOU. 

This is what St. Josemaria is talking about, as he points out a part of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is God who makes us new, it is God who changes us, it is God who separated us from evil and our sin, and is our hope for staying disconnected from it.  (that is not to say He is responsible if we return to it!)  Therefore it is our prayer, our begging God to do what we cannot, even as we realize that He has not only promised this, it is His desire. 

It is our need.

And it is how we let go of the evil that has bound us, as we adore our Lord for what He has done and is doing.  We don’t actually create the separation, we don’t broaden it even, we just leave it behind as the light of the glory of God. His love revealed and realized draws us away from the life we had before.  

We can pray for this, that God would do His work.  Not that He wouldn’t do it if we don’t pray, but that as we pray we would realize God is at work, already doing this to us.  This is what Luther was getting at in the small catechism. We pray this to know what God promised to do, and so we can realize it is being done.

It is being done, let us continue to pray we see Him doing it! 

AMEN!

[1]  From the Small Catechism: edition from Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 242-246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Being Made Complete Experiencing His Love – A Sermon on Ephesians 3:11-42

Being Made Complete
Experiencing His Love
Ephesians 3:11-42

† In Jesus Name †

 © Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus is one we can have for each other.  “I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong!


The Parable of the Old Spike  ©

It was found on a pile with a ton of others.  Pitted, rusted, considered by most to be worthless trash.

And one day a man named Jim found it.  As he stared at this piece of useless steel, he saw something in it, and carefully and lovingly gave it a new identity.  What was of no value, not only was given a new identity but was transformed into a piece of art.  A piece of art that testified to the skill and craftsmanship of the one who found it, purchased it, and transformed it.

Here is what the rusty pitted railroad spike now looks like, after Jim transformed it.

These railroad spike knives provide for us a picture of the work of God in our lives, a work that doesn’t just change how we appear on the outside.  God’s work does all I prayed for, as I asked God to bless you a moment ago. For we are transformed much like the spike is…..

Inner strength

Several times in this passage, the concept of strength is mentioned.  The words that lay under the surface mean everything from the ability to fortitude, from the capability to internal strength that will result in completing the task, the trial. It is physical and mental, psychological. It is to have the will and determination, the patience and the stubborn nature that will see you overcome the power of temptation, the power sin and Satan, and even the fear of death. ©

If we look at our lives, who can claim to be that strong?  ©

Which of us looked at temptation in the eye this week, and didn’t sin at all?

Which one of us loved every neighbor as ourselves?

©Did anyone of us honor God in every single thing we did?  What about in every word we said or typed?  Did we gossip about others?  Did we

What about in every word we thought?

Did we reach out, stretch ourselves beyond our own comfort to help those in need?

We don’t naturally have that strength.

And who has enough inner strength to out wait death…

Which of us enjoys going to the doctors, enjoys the tests and prods and pokes and blood draws, and doesn’t for a moment worry about the results?

Paul understood this well, as he wrote  ©

54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55  “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?” 56  Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (TEV)

©  I need you to note something Paul said “then the scriptures will come true.”  I’ve heard this passage misused a time or two to say that we shouldn’t grieve, we shouldn’t struggle, and that is wrong.

But there will be a day, when the power of sin is so shattered, that death will no longer have the power to hurt us.

A day we need to have the strength, the ability to wait for, trusting in the promises of God that it will come.

We need that strength, an inner strength that is based on hope…

The Way God Empowers us.

One of the commentators I read this week, commented about this passage in a way that brought the railroad spike to mind.  ©

As fire penetrates iron, and seems to change it into itself, so does God penetrate the soul and fill her with himself; and though she never loses her own being, yet she becomes so penetrated and absorbed by that immense ocean of the divine substance, that she remains, as it were, annihilated, and as if she ceased to exist. The Apostle prayed for this happy lot for his disciples when he said: That you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.  (de Ligouri)

©   Or to put it into a picture, look at this picture…

The spike is you, the red glow is the glory of God, dwelling within you, empowering you, transforming you. Think of the pictures in this incredible passage

©  He will empower you with inner strength thorgh His Spirit

©  Christ will make His home in your hearts

©  Your roots will grow deep into God’s love… there is the sourceof your strength!

All of this pictures the presence of God invading your life, becoming part of you, even as the energy and heat of the blacksmith’s fire consumes the spike and transforms it into a strong, sharp knife…

Even more the experience that Paul describes,

©  18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

When God unites us to Jesus in Baptism, when we take and consume the bread and the wine, this picture of the knife, glowing because of the power it is immersed in is perfect.  Where the metal and the fire have so united that you can’t tell which is absorbing and consuming the other.

This love of His is that in which we live, and even thogh we may never be able to completely put into words how incredible this love is, we will understand it far more deeply than we understand anything else.

This is the empowering that Paul tells us occurs as the Holy Spirit works within us.

It is what Aiden will grow up knowing, as he is reminded of it by Jason and Jennifer, by Tammie and Mark, and by Wanda and Kay and the rest of us.

God is not just working in us, He has made us His home in us,

This is how we are made complete.  Not by any other way but experiencing the incredible, unmeasurable love of God in Christ Jesus.  A love which transforms us as we experience it, a love that becomes as much us, as well…. Us.

That gloriously transforms us, as the Holy Spirit transforms us into image of Jesus.

This is how we have “inner strength” that will enable us to oversome sin and temptation, the power of Satan and even death. He dwells in us, and nothing can separate us from His love, from His glory, from Him.

This is His work, His promise to us, His children, the people among whom He makes His home,

Once again, hear the prayer of Paul the apostle, that he prayed for the people of God, that we can pray for each other

©    “I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong!”

AMEN!

How life is Built, or How a Temple is… the oft overlooked secret

devotional thought of the day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

7  The stone blocks for the building of The Temple were all dressed at the quarry so that the building site itself was reverently quiet—no noise from hammers and chisels and other iron tools. 1

2  “About this Temple you are building—what’s important is that you live the way I’ve set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I’ll complete in you the promise I made to David your father. 13  I’ll personally take up my residence among the Israelites —I won’t desert my people Israel.” 14  Solomon built and completed The Temple. 1 Kings 6:7, 12-14 (MSG)

74         You are not happy because you make everything revolve around yourself as if you were always the centre: you have a stomach-ache, or you are tired, or they have said this or that… Have you ever tried thinking about Him, and through Him, about others?  (1)

It is ithe plan of the Masterbuilder that all of the business of making rough rock into perfectly fitting, polished stone be accomplished in the stone quarry.  There, beyond this place, beyond that door, is only the assembling of what has been done here. (2)

I have read of Solomon’s building of the temple many times, the dedication of that temple is one of m favorite portions of all of scripture. The gathering of God results in God’s presence being so manifest, that smoke fills the temple, and no priest can offer any sacrifice.  The people of God pray, and are forgiven.  Others come and pray, and God makes Himself real to them.  God and people.

Yet in the midst of the work, verse 7 gets overlooked, it gets lost in the details, in the glory, in the imagery. I never even bothered to ask why the work was done in the quarry before.  

Thinking on it now, as the son of a man who build tons of stone walls (literally) it amazes me.  To so carve the rock as to be sure of its fitting, to so care for the work as it is transported to the temple mount, to then be fitted into place, perfectly.  It is mindblowing to think of this with lasers and high power saws and polishers, but this work was done with chisels, and hammers, carved lovingly by hand. And in the temple, even as it is being build, reverent silence…It is built in peace, the joining mortar laid, the stones carefully put in place. Peace, quiet, solemnity.

No wonder the building of the temple of God in its fullness happens outside the walls, outside even the city, the noise of the hammers pounding not heard within its walls.  The only noise to be heard there, the tear of a thick curtain….as the Holy of Holies is revealed without its glory.  Without the ark, for that which fulfils the covenant, that glory is hanging, nailed to a tree.  The Body given, the Blood poured out, the sins forgiven, forever.  And peace reigns as the shadows come, and darkness falls…….

To often we don’t wait to get to the silence, to see the glory of God – to know His peace.  We are too busy with our issues, with our ailments, with that which pounds and shapes us, Fr. Josemaia is right, we focus on the now, and we don’t see the temple being build, we don’t see God put each one of us in place.

We don’t see the plan, the beauty, the glory coming together because we choose to live back in the quarry, rather than to see where God has put us in His living temple. To trust Him at His word, at His promise. To realize that we aren’t in the quarry, really, Hear how Paul says it…

1 Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. 2  Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, 3  because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. 4  But when Christ is revealed—and he is your life—you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NJB)

Though we may think we are not finished yet, those who believe have in many ways left the quarry, and are sitting here, in the temple, just waiting for Christ to put us in place.  That is where our life is, and we are encourage to see it that way.  Our life, shaped and designed and lived out in Christ. We’ve taken some pounding – He has taken more for us. We are in His presence, in a place where the pounding has already been done. We have been delivered and saved… and my prayer for you, is that you realize this more and more, and live in the peace and serenity that is found in Christ.  For be assured,

6  And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (TEV)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 531-534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Northumbrian Community, Celtic Daily Prayer  (devotions from Finian readings for April 5th

What are you being forged by God for????

Jim's knife 2 Devotional Thought of the day:

8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

2  But who will be able to stand up to that coming? Who can survive his appearance? He’ll be like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. 3  He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for GOD, fit to present offerings of righteousness.  Malachi 3:2-3 (MSG)

7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12  So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13  But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.   2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NLT) 

It usually sits up on my bookshelf at home – close at hand, but above the reach of little hands.

When I look at it, I cannot help remember what it was, think of its journey, admire what it has become, and the skill of the craftsman (Jim Adams of JDA Knives) that forged it.

You see, it may be an unusual hobby for a pastor, but I collect knives. (and a sword or two) And my JDA knives are quite special.

You see, that knife has had a lot of pressure over the years… it started out as a railroad spike, keeping a a railroad tie and the track joined together.  An important job, but one with the pressure of the trains passing over it, the weather and heat and cold trying to dislodge it from what it was set in place to accomplish – keeping people and things heading toward their destination.

When it was time to be taken up, when it’s role was complete, it was tossed aside…useless perhaps…. or at least in minds other than Jim’s.

He took it, saw something, thought of a conversation and a need, and with heat, and pressure and force, took this old rusty knife and changed it into something.. beautiful, useful, practical (it’s wicked sharp).  He has a craft that few do, and this knife is a masterpiece.  He gave it to me one day… just walked in and wanted me to have it…  I am still a little in shock.  But very grateful.

The Eph. 2 passage above is one of my favorites, not just because of verses 8-9 – but because of 10.  Many people focus on the first two… and quote them without completing the thought.  But they just talk of the need for refining – for repurposing and the fact that God does it.  But 10, ahh, that speaks of the finished product, a beautifully crafted instrument that our lives become..with all the sin and dross taken care of, with the rust and pitting rubbed out (like in the second passage).  God’s masterpiece, His poiema ( we get poetiy from that) His Opus Dei – the work of God.  He takes what is washed up, used, abused and turns it into something wonderful, something that He uses for a purpose.

We have a new purpose, a new mission, a new message to communicate.  God uses every bit of us to do so,

The pressures we’ve dealt with, the storms we’ve endured, the sufferings we have wondered if we would survive…

And through all the heat, the pressure, God is at work forging someone who will be used for the greatest work..that of revealing Christ to others… of giving the hope that knowing God can bring, the awe that the Master Craftsman of life does care, does love, does know us, and will turn our lives into something beyond our ability to comprehend… He will make us a blessing to others…

So my question to all that are enduring heat – wondering why? even wondering if He is there…

Will you lean upon Him?  depend upon Him?  Let Him forrge you masterpeice….

And what is He forging you for????

God’s Commands, or God’s Commission?

Devotional Thought of the Day.

It’s amazing the difference a word makes, or just a few letters ending words starting with “comm”.  TO be precise  “and” versus “ission”.

As I prepared my studies for this weeks sermon, the difference glares out to me.  The word in Greek has, very definitely, the nature of commission.  Yet over and over we translate it command.  With that translation, we create a load of issues that are not really there.

If you commission something, a piece of art, a building, a musical piece ( I think of Mozart’s Requiem) any project, you give the scope of the work, what your expectations are when it is completed.  It draws the boundaries of the work and brings definition to it.  It is a project something that takes on beauty over time.  And if the work is fulfilled, the one who commissioned it has caused a masterpiece to be created.  It is about the end product, and the formation of it  – a masterpiece.

A command is something with even harder definitions – I always think of an execute order in computer program.  Print X,  the sum of 3+4.  Or the directive that is specific and immediate.  Don’t do this, do that, go here, and that which is commanded must do what is to be done.  The command executed, the project finished, then what?

When it comes to God, and what He would have us do, He is commissioning something, He is describing the parameters and vision for a project that is underdevelopment all our lives.  His goal is a masterpiece, without flaw, something that will endure, and br praiseworthy and glorious.  It’s far more than a moment by moment execution in blind obedience, its being formed and shaped and there is a goal.  The goal is simply defined by one word – a relationship.  The relationship we recognize when we see that He is our God, and when we also recognize that by His work, we are His people.

Indeed a masterpiece!

Yet how many times would we get in the way of that – would we decide to ignore that which He commissioned – to draw outside the lines, the parameters that a common to the commissioning.   (SOme refer to this as disobedience – but its more – the is is that it is an attempt to destroy the masterpiece God commissioned – to ignore or mar His plan with what we want.  It is like spraying grafitti over the artwork in the St Peter’s Basilica,  it is like having someone “sit in” and overdub “Dust in the Wind” with a Kazoo.

Using commission brings a whole different understanding to why God draws the parameters for our lives the way He does.  It reflects on that great verse of Paul in Eph 2:10.  2:10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.”  Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)   

So to does commission create a more vivid picture of sin, as we destroy a masterpiece in the making, as we ignore the beauty that God would see in us…so that we create the havoc we think is …

Luckily we aren’t the one who holds the commission – that responsibility is belong’s to the Artist – to the One Isaiah calls the Potter, the One in Whom we are created.  And in Christ, somehow, miraculously, that artwork we once thought was destroyed, is restored, brought back to life and beauty, healed and made whole.  That was His commission – and the giftedness it took, literally was an investment of His life.

Thank God for that mercy, shown to us.

His people, His work.

May as we cry out Lord have mercy, respond with our lives, lived within that which He has commissioned.

AMEN

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