Blog Archives

The Greatest Secret in all History…and it concerns you.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

The wisdom I proclaim is God’s secret wisdom, which is hidden from human beings, but which he had already chosen for our glory even before the world was made. 8† None of the rulers of this world knew this wisdom. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9† However, as the scripture says,
“What no one ever saw or heard,
what no one ever thought could happen,
is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”

10 But it was to us that God made known his secret by means of his Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:7-10 GNT

27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God! Col. 1:27 GNT

Imagine you were nine again, and you saw your parents and a couple of other adults whispering, and as you walked closer, they all stopped talking. Or they walked away from each other. Then your brother and sister looked at you with a strange smile.

You would know something was up. It might be a good thing, it could also be something, well not that positive.

Now think about work, and something similar happens. People are gathered around, talking quietly, occasionally glancing at you, only to snap their head around if you made eye contact with them.

You might become slightly paranoid! I would definitely more than just a little anxious.

And yet there was one secret, that secret definitely concerns you and I. The secret of redemption, and reconciliation with God. The secret that God has prepared for us, planned since before He created the world, that Jesus would come, live, be tortured to death, and rise again, so the secret could be fulfilled.

And because of that life eternal will be more than we can ever imagine. The amount of love and serenity we will experience will be glorious.

And yet it was a secret. It was hidden from the world, and yet hidden in plain sight. The promise Paul quotes is there in the Old Testament, the promise that there would be a light for the nations, and the glory of Israel, overlooked. The patience and love of God was not contemplated, and even in Jesus day, there were preachers who maintained that religion was for this life only, that there was noting more.

They missed it, allowing Jesus to become incarnate, to dwell among us long enough for us to kill Him. And He did this because the Father and He loved us so much!

There is the secret, the reason something more stunning that we’ve ever laid our eyes upon, more amazing than anything we have ever heard, and more increible than anything we have ever thought and dreamed awaits us. To be so clean we can enter God the Father’s presence, and not only will we see God face to face, we will be welcomed home into the glory He has planned to share with us.

Lord, help us believe Your promise. AMEN!

Why Is the Church Sterile?

Devotional Thought of the Day

28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29 He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority. Matthew 7:28-29 (TEV)

I would have been glad to see my books remain altogether in obscurity and sink into oblivion, because, among other reasons, I shudder at the example I am setting. I can well see what use it has been for the church to collect numerous books and large libraries in addition to and besides the holy scripture and indiscriminately store all sorts of writings, especially of the church fathers, councils, and teachers. Through that practice not only is precious time for studying scripture wasted, but the pure knowledge of God’s word is forever lost as well, until (as happened in the Book of Deuteronomy in the time of the kings of Judah) the Bible is left forgotten in the dust under a bench (2 Kgs 22:8). …

What we also had in mind, when we began translating the Bible itself into German, was the hope that writing would decrease and the studying and reading of the scripture would increase. For all other writing should lead into and point toward the scripture, just as John [the Baptist] pointed to Christ, saying, “I must decrease, Christ must increase” (John 3:30), so that each one might drink for himself or herself from the fresh source, as all the fathers had to do if they wanted their work to be done well.

927         Be convinced of this: your apostolate consists in spreading goodness, light, enthusiasm, generosity, a spirit of sacrifice, constancy in work, deep study, complete self-surrender, being up-to-date, cheerful and complete obedience to the Church, and perfect charity. Nobody can give what he does not have.

I have a lot of books, nearly 3/4 of my office is lined with bookshelves, and some of those shelves are double stacked. I have another large collection and home, and my LOGOS, Wordsearch and Kindle libraries double again my collection.

Some of those books have been quite influential in my life and ministry. Writers like Luther, St Josemaria Escriva Walther, Willimon, John Stott, Martin Lloyd Jones, Tony Campolo, Bob Logan, Paul Borden, Robert Schuler, Michael Card and Fulton Sheen have left their mark (Along with novelists like Alexander Kent, Frank Perretti, and WEB Griffin)

I’ve quoted such people in sermons before, even though many people don’t know who they are.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, I suddenly felt guilty, convicted of the very thing that Luther warned about. Have I allowed these men, even as they are men who have guided and led people closer to Christ, to have more influence on me that scripture itself?

Do I read them more often than I read scripture, are they more impactful on my spiritual formation than the scripture is, itself? While I have my issues with each of them, it is certainly possible that I rely on, that I am dependent on their works more than the source from which we all (prayerfully) receive our revelation of God’s love.

It was said that Jesus taught differently from the rabbis of his day, That He taught with authority, as someone with first-hand experience, first-hand knowledge of what he spoke. It is my assertion that this is true because He spoke directly for God. This is different than those of his day, he spoke of someone else’s opinion, a 3rd or 4th hand account of what someone saw in the scriptures.

Am I saying these other works are of no use, of no benefit? No, but I do believe that they must be secondary in our lives, and scripture first. We need to be able to speak with God’s authority into the lives of people as broken as we are, pointing them to the hope we have.

But when we rely on these works primarily, we aren’t receiving the gospel directly, the seed isn’t being planted, and we turn into unfertile, sterile ground. We need to give our people more, which means we need to hear this hope that God gives us, we need to hear that God loves us.

Hope found directly in scriptures, revealed by the Holy Spirit in the words recorded to benefit us, to reveal to us the heart of God, and what He does for His people. I need to learn to revel in His revelation as the writer of Psalm 119 did and pass that along, helping people look to Jesus, the author and One who completes their faith.

Then the church will be more alive, feeding from the source, growing from the gospel planted in them.

Heavenly Father and dearest Lord Jesus, thank you for the men whose lives and writings have impacted our lives, even so, Lord, help us desire to spend more time in Your word, and point our people to that word, that they may be refreshed, that they may know of Your love, and grace. As we spend this time in your word, help us see the revival you bring in your church. AMEN!


Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 120). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3768-3771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Directions for the Culturally Challenged Evangelist

Devotional Thought of the Day:

After this the Lord chose another seventy-two men and sent them out two by two, to go ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 He said to them, “There is a large harvest, but few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest. 3† Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take a purse or a beggar’s bag or shoes; don’t stop to greet anyone on the road. 5 Whenever you go into a house, first say, ‘Peace be with this house.’ 6 If someone who is peace-loving lives there, let your greeting of peace remain on that person; if not, take back your greeting of peace. 7† Stay in that same house, eating and drinking whatever they offer you, for workers should be given their pay. Don’t move around from one house to another. 8 Whenever you go into a town and are made welcome, eat what is set before you, 9 heal the sick in that town, and say to the people there, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you.’ Luke 10:1-9 GNT

Certainly, those who do not know Christ also do not know their right to hear His love and His plans for them. Nonetheless this right is real: it is, we might say, intrinsic to their humanity which God wills to fulfil in Christ.
Some people are tempted to abstain from announcing Christ because they believe that by this they would show themselves to be more respectful of the human and spiritual values already present in the cultures and religions of the world. In reality this is to show respect for a partial value, rather than allowing that value to come to its definitive realization—which is what happens when it encounters the Gospel. It is on the contrary a lack of respect for the values present in the cultures and religions of the world, as well as those in whom those values are found, when, in silencing the Gospel, we deprive them of what would have brought them to fulfilment.

66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Living in one of the most diverse parts of the world is a challenge. Within 5 miles of my house are Islamic Centers of different types, A Center of Jainism, Mormon Stakes, Jehovah Witness Kingdom Halls, various forms Buddhist temples, A Namaste Center for Spiritual Living, and 20-30 other Spiritual and Religious communities I cannot identify.

As I look at this, my heart aches, for as these people seek for God, they miss the revelation of God’s love for them, the revelation of His love, as He sent Jesus, His Son to dwell with us. The apostles would testify as to His glory, and they were sent to share that glorious love with the world.

For century’s the way the church dealt with this was through force. Not a good idea and the church wasn’t the only religion to do so. This violence, seen in wars, personal attacks, and martyrdoms and many self-fulfilling “martyrs” today.

So how do we balance out this need (both ours to share, and their need to hear) the message of God’s love?

How do we respect their traditions, their journey trying to find divinity and the peace that comes from being united to God, while showing them the way God revealed to us that He would draw men and women to Him? How do we work with those who are cults, who have perverted the teaching of Jesus?

It is a difficult road to travel, and yet, the fact that it is a life long journey should help us on the road. For we can invite them to share a part of that journey, we can explore with them their beliefs. We can share with them the hope we have, even in the face of death.

Not as competitors to see whose belief system is better, to see who “wins”. But to know God’s heart toward us all. For there is the key, to know we are loved, to know His mercy and healing when we fail, to rejoice in the presence of God.

That is what we are called to do, to share the reason we have hope in this broken world, to draw people to Jesus with the promises made to us, and delivered through word and sacrament.

It is challenging, no one said it would be easy. But God is with us, and this is how he ministered to us.

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 10). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Matters of the Heart: A sermon on Mark 7 from the Concordia Lutheran Church!

church at communion 2

(if you would rather see the service, and hear the sermon, it is posted on my FB page and at Concordia.org_

Matters of the Heart
Mark 7:14-23

Jesus, Son, Savior

May this grace, the love and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, show you how He is transforming your heart so that you can love Him and your neighbor!  AMEN!

 

The Gospel?  Really?  ( O wait = there it is …Bacon is fine!)

Passages like the gospel always bring out my sense of irony.

I mean, we read these nine verses, talking about how our vile hearts defile us, and then I get to say, “This is the gospel of the Lord!”

Using less religious language, “This is the good news that Jesus has for you!”Yeah!  Good news!  You are defiled because your heart is vile! Not really a balance there between Law and Gospel…this passage is 100% law. Well, Bob found some good news in it, in our deacons and pastor study Monday night.  There down within the parenthesis you see it, “Every kind of food is acceptable in God’s sight!”  Which means bacon and shrimp and lobster are as acceptable as broccoli or kale or that horrid pumpkin spice stuff that is invading our stores! But how do we take a passage so focused on our failure, our sin, our being defiled, and find good news there?  Where is the gospel in this gospel reading?Or put another way, while this passage tells us we really need help, how do we find it?  Or are we always going to be defiled by our vile hearts?

We are defiled/vulgar (but that isn’t what you think it means_

Inigo Montoya, the famous swordsman in Princess Bride, uttered these works. “You keep using that word (inconceivable). I do not think it means what you think it means!”We’ve got a couple of those words in today’s reading.  The first is the word defile.  It sounds like it means rotten, disgusting, horrid, sickening, to use an old word, gross.

It isn’t actually bad as bad as it sounds, though, in reality, it is worse.

It is the opposite of holy, it means common.  Which was the original definition of vulgar.

Using last week’s illustration about holiness, to be set apart for a special purpose, I said Missy’s guitar was meant to play music with, not to be used as a stepping stool to change a light bulb.  You defile something when you take something that has a special purpose and use it for something… far less.  Say instead of using it for playing beautiful music, Missy used her guitar to move fertilizer around her parent’s backyard.  That would be defiling is, making it something used for something in common.

Or imagine you are going into surgery, and you see the surgeon opening his latest package from Amazon with the same scalpel.

Our hearts’ purpose had never been to be the place of origin for sin. We were meant to be set apart, our purpose to be the people, the children of God.  We were set apart to dwell in His love, and love the family of God.  Sin simply wrecks that, destroying our heart and soul, making us no better than any other biological creature, controlled by physical needs and desire for pleasure.

Sin changes us, from being the children of God, and that sin comes from a heart that doesn’t recognize God.  And that sin finds its origin, not in the world, but in our hearts.  That is what Jesus keeps coming back too…

It is not what is us that is wrong, it’s not the bacon, it is the heart that is a glutton that causes the desire to overeat.  It’s not the beauty that causes the sin, it is the uncontrolled desire for pleasure.

It is what is within us, what controls our heart, and our will that causes us to engage in sin.

The gospel – a heart transplant The OT Promise

If this is true, then what hope exists for us, in this world so oppressed by the sin which has ensnared us? What hope is there for our friends, of children, our grandchildren? If all there is to life is living without a special purpose, without reason,

We find the law in the Gospel today, so let’s look back at the Old Testament to find the gospel.  If sin originates in our hearts, then what is underlined in this passage is the only way to deal with it.  Let’s read it together

26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

There is our answer, a cardiac transplant. To allow God to change our heart, from the one in which sin, passed down from Adam, and which dominates our heart. Changing our heart like he did with David, making us men and women after God’s own heart, men, and women who share His desire.

This is the promise made sure in us, as it was for Ethan last week, as God pours water on us, and cleanses us from all sin, and He makes us His people.

This new heart changes us… and enables us to do things that please God, it allows us to walk with Him, and relate to Him.  For as He changes our heart, as He puts His Spirit in us, we return to being holy, a people are special to Him, for we are His children!

What does this mean?

How can we believe this, I mean, we still sin, don’t we?

How can sin still come from a heart that has been changed?  From a heart that is supposed to beat in rhythm with God’s own heart?  The simple answer is, that sin is the old us, and as we walk closer to God, depending on Him more and more, others may see the change in us, while we never do.

I think that’s so we never stop depending on God, so we learn to run to Him when we are tempted, so we learn to run to Him, assured of His mercy and forgiveness, so that we learn to run to the God who has poured water on us, cleansed us of sin, given us a new heart, put His Spirit within us…

and who promises this as well

6  And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT2) Amen!

Already Broke Your Resolution? Good! Now you can really change!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for your new year!

4  “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

503      Love Our Lord passionately. Love him madly! Because if there is love— when there is love—I would dare to say that resolutions are not needed. My parents—think of yours—did not need to make any resolutions to love me: and what an effusion of tenderness they showed me, in little details every day! With that same human heart we can and should love God.

In Lutheran thought, most commands are what are known as “Law.”  Law has three purposes, The first is to keep civil peace.  The second use of the law is to show us that we are guilty of sin and deserving eternal punishment.  Knowing that we can be drawn to Christ to receive grace, the merciful forgiveness that restores us, and welcomes us into the presence of God.  The third use of the law is simply to show us how to live, now that we are bound to Him, for Christ’s life is the picture of a life lived in full harmony with the law.

But the command following the words of the Lord being our Lord, the phrase known as the Shema, is not Law in the Lutheran sense.

Yes, we may struggle ot love God with everything we are, and if we think about it, this could make us wallow in guilt and shame.  Most of us can keep our resolution longer than we can maintain a love for God that includes every part of our life!  But if we feel guilty, or if we just ignore our shortcomings, we are missing the incredible, glorious, life-changing words that come before it.

The Lord, and the Lord alone, IS OUR GOD!

This line is why this isn’t Law, it I the purest of Gospel, for it describes what it means for us to have God (using His name YHWH) as our God. Loaded into that phrase is the idea that God takes responsibility for us, provides what we need, loves us. It means His nature of loving mercy (cHesed/Agape) is at work in us, bringing to completion the work began in us.

And as we consider this, as we think it through, there is no need for a resolution, no need for goals to change us.  As we think and meditate on God loving us, we love Him, we adore Him, we become more and more hungry to hear of His love, and to share it with others.

So maybe you made a resolution or four to change in this new year. To lose weight, to be more patient with people, to be more determined in your spiritual disciplines.  Maybe you already broke one or two.

That’s okay.

Real change in our lives starts with something else.

Being still, and knowing He is our God.

Knowing His passion and love for you…

Just sit there for a moment, and let His love sink in…

and find yourself changed.

Godspeed my friends!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1920-1925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is There Life Beyond Today?

561266_10150669017895878_539105877_9573351_938050676_n

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for our days…and our future:

10 My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. 11 And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:10-11 NCV

“Life’s” destination lies beyond this life because it depends on “Someone” with a capital letter. All this is rooted in the hearts of our people, even if they are unable to express it conceptually.

There are times in my life, where surviving the evils of this day is my only goal.  Where i just try to hang on to God, and His presence long enough to help this person or that one. Where I deal with these problems, those challenges, this person’s sin, or worse my own.

I drag myself home, climb the stairs, and hopefully remember to thank God that He carried and dragged me through the day…..only to have another day come all too soon.

I do not think I am alone, not by any means.

We need to learn to live for something more, something that is glorious, something that is perfect.  Something that is beyond us, this destination that Pope Francis speaks of, the place where we will find Him, our “Someone”. A place that is truly home, a place of incredible, unbelievable peace, a place of joy, a place where tears, sorrow, weariness are unknown.

Francis is correct about our not knowing how to express it conceptually. We don’t know how to talk about heaven, we don’t know what it will be like, and to talk about it, sooner or later, we might have to talk about death and dying.  We really don’t want to talk about that.  NOT. AT. ALL.

But heaven is our reality, dwelling with God, in His glory, in His peace, in wonder and awe that He wants us there, that is what Christianity is about.  An eternal, everlasting relationship that we can’t even begin to conceive of (see 1 Cor. 2;9) 

But we know we shall be with Him. 

At the end of the day, that is what matters, 

At the beginning of tomorrow, we need to realize He is still here…revealing to us His love and mercy, comforting us, healing us, and preparing us for life with Him.

A life that began when we were baptized into His death, into His resurrection.. and given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, keeping us til then.

 

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

 

 

The Truly Important Ministry….is Unseen but by a few.

484816_10151905916665878_807738773_n

Dawn at Concordia

Devotional thought for your day:

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2  When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3  But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)

718         If only they could see the good things I do!… But don’t you realise that you are carrying them around like trinkets in a basket for people to see how fine they are? Furthermore, you must not forget the second part of Jesus’ command: “that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Nearly a year ago, I did the memorial service for an incredible lady.

The bulletin of that service still resides on the little refrigerator in my office, a reminder of our very simple, very special relationship.

Every Tuesday at 9 am, I would travel about 500 yards from my office, enter the house she had a bedroom in, and talk a moment, then pray for her.  No more than 15 minutes, more likely ten or so. On occasion, I would bring her the leftover flowers from church on Sunday,

And every time I left, even when she was too tired to talk, I felt lifted up.  She ministered to me far more than I ministered to her.

I knew she had a couple of incredible jobs in her life.  The executive assistant to a seminary president, the producer of a mega church pastor’s television ministry.  She didn’t talk about those things.  Rather it was the joy of hearing from this friend or that pastor.  It was about reading the sermons of those she knew.  It was always about someone else,

Given the honor of officiating at her service, I realized that day how much of an honor it was.  Men who served the church for decades and trained thousands of preachers were there.  They told me of the things my friend did, and how she ministered to them for decades.  How she helped and raised money for seminarians and worked for equity among the staff. How she interacted with world famous preachers ( I still love the story of her moving a bicycle rack to protect a parking spot for Billy Graham – and how he helped her move it back where it belonged when he got there! )

Yet I knew none of this as I visited her, as I prayed for her, as we looked at Roses and carnations and lilies and marveled at the hand of God that created the beauty we observed.   I simply knew a lady whose bright eyes ministered to me as I prayed for her, a  lady who lived so simply, so beautifully that I looked forward to visiting her each week.

I think she got the passages above and the incredible things she did in life weren’t paraded around, for her reward was to hear Jesus welcome her home.  Looking back on a life full of incredible service to God wasn’t her style, it wasn’t what she counted as important. Rather it was finding God’s peace, as a neighborhood pastor stopped by, and she could fill his life with God’s peace, even as she rejoiced in a small time of prayer.

I miss my friend – but thank God for what she taught me about ministry and walking with God, watching Him at work.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2995-2999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Be Different: Act like God’s Kids

clydes-cross-2Be Different:  Act like God’s kids

Matthew 5:38-48

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!

I Will Trust in My God! A sermon for the second week of Epiphany!

church at communion 2Epiphany!
I will Trust My God!

Isaiah 49:1-17

 In Jesus’ Name!

As the light of Christ’s glory shines in your hearts, may you know how great His mercy, how complete His peace, and how deep His love for you is!

Is it him, or me?

When we look at a prophecy in the Old Testament, there are some things we have to consider. 

How was it in originally fulfilled.

Is it primarily about Jesus during the time from His incarnation to his

But there is a third application of the prophecy – whether it is just a lesson for us, revealing Jesus, or whether it is directly applicable to us.  For example, in the 23rd Psalm, or in Psalm 51 or 139, the words are as applicable to you and me as they are to David.

But what about today’s selection?  Is it like those Psalms that are more about Jesus, or the ones that tell us more about ourselves?

Are we the ones who were named by God before our birth, while in our mother’s womb known by God?  Or is it Jesus?

Are we the ones hidden in the shadow of His hand, who serve God the Father and will bring Him glory, or is it only Jesus who is so aimed, whose words will cause people to know God’s decision that declares them righteous?

Who is this passage about?  Jesus, our Lord, the one who brings the light of His glory into our darkness, or are these words of Isaiah about you and me?

Al – don’t say it!

Could He know the despair?

If I were to make the case that it is about us, what would seem to make that point is found in verse 4.

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

That sounds like something you or I would say, far more than it sounds like something the only begotten Son of God would say.

Think about those words for a moment.  Do these words of despair sound like they would come from the mouth of the Lord Jesus?  From the same lips that blessed bread and fish and fed thousands upon thousands?  From the same lips that calmed storms, and called the little girl and the widow’s son and Lazarus back to life?  Could Jesus, who forgave the adulteress, and healed the blind and paralyzed, could he have uttered such words of hopelessness?

Doesn’t this lead us to think these words, therefore, must be just about you and me?

Or is this what the writer of Hebrews means when he says,

15  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. 16  So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (MSG)

If so, then this passage could still be about Him.  If it is, then we have a God who doesn’t just look down on us, but can be there for us, knowing the challenges.  He just doesn’t sympathize with us, this God who lights up our darkness with His light, it is His empathy that drives Him to do so!

If this passage is about Jesus, then it brings a whole different understanding to our faith.  It isn’t n vain, and it isn’t a leap.  Our hope is an expectation, just like Jesus’ faith is expressed back in verse 4,

“But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.

Somehow, Jesus was able to trust the Father, He was able to leave it all in the Father’s hands.  Dealing with Peter and James and John and the wishy-washy disciples, dealing with Herod and the religious leaders who wanted to kill him.  Dealing with the rich young ruler who walked away.

Did Jesus know those days when it seems like nothing works, that nothing makes a difference, and simply trusted in the Father’s will?

yes.

It is both, because we find life, in Christ!

So is this passage only about Jesus?  Or can we utter those words as well?  Can we leave it all in the hands of God, trusting in God to see us through?

Is He the only one who God formed to be his servant?  Is he the only One who God uses to bring back those who’ve wandered off, to bring salvation to all who are far off, even to the ends of the earth?  Who will see the powers and authorities of this world bowing before?

While it is about Jesus, it is about us as well, for we find our lives, the lives the Holy Spirit calls into existence, cleansing us from sin, in Christ Jesus.  It is true of us because it is true of Him.  For in the book of Acts Paul tells some gentiles in Athens that their poets had it correct when they said, “In Him we live and move and have our being”.

That is what it means to be in the season of Epiphany, to share in the glory of Christ Jesus.  This is what it means for Him to be here, shattering our darkness.  As we realize His presence anew every time we commune at the altar, every we time we hear His voice speak to us, as the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to create life within us!

We see this the last verse, where Isaiah says to those in Christ, it is the LORD, the faithful One, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you…

This is not about the one who is spoken too, it is not about their faith, but the faithfulness of the LORD who speaks.  It is about His faithfulness in saving us, in lighting our way, in ensuring we endure, ensuring we hear His call of us, by name.  The name for the church throughout scripture is this very term – the chosen or called ones.  Called by name, kept in the hand of God, given a message to deliver to the nations.

This is our life, spent in Christ, our journey in the light of His glory, the glory that came when He came to dwell with man, and in our baptism as the Spirit comes to give us this wondrous life.

This is our focus during Epiphany, this is why we sing, as we recognize His glory has appeared here, where the Lord is with you!  AMEN!

Ready, Are We? A Sermon on life as We Await Jesus’ Return

MarkJ AdventReady, Are We?

Matthew 24:36-44

I.H.S.

 As you encounter the grace, the mercy, and love of God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, may your desire to experience His presence grow, as will your desire for Jesus to come again!

2 A.M. Somewhere….

Most of us picture Jesus returning based on a passage in First Thessalonians,

16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NLT)

We see him, His long hair and robes flowing in the wind, his hand stretched out and a look of pure serenity on His face, with just a few high clouds in the sky, and the sun shining brightly, but no obscuring his glory.

But did you ever think – that somewhere when he returns – it will be 2 a.m in the morning?  That somewhere people will be sound asleep; and in another home, a mom will be feeding her baby, as some will be taking their delivery trucks out, as bars and clubs close.

And somewhere, in the midst of their lives, at some time of the day or night, some people will be engaged in sin. Someone will be cursing using God’s name, and another forgetting to pray for an enemy.  Someone will be killing with physical weapons, and others simply using their words to do damage as significant.   Some will be committing adultery, and others gossiping., and some, just struggling to depend on God who they can’t see.

And out of the clouds, whether 2 p.m., 2 a.m. Jesus will return.

Our gospel tells us we must be ready always, for Jesus will not only return, but he will also return when you least expect it.

So as I share God’s love this morning, I want you to think about a couple of questions.

First – Do you care?

The first is challenging, well, they both are.  But here is the first question:

Do you, or do you think the church cares about whether Jesus is coming back?

Is it on your radar at all?  Do you wake up in the morning, and wonder if this will be the day?   Do we ever consider it given our decisions to do this or that?

Do we even think about Jesus coming back?

Think about that for a moment.

second – why?

if you do think about Jesus returning, the second question comes into play.

Why do you want Him to return?

Is it to escape the pressure and depression that this world and the evil in it causes?  I have to admit; there are days I don’t want to hear any news, to see any headlines.

Is it to stop having to struggle with life and the complications we have in our lives?  Complications like aging and sick bodies, challenged relationships.  ( Great line from Skorpion  – Thanksgiving is about having meals with people we don’t get along with the rest of the year!)

Is it to stop having to deal with our sin, our guilt, shame, brokenness?

When we pray for Jesus to return – is it to be rescued from something, or to be delivered into the presence of God?

That’s what the issues were in Noah’s day, they forgot about the presence of God in their lives, and they lived life without thinking about God.

And to be honest, many of us get trapped in the same kind of life.

Unaware of God, and only turning to Him to be rescued.

Walking with Jesus is much, so much more meaningful than that. Eternity will be so much more than simply being free of the crap of this world!  Eternity with God is dwelling with Him, in the purest peace, the most mindblowing joy, in fellowship divine.

It is to live, as we are being drawn into the glory of God…..

And it will happen… sooner than we have prepared for…

Ready, Are we?

 

SO then, the questions change a little….

How do we get ready for Jesus to return?

We turn to the words of Paul in the epistle…

12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes,

This speaks of two things – first our baptism, and the incredible work of God that started there, as God cleanses us from all our sin, just as He promises. But it also speaks of repentance – the continuing action of our being transformed – what we see when we confess our sins and expect God to keep His promise there as we and then the question of how we stay read

14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this speaks of baptism too – as God the Father clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, in His holiness.  As we see the work of God drawing us closer, and it is so incredible, so peaceful and so joyous that we begin to desire it more and more.

And we see that not only in baptism, but here as we kneel, as we receive Christ, as we have a glimpse at our relationship with God, and the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love for us, this endless joyous love.

Advent?  TO desire Jesus presence, to have nothing hindering it, not guilt, no shame, no brokenness, this is what advent is about – and why we desire Him to return…

And may that desire grow – as you know His love, as you dwell in His peace.

AMEN!

%d bloggers like this: