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The Lord Is With You! What Does This Mean?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’” Ezekiel 48:35b (NLT)

12  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT) 

Being saved means being loved and only the love of God can purify damaged human love and restore the network of relationships that has been fundamentally alienated. (1)

7 First of all, there is in this article no disagreement among us concerning the following points: That it is God’s will, ordinance, and command that believers walk in good works; that only those are truly good works which God himself prescribes and commands in his Word, and not those that an individual may devise according to his own opinion or that are based on human traditions; that truly good works are not done by a person’s own natural powers but only after a person has been reconciled to God through faith and renewed through the Holy Spirit, or, as St. Paul says, “has been created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

In church gatherings following what is called the traditional liturgy(3)  there are two phrases, a statement, and a response, which I have come to treasure.

The pastor/priest/bishop says, “The LORD is with you!”  And the people respond, “And also with you”, or perhaps in some forms, “and with your spirit”.

As I write this, the 1001st blog on justifiedandsinner, I can think of no better phrase, nor better promise to explore. If justification is the core doctrine in theology, this statement is the heart of theology. In fact, it is the sole reason for justification.  Justification exists in order to draw and unite to God, a people who weren’t a people, to create His family, to give those who did not have a real god, but followed idols, a God that loves and cares who heals and forgives, who is merciful, and therefore just.

That is what it means; that is the bottom line promise throughout scripture.  It was the promise in the Garden, and the promise of the Exodus, the promise of the restoration of Israel, as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold it.  Though we can’t realize it, this promise was fulfilled and made real at the cross.  The promise was restated as Jesus promised at the Ascension that He would never forsake us, and at Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came to abide in those God called and made His own.  In the people, God is transforming and making into the image of His son.

This freedom from sin God gives us has a dramatic effect.  It changes us into God’s workmanship – not just someday, but even now.  That is what repentance is, not just some heartfelt apology, but the transformation of our mind, the putting on of Christ.

Side effects of the Lord being with you are well described above, but  few highlights

  • We are clothed with love Paul says, not as a command, but as the promise of our Baptism, a love that flows out to others.  This isn’t some matter of force, or of obligation.  It is a transformation God works inside us, the effect of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in us.
  • We become those who walk in good works, as the Lutheran Confessions describe.  Again, it is not a matter of obedience of our will, but the effect of reconciliation and renewal.
  • We see relationships in a new light – that they are healing and healed by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead

These are incredible blessings, things beyond our ability to see and lay hold of perfectly.  That again proves it is not ours naturally, but still something that becomes more and more our transformed nature, the effect of the trust in God the Holy Spirit works in us.  It is part of what this idea that God is with us means.

But it is not the primary, glorious meaning to the Lord is with you….

The primary, glorious meaning of this simple phrase, is the phrase itself…..

HE is with YOU!

Revel in that, knowing that nothing can separate you from His love.  AMEN!

1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 221). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 552). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(3)  What traditional liturgy means fluctuates greatly over time and denominational affiliation -but the basic outline is similar.

Sharing the Hope You have in Christ Jesus: Doing God’s work

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

27  “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:27-30 (NLT)

658    If things go well, let’s rejoice, blessing God, who makes them prosper. And if they go wrong? Let’s rejoice, blessing God, who allows us to share the sweetness of his cross.

We are too much like the laborers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1–16). Once they discovered that they could have earned their day’s pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labor the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we—like the workers of the first hour—want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others’ lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian.Escriva,

A recent response to a blog indicated that I was doing something wrong, by trying to show that sharing one’s faith, doing the work revealing the love and mercy of Christ, was wrong.  The writer thought I was unjustly burdening people, by using the law to motivate people.

Except that in a relationship with God, sharing the good news of His mercy, the love He wants everyone to know, isn’t hard, or burdensome. It is if we condemn people for not doing it, but it isn’t if we free them to be able to share the greatest gift they have ever been given.

Like Herod talking to John the Baptist, I like and dislike hearing the words of Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict).  They ring very true – why are we jealous of those who find a relationship with God at the last minute?  Are we upset that we had to work harder alongside our master?

I’ve often explained it this way.  Imagine some billionaire is down at the local bank, handing out million dollar checks to whoever shakes his hand.  You get yours, deposit it.  What do you do?  Do you simply go home, or go to the local BMW dealer?  Or do you get out your cell phone and call a few friends?  Do you consider it work, do you consider it burdensome to do so?  No, you do it because you know people who could use some cash, and you care about them.

It’s the same thing with the good news that God loves you.  Yeah – you.  He loves you so much to carefully strip away everything that hinders you, all the sin, all the resentment from being sinned against, all the crap in your life. Is that worth more than a million dollars?  If we realize it is, then shouldn’t we joyfully share it with those who are hindered and broken by sin?

That is what being yoked to Christ is about in this life.  It’s about doing the Father’s will, helping fulfill His desire that all would come to the transformation that is true repentance.  Serving others, ministering to their needs, helping them find Jesus, and the hope He gives them in life.  Some have the vocation of doing this as shepherds of God’s people.  But if they are doing it while they are shepherding, so the church is doing it alongside them.  Which is why the burden is easy.  We aren’t alone.  We bear this with all the church, and with the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers us.

It is bearing our crosses, it is abiding in Christ.  When we see people come to know Him, to receive His mercy, His forgiveness, His love, it is an incredibly joy filled experience.  When the road gets a little rough, when thins don’t work as we  planned, when we are rejected or when we are oppressed, we still are sharing His cross, His yoke, and dwelling in His presence, the joy remains.

It is the only work, the only vocation I know of, where we beg people to join with us, as we rest in peace.  His peace.

Enjoy it!

Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1538-1539). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 217–218). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

My Love-Hate Relationship With “the” Church

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
1  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. Isaiah 62:1 (NLT) 

489    A keen and living faith. A faith like Peter’s. When you have it—our Lord has said so—you will move mountains, humanly insuperable obstacles that rise up against your apostolic undertakings.  (1)

(Disclaimer:  This is not about my present congregation/parish, or any individual congregation or parish.  It is about the church at large)

There are times it is tempting to walk away, citing the quaint but blasphemous statement, “I love your Christ, but I hate your religion”.  There are times where the politics, the focus and dependence on theology and/or pragmatic theory, rather than on the Holy Spirit’s guidance drives me crazy.  There are days where people’s desire to divide the church rather than work for the unity Jesus prayed for leaves me feeling empty and depressed. There are times where leaders fight to gain control and power or to make the church in their image rather than Christ’s could give me just cause me to leave.

I hate “the” Church.

But I also love her. This Church. She is the bride of Christ; she is the body of Christ.  She is the joy in the dad’s face as he helps baptize his newborn baby.  Jesus’s love is reflected in the tear-filled eyes of the lady as she receives His body broken for her… His blood shed to cover all her sins.  I love the church s I see people, once adversaries, laughing together and sharing life because the Holy Spirit has become their Lord and Giver of life and reconciled the relationships that were thought to be shattered.  That when we strive to not only live according to God’s revealed plan, but quickly run to confess our trespasses, that He heals us, He heals His church.

It is because of all of this, the good, the bad and the ugly, that the words in red mean so much to me above.   I do yearn to see the church realize the presence of God that God’s kingdom is here, and now.  That He is heard to bring peace, that the means of grace, the sacraments and word of God (which we even argue about) are used by the Holy Spirit to transform us all into the image of Christ, to remind us of the promise we shall share in His glory.  It is that hope, that Jesus won’t abandon His church, that sustains us, even when things seem broken.

It takes the keen and living faith, quickened and sustained by Holy Spirit, to not only see what the church should be, what religion is, but to see that in the people of God. Our relationship with God, the leading of the Holy Spirit, not only empowers our mission, our apostolate, but gives us the desire to see it happen, to see the church grow in its faith, in its awareness of God’s presence, to depend on His love and mercy.

That same desire…can be momentarily frustrated when we look at our beloved Church.  Because we forgot what makes the church the Body of Christ, He does.

Let us look to Him! Let us watch the Holy Spirit transform us into His image, into people who naturally obey His law. the law He put into our hearts, and He drew us into His on the cross.

Lord Have Mercy!  Help us love the Church you love, and see her as you do!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1196-1197). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pentecost: Divine Resuscitation

Divine Resuscitation
Ezekiel 37:1-12


May the Holy Spirit’s Work in Your Life Make You Even More Aware of the Grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Missing Piece

So today, children of the Father, we have a small pop quiz.  It might be tricky, and anyone who fails may be subject to going through confirmation again.

I want you to think of the creed that you just confessed, before singing “my redeemer lives”.   Without reciting it in your mind, or looking it up, here is your one question quiz.

Who is described as “the Lord” in the creed?  ( pause for answers)

Specifically, who is described as “the Lord and giver of Life.”

We may talk of believing in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, but even the Creed talk more of the effect of the Holy Spirit than of the Holy Spirit himself.  We talk of the communion of saints, knowing our sins are forgiven, the resurrection of the Body and life, the life given us by the Spirit, everlasting.

But we often so overlook the role of the Holy Spirit, who has given us life.

So curious how many people need to have a refresher in what they learned in confirmation?

In today’s Old Testament passage, we see a great picture of the work of the Holy Spirit, who is not just the giver of life, but the Lord of Life.  Yeah, the Lord of Life.

We need to understand this, not just as a matter of semantics, but to understand the work that God does in us, to us…. And through us.

The Damage of Sin

If we are to understand this, we need to see the reason that the bones were there in the valley.  The clearest explanation is given by the people who struggled with God,

They are saying, We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished. ”

By finished, Ezekiel is making the comment that they are cut off from God.  Using the Mosaic Law, they are exiled from the people of God. They are acknowledging that they all deserve the treatment that blasphemy earns described well in

13  Then the LORD said to Moses, 14  “Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard the curse to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. 15  Say to the people of Israel: Those who curse their God will be punished for their sin. 16  Anyone who blasphemes the Name of the LORD must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any native-born Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the Name of the LORD must be put to death
. Leviticus 24:13-16 (NLT)

That is what they mean by their nation, their people, being finished.

That is why there is nothing left in the valley, but the dried, withered bones. We aren’t talking about bones like this… but ones so dried out, that they are brittle. There is nothing left, no marrow, no DNA, nothing…

That is what sin does to us, it hollows us, makes us empty, completely eradicates all trace of life, even from our perspective, any trace of God’s presence.

But that is why this son of Man was asked, “can these bones become living people again?”  It is why Jesus came and wandered among those dead in sin, and why His cross and resurrection is that which puts back all that sin destroyed.

it is amazing to contemplate the bones coming back together, the cartilage and muscles crawling back over the skeletons, the flesh being restored.

Even then, forgiven, put back together, made whole, the army of bodies needs something to transform them from death to life.  To use the word found in the creeds – to be made quick, to be brought alive.

They need to be resuscitated.

The Divine Resuscitation

We needed to be resuscitated, to be made to inhale the breath of life, the Holy Spirit.  Even as God breathed into Adam, even as Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said, “receive the Holy Spirit,” We needed to have happened to us what happened on Pentecost.  Hear Ezekiel’s words again… and know this is your promise:

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again

The Spirit to be breathed into us, to bring us back to life, to be the Lord of life and the giver of our life. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms us, that kindles faith and a repentant and transformed life.  It is the Holy Spirit that brings us to proclaim Christ Jesus as our hope, reminding us of all He teaches us.  That brings us together, as a unified body of Christ.

That makes us one, holy, united church that is sent in the world to transform others, even as we have been transformed as the Holy Spirit focuses our lives, our minds, our hearts on Jesus.

Doing this while as invisible, but as tangible and real, as a refreshing breeze that washes over us and gives us life on a day when we are parched and tired, and our faith may be dry.

The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, the Spirit who discerns who has which talents, which gifts, and forms the church, ensuring it has what it needs, to depend on Jesus, to minister to each other, to minister from Cerritos to Georgia to the Sudan and Papua New Guinea.  To reach out to expectant moms in Africa and the people of Bellflower.

The Spirit, who would blow through your life, removing that which isn’t like Jesus, who would see the glory of God, reflect through us, bringing hope to the people around us.

Remember – this is the day when a church of 120 grew into a church of 3000!

May the Spirit so enkindle our hearts, so breathe life into us, that the same thing would happen again!

Didn’t He Already Do That?

You might ask what I mean by the Holy Spirit breathe life into us again.  No, I don’t mean that we are spiritually dead like in the valley of dried bones.  But there are times where we feel like it, where we wonder if our bones if the church (and I don’t mean just Concordia) can be brought back to life in this country.

If you look at the statistics, or just tour empty churches on Sunday morning, you would wonder if the church couldn’t say these same things.  Areas where 50-70 percent of people were once in church on Sunday morning are now where the number is one-tenth the amount.

The church isn’t dead, it cannot be, we haven’t left God’s presence, the work of Christ isn’t in vain. For the Holy Spirit isn’t just the giver of our life, but the Lord of it. Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work, this way,

17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)

And that is a promise to us, in this day, as solid as the promise to bring us to life in Christ…for that is what the Lord of Life does… He makes more and more like Jesus… as we are changed into His image… as we see His glory.  AMEN?   Then realize this, the Lord of Life is with You! AMEN!

It’s Monday, and I Don’t Want to Be a Holy or a Hypocrite, so ….

Devotional thought of the day:Featured image

4  “Israel, remember this! The LORDand 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)

1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)

485      At times, someone has told me: “Father, I feel tired and cold; when I pray or fulfil some other norm of piety, I seem to be acting out a farce…” To that friend, and to you, if you are in the same boat, I answer: A farce?—What an excellent thing, my child! Act out that farce! The Lord is your audience—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity is contemplating us in those moments when we are “acting out a farce”. Acting like that in front of God, out of love, in order to please him, when our whole life goes against the grain: how splendid, to be God’s juggler! How marvellous it is to play one’s part for Love, with sacrifice, without any personal satisfaction, just in order to please Our Lord! That indeed is to live for Love. (1)

It is Monday, the day after a long work day.  Church was phenomenal, but then a meeting at another church drained me, and knowing that this week is booked absolutely full, I started on my research for this week’s sermons.  One of my best friends I woke up early to pray with, as he faces surgery, and I am concerned for several others facing trials. I also have some pounding going on above me, and other issues of frustration.

It’s monday, and my devotional time is dragging. Let me be honest, I am to tired emotionally, I am to anxiety laden, I am overwhelmed and I don’t really feel like writing this blog, or spending time in prayer, or doing my devotional reading.  (which happened to be on confession and absolution…. gee thanks God!)   I don’t really feel like being holy today.  I don’t want to just go through the motions either, and pray, and read and worship. If I don’t feel like being holy, setting apart my time and my life to God, I really don’t want to just fake it.

Maybe I should skip it my devotional time.  After all, it’s only one day.  I’ll be in a better mood on Wednesday, or maybe Friday.  My blog hasn’t been read much anyways  (writing this is part of my discipline ), and I’ve got a ton of work to do.  Three extra services, picking up some of the work my friend would do, people recovering that I need to visit.  I could so easily justify skipping this once….

Then of course, as I drag through my devotions, I found the above quote from St Josemaria.  Tell you something – sometimes I really dislike how much a Catholic Saint who died nearly 40 years ago knows me.  I feel like a farce, a fraud a hypocrite, even as I highlight things in my reading, and the meditative thoughts the word of God kicks into motion.  I warm to some of it – but Leviticus?  Really?  And the part about worship was awesome, but the paragraph upon paragraph that drudged on through the book of concord…. sigh

Escriva notes that there is an option between doing this enthusiastically, and doing it as a hypocrite.  It is doing it, admitting the struggle, but knowing the love and mercy of God the Father that will become more and more apparent.  Being a living sacrifice is an act of love, even when I am not sure why I keep going.  To strive to keep interested, to strive to see how Christ is revealed, to wait and the blessing He has for us.

To adore Him enough to trust Him that this time together will be cleansing, refreshing, empowering, but most of all peace-filled, glorious rest in His presence.  To drink deeply of His love.

it is in the dead times, even perhaps more than the rebellious times, that I need to offer myself to God and keep moving with Him.  That I need to realize His presence, His promises, His comfort.  The kind of things that are apparent in His word, that the saints who’ve gone before us lived and died to pass down to.

It is such time when saints are made…. and sustained.

So cry out Lord, I trust you, help me to trust you!

And know His answer… come, follow me.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1858-1866). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Daily War of Renewal and Rebirth

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image
21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 7:21-25 (NLT) 

344      For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then, with God’s help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!

I have read that Luther advised us to remember our baptism every morning as we prayed, and every evening as we prayed before sleep.  There is a reason for it, to strengthen our knowledge and trust in God, because each day has its own evil, because we will be tempted and fail.

Though some would deny it, the miserable battle Paul identifies above in the Christian goes on daily.  If we examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11)  We must deal with the misery of the guilt and shame we bring upon ourselves, as we fail, as we sin.  As I write this, I am listening to the music from Les Mis, and the song where Javert commits suicide.  Why? Because he knows the war between justice and mercy.  He can’t imagine a world where mercy trumps justice, where love and grace triumph over the law.  Such is Paul’s world – the misery he refers to, the danger to the journey towards love that Escriva mentions as well.

We remember our baptism at night so that we can est in peace, knowing God is merciful, and promised to forgive us.

We pray in the morning, remembering and being thankful as well, knowing that this rebirth and renewal will mark our day.  That we will expect to see God’s work in our day, in our lives, in our interactions.

For without such, our struggle becomes impossible, we forget that there is no condemnation when we are found in Christ.  Instead there is peace, and healing, and assuredness that the Holy Spirit is working there,  We would believe that sin or temptation could separate us from the love of God, that God is limited, and can’t make even the sin we repent of work out for good, for those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.

It is as Paul taught Titus:

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)

But this is a truth we need throughout our days, the truth of being reborn in Christ, of being forgiven, of being shown grace.

that is the way to a victorious Christian life…. to realize our need for the gospel… in our lives, and the hope of it for those around us as well.

Lord have mercy on us sinners!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1356-1359). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He Has Sent, and Sent Again, and therefore, We Call Out to Him!

He Has Sent, and Sent Again,

and therefore, We Call Out!

Galatians 4:4-7

† IHS †

May you truly know the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, which has seen you through this year, and will accompany you in the next!

 The Trinity at Work…as the Father sends.

One of the things I find fascinating is the heritage of the church in Ireland.  Perhaps we know about St Patrick and his three leaf clover, or the a Celtic cross and the knots on it like I am wearing today, the kind of cross the one hanging over the altar is modelled after. There are others. Bede, the author of “Be Thou My Vision”, and one of the great historians of the early church, and Adain and Finian.  The early Irish Christians were known for their artwork, especially their Biblical manuscripts and stone and metalwork.  If you do a little research, they were also know for their missionary zeal, for bringing word of God’s love to mankind.

One of the reasons we did our Advent series on a Celtic look at advent, is that of the theologians I’ve read, the early Christians in Ireland and Scotland were amazed at the interaction of the Trinity in Scripture.  The mystery of how Three are One, and One are Three, and the paradox of what that means for us.

It’s been said that every denomination plays favorites among the Trinity.  Some focus on the authority of God the Father.  Others, especially us in the Lutheran sphere, focus a lot on the work of Christ, how He came to make us right before God, how when we are joined to His death and Resurrection, we are cleansed of our sin.  Others have focused primarily on the Holy Spirit, with an emphasis on personal holiness and using the gifts the Spirit gives us, as we are made alive through the Spirit’s power.

Yet God is three, and yet one, Three who love us and work in our lives.  We see it in today’s reading, as we hear Paul tells us that the Father has sent Jesus, and sent the Holy Spirit, and that is why we can truly call on Him, our heavenly Dad.

He sent Christ to deal with our sins

We’ll get to the Father at the end of the sermon, so we start looking at what St. Paul tells us about the Father sending Jesus to us.  Quite appropriate as it is the fifth day of Christmas, don’t you think?
Paul says in verse 4, “when the right time finally came, God sent his own son,” He sent Jesus.  The word there for sent is “apostled”, to send someone was an emissary, an ambassador with the authority and power to establish a relationship.

What it would take, in this case, was simple.  He had to buy our freedom from the things in our life that captivate us, that seem to control us, that oppress us and stop us from loving God, and stop us from loving each other and those that so dearly need it.

That is the what is so devastating about sin, the actions and thoughts and life that we count on, that society tells us brings us joy and fulfillment; they don’t bring us joy, they enslave us. We spend so much time chasing them, and when we “get” them, trying to defend them, or defend why they are the center of our life. This sin, for all sins are part, ends up owning us, owning our time, our lives, our souls.

Which is why Jesus came to purchase, why he came to take us off the market.  To not only purchase us, but also to free us and to make known that we are adopted by the God the father. To enter into not just a business relationship, but also one of family, of not just respect, but love.

He sent the Spirit to confirm our adoption.

It is incredible to think of this freedom that has been purchased for us, these chains that have been broken. It is so incredible, that I think we often lose sight of the freedom, and the incredible relationship that we have with God.   Which is why the Father sent the Son, and then they sent the Holy Spirit to us, to confirm in us that which Jesus had already accomplished.

If we need it confirmed, and I most definitely believe we do, for so many things would try to steal the peace and comfort of knowing God’s love, the Holy Spirit is here, in our hearts.  The proof, the guarantee of God’s love for us, that He will never leave or forsake us.
Knowing that presence, knowing our place in His heart, and His place in our hearts, we are prompted to call out to God, as a child calls out to his father.  Sometimes this is in time of need, in desperation.  Sometimes it is in excitement, as we realize His glory, as we are excited in His presence.

Luther wrote:

63 In addition, you must also know how to use the name of God aright. With the words, “You shall not take the name of God in vain,” God at the same time gives us to understand that we are to use his name properly, for it has been revealed and given to us precisely for our use and benefit.

Since we are forbidden here to use the holy name in support of falsehood or wickedness, it follows, conversely that we are commanded to use it in the service of truth and all that is good—for example, when we swear properly where it is necessary and required. So, also, when we teach properly; again, when we call on his name in time of need, or praise and thank him in time of prosperity, etc. All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.[1]

Here is why the Spirit comes and dwells with us, why He comes into our hearts, so we have such a relationship with God, that we can run to him, when hurt, so that He can comfort and bring us peace, or when we are excited, and want Him to share in our joy.

This is our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a God who comes to us, a God who brings us into His presence, who share with us His glory, who gives to us in ways that are so incredible, that we struggle to believe that He didn’t make a mistake.  The entire Trinity, their work focused on communicating to you and I a love that is beyond anything we can imagine.

A love for us…

So what do you need to cry out to Him for? 

So maybe this morning, we’ve found ourselves in need of crying out for His help, crying out with our last hope.  This is your God, who sent Jesus to make it so, and the Holy Spirit to convince you that it is the fullness of time for those cries.

Maybe this morning you are just overwhelmed with His grace, and you need to cry out to Him with excitement, with praises that go on.

Both cries are appropriate, and we can, as His family join in those prayers, and in those praises.

Then, may we all realize, that because we are His children, because the Trinity has heard our prayers and praises, that we can dwell in their peace, in their love.  For God is here, He has freed us from all that would hold us captive, and has made us His children.

It is the fullness of time for us as well…. To know the Lord is with us.  AMEN?

[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 373). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

I Got Nuthin… or do I? The Hard Lesson of Trusting

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 9  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

883 You were consoled by the idea that life is to be spent, burned in the service of God. And spending ourselves entirely for him is how we shall be freed from death, which brings us the possession of Life. (1)

I am sitting in my office – contemplating the 6 sermons I will preach in the next 7 days.

I got nothing… the words on the paper, the studies I have done in preparation, all seem limited in view of the world that seems so…broken, so darkened.  So broken that even we who have been entrusted with the one thing that will bring change and hope, are too distracted, to eager to go on the offensive, whether it be about saying Merry Christmas and decorating our yards, or claiming our “rights”, or taking our stand against those who favor things we find abhorent, from child euthenasia being allowed now, to abortion, to bigamy to… name the sin, there are people defending their right to it, and those who trust in God saying tolerating that sin is the end of the world. That’s not mentioning real traumas, like bringing comfort and God’s peace to those who are missing loved ones, or seeing their relationships crumble, or dealing with financial crises.

6 sermons in 7 days?  Maybe 80-100 differemt people hearing them? How will that stem the tide?

As I look at the blank word document, I got nothing… I don’t have the words…I don’t even have the idea of where to begin.

O Come, O Come Immanuel… the words echo in my mind.

Yesterday I wrote that I want to get past wanting Him to come and save us, I want to want Him to come, so that we can rejoice in His presence, that we will finally be “united” with Him, face to face, in all of His glory.  I don’t just want Him to come to deliver us from the challenges of this world, of this time.

Yet maybe that is what Lent is about – looking both to what He delivers us from and what He delivers us to, from darkness to light, from sin to justice, from brokenness to glory. From loneliness to community. Maybe we have to know the evil, to recognize the incredible nature of what God is giving us, as He claims us as His children.  Maybe we need to know the barrenness of a Bethlehem Stable, to know the glory of the love revealed there, and on a rugged cross, to face our need for it, so that we realize the glorious, merciful, life changing love of God who dwells with us.

In the midst of the struggles of this life…in the midst of visions of how it is supposed to be, there is a need to trust the One who is with us, sterngthening us in our weakness, as we realize His love for us… These days help that  we have nuthin.. are great for strengthening that trust, that faith….

May we take the time to realize our brokenness.. so that we can recognize our healing. It is as the Psalmist wrote:

10  “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.Psalm 46:10-11 (TEV)

You see, somethings when we realize we got nuthin, we realize we have His presence, His love, His mercy… we have HIm!  

And nothing can change that…

Lord Have Mercy on us!  I pray we grow in the trust that He has…



(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3611-3612). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Celtic Advent III: The Trinity Looks at the Incarnation

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross (Photo credit: Nick Corble)

The Holy Spirit’s View: Looking forward to Jesus Being Born of Mary

Luke 1:26-38 & Joel 2:27-32

 In Jesus Name


May you know the presence of the Holy Spirit, given to you in your baptism, by whose power you bring Christ into other’s lives!


Understanding the Holy Spirit?


As we’ve journey this advent, we’ve seen passages that we could see the Father’s vision for Christ’s coming, and the incredible desire He has for people to become His children.  Then last week, we saw this same desire in Christ, who set aside every right, every privilege and all the glory of heaven to come down into our mess, and die on the cross to cleanse us and bring us peace.

This week is more of a challenge, as we look at the Holy Spirit.  For in scripture, we don’t directly hear the Spirit.  We see it in action, in Genesis, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, guiding people’s lives, inspiring apostles and prophets and those who penned the scriptures.

So this night, our lesson is a little harder to hear, but we can take a look of the Holy Spirit in action – to see a model of how God works, and then understand how He has planned to work in our lives.

it was for this reason that the early church often spoke of Mary, and held her up as an example of faithfulness, but as well, they held her up as an example of God’s relationship with His people, the church.
Mary on whom the Holy Spirit would come upon, who would bring the Savior into a broken world.

How did the Holy Spirit work with Mary    

In our gospel reading, we see some insights into the young lady.  Our scriptures tell us that she was confused and disturbed, by the words of the Angel, who informed her that she would be blessed.

Over and over scripture tells us she pondered the things that were happening, the things that were said in her heart.  Can you imagine?  How will this all work out?  Finding it not a dream, but finding herself pregnant, having to explain this to parents and to Joseph. Then undertaking journeys, first to Elizabeth, then with Joseph to Nazareth.

This last song describes, I think, some of what she could have been thinking.

Frightened, not only by being pregnant, but knowing her child was the hope of Israel, the one through whom all peoples would be bless… and her cry for God’s mercy.  Imagine trying to figure out why God chose her, and relying on God for the strength to endure.

These aren’t things normal to us, for fear of what God would have us do, how to step out in faith and obey His call isn’t something we do easily. Nor is depending on Him when the road is strange.

She was able to, and to ponder and treasure all that happened in her heart….

Because the Spirit of the Lord was with her…

These are the Ancient promises

You know, we hear these Christmas stories, we know who is who in the nativity figurines, we can hear Linus repeating the Christmas Story almost by memory.  But do we see them as models of God’s handiwork?  A model that is replicated in each one of us?

Of course, none of you are going to give birth literally to the Messiah, but God has called each one of you into a relationship – by which Christ does involve Himself in our world, and the world of those around us.  These Ancient Words, these promises, what theologians call types – Mary is no different than any of us, someone who struggled with questions, and fears, and yet heard the voice of God.  As such, she is a good example for us to look at – to realize how God works.

In our baptism – the same Spirit that came upon her, came upon us.  The Holy Spirit – the Breath of Heaven, is given to us, dwells with in us, and bring the light of Christ into a world just as desperate, just as broken, as the world Mary lived in.

That is what Peter was talking about when he quoted Joel on Pentecost.

 Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced. 28  “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29  In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

God is among us, God is here.

Because He is here, we know we will never be disgraced, never again be shamed.  He is here, to bind our brokenness, to restore us, to bring us life and joy, to give us the vision of our abiding with Him always.  He destroys our fears with His love and light of His glory, with the love that we know is here, that we see in each others eyes, that we hear as we tell each other that God is Immanuel, that God is with us.

Such are the words of the Holy Spirit, given to us,

For that is His role, according to Paul, to empower us, to bring us to life that we can rejoice in the Father’s love, demonstrated to us.

It is what He inspired prophets of old to prophecy about – as the Spirit dwelt in them, and the apostles as well. It is why he would come upon this young lady named Mary, and why she would give birth to God.

And why we are here…ready to know God is with us, and bear Christ to a world that so needs Him to take their burdens…

Even as we place ours in His hands again…

And live in a peace we can’t describe, secure and safe because God is guarding us… AMEN?

“We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8  “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9  You have six days in which to do your work, 10  but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your countryExodus 20:8-10 (TEV) 

552         It would be bad if you were to waste your time, which is not yours but God’s and is meant for His glory. But if on top of that you make others waste it, you both diminish your own standing and defraud God of more of the glory you owe Him. (1)

There is a song that was once a faovrite of mine, perhaps not so much these days because of the reality of it in life.

Written by Harry Chapin, it tells the story of a dad and his son, who thought they would desire to spend tie together, don’t.  Life and work gets in the way.  And the father who said, “not today”, in his old age hears the same phrase back, “not today”. It looks forward to the day when “we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a

Verities & Balderdash

Verities & Balderdash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

good time, then”

In this life, there will be no more “then’s” for me and my dad, there will be them for my son, and trying to keep that all in balance with the demands of being a servant to the people of God is a challenge.  There are those that say the pastor’s family must always come first.  A noble idea, but an impossibility, if we take our ordination vows seriously.  There are those who use those same vows as an escape from the family, mismanaging their time.  There has to be wisdom, and yes sacrifice.   And in even in that balance, there will be pain to be born.  Someone will have to hear “then”,  and it will hurt to hear it, and hurt to say it.

This blog isn’t about those “then’s”, but rather the one’s we say to God.

God, I’m running late this morning – I’ll spend time with you later.

God, there’s a family event, I need to be at.  I’ll be at church next week.

God, we’ll have a good time together, “then”!

The tragedy is great, this neglecting  of relationship.  Not just for us, even as we so need God’s presence in our lives.  For life is a challenge, there are hurts and betrayals, sins and disasters, and we often need his comfort.  Hard as it is to imagine, our neglect of our relationship with God is hard for God as well.  You see it in God’s word’s to Hosea, as God explains the hurt as Israel prostitutes herself to false idols.  You hear it in Jesus voice, as he cries over Jerusalem, explaining how he longed to comfort them as a mother hen comforts and protects her children.   That’s the idea of a relationship – to spend time together, and the time lost… is time where love isn’t expressed, time where we drift apart.

There is another line in the song, the words of the song where the son says, “I’m gonna be just like you dad…”

And I pray, that with God, that line is true. That we will look to our Abba Father in Heaven, and we will grow up to love Him in the way He loves us.  That we will appreciate our time with Him, the way He desires to spend it with us.

Not just in heaven,but now.  Hear His promises,

“You will be my people, and I will be your God.   Ezekiel 36:28 (TEV)

“and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”    Matthew 28:20 (TEV)

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; “ 1 Corinthians 6:19 (TEV) 

Writing about our time with God is hard, because no matter how hard I try, it sounds like law, it sounds like, well discipline.  I still struggle with calling prayer and bible study and such benefits -spiritual discipines – because that makes it sound like tasks and obligations, rather than the good time we have, when we understand that God is here… that God is with us.   But how we encourage each other to live aware of His presence, aware of His love and comfort, of His guidance.  I Know that’s how Escriva’s words sound at first, yet I also realize that they come from a person who knows God’s presence, and knows how desperately we need to remain aware of His presence.  Yeah – it’s that powerful, that life changing. That everything.

Prayer not just as a formal matter, but as our time with our Dad… where we admit that He’s gotta handle the things which we can’t, where we rejoice as He fixes and heals, as He shares with us His work in recreating this world. As He brings us together to encourage each other, to celebrate His love. To realize that this God did come to us, and is here with us… even this very moment.

Such is the nature of this joy, that we need to realize what it’s cost us to overlook it.  Like Harry Chapin’s song is supposed to help us dad’s, and our sons.

Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to grow up just like Jesus.


(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2370-2372). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.