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That’s an odd word….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
17  My strength, I will make music for you, for my stronghold is God, the God who loves me faithfully.   Psalm 59:17 (NJB)

what more canst thou hope for than the fulfillment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love.

It is Karl Barth’s answer to the questioner who asked him, “Professor Barth, you have written dozens of great books, and many of us think you are the greatest theologian in the world. Of all your many ideas, what is the most profound thought you have ever had?” Without a second’s hesitation, the great theologian replied, “Jesus loves me.”

It is refreshing to read words of pastors from other eras in the church.  Especially when those words haven’t been translated, and even cleansed in recent decades.  Even so, sometimes how things are said are shocking, they set us back, and cause us to process what we read.

Such an occurrence took place as I was reading from Spurgeon this morning.

Ravished?

That seems such an odd word to use regarding the love of God.  Whether it is used in the sense of carrying someone away (after pillaging their village) or causing an incredible level of intense delight (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ravish ), it just doesn’t seem right or maybe a better word, considering Spurgeon’s roots – proper.

But maybe that is precisely what is missing from Christianity today. We are missing a sense of the incredible idea of being raptured ( a synonym), not in the sense of eschatology. Instead, in the sense that as we realize we are loved by God, everything else is left behind, that the delight, the joy, the wonder of being loved transform where we are, and it is no longer the place we thought we were.

You see that kind of sentiment in the great preachers and saints throughout history.  John Chrysostom, Pascal, Saint Theresa, St Josemaria, Luther, all expressed that kind of experience, as they experienced the love of God. It is what mystics search after, these moments of transcendence, these moments of uncontrollable, heavenly bliss.

It is only from dwelling in that love that we can minister to others.  It is the only hope we have when we have been broken by the sin of the world and shattered by our own sin.  To let our soul be ravished by the love of God, as He takes us out of the brokenness, transforming us and giving us a new perspective on the world in which we dwell.

The world we dwell in, as we live in Him, and He in us. Completely loved and adored, beyond our imagination, beyond our understanding. Rather than trying to figure it out, perhaps it is better to acknowledge it, and the peace we gain from His presence. The Lord loves you! And even as you find delight in that, the realization should hit you, He delights in it as well!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.

Defeating the Idol of Time…

ST MARY OF PEACE

Devotional Thought of the Day:

While you are prisoners in foreign lands, your own land will enjoy years of rest and refreshment, as it should have done each seventh year when you lived there. 7 In the land of your enemies, you will tremble at the rustle of a leaf, as though it were a sword. And you will become so weak that you will stumble and fall over each other, even when no one is chasing you.  Leviticus 26:34-37  CEV

684    So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”

We live in a culture that adores action, even as it hates inaction. Ambition is a virtue in today’s culture, and someone content with where they are at in life is odd and perhaps more than a bit eccentric.

Those who aren’t always moving, working their plan, aren’t considered lazy, or lacking motivation and drive. Everything in our society must be put to use profitably.  We’ve made time an idol to serve, a god that demands all that we have, and more.

In the Old Testament, there were times of rest – Sabbaths.  Weekly, monthly and even every 7 years, everything was supposed to rest, finding what it needed, not from work, but from the hand of God. In fact, part of the punishment for Israel’s sin in the captivity was due to not hearing God’s call to stop, to rest, and let the land find its rest. So during the captivity, God provided for the land what we did not.  A time of rest, a time to recover, a time to let God provide.

I think this is St. Josemaria’s point in the quote from “The Way” I read this morning.  I didn’t like it at first, for I understand the feeling that comes from inaction.  I may have gotten past the idea of leaving food on my table as wasting it, but I can’t abide “wasting time” or even worse, not being able to use what God has gifted me with to help or disciple others.

Yet there are times to rest or to use Biblical/Agricultural terms, to lay fallow.  To get past the guilty feeling, to simply leave it in God’s more than capable hands.  Offer the stillness, the inactivity to Him.  Indeed, to spend that time with Him. No agenda, no purpose, simply enjoying His presence.

A time where we don’t notice the passing of time. We just are there, in the moment, with Jesus.

The challenge is desiring this time, looking forward to it, not feeling guilty, but realizing it is time God would have us set aside, with Him. Yet that is the reward…time, with Him… communion with God, and the peace we need, in our lives.

Take the time, waste it in the world’s view, but take it and please God with offering it to Him.

Lord, help us realize the need to find rest in you, not just when we are exhausted and overwhelmed.  Help us to not get to the point where like the Israelites, You have to take us captive, to get our lives and homes to rest, and the peace be restored. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Plan in the Spotlight! A sermon on Ephesians 3:1-12

Epiphany – In the Spotlight
Ephesians 3:1-12

In Jesus Name

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ enable you to live out the plan brought to life in Christ’s coming – that we are to live boldly and confidently in God’s presence!

  1. The Plan… Hidden

This week was the anniversary of the birth of one of the great Christian philosophers of the last century.  J.R.R. Tolkien is probably best known as the writer behind “the Hobbit” and “the Lord of the Rings.” But one of the things we should rejoice about from his life was his impact on a fellow writer and philosopher.

Eric Metaxas tells us how Tolkein joined Jesus on Jesus’ mission one night on a walk with his friend Jack. He didn’t beat the gospel into him, in fact, he only alluded to Jesus in one question, about whether all the myths could have some source in an event that was real, that once God did invade reality.  (https://stream.org/j-r-r-tolkien-helped-lead-c-s-lewis-faith/)

His friend Jack, the angry, arrogant agnostic who disliked any discussion bordering the religious, was only nicknamed Jack. His given name was Clive Staples Lewis – one of the best-known Christian writers of the last century.

Joining Jesus, in this case, was simply a matter of shining a light in Lewis’s life, and letting the Holy Spirit work illuminate the plan that God had for Lewis, the same exact plan He has for each one of us, from the prophets and the wise man that adored Jesus at His birth, to you and I today.

It is simply a plan of illuminating God’s plan in their life, revealing His love, and His work in their lives.

This is what Epiphany is all about  – putting God’s plan in the spotlight – for all to see.  That is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, that we saw this morning, this wonderful plan, with a wonderful result.

  1. The Plan Revealed

Both Tolkien and Lewis talked about writing a lot, and you see a similar style in them. The main characters are always aided by a more mysterious and powerful character. In Tolkien, it is Gandalf, a servant of a Deity never quite revealed. With Lewis, the guide was Aslan, who was also the destination.

But in the journeys, as in many good stories, the plan that these guides had was not fully revealed to those making the journey. That keeps a reader, or moviegoer interested, as the plan is revealed step by step.  For those on the journey, it is a bit frustrating.

I want to know where I am going, how I am going to get there, how much earlier I have to plan to leave, so I actually leave on time and leave enough time for a bathroom stop or five on the journey.

During the Old Testament, the journey wasn’t always well known, they wandered for years, and they still didn’t understand the tabernacle or the Temple and what they pointed to, in fact, many today still don’t understand.  Paul knew…. And he talks about the plan,

Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

  1. The Plan Explained

You see the plan for the journey there.  The plan includes who is on the journey, and how the journey is accomplished

The ones on it are those who believe the good news, what we call the gospel.  It doesn’t matter whether we are Gentile or Jewish, what matters is that we believe, that we depend on the Good News. – the news that God loves us enough that Jesus would die for us.

And the way the journey happens is simple  – we receive all these blessings because we belong to Jesus.  That in our baptism, we are united to Him, we are made one with Him, in His death, and in His resurrection.  This is the incredible mystery we confess when we sing the Memorial Acclimation – that because He died, was buried and rose, we, who were dead in our sin, rise with Him! And when He returns, for us, we will be with the Father forever!

How do we say it around here?  Alleluia!  He is risen indeed! (He is risen! Alleluia) and therefore, (We are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

His plan, it has been since the beginning, that our salvation would occur as we are intimately tied to Christ’s death and resurrection, as we are intimately united to Him!

  1. The Result of the Plan

The plan doesn’t end with the journey though, like our salvation, our being saved. Whatever epic, whether Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, or even Star Wars, the destination is arrived at, in a place where peace finally reigns.  They got the idea from scripture of course, and their novels are based in a hope truly seen in scripture.

Oddly enough, they all arrive at the place where they started, with the difference being the peace that is known, finally. That is why I call the destination, “our perfect home”  Paul will describe the plan’s destination this way:

11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

We have a hint of that home now, for as we presently dwell in Christ’s presence, and He in us, we have the shadows cast by this reality to comfort us. For we dwell with Him now, and yet, we are still on the journey to the point where we see His return. To the point where we boldly enter the presence of God our Father, confident because of the work of Jesus that we belong there.  AMEN!

 

A New Year… a Time to Heal Brokenness

Jesus foot washing

Devotional Thought of the Day:

†14 I am the LORD your God, and I command you not to make fun of the deaf or to cause a blind person to stumble.  Leviticus 19:14 CEV

17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting. 18 Stop being angry and don’t try to take revenge. I am the LORD, and I command you to love others as much as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:17-18 CEV

So they ran all over that part of the country to bring their sick people to him on mats. They brought them each time they heard where he was. 56 In every village or farm or marketplace where Jesus went, the people brought their sick to him. They begged him to let them just touch his clothes, and everyone who did was healed.  Mark 6:55-56 CEV

I wondered this morning as I read the first passage whether the deaf and blind were only physically blind, or if it included those we consider spiritually blind as well.

It doesn’t matter if we a progressive or conservative, contemporary or traditional, right or left, or somewhere on a different spectrum.  We all believe there are people that are so out of touch with reality. that they can’t see or hear, because otherwise, how could they be that stupid?

Or perhaps they are the people we resent, with cause perhaps.  People we are angry with, people we want ot hurt just as much (if not more) than they hurt us. We will take ourselves out of their lives, stating they are the toxic ones, they are the ones that shattered the relationship that was once valued, even treasured.

What would life be like if we, like those who dragged their ailing friends, neighbors, brought these people, the spiritually deaf and blind or those who have hurt us and those we love, before the throne of God?

What would happen if we prayed for them, even wept over the brokenness we think we perceive?

Would God be any less willing to listen, to interact, to bring sight to their eyes (or ours) and enable their ears to hear?  Would He bring them to repentance, and forgive their sins?

Or maybe, answering our prayers, would He change us…

Something to think through and pray about this new year, as we look forward to seeing how God is God, our Almighty God, our Wonderful Counselor, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.

Godspeed to you and yours… and this time next year, may you see the healing God has long desired in your life!  AMEN!

A Brutal but Blessed Truth…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you and formed your nation. Israel, don’t be afraid. I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. 2  When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won’t drown. When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned or scorched by the flames. 3  I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, the God who saves you. . Isaiah 43:1-3a (CEV)

A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances decay

I had always believed in God’s love and God’s omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together, saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), and applied this truth to my life, I could never again see the world the same way. If God is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then everything that happens is our spiritual food; and we should thank Him for it.

I am not sure I would use the phrase “godly man” to describe myself. Others might, assuming since I am a pastor, I must be.  But I know the difference, and so does God.

But I can say, I desire to be a Godly man, and that expresses my broken and sinful heart.  I desire it and know how deeply I fall short of it.  That God guarantees that I will be, that I am in His eyes because of Jesus is a great theological and often academic exercise, but there are days where theology doesn’t serve, and where my academic strengths fail.

It is then that I realize that even for who would desire godliness, the times of failure can be blessings.  Spurgeon is right, even for those like me. Kreeft says it even better – everything that happens to me, whether I am in control of it, or am not, is a result of God’s omnipotence, and more importantly, His love.

That’s hard to say when faced with disease and genetic disorders.  It is hard to face for those who suffer from mental illness, and for those who have been affected by the evil of others, or by their own, this is a brutal truth, and one that it is hard to comprehend, and harder to accept.

Even so, as I desire godliness, I must grow to trust, even when I struggle ot accept, that this is true. Even more so, I need to grow in trusting and sensing His presence when the deep waters come, and I feel like I am drowning.  Even more so when life feels like Dante is right about the inferno. When the pain and anguish seem to overwhelm, I need ot remember the promise of my baptism, and the discovery that I have made at the altar, that God is with us is not just words, it is a truth that is the purest of blessings, even when faced with the brutality of this world. Even when I am too tired to see it.

He is with us, He calls us by name, for we are His.

Even in the midst of “it”

Lord, help us to know Your presence in our lives, to experience the love that is beyond explanation, the peace which is beyond understanding.  Help us not to praise You because You rescued us, but because you made us Yours.  Lord, until you let the waters recede, and the fire be quenched, sustain us, and help us to be thankful for Your presence.. AMEN!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 19.

An Advent Sermon Series: The Relationships of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Genesis 44-45)

Concordia Christmas Eve 2015

The Relationships of Christmas Past
Genesis 44:30-44

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life, and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…

Haunted

I can imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels.  His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,

How it must have ate him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.

Still, he had to look down, and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…

Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.

Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.

Our Relationships of Christmas Past

For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family.  Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.

Others are missing for a different reason.

Our sin.

Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same.  We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous.  Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father, (not even thinking of Joseph) we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades…

Or can I?

I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle.  If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,

I could easily share in the words of Judah,

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.

As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah did, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”

It is hard to hear God answer no…

So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”

But our Brother can..

It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.

But that isn’t why God says “no”

He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief, and anxiety.  The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.

This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent.  We stand before the King who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us?  It is as this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…

We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to hear it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.

“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!”

______________________________________________________________

The Relationships of Christmas Present
Genesis 45:-18a

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A Quick Review of the past

Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.

We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.

So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…

In this moment!

Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.

Not our sin this time… “theirs!”

You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this.  But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.

Joseph’s attitude:

If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”

If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!

If only… we could love more than we hurt…

if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.

My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…

But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.

The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present

There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.

That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.

It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.

It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.

and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,

It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…

And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind.  AMEN!

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The relationships of Christmas Future
Genesis 45:16-21-25-28

In Jesus Name

May the grace mercy and peace of God enable you to see the result of God reconciling us all into Himself.

The Journey Past and Present

This advent we’ve already looked at the Relationships of Christmas Past, those times where we have not been there, the times where our sin has dramatically impacted relationships, much as Judah and His brothers betrayed and sinned against Joseph.

And we saw how Christ did what Judah could not do, taking on the punishment we deserved.  Knowing that gave us hope for the relationships we broke in the past.

Then we looked at the Relationships of Christmas Present, and saw the relationships shattered by the sins of others.

We saw Joseph find the grace that comes when we realize God is at work in our lives, and that all things work out for God, even the things that people planned ot hurt us.

Now we get into the look for relationships in our future.., including those of the past and present.  It is the hope to which each of the previous weeks pointed to, it is the hope of advent, it is the hope that parable of scrooge pointed to as well – relationships healed by the power of God

What the King has in mind

When the news gets to the Pharaoh and his leaders that Joseph’s brothers had come, the reaction is amazing. Here is how it reads, “When it was told in the palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, the king and his officials were happy”  But “happy” is then seen in the reaction – “go get them, I will give them the nest of everything. They can eat and enjoy it all!”

That sounds more like the meaning behind the Hebrew there… which ranges from “it was very good, to delightful. Pharaoh was excited = you see his reaction – give them the best Joseph – the best of whatever I got!

That’s a picture of heaven, not the getting the best stuff, but the excitement of the Pharaoh is the excitement that God has, in seeing us “come home!” It is the regathering, the people that matter to God, His people whom Jesus died for, finally ending up where they belong!

It’s that joy we need to see tonight, the joy of God as He sees us as we are in Christ – reconciled together.

That is why Pharaoh includes this instruction as well, “They can leave their possessions behind,”  

The more we understand God’s delight, His joy for His people to dwell in His presence, the more this makes sense.  We don’t have to bring all the baggage we carry in this life!

Pharaoh provided everything they needed, just get in the chariots and come!

This is what God does for us, providing everything we need to dwell with Him, not just during the hard times of this life, but for eternity.

But the excitement – go get the people – bring them!

This amazing Pharaoh is as much a picture of God our Father as the Pharaoh 425 years later will not be!

I Must GO – His Son is really alive!

Up to this point in the story, Jacob has been distressed and depressed. And when the moving chariots get there, I love his reaction,

“My son Joseph must really be alive, and I will get to see him before I die.”

It reminds me of Joseph’s words,

26  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! 27  I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:26-27 (NLT2)

What makes the difference here is the interaction, Jacob will see his son, Job will see God, we will encounter Jesus,.

A son, once thought dead is found alive, and not only is he alive, but he is reigning and sits at the right hand of the King, Jacob’s life changed dramatically.

Just as Jesus has risen, and not is He alive, He reigns at the right hand of the Father, our lives have changed, reconciled, restored. He is truly risen!

Therefore, We ARE RISEN INDEED,

And when we see Him every relationship will be healed, will be made whole, as all dwell with the Lord, who has forgiven our sins, and united us all in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

The context of the bad news, makes the good news so much sweeter…

Good News Bible
Devotional Thought fo the Day

18  Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. 19  Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!20  You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. Micah 7:18-20 (NLT2)

The text (Joel 2:13) commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.

I hate watching hospital shows, whether it is E.R. in the old days, or Gray’s Anatomy or any of the clones today. I actually thought I found one I liked, the ads said the guy did medicine the right way, and I have to admit, it was interesting the first couple of shows. I thought it might be a nicer version of “House.”

But as with all of them, they eventually get to the episode featuring the patient with Marphans, and it gets too personal.

Back in the ’90s, I had a cardiac arrest and had to have CPR performed n me for 15 minutes, then resuscitated 5 times with a defibrillator.  And though I have no memory of when they said clear and shocked me, my body still feels it when I hear those words on a television show.

It is painful to face my own mortality again.

And yet, that same pain renders me thankful for the lady who performed CPR, and for the paramedics and doctors who shocked me back to life.

As I’ve talked to others like me, there is often a different outlook on life. Because we’ve experienced death because we know how fragile life is, life is different.

Spurgeon understands this spiritually, in order for us to grieve over sin, we need to take it ot the cross, to look on the body that was beaten, pierced, and hung on a cross. We need to understand of all those executed in history, Jesus could have stopped the entire charade and made it right. We need to hear the words of Jesus on the cross and realize His entire life was aimed at this very moment.

He chose not to.

He chose to die that you and I could know the wonder that amazes Hosea. The amazement that God overlooks our sins, the compassion that causes Him to be faithful to promises made centuries ago, but to keep those promises for you and me.

I wonder if we can ever appreciate that sacrifice unless we see it in face of our grievous sins. Can we truly appreciate that love, unless we come face to face with our jealousy, our gossip, our desire for the things of others, or our lust, or desire for revenge?  Or simply our desire to play God, and create idols of our own choosing?

You see that in Acts 2, when the people who thought they were good, who thought they were God’s people (and were) realized that they had killed the Messiah. You see it in Paul’s encounter on the road, in the myriad of stories where people encounter Jesus or the apostles, and realize how far they have fallen, and then are picked up, dusted off, and the prodigal is no longer the prodigal, they are a son of God.

You need to realize what you were, not grieve over it, but to rejoice in what God is doing to us, and to look forward to the day when that work is complete.

Rejoice, your sins, which were as dark as night, causing you to decay like a corpse, those sins are forgiven because of the death of Christ.  And because He is risen, so have you.

Rejoice my friends, rejoice.


C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Advent Streams: Singing – a sermon on Isaiah 35:1-10

Altar with communionStreaming to a Joyous Place!
Isaiah 35:1-10

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to sing!

Getting excited…

I had a great conversation (well, we sent messages across the internet) with a promising young theologian this week. He went to the youth group here back in the day, and he asked me some questions about advent.

As we were talking about the idea that Advent is just as much about the Second Coming as Christmas, you could see his mind spinning and a grin break out as he wrote:

“The hope is that the whole of creation can finally Shabbat (that is rest)!

:” and you can wrap in that from the winter (sin) comes the new spring and the new life”

“I like it.  I mostly remember the songs and candles of Advent. But it’s awesome to really dig into what the message is all about”

And finally,

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation.  The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

He gets it, that advent is not about looking back to the past, because Christmas is beautiful and the kids in Sheep hats are cute, but advent is about looking forward to the second coming and getting excited about what it means.

The first time, Jesus came and dwelt in our presence.  This time, He is coming to bring us back, so we can dwell in the Father’s presence.

You saw a description of that day when even the wilderness and desert will be glad!

Of all the cool things that will happen, I want to focus on two this morning,

Here is the first…

Those who can’t speak…

Hear the first part of verse 6 again.

“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Now, I look forward to the day when not one member of Concordia needs a cane or a walker, but they are lining up to go in the bounce house after

But what I am looking more towards is when those who cannot speak sing out for joy.

Interestingly, this is not just any song, it is the song of Jubilee in Hebrew, the rejoicing when every debt is cancelled, when everything is restored. It is the most joyous of sabbaths, the greatest rest in the presence of God that could be known in a lifetime.

That is what the people that can’t sing, learn to sing.

That is what being in the presence of God, and knowing how much he loves you does. It happens when we realize that He has taken care of all our sin, when everything we’ve ever done that has hurt someone, betrayed them, crushed their spirit is forgiven, all of it. I think it will be something like this,

Free at last! Free at last, praise God Almighty I am free of sin… at last!

Or maybe more like this…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow…praise Him all Creatures ..(and let them sing it out)

Streaming in..

If you think that was something now, imagine what it will be like in a year, when there will be 60-100 more people here?

Or what it will be like with a couple billion here, around the throne of God.  All excited because Christ has returned, the walkers and canes are tossed aside, and we are singing God’s praises. And all the other blessings are being realized.

When we see Jesus, who died that we might live eternally.

That bore the cost of sin so we didn’t have to,… not that’s not right.

He bore the cost of sin, so we could be with God the Father, forever.

That’s why verse 10 means so much, and so amazes me.

10  Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Imagine how great that procession is going to be, every person for who Jesus died for, every person healed of everything, from blindness and being unable to walk to cancer and heart diseases, and most of all, healing of the damage that sin has done to us.

Ransomed, all the debt paid off we will flood into heaven like a flash food.. the mega crowd of billions heading to see God, to worship Him, to praise Him, to hear Him welcome us all home.

This is what we wait for in advent, and get a little foretaste of, every time we hear we are forgiven, every time we hear He is with us, every time we remember what He promised here, and see it again as another person is cleansed in the waters of baptism… We experience His presence, as he takes our cares away as we realize our prayers are answered, in ways more precious than we can imagine.

It is just as Brandon noted..with one thing added in… the Trinity.

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

And every time Jesus meets us here, as we gather, and once again receive His Body and Blood…

This is advent, a time of now and not yet, a time where we glimpse a little of what it will be like when He returns because He has dwelt among us….and we beheld His glory, just as we will, even more clearly when He comes among us, and we dwell in the Father’s presence.  Amen!

The Relationships of Christmas Present – an Advent sermon

The Relationships of Christmas Present
Genesis 45:-18a

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, so that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.

A quick review of the past

Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.

We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.

So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…

In this moment!

Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.

Not our sin this time… “theirs!”

You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this.  But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.

Joseph’s attitude:

If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”

If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!

If only… we could love more than we hurt…

if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.

My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…

But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.

The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present

There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.

That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.

It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.

It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.

and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,
It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…

And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind.  AMEN!

Do I see it? Or…

Rainbow at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15 Moses built an altar and named it “The LORD Gives Me Victory.” 16 Then Moses explained, “This is because I depended on the LORD. But in future generations, the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again.”   Exodus 17:15-16 CEV

Raw belief, a passion for others
grows in me,
encircling each moment
with instinctive prayer.
I will carry the freshness
of the dry lands after rain.
Compassion lives in me again.

Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus.

As I am going through advent, the Old Testament readings each week promise life in a way that seems, impossible. A complete utopia where enemies have become friends, where those that can’t do, where those who prey on others, now protect and nurture them. A time when those who are broken, rejoice in being restored, in being healed.

It is as Paul says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has any man imagined…” (my Adaptation of 1 Cor. 2:9) 

As I read the lesson this morning from Exodus, one concept stuck more in my mind than anything else. “the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again.” Maybe it is because I’ve fought the same battles over and over again. That has led me, personally into a tired, nearly pessimistic view, on which wonders about Christ’s return.  I get tired of the battles, I get tired of the traumas, I get tired of seeing people manipulated, and division being the cause of the day.

Even as I write this, I am being drawn back to Spurgeon’s gentle correct… about relying on myself.  While I saw the promise of more battles, I didn’t see it is the LORD that will fight them, and I forgot the battle in context, where they just had to depend on God’s promise for victory.

When I stop trying, and simply entrust it to Jesus, some wonderful, miraculous things happen.  I see that raw belief growing in some people I work with, I see their passion for others growing, and for them to see God ministering through them.  I look around at what some would call amazing coincidences, and I see God’s hand at work, for the coincidences are too amazing.

When I leave it in God’s hands, I see the victories, not the promise of more challenges, and even then, I realize what Moses did, those challenges will meet God head-on and will suffer defeat again.

Prayer will grow in me too, for seeing God at work stimulates prayer, knowing He will respond.  Then I will see the growth, and the freshness that comes, as God pours out the blessings, just as they always are being poured out.

The difference is my eyes see them…. and my heart begins to resound with praise.

 

 

An excerpt from Today’s Meditation in the Morning Prayer at northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-pra    yer for December 9th. written by Andy Raine

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

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