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This is US!

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Devotional 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. 2  The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth. 3  The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4  Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. 5  Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. 6  O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD. 7  Give the LORD no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth. Isaiah 62:1-7 (NLT2)

Let the orator expound on this topic, and one will see that faith is something omnipotent and that its power is inexpressible and infinite. It attributes glory to God, for whom nothing greater can be done. Moreover, to attribute glory to God is to consider God truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and almighty. In sum, it is to know God as the author and giver of all good. Faith does this, not reason. Faith fulfills the deity and, I might say, is the creator of divinity, not in the substance of God, but in us.3 For without faith God is for us diminished in glory, wisdom, righteousness, truthfulness, mercy, etc. That is, God has no majesty and divinity where there is no faith. Nor does God ask anything more from us than to attribute glory and divinity to God, that is, not to have God as an idol, but as one who has regard for us, listens, has mercy, helps, etc.

As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I thought about the description of God’s people. It is truly a glorious description, and yet, it seems so far from our reality.

For me seriously far.

To be honest, dealing with the brokenness is the world and in my world, somedays it does seem like we should be called desolate and forsaken. I am not sure God would say he delights in us, for how could he delight in churches that are more interested in fighting and arguing with the world and each other than in reflecting the glory of Christ to the world? How could He love a church that tolerates sin, and can even approve of sins that serve their purposes.

How can Isaiah be talking about us.?

Yet this is the reason God can’t keep still, this is the reason He can’t be quiet. This is His work, and it is why we praise Him and glorify Him. It is knowing that God is the source and provided of the healing that makes us good that leads us to worship. And that knowledge is not reasoned out, it can not be logically stated.

Logically, i could never state the vision Isaiah casts includes me, and I would think I am not the only one who struggles with this. Too many of us know our sin, or in some cases, have had it constantly pointed out in sermons, blogs, memes and people who condescendingly point them out to us. If not, our own guilt and shame crushes us, for we know who we are.

Or we think we do.

But faith takes hold of this simple truth that Luther points out, we have a God who has regard for us, who listens to us, reveals an impossible amount of mercy and love and heals us.

He cannot keep silent or still, Isaiah reminds us, He will heal us and hold us up, the people He loves, the example of the skill and care He puts into His creation. His beautiful, holy bride. God delights in us, and only faith can experience and understand this! Because the Holy Spirit reveals it to us, and gives us the ability to depend on GOd’s promise that it is true.

This is US, the people of God who Isaiah describes!

Lord, though we believe, help us when we struggle to believe. Help us to depend on Your promise, the description of our identity because of the work you do in us. Help us to realize that these promises are true now, as we dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 162). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

What Can You Bring on the Journey – A sermon on Mark 10:17–22 (with Audio)

Traveling Companions of the Cross
Lesson IV – What Can You Bring on the Journey

Mark 10:17–22

Iesou, Huios, Soter

May the God our Father, the God of peace make you hoy in everyway, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!

What can I bring?

It is expected.

You may be bringing the side dish, or the desert.

Or if you are going to Dr. Chris’s you may bring a box of wine.

But we are trained to bring something with us when we go to someone else’s house.

If we are going on a long trip, we may offer to pay for the gas, or grab the snacks and drinks for the trip.

We might call it having good manners, or being raised and trained well.

Certainly the man in the parable was like us, he wanted to journey with Jesus, to be guaranteed that eternal life with God.

But he didn’t expect, and he couldn’t handle Jesus telling him he couldn’t do his fair share.

He couldn’t accept that when he asked Jesus what he could bring on the journey, Jesus’ answer was,

Nothing! Matter of fact, “go, sell everything you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and without bringing anything, “come follow me.”

We, like the man in the gospel struggle when Jesus invites us to come follow Him, and adds, leave everything behind… and I mean everything!

The problem of what we cling to… our idols

For the man, a man by all accounts righteous, what he wanted to bring along the way was his possessions.  That was what he clung to, actually it was what clung to him.  He wouldn’t let go, and walk with Jesus.

I hope we will….

You see, some will make this passage about the money, that we should use our money well for the kingdom.  That it proves that we are responsible to use our money and all we possess to praise God.  It could be our golf clubs, our sewing machines, our guitars or homes.  Sell it all, give it to God. NO!

Actually God didn’t want it.  Use it to help those without, set it aside. Come with me!

There is a bigger issue here. The way things control us, the way count on things to identify who we are.  It might be something we possess,  or it might be a talent, or our intellect. Jesus isn’t just asking the man to leave stuff behind.

Think about what Jesus asks people to leave behind in scripture.

Their jobs, and Matthew and Zaccheus left their tax tables

Their families, and Andrew, Peter, James and John left their families as they left their boats

Their nations, as Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and Paul would leave those behind

Their “rights”? a disciple follows His master… abandoning all for the honor.

And amazingly, their guilt and shame, as both David and Peter took on leadership roles they didn’t think they were qualified for,

Often how we define ourselves shows us what our idols, our false gods are. What we cling to, what we think defines us.  What we cling to, what defines us in the darkness of a night…..

Hear how Luther put it

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God?

Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

Where does your confidence lie, when all else is falling around you?

It might even be negative – that you deserve to suffer, because your are no good.

Or it might be the idea that you are a victim.  That life is the way it is because you’ve been crushed by others, or attacked, or mocked.

**Whatever it is, what we define ourselves as, hints at what our gods and idols are.

They are the things that get in the way of walking with Jesus, what get in the way of our following him.

And like the man, if we are to be Christ’s, then we have to let go of that other stuff….

and walk with Christ, letting Him provide everything we are to be, to need. Letting Him show us what gets in the way of our relationship with Him, and letting him destroy those false idols, those false gods.

Come Follow Me!

That’s what we see as Jesus responds to the man,

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Catch that first line –

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him.

Jesus didn’t see the man as too proud, too conceited.  He saw a man that he loved, that Jesus came to die for, to make the man’s idyllic dream of heaven and eternity true.

In His love for the man, he saw what would stop him.  The things he possessed that meant more to him, at the moment.

Jesus loved him… Jesus wanted this man to join Him.  Just like Jesus wants us to join Him, to accompany Him to the Father’s side.

And Jesus would die, to show this man, and each of us, how much God treasures us. To give him a glimpse of the treasure a life lived with God is.  To show him the treasure that Jesus would bring him to know.

The treasure promised in the cross, given to all who would be joined to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, that incredible mystery we proclaim in the Memorial Acclimation, that we proclaim every time we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

We don’t have to bring anything, as what we have, what we put our trust in what we depend upon doesn’t define us.

The fact that God loves us does.  The fact that He loves us enough to do what it took, the cross and the grave, to make us His children.

That love defines us.

The love that says come with me.  Accompany me through life unto eternity.

I love the quote that shows how we are defined, found in Paul’s words to the crowd in Athens,

as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children
.’ Acts 17:28 (TEV)

And so we understand what the man couldn’t, what the writer of Hebrews wrote so clearly,

So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)

That’s the point of selling the stuff, getting rid of the stuff that gets in the way, whether it is good or bad.

So because of His genuine love for us, come, let us follow Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, the One who loves us more than life.  I tell you this, we won’t even remember what we’ve left behind!

AMEN!

Who Am I? Who are You?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:36 (NLT)

Your boat—your talents, your hopes, your achievements—is worth nothing whatsoever unless you leave it in Christ’s hands, allowing him the freedom to come aboard. Make sure you don’t turn it into an idol. In your boat by yourself, if you try to do without the Master, you are—supernaturally speaking—making straight for shipwreck. Only if you allow, and seek, his presence and captaincy will you be safe from the storms and setbacks of life. Place everything in God’s hands. Let your thoughts, the brave adventures you have imagined, your lofty human ambitions, your noble loves, pass through the heart of Christ. Otherwise, sooner or later, they will all sink to the bottom together with your selfishness.  (1)

It is amazing how much our identity is wrapped up in things. Who we are is wrapped up in what we are able to do far more than we think.  Far more than is good.  

You don’t believe this, lose your driver’s license on a trip!!  You can’t rent a car, you have trouble checking into your hotel ( lucky I am staying with someone), There will be a myriad of things that will become impossible, others that just become difficult..  Take away the mask that we thought was our identity, and we think we lost our identity. We get stressed ad anxious; we try to come up with a million logical options for replacing what was lost.

Not the driver’s license, or the tablet, or the home.

Our identity.  Or what we perceive our identity to be.

WE have to remember that our identity is found, not in things, but in Christ.  For if we died with Him and have risen in Him, then He is our identity.

St Josemaria understood this, as his early ministry was spent in a war-torn state, where he had to hide his priesthood from those where killing priests, as he left his beloved homeland.  The lesson is not one easily learned, but it is one we need to be reminded of daily.

Before I am Pastor, before I am Dt’, before I am Kay’s husband, William’s daddy, before I am a son.  Before I am a driver and resident in the state of California.

I am His.

That’s enough to get me through this life.

It will be enough for you as well.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 540-545). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why There is a “Label” on My Church Sign

Discussion and Devotional thought of the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 2  I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 3  But I want you to understand that Christ is supreme over every man…. 1 Corinthians 11:1-3 (TEV)

1  Finally, our friends, you learned from us how you should live in order to please God. This is, of course, the way you have been living. And now we beg and urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to do even more. 2  For you know the instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (TEV)

203      Surely all those consolations I receive from the Master are given me so that I may think of him all the time and serve him in little things, and so be able to serve him in great things. A resolution: to please my good Jesus in the tiniest details of my daily life.  (1)

It sits there, on the sign identifying the congregation I pastor, on our stationary, on business cards and polo shirts.

A Label, something that identifies our heritage, but also potentially divides us from the body of Christ.

I both love it, and hate it, even despise it.

I despise it because people assume it is something that sets us apart, something that identifies why we are different, as if being a lutheran was a license to condescension, to some higher level of purity or knowledge or perfection.  Though not it’s intent in every place bearing its name, there can be pride associated with that label.  Because of both assumptions, I despise it, just as I despise the fact that we are 3 years from “celebrating” a division in the church, that is contrary to the will of God.  It is my regular prayers that something would happen, a miracle, that would allow the entire church to find healing together in Christ.  That my small section of the church would have the humility to encourage this, even noting our own sin, our own failures, our own poor theology that prevents it.

I hate the label, because it is not specific.  Many “wear” it, and have radically different beliefs.  Some have departed the focus on grace and mercy and Christ’s delivering us into the presence of our Heavenly father, saving us from sin… our sin.  They have neglected the treasuring of a relationship with God that brought such peace and joy to Luther.  For this man realized God was our refuge from the brokenness of the world.  Others have gone the other direction, forgetting the why’s and legislating the hows and whens. They look more to great theologians of different eras, taking even their errors as being right. They will even say their own teaching is beyond question. Extremisms define the label today, far more than the basic teachings of the catechism, and how it summarizes truth from scripture.  In some ways, the extremes almost defeat the benefit of the label.  Knowing this, I would actually think a better description of my church would be the old name, the Evangelical-catholic church.  Historically and with a pragmatic view to our work, it suits us well.

I think the reasons above are why some toss aside the labels, or at least try to toss them aside.  They label their church community church (though there are denominations with that moniker), or Christian Church or church of Christ (though I was originally ordained in that denominational family…err brotherhood of churches)

So why not just hang out a sign that says, “a church”, or “the church on the corner”.  Get rid of all other identifying markings, all other labels.

After all of this, why do I like the title?

1.  It reminds me that who I believe, and what I believe about Him, is bigger than just me.  It was handed down to me, entrusted to me by a larger community of faith.  My congregation and I don’t stand alone.  In the same way my friends in the Roman Catholic Church find comfort in seeing how saints have endured persecution and troubled times, knowing that God would work through Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz, Walther, Pieper, Piepkorn, that broken men found solace and hope in God’s is incredible to realize.
They pass us down, not just an academic belief system, but a sense of hope, a story of healing, the assurance that God is our refuge, our help in times of trouble.  As Paul encouranged us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus, so these men (and women) provide some helpful tracks along the journey.  The label reminds me of this, and those that went before.  Their failures, their successes, and how they coped with both!

2.  While it doesn’t reduce or eliminate extremism, it gives me a base to start from, a point to evaluate what I teach, and preach and how I administer the sacraments.  While their words are only legitimate when in accord with scripture, they do help me, to ensure I don’t fall far astream.  Creeds and catechisms are never end all, be alls, but they help.  One doesn’t have to go far back in history to see those who claimed to base their understanding solely on scripture fail miserably, leading people astray.  (Jim Jones is an example, as are denominations like the Jehovah Witnesses)  Think of a amusement park, and the “car rides”, which have a steel or cement center rail.  Having a heritage of faithful people running along the same rail before helps us stay the course.  (see Hebrews 11)

I suppose the last reason I love my particular label, is that the irony keeps my humble.  I know Luther would shake his head at us, wondering why in the world we would name our denomination after such a sinner as he was.  The irony that we did, because he was a sinner that God would use to restore something the church had lost (he also messed up a lot – please understand this!) But if God could use a pastor as broken, as crazy, as powerfully as he did…despite his pride, his temper, then there is hope for me, as I ask my people to follow me, as I follow in footsteps of all of those who follow Christ.

Rejoice, we aren’t alone in this journey, God has sustained people beyond number who have handed down to us, what we hand down to others!

By the way, know this, if your label is different, that doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome… just the opposite – please, plese come let’s find out why the labels are blessings… not letting them divide us!

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 901-904). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Humanity’s Search for Meaning. Which Star Trek Captain, Princess Bride Character, Super Hero, MBTI Type are YOU?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

 20  But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! 21  My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. 22  Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, 23  a life renewed from the inside 24  and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:20-24 (MSG)

34    Don’t be afraid of the truth, even though the truth may mean your death.(1)

We take them mostly for fun, or so we tell ourselves.

In the last week, I found I am Captain Jeffrey Archer, Inigo Montoya, the Green Lantern, and that I am an Elf.

The personality quizzes are fun, and mostly I can live with the results. ( being labelled a unicorn though?)  But these “tests” are getting more and more popular,Especially, how do I say this nicely, among those who no longer fit the “college/career demographic (20-35ish.)

We post the results, looking for affirmation? Looking for comments that tell us it’s okay to be Data and not Patrick Stewart, that its okay to not be Harry Potter but to be Dumbledore, to be Gomer Pyle rather than Church Norris.  (But why did I get picked to be St Stephen, the first martyr?)

We long to know that people will accept us for who we are, for where we’ve ended up in life, that it is okay to be… us.  We long to know who we are even, for there are days, where our self esteem plummets, where our confidence drops, when we dream of re-defining ourselves, and we look for someone we admire, someone we could be life.  And how we answer the questions more often describes what we would like to be like, than who we really are.

The challenge is to remember that who we are isn’t determined by our personality, or our vocation, or even our successes and failures. That we are who we are being “okay” doesn’t depend on what others think of us (especially if they read the 8th commandment)  It doesn’t even truly depend on our own understanding and approval of who we are.  St Paul refers to this when he talks of our limited knowledge:

12  We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (MSG) 

St. Josemaria says that we don’t have to be afraid of the truth, even though it may mean our death.  In a way it does, for to know the truth about ourselves, we have to know that we have been untied with death, Christ’s death. (Romans 6:1-8, Titus, 3:3-8, Ezekiel 36:25ff)  For He is the truth, and it is united to Him, to His death and resurrection, that we begin to know our “true” identity.  The identity that God knows, the identity that He created us to have.  The identity that makes us more than our favorite hero (or villain) could ever be.

For you don’t just have the characteristics like a child of God, you have been created as one.  A creation that God promises is a Masterpiece.  One where we are judged by God to be righteous,

That is who you are….. who you really are.  A child of God, a friend of Christ, a masterpiece

No matter what those “tests” say.

Take His word on it!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 241-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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