Blog Archives

How Many Opportunities Does the Church Miss?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

45  “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47  I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48  But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49  and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50  The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51  and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:45-51 (NLT2)

167         Make up the time you have lost resting on the laurels of your self-complacency, and thinking what a good person you are, as if it were enough just to keep going, without stealing or killing. Speed up the pace of your piety and your work: you still have such a long way to go: Live happily with everyone, even with those who annoy you, and make an effort to love —to serve!—those whom you despised before.

It is an overwhelming thought that God invests in His people His mission to make disciples from every nation on the earth.

Yet too often we overlook this, caught up in the hectic nature of the world.  Our people are in trauma, our buildings need to be maintained, there are committees to serve on in our community and in our church.

And too often, we let opportunities to serve people slip right by us.

We overlook seeing the broken person standing before us, seeing only someone who is offensive and a pain in the ass.  We overlook another opportunity because we have to get this done or get that done. The tyranny of the urgent causes us to overlook the very people God has brought into our lives so that we can share his love.

The problem is that we read passages like this, and words like mine and guilt sink in, or if it doesn’t, indifference does.

Those reactions cause us to miss the blessing that is inherent in the word of God. If there is a reason to serve and minister to others, to love them and reach out ot them, it is the incredible joy found in leaning on God for the words, in depending on him to calm our nervous hearts, and to see Him speak through us,

The reason we do this isn’t that we have to, but like little children working with their dad, we get to!  It means we spend time with God, we see His love for others,

Then we don’t have to fear our master coming back, for we know He is with us,  Right here, right now, pointing out to us those He would pour out His peace upon, healing their souls, even as He heals ours.

That is what we encounter as we minister to others, our Lord at work.  SO let Him deal with the complacent spirit, the anxiety that would limit your ministry, and rejoice as you encounter the Spirit at work!

AMEN

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 916-920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith in Action: A sermon on James 2

church at communion 2Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18


In Jesus Name

May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!

Faith isn’t invisible

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,

1  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.

We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.

That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.

And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live.  It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,

it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,

Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.

So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.

so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.

Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike started an ad campaign this week.  Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator.  Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,

This is their new slogan,

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,

I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.

Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it.  And act on that faith.

The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help

In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.

I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:

How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.

How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.

How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?

How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?

How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them?  A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there

How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.

O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy?  Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.

But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.

Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord

When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.

These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.

For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,

Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father.  That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.

It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!

A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.

For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!

Offended! Renewal or Revenge: I beg you…choose wisely

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains. 11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you as a part of myself. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a •slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 
17 So if you consider me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self. Philemon 9-19 HCSB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning, and act in consequence.

Christianity is Love, or better said Jesus Christ is love.

In recent weeks, there have been some issues where people have been gravely hurt, situations in which they feel they have been offended, gravely offended.  Some of these things are sinful, even including some that are considered abominations,

Yet Christianity is love, St Josemaria reminds us.

Our mission, the mission of the church and everyone who is a part of her is found in loving others, to have the positive experience of being concerned for them.  This isn’t easy, this mission of ours.  It calls us to love the unlovable, to be concerned for the very people who hurt us, whom we pin the blame for our brokenness on, looking for someone to take the fall

Yet Christ is love.

This morning, my reading plan hit the book of Philemon, one of the greatest encouragements to love a neighbor found in scripture. Paul is encouraging Philemon to love more than the betrayal, to love more than he was sinned against, to love more than justice, in fact, this love flies in the face of civil justice.

Christ is love.  Imitate Him!

Paul so desires Philemon to love the escaped slave, he is willing to risk having Philemon disobey him, willing to risk a betrayal.  He so desires to teach Philemon about love, he is willing to sacrifice the one he wants Philemon to love.

The one who betrayed Philemon, the one who hurt him, stole his property, made him the object of ridicule.

Paul wants Philemon to love the most unlovable person in Philemon’s life.

And he is willing to risk everything to teach this important lesson, even as he encourages Philemon with just as much energy, reminding Philemon how much he is loved.  Even reminding Philemon how much mercy has blessed him.

Christ is Love!

This is our calling, this is our way of life, this is a level of joy when we find that in Christ we can love the unlovable when we can love the one who has betrayed us when we can show mercy even as we show mercy.

What a joy to do that which we cannot do on our own. To so depend on the power of the Holy Spirit who comforts us, who gives us the ability to do what we cannot.

Christ in us!  LOVE!

Take a moment, think of those who you would struggle to love, whether a famous person, or a family member or a neighbor.  Hear those who have loved you when you were unlovable, pointing you to Jesus, and pray that someone would do the same for those whose actions and words hurt you, bring them to the Lord who will renew their lives.
Lord have mercy on us…..all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

church at communion 2

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

Matters of the Heart
Mark 7:14-23

Jesus, Son, Savior

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gospel – a heart transplant The OT Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

and who promises this as well

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

Where Will We Find Ourselves?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for the day:

11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me” g—this is the LORD’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, h but they would not obey.  Jeremiah 13:11 HCSB

We have to be candles,
burning between
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.

And if our life means anything,
if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and
does some good,
it is that somehow,
by being here,
at peace,
we help the world cope
with what it cannot understand.

We may talk about finding ourselves, or our search for meaning, but I am not always sure we are ready to find ourselves.  Each generation has their search, whether it was the boomers in the 50’s and sixties, or the GenX’er, or now the Millenials.  Eventually, the majority of the people will settle down into a life that isn’t truly satisfying.  A life filled with turmoil, anxiety, uncertainty.

Lite I mentioned, I am not sure we are all ready to find ourselves.

Because the search will lead us into what Brodrick calls the “disquieting place”.

We live there, but we don’t want to find ourselves there, bouncing between optimism and pessimism, between joy and sorrow, in a place which is more often surreal than real.

And to be content there… in the midst of the disquiet, in the realm of the dysfunctional, in the place where balance isn’t found, that is when we truly find ourselves.

Because there, we learn to do what God desires, what God designed us to do.

To cling to Him like a pair of underwear!

Seriously, it is in that place where life spins us back and forth between the extremes that we find our only hope is clinging to God.  It is in our relationship with Him that we can find rest and peace, it is in Him that the paradox of life can be put to rest.

In Him, the disquiet turns into a crescendo of praise.

And clinging to Him, we reach outside of ourselves and find that we can help the world cope with what it cannot understand.

It is as we cling to Him, ministry happens…..

So learn to realize the disquiet can be a blessed place as well, and when it isn’t, remember to cling to God like a pair of underwear clings to its owner.

William Brodrick  (https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/  )

Washed by Water with the Word! A sermon based on Ephesians 5:21-33

church at communion 2A sermon from Concordia

Washed by Water with the Word:
Being placed in Christ’s care
Ephesians 5:21-33

In Jesus Name

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ result in your loving God, loving others, and letting yourself be loved by others.

Distracted by the object Lesson

I want you to look back at the epistle reading this morning.

I added the first verse, what is verse 21 of the chapter, to what the traditional reading is for today.  I think it is necessary, as it sets the tone not just for what we have in today’s reading, but the relationships described in the next chapter.  There the relationship between parents and children, and bosses and those who work for them are described in the same manner as the relationship between husband and wife in today’s reading.

I want us to read it together,

And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

There is the key to every relationship you will ever be in, caring for one another to the extent that we care for them, and are cared for by them.

It’s quite a challenge!

Especially if you leave that verse out, and start the reading with, “For wives, this means submit to your husband as to the LORD!”

Without verse 21, the moment I read verse 22 I lose everyone.  All the guys would remember is that I said women should submit, and nothing else.  (And the stupid ones can’t wait to tell their wives what pastor said!) I lost the women because they are all thinking, “Oh my gosh, that is all my husband will have heard!”  And both would spend the rest of the service thinking about that!

Okay, that’s a big generalization.  Not all of you would be distracted and stop listening.

When we drop verse 21 is that we omit the reason we do these things.

Which is because first of all, we adore Christ, and how He has submitted in order to care for us.  And until we are in awe of that, the rest of this stuff is meaningless.

But once we adore Him, as we realize what He has done for us.   As we realize how He has loved us and calls us to love as we are loved.

Christ’s submission

Let’s look at how Christ submitted, which is described at the end of verse 25,

He gave up his life for her 26  to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

What a concept.  Submission as seen in doing what the other person needs, what the person needs in their lives.  In this case, in our case, what Christ did was give up His life for us, that we could become holy and clean!

I have mentioned before what holiness Is, and what it isn’t.  It isn’t perfection or being nicer and sinning less than other people.  Though those who live holy lives as a side effect may indeed sin less, that is a side effect.

Holiness is best described as being set apart for a very specific purpose.  Everything has its place and purpose in life and using something for something other than what it is intended for, well, that causes things to break, and be shattered.  For example, I can’t use Missy’s guitar to stand on to change a lightbulb or use Kay’s violin for swatting a fly, could I?

How it affects us…

In the same way, we’ve been created, and in Christ, recreated for one specific purpose.  To be in a special relationship with God, as we are created and recreated to be His people, and He is the God who loves us.

That is why the cleansing is needed, to ready us for the day when we stand before God, free of all guilt and shame, free of all things that stop us from being His glorious people.

Christ submits to cause this in us, as we are washed by the water and the word. As we are baptized, united to His death and His Resurrection as both Romans 6 and Colossians 2 describes.

That is why Jesus was born, and why He lived, teaching and healing, and died and rose again, so that we would be freed from all the problems that sin causes, free to be in that relationship just soaking in the love of God as we share in His glory (Col. 1:26-28)

This is what it is all about, assuring us of the work of Christ in our lives.  Linking people to Christ’s death and resurrection as He promised when we are born again in baptism.

And our response…

As He washes us in water and the word, changing our lives so completely that we begin to live as He did, more concerned about those we love and are called to love than we are concerned for ourselves.

This submission in reverence to Christ becomes our new nature, our new life.  Often in ways, we don’t see, it just happens.

As we walk with Jesus, as we see His love and are united to Him, as we become one with Him.

This is who we are, the people of God, who reflect the glory of His peace into this broken world.

So my friends, remain in Him, experience His love, and dwell in His peace which goes beyond all understanding, as He keeps our hearts and minds in Him!  AMEN!

Suffering, and trying to blackmail God….

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737Devotional Thought of the Day:
8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT2)

776    Don’t fall into a vicious circle. You are thinking: when this is settled one way or another, I’ll be very generous with my God. Can’t you see that Jesus is waiting for you to be generous without any reservation, so that he can settle things far better than you imagine? A firm resolution, as a logical consequence: in each moment of each day I will try generously to carry out the will of God.

I have been at people’s sides when they were so overwhelmed that they thought they would never live through it.  And I’ve been there when they not only expected to die, they actually expected it. The feeling as darkness closes in, as our hope in this life seems to fade, these emotions?  feelings?  Those words aren’t strong enough, this level of life seems too unbearable, even as tears come without warning, or worse, the days when you wonder if there are any left. 

It is those times we want to be like Luther, hiding in plain sight in a thunderstorm, trying to make a deal with God. “God, if you will only let me survive this, I will dedicate my life to you as a monk, or go on the mission field, or give up my favorite moments of sinful joy.”

 In Josemaria’s words, we refuse to be generous with God unless He miraculously settles the issue, solves the problem, provides the miracle.  We look at accounts like Luther’s, or we misappropriate the story of Gideon’s fleece, and blackmail God, only giving Him what He should have if our demands are met if our rescue is completed if we receive the blessings we want.   We can even find justification for our actions in Jacob’s wrestling with God, demanding a blessing from Him.  

Except that Gideon’s fleece wasn’t something that directly benefited him, and Jacob’s blessing was not a blessing of his choosing. 

And Luther?

I wonder if God hadn’t already been working on his to give up the legal profession for the ministry.  Seems like an awfully random thing to come up with in the midst of a storm. Repent of something might be more common, fearing God’s wrath certainly, but sacrificing his life as a living sacrifice? 

I think he may have already been doing a Jonah routine on that one.

And God used his suffering to benefit many.  God would use his sacrifice to reform the church (yes the Catholic Church reformed after that – some of his issues were handled at Trent, and then Vatican I & II… and maybe some more..eventually) 

When we try, under duress or plan, to blackmail God, we take our eyes off of Him, and we ignore or refuse to see and hear His plan, and how it will be good. Even in this midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering. 

That’s when we need to listen to Paul, and the sure confidence he has in God, who rescues us from sin and death. We learned to rely on God he writes. instead of relying on ourselves. It is a plea to us as well; that we would know we can rely on Him, too. “He will continue to rescue..”

We need to know that.  For the, we can hear Josemaria’s advice, to give generously, without any reservation, without any thought of the suffering, for we shall endure eternally with Jesus. Don’t wait for everything to work out, give of yourself generously during the crisis.  Depend on His faithful love. Look forward to the day we will be at home with the Father/  As it is now, with the Spirit indwelling in us, so it will be with our dwelling in the Father’s presence, fully experiencing the breadth, width, height, and depth of His love. 

Heavenly Father, when we suffer, help us to keep looking to you, knowing Your love is faithful always, that you do promise all to work for good for us who love You.  Help us to realize we aren’t always the best judge of that, and simply trust in You.
We pray this in Jesus name, AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1791-1795). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dare I pray this? Dare I not?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. 24  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. Psalm 139:23-24 (NJB)

Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another •language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks •mysteries in the Spirit. l 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.  1 Cor 14:1-4 HCSB

771    God exalts those who carry out his will in the very same things in which he humbled them.

There is a joke about being cautious as you pray for things like patience and faith, because surely God will hear those prayers, and give you the opportunity to see your growth.  Of course, the only way to see growth in those things is when you have to demonstrate them.

Even though the idea of having to be patient is scary, the idea of praying the psalmist pray this morning is even scarier.  To give God permission, to beg God to investigate every nook and cranny of our heart, our soul, our very being, and to make sure I am not doing anything offensive, anything evil, anything that would lead me to ruin.

God knows our right and our wrong, our acts of rebellion, our sin, but to invite Him in to purge them from us?  That is a hard prayer, that is one that scares me, for somehow I think that what I hide from him, what I deny to myself, somehow doesn’t count, it doesn’t affect me and others, it just was a passing moment, something I barely remember.

And yet, it is only after I pray that, only after letting Jesus carefully circumcise my heart, that I can begin to understand how great His love his and be in awe of His mercy. It is only then that I can begin to realize what it means to be the one He loves, and adore God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only then that life begins.

A focus on such love, pursuing such love is essential for those of us who preach, who prophesy, who teach.  Whether it is to a parish of thousands, or to two or three in a elementary sunday school class.  I believe there is a distinct impact on preaching and teaching that comes from knowing we are loved.  Not just knowing it as a fact, but living in the midst of that love, knowing that love so well that we easily trust Him, even with the darkest parts of our lives.

It is as we are rescued from that darkness we can speak of it in a way that edifies the church, that lifts them up, that convinces them of the love of God.  THat allow them to realize that God loves them as well, that they can trust Him to transform them.

That when God humbles us, it is so that, cleansed of all that has damaged us, we can be lifted up, healed, and in awe, knowing He loves us.

Such is our calling, such is our relationship with HIm… and though this prayer still scares me, can we pray it together?

Heavenly Father, we count on our love, we acknowledge the need of the Spirit to come through our lives, cleansing us from our sin, our brokenness, our pursuit of things we know distress you. Lord, help us to pursue the love you told us you have, and counting on that love, search our hearts our souls and minds, Find the things that displease You and take them away, so that you may guide us on this way of everlasting life.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1785-1786). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Faithful Love! A Sermon on Lamentations 3:22-33

church at communion 2God’s Faithful Love
Lamentations 3:22-33

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you peace and help you to realize how faithfully He loves you!  And knowing this, may you learn to wait in hope, knowing He will never abandon you forever!

Fear of Abandonment

In that day, people had turned their back on God.  They had chosen lives filled with immorality and deceit, lives that were so perverse that they didn’t even realize how badly they were enslaved to sin.

They were beginning to reap the consequences of their action, as families were divided, as their cities were being destroyed from within and without, as they were no longer a place where refugees came for hope, but a place where they fled from, not with any plan, but they simply had to “get away.

They were a people that were broken, much like many in our community in our nation, in our world today.  There felt like they were alone – and that they were abandoned by God.  This was reinforced by the shame that what they were experiencing, shame they knew they deserved because of their sin.  They felt abandoned, without any hope…

And then a prophet spoke.

There would be healing, so that even in their grief, they would know not only that God was compassionate, they would experience that compassion.  For God has promised that His love is faithful and unending, that His mercy, His compassion, His work forgiving and restoring people will never end.

And this faithful love of God endures today.  It is why this church can be what we say it is, the place where people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.

Submitting to the yoke…together

I want to read verse 24 through 27 again,

24  I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 25  The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. 27  And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28  Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands

While we look at 26 through 28 a little closer, please keep in mind the attitude expressed in 24 and 25, that we have hope, for God is our inheritance, that He is good to those who depend upon Him.

But in verse 26-28 we find some things that are… challenging, and if we think through them, disturbing.

The first is that it is good to wait quietly, (and the Hebrew includes the idea of expectantly) for God to rescue us.  Let’s get past the word salvation and realize that this is a matter of spiritual life and death we are talking about.

This word salvation, getting down to simple thoughts, is about being rescued, about being picked up from the crap that we have gotten ourselves into, the trouble we have made for ourselves, the sin we committed, that leaves us broken, frustrated, and alone.

The issue of sin is the reason Jeremiah tells us that it is better for us to submit to a yoke of discipline at an early age.  A little explanation there.  A yoke was that which was put over a team of oxen or horses’ necks so that they could be used to work.  It was a way of controlling them, but even more, a way of teaching and guiding them.  For a new ox would be paired with one who was experienced and together they would get the job done,

In the same way, it may seem hard to think of God disciplining people, but He doesn’t leave us alone, for as He disciplines us with that yoke, he is also carrying it with us, doing the work, making sure we “get” it, never leaving us alone, even though we think we can’t bear it anymore.

And that is the way it is throughout our entire life.  Even when we struggle, He is there, right beside us, working us through it, bringing us back on track.  Far better to learn this as a young person, but it is never too late!

For we find as God guides us, even if it is with a “strong hand” that we not only endure, we are blessed by His presence, even if we don’t really enjoy His strong hand, and His correction.

His Mercies begin Fresh, they never cease

But this is what it means that His love is faithful, and it never ends.  God’s love for you and it means that He will always, always do what is best for us.  That is the nature of this love, this cHesed.  It binds Him to us, His love for us demands He be faithful to us, even when that faithfulness isn’t easy, or comfortable, say for instance when it required the death of Jesus.

On the cross.

Because He loves us, and He will not ever give up on us, or abandon us.  But we live forever with Him.

In this book of lament, there is one thing that still amazes me, and brings me to tears, not of grief, sorrow or shame.

It is verse 23, “His mercies begin afresh every morning.”

Every morning.  No matter how bad I screwed up yesterday, no matter how shameful my sin, no matter how badly you think you shattered that relationship, that mercy, that bond that God has with you is there, as new and precious as it was when He cleansed you from sin in your baptism.

That is why we are told to remember our baptism every evening before we go to sleep, so that we may sleep without guilt and shame, and why we should begin every day thinking of what God promised us here, not just the forgiveness of sin, but the presence of the Holy Spirit, who will accompany you all day, guiding you, correcting you, comforting you.

That is the faithfulness that Jeremiah offered to the sin-ridden people of Israel

And it is the faithful love of God I promise you is there, for you this day.

God is with you, and because of that, you can know He will be merciful, He will forgive because He loves you.  And like Jeremiah, as He is healing you, you can reach out to others who need healing.

For you can live with Him, knowing His incredible peace, now and forever!

Let’s pray.

God’s “safe place”…the place He fits in…

561266_10150669017895878_539105877_9573351_938050676_n

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  1 Co 3:16   HCSB

1 How lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD of Hosts. 2 I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 64:1-2 HCSB

37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

King Solomon once asked if there was ever a place God could fit in.

As I read the readings quoted this moring I thought of Solomon’s words at the dedication of the temple, and as I read that we were God’s sanctuary, I didn’t think about it in view of a huge cathedral’s sanctuary, but the place for someone seeking a home, seeking a place where you “fit in”, where You were loved.  To quote the old song from the show “Cheers”, the place where “everybody knows Your name”.

A sanctuary is a place where you are at peace, where you can rest, and be yourself.  Where it is safe.  Where you are worry free and free to discover who you are, and live as you were meant ot live. Some people mock those described as “millenials” for wanting such a place, for struggling to understand this world and the chaos we have seen it become.

Yet even as the Psalmist desires to be in the dwelling place of God, (something I resonate with a lot, as I struggle with my own sin and the sin of the world)  I find it comforting to know God seeks this place as well.  That God would look for His safe place, the place where He would be who He knows Himself to be, to create and find every part of His sanctuary.  God is far more desirous of that place than we are, and the extreme measures He will go to create that place, to found the place where He fits in, to dwell in the place where everyone knows (and praises) His name.

People reading this may think that I am picturing God as a wimpy needy person, just as they picture the millennials who they berate and mock.  The need for a safe place and a call for it by the younger adults of this day is not about them being wimps, it is about their keen sense of the dissonance that sin causes, the brokenness that our hearts and souls cannot tolerate.

And neither should ours.

We, especially those in the church, should be crying out to God, to make His presence know, to help us to understand that He dwells in our midst, that we are the sanctuary we so eagerly seek out.  We can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, see those out searching for a place, drawn to Him, pointed there by our words, by our lives.  For this church is the place we find ourselves in the heart of Christ, and it is there, as the Spirit dwells in us,.

This is the sanctuary God desires more than anything, for Jesus, died to establish it.  This is the community that is called holy, that is set apart to know and love one another, where everyone knows your name, and everyone knows His. This is His masterpiece, this church made not of wood and stone, but of hearts and souls, the place figured in the words of John 1, where it says he came and made His home among us. This is what all creation culminated in, this sanctuary, this safe place God has made to dwell in with us.

Realize my friends, you dwell in Him, and you are His sanctuary.  For this is His desire, to have this sanctuary for Himself.

Lord,, help ys to realize that in the Sabbath you rest, and envisioned us finding rest and peace with You.  In making us Your Holy People, you created a place where You fit in, where You would rest in peace with those you call by name, who call You by Name and call upon that Name. Help us to do so often so that every burden is lifted, and every praise is sung.   AMEN!

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

%d bloggers like this: