17 Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 GNT
Especially would he teach them to be useful and bring comfort to the poor flock of Christians by their good example of faith and love in order to strengthen their faith and love. He here shows how he gives and will give rich blessings to the end that such office and service may accomplish much good, and bring forth much fruit.
He knows that he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be. Paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing! In God, everything!
751 Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.
Luther’s words comment on Jesus commanding the apostles to feed thousands upon thousands of people, with not even enough food to feed themselves. One might think they are poor, yet in the presence of Jesus, are they really? The example of faith and love is more important than them having a fleet of food trucks (you would need at least 60?) available. For it is only by realizing the incredible power of God at work in their lives, that they can see the potential they have as servants of the people of Jesus.
This is the same point as Tozer, as a man looks at himself, and realizes his brokenness, his inability. Then the paradox can be revealed, and the man sees how God truly values him, for Jesus was sent to restore to the Father that which He treasures the most. You need to take a moment and think that through. Jesus was the investment God made, the payment for our restoration.
This is not something just made up, this is the point of scripture, to show that God loves us enough to heal and restore us, and counts that work, started as we were joined to Jesus in our baptism (see Col. 2) All of scripture points to this work of Christ, even though we will not see it fulfilled until He returns, it is true now, and the effect of it is as sure as those people were no longer hungry. As the St. Paul tells Timothy, God provides everthing we need, not just for us, but for us to minister to the world, and not just a little here and there… we are to give generously – without concern, but with reliance on God for what is needed. For this is what it means to have hope – to expect something. TO act on the fact that God wants your neighbors to know Him, to love Him, this is what we have to realize is our life–for it is lived in Christ.
This leads us all to St. Josemaria’s prayer – that recognizing God’s presence in our lives, we should plead for Him to use us as He wishes (think Romans 12:1-15).
Pray those words with me, “Heavenly Father, ‘You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!’ AMEN!”
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 314.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.#751
Be An Influencer!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ influence others through you, even as it has influenced you!
- Word of Mouth
IT has been true for a long time that “word of mouth” advertising is the best way to build a business, a school or any other ministry. You can have the greatest media campaigns, the most state-of-the-art equipment, the greatest of staff people, and if no one recommends you to their friends, nothing happens!
Some people have made this a fine art and use the internet and social media to help people hear the words of their mouth, and they are called influencers. For one reason or another, people trust them, listen to them, and try what they say. Some of the infleuncers are teenagers, not even old enough to work at McDonald’s. But they make significant money because millions of people trust the words that come out of their mouth and the pictures they post on Instagram.
Jeremiah foresaw this, or actually God did, when he had Jeremiah write, “You must influence them; do not let them influence you!
So how do you become an influencer?
You start by sharing your story…like Jeremiah did…
- The Journey
For Jeremiah, the journey began with these words, “15 Then I said, “LORD, you know what’s happening to me. Please step in and help me. Punish my persecutors! Please give me time; don’t let me die young. It’s for your sake that I am suffering.
So many of our journeys start when we give up, and we turn in despair to God. We may be believers who have been around forever, some of us are newer, and all of us try to do it on our own, But there is a point, where we realieze the presence of God and reach out in desperation.
This call for help can only be heard because God has been waiting for us, gently drawing us closer, until we call out… and He answers.
That answer explains the next section of Jeremiah’s prophesy, “6 When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.”
For someone desperate enough to call out on an unseen God, the promises sin the word of God are a breath of fresh air! That’s why Jeremiah wants to devour them – the blessings and the curses, the sin and the reconciliation. The hard times and the rescues where God comes ot the aid of His broken people.
You see, reading God’s word isn’t because Greek and Hebrew are so interesting, nor is it to become the world’s greatest theologian.
The reason Jeremiah found such joy in reading scripture, the reasoned he devoured them is because it is told Him that God would be there for Him, as God was for so many across the pages of Scripture.
- Righteous Indignation?
The next phase of growth is different in fact, Jeremiah’s words describe someone who is going backwards,,,,
17 I never joined the people in their merry feasts. I sat alone because your hand was on me. I was filled with indignation at their sins. 18 Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.”
I think there is a part of Jeremiah here that is like the prodigal son’s older brother. He is so into God’s word, and trying to do what pleases God, that he forgets his responsibility to his family and friends.
That’s the danger we have to watch out for, the more we see how much God loves us, we have to remember that God loves them just as much.
To say it another way – the first 3 commandments tell us how we relate to God, but we fail at that, we sin, if we don’t follow the next 7, and love our neighbor, even our sin plagued neighbor. The more we focus on their sin, the more our own weaknesses haunt us, that is why Jeremiah says the wound is incurable.
And why we feel our sin, and the brokenness of the world – even now. The more we look at the sin of the world, the sin of those who oppose us, the more we feel the guilt and shame of our own.
However, the more we try to reach out with His grace, with His love, the more we realize the power of Christ that has cleansed us.
- How is this possible?
Hear Jeremiah’s record of God’s response, “19 This is how the LORD responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!
Here is God’s idea of an influencer!
It is each one of you! Just as it was each one of Israel, who remembered the promises of God that hade made them. So the natural reaction to His drawing us back to Him, to our returning, it s to serve God as His messengers to the world. Each one of us, from Manny and the elders to Jonah and Violet. Each of us has the ability to be influencers with something far more influential than a car, or a new computer. Our influence leads people to peace, to freedom from guilt and shame, into an eternal relationship with God.
And not just any relationship – a relationship where God adopts us as His children, where Jesus welcomes us as His brothers and sisters.
This won’t be an easy journey, we will face some opposition, even as Jeremiah did.. but hear what God promised,
“They will fight against you like an attacking army, but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze. They will not conquer you, for I am with you to protect and rescue you. I, the LORD, have spoken! 21 Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men. I will rescue you from their cruel hands.”
He will rescue us, for He has invested in us the blood of His Son, And He will always save us, grabbing us when we take our eyes off of Him and begin to sink.
He will be there for us, He is there for us now.
For the Lord is Risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) therefore… (we are risen indeed! ALLELUIA!)
1 Peter 3:13-18
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give the desire to share the hope you have in Christ with everyone around you!
- Apologetics – The Necessity
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, two terms became important in the church in America. The first was “evangelism” as program after program was developed to guide the church in evangelizing the world.
The second, which became needed as people started to try to evangelize their neighborhoods and the world, was Apologetics. Since that time, you can now take college courses in apologetics, even get a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in it, as one learns to “defend” the faith.
The term apologetics comes from the passage in 1 Peter read this morning.
“And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. “
Where Evangelism is defined as bringing good news, Apologetics is very simply “giving the reason,” in this case, giving the reason we have hope in this life. The question then becomes, how do we explain why we have hope?
What is necessary to explain this hope we have, which means we also define what isn’t necessary.
What have we learned or experienced or do we have in our lives that they need to know in order to have the hope we have?
- What isn’t necessary?
Somehow, in the midst of the church movements of the 70-80’s, the idea of evangelism and apologetics almost became a profession. Radio shows were created like “The Bible Answer Man” with and “Christianity on Trial. Books were written “evidence that demands a verdict, and later-the Case for Christ. Universities created Masters and Doctoral Degrees in evangelism and apologetics. The latter has been re-defined to meaning to “defend the faith”, whether historically or from the basic of logic. Lots of things to memorize – and all of it is good – and somewhat interesting.
But it isn’t what you need to explain to people why you have hope!
I don’t have hope because I can argue about how the Bible was written over 2500 years. I don’t have hope because I can explain some complications inherent in the describing how the Trinity functions and relates to each other. I don’t have hope because I can teach on all the different views about baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
I am not saying that we don’t need to know – and don’t need to pursue the truth about Jesus> We need to, and it must be based on what He’s revealed to us in scripture. We need to do that – that’s why we study the scriptures together! That’s why we test what people teach against the scriptures.
But when someone wants to know why you have hope in the midst of this crazy, messed up world, they don’t need to know the 5 different views about the Lord’s Supper, or be able to express arguments about how much water is needed to baptize someone, or how to accurately explain what the Trinity is, or what the difference between free will and predestination…
All that stuff can encourage hope once we have it—but it doesn’t explain why we have hope in the middle of this broken world.
It just makes us feel good to know we know more than them…which can easily lead to the sin of pride, and hurting our neighbor because we didn’t explain why we have hope.
- What is of value – what is necessary to tell the unbeliever?
What we need to tell them is why we have hope….
The fact we know God loves us, as Peter said because “Christ suffered for our sins, once and for all time,” so that, “He died for sinners to bring us safely home to God.”
That’s where we can start – just the facts – God loves us, He died to set us free of sin, to set us free from the fear of death.
If we bring up the sacraments, it’s not to debate them! It’s to simply to relate the promises they give us: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Spirit, and eternity in God’s joy-filled, glorious presence.
That is what we have hope for, to enter the presence of God, the creator of everything that is,
And as Peter said, the way we do it is through Christ’s death on the cross.
That is why we have hope….
- You’ve brought safely Home
That hope is what the people we come in contact need to hear. Manny’s lesson in Sunday School takes this even farther, as it looks at an example in Acts of this very thing. It talks of people who were curious about the resurrection of the dead, because their religions and idols had nothing like it.
Nor did they have the Son of God, Jesus, who would be appointed judge of all, who loves us so completely that He would come and dwell among us.
Some people have reached the point where they are ready to hear of that hope, others we are simply planting a seed for the future. The hope that comes because, as Peter wrote, “He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
Therefore… we have risen… ALLELUIA!
75 We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks to you! We proclaim how great you are and tell of the wonderful things you have done! Psalm 75:1 GNT
They who do not feel their sin, and are not dismayed, nor see their infirmities, profit not a whit by it, nor do they delight in it. Though they hear the gospel, it has no effect upon them, except that they learn the words, and speak of what they have heard. They do not treasure them in their hearts, and receive neither comfort nor joy from them.
It were well, if the gospel could be preached only where faint-hearted and conscience-stricken ones are found. But this cannot be, and for this reason it bears so little fruit. The fault is not in the gospel, but in the hearers. They hear it, but they do not feel their own affliction and misery, nor have they ever tried to feel it.
The Last Supper must be understood and proclaimed also as such. Just as in baptism we meet our death and the promise of new life, so also here we encounter the death of the old and the hope of the new. “When you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). It is death-dealing to pretentious god-seekers to be reduced to eating a bit of bread and drinking a sip of wine for salvation. But just so it is also life-giving in the promise. It is the breakthrough of the new in the midst of our time.
THE sincerity of all prayer, whether liturgical or private, depends on the fundamental acknowledgment of our actual spiritual state. We have to have some realization of what we are supposed to be, of what we are not, and of what we are. The first step towards a liberty that is a free gift of God’s grace is the free acknowledgment of our own need for His grace.
As I was reading Psalm 75 this morning, I thought about why we praise God.
It is not because He is all powerful, or all knowledge. It cannot be based in fear anymore than it can be through some idea of manipulating God into saving us.
So where does worship come from? From realizing that God is at work in our lives.
And that is where the horrible, ugly, truth comes into play.
We need Him to work in our lives.
We need Him to do so because we are broken and crushed by the world and by our own sin.
Luther’s words drive this point home- noting how we have to feel our sin, we have to recognize our brokenness. Not so we can be belittled or terrorized by it – the sin does that on its own. But we need to face it, so we can say that we are forgiven it. This hurts most of the time – for the same reason pulling stitches and dressings off of wounds hurts. Merton agrees with this – explaining that we have to understand where we are, in order to understand grace. Forde nails the point home, when talking about the mystery of the Eucharist, and how such a simple piece of bread and sip of win is so transforming–because it is the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. The promises in it are amazing, if we only take the time to think through it.
It is there, at the altar, and at the baptismal font, that the great miracles in our lives happen. THey may also be the most overlooked, for they are sublime. As we come to understand them, the true glory of God, His love, is made known to us. ANd worship should well up inside of us,
Letting God deal with our darkness is needed for worship to really soar. So let Him in… and know the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 142.
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 178.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 162.
If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. John 8:36 (TEV)
Not that grace somehow adds to an otherwise imperfect creation, but that grace puts a stop to our misguided attempts to usurp God’s place and so allows creation to shine forth in all its glory
The “world” is the body of those who hate, because they are prisoners of their own narrow illusions and petty desires. They cannot recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit because they are not willing to conform their lives to His inspirations. They cannot become free with the freedom Jesus compared to the unpredictable blowing of the wind, for they are rooted in their own attachments and bound down by their own compulsions. They have a fixed way of acting (which may be wild and erratic and possess a spurious “freedom” of its own) and they cannot break away from it. They have rendered themselves incapable of doing anything but their “own will” in the sense of their enslaved will. Only the Spirit Himself can penetrate their hard carapace of resistance, and too often they will not let Him do so. They are unable to love freely because they are afraid of freedom.
The power and effect of faith are especially seen in temptations, when sin, death, devil, and hell are overcome. Nor are these weak enemies; they bring out perspiration, weaken our limbs, and make heaven and earth cramped. When the devil and death come, no one can help except only the person who has said, I am he who shall sustain thee. Under such conditions we learn what faith is.
Yesterday, my son’s high school was locked down, and for several hours I waited for him to be released. First, they were kept secure in a classroom. Then, they were escorted to some fenced in tennis courts where, eventually, they were released to parents. The parents waited in the sunlight for hours, because of miscommunication.
My thoughts upon getting into the car hours after I arrived was the old phrase, “Free at last, Free at Last!” A couple of hours of inconvenience, and yet I treated it like a lifelong trauma. ( A little projection here, as I was also wanting to deal with some other traumatic events)
So I was thinking about freedom as I came across these words this morning. And the illusion of freedom was shredded, again and again.
When we clamor and protest to have freedom, we must contemplate two things:
- What are we wanting freedom from?
- What do we want to do with this freedom?
Answering those questions will help us determine whether what we want is truly freedom, or simply the ability to serve our own preferred slavery –to our lusts and desires, our addictions and other sins that plague us. The problem is, enslaved to those things–we don’t even realize we are enslaved! Or, if we do, the lure of that which we are enslaved to overshadows the life we don’t know we can live.
Luther’s words about faith are clear here. It is not an easy fight to overcome sin. It requires a lot sweat and a lot of tears. It takes prayer, and mostly, it takes dying with Jesus on the cross to break those shackles, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to that cross.
Forde’s words are so clear to that as well, as the Holy Spirit convinces us to set aside our self-idolatry, nailing that sin to the cross as well. That when the Son sets us free- we can begin to see glimpses of the glory of God.
There is freedom from everything we need to be free from – hatred, violence, anxiety, resentment, sin, guilt and shame…
And there is freedom to do one thing… to love.
Upon getting home, just before 6, homework and chores awaited both my son and I. As did dinner. We weren’t free to do whatever we wanted, but we were free to do that which was good, and beneficial. Mostly, my family was free to be together. And so it is with freedom we find in Christ Jesus-we are free to be in the presence of God, to know His love, to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ…
This is accomplished simply by having faith in God, depending on what He’s promised – that He will set you truly free..
Gerhard O. Forde, “Hearing,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 144.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 132.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 102.
No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the LORD. 16Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.” 1 Sam. 1:15-16 GNT
Are we presently missing important elements of worship in our churches? I speak of the genuine and sacred offering of ourselves as we worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who can object to pious and righteous talk? Soon the whole enterprise takes off like a magnificent balloon, rising on the strength of its own hot air, with marvelous descriptions of the Christian life, the abundant life, spirituality, and the like. The minister becomes a guru rather than a proclaimer. The balloon rises perhaps until the stratospheric air can no longer support it and so it bursts and falls ignominiously back to earth. Or it is like Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor’s new clothes? Everyone feels compelled to go along with the game until the naive little boy blurts out the truth: “But he’s naked!” Then all the pretense collapses.
But it is obvious to most that real worship and praise isn’t bursting forth from the average Catholic congregation during the opening hymn or song. We aren’t experiencing the jubilatio of St. Augustine’s communities. But we can! The next time we sing at Mass, let’s dare to really sing. Sing with all your heart and soul. Dare to open your mouth and praise God
I wonder what would happen if Tozer saw today’s church, if he would see the missing parts of worship restored. I can think of people here and there whose sacrifice seems significant, yet, I don’t know it is., or what really lies behind the sacrifice–or if it is really one.
I fear that for many of us, our worship is like Forde’s critique, that we are no more than a spiritual version of the Emperor’s new clothes. I fear that we will find there is nothing there, that my sermons have lifted people into a pious, blind life that seems to soar until it crashes. That the verses and choruses we sing are sung out of a love for music, and not without recognizing the presence of the One our voices praise.
We need to sing with all our heart and soul, and that doesn’t mean loudly, or with great power. It means all of it – much as Hannah does in the reading from 1 Samuel. To pour out the pain, the brokenness, the barrenness, to just let it flow out….
You see, praise comes from meeting God in that place, and letting Him raise you up. It means pouring out everything in our prayers, holding nothing back, to let God minister to us. Then our praises take on an other worldly quality, coming from our healed hearts and souls.
It doesn’t take courage as much as desperation.
But the result is glorious – for we come to depend on God in a way that cannot be created or maipulated by skilled planning, or the most incredible of organists, choirs, praise bands or soloists. Yet each, as they encounter a God who cares, adds their voices together–lifting the God who lifted us up.
And for every Hannah, we can then become be like Eli, who ministered to her, on the Lord’s behal
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “Hearing.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 137–38. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Talbot, John Michael. 2023. The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival, Berryville, ARK. Troubador For the Lord Publishing.
Jesus is indeed the Savior of the World
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God be so clear in your life that you declare with the Samaritans, “now we know He is indeed the savior of the world!”
- Woman at the well
She was the first person Jesus to whom Jesus confessed He was the Messiah, the Christ.
He simply said to her, “I am He.”
She wasn’t a princess; she didn’t come from a powerful family major metropolitan city. She wasn’t even married, but so desperate she shacked up with someone who used her, but who could provide a roof over her head.
It turns out she was a princess, the daughter of not just any king, but the King of kings.
Because of that relationship, there were no games with Jesus’ answer. He would play with the Pharisees and Sadducees, never answering their questions, as they weren’t ready for them. She didn’t get a convoluted answer, as Jesus gave Herod and Pilate.
“when He comes…he will explain everything to us…” she said, with hope it might be…
Jesus replied, “I AM he!”
A relationship, long dormant, was formed in that moment, as this lady became someone’s daughter, and realized this man who knew all about her, loved her in a way she never knew she could be loved….
But that is only the beginning…
- Are we blind like the disciples?
There is an interesting reaction by the disciples, that sort of proves how naïve they were.
They ask, “What do you want with her”—at least that is what it translates out to in English. But the word is zeteo—the word for pursuing, it is the word for desiring something from someone.
After all, why would Jesus be talking to “one of them?” Why would He be interested in a lady who was one “their” castoffs?
I struggled with that word desire – and I think I understand why translators didn’t translate it more clearly. Why would you use the word desire, with all the potential mis understandings?
But that is where their sin comes in, as in their minds they are seeing this lady as, well, not a lady. I can leave it there.. right?
They bore false witness against their neighbor – they shattered the 8th commandment.
And because of that, they couldn’t understand a good reason for Jesus to want to be found in her presence.
They couldn’t understand his desire to reveal who she really was
She was a daughter of the King of Kings
And she proved it…. She went and gathered others who were meant to be God’s.
Leaving her bucket – the reason she was there behind, she went into the village, and invited others to see.
And this is where the gospel story gets interesting….
- Steps to believing
This lady, revealed to be the daughter of the King of King go and gathers everyone in the town. AND THEY LISTEN TO HER AND COME!!!!!
They are so enamored with Jesus that they ask Him to stay with them, and this Jewish Rabbi breaks every rule in the book and does so. He not only dines with heathers, he stays in their homes.
He invests them the very mysteries of God, for hear what happens.
So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.
They came to trust and depend on Jesus! This crowd of outcasts who weren’t part of the right ethnicity, the right culture, never mind from the right schools of religious thought. Heck – these people wouldn’t even be allowed in the synagogues of Jesus day.
Yet he stayed with them, and they came to trust in Him, for their salvation –for their life, even before the cross!
What’s more – the faith went deep—listen to these incredible words
Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
That word know there—they understand, they comprehend that He is not just the Saviour of the Jews, and not just that of those who are Abraham’s descendants – He is the Savior of the world—He is the savior of all!
They have begun to love and trust in God the way the Lady does, not just because she told them, but because they experienced His love for them. This is remarkable – this is what it is all about – this relationship that God wants with all people – everywhere.
This is the place where every parent should want their children – to know God is their Savior – not just because they said He is, but because they know Him. This is what every pastor wants of every person, not just in their church but their community—for every person to know Jesus, to experience His love, to be relived by His mercy.
TO experience the love of God, to experience how much He cares and He lifts your burdens off of you, as He cleanses you, as the Spirit dwells within you… this is what you need to know of Jesus.
To have that relationship with God that we encourage each other in, yet which is so intimate and shared with the Father who calls us His children, with Jesus who calls us His brothers and sisters and friends. With the Spirit who ministers to us in a way that is beyond words. TO know Jesus wants to have this relationship with everyone, no matter the depth of their sin – it can happen…
To have you depend on God – not just because I and the elders tell you about Him, but because you know Him… and knowing Him, lets us praise Him… forever! AMEN!
Jesus: The Pathway to Peace
Knowing Jesus Means Letting Him Deal
with the Anxieties caused by having relatives
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus strength help you see the blessing of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of family related anxiety.
- Dysfunction Junction
I love when I find in scripture people struggling with issues similar to what you and I do. It is said there is nothing new under the sun, and that includes all the things that stress us out, that cause us anxiety, that cause our minds to overthink and fear how bad reality is….
And that includes the stress and anxiety caused by family!
Look at the family in the gospel! They could stress out anyone! First you have the helicopter mom, who drives her kids insane, wanting them to be successful! She demands that Jesus give them the top two spots in the kingdom of God! Can you imagine how embarrassed they were? I can still hear their muttered whisper echo through time….. “mom… please don’t, mom please stop! Mom!!”
And they could not, could not disappoint her when Jesus asks them if they can suffer the way He will…
Of course, the boys…. Err men weren’t something to write home about either. So argumentative they were that they are recoded for history as “the sons of thunder.
I imagine all three stressed each other out, quite a bit. Maybe that is why dad was always out fishing!
- Serious harm
We all have stories about some crazy uncle, or some cousins who seemed to thrive on being a pain in the neck. There are other relatives that cause real stress, real pain, and therefore real anxiety. The kind of thing of hurt that starts when we are kids, that affects us until we retire.
This is what Joseph dealt with, the fights and betrayals and failures. King David’s children were even worse in how they treated each other, something that destroyed him as he watched them.
The hardest part of addressing the anxiety and stress caused by relatives is not what they say, or do, or do AND say. That hardest part is our sin. Paul talked about that with the church in Ephesus when he wrote, “26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Ephesians 4:26 (NLT2) It’s our reaction to the sin, to the betrayals, to the pain caused by those who should love us more than the rest of the world.
Our kids, our parents, our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces can do things we don’t like, that cause us to worry, that cause us heartache. We can’t control that – but sin can occur when we loose our ability to control our reaction.
And it is often our sin, or our desire to sin, that causes us as much anxiety and stress. Our feeling that we have to do something, anything…that leads to sin in thought, word and deed. I mean how many of us are willing to let those things go for a couple of months, or years, or even a decade without letting it anger us, hurt us, or just frustrate the hell out of us. How do we deal with their sin, without wanting to sin ourselves? And that causes even more anxiety and stress….
- God lifting the burdens
- Gospel Answer
- OT Response
As we go through this Lent, the purpose of this series is not to face our anxieties and things that cause us stress. It is to shed those anxieties off, to let Jesus remove the burdens they cause, to heal the wounds they leave behind.
That is what Jesus means when He says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That is His response to the disciples’ arguments about who is the greatest. He doesn’t point at this one or that, he points out that He is hear to serve, and to pay off the debt we find we are in to God and each other.
He does away with the sin and its punishment, leaving us free….
This is the work of God that Joseph witnessed, the reason he would weep when his brothers were expecting vengeance.
He knew God would work it out, and His trust in God allowed him to say those incredible words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
That is where forgiveness and reconciliation begins, in seeing what God can do with the situations that cause anxiety and pain. Sometimes we need to be patient and faithful waiting to see God’s plan work out – hopefully it won’t be a decade like Joseph and His brothers.
God did what He promised. He always does. That is what the cross is about, healing the broken relationships now, and forever.
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ create in you an eager repentant Spirit that rejoices in the God’s presence!
- We should be envied!
There is an old Italian “blessing”, which mommas used on their children when they are misbehaving! That “blessing” is this:
“I hope your children grow up to be …. JUST LIKE YOU!”
Oddly enough, the Psalmist would agree, but without the sarcasm.
You, according to the Psalmist, you are to be envied greatly! People should want to be just like you! Well, at least in one way!
Let me explain. Our translation reads:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
In looking up the word “joy”, I discovered it means “to be envied with great desire” So we could translate this
“Greatly envied (with a desire to be like them) are those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is forgiven. Yes, how we should envy (and wanna be like) those whose record the LORD has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty”
So you are to be greatly envied, and people should want to be just like you!
- Our stupidity!
Well, except there is a problem—at least the writer of this Psalm had one, and I think some of us might as well. He describes the problem spiritually in verse 3:
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
That sounds like a bit of a problem!
I need to be clear here, not all physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is caused by refusing to confess your sin. But there is a definite correlation between suffering from the guilt and shame sin causes and one’s well-being.
Sin can and does rip us apart.
We need relationships, and it destroys them. It can cause a type of paranoia—as we are afraid someone is going to find out. It creates all sorts of stresses, as it disconnects us from God and from those who love us and would have us live in peace. Even if we convince ourselves that our particular sin isn’t that bad, living a life based on that lie hollows it out until it collapses.
Sin drains us,
It wipes us out..
And makes our life hollow.
There is only one way to deal with this—though it is a joyful one.
- Our Joy!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
I know how much courage this takes to stop trying to hide all the guilt. But as much courage as it takes, the reward of knowing those sins are completely lifted and tossed away…
All of it – forgiven!
All the guilt—gone!
Think about that for a moment…
Not one thing should haunt you.
Not one thing should you even regret!
As much as we contemplate our sin and brokenness during Lent, it is for this purpose–to know the relief of Psalmist–the absolute joy of the weight being lifted off of us!
We really need to take the time and think through what God has done to us… what He continues to do in our lives. …
Therefore, the psalmist says people should envy us, as we live forgiven lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit! For the burdens we no longer carry, or at least that we aren’t to carry,.. so many do! This is what Jesus came to do, to free us from the sin which stops us from being with God!
So many walk around, living with guilt and shame….so many people walk around without knowing God really loves them, without experiencing that love.
- What happens next
The change is so incredible for the psalmist – that feeling the relief inwards; he turns to those around him
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory!
This is an evangelistic spirit.
Wow, God, you did this for me! All of us need to know this – we all need to pray—we all need to experience this relief, especially before the waters rise, and judgment occurs.
The more you know God has done for you, the more you need to share it with others, to share with them how God heals and protects and hides us from trouble, the more we need to invite people into the safe place we have found.
This is Christianity at its simplest… to realize the incredible way God has called you to His side, cleaning you up along the way, as you invite others into a peace that is beyond explanation….as Jesus saves them, as the Holy Spirit takes us residence with them, as sin and satan the fear of death are tossed out like yesterday’s trash…
This is our hope, and it is the very reason people should be envious of us, why we want them to be just like us.
Concordia Lutheran Church
January 15, 2023
Glorious! (Not useless)
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the glory your life will bring them!
- Arguing with God
Have you ever met someone who had to always be right? Who if I said my stole was green, they would say, no, it’s red?
Sometimes people are like that when they are 3, or entering their teenage years, or sometimes as we get older, we think we have to correct those youngsters….
We all go through that stage, or stages.
We see that in the Old Testament reading today.
God says Isaiah – Your life (and all of Israel’s) will bring me glory
Isaiah responds, “Not so fast God, my work is useless, and I wasted all my energy! Got nothing left!
Basically this guy, one of the greatest of all the prophets, claiming his life is useless, does the most useless thing imaginable.
He argues with God.
- Is this the prophet, or Jesus
I thought to use the word irony, the idea of uselessly arguing with God that his life was useless. I think a better was to explain it is…. silly.
I think we’ve all been where Isaiah is, we don’t see our hard work making any impact. The things that might have worked in the past don’t seem to work anymore, or maybe we just don’t have the patience we used to have.
It really doesn’t matter how the feeling develops, but that feeling that everything is vain, empty, worthless, useless.
The problem is that we can’t see 20 minutes into the future, never mind 20 hours from now, or 20 days.
But it is comforting to know we aren’t the only people to feel this way. Isaiah obviously did, as did Jeremiah, Moses, David, and so many others.
And here is the kicker – this passage is a prophecy about the Messiah – so even Jesus was tempted to feel this way. Understandable of course, having to work with Peter and keeping the Tax Collector and the Anti-Tax, anti-Government Simon the Zealot from killing each other.
But that is where the strength comes, for only Jesus could easily say, “I leave it all in YHWH’s hands, I will trust God for my reward.”
That’s were we need to be, in the middle of feeling useless, but the only way is to trust completely in God… and in what He promises. The only way to have that much faith, is to be united to Jesus, to His death on the cross and the resurrection. Otherwise—such faith is impossible!
That our lives will bring Him glory and praise.
- God’s Long Range Vision for Us… in Christ
That means there has to be something abnormal, something glorious about our lives. Our lives, like Isaiah’s are going to cause people to praise and see the value of what God is doing in our lives.
Verse 5 begins to describe that, about Isaiah, about Jesus, about us.
5 And now the LORD speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The LORD has honored me, and my God has given me strength.
It is one thing to realize that God honors – which simply means to place high value on Isaiah’s work, and it is simple to see that about Jesus…
But what about you.
Do you know that God formed you in your momma’s womb, and has a plan for how you are, like the prophets and like Jesus, to work in His kingdom? Part of your life is to help people come back to God.
No matter how far they have drifted away.
In Isaiah’s day it was bad. People were worshipping other gods, people were not faithful to their families, and to their spouses. People were even taking their newborns and sacrificing them to an idol by heating up this brass statue and tossing their babies into its glowing arms.
IF God was able to use Isaiah and Jeremiah to return people like that to God, how much more can we see it, because of the work of Jesus at the cross!
He goes on to describe this some more,
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
These promises are far more than about Isaiah, they are about Jesus, and because Jesus dwells in us. We’ve seen people baptized in Cerritos, and Nebraska, in Papua, New Guinea and the Sudan, in Turkey and Cameroon, in China and the Philippines because of what people in this church has done. We’ve seen relatives come to know Jesus, and we’ve seen people who have gone away from God come back.
So will we see more of this? Of course.
And here is why,
God chose us in Christ, and because He dwells in us, the mission of Jesus continues through each one of us.
We aren’t Jesus, but our lives bring God the Father glory, because we are united to Jesus. That is what the sacraments do, whether it is remembering our baptism, hearing that our sins are forgiven, or receiving His body and blood, they remind us that because He died and rose, we have died to sin and have risen with Jesus.
What you do this week, as you trust in Jesus, as the Holy Spirit guides you, as you love those around you, including the unlovable – will draw people to the Father through Jesus. There will be people in heaven because of Jesus working through you…people in heaven, not in hell.
And because of that, God will be glorified – because of you, because of the work Christ does through you.
This all happens through the work of the Holy Spirit, because of Jesus, who protects you – your hearts, your minds, as you dwell in the peace of God, a peace that doesn’t make sense, but which you’ve been called to, by name.