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Knowing He Hears You: A sermon on Luke 20

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus Means Knowing He Hears You!
Luke 20:1-8

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ lead you to understand that God is present in your life, listening…

Is the lesson that we are to be a pain in the neck?

When I read the gospel story about the widow who consistently stood before the self-centered judge, I think I should make the case for a different sermon title. That one would simply be,

Walking with Jesus? Get what you want by BEING A PAIN IN THE NECK!

At first glance, that is what the passage seems to be saying, isn’t it? Jesus is teaching us to pray and never give up, so just keep on bugging God till we get what we want, right?

You want a new car?  Bug him.

You want the bills paid, just keep on bugging him, and never give up.
You want to stop people from making stupid decisions, and then watch them as they

You want to feel better, be less tired, have less back pain, stop feeling old. just keep praying and never give up making a pain in the…. neck of yourself.

That seems to be what Jesus is talking about, when he tells us about the lady, isn’t it?

If it is that, then I think that the lesson in the story is simply.  And most of us, have no problem in making ourselves a pain in the neck, when we want to be!

Ready for communion?

O wait, the story isn’t about the widow… .

So back to the beginning, or maybe to the end.

What about the question… Will God find people trusting in Him?

At the end of the passage, Jesus asks a great question:

“when the Son of Man* returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Will God find people who trust in Him, will he find people who will depend on Him, who will find in Him the hope they need to live in this broken life?

Will we, in the midst of the good times or the bad find the ability to cling to God, knowing that only in Him do we find hope?

Or will we walk away, like all but the apostles did, when He talked of His body and blood being their true food and drink?

Will we count on Him listening to us, or will we give up?

I’ll be honest, there are times where giving up seems like the option. As we get tired of being broken, and we look round and see that the world is more broken. And oh boy, this week, did it appear broken!

In those times, I am not sure I want to hear Jesus say – Just always pray and never give up!

There is a tendency to want to fight or flee, to struggle or simply walk away. Those reactions, whether choices of not, are sinful, and we need to hear once again that our sin is forgiven. We need to hear that though we didn’t move toward God, that we didn’t put everything in His hands, we can now… including our weak faith…

The example in the story isn’t the lady…. But the judge!I mentioned earlier that Jesus focus wasn’t on the nagging widow. The story isn’t about her. It is about the unrighteous judge, and the fact that even someone like him would eventually hear the person calling for justice, calling for righteousness.

If an unrighteous judge would listen, how much more likely is it that a good, loving merciful God listen to those whom he dwells with?

That’s the point of this parable, this story Jesus tells. When we cry out to Jesus to make us righteous, to make the situation we struggle in something good, He does.  The challenge is seeing it, something we can’t do if we are trying to fix it ourselves.

Our confidence needs to be in the fact that God does exist, is present in our lives, that He loves us and is acting to defeat our enemies, Sin, Satan and the fear that death brings. He’s taken care of it all, as He has cleansed us of all sin, as the Holy Spirit dwells with us, as we are never alone, as our cry never goes unheard.

Prayer, as odd as it sounds, benefits us more than we can ever imagine.  Not because of how well we pray, and its not about the burdens we lay down. 

The key is that as we pray, as we reach out to God, we remember His promises, we remember all He is done to make this relationship happen, and we begin to realize that “the Lord is with you” is not just a polite greeting, it is the truth we have to depend upon. HE is with you and He hears your cry to for righteousness, for justice, and Christ died to give you that justice! To bring you back to the Father, to make everything right!
The more we do pray, the more we seek His face, the more we will trust Him, for we will experience His love, we will see Him at work in our lives, making our lives a masterpiece. The more we will treasure the hope we have. 

That is what this passage is teaching us, that to walk with Jesus means we know He hears us, and makes our lives righteous.

Do You Understand This? A Sermon on Matthew 13’s parables of the Treasure and the Pearl.

church at communion 2Do You Understand This?
Matthew 13:44-62

I.H.S.

My prayer for you as you read this sermon:  As you think about the grace and mercy of God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, may you understand that God has found what He treasures, in you!

Do you understand this?

Toward the end of our gospel reading today there is a question that we need to hear, that we need to take seriously.

Do you understand all these things?

Do you understand this?  What Jesus is talking about are these groups of parables. Called parables of the Kingdom because Jesus says each is an example of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Do we get what it means for someone to search for treasure, and for a merchant to search the world for the perfect pearl/

Do we understand what it would cost to buy the field, what would be given up in exchange for the pearl?

The price is pretty high….

And if we don’t understand the price to be paid, we need to…

Just as we need to understand these words of the Apostle Paul.

17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)

That observation of St. Paul’s has everything to do with the treasure and the pearl… and understanding them!

We need to understand the incredible love of God for us… and then we can unlock the meaning of parables with great ease!

Chasing after the treasure?

One of our challenges in understanding this passage is that we are so used to searching out chasing after things.  We’ve forgotten how to be content with what God has blessed us with.

People search for and struggle to find the perfect career, and the perfect path in that career.  So they change careers now, four or more times in their lives. Wait, I’ve only had three… HHmmmm

People chase after the perfect home, or the perfect community, the perfect family with our children and grandchildren having everything that will make their lives perfect as they grow up.

And of course, some of us chased after our spouses – until they sprung their trap…err they let us catch them.  😉

It is no wonder then that most hear this parable about the treasure and the pearl and think, well – we must find the kingdom of God, we have to find the treasure in the field.  Preachers like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie encourage us to give up everything to decide to make Jesus our Lord and Savior.  In effect, to see this passage this way means we save ourselves, we redeem ourselves.

But it is the way we’ve heard it, so we design church services and our evangelism programs to help people seeking to find the treasure, assuming they will recognize it when they see it, and that they will want to give up everything for something they barely understand.

Except that it doesn’t work that way.

When we are in bondage to sin, when we are buried and tarnished by the weight of this broken world, we don’t have the energy or power to save ourselves. We don’t have the ability to find the true treasure and even if we did, what could you give up that is valuable enough to give to purchase heaven?

What could we trade of equal value that would redeem us from sin and the brokenness it causes?

We aren’t the treasure hunters, we aren’t the merchants trying to find the perfect, priceless pearl.

So if we aren’t?  Who is?

Being found

The simple answer is God.  He is the one who came to seek and save the lost.  Jesus is the one who gave up everything and took on the role of the servant.  In each of the parables in this chapter, God is at work, harvesting us, causing the church to grow.

Paul described it in our second reading this way,

30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

We need to struggle with, and come to accept that we are His treasure, we are His Pearl of incredible value.  Here are some other ways this is described,

17  “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. Malachi 3:17 (NLT)

5  Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6  And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5-6 (NLT)

18  He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1:18 (NLT)

And of course,

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)

This is what Paul means by exploring the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, to explore how broad and wide, how high and deep.

It is the love we have to learn to ocunt on, depend on, have faigh in, even when we don’t seem to shine like a pearl, or we seem to tarnished and pitted to be His treasure.

God is the one who found us, He is the one who gave up everything for us. This is who we are, the people that God treasures, and loves to the extent that Jesus died for us. We We heard Moses explained it to Israel, words that are true for us,

 ! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God.

So my dear friends. know you are treasured, and that God treasures everyone that you know, they just need to hear it from God, through you and me.

AMEN!

Do We Dare Pray, “Thy Kingdom Come?”

Featured imageDo you Dare Pray
Thy Kingdom Come?

Matthew 6:6-9

May the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, cause you to desire that when you pray His Kingdom Come, that you desire it more and more

Introduction – 

It is one thing to pray a prayer, especially a prayer as well known as the prayer our Lord taught us.

It is another thing to desire that God would hear that prayer, and answer it, making what we pray for come into existence before our eyes.

During this Lenten journey, that is what we are looking at, do we have the faith to desire that these prayer requests.  Do we really desire that what we pray for?  Do we recognize what we are praying for?  Do we even realize what we are praying for and that this request will mean changes in our lives?

As we heard on Ash Wednesday, do we desire that God be our Father?  Last week, as Chris asked are we ready to see God’s name be holy and praised because of how we live in Him?

Tonight we face the question, do we have the faith to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come?”   Knowing that we are praying that God’s kingdom come here, right now, that He is in charge, and that how it is in heaven will be here on earth.

What will God’s Kingdom Look Like
       
In order to pray this, we shall have to understand what it means for God’s kingdom to come, and for us to realize it is in existence here, right where we live.

We could talk of what God’s kingdom is, but to desire it we need to visualize it, to hear it described to us.  Think about a child, having gone to the magic kingdom for the first time.  You don’t hear him talk about the machinery, about the payroll and the challenges of parking and waiting in long lines. When they describe Disneyland, the wonder, the awe, the joy is what dominates the conversation.

We need to hear Kingdom of Heaven described, what leaves you in awe, the joy, and what makes it so.

While we can’t describe the appearance of heaven, we can describe the joy that is known.  A joy that exists because of the Love that God has for His people.

You see, that is what makes the kingdom of God so incredible.  It’s not the heavenly temple or the Throne of God; it is the God who loves us, who welcomes us home.  The God who poured our His love on us at the cross, as the blood of Christ poured out on the ground.

It is that agape love, loyalty, mercy, faithfulness that brings us into His kingdom on the day of Christ, and it is that love that brings us into His kingdom now.  That love that sustains us comforts us, lovingly ministers to us, forgiving us of all sin, and all unrighteousness.

The love of God that does all this now, even as our sins are forgiven, as we are welcomed to the feast where the Body and Blood of Christ confirm this Kingdom and that we do live in it now.

In God’s kingdom, that love joins us to each other, healing broken relationships.  Helping us to see that other’s lives  are more important than the details that can divide us.  That is why the ten commandments become more than rules; they are the description of lives lived in the love of God.

In God’s Kingdom, we will not murder, commit adultery, steal, gossip and ruin the reputation of those we love.  We would celebrate how God blesses each other, rather than letting jealousy ruin relationships.   That love of God, in His kingdom, unites us all so that when one cries, we all do, when one laughs, we all join in the celebration.  That is why we rejoice when the prodigal comes home, rather than talk about all the things they did, that the good people didn’t do.

We love, as He loves.  And in praying “They Kingdom come”, that is what we pray.  That kind of life we don’t want to wait until heaven to experience!

Do You Really Want to Pray this happens now?  

Are we willing to pray it?  Do we have the faith required, the trust that says, God, make my life the same as it will be in heaven.  May you rule over it now, may I become more and more like you, may I love ever more deeply.

That is a heavy prayer.

Because God becoming the focus of our lives, because of hearing that He will provide for us because He is our Lord and Master, challenges us.  For that to happen, we have to realize that if Christ is our Lord, He is in control, and His love will pour through us.

That is harder than it looks, as it means we have to let Him rid our lives of those things that aren’t of love. We have to let Him get rid of that which gets in the way of our knowing His love, that which stops us from loving others.

Things like guilt and shame, because we choose to do what we want, rather than know His love.  Where we, like Adam and Eve hiding and covering their sin, try to pretend everything is perfect, or try to justify what we do, because we know better than God does.  Where we get rid of our pride and realize, He is right.

That He is our master.

To see His kingdom come means that we have to give up hatred and resentment towards those who have hurt us, who have sinned us again.  We not only give up our “right” to revenge, as we dwell in His kingdom, we come to desire that they know His mercy.  We desire to share in their lives, to reach out to them, even sacrifice our desires, our own time, even those things we treasure.  We sacrifice those things in order to help those who do not have what we have, the knowledge of God’s peace, the ability to walk through life, confident of His love.

Are we ready to really give that up?

The Way this happens – (gospel) 

That is perhaps one of the neatest things about prayer.  We know that God’s kingdom coming to exist in our lives would be a blessing.

If we are honest, it is a hard thing to pray, to desire.  To allow ourselves to be stripped of all that is not love, that is not reflective of all His love, maybe painful, no, it will be painful.

But in doing so, what is left, is Christ.

What is left is the Kingdom of God.

What is left, is the love of God. The love that transforms us, as we dwell in a relationship deeper than any other.  As we are invited to share in the very love of God, together, as His people.

A love that seems unnatural, even supernatural to us, but is the love that brings healing, that is so miraculous, that it can cause a martyr’s mother to pray that God would reveal Himself to the killers.  A love that can heal wounds decades old, that washes away our guilt and shame.

It is a Kingdom life we need.  It is a life we need to desire.

Paul says of such prayers,

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)

So knowing this, this desire of God to bring us into His kingdom, NOW, let us pray, with confidence.. for we know His love.  AMEN?

A Prayer for my Church, for our People

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9  In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)

St. Aiden’s Prayer for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (and my prayer for Concordia!)

Lord, this bare island, make  it a place of peace!  Here be the peace f those who do Your will. Here be the peace of brothers serving man.  Here be the peace of holy people* obeying. Here be the peace of praise by dark and day. Be this Island, Your Holy Island! I, Lord, your servant Aidan make this prayer. May it be Your care, AMEN!  (1)

it hit me this morning, as I read the prayer above, that we should be praying like this more often than we do.

Please hear me, I am not saying we don’t pray enough for our people.  Anyone who has been to my church knows of our prayers, and many people who have never been here.

But how often do we pray our churches, our homes, will be a place of peace, a place where people grow in their devotion to God, a place where there is praise, day and night?  Do we desire and beg God that our sanctuaries, our homes would be places that are set aside to be with Him, to be places where people are served, where people learn to obey God ( I prefer the Greek – to guard/treasure His way of life)

Is this not what we are praying for in part, as we pray the Lord’s prayer?  That God’s rule over us would be established, that He would be our Master, that His will would be done. I love how Luther explains this:

Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well. (2)

But do we actively pray this for our people?  For the places where they are set apart?  Do we fervently seek God’s will for them, and ask His guidance?   Or do we reduce our prayers to simple survival?  For healing, that we would get through the next crisis. Do we want to see their praises so inspired, that they cannot stop praising God?  And in those praises, find ways to serve those around them?

I think we do pray for their holiness, but I am not sure we are as conscious of it as we could be.  It is there, but it could be brought out more.  

It is time for that….

Lord, may our people here be holy and set apart.  May our church, their homes, their workplaces, be such places of peace, set apart to see your will accomplished.  May our desire to see this happen grow, and may we dedicate our lives and our fervent prayers to seeing them grow in the grace, mercy and love that is known in you.  AMEN!


(1)  Taken and slightly adapted from Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers of the Northumbrian Community

(2)  Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Rejoice, You’ve Been Found, Purchased, and Caught

Rejoice, You’ve Been Found, Purchased, CaughtConcordia Lutheran Church
Matthew 13:44–52

 In Jesus Name

 May this message strengthen your trust and help you enjoy the grace, the mercy and peace for which God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased you!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For…   but the Father has

The video starts in black and white, setting a serious tone. It begins in an alley, a man wearing a heavy jacket, his hair pulled back, looking deep in thought.

As the man describes of his life, a quest for something the escapes him.  In between the famous chorus, he speaks of all the things He has experienced, from religious ecstatic experiences, to walking with evil, from relationships to every aspect of life.  A modern version of Solomon’s book Ecclesiastes, where Solomon after searching out the meaning of life, declares all is vain, all is worthless.

Bono’s version of All is Vain, is the haunting chorus, “I still haven’t found, what I’m looking for….”

He hadn’t found a treasure worth selling off all he has to purchase.

He hasn’t found the one gem that is so incredible, he will liquidate all his assets to be able to acquire.

He won’t.

Neither will we.

That is what the three parables we heard in the gospel this morning, and the one from last week are all about.

We can’t find what we are looking for, and we need to realize that.

But we also have to realize that our Dad, our Father in Heaven, has found what He was looking for, purchased it, and is bringing what He was looking for home… a catch of incredible.

So let’s explore, and find the God that searched for us…..

His Treasure Found (Jesus entering the World),

Imagine your salvation depends on you finding something buried in a field. Not just buried, but specifically and purposefully hidden.  The word for hidden is the word from which we get the word encrypted, cryptologist and well crypt.  To make something so hidden it is safe from discovery, and even if it is discovered, it will take great effort to decode and make its secret yours.

How would you find the Kingdom of God and establish it, given that requirement?  Which of us could understand how it all works, how many of us can force God’s hand?    We cannot, and therefore this parable isn’t about us.  There is no hope for us to find that which was hidden, and even less that we will have what it costs to make it ours.

If the field is the world, there is One who has come to it, with the intent of establishing the Kingdom of God.  He searched out the treasure, and he gave up all He had to make the Treasure His own.

The treasure hunter is Jesus!  The Lord, the Savior, the One who would be able to accomplish this incredible task!

But that would mean, the treasure is….. (long pause..)

If Jesus is the One searching for the treasure, the treasure is His Bride, the He was sent to find by the Father!

The treasure is the people of God, revealed to be the Father’s children.

We are part of the treasure, you and I, and all the people of God that Christ can search out and find,

He has discovered us, He has found us!

His Pearl Purchased  (The Father, “selling out” the Son)

As we move into the second parable, it is an interesting side note that the word for pearl in Greek is pronounced… margaritas.

Even more important is the word that describes what the merchant does, when he finds the perfect pearl.  What he does to everything He has, everything He values, everything for which He cares.

He betrays it, He sells out that which He had treasured, to make the pearl His own.  He liquidates it all, basically tossing it aside to purchase that which He counts so valuable!. In modern terms, He dumps it

How people in the world are willing to do that?  How many people in this room are so enamored with God that they are willing to lose everything, just to have God in their life.  Giving up things like chocolate, or that beer?  Giving up your car, or your house?  Giving up your friends, your family?

Are you willing to sell them out, in order to make God “yours”

Again, I would say this parable might be about us, but it is far more true about God the Father.  Having envisioned His perfect pearl, having established what he valued more than everything,  The prophet Isaiah described this perfectly,

4  Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT) 

A moment later, these shocking words are written,

8  Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. 9  He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Isaiah 53:8-10a (NLT)

It was the Father’s good plan to crush Jesus, to sell Him out, so you and I could be His.  Some translations even translate this passage as it was God’s good pleasure to so treat Jesus in this manner.

Good pleasure?  To see Jesus crucified?  To give up the Son, to gain a Kingdom that is made up of… us?

Yes, isn’t that amazing?

We who have nothing to sell to gain the kingdom of God, have been purchased and claimed by God, at the cost of Jesus.

That’s the way God reigns, that is why He is so worthy of praise!

Because He thinks of us as His treasure, and did what it took to make us His!

We are in this net together!  (the Holy Spirit, ‘catching’ people with the word)

In looking at these parables, I didn’t realize until I got to this section how it is Trinitarian, this description of the Kingdom of God.

We found out we are the treasure found in the field, and the pearl for which a great price was paid, and now we are going to be the fish the Spirit catches with the net of God’s word.

This parable of gathering, like the one of the Wheat and Tares that precedes it, are not as hard for us to see who is hunting and buying.  Much clearer here – we aren’t trying to catch God in a net.

But that is how the Holy Spirit works, that is how God works.  His desire is to save all, and so the net gets tossed wide. Like Jesus coming into the world, into the field, the goal is to gain it all. Like the wheat and the tares, we are gathered up, to be sorted out, that which is living, and that which is rotting, dead and unclean.

We are gathered, the work of Christ at the cross ensures we are alive, that when the sorting happens, we aren’t tossed out.  That is the Father’s desire, His incredible longing for the people whom He treasures.

As we share the message of God’s love, of His finding, of His purchasing and gathering His treasured people, we help in this work.  The Holy Spirit works through us, using what He has given us to make this happen.

This is the nature of the ministry God shares with us, for we are people of His kingdom, and this is how it works, as God provides for His people, His children,

For unlike U2, God has found what He is looking for, He has claimed it, purchased, cleanse and gathered us, His people.

And therefore, secure in Christ, we can rejoice and dwell in His peace! AMEN?

My Most Unpopular Post…EVER

Devotional Thought of the Day:

It’s amazing how much a five year old reflects the behavior of a society, and even more amazing, the people who make up God’s church in America.  ( I don’t know about other countries – yet…)

I happen to have a brilliant five year old.  He reads well, he can do 2 and 3 digit addition, but he has a major issue with patience, and sometimes a complete lack of awareness of that which is going on around him.  A chip off the old block in many ways (okay – he get’s the brilliance from his mom)  Most repeated lesson these days, get what you need to done, without the whining.   I tell you – there are times I wish he was a teenager – and had matured past the whining part.  (please don’t disillusion me!)

I see in myself, and in churches and among church leaders, the same impatience.  We want everything fixed right away, we want to see our people go from just baptized to having the faith of Moses and David and John right away.  (we have to remember that John was once a “son of thunder” and I don’t think his transformation was immediate either.)

We whine about the fact that others don’t mature, and that we can’t “go on” or we decide to “go on” without them.   If this is in the church – we devalue each other, saying that our personal growth and maturity is more important than the growth of the entire community in their faith.  Tough call, very tough call here, but we see the evidence of it in the incredibly high “church shopping” movement.  People don’t see their needs being met – even in the mega-churches – and they mvoe to the next one, to the next place that is hopping – and then try to drag their friends there as well.

We see it in the movement today – in those that look at the 25 year studies of churches and note that the “common” thing is for decline ( while we over look the stat in the same study that says this is easily addressed by re-committing to the vision of the church, or adapting it) and that “true” growth occurs fastest in “church plants”.    IMHO – that attitude will prove to result in more danger as good – about 20 years from now – as those people see that they created a self-fulfilling prophecy.   But it is also there in the movement that has little patience with those who are so excited to discover the grace of God, that they want the world to know!  More whining, more complaining, more impatience.

Please hear me – I as much as anyone – want to see people grow in their trust in God, and mature in how that is expressed.  And I struggle with the plodding that sometimes is evident, as people don’t see a need to grow  – and our content where they are at – stagnant it seems.

But spiritual maturity is a process of endurance, not sprints – it needs to last generations, not just years and perhaps a decade.  It has to show the characteristic that we see in God,

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

I used to think the patience in this passage, was talking about those that hadn’t rbeen brought to repentance yet – but Peter is addressing the people that are believers already.  Could it be that God’s patience is with His kids?  The ones who whine and complain about others, the ones who are to be about planting seeds, the workers in the harvest, the church that has been gifted and given the vocation of being the light in the darkness?   I think that we have to be careful and to discern the difference between tolerating stagnation, and knowing when to be patient with the slow and steady growth that must occur in the church – the patience that knows that endurance in the ministry means being able to guide people from where they are at, to a greater and greater dependence on God.

It means realizing and ministering to people in their brokenness – and making sure they grasp the wonder of God’s presence in their life, and the need of that presence in the lives of those around them.  It means slowing some down to savor God’s presence and rest  – while still bringing hope and healing to those around them.  It means sticking to the place where God has gathered you – and encouraging each other continually to look to Christ, to reflect His glory.

It’s not easy, its not always popular, but the discipline is that which reflects God’s love to you…. as you work with people, enduring, patient – longsuffering, and as they work with you.

Know this – where you are at – there God’s presence is… learn that it is enough – and that is the maturity that really matters.

 

 

 

 

The Kingdom, Letting God be God.

Devotional thought of the day:

“Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.”   Matthew 6:33 (NJB)

Most of those who claim to be Christian, would say we attempt this, to seek God’s kingdom, and then we go on to describe that we try to love God, and we really struggle to love our neighbors, that we do good things, we go to church sometimes we make every week!  (but don’t ask us to remember what the sermons were about!)   We might e talk about the missionaries we support.  Even with all that – are we seeking His kingdom first?  Do we really want to see Him in charge, to realize what it means for Him to reign over us?

Consider this…

 “A Christian always triumphs from the Cross, through his self-renunciation, because he allows God’s omnipotence to act.”   Escriva, The Furrow

What if seeking God’s kingdom means something that doing what we think is righteous?  What if it means embracing the cross, the suffering, the very act that takes us out of the darkness of sin, into the light of God’s glory?  If it meant realizing that He took on the pain of our broken lives… What if seeking His first His kingdom – meant letting God be God – and letting Him heal us, about realizing that we are cleansed of our own sin, and the injustice of the world?

What if it meant sitting there…. quietly, in stillness, and realizing the depth of God’s love for YOU?

That is where we enter the Kingdom – through Christ, in Christ, at the cross, that we would know the life we gain, that we are raised in. in Christ.

Hear St. Paul’s words,

 3 You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptised into Christ Jesus, were baptised into his death. 4 So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. 5 If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by a resurrection like his;
Romans 6:2-5 (NJB)

Joined to His death in the cross – from there to be brought to life … IN HIM.   It’s His desire, it is the will of God, and looking to the cross – it begins there….and everything else – peace, joy, strength to endure, everything – comes with the life that begins in Him.  It is His kingdom, His work, His will, all of God’s power – focus to act … to bring us life.

Lord Have mercy, and help us to realize what that mercy brings.  AMEN

Convenient Christianity

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ “
Luke 9:61-62 (NJB)

As a pastor, I struggle a lot with those who have the attitude told in this passage.  Who say, “Pastor my faith means everything, but I am going to have to miss church (or Bible Study, or even their own devotional prayer time) because I must go and …(insert favorite hobby, activity, vacation, etc)
Of course, if I am honest, I am not much better, for I will allow things to crash my personal time with God, and there are days… if I didn’t have to go to church, I wouldn’t.  Partially because I wonder if what I do is effective enough, or whether it is worth the sacrifice that it costs – sacrifices to me, to my wife and son, to my parents and other relatives.
And then I come across this passage, and others like it, and I feel guilt, or sometimes I want to use this passage and the hundreds like it to provoke guilt in those whose commitment is divided, whose life shows the brokenness that comes from not spending it with God.

It’s not how it works though – for if we only do religious things because we have to, because we have an obligation to, because if we don’t, we feel guilty, then we’ve missed the point.

Religion isn’t about obligations, Christianity isn’t about obeying the commandments for the commandments sake,

It’s about walking (following is a word that denotes going on the same journey with the one we follow) with Christ – sharing our lives even as He has shared His life with us.

The reason my Christianity tends to be “convenient”, the reason Conventient Christianity is the fastest spreading form of it in our area… is because we don’t grasp the treasure of those simple words, “The Lord is with you”.

Lord, help us to know, to intimately get this truth, help us to encourage others to grasp it as well.  Help us to follow – and to realize nothing is as precious as our time spent with You and yours…
 

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