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Love is, Jesus is, We are: Not Demanding Our Own


church at communion 2Love is, Jesus Is, We are

Not Demanding of our Way

1 Corinthians 13:5

In Jesus Name

 May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!

Love is not 

The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing.  Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….

When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.  To love my neighbor as I love myself.

Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.

We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way.  It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs.  Or what it thinks is the right way to go….

And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…

“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold.  And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.

I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.

There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……

You know what I mean?  What were they thinking?  How could they be so blind, so stupid,

and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….

For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.

Jesus is not

When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus.  Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.

In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.

Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.

38  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39  He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)

That certainly is not demanding your way!

And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,

and death.

He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.

We are not!

So what about us?  How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially?  How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?

On our own, we cannot.

As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there.  This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.

As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us.  He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.

The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.

Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.

A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.

That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace.  AMEN!

Did You See What He Did There? a lenten sermon on Exodus 17


church at communion 2Did You See What He Did There?
Exodus 17:1-7

I.H.S

 May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!

 Did you see what Israel did?

Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning?  A little of what went before.

In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.

In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all

In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.

After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?

Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight,  Just because they are struggling with the thirst,  they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….

Did you see what they did there?  Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?

Did you see what they did there?  Yeah – that isn’t important.

Did you see what Moses did?

What about Moses?  Did you see what he did there?

He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God!  Why me Lord?  Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me?  He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!

He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.

God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?

Did you see what he did there?

That isn’t important either,  There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story

Did you see what God did there?

God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is

Do we see what God is doing?

First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.

Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints.  He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him.  Walk out in front, gather them around.  Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.

Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..

And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful.  He provides what they need, as He planned.

He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him.  So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.

To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)

Did you see what He did there?

People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted.  People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?

For those people, God again provided what they needed.

Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.

Did you see what He did there?

So what?

The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.

It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.

We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different.  Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there.  He is faithful.

I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life.  That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle.  I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.

But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question.  He is with us!  The Lord is with you!

Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.

That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.

That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about.  He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.

Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him.  And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”

He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.

AMEN!

Love is, Jesus is, We are! Never Jealous, Boastful, or Proud


church at communion 2Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud

 In Jesus Name

 As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!


Love IS

 Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself.  Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.

Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.

We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.

Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.

But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?

Jesus Is

The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.

He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.

There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.

And what to be proud of?  That He could do miracles?  That He could teach thousands?  That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?

What good would any of that have done.

Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved.  He was love!

We Are

So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness?  How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration?  How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?

The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him.  And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,

As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.

As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others.  He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough.    Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.

But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……

It is then I understand these words of Mary,

46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49  For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51  His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)

And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,

16  But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace.  AMEN!

 

 

 

Lent: It’s Not about YOUR Sin! A sermon for the first Sunday in Lent


church at communion 2Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
Romans 5:12-19

Jesus, Son, Savior

As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!

A Misconception

A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent.  Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”

It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.

Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent.  Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.

The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.

The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.

The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.

But how does that happen?  How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?

Your sin is nothing new…

Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.

Hebrews 12 tells,  “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”  (Heb 12:1)

That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside.  Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.

As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind.  And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam.  That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning.  Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.

For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.

Christ’s Act, and your right relationship

But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.

They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin.  To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 

This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent.  Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives.  To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way.  Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.

To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.

The Continuation of the thought..

At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life.  I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,

1  Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)

This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.

To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.

This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished.  It is accomplished.  We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!

Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.

For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God.  We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus.  AMEN!

Love is, Jesus IS, We are! Sermons for Lent #1 Patient and Kind


concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - CopyLove Is; Jesus is; We are

Patient and Kind

 In Jesus Name

 As you experience the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may you see God enabling you to really love Him and others!

During this season of Lent, many people think we are to beat ourselves up for our sin.  That we give up something in order to atone for our continued sin, to show God how sorry for what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do.

That’s not completely accurate, though it moves us to where we need to be.

The goal of Lent is to stop us, to help us realize we aren’t who we should be, as the children of God. Not to beat us up, but to encourage us to have a life that is more like Jesus’ life.  The goal is to build in us a desire to imitate Christ, and to live like Paul, who could say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

Love Is

So this Lent, we are looking at one of the best descriptions of Jesus we can find, one we hear more often at weddings.  We’ll take a couple of the descriptions each week, and this week we are looking at these two.  

Love is patient and Love is kind.

The Message translation gives us another perspective:

Love never gives up.

Love cares for others more than for self.

Can you imagine if we were so patient we never gave up?  Or if everyone was more interested in what was good for others rather than just being self-centered?

Not just within families and churches, but if everyone loved everyone. This is who we are supposed to be!

This is not just a nice idea, it is what God commands us to do, to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love those who hate us.  We know this, but I wonder if we desire it, if this is truly who we want to be.

It should be

Jesus Is

As we look at love being described by St Paul, we have to realize how it describes Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless man.  If we evaluated how he loved by these words, we see it perfectly.

Not just with his patience and not giving up on the Apostles, especially Peter.  But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, He isn’t even tempted to do so.

And we see his kindness, His putting others first as He ministered to those around them, having compassion on the crowds who followed them, always being able to find the people who needed His care.  Being there for those who would give up, or struggle with their sin, and don’t know how to break it.

This is what the Apostle John meant when he said God is love, for in Jesus, they found out what that really means…we see this amazing level of patience, that God will embrace suffering a long time, for His goal is bring everyone to repentance, to transform everyone so that their lives are a picture of Christ’s love.  That is the ultimate example of kindness,

We Are

So we know this description of love should describe our life as well.  We know it doesn’t, at least as we struggle with it, so how can we desire to grow in our ability to love?

The answer is on all of your minds.  Look, you can see it on those around you.

The cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for you.  We could put a blob on your forehead, but we put a cross.  To remind you that while you have sinned, you really aren’t sinners anymore.

You have been united to Christ, and the ashes that mark you, mark you as His, just as the cross made over your head and heart at baptism did.  His sacrifice, His body and blood broken and given for you provides the answer.

It is what we need to spend contemplating.  As we think about this great love, a love that cleanses us from sin, and leaves us holy, set apart to God, set apart for God to dwell with.  The more we spend time talking to God, exploring the breadth and width, the height and depth of His love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing and enabling us to love as He does…. For we are with Him.

As the song we will sing in a moment says, where You are Lord, I am free….

Free to love.. to be patient, to be kind, to be like Christ who not only sets you free, but makes you Holy.

AMEN!

 

A Lenten Devotion: Are you satisfied with just “getting” to heaven?


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  For we are partners working together for God, and you are God’s field. You are also God’s building. 10  Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each of you must be careful how you build. 11  For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid. 12  Some will use gold or silver or precious stones in building on the foundation; others will use wood or grass or straw. 13  And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality. 14  If what was built on the foundation survives the fire, the builder will receive a reward. 15  But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire.   1 Corinthians 3:9-15 (TEV)

939    Be men and women of the world, but don’t be worldly men and women.  (1)

As I read this scripture passage this morning, it seemed to confront a popular thought about heaven that I’ve bought into for years.  It is usually expressed this way,

“I’d rather be a doorkeeper in heaven, than to rule hell.”

More often it is seen by an attitude that wants to do the absolute minimum to get to heaven.  That would rather not be bothered with striving to be holy, or to be inconvenienced by reaching out and serving others.  The attitude that acknowledges that pastors, priests, deacons and other ministers are servants, but expects them to serve by meeting our desires, by making us comfortable.  By doing our favorite music, to preaching in a way that inspires but doesn’t challenge, to making us realize the danger of their sin, but not our own.  To show us the needs to send a few dollars to missions over there, but not to see the mission field in our neighborhood.

This is building with straw and wood.  The stuff that doesn’t survive the test on the Day of Judgment.  The stuff that won’t leave us in awe, for we won’t see how God worked through us.

For you see, while we do things with the “gold, silver and precious stones”, those are the things God brings into our lives. This isn’t about being proud of what we have done, what we have built, but being able to see God at work in our lives. It is about our living, really living, beyond that which we are by nature willing and capable of doing on our own.

It is about living the baptized life, realizing we walk this journey with Jesus.  It is about the Holy Spirit transforming us, as we reflect Jesus into this lost and broken world.

So this Lent, instead of giving up chocolate or caffeine, give up a weak faith that is comfortable for one that is built on Christ’s comfort, and shares that comfort with others.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2180-2181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Great Confidence in the Message. A Sermon about the Transfiguration.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreater Confidence in the Message

2 Peter 1:16-21

Jesus, Son, Savior † 

As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love!  AMEN!

An Odd line

I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church.  They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.

Much like I do.

And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today.  A moment that everything becomes more real.

The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.

But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement

“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”

Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them.  It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.

The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth

We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.

Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us.  It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.

While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way.  Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better.  One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work.  They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now.  That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.

And what Peter talks of counters that.

These are just stories from an alternate reality.  They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.

And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect.  Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that.  History and training in being a good person.  Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.

But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…

And Peter says it will change our lives as well.

The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!

 You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

These words in scripture.  They aren’t just words.

They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.

In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.

For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it.  One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.

God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..

Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.

Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there.  AMEN!

Are You Comfortable In Your Faith? Some Thoughts as We Approach Lent.


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

Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25  But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28  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.”   Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

938    Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.

As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have.  From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.

Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you.  Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics.  Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.

And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.

What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change?  What if the sacrifices became our way fo life?  What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?

Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God?  Is this even a desire in our lives?  Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God?  Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth?  Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?

This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Repentant Heart is Not Supposed to Be Sad?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

“Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not lament, do not weep!”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. 10 He continued: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD is your strength!” 11 And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Silence! Today is holy, do not be saddened.” 12 Then all the people began to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been explained to them.   Nehemiah 8:9–12  New American Bible. .

10      Think about what the Holy Spirit says, and let yourself be filled with awe and gratitude: Elegit nos ante mundi constitutionem—he chose us before the foundation of the world, ut essemus sancti in conspectu eius!—that we might be holy in his presence. To be holy isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult either. To be holy is to be a good Christian, to resemble Christ. The more closely a person resembles Christ, the more Christian he is, the more he belongs to Christ, the holier he is. And what means do we have? The same means the early faithful had, when they saw Jesus directly or caught a glimpse of him in the accounts the Apostles and Evangelists gave of him.

As my church has spent Lent considering what repentance is, one thing becomes clearer and clearer.  Lent, while a solemn season, while a penitential season, is one filled with joy because it is filled with hope.

As Ezra read the Torah to the people of God, as the Spirit called to mind their sin, there was a grieving that took place, as people considered generation after generation of sin, as well as their own.  And yes, a repentant sin does need an examination of conscience, as we approach our confession.  But even that confession is done with expectation, clinging to the promise of God’s faithfulness.

We have to remember that a repentant life is a transformed life, a life where God is working on us, recreating us, cleansing us.  This work of God, this masterpiece He is creating, is what repentance granted us is really about.

It is getting used to living in the light, as opposed to floundering in the darkness!  It is walking around, free in Christ, free to be with Christ, rather than being chained to sin, anxiety, fear, and resentment.

It is the simplicity that St. Josemaria talks of, of simply living life, confident and aware of the presence of God, revealed in His word, communicated in the sacraments.  It is when we catch that glimpse and hold onto it, letting everything else fall aside.  It is isn’t easy, as our old nature will fight to stay alive, yet it is as easy as realizing we are Jesus’ friends, the Father’s children, His people.  And that realization, especially when we know it isn’t right because we don’t we deserve it, but rather is right because God granted us this repentant life.

Repentance is not an act, any more than conversion is, and more than faith is a declaration of our trust.  It is a state of being, it is being “the Repentant”, a joyous walk with a God that loves us, and is willing to forgive, showing mercy, and faithful, unending love!

Cry out, “Lord have mercy!” but do it in faith, and in expectation, for you dwell in His presence!  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 270-276). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

the Repentant


Zacchaeus:
The Question of Who Benefits
From “My” Work

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so transform you that you know the excitement and joy that leads you to see others needs…and meet them!

 Part 1:   Fruit of His Labors

 When we hear Zacchaeus was a tax collector, I think we paint a picture in our minds.  A small man, perhaps with squinty eyes, and hands that are moving way to fast.   A glint in his eye when money is involved.

We probably assume he is evil, that he robbed people left and right of what they earned.  After all, aren’t tax collectors the ultimate example of evil? There are some noble used car salesman out there, and even some very honest politicians and lawyers.

But a tax collector though?  A government worker whose job depended on collecting enough revenue?  Who had legal authority to fine and who received a bonus, or a cut, of all he took in, he is one who needs to repent, right?

So if he can repent, we have hope, right?

If Zack can be transformed by God’s love, then we are a much simpler job, right?

No.  I don’t think so.  I think we make a mistake in saying he was more evil than we are, just because of his role.  Certainly, the little guy was hated more than anyone else, but he we can’t assume that he was more corrupt, more self-centered.

Certainly he was not a hero to his people.  Look at how they grumbled because Jesus went to him!

He hoarded his wealth; he was successful in that we find out why he needed to repent.  We see the change in him after he encounters Jesus.  Instead of sharing, he hoarded.  Instead of meeting needs, he made sure he had none.  He didn’t care about those around him; he cared about himself.

It may be considered as American as apple pie, but greed is still a sin.  Not loving your brother, and responding in love to his needs is still a sin.  We don’t like hearing that, we want to enjoy the fruit of our labors, and not share it with others. We want what we deserve, the pay we earned with our own hands.

Which brings up an interesting question – why do we do what we do?  To serve God, or to serve ourselves?

Zacchaeus served himself, but even as a wealthy man, a man who did his job well, that wasn’t enough.  Throughout scripture, you see this – over and over, as those who are only focused on themselves live empty lives. Ethics and morality are reduced from living a life that benefits others, to lives that don’t rob from others.

We hear this in the first epistle of John,

16  We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18  Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other;   1 John 3:16-19 (NLT)

This is our call to repentance this evening, this is the call to confession, to pray that God would help us to change.

That He remove from us the lack of compassion that has a grip on our souls. That He would remove from us a heart that is self-centered and only cares about its own needs.

As we enter a time of silence, let the Spirit convict you, show you where you need to have Him change you, and grant you the forgiveness you need.
( after confession of sin, confession of what we believe and why we have hope, part II begins )

Zacchaeus Part II

It probably never entered Zacchaeus’ mind that Jesus would be coming to dinner.  He would be willing just to get a glimpse of him, maybe if was lucky, get a selfie with Jesus in the background.

Why would a prophet, why would a rabbi invest time in him?  It is as inconceivable as Ebenezer Scrooge leaving his entire net worth to the elder’s benevolence fund. Or Mr. Grinch bringing Christmas presents for everyone in Whoville. Or Mr. Zacchaeus returning the tax money he collected to those in need.

No priest, no pastor would give him the time of day, he was a spiritually wounded man on the road to Jericho, and he really needed a Samaritan, a Savior.  Even though he was a Jew, even though he probably donated money, how would he ever learn that he could repent of his sin?  That he wasn’t a complete write-off in the eyes of God.  He needed someone to tell Him,

And Jesus did.

He said let’s eat together – at your place.

I am interested in your life Zach; I want to be part of it.

It may be the first time any religious leader had said that to him, and it changed Zaccheus’s life forever.

Come, let us feast together, let me come to you.

My friends repentance doesn’t start with us promising God to make things right; it doesn’t start by our deciding we need to change. It starts like it did with Zacchaeus, with the Lord reaching out to us, loving us, wanting to be involved in our lives.

That love that interest in what is happening with us changes us heals us, makes us complete.  It is the granting of repentance, the transformation from sinner to saint.

And it comes to all believers, as God comes to us and says, let me come with you, and let’s feast together this day…

Its time for us now, to hear that invitation.  We too have realized that we don’t know always choose to love God with all we are, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  But He’s come to make that possible, to show us His love.

So come, and eat with Jesus.  He’s come here to be with you today. Here.

AMEN.

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