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Held Responsible…

It’s a small price to pay, to see someone healed of their brokenness

Devotional Thought of the days:

7 “As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.a When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’b but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. 9 But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself. Ezekiel 33:7-9 CSB

When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.
There are two images of the Church: the Church that evangelizes and comes out of herself, and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself, falling into a sterile, theological narcissistic limbo.
This should shed light on the possible changes and reforms which must be done for the salvation of souls.

The church talks about mission a lot. It writes books, it hires consultants, it attends conferences of defending the faith, and how to be a missionary for Jesus. Some of the Church revamps and changes what it does, while other parts of the Church spend time and resources doubling down on how it is faithful. (But faithful to what?)

So much time is spent on this that we never get out of the church. We don’t seek out the lost, we expect that we’ve built our ministries, hired our staff, developed our programs and therefore people will come.

and then we wonder why they aren’t coming……

The warning that God our Father gave Ezekiel needs to be heard again. It is the responsibility of the church to be out there, working with the broken, those who have been entrapped by evil. It is our responsibility to do so, not to earn our salvation, but because we have been saved. We have this relationship where we hear God speak a message of wanring, but a warning issued in love. After all, God will tell Ezekiel, “As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live!” Ezekiel 33:11 CSB

It is a scary thought that we will be held responsible.

But that should not be as scary as to think people could live their lives with no hope for their brokenness, that they could die, enslaved to sin.

These are people we are called to love…. even though they may seen unlovable. Being unlovable is the damage that sin does, damage easily healed by the Spirit as they are drawn to Jesus.

It should be further noted, that we are responsible for them knowing the option to being broken and shattered by sin. Their conversion and transformation is up to the Holy Spirit.

All we have to do is share the news…

God loves them

God wants to care for them, cleansing them sin, healing them from unrighteousness,….

even as He has done this for us.

So let’s stop talking about it, stop studying it, stop preparing for it, and planning change…. and let’s get out and love people.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 197.

How do we act in God’s presence?

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

1 Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the faithful celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1–5 (CSB)

It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be a church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled. “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.”

How does one find the balance between the scripture passage and the selection from Tozer above?

The pslamist writes of worship in a way that describes an emotional frenzy, such as would have been seen in Acts when the crowd asked if the 120 believers were drunk! There are more than enough examples of this attitude in worship!

There are also enough passages that are similar to Tozer’s humility in worship. There is a somber nature that comes when one finds themselves a sinner in the hands of God. And that sense leaves us in awe.

When is one proper, when is the other? How do we balance the two?

I wish there was a spreadsheet, or a process one can discern when it is time for this or that. Some program to answer 25 questions and determine it is time for dancing, or times to just sit in awe.For to do so would be to try and control God, and how the Spirit moves us. That is the key of course, the movement of the Spirit in our lives. Ultimately, worship is the response to HIs action on our behalf, in His presence.

And sometimes that means a reverential awe, and sometimes dance, and because nothing is impossible with God, sometimes both!

A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.

Stop pretending that everything is good…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)

We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.

Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.

On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.

I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.

Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.

Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.

It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.

They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,

I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.

I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.

The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.

I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.

The love and compassion of Jesus.

For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.

To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.

There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.

SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.

He’s made me, and you, His own.

and that means more than anything else, than everything else.

It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.

May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 133.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.

The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2  I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.

WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?

I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.

I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.

As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.

My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!

We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.

It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.

It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.

Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.

God is with us!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.

Thoughts 2 days before the cross..

How do you communicate this?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7  And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT2)

This is the way our Church wants us to be today: men and women freeof compromises, unprejudiced, free of ambitions, and free from ideologies, in other words, men and women of the gospel and only the gospel.

It was not an easy task which the Church faced.… To carry on the work of a man who was known to have died … to persuade others that this man had risen again from the dead and that He was the Son of God and Saviour: this mission was, in the nature of it, doomed to failure from the start. Who would credit such a fantastic story?…

Have you ever needed to have your mind and heart jump-started?

Tozer’s words (in purple) did that for me this morning, and then Pope Francis’s words resonated with them. We have to be gospel-centered people. We have to carry on the work of redeeming the world, the work that Jesus is sending us, just as the Father sent Him.

Imagine being the women sent to proclaim the good news to the disciples!  I am pretty sure they didn’t need to be told to remember – I think the angel’s words would have burnt into the heart, soul, and mind.

“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead – just as He said would happen!

How do you explain that to those who saw Him tortured and dying on the cross?  Who heard nails driven through his wrists, who saw the spear pierce His side, as the water drain from His taxed lungs, and the heart emptied of the blood that was left…

How do you find the words to make them believe this?

How do we truly believe it, not just as a historical event, but as something that has more impact on our lives than anything else?

Over the next 5 days, I have to preach 4 sermons, all geared to helping people know, to help them dwell upon their union with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. To know they were drawn to Him at the cross, united to Him there through their baptism.  To know He came to them at the celebration of the Eucharist. To understand the intimate fellowship that God wants with His people.

How do we lay everything else aside? How do we communicate this to people who live compromised lives? People who are struggling with realizing their own prejudice? (or being accused of it!) How do we open the eyes who are driven to ambition to gain…what exactly?

To be honest, I cannot compete with all of that, and the greatest preacher doesn’t have any greater chance than you and I. I have to tell them about Jesus. We just have to do it, with lots of prayer, before, during, and after Jesus is talked about. Not praying because it will make us successful, but because it will remind us to depend on the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit that will cut open their hearts and open the opportunity for healing.

Let’s remember what the angel told the ladies – and let us go tell all who would follow Him that Jesus is alive! He has risen, just as He said!

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 114.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Theology is NOT an Academic Subject…it is far more than that.

The word of the day:
Theologian

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

39  “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. John 5:39-40 (NLT2)

Yet experience alone makes the theologian.

For many liberals the scientific worldview functioned as a norm by which to measure the credibility of Christian claims. As I once heard someone say, “How can the church ask you to believe something that you otherwise think is not true?”

I have a Master’s Degree in Theology, and am working on my doctorate. An yet I know the title of this blog is accurate.

Theology is far more than an acdemic subject, or an academic/intellectual pursuit. I have seen children and those with barely high school degrees who are better theologians than those who teach in seminaries and BIble Colleges.

That is because education has nothing to do with whether someone is a thoelogian or not. Yes, there are some theologians who are academics, but it is not necessary. And whether conservative or liberal, advanced degrees don’t make you a theologian.

Luther was correct – theologians are made by experience. And Allen points out an essential necessity, you have to set aside your disbelief and depend on what scripture reveals about Jesus. The claims are credible, it is inability to see that, that is the problem.

Just as seas don’t split open, a man dead for 60 hours doesn’t start breathing and walking around – with his wounds gaping open for all to see. Man can’t take 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feed 12-15000 people, or take bread and wine and declare it to be His Body and Blood … and it is. We can’t prove it, our minds may scream these things are untrue… but they are true.

The challenge is seeing that every scripture is about Jesus. That every page of scripture declares His glory and His power and His love for us. A love that planned for our salvation before we were born, but not before He was.

And here is the experience you and I need, to become theologians, (and hear it, dear reader, as my prayer for you!

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 3:19 (NLT2)



Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 7.

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 24.

Really God? You Have to Remind Me of this today?

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

It’s better to go to a funeral than to attend a feast; funerals remind us that we all must die.  Ecc. 7:2 CEV

Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day.

I guess God likes a sense of irony.

Tomorrow I go under the knife.

Just cataract surgery, but still, it is surgery.

Read through the Bible in a year, and the reading I come to the day before surgery deals with death!  So did the book report I had to deal ith last night, chapter after chapter of dying to self that as awesome, but also passages that told us to desire death

Not what I want to think about, at least that is my first reaction.

But why not?

We need to think about death for a number of reasons, that are practical, and spiritual.

1.  So we learn to value the life we have.
To often we take life for granted, we don’t think about making the most of it, we just let it slide by. Especially in these days of isolation. We can see God at work in every day of our lives, working in relationships good and bad

2.  So we leave things somewhat in order, as a blessing to others.
It can be things as simple as your favorite songs for your funeral.  Or where money is stashed and other issues of that note.  (Of course, now I have to think of all this stuff) Wills, testaments, advanced directives, all that messy stuff.  But it is even messier if you don’t do it.

3.  Not taking even for granted, or the gifts that assure us of our eternity.
Living life fearing deaeth is no fun… I spent nearly half my life living in fear of dying. THat’s what happens when you have Marfans and you think about it. Working as a hospice chaplain, and seeing many people pass away has led to the point where I am not as afraid of dying.
But what I am talking about is being excited about seeing God face to face. NOt just the benefits of less back pain, and less trauma, and no more dang surgeries. But see God, who loves us so much, and being welcomed into His presence, and sharing in the glory and love of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. That is more than exciting, that should leave us in awe,

Kempis’s thought is that we should think about heaven, so that we behave better in this life. Not quite fear driven, but somewhere between fear and reward driven behavior modification. That might work, but works better is to live life, thinking about the glory and love of God. Of letting the thought of that love, that care fill your life. That will change you far deeper than mere intellect. It will change your soul, and you will desire to see others find that place of rest, that place of pace.

So making me think of death… it’s not that bad.  Actually, it is a huge blessing.

Now, thinking of them slicing my eye open, to replace the lens… ugh!

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 46.

Do We Need Escapes or Sabbath Rests?

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3  For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. I will give up Egypt to set you free; I will give up Ethiopia and Seba. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)

Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when “it is enough.

In the class I am taking, there is the usual insistence on pastors and those in ministry taking time to rest, to take a sabbath, a vacation from all the stresses that we encounter. They point o Jesus going away, sometimes with the disciples, sometimes alone. He went off to pray to the Father, and one to converse with Moses and Elijah.

It hit me, as I was reading the words of Spurgeon in blue above, that we can want those times of rest for the wrong reason. We want them, much as we might long for death, as an escape from life. An escape from the problems.

We need to change that, we need to re-orient and want these times as a sabbath, a time of rest in God, a chance to be nurtured and to see the healing. We need to remember what God is communicating through Isaiah this morning, that God saves us.

We may not be comfortable in the fire, or in the storm, or in the midst of the troubles that we are caught up in at the moment. We may weep, and cry, and struggle, and yes, even want it all to end. It is in those moments, we have to see the cross, we have to see the love, we have to cry out, “Lord have mercy,” and find our rest, in Him.

We need to learn ot run to Jesus, not just escape, but to glorify Him, as we realize His love for us all. The love that will sustain us, even in these times.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

How We Will Survive This Fear-filled Time!

Jesus Laughing

Devotional Thought of the Day:

When the disciples had rowed for three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water. He kept coming closer to the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said, “I am Jesus! Don’t be afraid!” 21 The disciples wanted to take him into the boat, but suddenly the boat reached the shore where they were headed. John 6:19-21 CEV

855    Spiritual childhood is not spiritual foolishness or softness; it is a sane and forceful way which, due to its difficult easiness, the soul must begin and then continue, led by the hand of God.

As I read this passage from John’s gospel this morning, I saw something I had never seen in the event. At first, I thought it might have been something that was a translation specific idea.  But I checked all the ones in my digital library, and they all chimed in, in fact, the word was even stronger in the others>

Instead of “suddenly”, the word was “immediately”

They got to where they were going so fast they didn’t even realize it was happening.

One moment they were terrified.

Scared out of their wits,

Panicked, unable to make sense of what was going on, overwhelmed by what their senses told them.

The next moment,  they pulled their boat up on the beach, got out, and life returned to normal.

In the presence of Jesus, everything became different.  God was with them, their fears were minimized. They were being led by the hand of God, and their faith was profoundly simple. He is there, that was enough.

This isn’t foolishness or weakness, as St Josemaria describes. It seems to easy to do, this idea of becoming childlike in our faith. So easy we often reject it, and the comfort it brings. Our logic tells us to find the solution, to search diligently out the truth from the thousands of self-proclaimed experts, to take action, even if we don’t know what to do.

In the back of our minds we hear the psalm, “Be still and know…” and we think to remind ourselves to make time for that, later.

We need to hear his voice, now.  We need to allow Him to comfort us, now.

Then, realizing He is guiding us, we can begin to walk with Him through the crisis – and soon arrive on the other side of it.  That is where our soul needs to begin, where our hearts have found rest, where our minds have put everything on pause

Soon we will be through this crisis, and it will seem like it happens as suddenly as it started. Led by Jesus, the author, and perfector of our lives  Look to Him, Let His love cast out the fear…

He is with You!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Advent Sermon Series: The Relationships of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (Genesis 44-45)

Concordia Christmas Eve 2015

The Relationships of Christmas Past
Genesis 44:30-44

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life, and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…

Haunted

I can imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels.  His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,

How it must have ate him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.

Still, he had to look down, and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…

Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.

Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.

Our Relationships of Christmas Past

For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family.  Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.

Others are missing for a different reason.

Our sin.

Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same.  We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous.  Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father, (not even thinking of Joseph) we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades…

Or can I?

I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle.  If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,

I could easily share in the words of Judah,

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.

As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah did, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”

It is hard to hear God answer no…

So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”

But our Brother can..

It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.

But that isn’t why God says “no”

He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief, and anxiety.  The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.

This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent.  We stand before the King who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us?  It is as this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…

We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to hear it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.

“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!”

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The Relationships of Christmas Present
Genesis 45:-18a

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A Quick Review of the past

Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.

We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.

So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…

In this moment!

Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.

Not our sin this time… “theirs!”

You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this.  But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.

Joseph’s attitude:

If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”

If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!

If only… we could love more than we hurt…

if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.

My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…

But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.

The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present

There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.

That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.

It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.

It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.

and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,

It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…

And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind.  AMEN!

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The relationships of Christmas Future
Genesis 45:16-21-25-28

In Jesus Name

May the grace mercy and peace of God enable you to see the result of God reconciling us all into Himself.

The Journey Past and Present

This advent we’ve already looked at the Relationships of Christmas Past, those times where we have not been there, the times where our sin has dramatically impacted relationships, much as Judah and His brothers betrayed and sinned against Joseph.

And we saw how Christ did what Judah could not do, taking on the punishment we deserved.  Knowing that gave us hope for the relationships we broke in the past.

Then we looked at the Relationships of Christmas Present, and saw the relationships shattered by the sins of others.

We saw Joseph find the grace that comes when we realize God is at work in our lives, and that all things work out for God, even the things that people planned ot hurt us.

Now we get into the look for relationships in our future.., including those of the past and present.  It is the hope to which each of the previous weeks pointed to, it is the hope of advent, it is the hope that parable of scrooge pointed to as well – relationships healed by the power of God

What the King has in mind

When the news gets to the Pharaoh and his leaders that Joseph’s brothers had come, the reaction is amazing. Here is how it reads, “When it was told in the palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, the king and his officials were happy”  But “happy” is then seen in the reaction – “go get them, I will give them the nest of everything. They can eat and enjoy it all!”

That sounds more like the meaning behind the Hebrew there… which ranges from “it was very good, to delightful. Pharaoh was excited = you see his reaction – give them the best Joseph – the best of whatever I got!

That’s a picture of heaven, not the getting the best stuff, but the excitement of the Pharaoh is the excitement that God has, in seeing us “come home!” It is the regathering, the people that matter to God, His people whom Jesus died for, finally ending up where they belong!

It’s that joy we need to see tonight, the joy of God as He sees us as we are in Christ – reconciled together.

That is why Pharaoh includes this instruction as well, “They can leave their possessions behind,”  

The more we understand God’s delight, His joy for His people to dwell in His presence, the more this makes sense.  We don’t have to bring all the baggage we carry in this life!

Pharaoh provided everything they needed, just get in the chariots and come!

This is what God does for us, providing everything we need to dwell with Him, not just during the hard times of this life, but for eternity.

But the excitement – go get the people – bring them!

This amazing Pharaoh is as much a picture of God our Father as the Pharaoh 425 years later will not be!

I Must GO – His Son is really alive!

Up to this point in the story, Jacob has been distressed and depressed. And when the moving chariots get there, I love his reaction,

“My son Joseph must really be alive, and I will get to see him before I die.”

It reminds me of Joseph’s words,

26  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! 27  I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:26-27 (NLT2)

What makes the difference here is the interaction, Jacob will see his son, Job will see God, we will encounter Jesus,.

A son, once thought dead is found alive, and not only is he alive, but he is reigning and sits at the right hand of the King, Jacob’s life changed dramatically.

Just as Jesus has risen, and not is He alive, He reigns at the right hand of the Father, our lives have changed, reconciled, restored. He is truly risen!

Therefore, We ARE RISEN INDEED,

And when we see Him every relationship will be healed, will be made whole, as all dwell with the Lord, who has forgiven our sins, and united us all in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

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