Blog Archives

The Common Work of Marriage and the Faith

Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day:

16  So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.   Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)

346 Loyalty  demands a real hunger for formation, because you are moved by a sincere love and you do not wish to run the risk of spreading or defending, through ignorance, principles or attitudes which are very far from being in accordance  with the Truth.  (1)

In a few hours, I will be officiating at the wedding of a cute couple, both incredibly passionate about each other.  It will be fun, as was most of the pre-marital counseling I subjected them to undergo.

Some may think such a day is the best day of their lives. My prayer is that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will know much joy, much peace, even as they will undoubtedly have trying days.  They might have a fight or two, they will definitely misunderstand each other, and the very passion that can result in incredible tenderness, incredible hunger for the other (in every way including sexually!) , can also turn on a dime and be focused on betrayal, or a perception that they are betrayed.  For passion, and words, are meant for us to use positively,

It is not unlike our relationship with God.  We should be passionate in our relationship with God, but I have often seen such passion turned against God when God doesn’t deliver what we think should be delivered.  In btoh our relationship with our spouses, and our relationship with God, our sense of self-preservation and selfishness can misinterpret the One (or the one) we love.

This is when we need to realize that a major component of love is loyalty.  Both the Hebrew cHesed and the Greek agape see loyalty, dedication to the “other” as the true nature of love.  To desire and use everything that the one has to achieve what is best in the relationship.

Escriva is right, and it is applicable in our intimate relationship with God and our intimate relationship with our spouse.  Formation is key, because it is there when we encounter love at its most incredible level.  It is revealed to us, this love that sustains us, that empowers us, that purifies us.  It is as we get to know the other (whether God or our spouse) that the relationship takes on such value that we would never want to risk damaging it.  When such damage does occur, we need to grow to where we run to see it healed.

That is what formation does, it trains us, it helps us grow, it brings healing with it, for growth can’t occur if we are damaged beyond our ability to even seek healing.  Formation is encountering mercy at its sweetest, at the moment it is unexpected.

For then it is revealed to be love.

Such love draws us to God, such love will bring a couple through anything that could occur.

I pray we all find those who will encourage and guide our formation with God, and for those who are married, I pray that your being formed with God provides the strength to really set aside your own needs, to meet the other’s needs.

Lord, in your great love, have mercy upon us.


(1) Escriva, Josemaria, The Furrow

Traveling Companions of the Cross. Lesson 3: YOU Are Created for Companionship

Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 3: You Are Created for Companionship

Genesis 2:18–25


 May you become more constantly aware of the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they are the proof of His presence.

It’s not good…

If you read the first chapter of Genesis, you would hear God talking to Himself as He created the heavens, the earth, seas and all the creatures.

Then as He creates man and woman, He notes, this is very good!

But there is more to it than that, between the last “this is good” and the “this is very good”, there is one more phrase, the phrase that we hear in chapter two.  When the Lord God notes there is something that is wrong in creation.  Something that is not good.

Hear the words again,

“It is not good for the man to be alone.

Not good at all, but there is a solution

“I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

A Helper, a companion, the one who works alongside….

Remember that one, the one who works alongside.

For it is not good that we live life alone.  We need to have companionship, without it, creation is screwed up.

A simple summary, everything was good, then man had no companionship and it was not good, then man did, and it was very good.
They knew no barriers… and there was no guilt/shame

As we look at the end result, what chapter 1 calls very good, we see why in chapter 2.

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ”

24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

What an incredible blessing, the fact that there was no guilt, no shame that divided them.  No embarrassment, no division, nothing that created a barrier between them.  Of course, they didn’t have a toilet seat to leave up, or trash to forget taking out.

Seriously, the Hebrew word there for naked meant there were absolutely no barriers between them, there was nothing that stopped them from seeing each other the way they truly were.

Sin of course, created those barriers, and the need for something to cover, to hide, a defensive mechanism. It is there because we don’t want to see people the way they really are, and we don’t necessarily want them to see us.

You are probably thinking just in the physical sense, but it is true for most of who we really are.

They lived perfect, sinless lives for that time, and it was very good.


There is a old theological thought, is Exitus-Reditus – that which leaves, returns.  Theologically speaking, what returns is always that which completes, and by God’s power, it is more than what left.

A rib is taken out and it returns a helper, a companion, That action made what was not good, very good.   The fellowship, the communion, the companionship that was formed ws greater than the loneliness that preceded it.  That is the power of reconciliation, the power of God’s mercy, forgiveness and healing, the power of God drawing back together that which is supposed to be one.

It’s more than just the couple – they were representative of all humanity

This is true more than in the sense of husband and wife, for example that same kind of language is used as men join David’s army

1  All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. 2 Samuel 5:1 (NAB)

Though it is a different bond than that between husband and wife, all od God’s creation was meant to live together, companions of God, companions formed at the cross, when Christ’s side was opened…and because of the blood that was spilt, a new relationship – the companionship of Jesus and His bride the church was formed.

At the pastor’s conference, our district president made mention of this when he was talking about the church.  One of his major points was this, “Servant leaders live in Intimate Community He was teaching pastors that in order to be effective pastors, we can’t be apart from our people, shepherds are companions, He even used the idea that we have to know each other in a way that sounds scary, Intimately.

Not intimate as in husband and wife, but intimate because there is no division, not barriers, no shame that divides us.  That we work together because we realize that God has brought us back to each other.

Another speaker made mention of it this way, The idea of the nuclear family being the cornerstone of society has become a 100 year failed experiment”  What he meant is that society is more than a dad, mom and children.  That prior to 100 years ago, the extended family, that included blood relations an even long term neighbors was the cornerstone of the family.  Not less intimate relationships in depth, but deeper relationships and more numerous ones.  That writer noted the amount of young people striving to live in micro-communities, what we in the church sometimes refer to as small groups.  But groups that live like in Acts, where the group survives together.  The broken world is looking for something they can’t find, yet it is what we know so well.

It is not good that man should live alone….

Followed by God saying, “I got this, you will not be”

Adam was given Eve, and humanity was born, and one day, the ultimate Companion for each of us was born, as Mary would give birth to Jesus.

So how do we get reconcile?

Not long after that, and ever since, most of us have put up barriers that frustrate our desire for companionship.  We drive away those we are called to love in Christ,  As we have come alive in Christ, that doesn’t have to happen anymore.  Reconciliation is not just a good idea, it is how God desires we live.  Reconciled to Him, reconciled as a family.

I kind of wish it could be like Adam, where God caused sleep to fall on him, and then took the bone away from him.  He then woke up, and knew the person standing before him, who would stand beside him was literally, part of him.

He recognized the work of God, that what was taken was return to make him complete, but in a way far beyond anything ever expected. 

Adam was complete – he had his helper, he had the one who completed Him.

When our companion died and rose on the cross, He took away the barriers, He destroyed the things we stop us from seeing each other.  Not the physical barriers, not the clothes.  But God destroyed the sin, and gave us a new life, made us a new creation.  He forgave all sin.  The sins we’ve committed against Him and each other. And He reminds us of that each time we remember our baptism, or commune at the altar as His family, or hear those words, your sins are forgiven.

Because of Christ our companion. Because of the cross, where our companionship was forged in His blood. For He reconciles us to God, and the in Christ, we are reconciled to each other.

That is why there is peace, a peace that passes all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

Has the Church Forgotten the only Fact it needs to focus on?

devotional thought fo the day
Featured image
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”   Mt 1:23 

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Mt 18:20 

“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”  (1)

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.  (2)

584    Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!”  (3)

We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things  (4)

When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog.  Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read.  It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember.  The critical fact I need to remember.

To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us.  He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us.  Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.

It all begins and ends with that relationship.

Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship.  The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.

This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism.  It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)

This is what our religion is all about, walking with God.  Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.

It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.

I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.

The Lord is with you!

1.   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana

3.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4.  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Can You Hear God Now? Why You Need to!

Featured imageDevotional Thought of The Day:

28  About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. Luke 9:28 (TEV)

42  They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (TEV)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God. (1)

There is a joke (at least I hope it is a joke) about an elderly gentleman and an odd sense of romance.  He was asked by a newlywed how often he told his wife he loved her. The old guy thought for a moment and said, “the day we got engaged.”  Seeing the shocked look on the young man’s face, he followed that up with, “and I told her if I changed my mind, I would surely let her know!”

I can’t believe there exists a woman for whom this would be satisfactory.

And so I wonder why many of us settle for that kind of relationship with God. It’s not that He doesn’t tell us constantly that He loves us, for He dearly wants us to know He loves us, to be aware of His presence.

That is what all of creation is about, about our relationship with Him.

Imagine for a moment that the old man’s wife told the young couple, “Oh, don’t worry about us, I am too tired to pay attention to my husband telling me he love me.  It’s too much work to drop what I am doing, and read a loveletter he carefully wrote me.  I don’t want his comfort, or for him to treat me special. Are our excuses for not spending time with God, with His people, any better?

Are our lives so perfect that we don’t need to be comforted by the Holy Spirit, that we don’t need to be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in the church?  Are we somehow more mature than the early church, who gathered regularly to pray?

If this letter is producing some guilt, that is not its intent. We have been given an amazing gift, a blessing beyond compare.  The presence of God, and in scripture, the proof of His love.  A gift we need to use, a gift that is a life changer, to know we walk through life with God.

Spending time in prayer, in readying and stuyding His word wih others, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper – it isn’t about duty, it is about knowing we are love… about hearing and seein that love…. Together, as His family.. And there is nothing better…

1.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hillary Duff’s View on Marriage, and Church Shopping

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. 26  Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, 27  dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. Ephesians 5:25-27 (MSG)

22  So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23  Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24  Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25  not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:22-25 (MSG)

In the interview she also admits that, when it comes to a relationship, happiness might be more important than the commitment, which is why her perspective on love isn’t all that straightforward.I don’t want to sound bitter because I’m definitely not, but I don’t know if people are meant to be together forever,” she tells the magazine. “Things happen over a long relationship that you can’t always fight. A marriage of 20 years, the accomplishment of that must feel really great, but there are also huge sacrifices. I just always want to fight for happiness.”  (1)

As I read the article with Hillary Duff, and the quotes above, I was grieved.  She notes how great it must feel for a relationship to last 20 years, the comments that the sacrifices are huge, too much for her, for her marriage has now failed.

I don’t know what they did to see it through, if there were counselors that were at their side, or if there were people there to encourage, to coach them through.   Not only did they fail, their family, their community, and The Church failed them as well.

Yes, I said The Church failed this young couple.

For in the church, there should be the example of endurance, the example of depending on Christ.  We are to depend on Him, the Spirit’s comfort and strength and ability to bring us through life.  We do this, understanding and looking to Christ, who Hebrews 12 tells us endured, for the joy set before Him.

As I thought about this, I also thought about the church, and the commitment we have to each other.  While some will look and pray for Hillary Duff, others will be scandalized by these words,  The lack of faithfulness to vows made will challenge us, (hopefully?) and the attitude that marriage may not be meant to last a lifetime will see inconceivable.

Yet do we not do that with our churches?  We change things, or even change churches, or forgo church for the same reason that causes Hillary to see marriage as temporary.  We put our enjoyment (whether we prefer traditional, liturgical, contemporary etc.) over what will cause us to draw closer to Christ.  Those of us who lead and plan our services far too often try to make the service something our people will like,

If we don’t like it?  Well, there is the church down the street, or across town.  If we are a pastor or priest, instead we place a call to our district president’s office, (or bishop or whoever works with churches looking for new pastors.  (please note, I am not talking about leaving a church because of continued teaching that is contrary to scripture)

End result, the death of a relationship, and a further division in the family of God,  A division that will be healed in heaven, but nevertheless, the pains of severing that which we pledged to be part of, in times of happiness and time of sorrow.

With each separation, the next separation gets easier, the time between finding a home church becomes less a priority, we find our happiness in other things, in other places.

Until we can’t remember the last time that we were at church.

Hillary Duff is right, there is an incredible reward that is found in a relationship that last 20, 30, 50 years.  There is the knowledge that the one who makes our marriages and our churches possible will sustain them both, through the times of richness and poverty, through times where we, and the relationship are healthy or sick, the times of grief and the times of joy.

Such is our God, the Lord of Life.  Such is what happens when we hear the Holy Spirit, the gift of our baptism. Such is the promise of life, walking with God, both now and for eternity, in the presence of God.

So let us work, to sustain all of our relationships!  To do that, may we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  Let us find His healing, His patience, His sacrifice and find in those things, the strength to desire to endure.  May we find as well the strength to help others, to encourage them, whether they are struggling in marriages or in being part of their church.

Lord Have Mercy on us!


The Lord’s Supper, and Spiritual Apathy

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 1 Corinthians 11:28-30 (NLT)

“These words, I have said, are not preached to wood or stone but to you and me; otherwise Christ might just as well have kept quiet and not instituted a sacrament. Ponder, then, and include yourself personally in the “you” so that he may not speak to you in vain.

In this sacrament he offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us, to which he most graciously invites us in other places, as when he says in Matt. 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you.

”Surely it is a sin and a shame that, when he tenderly and faithfully summons and exhorts us to our highest and greatest good, we act so distantly toward it, neglecting it so long that we grow quite cold and callous and lose all desire and love for it.”

It’s my twenty-fifth anniversary today.  As I was thinking about that, and about my sermon this week, the quote from Luther’s Large Catechism above kept coming back to mind.  Let me explain why.

Twenty-five years is a pretty decent period of time.  We’ve faced unemployment, major health issues (2 years in I had a massive cardiac arrest due to a genetic problem).  We’ve faced adjusting to having a child after seventeen years of just us.  An incredibly brilliant son, but who has some challenges as well. We have survived, we have endured.  Like our parents, who also have endured much.  There is a challenge to this though, and that is frequent interaction with each other.  Reminding each other of our love for each other. Being passionate and perhaps even more… compassionate towards each other.

It is all to easy to stop working, to just assume the other will be there.  To become apathetic in our relationship, to just get by.  But the problem is that when our hearts look for that which is needed.  The support, the encouragement, the interaction.  The rest that comes when a couple’s home is their place of rest, their place of being nurtured, their place of being able to drop everything.

Are Kay and I perfect at this?  No. ( I am involved in this after all!  🙂  )  But we do well… and have endured by God’s grace.

So what has this to do with communion?

Well, it is a primary contact point – a refuge, a place of peace and restoration in our walk with God.  It is a treasure, that too often we get apathetic about, not realizing what it is… God calling us to gather around His table, and feeding us in way that is incredible.  The family of God getting together, celebrating the forgiveness of sins and mercy of God and His love for us all.  Clearly seen when we realize that piece of bread – yes it is His body, that little cup of wine, His precious blood – give for you and I.

As Luther says – those words aren’t for rocks and stones – Jesus spoke these words for you and I!

There are two ways I see us growing, as the church at large, callous and cold to it.

The first is when we think that it is somehow less necessary than the sermon, and therefore we celebrate it far less often. Or we cut it out of our masses or worship services because of time or convenience.  (even heard one church that wanted to cut it out because of the cost of bread and wine..!)  What message are we saying when we do such a thing?  Are we reducing our belief that it is effective, that it is not profitable for our spiritual renewal?

The other way is when we just look at the celebration mechanically, as a duty, not as a joyous celebration of love.  When we realize that God wants us there, that His greatest desire is to fellowship with His people – and that is why we gather.  That we look at it with anticipation, recognizing what God is doing in this precious time.  The more we consider that, the more hungry we get for it, the more it takes on a meaning that is precious – the more we desire it.

In both cases – in determining that we don’t need to celebrate it often, and simply it being a duty and not a celebration – we lead people into apathy, we lead them away from realizing the grace and love revealed to them in Christ.  Paul says such is the reason for our spiritual apathy, and even spiritual death.  Luther concurs with scripture, calling such an attitude a sin.  It’s something we need to think about today, as the church in America has fallen asleep… and in some places is beginning to revive, breaking its fast from the blessings of God, and growing in desire of them.

This is a precious time with God, some of the most valuable and nourishing time we have in our week.  It is a treasure, a necessity, a blessing beyond our able to understand, but easily one we can appreciate.

it’s a homecoming, a feast, a celebration, a time that should inspire us to worship, a time where we can know God’s promises are true in Christ.

So come, blessed children of the Father, to a feast prepared for you……

[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.LARGE CATECHISM – Sacrament of the Altar

A Deacon’s Sermon on Philemon

One of the great blessings I have is to work with deacons and vicars (student pastors) who grow in their ability to share the cross of Christ and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I love working with them over the Bible text, and helping them develop their sermons.

This sermon is by one of those guys,  Deacon Michael Grobelch, a man willing to sacrifice time with family and his home church to serve alongside of me, going out to fill in as needed when pastors are unable to. This one will challenge you, and how you react to the love of God…

May the meditation of our hearts and the words of my mouth be acceptable to you O Lord, My Rock and my Redeemer! Amen!

Think back to your wedding day, the apple of you eye stands across from you and becomes your spouse, and you heart fills with unspeakable joy and happiness. Then one day you find out that the one you love, that you trust; betrays you by sleeping with someone else. Your anger reaches biblical proportions; you want to strike out at the cause of you humiliation and your pain. You feel betrayed, stabbed in the back; the bond of trust is broken; never being able to reach that level ever again.

You and your spouse enter counseling and after a period of time, after much prayer, and after many sessions with your pastor; he says to you: You need at take your spouse back; to forgive them; to love them once more.

Every fiber of your being screams out “No, I’ll never do that!” You tell him that “You don’t know what you are asking me to do; God doesn’t know what He is asking me to do”! He doesn’t understand what it means to be betrayed.

God doesn’t understand what it is like to be betrayed? Really?

What about where Judas betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver; the man who for the last three years had been his friend; his mentor, his teacher; and for a few paltry dollars gives up the Creator.

Or what about when Peter, St. Peter, denies Jesus three times, before the rooster crows. Peter abandoned Him, and acted as if He was some common criminal.

Or what about you and I, we betray God each and every time we sin; we go against His will. Every day we betray Jesus, we mock him just like the soldiers did; only we do it in more subtle ways or so we think. Every time we have an impure thought, either when we look at a woman on the street (us guys) or when we read those romance novels and let our imagination run wild (you ladies) we betray God and the order that He has set.

We betray God when we gossip about the plans the church leadership has in place or we gossip against the leaders themselves. God has put these leaders in authority over you and over me and we are obligated to follow as long as they  do not stray from the Word of God. Yet we still rebel like little children when we don’t get our way; we threaten to go home with our bat and ball and be done with the whole mess. Yet God has called each and every one of us here for a reason a purpose.

So how could God call on us to take back that cheating spouse; to try and rebuild those bonds of trust that were broken with a single act? God does know about betrayal and He certainly know about the intense feelings that are the result of being betrayed for He Himself was betrayed her on earth.

I think God’s purpose in sending Onesimus back to Philemon was twofold. The first was to restore Onesimus to his proper place – Onesimus was a runaway slave who broke the bond of trust with Philemon when we ran away. By going back, Onesimus could be beaten, stoned, or even killed for his actions. Certainly he would be disciplined and not enjoy the freedoms that he had previously enjoyed. It would be a very long time before Philemon would fully trust him again; there would be the lingering doubt, that little cloud that was always there. It may be months, or even years until Philemon fully trusts Onesimus again. I think we all can relate to those feelings and misgivings that after our earlier example.

That is why I think God’s main purpose is sending Onesimus back is so much for Onesimus’ benefit as it was for more for Philemon’s benefit.

Let’s look at this in a little more detail: when you are betrayed the raw emotions that you experience are, in a word intense. They are so intense that we sometimes lose all perspective and this is where crimes of passion are committed. When this occurs, all of the checks and balances God has put in place are in a moment, thrown out – they are no longer part of the equation and we do or say a thing we’d normally not even contemplate and that compounds the problem of the initial betrayal. Know both sides become emotionally distraught and the problem becomes worse.

God wants Philemon and Onesimus to reconcile with one another; to begin the process of forgiveness; to begin the process of healing. Don’t get me wrong, this process is going to take a while. Some of us hold grudges, and allow that bitter poison to consume us and turn us into something we don’t like or even recognize. But if we are confronted with our sin, and we are confronted with those we hurt, and we see the width and breadth of the damage we caused to the one we loved; we can begin the process of healing; we can begin the process of forgiveness. We find ourselves at the foot of the cross, looking up at the damage our sin has caused to Jesus; and He says I did this for you, even though you betrayed Me. I forgive you, I paid your debt, I paid you bill; what I have is yours. That is what Paul is trying to do with Philemon and Onesimus; he is trying to get them to acknowledge their sin and to begin the process of healing and the process of forgiveness for we know that we need to forgive others as God has forgiven us. We are lifted up out of the morass of sin and the bitterness that it causes and God  brings us into His presence and He brings us to His Table where our sins are forgiven; and they are removed from us as far as the East is from the West. We have become co-heirs with Jesus; we are made new again; and we are able to experience the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all understanding; the calmness of body, mind, and soul. Where God heals us, and cares for us. This is what Paul want for both Philemon and or Onesimus, we wants them in the fold, working towards a common goal; to work for God’s plan and not their own designs. He wants them to be at peace, to begin to heal, to begin to forgive and ultimately, to place each other in the hand of God, as equals, as workers in the kingdom, as brothers in Christ until the time that God comes again.

In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I love to deal with sin!

Devotional/Discussion of the Day

 6 I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 9 Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. 10 But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 11 No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. 12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. 16 Respect your father and mother—GOD, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well. 17 No murder. 18 No adultery. 19 No stealing. 20 No lies about your neighbor. 21 No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor! Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (MSG)

We often talk of the above list as the Ten Commandments, (although I prefer to refer to them as how God has commissioned our lives – but that’s another blog entry)  Violating these guidelines, whether intentionally or without conscious desire or knowledge is what we theologically call sin.  Sin simply is living outside the way God would desire us to live, based on His wisdom, based on His love, His wisdom, His desire for our best.

I wrote as the title of this blog, that I love to deal  with sin.   I have had to deal with people who struggled with every one of the sins in the last two months, maybe even in the last few days… no definitely in the last 48 hours.   And I love to deal with sin.

And I don’t like to not deal with it.

Let me unpack that.  People like to deal with sin in the same ways they cope with trauma – or death.  We go through the same kinds of phases.

We deny it is sin – it doesn’t matter whether it is missing church or Bible study, or engaging in sin that is outside the bonds of marriage.
We bargain – I won’t commit that other sin, if you God overlook that other sin…
We get depressed – as we realize that on our own, we are weak and helpless to overcome temptation
We get angry – often very angry as we crucify ourselves- or worse- those who try to help us through it – even though that means they have to make the mistake of pointing out the sin.
Or we accept that we are sinners – and just keep on… well sinning.

And in everyone of those phases – we don’t deal with sin at all.  We smother it, we cover it, we celebrate it, but the very last thing we could possibly do – is deal with it. And if we fail to deal with it, we find ourselves in the place St. John talked about.

10 If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. 

There is a way to deal with it – a very simple, powerful, wonderful, mindblowing way to deal with the sin….  it comes from the very same place as the quote a moment ago. 

 8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-10 (MSG)

That’s how we deal with it – a simple confession, a simple proclamation of forgiveness – and it’s done.

It could look something like this,

Individual Confession 
Pastor, please hear my confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.

I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.

What troubles me particularly is that . . .

The penitent confesses whatever he has done against the commandments of God, according to his place in life. The he concludes by saying:

I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.

God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive You all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Dealt with.. Done.

Sin is simple to deal with, so let’s deal with it... knowing the Lord has had mercy on us.

The Body of Christ, united in Love…. that which remains!

That Which Remains…
1 Cor. 13


† In Jesus Name †

May your life be so lived in the mercy and love of God, that it resounds with trust, with hope and with the love of God!


For nearly two hundred years, the doors of a cathedral in Macao have stood open, and people have poured through them, cameras at the ready, with guards quickly reminding them that they couldn’t bring any food or drink into the church proper.

The day we visited there, you could not count the throng of people, as tour busses dropped people off at the base of the stairs, 66 steps below the church’s main doors, to see that hallowed ground.  The church was on top of one of the hills in the city, and looked over the streets below, where everything you could think of was for sale.

It was a bit eerie walking through the doors, as your eyes ran the length of the stone floor, as you looked to where the altar should be, as you saw people snapping pictures. You’ll see a picture of the church later, well, of the one way that has been all that has remained since 1830….

As I read today’s epistle passage about the incredible things we are given the ability to do, and their value if we do them without love, St Paul’s Cathedral comes to mind. A Church, a place, designated as holy ground, with people thronging and busily moving about it, but without the word of God, without the altar to which people are called to share in Christ’s feast, It too, is lacking.  For both, a ministry without sacrificial love, and a church without God’s word and sacrament, is worthless, a testimony of no value, a place where history may be celebrated, even bragged about, but no transformation, no repentance, occurs.

It may bring about awe for a moment, but really is a place of sadness, and regret.


Such is the nature of ministry without His love, no matter how great the charisma, not matter how many people throng and applaud the works done and the words said.

The Test

          How do we judge how well we are doing in our vocation?
As individuals?  As the church?
This test reminds me of 7-11 – we get a big gulp!
Just curious – how many people had 1 Corinthians 13 read at their wedding?  How many of you remember your wedding?

You all know that this isn’t just the standard for you marriage, but for every relationship, you are in…in your entire life?  Remember the two commandments? Love God with… (wait for answer) and love your…

So let’s take a test, and inventory of how well we love… how good we’ve gotten at it.  I’ll even give you a pass on your love for God, and we’ll just talk about your love for your spouse, your families, and your neighbors and coworkers.  So in this test – at the bottom of the prayer list, you have a little chart. First column goes the Bible’s characteristic of Love… then the second is your grade, pass or fail.  The third would be the church’s grade.

Number One, put a check in the box a1 if you are patient and kind with you spouse if you are married, with your family (including in-laws) and with your neighbors and co-workers. Patient is from the word long-suffering  and kind is to be merciful, willing to forgive and restore people to their original relationship with you…  Okay, if you do that – no exceptions – put a check there.

Now put a check in box 1B if you believe the church has the same characteristic.


Same for box 2a and 2b if you are never jealous of what your spouse, your family or neighbors and co-workers have or do.  Or if you never show off what you have.  What about us as a church.  Are we jealous that another church has a better…. Hmm well no other church has a better congregation or music team… O wait – just bragged about us – no check there!

Box 3a and 3b – Are you ever one who has to have your own way, that your spouse, your children, your neighbors have to do things your way or else it is not good enough?  What about us as a church – do we demand we do things our way – and if others don’t like it, well they aren’t real Christians anyway, so who cares about them?

Box 4a and 4b  – any of us easily irritated by our spouses, by our kids and/or grandkids, or that one co-worker, or the neighbor who plays their music too loud?  What about the person who bashes Christianity?  You can only put a check in the box if you ever irritable…

What about box 5a an b?  Do we ever, as individuals, keep a records about the things people do wrong, or the sins people sin against us?  The things of the past – that we said we forgave, yet still remember – and still hold against them?

Do we do that as a church?  Have we realized that God’s grace doesn’t just cleanse our slates of our sin, but the sins committed against our people?


I suppose I could go on, and deal with the rest of the list, but I am already feeling a little cymbalistic and worthless….

How many of us can claim to be loving, to act, towards all people in every instance in the ways described in this passage?

It’s a pretty sobering inventory…but I am not sure that we totally grasp the passage, and what it means.  Matter of fact, I think we take it one of two ways.  As a naïve romantic statement about how the perfect marriage will be… or perhaps, as a list to prove how messed up we are, or our spouse is.  I mean – aren’t they supposed to never lose faith, never give up and endure every circumstance?

Used the wrong way, this passage becomes a great weapon to beat others into the ground with, or to beat ourselves up with!  Either way, everything becomes like St Paul’s Church/wall in Macau… a sorrow-ful shell of what once was a vibrant place filled with the presence of God.
But Paul was showing them a better way


That is why we always need to consider the context of our reading.  We need to take into consideration not just our chapter, but the ones before and after it.  We need to look at the entire book as well.

In this case – we started the reading by Paul talking about showing a better way – so we have to ask, a better way than what?  Last week you heard Mike talk about how the body of Christ is knit together, with each having its own role, and how we are one, even as we rejoice together, and cry together, as we show compassion and as we love.

In this reading, he gets deeper into the mystery that is the body of Christ, How we are bound together, how what God does in us, as a diverse body, is yet a ministry that is whole and one.

It is something that requires something beyond our vision, beyond our comprehension.  The purest love, the kind that will bring life to that which is empty and hallow.  The kind of love that will be impossible to explain, yet give meaning to it all…
The kind of love that comes only as we live, together, in Christ.


The kind of love that is the life of the church.. That is our life.

What remains…of us

          That which we trust in..
That reason we have hope

          The very love…of Christ


I think that is perhaps my biggest take away from this trip, as I worked with young missionaries, who are living in the shadow of a church, that is but a wall.  For reasons I can’t get into in the sermon, they can go without the Lord’s supper for a month, or ever two or three.  They don’t get to celebrate with the family of God, the very gifts that God has for them.

It shows.  A pastor like me is treated like a royal guest, not because I am the greatest preacher or teacher, but because I bring them a tangible reminder of God’s love.  The words of absolution, the word of God around which they can gather and celebrate, the precious, life giving, life renewing celebration and feast – where they can know God’s love.  I introduced them to the concept of how we shared God’s peace with each other, after the words of institution, before we feast together as we commune.  The fact that the Body and Blood of Christ is shed for them, that because of it there is God’s peace among them.  Fifteen people from two cities, people that work together, yet… need the power of God’s love, and yeah – they learned to pass the incredible peace of God.

Do we even begin to realize what the love of God brings into our life?  Do we understand how it cleanses, and reconciles and forgives?  Do we realize how it is the very skeleton and the blood that pumps through our lives?

Do we even realize it is why we are here?

Those characteristics, they aren’t about us, though we should strive to imitate the one they describe.

The reason that the the gifts and talents and abilities we have – no matter how great or how small – have meaning, is that love…the reason the church can overcome sin, see reconciliation comes down to this.
The Lord of love…is with you.


For Their Sake, We Cannot Keep Quiet! Isaiah 62:1-5

† In Jesus Name †

May you realize that because of the mercy of God the Father, and His love for you demonstrated in Christ Jesus, that you will never be forsaken, for the Lord delights in you!

If you were to ask me which book in the Old Testament, and perhaps even the entire Bible, which is my favorite book – it is the one from which our Old Testament passage tonight was read from.

In Isaiah, we see, completely revealed, the heart that God has for His people. The love, the plan by which He would restore them from their brokenness, the joy that he would have, in bringing them back together, from every place, from every ethnic group on the face of the planet.


Such is the passage we have before us tonight, the incredible promise that Isaiah cannot be quiet about – that He must proclaim.  He cannot rest or stay still – he must tell someone!

Not because He has to – not because He was called and commanded to by God – that just gives him the responsibility to share God’s love, to proclaim His word.  No the reason He cannot keep still, the reason He cannot keep quiet is found there in verse 1.

For their sake, I will not keep silent!  For their sake I will not be quiet!


For the sake of the people whom God would save, for the sake of the people upon whom God, the creator of all, would call by a new name – by His name… for their sake, Isaiah, and all the prophets, the apostles and evangelists and pastors and teachers – for their sake – even you and I, we cannot keep silent.

What we have to say makes that much of a difference in their lives.



I would like to explain this, with a quick illustration of some incredible guys that I get to serve, as I train them in ministry. They are in training to become deacons, normal guys from a variety of backgrounds.  A teacher, a small town businessman, an engineer, a pool cleaner, a homeless, another guy with an MBA who troubleshoots peoples computer systems, a collection agent, a clothing manufacturing supervisor, an artist, and a printer. They study so they can work aside pastors

Most of them have been in church all their lives – from 30-74 years. They entered the program to be trained because they love God.  As they study, as we work together, they all keep saying that they love God, but they never full realized how much that God adored them.  The more they learn, the more they want to learn, and the more they find themselves not being able to shut up about God’s love.
Drive’s their wives a little crazy at times – but they too – learn and fall deeper and deeper in love with God.

I could talk about where they’ve come from for hours – each has had a life full of challenges, times where they’ve wanted to give up, times where they didn’t know hope, times where their lives were on the line….Ted and Rocky, Terry and Bob, Bill, Mike, Don, Eddie, Mark, and Chuck and so many more.

It is for their sake – and yes yours, that I cannot keep silent about God’s grace.  I pray, that because you will come to know His love more clearly, more fully, that you too will be able to name those for whom you cannot keep silent, because you know God’s love for them, because you know His love for you!


What we see:  Forsaken and Desolate


One of the guys, presently a student in the program, is such an example.  He and his wife have hung in their – being faithful in attending church and in doing things.  They knew the basic of the faith, the basics that we confess in the creed.

But their lives have been full of challenges.  They’ve endured the death of one daughter, their other daughter’s life has been a major challenge as well.  They have taken care of a mother who lived 70 miles away while she was dying painfully.  The church at that time didn’t give them the support they needed.  He has suffered with diabetes for 50 years, and the doctor’s cant seem to make up their mind if he has parkinsons, alzheimers, dementia or some other disease/disorder that no one has got a name for yet.

With all these challenges, and more besides, one would understand if they felt forsaken by God, if they thought their lives were desolate. If they thought that God has decided not to answer their prayers, that for some reason they weren’t good enough.  They simply plow through, and faithfully take care of their responsibilities – so where is God’s power in their lives?

I sometimes wonder why they don’t have the same doubt, the same feelings I would – and my situation is not near what they’ve endured…

I don’t know about you – but when I hear Isaiah’s description of the people of God, saying that no longer will we be termed forsaken, no longer will our lives be desolate, I can think of certain times in my life, where I have felt that way – exactly.  Where it would seem that even in a place like Los Angeles, surrounded by 20 million people – I am completely alone, and while there is hope and joy for others, there isn’t any for me.

I am broken.

Broken by my sin, the times where I’ve failed to love God enough to recognize His wisdom and love that underwrites the way He has designed and encouraged us to live.

Broken by my own sin, when I place my desires ahead of the needs of people around me.  Where my own entertainment and enjoyment I look towards, rather than seeing my brother’s and sister’s needs.

Broken by others sins, as the entire world it seems, is full of people who put their own lives, and desires and goals ahead of any relationship with me, and step on me to achieve them.

Forsaken?  Desolate?  Yeah – I know those feelings.

What is Real


Knowing those feelings – and knowing that the men I serve have them – that hey – even you may have them- that is why we cannot be silent about God’s reality – and how it shatters those feelings of forsakenness and desolation.


Isaiah talks of how people will see our righteousness, that we have been cleansed in baptism from all sin and brokenness, that we are being healed of all that life has done to us.  Isaiah talks of how it will shine like the most powerful of lights – our salvation will appear like a burning torch/lighting.

That is what is real – that our lives will be the crown – the proof of God being God, of Jesus being Lord of all – for only such could take us, and make us whole and alive and joyful.

For God has given us a new name, He has called us by His name – marked us as His.

My friend – the student who at 74 – with a memory that fails him – except when he is talking about God – realizes this.  He had an epiphany, the lights came on, when he stood and held my Bible and bulletin open – as I baptized Rachel and Kay, two students of the school.  It continues – each time he goes to church and to class to become a deacon.  He soaks up the material like a sponge – and then shares it with people he knows.

He understands what it means to live as one that has been united to Christ in baptism – that has been joined to Christ’s death and resurrection, who because of the promises that are applied with the water – that life has been transformed.

This man understands, perhaps better than any I know – including all the pastors verse four and five of Isaiah – and the love of God for His people – which includes Chuck.

The Marriage of God!

Isaiah describes the love of God in a very incredible way.  He describes it, as the New Testament does, in terms of a wedding, in terms of a marriage. In terms that shatter the illusion that we are alone and desolate – for we have been united with Christ.

That God’s love for us is that which a man should have for his wife, as he marries her.  That God is willing to honor and cherish and protect us for all the days of His eternal life.

Isaiah describes God finding delight in us, He finds joy – incredible joy in making us His people, in calling us by His name.  In uniting us to Jesus in baptism – that we would be His – His clean and spotless Bride.

Some 800 years after Isaiah, Paul would take up this idea in Ephesians 5:

Ephesians 5:25 (Phillips NT) 2. Christ gave himself to make (his people) her holy, having cleansed her through the baptism of his Word – to make her an altogether glorious Church in his eyes. She is to be free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement – a Church holy and perfect.
28 Men ought to give their wives the love they naturally have for their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her. Nobody ever hates or neglects his own body; he feeds and looks after it. And that is what Christ does for his body, the Church. And we are all members of that body, we are his flesh and blood! ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. The marriage relationship is doubtless a great mystery, but I am speaking of something deeper still – the marriage of Christ and his Church.

That is what my friend gets – it’s burrowed so deep to his core – through the pains and sorrows, through the medical challenges, through the grief.  Seeing the joy as he comes into the room – whether the church sanctuary, or my office, or into class – ready to learn more of God’s love for him, and for those around him.  Hearing him tell how he told the doctor of Christ’s love, or the “old guy” across the street who fell and couldn’t get up…

How can I not want to teach him more about God’s love – knowing that he will cherish it and it will transform him and those he knows.  That it will give him hope and peace as he basks un Christ’s love, like a bride and bridegroom completely unaware of anyone else’s presence as they are married, as they become one.

Not just about the deacons – its about you


I used my student, my church member’s my friends story for a reason.

He can’t keep silent about God, and having him in my life has helped me not keep silent – watching God work in his life, assured me that God is working in mine.  Seeing the peace- that peace of God which he dwells in so comfortably….
I know I can let God deal with my fears, my anxieties, my sin and brokenness.  That God delights in me….

And if God can do that in my life….. if God desires to do that – as scripture teaches…

The same is what He desires for you – to delight in you – to call you by His name – to make you His people….

I cannot keep silent about that… for the joy is beyond anything you can imagine, as is the peace…


You need to  know that the peace of God, which goes beyond all understanding – will guard your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

%d bloggers like this: