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Why Isn’t God Helping? Something I learned as I cry out…


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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Remember, life is short! Why did you empty our lives of all meaning? 48 No one can escape the power of death and the grave. Our Lord, where is the love you have always shown and that you promised so faithfully to David? Psalm 89:47-49 CEV

All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

Dearest brothers, we should turn our minds and understand not only that we call him “Father who is in heaven,” but that we add to this and say: “Our Father,” that is of those who believe, of those who have begun to be children of God, sanctified through him and restored by a birth of spiritual grace.

I have to admit I feel much like the writer of the psalms this morning.

I feel useless, I feel as if my work on earth has no impact. Does being a pastor, or a friend, or a father mean anything anymore?

THought I saw and heard it three days ago on Sunday, as people received Christ’s body and blood, that seems a century ago. The curfews certainly add to it, after the months of stay at home orders.  One doctor says it will be a year or more before life returns to normal because of the virus, another says months, another says years. The despair that results from the murder of a man and the reactions to it will take longer to heal.

And in this, I find I must cry out to God and ask “Why? Where are you?” “What the ….. is going on?”

I have to, or my heart will be crushed.

But it is the fact that I can cry out, that I realize there is someone there to hear my cries. IN crying out I use god’s name in one of the holiest ways possible. I use it and you should, for the very reason, God revealed His existence to us.

Deliver us from all of this, from all the unrighteousness, from all the injustice, from the sin. Clean us up Lord, start with me. Or just come back, as you have promised.

Even as I cry out to Him, I realize the cry is not just an act of despair, it is an act of faith. Perhaps only the weakest of faith, a hope that somehow He will answer my cry.

But even that amount of faith is miraculous amid the pain, the turmoil, the hatred I am seeing. I am crying out to my Father, the only one who can do anything about this.

That is faith.

That is the Holy Spirit at work, the Comforter breaking through the spiritual blackness, reminding me of Christ’s love.

That is why Cyprian says we need to move from Address God as “the” to “our”, why we need to realize the significance of that cry as we pray, even praying the Lord’s Prayer.

He is our Father, He is our God, and He hears our cries, and responds…

We need to cry out, to use the old word, lament. To confess how broken we are, and that we are depending on God to fix us.  We need to do this!

Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with peace and strengthen our faith, our dependence on God to bring healing to the world, bring healing to us.  AMEN!

Luther, Martin. The Lord’s Prayer,   Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 373.

Cyprian: On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer,  Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 71.

Jesus gave thanks…and broke…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“Give us this day, the food We need…”

39      I see myself like a poor little bird, accustomed only to making short flights from tree to tree, or, at most, up to a third floor balcony… One day in its life it succeeded in reaching the roof of a modest building, that you could hardly call a skyscraper. But suddenly our little bird is snatched up by an eagle, who mistakes the bird for one of its own brood. In its powerful talons the bird is borne higher and higher, above the mountains of the earth and the snow capped peaks, above the white, blue and rose pink clouds, and higher and higher until it can look right into the sun. And then the eagle lets go of the little bird and says: Off you go. Fly! Lord, may I never flutter again close to the ground. May I always be enlightened by the rays of the divine sun—Christ—in the Eucharist. May my flight never be interrupted until I find repose in your Heart.

As I have been contemplating the idea of Jesus praying His prayer, and our being able to listen in to the Father hearing, and answering, I arrive at the prayer and promise for God to provide all we need.

Oddly enough, it arrives on the same day we celebrate the same Jesus, reclining at the table with his disciples, taking bread, giving thanks, and giving his disciples His body and blood, the bread and wine.

Luther would talk of this section of the Lord’s prayer being the faith which asks God to provide not only the bread, but all things necessary to life, and more.  While we don’t picture Jesus being weak, being dependent, that was what He became, for our sake.  He needed to eat, and He needed to pray to the Father.

Jesus needed to depend on Him, especially during Holy Week.  Imagine eating with friends, knowing that they would desert you.  Imagine that two would betray you, one to your death, one in your time of need.  Imagine knowing better than anyone the sacrifice the bread and wine foretold, even as we proclaim that same death now, as we commune.  Jesus trusted the Father, and knew His prayers would be answered.  We too can pray with Him, knowing this.  Even when, especially when we bear our own crosses.

All we need, God provides.

In praying with Jesus, we are the little sparrow of St. Josemaria, caught up with the eagle,   We learn to trust in our heavenly Father, we learn to lay all we need at His feet, we learn to trust in Him for the bread, not just of earth, but the Body and Blood of Christ, what the ancients called the bread of angels. How great how incredible, how uplifting.

At the cross, where His body is broken… His blood shed.

When Jesus trusts in the Father to provide all He needs, all we need…..

He took the bread, and gave thanks…


(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 366-374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Deliver Us From Evil

Featured imageDare We Pray:

Deliver Us From Evil

Matthew 6:13 and John 19:16-42

As you contemplate Christ’s death for you, and how that delivered you from evil, may you understand a little more the love of God our Father,

Intro – Deliver Us

We arrive here, this evening, at the foot of the cross.

To think through what it means for Jesus to die, his wrists and ankles shattered by spikes.  We look on a broken man, one who endured so much pain and agony.  Agony not just of the physical pain, but the agony of being alone, abandoned by those who counted themselves as His friends.  Mocked by those whom he taught to pray

Whom He taught to pray to our Father in heaven these words…

“Deliver us from Evil”

It is the last request of the prayer.
And the most painful, and the hardest to pray.

For it is a confession we don’t want to make.

That we have gotten so entangled with evil, that only God can deliver us from it.  That He had to make the decision to do so.

Life without evil sounds nice, though what it took, and what it takes, is a price that goes beyond what most of us are willing to pay, or for which we will find it easy to pray.

Yet He taught us to pray to the loving Father, “Deliver us from evil.”

And died on the cross to make it happen.

The Problem  Why is it hard to pray this?  What is Evil?

When we think of being rid of evil, it is often evil somewhere “out there” Satan’s work in the world, and as His demons work throughout the world. We speak of those evil empires, or the evil politicians, or the murderers and rapists and real serious sinners in prisons, those who God would never save, or it is a miracle if He does.

We don’t pray, “Deliver the world from evil,”

We pray deliver us from evil.

It is personal. We need the Father to deliver us, His people, from evil.

It is a hard prayer to pray, because we have to admit that evil can get a grip on us.  That we are the sinners, that evil can get its grip on us, affect us, and that we can think, say, and do that which is evil

We do though, when we make decisions about who is righteous in God’s eyes, and who will be judged, (because God won’t save them!) and condemned for being evil.

We do it when we try to make our actions look righteous, even though we know they aren’t, when we try to justify ourselves, or those like us, rather than pray for all involved. When we gossip and assume the worst possible reason for why someone would do something, or say something. We even pat each other on the back, and congratulate each other when we shred our adversaries rather than pray for them.

There are so many ways we in which we sin, in which we choose that which is evil, over that which is blessed by God.

And today we come to the cross, seeking mercy and grace, praying, Father, deliver us from evil.

We can pray it here…at the foot of the cross.

That is why we are here.  To pray, and to remember that the Father has delivered us from evil.
Look at the cross; there is where it happened.  Where God unites sinners to Jesus, nailing their sins to Christ, and transforming us into saints, crediting us with His righteousness.

Look at the cross, where our attempts to justify ourselves, our futile attempts are dismissed, for because of Christ being nailed there.

Look at the cross, and know this prayer the Lord has taught us, an every phrase, every word is answered,

He proves He is our Father
His makes His name is holy, as He uses it to claim us, His children, with the seal of the cross in baptism
His kingdom is revealed to include us, for He purchases and redeems us with the blood of Christ.
His desire, His will is seen, as He enables us to not perish, but to repent and be transformed as we are united to Christ, and given the Holy Spirit

He gives us all we need, and care for us, making everything work for good for those He has called, for those who love Him
He forgives us, and helps us forgive others
He leads us away from temptation, as we look to Jesus, and are transformed into sacrificing servants who reflect His glory and embrace our own cross
and He delivers us from evil.. Cleansing us of it, by nailing it to the cross.

And so let us give Him every burden, every anxiety, every pain… even as we pray, trusting Him to answer…

Knowing what to expect

 Knowing What to Expect

1 John 3:1-3

In Jesus Name


May our joy be complete, as we find our fellowship is the fellowship shared between the Father, and Jesus Our Lord, as we realize that the God our Father has created us to be His children!


Where have the Father’s gone?


When you are taught to preach, one of the things you are taught is to understand not only the context of the passage, what things in the life of the original readers impact them, how they live, what the words mean to them then.  You are also that you need to consider the context of those who will be listening to you.  How they will hear the words today.  What things in life will shape their hearing, from education to experience to one of the most dominant forces in our culture – television!

That is certainly the case today, as we examine 1 John 3 – our epistle reading.  Some of us were blessed to have incredible parents who taught us about life, and God, who taught us about getting things right, who comforted us when we really screwed up.  Others did not, but they knew of fathers who did those kinds of things.  Fathers like Ward Cleaver, or Andy Griffith, or the character Fred McMurray played on “my three sons.”  They were re-runs in my youth, and I doubt they are even on the “oldies” stations now.

Instead, the most famous father on television now (and in re-runs) is …. Homer Simpson!

If children today don’t have a role model of fatherhood in the home, if they cannot find such a role model of a father’s love, and his devotion to his children, how can they understand the passage today?  How can they understand God our Father’s desire to pour out love on us?  How can they understand a passage like:

11:11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  Luke 11:11-13 (NKJV)

So what can we expect of God our Father, what can we teach these little ones to expect of a Father whose love knows no bounds?

We are already God’s Children… yet

The apostle John starts out the third chapter – by talking about the fact, the fact that we are God’s children, even if the world doesn’t recognize us as that, even if we haven’t really begun to understand what that means, and how God has transformed us.

There are a couple of issues here, first the challenge to believe that God can and does transform people.  The world doesn’t know us, because they really, really don’t understand God. Their picture of Him is based only in justice, they don’t understand His mercy, His love, and the extent of that love. Perhaps that is due to us at times, where our desire for people not to get hurt comes across as a legalistic moral standard.  And where we should be concerned for the damage sin does to their lives, they hear God’s warnings as condemnation.

As a parent, how easy is it to let your children suffer the consequences of their actions?  How many of us enjoy disciplining them, and correcting them?  But how much more do we hate they pain they have to deal with, when they have done wrong?  It takes a little thought, but God’s desire is never to punish never mind condemn. It is that we live life walking with Him, guided away from those things which we might chose, even as a young child doesn’t always choose that which is needed,  Like when we warn our kids, those warnings that God gives us aren’t always heard as warnings by those who hear them from us.

It’s hard to understand why we can’t have fun, how such things could result in great pain, to us, and often to others.

Not only do those who do not comprehend God’s love not see us as we are in Christ, but neither do we.  There are days I admit, that I don’t see myself as one of God’s kids, and there are days that I wonder about the church as a whole.  Part of that is I look at my actions, our actions, and I wonder how in the world we can call ourselves God’s kids, when we aren’t the most loving, or the most patient, or the most merciful.  It’s hard to see myself  as holy at times, or to see the church, as it acts in the world as holy, as the people God has called and chosen.

While we should never excuse our sin, we should understand the tension of not really grasping how much God is changing us.  Hear again John’s words,

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

which Paul echoes,

3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV)

John said,
what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him

and Paul said,
your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

They agree!  Imagine that!  They both were led to write that by God, because they too struggled with sin, and occasionally, doubt. Yet there were equally sure of what they knew of God’s character – that as our loving, merciful Father, who chose us to be His children, He isn’t about to give up on us, and our salvation is guaranteed by the one who guards our hearts and minds

Keeping ourselves pure

Besides reminding us that we are going to struggle to realize who we have become as the children of God, both Paul and John then talk about our lives.  John tells us,

“3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

While Paul defines it a little more,

3:8 But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, (improper) passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips. 9 Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits 10 and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. Colossians 3:8-10 (TEV)

I added in Paul, because otherwise we are challenged to know what this word “pure” or holy is about. It sounds like at first it is a standard of behavior, a what not to do list. Part of that is because of the translation, and it sounds like we were most active in this, that being holy depends on what we do.  Yet it is talking more about what has happened to us, when God calls us to be His children, and cleanses us of all our sin in Baptism.

But it is that promise of God’s renewing, or better translated – renovating or transforming us into the image of Christ to which I would call your attention.  That transformation started in your baptism, as God cleansed you of every sin, and every bit of unrighteousness that was part of your life – even those sins you will commit next week, or the sins these kids will commit when they are their grandparents’ age!  That renovation, that transformation continues every time we hear God’s word, as the Holy Spirit uses it to cauterize our wounds, to heal our brokenness, to give us the strength to love God and love and serve others. It continues as we come, called to this altar to share in Christ’s body and blood, broken and spilled that we would know the depth of His love, as He gave up His life, to give us life.
To make us his co-heirs.

To bring us the promise of living eternally with our Father, the one who has made us his children.


1 Cor 2:9-0
John and Paul both tell us, that when we see Jesus return, then we will full grasp how much He has transformed us, when we see Him, we will fully know, even as we are known.  When we realize what God has done to purify us.  There is one verse I would leave you with, that will help you look forward to that day… even more.

2:9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

Know you are His beloved children.  And therefore know His peace.




His Plan His Desire His People in Christ

(this is the sermon wrote for this morning, but it went through drastic revision before it was delivered.  
I will post the other… which is much rougher,  but was well heard.
May you know God’s presence and love… to your very core.. )

His Plan, His Desire, His People, “in Christ”!

Ephesians 1:3-14

 In Jesus Name

May our lives bless our Father in Heaven, as it is revealed to us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! AMEN!

A preposition for you!       

I have a life changing preposition for you!

Two little letters that change everything in life, that change our priorities, our plans, our dreams.  That gives life and meaning to life, even in these days when our world chases after all the things that are vain, that do not satisfy, that cannot make a difference.

I have a preposition for you my friends.. not a proposition – a preposition.

Remember that list you memorized,  about above among around at behind before,  remember those things?  Well in today’s epistle, one keeps showing up – and it makes all the difference in the world,

For it is combined with a pronoun – that word that takes the place of a name?  Two letters for the preposition, and three letters for the pronoun and the world is shaken, and everything made new…so radical a change in life these two simple words, these five letters, that our reaction to them is nothing less than to praise and glorify God, to bless Him, to in awe applaud His work.

The pronoun is Him, the preposition I have for you to consider is…


And when we realize what it means to be “in Him” we begin to realize how much of our life, our world has changed… even as we wait for the day when we fully understand it.

Chose us in Him

Of the dozen or so times the preposition and pronoun, (or a noun the preposition refers to) appears in this passage, we have to start somewhere to examine this incredible concept.  So let’s look at one first, there in the beginning of verse four, when Paul tells us that the Father has “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”

It is in choosing us, that we find every spiritual blessing coming upon us, it is there that that we realize that we aren’t just after thoughts in God’s plan, but indeed the focus of His will, and His desire.  From before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen mankind to have a special relationship with Him, and demonstrated that choice by placing us in Christ.

There, we find out what He has chosen us for, to be His children, adopted because of Jesus Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found to be holy and blameless, set apart for something special, with nothing able to mar or change that choice.  To share in the life and love of God, in what sounds amazing – to become part of that relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  To share in such a relationship, as one of my friends has described it in a song – to join in the Trinity’s dance.

This indeed Paul tells us is no accident, it was a choice made from before the foundation of the world.   It is the very purpose of His will – or as another translation explains it – it is the plan to achieve God’s greatest desire.  Peter phrases it this way,

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

The Lord’s choice, to choose you in Him, in Christ…

 Riches of His gift, lavished upon us

The next “in Him” to look at is in verse 7 and 8, as we read,


In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
In Christ’s death, we have been paid for, our lives redeemed at the price of His sacrifice on the cross.  He did this that because of the great grace, the gift which he lavishes upon us, why?

Paul calls this the making known of the mystery of His will, this incredible grace lavished upon us, as God picks us up in our brokenness, and instead of throwing us away, carefull repairs and heals us, bringing us into Himself, that we might be one with Him.  Imagine everything perfect, in His presence, a place where doors don’t creak and neither do our bodies, where our relationships are finally the way they should be, including our relationship with our Father, where we finally let God be God, and we rejoice in knowing we are His chosen people.

This is our lot for all eternity, that which God has planned for us, the life God has given to us, this great mystery of why He would choose us to be His children, that even as He makes this true now, we struggle to realize it, for we struggle to realize we are in Christ, we are in the Beloved son of God, and therefore share in the Father’s love.

How we got there?

We are the children of the king – waiting for that moment when we reach full maturity, when we share in His kingdom.  It is true now, and yet like a child waiting to reach the age of inheritance, we struggle with it. Indeed, we need to be reminded of it often, and how and when this incredible thing happened.

Paul explains it in verse 13

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

It’s the same story throughout scripture – the way we become His children, according to His plan is when we hear the truth – the truth of His love for us, that is this gospel, this good news.

It is the message of His love that causes us to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to realize that our very lives are in His hands, and that this is a good thing!

That when we were baptized, God marked us, He sealed us as His children, the sign of the cross is what we were marked with, that even as we share in Christ’ death, we too share in His resurrection, for we live in Him.

That has been His plan all along, a plan we have only begun to realize…. For we are still children, waiting for our inheritance to become ours, for us to reach the maturity of Christ, when we visibly know we are in His kingdom.
Until that day, we have a guarantee, a down payment if you will.  Something incredibly wonderful, something beyond our comprehension.  The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, what Peter describes as the gift of God’s Spirit, which Paul will also describe as our being the temple – the living place of the Spirit of God, the one called the Comforter, the Lord and Giver of life…

Here, in us, even as we dwell in Him….

A preposition for you my friends, a truth that is so incredible..found as we hear that we are “in”….

In Christ!

So knowing this we can rejoice as Paul does and declare, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… AMEN!

What do you pray…about?

Devotional/discussion thought of the day:

“You wrote to me,”To pray is to talk with God.  But about what?”  About Him, about yourself. joys and sorrows, success and failures, great ambitions, daily worries – even your weaknesses!  And acts of thanksgiving and petitions, and love and reparation.
In short, get to know Him, and get to know yourself – ‘to get acquainted”  Escriva

Sometime I think we project prayer as some kind of duty, an obligation, a spiritual check in with Dad as we approach curfew.   We pray because we are told to, we pray because we are expected to, because we are good people.

If our prayer is only that, then we miss a lot, as we don’t comprehend the heart of the God who reveals Himself as our Father.  Who longs to share His life with us, who longs to be with us,  Prayer is a conversation with no bounds, and requires no special dignity or formal language. The Lord’s prayer is a basic outline – consider all the things covered by it!  Yet as well, there are times where we need solitude and peace, those times too are times of prayer, as are times where we complain and rant  and throw a tantrum like Jeremiah, or plead as Paul does for things to get better.

Recently, Andy Griffith died, and most of us recall first the closing to his television show, and he and a very young Ron Howard walk down a dirt road, on the way to go fishing.  Such is the nature of the relationship we have with God….as we walk through life together….   know He is there… share the day with Him, rejoice as He pours out His love and mercy and grace… and talk.. and listen,

That is prayer…. try it… often!