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I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life!

church at communion 2The Gift of Pentecost:
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and Giver of Life
John 15:26-27-16:4b-15

In Jesus Name

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!

The gifts of Pentecost 

Advocate, Paraclete, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, these are words that describe the incredible gift gibe by God to us in the Holy Spirit.

The gift was given to the church at Pentecost and given to every member of the church ever since when God cleansed them with water and His word.

That is the great gift of Pentecost, that we can count on, that we can depend on the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us life, and life that is full, for our brokenness is healed.

25  I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26  I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27  I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)

 This is the Advocate, the Spirit who will testify to us all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts, transforming us, this is the Spirit that came because Jesus went to the Father until the day He returns.

The World’s Sin

One of the things that Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will do is convict the world of its sin.

But Jesus is very clear about what sin is, and what the Holy Spirit will convict us of, which is not trusting and depending on Jesus. That is the bottom line, sin is not having faith in the promises Jesus has made us.  To lack faith is to not believe in Jesus’s words, His promises of love, His promises to guide and shepherd us.
That is where sin begins, in the attitude or action that proclaims, “I know which way to go, God,!” or “I know what is right FOR me” rather than hearing, “this is the body broken FOR you”, “this is the blood shed FOR you – for the forgiveness of sin!!”

That is what the Holy Spirit is going to remind us of, that the Spirit, our Advocate/Comforter/helper who will convict the world of its sin, of it’s not trusting God and depending upon Him…

I want to go back to verse 8 for a moment,

And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

Between Conviction and Judgment

I asked a bunch of people this week this question:

When you hear “judgment” is your first reaction negative or positive?
It was not surprising that most said negative, even one lawyer who said “always negative”.  (do I want him defending me?) Note in the quote in scripture, there is something between convicting us of sin, and the coming final judgment.

The righteousness of God.

There is what the Spirit reminds us of, most of all.  That God is just and righteous, but that righteousness includes fulfilling in us what is lacking, healing what is broken, forgiving that which is marred by sin.

The Spirit picks us help, helps us, comforts us, acts as our counselor, our advocate in these situations.   The Spirit’s role is to bring us to Christ, to help us to cry out to God for mercy, even using the term of endearment, ABBA!

You see, putting the righteousness of God in between our realizing we are sinners and the final judgment turns that judgment from something negative into something positive.

For those who come, by the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, that judgment of God is this.

“You are righteous, innocent, holy, and mine!

That is what the insertion of God’s righteousness does, it makes sinners who trust in God holy.  That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Lord and giver of life.

And this is what Jesus is talking about when He promises that the Holy Spirit will testify all about Jesus. Everything that Jesus has been, and done, and will continue to do.

That the Holy Spirit would comfort us, counsel us, help us, come alongside, be our advocate, and testify to us of the love of Christ, which draws us to the Father so we can live in peace.  AMEN!

Anyone and Everyone. A Pentecost Sermon on John 7:37-39

Anyone and Everyone

John 7:37-39

I.H.S.

 May the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life not only bring you the comfort but also may it bring the love that will flow out others and change their lives!

Quiz:

Since it is the end of the school year, I thought it would be appropriate to give you all a little quiz about Pentecost this morning.  The first is yes/no, the second is multiple choice.

Question #1  Is Pentecost only a New Testament “holy day.”

Nope, it was an Old Testament Feast, celebrating the harvest.  At this point you can see what the rest of the harvest might look like, we see it commanded in Leviticus 23:15.

Question #2  How many people did the Holy Spirit fall upon at Pentecost.

A)  120       B)  12    C) I am not sure

How many think A? B?  Anyone want to admit to C?

Well C was the right answer, and anyone who didn’t get both questions right has to stay after service for some much-needed catechesis.  Don’t know what catechesis is?  Well, it’s a lot like going to a doughnut shop with some friends and having a good discussion.  All those who got the answers right can also come.

Back to the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost, which is the reason we are here today.  If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, I am not sure we would be here together, and Pentecost is where the church came alive, as the Spirit falls on the people of God, creates in us faith, and transforms us into the Father’s children.  

It is a feast day where we see that anyone who believes is welcome and that everyone who believes will be given the Holy Spirit, who will flow out of their lives into a world that is incredibly thirsty and need to know they are loved.

Anyone who believes

I want you to hear the invitation that Jesus gives in the Gospel, that anyone who is thirsty can come to Him.

It doesn’t matter your age, or your whether you are male or female.  It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 95, it doesn’t matter if you are from Indonesia, from Austria, from Guyana or even Boston.

On the first Pentecost they came from all over, religious people, people that came because of culture, we even know that some who weren’t Jewish, but simply curious about the God Jews worshiped came. Many didn’t know what they were thirsting for, like the crowd we heard about in Athens two weeks ago, but they knew they didn’t have the answers they needed in life.

They were thirsty,

Jesus goes on to talk about any that who believe in Him can not only come but that they can have that thirst quenched.

Believe in Him, not believe about him, or believe He was this or that.  Believe in Him, trust Him, depend on Him, take God at His word to be involved in your life.

That is what believing in Him is about.  As one pastor put it, the kind of belief, faith, and dependence that causes us to participate and contemplate on this incredible love.  He described it this way,

Christian contemplation ponders, reflects, gazes, and delights in the wonders and the mysteries of God active in this world “reconciling the world to himself”

Even as we know and begin to trust that Jesus loves us this much, it takes us aback, it is too incredible, to amazing, and trusting in Him causes us delight and joy, as we explore as Paul urges us to

18  you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God
That is what happens as God makes us His children, it is a miracle of our baptism, of our Pentecost.  It is the beginning of trusting God when He says, “I love you, let me provide and care for you,”

And when we come to know this love, it changes everything, for the Spirit has brought us to life.

Everyone will have the Spirit

Let’s go back to that second question for a moment, how many people did the Holy Spirit descend upon?  We know it was more than 3132 because it wasn’t just the men, but their family, their wives and children that were baptized that day.  And upon each of them, just as upon us, the promises of the Holy Spirit was made as sure as the water was wet.

It is what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit being poured out on us that is amazing, that from our hearts will flow the Holy Spirit. That from our hearts the love of God will pour out with the Spirit, reaching and touching those around us.

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy.

All this talk of prophesying, it just means speaking for God, sharing His love, sharing the message that the Spirit uses to bring others to life and faith.

A message that we all have, empowered by the Spirit we all have been given, and share with those who like us, need to know they can trust in God, that they can depend on Him, that He is with them, and with us.

This promise of the Holy Spirit being given to anyone who believes, to everyone who believes is why Jesus was born, and died, and rose. It is why Jesus when He was drawn to heaven, did what He promised and had the Spirit given to us.  The Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit has come, and is yours, just as Jesus said.

He is here, as sure as God’s promise….

The Spirit is here, to transform our hearts, and flow from them to bring healing to this broken world.

And here in our hearts, the Comforter provides His incredible peace, and we can relax, protected by Jesus, our hearts and minds kept safe by Him.  AMEN!

How do We Love Thee – Pentecost Sermon (manuscript)

How DO We Love Thee?

John 14:23-31

† In Jesus Name †

May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ assure you that you live in peace, and may that reality cause you to grow in your love and adoration!


Some of you will recognize the title as being part of a poem, a few more might recognize it as the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a selection from Works of the Portuguese, #43.  Some of us probably remember it from Warner Bros. Cartoons, as both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd probably said it in twenty or more episodes.

How do I love Thee, let me count the ways, and the poet goes onto to describe love very eloquently, but not practically.   Not with terms that mean anything, but sound glorious and romantic.

As I read today’s gospel, to prepare for this sermon, the words echoed in my mind.  If we had to consider how we love God, would we stammer, would we use elegant words that are flowery and vague, or would we be able to say, like this passage, we did what you asked, and we trust you to return as you said you would?

A problematic question, if we ask it honestly.  How do we love the God who came and dwelt among us, and will come again so that we can dwell with Him?

If our lives are to testify to our love for God, what happens if our lives testify to somewhat less than a life lived in love?

The last question, what does, our measuring our living God by our actions, what does this have to do with Pentecost?

An Impossible Standard?

Hear the words of Jesus again.

All who love me will do what I say.

He went on to clarify this,

24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father, who sent me.

Obedience to God isn’t optional, not according to these passages.  Jesus even makes sure we understand the Trinity is united in this, this isn’t just something Jesus came up with n the spot.

And it wasn’t just for Peter and James and John.  Or for heroes of our faith like Augustine, Francis, and Luther.  This is our standard, how we are to live, how we are to measure our love for God, by keeping, by treasuring what He has said to us, how He has taught us to live.

In other words, this is a way we can count the ways we love God.

Okay, take a minute and think about it, and this week that just passed.  Take a moment, and think through it, through the actions and things you said.  Were you obeying God?

Be careful, your mind might drift off, and it will be very tempting to bypass your thoughts, words and deeds, and judge others.  But this is between you and God.

Did your actions testify to your love?  Were your actions obedient to what Christ has taught you?

How about a little more time?

It is unnerving isn’t it?

The Confusion

it seems contrary to what Jesus goes on to say,

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

So how do we know this peace, when we examine our souls and find out our thoughts, our words and deeds don’t illustrate the love that we want to have for God?

Or as Paul, the apostle says, when examining his soul,

21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Romans 7:21-24 (NLT)
For me, this isn’t just theology about like, it is even about tomorrow, I need to get this straight now, before another storm of life hits, and I can’t think it through.

How do we reconcile our lives, where sin seems so dominant, and when it robs of the peace we are supposed to have in Christ?  How am I going to show Christ the love He deserves, when I struggle to keep what He’s given us?

The HOPE of Pentecost!

The answer is found in the reality of Pentecost.

You see, most of the time we talk about Pentecost it is about the lounges of fire or the gift of the Spirit that resulted in people of 15 languages hearing the gospel from 12 men preaching it, each in their language.  Or by the incredible repentant hearts of 3000 plus people who were believed and were baptized.

What we miss is the power of the Holy Spirit, the causes and empowers it all, who fulfills the prophecies, who cuts open the hearts and causes people to depend on God.

As Jesus promised,

25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.


This is how we remember to demonstrate the love we have for God, by bringing to the fore front of our minds the things that Jesus not only commanded, but taught us, the very promises that we call the New Covenant.

Including the fact that God has made His home with us, or rather, that in us dwells His Holy Spirit, and someday, He will come and dwell with us, face to face again.

It is the presence of the Holy Spirt, in the comfort and peace that God gives us as we know that Christ taught us well, that He came to die for us, to offer to all to remove that sin, which ensnares us, to heal us and free us and enable us to love.

To hear those words, that in Christ there is no condemnation, and that we are in Christ Jesus.

This is the job of the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us already, in our baptism,

Do You want to know whether you love God?  Do You want to measure it?  Then look to the Lord who makes us His own, who died to set us free, and hear Him…

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life…

AMEN!

 

On Us All!

On Us AllMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

John 7: 37-39

As the Holy Spirit’s presence fills this place, and our lives, may we rejoice that we have been granted repentance and the ongoing gift of His presence.

Are You Dehydrated

The patient’s heart was racing, even hours after lying down, it was still over 110 beats per minute.  His temperature was over 102.  The little energy that was left was being used up quickly as his legs and lower back would spasm and cramp.

Not sure of what was going on, the man would go to the emergency room, where after waiting 3 hours, he would hear the doctor say what he should have known.

Except that when you are severely dehydrated, you don’t always see things clearly, you don’t have the ability to process things.  You can have all the data, you can know it all, yet the simple truth had to be given by someone else.

All of the symptoms, the fast pulse, the temperature, the scratchy throat, the cramps weakness and weariness, the mind-numbing fog, these symptoms were caused by a lack of water….

You would think someone who spent ten years living in the desert would be able to realize his need for a glass of water, or as the doctor recommended some 14-15 glasses of water.

Classic simple symptoms, classic simple cure – go home, drink nearly a gallon of water that evening and rest and you will recover…..

Hear again Jesus’ words to us this morning,

“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me, Anyone who believes in me, may come and drink!

He almost sounds like the doctor I encountered in the ER….

There is a difference of course, Jesus wasn’t talking about physical dehydration, And what He would quench our thirst with, wasn’t Walmart or Costco 1 liter bottles, or even Evian or Perrier.

It is the Holy Spirit who would be outpoured, even as Moses desired, upon all who trust in Jesus’ promise, in the promise that goes back to the earliest of recorded time.

Spiritual Dehydration

Before describing this out pouring of the Holy Spirit, I think we need to understand spiritual dehydration.  Like physical dehydration, the symptoms that appear do so slowly….it creeps up on you, and all of sudden you feel anxious, disconnected, weary, and life is broken.

Sometimes the spiritual dryness, the dehydration is caused by internal struggles.  Our thirst, not for God, but for pleasure, fame, wealth or even health and what ever is considered the good life.  These desires enter us like a virus, and can never really be totally quenched.  They simply demand more and more of us, until we are used up.

Sometimes the spiritual dehydration is caused by our reaction to external pressures.  The job demands, the financial struggles in the world, the relationships that are stressed by sin and by self-centeredness.  Seeing continual injustice, seeing people continually chase after what is best for themselves, even trampling others, seeing the brokenness that occurs when we don’t help those in trauma… and their struggles finally get attention on the news, having escalated beyond belief

It is not one of these things, but the accumulation of them that overwhelms us, and one day, we turn around and our heart is racing because of anxiety, or we find ourselves exhausted, drained, broken…..  and we hear Jesus’s words,
Anyone who is thirsty may come to me, Anyone who believes in me, may come and drink!”

For the Promise of the Spirit is for us all

Today is the feast of Pentecost – a feast that began nearly 2000 years ago.  A feast where those who thirst have that thirst quenched, whether it was 2000 years ago, or whether it is this morning. For what John writes in his gospel, we know to be true…

39 When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.

What hadn’t occurred when Jesus was teaching this, we celebrate having begun, and continues this day.  That which is mentioned in the reading in Acts, as the people realized that Christ died, was indeed the One sent to save the world by that death.  Hear that interaction again,

36  “All the people of Israel, then, are to know for sure that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is the one that God has made Lord and Messiah!” 37  When the people heard this, they were deeply troubled and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?” 38  Peter said to them, “Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit. 39  For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:36-39 (TEV)

Those words resulted in some 3000 people being baptized, as the promise of Jesus to quench their thirst.  For the Holy Spirit was poured out on them with the water of baptism, the promises of God made sure to them, to their little ones, even to those who would have been thought to be too far from God….

As Moses had desired, God poured out His Spirit upon them all.  They came to trust in Him, to know that the cross was not just an instrument of death, but that it was the glory, the love, the mercy of God revealed.

Here is how Paul taught a young pastor named Titus,

4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (NLT)

He generously poured out His Spirit upon us, He quenched our thirst, He gave us a new life.

A promise for you, for your children, and for all who are far off.

A promise He is calling some of you to receive….as like the people as Pentecost began, the Holy Spirit is cutting your heart open, revealing the thirst you have, a thirst for God’s love, a thirst for His peace.  If that is you, let’s get together and see God quench your thirst.  If you’ve already been baptized, if you’ve already drunk deeply of Christ, rejoice this day and every day, and look to Christ and know the peace He’s given you.

A peace that is beyond all understanding, a peace that comes as the Holy Spirit quenches our thirst, a peace for us to dwell in, guarded by Christ. AMEN?

Why Doesn’t the Church Understand Pentecost?

devotional thought of the day….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

14  But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. 15  As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” 16  At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17  Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18  ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19  When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said. 20  “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. 21  “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them. Mark 8:14-21 (NLT)

298 The faithfulness—in the service of God and souls—which I always ask you for, is not the easy type of enthusiasm. It is the enthusiasm you can acquire in the middle of the street, when you see how much there is to be done everywhere.  (1)

Tomorrow is Pentecost, the day when the church celebrates. Unfortunately what it often celebrates is the past, the anniversary of the events nearly 2000 years ago.  The Birthday of the Church some call it.  While this is true, I think that when we focus on just the event of Pentecost, isolated apart from the daily life of the church, we end up hyper-focusing like the apostles, and we miss the point of the celebration. We also don’t understand Pentecost when we reduce Pentecost to a focus on any gift, or make the case that the gifts are still operative or God the Father has directed the Holy Spirit to cease it’s work. Pentecost is not the time to argue the pros and cons of Pentecostalism, or the Charismatic movement.  Yes miracles happened, and we can argue until we turn blue about whether they still do,

When we focus in either way, we lose sight of what Pentecost is, as if we are focusing on the lack of food, and who is to blame for what is, or isn’t happening.  We go from trusting in God, to studying why we trust Him.  We go from loving God to theology, we go from experiencing is presence (what happened on Pentecost) to celebrating that the church once did know God’s presence.

I am probably stepping on toes here.  Heck I am doing the unique trick of stepping on my own toes, or at least the way I’ve talked about Pentecost in the past.  All those errors above, I’ve made them, I’ve lived them.

But Pentecost is not the past, what happened on that day hasn’t stopped happening, the work of the Holy Spirit is still going on today, this Feast, this celebration has never stopped.

The Holy Spirit is still bringing people to hear God’s promises, He is still working through those of us called into a relationship with Jesus, the same way He was working through the apostles and those that worked alongside them.  (remember there wasn’t 12 gathered, there was 120!) THe Holy Spirit is still revealing the work of Christ, and that every promise of God is fulfilled, that Christ died, rose and will come again. Pentecost is that time that St. Josemaria describes, when enthusiasm doesn’t come easy, but it comes from being in the street, seeing the work that needs to be done, and knowing the Holy Spirit is doing that work, through us.

The Holy Spirit is still cutting open man’s hearts, and replacing them with living hearts, He is still baptizing people and granting them repentance, The Holy Spirit is still a gift, living and active in each of us that trusts in Christ, a promise to our children as well – and to every person that is far from God, through us.

The Holy Spirit is at work, revealing that we are the people of God…. revealing how deep the love of God for us in Christ., revealing how the hope we have is the hope for this world.  Hope for Ethiopian Eunuchs and the person we are sitting next to at Starbucks.  Hope for the Ethiopian Jailer and the police officer that drives through our town, for people like Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, and the supermarket clerk.

We need to be people who don’t just celebrate Pentecost as a feast of the past, we need to be people who live in the reality of Pentecost, who are the ones who the Spirit is working on, or working in and through.  For this is the life we have been raised into, in Christ.

May we see thousands baptized into Christ in the days ahead, as we treasure this Pentecost, this outpouring of God’s Spirit upon His people!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1429-1431). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

A Very Different Sports/Church Parallel…

Devotional Thought of a long weekOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4  God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5  God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6  God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7  Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (MSG)

There is a saying coined by Pat Riley (and brought to my attention by ESPN’s Louis Riddick) that is called “the innocent climb.” Riley described it this way in his book The Winner Within: The innocent climb is the surge that occurs within a team as they are accomplishing more because of the synergy that occurs within a team. Innocence means understanding that the team comes first and being carried along by that; being naive means being ignorant. Innocence doesn’t mean being naive. Teamwork and all of its benefits happen when everyone puts the team first. Innocence comes when the leader believes in something and puts him or herself out to accomplish that.  (1)

First off, I can’t believe I am quoting Riles, even more that I borrowed the quote out of a article about the SeaHawks.  (It followed an article about Tom Brady…:-)

But the author nails something about the church, and how it should function in Christ, that is well described.

Our “Leader” believed in something, and put Himself out there to accomplish what He believed in, He put himself out there literally to the point of death.   We have lots of church words for it, Salvation, Deliverance, Redemption (which includes justification and sanctification) Reconciliation,.  It is why Jesus was born of Mary, why he lived, suffered, died, rose and ascended to Heaven and it is why He will return.  This “something” is why the Father in Heaven sent Jesus, it is why Jesus asked, and the Father sent us the Holy Spirit, and why we trust in that promise enough to know those who trust in Him live in His presence now, and will eternally.

It is that accomplishment, the very relationship that God establishes with us, with you and I and all the saints today, those before us, those after us, that creates the synergy that we call the church.  It is an innocent climb, innocent and yet not naive or ignorant.  We know it is His presence that does it, in a very real way, it has nothing to do with us, and yet everything to do with us in Christ, united in His death and resurrection, united by the Spirit.

This can’t be programmed, it can’t be manipulated.  It can’t be forced or manipulated, though some may try, and some may seem to succeed.

It just is who we is.   That’s the “synergy” as the article puts it.

It’s why I contend (as others have) that sermons need to lead people not to the foot of the cross – but through His death, into the resurrection, into His glory, into the point we know He is present in our lives.   Where we serve together, each different, but the difference not mattering, as Paul tells the Corinthians,   Where our gifts flow, out, even those in others we aren’t always sure of, that we aren’t always comfortable with, even though we know they are in scripture.

It is why we gather to worship, to receive His blessing, to celebrate them together, for that is the nature of His accomplishment, His goal.

When a Bible Study, a youth group, a church, a group of churches or even a denomination are focused on Christ, in Christ…. the synergy is incredible.  The focus of God results in praises – no matter the style of worship, no matter the era of the music, things happen without thought,   Walls come down, barriers are cross, people are loved, and more are saved…

Not because we force it, just because it is natural…. in Christ, led by the Spirit.  What most consider supernatural, it just is.

Because He has had mercy…. and that creates synergy in ways that even pro sports teams cannot imagine….

It’s all about Jesus – and our innocent journey with Him…

(1) http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2083325-mike-freemans-10-point-stance-give-tom-brady-his-due

God Showed His Love for Us!

God Showed His Love for Us!

1 John 4:7-11

 IHS

May our recognizing God’s love for us, the mercy and peace given in Christ’s presence be something that is revealed to others throughout the year!

Christmas every day?

Christmas is here, the presents, well, most of them, sit under a tree, wrapped and ready to be ripped open. Children on Christmas break, people coming and going, food cooking, sermons written, music singing and sung, peace on earth, God’s will evident for the moment, peace among families, at least for this moment, Love can even dominate the days, as we are encouraged to love each other, as we are challenged to prove our love and devotion to God.

One could almost ask, couldn’t it be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, every day?

Don’t worry, I said one could almost ask, I didn’t say I would!

We get so caught up, we get so overwhelmed, even so exhausted by it all.  Our focus is so easily taken off of Jesus, and His coming to be our Lord.

For some, it might even seem that the question might be asked, do we have to celebrate Christmas any day…

But that’s not the questions for this night,

Here again John’s words to the church,

10  This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. 1 John 4:10 (TEV)

Which raises a few other questions about days we could celebrate every day….

What about Good Friday every day?

First, if we desire to celebrate Christmas every day, do we also desire to celebrate Good Friday every day?  For there God’s love is demonstrated even more clearly.  The apostle Paul wrote,

23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has saved, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.    1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

We should celebrate Good Friday everyday, as well as our baptism, which unites us to that death, His death, for our sins were nailed to that cross, never to be accounted to us again.

What about Easter?

But we can’t divide the cross and Christ’s death from His resurrection, for as Paul says again,

5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.  Romans 6:5-8 (NLT)

So yes, we should remember – and indeed celebrate both Good Friday and Easter for these days reveal God’s love to us, for they shatter everything that would keep us from God, He used these days to work such miracles in our lives.

What about the 2nd Coming?

Should I fail to mention that each day we should also celebrate ascension?  The day when Christ ascended to the Father’s right hand, there to intercede for us, Or Pentecost, the day when the Father and the Son gave us the Spirit, the very birthday present of the Church?  Or the 2nd coming, the day we long for, when we will see God in all His glory.

Each of these days, yes including Christmas, needs to be celebrated everyday, for these days remind us of God’s love for us, shown to us in Christ Jesus,

And knowing that love, shown on Christmas and Good Friday, Easter and the Ascension, Pentecost and the Day of His return; we are overwhelmed by mercy and peace, the peace that cannot be explained, but can be revealed to us, for we live in Christ!

AMEN!

Are you sure you want the Holy Spirit to come?

Icon of the Pentecost

Icon of the Pentecost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7  But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8  And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9  The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10  Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11  Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.  John 16:6-11 (NLT) 

In some Christian ministry, we assess how mature a believer is based on how much he knows. But the New Testament assesses the maturity of a believer based on how much he obeys (e.g. John 14:15; James 1:22-25) Think about every sermon, Bible study and Bible passage you have heard or read (knowledge). Estimate what percentage of that you consistently obey. It can be a bit embarrassing. You may say, “I consistently obey about 30% of all I know.” In a knowledge-based assessment of maturity, can we be comfortable with disobeying 70% of all we know. Is that really biblical maturity? If one has been a believer a long time he may have lots of knowledge, but may also have a low obedience factor. Despite his knowledge-based “maturity,” his disobedience factor is high! (1)
I know a lot of people who talk about the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s coming on Pentecost, and others who long for a restoration of spirituality in the church in America.

I am not sure they are as ready as they think they are!

Look at the promise above from John 16.  Are you ready to have the Holy Spirit convict you of your sin?  Are you ready to be purged of your sin?   Are you ready to face how often you are disobedient you are to God?  How often you betray Him and His plan for your life?

Do you welcome God working in your life?  Many of us say we do, yet when push comes to shove, we struggle to confess our sins, choosing instead to hide it, justify it, say our sin isn’t as bad as those other people,  ignore it, or even… run from God.  I think we do far too often…

We rejoice in our salvation – but are we ready to let go of that which Christ saves us from?

We talk of His righteousness – the righteousness that comes from heaven, do you see it as something so much more valuable than any of the sins that we cling to?

May we be found, may we find ourselves, hidden in Christ Jesus, His righteousness ours, His cleansing us of sin, so that He can bring us home to the Father…

And may we strive for not just obeying His word, but treasuring it, for it is our life… in Him

(1) Smith, Steve; Kai, with Ying (2011-09-21). T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution (Kindle Locations 1186-1192). WIGTake Resources, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Dan Brown, Dante’s Inferno and the Missio Dei

English: Dante Alighieri's portrait by Sandro ...

English: Dante Alighieri’s portrait by Sandro Botticelli. Tempera 54,7 x 47,5 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 27  God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 28  We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. 29  That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.   Colossians 1:27-29 (MSG)

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. (Dante)  For Langdon, the meaning of these words had never felt so clear: In dangerous times, there is no sin greater than inaction. (1)

Throughout Dan’s Brown’s latest novel, the above italicized words are repeated, over and over.  ( I happen to like this one – even though it’s attack on the church was much more… veiled)

There is something to be said for those who are inactive in the face of a crisis, in the face of a moral crisis.  To passively live as if there was not some looming disaster that would come is simply wrong.

Most of us would look at this and think of things like war, abortion, racism and other forms of discrimination, political corruption, slavery.

In view of the book though – and the crisis there and the so-called “solution”, I kept coming back to the cause of all sin – including inaction.  Idolatry, especially that of Narcissism. It is encoded in us, as surely as if it was part of our DNA.  Spiritual leaders, self help authors and counselors of many types make money – many of them with great sincerity.

But the answer isn’t found in growth, or development in the way we set our minds to it and grow.  The way is through dependence, through recognition of our weakness, through something that radically changes us, radically transforms us.

In church language, the concept is what Peter talked of at Pentecost. “Repent (literally – to have a changed mind) and be Baptized (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following to see how the Holy Spirit works there )  In both cases, the work is beyond us, it is beyond our ability, and it is the work of God.  We have to, however, trust Him.  We have to die to ourselves – as the Spirit unites us to Christ’s death on the cross, so that we can be born again, that we can come to life.  It is their (not in purgatorio ) that we are purged of our sin. We trust God to do this – to cleanse us, to give us life.  This is basic Christianity…. and once alive – we dwell – even now, in the presence of God.

Back to Dan Brown and Dante’s quote about inaction.

The world’s population is growing – for sure.  I don’t think to the extend of Brown’s theories, but it is growing none the less. Even so, there is a crisis more severe than that of Brown’s thoughts – it is the crisis of faith – that much of the world is unaware of God’s heart toward them, His desire for a relationship with them, and the extent of God’s work to see that happen.

We who know this – do have an obligation – that of loving our neighbor – to share with them that which we know.  Know legalitically, nor condemning their symptomatic demonstration of sin in a way that gives them no hope.  Rather, our job is to share why we, who also sin – have more than “just” hope.  We have Him

Let us not dwell in the sin on inaction – but with Paul, let us share God’s love, with the power and strength God gives us.  AMEN.

 

(1)Brown, Dan (2013-05-14). Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon) (p. 464). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Our Place is His Place!

 Our Place is His Place

And the World would know!

John 14:23-31

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 May we welcome the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, confident of the love and mercy with which He cleanses our lives, and sets them apart to live in Christ with the Father!

 Mi Casa et Su Casa:  Ruth

Pentecost is more than a Sunday we celebrate once a year.  It is more as well than the longest church season of the year – when that banner is up there, and when I wear a green stole to symbolize the growth of the church.

It is the start of something wonderful, something which defines every day every moment of our life.  Because of the Holy Spirit, the one we confess is the Lord and Giver of our life.

One of the best illustrations of that life is found in the story of Naomi and Ruth.  The promise that Jesus makes to us, comes more fully into focus when we hear the promise Ruth made to Naomi,

But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; 17  where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me GOD—not even death itself is going to come between us!” 18  When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. Ruth 1:16-18 (MSG) 16  

Of course, the Holy Spirit doesn’t say it quite like that – but the desire, the commitment, the very attitude of God is no less than Ruth’s, even unto death, God has made us a promise.  “and We (the Father and Jesus) will come to him, and make Our Home with Him.”

May we indeed be like Naomi, and realizing that God has His heart set on going with us, may we give in, and welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives.

May we rejoice in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, may we rejoice in His presence, here and now.

Judas’ lack of vision

I was given an article this week, a pastor’s comments on the ascension, that troubled me.  The basic concept was the reason the pastor thought Jesus ascended to heaven. He basically said the lesson of the Ascension was that God “trusts” us.  That He left us to finish His work and trusts us to do it. Here’s a quote:  “These were Jesus final marching orders:  ‘Go everywhere you can and be a witness for love.’ And then He left”

Some really bad theology there, for a number of reasons.  But I seem to recall the words a little differently

18  Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (TEV)

It’s that last line, the I will be with you always, that somehow I think the pastor missed.

And I think Judas’ question shows us why.

“Lord,” he says, “How is it that you will reveal your glory to us, but you will assure the world won’t be able to see it?”

I guess all the “light unto the gentiles stuff” and “that the world may know” that seems so much a part of the gospel readings slipped Judas’s mind for the moment.  Even as I think that the mission of making disciples slips our mind occasionally.

Along with some of the other things God would have us do, like loving our neighbor, or feeding the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and forgiving those who have sinned against us.

I pray that God doesn’t just “trust us, and then leave.”  I need, and I believe you need the constant presence of the Comforter, to heal us, to comfort us, to empower and commission us to use the very gifts that the Spirit has invested in us….as we depend on Him

The Miracle of the Holy Spirit’s Ministry

As these two widows, the young Ruth and older Naomi moved to Jerusalem, Ruth took on the role of the provider. She was the one who went out into the fields and worked, she cared for her mother-in-law, even as she promised.

In many ways, this too pictures the relationship of the Holy Spirit with us, nourishing us with the word of God, gathering us to the sacrament,  Jesus prophesies about this work in this way. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

This blessed work of the Holy Spirit, is something we so desperately need in our lives.  For the treasure of the teachings of God are so easily pushed aside as we deal with the challenges in this world.  We need to know God’s love, we know He is with us, we need to explore the depths of His love, and how that love changes us from people outcasts, to being His very children.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us adjust our priorities, to help us keep our focus on God.  We need to be reminded of our baptism – the very place where the Spirit was poured out on us, reviving us and renewing us.  We need the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, to help us treasure the incredible words of Jesus, the promises made to us by the Son of God.  We need to be reminded that God’s will is that no one should perish, that all would be transformed by God.

Here is how Paul described this work of the Holy Spirit,

27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (TEV)

In other words – our place, wherever we are, He chooses as His place as well.  And that is what the Holy Spirit teaches us, even as we teach others.

What is that message?

So what is it the Holy Spirit calls us to our minds, that which Christ had taught the disciples?  Jesus said it this way,

“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

And the Father sent His Son to save us, to make us His own people.. and such you are…

For he has done this – He has left us in His peace, He has given us His peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit has made known to us.

Assured of this – we have no need of troubled hearts, nor anxious minds..

For the Spirit reminds us, we dwell with God, we are in Christ, we are welcome here… in His peace.

AMEN.

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