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Can We Enjoy Faith?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
The whole community that had returned from exile made shelters and lived in them. The Israelites had not celebrated like this from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day.l And there was tremendous joy.m 18 Ezra read out of the book of the law of Godn every day, from the first day to the last. The Israelites celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the ordinance. Neh. 8:17-18 CSB

This anti-emotionalism … is an unwarranted inference, not a scriptural doctrine, and is in violent opposition to psychology and common sense. Where in the Bible are feeling and faith said to be at odds?
The fact is that faith engenders feeling.… We can have feeling without faith, it is true, but we can never have faith without feeling. Faith as a cold, unemotional light is wholly unknown in the Scriptures.

Unite me, my Lord, entirely to Thyself, and make me forget myself, that I may have the happiness one day to lose all things, and even myself, to find Thee alone, and to love Thee forever. I love Thee, my Sacramental Lord; to Thee do I bind myself, to Thee do I unite myself; make me find Thee, make me love Thee, and never more separate Thyself from me.

These thoughts came from my devotions yesterday, and even today, I am still processing them.

For nearly 4 generations, the church has been taught to not trust our feelings, to disregard our emotions. I can’t count the sermons and lectures I have heard that challenge or diminish those who are too celebratory, too enthusiastic, too ruled by emotions. It is time to clarify that, for a lack of visible emotions is just as much an emotional outburst as the most visible.The question is what is driving the emotions, are they a simple reaction, or are they manipukated by some internal or external force.

The third quote, the prayer, cannot be said without passion, either as translated or in a more modern translation. Not can trusting and depending on God be a dry, emotionless act of will. That kind of prayer comes out of our brokenness, the guilt and despair Christ freed us from when we were joined to His death and resurrection.

It is not unlike being caught in an undertow and thinking you will drown, only to be free and surface. There is an exhilaration, a joy, a realization that life is more than what life was before being captured by the current. Like the Israelites, the celebration is natural… and then… a time of peace… and rest.

But that comes from the journey through the darkness. And that means a incredible sense of relief as one is converted from death to life. It should be marked by emotional feelings, by a sense of great joy, by a level of gratutde that is overwhelming. A joy that needs to be shared.

Rejoice – you have been saved!

Saved from sin, Satan and the threat of death, saved for a loving relationship with God and HIs people, the Body of Chirst!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 200.

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

The Kingdom of God is Like Nuclear Physics

The Kingdom of God  is Like Nuclear Physics…
It’s all about Fission and Fusion

Romans 6:1-11

† In Jesus Name †

May you be encouraged by the grace of God, which powerfully is at work in your life, separating you from your sin in His death, and uniting you to Christ, and the glory of His resurrection to life!

 The Power of a Word…

A Pastor Parker Parable.

Remember these locations.  Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Nagasaki, Hiroshima.

The fear and anxiety associated with them is still felt, and their identity will forever be united with the release of incredible power.  Nuclear Power.

There is a great power at work in our lives, and the way in which it work can be illustrated by the basic concepts of nuclear power.  For there are two actions that take place when the power of God is unleashed.

The first is like nuclear fission, the power released when that which isn’t supposed to be separated is.  The second is like fusion, where separate elements are bonded together by incredible power so completely, you cannot tell one from the other.

And so, on this day when we celebrate Christ’s baptism, and our own, we are going to take a glance at Romans 6, and the description of God’s glorious power, at work in our lives.

Like nuclear power, the power of God’s glory at work is amazing, a power so incredible that we are left in awe of it, as we consider it’s work.

And so we shall…

Fission –

When we consider fission, the basic concept is the core, the central part splits at the atomic level. The destructive force release is incredible as that which was supposed to be one is forced apart by the introduction of another force.

The element is forever changed by the release of such force.  Enough so that a small pellet of uranium, about the size of a pencil eraser, is equal to three 55 gallon barrels of oil.  No wonder the uncontrolled release of that energy causes death.

And that power is incomparable to the power that brought into the world, that separates us from our sin.

Hear it again from the words of Paul to the church in Rome.

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. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

As Christ entered into this world, so did the power it takes to separate from us a nature that is sinful.  For each of us has sinned, and that sin we can see the damage, the destruction it does.  The lives that are broken, the relationships shattered; the force that wreaks havoc in this world, a force we call evil.  It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it is idolatry, dishonoring God’s name, or those He places in positions of great responsibility, like parents, lawmakers, rulers.  It doesn’t matter if the sin is murder, adultery, theft, gossip or simply being un-content with our lives, and desiring that of others.

Sin is that force that was at work in each of us, a force that still tries to wield its power over us.

Christ’s entrance into the world, and his death on the cross releases the power that severs the power of sin that binds us, and we are free as the neutrons freed in the reaction.  Such is the power of Christ’s death, which captures the radical sin which so easily ensnared us.

The power of sin is shattered, as a greater power overwhelms it….

Fusion

If you think the power that would remove from you all sins in thought, word and deed is awe-inspiring, the power at work does something more incredible than that.

For while the power of sin leads to death, the power of God at work brings life, as it works like nuclear fusion, binding us to Christ Jesus.

And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.

What takes more energy that division is melding something, repairing it.

If you break a window – it takes a lot of force, but how can you replace that which is shattered?

It is a lot easier to spend money, that it is to reconcile the checkbook.

It is easy to damage a relationship, but it is very difficult to restore one.

Yet the power of Christ’s death and resurrection does that, it unites us to Him, it fuses us into Him,

It is the power of God that David’s psalm testifies to, His voice that powerfully resonates like thunder, majestic and able to make the mountains quake, as it rules over us.  Look at the power of His voice, look at the fission it creates, and yet at the end, almost an after statement, these is what takes the greatest power.

Look especially at the last verse, verse 11,

11 The Lord gives his people strength! The Lord blesses them with peace!

That is the power, the glorious incredible power that joins us to Jesus in death, and yet in the resurrection, in the quickening, in the very life given to us, the voice of God speaks.

That is the glorious message that is the gospel.  That God raises us in Christ, unleashing that power to separate us from sin, and binding us to Himself.  That is His word, His promise.

Hear it again from other places

Php 3:10-11 — I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Col 2:12 — For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

Col 3:1 — Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

This God at work, in you. It is all of His mighty power at work.

A power that goes beyond nuclear, it is the power of life itself.

Which is why Paul encourages us to stop living in sin, its power has broken over us.

And so I leave you with the last of his words.  Know them, and the power of God at work in you.  And rejoice as His power is unleashed.  He are the words…

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Live life my friends, for it is your gift in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Being Made Complete Experiencing His Love – A Sermon on Ephesians 3:11-42

Being Made Complete
Experiencing His Love
Ephesians 3:11-42

† In Jesus Name †

 © Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus is one we can have for each other.  “I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong!


The Parable of the Old Spike  ©

It was found on a pile with a ton of others.  Pitted, rusted, considered by most to be worthless trash.

And one day a man named Jim found it.  As he stared at this piece of useless steel, he saw something in it, and carefully and lovingly gave it a new identity.  What was of no value, not only was given a new identity but was transformed into a piece of art.  A piece of art that testified to the skill and craftsmanship of the one who found it, purchased it, and transformed it.

Here is what the rusty pitted railroad spike now looks like, after Jim transformed it.

These railroad spike knives provide for us a picture of the work of God in our lives, a work that doesn’t just change how we appear on the outside.  God’s work does all I prayed for, as I asked God to bless you a moment ago. For we are transformed much like the spike is…..

Inner strength

Several times in this passage, the concept of strength is mentioned.  The words that lay under the surface mean everything from the ability to fortitude, from the capability to internal strength that will result in completing the task, the trial. It is physical and mental, psychological. It is to have the will and determination, the patience and the stubborn nature that will see you overcome the power of temptation, the power sin and Satan, and even the fear of death. ©

If we look at our lives, who can claim to be that strong?  ©

Which of us looked at temptation in the eye this week, and didn’t sin at all?

Which one of us loved every neighbor as ourselves?

©Did anyone of us honor God in every single thing we did?  What about in every word we said or typed?  Did we gossip about others?  Did we

What about in every word we thought?

Did we reach out, stretch ourselves beyond our own comfort to help those in need?

We don’t naturally have that strength.

And who has enough inner strength to out wait death…

Which of us enjoys going to the doctors, enjoys the tests and prods and pokes and blood draws, and doesn’t for a moment worry about the results?

Paul understood this well, as he wrote  ©

54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55  “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?” 56  Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (TEV)

©  I need you to note something Paul said “then the scriptures will come true.”  I’ve heard this passage misused a time or two to say that we shouldn’t grieve, we shouldn’t struggle, and that is wrong.

But there will be a day, when the power of sin is so shattered, that death will no longer have the power to hurt us.

A day we need to have the strength, the ability to wait for, trusting in the promises of God that it will come.

We need that strength, an inner strength that is based on hope…

The Way God Empowers us.

One of the commentators I read this week, commented about this passage in a way that brought the railroad spike to mind.  ©

As fire penetrates iron, and seems to change it into itself, so does God penetrate the soul and fill her with himself; and though she never loses her own being, yet she becomes so penetrated and absorbed by that immense ocean of the divine substance, that she remains, as it were, annihilated, and as if she ceased to exist. The Apostle prayed for this happy lot for his disciples when he said: That you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.  (de Ligouri)

©   Or to put it into a picture, look at this picture…

The spike is you, the red glow is the glory of God, dwelling within you, empowering you, transforming you. Think of the pictures in this incredible passage

©  He will empower you with inner strength thorgh His Spirit

©  Christ will make His home in your hearts

©  Your roots will grow deep into God’s love… there is the sourceof your strength!

All of this pictures the presence of God invading your life, becoming part of you, even as the energy and heat of the blacksmith’s fire consumes the spike and transforms it into a strong, sharp knife…

Even more the experience that Paul describes,

©  18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

When God unites us to Jesus in Baptism, when we take and consume the bread and the wine, this picture of the knife, glowing because of the power it is immersed in is perfect.  Where the metal and the fire have so united that you can’t tell which is absorbing and consuming the other.

This love of His is that in which we live, and even thogh we may never be able to completely put into words how incredible this love is, we will understand it far more deeply than we understand anything else.

This is the empowering that Paul tells us occurs as the Holy Spirit works within us.

It is what Aiden will grow up knowing, as he is reminded of it by Jason and Jennifer, by Tammie and Mark, and by Wanda and Kay and the rest of us.

God is not just working in us, He has made us His home in us,

This is how we are made complete.  Not by any other way but experiencing the incredible, unmeasurable love of God in Christ Jesus.  A love which transforms us as we experience it, a love that becomes as much us, as well…. Us.

That gloriously transforms us, as the Holy Spirit transforms us into image of Jesus.

This is how we have “inner strength” that will enable us to oversome sin and temptation, the power of Satan and even death. He dwells in us, and nothing can separate us from His love, from His glory, from Him.

This is His work, His promise to us, His children, the people among whom He makes His home,

Once again, hear the prayer of Paul the apostle, that he prayed for the people of God, that we can pray for each other

©    “I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong!”

AMEN!

Let His Message Fill Your Lives!

Let His Message Fill Your Lives!

Colossians 3:12-17

 In Jesus Name

 

My friends in Christ, may your lives be filled with the richness of Christ’s message – that He in love has chosen you to be the Holy People He loves!

What does this mean? 

 

It is referred to as the “Lutheran Question”.  Like our theology, it predates Luther and the reformation that God created – not just in our churches, but in Christianity. It goes back to a Greek Philosopher, named Socrates – a man who, like Luther, and like St Paul, the author of Colossians, irritated more than a few people.

His way of phrasing it was a bit different.  He said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  He would love the way Luther phrased it, as he taught young people and pastors, using the phrase, “What does this mean?”

We need to ask that question about our faith – what and why we trust in God – and we need to hear the answer – really hear and absorb it.  The more I do, the deeper that trust becomes, the more the words of the songs and hymns we sing mean, for the more we desire to worship God.  This is because the more we ask, “What does this mean”, the more we understand how great it is, that God works in our life.

This time of year then, as we gather to celebrate Christ’s birth, is as good a time as any to start asking that question again.

What does it mean that we trust in God, what does it mean that we hear Jesus was incarnate – that He was born into the world and that we are reborn – in Him?

Paul’s epistle this week answers the question, what does this mean?  (looking at the manger …

What does it mean that Christ was born of Mary, that He was incarnate?

What does it mean… for us?

What does the incarnation mean…for you?

          You’ve been chosen!  GULP but that’s a good thing!

Practically, we find the answer to the “what does the incarnation, what does Christ’s birth mean” in our epistle reading this morning.  Specifically there in verse 12.

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves,

There it is – because Christ came into the world, because He was born of the Virgin Mary, because He humbled Himself and left heaven to be here, to dwell among us we have been chosen to be His people. The people He loves.

Get this – His holy people.

We’ll get to what that means in a moment, but I want you to really hear this,

God chose you to be the holy people he loves,

I don’t think you can hear it enough times!

God chose you to be the holy people he loves,

The entire reason for the incarnation boils down to that, the reason He came – was to reveal to us His decision to make us His holy people – whom He loves!

That answer does raise yet again the question – What does this mean that He chose us to be the holy people He loves?  What difference does it make?  What effect does it have on your lives?

What Effect does being chosen mean in in your life

       It changes your behavior – not who you are!      

It’s the difference between getting dressed after your shower in the morning, or just walking outside without dressing!

That’s not my idea – that’s Paul’s!

Hear all of the sentence that begins in verse 12,

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

If you go outside without getting dressed appropriately, you are not ready to face the world- and they are definitely not ready to face you!

This is as true spiritually as it is physically – indeed I believe even more so.  The things that describe how someone lives – who has been clothed with Christ, who has put on Christ, are not something we should dismiss as being legalistic, or to difficult, but it is indeed the way we are to live; for we live in Christ.  The very change is generated in us in our baptism, as we are granted repentance, as we are given the Holy Spirit.

Without these things – without tenderhearted mercy, without kindness, without humility and gentleness and patience – we find ourselves out there naked – raw – our emotions not governed, our reactions neither modest nor controlled.    We become merciless – and cannot find the strength to love – and we find ourselves excluding others and isolating ourselves, rather than being bound together in perfect harmony.

Which is why, in nearly every letter to a church – Paul talks of Christ first – and then of what it means for us to be in Christ – how we live, as members of His body, as living sacrifices – standing firm and reflecting His love to the world.

In this case, the relationships we have are well documented and worked through.

I find it interesting – and we will talk in Bible Study – about the burden being, not on the sinner, but on the one sinned against whom the sin was committed.  The key becomes our acting Christlike, and putting the best construction on things, on making allowances as the passage talks of, of forgiving.

The more then we act like Christ – and do not allow the relationship to be broken, the more we find ourselves living together – even bound together in Christ’s peace, in the completeness that comes in Him. For it takes much more for a relationship to break – when both parties are forgiving and when we make allowance for each other’s faults.

How can This Be? 

I have to admit – this sounds easier than it is, and that is why we need to hear it so often!  To be reminded of how God has designed us to live – how we are to be imitators of Christ.  To get back from where we started.

That is where we are challenged; we think these attitudes, even if we know better, originates by our work, by our will.  Sometimes we get a defeatist attitude because, it isn’t hard to always be patient with each other, and often we do forget that we are dressed in these things, already!

I would so prefer it to read – you must be clothed – or be clothed, the verb there is imperative, but it is not active – it is middle/passive in voice – the work of being clothed – of putting on Christ is more than ours – and it has already been done.

In verse 12 it says that we have been chosen by God, and that we are chosen to be the holy people He loves.  That choice has already been made, the work to present us holy, that has already begun. The peace of Christ, the peace that He generates… that will rule our lives that provides the harmony that too is His responsibility that is a blessing as well of our baptism!

Where our focus begins and ends – what makes living in Christ’s peace, what gives us the strength to love, to be patient and kind, is not our will, but what Paul urges us to do in verse 16.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.

There is our key to dwelling in peace, to loving in such a way we are bound together.

It is found as we hear the word of God, as the Holy Spirit uses it, as on the day of Pentecost, to do heart surgery on us, to bring us to life, as Ezekiel says to remove our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.

A slightly different take- but the same thing as being clothed with Christ – for all those attributes we are to show – are His.  As we are transformed into His image – we take on those characteristics and we begin, whether we realize it or not, to live in them. To dwell in Christ, to cherish the words in our Bibles, to discuss it and deeply drink of its wisdom, and even more – the message of God’s love for you, His holy people – that is how we grow in love.

The more we spend in His word, and in meditation and prayer based upon it, the more we naturally resort to verse 16 – the rejoicing and praising and thanking God as we sing to Him.  As we adore Him, for we realize the depth of His love for us, a love that He demonstrated in choosing us, in cleansing us, in filling us with His word, and His peace.

AMEN?

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