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Dealing with the Prophecies of Condemnation: Finding Hope rather than despair

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts   Rev. 9:20-21 HCSB

10 I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I caused the stench of your camp to fill your nostrils, yet you did not return to Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. Amos 4:10) HCSB

212         Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

7 The source and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge (since God neither creates nor works evil, nor does he help it along and promote it), but rather the wicked and perverse will of the devil and of men, as it is written, “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation” (Hos. 13:9). Likewise, “Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4).
8 God’s eternal election, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and whatever pertains to

Every year at this time I end up reading the minor prophets and the BOok of Revelation. It is not a pleasant time in my devotions, as I am forced to face passages like those above. 

Passages that deal with the stubbornness of man, and our ability to ignore God’s call to repentance, and to the healing repentance offers.  It is all too easy to see myself among the sinners, the idolators, to see friends, people I dearly love, condemned by such words.  

Our rebellion is clear, our inability to give up the sins that we fall into, time after time., to powerful. Reformed and Arminian Theologians will argue about predestination, in an attempt to hide from the sorrow that one observes in our lives. Even the Lutheran Theologians who come up with the answer that is described, their words about predestination and foreknowledge don’t help the one who is struggling, questioning their salvation in light of their sin.

For scripture declares that some will never repent of their idolatry and sin. 

And there are days when we wonder with the apostles, “Is it I, Lord?”

AM I the one who won’t beat sin and temptation?  Do I know people like these the prophets and Revelation describe?  And if I do, given that they won’t respond to the gospel ( or I won’t) what good is the ministry, what good is evangelism?

Why engage in a task that has no promise of being fulfilled, given the weight of our sin?

And what can I do, if, like Elijah, I see no hope for the brokenness of this day, and how those broken will have to stand before You, Lord?

I thank God for the words of St Josemaria this morning, the very first quote I came to among his writings, and the heartfelt prayer he wrote,

Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

There are times when dealing with these quotes from the prophets and Revelation, I could give up, I could write it all off, and leave their salvation and mine in the hands of God.  It belongs there, right? 

But He calls each of us to take the news of His love and mercy, of the forgiveness of our sins, of our restoration and healing that He will provide into this world.  It is not all of us that Revelation describes, and the prophets always return to God saving Israel, to His saving a remnant, to the light of the world reaching out to every nation, every tribe, every language.

The answer to the prophetic trauma is to remember the end of the story, not just the cross and God’s wrath, but the Resurrection and God’s joy.  To know that God will save sinners like me, that I can trust and depend on Him for that, and to help me grow more aware of His holiness, His setting Himself apart for us – to be His children, His people, His beloved. 

If people will change, and many many will be changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit. We need to know His mercy and the promise.  We have ot let the Spirit internalize it, even as the Spirit transforms our minds, and replaces our hearts. For this scripture reveals as well, as His promise becomes reality.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 617). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Pres

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 You Measure Up A Sermon on Amos 7 (Audio VIdeo and text)

How Do I Measure Up?

Amos 7:7-15

In Jesus Name

As you experience the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you desire that they free you from all that oppresses you, confident of their mercy and love!

Jesus measuring us up

The Old Testament Vision that Amos sees and describes this morning is frightening!

What would happen if the words of the Lord in verse 8 were true today?

“I will test my people (at Concordia) with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins.

Imagine the Lord Jesus showing up this morning, with the intent of comparing us against the standard, like a building inspector, trying to figure out if a building can be occupied, or should be condemned. So who is going to measure up, and who needs some demolition work done?

Anyone want to volunteer?

Al?  Tom?  Jim?

Surely someone wants to be the first to step up to Jesus, and find out if they measure up to the standard God set for us….

Hey I know, Chris, you just got back from a missionary trip, where you spent time sacrificing comfort in order to be able to teach people how to help others learn to worship God in all of His glory.  Surely you measure up…..

Or maybe I should start with…. Me.

How many of us are ready for this?  I mean the really scary part

Are we willing for God to not ignore our sins?

How do we react to the news?

As we explore this test of God, I have a few questions that will help us understand this work of God, that is promised.  This question of whether we measure up.

The first is, “How do we react to the news that God will do this?”

We see the actions of the priest at Bethel, and the King of Israel   They react to the prophet’s message with anger and fear

They will threaten and accuse him of being in it, “for the money”, that is how deeply he threatened them.

What did Amos’s prophecy threaten?  Everything they counted on! (and everything we do as well!)

First the prophecy attacks the shrines of their ancestors.  As God measured them, what they would find is that they defined themselves.  For the Jews, this was their ancestors, they are good because they were Abraham’s descendants.

Do we ever define ourselves as good because of our heritage, because of our connections?

Then Amos says God will take on their false idols, what they count on for the future, what they place their hope in, and what they turn too when life is tough.

Today that could be our money or fame or anything else we count on when time gets tough.

The last threat is to their pride, to their arrogance, to their independence.  God will crush the idea that we are in charge of our lives.  The dynasty of Jerobaom would fall, they wouldn’t be in charge.

Amos tells them it is all worthless….

And still they try to justify themselves…

So do we, and we need to stop. For these things – How we define us, what we cling to, our idea that we are in charge warp us from being true, from measuring up.

Law – Herod’s problem

We can see this in the gospel reading, where the interaction between Herod and John is described.

for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

I think that is how we are at times, we know we need to repent of some sins, or of sin in general, but we struggle when we hear someone saying exactly what we need to hear.  It is disturbing, yet in a way, comforting.  We can’t hide any more, something has to be done. Paul knew this well.

17  But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18  I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. 19  I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20  My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21  It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22  I truly delight in God’s commands, 23  but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24  I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? Romans 7:17-24 (MSG)

We need to realize this vision the prophet Amos sees of Jesus, coming to us and measuring us is like Paul’s realization that he doesn’t.

We need to realize we need God to take His perfect standard, and find out if we need to measure up…

We don’t, we need Him, we desperately need Him to ruin the things we count on instead of Him, we need Him to smash the idols we have, and we need Him to replace the person who wants to be in control of our lives, and take control Himself.

Gospel seen in the prophet

When the prophet Amos answers the high priest, there is a clue to the hope we need, if we are going to let God deliver us from us.

He says he isn’t a professional prophet, nor was he one who was trained up to be one.  He had two real jobs, and in those jobs, we see a picture of what Jesus would do…

The first is one we are well aware of, the Good Shepherd, the pastor. The One who will guide us, protect us, see us even through the valley of the shadow of death.  For He died, so that we would rise from the death of that Valley, and live forever in the presence of the Father.

The other is amazing, the caretaker of sycamore-fig trees.  What it means in Hebrews is the one who very carefully cuts open the fig, and trims that which would hinder it from becoming ripe. It is a tedious process, the worst job in the vineyard and one which requires the most skill.

That is what is amazing when you back and look at what the prophecy is about. About how Jesus carefully cuts away all that impedes our growth in our lives.

Jesus carefully cut away the things we count on to define us. As the Jews counted on their link to Abraham, so things we count on beside Jesus are trimmed away.

Jesus carefully cut away the idols, those things which we turn to when life is stressed, that we count on for when times are stressed.

And lastly, Jesus gently brings an end to our being the king of our lives, the captains of our fate.   And removing that need, the Spirit binds us to Jesus, so that even as He died, we died with Him, and were raised to a new life.

Such is the work of Jesus, carefully cutting out that which doesn’t fit the image we are to measured up again, the image we were made to reflect.  Paul tells the church in Colossae this has been fulfilled, when he says,

11  When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. Colossians 2:11 (NLT)

It is what God has planned to do all along, and in doing so, rids us of that which separates us from Him.  That’s what the cross is about.  It is what Herod couldn’t dare to hope for, or what the priest and king couldn’t bear to hear, saying it was intolerable.

That which they found intolerable is the exact reason why you and I have hope.

Because God cuts away our sin in baptism, when we died and rose with Jesus.

He reminds us the sin is cut away, as we hear, “your sins are sent away, your are forgiven”

Then He invites us to the celebration of our being in Jesus, measuring up, for He has made it work, which is why we praise Him, and thank Him for the peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

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