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Your Life Has a Different Meaning…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.     2 Peter 3:8-14  HSCB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.

Patience is one of those things we don’t like to talk about.  Simply put, it is something that is beyond us.  Our culture thrives on impatience.  Cell Phones (remember having to wait to get home to call someone?), DVR’s (so we can fast forward past the stuff we don’t like), microwaves and now insta-pots all serve our desire not to wait.  We might try to justify it as “not wasting time” but in reality, it is our god of impatience that we continually try to find ways to serve.

Into this comes a passage about God’s patience, and the fact that He is patient with us, His people.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, to be destroyed on the day to come.

Be sure, all will be destroyed, this He has promised.

Judgment will happen, this too is promised.  Some to be judged as lacking trust in God’s mercy, and therefore, trusting in themselves they stand condemned. And some, trusting in Christ’ intercession, in His death which erases our sin, and in His resurrection, which brings us to life, they will be judged righteous and welcomed into heaven.

So if God is patient with His church, and yet, will fulfill His word, we find the meaning of life as we imitate His.  We, the church, need to be both patient and yet focused on drawing people to Jesus.  For the day is coming.

It is hard to see the truth of the second coming without wanting to badger people, to not just draw them into Christianity, but to drive them into it, like a rancher driving his cattle.  It takes the patience of a shepherd, who uses his voice and staff guides his flock and leads it into the presence of God.  Or a parent guiding a child to learn to walk, and then ensures where they walk is safe.

This work requires love and thereby provides the new meaning in our lives.

To love those caught in sin, those in bondage to grief and shame, who are caught in selfishness and greed.  This is the meaning of our lives, to love God, to love those whose lives are broken, and help them find the healing that is in Jesus, even while we heal ourselves.

God is with you.. never forget it, and help others know it.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Dare I pray this? Dare I not?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. 24  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. Psalm 139:23-24 (NJB)

Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another •language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks •mysteries in the Spirit. l 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.  1 Cor 14:1-4 HCSB

771    God exalts those who carry out his will in the very same things in which he humbled them.

There is a joke about being cautious as you pray for things like patience and faith, because surely God will hear those prayers, and give you the opportunity to see your growth.  Of course, the only way to see growth in those things is when you have to demonstrate them.

Even though the idea of having to be patient is scary, the idea of praying the psalmist pray this morning is even scarier.  To give God permission, to beg God to investigate every nook and cranny of our heart, our soul, our very being, and to make sure I am not doing anything offensive, anything evil, anything that would lead me to ruin.

God knows our right and our wrong, our acts of rebellion, our sin, but to invite Him in to purge them from us?  That is a hard prayer, that is one that scares me, for somehow I think that what I hide from him, what I deny to myself, somehow doesn’t count, it doesn’t affect me and others, it just was a passing moment, something I barely remember.

And yet, it is only after I pray that, only after letting Jesus carefully circumcise my heart, that I can begin to understand how great His love his and be in awe of His mercy. It is only then that I can begin to realize what it means to be the one He loves, and adore God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only then that life begins.

A focus on such love, pursuing such love is essential for those of us who preach, who prophesy, who teach.  Whether it is to a parish of thousands, or to two or three in a elementary sunday school class.  I believe there is a distinct impact on preaching and teaching that comes from knowing we are loved.  Not just knowing it as a fact, but living in the midst of that love, knowing that love so well that we easily trust Him, even with the darkest parts of our lives.

It is as we are rescued from that darkness we can speak of it in a way that edifies the church, that lifts them up, that convinces them of the love of God.  THat allow them to realize that God loves them as well, that they can trust Him to transform them.

That when God humbles us, it is so that, cleansed of all that has damaged us, we can be lifted up, healed, and in awe, knowing He loves us.

Such is our calling, such is our relationship with HIm… and though this prayer still scares me, can we pray it together?

Heavenly Father, we count on our love, we acknowledge the need of the Spirit to come through our lives, cleansing us from our sin, our brokenness, our pursuit of things we know distress you. Lord, help us to pursue the love you told us you have, and counting on that love, search our hearts our souls and minds, Find the things that displease You and take them away, so that you may guide us on this way of everlasting life.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1785-1786). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is there hope for the 75%? Or do we just write them off? (or right them off?)

DSCN0014Some thoughts from my retreat today:

3  “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4  As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5  Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6  But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7  Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9  Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 10  Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. 11  He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12  so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven. Mark 4:3-12 (NLT)

The 75%, the groups that were too hard and callous, or too shallow, or distracted and did not bear fruit.  I worry about them

I don’t know why I do, what t always bothered me that they missed out on God’s love, that they didn’t bear fruit, because if they had bore fruit, that meant that they were dwelling with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit was hard at work in their lives.  But these people didn’t bear fruit, and therefore…

Some would use this to claim that God was never interested in them, that He was okay with them rejecting Him.  Some would even have the nerve to speak for God, and claim that He never planned to save them anyway.  That they were, from the start, to be condemned to hell.

That is why they didn’t hear, they didn’t see, they didn’t learn, and why they were not forgiven.

I’ve just got back from a retreat, led by an old friend, actually, my high school youth pastor.  The theme of the retreat was based around this passage, and considering the times in our lives when our “ground” was callous and hard paths, or we had to deal with rocks or weeds that choked our faith.  It was a good exercise,  (gonna take about a week to process it all)  but from the time he read the passage above, I kept on thinking about the 75 percent.

Why would God let them go that way…..

Why couldn’t they know the joy and peace that comes from being forgiven, the incredible joy of being reunited with God?

It is a frustration I’ve known as a pastor, since the beginning. Some people we care so much about, that we invest time and energy in, and yet they are the ground too hard to plant, or they get excited at first and then die out, or they get choked by the cares and desires of the world.

And if you care, especially if you are a parent, pastor or priest or elder or Sunday School teacher, their lack of fruit can cause tears and massive heartache. A lot of it over the years…

As our retreat was nearing the end phase, as I just opened my Bible (rare that I actually had a physical one for the retreat – I usually just use my pc/tablet/phone ones) and I came across this…..

4  Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! GOD is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” 5  Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Isaiah 35:4-5 (MSG)

God hasn’t given up on the sinner, or the wayward, or the people who struggle with keeping their faith alive.  He never had, He always planned their rescue, He always planned to continue reaching into their lives, He didn’t write them off.

He still wants them to come to repentance.

There is still time to invest, words that can be said with love, and yes, love of God to reveal to them. They can’t open their own eyes, but neither can we, they can’t make themselves hear, but the Holy Spirit can, these are simple miracles.

And they are right in God’s heart.  And ours …

Keep praying for them, keep loving them.

God is with you in this, as I close with these words from St. Paul…

16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18  All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19  Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20  Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21  Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TEV)

So let us pray for these people, that we would have the desire not to write them off, but knowing God’s desire to renew them (to make them right-eous) that we would see this happen, and even be tools God uses to make it happen!

Our Lenten Journey: walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph: Finding mercy on the walk

Our Lenten Journey:  Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Mercy Found on the walk
Numbers 21:4-9

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to realize contentment and patience that comes from realizing you are God’s children!

 Mercy Needed on the Walk

It’s been a while since the last one, so we are due for a Pastor Parker Parable.

In the Kingdom of God, Lent is like setting your clocks ahead.

I mean time change wrecks everything, it takes forever to get used to, it affects everything, and to be honest, we don’t always understand why we do it.

Lent is like that, it is a needed, but hard to welcome transition, It requires us to do things that are not easy, that take time to get used to, and that affects every part of our lives.  Most of the time, we go through lent without thinking about why we do it.

Like time change, we just accept that its happening, grin, grunt, and struggle through it, often complaining as we go.

Really, lent is not only like dealing with the time change, but it is like the journey from the slavery of Egypt to the promised land.

And if we aren’t careful, if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t’ stay focused, we will get bit.

Then again, we might get bit anyway, so we need something more… we need mercy.

Mercy not seen on the walk

The problem is, we don’t often see the mercy, as we walk with Jesus

TO be honest, we do the same things that the people did in Moses day, we grow impatient with God’s plan, and we aren’t satisfied with what we perceive He is doing, and rather than wait for God’s actions to be seen, we start to complain, we start to doubt that God will provide.

Look at the words the first time the people of God open their mouths,

“Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”

They were tired, they were frustrated, I get that. Especially this week!  Especially these last couple of days, when trauma followed trauma like waves lined up at the beach. Or like the slow ticks of a click as the day seems last longer than it did last week.

The ironic thing is that the words “nothing to eat” and “Manna” are the same word in Hebrew.

Same word.  We have not bread to eat and we hate what we do have to eat.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

They weren’t thankful for the manna, the quail, to water form a rock, being saved by a miracle.  Nope, what have you done for us lately God, because we don’t like what You are giving us.

How often do we, struggling on our own with life, complain to God about what He is doing?  Or simply forget He is here at all?  We talk about the second commandment, about calling on the name of the Lord, not in vain, but using His name to pray and to praise God,

but do we?

Mercy found… in not getting rid of the snakes

Last week, when President Stoterau was preaching, he found a key to the passage in the pigeon cages that weren’t destroyed.  There is a similar key in today’s Old Testament passage, something that helps us when we realize what God does.

When the people ask God to take away the snakes, what happens to the snakes?

Does God take them away?

Oddly enough, God leaves them there. Happily sinking their fangs into who every complains and moans. I mean, that’s what snakes do right?

God’s answer to the prayers is in bringing another on of them into the picture, one in the same image as the others, but this time fixed high upon a pole.  And anyone, once bitten by a snake, can simply look up, and see hope and healing, trusting God to do exactly what He said he would.

Heal them,

Take care of them, the very thing they didn’t realize God was doing, in providing the manna, and the quail and the water.  Providing proof of His presence with them, a proof they could see when they needed to be saved.

Friends, you and I are going to struggle through life.  We can try with everything we are, and we should try with everything we are to please the God who loves and cares for us.  But there are times, times when we forget He is with us, times where we forget how deep His love is.

But every time we get bit by sin, every time we have to deal with our own brokenness, we have an advocate who has been lifted up on the cross, who has since been lifted up into heaven, where Jesus still intercedes on our behalf.  Still intercedes for us, still loves us, still cares for else, still forgives our sins.  This is the mercy of God, the mercy that keeps us on the journey home, the mercy that continually brings us the healing we need to stay on the journey!

We just need to look to Him, we just need to trust Him, and know that as we do, we shall be healed of the damage sin causes and plagues us with.

God doesn’t always take care of this snake or that one because the temptations and trials will bother us, until we reach the promised land. Sometimes we will be victorious over them, sometimes we won’t.

Either way, He will be here, lifted up for us to look at and know how much God loves us, and that He promised to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness.

Which is why we are here at church, to look up to the Lord, lifted up for us, the Lord who will heal us, the Lord who will bring us peace.

AMEN?

 

The Question of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”   Luke 3:7-14  HCSB

36  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)

A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active,  I’ve written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!

But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)

John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,  

And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, “What should we do?”   It’s the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them. 

What should we do?  You could add, “now?” to the end of the question.

The reason that this is THE question of repentance is that when repetnance comes to us, the only questions that remains is – what do we do…. because repentance is happening already!

Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused.  We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.  

And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas.  Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow.  But examples.  Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.

Think of John’s advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized.  There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power.

Do things that don’t serve your self-interest, don’t be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness.  Do things that are loving.  And when you find you aren’t…. pray, and confess and know that God is with you!  He came to save you!  He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.

The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same – in Christ, love those you encounter.

Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live!  AMEN!

 

 

The Greatest Thing a Pastor/Priest can do! (for you!)

A Devotional Thought for the day:

Sunrise at Concordia

Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9

486         That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!

When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger,  We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.

What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest.  The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life.  Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.

THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives?  For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,

“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins!  In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”

For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different.  The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language.  These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.

It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed.  We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us.  We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed. 

Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once.  Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day.  We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has.  Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.

This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.

So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)

See you soon!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. 

Lent: It’s Not about YOUR Sin! A sermon for the first Sunday in Lent

church at communion 2Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
Romans 5:12-19

Jesus, Son, Savior

As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!

A Misconception

A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent.  Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”

It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.

Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent.  Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.

The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.

The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.

The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.

But how does that happen?  How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?

Your sin is nothing new…

Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.

Hebrews 12 tells,  “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”  (Heb 12:1)

That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside.  Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.

As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind.  And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam.  That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning.  Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.

For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.

Christ’s Act, and your right relationship

But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.

They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin.  To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 

This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent.  Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives.  To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way.  Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.

To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.

The Continuation of the thought..

At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life.  I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,

1  Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)

This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.

To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.

This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished.  It is accomplished.  We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!

Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.

For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God.  We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus.  AMEN!

Love is, Jesus IS, We are! Sermons for Lent #1 Patient and Kind

concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - CopyLove Is; Jesus is; We are

Patient and Kind

 In Jesus Name

 As you experience the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may you see God enabling you to really love Him and others!

During this season of Lent, many people think we are to beat ourselves up for our sin.  That we give up something in order to atone for our continued sin, to show God how sorry for what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do.

That’s not completely accurate, though it moves us to where we need to be.

The goal of Lent is to stop us, to help us realize we aren’t who we should be, as the children of God. Not to beat us up, but to encourage us to have a life that is more like Jesus’ life.  The goal is to build in us a desire to imitate Christ, and to live like Paul, who could say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

Love Is

So this Lent, we are looking at one of the best descriptions of Jesus we can find, one we hear more often at weddings.  We’ll take a couple of the descriptions each week, and this week we are looking at these two.  

Love is patient and Love is kind.

The Message translation gives us another perspective:

Love never gives up.

Love cares for others more than for self.

Can you imagine if we were so patient we never gave up?  Or if everyone was more interested in what was good for others rather than just being self-centered?

Not just within families and churches, but if everyone loved everyone. This is who we are supposed to be!

This is not just a nice idea, it is what God commands us to do, to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love those who hate us.  We know this, but I wonder if we desire it, if this is truly who we want to be.

It should be

Jesus Is

As we look at love being described by St Paul, we have to realize how it describes Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless man.  If we evaluated how he loved by these words, we see it perfectly.

Not just with his patience and not giving up on the Apostles, especially Peter.  But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, He isn’t even tempted to do so.

And we see his kindness, His putting others first as He ministered to those around them, having compassion on the crowds who followed them, always being able to find the people who needed His care.  Being there for those who would give up, or struggle with their sin, and don’t know how to break it.

This is what the Apostle John meant when he said God is love, for in Jesus, they found out what that really means…we see this amazing level of patience, that God will embrace suffering a long time, for His goal is bring everyone to repentance, to transform everyone so that their lives are a picture of Christ’s love.  That is the ultimate example of kindness,

We Are

So we know this description of love should describe our life as well.  We know it doesn’t, at least as we struggle with it, so how can we desire to grow in our ability to love?

The answer is on all of your minds.  Look, you can see it on those around you.

The cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for you.  We could put a blob on your forehead, but we put a cross.  To remind you that while you have sinned, you really aren’t sinners anymore.

You have been united to Christ, and the ashes that mark you, mark you as His, just as the cross made over your head and heart at baptism did.  His sacrifice, His body and blood broken and given for you provides the answer.

It is what we need to spend contemplating.  As we think about this great love, a love that cleanses us from sin, and leaves us holy, set apart to God, set apart for God to dwell with.  The more we spend time talking to God, exploring the breadth and width, the height and depth of His love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing and enabling us to love as He does…. For we are with Him.

As the song we will sing in a moment says, where You are Lord, I am free….

Free to love.. to be patient, to be kind, to be like Christ who not only sets you free, but makes you Holy.

AMEN!

 

Why I Can’t Grow Up… I fall too much!

Will new camera 12 2008 167Devotional Thought of the Day:
13  Then some little children were brought to Him (Jesus), so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples frowned on the parents’ action but Jesus said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!” Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.    Matthew 19:13 (Phillips NT)

870    Don’t try to be older. A child, always a child, even when you are dying of old age. When a child stumbles and falls, nobody is surprised, and his father promptly picks him up. When the person who stumbles and falls is older, the immediate reaction is one of laughter. Sometimes, after this first impulse, the laughter gives way to pity. But older people have to get up by themselves. Your sad experience is that each day is full of stumbles and falls. What would become of you if you were not continually more of a child? Don’t try to be older. Be a child, and when you stumble, may your Father God pick you up by the hand.

Of all the spiritual writers I have read, and there have been a lot, from every little corner of Christianity, St Josemaria Escriva has had the most profound impact, because of the practical way he sees our faith, our dependence on God.   I would recommend his book “The Way,” to anyone seeking a faith that is more than Sunday morning, or 5 minutes reading a devotion the size of a postcard.  It is no different today, my 52nd birthday, as his words hit home, and hit home hard.

There is a part of me that wants to know more, be wiser, have words of wisdom and maturity that are profound.  To be able to preach words that inspire those who are down, which call people to repentance in a way that they run like mad into the waiting arms of God, trusting in His mercy.  I want to help people explore the height and depth, the width and breadth of God’s love for them.

This has been my dream since I was an awkwardly tall 8-year-old with untied sneakers, telling a family friend, Fr. Alex, that I wanted to be a priest, I wanted to tell people about Jesus and give them His body in communion.

At 52, I am still awkward, my sneakers are still often untied, and though my falls aren’t physical, they are still there.  I understand Paul’s words in Romans 7 all too; clearly, I am not the mature, wise, holy person I know I should be.  In fact, like most pastors and priests, there are days I wonder why I am here.  Can’t God do better?  Can’t He make me the kind of shepherd these people need?  Can’t Jesus find someone who does better with temptation, and able to deal wisely with the evil that is so oppressive?

St. Josemaria snaps me out of this spiritual downward spiral with his words this morning  (odd they show up on my birthday, isn’t it?)  The best thing I can do is not astound people with wisdom, it is to let them see God pick me up.  To let them see the joy in my eyes when He does.  To be the child that runs and desires to be in His presence, even if the foolish disciples try to bar my way, I am going to see Him, I am going to hear His blessing.

Hopefully, along the way, I will drag some of my friends with me, and maybe even an enemy or 2….000?

If I pretend to be something other than a child, as I’ve tried, I will still fall. But I will try, as an adult, to excuse the fall, to justify it, to make it out to be less painful.  I will force myself to try and get up on my own, only to fall again, and perhaps even harder, or take others with me. But as a child, as one who is confident of God’s presence, who knows His love and mercy, then I know He will pick me up, that He will run to my side, that He will care for me.

Not that I want to fall, I want to make Him proud.  But as a child, when I do, I can cry out for help, and He will come.

And if I can teach my people that, and they confidently cry out (knowing His love and mercy)  when they fall as well… I’ve done my job as a brother in Christ, and as their pastor. For they have learned about His love… and have experienced it.

A simple cry, “Lord Have mercy on me, a sinner….Papa, help!” 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2005-2010). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Battle for our Mind…. will we dare surrender, or not?

clydes-cross-2Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
5  Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: 6  Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. 7  But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, 8  he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.    Philippians 2:5-8 (NJB)

1  We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2  We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3  For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4  Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Romans 15:1-4 (NLT)

I cannot sufficiently admire the ardour with which this counsel was put in practice by St. Louis, one of the greatest kings the sun ever shone on. I say a great king in every kind of greatness. He frequently served at table the poor whom he maintained, and caused three poor men almost every day to dine with him, and many times eat the remainder of their pottage with an incomparable love. When he visited the hospitals, which he frequently did, he commonly served those suffering from leprosy and ulcers, and such as had the most loathsome diseases, kneeling on the ground, respecting, in their persons, the Saviour of the world, and cherishing them as tenderly as any fond mother cherishes her own child. 

856    Spiritual childhood demands submission of the mind, which is harder than submission of the will. In order to subject our mind we need not only God’s grace, but a continual exercise of our will as well, denying the intellect over and over again, just as it says “no” to the flesh. And so we have the paradox that whoever wants to follow this “little way” in order to become a child, needs to add strength and manliness to his will.

What a challenging concept St. Josemaria brings out in the words in blue above. 

It is challenging enough to bend my will to make sacrifices that I do not want to, but the truth is, I can do that without putting my mind and soul into it.  You can force yourself to do just about anything, but to submit how you think – how you feel about it, now there is a challenge.

if we change how we act, but resent doing so, or are apathetic at best, how does that benefit?  Doesn’t  that attitude, that state of mind rob us of doing our best – and even going beyond to help those in need?  And the action is torturous to us.

We can bend the will, but what we really need is what scripture calls repentance, (see Romans 12:1-3), the transformation of our mind.  What Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3:15ff as the Spirit changes us as we gaze upon Christ, what is echoed in Hebrews 12:2-3 as well, as we journey without eyes set on Christ.

This is what King Louis, one of the few Kings that was labeled a saint knew.  It was for joy that he entertained the poor, and cared for the lepers, cherishing those in whom he saw his beloved savior. That changes our mind, which drives our will for the love and joy involved, rather than with resentment.  Then sacrifice, and submission becomes an incredible joy, even as it was for Christ! For to help those who need encouragement is our vocation, our doing what we are created to do.  As our mind is submitted to Christ’s, and His mind and attitude becomes ours, the greatest joy is when we bring our enemy to the Father, seeing them reconciled to Him.

It is then nothing else matters, for we realize that our self-interest, our burdens, our anxieties stop us from knowing the greatest joys, from seeing God in His glory, as He dwells with us.

Lord have mercy on us, and constantly remind us that our lives are in You!  AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1975-1978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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