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The Hammer or the Hatchet – A Sermon on Romans 8:28-39

pexels-photo-4205987The Hammer or the Hatchet
Romans 8:28-39

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.

 

The Wrong Tool…sort of?

Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way.  My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.

A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”

Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.

I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…

As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…

You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.

As a Hammer

So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area!  Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.

I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.

I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.

Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him.  Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!

If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.

As a Hatchet

A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.

So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!

Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.

Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!

The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,

Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.

God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!

This chapter is full of that message

You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.

You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart

You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out

Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.

Even in you face death, or covid19,

Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,

21  And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22  Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23  Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)

My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference.  Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.

This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.

There is only one way to deal with Mondays: with our eyes opened!

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

Devotional Thought of the day:

When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”
16 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” 
17 Then Elisha prayed, “LORD, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the LORD opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  1 King 6:15-17  HCSB

 

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:26-29 (NLT)

404    You say you’ve failed! We never fail. You placed your confidence wholly in God. And you did not neglect any human means. Convince yourself of this truth: your success—this time— was to fail. Give thanks to our Lord, and try again!

There was a great desire to sleep in this morning, to pretend Monday didn’t exist. While Mondays are a study day, I have to admit Holy Week exhausted me.

And while I didn’t feel like a failure yesterday, today I am not so sure!  (This is called the Elijah syndrome – after major spiritual victories we want to hide!)  But I’ve often dealt with failure, especially on Mondays. Not just the feeling I’ve failed, but the knowledge I have failed, or I am actively experiencing failure.

In those moments, I feel like Elisha’s servant, all I see around me is pressing in on me, and there is no escape.  “Oh no, it’s Monday, what are we to do!!!”  And the sake of being alone, and without hope rises like the tide and we fear it will drown us.

At least that’s how my Mondays and several other days a month often feel.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten the promise in Romans 8:28, that all things work for good, including Mondays.  That I can’t picture God doing something in the present circumstances, so I can’t understand my success is found right in the midst of the failure.  Just as the time between the cross and the resurrection was not a failure in the true sense of the word, neither is this time or failure, or anxiety about it, a true failure.

We need to have our eyes opened to this, just as Elisha’s servant did.  We need our trust in God rekindled until we can go through the dark times, and trust that the good times are coming.

For God is with us, Jesus is risen indeed, and that means we are given life and a life where the plan all works together….

His plan, not mine.

This is why I adore Him (when I can remember this!) This is why I praise Him, for He is our God, and we are the people whom He loves.

Just need to remember that on Mondays…. and every other day that has a d in it.

Let me pray for you ( and please pray for me)
As our Lord opens your eyes to His presence today, may you rest, as you dwell in His peace!

Question of the day….. how does knowing you are loved help you through the hardest of days?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1013-1015). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How do we treat those who are just “wrong”

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Acts 18:24-28 (TEV) 24 At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he proclaimed and taught correctly the facts about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home with them and explained to him more correctly the Way of God. 27 Apollos then decided to go to Achaia, so the believers in Ephesus helped him by writing to the believers in Achaia, urging them to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who through God’s grace had become believers. 28 For with his strong arguments he defeated the Jews in public debates by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.  

A Confession  Prior to the Devotion.:
I will be the first to admit that I am the chief of sinners in regard to this, but then again, if I wasn’t, this post wouldn’t be written. It is my prayer, and solid hope, that God will work wonders to correct the errors of my past in this, and help me to overcome this tendency in the future.

The Blog:
Last night, probably while I was driving home from a friend’s Superbowl Party, one of the victorius Ravens was approached and said some thanks to God and quoted from Romans 8.  I know of this because my twitter feed and fb was filled with people’s attacking him and questioning his faith and practice.  The accusations ran from calls to discredit him because of his past, to charges of twisting the word of God. 

It would be twisting scripture to say his sin was any worse than ours, so that sets aside that charge for a moment, to deal with the charge of twisting scripture, or taking it out of context.  He might have – I haven’t watched the video, he might have not.  But if we thought we did, the response of simply blasting away with charges, is not correct.

The model that Priscilla and her husband give us, is a great one. Look at some of these steps:

1.  Take the person aside, and work through the issue.
2.  Focus on the Way of God – not our cultural applications of it, not our personal opinions, but focus on God’s revelation to man (i.e. the scriptures)
3.  As the respond , encourage their ministry!  Their zeal is something that should never be stifled, but directed and encouraged.  Too often, I believe, we decide to stifle them, afraid they will go back to their erring ways. We should be praying for them, teaching them, discipling them and sending them.   

We confess in my congregation each week that we belong to one, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church.  Such a response as Priscilla and Aquilla had towards Apollos had, yeah that is consistent with that belief.  If we can’t work with them directly, our words should have the same flavor, as we instruct those who heard those words about how they apply.  But doing it with graciousness and love is still important.  Doing it with the best construction is still important.  

May we all have the mercy shown to us, as we work together in His Kingdom. 

The Unredeemable?

Occasionally in the life of a pastor (or priest for my RCC friends) you come across a situation that is so far beyond what you’ve been taught to deal with in seminary or pastor’s conferences.  Your heart and soul twists and turns as you think about how you will deal with it, and how in the world the situation will be seen in the promise we share with everyone else….

“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them.”
Romans 8:28-30 (TEV) 

The situations we find ourselves in have nothing glorious, nothing good it seems, and we are hard pressed to not consider the situation “unredeemable”.

Yet we have a God, who in that passage promises redemption, for H has called us to Him, He has set us apart – and He will make it right.  We have the challenge of trusting Him in that, to rest assured that He is God, and that He can do what we consider impossible, including redeeming that which seems unredeemable.  Forgiving and making right that which seems to dark, too evil, and causes to much despair.

He has promised to make it right, to make it good.  ( I can’t but help hear that as “guuuuuuddd’ as in Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty”

So it figures, as I face a situation that isn’t completely unredeemable, but still weighs heavily on my mind… at the end of my devotions I come across this:

218      Get rid of that human prudence which makes you so very cautious, so—sorry to be so blunt!—cowardly. Let us not be narrow-minded. Let us not be infantile men or women, who are nearsighted and lack a supernatural breadth of vision…! Could we be working for ourselves? Of course not! Well then, let us say quite fearlessly: Dearest Jesus, we are working for you, and… are you going to deny us the material means we need? You know full well how worthless we are; still, I would not treat a servant working for me in that way… Therefore, we hope and are sure you will give us all we need to be able to serve you. (1)

And He will, He has promised.  The situation will be resolved – by Him, not by us, though perhaps through us.  THough there are times where we have to cry, “Lord, I believe, but help me in my unbelief!”

We have to remember – we’ve asked – “Lord have mercy” – now let us act trusting He has!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 944-951). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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