Blog Archives

The Infinitely Valuable, That Leaves All in the Dust; A sermon on Phil. 3:4-14

church at communion 2 The Infinite Valuable

That leaves all in the dust…

Phil. 3:4-14b

 In Jesus Name

 May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.

Value beyond calculation…

Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it.  It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.

500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.

Interesting,

It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done.  And its value?  That is easier to calculate.  A half of a billion dollars could provide

2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊

So its value isn’t infinite

Not even close.

Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.

Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.

An Important word?

Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage.  Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was.  Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.

Me?  I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.

Skubala.

Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today?  Rubbish?) or garbage.  The old King James was more accurate with dung.  While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.

For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.

Rubbish?  really?

But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.

I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.

Important enough to leave all else in the dust.

For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.

Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught

Paul explains why a few verses down,

I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 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!

This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable.  Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.  To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.

To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.

In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor,

Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”[1]

That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was.  And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it.  No way, no how.

Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy.  Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty.  All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life,  all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.

But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…

That is infinitely valuable.

So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.

Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…

For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace.  AMEN.

 

 

[1] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Creeds, Declarations and Spiritual Warfare.

A Devotional Thought for our Days:

The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.  2 Corinthians 10: 4-5(Phillips NT)

824         Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much!

It seems in the last week another religious crusade has erupted.  On one side there are those who are signing a creed that defines proper marriage and marital relationships.  On the other side a creed that defends people who don’t seem to fit within those relationships. Both have proponents that say unless you support their new creed, you really aren’t a Christian.  And that is definitely true if you do support the opponents Creed.  

Thousands have proudly affixed their names to one or the other creeds.  They call them declarations, but when you define your understanding of the Christian faith by them when you say this is what you believe or what you condemn, they are creeds or confessions. ( Ironically, a lot of those signing these documents come from church brotherhoods or denominations that were against having formal creeds!) 

Which is why I will sign neither.

Simply put, I want a creed and confession that gives me hope.  I want one that promises reconciliation, one that isn’t condescending or treats those with other beliefs like their enemy.  I want one that talks of God’s work in our lives.

Paul says it clearly, our weapons are spiritual, they pull down Satan’s strongholds, revealing to people the true knowledge of God.  It doesn’t tear them down but rather reveals God in such a way that people’s thoughts are about Him. 

That’s what the historic creeds and confessions do, they bring people to Jesus, and leave them in awe, knowing they are loved, that their sin is forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is renewing and reconciling them, transforming them into the image of God.

St. Josemaria states it so well if we think our job is defending God’s truth that has been deposited with us (as if He left the building ).  Apologists are to give the reason we have hope, not wield a rushing and condemning offense. Our job is to love, knowing the mercy of God, and treasuring is so much we want everyone to have it revealed to them. 

Yes, we need to show them the need for it, but we need to do so with love, not with anger, or with statements made without the chance for conversation and revealing God’s grace.   That is why there is a call to remember our own brokenness, and how Jesus addressed that with mercy, and do likewise.  From out of our brokenness, we approach others differently than if we were the self-appointed morality police. From out of our brokenness, we realize the blessed truth found in creeds and confessions that talk of God’s love and redemption, of His works through one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Love them, pray for them, ask God to bless them, and do battle for them, with the intent of saving their souls.  This is spiritual warfare, this is the hope our creeds give us!

That the Lord is with us! AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Devout Life: Taking Hell and Heaven Seriously

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:
41  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42  And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! 
 Matthew 13:41-43 (NLT)

1. O hell, I detest thee now and for evermore; I detest thy torments and pains; I detest thy miserable and accursed eternity; and, above all, I detest those eternal blasphemies and maledictions which thou dost vomit forth eternally against my God. And, turning my heart and soul to thee, O beautiful Paradise, everlasting glory and endless felicity, I choose my habitation, forever and irrevocably, within thy fair and sacred mansions, within thy holy and most lovely tabernacles. I bless thy mercy, O my God, and accept the offer which it pleaseth Thee to make me of it. O Jesus, my Saviour, I accept thy everlasting love, and I acknowledge that it is Thou who hast acquired for me a right to a place in this blessed Jerusalem, not so much for any other thing as to love and bless Thee for ever.

One of the devotional books I am using this year is De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life.  Over the last year, my sermon research has regularly included quotes from this 19th century priest, so I thought I would add it to my list, along with a deep theological text by Martin Chemnitz.

Early on, it has used the hell a significant number of times as part of the devotions; something I was surprised to see.  Partially because I am not a “hell, fire and brimstone” type preacher/evangelist, trying to keep God’s Law and the Gospel in tension.  Or to use a covenantal approach, making sure people understand both the curses and promises that exist in our covenant, our “contract” with God.

But as I think about our devotion to God, the reason we are drawn to Him, the reason we adore Him, it makes sense that we take both heaven and hell seriously.

Knowing what He has delivered us from creates some of the devotion, it gives us a reason to adore Him.  Over 25 years ago, I had a cardiac arrest.  I can still remember who it was who did CPR till the doctors got there.  I remember who was in my ICU room  (even though I was sedated) Those moments of coming back to life are indeed precious to me. Those people I will always feel a special way towards.

SO much more so when we meditate on the hell we deserve because we choose disobedience, rebellion and sin rather that walking with God.  As believers to look back and know what we deserve, yet His love changes all that!  As we consider what we deserve yet are rescued from, our devotion, our adoration,, our hunger to worship Jesus grows.

As we adore Him, let us look to our future as well, and to what God does in our lives at this moment. For the heaven that we can know only in part is glimpsed in this life, ever so briefly.

Otherwise, heaven is too great a concept for our minds, our hearts, and souls to contemplate.  But in the eyes of a sinner, freed as they realize the mercy and love of God, the comfort that settles on one who mourns, the relief as a beloved prodigal walks back into the life of a church they left behind.

These are glimpses of heaven….just as when we see someone claimed by God in their baptism, or we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus.

As we consider the reality of both heaven and hell; as we realize the enormous difference between them, our hearts will cry out, glorifying the Lord who delivered us from Hell and into Heaven.

This we need, we so need….. and it changes everything….

As our cry of Hosanna (Lord Save Us!) and Kyrie Eleison are proven answered!


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

Give Thanks!

Give Thanks!

Luke 17:11-19

In Jesus Name

May the compassion of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed for you, that you hear Him as He tell you to rise up!

Jesus Frustration:

Jesus asks, “where are the other nine?!” and I can’t imagine hearing that without hearing some frustration in His voice, and maybe even a little pain.

Where are they?

Don’t they realize what I’ve done for them?  And don’t they know that this is only the beginning?

Where are the other nine?

I don’t know how you read it any differently, though it may seem odd to hear God being pained by our inattentiveness, by our being ungrateful, by our not being aware of the incredible mercy and compassion that goes neglected.

But consider this.

God describes himself in Exodus 34 with these words,

14  You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.    Exodus 34:14 (NLT)
and in Hebrews we find this,

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

This is the God who weeps over Jerusalem, who compares himself to the man whose beloved wife whom he rescued from a horrible life cheats on Him.

Now can you hear the pain in his voice, as he asks, “Didn’t I heal ten?  Where are the other nine?

is it enough to color between the lines?

Where are they?  Why at the priest’s, showing them the healing so they confirm it.  They are obeying Jesus, but isn’t that enough? Isn’t’ that the point of scripture, and the commandments, to get us to obey the commandments?

A quick illustration why it is not enough might help.

Think of  a children’s coloring book – with pictures of great masterpieces in it.

Forgetting the parental requirement to love every piece of art your child or grandchild colors in; is it enough to color between the lines? Can a Van Gogh be as beautiful or a Mona Lisa look as stunning if the colors don’t make sense?

Or to use another illustration – if we stay in our lane on the freeway, does that mean we can travel as fast as we want?

Of course not!

So in this case, while listening makes sense, what they didn’t hear was that Jesus had heard them, and answered.

A quick background – these lepers were supposed to cry out when people approached, “UNCLEAN!  UNCLEAN!”  They were to warn people to not come close, their disease was not only devastating, it was contagious.

Instead, somehow this group recognized Jesus, they recognized that though he wasn’t their Lord, He was one with authority, and they called out to him have mercy, to have compassion on them.  Mercy and compassion aren’t just about feelings, but love so full that it acts, it finds a way to relieve the burdens, to bring comfort and peace to lives that were broken, that were shattered.

As Jesus speaks, he offers them something they could only have dreamt of – to go and show themselves to the priests, to be declared free from the ravaged brokenness they knew, to be welcomed back into the community of the people of God.

And as they left, they were healed physically, miraculously.  Bodies that were more rotting than whole, bow showed skin that was a whole and new and vibrant as any.

This was the Master that spoke, that commanded this.  The Master, the one promised and sent by God. This is the Messiah, the one who would not just restore bodies, but souls. That would cleanse not just skin, but hearts and minds. Who would make them His people for eternity!

And we walked away.  We neglected the salvation, we obeyed the letter of the law, and missed something more important.  The Spirit, the messiah, Fellowship with God.

Even though they obeyed to the letter of the law – they missed what the law was given to do, to show them they were in fellowship with God.
Rise up!  Not only healed – but saved.

There is Jesus, and we’ve just heard him ask where the other nine was, when he focuses on the man again, lying there on the ground in front of him.  Who voice, which was loud when he cried for mercy, was mega loud when cried out God’s praises, when he offered great thanks – using the very word Jesus will use as he starts the last supper and gives thanks.

And what Jesus says is lost in almost every translation.

In this one it says this,

“Didn’t I heal ten men?” Then it says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

A few others say, Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.Luke 17:19 (NASB)

But a few say it this way – reflecting the Greek, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’ Luke 17:19 (NJB)

Not just made well, not just healed, his faith, his trust in God demonstrated in the return to praise God was the trust, the dependence that saw a much greater gift given – and invitation, and the recognition that he was no longer an alien, no longer a foreigner, but a part of the people of God.

Jesus was now this man’s Lord, this man’s master.  Salvation, like the healing that was for so long only a dream, this salvation was now his.

And Jesus tells him to stand, he doesn’t have to grovel, he doesn’t have to lay there in the dirt.  He was made whole and saved, therefore he was welcome to stand!

If there was gratitude when he only knew the healing, can you imagine the gratitude when salvation was what was given?  When eternity, in fellowship with God, given the ability to stand in His presence, to truly live life.

Can you imagine how incredible the mercy, the compassion he cried out for was revealed?

Yet that compassion, that mercy, that love, that acceptance of God is ours.

It is time to revel in it, to give thanks and praise.

And to hear, as Jesus look at the table, and considers the bread and wine, the gratitude he shows the Father, who will allow Jesus to give His body and blood for us, to save us.

For it our time to hear those words, you trust in God has saved you,,, for He has had compassion on you.  AMEN!

Christmas Eve: He Will, He Has!

For He Will: For He Has….
Matthew 1:18-25

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!

 What does this Mean?

As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.

Why are these cars here??

I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music.  It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.

It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.

For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known.  The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.

We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words.  Both times unable to really understand what is going on…

Anxious Joseph…

The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken.  Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed

His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father.  In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could….  what is a man to think?  The story Joseph was told?  How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?

Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control.  Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words.  Speechless, he struggles through the night.

Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.

Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain.  Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil.  We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.

It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer?  He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.

Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.

We are the one who betrayed us.  I betrayed myself, you betrayed you.  We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it.  We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..

And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.

We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more

The Second Joseph

When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.

He hears the news from an angel,

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)

He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb.  He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family.  He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.

This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary.  No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful.  No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.

The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.

It gave him hope it restored what was broken.

If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message.  For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.

For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.

Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed.  Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.

God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross.  A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.

This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension.  It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God.  It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.

Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men.  AMEN!

Are You Ready for….What are we getting ready for?

Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:
37  “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38  In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39  People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Matthew 24:37-39 (NLT)

50 Just as God’s name is holy in itself and yet we pray that it may be holy among us, so also his kingdom comes of itself without our prayer and yet we pray that it may come to us. That is, we ask that it may prevail among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those among whom his name is hallowed and his kingdom flourishes.
51 What is the kingdom of God? Answer: Simply what we learned in the Creed, namely, that God sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. To this end he also gave his Holy Spirit to teach us this through his holy Word and to enlighten and strengthen us in faith by his power.

This word of promise and joy thus turns into a question for us, making visible the challenge and meaning of Advent. Only when all flesh beholds God is his coming complete; the new heavens and the new earth can come about only when available to all. This word constantly intends to open the heart of Christianity, indeed our own heart. Adveniat Kingdom tuum [thy Kingdom come]—this plea of Advent, put on our lips by the Lord himself, is prayed by us correctly only if we allow it to transform us; if we let it open us up to all of God’s children, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

As many of us prepare for Christmas, for the parties, as we gather gifts, even as we get ready for the abundance of church services over the next week, we may hear the following question.

Are you ready?

We get nervous, for most of the time we are not ready, otherwise the concerned friend wouldn’t wouldn’t recognize the fear and anxiety that has gripped our very lives.

The problem is we are getting ready for the wrong thing.  We are, like one Ebenezer Scrooge, trying to deal with Christmas past and Christmas present, and not looking not to Christmas future, but the Advent of Christ in our future. We are like the people in Noah’s day, not always doing things outside of “normal” life, but not questioning what normal life should be. 

How many of us have given any thought to Christ’s return since Thanksgiving?  How many of us have seriously considered whether our lives are being focused on that time, of the Christ-mass – the gathering of Christ that will happen on that day.

We can’t run around to prepare for it.  We can’t check out all the stores; we can’t do anything special to prepare for His coming.  Matter of fact, if we are trying to do something special, we’re are even less prepared.  For being ready for Christ’s second coming isn’t a special event, it is life itself.  Life abiding in the presence of God.  Life being comforted and lifted up by the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Life as Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, described so well in the green quote above.  A desire for God’s kingdom, His reign to come to all, a prayer of desire and desperation, a prayer born in brokenness.  Our individual brokenness, our communal brokenness. 

Luther agrees of course, as he notes that the reason Christ came was to bring us to the Father.  And the Holy Spirit is given to reveal this to us, and support us in the life that is until we see God face to glorious Face. 

When we consider the normal life in view of Jesus’ return, in view of death for those who are not here, we end up depending on God in a far different way.  Our life is transformed by the His love, as we look forward with expectation, as we look forward with joy, as we trust in Him, and we are filled with life.

This is why we ask are we ready.  Not to stress us more, but to cause us to be still, and know He is God, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, our life.

May your normal life find you not just ready, but desiring His return, and the homecoming that follows.  AMEN  †

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 426–427). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 399). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

Matt 7 – THe Love of a Mother, the Love of THE Father

The love of a mother,

& the Love of The Father

Mark 7:24–30

  † I.H.S

As you go through life, may you be assured of the love God has for you, love that will go to extreme measure to free you from all that oppresses

What this isn’t about/What it is

As I preach about the gospel lesson this morning, I need to make something clear.

Yes, I know there are demons, and I am sure this lady’s story is exact and true.  It isn’t some parable. Her daughter had a demon.

Okay, now onto what the story is really about, the love of a parent for their child.

The love of a mother,

and the love of the Father.

Understanding the depth of that love will reveal the cross, and the reason that Jesus took a side trip from his home into a spiritual no man’s land.

It will also make the difference in your life, for you are His beloved child.

You see, the demons in this passage – they aren’t relevant, they are a side note. Although in a way it would be easier to preach about fighting them.

It is the love that matters, the love that we so desperately need to know.

The Love of a Mother

I don’t even think Jesus had unpacked at the home he was staying at when she showed up.  A desperate mom, looking for something to help her very young daughter.

I don’t have to have you imagine the pain, the desperation that leads her into Jesus presence the moment people realization it is a Jewish Rabbi – maybe even Messiah that has come into their presence.

But I will remind you that she is so desperate that she breaks every cultural norm, every piece of etiquette, and risks his very anger.  For to be in the presence of a woman in such situation would render Jesus unfit to teach as a rabbi.  As a man of God, being that close to someone outside the people of God would also render him unclean and able to serve, and to do a miracle for her?

Unthinkable.

She throws all decorum aside – she wants her daughter to be healed, to be delivered to, to be right.  When I first read that she fell at Jesus’ feet, I thought the word there would be the root word for worship – to bow and lay prostrate before someone, a position of worship, adoration, honor.

It’s not, is the word we get Pepto in Pepto-Bismol from, she collapses in front on him, a withering wreck.  And her only hope? A hyped up prophet from a country that hasn’t produced anything of value in 400 years….

She tosses everything aside, all pride, all loyalty to her people, everything if only there were hope.

She is so desperate she pleads, she begs, with everything she has.  Heck, she even argues for table scraps from this prophet from that oddball place with the oddball religion.

Such is the love for her daughter.

Even a daughter who, obviously, wasn’t easy to care for, wasn’t easy to love.

A daughter who was more trouble than any can imagine, a daughter who would be un-lovable, even one most people would be afraid of, except for a parent.   No one else would care, no one else would endure, but somehow she did.

As she collapses before Jesus, as she needed to depend on someone becomes more and more apparent, her responses grow stronger as if she intuitively knows that Jesus can help.

How could she know the love of God the Father, a God she was unfamiliar with, a love that would be revealed in Jesus coming near?

The Desperate Love of the Father
We have the benefit of hearing these stories, of knowing, even if we sometimes forget, a little bit about the depth of God’s love.   Usually, I ask Chris to say the word in Hebrew, (cHesed) but I think I want to keep our guest musician dry this morning.

cHesed – the love that would go to any length for the one who is loved.  That would go to any length to restore that which is broken,

it would drive a woman to the feet of a crazy prophet…

The same love that would drive a Father to send His only Son to her.

I want you to hear something in this passage again.  I want you to see it, think about it.

He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret
He couldn’t keep it a secret.  He wasn’t able to another translation says,  The Greek uses the word from where we get dynamic, dynamo, dynamite.  He was without any power in this instance.  The One through whom the universe was spoken into being, the one whose words sent demons scurrying, who calmed seas, whose words brought the dead to life, who spoke forgiveness and taught with authority.

He couldn’t keep where he went on vacation secret from anyone.

It’s as if someone was letting people know – here’s the prophet, here is your hope!

Because immediately, she found him.  And right after that, Jesus leaves the area and goes back to Galilee.  It is as if this wasn’t really a vacation, a chance to get away, but simply a trip to her, a divine appointment.

Think about this what stopped him, what took away his power to remain incognito?  What could make Jesus the Messiah incapable, powerless, vulnerable?

Jesus couldn’t keep his presence secret because God sent Him to be there, for this lady, for this daughter who would collapse at Jesus’ feet.

Because God loved her even as He loves us.  He didn’t send him just to deliver the child from the demon.  Jesus obediently went where the Father sent them, to deliver them from everything that oppresses them.

Even as He delivers us.

Even as Jesus was sent to us.  Even as He was sent to die on the cross for us.
Even though we weren’t clean and holy.  Even though Jesus would have to dwell in our sinfulness, even as He would take on every sin we committed. Even if we acted like we were demon possessed.  Even if our battle with sin is beyond belief.

Isaiah prophesied that the Father would lay every sin we’ve committed on Jesus.  His suffering and death would cleanse us, make us righteous, heal us.

That is what we have to understand – God doesn’t will that any would perish, God won’t let anything separate us from His love,

God gave us this ministry as well, this ministry of reconciling everything to Him, even as we plead with people to be reconciled to God.

As we enter this new school year, as we swing into fall, we are going to see this over and over, that God wants us to be in communion with Him.  That He loves us, that He will deliver us from evil. And that He sends us out, with His Spirit, to bring other broken people home to Him. To free others that are oppressed, by sharing with them His love.

It’s not about getting the scraps from the table.  It isn’t about our being “not good enough”

It is about even if we are there, completely collapsed, knowing God will restore us and care for us, and comfort us. That He will heal those we bring to Him.

The Father’s love is that deep.  And that love is revealed to us in the cross of Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the promises of our baptism, and the feast that is but a small sample of the feast to come.

May you dwell in God’s peace, the peace beyond anyone’s understanding, assured that you will be kept in that peace by Jesus.  For He has come to us, to deliver us from all evil.  AMEN.

Following Jesus is Never Easy…Yet….

Devotional THought fo the Day:
3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

668      The first Twelve, too, were foreigners in the lands where they taught the Gospel. They came up against people who were building the world on foundations diametrically opposed to Christ’s doctrine. Look: despite these adverse circumstances, they knew that they had been entrusted with the divine message of the Redemption. And so the Apostle cries, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1)

One of the blessings I have, is working with “young” guys in ministry.

Some are actually young, in their 20’s and 30’s.  Some are just young in ministry, men in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s whom God is calling to do more, to come to the aid to their pastors, and even to become pastors themselves.  (Three will be ordained this year!)

But everyone is in ministry, everyone has the vocation (the role) of being someone God has sent into the world, wherever they are at, to live a life that reflects the love of Christ.

That may seem like a heavy burden, especially in striving to keep focused as Paul says, on that which is of Christ.  It is especially hard in a world like ours, where we can think we are doing well, because we aren’t as bad as the rest of the world. yet we create our own idols, our own sacred cows, and in doing so, we ignore our salvation.   Idol making is not something that starts deliberately, neither does approving of immorality.

Yet we do live in a world that opposes holiness, that calls what is wrong and sinful, right and spiritually healthy. Even when we do it among other believers. How can we call people to the peace God has planned for them, unless we show them the need for the Holy Spirit to bring them to repentance?  How can we be healed, unless we recognize our brokenness?  Not just the brokenness caused by this sin, or by that…but all brokenness?  (As Luther said, unless we preach against real (our) sin?)

We have to share the gospel, not from obligation, but from need, and because we love those who need it. This includes ourselves.  We need to know God’s grace, we need to realize that He has saved us, that He has saved us from our sin, yeah – even that one.

Ours.

By “we” i don’t mean pastors and priests, or church workers… I mean all of those who believe and trust in jesus, who know God is at work.

May we as well encourage people to keep their eyes on Christ and not ignore our being saved!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2456-2460). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Love Isn’t What Is Needed to Combat Hatred

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)

2  This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3  For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. Psalm 91:2-3 (NLT)

For the past week, I have been getting more and more weary.  As I see people respond to the unrest in places like Ferguson, or the despair in places like Detroit, as I see the hatred that the President’s actions took regarding immigration, I find myself getting more and more depressed.

If you go – well, of course, look what THEY are doing, please keep reading. For I see the anger and hatred in the reactions of both sides of the issues.  It’s just not electronic social media, you can’t even eat lunch in public place without hearing the hatred, the condescension, the call for others to change, but rarely, very rarely, the call to reconciliation, to coming together, to true fellowship.  We even create ways to mock the injustice we perceive, not seeing the mocking as less than just…

Some have hated the hating.  Demanding that others love, asking why can’t “THEY”  just get along.  Or quoting platitudes about love and hate as if people were easily capable of the former, and able to just stop the latter.  As if we could stop sinning with the snap of a finger, as if we could love without self-sacrifice, as if life was as simple as platitudes and the memes which present them.

I entitled this blog “Why Love isn’t what is needed to combat hatred”, because I keep seeing such memes, such advice.  It’s as if this is a war between good and evil, a war between love and hate.  It’s not. good doesn’t conquer evil, and love cannot hate hatred enough to go to war against it.  What turns love into something that can hatred is fear, fear created because of a lack of what we do need.

Faith.

For without faith in God, faith in Christ’s work on the cross, trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, what we call love, is not love.  It is not the cHesed type of love which sacrifices and bears every burden, so as to bless and reconcile the relationship.  Without faith/trust in God we can’t cope with the pain of others, we can’t stop the fear of being hurt again, we can’t cope with the anxiety that living in a sin-plagued world brings.

When you have a moment, look at home many times the psalms call God a refuge?  It takes faith/trust to see this. Or how God is described as our hiding place, (and include Colossians 3:2) in that.  Look at what God can do to evil, when we trust in Him as our focus, rather than fighting back.  Joseph did this, Paul learned to do this from Stephen.  David did this when Saul was after him.

In order to love, we have to have the faith, the confidence that God will make all things work for good, even though waiting for that good will be…challenging. For we must trust God through the pain, through what we perceive as evil, knowing that He is Lord, that He is our refuge, that we are protected, our hearts and minds, by Jesus.  For as we dwell in Him, the Father surrounds us with peace, the peace that comes from finding refuge.

Lord, help us to trust you more than being repulsed by hatred… and help us love and sacrifice, that all would come to know You1


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1565-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Salvation is More Than Forgiveness of Sins

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

298      My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope. (1)

As i came across the quote from St. Josemaria this evening (above in blue), I had to think through it several times. It’s not that I don’t know this, but it seemed so different from the conversations among Christians and pastors on-line recently.

So often are conversation is about justification, whether it is evangelicals trying to be missional and covert people, or whether it is Lutheran theologians attempting to focus on our ineptitude to obey Christ (and applying that to the redeemed as well as the unregenerate).  In either situation, salvation is reduced to the forgiveness of sins.  There might be a mention of eternity in heaven as opposed to hell. Even that seems to be diminished these days, in light of glory of being righteous in the eyes of God.

But we can’t describe heaven well, apart from what isn’t there, and a vague idea of God seated on the throne, and the activity around Him, like the praise songs being sung.

But what makes our lives the work of art that Paul tells the church in Ephesus about?

What did theologians talk about, when they mentioned the life of the baptized?

What is this transformation that the Corinthians hear is happening to them, this work of the Holy Spirit that happens as we reflect the glory of God.

That means something is going on now, this transformation in our lives, this work of art, this being created (re-created) in Christ Jesus to do that which God ordained us to do.  Not to sit and argue about, not to dismiss because it makes us uncomfortable.  The idea of being close enough to Christ to experience His glory, to reflect that glory to a world, broken and comfortable in darkness is a challenge.

I like how Pope Francis put it,

“”We feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home; leaving our home to answer God’s invitation, go to God’s house, with others? No. I’m afraid. And all of us Christians have this fear hidden deep inside … but not too hidden.” (from a quote from “Divine Office” on facebook)

We want to hide in the comfort of our sins, as Israel did. We want a veil that keeps us at a distance….

God will remove that veil, enabling us to walk in a relationship trusting Him.  He will make our lives that masterpiece, He will transform us into the very image of Christ.  He will walk with us, and we will be so amazed by that, we may not even notice the rest of what He is doing…..

That is His love for us.

That is the baptised life….

That is salvation.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1218). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: