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Who Told You? A Sermon on Genesis 3:8-15

church at communion 2Who Told You?
Genesis 3:8-15

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that instead of seeking a hiding place from God, you should seek the refuge you find in Him!

Who Told You?

In today’s first reading, the one from Genesis 3, there is a question that God asks Adam, one that is relevant to ask today.

Who told you?

Specifically, who told you that you were naked, literally that you were exposed, who told you that your sin was visible for all to see?  ( who was all anyway?)

How did you find out you had sinned, how did you come across that information?

Where did this guilt come from that drives you to do things that are as unnatural as the sin you are trying to hide?

As I thought about this question, it came to me that you and I need to ask that question today as we have to deal with our own brokenness, with our own sin, and the damage it does to us.

For I think we’ve been taught about sin in such a way that we react to it as Adam did, hiding, getting defensive, shifting blame, all in response to the guilt that convicts us far more cruelly than God would.

So who told you that you were exposed, that your sin was something so horrible that you had to hide?

Who told you to pass the blame?

As Adam was anxiously dealing with the idea that God found him.  As God asks Adam who told you that you were naked, did you eat of the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  While all that is scrambling his mind, he comes up with an answer.

Not my fault God!  It’s her fault, you know, the one YOU gave me.   She gave me the fruit, and because she is a blessing from you, I listened to her.

And since then, some men have avoided that problem, simply by not listening to their wives!

Of course, that causes other problems, and is just as sinful!

But who told Adam that the best way to deal with sin was to pass the blame?  To hide behind Eve, rather than hiding behind a tree?  Who told him that he wasn’t responsible for stopping Eve from falling into sin?

In trying to defend himself, to justify his own sin, Adam finds himself guilty of more than one sin, he finds himself shattering more relationships and allowing sin to get a better and better hold on his soul.

We do this all the time, and so does most of the world.  When we fear getting caught when we know the guilt and shame and embarrassment that comes from doing something we know we shouldn’t do or refusing to do something we should.

Who told us to do that?  Who told us that we needed to be defensive, that a defense even needed to be given?  For that is as much of a lie as the temptation to sin was in the first place.

Yet Adam does it, as will Eve, who will follow the pattern and play the blame game, blaming the snake for deceiving her, for leading her into temptation.

Who told us to hide, to try and escape from God’s notice. Who told us to hide behind others, trying to get them to pay for our sin?

Who told you about Eve’s offspring?

I am not sure where we get this idea to hide from God, but we do it all the time, don’t we?

What we need to hear, is the last verse of the passage, for it tells us how sin is to be dealt with.  It is the very first prophecy about Jesus in the Bible, what Luther called the “proto-gospel”.

You see it on the painting on the cover of the bulletin, as the offspring of Eve crushes Satan and all his minions on the cross.  Even as the serpent sees Christ die, Satan’s efforts to dominate, to lead people away from God are crushed.

This is what we need to know!  That sin, Satan, and death are crushed at the cross of Christ.  We have been made free!

Seeking Refuge, not Hiding

There is something that drives us to hide from God, and from others, like our parents, our spouses, our children, even our pastor, when we sin.

It is ironic when we run from God when we hide behind someone else, I think what we are trying to do is to find a place of rest, a place where the effects of our sin are negated, and we think hiding will provide it.  We don’t understand there is an option, there always has been.

We can seek refuge in God, instead of seeking a hiding place from Him.

Instead of laying the blame off on others, Christ will willingly, even joyfully remove it.

Seek refuge, not a hiding place.

Which means seek a refuge in God, we allow Him to remove all the guilt and shame, all the anxiety over punishment, all the anxiety of having our sinfulness exposed to the world.

For that was why He was looking for Adam and Eve, and until the cross, why He put them out of the garden.  Not as a punishment, but to sustain them until Christ’s death and resurrection would cleanse them from sin, and they and all who trust and depend on God were given refuge, in the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

For there we find life, and peace that is beyond compare or comprehension.  For in Christ we are kept secure, our hearts and minds are in His possession.  AMEN!!!

Why fighting false teaching is not a oneman job.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?20  So Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:19-21 (NKJV)

Again you say, “The temporal power is not forcing men to believe; it is simply seeing to it externally that no one deceives the people by false doctrine;85 how could heretics otherwise be restrained?” Answer: This the bishops should do; it is a function entrusted to them86 and not to the princes. Heresy can never be restrained by force. One will have to tackle the problem in some other way, for heresy must be opposed and dealt with otherwise than with the sword. Here God’s word must do the fighting. If it does not succeed, certainly the temporal power will not succeed either, even if it were to drench the world in blood. Heresy is a spiritual matter which you cannot hack to pieces with iron, consume with fire, or drown in water. God’s word alone avails here, as Paul says in II Corinthians 10[:4–5], “Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty in God to destroy every argument and proud obstacle that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to take every thought captive in the service of Christ.”[1)

Over the last few days, I’ve given a bit of thought to how to deal with those who promote heresy or heterodoxy, and to those who attempt to deal with it.  It is a bit of a focus in the higher echelons of my denomination presently.  Or at least some are making the case that it is, and they are struggling to determine how to deal with it, or not deal with it.

Yet in the parish, we have to deal with both heresy and heterodoxy.  It may be someone who has strayed into it.  It may be someone who deliberately comes into the church, or posts something on FB.  So how do we approach those who would lead people away from the mercy of Christ?

The question, no matter the situation, whether large and prevailing, like Arius, or the lady who watches Joel Oseteen, is whether we can confront is love, and call the person to repentance.  This is why force cannot be used, or power and “authority”.  That is not the pastoral approach, nor is tt that of Matthew 18, where it is not the individual or the elders that deal with the sinner, but the community of God.

Why does this work this way? Simple, because as faith  and prayer, leaving it in the hands of God.

You see, when you fight heresy by your own strength, by your own will, what you are doing is falling into heresy, for you have created a idol out of your position.  Worse than heresy is this… for it is blasphemy.

You see, when dealing with history, one must be pastoral, one must care for souls.  Doing so is critical, to have the people of God be the correcting source, the church is the one who has the witness.  Not just any one man has the ability to defeat heresy or heterodoxy.  You see, dealing with it through force, through authority doesn’t evangelize, either the heterodox or heretical, or those who are watching the confrontation.  You see, they need to hear the clear gospel as well, those who would challenge it. By using authority, by using force to bluntly crush heresy and heterodoxy, you fail in that regard, you don’t show the people the true gospel, the light that will always shatter the darkness, that will reveal clearly Christ.

That’s what is important, not seeing them crucified, but seeing them crucified with Christ.

This is ministry, it isn’t easy to bear this cross, and not everyone is able to….. but this is how He did it, embracing, reconciling transforming….

That is what those who follow Him pray to see… not to win a battle, but as we see Christ victorius over sin and satan and death.

May we pray for all souls.. even as we desire to see all reconciled.

(Side note – seeing the church work together in this – also allows for the humility that corrects us when we go astray…)

85 On Luthers approval in another connection of the position here rejected, see Kawerau (ed.), Kötlin’s Martin Luther, I, 584.

86 Cf. Titus 1:9ff.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 45, p. 114). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

An Introduction to Spiritual Warfare…..

devotional thought of the day;

Featured image We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to really hearing (obeying) Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (adapted from the NLT)

3  Long ago the LORD said to His People   I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3 (adapted from the NLT) 

764      Now, when the Cross has become a serious and weighty matter, Jesus will see to it that we are filled with peace. He will become our Simon of Cyrene, to lighten the load for us. Then say to him, trustingly: “Lord, what kind of a Cross is this? A Cross which is no cross. Now I know the trick. It is to abandon myself in you; and from now on, with your help, all my crosses will always be like this.”  (1)

I see a lot of talk on line, and indeed, I’ve probably got 50 -75 books on Spiritual Warfare.

Some dismissing it, some exhaustive guides on what to do when you face this, face that.  Books on praying for those who are spiritually oppressed, even a couple of odd guides on exorcism.  ( Having read them, and knowing about the sons of Sceva… I wonder why those without experience dare write such!)

Ultimately, spiritual warfare is a fight to trust in God.  To abandon ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our souls, in Christ.  To realize the cross we bear… the anxieties, pains (yes physical/emotional/spiritual) we endure, are endured differently, because we are united to Jesus.  That they can’t separate us from Him, that He has promised these things will be a blessing.

When I replaced the word “obeying” with “really hearing” Jesus in the quote above, I do so because that is what the Greek means. Hyper – which translates as…well “hyper”; and the work akou, which simply means to hear.   We need to hear Him, we need to hear of His love, of His mercy.  We need to understand that He became man, suffered under pilate, was crucified, died and was buried – not for His own personal gain, but to gain us… His people.

That is where spiritual warfare begins, at the baptismal font where we are claimed by Jesus, and joined to His cross.   Where we are made His people – as He desires, as He and the Father planned from before the foundation of the world. Where the promises are sealed to us, guaranteed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. (see Titus 3:1-8)

Yeah – there are spiritual battles, there are demons, and Satan, but they cannot steal someone from God.  Knowing that our burdens, our battles, the things that cause our anxieties, worries, fears… they were defeated at Jesus death.

All spiritual warfare is, including exorcism (and yes, in some cases that is a necessity) , is a battle to make that known…. that we may find refuge, sanctuary, peace.

We must know our cry, “Lord, have mercy” is heard……

And we must hear, as Jesus heard at baptism, “You are my child, and in you I find great joy”

AMEN
(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What you need to know about Spiritual Warfare…

      Mission Briefing #3:

What You Need to Know about Spiritual Warfare

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revelation 12:7-12

 † In Jesus Name

 

As you encounter the temptations and trials of this life, may you know that God’s grace, the mercy, love and peace the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ covers you with, will sustain you to victory!

 

Our Mission has…

 

This fall, we’ve been focusing on the mission of this church, of the church as a whole.   To do the work that God has planned for our lives, to do the very work Christ commissioned us to do. The work He has started, that we have a part in, as we reveal His love to the world.

Our mission?  To make disciples of people of every ethnicity, as we go about our lives.  To do so by baptizing them, cleansing them of their sin, and teaching them to treasure everything Jesus has taught us.

It is why the church is here, it is why we have a pre-school, it is why we have pastors and teachers and elders.  To reach out to the hurting, to those living in guilt and shame, to those whose lives are locked into destructive ways of life.

That is our job – to reach out to them, with the hope that comes from knowing the love of Christ, and the fact that He is with His people. That He is with you!  The world needs to know that, they desperately need to know His love, His presence, His healing, and His love.

It is our mission; it is why He sends us out where ever we go.  It has been the mission since the day Adam and Eve left the garden.  God gave the mission to Israel as they left Egypt, as they were ruled by judges and kings, and called to repentance by prophets.  It was their mission as they entered captivity, as they were restored to their land, as they waited for the Messiah.

They were to point to the One who was the light for gentiles, the glory of the people Israel.

Today, the readings all deal with opposition to our church’s mission.

For be sure, as we share God’s love with the world – we will face opposition.  A very ticked off and upset opposition.  An opposition whose only mission seems to be to drive a wedge between God and His people…

An opposition that has lost…but even so, won’t give up. For our opposition is demonic.

The Nature of Satan’s Mission…
Satan has a number of names, or descriptions in this passage, each revealing his evil character and the mission that has become his over time.  Scripture calls the dragon, the primeval serpent, the devil, Satan, and the accuser.   SO let us deal with them.

Dragons in Hebrew thought were large serpents, known especially for their patience, and their keen eyesight.  The very root word for them comes from one of the words for sight.  Their tactics were to kill their opponents by finding and striking at their weakest point – and so it is with Satan, as he looks out at our weakness
The primeval serpent did that, finding the perfect way to deceive Eve and tempt Adam.  Working on their pride, and on curiosity, he was able to deceive them into knowing evil, for all they knew before that was good.  He got in and poisoned their relationship with God and with each other. That’s his strategy, to cause division.
He tried that with Job, and even thought Job struggled, Job’s God proved faithful. Which is the point we need so badly to learn!

Devil and devils simply mean those who throw against, basically they are spiritual gossips and mudslingers.  The devils best tool is to bring light on our failures, to show our sins and character weakness. God, don’t you know your favored people, the people you called your own are a bunch of silly sinners?  These people and their pastor, God, don’t you know what they did this week?

Lastly, Satan simply means our Adversary.  The one who opposes us and uses all of His cunning to hurt us, for if he can drive a wedge between us and God, then he is happy, for that is all he can try to do, and even that… is but an illusion.

His Weapon?  Our Failure, our Guilt

You see, Satan’s only weapon is try to deceive us, to literally lead us astray from the love and mercy of God.  He will greatly use temptation, guilt and shame to try and separate us from the love of God.

Which means Satan’s best weapons are our sins, and our weak points where He can tempt us. He wants to uses our failures.  He desires to cause us guilt, to cause us shame, to create an illusion that God does not want to forgive us, or that we do not deserve the love of God, and that we stand condemned.

Because he is no longer in heaven, accusing us before the throne of God, his only option is to work on us, to convince us that God will not fulfill the promise of Christ’s blood, to cover our sin.

This was part of our conversation this week in a college class on the Lord’s Supper.  That we feel guilty when we do not think we feel guilty enough!  When we think our attitude has to be perfect before we can come to church. We have to get our lives in line that we have to become saints prior to coming here, otherwise the roof might fall in, or the apocalypse might happen.

That is Satan’s only goal, to divide us from God, and if God will not listen to his accusations, maybe we will.  Either to his accusations about us, or the gossip that accuses others, both of which can cause division.

But if our prosecutor isn’t there?

 

What we have to remember is the victory is won.  The only judge who can condemn us has determined that Satan’s accusations are not worth listening to, and has tossed the one accusing us out of heaven.  The battle was not some heaven splitting war, it was simply that it was time to stop listening to the accuser.

Because Christ had come.

Because the blood of Christ has covered every sin.

That is the word that we bear witness! This love of God that sent the Son to bear the guilt of every sin! The word that we testify to is His promise to cleanse us of every sin, to unite us to His death, so that we will rise again.

 

Which is why we do not have to cling to life, for we know what death brings.

For our life in Christ means more than our physical life, for one is eternal, and one is passing. Think of it this way… in our baptism we meet Christ in His death, and at our death He meets us again, to bring us life.

Salvation and power and God’s empire have become known to us, for in Christ dieing on the cross, the bonds that hell had on us because of sin were shattered, for the gates of hell cannot ever stand against the revelation of God’s love for us, so clearly revealed in the cross of Christ.

It makes Satan’s role as our accuser meaningless, his accusations in heaven not even being heard.  For in Christ, our names are written in the record of life. If the prosecutor is not there, if the Judge will not listen to him, those who are guilty are freed, declared innocent.

We don’t have to listen to Satan’s charges, we don’t have to pay heed to the illusion of Guilt and shame, the agony of dealing with sin.  We have been declared free in Christ.

That’s why we come to this altar – to be reminded of the blood, to be reminded of that to which we confess, the truth we state when we say, I believe in God the Father…and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit who calls us gathers us together.  Satan cannot do a thing about it, for He is powerless.

And knowing this, we live, forgiven in the unsurpassed, indescribable peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN…

How and Why do we confront sin?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day: 

It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, immorality of a kind that is not found even among gentiles: that one of you is living with his stepmother.  2  And you so filled with your own self-importance! It would have been better if you had been grieving bitterly, so that the man who has done this thing were turned out of the community. 3  For my part, however distant I am physically, I am present in spirit and have already condemned the man 4  who behaved in this way, just as though I were present in person.  When you have gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, with the presence of my spirit, and in the power of our Lord Jesus, 5  hand such a man over to Satan, to be destroyed as far as natural life is concerned, so that on the Day of the Lord his spirit may be saved. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NJB) 

 5  If anyone did cause distress, he caused it not to me, but—not to exaggerate—in some degree to all of you. 6  The punishment already imposed by the majority was quite enough for such a person; 7  and now by contrast you should forgive and encourage him all the more, or he may be overwhelmed by the extent of his distress. 8  That is why I urge you to give your love towards him definite expression. 9  This was in fact my reason for writing, to test your quality and whether you are completely obedient. 10  But if you forgive anybody, then I too forgive that person; and whatever I have forgiven, if there is anything I have forgiven, I have done it for your sake in Christ’s presence, 11  to avoid being outwitted by Satan, whose scheming we know only too well.  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NJB)

This morning as I looked at facebook, I was a bit in shock at the response of some people to the election of the new leader of another denomination that shares the name Lutheran with my own.  We are, in many ways radically different, but the mocking and deriding of their decision was sickening and to be blunt, sinful.   Confronting sin, whether just perceived or actual, never justifies sinning in the confrontation of it.   What is worse, Luther’s rants were used to justify their own mocking and ranting.  Luther’s large catechism was also quoted, talking about the confrontation of sin.   Here is the passage used to justify mocking and berating others:

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.-  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

But this brings to mind – what is the reason we confront and challenge sin, or in this case – practices or others who are in Christ that we know/feel/believe are not in line with scripture?  We may truly believe they are in sin, and we may be right.  If so, the reading from 1st Corinthians above tells us actions we can and should take- but it also informs us of the reason – to save their soul.  If we understand Luther’s Large Catechism, that is the sense there as well, and warning others of the danger they face in following that direction.  But the purpose is never to mock sinners, the purpose is never to taunt or increase the division that may exist.   It should never be done with joy, but rather with sorrow and with great pain.   Love will never rejoice over sin – either in approving it, or in calling for repentance.  Instead it desires to see the damage of sin broken, the bonds that it has shattered.  It always looks for ways to embrace the cross – for the joy that is awaited when reconciliation occurs.  That has to be our goal.  Anything else… well it is our own sin which should drive us to that very same altar of grace.

The reason to confront sin determines how it is to be done, whether in accord for Matthew 18 privately, or in the case of “Public sin”  The law must be applied with the intent that when repentance is granted – the love and comfort of grace is poured out without hesitation, without thought.  Every sinner, including those who have the task of confronting sin themselves, need to be at the altar, at the foot of the cross.  That is where it is supposed to occur. (Paul isn’t kidding about that in First Corinthians, its not just a expression)  The same goes when we challenge each others practices, as we discuss.  DIvision caused by sin is a grievous thing – not something that should gain us kudos and “likes” as we mock them publicly, as if we were perfect in our thoughts words and practices.

The goal is unity in Christ, unity found in His mercy, in His grace, in His forgiveness and love.  It is to call all sinners to receive repentance and faith and to find joy in our relationship with God.

We cry, Lord have mercy… but we

Dr. Martin Luther's Church Door - Wittenburg, ...

Dr. Martin Luther’s Church Door – Wittenburg, Germany ’93 (Photo credit: Mikey G Ottawa)

need to remember we all need it!

The Thing that Matters….

The Thing that Matters

Luke 10:17-20

† In Jesus Name †

 

May you rejoice in the grace, that incredible love and mercy that God our Father pours out on your, whose names are engraved in heaven.

The Meaningless Touchdown

 

It was late in the fourth quarter, when the young running back finally got his opportunity to get in the game.  He listened to the  quarterback call the play, and with great excitement, he took his place in the backfield, looking down the long field to the goalposts in the distance.
The quarterback took the snap, turned and slammed home the ball into his stomach.  He ran ahead, and noticed a hole, ducked through it and took off, eyes still on the goal posts as they seemed to rush toward him, more than he was running toward them.   His dad he thought, would be so proud!  Maybe now that girl he had a crush on would notice him, and weren’t there scouts at the game tonight!  He would score his first touchdown in front of them all.

Which he did, just as he heard the final gun sound…

He fell to his knees, the tears of joy, the emotions overwhelming him.

After a moment he wondered where the cheers were, where his teammates were, why weren’t they pounding him on the back?  Why was the team heading off the field, and the few people left in the stands leaving?

He looked at the scoreboard, 63-3, and then he realized, the quarterback had told him to simply take the ball and fall safely to the ground…the game had long been decided.

 

I think the way he felt, is the way the 72 disciples may have felt, having come back from their mission trip, as they needed to be refocused on “the thing that matters.”
As we look at this day, as a man is put into office to serve God and the church, as we look at the battles we have faced over the years, both the incredible victories, and what we thought were defeats, yet were revealed to be victories, we need to grasp this very thing…

our names are written in heaven!

and that is what matters!  That’s what we can really rejoice about!  Our names – engraved in heaven!

Why we are excited… God working, through us?

There are days when I think about what goes on in this place, that I can understand the joy that the disciples felt that day when they returned.

To think that babies and adults have come to this spot, and their eternities changed as God cleanses them from every sin they have or ever will commit.  Literally millions, if not tens and hundreds of million sins washed away in this very spot. And here, at this rail, the comfort and peace of Christ’s body and blood given for us to eat – the greatest of celebrations, and the lives touched as God’s love for us sinners has been revealed to people from here…all of the prayers answered here as God heals our hearts and minds, and sometimes our bodies, this is incredible!  Imagine if these walls continued to echo the praises that were sounded here over the years!

No wonder we come to treasure our church buildings, they are places that over and over we have seen miracles that go beyond our comprehension.  It’s not that the building is special, but it is the place where God has put His name, and given us hope and forgiveness.

God works through us all, and it is amazing when we see that work happen.  It is mind-blowing that He would take us, and change people’s lives here.


What’s been invested in us – isn’t minor stuff

         

This is not to say the work that God accomplishes through us isn’t incredible, nor that how we see people freed from that which oppresses them isn’t worthy of praise.  The list in these three verses is incredible. Consider these things.

First, we have the ability to free people from what oppresses them – to pronounce them forgiven and cleansed  – even from demonic forces that would oppose them.

In a similar way, we have the power to tread over serpents and scorpions – although in the context the term snake could refer to those men who are evil and whose work is that of the snake in the garden, to cheat people out of their relationship with God by deceit.  I thought that made sense – but scorpions?  In the Revelation, those who would spiritually oppose and torment humanity are described as locusts and scorpions,  Even so, such powers and opposition cannot stop the people of God, as they are appointed and set out to bring God’s message of love and mercy,
Not only are the minions, the low level plans of Satan frustrated but look at verse 19, “all the power of the enemy!”   Our enemy being all of the powers and principalities of darkness, the very power of satan had to yield to these 72 disciples, and there was nothing that could be done about it.

What they learned, Paul described so clearly in Romans 8

 

8:37 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. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 (NLT)


Which is what Paul ends verse 19 with, our translation says “nothing shall hurt you,” but the Greek goes even further in demonstrating God’s provision – “nothing against you unrighteous (or unjust). Satan cannot come against us and persecute us, or accuse us of being unrighteous, nothing can take us our of the hands of God.  Our defense is sure, Christ will keep our hearts and minds in peace, for that is why He died.

But it is incomparable.

 

Even as that seems so incredible, that even the demons and Satan are subject to us because we are in Christ, that isn’t the thing we should rejoice in the most.  It doesn’t matter how powerful our ministry, is, whether it reaches here or around the world, whether we have a nice building or the cathedral on the corner. Whether we baptize 50 or 10,000 – though these things would be mind blowing and incredible.

These things – this power invested in us, that is demonstrated as people are freed from bondage, freed from the guilt and shame of sin, are the like the touchdown at the end of a blowout.  Nice, and kinda cool – but nothing in view of the main victory, the incredible truth that we are God’s people, that we are in fellowship with Him.

I love how 1 Corinthians 2 describes what we should rejoice in,

What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)


What does it mean that our names are engraved in heaven?  Think about it as on your home, on the mailbox there is a sign with your name on it.  It’s where you belong, it is where the God who loves you has made your home, with Him.  It is the life, promised long ago, that His people would never be forgotten, that the people of God would never be without hope – for their names are engraved and kept in a very special place.

49:15 Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. 16 Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your ramparts are ever before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16 (NJB)

On the hands that bore the marks as they were pierced, as the body of Christ was pinned to a cross, our lives were carried with Him, forever united there as He cleansed us, as He bore our sin, and our shame and everything that oppressed us, that we might be home with the Father, forever.

That is what we rejoice in, that is why we share this message with the entire world! The message that is proclaimed in the Bellflower, and Cerritos, and even in Norman and Lincoln – for it is in what the message contains that is what we rejoice in!

It is why Chuck and Jim were installed as elders today in Cerritos, and Mark is installed as the Vicar of Our Savior.

The work he will do at your side, the work we all do together as the people of God is incredible, for it is God working in and through us…proving to us what matters, a place to call home

In Christ, we belong with the Father, living in His love and that is why we rejoice!  AMEN?

Angels and Spiritual Warfare…it is not what we think!

Devotional thought of the day to be discussed.

This week in liturgical churches, we celebrate the Feast of St Michael and all Archangels.  (Yes even in Lutheran Churches – check your pericope!)

Now, with the obvious disclaimer that we do not worship these beings, we can and do interact with them.  Jesus talks about children having such angels in heaven, and we see one in action in the life of the prophet Daniel, and in the life of Moses. One such discussion is noted in the Epistle of Jude:

1:8 In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. 9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) Jude 1:8-9 (NLT)     

Herein lies a great challenge for us, for whether it be spiritual battle, or dealing with those that antagonize or berate us, we want to strike back accordingly.  We want to take justice into our own very creative hands, and trash those who hurt us, or more often, hurt others.  In doing so, we engage our own falseness, we do so in our weakness, we do so in a way, that is sure to find us defeated, demoralized, bitter, broken.   Or we come back that way, but disguised with a sense of triumphant joy.  “We showed them”, “we pounded them into the ground”, “Got’em!” we cry, and we fail to see that both they and we are bleeding from the fight.  There is no winner, just more division, more pain, and another battle to fight another day.

Michael the Archangel fought Lucifer in a different manner.  He didn’t go head to head – could he have?  Perhaps, but we will find that angels primary vocation is not to do battle.  We love to picture them, either as weak cherubs at valentines day – piercing hearts with arrows to cause love. (Interesting thought there -change the love from erotic to agape – that’s how the Holy Spirit works) or a valiant towering warriors with swords laced with purifying fire.  But scripture primarily talks of them in two ways.  One – bringing a message to God’s people.  Secondly, and this is really their place – before the throne of God. leading the hosts of heaven, with the 24 elders, adoringly declaring the praise of God.

So Michael, who like us was designed not for battle, but for worship and fellowship, keeps it simple.  “The Lord correct you!”   and the battle is over.

When we put justice into His hands.. the outcome of spiritual battles is assured.  Christ’s power simply overwhelms Satan’s, because Christ’s power is life, not death.  It is reconciliation of God’s people with God and each other, not division.   FOr someone used to living in the presence of God, the battle is simply a matter of turning it over to our Lord, who died on the cross, that no other need die, that no other need be broken.  It is when we realize this, that gathering together becomes more than a country club like gathering .

But to get to that place, means we have to let Christ deal with our own “demons”.  To break the power of sin and satan over us, for believers, to realize that is what happens in the sacraments, in baptism, as we feast, as we confess and are absolved.  Josemarie Escriva wrote well,

“You, who see yourself so badly lacking in virtues, in talents, in abilities… Do you not feel the desire to cry out like the blind Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”? What a beautiful aspiration for you to say very often, “Lord, have pity on me!” He will hear you and come to your aid.”   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 882-886). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If we need to deal with our own pain which oppresses us, if our “personal demons” (which usually aren’t demons in the way we picture them) need to be dealt with, the cry of Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, will see those “demons” rebuked and their hold broken, and our souls and heart and minds and bodies – freed to worship.  It is a prayer that God always answers, for the promise and fulfillment of the prayer is what the cross is always about.

So Lord, have mercy on us, rebuke that which oppresses us, help us live as Your body, your people.  AMEN

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