devotional thought of the day;
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”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. 19 The LORD looked down from his holy place on high, he looked down from heaven to earth. 20 He heard the groans of prisoners and set free those who were condemned to die. 21 And so his name will be proclaimed in Zion, and he will be praised in Jerusalem 22 when nations and kingdoms come together and worship the LORD. Psalm 102:18-22 (TEV)
Gently he helped each person to face up to his or her responsibility to love God and souls. This was always his main concern. No matter what he was talking about, everything he said was linked to this one theme: that because the plenitude of Christian life is rooted in charity , love is of the utmost urgency.”
A young woman who attended a retreat he preached in 1945 found in his preaching “something new, something distinct…. It moved me deeply. Although I had habitually made a retreat in the past, I had never heard anyone speak in the same way about the love of God. It was a great discovery for me, an encounter with God as Father, as friend. It had a great impact on me.” (1)
I am sitting in my office, having done my devotions, having skimmed through the study notes I prepared earlier in the week. After this blog is completed, I will review the notes again, and finally put down and polish the words of the sermon for tomorrow.
But why do all this? Why have i written so many blogs over the last three years, why have I written and delivered somewhere around 1000 sermons. Why do I get up on Sunday morning?
I hope in retrospect someday someone might say something like the young woman said about a priest back in 1945. i hope what has been read, what has been heard, what will be heard tomorrow and for the years I have left is what she said about Fr. Portillo’s sermons. That these messages reveal the love of God, the desire of God to make us His children, the incredible love that Christ showed to a bunch of sinners when He said, ” 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.“ John 15:15 (NLT)
That love was described by the Psalmist above, recorded that we would see the very heart of God. Those of us that deserve death because of our sin, those of us imprisoned by the snares of sin, He looked down and heard, which means He acted. Hearing isn’t just an auditory action, it is a stimulus to action. That action, the Incarnation, the Life and Death of Christ, His resurrection and Ascension and advocacy , the coming of the Holy Spirit and His work as He abides in our lives. That is what His love for us compelled Him to do, as He heard our cries….
The response, the world worships Him, we praise Him, we proclaim this love in whatever ways possible, to whomever will listen, that they may know His love… for them, for us.
That’s why….and whether we are telling about God’s love as a pastor preaching or blogging, or as a friend over lunch, or as a parent telling their kids, that is our mission, why we have been sent…. for we too will learn to hear their cries… and respond in love…. as we worship God with our lives.
(1) Coverdale, John F. (2014-07-09). Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo (Kindle Locations 1100-1105). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
“It is Finished”
May you realize, not just what you have been separated from at the cross, but what you have been united to, for that is the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
One Word: Two Meanings
Have you ever heard someone, a teacher, your pastor, your spouse say something, and though you heard the words perfectly, you didn’t quite get what they are saying?
You heard them so well you could quote them back verbatim, and they would acknowledge you heard the words perfectly, but the message did not communicate? I hope you were smart enough NOT to do that by the way.
When we hear Jesus words, there are two ways of hearing it, “it is done away with….”, or ”it is completed”
The question is which we will hear,
and which we should hear…..
It is Finished!
The first way to hear these words, “It is finished”, is to consider all that has been dealt with, the bill that has been paid.
To think that sin has been made impotent, its power to cause guilt or shame has been eliminated.
The guilt and shame of being a sinner, wiped away in baptism, therefore the power of Satan’s accusation is no longer valid.
It is not that the Ten Commandments has been eradicated, it is that the curse for shattering them as we have, has been met. The terms of our relationship with God have been met.
In this man, beaten, brutalized and scorned, that the complete burden of sin has been placed.
The debt for our envy, the damage done by our gossiping about others, the pain caused by our desires, our lust, our thirst for revenge, for the times when we would play God, or use His name to get what we want, rather than find rest and our burdens revealed by him.
All that debt, all that pain, all that brokenness….
It is finished.
It is finished……
Yet it is more than that….
It is Consumated/Completed!
As I looked through the history of the church, I saw something more than what we’ve been separated from as the focus of these words. Augustine and the early church fathers used the equivalent of consummated, completed in regards to this phrase. It is consummated, it is complete, complete, it has been accomplished.
They talk not just of the payment of sins, our being freed from sin and the devil, and the power of death.
They talk of what we are freed to, that the Holy Ghost, which Christ surrenders here, would soon be breath out upon the church.
It is completed, the work Paul talks of in Ephesian 2:10
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
It is there, at the cross of Christ, this work has been accomplished, we’ve been taken into Christ, united with His death,
And with the hope of the resurrection, with that which we shall celebrate on Sunday.
It is completed this work to bring us to the Father, who finds us righteous, who welcomes us, His children, into His presence. Sharing in His death, we now share in His resurrection.
That’s the point, what Jesus completed at the cross. It is the so what, that changes a historical story into something that matters here in Brea, in the life of every person here this afternoon, that should matter to everyone who is driving by this church, to every person listed among our Facebook friends. They all need to hear it – every person alive and every person that will be born until He come again. He has become the Way, the Truth and the Life, even as His head slumped, and He breathed His last breath.
We now can walk with Christ, we who trust in His work, who God has cleansed with water and the word.
Yes – He finished off all that would finish us off, but He completed that which He came to complete – to make for the Father a people who would be His, who would recognize Him as God their Father.
We have been united to Him, we dwell with Him, we are protected, our hearts and minds even as we dwell in the indescribable peace of God our Father.
(in order to make sense of the sermon, I have included the beginning of our service – the processional readings for Palm and Passion Sunday. THere is something about crying in one breath “Hossanna ! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and in the next, “Crucify Him!” That tension, that uncomfortable gut wrenching realization that we would have cried out as they did…. is something we should experience, and oddly enough, where we find God’s greatest glory revealed. DTP )
pastor: “In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Cogregation: Amen!
Verses for Procession for Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1–9
pastor: “When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, congregation: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” pastor : 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, congregation “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Processional Hymn All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name/Our God Reigns
pastor : (Later that Week) 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, congregation: “Barabbas! pastor:late Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, congregation: “Crucify him!” pastor ““Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, congregation: “Crucify him!” pastor: Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, congregation “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
Confession and Absolution
(we then proceeded into a time of confession our sins, and hearing the incredible words, that because of Christ, they are forgiven….It it with that context that the following sermon is delviered)
Why Would God Blind their Eyes?
Because Jesus Christ Had to Die…For Us
T In Jesus Name T
May You Grow in Awareness of what is yours as you walk in Christ, the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father. AMEN.
I don’t get it….
I usually love the mysteries of scripture, the things we call paradoxes. They are glorious, mystical things that cause our minds to eventually give up, and stand there, in awe of God’s wisdom and glory.
The mystery that is the Trinity, the paradox of Jesus being 100% God and yet 100% man. The mystery that we will celebrate as we take and eat the Body of Christ, in and under the bread; and drink the blood of Christ in and under the wine. I could go on and talk of how we are simultaneously sinners and yet righteous, or the mystery of our being Born Again, as God’s pours water over us, and replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh….
There are other things, not quite to the level of these glorious mysteries, but still puzzling, and it takes a little to work them out. Things in scripture that just don’t make sense at first glance. We have to struggle with them, to understand how what it teaches makes sense, considering what we know about God.
Such is found in verse 40 of the gospel reading. (Click)
40 “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” John 12:40 (NLT)
Does this sound like the action of the God we know, who loves us, and desires that none should perish, but that all would come to everlasting life? That He would intentionally blind someone, that they couldn’t see His glory, that he would harden their hearts so that they couldn’t understand? Why would He stop them from turning to Him? Why wouldn’t He heal them?
Is this the God of love that we adore? (Click) Or are we missing something? Why would God blind their eyes?
The Mission: Bring Glory to the Father’s Name
As the gospel reading opened, just prior to the Triumphal Entry, the Great procession into Jerusalem we see something that we need to understand. Before Jesus enters Jerusalem, before the cries change from Hosanna to Crucify Him, Jesus will hear that the world has come, and has wanted to meet with Him.
A few Greeks have come to Jerusalem, and desire to meet jesus.
Think back to last week, when Caiaphas prophesied that it would be better for one Man to die, that the people of God would live. John’s gospel said – it wasn’t just for one nation, but looking to the Old Testament prophecies, that people from every nation would be saved when One Man died. Then there is this, from the dedication of the temple…
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)
That day has come, as men come from distant lands to pray, and they will soon know the glorious answer to their prayers – that God is listening. The time when Christ is to die, though they don’t get that yet. He points is out in places like verse 23-24 (click)
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:23-24 (NLT)
In this, Jesus unites His glory to His death, the death where He is planted, but that very death provides a plentiful harvest and lives that are full of His love. That seems odd as well, for how is the death of a man, especially the torture and death that Jesus faced, something that would be glorious? Jesus will make the point again a moment later, (click)
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)
That word “lifted” up, is more often used in the sense of our phrase – “putting up on a pedestal”. To honor and cherish and praise the one lifted up, yet the crowd understood this meant he would be crucified? (click) Glorified or Crucified? (click) Or could it be both? (click)
The Challenge – Would We Cry to Crucify Christ?
Could lifting up Christ refer to Christ being glorified, to the Father’s name being praised, and to the crucifixion of Jesus?
It does – and that is why God would blind the people of Israel, and harden their hearts. Because Jesus needed to die for them, for us. It is here where we find our answer to the original question: (CLICK)
“Why would God Blind their eyes?” Because otherwise, as the other reading says, they wouldn’t crucify the Lord of Glory.
How many of you this morning, were comfortable saying the words the crowds cried on Good Friday? How many felt odd crying “Crucify Him!”? We struggle with the idea, and we weren’t even there in the courtyard. How could we cry out crucify jesus? The Son of God?
How many did felt a lump in their throat, or hesitated? How dare we call for His death, even to save us from our sins?
I think that is what makes it hard – knowing that it was our sins that put Him there. How many of us, considering our sin, our failures, our shame and guilt, would even ask Jesus to pay for those sins? Demand it? Yell it til Pilate submits?
Yet that moment, when what the crowds’ two cries are fulfilled simultaneously, when the Messiah, the Son of David comes and saves us, as His is nailed to the cross, that moment as He says, It is finished; that moment is glorious.
It is the moment we are delivered, the moment we find ourselves freed from sin, from all unrighteousness, the moment our eyes are opened, our stone hearts are replaced with hearts of flesh. That moment – when the crowds cries – Hosanna and Crucify Him are fulfilled… that moment is glorious.
As Christ dies, for us.
That’s the Moment the Father is Praised and Glorified for… Odd isn’t it?
If they weren’t blinded, if they hearts weren’t hardened, they wouldn’t have killed the Lord of Glory, They had already tried to make Him king, they wanted Him to free them, but they had no clue the kind of Kingdom He came to deliver.
I am not sure we get it all the time either…. It is too glorious, too incredible, more wonderful than anything we’ve ever seen, or heard, or even imagined
For It is at that moment, as we see Jesus, on the cross, beaten and brutalized that we realize the depth of God’s love for us, and we praise God, we glorify Him, we are in awe..
God loves us that much?
Yes, you and I.
Think about it for another moment…..
Imagine now crying out “crucify him,” understanding His love, His compassion, and His joy that drives Him to that cross……
to save you.
And the world.
May knowing the depth of Christ’s love for you, of the Father’s desire to make you His children, instill in you His peace, the peace of God which passes all understanding, and guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Devotional/Discussion thought of this day:
50 Jesus again gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 51 Then the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split apart, 52 the graves broke open, and many of God’s people who had died were raised to life. Matthew 27:50-52 (TEV)
In the midst of the most horrifyingly beautiful scene in all of scripture, as Jesus dies, crucified as he takes upon Himself all of the sin, all of the injustice, all that is wrong in you and I, and all of humanity, Matthew gives us one odd detail.
A curtain is torn in two, ripped apart in the temple.
And to those gathered in this Holy Place, what is behind the curtain is revealed. It is unveiled. It is an apocalypse – the unveiling, the revealing.
We fear that word for some reason, but what it means is simply that – the revealing, in this case, what is behind the curtain. And the answer was nothing. There was no ark of the covenant, no mercy seat, just an empty room, where blood people counted on to cover their sins, was poured down the drain. Their sacrifices were revealed to be vain, and for those who trusted in their offerings, in the work of the priests who knew the truth, all of the empty liturgy that they took such pride in, and in the temple built to Herod’s glory, they realized their faith was misplaced.
But their cries for mercy, their prayers were answered, none the less.
For there was something else revealed – a few miles away, on another mountain, not just a apocalypse, but the Apocalypse, the power that caused the earth to shake, the rocks split apart – and God’s people who had died to rise.
God was revealed in all of His glory, the depth of His love for us unveiled, the greatest apocalypse man had ever known, even though they didn’t recognize it.
For it was God there, on the cross, Jesus the one annointed, chosen, humbled, crucified, for the joy that awaited Him, the love so manifested so overwhelming. He would die, for us, so that we would never be bound by sin, so that we would become the children of God, the prodigals returned home. For that apocalypse, that revealing of the love of God, was described in another place,
12 Because we have this hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who had to put a veil over his face so that the people of Israel would not see the brightness fade and disappear. 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 3:12-18 (TEV)
The veil that was torn in two, the veiled that was removed unveiling Christ, unveiling His Love, Unveiling His Grace…
He Has Risen, and we with Him…
Let’s Boldly go – as our Savior has gone!
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)
“Like the grain of wheat, we too have to die in order to become fruitful. You and I, with the help of God’s grace, want to open up a deep furrow, to blaze a trail. That is why we have to leave the poor animal man behind and launch out into the sphere of the spirit, giving a supernatural meaning to every human undertaking and, at the same time, to all those engaged in them.”
Yesterday I read an article about a church offering a program that was advertised as “life-changing”. I thought it would be something that was about this incredible week – as we celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. It wasn’t – it was about how to find peace – but not Christ’s peace. Instead it was financial peace. Over the last few days, similar things have arisen, as people have asked about this or that, about getting churches active in this political crusade, or that social issue. Most of the things have merit, they can benefit people. But they aren’t critical. Not even close.
There is only one thing that is critical. There is only one business the church about which the church should be concerned. It has a couple of different names in the church, a couple of different ways we describe it. Today, as we celebrate Christ dying on the cross, (yes celebrate) I was to use the one I used a couple of weeks ago in a sermon. The church or theological term is
I like the way the TEV describes it – “let God change you from enemies into His friends”.
That’s our job – to appeal to people on God’s behalf – let God do what God does best. Let Him heal all the relationships you have – let Him not just forgive your sin, but let Him bring you into a relationship where you share His righteousness and holiness, (fancy words that simply describe a relationship with Him, with His people, with all His creation where things are done in love) let Him bring you into a relationship where you share His glory as well.
To those in such a relationship – we make our appeal, we beg people to let Him do these things – even if we have to die to do so. For we definitely do die to self – it takes sacrifice to reach out to people, it takes love, it takes humility.
You might think that is asking to much? Can’t we just leave this to pastors and priests, to do this work?
Well, not really, and it isn’t really asking too much, for when Christ reconciled us to the Father, when He brought us to the Father, when He brought us home….
He will never be the older brother, upset at the Father throwing the celebration for the prodigal son/brother. Instead – he offered His life to bring us home…. now its our turn – not necessarily to die – but whether we are a living sacrifice, or a martyr- that is our business.
Other things may come into play – but let us be about the Father’s work, Jesus work, the work the Spirit does through us,
And let us beg people – to let God transform them, from His enemies, into His friends.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3571-3574). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for Good Friday.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….
1 Thessalonians 5:13 (Phillips NT) 13 Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ.
With crystal clarity I see the formula, the secret of happiness, both earthly and eternal. It is not just a matter of accepting the Will of God but of embracing it, of identifying oneself with it – in a word, of loving the Divine Will with a positive act of our own will. This, I repeat, is the infallible secret of joy and peace. (1)
On this Monday of Holy Week – as the Crucifix looms on the horizon, as we look at the sin and injustice in this world, as we contemplate its score and the evil that is manifested in it, as we realize the pain embraced by Jesus Christ as all of that sin was laid upon Him, and God the Father let the wrath it deserved loose on him, I have another phrase for you – taken fron St. Paul’s advice to the church that was being persecuted in Thessalonika.
Or as some translations put it, REJOICE ALWAYS!
Even as we look at the Cross? At its brutality, and at the black sin which caused it?
Yeah – pretty much.
Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured that cross – for the joy set before Him, the joy of being reunited with His adopted brothers and sisters, the joy on the Father’s face, as the Father rejoices over the prodigals coming home! What joy there is to be found in that cross – where the passionate will of God was revealed to us all. That God was willing to give it all up – to endure such pain, to pour out such wrath….
That we would be His people, His children, His beloved!
Even in the midst of suffering, in the midst of trauma, even if in the midst of boredom, we can embrace God’s will, we can see the cross and intuitively know the depth of His love. When we do, there is a joy that comes about – for we realize that His promises are true, His presence is real, that we are not alone.
The secret is not avoiding things that are tough, not avoiding the trials – but making sure we know God’s love, in the midst of them.
And we will know peace, and comfort, and yeah – happiness.
This week – as we set our eyes on the cross – and the crucifixion of our Lord – may we see the joy that He saw, and realize we are with Him.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3547-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.