Blog Archives

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus! Walking with Jesus means Our faith grows! A sermon on Luke 17:1-10

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
Luke 17:1-10

In Jesus Name!

May the grace, the mercy and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris show you, enable your dependence on them to grow strong as the Holy Spirit sustains you!

The oddest question (and perhaps craziest?  😊 )

The question the disciples ask in the Gospel reading today must be one of two things.  It must be ignorant, or if not, it is completely, without doubt, insane.

Let me explain the first.  If by “increase our faith” they are asking Jesus to increase their knowledge of the faith as in the doctrines and understanding of religious ordinances, then they are ignorant.

Faith is not our doctrine, faith is not a belief statement, or even all the teachings found in, or taken from scripture. Though we use the word as a noun in these days to describe what people believe doctrinally, it wasn’t so then. So if they were asking God to increase their knowledge of doctrine, of theology, then their question was simply ignorant.

But faith means to trust and depend on something or someone. Let’s say I decided during the week that there was too much dust on the lights up there. So, I decided to clean them myself. I would need to have faith in the ladder’s ability to hold me up, I would depend on it, and that the warning that it can only support 225 pounds was somehow… wrong.

So for the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith, what they are really asking is, “Lord, give us the opportunities to depend on You and nothing else”  Or to put it another way, “Lord, get rid of all the things that we can’t depend on in our life, so that we only depend on you!”

Any ideas of what you are asking God to take away there?

Any one ready to pray that? 

The challenges of Faith  – Sin in its various forms

If we look at why the disciples ask the question, you see there in the gospel the conversation that occurs before the question, and you see it deals with sin. Specifically, it talks about the sin we encourage in others, or passively encourage by not confronting it, by not rebuking it.

Talk about something that requires the greatest level of faith. 

I mean, how easy would it be for Bob to pull me aside and talk to me about my sin?  To confront it, to challenge it, to remind me that he can run with me to God, and it can be forgiven?

Or is it a lot easier for our deacon to simply say, “Well pastor is mostly a good guy, except for being a Pats fan, and he lets me have fun preaching and teaching, so I will just ignore the sins he committed, or the heresy he teaches, after all, he’s a good guy…”

How much faith would he need to depend on God to bring up the sin, and encourage me to seek God’s forgiveness?

And yet to not do so, to allow people to linger in sin, to give into temptation, to remained trap there, is sin for us.

So whether the sin is gossip or unrighteous anger, whether it is using God’s name in vain, or being jealous to the point where it dominates, we need to trust God enough to be the one God uses to start the redemption process, and the wisdom to listen to God as to what is necessary at this point in time.

You see, “rebuking” isn’t going up to people and wagging your finger in their face. It is working for the repentance and redemption that can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is placing a value on the sin – realizing something has to be done for the person, because of the damage sin will do!

Rebuking them is going to them in love, and caring for them enough to address the issue

The answer – recognizing the Master

So back to the question – how do we increase our faith? 

Jesus answer is, uhm… really?  If you had any…then…. everything is possible.

Not quite the answer I would expect from Him, really.

And then He goes into this parable about the servant and the master.  The Master gives instructions and the servant simply does it. It’s about that nasty word “obedience”. To do what we are supposed to do, because our master is here.

Or as we say it around here, “The Lord is with you!”

This isn’t doing what we are told to do, as Jesus leaves us on our own, it is our responding to His wisdom, to the fact He has responsibility over us, to ensure we get to be with the Father in heaven. It is listening to Him here, and now, hearing His concern for those who get caught in sin, or who are convinced what they are doing is right, because people of God haven’t confronted them.

It’s about faith and trusting and depending on the God who is here.  About talking to Him and hearing His voice.  About realizing His love for us is so complete that He won’t lead us astray.  

Depending on God is easier, when you know He is here, when you know He is in charge, when you realize that our Lord is the one who loves us.  When we realize He will make all things work for our good, even the tough stuff, then we are able to craft what He has called us to do…

Faith is found, not in your will, not in your strength, but in the fact of God’s presence in your life. You can trust Him, He is here, with you… you can depend on Him, He loves you and is working for your best.

Faith isn’t something that is increased, it is simply something realized… I can trust God, because He loves me!  AMEN!

“And Therefore,” A New Easter Tradition…that I highly recommend!

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

Devotional Thought of the Day”

51 Listen to this secret truth: we shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed.
53 For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die. 54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!”
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (TEV)

12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. Colossians 2:12 (TEV)

4 By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. 5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. Romans 6:4-5 (TEV)

Christ is risen! In old chronicles we read how the faithful in Russia used to embrace each other with this greeting. They had undergone tangible renunciation during the period of Lent, and now that this period was over, they experienced a real, immense overflowing of joy. By entering into the rhythm of the Church’s year they knew quite tangibly that life had triumphed and that life was beautiful. We still celebrate Easter today, of course, but the grey veil of doubt has spread over the heart of Christendom, robbing us of joy. So is Easter obsolete, a word powerless to inspire hope?

A few years ago, I wrote an Easter sermon called “So what”. And as I took the church through the Easter Acclimation, I asked them to respond one more time:

Pastor: Alleluia! Christ has Risen!
Church; HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!!
Pastor: And therefore…
Church: WE ARE RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

The concept worked well, and with Great energy, they responded. It worked so well, we used that call and response for the rest of Easter (which is celebrated for 7 weeks in our church)

But what I would have never expected happened the next year, when I was planning on only doing the traditional Acclimation, and one of my elders, seeing me pause, enthusiastically and loudly proclaimed the “And therefore” and the entire church responded with the “We are Risen Indeed!”

It is now tradition!

And some poor pastor 30 years from now will have to consider whether it is a tradition he is willing to pay the price of changing!

But I love it. It helps drive the meaning of Easter home. In a world where, as Pope Benedict notes, Easter has become obsolete ( You rarely see church attendance go up on Easter anymore, when it was once the only day some would show up) this little tradition is making a difference.

It makes people realize the Resurrection is personal, they have a major stake in it. THeir role in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is talked about throughout scripture, and especially in Paul’s writings (there are more than the ones above)

And what we now know as a promise, and see hints of here and there, it is guaranteed. We will be changed, we are immortal, and our bodies will one day resemble this. We dwell in the presence of God, and death’s defeat is sure.

Easter matters, and however it takes to make that something we realize, for ourselves and can teach with conviction to those who follow is a not a bad tradition to have.

With Christ, you have risen indeed. Alleluia! AMEN!


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. 126). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Mandela, Memorials, Celebrations and Funerals…for what purpose?

Raising of Lazarus. Jesus calls out Lazarus fr...

Raising of Lazarus. Jesus calls out Lazarus from his tomb. Mary and Martha accompany Jesus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional THought of the Day:

21  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” 23  Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24  “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” 25  Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” 27  “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”  John 11:21-27 (NLT) 

Have you ever said something that was far more accurate than you could ever expect?

In the gospel, Martha responds to Jesus, testifying to why she believe her brother is alive.  She says this even as she knows his body, broken and empty, lies cold behind he stone. She got the answer right!  I have believed you are the Messiah… that makes everything  – including seeing her brother again, not just a nice thought – but an expectation.  Because of Him!

I have been thinkning about this a lot in the last days, since Mandela’s memorial service, and the uproars that it caused. People, newspeople and those who followed their stories missed the reason for a memorial service, and later for the funeral, which was far more private. It seems like a constant theme in the months that have passed, as many people I know have lost family, dads, and granddads.  The grief is a bit overwhelming, in some ways more personal this year, more overwhelming, even before my own dad’s suffering was replaced with the joy of being in the Father in Heaven’s presence.

So why do funerals exist?  Are they to celebrate the accomplishments of a person’s life?  Are they there to give voice to the grief the family and close friends know?  Are they times for us to put life in perspective, realizing that all life has a termination point? Are they times for us to meet up with old friends and family, in a place where the disagreements and distance seem.. well minute?  Is there time for laughter and joy amidst the tears?  If so, is it even appropriate? So many questions, and as a veteran pastor, each of the questions will find their answers differently, because they are not the primary issue of the memorial service, the celebration of life, the funeral.

THe prupose is something different.  It is something deeper, something more challenging to consider.

It is about celebrating the relationship between God and the person who has passed away.  About realizing that God has fulfilled the promises to that man or woman personally. That as God claimed them as His, as God sustained them, blessed them, disciplined them, exalted them, love them, that their life is a testimony to God’s love and mercy.  THat we can entrust this person we cared about, whom we loved, into the hands of God.   Because of that we know as King David said of His son, there will be a day when we can go to him.

It doesn’t matter whether it is Mandela, or a dear friend.  Those God has claimed are His,stating His claim at the cross, when Jesus died. He is faithful, even when we struggle to be.

Such is God’s love for us… a love that is shown in life and death. A love that needs to be revealed, and celebrated, and known.

For in realizing that love, we also realize His comfort and His peace, even as our eyes resemble waterfalls…

ALl these labels for these events, the ceremonises should teach us of God’s love… and I pray we hear it, see it revealed, and know it in our hearts..AMEN

What does Jesus “require” of His followers?

Devotional thought of the day:

 6 ‘With what shall I enter Yahweh’s presence and bow down before God All-high? Shall I enter with burnt offerings, with calves one year old? 7 Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand, with ten thousand streams of oil? Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong-doing, the child of my own body for my sin? 8 ‘You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly with your God.’      Micah 6:6-8 (NJB)

Nunc coepi!—now I begin! This is the cry of a soul in love which, at every moment, whether it has been faithful or lacking in generosity, renews its desire to serve—to love!—our God with a wholehearted loyalty. (1)

If you know the Bible quote above, you are probably wondering why verse 8 just doesn’t sound right, especially if you are used to the KLV, the NKJV, NIV, or other main translations.

There are at least three reasons, at least three very important ones, in my opinion.

The first is that the NJB doesn’t use the word “require”, as in “this is what the Lord requires of you”.   Of the translations in Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons, require isn’t a major term for this.  To seek with care, or simply  to seek is how they translate they translate this.  This verse describes what God desires, it is what He has worked to, and is trying to develop within us.  It is the journey Christ takes, it is the mission of God, to seek this out in us, and to do it with care…

Yet, when the word is reduced to “require”, it becomes what theologians call “law”.  One translation even uses the word “demands”.  In doing so, it makes of God and omnipotent King, a demanding despot, a God who will strike you down, for not meeting His demands.  It is, in many ways, just the opposite of what the passage is trying to communicate, for it nullifies the very work of God, as He seeks out carefully, and He nourishes and develops us into what we are, in Christ.

The second thing that might sound odd is the “loving loyalty,” as we have always heard this as loving “mercy”.  If you’ve read my blogs for a while, or heard a sermon or two, this is my favorire Hebrew word, cHesed.  It contains the thoughts of love, mercy, favor, kindness, loyalty.  As a technical term, it describes a relationship that is so bound together that those in it will constantly work to make sure the other person is not only cared for, but that they will help the person fulfill the obligations they have to the one helping.  It is loyalty above and beyond the call of duty.  It is the loyalty that is so defined in the person of God, that we can see it in His patience with Israel, His work developing the people in scripture, from Moses and Gideon and David and Peter and Paul, to the ultimate example – God wants us in a relationship with Him so much that Christ comes to do what we cannot – to make us righteous – at the cost of His body and blood….

This kind of loyalty, mercy, love, is what God seeks to develop in us.  We can’t impress Him with what we bring to the relationship – but He works within us to help us see His love, mercy, loyalty….. and we fall in love with Him because of it.  That is what He seeks.

The third thing  is the reason I love the New Jersulalem Bible.  It doesn’t replace God’s holy Name with the substitute, “Lord” like every other translation does.   Luther’s explanation of the commandment “You shall not misuse the Name of YHWH (the Lord)” works with the positive as well as the obvious negative.  I roughly  Don’t use God’s name in vain means we should use it!  We should use it to lay our burdens down before Him, We should praise Him and thank Him and adore Him, with the name He has given us to use, to call Him by.

I sort of understand this – I have people I consider friends, people I have relationships with that are not just that I am their pastor, I am their friend as well.  It’s a little awkward when they call me Pastor Parker.  I understand the level of respect they have for me as a pastor, (or more precisely for God putting me in that office)   Some I can get to call me Pastor Dt (what i prefer to be called) or Pastor Dustin.  But there are some still that this is awkward.  I think it is the same thing – people want to humbly walk with God – which means, in their mind – calling Him “Lord” or “Master” or “Gracious Father in Heaven”.  Yet walking humbly with Him means looking for what He wants – a relationship where we call Him by name – where we bring His name and the message of His love to the world He died for, because He loves, He has cHesed for us.

What does God require of us?  What does Jesus “require” of those who are His disciples?

THe question still grates on me, because if this is what He requires, we are all toast, and abject and complete failues.

What does He seek to develop in us?  What is His desire for us? What does He want to develop is us, with all the mercy, love and loyalty that is His?

The righteousness and holiness that is ours in Christ, a relationship where we come to love and adore Him because of His mercy, love, kindness, and complete loyalty that He shows to us, and that we humbly walk with Him, hearing His voice, becoming His people, and realizing what it means to have a God who is so selfless in His desire to be with us.

That is what He seeks, someone to love……

Dearest Yahweh, thank you for the mercy You show to us, each and every day….

AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 877-879). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stress Redux

A couple of hours ago, I wrote a post on Stress….

Interestingly, this came up in my devotions, not to long after: ( thinks got a bit off of schedule this morning)

“You suffer a lot because you realize that you don’t make the grade.  You would like to do more, and do it more effectively, but very often you do things in a complete daze, or you don’t dare to do them at all.
Contra spem, in spem, – live in certain hope, against all hope!  Rely on that firm rock which will save you and help you on!  It is a wonderful theological virtue, which will encourage you to press on, without being afraid of going to far, and will not let you stop.
Don’t look so troubled!  Yes cultivating hope means strengthening the will! ”  (Escriva †)

This pretty much says it – the reason we have hope – is the Rock, our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is there we start  – it is in Him we live… It is His work..that gives us hope – and as we see that hope – we find His strength – which allows us to serve… and live… and realize we walk in Him!

%d bloggers like this: