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Whaddya Want, NOW? a sermon on 1 Kings 3:3-15

Concordia Lutheran Church
Cerritos, CA

Surprised by Christmas!
What Do You Want now?
1 Kings 3:3-15

Jesus, Son, and Savior  †


May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to worship God…in His Presence!

  • Surprise!

Just curious – how many of you have heard this story about Solomon before, that instead of asking God for money or fame, or victory in battle, he asked God for wisdom to govern and lead his people?

How many of you knew that God said because He asked this, God would not only grant Solomon the wisdom he would need, but would give him all the other stuff, too?

Curious – I wonder how many of us would follow Solomon’s example – not really wanting to have the understanding about right and wrong that was the basis of wisdom, but secretly thinking that is the shortcut to getting “all the other stuff?”

You all mean I am the one that ever failed at using reverse psychology on God?

As we look at this passage, there is a reason we find it here, on the last Sunday of Christmas…

It isn’t because of the wisdom or the other gifts that Solomon received.

It is because this passage is really about worship, about praising God in a meaningful way… as we recognize we dwell, as Israel did, as the shepherds, as the apostles would, in the presence of God.

  • Heterodox Worship – Solomon’s Sin

In the Old Reading, we see something a little confusing. Solomon leaves Jerusalem, his father’s city and heads to Gibeon and there slaughters 1000 head of cattle in a huge worship service.

The reason it is confusing is that the Ark of the Covenant was back in Jerusalem. Remember, David brought it there, dancing in his underwear? David wanted to build a temple around it, and God said no. Of the Ark, God told Moses this, for every generation to know,

21  Place inside the Ark the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you. Then put the atonement cover on top of the Ark. 22  I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:21-22 (NLT2)

So God promised to meet the people of God at the ark, which is in Jerusalem, and outlined a very clear way of worship – worship that was a response to what God had done….

And instead of that, Solomon leads them off to Gibeon, to worship at a empty tabernacle, the tent formerly used to house the Ark.

God didn’t promise to meet them there though, he promised to meet them at the Ark. So despite the show of 1000 cows being slaughtered to provide burnt offerings, the worship was useless – because of disobedience, because they didn’t seek God, they just sought what was familiar.

Basically, they were worshipping God in vain. They were there, they might have been using His name, but the used God’s name in vain, because they weren’t where His promises were, and they didn’t know the Lord was there… with them.

We do this too….

We sometimes come to church, and we aren’t looking for God. We have something else in mind, we have some agenda, or something is distracting us.  It might be stuff we think is good, family stuff or church stuff…

But if we aren’t where God is… if we don’t recognize His presence here… we are just like Solomon…in the wrong place, doing what we do… and missing what we need.

And we are caught in our sin….

  • God moves us to Worship Him… in His presence.

It tells us something about the character of God that He didn’t fry Solomon right there or allow one of Israel’s many enemies to do so.

Instead, God comes to Solomon, and works with Him.

Just as He does with you and me….

Whaddya want Solomon?  I’ll give you whatever you want….

In the process, Solomon looks at his dad, and what he treasured the most – the love of God. He saw the reaction of David to that love – how David became a holy man, who struggled to depend on God when things were upside down and backward… and God loved him, still.

Of everything David had – this is what mattered the most!

Solomon could think of nothing better than to ask God for that kind of relationship – which was why he asked for the wisdom to govern hem, that they would know the difference between what is righteous, and what is evil. For that only comes through knowing God. That is what changed David.

One pastor wrote about this relationship this way,

prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists[1]

Solomon sees the relationship his father had with God as the priority for his people, there is nothing else more important for them, or for him.

The way to see this is simple.

What does Solomon do after his time talking to God is over?

Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet

His reaction, when given the wisdom of God to lead his people to what was good and not evil was simple – he took them where God promised to be there for them, when the burnt offering would be acceptable, where the peace offering would celebrated – Israel would now experience a peace with God that would last Solomon’s life.

Solomon would have his ups and downs, but he would build the temple – a place for the people of God to meet God, to be cleansed and lifted up by God. Until Jesus came..

Today’s it’s not about location – where we gather is where God is, where He feeds us, because He offered the sacrifice.

But there still is a feast – for His people to celebrate that they dwell in peace, for they dwell in the presence of God….

You dwell in the presence of God…

As we go through this next year, let’s pray that we realize this all the more.


[1] Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Biblical Evangelism is not what you think it is…

Thoughts that encourage us to adore our God,

3  With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! 4  In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the LORD! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! 5  Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. Isaiah 12:3-5 (NLT2)

Our Lord commands us to pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest field. What we are overlooking is that no one can be a worker who is not first a worshiper. Labor that does not spring out of worship is futile.… (1)

I think the post enlightenment church has evangelism all wrong. Especially as it tries to address the post modern age, and the world which gave birth to post modernism.

Evangelism is ultimately nothing more than worship. That is all it is, where the joy of seeing God at work in our lives is so celebrated that we share that joy (and the comfort) with those around us.

This is far different than evangelisms programs today, which train people to prove Chirstianity, to argue about its logic compared to the other religious systems, or against the logic of prominent atheists. It takes the form of combat, or at least a competitive debate. We talk of proofs and confrontations, and it seems some are as happy when some walk away in frustration as when someone gets baptized.

That is not why the world will know about God according to scripture. It is not about the victory of logic, but the transformation the Spirit causes as Jesus is preached. That is where God’s might is focused, on our redemption, on making us who were sinners into the people He has set apart to dwell with Him.

Evangelism is simply what happens when we realize that God removes all of our that causes the shame and guilt which burdens us, and promises He will care for us forever. We just have to tell somebody!

Which means that just as Evangelism is simply praising God for what He has done… worship is simply a reaction to His love and mercy that is at work transforming us.

It is that simple – so if you want to see the world saved…(and you should!) praise God for what He has done….


A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

I know You are here… but what are You doing Lord?

Some thoughts to encourage your love of God

As the boy was still approaching, the demon knocked him down and threw him into severe convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy,ak and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all astonished at the greatness of God. Luke 9:42-43 CSB

Glorious Lord, Thyself impart!
Light of Light from God proceeding;
Open THou our ears and heart
Help us by Thy Spirit’s pleading
Hear the cry Thy people raises
Hear and bless our prayers and praises.

It is in the wounds of Jesus where we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart.

O fire of God, begin in me;
Burn out the dross of self and sin,
Burn off my fetters, set me free,
And make my heart a heaven within.
Baptize with fire this soul of mine;
Endue me with Thy Spirit’s might
And make me by Thy power divine
A burning and a shining light

We will not want to admit it, but many of us need to have Jesus heal us the way he did the young boy in the gospel reading in red above. Some of those demons are of our own making, some are real – those who oppress us, trying to distract us from God. Some unbelievers we know are enslaved by demons, possessed by demons beyond our perception, beyond our comprehension as well.

The old hymnal I was given starts out the answer, the way we find freedom from every kind of evil. It is God’s answer to the prayer of hymn #3. We need the Lord to enter our lives, His light surgically removed the scars from battles that were lost against sin. This is done as the spirit intercedes for us in prayer, translating what we ask and praise God for, making it what we really need.

That thought is reiterated in Tozer’s poem, as he realizes the need for God to burn out that which is not of God. That is a ministry we can’t do for ourselves, and to be honest, a pastor only does as he teaches God’s love and mercy. (He has to establish the need for it as well) The result of this – we reflect God’s glory (see 1 Cor. 3:18) into the darkness of the world, bringing hope were there is despair.

We cannot do any of this on our own. We need the Holy Spirit continuing to minister to us, comforting and healing us, drawing us out of the darkness in which we sometimes hide. We need that stuff burnt out of our lives, and that is something only God can do, as we hear His word, and receive the blessings found in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and when we are told, “rejoice – your sins are forgiven, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”


Evangelical Lutheran Hymnbook 1927 Hymn #3

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 266.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

How do we act in God’s presence?

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

1 Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the faithful celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1–5 (CSB)

It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be a church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled. “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.”

How does one find the balance between the scripture passage and the selection from Tozer above?

The pslamist writes of worship in a way that describes an emotional frenzy, such as would have been seen in Acts when the crowd asked if the 120 believers were drunk! There are more than enough examples of this attitude in worship!

There are also enough passages that are similar to Tozer’s humility in worship. There is a somber nature that comes when one finds themselves a sinner in the hands of God. And that sense leaves us in awe.

When is one proper, when is the other? How do we balance the two?

I wish there was a spreadsheet, or a process one can discern when it is time for this or that. Some program to answer 25 questions and determine it is time for dancing, or times to just sit in awe.For to do so would be to try and control God, and how the Spirit moves us. That is the key of course, the movement of the Spirit in our lives. Ultimately, worship is the response to HIs action on our behalf, in His presence.

And sometimes that means a reverential awe, and sometimes dance, and because nothing is impossible with God, sometimes both!

A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.

What I still need to learn about Worship

The Pantheon, a place where God’s people have worshipped for nearly 1800 years…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)

Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.

“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.

As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.

Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..

Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.

Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.

That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!

God is with us… meeting us where we are at.

It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.

But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!

For the Lord Jesus is with us….

We just need to learn that… together.

A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 96.

The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2  I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.

WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?

I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.

I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.

As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.

My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!

We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.

It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.

It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.

Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.

God is with us!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.

Do We Make Church Boring?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful. 3 Be sure to pray that God will make a way for us to spread his message and explain the mystery about Christ, even though I am in jail for doing this. 4 Please pray that I will make the message as clear as possible. Col. 4:2-4 CEV

736      Your life cannot be the repetition of actions which are all the same, because the next one should be more upright, more effective, more full of love than the last. Each day should mean new light, new enthusiasm—for Him!

God designed all finite things to be eventually boring because He designed our heart with an infinite hole in its center, a hole that cannot be filled even with the whole enormous but finite universe. There is a Black Hole in our heart analogous to the physical Black Holes in intergalactic space that can suck all the matter in the universe into themselves. This spiritual black hole is the restless heart that will not and cannot rest anywhere except in God, its home.

Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigour, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus.

There is a challenge in leading worship, and in leading a church. It is all to common to get in a rut, to try to do the same pattern of worship faithfully. But as St. Josemaria points out, we can’t just be repeating everything, over and over.

Please be careful, I am not advocating changing the church service every week, but to engage in it better every week, To be more effective and build the enthusiasm in the service. Not just an upbeat sense of enthusiasm, but an enthusiasm, a desire, a will that is focused in on being in the presence of Jesus. For in His presence, together, being cleansed by His blood, by being fed on His word, by being united together in Him, each week can be the same thing, done in a way that continually draws people closer.

This is the same for private life, as the black hole is filled with the presence of God, the only thing that can fill it. It is no different to say “never give up praying” as it would be to say, “never stop being aware of being in the presence of God” for both are the same thing.

The way to keep from getting into a rut in either your devotional life, or in church is to remember Who you are talking too, Who you are walking with, to realize what happens as you draw nearer to Him. Pray for your pastor and worship leader to help you realize that you are in God’s presence, not just in theirs! (They should be like waiters in a restaurant – you should know they were around, because of Who has been brought to your attention – but Who is brought to your attention is the focus, and the reason you are there!)

Let God fill you! Let God bring about your healing, as you realie He is forgiving and sanctifying you.

Sing, pray, listen, with the knowledge of His presence…

Church and private prayer will never be boring then… you will desire it more and more. And the day you don’t, just refocus on Jesus.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 89.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

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

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

Jesus, Son, Savior

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

 

The Wrong Tool…sort of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a Hammer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a Hatchet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This chapter is full of that message

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

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

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

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

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

Even in you face death, or covid19,

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

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

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

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

A Different Approach to Grief.

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought for our Day:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,  to sing praises to the Most High! 2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp, and the melody of a lyre.
4 You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. 5 O LORD, what great works you do!  And how deep are your thoughts.  Psalm 92:1-5 NLT

Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, “He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

As you look at the Psalms, the early ones are through of trials. You see problems with the government in chapter 2, you see the brokenness caused by sin in 22 and 51, you see dealing with grief throughout and despair throughout the Psalms..

You also see worship, and it almost always comes after a lot of grief, and pain.  I even heard one pastor say that the Psalms end in worship even as they start in the complaint.

As I meditated on this, this morning, I realized we have made a crucial error. The quote from Psalm 92 made this point, and Spurgeon hammered it home.

Grief and trial are not what precedes worship.  In the middle of them, we find worship.  Worship that realizes the faithfulness of God requires that we see Him faithful to us in the midst of suffering. If there is no challenge, no pain, no sin, or resentment to deal with, there is no need for Jesus.

God meets us there, in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of our pain, even in the midst of guilt and shame.

It is there the grief is realized to be the bass line – and often the volume of a teenager’s stereo’s bassline. But it still resounds with praise and awe. THis is lament.

He is there, with you…

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

The God Whom You Worship!

 

0This God Whom You Worship!
Acts 17:16-31

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you worship the God you know…

I Don’t think that word means….

In one of the most quoted moves of all times, a Sicilian mercenary captain keeps on using the word “inconceivable.” Over and over, you head the word come from this short, balding guy, inconceivable, inconceivable, inconceivable!

Finally, his swordmaster utters this favorite quote, ““You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ( Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride)

Now, what was funny was all the inconceivable things, well, they were actually conceivable, and doable.

This sort of reminds me of the people of Athens in this week’s reading from Acts. They had all these statues and temples dedicated to “gods.” The Greek gods, the gods of the countries they conquered, any god which they could find someone worshipping, hear of someone worshipping, they even had the one shrine dedicated to a god they prayed to when all else failed.

The “unknown” God.

They had to have a shrine with that name, for they really didn’t understand what a god was, never mind who God is, and how He would relate to all of His creation.

This word god that they used, they simply did not mean what they thought it meant… and for some, that would change, this day.

So my question for you today, when you use the word “God,” do you know what the word means?  If not, I pray you to do by the end of the day!

Who is this God?

Man creates and searches for gods for a reason. They know they need someone else to connect to, they know there is a presence that is missing.

So they create a god for this, a god for that, and attach to these gods a dream. For example, a lot of people are looking to authorities to save us from COVID, or the economic downturn that it has caused.  We blame those we think are interfering with that recovery, even calling them evil or demons.

We put all our hope and the joy that accompanies hope.

And then that god fails, or that dream turns out to be false, and the contentment we thought it promised turns out to be more heartache and more pain.

We need a God that takes care of more than one problem, who is not created, who is more than someone who provides us what we want, or what we think we need for life to be right.  We need the God Paul described.

This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 24  “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25  and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26  From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27  “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28  For in him, we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.

This is what a God is, this is Who we need to find peace, to find fulfillment, to have a real hope at life – for as Paul said, in Jesus, in Him we live and move and exist.

This is what happened at the cross, when all that was not god that we invented, all our idols, and the sins they led us to commit, were stripped away.

We realized that we are the children of God, His beloved children!

Judgment is coming.

Which is a good thing, because Paul then moves his discourse into something that could be frightening.

30  “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31  For he has set a day for judging the world with justice.

Judgment day!

For those who don’t know God, who keep on going back to their idols, who keep on putting hope in some they think will solve all their problems, there is a day when God will ask why – why didn’t you trust in  Me?

Why didn’t you consider my love, which I laid out before you?

Why did you create or find answers that won’t provide the hope and peace you need in the long run?

Why not just cry out to me?

Why not let me save you?

For the judgment day surely has two parts – the full justice of God.

The judgment of idolaters, the judgment of those who would reject God, and the part that truly gives us hope.

31  For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”  

This is our hope… this is everything that God appointed on to judge us, would die to make things just and right. Jesus would not only strip away those things that draw us away from God but would heal us. That would heal the broken hearts, our broken souls, if we would but let Him.

It is time to call out to Him now, knowing this,

19  and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20  which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:19-20 (TEV)

I pray that you know this God and know what it means that He is your God and that you learn to depend on Him… and trust in Him…matter of fact, let’s pray right now…

Heavenly Father, help us to stop chasing after other gods, help us stop finding hope in things other than you… deliver us this morning, and surround us with your glory, that we may dwell in Your peace.  AMEN!

 

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