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An Overwhelming, Overlooked Verse in Genesis

photoDevotional Thought for the Day:

Seth had a son whom he named Enosh. It was then that people began using the LORD’s holy name in worship.  Genesis 4:26 TEV

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself

“The Church originates, and has her continuing existence, in the Lord’s communicating himself to men, entering into communion with them, and thus bringing them into communion with one another. The Church is the Lord’s communion with us, which at the same time brings about the true communication of men with one another.”

It is an odd comment, sitting there at the end of chapter 4 of the first book of the Bible.

They began to worship him using the Lord’s Holy name….

They are talking about the name YHWH, or as it can be translated, “I AM”

It is a name that is amazing, even in its simplicity.  And for Seth and Enosh, it is a profound thing, once that doesn’t have a further explanation because.. well, how do you explain it?  It is too overwhelming.

God, who was betrayed by Seth’s parents, so much they were kicked out of Eden.  Betrayed by one brother as he killed his other brother in a rage of jealousy, this God still cares for and provides for people. 

“here is my name, YHWH, use it to call out to me.  

God wants us to identify Him, not just as GOd, not just as the Divine, not just as Master or Lord (which is why I hate the tendency to translate YHWH as LORD) but to reach out and call Him by name.  He wants us to call out with an intimate form of address, He wants that relationship with us.

We have to understand this, that Christ’s mission was not just to cleanse us from sin, but the purpose was to draw us into communion with God the Father, the Son and the Hoy Spirit.  That Jesus’s work was to draw human existence into the existence of YHWH, into existence in God.

As Paul taught the Athenians, 

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.’ Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)

This is what it all boils down to, a God who would come to us, with the express desire of having a relationship with us.  YHWH, whose wisdom we should realize is so incredible, and in relationship with Him, we realize that His best interests are guided by that wisdom. That’s why we hear and walk with Him. (Obey is simply  to hear in both Greek and Hebrew)

They began to worship Him, using His holy, precious, intimate name….

I pray you and I do the same today, and all this week.

Question to discuss:

What is hard about talking to God by His name?





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. 351). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 7). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

A Pet Peeve About Bible Translations: A Irrational Fear

pexels-photo-279991Devotional Thought of the Day:
7  “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. Exodus 20:7 (NLT2)

7  ‘You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name. Exodus 20:7 (NJB)

28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT2)

63 In addition, you must also know how to use the name of God aright. With the words, “You shall not take the name of God in vain,” God at the same time gives us to understand that we are to use his name properly, for it has been revealed and given to us precisely for our use and benefit.
64 Since we are forbidden here to use the holy name in support of falsehood or wickedness, it follows, conversely that we are commanded to use it in the service of truth and all that is good—for example, when we swear properly where it is necessary and required. So, also, when we teach properly; again, when we call on his name in time of need, or praise and thank him in time of prosperity, etc. All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

If you compare the first two quote (actually the same exact passage, but from two different translations, and do a bit of research, you will find something very, very ironic.

The first one, like most other translations, fails to use God’s name when they translate the command about not using God’s name!  They replace the Hebrew YHWH with the letters LORD (Adonai in Hebrew). The use of all caps in the word LORD is supposed to alert you to the holy precious name of God, (YHWH) is used there.  

Why?  Because of a man-made tradition that says it is better not to use the name of God, rather than misuse it!.  You see the same irrational fear in people today who drop the letter “o” out of the word God, (which is a title) and take pride in using G-d.  Some have even taken to doing it with LORD. 

And in doing so, they miss the very essence of the command.  That God has given us the permission to use His name and expects us to call upon Him in prayer, in praise, to use it in Baptism, to use it to bless others.

To use it. Abundantly!

Now, I am sure that God doesn’t mind us translating it, Or using generic titles like God, Theos, etc, but there seems something wrong with deliberately avoiding His name.  Especially when we avoid using it the way He asks because we fear that we might misuse it accidentally. 

If we don’t understand how to use His name and fear His wrath from using it incorrectly, we don’t understand the forgiveness offered, and the cleansing of sin that God promises to those that call on His name.  

If fear is what motivates us, if we are scared to use His name, we don’t really understand the love and mercy of our God.  We don’t’ get that He longs to gather and protect us, as a hen would gather its chicks.  We need to know the Father that would let the prodigal walk away, knowing the lesson he would learn as the prodigal finally comes to his senses and comes home.   We need to know the joy that is seen when one of his children comes home when He can create a masterpiece of our lives as we trust in Him and His grace.

To put it simply, to not use God’s name properly, is to misuse it..

My friends, use His mane, call upon Him, He is our Abba (a term of endearment for one’s father)  DOn’t be afraid, but as Hebrews 4:16 says, come boldly into presence, that we may His richest gifts, and help in times of need.

He is your God, you are His people. 



Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 373). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

I AM here! A sermon on Matthew 14

church at communion 2I AM here!
Matthew 14: 22-33

As you hear and think about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize as well, that is only possible because He is here, with you!

 An Interrupted Prayer time?

As I study a passage of scripture to preach on it, I look at other passages that are similar. With the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is pretty easy, as they cover more than 2/3rds of the same stories.

In this case, Mark’s gospel adds one interesting note, that Jesus’s prayer time, his time talking with God the Father was interrupted.  Mark’s gospel adds this little note in

47  Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48  He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them,
Mark 6:47-48 (NLT)

While Mark doesn’t mention Jesus praying, it does mention that HE SAW THEM!

So Jesus heads out – checks on them as He is passing, and that is when something interesting happens.

No, not their freaking out, as they’ve been struggling for 9 plus hours to row and sail a boat against contrary seas.  That isn’t interesting, it is tragic.  They are tired, and to see someone walking across the sea, in the midst of a horrible eastern Mediterranean storm… well – it’s got to be supernatural, a phantasmic (not fantastic) experience in Greek.

What is interesting is Jesus response to their cries of fear.  I AM here.

Sounds like what I keep telling you, you know, “the Lord is with you!”!!!

The Struggles are Real

We need to know that, and some weeks, and some Saturdays, we need to know it even more.

Sometimes we are like the disciples, tired from fighting contrary winds, feeling like the world is going to overwhelm and drown us.  Sometimes the other guys in the boat aren’t much of a help, or at least we don’t thing they are.  And the wind – there is nothing we can do…

A few years ago, when Kay came back from a mission trip to Siberia, they had a team reunion near a reservoir in San Diego.  The reservoir had little sailboats, brand new, in fact the one she and I got in had never been used!

We found that out as we get maybe 100 feet away from the dock, and the rudder, not fully screwed in , because it decides to float away!  Then I notice they didn’t insert the centerboard, so there is nothing to keep the boat stable,, and then of course, the wind picks up.
We got blown across the reservoir, where a park ranger met us.  She then told kay to get out of the front of the boat, and I learned they didn’t insert the ballast either, and the boat flips over with only my weight on board!   Funny it was.. but more than a bit frustrating!

And we didn’t even get to see Jesus walking on the water, and when I got out – I didn’t walk on it!  But life sometimes feels like it was that day, failing miserably, helpless, unable to go where I should, and ending up soaking wet!

But Jesus still sees us struggling, even when we aren’t aware of His presence, or His care for us.  We don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t freak out, or scream like the disciples did, in fear of their lives.

We often talk about sin as this action, or that action.  This evil thought, or those words that hurt that we say.  But sin is also when we ignore God, when we try and play God, or choose things our way.

Please hear me, I am not saying the struggle is sin, absolutely not!  By no means! But during the struggle, have we forgotten Jesus?  Do we remember He cares?  If not sin, or often the effect of sin in our lives is evident, for we’ve lost sight of our Lord, our Deliver.

I am here, compared to I AM HERE

Which is why we need to hear his voice, we need to be reminded of His presence. We need to realize it,, we need to let Him calm our fears, put to rest our anxieties, heal our souls and bring peace to our hearts.

By the way, there is a spelling error on the Bulletin, and I may have set this one up when I told Cris the sermon title.

It isn’t I Am Here…. It is I AM here.

That doesn’t seem like much does it?  It would be to Peter and Andrew, James, Hahn, Mathew and the rest. You see, in both Greek and Hebrew, Jesus didn’t just reveal that he was walking by.
He revealed he was God, and that He was involved in their life.  You see, that I AM is the I AM Moses heard at the burning bush, it is the name of God that is translated as LORD throughout scripture, the name God gave us to call out to him.  Yahweh, Ego Eimi, the I AM THAT IAM .  The name that was put on the temple for people to know who to pray to, and of course, the name we aren’t to take in vain, but use to pray and to praise God.

During the storm, and at the cross, God is there for you.  In the trauma of everyday life, He answers us, and to finally get to that other guy on the water, He says to us as He did to Peter.

Don’t be afraid, I am here – come on – walk with me!

And so we shall, trusting in the Lord who is with you!  AMEN!

We Call on His Name – Just as Jesus DId!

Treasuring God’s Gifts!Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
He has Given Us the Right to Use His Name!

Exodus 20:7, Romans 10:11-17

In Jesus Name!

May the glory of the cross, the love of God revealed, remind you that you are children of God, and can therefore cry out to the Father!


The Journey

We have almost completed our journey through the Decalogue, through the masterpiece God makes of our life, so beautifully described in words we normally call the Ten Commandments.  The journey where we have not heard them as hastily written words, given to cramp our style, to forbid fun.

Instead we remember to hear them as the words of God, which describe for us a way of life He considers His masterpiece.

On this day, when we hear Jesus cry out, “it is finished”, when we know of His cry, “Father, Into Your Hands I commit my spirit,” may we realize we can cry out to the Father, for that is why He has given us His name… to use.

The Third (4th) Word

The Third “word”, the “third commandment” is simple, “Do not use God’s name vainly” or to no good purpose.  If we think it through, that command is simply a correction, a clarification to the idea that we are called to use God’s name.

For as we heard, all who call on the name of the Lord will be delivered, we will be saved.

There are people who misuse God’s name, using it basically in frustration, in anger, to condemn, to mock God, and often His people.  That is sin.

There are also those who do not use His name at all, to lift others in prayer, to offer comfort, even the comfort of a glass of water, who do not care enough about others eternity to share God’s love with them, so they will know heaven and not hell.  Those who do not use His name to reconcile, those who refuse to forgive – for that too is the proper use of His name, and to not do so, is sin.

Seeing the Gospel

When William was born, we were shocked by his pediatrician giving us her cell-phone number.  She has a large office, and an incredible caseload.  Over the years we’ve called it, and been surprised when we didn’t get a answering service, but that she answered it herself.

How many places can you call, where the boss picks up the phone?  Never mind that, where a real person does.

Yet, God, Creator of the Universe, expects us to call out to Him, to give Him our burdens, to ask Him for forgiveness.
That is what the cross is all about, that is what this time and this place is all about.

God gathering His people here,

Gathering His people, marked by His name.

For Christ has been lifted up…..

We have been lifted up with Him.


Lifted up into His presence, into His place of peace, The peace that goes beyond all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

My Name will Be There!

 My Name will Be There!

1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43

In Jesus Name

May You realize the presence of God, in those places where He has placed His Holy Name, and in those places where you go, knowing He has given you His name!

What the church Is Dedicated to…

As I looked at the Old Testament reading, one of my favorites, I began to think of all the churches I’ve been at.  From St. Francis in Lawrence Massachusetts, to St Joes in Salem, to the Crystal Cathedral, the church I went to when I moved to California, to churches I’ve pastored, to St Mary’s in Rome, and Mei Lin Christian Church in China, to little tiny chapels along the way, and monstrous auditoriums, there is something special about each of them.

It is how Solomon described the temple he had built at God’s direction.  I love this part of the prayer Solomon spoke at the dedication:

“Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29  May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there!

 His Name will be here…

For all peoples – for those who know Him, and those who do not…

Solomon’s prayer shows us how God would be there, where He put His name for both groups, as they gather and pray to Him.

In the very same way He shows us, that He will be there, where He has put His name for us, whether we know we are part of His family, or not.

The We know we are forgiven and healed

As I look at Solomon’s request, as I hear him plead with God for those who are part of God’s family, it seems interesting that what Solomon wants God to communicate to them is boiled down to one incredible word,


Hear Solomon’s words again.

30  May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

Of all the things Solomon could have said, what he did ask for, what God will agree to in chapter 9, is this idea of forgiveness.  That whenever people came before God – the purpose was always about the forgiveness.

Which means, that is what they were asking for?!?

That’s how much they had come to value the relationship they had come to know with God – that which was on their mind most was… God, please let me know you still love me they cried, as we should.  God please don’t abandon me, please don’t give up…please forgive me…

God puts His name there, so that we can run to Him, and know that He won’t reject us, that He will still be our God, and He will take care of the sin.  That we don’t need to hide our sin, or make believe we don’t know it is sin,, or try to excuse it with excuses that didn’t work when we were kids….

But we come to our Lord, to the place where He put His name, and as He has always done, He will forgive us, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

That’s what we, His children, more than anyone else needs to realize.  That when we come to Him, humbly and earnestly and ask Him for help – like every father in this room would run to help our kids, He will be there, more than just our knight in shining armor, our superhero,

He will be our God.  He won’t turn us away, when we come….looking for grace and mercy….

We know that…we need to trust in Him for that, and give up doing those things we know we shouldn’t.  We need to lean on Him to think, to say and yes to do the things that He’s told us are best for us,

And pray for forgiveness…and help when we struggle.

Knowing He’s always been faithful to this promise… is an incredible blessing.

That those outside the family – would know God is there for them as well

Solomon’s prayer just doesn’t leave off with those who are already part of God’s family, the people of Israel who are in a relationship with Him, God’s kin you might say.  Hear again Solomon’s prayer for them,

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. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.


Solomon asks God to respond to those who aren’t even believers in Him!  And He doesn’t change.  What is even more amazing is that what they ask – Solomon prays God will act on, And here is God’s response, from the next chapter,
2  the LORD appeared to him again, as he had in Gibeon. 3  The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer. I consecrate this Temple which you have built as the place where I shall be worshiped forever. I will watch over it and protect it for all time. 1 Kings 9:2-3 (TEV)

Even in the days of Israel’s greatest glory, and before, this has been God’s plan – that all people on Earth would come to intimately know Him, and live reverently with Him.

That is why He had Solomon put the temple there, so that all people could gather and know Him, not just any one ethnicity, not just any one language group.  A place where all would be welcome to pray to Him, to cry out to Him, and to be confident of His care, His love, and His hearing every one of our prayers.

This is why it is here…

Many people have many different reasons for building a temple or church.  But God has a reason above all that.  We aren’t here because we put our name in this place. We are here – whether person that has been part of God’s family, or the person who has never stepped foot in a church til this morning, who isn’t sure who God even is, because God has put His name here, it is here, like other places where He has done so, that we come to pray, believer and unbeliever alike, because He calls us here to do so… with the promise that He will listen.

If Solomon could see that in regards to this temple… how much more should we see it now… after the cross, after the splendor of Pentecost.

It is why we are here.

There is one more thing that we need to realize, that I think we forget.  It is not just the building where God puts His name… it is on the people gathered in that place.  Sometimes we forget that.  But when someone is baptized – the Bible talks about God adopting them, about His giving them a new name, about them becoming God’s people. That’s why we make the sign of the cross – to remember we bear His name, on our minds, and on our hearts.

The temple of Solomon no longer stands, but the people of God, the ones upon whom He has given His name – the church is alive, here in Cerritos, and in Yucca Valley, and in Rome and in China…all over the world God has sent those who bear His name.  We are loved, and we realize that more and more, not just listening to sermons, but in talking with God, in praying to Him.

As we who trust in His love and mercy realize He hasn’t given up on us yet, he still love and forgives. As those who come here, hearing from us about God’s love – come into His presence with us, and the Holy Spirit hears their prayers, and God acts. Indeed communicates with us, those who come to know and adore Him when He tells us of His love through His word, through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Hearing His voice, hearing Him tell of His commitment to us, we know something extraordinary.

We know, we find that we are at peace…resting assured of His love…knowing we are not alone, we are not going to be abandoned, but we will be loved until that day, when He gathers us home to be with Him.


More about Grief and Death…

Devotional/discussion thought of the day…

 12 What return can I make to Yahweh for his generosity to me? 13 I shall take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh. 14 I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh, witnessed by all his people. 15 Costly in Yahweh’s sight is the death of his faithful. 16 I beg you, Yahweh! I am your servant, I am your servant and my mother was your servant; you have undone my fetters. 17 I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of Yahweh. 18 I shall fulfil my vows to Yahweh, witnessed by all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of Yahweh, in your very heart, Jerusalem.   Psalm 116:12-19 (NJB)

If you read this blog yesterday, you know that I am dealing with a number of families who have had loved ones pass away.  It is a bit sobering, and yet, I am sure God will bring them comfort, through His word, through His presence, even if that comfort, if the revealing of His presence is done through a broken person like me.

This morning, as I looked at my calendar, it is my aunt’s Birthday – my dad’s sister who passed away a few years ago.  It reminded me of how grief never completely leaves us in this life, as I thought about their three story (they lived on the first story) in North Andover, and out walks to the little river that few into the Merrimac. Or the Dairy’s ice cream shop that was up at the top of their street, and across the busy thoroughfare.  (awesome pistachio ice cream there – but I always had it in a cup  because if I didn’t – it would be all over the place)  Or later, her house in Salem….

Melancholy accompanies the return of the grief – and missing what we didn’t realize we had. 

But then, to come across the passage above – which is both a foreshadowing of Jesus, and yet a comfort for us as well.  For God doesn’t take pleasure in our death, It costs Him, it cost Him dearly, for indeed His only Son died that death wouldn’t be our end.

That is what the rest of that passage is about the Son of the maidservant, who would fulfill His vows and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, as sacrifice of his own life.  

I used the specific translation, the New Jerusalem Bible here for a reason.  Rather than replace the Name of God, (as is the tradition of many translations)  with LORD in all caps, the NJB uses the Name God gives us to call on Him, the Name He gave first to Moses.  A personal Name, not just a title (Lord) or a descriptive noun (God, Deity), but the Name.

Especially in times of great grief, this brings me great comfort, to know that YHWH wants us to call on Him, wants us to know He is present, wants us to know He is there to comfort us.  As well, that the people who mean so much to Him, our loss is not overlooked, and it matters to Him as much as us.  Even more, as we consider what He has done, to rob that loss of any eternal significance.  For those who believe and are baptised, having died with Him, shall certainly rise….

Knowing that, showing these promises, showing them how God is here, as we dwell in His presence…. that makes a difference, that leave us, realizing as well, His peace.  

Lord, You’ve had great mercy on us!  

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