Thursday, Good Friday and Easter… not just History


Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10  When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11 (NLT)

 1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

19  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:19-21 (NLT) 

For the past thirty years, there has been a tendency to deal with Jesus, and especially the cross and the resurrection as a historical event.  It is where they start, and Sunday there will be a lot of sermons that try to prove the resurrection.

But if that is all they do, if they engage people in “just the facts”, the message of Holy Week, the message of Christ’s death and resurrection will be overlooked.  The heart of the message will be missed.

Re-read the passages above.  There you hear that the Resurrection isn’t just about events 2000 years ago.  They are events that are current, the proof is not just seen in the claims of Josephus or Eusebius, but in our very lives. We were there, or perhaps it is better to say we are there… our sins being laid on Christ, our lives being re-generated with His resurrection.

Because the death and resurrection, everything changes in our lives, the hope that we have for this life, and for the next is not some day dream possibility. It is the expectation based on the promises we have been given, the guaranty of that not being some historical proofs, but of something more – of a life filled with the Holy Spirit…

21  It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart, 22  who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (TEV)

The “all that He has in store for us” is not about wealth or fame or riches in this life, it is something far more.  That we walk with Him now, that we are not just welcome in the presence of God, but that He desires us there, and draws us into His presence.

That just isn’t a historical event, it is something we live and breath. It is what establishes who we are, brings healing to who we were, and assures us of Christ’s presence in our lives.

Today on Holy Thursday,

Tomorrow as our hearts are found at the cross…

In times like Black Saturday, when we wonder if God is dead,

And on Sunday, as we realize we have risen with Him, just as He said!

Amen.

 

Why a Crucifix can be so incredibly important… not just during Holy Week


Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)

20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)

70  You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.

For some it is a piece of jewelry, or an art piece, and artifact.

For others, it is something they do not want to face, so they remove them from homes and sanctuaries.  They may say it’s divisive, or that they are afraid of it becoming and idol. Even a barren cross is seen as too close, and so they are removed, taken away, hid in a closet or irreverently thrown in a dumpster.

But there is something about a crucifix, about looking at a portrayal of a body wracked with pain, the crown of thorns, the nails through the wrists and ankles, the eyes that through the pain look out upon us.

The reason for the cross.

To make us the people of God,

This is what God the Father gave the son to endure, because He loves us……

This is what Jesus endured, hating its shame, but for the joy set before Him…. the joy of seeing us rise with Him.

This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to, the very power of the gospel that can save us all…..

Christ dying for us… and His crucifixion – the place where we died to sin…. the place where the promise comes home, we have risen with Him as well.

As i go through this life, as I see the effect of sin devastating marriages, crushing families, as I see the challenges of this broken world strike us with disease, as I see us choose, again and again, to tear down, to let resentment build, to seek after something that will quench our pain for the moment, whether it be sex or drugs or the latest television binge.  Escapes that mean little but a moment away.  We need something more substantial, something more enduring.

We need to remember when God came into our lives, dwelt among us, and the glory of God, displayed on a cross.  The love of God so incredible, so unbelievable, so needed. I need to stop and meditate on the wondrous love that would drive him there, to deliver us from all that assails us.  Crosses, crucifixes serve to call us to that point, to remember the love of God…. to remember His work – even now at work in us.

It is “the” game changer, that brings light to darkness, that dispells evil, that brings peace into chaos.

I don’t think we need less reminders… but perhaps far more.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dangerous Thought on Tax Day: A Day of Repentance


Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2  No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. Titus 3:1-2 (MSG)

13  Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; 14  they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. 15  It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 16  Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 17  Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (MSG)

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and some of the Herod-party to trap him in an argument. They came up and said to him, “Master, we know that you are an honest man and that you are not swayed by men’s opinion of you. Obviously you don’t care for human approval but teach the way of God with the strictest regard for truth – is it right to pay tribute to Caesar or not: are we to pay or not to pay?”  15  But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why try this trick on me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” 16  So they brought one to him. “Whose face is this?” asked Jesus, “and whose name is in the inscription?” 17  “Caesar’s,” they replied. And Jesus said, Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God!” - a reply which staggered them. Mark 12:13-17 (Phillips NT)

67 The scene of the parable is being repeated: it is the same as with those people who were invited to the wedding feast. Some are afraid, others have their own concerns, many… make up stories or give silly excuses. They put up resistance. That is why they feel the way they do: fed up, all in a muddle, listless, bored, bitter. And yet how easy it is to accept the divine invitation at every moment, and live a happy life, full of joy!  (1)

It is April 15th, the day annual tax documents are do in the USA.

It’s also a day where we should confess our sins, and be absolved for them.

For disobeying the law, not man’s law (though some of us are guilty of that!), but God’s law.  The law which tells us the government is something God has established as a blessing for us.

Now some of you are thinking – but the government uses our money for evil, the government is trying to persecute the church, the government is giving our hard earned dollars to those that do not deserve it, the government is, and the slander and disrespect goes on and on, without end.  Unlike Jesus on the cross – who could have called down 10,000 angels while he was hanging on the cross, we want to call down God’s wrath on those who would take our idols, our Benjamins, Franklins and Lincolns.  Heck we begrudge even the littlest Lincoln upon which the government has a claim.

Dare someone quote the words from scripture above, and ridicule and scorn will shift, from the government, to the one writing them.  People (and pastors too) will start justifying their actions, and especially their words and their thoughts.  In do so, they deny that sin occurs in thoughts and words, beside in the things we do.  We toss our theology out the window – in order to protect the “rite” to free speech.  Even when that speech is sinful.

It’s time to repent, its time to realize that in keeping the fourth commandment, (honor thy Father and Mother) that includes the blessing of the government God established, the government that has the right to tax us, and to set what those taxes are.  It’s time to stop stealing, stop bearing false witness, to stop coveting our governments stuff.  Instead we should pray for them, bless them respect them (and not just “the office).

We’ve got a much better thing to be doing, we can revel in the presence of God, we can rejoice at His love and mercy. That’s what it means to find our place in the wedding banquet, rather than in the marketplace complaining and slandering.  It is what it means to live as forgiven, baptized children of God – to do things (like obeying the government) that we do – for God’s sake.

It’s a time for us to hear our sins are forgiven, that God has rescued us, that we no longer need to protect our idols.

It’s a day to know God’s mercy so well, the we show it to others….

May our Lord Jesus Christ walk with us this day, and may the Spirit of God, dwelling within us, empower us to keep these words above.

AMEN.

I am tired of it. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 500-505). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Why Would God Blind Them as to who Jesus Was?


Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday(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 )

Invocation  

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

John 12:20-43

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.

That much!

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 me.

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.

Why Are We Satisfied With GIGO? (garbage in – garbage out)


Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7  But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. 8  Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9  and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:7-11 (CEV)

8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

65         Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realised that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning. (1)

In the movie “Footloose”, there is a characterization of Christianity, or at least Christianity that used to be.

A Pharisaical legislative, in your face, take names Christianity where those that danced, or drank, or went to movies rated “PG” or worse were held up and scorned.  Where the rules of behavior were set in stone, and by golly, if you weren’t going to obey those rules, you were going to be tossed out.  If you questioned the rules, you were considered a rebel and someone to be watched.

A generation later, and perhaps we’ve gone the other way, yet are still “legislating” what is right and wrong.  Or more accurately, we are simply legislating everything as right, and banishing any thought of the idea of something being “wrong”.

The Pendulum has reached the other side of the swing,  This time, it has done what it rarely does – it has taken the church with it, gotten the church’s okay for what is vulgar, profane, sinful.  I look at my fb page and what I and others post, and am shocked.  Even if permissible, the things we post aren’t beneficial, (didn’t Paul say something about that?)

As one whose vocation, whose career deals with helping people in their brokenness, I see both these extremes as wrong. I have dealt, and continue to deal, with those damaged by these forms of legalism. The damage is horrendous, the pains are real, the broken families, broken marriages, broken friendships, broken people just mount up,

The ways that would excuse and/or justify any behavior, and the kind that would force behavior modification.

That’s not how it works in scripture, for like the old computer rule, these tactics focus on negative behavior – and even taking them in leads to sin.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Both ways do this – one by approving it, the other by making it tempting and looking good, in the very way we forbid it.

Holiness is something else though.  It is abandoning all of these behaviors, not because we are forced too, but because we realize their value compared to the value of knowing Jesus, to knowing the love of God, to knowing His comfort and peace.

Paul’s idea of Phil. 4 – about concentrating on the “good stuff” isn’t law – it is 100% gospel, when you hear it with chapter 3 still fresh in your mind.   Because those things he says to focus on are found in the presence of God. They are God’s nature. They lead us to adore Him, to want to be like Him, and in Him finding the strength to that which is positive. The more we see this, the less desirous the life of the prodigal will be, the more we realize the grip of sin was broken at the cross.  There is something about that cross, about the crucifixes and crosses we have, that remind us of His love, of His devotion, of that which is unlike anything else we can now.

Will we see God’s glory for what it is? Will we walk with the Lord?  Will we realize the garbage that we feed on daily for what it is, and leave it behind to know the love of God?

Lord have mercy on us, and help us to desire you in our lives, and therefore find the holiness that is found in your peace.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Treasuring God’s Gifts: Valuing our Parents


Treasuring God’s Gifts

Means We Value our Parents and all authorities
(rather than look down on them or provoke them)

Eph. 2:10, Exodus 20:12, Luke 10:25-38

  † In Jesus Name †

May you be so overwhelmed by God’s grace and peace that your trust in Him overwhelms you anxieties and doubts, enabling you to know His work in your life.


As I look around the room, it would seem that it has been a while since most of us lived under out parent’s roof.  Which is what comes to mind when we talk about the fourth commandment, the idea of honoring your father and mother.

We think that commandment that part of God’s plan is for children and young adults, those who still should be hearing their parent’s directions, and immediately going and obeying.

Take out the trash,

Clean your room!

Be home by 10.

Remember, the Bible says you have to honor your father and mother!

Of course, it is usually the parents reminding their children of this…

And the children always ask in confirmation – “what if they are wrong”, or “what if they want me to do something God knows is wrong….

As we have said throughout this series, this is not about being a robot and obeying the commandments of God.  If we treat it that way, it is no wonder that scripture is used as a weapon, and that people react to it in “self-defense”, trying to prove they are not as bad as the next person is.

But when we see this “word” this part of the design that begins with God revealing Himself to be our creator, revealing Himself to be the Lord who delivers us from our slavery to sin and the devil, then it takes on a different understanding.

For we begin to value our parents and all authorities as gifts from God, we realize it is not about them or us, it is about God. Trusting Him at His word becomes more dominant in our life than our frustrations that come when we have to interact with fellow sinners, whose lives and decisions impact our life.

or at least sometimes we think they impact our life negatively.

What does it mean to Honor

Looking a little deeper into this, we need to define “honor”.  It means to value, to treasure.  That is very different from simply obeying people, or simply submitting to them.

Why would we treasure these people, why would we value them? I mean after all, aren’t they sinners just like us?  We know they had bad days, challenges, maybe a temper or a rush to judgment.  Maybe their faith seems week, or they didn’t believe at all.

How do we honor them, how can we value them then?

Again, valuing them is not based in their value as we perceive it, but in the value of God, and in trusting in His word, especially promises like Romans 8, that all things work out for good for those who love God.  Or Jeremiah’s words about God having a plan for our lives, or of course our epistle for this season of lent….

That God is making our lives a masterpiece.

It’s a matter of trusting in Him.  About knowing His love, about realizing the power of the gospel in your life,

The Extension

I mention before that from the responsibility of the parents, Luther extends out that responsibility to others.  People who have callings like teachers, doctors, police officers, and even government.  These people take a portion of the role of the parent, and we entrust people to their care.

This where faith is seems to be a challenge!  How can we trust God in this! Their sins are usually much more public, and we have to wonder about their judgment, their care for our sake, their trustworthiness, how can we honor and value them?

We have to keep re-focusing, to know it is not about our trust in men, but our trust in God.  Whether we are the three men thrown into the furnace, and were kept safe, or the one who uttered, 56  “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” Acts 7:56 (TEV)  

Those words come a short time before the rocks were piled on him, as Stephen asked God to forgive those who were tossing them. That takes trusting in God, and knowing His promises.

But that is where is all keeps coming back to, this God who reveals Himself as our God, as our deliverer, as our provider, as our protector.

Who throughout scripture, is always faithful, who always hears His people call, A God who desires all to be saved. A God who delivers His people from oppression, who calls us His children, His people.

Who invites sinners to gather in His presence, that He can pronounce them clean, and welcome and give them faith and repentance, and transform them>>

As we trust in Him, as we realize the power of the death and resurrection of Christ, as we dwell in their presence… more and more… we know this…

The Lord is with you…

Therefore we dwell in His peace, in His glory, in something more incredible that we can conceive of, and know that we are guarded in this peace, our hearts and minds, by Jesus.

AMEN?

Progressive Christianity and the loss of a moral center


An interesting article from another who’s “been there and back again”

Progressive Christianity and the loss of a moral center.

Matt Walsh, The Clearing of the Temple, and the Heart of God


Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

6  For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. 7  It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8  But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9  By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! Romans 5:6-10 (TEV)

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44  But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Matthew 5:43-45 (TEV)

Yesterday a young blogger (pastor?) named Matt Walsh wrote a blog entitled “Jesus didn’t care about being nice or tolerant, and neither should you.”   http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/07/jesus-didnt-care-about-being-nice-or-tolerant-and-neither-should-you/comment-page-2/#comment-160712)  I responded at the request of a friend, but I thought I would address the basic concept here as well.

In the blog he wanted to spurn Christians on to regain their fighting spirit, To be aggressive about their faith, to challenge and do battle with those who would attack the church. To not tolerate sin or attacks on the church, to wipe the idea that Christians should be loving and therefore somehow tolerant.  One of his points was that Jesus wasn’t tolerant, that He cleared the temple after all.  Therefore righteous indignation has its place in those who follow Christ.

I have to admit – his passion is exemplary, and the reach of one blog post of his might be 100 times mine in a month.

But he’s wrong.  Critically wrong.

God doesn’t want us to humble these people into submission with the truth.  He wants us to reveal them the truth, He doesn’t need warriors to battle them, but people willing to die to themselves, who will do so to see these people freed to live in Christ.  They aren’t the ones manning the gates of hell, but the ones Christ’s Church are there to rescue.  We must understand this. We must hear His calling for us to love them, to pray for them.  We have to realize that we were once in their shoes, broken, mad at God, fighting against Him, our of ignorance and blinded by sin.

The clearing of the temple wasn’t against those who attacked Christianity from the outside, but from those who stopped those on the outside from being able to know God, to find time to pray.  The place where he cleared was the place for the Gentiles to pray, so that they would know God. ( see 1 Kings 8:41-43)  The goal was to help these people, drowning in the darkness, in despair, these people that are broken, even as we are broken.

For God, over and over, has indicated that He is not willing that any perish in their sins, but that all are transformed in Christ.

That’s why Jesus died on the cross – even Caiaphas recognized this in John 11.  That is why Paul would pour out his life, and call us to imitate him as he imitated Jesus.  That every apostle didn’t combat their opposition, but prayerd and often died, tat they would know Christ.

Do we have to deal with ugly stuff, if we walk in Jesus footsteps?  Yeah – we have to deal with those who don’t even know that sin is sin.  (and instead of people getting in their way by selling things to sacrifice  - we have to sometimes deal with those who – from inside the church, defend sin.)  But we have to remember that their ignorance doesn’t make them our enemy – that our apostolate, our being sent as Jesus was sent ( see John 20:21) is to bring to them healing for the brokenness, sight to their blindness, to proaclim them free from the bondage of sin, and the fear of death.

By pointing them to the one who loved them enough to die for them.  Which may mean we lose our life, our identity in this life.

That’s following Christ.

The Zeal for God’s house that sees as the light to those who don’t know God, and the glorious place for those of us to do.

Lord have mercy on us, and help us to love them, as you did.

Can I Really Be Holy on the “PERFECT” Monday?


Devotional Thought On ANOTHER MONDAY……photo(35)
22  They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. Acts 14:22 (TEV)

“May Your will be accomplished, as it is Heaven, so may it be on Earth.
What does this mean?
Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well.
How does this happen?
When God destroys and interferes with every evil will and all evil advice, which will not allow God’s Kingdom to come, such as the Devil’s will, the world’s will and will of our bodily desires. It also happens when God strengthens us by faith and by His Word and keeps living by them faithfully until the end of our lives. This is His will, good and full of grace.”

77 Sometimes you feel that you are beginning to lose heart and that everything is getting on top of you. This kills your good desires, and you can hardly manage to overcome this feeling even by making acts of hope…Never mind: this is a good time to ask God for more grace. Then, go on! Renew your joy for the struggle, even though you might lose the odd skirmish.  (2)

Have I mentioned before that I hate Mondays?

Probably, once or twice.

I get to my office, knowing that my office manager is out sick,  A little frustration there, anxiety more ( I pray no little preschoolers get sick…) and I get to answer phones.  Sigh

Go to turn on my computer – blue screens of death – call to help desk – their jammed – seems the new windows 8.1 update has some bugs?  Sigh…

Finally get to my devotions… a time of peace, of calm.. (interruptions begin)

How the heck on a day like this, am I supposed to be holy, set apart to God, and example for those whom I pastor and shepherd towards His grace?

How can I trust that God’s will, will be accomplished, that He will be in charge, (that He will reign in MY life)  Or will I be tempted to cuss and rant and basically act like I don’t believe He is here?

Grace – we have to keep remember the gifts, the promised and fulfilled gifts of God. We have to know He is here. That beyond our ability, beyond even our ability to conceptualize, He is working within us, through us.  We don’t set ourselves apart to Him!  He has already done this – in the very cross of Christ (read Rom 6:1-8) In His death, which is why we proclaim it as we commune with God.

That is how the Apostles strengthened the church, appointing pastors to care for them, encouraging them by pointing them to Jesus, helping them realize what happens in baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, What happens when we are assured that nothing separates us from God.  For they taught we are His children, adopted, cleansed from the filth of the world, forgiven, loved.

We don’t have to do anything to earn this, but oh, how easily this knowledge can fade from our minds, can escape our lips, can be hidden in the depths our our heart… forgotten for the moment. We too easily let the comfort of knowing His presence fade as the challenges of the day overwhelm us…..seemingly crush us, distract and disillusion us.

Perhaps it would help if once an hour – I prayer the Lord’s prayer?  Not that it is a holy act, but that I would remember that His kingdom has come, He is in charge here, that His will is being done here, among us, as Luther taught – among us.  We need that.  That God will provide, that He will show mercy and strengthen us against temptation and save us from evil.  Again – this isn’t my act of piety, but my need to be reminded of the work God is doing here….the work we rejoiced in yesterday, as God makes a masterpiece, and reveals to us that we walk in Christ.

Prayer, especially this wonderful prayer that Christ taught us… the anti-dote for Mondays….

Lord, help us to realize you mercy… even…no, especially on Mondays!

(1)  Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 543-546). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The One Who Would Die, that Others Will Live


What Child is this?SAMSUNG

The One Who Would Die,

That Others Might Live…

John 11:17-27, 38-53

In Jesus Name

 

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be well known by you, bringing you great peace and joy as you know the depth of His love.

 

The Mission

There are Sundays were the sermon develops simply, where there is only one point to the reading, only one lesson to learn about the depth of God’s love. Here, in this reading, there are a number of sermons that could be given.

One about God’s love, as we see in revealed in Jesus’ interaction with Martha,

Or God’s love, that would weep over the depth of a friend, and then raise him back to life.

Or one of my favorites, as we look at Caiaphas, the high priest, who like a hostile witness in court, still proclaims the truth…about the depth of God’s love – and doesn’t even know it.

As I prepared for this day, with the children singing, the words at the end of the reading kept coming to the front of my mind,

“he did not say this on his own, as the high priest at that time, he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for that entire nation, Not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God, scattered around the world….”

We see God’s heart, at the depth of that plan, to bring together and unite al the children of God, scattered around the world.

One of the things we talk about here, is that church is often a foretaste of the glory of heaven.  Not the building, but the people, the mercy, the love….as we sing together, as we heard God’s words, revealing His love, we place before God our burdens, as we share in the Lord’s Supper, this is all a little taste of heaven.
It just seems right then, that the voices of children we hear sing are from many cultures, from all over the world, the children whom Jesus came to make His own, just as He came to make us His own… people from all over this globe, just as heaven will be people from every nation, of every language, of every ethnicity. Today’s sermon is about how He planned and did this very thing!

The Method

These passages during this church season, what we call lent, help us get ready for Easter.  They help us become more and more aware of God’s plan from the very beginning, was to be with us, to bring light and love into our world, which often lacks it.

Such as this prophesy of Caiaphas, which would point to the long awaited glory of Israel being revealed, and the hope of all peoples.  The High-Priest, the head of all things religious, who studied the scriptures, said words that were so accurate, that He didn’t see it.

He said, “’You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50  You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’” John 11:49-50 (NLT)

It was just to be just Caiaphas had prophesied. But he was by no means the first. Some 700 years before Caiaphas said those words, another prophet by the name of Isaiah put it together, a little more carefully:

10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)

It is the same thought – but where as Caiaphas thought the death of Jesus would save a problem with the Romans, it would do so much more, saving people from our rebellion against God, our sin.

When during our time of confession and absolution earlier, I mentioned that God daily and richly forgives our sins and grants us new life, those are not just mere words.  They are what we believe, what we count upon each day.

But we realize as well, and take great joy in the knowledge that this has been God’s plan from the beginning, that Jesus, the one, would die that all the children of God would never fear the power of sin, that is, that death would somehow be the end.

Isaiah talks of this in words that are interesting – that because the righteous servant, by experiencing death, would make it possible for many to be counted right.  Simply because Jesus bears our sin, the grief, the guilt, the pain, the shame, and yes, the penalty for what we’ve done wrong.

Because of that action, he does save us, God’s people, all who trust in Him, from every corner of this planet, from every people group, from Asia, from the Middle East, from South America, and Europe, and even LA and the OC.

That’s been His plan, from before the foundations of the world, a plan we see, even as we look at the children’s smiles, as we heard their voices praising God this morning

The Millieu

There is a last lesson here.  That I need to make absolutely clear to each and everyone of us.  Some because we think we’ve gone too far from God.  That might be worried about someone they think is gone to far from God…or in either case, lost hope for God to be able to work in their lives.

Hear Jesus prayer, to the Father…

40  Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41  So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42  You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” John 11:40-42 (NLT)

That of course, is the challenge, this idea of trusting God.  Martha couldn’t even begin to conceive of what Jesus was telling her, that in a mere moment, with a cry, her brother would be returned to her and Mary.

In the same way, when we talk about eternity, about the finality of death, it is hard to see beyond the tomb.  Yet God is here, just as He was there.  Martha trusted in Jesus for the harder miracle, the resurrection from the dead, for all eternity.

It is why Jesus came, why he was born of Mary, and laid in a manger.

So that people would hear God’s love..

The same Child, was the one who would be nailed to the cross….
And rise from the dead, and ascend to heaven…..

So that we would know the Father sent Jesus… and sent Him that we would know the incredible depth of God’s love…..

for us, for those we love…. For those still, no matter what language they speak, no matter where they were born, no matter their culture.

For in Christ’s death, we find ourselves alive, in a relationship with God… rejoicing in His mercy, and given His peace.

A peace that is beyond all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN.

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