Category Archives: Sermons

If it is of God… Acts 5:29, John 20:19

[for the audio version click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who join Thomas saying to Jesus “My Lord and My God!” said … Amen!

We now have this pretty interesting conflation, two different perspectives have started to see Jesus as something much more than what was imagined. The leaders of Israel seem to be rethinking what they did to Jesus. Thomas straight out asserts Who Jesus is “My Lord and My God!” Gamaliel was a very important man at the time. Luke, the writer of Acts, singles Gamaliel out by calling him “a teacher of the Law held in honor by all the people. The Jewish Encyclopedia says: Gamaliel was the son of Hillel who is still one of the leading authorities on Jewish law and is quoted by many people today. He was the head of the school Hillel in his time succeeding his father. “Gamaliel, as it appears, did most toward establishing the honor in which the house of Hillel was held, and which secured to it a preeminent position within Palestinian Judaism soon after the destruction of the- Temple. The title “Rabban,” which, in the learned hierarchy until post-Hadrianic times, was borne only by presidents of the highest religious council, was first prefixed to the name of Gamaliel.”[1] Much later on in Acts, Paul seems to take special pride in being a student of Gamaliel’s. (Acts 22:3) He gets a lot of notice in Acts, during the early church. If he is proceeding with caution against the embryonic Christian church, then he must have some idea that Jesus is who He says He is.

The amazing things that have happened, certainly culminated in the Resurrection of Jesus, leaves little doubt as to Jesus’ claim to be God. Gamaliel had to have been part of the court that condemned Jesus. I would guess that Gamaliel fell right in line with the majority consensus. Caiaphas proclaims to the leadership that this man, Jesus, must die to save the nation. No thought is given that there might be something a lot more compelling with Jesus, that He might be who He said He was. The concern was with the preservation of the status quo; Israel, it’s leadership and maintaining their way of life. As highly regarded as Gamaliel was, he certainly followed the party line. While we know that there were members of the Sanhedrin who objected to the illegality of the proceedings to try Jesus, Gamaliel wouldn’t have been one of those objectors. If he had objected the Sanhedrin might have at least backed off from condemning Jesus to die and might have even decided to do something else regarding Jesus.

The paradigm has clearly changed for the leadership in Israel. They thought that they were dealing with a nuisance that would burn itself out. They tried, and for the first time in history, killing a man didn’t make Him go away. It seems Gamaliel is hedging his bets a little, but it’s pretty clear that he sees Jesus as a lot more than being an ordinary man. Gamaliel compares Jesus to Theudas and Judas the Galilean. It seems though that Gamaliel is taking Jesus a lot more seriously than Theudas or Judas, neither one of them rose from the dead. It seems that the leadership is trying to prevent a panic. They’re trying not to acknowledge it, but clearly there is a new archetype and they know that they can’t just make the problem, Jesus, go away. They hope that they can, but now they have something much bigger than they expected while trying to avoid setting the rest of Israel off, that Jesus is who He says that He is.

The difference is that while Gamaliel is trying to hedge, not set off a rush to Jesus and still not taking Him seriously. He seems to know the truth, but as so many people do for so many bad reasons, Gamaliel is trying to save his position in Israel. The disciples, as Luke writes, know the truth, they know that there is no other option, they are beaten and we know how brutally Jesus was beaten. Maybe the disciples weren’t beaten as badly, but you know that they suffered more than enough that they shouldn’t be back out on the street rejoicing and teaching and preaching about Jesus. They knew the truth and saw there was no alternative to Jesus, the Sanhedrin was still trying to play its political game with its own people, the Romans and irrational as it sounds God, even though Gamaliel certainly had some perception that Jesus and his disciples were more than the garden variety revolutionaries of previous years.

Clearly John is continuing to emphasize that Jesus is much more than what most people seem to want to believe. Thomas declares it: “My Lord and my God!” Jamieson writes: “He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven.”[2] This is not some gratuitous acknowledgement, Thomas was completely overwhelmed and was utterly sure who Jesus was. Meyer writes : “ It is a confessionary invocation of Christ in the highest joyful surprise, in which Thomas gives the fullest expression of profound emotion to his faith, which had been mightily elevated by the conviction of the reality of the resurrection, in the divine nature of his Lord. The ὁ κύριός μκὁ θεός μου was the complete and highest confession of Messianic faith,” This is the first time when someone really addresses Jesus as God. For those who like to question who Jesus was and whether He claimed to be God, here is where someone is declaring who Jesus is. It may not be bragging if it’s true, but it’s more credible when someone else is declaring the fact. And again, there are plenty of places where Jesus is readily understood by those He is talking to as to who He is. If it wasn’t true, wouldn’t Jesus lift Thomas off his knees and set him straight? If it wasn’t true Jesus wouldn’t have just let Thomas’ comment ride.

We are His disciples. We see Jesus is making it very clear that Jesus has the authority to and intends for us to take what the disciples then and we who are His disciples now, that we aren’t to just go back home as if it’s all ending. He makes it clear to His disciples then it’s only beginning. He tells them, and us, that the Father sent Him. He has been sent to us to take His word, His life, what He has done for us dying for our sins and then resurrected to give us eternal life, that it isn’t for us to keep to ourselves. Matthew 28:18, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, Mark 16:15, Matthew, John, Luke and Mark all report that Jesus came to send us to tell the entire world about the salvation that Jesus gives us. In John He reinforces this message by giving them a preview of Pentecost. “He breathed on them.” The Greek word the hagios pneuma, the Holy Spirit, pneuma meaning the movement of air, the breath of His Body. He is giving them the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and for them to understand that they constitute His church. As He does by giving them the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:9, He is empowering His church to not just bring the Good News to the world, but that Jesus is empowering His church to save people to the Kingdom, but to also make it clear to those who aren’t saved and that His work is done through His disciples in His church.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom


[2] Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary on website

Renueva y energiza a tus discípulos Señor Mateo 28, Primera Iglesia Luterana de San Juan 16 de abril de 2017

[for the audio click on the above icon]

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el Nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el Nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo y todos aquellos que conocen la esperanza y el gozo de la resurrección de nuestro Señor Jesucristo dijo … AMEN!

Para nosotros en una iglesia litúrgica, esta temporada, a partir del Miércoles de Ceniza, para muchas personas parece ser un día tan triste, puse cenizas en su frente, que en sí mismo es ciertamente contra-cultural lo que el mundo vería como “extraño” Y entonces te digo en voz baja que de polvo has venido y polvo volverás. No es exactamente un “whoopee hacer” momento. Luego pasamos los siguientes 40 días más sacrificando algo, esperanzadamente, y recordando nuestros pecados. En un mundo que está a punto de vacilar desde el próximo evento emocionante / impresionante, de nuevo parece raro que debemos invitar a tal reflexión cuando el mundo que nos rodea es todo acerca de la negación y minimizar su pecado. Pero lo conseguimos, conseguimos toda la condición humana, cuando somos serios acerca de nuestra fe, estamos equipados con nuestro calendario litúrgico anual para tratar con todas las condiciones de vida. No vivimos en un mundo zippity-do-da, que cuando los juicios de huelga, no sólo acurrucarse en un capullo y convertirse en un zombi. Eso es parte de lo que es estar en la iglesia, en el Cuerpo de Cristo. Sabemos que tenemos un pastor y hermanos y hermanas en Jesús que están ahí para fortalecernos y recordarnos las gloriosas promesas que tenemos en Cristo. Mientras que las palabras y las promesas de Jesús nos dan inspiración y fuerza, la resurrección de Jesús es lo que nos da la esperanza final, slam dunk que realmente no es sobre este mundo y las pruebas. Se trata del Nuevo Mundo de la resurrección que nos da la profunda paz y alegría de que viviremos una vida eterna y perfecta de vida verdadera y plenitud.

Domingo de Ramos es bueno, pero sabemos lo que está llevando a, es una especie de intervalo, pero ciertamente no es el final. El Jueves Santo no recibe realmente el aviso que debe. “Jesús dice a sus discípulos” ESV Juan 15:12 “Este es mi mandamiento, que os améis los unos a los otros como yo os he amado.13 El mayor amor no tiene nadie más que este que alguien da su vida Para sus amigos 14 Ustedes son mis amigos si hacen lo que yo les mando “.Cómo lo minimizamos en nuestro calendario eclesiástico me desconcierta, que Jesús nos da esta increíble dirección, que no encontrará en ningún otro sistema de creencias, el amor a uno Otro, que Él les está diciendo, otra vez, que así es, yo estoy dando mi vida por los que amo, por mis amigos, que Él también les está diciendo, ya nosotros, Sus discípulos, que somos Sus amigos. Tienes un amigo en Jesús, pero es la amistad más unilateral que puedes imaginar, Él me da todo, hasta e incluyendo Su vida para que yo viva verdaderamente ahora y la vida eterna de la resurrección Pero hay más, Él pone un punto de exclamación en esto dando a sus discípulos su cuerpo y sangre, nosotros que somos su disco Ahora los iples son alimentados con el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Jesús para fortalecer nuestro cuerpo y alma. Recibimos este alimento real de Su Cuerpo para edificarnos y hacer nuestra relación con Él tan fuerte como es concebible.

Viernes Santo, ese es un día difícil. Para ver Aquel que nos llamó amigo, que está allí para nosotros todo el tiempo, y observamos impotentemente mientras es golpeado sin piedad, abusado y luego brutalmente asesinado. Completamente inocente, completamente santo y abusado tan despiadadamente, mostrando cómo podemos ser tan degradados y tan crueles como un pueblo.

Parece innecesario tener un escenario tan brutal. Pero sabemos que nuestro mayor temor es la muerte, parpadear en la inexistencia, dejar atrás todo lo que hemos conocido y dejar de vivir. Para que nuestro mayor temor, terror, nuestra mayor ansiedad de ser derrotado, tuviera que ser enfrentado de frente, ¿cómo otra cosa podría ser la muerte derrotada sino para que alguien muera y luego sea restaurado a la vida? Todos estamos condenados a morir, sin Jesús no hay nada más que la muerte. Ningún ser humano podría vencer la muerte, porque por nuestras vidas, ya estamos muertos en nuestros pecados y ofensas, merecemos la muerte. Pero no a Jesús. Jesús, El que es completamente santo, completamente sin culpa, sin pecado. Él no está destinado a morir, Él tiene vida eterna porque Él es eterno, Dios el Hijo. Podía pagar la pena, vencer la muerte, que ninguno de nosotros podría hacer. En la economía de Dios, para tener misericordia de nosotros, para evitar que paguemos eternamente el castigo por nosotros, Dios permitió que Su Hijo fuese la víctima pascual. Él hizo todo lo que era necesario sobre todo durante esta estación para darnos la promesa de la vida y de la vida eternas en este mundo de la alegría y de la promesa.

En todo esto es muy poco acerca de los sentimientos. Sí tenemos sentimientos, pero el punto no es acerca de cómo te sientes, por qué, etc, lo que “sientes”, simplemente no cambia nada. Sam Storms escribe: “Lo que tú y yo” como “es completamente y absolutamente irrelevante. Dios no establece su agenda eterna basada en lo que “preferimos”. Lo que podríamos “esperar” que sea verdad simplemente no importa. Lo que nos hace o no “sentirnos cómodos” no tiene nada que ver con la verdad o la falsedad de esta cuestión. El hecho de que tengamos un sentido intuitivo de lo que nos parece “justo” o “justo” realmente no importa, lo que realmente es, es lo que le importa a Dios. “Para nuestro daño dejamos que nuestros” sentimientos “nuestras opiniones, la Manera que pensamos que las cosas deben dictar demasiado de lo que pensamos. En la providencia de Dios, en Su Señoría, Su creación es acerca de lo que Él piensa. Va a ser Su manera, si pensamos que es justo o no. Sin embargo, Él hace mucho por nosotros. Vivimos las vidas pecaminosas, no lo hace, Jesús no lo hizo y no lo hace, pero ¿quién fue hecho el camino a Dios ya la vida eterna? Jesús. No sobre nuestra opinión o nuestros sentimientos, enteramente sobre lo que Jesús hizo por nosotros. Lo que nos gusta y no nos gusta es sin duda sobre nuestros “sentimientos”. Podríamos marcharnos el Viernes Santo, decidir “cuál es el punto”, renunciar, ceder a nuestros sentimientos de pérdida y depresión y no esperar la verdadera alegría. La resurrección de Jesús no es un salto arriba y abajo los Patriotas ganaron el Super Bowl feliz. Eso es superficial, está ahí por un momento y luego vuelve a la realidad. Es el momento en que te paras en tu vida, una sonrisa se extiende sobre tu cara. No es una sonrisa torpe y vertiginosa, sino una sonrisa de saber, de contentamiento, una sonrisa madura y reflexiva sabiendo que la superficialidad que nos rodea está pasando. Que hay alegría verdadera, satisfacción. ¿Alguna vez te has dado cuenta de que cuando estás alegre, feliz, es seguido rápidamente por una especie de accidente? Eran todos yippy, entonces sólo una especie de establecidos en un descontento de “¿por qué hice eso”? El giddy-up temporal está bien, siempre y cuando no nos enganchamos y necesitamos disparos continuos de “feliz”. No dura. Ha sido un duro los últimos meses para mí. El viernes tuve que estar con una madre cuyo hijo de 22 años fue asesinado. Hace unas semanas hice un funeral para un niño de diez años, la semana anterior a la muerte de mi padre, unas pocas semanas antes tuve que estar con una madre y un padre cuyo hijo de 22 años se suicidó. Tiro en los problemas del coche, otros temas variados, la tensión ha sido enorme. Si dependía de mi felicidad, ¿cómo crees que seguiría funcionando? Ser cristiano significa que tienes el apoyo de hermanos y hermanas en Jesús y pastores que están allí para ti durante las pruebas y animarte. Realmente aprecio cómo algunas personas aquí intensificaron para alentar y apoyar. Ken intensificó y realmente ayudó con muchas de las adoraciones de las últimas semanas. ¿Cómo puedo estar ante las personas que han perdido a un niño y hacerlas felices como el mundo piensa que deberían ser? ¿Divertirse con ellos, hacer comedia, platitudes? ¿Acabo de dejarlos allí para tratar con él, superarlo? Por difícil que creas que sean tus pruebas, imagina que los padres están pasando por tales pruebas. No hay nada que los haga “felices”. Pero como pastor, voy a hacer todo lo que pueda para darles verdadera alegría. Ese es el propósito de la resurrección. Tertuliano escribió sobre la resurrección: “Es por todos los medios ser creído porque es absurdo”. Habrá tragedias en nuestras vidas de distinto grado, cuanto más larga sea la vida, mayor será la oportunidad y más tragedias. Podríamos pensar que Jesús fue horriblemente asesinado el Viernes Santo como tragedia, sin embargo, de Su sufrimiento en ese día, llegó la promesa más grande que podemos imaginar y como pastor que es lo que puedo compartir con personas que han sufrido tragedia horrible . Al hacer esto voy a ayudarles a conocer la alegría. Que nuestro Dios es muy consciente de lo que están pasando. Vio a Su propio hijo brutalmente brutalizado, golpeado, clavado en madera y abandonado para sufrir. Dios entiende nuestro horror cuando tenemos que soportar la tragedia, Él está ahí con usted alcanzando a través de las capas que usted experimenta para ayudarle a entender que hay una promesa mucho más grande que vence el horror. El horror es por un tiempo, la promesa de nuestra vida eterna, la alegría que tenemos en Jesús aquí y ahora nos da la alegría, la esperanza, la promesa que nos restaura, nos renueva y nos energiza ahora. El mundo nos dice que sólo para aceptar la tragedia y seguir adelante, para encontrar la felicidad o recurrir a las drogas, el alcohol, el juego, el sexo para superar la tragedia, porque no importa de todos modos. Esa es una mentira desesperada y espantosa que viene directamente del Infierno. Fuimos creados por nuestro todopoderoso, todo amante de Dios. Él conoce los horrores, pero también sabe que no es el fin y nos da esa promesa, que hay más y más grandes alegrías eternas que Él tiene para nosotros en nuestra vida eterna y que nos restaura y nos renueva en nuestra vida ahora. Esa es la promesa de la tumba vacía de Jesús, que al final de los tiempos todas nuestras tumbas estarán vacías. Nuestros cuerpos serán resucitados, restaurados a una vida perfecta que siempre fuimos destinados a tener. Martín Lutero escribió: “La resurrección No consiste en palabras, sino en vida y poder. El gozo, la paz y la promesa de Dios el Padre en la resurrección de Jesús, Dios el Hijo, nos da gozo ahora, que cuando Tenemos la tragedia de la muerte de alguien que amamos, sabemos que cuando estamos todos en Jesús, esta vida y todas sus tragedias serán un recuerdo débil mientras vivimos juntos en la vida eterna, perfecta y perfecta de la resurrección.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento guarda sus corazones y mentes en Cristo Jesús. Amin y Shalom

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Renew and energize your disciples Lord Matthew 28 First Saint Johns Lutheran Church April 17, 2017

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the hope and joy of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ said … AMEN!

For us in a liturgical church, this season, starting on Ash Wednesday, for many people seems to be such a dreary day, I put ashes on your forehead, which in itself is certainly counter-cultural what the world would see as “weird” and then I quietly tell you from dust you came and dust you shall return. Not exactly a “whoopee do” moment. Then we spend the next 40 plus days sacrificing something, hopefully, and remembering our sins. In a world that is all about lurching from the next exciting/breathtaking event, again seems weird that we should invite such reflection when the world around us is all about denial and minimizing their sin. But we get it, we get the whole human condition, when we are serious about our faith, we are equipped by our yearly liturgical calendar to deal with all the conditions of life. We don’t live in a zippity-do-da world, that when the trials strike, we don’t just curl up in a cocoon and become a zombie. That is part of what being in the church, in the Body of Christ is all about. We know that we have a pastor and brothers and sisters in Jesus that are there to strengthen us and remind us of the glorious promises that we have in Christ. While the Words and promises of Jesus give us inspiration and strength, the resurrection of Jesus is what gives us the ultimate, slam dunk hope that it really isn’t about this world and the trials. It is about the New World of the resurrection that gives us the deep down peace and joy that we will live an eternal, perfect life of true living and fulfillment.

Palm Sunday is good, but we know what it’s leading to, it’s kind of a interval, but certainly not the end. Maundy Thursday doesn’t really get the notice it should. Maundy is Latin, mandate or commandment, when Jesus told His disciples “ESV John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.” How we minimize this in our church calendar mystifies me. That Jesus gives us this incredible direction, you will not find in any other belief system, to love one another. That He is telling them, again, this is it, I am laying down My life for those I love, for My friends, that He is also telling them, and us, His disciples, that we are His friends. I certainly have a friend in Jesus, but it is the most one –sided friendship you can imagine, He gives me everything, up to and including His life in order for me to truly live now and the eternal life of the resurrection. But there’s more, He puts an exclamation point on this by giving His disciples His Body and Blood, we who are His disciples now are fed Jesus’ Body and Blood to the strengthening of our body and soul. We receive this actual nourishment of His Body to build us up and make our relationship with Him as strong as conceivable.

Good Friday, that’s a tough day. To see Him who called us friend, who is there for us all the time, and we helplessly watch as He is mercilessly beaten, abused, and then brutally murdered. Completely innocent, completely holy and abused so ruthlessly, showing how we can be so debased and so cruel as a people.

It seems unnecessary to have such a brutal scenario. But we know our greatest fear is death, to blink into non-existence, to leave behind everything we’ve known and just stop living. In order for our greatest fear, terror, our greatest anxiety to be defeated it had to be met head on, how else could death be defeated but for someone to die and then be restored to life? We are all doomed to die, without Jesus there is nothing but death. No human being could overcome death, because by our lives, we are already dead in our sin and trespasses, we deserve death. But not Jesus. Jesus, He who is completely holy, completely without guilt, no sin. He is not destined to die, He has eternal life because He is eternal, God the Son. He could pay the penalty, overcome death, which none of us could ever do. In God’s economy, in order to have mercy on us, in order to keep us from eternally paying the penalty for us, God permitted His Son to be the paschal victim. He did all that was necessary mostly during this season in order to give us the promise of eternal life and life in this world of joy and promise.

In all this it is very little about feelings. Yes we have feelings, but the point isn’t about how you feel, why etc, what you “feel”, just doesn’t change anything. Sam Storms writes: “What you and I “like” is utterly and absolutely irrelevant. God doesn’t set his eternal agenda based on what we “prefer”. What we might “hope” to be true simply doesn’t matter. What does or does not make us “feel comfortable” has no bearing on the truth or falsity of this issue. The fact that we have an intuitive sense for what strikes us as “fair” or “just” doesn’t really matter, what actually is, is what matters to God.”[1] To our harm we let our “feelings” our opinions, the way we think things should be dictate way too much of what we think. In God’s providence, in His Lordship, His creation it is about what He thinks. It is going to be His way, whether we think it’s fair or not. Yet, He does so much for us. We live the sinful lives, He doesn’t, Jesus didn’t and doesn’t, yet who was made the way to God and eternal life? Jesus. Not about our opinion or our feelings, entirely about what Jesus did for us. What we like and don’t like is certainly about our “feelings”. We could walk away on Good Friday, decide “what’s the point”, give up, give in to our feelings of loss and depression and not wait for the true joy. Jesus’ resurrection isn’t a jump up and down the Patriots won the Super Bowl happy. That’s superficial, it’s there for a moment and then back to reality. It’s that time when you stop in your life, a smile spreads over your face. Not a goofy, giddy smile, but a smile of knowing, of contentment, a mature and thoughtful smile knowing that the shallowness around us is just passing. That there is true joy, contentment. Have you ever noticed that when you’re all giddy-up happy, it’s quickly followed by kind of a crash? You were all yippy, then just kind of settled down into a discontent of “why did I do that”? The temporary giddy-up is fine, so long as we don’t get hooked on it and require continuous shots of “happy”. It doesn’t last. It’s been a tough last few months for me. On Friday I had to be with a mother whose 22 year old son was murdered. A few weeks ago I did a funeral for a ten year old boy, the week before that my father died, a few weeks before that I had to be with a mother and father whose 22 year old son committed suicide. Throw in car problems, other assorted issues, the strain has been huge. If I was dependent on happy how do you think I would continue to function? Being a Christian means you have the support of brothers and sisters in Jesus and pastors who are there for you during the trials and encouraging you. I really appreciate how some people here stepped up to encourage and support. Ken stepped up and really helped with a lot of the worships of the last few weeks. How can I stand before people who’ve just lost a child and make them “happy” as the world thinks they should be? Amusing them, stand up comedy, platitudes? Do I just leave them there to deal with it, get over it? As difficult as you think your trials might be, imagine being the parents going through such trials. There’s nothing that’s going to make them “happy”. But as a pastor, I am going to do whatever I can to give them true joy. That is the whole purpose of the resurrection. Tertullian wrote about the resurrection: “It is by all means to be believed because it is absurd.”[2] There will be tragedies in our lives of varying degree, the longer the life the higher the chance and even more tragedies. We might think of Jesus’ being horribly murdered on Good Friday as tragedy, yet out of His suffering on that day, came the greatest promise that we can imagine and as a pastor that is what I get to share with people who have endured ghastly tragedy. By doing this I am going to help them to know joy. That our God is very much aware of what they’re going through. He saw His own son unmercifully brutalized, beaten, nailed into wood and left to suffer. God understands our horror when we have to endure tragedy, He is right there with you reaching down through the layers you experience in order to help you understand that there is a far greater promise that overcomes the horror. The horror is for a time, the promise of our eternal life, the joy that we have in Jesus right here and now gives us the joy, the hope, the promise that restores, renews and energizes us now. The world tells us just to accept tragedy and move on, to find happiness or turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex to overcome tragedy, because it doesn’t matter anyway. That is such a hopeless, appalling lie straight from Hell. We were created by our all-powerful – all loving God. He knows the horrors, but He also knows that it is not the end and gives us that promise, that there are more and greater eternal joys that He has for us in our eternal life and that restores and renews us in our life now. That is what the promise of the empty grave of Jesus is all about, that at the end of time all of our graves will be empty. Our bodies we will be resurrected, restored to a perfect life that we were always intended to have. Martin Luther wrote: “The resurrection consists not in words, but in life and power. The heart should take inward delight in this and be joyful.”[3] Happiness only lifts us up to drop us again, the joy, peace and promise of God the Father in the resurrection of Jesus, God the Son, gives us joy now, that when we have the tragedy of the death of someone we love, we know that when we are all in Jesus, this life and all its tragedies will be a dim memory as we live life together in the eternal, fulfilling, perfect life of the resurrection.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom


[1] Sam Storms “Ten Things you should know about Hell”– hell.html?utm_content=buffere08f1&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_source=cwpg&utm_campaign=cwupdate


[2] Cal and Rose Samra “Holy Humor” p 59

[3] Ibid

Domingo de Ramos el siguiente paso a la cruz Juan 12 Primera Iglesia de San Juan, 9 de abril de 2017

[for the audio version of this click on the above icon]

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el Nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el Nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo y todos los que gritan Hosanna, Dios nos salve dijo … AMEN!

El Domingo de Ramos ha sido visto por los cristianos de muchas maneras diferentes. Algunos dijeron que este era el gran movimiento de Jesús, que el pueblo estaba cayendo en la línea y que Jesús restablecería el reino de David. Ciertamente la gente que día lo vio como tal. Ellos gritan “Hosana, Bendito el que viene en el nombre del Señor, el Rey de Israel”. Hoy vemos esas palabras casi como una plausibilidad, algo que usted dice cuando el Hijo de David, Jesús, viene a cabalgar como Zacarías profetizó Y parece estar haciendo su movimiento político o militar. La gente que lo saludaba lo ve así, recuerda de las lecturas de la semana pasada: “ESV Juan 11:47 Entonces los principales sacerdotes y los fariseos juntaron el concilio y dijeron: ¿Qué haremos? Lo dejaremos seguir así, todos creerán en él, y los romanos vendrán y llevarán nuestro lugar y nuestra nación “. Incluso los discípulos de Jesús estaban seguros de que esto era un juego de poder. Que el crucificar de Jesús fuera un gran error de cálculo. Tal vez de su parte? Quién sabía, pero las cosas no salían como se suponía.

Para ser claro, el Domingo de Ramos marca el comienzo de la marcha directa e inmediata hacia la Cruz. No hay vuelta atrás, no hay planes de copia de seguridad. Tal vez algunos segundos pensamientos, realmente no puedes culpar a Jesús, en el Jardín de Getsemaní, sabiendo muy bien lo que le va a suceder en unas doce horas, por lo menos planteando la posibilidad al Padre de que tal vez no es así como nosotros ¿quiero ir? Pero el plan estaba en su lugar, todo está listo.

Vemos la profecía de la pasión que se remonta al tiempo de David en algunos de los Salmos que escribió: ESV Salmos 22: 7 Todos los que me ven se burlan de mí; Me hacen bocas; Menean la cabeza; 8 Confía en Jehová, que lo libere, que lo rescate, porque él se deleita en él. Claramente una profecía de la burla de los soldados romanos y los líderes de Israel. Mateo 27:41 es acerca de la burla acerca de Jesús siendo Rey de Israel, que si Él es el Hijo de Dios que el Padre sin duda lo salvaría. ESV Salmos 22:14 Yo soy derramado como agua, y todos mis huesos están desordenados; Mi corazón es como la cera; Se derrite dentro de mi pecho; 16 Porque los perros me rodean; Una compañía de malhechores me rodea; Ellos me han traspasado las manos y los pies, 17 Puedo contar todos mis huesos, me miran y me glotonan “. Es evidente que la descripción de un hombre que ha sido estirado en una cruz clavado en ella para que puedan ver claramente sus costillas . David está siendo mostrado por Dios que su descendiente, Jesús, va a ser asesinado de una manera que ni siquiera sabría. La crucifixión no sería usada como un medio de ejecución por al menos otros 500 años después de que David viviera. Sin embargo, escribe muy vívidamente lo que sabemos de la crucifixión de Jesús. 18 Y repartieron mis vestidos entre ellos, y echaron suertes sobre mi ropa. »Una clara referencia a Mateo 27:35. No, no podemos saber con seguridad, pero en términos de la profecía bíblica, nadie realmente cuestiona que el Salmo 22: comenzando con el versículo 7 es profecía de los eventos que claramente vimos en cada uno de los Evangelios. La escena se había establecido hace más de mil años cuando David escribió las palabras del Salmo 22. Yahvé le dijo a David claramente que su descendiente, Jesús, sería asesinado de una manera muy violenta.

Hoy es Domingo de Ramos y recordamos la entrada de Jesús en Jerusalén. Toda la comunidad de Jerusalén resulta ver a Jesús. Ciertamente ha tenido un impacto. Juan escribe: “La multitud que había estado con él cuando llamó a Lázaro fuera del sepulcro y lo resucitó de los muertos continuó dando testimonio. La razón por la que la multitud fue a recibirlo fue que oyeron que había hecho esta señal. “(Vv 17-18) Como señalé en el sermón de la semana pasada, Jesús había hecho sus milagros en Capernaum, a unos 117 kilómetros de Jerusalén. El lugar donde resucitó a Lázaro estaba a unos 2 kilómetros de Jerusalén. Todos los que importaban sabían perfectamente quién era Lázaro, sabían que él había muerto y sabían que Jesús lo crió. Es evidente que Jesús había establecido su notoriedad en anticipación de su entrada en Jerusalén. Si nada más, todo el mundo quería ver al hombre que levantó a otro hombre de entre los muertos. Si Jesús quería asegurarse de que había una multitud, logró eso, pero pronto esa multitud animadora sería una muchedumbre burlona, exigiendo su muerte que fue profetizada mil años antes de su entrada triunfal en Jerusalén.

El Salmo 118 y Hebreos 9 es el Gradual para la adoración de hoy. El Salmo 118 es referido como el “Gran Halliel”, un salmo de celebración que se refiere a la liberación Y ciertamente el pueblo de Jerusalén ve que su libertador está entrando ahora en Jerusalén: “Los gritos de alegría y de victoria resuenan en las tiendas de los justos” … “Bendito el que viene en el nombre del Señor” … ” Con ramas en la mano se unen en la procesión festal hasta los cuernos del altar. “(Vv 24, 27)

El Dr. Carl Fickenscher estaba hablando sobre el Domingo de Ramos el 4 de abril, sobre las cuestiones Etc. Afirmó que la multitud está gritando Hosanna, que significa “ven a salvarnos” que este Salmo es un salmo de coronación que perciben que Jesús viene a ser coronado Rey de Israel. De hecho, Jesús viene a entrar en los lugares santos, el Santo de los Santos en el templo. Sólo los sacerdotes podían entrar en el Santo de Santo y que sólo fue una vez durante el año y que fue en la Pascua. Si alguien entrara en el Lugar Santísimo, la pena sería la muerte. Jesús está entrando ahora en Jerusalén porque Él es el Gran Sumo Sacerdote, que por Su sacrificio, Su muerte, Su sangre, que Él está derribando la cortina que separa el Santo de los Santos porque por Su muerte Él ha asegurado la redención eterna para todos los que Están en Él. Jesús sabe que va a la Cruz, para ser ese sacrificio por el pago de todos los pecados del mundo. La Cruz se convierte en el Santo de los Santos para todos y Él está procediendo a Jerusalén a plena vista de todos para proceder a la Cruz al final de la semana. Mateo 27:51: “Y he aquí, la cortina del templo se rasgó en dos, de arriba a abajo.” ¿Por qué de arriba a abajo? La cortina tenía 60 pies de largo y 30 pies de alto. Ciertamente una cortina masiva y nadie intentaría arrancarla desde arriba. Pero en esto vemos ciertamente que por la muerte de Jesús, la cortina que separó al hombre de Dios fue removida ahora por Dios y Jesús es ahora ese lazo al Padre. Jesús entra a los lugares santos por medio de su sangre y seguridad, nuestra redención eterna. Jesús se convierte en nuestro Sumo Sacerdote al convertirse en nuestra salvación, nuestro intercesor con Dios el Padre a su derecha. La gente había salido a ver al hombre que resucitó a los muertos y ciertamente fue el hombre predicho por David, Isaías, Zacarías, todos los profetas. Ellos pensaban que Él venía a Jerusalén para salvarlos de los romanos. Él vino a salvarlos ya todos nosotros a través de la historia de nosotros mismos y nuestros pecados y entregarnos para que tengamos vida eterna en Él porque Él murió por nosotros en la Cruz y luego venció a la muerte cuando resucitó de la tumba y fue resucitado En la mañana de Pascua para darnos la seguridad de que estamos en Jesús de nuestra eterna resurrección en Él.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento guarda sus corazones y mentes en Cristo Jesús. Amin y Shalom

Palm Sunday the next step to the Cross John 12 First Saint Johns April 9, 2017

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who shout Hosanna, God save us said … AMEN!

Palm Sunday has been seen by Christians in many different ways. Some to the effect that this was Jesus’ big move, that the people were falling in line and Jesus would re-establish David’s kingdom. Certainly the people that day saw it as such. They are shouting “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” We see those words today almost as a platitude, something you say when David’s Son, Jesus, comes riding in as Zechariah prophesied and seems to be making His political or military move. The people greeting Him see it that way, recall from last week’s readings: “ESV John 11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Even Jesus’ disciples were sure that this was a power play. That Jesus’s being crucified, was a huge miscalculation. Maybe on His part? Who knew, but things just weren’t coming out the way they were supposed to.

To be clear, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the direct, immediate march to the Cross. There is no turning back, there are no backup plans. Maybe some second thoughts, you really can’t blame Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing full well what is going to happen to Him in about twelve hours, at least raising the possibility to the Father that maybe this isn’t how we want to go? But the plan was in place, everything is set.

We see prophecy of the passion going back to David’s time in some of the Psalms He wrote: ESV Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Clearly a prophecy of the mockery from the Roman soldiers and the leaders of Israel. Matthew 27:41 is about the mockery about Jesus being King of Israel, that if He’s the Son of God that the Father would surely save Him. ESV Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet-17 I can count all my bones- they stare and gloat over me;” Clearly a description of a man who has been stretched out on a cross, nailed to it so that they could plainly see his ribs. David is being shown by God that his descendant, Jesus, is going to be killed in a way that he wouldn’t even know. Crucifixion wouldn’t be used as a means of execution for at least another 500 years after David lived. Yet he writes pretty vividly what we know of the crucifixion of Jesus. “18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” A clear reference to Matthew 27:35. No we can’t know for sure, but in terms of biblical prophecy, no one really questions that Psalm 22: starting with verse 7 is prophecy of the events that we plainly seen in each of the Gospels. The scene had been set over a thousand years ago when David wrote the words of Psalm 22. Yahweh told David quite plainly that his descendant, Jesus, would be killed in a very violent way.

Today is Palm Sunday and we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The whole Jerusalem community turns out to see Jesus. He certainly has made an impact. John writes: “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.”(vv 17-18) As I pointed out in last week’s sermon, Jesus had done His miracles in Capernaum, about 117 miles away from Jerusalem. The place He raised Lazarus was about 2 miles away from Jerusalem. Everyone who mattered knew fully well who Lazarus was, knew that he had died and knew that Jesus raised him. Clearly Jesus had set up His notoriety in anticipation of His entering Jerusalem. If nothing else, everyone wanted to see the man who raised another man from the dead. If Jesus wanted to make sure there was a crowd He accomplished that, but soon that cheering crowd would be a jeering crowd, demanding His death which was prophesied 1,000 years before His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Psalm 118 and Hebrews 9 is the Gradual for today’s worship. Psalm 118 is referred to as the “Great Halliel” a Psalm of celebration referring to the deliverance of God, and certainly the people of Jerusalem see that their deliverer is now entering Jerusalem: (v 16) “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous” … “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” … “With [tree] boughs in hand join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (vv 24, 27)

Dr Carl Fickenscher was talking about Palm Sunday on Issues Etc on April 4. He asserted that the crowd is shouting Hosanna, which means “come save us” that this Psalm is a coronation Psalm that they perceive that Jesus is coming to be crowned King of Israel. In fact Jesus is coming to enter into the holy places, the Holy of Holy in the temple. Only the priests could enter the Holy of Holy and that was only once during the year and that was on the Passover. If anyone else entered the Holy of Holies the penalty would be death. Jesus is now entering into Jerusalem because He is the Great High Priest, that by His sacrifice, His death, His blood, that He is tearing down the curtain that separates the Holy of Holies because by His death He has assured eternal redemption for all who are in Him. Jesus knows that He is going to the Cross, to be that sacrifice for the payment of all the sins of the world. The Cross becomes the Holy of Holies for all and He is proceeding into Jerusalem in full view of all in order to proceed to the Cross at the end of the week.[1] Matthew 27:51: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Why from top to bottom? The curtain was 60 feet long and 30 feet high. Certainly a massive curtain and no one would try to tear it from the top. But in this we certainly see that by Jesus’ death, the curtain that had separated man from God was now removed by God and Jesus is now that link to the Father. Jesus goes in to the Holy places by means of His blood and security, our eternal redemption. Jesus becomes our High Priest by becoming our salvation, our intercessor with God the Father at His right hand. People had gone out to see the man who raised the dead and was certainly the man foretold by David, Isaiah, Zechariah, all of the prophets. They thought that He was coming into Jerusalem to save them from the Romans. He came to save them and all of us through history from ourselves and our sins and to deliver us so that we would have eternal life in Him because He died for us on the Cross and then overcame death when He rose from the tomb and was resurrected on Easter morning to give us the assurance who are in Jesus of our eternal resurrection in Him.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Carl Fickenscher   “Issues Etc” April 3, 2017

Why are you talking to her? John 4: 5-26

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who drink the Living Water of Jesus said … AMEN

In a sense it’s a kinda “what’s the big deal kind of encounters”. Jesus stops at a well in the middle of the day. It’s not just any old well, it’s Jacob’s well and that’s important. Jesus is well aware of what it is. It’s in Samaria, what’s He doing there? There’s a woman at the well. OK, so what’s the big deal? It’s the middle of the day, the hottest part of the day, no one else is schlepping water at that time. Jesus is thirsty, He’s been walking and it’s caught up with Him and they see the well. Last week we read about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. That was interesting, kind of a big deal. Sort of like the mayor of your city slipping into your house at night unobserved to share with you. What Nicodemus got was much more than he expected, he didn’t know how to deal with it, but Nicodemus became a disciple, albeit undercover disciple of Jesus and didn’t run out to share the truths Jesus taught him. Nicodemus was an important, righteous, upright man, who seemed to be genuinely seeking the truth. He initiated the encounter. The woman at the well, not important at all, in fact the general perception would have been that she was a very unrighteous woman, maybe just a half step above a prostitute. She certainly didn’t initiate the encounter, if anything she really shouldn’t have been at that well to begin with. Theodore writes: “When He [Jesus] makes a request of this woman for a drink of water, she demonstrates a concern for law and custom in her initial refusal”.[1] That’s kind of the route we all go isn’t it? When in doubt run for cover under the Law, refuse to deal with the issue. You can understand, she’s at the lower end of the social scale, she feels easily threatened and yet despite her fear, she actually listens to this strange man and because of that, her whole life changes.

All the women of the village would have been there right at the beginning of the day. The coolest part of the day. There’s still enough light so that they can make their way to the well, get what they need for the day and find their way back to their home. A really stark contrast, yet they both resulted in the people coming to know the truth in who Jesus is. This was an unlikely encounter for both persons. Jews would normally have nothing to do with Samaritans. They certainly wouldn’t have accepted water, or anything else from the hand of a Samaritan. But this is different for Jesus. He created this unrighteous woman as much as He created Nicodemus. She was a woman, and men and women in that time just didn’t interact with each other normally. Much like it is in many parts of the Arab Middle East today. If you had some reason to talk with a woman you found the husband, father, brother of that woman and talked with him. She really didn’t have that option because she wasn’t married, she’d had five husbands, which would have been a huge shame for her. She was living with a man now, which, as I said, really put her a half step above a prostitute and below the line of what a righteous woman would have been. She was a Samaritan who were “untouchables” to a Jew. Yet Jesus treated her with respect, shared His truth with her and she responded. She was His creation as much as anyone and for all we know, she might have been baptized as a result of this encounter. I doubt that Nicodemus would have accepted baptism, at least at this point in the game. But Jesus and presumably His disciples spent two days in the Samaritan village and perhaps Jesus directed one of the disciples to baptize this woman, and Scripture says “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony … And many more believed because of his word.” Puts me in mind of Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. To the effect “is there any reason I can’t be baptized here?” Philip saw no reason and gave the Ethiopian baptism. Philip gave this man the new life in baptism, the Ethiopian was reborn that day in Jesus, became a child of God, received the assurance of eternal salvation. Jesus and disciples were right there, the Ethiopian wasn’t a Jew, these Samaritans weren’t Jews, no reason to withhold baptism from them any more than Philip refusing to baptize the Ethiopian. Probably creeped the disciples out to no end being around these Samaritans at all, no less two days and then even baptizing them!! Yet, if they came to believe it would have to have been under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that would have happened only in baptism. While Jesus initiated this contact with this obviously unrighteous woman (it would have been obvious to any Jew of the time). Unlike Nicodemus, she picked up what Jesus told her, what He taught her and she ran with it. She told everyone in the village who Jesus is, based on His rather short witness. The big point was Jesus pointing out to her how unrighteous she was. There she was talking to a man she had no business talking to, but what’s the big deal there? She had already crossed the line below what was acceptable, being married to five men, that was horrible, then living with a man she wasn’t married to. Talking to Jesus was something a prostitute would do and she knew that she was below that line already and went ahead. Obviously she didn’t want to have to deal with the women of the village who would have been at that well six hours earlier. So she knew perfectly well that she was outside of polite society. Yet, unlike the righteous Nicodemus, she doesn’t just listen and take in what Jesus says for her own benefit, she even leaves her jar at the well. The whole point of her going to the well was to get water for the day. A jar wasn’t a cheap item, yet she gave up the jar, the water, because she had something much more precious to share and she did! The result was an entire village of people came to be saved in Jesus because she went and witnessed to the whole village. This must have been a difficult proposition for her, because she knew how the people in this village felt about her, they wouldn’t have had anything to do with her. Yet they listened when she told them about this man and what He said and welcomed Jesus and His disciples to their village and hosted them for two days. Hosting thirteen men for two days was probably an expensive proposition for them, no doubt everyone there was living day to day, hand to mouth. So there must have been something pretty compelling in Jesus for them to host Him and His disciples, listen to Him for two days and come to believe what He said to them. The righteous Nicodemus left his private meeting with Jesus and didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone, he came in the night, he left in the night, assuming he wouldn’t be observed. He wasn’t going to suffer the abuse he might have taken from his fellow important people by talking about Jesus. This unrighteous woman, right smack dab in the middle of the day, drops everything she has, rushes back to her village, knowing that she was going to have to deal with people giving her a hard time because who she was and telling everyone everything about Jesus. I think this is about hope and promise. Nicodemus was probably making his encounter into an academic exercise. Here’s this guy, he certainly is interesting, look at what He’s been doing. I’m curious enough to go and talk to Him and get the deal on what is going on. But my trust is still in my position, my power, my social status, my wealth, I’m not going to risk that with this guy. Admittedly Nicodemus stepped up after the crucifixion and did become a disciple. This woman, the complete opposite on the social scale, she had nothing, no hope or promise for anything. This strange man who stooped down to talk to her, gave her that hope and promise. She had gained everything in Jesus and now she was going to make sure that she shared this with everyone she knew, even though she knew she was going to have to put up with their contempt. She charged right back, leaving a valuable possession, her jar, because now she had something much more valuable. She had the hope and promise that Jesus had given her in a new life, and she obviously felt that she had no reason to keep this to herself, and every reason to share this with everyone she knew, even though she knew she was going to get attitude from them. While the rich, powerful man, just kind of slinked away from his meeting with all the amazing things that Jesus shared with him. This destitute, unloved, unvalued woman rushed away from her encounter with Jesus because she had something of true value to share with people and she wasn’t going to wait around and keep it to herself. She wanted to share with people who had no doubt treated her like dirt for years, she loved them enough to endure their disdain. Nicodemus? Well he probably got some intellectual stimulation, but did nothing with it. Went back home, and while he came around later, had an immense treasure that he decided to just keep for himself. He probably didn’t feel as if he really needed it, because he had plenty as it was and therefore saw no reason to share it with anyone else. “Living water is not stagnant. It gushes out as the Spirit of Christ for our eternal life and others as it waters our parched human nature.”[2] Are you going to leave your jar, whatever is valuable to you, to witness to people who might treat you with contempt in order to witness to the truth of Jesus, that He is the Living Water who gives us true life?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Quoting Chrysostom Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa p 146


[2] Quoting Augustine, Heracleon, Cyril of Alexandria Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa p 146

Leaving it all on the course for Him Matthew 5:21

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have left it all on the field for Jesus said … AMEN!

You’ve heard the interviews after an athletic contest, one of the most common phrases; “I left it all on the field”, basically I gave everything I had in order to win. It can get a little cliché, but by the same token, I have no doubt that each person who says that truly believes it. At the end of that contest; a race, basketball game, matholympics, I gave everything I had, physically, mentally, emotionally in order to win, or at least to do my best. I’ve done races where I expected it to be a little more challenging and at the end upset with myself that I was holding back too much and I could have pressed harder on the bike or the run. By the same token I’ve seen people sprinting to the finish line, giving everything and as soon as they crossed, going off somewhere and literally getting sick right after they finished. No question they exceeded their normal physical ability in order to find that tiny little bit that they had left in order to finish as well as they could.

We certainly see this in so many of the people described in the Bible. King David wrote dozens of Psalms, but if you think he was all about sitting at a desk pen in hand and dreamily wondering how to compose his poetry, you would be mistaken. Most of his prose was about the different ways that he was left it all out on the field for God. David was a powerful soldier, his soldiers followed him into many different situations, they trusted him as a leader who would be there for them, do whatever it took for his men and defeat his enemy. David had no compunction going out on that field and doing what God directed him to do and pouring every last ounce he had into the fight for his men, his country and very much so for his God. David lived his life for Yahweh, there were times when he failed in that and he failed in a way that only a great king and general could fail. As Dr Luther wrote: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [or sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”[1] If King David had known about Jesus and written about Jesus, he would have understood completely what Dr Luther wrote.

In a lot of ways that is what Jesus is saying in the Beatitudes, you have to go over and above, you have to leave it all out there. There may even be a physical price to pay. The Beatitudes can be taken in a legalistic way. Jesus is not saying you have to do this, you have to do that in order to be saved. People have told me that they live by the Beatitudes. It’s not about grace, it’s about them and their performance, what they need to do, that God is keeping score and waiting for them to tank, to hit the wall, to not finish the course. If they somehow fail in one of Jesus’ directives they failed to leave it all out on the field for Jesus, they kept some back for their own pleasure, maybe cheated on the course somehow and didn’t completely live up to what Jesus directed us to do.

The fallacy is this, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that unless we are picture perfect, that we have somehow failed and therefore don’t manage to hit the finish line having left it all out on the course for Jesus. The Gospel does say that Jesus who is entirely perfect God and perfect man, something we could never be, a person that we will never be because there was only one Jesus. Jesus absolutely did leave it all out on the course and it was entirely for us, Jesus didn’t do all that He did for Himself. What’s the point? Jesus is the One through whom all creation came into existence, He is perfectly God, all He did was not for Him, but entirely for us. Nothing we can do, can add to what Jesus did for us, not one iota, not one jot or tittle.

Yet, many people are pretty sure it’s about sticking to the letter of the Law in the Beatitudes and that gets you over the line. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be obedient, Jesus said “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” But Jesus knows that we are fallible, that our obedience is qualified by our failings as sinful people in a sinful world. However, for all that Jesus did for us, how can we not strive to be obedient? How can we not strive to leave it all out on the course for Jesus?

Does a completely good, completely holy, completely gracious God want us to pluck out our eye and throw it away if we are not completely perfect in everything? In this day and age you can’t look anywhere that doesn’t offend your eye. The issue is, did you let your eye linger over that which offended? Or did you realize, “hey, this isn’t glorifying Jesus or doing me any good”, and just turn away? That’s what Jesus is asking us to do, in the Beatitudes. He exaggerates to make a point. He might say. “You really want to try to earn your way, this is what has to happen, if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. I’m thinking, none of us would truly stand that test. That does not, however, minimize the fact that we should strive to avoid things that offend our eye or what we do with our right hand, or our left hand in order to sin.

Marge and I were at Pastoral Leadership Institute immersion this past week, which, ironically is about us and our performance, and driving us higher in Jesus. It’s an honor to be asked to attend, not everyone is, and it’s recognition of the fact that we are striving in evangelism and discipleship and given the opportunity in PLI to push to the next level. It doesn’t makes us more saved, but it does push us to better serve you and the Kingdom of God as leaders of His church.

The Father is not trying to impose unrealistic expectations on us, He is trying to get us to realize that we can’t get there on our own effort. We will fail! We will have plenty of good efforts, being obedient to the things Jesus asks of us, but at some point we will fail to push as hard as we could. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost, that we should cut off our hand. Matt Popovits was one of the speakers, the overall subject was discipleship, which was great, I emphasize discipleship in my ministry. While we are called to be strong and faithful disciples of Jesus, our performance in that respect is not what saves us. The thesis was “How do I measure my worth?” For those who are so sure that it’s all about me and my “opinion”, because my “opinion” is so vitally important! I have bad news for youse, your opinion just doesn’t really matter. Heavens, how can I say such a thing, come on pastor, we all know it’s all about me! It really isn’t. I can tell myself how great and special I am, but despite what I think, it’s not going to get me diddly. Whose opinion does matter? Oh yes, God’s opinion. That is a great thing! By the way, I told Matt I was going to rip him off relentlessly here, he said “fine, go for it!”.

Anyway, Matt talked about “Performacism”, this idea that we measure our worth by what we do, how well we do it, in and of ourselves. Performacism drives you to the following: 1) The fear of and trying to avoid a horrible outcome, a false Hell that you’ve created, that you’re running from in order to make it to an “unfulfilling heaven, that you earn the applause and approval of your peers. That heaven can’t do what you want, doesn’t fulfill your life.”[2] God’s not all powerful, it’s all about you and what you do and more importantly the way you want it to play out. It drives me nuts hearing people talk about heaven as a boring place, “why would I want to end up there”. Heaven is not our ultimate destination, our ultimate destination is the eternal resurrection. We will be put back on this earth in our physical bodies in order to live our lives the way God intended us to live, a world filled with unlimited possibilities and life fulfilling beyond anything we could imagine. Matt points out that Adam and Eve rejected the “Garden of Yes” in favor of the “tree of no”. We make that wrong choice all the time, a garden full of all kinds of possibilities in order for us to indulge in our personal besetting sin.

Matt further observes that we make ourselves a “Functional Savior” that it’s all in our hands whether or not we make it to that amazing eternity. It’s our activity, and accomplishments that save us, so that we are valued by ourselves and by others, because, heavens! in today’s world, it is all about everyone else’s who so precious opinion. We have that problem on a massive scale in our society today and something that our youth get so caught up in, but we’re all susceptible to it. Our self-image, whether our physical attractiveness is valued by others. In a world where everyone’s equal regardless, ya right! Our hypocritical world is just so full of themselves. The fight is to be as superficially attractive as possible to be of value, if you’re not, you might be patronized a little, but just not taken seriously. We see girls today going to extremes because hey the vital thing is to be beautiful, get the right guy, have all kinds of worldly wealth and live happily ever after. Forgetting that despite all our efforts, some, like me, who’ve just been ugly from birth, end up simply being dumped out the other end of life, whether we were beautiful  or not because we no longer meet the standards.

The cut to the chase is this; Jesus tells us that we can do it the hard way, by our own standards, our own worldly, wrong opinions. Or, because Jesus did it the hard way for us, we can trust in Him, that He has done all that’s necessary. Yes, we should leave it all out on the course for Jesus, because that’s what He’s done for us, but never think that is what gets you His promises.

We are so incredibly valued by the Father and there’s not one thing that we can add to that, not by anything we’ve done, not done, or done wrong, but solely who we are in Jesus, so incredibly valued because of who we are in Him and that He died a horrific death in order to save us. For such a huge price and to be adopted into true life in the Father’s family in baptism, we are, each one of us, so incredibly valued and loved. There are those of us who the Holy Spirit is moving to do big things, to serve at high levels. There are those of us who just physically can’t or who are called to do what we feel are humble things. Doesn’t matter to the Father, yes we should follow our calling, but no, we should never doubt how precious we are to the Father and what we are to Him in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Ryan M. Reeves

[2] Matt Popovits PLI seminar, Cary, NC, February 9, 2017