Tag Archives: hope

A sense of urgency in Jesus Luke 12, August 14, 2016 First Saint Johns

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 a sense of urgency in Jesus said … AMEN!

In the OT and NT passages today, there is an obvious sense of urgency. This idea that “everything is beautiful” that we just mosey on down the easy path, always tomorrow, just chill, the world’s perspective on things is not the Biblical perspective. In Jeremiah, Yahweh is telling Jeremiah to push on His people. “Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked…” Does that sound like a nice mellow, just take life easy attitude? For most of us, life here in our insulated part of the United States is easy compared to pretty much the rest of the entire world. But that certainly doesn’t give us any guarantee that it will always be that way, for us individually or for all of us. The things we take for granted, kid ourselves into believing that the world is all just nice and placid and no need for me to get all spun up about it. We are incredibly blessed, living as we do and where we are. So many right around us are not, not just in terms of their soci- economic status, but many are confronting death, dealing with serious illness, many are facing the day to day hopelessness of being lost. They don’t know Jesus, they simply struggle on from day to day, thinking that something is going to happen to just spill all over them, make their life oh so different, and it’s just not going to happen. The drugs, alcohol, murders, sexual, greed, sin of pretty much anything you can think of, the compulsion to want and want, take and take, any of this is supposed to give people some sort of hope or long-lasting pleasure, and it doesn’t. All the things that are going on in the inner city between the residents and police. We have been blessed right here in York because we aren’t seeing a lot of that turbulence, maybe our leaders, our police, our residents, a combination thereof are all able to keep it a little real and not feel entitled to or justified in perpetuating the violence here, although there certainly is violence. Jesus told us there would be division, that the world would hate Christians because the world hates Him. Clearly there is division, there is no “god” according to too many people right around us, so the only thing to do in the world is to contribute as little as possible and to take as much as possible, and it doesn’t matter one bit who it hurts; spouses, children, parents, siblings, neighbors, so long as, of course, it doesn’t hurt me. The division that Jesus talks about is quite plain, for those who trust in Jesus and look to Him to provide, as we talked about last week, for those who are in Jesus not to worry, not to take what isn’t theirs, that is the Christian perspective, it is not the world’s perspective. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 24: 9-10: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” How many times a day now do we hear how someone is heavens to Betsy “offended”, it’s use is so juvenile and pervasive that it’s become trivial and not even worth the time to talk to someone, they are simply not intellectually able to discuss something and they hide behind phoney clichés. The division is quite obvious, those who have the hope, who want to talk to others with hope, passion, an agape servanthood, the desire to genuinely give hope and promise to so many in the world, and those on the other side who only see hope in the next check, in the next meal, sexual partner, in the next home, vehicle, job, and after years and years of their pointless pursuits wonder why they are so lacking in hope, why they are further away than ever of achieving any true hope, peace and feeling of true love and assurance in their life. Therein lies the division, those who have that hope and promise in Jesus and those that don’t. We know there are all sorts of people who just can’t stand to see someone else be happy or achieve, just be content to be where they are. It drives them really crazy when they see Christians serving and trying to take a genuine interest in someone else. How can they do that? Don’t they know they’re supposed to be grasping and grubbing for everything they can, that is supposed to be miserable and wracked with envy and greed. Yet they will look you in the face and try to tell you how Christians don’t know how to have fun. They have no clue how destructive and just really nasty their “fun” is, and what the difference is between fun and “joy”. Paul tells the Galatians: “ESV Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” the world would read that in terms of grasping, self-love, greed, impatience, happy. For too many of the world who have so much and have decided that they’re uninformed world view is superior to God’s Word in Scripture, they have chosen what C.S. Lewis describes as; “…the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones without signposts.” What so many in the world let themselves get lulled into, the idea that it will all work out and they can live in their evil and that will be OK with God, despite Jesus’ clear words and warnings. Robert Schmalzle who wrote the 7 Habits of Jesus, wrote: “Some of [Jesus’] teaching on forgiveness and peace may have given the impression that he was spreading a soft gospel. Jesus assures his listeners that Christian discipleship is costly, even causing division in the family. The Gospel challenge is clear.”[1]
So when Jesus says: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you rather division,…” You can hear the incredulity in Jesus’ voice; “You all hear what you wanted to hear, you haven’t heard what I’ve said” and we have that to this very day. These men were Jesus’ disciples, but they were not mature in their faith, we see them arguing and scrabbling with each other right up to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. They were trying to make Jesus into a nice little fairy tale, the Davidic King who comes in and wipes away the Romans and the Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, Sadducees, all the bad people. All the good people, at least themselves and some of the other disciples, along with Jesus, would then roll right in and take over, the new heavenly kingdom would be there with each disciple, no doubt, thinking that Jesus will be wise enough to pick him to be at his right hand and things in the world will be all straightened out. Jesus is telling them: “oh no, there is so much more to happen, so much strife and difficulty, so much more that you are going to have to contend with and you better get over this idea right now that it’s going to be just a nice easy slide into the heavenly kingdom. No way? Things are going to get much more difficult before everything is destroyed and then the world restored to the way my Father and I had intended it at creation.

Jesus is very unhappy, I’d dare say angry. He simply cannot believe how clueless his disciples are. Do you honestly think that Jesus would be any happier with His church today? There certainly is division in the church today, much of which is created by people who simply want their fairy tale Christianity and ignore Jesus’ words in Luke 12, Matthew 24, and so many other passages. Yes He does love us, He does want what is best for us, but for too many in the world, they decide what is best for them. They don’t really know, but they’re pretty sure that it has something to do with more and more, give me what I want, indulge my definition of happy, because after all I really am my own idol and I know far better than anyone else and just provide me, with my poorly informed ideas of “happy”, and we will all be happy in our denial of what real joy and contentment is in Jesus. Yes we all have those times when we slip into the world’s idea of “happy”, but we grow in knowing what true joy is in Jesus and not delude ourselves in the world’s paradigm. That we can even as brothers and sisters in Jesus, begin to grasp what is true joy in Jesus. The division is that we know our eternal life in the resurrection, the perfect world is in Jesus. The world believes that their life and happiness is here in the world as it is now, a world full of sin, evil, death, destruction, greed, envy. There has never been true joy in the world and it will never be realized in the world unless it is in Jesus and that joy will not be perfected until we are all resurrected into the new world, the world that God had always intended us to live in. There are plenty who call themselves “Christians”, churches that claim to be “Christian”, who have divided Christianity, who have caused conflict and dissension in the church. They ignore God’s word in the Bible, decide that they know better than God, because He is just so vengeful, so mean and they teach things contrary to His word, because they have that fairy tale idea of Jesus. They ignore Jesus’ clear teachings and then accuse others of hate and ignorance who are faithful to Jesus’ clear words. There is an undivided church of Jesus, it is made up of Christians from many different denominations, it is the invisible church that Dr Luther taught. That church does not try to make the Bible just one of many teachings, that church does not try to make evil good, that church has a very clear understanding of the evil in the world and that in the end those who make up their own world paradigm, “Christian” or not, will be condemned along with the rest of the world, regardless of their opinion or what they call themselves. Is our dependence, trust and faith in Jesus, or is it in other teachings that try to “rationalize” His Word and turn it into a self-serving attempt to justify our sins and evil life style so that we can be happy according to our word?

The writer of Hebrews tells of so many who ignored the lies of the world and accomplished so much through the strength and insight God gave them, many of them who served God’s will in the world. Many who died because of their faithfulness to God: “Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb 11: 36- 38) So many today who are persecuted and martyred because they faithfully follow God’s Word and not the world’s or those who presume to be Christian.

We know that the Holy Spirit is with us and if we get out of His way guides us 24/7. The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us the hope and promise in Jesus: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12: 1-3) We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have an entire cheering section of the great, cloud of witnesses, we have our life in Jesus Christ, we have no need of the opinion of a dying and lost world and we need to run the race that has been set before us by our Lord who did all that was necessary to save us. There has to be a sense of urgency to run a race, Jesus’s words urge as to remember what we will be facing and in the faith He gives us we have our strength to continue to deal with the division in the world and continue to confront the world. The writers of Hebrews tells us that we will have all the support we need in the support of that cloud of witnesses and keeping our eye on Jesus, but we can’t be cavalier about it, we need to reach out to the world in hope, promise and with a sense of urgency.

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

[1] Robert Schmalzle 7 Habits of Jesus email  Aug 8, 2016

God is merciful, but is paying attention Ezekiel 33: 7-20

[for the audio please click on the above link]

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 live and turn from their evil ways said … AMEN

We are in the season of Lent, we should reflect on what our life is about all year long and certainly repent at those times when we have sinned and failed God. Reflection, repentance, are the primary focus of Lent. Today’s readings emphasize that. Most of the Bible is very straightforward, very real in the day to day lives of the people it describes. Many people like the mysticism, the mystery of many other beliefs, just for that reason and dismiss Christianity as being a little too prosaic and not mysterious enough. I disagree, the realness of the Bible, from beginning to end, make it totally relatable, real world, it describes the darkness and sinfulness of a fallen world, and it describes in very gritty, earthy ways many of the people in the Bible. There was little mystical about David, Elijah, Peter, they were very manly-earthy-gritty men, even Jesus. The Bible is not about being mystical, mystery, that so many try to make it out to be, but in some respects it is. There are compelling mysteries in Christian theology: The Trinity, the atonement of Jesus, the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection. There are mysteries that we may never understand, but that does not diminish the very straightforward realities of who Jesus is, how we are saved, what the Father does in our lives everyday as we are guided by the Holy Spirit. There are mystical parts to the Bible. Daniel can be, Revelation certainly is, parts of Isaiah. Kenneth Stevenson and Michael Glerup write: “Ezekiel also leaves its mark on the New Testament. The image of Jesus as the Shepherd (Matthew 18: 12-14; John 10: 11-18) finds its inspiration in the prophecy about the shepherds and the sheep (Ezekiel 1: 5-10). Revelation bears several significant traces of the influence of Ezekiel: the vision of the chariot from heaven with the four living creatures (Ezek 40-48; Rev 21-22) … and each book ends with a vision of the new temple.”[1] In our reading today Ezekiel is pretty straight forward, and according to Stevenson and Glerup; “…his teaching about judgment seems at times harsher than the message of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”[2]

Through Ezekiel, Yahweh is pretty tough on Israel and He could be saying essentially the same thing to today’s culture. David Peters writes: “You are no better than the Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite [reminds me of the Monty Python line Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberry –mine] You were such an ugly baby they left you out to die.” (Ez 3: 7-9) Peters goes on to write: “This is pretty rough talk coming from the Lord. God compared them to the people for whom they had the least respect – the Samaritans and the Sodoms. This sarcasm attracted the people’s attention and they protested that God was being unfair to them. God replied, “You say, ‘The Lord is being unfair in his assessment of us?!’ Listen to me! You are the ones being unfair not I.’” (Ez 18:25) In a contest as to who is fair, God will always win.”[3]

The most poignant part of the lessons for me is when Ezekiel takes his foot off the gas in the middle of the reading to remind his audience: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his way and live, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ez 33:11) Who is the “house of Israel” that God is talking to? … Yes, us, we are Israel. Jesus is Israel, we are in Jesus, even 500 years before Jesus, God, through Ezekiel, is talking to us and almost pleading with us. I don’t want to see people die in their sins, I don’t want to see people lost in Hell for eternity, that is horrible, I want you to fear me enough, to know who I am, what I have done for you and for you to stop resisting and find peace and rest in My grace. God is often practically pleading with us, stop it, get over this ridiculous, rebellious, attitude that only leads to death! We should be in a state of reflection, repentance and prayer all year long, but we have been given this time of Lent to specifically reflect on the reality of the state of our sinful nature. Not as a way to beat you down, but as a way for you to truly live “I am the way the truth and the life…” Jesus tells us. His way, life and life more abundant in the resurrection. The world’s way is sin and death. We may think Ezekiel is being overly harsh, but God, through Ezekiel, is desperately trying to steer us away from our rebellious and sinful nature and find true life, hope, promise and eternal life of perfection in Him. Is there any doubt that when someone repents, stops his rebellious ways that the Father will be joyful? Luke writes: “ESV Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Because we can’t have it our way, we act as if God is the enemy. We live in a “gotcha” culture. It’s not about what you do, the great ways you serve, the things you accomplish. There are people out there who genuinely think they are serving by waiting in the weeds in order to “gotcha” on the most trivial issues and show what a truly horrible person you are. The world tries to project that mind-set on to God. Nothing can be further from the truth. The “gotcha” God wants is the times when you realize your sin, repent and mourn in ashes over your sin and realize all that He has done to save you and give you eternal life. Is there any doubt in your mind that the Father, on His throne, will be smiling when you realize what has been done for you? Sure He knows who He has saved, but in the middle of the joy of heaven, there will be the Father’s smile of satisfaction, that His plan in that person has come to pass? In the parable of the talents Jesus tells us how our Master, God, “Enter into the joy of your master.” (Luke 25: 21, 23) The world tries to convince us it’s an “us against Him”.

By the same token, He isn’t playing. You want to take the wide road into the wide gate, do it your way? You can’t expect God to be pleased with your destructive behavior. He wants to save you, Jesus came in order to be the salvation of the world. The Godhead knows that most of the world faces destruction, death, the eternal wrath of God, and why shouldn’t they who have rejected God? God takes no pleasure over the death of the wicked, but they made their choice and rejected God. Ezekiel writes: “Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’, yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right,…he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ez 33: 14, 15). Through the Holy Spirit, the Father has made the path to salvation quite obvious and doesn’t make us jump through hoops to be in Him, as all other beliefs do. He gives us pure, unqualified grace in His Son Jesus. Jesus did the hard work and the heavy lifting. Jesus died on the Cross the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. God made the road to salvation quite obvious in His Son’s life, death and resurrection. There is nothing we can do to earn it, to justify it, to deserve it, it is given to us to have life and life more abundant.

In our Gospel reading people are asking Jesus if the people who died because of Pilate or an accident somehow deserved such violent deaths because they were bad people. The people asking were somehow “good” and those that died got what they deserved. Jesus replied: “No, I tell you; unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Not that a tower will fall on all of them, but Jesus was saying, keep doing what you’re doing and you will all die in your sins, you will be condemned to the eternal fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We do not have a “gotcha” God who is just waiting to condemn us. John 3:16 for God so loved the world that He gave us His Son to give us a sure and certain way to salvation, everlasting, perfect life in the resurrection. Trust in Him who does so much for us, turn and repent and know that in Him, in His church, in our baptism in Him and in the Lord’s Supper when we eat His Body and Blood, in Jesus’ life and sacrificial death, He has saved you to that eternal life in the resurrection. He wants what is best for you and waits to give it to you. There is no joy in the death of a sinner, there is joy in the man and woman who repents and receives the free gift of grace in Jesus.

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

 

[1] Stevenson and Glerup in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Ezekiel, Daniel” p xx

[2] Ibid p xiv

[3] David Peters “The many Faces of Biblical Humor”

We are His saints, enriched by Him Matthew 5 All Saints Day First St Johns Nov 1, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon please click on the above link]

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 are saints in Christ said in a spirit of celebration and joy … AMEN

I am going to paraphrase Paul: “To the church of God that is in York, Pennsylvania to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 2-6)

Paul goes on to say to his brothers and sisters in Corinth as I would like to express those same sentiments to my brothers and sisters in York: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 7-8)

As His Saints we win and we didn’t do anything. Because He’s overcome, we have overcome. We have overcome the world. We have overcome death. We couldn’t do any of these things ourselves. While we like to think that we are so strong that we can achieve whatever we are confronted by, deep in our hearts we know we can’t. Why do you think that there is so much fear, anger, angst around us? All of these people who know perfectly well that they just can’t confront the world. They hear the lies of the world all around them and they try to believe them. They have to. Why? Because there is nothing else for them to believe. So they accept that they are somehow gifted, strong, personally endowed with some skill that is going to enable them to make it. But when you ask them what that looks like, how did they get there and for that matter, where is there? You get bewilderment, you get frustration. They don’t know. The world’s told them a lie, that they are somehow special. But they don’t feel special, they say they are. Students in the United States today rank way below the rest of the world in math, language, science. But they do rank first in one thing, in self-esteem. They feel good about themselves. But when you confront them with the reality of what that means, they have nothing. They are somehow special, but special how? They don’t know. Those around us today can’t perceive, or maybe more accurately don’t want to perceive anything past the next event. “Well let’s see what happens after the World Series. Let’s see what happens after the next election. Let’s see what happens after the next Federal Reserve meeting. Sure we wait to see the outcome, then what happens? Pretty much where we were. Nothing much has changed. We cling to the latest stock market numbers, and then we watch as our IRA’s, our financial future drop again. We think we have a way to make money on the stock market, we might even have a little success, then the market closes and we just spent money without lifting a finger. That affects the Christian and the non-Christian. But we have Jesus to cling to. He has overcome the stock market, the housing market, the GNP, the President and the Congress.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That’s us! Ours is the kingdom of heaven. It might not “feel” like it right now. Another thing that separates us from the world? It’s not about our feelings. It is about what Jesus has done, what He continues to do. It’s His promise of heaven and eternity. Things might not be that great for you right now. We all know perfectly well that there are Christians all over the world who are very much suffering for their witness to Christ. You see that last verse in our Gospel reading? “…for your reward is great in heaven…” We have all had days and will have days, when we don’t feel so great, when everything’s going wrong, the future looks doubtful. Are there times when we’d like to give up? Sure! But because we are saved the Holy Spirit doesn’t give up on us. Why? We are His, we aren’t allowed to give up and we won’t because the Holy Spirit saves us from ourselves. The world does not have that promise, believes Satan’s lies and gives up, gives up in the form of drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power. They honestly believe this will save them, but we all know, and they know deep inside too, it will make them slaves and condemn them.

As a saint, as one who is saved in Jesus you are saved, you have the promises of Jesus, you have new life in Jesus, you are a special, holy, sanctified person, completely saved in Jesus and the Father’s special child and you didn’t do anything to be any of that. God chose you, He saved you, He recreated you in baptism, He lifted you up from the waters of baptism a new creation in Him. He gives you His own Body and Blood. His ministers share His saving, life restoring word with you. You received all this. You should praise and glorify God for what He’s given you. But none of that is yours because of your praise or worship, it’s yours because God gave it to you in your baptism in Jesus. Randy Alcorn writes: “What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ [His Saints]: a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth. Our desires correspond precisely to God’s plans. It’s not that we want something, so we engage in wishful thinking that what we want exists. It’s the opposite – the reason we want it is precisely because God has planned for it to exist. As we’ll see, resurrected [saints] living in a resurrected universe isn’t our idea – it’s God’s[1]

For those He has separated, not our choice, His decision. That’s something that we take to the bank. If Jim makes a decision for God what does that mean? Well did I do it the right way, did I do it at the right time? I’m fallible did I make some kind of mistake? It isn’t on me, I am hagios I am holy, separated. You and I are made to be a completely new and different being because Jesus redeemed you and me, He died for you and me, He paid for all of our sins and now we are made perfectly clean and holy. I am made to be completely acceptable to God because of Jesus. The Holy Spirit led me to be baptized and in that baptism I am cleansed from the sin I was born in and the sins I have committed in my life and made to be that new creature, His saint. Then as a part of His church, the Body of Christ, I am given His Body and Blood to strengthen me in Body and Spirit, to be newly cleansed of my sin, renewed in my Spirit. All because of what He did for us, nothing of what we did. We therefore have that assurance that because God did it that it’s done, completely right, totally in His power and none of it in ours. There can’t be a mistake, because of that we have complete assurance that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, in this worldly life and in the true life that is eternal and perfect in the resurrection. Journal about it for the next week, what does it mean to you to be a[gioj completely clean in Christ, how does that compare to what you see in the rest of the world, why is this a reason to give thanks, to praise and glorify our Savior Jesus Christ?

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

[1] Alcorn, Randy   Heaven  pp 7-8

Meyer Minute Suicide in the world, those who see no other way Nov 5

This subject is vitally important and Rev Dr Dale Meyer really hits it on the head. The rate of suicide is climbing, especially in terms of middle aged people, although it is one of the leading causes of death for those under 30. Of all the ways to die, suicide is clearly the most controllable and in Jesus it is even more so. The hope of the world is Jesus and we trust what He is doing in our life. We may not like the way our life is going, we probably think we have a better plan, but we trust that in the end Jesus’ plan is much better and it always is. Rev Dr Dale Meyer is the president of Concordia Seminary, he was the voice of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Dale Meyer

Meyer Minute for November 5

When Charles Gliniewicz was killed on duty in northern Illinois, an extensive manhunt searched for the cop killer. Yesterday: “This investigation has concluded…that this is a carefully staged suicide. He had been stealing and laundering money from Fox Lake” (Wall Street Journal, November 5; A6). Gliniewicz concluded that suicide was his only way out.

Actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in August 2014. Recently his widow Susan said that he struggled with depression, Parkinson’s, and Lewy body dementia, an illness that leads to declining mental ability (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4; A18). Again but for different reasons, Mr. Williams saw no way out.

“Death rates are rising for middle-aged white Americans, while declining in other wealthy countries and among other races and ethnicities. The rise appears to be driven by suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse” (New York Times, November 3; A15).

Whatever sad reasons lead someone to choose death, suicide goes directly against the God who gives life and promises hope (Psalm 42:11). “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13). So it’s a sin against God but a sin for which Jesus died. While God only knows the eternal destiny of the suicide, we who survive can know suicide is temptation to be avoided, by you, by me, and by those around us. Easily said, but overcoming the temptation when you’re in emotional or physical despair seems insurmountable. Each of us in our individual and sometimes lonely lives needs to be in a safe place where support and love are dependably present to help us overcome the temptation. Does our family, our congregation and our presence at work and in community promote a culture that cares for the weakest? Even if we do, sin is so insidious that all of us can rely on only one guarantee.

“When the righteous cry out for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).

“When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer” (Lutheran Service Book, 915, 4). God, help us all.

God isn’t going to push, He will encourage

Rev Ken Klaus – Lutheran Hour Ministries: “Years ago I called on a man, a member of my church, who was a good man, at least in the eyes of the community. By that I mean the fellow was honest in his dealings with others; he took good care of his family, didn’t drink, gamble, or swear. He was always faithful and conscientious in paying his bills and taking care of his other debts. During our visit I asked, ‘Tell me, you pay all your other debts, but I never see you in church; I never see you at Communion, and the church offering plate never sees a dollar from your account. Why are you faithful in paying your debts to others, but not to the Lord?” He thought for a minute and then, without being flip, he replied, “Well, pastor, I don’t pay so much attention to God, because He doesn’t push as hard as everybody else.”

Listeners, that guy had it right. The Lord is not going to push; He is not going to beg; He is not going to twist your arm. What He is going to do is say, “Look at My Son who gave His life to save your soul. With faith in Him You will be in heaven; without faith, you are headed for hell. Jesus is the best thing which has ever happened to you and for you. Don’t turn your back on Jesus. Be ready for the day when He will say to this world, ‘enough is enough.’ When that day arrives, I want everyone to be glad to see Me.”

Pastor Klaus is one of my favorites, you have to check out  wwwlhm.org to hear the audio versions of these sermons from Pastor Klaus and also Pastor Greg Seltz.

Have to consider his point. No God’s not going to get up in your face, not normally. To those who don’t know Jesus, yes the Holy Spirit is going to keep tugging at you, getting in your head sometime, continuously pointing to God. But, wow, we really give the world carte blanche, “entre” into our head, never thinking an hour ahead of time. Then we have the arrogance to decide, when we really have to, “well God’s just going to have to take me as I am, I’m good enough.” No you’re not, I’m not, no one is, God accepts us under very simple conditions. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are baptized in the Name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus, what was sacrificed as payment for our sins and we hear His Word preached. No heavy lifting, all for your benefit, yet too often, because God doesn’t push, we think the nonsense around us is more important.

True life is in God the Father, His Son Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a life of meaning, “life, life more abundant”, of joy, promise and hope. Do you get that in the world? Ya, no, just more grind, more gimmee, gimmee, and in the end, we all know death, hopelessness, complete loss and eternal condemnation. I have yet to have anyone give me any other possible outcome. True life in Jesus and then we die, we go to be in His presence, but then true, eternal, perfect, abundant challenging life in Jesus in the resurrection. Gotta tell you, seems logical, it is God who leads you into salvation, but you can resist and refuse, and for what?

In Jesus we get the attitude we need. Then it’s up to us.

It really is about attitude. Sure people with bad attitudes succeed, but you also know that they will never be content, they will never know trust, promise, they will always be insecure. They know that even if their lives appear to be a “success”‘, that they will never have peace. Peace doesn’t necessarily mean complacency. In fact it seems when the Holy Spirit gives me peace is when I get excited and driven to take on the next challenge. Too often I just really don’t “see” it and can’t get motivated.

This leads me to a bit more of a mundane subject. “in a landmark 1967 study. Australian psychologist Alan Richardson chose three random groups of students. One group practiced basketball free throws daily for twenty days. Two other groups shot only on the first and last days. But one of the no shooting groups spent twenty minutes per day carefully visualizing foul shots. At the end, the non-practicers hadn’t improved at all. No surprise. The hands-on practicers improved 24%. And the visualizers? They improved 23 percent… ”

“…mental training will boost performance. Psychologist Steve Ungerleider recommends regularly sitting in a quiet, comfortable space and spending 20 minutes mentally walking through ever step of your upcoming bike, run, or ski before race day.” – Outside Magazine. P 66 January 2015.

There are times when I am kind of wondering about what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do. Too often what’s anyone’s response? Fight or flight? You either just plunge right in or you pull a Jonah and head west. Seems to me most of the time we need to spend time being guided by the Holy Spirit in how we should do what we are being guided to do. Certainly it will take away a lot of your anxiety, it’s just not going to be as bad as you think. “If I go and talk about Jesus to that person what will happen, how is God helping me to visualize that?” Sure they could just brush me off, but now that I’m visualizing it, it’s really not that bad. But if I keep thinking about hitting those free throws, seeing some genuine trust, hope and promise in the person I’m talking to, wow! Won’t that be so incredible? Win the game, see the Holy Spirit bringing someone to salvation. “jje

Spend some time on what the Holy Spirit wants you to do and how that would look. No, it’s not always going to be what we think we want. The results may not always be enough, at least to our standards. But knowing that it is the Holy Spirit moving, seeing that, mentally and then being there seeing Him work, these are things that we are way to quick to throw cold water on. Spend some time to see it the way the Holy Spirit wants it and follow through.

Resurrection, true life for eternity Isaiah 25: 6-9 First St Johns Easter April 5, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon click on the above link]

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 are looking forward to being resurrected in a perfect physical body in a perfect physical world said … AMEN!!

We’ve been doing a sermon series by Rev Dr Reed Lessing for Lent. I’ve really gotten a lot from this series, so I’m staring our Easter sermon noting what he says about Easter: “Home! The very word evokes feelings of love and laughter, security and serenity, warmth. It means mom and dad, fun and games, good food, deep sleep, a little girl from Kansas says it best, “There’s no place like home.””

Truly that is what Easter is all about. The world as a whole, all of us, we have become so camped on our home being heaven. It’s not! Sure there’s comfort when we lose a loved one to say that they are in heaven, and when they die in Jesus, we have the assurance that they are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV) But that’s where we leave it, it has somehow become imbued in our understanding that we spend eternity in some kind of ethereal state sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. No! We will die. We will, unless Jesus returns before we die, we will go to heaven, but that’s not our final stop.

We are going to talk about the resurrection. We should be every Sunday. Why? We worship on Sunday versus Saturday, which was the Sabbath Day, because every Sunday is a little Easter, it reminds us of our ultimate destiny, destination. Because Jesus was resurrected, we too will be resurrected. Jesus returned to this world, in the same body He died in. This was to give us the promise that we will be resurrected just like Him. “ESV 1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

You really have to kind of wonder, why would Paul be so excited about being “changed” into some kind of diaphanous, wispy form. This idea comes from a belief system unrelated to Christianity called neo-platonism and also Gnosticism. Both of these belief systems teach that the physical is somehow evil, that because the Father is spirit, then we will want to be spirit. What’s the point of Hell, if we aren’t physical, how do we really suffer. Conversely, if we are spirit and are saved in the resurrection, how do we truly enjoy the resurrection? We can’t. We were made to be physical. If we are “going home” as Dr Lessing submits, is home really heaven. I’ve never been to heaven, I don’t remember anything about it. Sure I will be in Jesus’ presence and that will be tremendous joy, bliss. But that’s not what we were made for, that’s not how God created us.

We know how God created us. Despite what you hear in the world, we didn’t come from animals. The Book of Genesis tells us how we were put here, why we were put here and in what form we were put here. We were created in the Imago Dei. We are unquestionably special, unique, highly privileged by God because we were made completely uniquely in the Father’s image and in very physical, tangible bodies. Adam and Eve lived in perfection, in their created bodies, for many years. They then simply chose that everything God created for them wasn’t enough, that they were entitled to more, who was God to withhold even one thing from the? They waved God off and did what they wanted.

God wasn’t going to tolerate their defiance, He just wouldn’t, His nature is to be completely holy, to be completely just, be completely perfect. He was not going to tolerate their imperfection, their sin, in their defiance.

Yes, God booted them out into the cold, harsh world. But our loving God never leaves us alone. He never rejects us, He always makes a way where He, not you, will bring those He created back to Him.

Yea, we know those who just reject God and make it all about them. But even in our imperfection, we who have been brought to Jesus, are brought back to God’s intention for us. He promised Adam and Eve that there would be a deliverer, that Savior would be the payment for our failures, our sins and would put us back into relation with the Father. He did, Jesus. Jesus died a very physical, a very gruesome, gorey death, He died that death, not because of what He did, but because of what we did, because of our sin. Jesus, God the Son, was the perfect sacrifice for us who are so imperfect.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, writes extensively that we will be resurrected, we will be raised in very real physical bodies, just like we are now. This is my reason, this is my hope, the reason for the hope that lies within us. That is what being a Christian is all about, H-O-P-E. We are not lost and helpless like those who are without Jesus. We know we will be raised in a perfect body, in a perfect world, to live the life that we were always intended to live. Not in this sinful, corrupted, thoroughly messed up world and I defy anyone here, anywhere to try to make this world something that it isn’t. Sin is what has caused violence, disease, death, deformity. It’s all on us, do yourself and everyone else a big favor and quit blaming it on God.

Alcorn reminds us: “As human beings, whom God made to be both physical and spiritual, we are not designed to live in a non-physical realm. Indeed, we are incapable of even imagining such a place… An incorporeal state is not only unfamiliar to our experience, it is also incompatible with our God – given constitution… We are physical beings as much as we are spiritual beings. That’s why our bodily resurrection is essential to endow us with eternal righteous humanity. Setting us free from sin, the Curse and death.”[1] Alcorn rightly points out that because of our physical nature and when heaven is portrayed as a non-physical place, that our senses that do bring us pleasure, touch, smell, sight, hearing, won’t be a part of us, this really repels us at our core. Alcorn writes: “…when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alienates and even frightens us…”[2]

For most of us, we will spend our time in that “spiritual” form, but that is because we are the “church in waiting”, the world is still in tribulation and the “church in waiting” is still a part of that battle against sin and evil. In heaven, we will still be in prayer. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. Our loved ones in heaven don’t know what we’re going through, they don’t need to, they know we are still being subjected to the spiritual struggle that goes on around us. But ultimately we have the promise of the resurrection. Paul writes: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:” (1 Corin 15:42) We have the promise that Jesus made to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25). We will be raised up in very real bodies, to live very real lives, but lives the way God originally intended for us to live, in a very real world. But this is a world not limited by sin, by physical defect, it is a world where the possibilities are limitless, not this world, that is limited by all our human failings. A world where as the beer jingle says “you can have it all”. You can’t in this world, but you can in the world that God has promised to all those who are saved in Jesus. A life that God intends for us, that Jesus promised us when He said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) That is the world of the resurrection, a life of limitless abundance, no more pain, none of the disability of body and sin. It will still be a world of challenges, we are still expected to grow and achieve, move and accomplish, but in a way that builds us and strengthens us in Jesus.

Dr Martin Luther wrote: “Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” You and I will have so much more than a golden tail.

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

[1] Randy Alcorn, “Heaven” p 16

[2] Ibid p 17