Advent 2 – "Brought To Completion" – Philippians 1:6 – 12/9/18


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37636254-completed-tick-stampIf you had to estimate how many projects around the house that are ‘in progress,’ and that have been that way for a long time, how many would that be? Have you ever made it your goal to learn to play a musical instrument, or paint the house, or read a book, or write a book? But somewhere along the line, you either got distracted or lost interest or took a break… and the instrument hasn’t been played in years and the paint is still in the can and the book is still unfinished? Have you ever made the decision to go on a diet or join the gym, or quit smoking, and you started out with a bang, but then petered out and eventually quit?

Doesn’t it just seem as though starting new projects is a whole lot more fun and exciting than seeing them through to the end? The excitement, the energy, the enthusiasm we had in the beginning new things starts to diminish as we encounter certain ‘unplanned obstacles,’ things never go quite the way we thought they would, and usually for the harder or more expensive, hardly ever the easier or cheaper.

Getting to the goal requires a lot more practice and time and focus and sacrifice than we thought it would. The reward is so far in the future that we can’t see it and discouragement sets in. And before you know it, before we realize it, we’re off on a new project, because beginnings are fun and exciting.

But we’re not quitters. We’re not the kind who gives up on what we’ve begun. We just put it aside, promising ourselves that one day, when the time is right, when we have more time, we’ll take it up again and “bring to a completion that good work we began.”

There are also those projects that NEED TO BE BEGUN by us that we really don’t want to begin. A door that doesn’t shut right, a leaky faucet, and that ‘Spring Cleaning’ that never happened.

And what about those walls that are in your house that need to come down. These are walls that you built with an unkind word or selfish deed, walls that were built of broken promises. When will you begin the project of taking those down? All that’s required to complete this project is a sincere apology, an ‘I’m really sorry,’ along with the honest intention to do better. But that requires a contrite heart and a large measure of humility and humbleness, which is not fun and exciting at all. How many of THOSE projects are there that you still need to work on?

Compare all of this to those wonderful words that we heard in our Epistle reading today from St. Paul to the Philippians, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work IN YOU will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

There has never been and there will never be a project which our God has begun that He will not “bring to completion.” There has never been and never will be a promise which our God has made that He will not “bring to completion.”

And just what are those ‘projects’ which our God has set out to accomplish that He will “bring to completion in the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ”?

His creation, for one. God's grand project to create a world where men and women, boys and girls and 'all God's creatures' live together in peace and love, and with one heart and one voice in perfect harmony, “the morning stars sing together,” and ‘the trees clap for joy’ all the earth praises and worships their Creator without ceasing.

When our Lord created the world and everything in it, it was His “good work.” In fact, His “very good” work. It was perfect in every way; just as He planned it to be.

But the one creature that He made 'IN HIS OWN IMAGE AND LIKENESS,' that He gave A 'FREE WILL' to, used his 'free will' to rebel against His creator, and reject the 'image and likeness' of the God in which he was made. All so that he might bring this grand project of God’s Creation to its completion according to his own plans and purposes.

How many of the great social projects with their noble plans for establishing a safe and peaceful world where men and women can live together in peace and harmony with one another, remain utterly not only incomplete but total failures? How many projects have we launched to fix the environmental mess that we have brought on God’s beautiful creation, have either backfired or collapsed long before completion?

Because we are blinded by our sin, we cannot see the end of what we begin. We can’t see challenges and obstacles and pitfalls along the way. We overestimate our abilities and underestimate our weakness and corruption.

And we grow weary and frustrated and impatient and we don't live long enough. How high is that mountain of well-intentioned and naive projects to bring this world to the “completion” that the Creator brought it to in six, 24 hour days? How much pain and suffering and death have we brought to God’s VERY GOOD CREATION because we thought we could do it better than Him?

Yet as desperate as this world may seem to be, there is real hope for this world and all its inhabitants. But the hope does not lie in us. “Our hope is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Our hope is in the Lord who always brings every project of His to completion. On “the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” “he who began this good work” of creating this world, “will bring it to completion.”

On THAT DAY, our God will unveil His “new heaven and the new earth” just as He told long ago that He would do, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17).

Much more recently, He sent word to us that this “new creation” IS ALREADY COMPLETE. And He’s just waiting for the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be unveiled, which could be any day now.

A man named John was taken behind the curtain for a sneak preview. He writes of what he saw. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4)

How naive and absurd is it to actually believe that mankind can accomplish the grand goal of creating a world like the one just described by our projects and programs and movements, no matter how politically supported and well-funded they may be?

But to live with hope for the future based on the sure and certain Word of God, WHO NEVER BEGINS A PROJECT HE DOESN'T BRING TO COMPLETION – that’s the only hope that makes any sense at all.

Peter declares his hope for the future, based not on the accomplishments of fallen and sinful man, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth IN WHICH RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS.” (2 Peter 3:13)

Or, to say the same thing much more personally, “we are waiting for new heavens and new earth in which righteous people dwell.” And this brings us much closer to what Paul was talking about when he wrote to the Philippians, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work IN YOU will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

This is all part and parcel of God's grand project for a 'new creation.' Because really, there's something not quite 'COMPLETE' about a 'new heavens and a new earth, in which righteous people dwell,' if there are no 'righteous people.' Right?

And the evidence here is irrefutable, “There are NONE who are righteous, no, not one…” ; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

You don't need a new creation for the likes of these. This old creation will do just fine for these. But a “new creation” needs “new people” who are not like the old. It needs 'righteous people' who are not like these.

And so God has begun a “good work in you.” It is His 'good work' to convert you from UNRIGHTEOUS to RIGHTEOUS, from SINNER to SAINT, from the OLD ADAM to the NEW MAN REMADE / BORN AGAIN, in the image of Christ.

God began this “good work” IN YOU, in the water of your baptism. In the beginning when He brought the entire UNIVERSE out of the watery deep that the Holy Spirit hovered over. Now, by the same Word of Power, He has brought you out of the watery deep of the baptismal font that the same Holy Spirit was hovering over. And God saw all that He has done in you and declared His “very good” over you.

Don't look to what you have done and the grand projects that you have completed for your hope and confidence that you have an address in His NEW CREATION, the home of the righteous. And don’t look to all of the grand projects that you have brought to disaster and all those projects you were too cowardly to tackle as the reasons for why there is no hope for you.

You look ONLY to His Word and Promise. For “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work IN YOU will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

For this grand project that God has begun in you HAS ALREADY BEEN COMPLETED. As John the Baptist preaches his fiery sermons in the region of the Jordan, he is announcing that the One whom God the Father has sent into this world with His “good works” to accomplish has arrived. A few years later, we will overhear Jesus in prayer to His Father say, “I glorified you on earth HAVING ACCOMPLISHED THE WORK you gave me to do.” (Jn. 17:4)

And then, from the cross, the same “MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT” announced for the whole world to hear, “It is finished!”

The final day of our Lord Jesus Christ however has not yet come. And that’s because the total number of the 'righteous' have not yet been converted from unrighteousness. There are still more baptisms to take place.

When the risen Christ gathered His apostles with him on the mountain, He commissioned them to go to “all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).

And that work continues to this day. And every day now God continues to “begin His good work” in men and women and boys and girls, filling His new heaven and new earth with righteous people, “that they may be My people and I may be their God.”

Don't ever think that this grand project that God has undertaken will be forgotten or abandoned or that it will never reach completion. “For I am sure of this, that he who began a good work IN YOU will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

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Advent 1 – "Prepared For Advent" – The Divine Service – 12/2/18

maxresdefault‘Welcome to the season of Advent.’ The word Advent literally means ‘coming’ or ‘approaching.’ It’s a word that the Greeks and Romans used long before the Christians stole it and made it their own. When the Greeks and Romans were told that the Emperor, who was a deity, was coming to their city, a time of ‘preparation’ began which lasted until the Emperor finally arrived.

When our Emperor, the Lord, Jesus Christ announced that He would be returning to this world on the Last Day, the Christian Church began a time of ‘preparation’ for His coming. The Season of Advent is still on the Church’s calendar because the Last Day has not yet come. And until it does, Christians will always be ‘preparing’ for the visitation of our Lord.

And so, the season of Advent really has two themes running through it. One is the necessary reminder that our Lord is ‘approaching.’ He is ‘coming’ to visit us. And the purpose of His visitation on the Last Day will be to “judge between the living and the dead.” That is, between the believer and the unbeliever, the sinner and the saint, the righteous from the unrighteous – and to separate the two, one from the other as far as the east is from the west – or more accurately – as far as heaven is from hell.

For now, all of this is mixed and mingled together in a confused mess. Even we, who profess and confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” do so with certain doubts and hesitations and uncertainties and fears. And as much as we want to follow Jesus and be a good Christian, we do the evil that we hate and the good that we will to do we can be so easily talked out of doing.

So, Jesus is coming again to unmingle the truth from the lie and make things perfectly clear. He is coming to untangle this messy world and our messy lives and make us ‘pure’ and ‘holy’ and His whole creation ‘pure’ and ‘holy,’ as only He can. He is coming to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the weeds and the good fish from the bad – which we dare not picture as ‘us vs. them’ but as all mixed up and mingled together in me right now.

And the unbeliever and sinner in each of us says, “I hope He doesn’t come anytime soon.” And the believer and saint in each of us says, “don’t delay. Come, Lord Jesus.” Continue reading

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Last Sunday – "Full Transparency" – Luke 8:16-17


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Transparency-17817-634x0-c-defaultTRANSPARENCY is an important topic in today’s culture. Nothing is to hidden. Nothing is to be concealed. Nothing is to be covered- up. Everything is to be exposed. Everything is to be out in the open. Everything is to be made known.

TRANSPARENCY is important in the Kingdom of God as well. Our Lord compares His teaching in parables, which not everyone gets, to a lit lamp that is covered up. The day will come when it will be uncovered, “for nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, nor is anything secret that will not be made known.” (Luke 8:16-17)

Our Lord warns His disciples to “beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.” They’re just ‘play acting’ and ‘pretending.’ It’s all just a ‘cover up’ to make you think that they’re more holy than you are. “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul talks about the foundation he laid for the church in Corinth and how others will build on that foundation. And whether their work is gold and silver OR hay and straw will be revealed. Because “each one’s work will be revealed, for the day will reveal it…” (1 Cor. 3:10-13).

THE DAY that Paul is pointing is the LAST DAY when Jesus comes again – and it will be ‘FULL TRANSPARENCY DAY.’ Everything that was HIDDEN will be brought out into the OPEN. Everything that was COVERED will be REVEALED.

For example, Jesus said, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). And we say, “but I can’t see Him. I’m not sure.” And the pastor keeps saying, ‘He’s right there in the water that you were baptized in.’ ‘He’s right there in the bread and the wine that you take in your hands and put to your lips.’ ‘That’s Him who is speaking to you, ‘I forgive you all of your sins.’

But we say, “but I’m not sure because I can’t see Him.” And unbelievers say, “but I’m not nervous because He can’t see me.” But the Lord says, “nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed.”

On THAT DAY, all that hides His presence from you now will be taken away like a wall falling down, like a curtain going up. The sun and moon and the entire solar system evaporates in an instant, and every earthly element disappears, all that will be left is the One who is “all in all” and “every eye will see Him.” “For nothing is covered up that will not be made known.” Continue reading

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Pentecost 26 – "Hope for the Future" – Mark 13:1-13 – 11/18/18


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8.leftarticlefeatThe text for our consideration today is the Gospel reading from Mark’s gospel, the 13th chapter. Jesus has been in the Temple watching people putting their offerings into the offering box. He saw many rich people put in large sums. And He wasn’t much impressed at all, because they all put in out of their abundance. What impressed Jesus was a poor widow who put in two, small copper coins valued at a penny. This lowly, impoverished woman impressed our Lord because of her faith which moved her to “put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Jesus called His disciples to him. He wants them to see this. He wants them to see the great faith in what, by all outward appearances, was entirely unimpressive and completely unnoticed.

So, did they get it? Have they learned to see as Jesus sees?

“As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings.’ They are still blind. They’re still impressed by the impressive. They see the presence of God’s power and might in the big, the strong… the amazingly engineered, scientific, political and architectural wonders of the world.

Instead of ‘seeing’ what Jesus wants them to ‘see’ in the lowly, meek, poor widow, they want Jesus ‘see’ what they ‘see.’ “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and wonderful buildings.”

What ‘impresses’ you? Where do you see God’s presence and power and might on display? Where do you find at least some measure of comfort and even encouragement that God is surely at work in this world, guiding it along precisely according to the path that He has traced out for it from before the beginning? Is it in the great accomplishments of engineering, science, politics and architecture? Is it in full church parking lots and packed pews?

Or are you ‘impressed’ with what impresses our Lord – a humble faith that trusts in God to keep His word and promise to you no matter what the outward circumstances of your life might be – a faith that trusts in the “stone the builders rejected” rather than in the “wonderful stones”?

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

It’s not that our Lord has no appreciation for the things that these two-legged humans WHICH HE CREATED are able to do with the brain that HE GAVE THEM. But all of the WONDERFUL THINGS that man creates are always a tribute to the God who created man.

The real issue here is that we are so easily impressed with the WONDERFUL THINGS that we have made, that we make them the basis for our security and hope for the future. Which is ‘idolatry.’ And what happens, not if, but when these things are “thrown down”?

• There is only one rock that will never be “thrown down” and that rock is Jesus Christ.
• There is only one foundation that is unshakable and that foundation is Jesus Christ.
• There is only one work that will stand in the end and that work is the work of God on the cross of Calvary where “the stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone.”

Let the whole world be impressed and put their hope for the future in the WONDERFUL things we have accomplished. But let the believer be impressed and put his hope for the future, in the poor, lowly JESUS CHRIST, who brings His body to the cross and makes His incredible offering there. Continue reading

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Pentecost 25 – "Self-Intoxication" – Mark 12:38-44 – 11/11/18

The text for our consideration today is our gospel reading from Mark 12. There are two distinct yet closely connected sections here. The first section reads, “And in his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’” Mark 12:38–40

109_-_intoxication-512“Intoxication” is a dangerous condition to be in. There is a big difference between moderate drinking that knows its limits and drinking too much that goes over the limit and causes ‘intoxication.’ The same is true for drugs. We all breathe in carbon dioxide. But if we breathe in more carbon dioxide than the body can handle, it becomes ‘toxic’ and we become ‘intoxicated.’

Someone who is ‘intoxicated’ suffers from a loss of self-control. They are, as we say, ‘under the influence’ of some outside substance. And the more ‘intoxicated’ they are the more they are ‘influenced.’

When Jesus points to the Scribes, and says BEWARE OF THEM, He sees men who are ‘intoxicated.’ They’re intoxicated’ not by ‘OUTSIDE influences’ but by ‘INSIDE influences.’ They are ‘SELF-INTOXICATED.’ They are under the influence of ‘me, myself and I.’ They’re drunk on themselves.

And just like the ‘drunks’ that they are, they can’t get enough of what feeds their ‘intoxication.’ “Look at me.” “Honor me.” “Pay attention to me.” “Give me what is yours.” “Listen to me.” They’re under the influence of their own ego.

There is an old Latin phrase coined by Martin Luther to describe this condition of ‘self-intoxication.’ It is, “Incurvatus in se.” Literally, “curved in on self.” Picture a snake coiled up on itself.

This is the nature of what we call “ORIGINAL SIN.” That is, this is about what sin has done to our NATURE, our BEING. We do what we do because we are ‘by NATURE sinful and unclean.

This is the picture that portrays, not just the Scribes, but all mankind. We are by nature, “curved in on ourselves.” Continue reading

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All Saints – "Run With Endurance" – Hebrews 12:1-2 – 11/4/18


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The sermon text for this Commemoration of the Festival of All Saints is from the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 12, verses one and two as it is printed in your bulletin. Let’s read it together:

“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.”

keke1-25ks, 10ks, half marathons and marathons have become a pretty popular form of enjoyment and recreation for a lot of people these days. For those who take running in these events seriously, there’s lots of training and preparation that goes into participating in one of these races. Some compete against others with the goal to win. Others compete against themselves, and the goal is to beat their previous best time. For still others, the goal is simply to finish the darn thing and get the T-shirt.

Whether you like running in races or not, whether you’re someone who feels that the only good reason to run is if you’re being chased by a bear, the author of our text compares the life of faith in Jesus Christ to running a race. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

This ‘race’ is not about speed or distance. It’s about “endurance,” “perseverance,” “patience.” The goal of running this race is not to beat other runners to the finish line, and ‘best times’ are totally irrelevant. The goal of running this race is simply to keep running and not stop running until you cross the finish line – which for this race, is your death.

In a day when we see church attendance at an all-time low and lots of people tell us that they’ve dropped out of the race for one reason or another, these inspired words are good for us to hear today. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

If you’ve ever run one of these 5k, 10k, or marathon runs, you know that it’s not simply a matter of running the proscribed distance. There’s a course that has been laid out and runners must follow the course. If you deviate from the course, if you take a shortcut or, order a taxi to drop you off at the finish line, you’ll be disqualified. Continue reading

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Reformation – "Justified By Faith Alone" – Romans 3:19-29 – 10/28/18

main-qimg-681b9cc8b6ccff777627390aec92ee87The older I get the less I like mirrors. I don’t think I’m aging, but the mirror says otherwise. And mirrors don’t lie. Mirrors show you what YOU REALLY LOOK LIKE, not what YOU THINK YOU LOOK LIKE. Mirrors show me things about me that I’d rather not see – wrinkles, age spots, a bald head. The older I get the less I like mirrors.

The law of God is like a mirror. When we look into the law of God, we see ourselves for what we really are BEFORE GOD. And we never look as good as we think we do. One look into the mirror of God’s Law and we shriek, “Woe is me! I am undone.”

“You shall have no other gods besides me,” says the Law of God. But we’ve got a legion of other gods besides the one, true God – especially money. But there’s also my career and my hobbies and my friends. And the truth is, when push comes to shove, I willingly put them all before God because at heart, I trust that these things can save me more than I trust God. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” says the Law of God. I thought looked okay because I’m not one of those people who use foul language and I don’t like it when I hear others use that GD talk. But neither do I use God’s name the way I should, “to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks,” to witness to my neighbor who doesn’t know Christ. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.

“You shall remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” says the Law of God. “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” “Well I’m here aren’t I?” That should make me look good before God. But I can hardly hear His Word for all of the other thoughts running through my head. And as for holding His Word sacred, the truth is, I hold a lot of OTHER WORDS more sacred that God’s Word. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.

“You shall honor your father and mother” says the Law of God. “You shall not murder.” “You shall not commit adultery.” “You shall not steal, or bear false testimony against your neighbor, or covet what belongs to your neighbor,” says the Law of God. And before you can count to 10, I’m a bloody mess because I live as if it were “every man for himself.” THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.

On the outside we may think we look pretty good before God. But that’s the trouble, it’s just the ‘outside’ of us and God sees the ‘inside’ of us. And He gave us His Law so that we might see the ‘inside’ of us too. And when we see the ‘inside’ of us the way God sees the ‘inside’ of us, it’s not a pretty sight. And “wretched man that I am” is all we can say.

And now we’re ready to hear our Epistle reading for today, from Romans, the 3rd chapter. Continue reading

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Pentecost 22 – "Enter Into God's Rest" – Hebrews 4:1-13


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The text for our consideration today is our Epistle reading from Hebrews 4 which concerns or entrance into God’s rest.
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” (4:1).

pexels-photo-258330I’m not sure why you’re here today. For that matter, I’m not sure why you come here at all. You all have countless other places you could be today, and countless other things you could be doing today. And Lord knows, there are far more people who have either chosen not to be here today or for whom the thought of spending the morning in this building to do whatever it is that we do here is unthinkable. But for some reason, you have set all that long list of options for where you could be and what you could be doing, to be here. Why?

Allow me to try to steer your answer to my question to the one I’m looking for. I hope that you’re here today, and not somewhere else, because this is the time and the place where you get to participate in something that you only get to participate in here, at this time – what we call, the Divine Service.

Essentially, the Divine Service is the setting in which we hear God’s Word announced to us, and in which the Lord’s Supper is fed to us. The Divine Service requires a vigorous PARTICIPATION on our part. And our PARTICIPATION determines whether or not this is worthwhile time or a waste of time.

We PARTICIPATE in the Divine Service by ‘listening’ to God’s Word proclaimed and then ‘speaking back’ to God with the words that He Himself has first given us to speak. We PARTICIPATE in the Divine Service by ‘eating and drinking’ God’s Word embodied in the bread and the wine according to His Word – “take and eat… take and drink.”

We’re here today and not somewhere else, because there’s something happening here that we want to PARTICIPATE in more than anything else we could be doing somewhere else right now. And the reason that we willingly, even eagerly, set aside all the options we have for what we could be doing right now, to do this, IS TOTALLY SELFISH. We get SOMETHING out of PARTICIPATING in this that we don’t get from anything else we could be doing. And that ‘SOMETHING,’ is the VERY THING that gets to the deepest depths of our being like nothing else can. Continue reading

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Pentecost 21 – "What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life" – Mark 10:17-22


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“As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'”

GreatQuestion_artwork_v3I want to begin by saying, I like this guy. I really like this guy. Here's a guy who's interested in ‘eternal life.’ ‘What must I do to be saved?’ How refreshing to hear is that? I wish more people were interested in this question than seem to be.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a wonderful sermon. And many who heard it were “cut to the heart and cried out, ‘what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37) A jailer in the city of Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) These are questions of ‘eternal life’ and ‘eternal death.’ These are ‘ultimate’ questions that deal with ‘ultimate’ issues. I wish there were a lot more people ‘running and kneeling before Jesus’ with questions like this.

Seems like a lot of people come to Jesus and kneel down before him as this man did, but their question is not the same. The questions that gnaw at them and that they hunger for answers to are things like, ‘What must I do to be happy’? What must I do to be successful? What must I do to find a good spouse, a good friend, a good job?

Seems like those are the kinds of questions that nag at a lot of folks these days. And a lot of folks come to Jesus for His guidance and direction. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s good. There’s no question that isn’t a good question to bring to Jesus. It’s just that for so many, me included, it rarely goes beyond that to say, ‘eternal life.’ “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

So, just what is this thing called ‘eternal life’ that this man is so eager to attain and so unsure of how to attain? It is, quite simply, what it says it is.

First of all, it’s ‘life.’ ‘Life’ is what God gave to man when He formed him from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a LIVING BEING.” (Gen.2:7) God Himself IS LIFE, who breathes Himself into men and women. And then and only then, are we truly alive with ‘life.’

Apart from this ‘breath of God’ there is no ‘life’ in us. We may have lungs that breathe and a brain that works and a heart that beats. We may have all the outward signs of being ‘alive,’ but apart from the ‘breath of God’ in us, we’re really ‘dead.’

Second, it’s ‘eternal.’ ‘Eternal’ is what has no end. ‘Eternal’ goes on forever and ever – which means that the death of body is not the ‘end’ of ‘life’ at all. Even when lungs stop breathing and brain stops working, and we have all the outward signs of being dead, this ‘life’ that God has breathed into us does not die, and we’re really very much alive.

This is what Jesus meant when He said to Martha regarding her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, THOUGH HE DIE, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me SHALL NEVER DIE.” (John 11:25-26) Continue reading

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Pentecost 20 – "Is It Lawful To Divorce?" – Mark 10:2-16

broken-heart-816x428This is the 20th Sunday after Pentecost as the Church counts time. I recall that on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, the sermon text was Ephesians 5 and we talked about the way that marriage was designed by God to work. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

Now, just six weeks later, we’re talking about divorce. That didn’t last long, did it? What happened? We were talking about what God had joined together and now we’re talking about what man has rent asunder.

Regardless of whether you believe that the bible is the very word of God or not, you’ve got to appreciate it for its honesty. The bible doesn't fly so high above the 'real world' and our ‘real lives’ that it can't see the problems and troubles and the mess that constitutes a large portion of our world and our life in this world. When you read the bible, you get the feeling that God has actually entered into our world and our life and sees it all.

It’s as though the author of the bible “shared in our flesh and blood, and he himself partook of the same things” as we do. It’s as though the author were “made like his brothers in every respect.” “He himself has suffered when tempted.” And so “He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14,17).

And so the author knows what’s going on in this wide world and in your world too. And through His Word He calls out to you, wherever you are. Not only to say, “I understand, I sympathize,” but also to say, “I love you. And I have come to make “all things new, things in heaven and things on earth” and even the “things” in your world.

When we read the bible like that – and not as a guide book for how we can help ourselves or fix our world, but as the very love of God pulling us into Himself where we will find 'rest for our souls,' we want to join our voices with the rest of those who read the bible like that and say, “come Lord Jesus.” Continue reading

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