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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let Me Teach You - Jesus

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).

Jesus says, “Come to me….”

He tells us to come. But more than that, he tells us to come as we are. “All you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.” He doesn’t wait for us to get our act together and then say to us “Now that you are acceptable, come to me.” Jesus wants us as we are. Weary. Heavy burdened. Weighed down by sin and the world and life. And it isn’t because Jesus has some sort of weird thing for people who are weighed down by life. And it isn’t so He can laugh at us. It isn’t so he can berate us.

Why does Jesus call us to Himself when we’re down and out? To give us rest! While we’re devastated by sin, downtrodden by life, desperate for love and acceptance but can’t find it – it is precisely at that moment that Jesus comes to us and says “Come to me.”

Our sin put us in that predicament. The sinful human nature – our “Old Adam” as we learn in confirmation class – starts us out in life at a crippling disadvantage. And we take ourselves down from there with all the sin that we fill our lives with. The selfishness, the “me first” attitudes – “my feelings count more than your feelings,” “I’ve sacrificed enough, it’s time for me to get something now,” “I need to do what will make me happy – and it doesn’t really matter how that affects you – deal with it!” Just an example of what makes our lives so miserable and meaningless.

Jesus says, “Come to me.” He will give us rest. By his death, he destroyed death. By his rest in the tomb, he gives us the rest we’ve been desperately looking for – in all the wrong places. That rest was with Jesus all along!

But look at what else Jesus says.

Jesus says, “Let me teach you….”

I realize that some of you are kind of fed up with learning – I appreciate that, I really do. I was there once, too! But if you are, you must know there will come a day when you are like some of the rest of us – you want to learn more. Not in the classroom, not by taking tests and memorizing – but by living, reading, studying things that interest you, that you can care about.

Jesus says to us, “Let me teach you….”

He will teach us what really matters most to us:

How to love. – by giving of yourself sacrificially

How to live. – by living for God and thinking of others first.

He will teach us about God Himself – the creator of the universe and the father of us all.

He will teach us that we have significance, that God truly does love us so much that he sent his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not parish but eternal life.

Jesus, thank you for loving just as we are. Thank you for not leaving us that way! Thank you for giving us a new life, for giving us rest, for teaching us about ourselves, about our lives, and about our God. Give us the courage to come to you as you call us out of our live of sin and death and desperation. Give us the strength to leave that all behind and live in the rest you teach to us. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baptism is a Powerful Gift!



On Sunday, Feb 24, 2008 I was honored and privileged to baptize 11 children. This was the message I gave at that service.

God loves. God gave. We believe. We live. God secures our future.

Our future before we are saved was that we were dead. Literally. I know it isn’t popular to say that. But we were all conceived and born sinful – dead, apart from God, enemies of God. But God didn’t hate us. On the contrary, God loved us. How much? That He sent His one and only Son.

God gave Jesus to us. Jesus took all our sins, everything that separated us from God, and died the death we deserved.

St. Paul makes the connection to that event 2000 years ago with us today – through baptism. The Good News of Jesus death for us is ours through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Baptism is often misunderstood as merely a church ritual that symbolizes that a person has made a decision to follow Jesus Christ. But it is so much more than that. It is a gift of grace to us from Christ Himself!

Jesus Christ died for our sins. Peter answered our question of what to do when we hear that Jesus Christ loves us so much – “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39).

You see, baptism is the special gift of assurance and power that God has, indeed, called us to be His own. It works in us the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal life to all who believe.

We believe. And because we believe, we will live.

This is a summary of John 3:16 – those in 3:16 - the Church Experience small groups have heard this several times now.

John 3:16 is about God’s love for us that gives us the very things that baptism gives us.

But one of the things that really got my attention in the second session of our 3:16 small group was “we can refuse God’s love.” We cannot do anything to make God love us more; we cannot do anything to make God love us less. God chooses to love us. We call this agape love.

That choosing is made known to us in the Gospel. In a way, the sacraments are the Gospel we can see, we can touch, we can smell and taste.

God reaches out to us through this water and tells us that He loves us.

But we can refuse His love. Some people refuse God’s love because they think that since it sounds too good to be true, it must be too good to be true.

They refuse God’s love because love brings pain.

They refuse God’s love because love requires commitment.

They refuse God’s love because they love another – themselves, things, or the world.

Why would God allow this? If He loves us in spite of ourselves, why would He let us refuse His love?

Because love cannot be forced.

God’s love secures our future. A favorite Bible verse of many Christians in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But experience tells us that love eventually leads to disappointment and pain. Not much of a future, pain and disappointment. But God has never disappointed. People have. Churches have. But God? No, He’s never disappointed. He fulfills every promise He’s ever made.

He’s reaching out in love to you right now. Don’t refuse Him! You won’t be disappointed in God’s future for you!

Lord Jesus, Lover of my soul, I tend to compare Your love to the love of people, and I forget that Your love is broader, deeper, stronger, and greater than anything I will ever experience. Indeed I have been loved-but not like this. I want to learn how to love people the way You so love me. Let this resounding love shake the foundation of my world. May Your love devastate the walls I’ve built to keep me safe. I surrender to love. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What People Ask a Pastor

I've got two guys re-doing my bathroom. They know I'm a pastor. I came back from the store and they were doing good work. I check up on them not because I want to make sure they are doing good work, but because I'm curious about the work they are doing. I cannot do all that plumbing and framing and cementing and laying tile and I appreciate those who can.

So I poke my head in there and the one guy is very excited to see me. He had a question for me, because he knows I'm a pastor. The quesiton he asked was not about salvation or about Jesus and how to be saved - you know, the questions you'd think a pastor would get.

No, his question was - what does iniquity mean. I think I hid my disapointment pretty well. That was too easy. But I answered him (simply put, it means sin). Then he asked me about abomination.

This led to the other guy here to ask if God can hate. I told him, only sin. Never people.

This situation just reinforces the idea that people don't always ask the questions you might be prepared to answer. Be open to any question - and don't be afraid to say "I don't know."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Just in case anyone is looking at this...

I took a little tour through some of the blogs here based on common interests, books, etc.

Saw some people with interests in hiking, camping, and Jesus Christ - so in case someone else is also taking a little tour, I'll put out there this invitation:

True Men Ministries is hosting a retreat (or advance since Christians shouldn't retreat) that will include hiking, bouldering, and rock climbing at Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. June 19-22. I'll be leading daily devotions and Craig DeMartino will be our rock climbing leader (check out his web site
http://www.afterthefallministry.com/).

If you are interested, let me know. For more information go here:
www.truemen.org/mountains.

What is love?

I'm working on my sermon for this weekend. I don't really write sermons in the traditional, modern sense. I guess, in a way, I'm a modern working in a post-modern way. Len Sweet might have something to say about that. I write sermons by sitting in my chair with my laptop, quiet music from XM on (Audio Visions), and three or four different web site windows open. At the moment I have Len Sweet's "Links" page open, AfterHim.com open, and Precipice Magazine open. In a moment, I'm sure, I'll have BibleGatway.com open as well - even though I have a paper-and-leather Bible on the floor next to my chair.

This weekend, I'm working off of John 3:1-17, with emphasis on John 3:16. The church where I preach - Redeemer Lutheran in Ontario, California - is going through Max Lucado's 3:16 - the Church Experience. We're finishing up the first week of small group studies and the message I'm working on is about God's love for us.

I use the word "love" a lot. I love my wife. I love my kids. But I also love pizza. I love golf. I love to sleep. I think that the word "love" might be used a little too much!

When we say we love something, that can mean several things. But when God says that he loves the world - he backs it up with a powerful definition.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son!" God's love for us means that he saves us from sin, death, and the power of the devil with the sacrificial death of his only Son, Jesus Christ!

That's the message I'm working on for this weekend. If you want to hear how it comes out, check out
http://www.redeemer4me.com/ Saturday night at 6pm, or Sunday morning at 8 or 10:30 (Pacific time). It should be online in podcast form by Wednesday, February 20.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Calling on friends

A couple of weeks ago, I began to make it a point to call two friends of mine each Monday morning. I don't know why, really, other than I wanted to let them know that I was thinking about them and just wanted to "check in" with them.

It has made me feel good. I feel like ... well, I don't know what I feel like, really. I care about these two friends. I'm geniuinly interested in them. I like that I can call them, leave a message on their voice mail, to just tell them "hey" and that I'm thinking about them.

I've also been praying for them. I think the two go together.

Introduction

I've tried to start blogs before. But I've let them fizzle out after a while. I think that it is time to start again. I've got a lot of thoughts running through my head, so I might as well get them out to make room for other stuff!
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