Pastor's Blog

May 2016

Rescued from Ruined

Kyle didn’t realize it, but he was ruining his life. He thought he was living the big life. The parties on the weekend were wild and carefree. His job was making him a lot of money to play with. His friends were just as wild as he was. But he didn’t realize how ruined he was. He didn’t realize the paranoid feelings he was getting more and more were because his brain was getting fried on party drugs. He didn’t realize how bad his health was getting because of the lack of sleep. He didn’t realize the diseases growing in his body because of the multiple partners he slept with. He didn’t realize his party friends were disloyal and really despised him. He didn’t realize it, but his life was ruined.

But a friend realized it. She saw the wild pictures on Facebook every weekend. She heard from this other friend about his drug habit. She knew how ruined his life had become. So she rescued him. It wasn’t easy, Kyle resisted. But she eventually convinced him that he was a mess. And when the cloud of fantasy that had become Kyle’s life lifted and he saw who he really was, Kyle was filled with guilt and dread at what he had become. But his friend rescued him out of that life and led him to a better one.

That can happen, to us, too, you know. We sometimes live our lives in a fantasy of who we think we are. We ignore our addiction to sin and the disease of wickedness that lurks in our hearts. We forget how ruined sin makes us. That is, until God dispels the fantasy to rescue us. That’s God’s special work, to rescue us from ruin.

You and I stand in the presence of God. You and I who are not good; you and I who are not the light of love; you and I who hate, who lust, who hurt, who neglect—you and I with our unclean lips stand in the presence of God. Ruined by our sin! And you can feel it. Maybe you carry around a load of guilt for what you did years ago. Maybe you have a chip on your shoulder from an argument with a family member last week. Maybe you look into the eyes of a parent or a spouse and you see reflected there God’s disappointment in your poor choices. Maybe you are angry with God for a bad turn in your life. Maybe you hurt all the time because you know you are not right with God. And standing in the presence of God who is holy, we know just how much we are not like him. We’re ruined.

Ruined…but rescued. God sends us a heavenly messenger. He stands before you to tell you that all your sin, all your un-holiness has been turned away. That which cut you off from God’s light is removed. It is removed because it was paid. And the one speaking to you is also the one who paid for you. Christ was sacrificed on the altar of the cross; he was slaughtered there by God’s holy wrath against all your sin and mine. His blood was shed. And that blood is the atonement blood, the blood that touched our souls and covered them, hiding away sin forever and making us holy. And Christ delivers that message to you like the angel did in Isaiah’s vision. For you it is the word of grace. The word…forgiven. The word…atoned. The Word…Christ. This is the good news that is delivered to you through words of gospel, through sacraments of bread and wine and water. “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

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Move Away from Babel

When your home has been destroyed and the city lay in ruins, starting over doesn’t happen so easily. Imagine a French family living in one of the many towns utterly destroyed by the allied bombings of World War II. How do you move on when every building on the street has been bombed out, shattered bricks spilling out onto the roads, rooms exposed on three sides because their walls were blown apart? Is it even feasible or compassionate to suggest starting over at that point? Or think of the people in Iraq who desire to move past the tribal wars and historical blood feuds that have destroyed their homes for years. It’s hard to move past all of that and start over.

Moving away from the desolation of life to something better can seem like a monumental task. When we have been torn up by sin, when the foundation of our life has been blown apart by guilt and the consequences of our sin, it seems unimaginable to move away from all that pain. 

It’s a fight. Being a child of God is a fight. So how do we move on from the rubble of our sin? How do we carry the light of God’s promise into the darkness of this world? We take God’s word, we take his promises, and we move on. As humanity on the dawn of its second age moved away from their rebellion at the Tower of Babel, so we move away from our own “babels.” We move away with the Lord's forgiving presence leaving behind our sinful pride. 

Perhaps you remember the story of the Tower of Babel. Mankind spoke one language and instead of following God's instructions of settling throughout the earth, they banded together to build a tower and make a name for themselves in opposition to God. So God confused their languages and they abandoned the project because they couldn't understand each other.

In other words, in the presence of sin, the Lord intervenes. 

So the Tower of Babel is really a piece of man’s history that reminds us that we are by nature sinful. God says do this; we do that. God commands us to stand firm in the faith; we often collapse under pressure. God says to proclaim his good news; we would rather not upset people so we stay quiet. It all points to one thing: we would rather build ourselves up; we would rather do our own thing. And this is our own babel.

But more importantly Babel is about the forgiving presence of the Lord. God could have wiped mankind out like he did at the flood, he certainly had every right. But that wasn’t part of his plan. The Lord came in his presence to intervene, to stave off the disaster that rebellion deserves; to deliver mankind from sin. Think of how the Lord did that through Jesus Christ. He is also called “Immanuel,” God With Us. Christ is the presence of God to intervene on our behalf. So on our behalf he was perfect. God commanded mankind to love him more than anything else, so Christ did that perfectly, always valuing God more than anything even his own life! God commanded mankind to love their neighbor, so Christ did that perfectly showing his love by teaching people the gospel, healing people, and most of all by dying for everyone. The LORD came down and walked among us for a while and while he sojourned with us below, he sacrificed himself to make us right with God. The Lord always remembered his promise and fulfilled it because he wanted you to know with unshakable certainty, with unmovable hope, that you are forgiven, you are a child of God.

And that forgiveness, that certainty of knowing who you are in God's eyes helps you move away from your own babel.

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God's Choice for the Best

Sometimes we have to make a hard choice for the greater good. We may have to forego a nice promotion at work because the greater good is that we spend more time with family. Sometimes we have to endure the ridicule of other people because the greater good is to stand up for someone’s reputation. Sometimes we have to choose a difficult medical procedure that will be painful because the greater good is our health.

God has a greater good in mind for you. It is that you would live with him forever in heaven. But that greater glory that waits for us now is unseen. It is hidden in the struggles and difficulties of life. But it is through those very struggles and difficulties that God leads us to glory.

God’s way is difficult. God’s way doesn’t always feel good. God’s way isn’t how everyone else is acting. For example: on the one hand, we’re faced with the challenge of controlling our sexual urges and on the other is a world that gives us all kinds of excuses for giving in to lust. Or we look at our marriages and we struggle with our spouse because we want it to go my way—not her way, not his way—as if we live in competition with each other. We are presented with a variety of entertainment choices some are vulgar, violent and disgraceful. At other times, we look at the struggles and difficulties of life and we resent them, reject them and curse God in our hearts for letting us suffer.

In those situations we can’t always say we were seeking God’s glory. Instead of God’s glory we are seeking our own. God has a word for that: idolatry. And God promises that no idolater has eternal life.

Today is a good day to repent of that and return to God our Savior. This is the savior you know as Jesus Christ and he was determined to serve God only. Jesus understood that his job was to bring God the glory that you and I can’t bring on our own. We are never perfectly focused on giving glory to God. We are wrapped up in our sinfulness. We can’t meet that perfect demand. But Christ did. He took God’s demand to be glorified in this world by the thoughts, words and actions of his people and did that very thing. And his perfect service is granted to all of us who believe in him. Our idolatry is forgiven, we are not condemned, but through Jesus’ blood we are saved.

And because God has saved us there is a greater glory that we look forward to. Right now, though, it's clouded by sin. So that means we have to look beyond the clouds of sin. Let the cross of Christ chase those clouds away so we can see the glory beyond this life of sin and weakness.

And when that happens, we gain a joyful trust. We know that to serve the Lord is the right thing to do. We know that even if the way of Jesus is littered with difficulty, rejection and sadness, that ultimately the joy and peace that is hidden now will soon be seen. So with that in mind, go and live beyond yourself. Put away your selfishness and pride. Serve God. And in that joyful trust, seek what is best.

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Defeat the Silent Killer

The book of Revelation begins with seven letters that Jesus wrote to seven different churches. I don’t know about you, but if Jesus wrote a letter to my church, I’d pay attention. Well, actually, he did. When we read these letters, we are reading words that he wants us to hear, too.

On of those important letters was sent to the church in Laodicea. The church of Laodicea was the comfortable church. Their debt was paid off, offerings were up. They had plenty of wealth. Sounds good but it was an unfortunate symptom of a deep spiritual problem—they stopped caring about what it meant to trust and follow Christ. They had become an institution. They were established, had a solid business plan for the future. They were the kind of church where people would think, "Hey, as long as I’m a member here, I must be doing the right thing, I’m OK with God." The trouble is they weren’t following Christ. Christ said to them: You are neither hot nor cold. You think you’re rich! You're wretched, you’re poor, pitiful, blind, naked.

Laodicea’s problem was they were apathetic. They had no feelings for Christ. They came to church, did their thing, went home and life went on. They had a take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude. Jesus compared them to water, wishing they were either hot or cold. At least hot and cold water were useful for something. But they were lukewarm, worthless. Jesus was about to spit them out of his mouth, to cast them out forever.

That's the danger of spiritual apathy. It's the "silent killer" of faith. Like carbon monoxide, you can't really tell it's there unless it's pointted out. See the problem with apathy is we stop caring about our sins. But when we remember how serious every sin is, then Jesus can spring into action, because then we’re ready for him to help.

Jesus offers you and me the same spiritual gifts he has always offered. These gifts are what change us. You ever notice how, when you’re not so concerned about Jesus he’s always concerned for you? The same love that motivated him to write this hard letter to the Laodiceans 1900 years ago is still reaching out today. He writes to you that you would be truly rich. He offers you the wealth of his blood—the payment for your spiritual apathy and the price to make you right with God. He came to cover over your shame. When we feel our sins the most, he reminds you of his perfect life which is the robe of righteousness to cover your wretched sins so they are seen no more. He came to fix your eyes that you would see the spiritual reality: to see his cross, to see his victory over your sin, to see his triumph over hell, to see his empty tomb, and to see him in heaven interceding for you.

Jesus has opened up his heart to you, won’t you open up yours to him? Confess your sin of apathy. Humble yourself before him and he will lift you up. Then let’s enjoy the gifts that Christ gives us.

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Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. ~ 1 PETER 3:8