Thursday, July 17, 2014

Support A Church Planter!

Ex Nihilo Church is a new Anglican church plant (UECNA) in Huntsville, AL ( As a new church, we are unable to pay our Pastor who has sacrificed so much to make tangible the vision that God has birthed in his heart in planting this church. We are asking that you help us supplement his income as he still needs to support his growing family (wife & 3 children w/ one on the way.)

Donate Here:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Paradigm of Grace

Romans 8:18-23/ Luke 6:36-42

“… Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal.”

I believe that if we take what we hear this morning in the gospel at face value we will potentially find ourselves wallowing in great despair. I say this because those actions rightly condemned by our Lord, here in Luke 6, seem to dwell and find their root in the center of our being. Jesus says, “Judge not; Condemn not.” The reason we might find ourselves in great despair is because with every decision we make, every act of human will does one of these or both of these simultaneously.

If I ask you why your children cannot hang out with certain others, immediately you will list the reasons based upon spiritual and moral judgments. In a way, even as healthy as being involved in making those decisions are for parents, they still dabble in those actions we find Jesus condemning.

 Of course, this is only one simple example, but the truth remains. “Every statement we make is a judgment and every free act involves choice, which is judgment by another name.”[1] Yet Jesus does not simply condemn these things for their own sake, but by virtue of the light in which we see with. Judgment isn’t wrong, judgment based upon the wrong standard of righteousness is. Condemnation isn’t wrong; acting like your pronouncement of condemnation might be the final verdict is.

What Jesus is calling us to, here, is a greater depth of understanding of our human depravity and our limited world view based upon that understanding. We judge everything based upon the very dim light in which we see things. We point out other persons sins. We judge other peoples actions. We condemn their morality. However, we do these things not based upon the True Light that lightens those who believe, but based upon the dim light of who we are and how the True Light has affected us. We have taken the True Light, the Righteousness of God in the Word made Flesh, and have replaced it with ourselves, ourselves being the very standard of righteousness by which all judgments and condemnations made by us spring from.

If you remember a few weeks ago, in mentioning the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew 8, we mentioned that after she was healed, she and the others went out and brought many to Jesus, those who were sick and demon-possessed and He healed them all. Remember? Remember how we mentioned that she did not go out and show everybody what Jesus had done for her, without bringing them to the source of her healing. She did not just show people the fruit of her healing without bringing them to the Healer. She realized that as a follower and disciple of Jesus, she was only a bearer of the light, a carrier of the light, but she herself was not the Light. Jesus was. She did not judge the possibility of others healing based upon her own, She based the healing of others on Jesus’ capability to heal. There was no limitation on who they brought, no sickness to big, they even brought those who were morally unrighteous, being possessed by demons.

Even though she was healed, she was still human. Even though she was touched by the Lord and saved from the brink of death at that moment, death from her humanity was still imminent. She could not judge the healing of others based upon her own healing, because even though she had been saved, the limitations of her finiteness remained. And despite the fact that we were created as eternal beings, eternal life for others is not granted based upon what God has done for you, but solely based on what God has accomplished for all humanity in the death and resurrection of His Son, and it is there where we find the standard by which we judge the world. By His cross!

What we struggle with more than anything is fully overcoming the effects of the fall within our minds, which was to take all of our focus, all of our dependence, our entire worldview and take it off of the One who deserves all of those things, and wholly place it upon ourselves. Our happiness no longer comes from keeping our eyes on the Lord, because we are the center of our universe. We now depend on how we ourselves seek happiness by filling the infinite caverns of our soul, that were created by God to be filled by God, with everything else that brings temporal pleasure and comfort. Temporal comfort is what’s most important to us now because of our temporal worldview. We have no concern for anything else except for those things which concern us. If it benefits us, it concerns us. If it promotes us, it concerns us. If it causes us comfort or discomfort, it concerns us. It concerns us because it’s about us.

That is why Jesus’ words in “Today’s Gospel leaves us self-condemned, blind, endlessly falling and without any power of ourselves to help ourselves.”[2] His condemnation of our actions, actions that are deeply seated in the core of the fallenness of our humanity, seems to be the sins by which we’ll never earn His love and grace. How can we measure up to these standards set to live by? Even if we do follow all of the other commands of Jesus, feeding the homeless, preaching the gospel to the poor, binding the broken hearted, all of our other good works, we still find ourselves broken in the despair of selfishness, self centeredness, and self righteousness, the hidden sin for which nobody else sees but you know is there. Every judgment you make, it rears its ugly head. Every condemnation given, is given because you see yourself as the source of righteousness, basing these actions solely upon the fruit of your righteous living and not upon the eternal essence of Righteousness Himself.

However, Jesus doesn’t give these condemnations to us as a standard by which we judge ourselves by, but a standard by which we see the futility of our own existence, living solely for ourselves, judging everyone else based upon the fruit of our own righteousness, and realizing it isn’t about us, it’s about Him. The standard set was “AS YOUR FATHER!” Don’t discern who you show mercy to by looking to yourself, but by looking to Him and how He has shown, and how He continues to show His mercy to you and others.

That is why we pray today that the Lord “…increase and multiply upon us [His] mercy…” In our state of forgiveness and grace, while we still struggle with our fallenness, with the effects of sin still lingering in our minds and in our flesh, we need to constantly have a fresh realization of His mercy towards us. We need to constantly be reminded that it was He who sent His one and only Son, It was He who placed upon His Son the weight of the sins of the world, It was He that had His Son crushed for the express reason of making satisfaction and atoning for those still in sin, and that He did this all in mercy.

And yes, that while one day He will judge the world, He will not do so until the fullness of His kindness and mercy are fully expressed by those whom He has redeemed and as many as those who will come to Him finds their way to Him with His arms outstretched and open wide. With this realization, knowing it is by His grace and for His grace, we can “pass through things temporal.” With Him being our ruler and guide. Not just our Kingly Ruler, but the canon, the standard and measure by which we show mercy. Be Merciful as your Father is merciful.

You see, when we have a realization of the greatness of His mercy, it changes our world view. We go from judging and condemning everything based upon how it relates to us and our righteousness, and it opens our eyes to the vastness of His love. And yet, while there is still sin and sinners, they are seen through the lens of His grace and not your goodness.

Think of what Jesus calls those who seem to judge based upon self-righteousness. He calls them Blind. Can the Blind lead the blind or will the both fall into the pit. We cannot lead others to Him if we are pointing to ourselves to get them there. We have to point them to Him by His Sacred Word and the Gospel. If we do not, then we lead them to some other means of salvation, which is not the complete Salvation found in the Gospel of God’s Mercy and Grace found within the salvific work of Jesus. If you try to lead them to Him by who you are and the fruits of your righteousness, you replace the Lord of salvation with the effects of salvation, and it isn’t Jesus to whom you are pointing them to but yourself as savior. That is the pit Jesus is warning us to stay away from.

My friend, today as we celebrate His mercy and grace tangibly given to us in the sacrament of His Body and Blood, let us come to the full realization that it is by His hand that we are saved. Let this completely change our whole world view, to the point where the Eucharist isn’t something we celebrate weekly, but that we live it out in our lives daily. Let us be His body and blood broken and spilled out for humanity, bearing the weight of their sins in humility and intercession while shining the light of Christ’s radical forgiveness. Judgment will come on that day when He makes all things right, but until then, let us focus on why He came during His first advent, while preparing the world for His second….by not only preaching repentance, but by showing repentance in word and deed.

[1] W.J Hankey, The Fourth Sunday after Trinity, (accessed July 9, 2014)
[2] Ibid.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

60 Days until Easter... Sundays not included..

II Corinthians 11; 19                 St. Luke 8; 4

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

This is the second Sunday in what the Church calls the Pre-Lenten Season. The season of Lent, itself, is meant to be a time to prepare ourselves for the works of Salvation that Jesus came to fulfill by His Passion and Death; His Resurrection from or overcoming and defeating of Death and finally, His Ascension into Heaven, all of which were necessary to redeem us from sin and final death. To fulfill the covenant that God had made between Him and Abraham some two thousand plus years ago. If you think about it, the season of Lent must have meant to be one heck of a struggle if we need a Pre-Season of preparation. It is a pilgrimage or journey from where we are now to a more holy place in spirit.
Our Gospel lesson is the parable of the Sower and the Seed. Jesus describes the seed as the word of God. The places where the seed falls are the people that hear the word and what happens if they are not fully prepared to not only receive the word but to nurture it to the point that good fruit is the outcome.
It is very appropriate, then that St. Paul describes to the Corinthians all of the trials and tribulations that he has gone through to not only keep the word, but once it has been delivered to the Churches, to nurture it in them so that they, too may bear good fruits.
Jesus describes the many different ways that the devil will attempt to keep us from allowing that word and its promises to be kept, nurtured and continually passed on to others so that they too may be saved for the glory that God has in store for us all.
In order for a seed to grow and bear fruit, it must be buried as if it had died. Think about our baptism and what it represents. It represents our death to self and our rising again able to resist the old wants of self and to be able to live as God wants us to live.
The Apostles had prior knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven and all of its mysteries, so when Jesus gave this explanation, the first recorded use of a parable, they didn’t understand why. He told them that they had firsthand knowledge but the others did not and this was a way that everyone could understand.
He went on to explain it to them by saying, Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe, and be saved. They on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.  
During the season of Lent, we are asked to fast from food and to fill up on the word of God. We are asked to pray, but remember that praying is a two-way conversation that we don’t need to dominate. Remember Psalm 46; 10, “Be still, and know that I am God.  We are asked to give alms, but that doesn’t always mean money, especially since most people’s time is extremely valuable. If you give up your “Me-Time,” and study Sacred Scripture, the poor soul that may be receiving the benefit is your very own self.
These are the things that we need to do to prepare the fertile ground that is our soul for the receiving of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour so that patiently, we may bring forth good fruit. I hope to see you on this upcoming pilgrimage of the Spirit.

To Him be all Honor and Glory, world without end. ~Amen”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How Oft Shall I Forgive Him?

EPISTLE. Philippians 1:3-11
GOSPEL. St. Matthew 18:21-35

Peter said unto Jesus, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? This is a question most people find themselves asking numerous times within their life time.  Why? Because it is the most difficult thing to do. Our human existence is defined by our fallen, selfish pride and anything that makes us look past that, well, let’s just say it’s uncomfortable and we don’t like it one bit. We believe that we, the individual, are the center of everybody’s existence, and we believe that we, the individual, are the center of God’s existence. And if anybody or anything makes us feel as if we are not, than may the wrath of God fall on their head.

It reminds me of a story I once heard of a woman who had been bitten by a rabid dog. When she went to get things checked out by the doctor, she found out that she would eventually die from rabies. The doctor told her to put her final affairs in order. So the woman took pen and paper, and began to write furiously. In fact she wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally the doctor said, “That sure is a long last will and testament you’re making.” She snorted, “Will nothing! I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!”

Instead of thinking about those she could bless amidst her lot in life, she felt as if she should bring the same amount of pain and suffering upon those who did her wrong. She thought she was the center of everybody’s existence!

We as Christians are called to live above that. We are called to be meek. Meekness means being content in the face of both honor and dishonor; and a meek person seeks to fulfill Christ’s commandment to forgive. Why? Because we are not the center of everybody’s existence…..Jesus Christ is. As a matter of fact Paul writes that we are not our own, that we were bought with a price. So as a child of redemption, we shouldn’t seek to fulfill our own desires of selfish pride and haughtiness, but seek to fulfill the desires of the Triune life living inside of us, in the person of the Holy Spirit, which compels us to seek forgiveness and to forgive.

Recent studies show that most people outside the church are turned off to Christianity because of the attitudes of most people inside the church. Unbelievers use terms such as judgmental, arrogant, prideful, and unforgiving. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “How can an unbeliever experience the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, when the messenger proclaiming the Gospel is unforgiving?” And unforgiveness continues to be the cancer which rots away at the living organism we call the Church.

This is THE secret sin that is killing the church as a whole. When most preachers refer to secret sins, they usually refer to lust, pornography, secret addictions, and the list can go on and on. But those aren’t the things that will cause death to a Christian! As we pointed out last week, all our transgressions, past, present, and future, have all been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. But what will cause death within the believer is unforgiveness. The scariest prayer, that sheds light on this fact and one we recite often within the liturgies of our church, is the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, AS we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is when we begin to stop forgiving those who trespass against us, that we begin to see the soul wither and die. Forgiveness and reconciliation was the sole purpose of Christ’s Advent after the fall. He came to forgive and reconcile creation unto Himself, and all He requires of us is to truly show forth that same mission with everyone we come into contact with.

When Jesus began His public ministry, He made some pretty revolutionary statements that we’ve summoned up and labeled the “Sermon on the Mount.” You’ve heard me harp on this before, but to grasp a full understanding of what the life of a believer should look like, he or she should familiarize themselves with this portion of Scripture, Matthew chapters 5-7. In it, Jesus summarizes what one truly looked like who lived by the spirit of the law, and not just the letter only. Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The only “stipulation” in the New Testament that one must adhere to unto salvation is to follow after the life of reconciliation.

It is not easy, nobody says it was. But if we are to be a beacon of life and light to the surrounding community in which we serve, we must begin to restore the believer’s individual responsibility to forgive. It is of grave importance, because as Jesus tells us that if we do not, we are not forgiven. That’s some harsh words. The climax of this text (the Sermon on the Mount), and placing the portion of Matthew 6 I just read into context, is when Jesus says in Matthew 7: 21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

The will of the Father within the New Covenant is restoration; the restoration of Humanity, the restoration of Creation, the restoration of a people who want not only to benefit from God’s great kindness, but to passionately seek out to fulfill all that He has for us, laid out before us in His own nature. And that is to passionately seek out forgiveness and reconciliation, and restoration. That is His divine will for us. As Jesus says in Matthew 10: 3, “Freely you have received, freely give.

In those words, though, there is a price, a cost. The cost is becoming like Christ. And in our conformity to Him, we begin to see all that He sacrificed for our reconciliation. First, we will see His Humility! That without hesitation, He left the corridors of heaven to take on our diseased flesh. He didn’t think of Himself as greater, as a matter of fact Jesus humbled Himself to be numbered as one of the transgressors. How could that affect our perspective in what it costs us to forgive? If Christ didn’t think of Himself, or Hold his stature in regard during the course of Calvary, what gives us the right to think we can? We are nobody, we need grace just to even speak His name, all of life is a gift undeserved, yet when someone comes against us or wrongs us, we immediately take on a sense of entitlement. We are entitled to nothing, well let me take that back, we are entitled to hell. Repeat after me……If it were not for the grace of God, there go I! We have to remember that in being wronged, we have wronged others. We cannot think of ourselves, or hold ourselves in higher regard to somebody, because we place ourselves above Christ in His mission to reconcile.

With humility comes self-denial. Denying yourself the right to hold the wrongdoings of others over their heads. Once again, the punishment that Christ took for the sins of sinners, that means you and me, is the prime example of how much we should be willing to take to maintain the witness of the Gospel in any relationship, friendship, acquaintance, marriage. Even in the midst of the abuse, Christ denied Himself the right to be vindicated. There was more at stake in the world, than proving Himself to be right. He stayed the course, and ultimately let God the Father vindicate Him while He said, “Father, Forgive them.” There is more at stake in the world, than you having to prove yourself right, the witness of the Gospel is, above all else, what’s most important. Our selfish pride and haughtiness doesn’t save an individual’s life from death and hell. It’s the cause of why every single one of us is destined to go there upon our conception, and before the Blood of Jesus and Grace is applied.

And both of these costs are driven by a willful obedience to the command of Christ. Just as Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane, begging the Father to allow this cup to pass over Him, so it is we struggle within ourselves to pursue the path of reconciliation. Why? We know it’s going to be painful, we know we are going to get whipped, and punched, and beaten, and spat upon, and eventually crucified! But Just like Jesus we need to come to a place of willful obedience, and say, “Not my will be done, but Thine be done.

There is a need for Forgiveness and Reconciliation to be restored. As I’ve mentioned before, the witness and nature of the Gospel hangs in the balance. People do not hear words more than they see lives and attitudes. Saying you love sinners and acting like you loves sinners are two different things. Which one of those two, do you think, expresses to others the way you truly feel? That’s why there the need, because our words and our actions do not add up. Paul in 1Corinthians 2:2 states, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Do we realize the nature of such a statement? Paul is saying that the Cross of Jesus Christ had more to do with his eternal salvation. It had everything to do with how he treated people, spoke with people, interacted with people. It consumed His mind, His heart, His will, his emotion, so that He effectively bore witness to the Gospel in every aspect of His existence and his dealings with others. When we think of ourselves over the gospel in dealing with others, wronged or not, than we openly admit that Christ’s death was in vain.

 There is too much at stake to live with unforgiveness in our hearts. Division occurs, first and foremost, the divine life from a believer. But, then there are Church splits, friends lost, communities torn apart, sinner’s unconverted due to a shotty witness, all because the Gospel was taken out of focus and out of eyesight. Unforgiveness is also detrimental in that fact that, in our selfish pride, we begin to get a warped sense of God’s forgiveness. We base our view of God’s forgiveness in light of how we forgive others.

There is a benefit to a restored vigor to walk in forgiveness. We become completely whole. All that Christ has done for us, we can begin sharing in both word and deed. It all then makes sense. He redeemed me, so that I could be a beacon of His redemption to others. And when that light goes off in your mind and heart and spirit, it transforms you. I wasn’t saved to warm a pew Sunday in and Sunday out. I was called for a purpose, the purpose of demonstrating the love and forgiveness of God to a lost and dying world in need of it, by acts of kindness, mercy, grace. To be a beacon of Hope, a beacon of Truth. And the slightest ounce of bitterness robs us of this joy. Bitterness keeps believers from being completely whole and is a gateway sin that leads to other sins. When we become whole, we begin to shine forth with all true Christ-likeness. There isn’t a sin against you, that you wouldn’t forgive. Wholeness brings pleasure in living a life of love and compassion. This is the life we are called to. This is the life of abundance; self-denial, not selfishness.

Just a few thoughts before were done:

Love is not a feeling, is not an emotion, but an act of the will. Love is the state of willful, unmerited, unconditional, and perpetual forgiveness. This is the love Christ shows us, and this is the same love the world is hungering for. The only problem is they are starving while looking at the church.

We cannot say that we have the love of Christ within us, if we harbor bitterness, disdain, dislike, or hatred towards those who have wronged us.

Forgiveness is the MOST detailed commandment given by Christ, and the MOST skipped over characteristic in the spiritual DNA of MOST believers.

When we continue confessing Christ without practicing forgiveness we grieve the Holy Spirit. The Triune life of God ceases to operate within our lives.

Those who Jesus turns away with, “Depart from me, I never knew you” were those who performed marvelous deeds in His name, but held on to bitterness and unforgiveness.

Remember, Forgive us our trespasses, AS we forgive those who trespass against us.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Intercessory Role of Christ

EPISTLE. Ephesians 6:10-20
GOSPEL. St. John 4:46-54

The image of the nobleman interceding for his son, that which we read for our Gospel lection, is a type and reality of Christ’s intercessory role on our behalf. What do I mean by intercessory? Some of you may have heard the term intercessory prayer, but may not fully comprehend its meaning. When we intercede for somebody, we are praying for them, on their behalf. When you ask someone else, a friend or fellow parishioner to pray for you in a time of illness or despair, you are asking them to intercede for you. We are to pray and intercede for our fellow brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in the faith, because when we do, we follow the person of Jesus in his intercessory role in heaven. That is what He’s doing for us right now at the right hand of God the Father. He’s performing His High Priestly duties in the heavenly sanctuary, interceding on behalf of those whom the Father has given Him.

The nobleman approaches Christ on his son’s behalf, requesting that his son be healed. Now Christ does mention the fact that only with signs and wonders will the people of Capernaum believe, and He mentions this because this was one of three cities that Jesus would eventually curse due to their constant unbelief. This was also the city that Christ moved to after leaving Nazareth. Anyway, Christ did not hesitate to answer the nobleman’s request. In a way He had compassion, because it was this exact thing that Christ was accomplishing in His mission, He would eventually find Himself in front of the Father, continuously interceding on behalf of His sick children.

After Christ came to make atonement, and satisfaction for the sins of many as the mediator of the New Covenant, purchasing them to be a people of His own possession, Scripture points us to His intercessory role as well. For example, Isaiah the Prophet, who lived eight centuries before Christ’s birth had this to say in Isaiah 53:11-12, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

If you ever want to see a clear picture of who Christ is and what it was that He came to accomplish, read Isaiah 52-53. This is known as the Gospel of the Old Testament. With clear precision Isaiah points to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah to come, but also points to His role as Intercessor, almost eight hundred years before Christ was born. Paul, as well, echo’s this ministry within numerous portions of His epistle to the Romans, especially Romans chapter 8. Also the author to the Book of Hebrew’s states in 7:25, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

To grasp a firm identity of this role as intercessor, we see throughout the first portion of the Old Testament the person of Moses. There was never a prophet or person like unto Moses until the birth of Christ. Within the scope of Moses ministry to the Hebrews, we see both offices of mediator AND intercessor. Over and over we see in the Book of Exodus Moses’ intercession on behalf of God’s Chosen people in the midst of their unfaithfulness to believe in God’s plan for them, and this was a foreshadow of Christ’s role in the New Covenant.

It wasn’t the faithfulness of the people of the Hebrew nation which kept them safe from harm during their wilderness journey, because at every turn they displayed their unfaithfulness, even though they were God’s elect, it was solely through Moses’ intercession for them on their behalf, reminding God of the promises He has made. Why, because Moses knew that God would remain faithful to the covenant He established with Himself way back when in Genesis 15. All the Hebrew nation had to do was believe God to remain faithful.

Like Moses approaching God the Father, on behalf of a nation that was sick in unbelief, so we see the nobleman in faith do the same for his sick son. The nobleman’s belief is of most importance here in the text of our gospel lection, and how it ties in with our epistle. He took Jesus at His word, “Thy son will live.” Jesus does the same for a church that is wrapped up in the sickness of unbelief as well. We need to take the Messiah at His word when He says, “It is finished.”  

As Paul explains the necessity of the Armor of God, so that we can stand against the wiles of the devil, He mentions first and foremost, “Put on the Helmet of Salvation.” He says this because the first weapon the enemy will use is doubt. For those of us who are in Christ, you probably struggle with the question of whether we can lose our salvation. The enemy would have you doubt your salvation because you would then, in guilt, become isolated, introverted, and will not pose a threat to his kingdom, because you are more worried about your salvation, instead of the salvation of others.  In that, we put on the armor of the flesh, following rituals, keeping to laws and commandments, when in the light of God’s law we will really never measure up. Why? God is perfect, we are not. That keeps us wondering within ourselves if we will ever be good enough to make it. When in reality, the finite armor of the flesh doesn’t cut it. Plus, we miss the point in scripture when it tells us the old law is obsolete!

This day was foretold by the Prophet Jeremiah, about 630 yrs before the time of Christ, when he writes in chapter 31:32-34, “It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to[a] them,[b]”declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel, after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

God writes His law now on the hearts of men. This is also an intercessory function, but not of Christ, it is of the Holy Spirit; because now it is He who leads us into all truth. It is He that compels us to live a life of righteousness and fulfill God’s moral demands. Not to the point of condemnation, though, if not fulfilled and we fail, because all…..repeat, ALL our transgressions have been nailed to the cross of Christ Jesus. I mention this because a lot of people define their Christianity by how well they uphold and keep the Ten Commandments, but in reality, when they do they don’t know and understand Christ.

We are not kept pure and holy by how faithful we are to God, we are kept holy and pure by the shed blood of the Messiah as He purchased for Himself a peculiar people, or a people of His own possession. Not only that, Christ intercedes for us before the God the Father as well. All of our transgressions….past, present, and future, have all been forgiven. He knew we would fail after baptism, He knew we would follow after our own fleshly lust and desires, and so He even had all that nastiness nailed to that cursed tree that our Savior and Messiah hung on in our place. He does not meet us only half way and then the rest is up to us, He suffered for it ALL!

Notice this first article of armor in Ephesians 6 that we are exhorted to place upon ourselves. It is what? The Helmet of Salvation. What significance does that have in our discussion?

I mentioned earlier that the most important aspect of our gospel lection was the belief of the nobleman at Capernaum. It is important that we saturate our minds to the truth of our standing before God as His elect in Christ Jesus. We must be certain in our salvation to have knowledge and belief in it. And that is why the Enemy, Satan, has presented a false gospel within many of the churches today. Within the systems of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and a many protestant denominations, we have priests, teachers, and preachers that tell people it is by their own merit that they are saved. When in reality, and in context of the New Testament, all we have to do is respond to the voice of the Good Shepherd calling out for us in the darkness, and when we hear His voice, He brings us into the light of Truth; because He has completed all requirements, all pre-requisites, all measures for us to be saved.

All we have to do is believe, and remain in that belief. We have to keep that Helmet of Salvation on and never take it off. When we do, we end up reverting back to the law, using it as a measuring device, realizing that we don’t measure up. And that is the place the enemy of our souls would have us stay in. Satan would have you remain in a state of guilt. Measuring and keeping yourself to the demands of the law written on stones, which keeps you from growing in the knowledge and grace of the love of God. What keeps us from pressing on in this life of grace through faith is an unbelief that what God has promised through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son has been fully accomplished. Repeat after me….. IT IS FINISHED!

He has accomplished all things, and all we have to do is believe, while pressing forward in that knowledge by putting on the helmet of salvation. That is why Romans 8:1 is so vitally important to the life, liberty, and mind of the Christian. “Therefore there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

With the Armor of God in place, with a mind saturated in the truth of our salvation, we can fully press on rebuking the enemy of our souls and his lies. Scripture states in Rev 12:10-11, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser or our brothers, who accuses  them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”  Notice, it was the Blood of Christ, and them being secure in their Helmet of Salvation.

The one who would and has condemned you has lost the authority over you when Christ descended into hell and stole the keys of sin, death, and the grave. He is victorious over the enemy for the many He came and purchased on the cross of Calvary. He then ascends to the Father’s right Hand to intercede for you, and the elect of God remain secure in their salvation by His intercession.

John 17 gives us the prime example of how Jesus intercedes on behalf of the elect today. He prays in verses 8-9, “For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I PRAY FOR THEM. I AM NOT PRAYING FOR THE WORLD, BUT FOR THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, FOR THEY ARE YOURS.

He does not pray for the world, but for those whom the Father gave Him that He came to purchase. If you are in Christ Jesus you can say with all knowledge, I AM HIS!!! He then continues in verses 15-19, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. THEY ARE NOT OF THE WORLD, even as I am not of it. (Here is where we find our security!) Sanctify them by the truth; YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them to the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” We are sanctified because HE SANCTIFIED HIMSELF, and because of that, we are NOW TRULY SANCTIFIED!

We are not saved because of what we can and cannot accomplish by means of the law and the flesh, we are saved because he accomplished EVERYTHING!!! And on top of that, He remains faithful to us by interceding for us, so that by HIM and HIM ALONE we remain secure in the Father’s Bosom.
When we approach the Eucharist today, let us remember  what we have in Him. For those of the elect of God, we have been purchased as a peculiar people unto God, by the shed Blood and broken Body of Christ. And with His Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven to intercede for us on our behalf we have eternal security, because He has accomplished all things. Believe Jesus at His word when He says, “IT IS FINISHED!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a parable is worth a thousand pictures.”

Trinity 13 2012
Galatians 3: 16            St. Luke 10: 23

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a parable is worth a thousand pictures.” 

The appointed Gospel Lesson for today begins after Jesus has commissioned Seventy to go out as Missionaries. As He sees these fresh, young and eager faces, He rejoices with the Holy Spirit and gives praise and thanks to God, the father. In this joyous time for Him, He to His disciples and says, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see. For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them.” So what are they seeing that so many great men have wanted to see, but couldn’t?

Since the early beginnings of the Jews, God made a covenant with Abraham. It was a promise that his seed would be as countless as the stars in the Heavens, but Abraham couldn’t understand this because both he and his wife were childless and Sarah well past childbearing years. Abraham couldn’t grasp the concept of the God of all creation or His infinite power. He could not only understand how God was going to do this, he didn’t understand the promise as it was given. This led to hundreds of years of not realizing what or in this case who the promise was and just how great the promise was.
The promise was given all the way back in Genesis. Genesis 15 begins like this: “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

The Word of the Lord that appeared to Abraham in his dream was the same Word of God made flesh as is found in the 14th verse of the 1 Chapter of the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the exceedingly great reward that was promised to the seed of Abraham. The seed of the marriage of Abraham and Sarah was Isaac and his children, Jacob and Esau and so on and on it goes.                                   

In Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, our appointed Epistle for today; he explains that the promise was made Abraham’s seed and not to his seeds. The promise that was given was the promise of Jesus the Christ and was the mediator between God and man for their transgressions made against God. The seed that is referred to is Isaac’s son Jacob and Jacob’s son Judah. The lineage of Jesus the Man is given in verses 1 through 16 of the 1st chapter of St. John’s Gospel. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah and Judah was the son of Jacob.

Those disciples that had seen things that great men had desired to see, but didn’t; were seeing the Word of God made flesh. In the Epistle, St. Paul goes on to explain that their inheritance of the Law was not the reward, because the Law is only in place to show us the ways that we go against God and how we will be judged and sentenced by Him. The Law is definitely not Life giving and only shows us what deserve. “The wages of sin is death.” What we deserve is eternal death. The promise was actually for a mediator between God and Man and He is the one that pays the price for our transgressions. In order to be a mediator between God and Man, He had to be BOTH God and Man and had to live perfectly within the Law. Since no man was capable of this, God the word came and allowed Himself to be born of a human so that He could be both God and Man. Because He paid for all of our human sins by giving Himself to be put to death, He has purchased us from death. Our only requirement is to believe this, not because we witnessed it, but because we have faith in Him.

The Gospel goes on to tell us of a certain lawyer that asks Jesus how to be an inheritor of eternal life. His question is met by a question. Jesus asks him for a concise statement of the Law. His response is what we call today, the Summary of the Law; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”
As the lawyer goes on with his challenges, he asks Jesus to clarify the part about his neighbor and who precisely that is. This takes us to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were considered to be inferior by the Jews. This man that receives help from the Samaritan was a Jew that was leaving Jerusalem and going to Jericho. Jerusalem was the Holy City and Jericho was full of iniquity. The gentleman appears to be turning away from a good life and heading towards a life of sin and we see where he ended up. Beaten down, robbed of all his money and left on the side of the road to die. The priest and the Levite, both upper echelon of the Jewish people never even looked his way. It was the lesser of all that passed him that came to his assistance. He bound his wounds and cleaned them with oil and wine. The Oil healed the wounded skin and the wine killed off and prevented infection. These are used in 5 of the 7 Sacraments of the Church.

He took him to an Inn to allow him to recuperate safely and paid the price. By mending the wounds and paying for his stay, the man lived.
After telling this parable, Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three was showing neighborly love.

Know that we know what and who the promise was that was given so long ago to Abraham and his seed, with all of our faith; we follow Jesus final reply to the lawyer, “Go, and do thou likewise” showing mercy and love to all of our neighbors.

“To Him be all Honor and Glory, world without end. ~Amen~

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Imputed Righteousness of God

EPISTLE. 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
GOSPEL. St. Luke 15:11-32

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

I have to say, that the portion of scripture read for our gospel lection is probably the most explicit proclamation of the nature of the gospel, outside of the crucifixion of our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I say this because it completely contradicts everything that is believed about grace and salvation. That is why Jesus gives this parable in the first place.

Remember a few weeks ago (Trinity III to be exact), we mentioned that Jesus was talking to the Pharisees about how prideful and puffed up they were, and so Jesus gave a trilogy of parables to emphasize the nature of God, and how adopted, regenerate children of God should act, which in all aspects was a lesson in humility. That Sunday, we covered the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin, and today’s gospel is the third saga in this trilogy.

And I love how the church leads us to this portion of scripture. I believe it is very strategic in understanding its great importance. After we read the other two parables on Trinity III, we have a slight adjustment of focus, while yet still hanging on to the truths given by both the parable of the lost sheep, and the parable of the lost coin. On Trinity IV, Jesus compels us to have mercy in Luke 6. That we should not think higher of our selves than we ought, because when we do, we become self righteous, and we begin condemning and judging others without the slightest ounce of forgiveness. Jesus then says forgive so you can be forgiven. In other words, show humanity the same compassion and mercy that the Father bestows on you through grace.

On Trinity V, we see the pursuit of the love of God. Jesus follows Peter into a place of despair. When Peter thought he may have left Jesus at the house after healing his mother-in-law, he found Jesus sitting in the bow of his boat the next morning, asking to use it as a pulpit. Jesus touched Peter’s life personally! In that dark moment of Peter’s life, Jesus expresses the beauty of His majesty and His provision. And of course when any man experiences His majesty, and His provision, it leads us to recognize our total depravity as sinful, fallen, children of Adam and it illuminates our wickedness. This is expressed when Peter responds with, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” And the pursuit of God’s love is realized in Jesus’ response, and how each of His children are called and chosen as adopted children of Grace. Jesus responds with, “I’ll leave, but your coming with me.”  And Jesus redeems our darkness through His trial, His temptation in the wilderness, His being rejected by His own people, His Father turning His back on Him. He could not redeem that which He did not suffer in the flesh byt the power of the Holy Ghost. And because your darkness has been redeemed, He, in His love and mercy, now has the freedom to pursue you and adopt you as His own.

Trinity VI, Jesus warns those who are listening to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, or they shall in no case enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The religious leaders in studying the sacred texts of the Old Testament obviously skipped over that portion of Deuteronomy where Moses exclaims that it is not by their righteousness in which they received the promised inheritance, but it was received because of the other nations wickedness, and because He promised Abraham. Moses warned them not to think of themselves as superior to anybody in Deut. 9. But they would not heed the call. They would continue to boast in their righteousness, making them self righteous by works of the law, further distancing themselves from their necessity of and dependence upon God alone. It wasn’t their righteousness, because they where stiff-necked, but it was God’s promise, along with Moses’ intercession (being the mediator of the Old Covenant).

Trinity VII, shows the compassion of God, in that Jesus makes a prophetic gesture to show that salvation would also belong to those outside of the old covenant, when Jesus fed the 4,000 near Decapolis on the east side of Galilee. It was a group of gentiles to whom Jesus fed. Remember, Decapolis was a group of ten cities which were the center for Roman, and then later Greek culture, amidst an otherwise Semitic culture. Jesus was showing that, in His suffering and sacrifice, He would redeem a people who were known for their idolatry. And the Jews hated Jesus’ compassion on the sinners, while yet being blinded to the fact that they were just as idolatrous as the gentiles were, because their god was their religious pride.

Then last week, Trinity VIII, Jesus warns His listeners to beware of false teachers. He gives us a healthy exhortation on the gift of discernment. Not everyone who calls Him Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven. He says that we will know false teachers by the fruits they bear, and if they are not bearing the fruit of the gospel, we should shun them, because eventually they will be hewn down and cast into the fire. What are they teaching falsely that would cause such a knee-jerk reaction from God the Father? Well, one would have to know the context of what Jesus was saying within the Sermon on the Mount to decipher. Jesus was warning them not to listen to the Judaizers who would follow Him in His name that would still teach a works based, law driven salvation. In other words, beware of people who preach religion, and not the Gospel.

And here this week, we have the most explicit proclamation of the nature of the Gospel. Every gospel lection that we have read, preceding today, has some elements of what Jesus teaches here, but not in its fullness as this particular parable of the prodigal son. And the beauty of this parable is that we can truly see what the gospel is, and what the gospel is not. Everything that Jesus has expounded on in the past few weeks finds its culmination here. Here we see the compassion of God, the pursuit of God, the chastisement of God to those who are self-righteous, but better yet, the Truth of the gospel, the imputed righteousness of God.

This parable shows us that the worst of sinners, as much as they think they can distance themselves from God by their sin, is still closer to the heart of the Father than those who think they have it all together, and have no use for God’s gracious mercy. The repentant sinner becomes clothed in the righteousness of God, while the self righteous still cloaks themselves in their own righteousness. The repentant sinner is secure in the mercy of God, because God did all the work to save and rescue them from their sin, while the self righteous stands on shaky ground because, after all, our good works, are repugnant to God, they are as filthy rags.

And here is the truth of religion, and this is coming from someone who has been religious most of his life, Religion Doesn’t Work. Why? Because, no amount of flesh will glory in His presence. The works of our righteousness doesn’t satisfy the thirst of a desolate soul in search of true righteousness and holiness. And religion will only lead you to two extremes: 1) Prideful Arrogance or 2) Utter Despair. As we see in the eldest son here in the parable, he suffers from both extremes. In his dealings with his father concerning his younger brother, he says, “This thy son.” In other words, I disown him because he is not my moral peer. He doesn’t refer to his own brother as a sibling, because he had no compassion based on his own self righteousness. And in the older brother, I’m sure some of us see a reflection of ourselves.

We become prideful and arrogant because, according to religion, it’s all about me anyway. It’s about my works. It’s about my good deeds. It’s about me boasting in my own self righteousness to please man and please God, that the basis for all that is good in this life, the measuring tool that we use to see who is actually worthy of  God’s grace and forgiveness is me. God is no longer the source of all goodness, but it is the Almighty me that replaces Him. And those who do not act like us, talk like us, do the works we do, well, we have already made reservations for them on their behalf in Hell. Not realizing, that Hell is filled with those who boasted in their righteousness. And this turns the world off to the message the Church is telling, because no one wants to listen or be around a self righteous, egotistical, prideful, arrogant, religious person.

And the other extreme, to which the pendulum swings is, when God doesn’t give us what we feel we deserve because of our righteousness, we immediately place God into our debt. Let me illustrate for you the prayer of a religious person who just had something bad happen to them. “God, how could you let this happen to me? I was good! I read my bible. I did all that was required of me. How could you let this happen to me? You owe me God!” And immediately they find themselves in utter despair, feeling like God let them down. All the while, because their dependence was placed upon their religious pride in fulfilling the works of the law, we see that it was never God who was lifting them up. Because God resists the proud, and only gives grace to the humble.

The exact opposite to all of this, though, is found in the younger son. He realized that if he could just get home to his father, that he would have a shot at becoming his servant. That is how the Holy Spirit works. He pursues us and makes us long for the Father’s provision. And we do not find rest until we humble ourselves before Him. And because the Majesty of God’s provision illuminates our depravity and wickedness, we feel as though we don’t deserve it. We want to approach God and beg Him to make us a servant, because we know that our sin is too great for Him to forgive. And just like the younger son, we approach God thinking that if we could only serve Him as a servant, to make up for the past mistakes and sins that we have commited, we would be better off than continuing in this life outside of His provision. And right before we can get the words out to beg for God’s employment based upon our own merit, He silences us my throwing Himself upon our necks and kisses on the cheek. He then clothes us in His righteousness, places upon us the shoes of the gospel, puts a ring on our finger and restores our sonship, through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.

You see, the Gospel is that we can never earn our place in the Father’s bosom. We can never work hard enough, pray hard enough, read our bible long enough, or do enough good works, because our finite, human righteousness will always fall short. If the day of resurrection were to happen today, and we were judged based on our works of righteousness, we would still deserve hell. But God in His mercy, through regeneration and the sacrament, restores our sonship, and clothes us in His righteousness. He restores us. He saves and redeems us. He adopts us as His own by purchasing us by the Cross of Jesus Christ. And when He sees us, He doesn’t see the child who ran off and spent all he had on riotous living, living for himself as a fallen, depraved, desolate, seed of Adam. He sees His reflection, because through Grace He restores His likeness in us by rebir