Home

Filled with Hope!

Leave a comment

If you’re like me, you don’t like when you run out of something … gas in your car, money in your bank account … or cookies in your cupboard!  In general, we would say that empty is not a good thing.  But what happens when we feel empty, inside? Then it’s a bit more serious – you begin to lose hope.  You may even stop trying. You find yourself saying things like, “well, it is what it is.” With that you’re saying it’s never going to change. It’s always going to be this way. You’ve lost hope. And when you lose hope, you feel empty inside.

Following Jesus’ crucifixion, two of his disciples were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  It appears that they have lost hope, because they say:

“but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” – Luke 24:21

They had such high expectations. They had all these ideas about what Jesus was going to do. But those hopes were buried with Jesus in the tomb. You’ve no doubt been there. Maybe you are right now? When life doesn’t turn out the way that you thought it was going to or you have high expectations for things and then they don’t come true, you run the risk of losing hope. And when you lose hope you feel empty inside.

So empty’s not a good thing. Unless, unless it is the tomb that once held the body of Jesus Christ. Then empty is the greatest thing that ever happened to mankind and the greatest thing that happened to you. Because if the tomb is empty that means that Jesus is alive. And if Jesus is alive, that means that you can have HOPE …

1. Hope because Jesus listens.

Famed author Steven Covey says this,

being listened to is the psychological equivalent of air. It is the deepest hunger of the human heart.” – Steven Covey

We want to be heard. We want somebody else to empathize with us. The truth is, we have a Lord who listens!  Look at the disciples going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus joins them on the journey. And what is the first thing that He does? He listens to them. He asks what they’re talking about.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” – Luke 24:17

And He listens even as they say to Him,

“are you the only one in Jerusalem that doesn’t know what’s been happening around here?” – Luke 24:18

He loves them enough to listen to them. And He listens to you too! He invites you to talk to Him:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Why not set some time aside to talk to Jesus today?  He’s waiting for you to come to Him.  He’s listening!

2. Hope through the teaching of Jesus.

Often we lose hope because we’ve lost perspective.  We don’t see things correctly.  Things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, and now we just don’t see another option.  This is exactly what happened to the disciples.  They had hoped that Jesus was going to lead Israel in a rebellion against Rome … and then they’d crown Him King!  But their perspective was all wrong. That’s why Jesus said to them:

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” – Luke 24:25

In other words, He’s saying, “You don’t get it. You’re slow of heart.” In other words, your emotions are getting in the way. Your frustration and disappointment is getting in the way of you seeing anything other than what you expected to happen. And then what does Jesus do? Jesus teaches them …

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. – Luke 24:27

He opened up for them a new perspective. And it gave them hope!

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” ­– Luke 24:32

Jesus wants to give you a new perspective too.  He says:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

What is it that you need to learn from Jesus?  Is it patience?  Perseverance? Boldness? Perhaps He just wants to strengthen your faith.  Don’t lose hope.  Let Jesus teach you! … and the best way to do that is by opening His Word.

3. Hope because Jesus is present.

There’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling of isolation.  It can be as painful as actual physical pain – that feeling that you’re all alone.  (That’s why the most extreme punishment of inmates in prison is some form of isolation or solitary confinement.)  When you feel that you’ve got to face things all by yourself, then you’re isolated and it saps your hope. But you are not alone! Neither were the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus.  The Bible tells us,

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him … – Luke 24:30-31a

Much like the famous “Footprints” poem, they were not alone – Jesus had been with them the whole time. And He’s been with you the whole time too; whatever you’re going through.

What’s more, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the disciples while He was breaking bread with them. Likewise, He reveals Himself to us when we receive the Lord’s Supper and is really present with us in that meal. Why not experience the presence of Jesus in Holy Communion sometime soon?

If you find yourself discouraged and needing hope, come to Jesus and tell Him what’s on your heart.  Then listen to Him as He teaches you a new perspective on things.  Learn from Him to see things as He does.  Things are not what they seem – whether it’s the situations of your life, or the empty tomb.  And because of that – you can be filled with HOPE!

Pray: Lord Jesus, we look to the empty tomb and we know that you are alive … and living for all eternity.  We thank and praise you that you’re always there to listen to us when we call to you.  Thank you that you let us pour our hearts out to you, and you hear whatever is on our heart and mind.  Thank you that through your Word you teach us – and that through it we know your presence with us. Thank you that you come to us in your Word and Sacrament and also through other believers – the Body of Christ.  Through your presence, your teaching and your listening, please fill us with hope in you.  In Your Name we pray.  Amen.

You can listen to this full message online by clicking here.

Since. Not if.

Leave a comment

Crucifix Illustration

Devotional Thoughts from Luke 23:26-43

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

“IF” … such a tiny word, and yet so powerful.  In the strictest sense of the word it sets up a condition. (You can read a lot more about this little word’s use in the Bible, here).  The implication is that what follows the word may or may not be true.  If it is true, then further conclusions may be drawn.

Another way of looking at this word is that it expresses doubt.  What follows this two-letter conditional particle may or may not be true … the speaker, or reader, cannot assess with certainty.  This is doubt.

It is striking that people, including the Roman soldiers, so casually and boldly apply it to Jesus;  calling into question whether He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Chosen One, the king of the Jews by their use of this little word.  In fact, even one of the criminals asserts a similar doubt in a subtle, but related way:

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  (emphasis mine)

“Aren’t you?” … In other words: “If you were.”

We are looking at the Real. Present. God. on Sundays, and this will be the topic of the National Youth Gathering in less than two weeks.  The premise of these words is that even though the world is asking “If you are real, God…” or “If you are present, God…” or “If you are even God at all, God…” we assert them to all be true.  There is no conditional “if” for us people of faith. There are only statements:  Real. Present. God.  These have all been revealed to be true in the life and work of Jesus Christ. (You can read a bit more and listen to those sermons, here.) We have hindsight.  For us the condition has been resolved!

Isn’t there so much more power in seeing those conditions as all true?  How differently do we approach life when we understand that God *is* real.  He *is* present. And He *is* God.  How differently do we approach Jesus if we see that He *is* the Christ.  He *is* the Messiah.  He *is* the king of the Jews and even more – the Son of God.  May that be the case for us!

I suggest that instead of the word “if” we insert the word “since” into those verses.  While this may not be the most literal sense of the word, it is appropriate for us who now know those conditions to be true.  “Since you are the Messiah…” “Since you are Christ, the King…” then “… Save us, Jesus!”

And that is what He has done!  Ironically and poignantly, He *did* save us, and Himself, in His death on the cross.  What the soldiers, people and criminal were taunting Jesus with – He did.  In Jesus’ perfect and satisfactory death, He won for us victory over sin and the enemy.  So then, the Father raised Jesus from the dead, and He promises to raise us as well!

I pray that you and I will live our lives, not in doubt of the supreme nature and power of Christ, but rather in the recognition of it! … Amen.

Ascension Thursday

Leave a comment

Painting of Jesus Ascending into Heaven

Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775

On this Ascension Day, we celebrate that Jesus is not dead. It’s not just that He was once raised from the dead … but that He was resurrected, appeared to His disciples and many others, then was visibly taken up into heaven where He still resides today! Acts chapter 1 records for us:

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”(Acts 1:9)

What a marvel it would have been to behold!  You can understand the disciples’ jaw-dropping awe as they stared up long after He was out of their sight.  (As an aside, we use the word “awesome” in so many lesser ways, don’t we?  This would have truly been an awe-inspiring moment!)  It’s no wonder that the men/angels/messengers looked at them and said:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? …” (Acts 1:11a)

But here’s the part that not only inspires awe in us, but creates HOPE … the men continue:

“… This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11b)

Because Jesus did not stay dead, but was resurrected and ascended into heaven and is still living and reigning on His throne, at the right hand of the Father … and because He promised to return again, we have hope.  It’s as if we are living in the blink of eternity between Christ’s ascension and His return – which will be like a “reverse ascension” … He will return in the same way, visibly in the clouds.  Speaking of this event, Jesus himself said:

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 1:26)

And the Apostle John’s records his vision of this event in the book of Revelation this way:

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Which is why we Christians are so adamant about telling people about Jesus – He lives. He reigns.  He will return!

As some have said, “it was Christ’s last command, so it ought to be our first concern.”  The very last words of Matthew’s gospel are what have been called the Great Commission – Jesus sending us into the world to make disciples:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And ending where we began, Jesus last words to His disciples just before He ascended were:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So this Ascension Day is all about witnessing and hope.  We have hope that Jesus is still alive!  And we have hope that Jesus will one day return to make all things right, and new.  And because of this, we witness to others what His life, death, resurrection, ascension and imminent return mean to everyone. We want this same hope for others … and so we tell of this great news – Jesus is not dead, He is alive and reigning on His throne in heaven!

When He returns will you welcome Him?

LOVE IS … the Better Way

Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13 is often referred to as the “love chapter.” You hear it a lot at weddings. But weddings aren’t where it was originally aimed. It was aimed at the church in Corinth – a church that was loaded with problems.

Corinth was like Las Vegas on steroids. Not only was sexual immorality rampant, but along with that came every other form of evil behavior. You might ask, “why did the Apostle Paul write such a beautiful message of love to a place like that?” But Paul saw it the other way around.  He felt that a community stuck in sin was the perfect place for a message about the power of God’s transforming love.

In fact, that’s how it is with God’s Love – the deeper the sin, the more powerful God’s grace!  Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:

“… But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” – Romans 5:20

And so the Apostle set out in his letter to the Corinthians to talk about God’s answer to their sin.  He spent the first 12 chapters of that letter to them talking about the problems that faced them.  Then in chapter 13 it’s as if he took a cleansing breath and said, “can we all agree that your way is not working? … let me show you a better way.”  And LOVE is … that better way.

Then he goes on to show that all of the ways that the Corinthians (and we) measure success, achievement or happiness, are actually nothing without love.

  1. You cannot measure the value of your words by the impressiveness of your speech.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1

  1. You cannot measure your spiritual maturity by the extent of your gifts.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2

  1. You cannot measure the size of your reward by the depth of your sacrifice.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:3

Paul is echoing the upside-down Kingdom that Jesus had ushered in.  In Christ’s Kingdom, the main currency isn’t speech, power, knowledge or money.  It’s Love.  It’s possible to speak in a way that just puffs up self.  It’s possible to have knowledge about the inner workings of science – even knowledge about heaven and earth, but to use that knowledge in a way that serves our own power and position.   And it’s even possible to give, and give generously, in a way that is more about our own gain than it is about loving the ones that we are serving.   But Paul teaches that in Christ’s Kingdom, love of neighbor and love of God is the better way.  It may utilize all of God’s gifts of speech, knowledge, faith, generosity and personal surrender … but it must never be about those things in and of themselves; it must be about Love.

Love, after all, is what drove God to send His Son into the world, and what drove that Son to the cross to die for us, isn’t it?  (see John 3:16.) Clearly Jesus used words, knowledge, faith, generosity and personal surrender in His ministry … but He did them all with love … with perfect Love.   And He calls us, as His disciples, to Love like He does.

The world is desperately in need of more Love, isn’t it?  Chances are you could use a little more Love in your life too, right?  So, we are spending the next several weeks learning about the “Better Way” of Love that Jesus wants for us.  I look forward to digging into this wonderful image of Christ’s Love with you.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Augie.

Spiritual Battles …

Leave a comment

We love superheroes don’t we?  I recently dressed up as “Pastor America” and visited the little kids at our school.  They were duly impressed.

It’s interesting that the world so readily latches onto the idea of someone stronger, faster, and more powerful than us who can step in battle the evil villain.  Whether it’s Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel or whatever… we seem to be insatiable when it comes to dreaming about this battle of good vs. evil – and in particular, the power of good to rescue us from the power of evil.  Where’s that come from?  It’s actually rooted in Truth. In History. In Reality.  In the Bible.  Spielberg, Lucas and the others get this idea from the Bible, whether they realize it or not.

The Apostle Paul warns the Christians at Ephesus, and us.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

In other words, we are in a spiritual battle – whether we like it or not. The challenge for us is that we often dismiss the spiritual realm altogether.  We buy into the greatest trick of the devil as he attempts to convince us that he does not exist.  And if we do believe in a spiritual realm, often we just don’t know what to make of the demonic side of that spiritual realm.  We don’t want to overemphasize the activity of demons and spiritual forces of evil, such that we blame “the devil” for the fact that our bank balance is low, for example.  But we can’t dismiss the fact that the devil and his demons are real and are active causing trouble in our lives – especially because we are believers in Christ. (See: 1 Peter 5:8)

The Bible gives us so many warnings about how the enemy:

  1. tempts us to sin,
  2. distracts us from God’s will,
  3. and inflicts suffering.

Speaking to the young pastor Timothy, the Apostle Paul warns that some of the people in his church had fallen into the “trap of the devil” and that he had “taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26).  This doesn’t mean that the devil possessed those believers, but that he had set traps for them, and they walked into those traps, unwittingly doing the will of the devil.

An interesting thing about our sin is that God uses our sin to get us to repent and turn to Him.  He desires to restore our relationship with Him as He forgives our sin.  The devil, on the other hand, uses our sin to cause us to distance ourselves from God in shame, and even turn away from belief in God, turning to false religions.  Paul told Timothy The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. – 1 Tim. 4:1.

Finally, while I believe the devil cannot possess Christians who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, through faith and baptism (see: Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 6:19), I do believe that he can harass and oppress Christians, and that he readily does.  Scripture is full of stories showing the activity of the forces of evil against believers and unbelievers alike.  (See Matthew 17:15-18).

But what we always see in Scripture is that God is more powerful than the devil.  Jesus is always able to cast out the evil spirits (Matthew 17:18).  They must always obey Him!  In fact, they recognized Jesus and His authority over them before even Jesus’ own disciples did! (see Mark 1:24).

The demons are well aware of the power of the Son of God over them.  The question is are you?  Do you realize how powerful the Name of Jesus is over any power of the devil or darkness?  Do you realize the miraculous authority over darkness that you possess as a follower of Jesus who bears His Name?

When people at our church are baptized, we give them a candle lighted from the flame of the candles on the altar.  We tell them that this light symbolizes the Light of Christ that has come into the world … and the Light that they now carry into the world as a follower of Jesus.  What I don’t think we often realize is just how powerful that Light is over the darkness.

Friends, if you and I are in a spiritual battle – that cannot be fought with flesh and blood.  Then the only way we can “take our stand against the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-18), is to call upon the Name and the power of Jesus.  This is the authority that is given to us, and which we take up when we put on the Armor of God.

Imagine a frail elderly person who has been commissioned as a crossing guard at an elementary school.  They do not possess the power within themselves to stop a moving car or truck. (Nor does any mere mortal, for that matter.) But the stop-sign that they have been given in their role as crossing guard gives them the authority to stop those moving vehicles.  They simply hold up the stop-sign, and the operators of the vehicle recognize their authority and stop.

It’s the same with demons and the devil.  When you and I call upon the Name and the authority of Jesus, the powers of darkness must obey! 

What spiritual battles are you facing right now?  Don’t be surprised if that relationship struggle, or that challenge at work really has an invisible spiritual battle being waged underneath – a battle for your inner peace and joy, if not for your very faith.  Don’t let the enemy trick you into trying to win that battle in your flesh.  Do what you can in the earthly realm, for sure.  But turn over the spiritual battle to Jesus and His angels to fight in the spiritual realm on your behalf.

In the Name of Jesus,

Pastor Augie.

If you’d like to hear my recent sermon on “Miracles of Deliverance,” click here.

No Word From God Will Ever Fail!

Leave a comment

Six times in Scripture God did wondrous things through the wombs of unlikely women. In His mercy, He brought forth sons, born to women who had given up hope of ever having children:

  1. Isaac born to Sarah and Abraham (Gen. 11:30; 21:1-2).
  2. Jacob born to Rebekah and Isaac (Gen. 25:21).
  3. Joseph born to Rachel and Jacob (Gen. 29:31; 30:22).
  4. Samson born to the wife of Manoah (Judg. 13:1-3).
  5. Samuel born to Hannah and Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 20).
  6. John born to Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest (Luke 1:5-25, 57) cf: Our God Remembers – Zechariah’s Hope.

Barrenness meant sadness, shame, and even ridicule for women in Bible times. Childlessness was even considered to be a curse. Yet in His mercy, the Lord did the seemingly impossible through these barren women. He opened their wombs and brought forth sons who were significant in the story of Israel. This is a reminder that there’s hope for you even when things seem impossible!

And God did something even more amazing, not through the womb of a barren woman, but through the blessed womb of a virgin, named Mary.  This would be even more miraculous than a birth to a barren womb, as this conception did not involve an earthly father, but would involve the power of the Holy Spirit.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

God speaks His Word through the angel Gabriel, and Mary conceives an even greater Son.  What Child is This? the Christmas carol asks.  The answer is: this Child is The Greatest Son, not only in the history of Israel, but in the history of mankind!  Mary herself was amazed at the possibility of this occurrence, to which the angel responded with some of the most profound words in Scripture:

“For no word from God will ever fail.” – Luke 1:37

Wow, how true.  Then Mary’s response forever changed history as she humbly surrendered to God’s will saying …

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:38

God had sent His people “redeemers” in the form of kings and judges throughout Israel’s history.  But as with all things earthly, their redemption was limited, and eventually faded.  But they did serve an important function at a critical time in history.  And, perhaps more importantly, they served the function of pointing to Jesus.  Theologians refer to this as “typology.”  In its most basic sense, this means that something in the Old Testament prefigured something that Jesus Christ would more completely and more thoroughly fulfill in the New Testament.  (For some examples of “types of Christ” in the Old Testament, see this BibleStudyTools.com article.)

One wonderful example of an Old Testament type of Christ is the judge Samson.  Samson was born to a mother who, being barren, should not have borne a child … just as Mary, being a Virgin, should not have borne a child.  And yet, by God’s mercy, Samson did some amazing things in his rescue of Israel! Similarly Christ did some amazing things in His rescue of God’s people.  Christ’s mighty acts, however, were not ones in which He displayed His power, but in which He withheld His power, in order to accomplish His Father’s greater will.  Here are some ways in which Christ did an even greater job of rescue than Samson, demonstrating His strength through sacrifice, rather than through might:

  • Where’s Samson ripped apart a lion, Jesus had the strength to rip apart Satan. But for our salvation, He allowed Satan to rip Him apart and pierce Him through on the cross, suffering God’s judgment in our place.
  • Whereas Samson used the jawbone of a donkey to kill the faithless Philistines, Christ had the strength to wipe out the countless people who scorned Him and rebelled against God – even calling down legions of angels if He desired; but instead, He allowed himself to be crucified by a makeshift cross, bearing all of humanity’s sin and dying for those who sinned against Him.
  • And whereas Samson was blindfolded, beaten and mocked, in his last act he demonstrated his strength stretching his arms out to bring down the ceiling on Israel’s enemies … He pointed to Christ, who also was beaten and mocked, but in His final act, He withheld His strength as He stretched out His arms on the cross! Nonetheless in that act, He did crush our enemies of sin, death and the devil and finished the work of our salvation.
  • And whereas Samson put the gates of the city on his back and brought them to the top of the hill, Christ put all of our rebellion and sin onto His back and took it up the hill of Calvary to atone for it.
  • But where we really see that Christ is the greater rescuer, is that after his work of rescue, Samson died. Christ, however, did not stay dead. He rose triumphantly over our sin and death on the third day. Christ is The Greater Rescuer indeed.

The comparison of Christ with Samson is particularly important when you consider that God chose to rescue His people, Israel, not through an army, and not through sophisticated weapons of war, but through the mighty acts of one man – Samson.  How similarly wonderful, and yet more remarkable, is how God chose to rescue His people of every nation, tribe and tongue throughout all the world and over every age, through the mighty acts of one man – His Son.

All of this was to fulfill the Word of God, as the Angel Gabriel said when he came to Mary, “For no word from God will ever fail.” – Luke 1:37

May you find strength and hope in knowing that even the impossible is possible with God.  He rescued His people, Israel, and He rescued you in Christ!  May your faith be strengthened, knowing NO WORD FROM GOD WILL EVER FAIL!

Trusting in God’s faithfulness,

Pastor Augie.

Responding to Conflict

Leave a comment

It’s amazing how the book of Genesis, written so long ago, shows us so much about God, but it also shows us so much about ourselves as well.  In just the first couple dozen chapters we see stories of rebellion, anger, deception and wickedness on the part of people, but we also see our God respond with intervention, provision, promise and love.  Not much has changed.  We are the same people behaving in the same sinful and rebellious ways and God is the same God responding with mercy and love.

So when we read the account of Isaac’s sons Jacob & Esau in Genesis 25, we see conflict.  It’s nothing new.  In fact, it’s ancient.  But it still rings true.  Just in this week’s news we saw a tragic shooting in Pittsburgh that took the lives of 11 Jewish citizens in what should have been the safety of their house of worship.  Yet sadly, this sort of news has become the norm.  Clearly as a people, we still need to learn about our human propensity toward conflict.  But even more we need to learn God’s direction in light of it.

The brothers Jacob and Esau wrestled from the time they were in the womb:

“The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD.” – Genesis 25:22, NIV

The weight behind the Hebrew word here translated “jostled” is a bit stronger than that – it’s more of a struggle or fight.  You could say they were trying to “crush” each other!  And even when they exit the womb – Esau comes out first, but Jacob is seen to be grabbing onto the heel of his brother (Genesis 25:24-26).  What does this tell us?  Conflict is something that is “baked-in.”  It is part of our human nature – you can see it, with Jacob and Esau, even inside the womb.

I am sure you are no stranger to conflict.  The question is not whether conflict happens in your life, but how do you respond in the face of it?  In Sunday’s message (You can listen to it here, and download the sermon slides here), I shared ways to deal with conflict.  The key is not to let the devil gain a foothold and then use our anger against us.  We are warned in Scripture:

“… Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” – Ephesians 4:26-27

The devil doesn’t need to “possess” people who are in conflict – he simply uses that conflict to twist the truth and create bigger deceptions and misunderstandings.  Our puffed-up human pride and our equally large fear and insecurity will do the rest!

What is the answer to conflict?  There only is one that is effective – Love.  Any true resolution to conflict is going to be born out of two parties acting in love – and that’s usually the result of one party acting in love first.

I shared a video clip during Sunday’s sermon that showed the power of a hug, in response to an act of terrorism and aggression following the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Notice the smiles in the video.  It’s contagious, isn’t it?  But notice something else very important about a hug … an embrace takes two.  For two people to resolve conflict, both parties must respond in love.

And that’s what our Lord wants for us!  He has made the first move.  He has opened his arms to us in love, as Jesus died for us on the cross (Romans 5:8).  In that act He ended the conflict that existed between God and humanity!  And in so doing He extended an open and willing embrace for all who would receive it.

How will you respond to Christ’s love, ending the conflict between you and God?  There’s a bad response, a good response, and a better response.  The bad response is what so many choose.  Even though Jesus came to earth in humility, (Just as Jacob finally came before Esau in Genesis 33:3-4) suffered and died to end the conflict between mankind and God, so many people still choose to remain enemies of God. They refuse to end the feud, even though the battle is over.  Clearly, that is not the right choice.  A better response is to do what Martin Luther discovered in the season of his life that would lead to the Reformation – surrender to God.  Luther finally realized that he was no longer an outcast trying to earn God’s love, or an enemy needing to cower in fear.  The answer for him and us is simply to receive God’s grace.  That’s a good response.

But an even better response to Christ’s love is to show it to others!  So often, I think that we readily receive God’s humble gift of forgiveness to us …  but then we fail to share that forgiveness with others!  I don’t mean that we don’t tell them about Christ’s forgiveness.  Sometimes we do that, but then we still fail to forgive that person ourselves!

Jesus warns against this kind of action in Matthew 18:21-35. He tells a parable of a man who is forgiven an extremely large debt, but then immediately after that won’t forgive someone who owes him a mere pittance by comparison.  What I see too often in myself and in others is that we readily receive the grace and mercy of God…  we even tell others of His great mercy…  but then we fail to show mercy to others, choosing to keep the conflict alive.

May this not be so with us.  May we not only be recipients of God’s grace, but purveyors of that grace to others!

In the grace of God,

Pastor Augie.

Older Entries