Archive for the ‘1 John 3:1-3’ Category

Are You Ready For Separation?

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

All Saints Sunday, November 1, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared;” [1 John 3:2a]

Think about those words for a moment; what do they mean to you?  Do we really understand what it means to call God our Father, and the Son of God our brother?  How will we think differently about those Words when we leave this world and see and speak to God face to face?  When we are living and praising God with “All Saints” who are arrayed in white?

I am reminded of my youth during the Apollo missions, watching in amazement as each one of the rockets were launched.  Each one started out like a tall building upon the launching pad, until those four words, that to a young boy seemed like magic were spoken: “Houston, we have ignition.”  And then, “Houston, we have lift off.”  And then the real magic took place; some how the cameras were able to follow that rocket being propelled by a continuous explosion of fire for miles into the sky, and when the camera on the ground was no longer able to detect the rocket, “Presto!”  Just like that, a camera attached to the space capsule began to report its images.  Now this is where, the part I especially liked came to happen; the first stage rocket was separated from the second stage with a small explosion, and still the rocket continued forward, until after a few minutes the second stage did the very same thing.  And then, the words I loved to hear were spoken, “Houston, we have separation.”

Are you ready for separation?  Are you ready to shed the things of this world so that you can finally realize perfectly, who God says you already are?

Living a life that leads to separation can be difficult and tumultuous; full of terrifying fire and explosions of emotions. It is both beautiful and frightening all at the same time. Our first reading (Revelation 7:9-11) calls life before separation a tribulation.  Here in this existence of flesh we live, just as untold millions of saints before and after us have lived; saints that make up the church, who have existed since the fall of Adam and Eve.  And each one of us in our own time have been buffeted and attacked by sin, the threat of death, and the devils, and the entire time we are asked by God to simply trust Him,  that our time of tribulation will end soon, and when it does, we will see that it was simply a stage of life that led us to where the saints before us had already passed… into eternity in Paradise.

But is there strength enough to wait?  Yes, in these words…

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” [1 John 3:1a]  Make no mistake friends, this little word love is not the kind of love that the world so easily gives out in all of its many sinful forms.  This love of God is not fickle, temporary, or conditional.  No, this kind of agape love, is the love of full comprehension and understanding, yet its propelled as unstoppable until it sees you through until your final separation.

What I mean by that, is that God loves you even though He knows your every sinful thought and action.

Jesus, the very Son of God came into our flesh and lived through the many tribulations of betrayal, and even death, so that you would be assured that God understands the many temptations you resist and sometimes fall to, and because He understands, He forgives.

God understands the harsh reality of this sinful world that we live in as strangers.  He loves you, and through His Word and sacraments He is sustaining you, just as He did for the saints who have gone before you.  Why?  Because through faith in the life and death of His Son Jesus Christ upon the cross, He has made a way for you to be His child, and through this same Jesus Christ, He has given you a way to know that for sure, He is your Father.

But then why must we experience so much pain, hardships, and tribulations in this stage of life if God loves us so?  Because…

You have not yet separated from this stage of existence.  You are still in this world where all of God’s Christians are called aliens and strangers.  Listen: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”[1 John 3:1b]  This is why the church is asked to not just preach the gospel hope for today, but the certainty of that hope for the eternal tomorrow; the time when God calls us to go to our new home in paradise restored.  And I hope, that we have been doing an acceptable job of it, but let’s put it to the test, shall we?  Please fill in the blank for both of these hymns:  “I’m but a stranger here, ________ is my home.” [LSB 748]  “Have no fear little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you ________;”  [LSB 740]  But these hymns would be pointless if they did not have the seal of authenticity of Jesus behind them.  Listen to Jesus’ words about where our trials and tribulations in this world are leading us, and allow them to speak faith into your hearts…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [Matthew 5:3-12]

Wonderful words of Comfort and Hope, are they not?

So why must we experience these tribulations of life? Because you have not yet separated into that final stage; we’re still in that 2nd stage of Living the new life under the reality and hope of Holy Baptism, where we have been given the promise of new and eternal life.  Maybe we can better understand this stage of life by thinking back to our first stage, before the first separation; I’m speaking about our prenatal nine month stage, before we were born.

No one here this morning, would regard that nine-month period as the whole meaning of life, where nothing else exists. By now we know better.  But let’s just say, by way of illustration, that during our pre-natal life we had the capacity to think, to hope or not hope, and so on. And let us add that while in our mother’s womb we got word that another life was waiting for us, a life that might last an incredibly long time of eighty or ninety years or more. The new world we would someday enter would contain light in which we could see things and vast reaches of space in which we could move around. It would contain towering skyscrapers, majestic mountains, strange looking creatures called animals, large plants called trees, four-wheeled vehicles traveling at shocking speeds; why we were told there were even towers that are propelled into space by an explosion of fire called rockets. Someday, we were assured, we would be able to do such impossible things as walk and talk. What’s more, we wouldn’t be alone in this vast new world; there would be millions of other creatures similar to our self. Yet strangest of all would be the mode of entering this new world, a rather perilous process called birth, involving pain, danger, doctors, and hospitals, a process we would never guess could thrust us into such a beautiful life as we live at presently.

Now what reaction might an unborn child have toward this talk of another and more abundant life, assuming that an unborn child can have reactions? In spite of the fact that the child couldn’t possibly understand what earthly life would be like, that child could still believe in it and look forward to it. And doing that, would make the child’s nine-month existence much more pleasant. Or conversely, the child could be a realist and assume that the dark, warm, and enveloping womb that is home, is all that there is to life, and beyond that dreaded process called birth there is nothing more but the end. All this talk about another life is just wishful thinking, and one might better make the most of what they’ve got.

Then comes the day—the day of birth. It turns out true, after all, gloriously true! There is another life. You can live eighty or ninety years, or more! There are such things as light and space and skyscrapers and mountains and animals and plants and fast-moving vehicles and rockets!  You can walk and talk. And this dreaded process called birth, in spite of appearances, turns out, after all, to be the gateway to this new and wonderful world.

I’m sure you see where we’re going with this illustration. Our present life is not the climax of life; it is but a phase in our journey, until our final separation. In relation to the heavenly life, we might call it a pre-natal stage. We have it on good word—God’s word— that there is another life, another world ahead of us called heaven. In it we shall live unbelievably long—forever! It is a world without space or time. Angels will share mansions with us. We shall behold the face of God. We shall see him as he is. In fact, we shall be like him. All the ills and inconveniences of this present life, chief of which is sin, will have vanished. We’ll be with all those who have gone ahead of us, even the ones we love and miss who went to sleep in Jesus before us!

Dear friends, it will be a great day when Jesus calls us home to glory.  We will behold the Lamb of God, and along with the host arrayed in white, we will behold His nail scared hands, and simply stand before His throne of grace and call out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”  But that great day has not yet come for us who are called children of God, and yet are still sojourners in this sinful world.  We know that because God calls us His children, we are!  And we also know that there is no stage of existence beyond that final state of separation.  And in this knowledge we not only wait in hope for this final stage of separation, but in this hope we are being purified just as Christ is pure. [1 John 3:3]

Listen, the world will give you all kinds of things that they claim you should hope in.  They will offer you the brother and sisterhood of man and claim that there is no greater calling than to work towards that hope.  They will offer you the hope of science, world order, and the proper disbursement of wealth as the solution to our many ills.  But this morning God assures us, that kind of hope is simply sinking sand, because it’s foundation is not centered on Christ and His cross; the place where God made He and man right with each other.

Are you ready for that final stage of separation, where God shows you that His Son, your Savior has indeed made all things new?  I pray that you are, and I ask God to continue doing this very thing within you and around you, in Jesus  name… AMEN!

Positions Please!

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego
Click here for audio of this message

In our gospel reading this morning, we join 6 young men with a vision…a vision of restoration to a community of friends that has been broken by illness.  For reasons unknown, one of their members had been stricken by a paralyzing disease.  They had sought help in many circles, but physicians, rabbis, and priests were unable to restore the health of their fallen comrade.  But they had not given up…they still had a vision of restored health and community. They had faith that God would restore all that had been lost.  But how God would do this they didn’t have a clue, that is until they heard that Jesus of Nazareth had come into their small town of Capernaum.  Jesus was known to be a teacher of God’s Word who also had the ability to heal people from all kinds of diseases.  So off they went carrying their friend on a stretcher.

When they arrived at the home where Jesus was staying, it quickly became obvious by the crowds gathered there that they had arrived at the right home.  There was one problem though, how would they get in?  The door was blocked by the large crowd, and so were the windows.  And yet their vision of restoration would not let them give up.  Well there was only one choice; if they couldn’t pass through the door or the window with their friend then they would have to make a new way, through the roof!  So up they went and down went their friend as they lowered him directly in front of Jesus!

What were these men hoping for as they followed their vision of health and restoration?  Healing for their comrade’s illness certainly, but they received much more than that…they heard the sweet Word of forgiveness and restoration directly from the mouth of God!  “Son, your sins are forgiven!”  Now there are always those in the crowd that will try to destroy the vision that God has given, and this encounter was no different.  For you see, there were some experts of the law inside this home, and their response was, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  But our 6 comrades did not lose hope, and they kept their eyes focused directly on their source of only source of hope—Jesus!  I imagine that Jesus moved closer to the man on the stretcher and said clearly so that all could hear, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins-I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 

And that was it, their comrade was healed.  The very same God who had put this vision of health and restoration into their hearts had now spoken and the vision was a reality!

I. When God’s vision begins to come alive in our hearts we may tend to become impatient and say, “If I’m on the verge of experiencing something divine, then why am I stuck here doing something not even remotely related to what I feel God has put in my heart to do?   The 6 comrades in our gospel reading must have felt this way as they daily saw their once active and supportive friend lying helplessly on his bed.  Certainly Nehemiah must have asked this question every time he thought of Jerusalem and its dilapidated condition, “Lord, what am I doing in Persia?  My vision is to be a builder not a bartender!”

But God knew exactly what He was doing.  He had placed Nehemiah in the right spot from the beginning.  God had spent years preparing and positioning both Nehemiah and the king for everything that was about to unfold.  Think about it.  From the time Nehemiah was a boy God had been arranging all things to work for the good, to enable Nehemiah who was called according to God’s purpose to fulfill God’s will, which was Nehemiah’s vision.  From a boy Nehemiah lived in the royal palace as a servant.  From there God placed him in the ranks of important Persian officials, and within those ranks Nehemiah quickly became known as a man of integrity.  Eventually he was appointed to the position of cup bearer…a position that guarded the very life of the king by preventing him from being poisoned.

Now, if we look at these things from the eyes of the world, it would seem impossible for him to ever realize his dream…after all, a servant to the king was to be seen and not heard, but again, God had Nehemiah just where he wanted him.  Like a master strategist, God had been working behind the scenes putting all the players into position.  And now the curtain is about to go up: And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.

And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. [2:6-8]  The “good hand” of his God was upon him friends, and God’s good and gracious hand has been upon each and every one of you who have been cleansed and made new in the Holy waters of your baptism.  His hand has ensured that you have been saved through the hearing and preaching of His gospel.  By the gift of faith, you may say along with Nehemiah that “the good hand of my Gracious God has always been upon me!”  What a way to live and spend your life—knowing that whatever may happen around you, God’s good and gracious hand is always guiding your way!

II. You know, from the outset, just about every God ordained vision seems to be impossible.  It can be a real battle not to be intimidated by the apparent impossibility of beginning and completing that vision.  If you want to throw a wet blanket on a new vision, try sharing it with someone who isn’t part of your praying and planning team!  You know what they’ll probably say to you?  “Hmmm…that’s an interesting idea.”  In other words, what they’re really saying is “You’re crazy.  That will never happen!”

Nehemiah, like the 6 comrades did not share his vision or his plan with people outside his inner circle.  For months, Nehemiah kept silent.  After all, who would have taken him seriously?  Think about it, he was a slave who worked for the king.  He couldn’t leave whenever he wanted to and visit Jerusalem.  It was a government like the kings that destroyed the walls of Jerusalem to begin with.  Why would the king want to rebuild the city and create a possible military threat to his kingdom?  But miracles do happen friends when God is the author of the vision; when God is the one who is guiding you.

Nehemiah was allowed to begin work on the vision.  But still he kept silent.  We read: “Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.  But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.  Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.  And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.”  [Vs. 8b-16]

Can you relate to some of Nehemiah’s feelings as he considered his vision?  Maybe you have a vision on rebuilding your marriage or family.  Hopefully we are all praying together for a vision to rebuild our church so that it can once again become a thriving, living presence of God’s love and forgiveness within our community.  If we look at the landscape of our circumstances it might seem overwhelming and even impossible…like there’s no way you could ever pull it off.  But what we must remember is that there will always be more questions than answers when God gives a vision.  There will always be obstacles and there will always be a lack of resources. 

Anyone with a vision from God will at first be alone.  Nehemiah must have felt terribly alone as he rode along the perimeter of the city adjusting his plan and formulating the costs.  He must have wanted to recruit the people immediately.  But God tempered that desire with the negative spirit of Sanballat and Tobiah who communicated displeasure that Nehemiah was there checking on the welfare of the people of Israel.  But Nehemiah was not discouraged, because it was God giving him the vision and it was God creating that unquenchable desire to see the vision become a reality.  Like Nehemiah, the thing that will keep our vision alive is the knowledge that it is God Himself who has called us into uncharted territory with a divine purpose in mind…His vision will come true!

III. Dear friends, believe it or not, God wants to do the same work of faith and trust in you that He did through Nehemiah, and the paralytic and his friends.  There is always something in our lives, in our families, at our employment, and in our church that requires following where God is leading in a vision that He has provided.  God’s desire is to work through the circumstances in your life to the point where you are exactly where he needs you.  Now, this is easy to say when you are looking back, but when you are in the here and now, smack dab in the middle of a crisis and looking ahead, it becomes something that we have to undertake by faith.  Many times, when following a God given vision there is no tangible connection between our circumstances and the vision, accept God’s Word, a word that promises you that because of Jesus Christ’s obedience to His Father’s will, you are loved and forgiven; that because of Jesus Christ, God will never leave you or forsake you.  Now doubters may ask if this is enough for you to follow a vision, and faith answers, “Yes, with the help of God!”

CONCLUSION: Friends, we don’t know what God is up to behind the scenes of our lives, but God’s Word gives us faith to trust Him, that indeed “For those who love the Lord, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”  Please hear this important truth: It is not a problem that you are not where you think you should be in order to implement God’s vision.  It is not an accident that you are where you are.  God is very much in control of your circumstances and right now He is fulfilling His purpose within you and around you.  God’s vision for your life is your purpose.  God is using your circumstances to prepare you to accomplish His vision for your life.  If you are “seeking first” His kingdom’s purpose, to seek and save the lost and restore their lost relationships with God through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, then where you are is right where He wants you! 

I pray that you will find comfort, strength and encouragement in these words as you continue to seek out God’s vision and will for you and His church, even our beloved Trinity Lutheran Church.  And I ask this in Jesus name…AMEN!