Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Living Free - Sermon notes from June 27, 2010

When I write a sermon, I make various notes. Not all of them end up in the sermon. And the sermon may well go another direction than the notes might be leading. These are the notes from this last week. Enjoy.

Galatians 5:13-14 “Living Free”

June 26/27, 2010 5th Sunday after Pentecost

:13 For you were called to freedom, brother. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in a word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Called to freedom” Salvation is a free gift that is given to us by the grace of God.

It is neither earned nor deserved. You are a sinful person so that cannot earn the love of God. You cannot do enough good things to be made right with God.

Nor can you say you deserve it. You don’t. You want to deserve God’s love, and complete salvation? There is one way – perfection, not sinning in thought, word or deed. Think correctly. Speak correctly. Do correctly. Not just for a short time but for 24/7, 365. Fall short of that and you cannot deserve the love of God, His grace or His mercy.

So it is a gift. A glorious gift. A wonderful gift beyond any that you have ever received or can ever begin to fathom. A gift of God – called mercy and grace which brings love, peace and joy – all the things we desire in life but cannot get from the world around us. All given to us free from God.

Paul is pointing this out against the Judaizers who are wanting to return to the Law. Be circumcised for only then can you be saved. Live under the Law and you will be worthy of God’s love. Wrong! Live by faith, faith that trusts only in God and not in self. Faith that takes hold of promises of God, faith that doesn’t rely on itself but upon God alone.

As we know this grace of God, it leads us to today’s text – “For you were called to freedom.” The Christian is free. Free to live. Free from the bonds of the law. Freed to go through life without the fear of punishment. Free to enjoy life.

Our Lord has given us freedom in life. What does that mean? It begins with a contrast – sinful nature vs. spiritual nature.

Sinful nature:
Desires for self, desires the moment, desires to be free from all constraint. “Don’t tell me what to do.” Don’t tell me what is right or wrong.” The world today thinks this way. Often it is even couched in a new way of thought. “God doesn’t ask for obedience only love.” “God didn’t ask us to obey Him, only love Him.”
Is that true? That is the freedom that the sinful nature desires. “If it feels good, do it.” “How can something that feels so right, be so wrong?”

Spiritual nature:
Desires the welfare of others, desires the big picture, long term life. “What is good for you?” “What is right and what is wrong?”
Christian life seen as following God not self. It is a struggle for it is contrary to the heart, the nature. “There are many things that feel right but God tells me it is wrong. Who do I listen to?” Self or God?

Psalm 47:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The challenge of this verse, the challenge that the freedom Paul talks about in Galatians, is the challenge of faith. You need to search yourself to distinguish between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the faith.

Desires of the flesh are sinful desires. My neighbor’s job, my neighbor’s wife, lustful desire for another person that is not my spouse, sinful desire to mess over the fellow worker, the abuse of God for my own purposes.

Desires of faith are what God desires. Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, then as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Guided by Christ – our hearts are lead.

Guided by Christ – we love one another. Paul tells the Galatians, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Let the love of Christ guide your life.

Imitate Christ – Be Bold Believers in Christ (VBS theme!). Love begins in the relationship you have with God. Grace given to you. Love shared.

Share that love. What is the desire of your heart? Perhaps that is the real challenge of this sermon, to try to figure out where my heart is – heart of flesh or heart of faith?

Goal: To assist the hearer to see how to live their lives of freedom in love and service to one another.

Malady: We continue in bondage even when we think we are free. We focus on our flesh, our self more than others.

Means: Sharing Christ, His love, we see how we are guided to live our lives as His children, loving each other due to the love He gives to us.

Freedom: Free to live apart from the demands of the flesh. That is truly a challenge we face daily. We are tempted, tested and we struggle with it.

How are we helped? By the Holy Spirit guiding us in faith. Setting our hearts on Christ not on self (not easy!). Through the Word and Sacraments. Always being on guard.

Freedom is never free. It takes a lot to have freedom. So it is in faith. It takes much to be free in Christ. It takes diligence, it takes patience. It takes Christ.

There we are able to love as Christ loved us. We can imitate Him.

Challenge is two-fold:
1) to be free in Christ.
2) to love each other.

As we continue to face this challenge it isn’t easy. As with anything, it isn’t given to you. The faith, the forgiveness and the salvation are given to you. What are you doing with them? You are called to freedom – what does it mean to you? What does it mean for you. Back to Psalm 37:4

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sermon Notes for Galatians 2:17-21 "My Life is His"

Galatians 2:17-21 “My life is His” or “Crucified and Living”

June 12/13, 2010 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

We will be studying the book of Galatians for the next 4 weeks. As we do, I would encourage each person to sit and read through Galatians as a book. It is only 6 chapters long, so it isn’t too hard to get through it in a short bit of time. As you read through it, don’t stop to study any verses or to read study notes. Just read it to get the feel for the book as a whole. Then afterwards, go back and begin to work on it in sections.

It is important to get a feel for what Paul is writing. This is a letter after all. Just as when you receive a letter (or maybe an email for today) you will read through it first and then go back and begin to digest bits of it at a time, so this book is meant to be taken as a whole, then worked through a little at a time.

Paul – the man who was a Pharisee, who hated Christians, and by that also Christ Jesus, the man who followed the ceremonial/ritual law of Judaism to the “t”, the man who would rather die than turn against the law – was writing to the Christians in the region of Galatia (an area is modern day Turkey – which included Derbe, Lystra, and Antioch), an area he had visited on his 1st missionary journey. He is on his 2nd missionary journey, having just left those towns on his way to Troas, then to Thessalonica (though he didn’t know that at the time) and into Greece. He is made aware of a problem which is why he writes.

The problem>>>>>>Judaizers! These are the ones that want to put people back under the Law.
*eat clean food
*be circumcised
*obey the Sabbath laws

Only then could you be forgiven. Obey them can you come into a right relationship with the Lord. Like the story in Luke 7:36ff The Pharisee (Simon) was feeling righteous for his acts of generosity. Look at the fact that I gave the Teacher a dinner. How good am I! That adds up to something>>>>Jesus points out that it amounts to nothing. All that matters when you come to being saved is faith in Christ. Now there are several parts to be addressed, just not here.

Paul, in our epistle reading, addresses this issue of how we live:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of the God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

1) I have been crucified with Christ
2) Christ lives in me.

This is our focus:
Goal: To assist the hearer to see that in faith, they die to the worldly, sinful law-oriented life and Christ lives in them.
Malady: We forget the life in Christ. We let those who focus on self/works, make us believe we can or should focus on our works and self for the Christian life.
Means: Through the words of Paul and the Gospel reading of the day, we will see how the Lord guides us in our lives.

Crucified but alive! Christ was crucified >>for me. He rose>>>> for me. Focus on His works for me and for my life.

What would you do to be saved? What would you do to prove to others that you are saved? The focus of these is upon yourself and your works – the Law.

We want to prove to others that we are Christians>>>
We go to church.
We put $ into the plate
We read the Bible
We – wait a minute. Is that where we should be? Should we focus here?>

The Judaizers did just this. They wanted people to act just a certain way before they could be saved.
Become Judaite first then Christian
Become Lutheran first then Christian.

Is that fair? No. That isn’t what we say. Even at our worst we don’t say this. So don’t bring this up!

But we do want people to become like us! They already are. They are sinners. They are lost. Heap more law on them and things get worse. So what do we proclaim?

The cross, Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, buried, risen and ascended.

Crucified with Christ. When He goes to the cross, He carries you, your sin. Nailed – your sins. Dead – you and your sins.

You must die. It isn’t about you and what you do. If the focus is on how you act, what you do, then you have lost it. Sin still lives in you.

You must die! You are crucified with Christ – in Baptism, you are buried with Christ.

Romans 6:3 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
:4 We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Christ lives in you – newness of life. We walk in a new live, in Christ, not in our self.

This is where it gets tough. We do not focus on our works. We focus on what Christ wants to do for us and in us. We focus on the new life in Him.

Dead to sin – crucified with Christ.

Living for Him. Wait, not living for Him – He lives in us! You see, to focus again on living for Him takes you right back to the Law.

Have you lived enough for Christ? Have you done enough for Him? The answer is always NO! Then try harder. But I can’t. So I must die to sin. I must be crucified with Christ>>>>Then given new life. A life that “I” no longer live but Christ lives in me.

Christ living in me. He guides me. He shows me what to do. It isn’t “What would Jesus do?” It is “Christ lives in me. My Life is His. Use me.”

My life is His. That is a tough statement. That means my eyes, my being, my all is given to Him and His will.

Back to the song, “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.” Take me, all I am. Use me for You and for Your purposes.

This is true stewardship – using all of life and life’s resources for God and His glory.

Challenge: Not the challenge of being saved. That is a gift given to us. The challenge is making me become less and Him become more.

John the Baptist sums it up: “He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Crucified – I decrease.
Lives in me – He increases.

So the life I live, it is not the life of sin, it is not guided by sinful desire. It is not prompted by selfishness or self-centeredness. Instead – I decrease and He increases. I live because of Him. I live through Him. He lives in me.

Friday, June 18, 2010


How many times have you said that? Thank God it's Friday! The week is over. Work is almost done for the week. The weekend is upon you. You rejoice that you have made it through another work week and you look forward to what the weekend brings.

What does the weekend bring for you? Does it bring a God-pleasing time with self, family and friends? Does it bring the opportunity to spend time worshiping the God who has created you and preserves you? Or does it bring everything but?

Think about your weekend? Is it license to overindulge in alcohol or drugs? Does it give you the chance to troll the bars looking for someone to have a good time with? Does it give you the chance to sleep late, forget about the family, and see that it is all about yourself? Does it give you the chance to forget about the Lord?

I often wonder about what happens on weekends? For me, it is a time of final preparation for leading worship, final touches on a sermon that is meant to lift people up and guide them in their spiritual lives. Then I think about all the people who don't worship on the weekend. I wonder what is going on in their lives that they don't feel the "need" to worship the Lord. I wonder why they would "despise preaching and His word" week after week. I wonder why all who claim to be Christian don't practice what they claim. If Jesus is really your Lord and Savior, why is it that so many people thumb their noses at Him, say that it isn't important, that they don't have time or just plain don't feel like they want to spend time in worship?

I know that some will say it is because they have been hurt by the church in their lives. They will point to events that make them not want to be in worship. They love the Lord but not the church. Isn't that really a cop-out? Yes there are sinful people in church who have hurt others. Does that mean the church itself is bad? What about the person who has been "hurt," have they been the "perfect" person in their lives? Have they themselves hurt someone by what they have said or done? If everyone that has been sinned against stayed home on the weekend and avoided worship, every church would be empty. We have all had someone say or do something to us.

But wait a minute, we have all done the same thing to others. We have done a myriad of things against the Lord Himself. He forgives us. Why can't we forgive one another? Why do we use that as our excuse? Because we think it is a "good" reason to stay home. At that moment, Satan is winning the battle for you. The more a person absences themselves from the Word and Sacrament, the less they feel the need for the Lord in their lives. And the further they will go from the walking with Him.

All right, I have rambled enough. Perhaps you will worship this weekend. Perhaps you won't. That is up to you. Look into you heart and life. Then accept what you see. Be honest. The Lord already knows what is there.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Storms and the aftermath

It is summer - hot, sticky, Midwest summer. The humidity rises. Storms pop. And it is summer. You can have a terrible storm at one moment - hail, damaging wind, lightning, perhaps even a tornado - and then, as quickly as it arrives, it is gone and the sun breaks out, the rainbow shines brightly in the sky. And you wonder, was it really as bad as I thought? Did that really happen?

That is the way it is with a lot of things in life - something happens and we wonder about it. An argument in the family. It shatters the calm of the household, breaks rapidly, builds to a crescendo and then is gone. There may be some broken dreams or hurt feelings left in its wake. But then you stop and wonder, "Was it really worth the storm? Did it matter so much that I lost my temper over it?"

Sorry but my thoughts are rambling. I guess it fits since this is all about my random thoughts. I learned something that I knew already but perhaps had forgotten (not really but it just sounds good to say I forgot it). In the midst of the storm of relationships - personal, family, work, church - we need to be aware of how we act and what we say. The very way that we say something can hurt someone else - even if we don't intend it to be that way. As God's children, we need to watch our tongues. Once it is out of our mouths, we can't get it back. Don't you hate that? Especially when what you said is not really the truth and you were just saying it to hurt the other person? Ugh! Then you can't take it back. You can't gather it up. The damage is done.

But I also learned that there is another side to that topic. All right, so you are hurt by what was said. What do you do? Sulk? Get mad? Get even? Attack? Run away? As God's children, we are called upon to go to that person who hurt us, and talk to them. Let them know that we are hurt. Explain why we fell like we do (not in a way that we attack them and hurt them, that is just as wrong), and then we give them a chance to apologize. Will they or won't they? You don't know. That isn't for you to worry about. If you don't give them a chance, you will never know. And if they do, then forgive them! Yes, forgive them. (That means you let it go, remove it from between you and NEVER bring it back up. Ouch! That is the hard part, isn't it?) If they don't apologize, you have reached out as the Lord has guided you to do. Perhaps you should let them know that they need to consider their actions before God. (Don't go saying, "You are going to be damned for not apologizing! You are going to hell for that!") Then you leave that between them and God. You are not God. You are not the Judge. You are not the one in charge. Remember that!

Too many times we hold onto things and don't talk to the right people. Oh, we talk about it all right. We go to those that we know will agree with us, with our point of view, and we tear the other person down. How unfair is that? It might be easy. It might be a way to avoid confrontation, but it is still wrong, a sin, not acting as God would have us act. Man, this is getting harder to read (also harder to write!). Why does the Spirit have to speak to me in this way? Because that is how He wants it. He wants Christians to leave together in true peace - found only in Jesus Christ, in the life He gives, in the love we are to follow, in the forgiveness that is bestowed upon me and upon each other.

Summer storms are coming - again. They always do. Storms are going to happen in your life. When they do, how will you react? In the love of Christ? Or in the selfish, self-centered, sinful way of the world?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sitting on the dock in the bay

What does that have to do with anything? I was thinking about what to write about here today. I began to think about how much I like sitting on the porch. Penny and I bought some nice outdoor furniture for the porch and every morning, I get up with the sun, go out on the porch with my devotion book, Bible and another book to read and enjoy the morning. I am sitting on the porch by the road/church/where ever you want to call it. And as I sit there, I begin to draw closer to the Lord.

That was something I missed during the rest of the year. In the winter, it is too cold to sit on the porch in the morning. It also isn't light until around the time to begin to head to school. In the spring, there is a chill in the air meaning that I need to wear a coat to sit on the porch (which seems just silly to me). In the fall, the mornings are cool too, though they are beautiful mornings. Plus I am to get ready for school and don't have the time to just sit there communing with the Lord.

And that is what the mornings mean for me - communing with the Lord. I enjoy sitting on the porch, talking with the Lord about what is going on in my life, in the life of my family and in the life of the church. You all know about the face pace of life. When you start the day, the day just gets going faster and faster until you finally collapse in bed at night, dreading the sound of the alarm clock because you know that tomorrow will be no different. My days are like that - except at this moment of time, when I get up, sit on the porch, listen to the voice of God and let the world rush on without me. I know I will join with others soon enough, but at that moment, till the family starts to get up and the office beckons to me, I am at peace with my Lord.

I have been reading 2 Kings right now. A sad history - for even when the king followed the Lord, didn't follow in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat in leaving the way of the Lord behind, they still left the high places for people to go and offer sacrifices. It is like the Christian today who says, "I love the Lord, I follow the Lord. If someone wants to go to the "gentleman's club" [what a stupid name, as no gentleman would be caught in a lowlife strip club that exploits women and destroys the beauty of sexuality as God has given to marriage] that is their choice. It doesn't affect (or is it effect?) me. I don't support it. I don't agree to it. " I imagine that that is what the king and others in Israel and Judah said. When the Lord sent the Assyrians to destroy Israel, I can hear them saying, "But I didn't offer any sacrifices to Molech or Asherah." And the Lord would respond, "But you also did nothing to stop it."

Wow! Did I just say that? Is it possible that we Christians are sinning by doing nothing to stop the sins of the nation? Are we just as guilty by sins of omission as those who are guilty of sins of commission? The answer is, "Yes." When the Lord brings judgments upon the nation for its sins, the Christians will be part of that judgment. The Lord will not allow Christians to get off scot free. As the faithful in Israel and Judah went into captivity, they learned that lesson. As Christians lose their savings to the crash of the market, as the nation faces collapse of state governments due to lack of funds, as the oil comes on shore in the gulf, Christians will face the same issues as the non-Christian.

So what do we do? At this moment, I don't have an answer to that. I do know that we are to stand firm in the faith. That we are supposed to work to make a difference in this society. We are to be "light" shining in the world for all to see. I need to think about this even more just to get my mind around it. Sigh, all right Lord, as I sit on the porch the next time, talk with me. Give me some guidance so that I might be able to make a difference in this world for the lives of others. And while I am at it, forgive me for my sins of omission.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What have you against me?

I was sitting in church this last Sunday, listening to the sermon (I didn't have to preach. The Field Work student was preaching the sermon.) and got to thinking about a part of the Old Testament lesson. It came from 1 Kings 17. The text he was using was from Luke but he brought in the OT lesson. Anyway, I was listening to the sermon and there was a verse from I Kings that struck me interesting.

"After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!" (1Kings17:17-18 ESV) This is part of the time that Elijah is spending with the widow of Zarephath. She is the one who made cakes of bread for them each day, having only just enough flour and oil, only to find that the next day, there was flour and oil in the containers. God was providing for their physical need of food. It was quite the miracle. It would be pretty neat to have that happen. Whenever I am running low on something and yet it doesn't quite run out, I think of this account. But in the end, it does always run out. The Lord made it to where it never ran out, as long as Elijah was staying with her.

What a blessing to have a man of God staying with a widow woman. It was a time of great spiritual happenings and she was a part of it. Ever wished you could be a part of such a great spiritual occurrence? It must have been amazing. That first day, she baked and figured it was over. The next day, she looked and saw she had flour and oil again. Maybe she just thought that she hadn't emptied it out good. The 3rd day, it would be kinda weird. The 4th day you would stay up all night watching to see if Elijah came down and filled it. The 5th day you would think that you must have fallen asleep and missed Elijah. By the 6th day you might start believing that a miracle is taking place. After a whole week, you would be convinced that a man of God was in your midst.

But then, would you start taking it for granted? Would you just "expect" that there would be oil and flour? Would you begin to forget to thank the Lord for such a blessing? Would you figure that you really did deserve to have this happen since you were helping out Elijah? Would you think it was because you were such a wonderful person, so giving and caring?

Hold on, that sounds like you and me. God does wondrous things in our midst (caring for us daily, giving us the job, the house, the car, the clothes, the food, the stuff of life) and we begin to take them for granted. After a while, we think we deserve such things. Of course God is going to give me all I have - I am such a good person. I go to work (grumbling all the way but I still go). I attend worship every week (which means I am a good person who deserves the blessings from God for I endure those sermons that seem to ramble from one place to another, AND the service lasts longer than 1 hour!). I put an offering in the plate (maybe not firstfruits but it is something at least). So God should give me all I have. We forget that what we have is a blessing from God, not something we deserve or something we can demand. Anyway, I digress.

As I was sitting there listening to the sermon, that verse about her son dieing struck me. Here response was a vintage response that so many of us have when something happens. The widow blames Elijah for the death of her son. How often do we just flat out blame God for something happening in our lives. "God, I was doing what you wanted. Why did You do this to me?" The loss of a job is blamed on God instead of on the poor economy or the fact that I really didn't work that hard to keep the job. The break up of a marriage is blamed on God instead of on the fact that i just didn't work that hard to keep the marriage alive and well. The sickness (cancer, heart) is blamed on God instead of seeing it as a result of a fallen, sinful body that is actually dieing the moment it is born.

Why God? Why would you do this to me when I am really a pretty good person, living a pretty good life, doing pretty good things? That becomes the question we ask of God.

The answer is - those things happen just because. The woman actually answers the question herself - "You have come to bring my sin to remembrance..." That is the root of all our problems - sin. Our sin, original and actual sin, bring these things upon us just as the sin of her son brought about his death. That is reality. Sin destroys all that is good. Sin crushes life. Sin robs us of joy.

So what do we do? Nothing. God does it all. Just as the young man didn't give himself new life, God did, so it is in our lives. Sin robs, God blesses. Sin kills, God gives life. God brings new life to us through His Son Jesus Christ. That is why we return to Him over and over again. Only in Christ is life and hope found. Only in Christ is true joy returned to us. Only in Christ is there any rays of sunshine.

All that ran through my mind in a few brief moments as I listened to the sermon. I found myself thanking God for sending His Son into the world for me, to take my sins and to give me - everything. Thanks God!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pitting Cherries

This last Saturday, my son went to the neighbors and picked a couple pails of cherries. Yum! The thought of a nice fresh cherry pie was in my mind (and I am sure was in his mind). We stopped by to see how things were going, picked some cherries, visited with the neighbors and headed home. I didn't have to preached the weekend services as our field worker from the Seminary was going to give the sermon. So I didn't have the weight of preparing to preach on my shoulders. It gave me some extra time. Being the nice husband that I am (with ulterior motives of a cherry pie), I volunteered to pit the cherries.

Pitting cherries is a challenge, especially when you do it by hand. I am sure that someone has designed a cherry pitter that makes like easier (and it probably only costs $19.95, but if you act now, they will include the special strawberry stemmer at no additional cost. But you must act now!). Even if there is, we don't own one. So there I stood at the sink in the kitchen, listening to the radio, pitting cherries, looking out the window, and wondering, "Is there any way to get this done any faster?" The sink was full of cherries and I felt like I had been standing there forever. Time ticked away, the cherries still lay in the sink laughing at my audacity to think I could quickly pit two pails of cherries. "Come on," I thought, "I should be closer to be done than that!" One cherry at a time, I would remove the pit, toss it into the bucket and put the pitted cherry in another. 5 minutes become 15, which became a half hour, which became 45 minutes.

Somewhere around the 1/2 hour mark (or maybe later), I felt the familiar tug of the Holy Spirit. He was saying to me, "Are you listening?" To which I responded, "Huh?" I could sense Him shaking His head and saying, "There is a lesson here." Being the sharp minded person I am, I replied, "What lesson? The lesson of 'don't pick so many cherries next time'?" I could feel the breath of the Spirit on my neck as He sighed. "No, much deeper." Then He opened my mind.

"WOW!" was all I could say. There was a lesson in pitting cherries. What was it? Nothing comes in an instant. We live in a society that wants everything to come instantly and easily. "Lose 10 pounds in 1 week, without ever having to change your eating habits!" "Learn a foreign language with only 10 minutes a day." And the list of ads could go on. Instant meals, instant relationships (just check e-harmony and find the love of you life, and if you don't find him/her in 6 months, they will give you another 6 months free! What a deal!), instant language, instant income/wealth, instant health, and instant spirituality.

Satan has trapped us into thinking that we can have instant spirituality, instant growth in faith, instant everything we want, and when we don't get it in the instant that we want it, that means that God is not good, loving and right. That means we need to turn to something or someone else other than the true God. Take a look at the god of the Mormons or the god of Islam or the god of your neighbor who just happens to have no god at all. His life is wonderful. Your life is a shambles. He drives the new car, you drive the 5 year old van that needs new brakes. He grills steaks, you eat mac and cheese with the kids. His life is perfect without God, your life is a struggle with God. Satan taunts. He puts thoughts before us that we should instantly have a deep spiritual relationship with God and when we don't, then He is wrong and we need to ditch Him.

But wait a minute. What is the problem in this picture? We want a deep relationship with God and not have to commit ourselves to Him, to follow Him, to dig deeply into His Word, to spend the time needed to grow in faith in Him. We want it instantly and it doesn't work that way. Yes, salvation comes in an instant. At the moment that the Holy Spirit works that saving faith in our hearts, we are saved. Instantly. Hurrah! Go Holy Spirit!

Then comes the long, more difficult part of the life of faith. It is called living each day. To grow in that deep relationship with Christ Jesus takes commitment on our part. It takes work. Study of the Word, daily spending time with that precious gift that we have been given. (You can't really learn a language fully without spending time with it. Why do we think we can learn our faith fully without spending time in the Word?) Being fed from Word and Sacrament strengthens our faith, guides us in our walk of faith and deepens our relationship with our Lord. Try to skip study of the Word, and your faith will remain weak. You will wonder why you don't have that deep relationship with Him. And the reason is because you have tried to have an instant "deep" relationship. You can pop an instant meal into the microwave and when it is done, you have an instant meal. It will sustain you. But it won't be like the meal that your mom cooked when you were growing up. Do you wonder why? It is because the meal your mom cooked took time, effort and commitment on her part. A deep relationship with Christ is the same way.

Pitting those cherries, sighing in frustration as it took so long, I realized, all too often that is how I am in my life. I want to have things instantly. I learned that is how I am in my relationship with Christ, I want to have a deep relationship instantly. I learned all over again, if you want to have a yummy cherry pie, someone has to take the time to pit the cherries and make the pie. So it is in my life of faith.