Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow, Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Good Tradition, Bad Tradition” (Mark 7:1-13)

22Aug/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Traditions are important and every one of us have them. What are your traditions? They give shape to your life. These traditions fill your life and your life reflects your traditions. But what we have to keep in mind is that not all traditions are created equal. Some are great traditions, others not so good.
In our Gospel tomorrow morning we have the opportunity to look at tradition and traditions. We have a chance to see which ones serve our relationship with God in powerful ways and which ones actually stand in the way of our walk with the Lord and our ability to experience His blessing and healing. Some traditions are marked by grace. Some are marked by rebellion...some establish our new identity in Christ; others build shame and guilt. All of this means that we ought not underestimate traditions.
In addition, we will receive the tradition that is God's tradition handed down to us to keep us alive in the Lord Jesus Christ...in fact more than that; we will receive the holy tradition of the Holy Supper which makes our "cup overflow" when we receive His cup...His cup of life that has no end. This is a tradition we eagerly keep and with great joy! It is the tradition of the reception of overflowing life!
We will also offer Bible Study and Sunday School. Let us gather around the Word of Christ and continue to be equipped for our daily walk...in our holy tradition of faith in Jesus Christ!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow August 16th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Wisdom!” (Proverbs 9:1-10)

15Aug/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I'd like to thank you for your prayers, love and support while my family enjoyed a blessed vacation. On Sunday, July 26th we worshipped at Lutheran Church of the Messiah (LCMS) in Grand Junction, CO and then on Sundays, August 2nd and 9th we worshipped at Epiphany Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Castle Rock, CO. On the way back, we stopped by Trinity Lutheran Church & School in Pueblo, CO to visit Rosemary Hilton (who is still a member of our congregation) who is the new 4th grade teacher at their Lutheran School! I had the privilege of blessing her classroom and praying for a great coming school year for Rosemary in 2015-2016 at Trinity, Pueblo, CO.
For our Divine Service tomorrow we will receive God's Word proclaimed based on our Old Testament lesson and God's Word on WISDOM from Proverbs 9:1-10.
We will receive the Blessed Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and the wonderful assurance of God's peace and salvation.
The adult Bible Study will continue to venture through 1st John and the high school study will present part 1 on Bible Difficulties & Seeming Contradictions.
Come and be fed and nourished with the Word and Sacrament. May your faith in Jesus Christ be fortified and renewed in the services being offered tomorrow at Saint Paul's!
In Your Service & To Christ's Glory,
Pastor Espinosa

July 26th, August 2nd and August 9th at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine

20Jul/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are extraordinarily blessed to have the Rev. Dr. Steven P. Mueller serve as co-pastor here at Saint Paul's. He is one of the finest teachers in The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and he will proclaim the Lord's Law and Gospel during the three Sundays listed above. In addition, he will be conducting a Bible Study on 1st John.

May the Lord bless you this summer as you abide in the Word of Christ!

In Jesus' Love,

Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday July 19th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “God’s Building Plan: The Foundation of Apostles, Prophets, and Christ the Cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20)

18Jul/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We live in world marked by division and in many ways this fact is just down-right discouraging. The Good News, however, includes that fact that Christ's victory over our sin and death has made us members of the household of God. We know a true unity over and above all division. What is more, the basis for this unity is made brilliantly clear in the Word of God: "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone." (Eph. 2:20) Our foundation is the Lord's Word and Sacraments. This is what the Lord works through to keep you in His "country" and in His "house." Thank God!
Tomorrow we will also receive the precious and healing body and blood of our Savior which keeps us in the forgiveness of sins.
In addition, two special announcements:
1. Tomorrow we have as our guest organist our probable new organist. His name is Jerry Dahlin. Please join me in welcoming Jerry. Personally, I really like our brother in Christ, Jerry. He is a long-time Lutheran Christian. One can see his love for Christ and his love for the family of God. Pray for him. He will probably be a little nervous. I would appreciate your feedback on his playing.
2. This past week we had a wonderful time with eight (8) of our youth who attended Higher Things at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV). It was a fantastic conference, full of learning and growing in the Word; full of Lutheran worship: Matins, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline...all of these framed by Divine Services with Holy Communion. In between the worship and the fun free time were several break-out sessions taught by many teachers. My session was presented two times on two different days and were very well attended. I will present this very session for Bible Study tomorrow entitled: "Angels and Demons." I hope you'll attend this study tomorrow after worship.
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday July 12th 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “He Predestined Us” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

11Jul/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Predestination is one of the most challenging teachings in the Word of God and many are uncertain about why God presents it in Holy Scripture.
During this Pentecost season the Lord reveals this teaching as a source of great comfort. It is the basis for the Christian living in confidence about their salvation. What a great blessing!
Tomorrow we will also give thanks for the many blessings that flowed from our 5-day Vacation Bible School this past week AND we will bless the twelve (12) representatives of our congregation attending the Higher Things conference in Nevada this coming week.
Most importantly, we will receive the life-giving body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Also -- for Bible Study after worship -- we will have presented part 2 of the two-part presentation on Christian Apologetics by Professor Mark Pierson. Many of you told me how much you enjoyed his first presentation last week on the reliability of Scripture. Tomorrow, he continues with evidence for the resurrection of our Lord.

Let us rejoice for how the Lord keeps us steadfast in His life-giving Word.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“He Predestined Us”

(Ephesians 1:3-14)

Pastor Espinosa

(pastor originally preached the bulk of this sermon on July 15th, 2012 and the topic continues to be a very important one for our peace & confidence)

 

Introduction: Election or pre-destination is the article of the Christian faith that so many people just don’t want to talk about...

  1. Well, why not? For one because it is riddled with confusion:
  2. Election is often confused with God’s foreknowledge.
  3. Now it is absolutely true that the LORD knows everything in advance. That’s foreknowledge.
  4. This, however, does not mean that the LORD causes everything in advance. The LORD absolutely did not cause Adam and Eve to sin against Him! There are many things that the LORD does not cause, simply because He has nothing to do with tempting someone into sin and evil.

James 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

  1. And since the LORD dear Christian cannot tempt anyone to sin; He most certainly does not CAUSE anyone to sin!
  2. Again, knowing and causing are two different categories.
  3. For example, you know that the sun (most likely) is going to rise tomorrow. This knowledge, however in no way, shape or form means that you will be responsible for the sun rising!
  4. Let’s use another example of knowledge and causation but this time instead of going forward into time, we’ll go backward. You may know that our congregation just finished offering its fourth annual Vacation Bible School at Crystal Cove State Beach this past week. If you didn’t know it before, you know it now, but the fact that we know this now in no way means that your current knowledge of last week’s VBS caused last week’s VBS. Some of you may even have forgotten about VBS this past week, but isn’t it good to know that you’re forgetting about something does not cause that thing to cease to exist! Your forgetting did not cause VBS to be canceled!
  5. Election and Foreknowledge are two different things.
  6. What’s the big deal about keeping this straight?
  7. Answer: If we merge them, then we would be saying this: “Because God knows who is going to heaven and hell, therefore, God elects or CAUSES some people to go to heaven and for some people to go to hell.”
  8. To be clear, to merge the two ideas – which are Scripturally and even logically distinct – is to accuse God of electing people to go to hell. Even Calvin called this teaching God’s “terrible decree!” You can say that again!
  9. I had a former parishioner who was absolutely wonderful in her worship attendance; she was so amazingly supportive of the ministry, and very active in the women’s group. I just didn’t understand why trying to get her to come to Bible Study was like pulling teeth. She just would never come to Bible Study and then one day I discovered why. First of all, I learned that she HAD once regularly and faithfully attended Bible Study, but one day all of that stopped! The last Bible Study she had attended – before I was finally able to address her concern – was a Bible Study on election. And guess what the former pastor had managed to do? Unfortunately, the pastor confused the teaching and as a result frightened this member of the congregation to no end.

 

Part I: But in our sin we lean towards qualifying the Gospel of Jesus Christ (that pastor wasn’t the only one who has made that mistake), and this manifests in ways in which we just hurt ourselves. In our sin which raises doubts about whether or not God is for us, we can easily fill ourselves with doubts, fears, and anxieties. In this way we attack ourselves! We turn against ourselves!

 

  1. I have developed a growing understanding and concern about auto-immune diseases. They are diseases in which the body attacks itself. It includes things like multiple schlerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other serious conditions.
  2. In a fallen world, we attack ourselves.
  3. And one of the chief ways that we do is to wonder in unbelief whether or not we are destined not for the best, but for the worst. In this way, many people do not live in hope, but live in fear and dread. And it’s no wonder why so many people run from God.
  4. The situation is exacerbated as the New Atheism not only rejects God, but is actively seeking to convert Christians to become atheists. That is, it is not at all unusual for someone to go through a genuine faith crisis (having doubts about their salvation), but then while being tempted to run away are then – at the same time – tempted to join a false worldview. Our children are actively going out into a world in which the world is actively trying to get them to lose their faith...and if it happens, it usually happens in college. This is but one of the reasons why you should consider a good Christian University, and we all know of a really good one close by here called “Concordia University”! Watch out! Equip your kids...teach them, train them, the time is NOW and not sometime in the distant future.
  5. But we need to understand that many atheists do not hold their position on account of philosophical arguments – though some do – but many of them hold their position against God because they cannot live with the thought (no matter how erroneous it may be) that they must be condemned...believing that they have no hope, so why hope at all...why not just deny God?
  6. This is something in our sinful nature that we all do...we play the avoidance game...since I do not understand how to pray, I avoid praying; since I do not understand how to read Scripture, I avoid Scripture; since I do not understand worship, I avoid Church; since I fear that God may elect me to condemnation and a curse because I do not understand election, I avoid God. This happens all of the time.

[Please come to hear the saving Gospel applied in what comes next in the sermon...you may also access the entire sermon next week via our audio option under "sermons" here at our website]

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday July 5th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Familiarity Breeds Contempt?” (Mark 6:1-6)

4Jul/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Let us pray this Independence Day that the Lord would bless our great nation. We have so much to be thankful for and God's people live in constant thanksgiving.
Tomorrow is the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost and we will focus on the Gospel for the day from Mark 6:1-13, providing the occasion for the sermon tomorrow: "Familiarity Breeds Contempt?"
It is of course a very timely text. Many hold our Lord and our faith in contempt, but what is so amazing about the Lord is that He is not offended by those who take offense at Him. He continues to pour out love and mercy even when He is rejected. Thank God, it means that all of us sinners still have forgiveness; we are still given God's grace.
We will of course also receive the Holy Sacrament tomorrow! Come and receive the medicine of immortality!
In addition, we have a special guest teacher for Bible Study (we are combining the adult and high school classes). Professor Rev. Mark A. Pierson will present on the reliability of Scripture (the historical argument) for Christianity. Come and be equipped in defending the faith! Prof. Pierson is a contributing author to Making the Case for Christianity.
I hope to see you God's house tomorrow morning! Today we celebrate political freedom, but tomorrow morning we will emphasize the freedom from condemnation and the freedom to eternal life in and through the Lord Jesus Christ!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday June 28th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Grace Upon Grace Upon Grace” (2nd Corinthians 8:1-9)

27Jun/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School will be cancelled tomorrow due to our special fellowship event: we are saying farewell and Godspeed to our organist/choir-director for these past 4 years, Karissa Lystrup, who has been a phenomenal blessing to us at Saint Paul's! She will be missed! 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Christians,

The season of Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us, the people of God. The life that He creates in us is a life that knows the grace of God in super-abundance!
"Grace" = God's FREE gift of love and mercy!
Some have suggested an acronym to better understand the meaning of "grace":
God's
Riches
At
Christ's
Expense
In 2nd Corinthians 8:1-9, however, the grace of God is not ONLY described as coming from God to us, but ALSO as coming from His people -- all of you -- towards other people! This section of God's Word is packed with grace!
Come and hear about this transforming work of God in our lives, esp. as it pertains to the outpouring of help to those in need through the people of God...all of YOU!
We will also receive the body and blood of our Savior to keep us in God's gift of new and eternal life!
ALSO: we will have many additional celebrations!
Tomorrow we will celebrate a baptism (for Braydon Kaupke) and a confirmation (for Karissa Lystrup).
In addition, we will conduct a service of Farewell and Godspeed for our dear Karissa! Afterwards, we will enjoy fellowship as God's family as we thank Karissa for her wonderful service these past 4 years and wish her well as she prepares to start serving full-time at St. John's Lutheran Church in Bakersfield, CA.
Hope to see you God's house tomorrow morning!
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

Not only was St. Paul the tireless apostles to the Gentiles, but he was also amazing in another ministry: the collection of money for the poor, especially the poor in the sacred city of Jerusalem, for the converted Jews who were especially ostracized and persecuted. So what does St. Paul do? He encouraged the Christians in Corinth to give to the church in Jerusalem and he does so by informing them about the example of the Christians in Macedonia, the region that included the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. But their testimony is absolutely staggering and most likely humbling for every one of us here this morning: the churches in Macedonia were not wealthy. They were in fact very poor.

 

St. Paul says that the Christians in Macedonia went through “the most severe trial.” (verse 2) We may conjecture that “the most severe trial” was produced by virtue of two main things: 1) The Romans in the process of making it one of their provinces in 146 B.C. discovered gold and silver and had no loss of conscience in taking it from the natives, essentially looting their once great wealth; and 2) Civil wars which decided who would be emperor were fought there and Macedonia had been devastated.

 

And yet, the Word of God goes on to record something absolutely astounding about these poor and ravaged Macedonians: though they were very poor, St. Paul says this at verse 2:

 

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

 

This is such an incredible statement if for no other reason than because it appears nonsensical. How on earth does rich generosity come out of extreme poverty? That sounds like getting water out of a dry well.

Here ends the excerpt. Please come tomorrow and hear the full sermon. God's grace works beyond our limitations; God's grace connects us to Jesus and His is an endless supply!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday June 21st at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Getting Back to the ONE Who is in Control!” (Mark 4:35-41)

20Jun/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the midst of terrible storms in life, sometimes it seems like the Lord is sleeping. In our text for tomorrow, the disciples were very alarmed and afraid having felt compelled to ask the Lord, "[Lord] don't you care?!" (Mark 4:38)
What do we do when we feel like the Lord has stepped out at the precise time that we need Him? Tomorrow's sermon addresses this important feeling and perception that sometimes we just conveniently avoid ever talking about.
The Gospel will come out even in the midst of this difficult perception!
Tomorrow we will also remember Father's Day through both the Children's Message and through the Prayers of the Church.
Most importantly, we will once again receive the body and blood of our Lord for the forgiveness of sins.
Finally, I want to share what our synodical president Matthew Harrison has written regarding the terrible tragedy of this past week. Please read it:
President Harrison offers words of comfort,
hope regarding South Carolina shootings
 
Another brutal and senseless killing spree by a crazed gunman, motivated by racial hatred, sends our thoughts swirling between despair and numbness. Why were these nine Christians martyred as they were taking in the life-giving Word of God in Christian Bible study? We know and are too often reminded that there is horrid evil in this world, and an “evil one” who bedevils the minds of such killers. Jesus said it would be so (John 17:15).As the world devolves around us from insanity to insanity, I’m reminded of the statement of John Adams that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the Second Amendment. As both religion and morality are on steep decline among us, we can only expect more of this insanity by individuals unhinged from the safety of families and a society normed by natural law and influenced by the genuine teaching of the Bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

No truth of the New Testament is so loudly stated by Jesus than that the Triune God is the creator of all people (Matt. 19:4); that God loves all (John 3:16); that all are equally indebted to God and valuable to Him (2 Cor. 5:14–15; John 8:12). Racism is a fundamental denial of the Word of God (cf. Acts 2:5ff.; Matt. 15:21ff.) and natural law. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Declaration of Independence). The denial of human rights, maltreatment of persons due to race, including the forbidding of the right for a man and a woman to marry without regard to race, is contrary to natural and divinely revealed law (Holy Scripture). It also contradicts the universality of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, who died for all (Romans 3:9–10, 19; 2 Cor. 5:19).

We mourn the loss of these dear Christians and pray for their loved ones. May they be consoled by “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” and the picture of heaven painted by St. John in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

We reject racism and racially motivated hatred in all its forms. We repent where we have fallen short, and we pray for strength to stand for what is good and right and true. We pray for the perpetrator and his family, even as we demand the swift execution of justice.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday June 14th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Lord Makes the Dry Flourish” (Ezekiel 17:22-24)

13Jun/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What does a sprig, Zedekiah, the U.S. Supreme Court, Hermann Sasse, Miley Cyrus, and Caitlyn Jenner all have in common?
Answer: These are all in tomorrow's sermon!
Come and receive the saving Word of Jesus!
Also Jesus said, "Do this" regarding His Holy Supper. Guess what else you'll receive if you come? Yes indeed, Holy Communion as God says, "for the forgiveness of sins."
Dr. Mueller will be teaching the adult Bible Study and I will be teaching the high school study.
Hope to see you in God's house!
Here is a portion of the sermon:

The Lord Makes the Dry Flourish

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Pastor Espinosa

 

Text: 22Thus says the Lord God: ‘I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the top-most of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. You don’t hear the word “sprig” every day, but this is how our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel begins. The Lord takes a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar. The sprig is the topmost crown of a special shoot or tender branch of a tree (Block, Daniel I., The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997: 550) – full of life – and because it is at the very top it represents the head and in this case it represents the coming Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

Here is a picture of a sprig and imagine it in your mind’s eye coming out on the very top of a cedar tree:

 

 

Other Old Testament prophets in addition to Ezekiel used this kind of imagery for the coming Lord. Isaiah described a “shoot” or “branch” in Isaiah 11:1. Jeremiah refers to a “sprout” in Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15. And Zechariah does the same at Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.

 

So what is this picture language all about? It’s fantastically relevant and significant.  This is because of what God’s people – the nation of Israel – had become and had been reduced too. No longer were they strong as God’s nation, but were now in captivity. They were not as a green, living, strong, and healthy branch, but they were defeated and dry like this:

 

 

 

This picture is a picture of dry and dead cedars. How did this happen? The dryness came over Israel because she was unfaithful to the Lord. While the imagery in Ezekiel chapter 17 is intriguing and informative, it is the imagery in Ezekiel chapter 16 that is really disturbing. There in chapter 16 Israel is a faithless bride. Her shame is that she became a prostitute. It is a shameful and defeating picture of what happened to the people of God.

 

God’s people had a king named Zedekiah who tried to be independent of Babylon when the Lord permitted Babylon to be in power. Zedekiah was ambitious and was not humble. His ambition was doomed to fail and it did.  One commentator explains: “The barefaced way in which Zedekiah broke his oath...is a clear example of how men refuse to conform to God’s decisions, and of how, while breaking laws sanctified by God himself, they strive by false and faithless methods of their own...”. (Eichrodt, Walther, The Old Testament Library: Ezekiel, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970: 230)

We are like Zedekiah and want to be our own kings, call our own shots and depart from the ways of the Lord. In our sin we want to be our own authority while rejecting God’s authority. In our sin, we are the “barefaced” ones who don’t mind not conforming to the Creator’s decisions and will. Our pride and ambition also lead us to a state of dryness, because sinners apart from the Author of Life cannot water themselves.

 

But Ezekiel went on to prophesy in verse 24: “And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” And all of this played out in history: King Zedekiah was the high tree made low, and the lowly king Jehoiachin who was languishing in captivity in Babylon would be made high. His line would live! His line would be restored to the throne of Israel and there would be a Son who would be elevated to the status of King of Kings and Lord of Lords even the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

And this work benefits “every bird” (23) and “all the trees”...that is, all the world, all the world full of sinners. And this Savior planted to save us from our sin will be the shelter for all people! All who take refuge in this One find shelter under this perfect cedar of life. “The nations will either bow in sincere faith or break in humiliation (cf Php 2:10-11)...Christ and the sinner changing places...so that none may boast but confess that it was all pure grace (cf Lk 1:46-55; 1 Co 1-2).” (The Lutheran Study Bible, 1337)

It must be out of pure grace, because notice who does all the work: when we are dry, helpless, and without strength, hear the grace: The Lord says, “I myself will take the sprig...and will set it out,” (22); “I myself will plant it,” (22); “I will bring low the high tree,” (24); “[I will] make high the low tree,” (24); “[I will] dry up the green tree,” (24); “[I will] make the dry tree flourish,” (24); and finally the words – so clear, so powerful – “I will do it.” (24) This is grace, the work of God and why you are saved. In this saving work for you God has guaranteed you that you will live in the eternal Zion that is on the highest mountain; that is the city of God is your eternal city by grace through faith in Jesus!

 

How important is this Old Testament message to us today? Can we properly value it? It is invaluable! “What might seem unlikely to happen on the human plane was guaranteed by God’s pledge. In fact, the humiliating destruction...in fulfillment of his word, brought its own confirmation of his providential power to restore and glorify.” (Leslie Allen, Word Biblical Commentary: Ezekiel 1-19, Volume 28, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994: 261)

 

And this is the real lesson: it is realizing through faith what God does when things appear hopeless and unlikely. But the Lord says in our epistle through St. Paul describing all of you the people of God: “[you] walk by faith, not by sight.” (2nd Corinthians 5:7) And from our Gospel from St. Mark chapter 4: “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth.” (v 31) It seems so small, so low, so unlikely to produce anything. And yet: “when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (v 32)

 

But when we start off seeing dry branches (even dead branches) like in Ezekiel; when we see only the body that dies/the tent that is destroyed like from our epistle; or when we see meager and tiny resources like in the case of the unimpressive mustard seed, how can we hope? What is there to realistically expect?

 

This is what confronts us right? How often does this happen? Listen to the chorus of despairing Christians. Listen to how far gone our country is! And in a way this is good, because the Lord does not call you to trust in man or a country, or any human resource...but to trust only in Him, but on the other hand, how we are trained on what we see. Like Israel when all they saw was a dead cedar and dead branches. It is easy to feel distress.

 

The dryness can quite simply seem overwhelming at times. What will happen to us in our country? Recently, one of the most successful young entertainers in our country, Miley Cyrus was interviewed about her views on sexuality. She was emphatic that she relates to neither boy nor girl. Her position was a bold denial of the idea of gender altogether. Think about it. Could there be a greater rejection of God’s creation? She spoke of the way she was raised by “conservative” parents; parents who did not want her to “go to hell,” but – however – at the end of the day loved her more than “any god.” In her words was her own rejection of any god, (and esp. by implication, the true God). And millions purchase her music and admire her. What has happened to our culture?

 

Our LC-MS president Matthew Harrison recently sent out a letter to the pastors of our church. He asked us to pray and to begin to prepare for what might come out of the Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage in America. In that letter he quoted Hermann Sasse from his work  Union and Confession, 1936:

 

The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. The most powerful nations of the world have been laid waste because of their lies. History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed upon in a sea of lies. Where this happens, as in the case of declining pagan antiquity, religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society – in short, one sphere of life after another falls sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man denies that he and others are dying, the terrible dissolution [of his culture] is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance, the likes of which has never been experienced.

 

            It is like Zedekiah who could not accept God’s established structure. Such rebellion leads to destruction. The great cedar turns dry. The nation turns to death as its god. The news is not good.

Come hear the Gospel!

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday June 7th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “All Sins Forgiven: This Is the Gospel” (Mark 3:20-35)

6Jun/15Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study for adults, high school, and Sunday School for junior youth and little children starts at 11:00 am. 

Location: Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine: 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618

Directions: Exit Sand Canyon from the 405 or 5, head East towards the hills, cross Irvine Blvd., turn right on Saint's Way (this will put you on the campus of Crean Lutheran High School...we worship in the event center/gym)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are thoroughly into the season of Pentecost now. Tomorrow's Gospel from Mark 3:20-35 teaches us about the necessary ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring the saving Gospel to us. Without Him, there is no saving faith. When the Gospel comes the Holy Spirit makes the words of Christ, "all sins will be forgiven the children of men" (v 28) become words that give us life, that sooth the soul, that bring peace to our consciences attacked by accusation from sin and the evil one. We need this Gospel. We need it so much that this is why Jesus extends one of the most alarming warnings in all of Scripture. Tomorrow you will learn about this warning and learn about how God protects you.
Also, come and receive the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Come and receive His true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Remember the words of our Lord Christians: "Do this in remembrance of me." He commands us to "do this" and then extends a gracious promise to you who receive the gift: the forgiveness of sins.
The skeptic says, "why do we need constant forgiveness?" A 16-year old confirmand in our congregation answered this question this past week when I asked her. The answer: "Because we always sin!" This is the answer. We are forgiven by virtue of the complete work of Christ and we remain in forgiveness through the ongoing work of Christ. God knows what He is doing. We should trust Him and we should come as He has commanded. We should come for His great promise.
Pastor Mueller and I rejoice to serve you dear Christians.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

All Sins Forgiven: This Is the Gospel

Mark 3:20-35

Pastor Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. When the power of the Gospel shines brightly, people standing on the outside looking in, think something must be wrong. There our Lord was: proclaiming the Gospel, teaching the crowds. His family figured that something was amiss. Our Gospel text at Mark 3:21 says that Jesus’ family “went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” John 7:5 says curtly, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” But if you listened to His message, it sounded scandalous. The Gospel preached in its truth and purity doesn’t fit human reason:

 

  1. How can we be forgiven without some sort of contribution?
  2. How can we be forgiven when our sin is so horrendously terrible?

 

The first objection to the Gospel insists that the Gospel

must succumb to the rule of life that we learn from a very young age: “nothing is free.” We swear on this principle of every-day experience. If we are to receive a promotion at work, we must work harder; if we are to receive better grades at school, we must work harder; if we are to nurture our intimacy in marriage, we must work harder; if we are to impress that boy or girl at school, we must work harder; if we are to improve athletically or artistically (as we pursue our various passions), we must work harder; if we would develop our prayer lives, we must pray more often; if we are going to trim down and lose some weight, we must work harder. The axiomatic principle has to qualify the Gospel right?! This is our deep-seated suspicion and even though we hear it preached to the contrary -- though there are many so-called “Christian churches” that do not -- we often sub-consciously qualify the Gospel:

 

  1. I suspect that the forgiveness of sins means the Gospel + my efforts to be better father, mother, or child.
  2. I suspect that the forgiveness of sins means the Gospel + my ability to love and forgive.
  3. I suspect that the forgiveness of sins means the Gospel + improved attitude toward the Word of God, worship and a life of prayer.
  4. I suspect that the forgiveness of sins means the Gospel + my ability to overcome my addiction.
  5. I suspect that the forgiveness of sins means the Gospel + the overcoming of my fears and doubts.

 

Some way, somehow – we insist that though we say Christ’s forgiveness to us is a free gift – we live as though this just can’t be right. It is as one gentleman once said to me after I shared the Gospel with him: “It sounds too good to be true.”

 

How does this situation strike you? Are you tempted to think that this is “just the way it is”? Did you know Christian that this way of thinking is not an arbitrary thing? This is not just the way “it happens to be.” You know what propaganda is about; you’ve heard of the concept of “brain-washing,” and you have certainly heard about the power of subliminal messages. The realm of psychology and the way in which the media employs strategies for selling represent compelling reasons as to why people spend their money. I had jobs as a salesman when I was 18 years old. I sold Kirby Vacuum Cleaners and then I sold various electronics at Radio Shack. We had training in sales (and I am not implying that all companies or all sales personnel do what we did or what I did). We were trained to lead people to imagine their lives enhanced by what we were selling. Get the customer to envision themselves benefiting from the product. The approach was manipulative. Because of the way I trained, if I see a sales representative make his or her way to me today, I am tempted to cast up a cross to block them...I know it’s a terrible attitude, but all of this conjures up memories of my training back in the day.

 

Just for the record, I have reminded myself that if I am given time with a sales representative that it is in fact an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ. I suppose I’ve had time to reconsider my position about lifting up a cross and getting out the garlic.

 

But the idea that the Gospel is too good to be true is not happenstance...it is a strategic propaganda. It is the work of sin, the world, and the devil.

 

People were seeing and hearing the ministry of our Savior and “from Matthew 12:23 we learn that the people began to ask whether, after all, this was not ‘the Son of David,’ namely the Messiah. Their unbelief was breaking before his exhibition of Jesus’ power.” (Lenski, Gospel of Mark, 147)

 

The scribes who were against the Lord tried to capitalize on their doubt. They put forth their negative propaganda by suggesting that Jesus was so far from being the Messiah that he was in league with the devil himself. (Lenski, 147)

 

This is an extraordinary accusation and a very serious one to say the least. It captivates the attention of our Lord and leads our Savior to state one of the most serious warnings in the entire Word of God. It is a terrifying warning in and of itself, but it is one which we can live with – and in peace – if we know the Gospel!

 

But before I get to that, we must value how God’s Word pulls no punches about the reality of the devil and the existence of his demons. The Word of God teaches that the devil is “the ruler of this world” (Jn 12:31), so needless to say he is a real threat. As our Gospel text is teaching us, he detracts from Christ -- by trying to cloud how people know WHO our Lord is and by trying to confuse people on knowing WHAT our Lord did to save us – He is the liar and denier of the things of salvation. He wants you to go to hell. He fights so that you would lose your faith. He is real and his threats are real. However – and at the same time – his authority is only what the Lord permits (cf Jb 1:12; Jn 16:11; 1 Pt 3:18-19). Yes, the devil is trying to manipulate, put forth his propaganda, and his subliminal and not so subliminal messages to crush your faith, but in our Gospel from Mark 3 this morning we learn about our protection. Thank God!

 

Satan goes on and on in conjunction with your sinful nature and the skepticism of the world: “your forgiveness could not possibly be for free...there must be many ‘plus signs’ that you must add to your salvation...the Gospel “plus” you’re doing this; the Gospel “plus” your ability to stop doing that, etc. He lies! He deceives! He is full of falsity, so that we finally learn the truth: “the best things in life really are free,” and none of them better than the Gospel. There are no + signs in the Gospel formula. All of your sins are forgiven through Christ alone! Period! Done! Finished! Complete! There is nothing to add! You’re forgiven!

 

So Jesus confronted those scribes! Satan cannot cast out Satan. To call Jesus Satan who is healing people from Satan is the height of bad thinking. It is totally illogical. It doesn’t work. It can’t be true. Anyone – and you don’t have to be a Bible scholar – can see that such a claim is ludicrous; ridiculous! Much to the contrary, Jesus has come to first to bind the strong man Satan and then having bound him, plunder his house. What does this mean? It means that when Jesus was confronted by the devil in the wilderness, he beat him. He bound him by superior power and might so that what Jesus does now is plunder the devil. That is, he delivers people from the devil’s realm (from darkness) into the realm of God, light, forgiveness and salvation.

 

So the Word of God teaches:

 

Colossians 1:13-14: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

Jesus has fulfilled the prophets prediction that the tyrant was going down. The Lord is the “I” in this verse from Isaiah:

 

Isaiah 49:25: “For thus says the Lord: ‘Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.’”

Come to receive the rest of this sermon tomorrow morning!
I hope to see you in God's house tomorrow morning.
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa