Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow Sunday October 19th 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: ““Give To Caesar, Give to God” (St. Matthew 22:15-22)

18Oct/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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 two kingdoms so that we carry out what Jesus taught: we give to Caesar and we give to God, but does this mean that our Lord was teaching that He was not somehow King even of the civil realm? Of course not! He is King of all kings; He is Lord even of all emperors, presidents, and monarchs. This has far-reaching implications. For one, the Lord is in charge; He is in control, even if things seem to be completely out of hand. Alarmist theology that insists that Satan is NOT bound is just that, alarmist and inappropriate. God isn't sweating in heaven and worried because of liberal forces that reject Him. If anything, He laughs: "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision." (Psalm 2:4) Needless to say, the child of God -- truly -- has nothing to worry about.
This, however, does not mean that we sit back and do nothing. Since the Lord of glory reigns, we are to advance and be proactive, showing good works in the civil realm, sharing the Gospel and being -- as Christ describes us to be -- salt and light.
Part 2: After the worship service, I am presenting what may be the single most important report I've given to our voter's assembly since the restart here in Irvine. I've prepared a powerpoint and I assure you that I will be clear and quite excited about a developing vision. I was inspired by Dr. Russell Dawn who spoke up at our last voter's meeting (in so many words): maybe -- in respect to our property search -- we've been thinking too small. I went into vacation this past summer with his words stuck in my conscience and tomorrow I will share with you how these words have come to fruition. Come and help your church. This is an important discussion about our future.
I rejoice to serve you. Who is the pastor to serve? He serves the Lord first; His stewardship is defined by his master. The Master is Jesus. So I serve Him, but to serve Him is to serve the One who HImself came not to be served, but to serve. To serve whom? To serve YOU! I am, therefore, also your servant. What I will serve -- with Pastor Mueller -- is the Word of Christ and the Sacrament of Christ. Jesus said, "Do this..." in respect to His Holy Sacrament. So many churches nowadays have diminished His command (to say nothing of how they have diminished the meaning and significance of the Supper)...at your congregation, the Holy Sacrament is given every Sunday. Jesus said, "Do this..." so that is what we do.
And the benefit? It is for salvation, comfort, and strength. It is pure blessing.
I look forward to serving you!
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Give To Caesar, Give to God” (St. Matthew 22:15-22)

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

For your life in Christ the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

October 19th, 2014

Pastor Espinosa

Introduction: Total and Complete Separation of Church and State?

  1. The idea is foreign to the U.S. Constitution.
  2. In Separation of Church and State, Philip Hamburger, John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago challenges (as stated in the introductory synopsis):

“the conventional assumption that the separation of church and state has a historical foundation in the First Amendment. The detailed evidence…shows that eighteenth-century Americans almost never invoked this principle. Although Thomas Jefferson and others respectively claimed that the First Amendment separated church and state, separation became part of American constitutional law only much later…separation became a constitutional freedom largely through fear and prejudice. Jefferson supported separation out of hostility to the Federalist clergy of New England. [Some] Protestants…adopted the principle…to restrict the role of Catholics in public life. Gradually, these Protestants were joined by theologically liberal, anti-Christian secularists, who hoped that separation would limit Christianity and all other distinct religions.”

  1. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  2. Jefferson wrote in referring to separation: “…thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, 1802).
  3. The great irony confronting those who perpetuate the “wall of separation” is that when theologically liberal, anti-God humanists and naturalists misuse the First Amendment, they are in fact perpetuating and encouraging, guess what? Answer: Their own religion! Consider the fact that ANY position that touches on God is a theological/religious For example, atheism is a theological position.

 

  1. Christians and other theists are not the only ones with resultant MORAL positions that come from their THEOLOGICAL positions. Not at all: Darwinists also have a moral position called “moral relativism.”
  2. When morality is based on the individual, it is called
  3. When morality is based on what society says, it is called
  4. Which one does Christianity support? Answer: Neither!

 

Part I: Christ Spoke Truth

  1. The people who came to Him as recorded in today’s Gospel (St. Matthew 22:15-22) were disciples of the Pharisees (v 16) and then there were also Herodians (v 16). Two distinct groups with different views about the Roman government.
  2. The Pharisees considered paying taxes to a pagan/anti-God government as sinful and so disagreed with the Herodians. To them, it was BAD to pay taxes.
  3. The Herodians were Jews who supported the dynasty of Herod the Great and therefore believed that paying taxes was obligatory. To them, it was GOOD to pay taxes.
  4. But they had one thing in common: they didn’t like Jesus!
  5. This tag-team of disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus with flattering words, but their intent was to trap the Lord:
  6. If Jesus spoke in Rome’s favor, it would cost him popular favor among the Jews.
  7. If Jesus spoke in the people’s favor, it would set Him against the government and He would be guilty of sedition.
  8. The point is that the enemies of God attack God. Do not think that they sit idle and say, “We have no opinion,” no way, they actually attack the truth.
  9. If anyone thinks there isn’t a battle for truth, morality, and God in the world, then they are probably kidding themselves.

The enemies of Christ knew the kind of man Jesus was and they approached Jesus with flattering words.

St. Matthew 22:16: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.”

  1. Actually where the ESV states “you are not swayed by appearances,” it is trying to bring out: “You do not look at the face of men.”
  2. Many people gauge what they will say based on how they perceive people’s faces. Not Christ. He just spoke the truth period. So he tells it like it is!
  3. The Lord knew what was going on, verse 18 says, “[He was] aware of their malice.”

Come to church tomorrow morning and get the rest!

 

In Jesus' Love,

 

Rev. Al Espinosa, Ph.D., senior pastor, Saint Paul's Lutheran of Irvine

 

Tomorrow Sunday October 12th, 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “For Many Are Invited, But Few Are Chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14)

11Oct/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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 Christians,

Sometimes the Christian faith is criticized for its exclusivism based on our proclamation that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). And, there is no other name given unto men under heaven by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12). To focus on the exclusivism upsets our politically correct climate that wants all ways/religions/worldviews to be equally legitimate ways to salvation and eternal life. In our politically charged climate, it is cool to get one of those "Co-Exist" bumper stickers. The message: it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere about something.
Never mind that from a logical perspective major comparative doctrines are diametrically opposed to each other. For example, let's be raised again AND be reincarnated. Doesn't that make sense?!
Ironically, such an approach to truth substitutes knowing God with out-right relativism. There is no truth other than what a person decides to be true. Truth becomes not about correspondence to reality (a real state of affairs), but about the whims and preferences of subjective beings. That is, the politically correct position trades in our foundation for knowing God for whatever feels right.
Such a position also denies our faiths' INCLUSIVISM. Once Christ is relegated to one religion among many, then who cares about the details? This is where Satan wants us to be. But the truth is in the details.
The Christian faith actually offers the greatest inclusivism in that Christ -- the very Son of God, true God of true God -- died for the sins of the world. That is, the sins of ALL PEOPLE were covered by His blood on the cross of Calvary. Again, the Christian faith is serious and actual universal salvation.
Still, it is a universal justification that must be believed in...and our world is way too busy trying to convince people not to (be careful not to assume we teach universalism, which is salvation regardless of one's faith...that's not us either).
Our parable tomorrow morning is about the fact that MANY are called by God...in fact if Christ died for all people, then we may go so far as to say that the Lord has opened the way to ALL. "For God desires ALL to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." (1st Timothy 2:4)

But the evil one and our own sinful nature fights against this.
Tomorrow morning, I will be much less philosophical about this and much more practical. We are tempted to give up on Christ's universal salvation as...
Sexuality is assaulted which leads to marriage being assaulted which leads to parenthood being assaulted which leads to children being assaulted...which leads to the very image of God which men especially (as fathers) are called to bear as being assaulted...when this happens then people are used, not cared for...then relationships become based on consumerism, not faith and love.
 
Many are called but few are chosen...the chosen repent of this sinful state of affairs and by God's grace run to Jesus...in Him our sexuality is restored, our marriages are restored, our parenthood is restored, our children are restored, and our image of father is restored...and we become called families that are redeemed families (thank God that we don't have to be perfect families).
 
Tomorrow is the only Sunday we're being given or guaranteed -- if the Lord permits us to be there tomorrow morning -- so let's focus on this one. Tomorrow the body and blood of Jesus is being given for our remaining in God's grace; tomorrow the Word will be proclaimed; tomorrow absolution is given.
On account of these gifts, I hope to see you.
This morning, I did not feel like working out...I wasn't feeling it. Afterwards, I was so glad I did. How often has this happened to you? If this is true when it comes to a physical workout, how much more is it true when it comes to receiving the Word of Christ?
It is normal to not want to come to Church...the question is whether we will permit our flesh to overcome our faith...come and be blessed!
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

For Many Are Invited, But Few Are Chosen (Matthew 22:1-14)

For Your Life in Christ the 18th Sunday after Pentecost

October 12th, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

Introduction: the Chief Priests and Elders = Attitudes that Persist!

  1. Two Sundays ago we heard about these leaders questioning Christ’s authority (Matt. 21:23-27).
  2. Last Sunday we heard about these leaders rejecting the prophets and Christ Himself (Matt. 21:33-46).
  3. Questioning and rejecting Jesus. Does this sound familiar? Today’s parable of The Wedding Banquet continues to teach what God does about this situation.

Part I: The Parable Speaks to Us!

  1. The parables are remarkable & represent oratory genius & yet we mustn’t get too comfortable and forget that through these parables God continues to speak and He is speaking to us!
  2. There are two parts to this parable:
  3. 1-7: Christ is teaching that when God’s call is rejected, there are catastrophic results; it quite simply leads to hell, being separated from God and life for eternity.
  4. 8-13: Jesus teaches that sometimes some people pretend that they’ve been called – they become a part of the visible church; they go to church and participate as one known as a “Christian” – but in fact they are hypocrites. Yes, God’s Word teaches that there are real hypocrites in the visible church of Christ; He tells us so in this parable. And this parable is God’s way of confronting each of us so that each one of us would ask ourselves the question, “Is it I?!”
  5. So, in response to this parable, we ask ourselves the first question, “Have I continued to reject God’s gracious call?” And then we ask ourselves the second question, “Am I one of the hypocrites only pretending to be one of the Christians?”
  6. And Jesus wraps up this parable and the inherent two questions with this astounding statement:

 

Matthew 22:14: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

Part II: What Do The Figures in the Parable Represent?

  1. God the Father is the King.
  2. The Wedding Banquet is the banquet of redemption and salvation.
  3. It is for the King’s “Son” = we all know who The Son is! It is the Savior King who is given all glory, power, dominion and authority! The banquet is for Jesus Christ!
  4. Another title for Jesus Christ is “Bride-Groom”…now guess who His “bride” is? Answer: YOU/The Church!
  5. So the parable is answering a very important question: exactly who is the Church? Who are those identified with “Bride?”
  6. Who gets to stay? Who gets thrown out?

 

Part III: We Have Reason to Be Anxious:

  1. For example, take the concept of faithfulness in marriage and to the family. Today, the epidemic of adultery, divorce and the epidemic of child abuse (while they are still in the womb when they are not given a chance to be born and then when they are permitted to be born but are mistreated) continues to be rampant in our country. These are stark reminders of the fact that faithfulness is becoming less and less popular. One Hollywood actor said in an interview I saw: “people are not meant to be in a single relationship for life, but to have many relationships.”
  2. There is all-out evil assault on God’s plan for the family: 1. First the gift of sexuality is assaulted; as a result, Gender roles and therefore marriage is assaulted; as a result, parenthood is assaulted…why even have children? the culture asks…they are too much work since I’m here on earth to have fun and to only worry about myself!; as a result, children are assaulted; and finally the concept of “Father” is assaulted, the very image of God. 71% of all high school drop-outs are from fatherless families; 85% of all youth in prison come from fatherless families (see the documentary “Irreplacable”). The abortion situation reflects this: if a woman – even if she has material resources – is pressured by the man to have an abortion, there is a high likelihood that the child will be aborted; but if the woman – even if she is in poverty with no resources to speak of – has a man who will stand by her side and resolve to care for his unborn child, it is far more likely that abortion will be avoided.
  3. What threatens our families is that relationships have been put into the category of consumerism. Our children are exposed to a culture that does not understand the idea of living for God. Instead, the culture teaches that we are here to learn how to use other people. As an example of this is the “hook-up” trend that is popular in our country. What is so terribly disturbing is that relationships start to become devoid of emotional investments (to say nothing of lacking all commitment). The “hook-up” culture is detached from all personal investment and exists only for selfish use. The great tragedy – among other great tragedies in all of this – is that young men are referred to as “players”…given a heroic status, they are considered cool; and achieve something that is good for their reputation; but what of the girls who participate? They are not given a “good” name, but a bad one…and I won’t say it in church, but the name they are given doesn’t make them win but lose. When interviewed and asked if participation in this culture makes them happy the answer is an emphatic “No!” So why participate? From the pressure of peers – esp. other girls -- and to be approved of. This is why the goal for popularity is so dangerous…it makes one feel important and loved; but it also puts one in the vortex of wanting to please others…but what if the standards of others are immoral and against God? This is a terrible state of affairs. So Christian parents, know your children’s friends, know your children’s friends, know your children’s friends…the moment a child keys in on a certain friend, have them over, invite them for dinner. Don’t dread this, but embrace it…talk about an opportunity for the Gospel!
  4. But the threat of the hook-up culture is the result of atheism, agnosticism and the fundamental rejection of the Lord. If one lives this way, then the guiding principle is “what I want,” [the rapper Jay Zee has a clothing line that has the words “Do What Thou Wilt” on some items and others have the words “I am Da God”…yes, these also reflect the occult] so that one is encouraged to follow self-serving urges much like animals do and this is precisely the enormous danger of Darwinian Evolution because at the end of the day – according to this theory -- we are just animals following their instincts and you just can’t change your stripes so you may as well go along with the crowd! This is a terrible, horrendous way of thinking and it is utterly destructive to one’s self, to others, and to society.
  5. The reason I am discussing these moral aspects is because in the Old Testament idolatry (false worship and the rejection of the true God) was described as spiritual adultery.
  6. You see God has put you here so that you would know Him as your first love, your only God, and the One and Only One to whom you are called to be faithful to. And by the way, if you are faithful to HIM, then faithfulness to others will follow like being faithful to the one you are married to.
  7. But the world resists this message more than I can say. The culture today says in so many words, “We are not meant to follow One, we are to be open to all, following all, committed to nothing, serving ourselves and uniting to whatever seems most attractive, appealing, and beneficial at the time.”
  8. Now this mentality is not simply reserved for the irreligious, being religious or not really has nothing to do with it. The chief priests and elders were very religious, but they had no idea what being faithful to the Lord was about. They may have been religious, but they were very far from God!
  9. So in telling this parable, Jesus makes it clear that they have just been hard-hearted and unfaithful.
 
In Jesus' Love,
 
Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday October 5th, 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The One Rejected is the One We Welcome” (St. Matthew 21:33-43)

4Oct/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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,

Today is "Yom Kippur" which translated means "Day of Atonement." The day's establishment is recorded in Leviticus 23:27f. In the context there is much said about the people needing to "afflict" themselves as part of this holy day. Because of this some modern versions of the day refer to it as a day to "afflict the soul." This is an unfortunate concept in that it implies that in order to "atone" for your sins, you must cause affliction to yourself (suffer for your sins). This of course is the popular idea in the phrase: "atone for your sins" or "make atonement for your sins." It means that you must "pay up" or go through something bad so as to be restored, etc.
This of course is bullet train moving away from the Gospel.
In actuality, the "Day of Atonement" involved the blood which "covered" sins. Or -- and another way of understanding atonement -- you "became one" with that which saves you. In either direction of the meaning, this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the idea that you must suffer for yours sins. Instead, the Lord has provided the sacrifice for your sins!
What is important to know is that Yom Kippur pointed to the ultimate Day of Atonement, the Day in which our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ spilled His precious blood to cover our sins so that you and I are forever forgiven as we abide in Christ!
 
So in the Name of Jesus: Blessed Yom Kippur (in the right sense)!
 
As for tomorrow morning: Jesus is coming to serve through His Word and Sacrament, keeping us in forgiveness and eternal life!
We also celebrate some new members being received -- along with some complementary special music -- and we are excited about Ruth Koenig and Rosemary Hilton officially joining Saint Paul's! We are having a reception after worship and its a chance for us to relax and enjoy some fellowship as we welcome our newest members.
Tomorrow will proclaim the Parable of the Vineyard. Have you ever felt pain for being rejected? Come and hear about what Jesus came to do for you!
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“The One Rejected Is the One We Welcome” (St. Matthew 21:33-43)

For Your Life in Christ the Week of the 17th Sunday after Pentecost

October 5th, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

Introduction: Definition of “Parable”

  1. Literally means “putting things side-by-side.”
  2. It is an extended simile. When we say, “This thing is LIKE that ” And then go on to elaborate.
  3. It is presented in story form and things in the world (physical things) represent spiritual realities. Spiritual things are “put along side of” physical things.
  4. What is conveyed in a biblical parable is TRUTH and an actual state of affairs.
  5. Jesus used parables constantly during His earthly ministry; He was the master teacher! Why did He use parables?

St. Luke 8:10: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

  1. Jesus Himself taught that parables contain “secrets” or “mysteries,” in the sense of something higher than us, or beyond our own ability and reason; things that teach us about ultimate realities (about ourselves and about God).
  2. What challenges folks though is that the words in Luke 8:10 seem to indicate that Jesus does not give these beneficial mysteries to all people. Some people will see, but not see; some will hear, but not understand. Why?
  3. NOT because Christ does not love all people. He does! The difference, however, is that some people continue to REJECT Christ. Jesus once described the difference between people:

St. Matthew 9:12-13: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means,

‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

  1. But those who believe themselves to be “righteous” apart from God do not need Christ, and therefore reject Him. Thus some who “heard” the parables of Jesus, did not understand a word. They did not see their meaning, but were spiritually blind.
  2. Let us now delve into the “secrets” of today’s parable:

 

Part I: The Parable of the Tenants

  1. This is a very important parable presented three times in Scripture, in Matthew 21, Mark 12, and Luke 20!
  2. The imagery of the parable:
  3. The “vineyard” = the nation of Israel, God’s people.
  4. The “landowner” = God.
  5. The “wall” = the Word of God that protects God’s people.
  6. The “winepress” = sacrifice of atonement, blood.
  7. The “tower” = the watchmen, the prophets of God.

 

Part II: This Parable Applies to Our Lives Today!

1. The Church is like the Vineyard today. We are His people. Notice that in the New Testament this imagery is maintained:

 

Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

 2. We know the location of the vine and branches = in the vineyard; this describes the mystical union of Christ and His people which is precisely the Church, the Body of Christ. Jesus is here with us in His vineyard!

3. The landowner is still and always the Lord. He is our head and He leads us through life! Think of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation.”

4. The wall is still the Word of God that surrounds us and protects us. Think of the hymn “Thy Strong Word.” Think of the “surrounding” description we find in Deuteronomy:

 

Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

 

5. The winepress is perhaps most evident in the Church today! The winepress where the wine flows is the Holy and Blessed Sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is where the blood of Christ is continually poured out for the forgiveness of sins!

6. And finally, the watchtower is still held by servants who watch over God’s people through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. One term for them is “overseer,” but today we typically call them “pastors.”

I hope to see you in the morning dear Christian!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

Tomorrow September 28th, 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Authority?” (Matthew 21:23-27)

27Sep/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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,

The entire divine service (the worship service) is designed to bring Jesus Christ -- the Savior of the world -- to you directly and personally. The liturgy, the holy absolution, the witness of another baptism, the sermon, the hymns, and holy communion...all of it assures you the constant coming of Christ, keeping you in the forgiveness of sins; keeping you in the palm of His hand.
If you're tracking the news...war, disease, earthquakes (did you hear about the "earthquake swarm" hitting central California?), it can easily make us wonder about the end times. Well -- and consistent with the seminar I'm doing in Anaheim again this Thursday at 7 pm -- we are already living in the "end times" and have been since the Church was established 2000 years ago. In the meantime, no one knows when Christ will come again (Acts 1:7), but what we do know is this: you are kept ready for Christ's glorious coming through His repeated and constant coming through His Word and His Sacrament. Thanks be to God!
How can we be so certain? Because Christ has been given all authority (Mt. 28). In tomorrow's Gospel reading from Matthew 21, we hear how the Lord's authority was questioned. Just like in accord with our sin, we question God's authority today. But thanks be to God for His answer! By His authority, sin and death have been defeated; by His authority you are covered by His perfect holiness and righteousness...by His authority your failure has been replaced by His success; your weakness for His strength; your violations for His faithfulness...by His authority these things are true!
Tomorrow we witness the miracle of holy baptism; tomorrow we receive the holy absolution as God's voice from heaven; tomorrow we partake of the holiest feast on earth and are guaranteed that we are one with our Savior and Lord...there will be the fellowship of Christians, special music, the blessing of the mighty Word of Christ which created the heavens and the earth and which has created saving faith in your heart...let us gather and rejoice!
Here's an excerpt (note: this is most definitely the LAW portion...come tomorrow to most definitely hear the GOSPEL portion as well!):

Introduction: Authority…Good or Bad?

  1. God’s authority was staring me face-to-face through the fourth commandment: “Honor you father and your mother.”
  2. I was about five years old, and my whole family was sitting around the kitchen table for dinner. My dad and mom gave me an order: “Eat your sweet potatoes!”
  3. But I had a problem: at the time, I could not stand sweet potatoes! Much to my great shame, I did not obey my parents. To this open defiance, my oldest brother Larry (13 years my senior) decided to try intimidation. He pointed his finger at me, and using the most threatening voice he could muster said, “EAT YOUR SWEET POTATOES!” By this point, my sinful nature was in full bloom. I got up and made a stand and said, “NO!”
  4. And in that instance I proved what it means to be a sinner: God asserts His authority, and then we assert ours.
  5. This state of affairs reminds me of a story one of my college professors shared. He had been thoroughly witnessing to a colleague and unleashed his formidable arsenal of Christian apologetics. In the end, his colleague said that strictly on an intellectual level my former college professor had completely convinced him that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was absolutely true. He said, however sadly, that he would not follow it because quote, “He was having too much fun.” This too was open defiance. God said, “follow me!” But the man said, “NO!”
  6. This is the heart and soul of sin: it is putting our authority (no matter how illusory it may be) over God’s true and legitimate authority.

Part I:  Along the way, however, not only do we disrespect the Lord and His authority, but we make up sinful excuses!

  1. He now sends you forth to live joyfully. By His authority, you are free to love and serve God; free to love and serve others.
  2. But sinners shamelessly question the Lord’s authority!

Recall that up to this point in Matthew chapter 21 the Lord had demonstrated His authority through His many miracles and His amazing prophetic preaching. This was the Creator of all things (Colossians 1), the One who commanded the wind and the waves, walked on water, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and yet He is questioned:

Matthew 21:23: “When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’”

  1. The key word here is “authority.” It means “absolute power” and “warrant.” In this case, the person referred to has the right and power to do what they do.
  2. Jesus’ authority is completely intact and He is fully vested with the power and authority of God. To question His authority is ludicrous; it’s like saying that He didn’t have the right to create us. Of course He did.
  3. The true problem is a moral one, and it begins because we feel threatened by God.
  4. When the text mentions the “chief priests and the elders of the people,” these refer to the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the Great Council of the Jewish Church. These men had great power, prestige, and authority. Point blank Jesus threatened their position.
  5. How often does this occur?
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday September 21st 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The First Last, the Last First” (Matthew 20:1-16)

20Sep/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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 the Lord Jesus Christ,

There is a natural part of us that doesn't "get" nor like the Lord's math and sense of what is fair. We have standards! And those standards are law-based. If we work harder than someone else, we deserve more. That's the way "it works!"
This approach, however, has nothing to do with our new status in Christ, and God's grace poured out upon us.
It is a common problem, however, to try to make God's circle of grace fit into our square, legalistic holes...but again, they don't correspond.
The practical implications are tremendous, but if we keep insisting on the inconsistency, we bring great frustration and bitterness into our souls. We're called to repent.
Tomorrow morning, the Word of Jesus will be given, we will receive special music from a gifted harpist, and Christ's body and blood will wash away your sin once again; keeping you in Christ and Christ in you. It is day for rejoicing! Hope to see you in worship!
Here's an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“The First Last, the Last First” (Matthew 20:1-16)

For Your Life in Christ the 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

Introduction: This parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of “the laborers” or “the workers” or “the hours” needs the backdrop of Matthew 19:16-30. Remember context is very important for proper understanding.

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

  1. The entire parable is meant to explain what Jesus taught in chapter 19, and is meant especially as an elucidation of 19:30:

 

Matthew 19:30: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

  1. When he teaches today’s parable in Matthew 20:1-16, he concludes with similar words:

Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

  1. In saying this, Jesus was answering Peter’s initial concern which is also ours: on what basis will we have eternal life? Peter expresses his concern in the form of a statement and a question:

Matthew 19:27: “Then Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’”

  1. After all, if it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to be saved, Peter had good reason to be a little concerned about his own status!
  2. Jesus assures Peter and the other disciples as he describes their reward based on those who truly follow Christ: [quote] “for [His] name’s sake.” [don’t miss the emphasis]
  3. That is, the matter of our attitude, what is going on in our hearts and souls has everything to do with our place in the parable. Do we do what we do as Christians for our own sake, to look good, to pay off God, to receive honor, to have a better status, to be admired in society, to get along with family, etc. OR do we do what we do as Christians for the sake of the name of Jesus?!

Part I: So what IS Going On in Our Hearts?

  1. In other words, we are already in trouble! Because our hearts are full of sin!

Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

  1. Peter, like us, shows disconcerting signs right off the bat as he takes inventory of what he has done: we are self-centered. Let me be clear that the parable in Matthew 20 is about the kingdom of heaven on earth which is the visible church. Jesus is talking about people in the Christian Church. Like Peter we want to compare ourselves to others.
  2. To understand God’s answer to our grave problem, we need this parable. Now remember that this is a parable, so the symbols correspond to a greater reality. For example, the denarius is symbolic of God’s grace given to us all; and the hours represented by the words “in the morning,” and then “the 3rd hour, the 6th hour, the 9th hour, and the eleventh hour” are symbolic of how we sinfully compare ourselves to others. Bottom line, we easily think this way: “When I compare myself to so and so, I don’t think God’s treatment is fair!”
  3. What is going on in our hearts is that we want to treat God not in a relationship of grace, but in a relationship of law, contract, or agreement like the beginning of Matthew 20 indicates. The first workers go forth working based on an agreement (v 2). Now this is not bad in and of itself. For example, when I stood before God to be ordained as a pastor, I did make an agreement even in the context of God’s call. During my installation, you also made an agreement. But the problem comes when we begin to treat our relationship with God as a matter of our accomplishment and what we think we deserve. This is the terrible problem raised by our flesh.
  4. Service within the church, however, is not based on the LAW, but on the GOSPEL. If, however, we insist to make our relationship with God based on Law, we will forfeit – really reject and deny – the grace of God, so that the words of Jesus will come true: the first – those called and who believe they are better than others – will be last.
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor
p.s. Confirmation is tomorrow at 3 pm at my place!

Tomorrow September 14th 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “A Reasonable Question” (Matthew 18:21-35)

13Sep/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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 recently read from a wise man: "God forgives without limits and without counting." A simple and profound sentence at the same time. I hope to see you in God's house to hear more on this vital message...it is what frees us from bondage; it is what sets us free to be people of God. The evil one desires to keep us tied up with a ball and chain of sin; Christ has come to set us free simply on account of His taking our ball and chain from us: His forgiveness is the key. This is one of those things in the faith that we think we know so well because we hear it -- we think -- all the time, but it just might be the easiest thing in the world to take for granted (and thereby forget; and thereby cease enjoying the release). Come, let us do more than remember...let us receive through Word and Sacrament.
A separate word...
I want to take this opportunity to simply say thanks. It is such a privilege (and pleasure) to serve this congregation, all of you.
Today is my brother's birthday (my brother Larry). He has turned 62. I need to call him today and say, "Happy Birthday." These things strike me at this stage in my life: I have three siblings, one is retired, and two retire this coming year. It makes me think about "what next?" for me...I know the answer (if the Lord permits it). I look forward to service here for as long as He will permit. We have much work to do, good work, and I am glad for the opportunity to do it.
I share this because longevity, stability, and commitment are important. It permits a pastor to "follow" his flock through life. I am mindful of this esp. today. Many years ago I confirmed a young lady in junior high school at the time. Her name is Samantha. Today, I will conduct her wedding. Samantha is now in the U.S. Navy and she will become one with Marcus who serves as a U.S. Marine. It is important to follow people through life...these are the best relationships.
This is what I desire in my service to you: through the ups and through the downs.
This is a portion of this morning's prayer from Lutheran Book of Prayer:
"Keep me steadfast in the awareness of Your protection and in faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, Your Son. Lord, make me mindful of the temptations of sinful care, selfishness, and impure desires, which beset me on every side and from within. Help me in this hour to put on anew the armor of light, that I may be fitted with every weapon of offense and defense against the perils that threaten my spiritual life. Let Your Gospel call me with new sweetness to be reconciled to You; let Your Spirit call me with new power to follow You. Teach me to live this day as though it is my last on earth, knowing that whether I live or whether I die I am present with You. Be my Protector, my Guide, and my Father; for Jesus' sake. Amen."
 
I hope to see you in God's house tomorrow!
 
In Jesus' love,
 
Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday September 7th, 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Become Like Children” (St. Matthew 18:1-4)

6Sep/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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,

Our sinful nature attacks us with pride, ambition, the yearning for success, and power. The apostles themselves struggled against this as they asked Jesus, "Who is the greatest?" (Matthew 18). We underestimate this spiritual enemy. We seek the world's praise over and above faithfulness. We prove this every time we say what we think will please our neighbor instead of saying -- in love -- what ought to be said. By nature we want approval and sometimes the need to succeed is insatiable. This is rather silly though. In a 100 years who will remember our resumes?
In Christ, however, faithfulness leads to our being remembered by God for eternity. Thank God that Jesus came to save us from our pride! No one has ever been as humble as our Savior, but He wasn't that way to just give us a good example. He made Himself humble while taking our condemnation for sin. That is His humility has saved you and me. These things the sermon will address.
In addition, there's a lot of other things going on tomorrow!
1. The high school youth are sponsoring breakfast. Please consider supporting with an offering.
2. We are starting pictures for our church directory. The Perry's will take your pic if you're comfortable to do so.
3. We are installing our 2014-2015 congregational officers.
4. Confirmation starts back up at 3 pm at my house.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Become Like Children” (St. Matthew 18:1-4)

For Your Life in Christ the Week of the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 7th, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

 

Introduction: Sinful Ambition & the Idolatry of Pride

  1. Satan attacked Adam in the Garden; he attacked Christ in the wilderness, and here in Matthew 18, he went after the apostles.
  2. One theologian wrote, “Thus early was the devil of pride raising his ugly head in their midst (Kretzmann 97).”
  3. Notice the prideful concern of the apostles:

 

Matthew 18:1: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’”

 

Matthew 20:20-21: “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

 

Luke 22:24: “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

 1. It is sobering to think that to this day even ministers can be driven by selfish ambition. Notice these words from St. Paul:

Philippians 1:17a: “The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely…” = that is, they present the Gospel to gather a following for themselves.

2. The apostles misinterpreted prior events: In Mark 5:37, Jesus did not have all of the apostles go with him to raise up Jairus’s daughter, but only Peter, James, and John; at the transfiguration of our Lord (e.g. Matthew 17:1) Christ led only Peter, James, and John up the mountain; and perhaps most disturbingly to some of them, the Lord had said to Peter that he was blessed in Matthew 16:17 and at Matthew 16:19 Christ said Peter would be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and then right before the beginning of today’s Gospel, Jesus seemingly honors Peter above all of them through the miracle of the fish with the sheckel in its mouth given to Peter so that Peter could pay the tax both for Peter and for Jesus.

3. “Now wait just a minute here! What is going on! Why is so-and-so getting all the good stuff? What about me?!” It is easy for us to get worried and upset about our position or lack thereof. We -- like the original apostles -- enter a mindset “fraught with danger because of envy, jealousy, pride, and hatred (Lenski, 679).” “They were headed in the wrong direction with their selfish ambition…The strong double negative [spoken by Christ = “unless you turn…you will never”] means that [if they remain in selfish ambition] they will otherwise not get into the kingdom of heaven at all, let alone have big places in it (Robertson 146).”

 

Part I: Pride and Ambition and the Thirst for Success:

1. Timothy Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods quotes Helen Rubin in the magazine Fast Company:

“Of all the subjects we obsess about…success is the one we lie about the most – that success and its cousin money will make us secure, that success and its cousin power will make us important, that success and its cousin fame will make us happy. It’s time to tell the truth: Why are our generation’s smartest, most talented, most successful people flirting with disaster in record numbers? People are using all their means to get money, power, and glory – and then self-destructing. Maybe they didn’t want it in the first place! Or didn’t like what they saw when they finally achieved it (92).”

2. In sin, we are preoccupied with success and power.

 

Part II: But The Lord Has Not Called Us To “Success” (the World’s Definition), but to Faithfulness and Faith Is Kept in HUMILITY

 1. F. Bruce says that to humble oneself “is the most difficult thing in the world.” We just don’t want to!

2. So Christ cuts to the chase: to turn and to become a child are one and the same act (Lenski 680).

 

Matthew 18:3: “[Jesus said] Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 3. So proper repentance and the experience of true conversion = is to “become like children.”

4. What is a child like? Jesus illustrated. Now Matthew 18:4 has Christ presenting a child which is the image of innocence and an example of humility (Jerome), but the parallel passage to Matthew 18:4 is Mark 9:36. The illustration is even more powerful here:

Mark 9:36: “And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms…”

  1. This is the picture of a little, helpless child. This is the way Jesus is calling us to be!
  2. It is as if Jesus said to the apostles: “Does this little child look like he’s full of worldly power, status, and might?!”
  3. Turn back to/revert to the simplicity of a child.
  4. Rest in Jesus’ arms & be completely dependent on Him!
  5. So Luther says, “Oh, do not think to be great but to be little.”
  6. To humble yourself in this way means to make yourself low, make no claims, insist on no rights, come with no demands, but bow lowly and humbly under the Lord’s will and Word, yield completely to him. True humility does not hanker after greatness (Lenski 683).

Part III: This Is What We Are Supposed To Be, But Only the Lord Can Give Us This Child-Like Status

[tomorrow I will get into the rest!]
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday August 31st at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “God’s Will, Not Ours” (Matthew 16:21-26)

30Aug/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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 Christian,

Every, single day we pray, "Thy will be done." But this must be properly construed. This petition does not happen by then exerting ourselves; making ourselves into good Christians by virtue of our discipline.
Our petition is all about depending on God's grace. If God's will is to be done in our lives, then God must lead us in His will; His working must be exerted in us.
But how? We are so weak, we struggle so much...in spite of our best efforts, we fail.
God must step in.
He does!
This is why we come to Church. God comes to you through the Word of Christ and through the Body and Blood of Christ. He comes and His will happens. He works it; He creates it in us.
Faith grasps the work of God. God forgives, faith holds to this truth; God serves, faith holds to this truth; God saves, faith holds to this truth.
Come in faith and experience God working for His will to be done in your life! We will learn about what it means to be a disciple of lives out, "God's Will, Not Ours."
Here is an excerpt of tomorrow's sermon:

“God’s Will, Not Ours” (Matthew 16:21-26)

For Your Life in Christ the 12th Sunday after Pentecost

August 31st, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

 

Introduction: Bonhoeffer Quotes Luther in Discipleship (Luther is writing as if God is speaking to you)

 

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours. Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing whither he went. He trusted himself to my knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey’s end. Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man. Wherefore it is not you, no man, no living creature, but I myself, who instruct you by my word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple. If you do that, there is the acceptable time and there your master is come.” (The Cost of Discipleship, First Macmillan Paperbacks Edition, 103-104)

  1. On account of our sin, however, we constantly fight against the call to discipleship; we want to hold onto our comprehension instead of trusting in the Lord’s comprehension for us.
  2. Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah argued against God’s call to them even though the Lord knew exactly what He was doing.
  3. Moses said, “I can’t speak well enough!”
  4. Isaiah said, “I’m too unclean, not good enough!”
  5. Jeremiah said, “I’m too young!”
  6. God calls us to discipleship too! But what is our excuse? We must remember who we truly are and to whom we truly belong!

Part I: Your New Identity:

  1. We have watered down the word “Christian,” esp. in American culture.
  2. The word literally and actually means “Christ’s” … or in elongated form “one who BELONGS to Christ.”
  3. Notice how this concept is applied to the Church, the body of Christ:

1st Corinthians 6:19: “Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.”

  1. Discipleship begins with this fundamental truth: We do not belong to ourselves, we belong to God.
  2. The Christian, therefore, is a “disciple” – one who is a “hearer” of Christ and therefore (and as a result of hearing the Word of Christ and thereby being drawn to Christ) – is one who FOLLOWS Christ.

Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

 

Part II: But In Order For This to Happen We Must Die

  1. Remember that Peter once denied Jesus three times. He said, “I don’t know the man!” That part of us is dead!
  2. We use these words against ourselves! The Christian is confronted with their sinful flesh that says, “I don’t want to follow!” And the Christian’s trained response is, “I don’t know the man!” “The man” = our sinful nature.
  3. You’ve heard the expression when someone is so hurt or ashamed of someone else, they say, “You are dead to me.”

That means the relationship is completely severed; it is over with! This is our daily call: die to yourself; die to your old sinful nature!

Romans 6:11: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday August 24th, 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Most Important Question You’ll Be Asked”

23Aug/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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 Christian,

"Who do you say Jesus is?"...your answer matters dear Christian! Flowing from the lips of the baptized child of God is the answer revealed by the Heavenly Father. Your answer -- God's answer -- knows Jesus as God reveals Him so that the true answer, the saving answer will always be the foundation and assurance of your forgiveness and eternal life.
Unfortunately, sin, the world, and the evil one try desperately to block this answer; these fight against the Father's saving revelation. As a result too many people remain lost without the answers to sin and death.
This past week in our world we were reminded that we need God's answer, God's hope, and God's life in the face of horrific expressions of sin and death. I was -- I'm sure with you -- mortified by the release of the news -- last Tuesday -- of the horrific execution of American journalist James Foley (I did not attempt to watch the video...and pray that you did not see it either).
These things evidence that the evil one prowls around seeking to devour just as Scripture warns (1st Peter 5:8). We should never take these real-life events for granted...they represent the evil ones' attempt to fill our hearts with fear; to distract from our hope; to make our love cold; and to forget why we are here.
To know Christ -- in accord with who He really is -- is to know however the One who has promised that not even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church...to have Christ is to have life even in the face of death; it is to be assured of the Resurrection no matter the attack upon you (us).
That is, to know Christ is have Christ and to have Christ is to have life!
If this is true -- and it is of course -- then it stands to reason that dark forces would counter by doing everything in their (limited) power to attack the very revelation of Christ...bottom line: sin and the devil don't want you to know Jesus and the full implications of His saving presence!
In response: God has given His Church. Through Christ's Church Christ comes...this is why we come to Church...this is why I hope to see you in the morning!
An excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Be Asked”

 (Matthew 16:13-18)

For Your Life in Christ the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

August 24th, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

 

Introduction: The Great Challenge of Our Time

  1. Alister McGrath in his book Evangelicalism & the Future of Christianity explains that the 18th century Enlightenment established human reason as the highest standard for knowledge and truth, but it gave way to the late 20th century into-the-present worldview called postmodernism (182f).
  2. Once upon a time, we thought we had everything figured out through human reason, but two things happened: 1) we discovered human reason isn’t as accurate as we thought (e.g. we thought that Newton’s physics was fairly seamless, then along came Einstein); 2) the reliance on human reason ushered in horrible atrocities like the Stalinist purges and the Nazi extermination camps. We are now no longer so willing to boast in human reason.
  3. So what are the implications of the new view? We can’t really know anything with certainty and what is true and what is real depends on a person’s personal view. Postmodernism is the age of relativism. Welcome to the present!
  4. Interestingly enough, our post-Christian era is looking a lot like the pre-Christian era. During that era (before the establishment and explosion of the Christian Church), Jesus asked this as recorded Matthew 16:13:

 

Matthew 16:13: “When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’”

 

  1. Various disciples chimed in to give answer. These are translations of the relativistic answers recorded:
  2. Jesus is a great king who has come to threaten Herod’s rule. That is a political figure, but still a man.
  3. A great herald of Messiah who had returned to continue the work of preparing for the true Messiah, but still a man.
  4. A great prophet who is legend who perhaps had risen from death, but still a man.

 

  1. What do all of these have in common? Jesus = still a man!
  2. As one theologian put it, “They thought well of Him, but not well enough.”
  3. In our sin, we think well of Jesus…just well enough to coax our consciences, but in sin we limit who Jesus is…we do not want to answer to Him as Almighty God, we want His Word to be relative. In our sinful hearts, we don’t believe in truth! Just versions of the truth! We don’t think of Him well enough!
  4. In his book The Case for the Real Jesus, Lee Strobel refutes among other things the popular assertion, “People should be free to pick and choose what to believe about Jesus.”
  5. This is exactly what we do, but here’s the problem:

From Strobel: “…truth is true even if no one knows it, admits it, agrees with it, follows it, or even fully grasps it…The problem is that people can have beliefs that are ‘useful,’ maybe temporarily and for certain ends, but they may be completely false (236).”

 

  1. In today’s Gospel, the Word asserts that there is an authoritative viewpoint: God breaks onto the scene and asks the single most important question you will ever be asked in your life:

 

Matthew 16:15: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”

 

Part I: While You Still Live and Breathe, What Do You Say of Jesus?

  1. As for the foolish opinions about Jesus, Jesus didn’t even care to discuss.
  2. There is only one answer Christ commends:

 

Matthew 16:16: “Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

 

  1. Jesus praises THIS answer, because it is THE answer!

 

Matthew 16:17: “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’”

 

  1. Crucial components of what we’ve just read:
  2. What is that revelation from God? (from vs. 16)
  3. Jesus = “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  4. Epiphanius the Latin (5th or 6th century): “If Christ is the Son of God, by all means he is also God.” (Ancient Christian Commentary, Ib, 45)
  5. The Venerable Bede (c. 672/673-735): “He calls Him the ‘living’ God by way of distinction from the false gods which heathendom in its various delusions made to itself to worship, either of dead men, or – greater folly still – of insensate matter.” (The Lutheran Study Bible, 1616)
  6. That is, since Jesus the Son of God is God, then He is also the Living God which means that Jesus is the source of life!
  7. Do we believe this? When we doubt and we seek answers for our burdens under every rock and yet all the while refuse to worship Jesus Christ and call on His Name. Instead we rely on “flesh and blood” = “[the] mortal state of weakness and fallibility.” (Lenski, 623)
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Al

Tomorrow Sunday August 17th 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Great Thing About Little Dogs” (Matthew 15:21-28)

16Aug/14Off

Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 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,

Thank you for taking care of me and my family which includes the vacation time you grant your senior pastor! We had a wonderful family vacation. It was a chance for us to refuel and to grow closer as a family. Traci and myself and our five kids at home (Christina, David, Esbeydi, Bryan, and Katherine) enjoyed our time with extended family in Colorado. Some of the highlights included whitewater rafting in the Arkansas River, going down the Alpine slide in Breckenridge (elevation around 11,000 feet), going over Loveland Pass and standing at the Continental Divide (and after going up some additional steps standing at 12,000 feet), and then relaxing at my father-in-law's home in Castle Rock, CO where we attended the fair and rodeo and enjoyed horses and Oliver the donkey. I worshipped at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church (LC-MS), Castle Rock and received a good sermon and the Holy Sacrament through the lips and hands of Pastor Larry Ziegler. We drove and I've had enough long driving for awhile!
I am eager to be back in the pulpit tomorrow morning. The text is one of my favorite texts. Let's face it, our Great and Gracious Lord can be confusing to us at times. We can easily feel as though He is just ignoring our pleas. But the truth is that His answers to us are always to bless us even when we can't see it at the time. Our Gospel text from Matthew 15 presents this truth through the amazing account of our Lord Jesus and the Cannanite woman who came to the Lord, but from all appearances was quite frankly ignored by Christ...and it appears even insulted by Him...but there is more to the story...come and find out what it is truly about and be lifted up in faith!
Also, we will receive the Holy Sacrament "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." Luther: "I certainly love it with all my heart, the precious, blessed Supper of my Lord Jesus Christ, in which He gives me His body and blood to eat and to drink orally, with the mouth of my body, accompanied by the exceedingly sweet and gracious words: Given for you, shed for you." (What Luther Says, 792).
And...we will be blessed with guest musicians who will further beautify our service!
Come lowly sinners...come redeemed saints...yes, I am speaking to you Christian. Come and rejoice in the Lord always and I will say it again rejoice!
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

Sermon

“The Great Thing about Little Dogs” (Matthew 15:21-28)

For Your Life in Christ the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 17th, 2014

Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, CA (LC-MS)

Pastor Espinosa

 

Introduction: No matter how you cut it, this morning’s Gospel is very challenging: There is a woman in desperate need, and there is no question that she has true faith in the Lord (she calls Jesus “Lord” three times), and she is truly an example of faith, love, and humility, and yet this is a rough summary of what happened:

  1. It appears that Jesus completely ignored her first request. She came crying out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” (22) And then Scripture records, “But he did not answer her a word.” (23)
  2. Then after Jesus’ disciples seemed to have insinuated that the Lord should just help her out and send her on her way, Jesus essentially said that he had not come for this woman (23-24). Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (24) You see the woman who was begging him was a Cannanite, a race that in the Old Testament Israel was commanded by God to exterminate because of their idol worship (Dt 20:17). The point is that the woman was seemingly rejected a second time!
  3. The Scriptures record what happened next: “But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’” (25) And it was to this that Jesus after seemingly ignoring her and then seemingly avoiding her, finally actually speaks to her, but notice what he actually said to her: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”Wow! First, the woman is seemingly ignored; then, the woman is seemingly actively avoided; and then, Jesus called her a dog!

 

 

Part I: How Would You Have Reacted?

A. I will never forget the story of what happened with my dad (of blessed memory) when my parent’s first baby – my big brother who I never met – was only three days old and because of the extreme heat and his difficulty breathing, died as an infant. My parents were very young and devastated of course. My dad went out walking and went to find the local pastor. He found the pastor and told the pastor what had happened and asked the pastor if he would conduct the funeral for his baby boy. To which the pastor responded that he couldn’t because he was essentially too busy. Needless to say, that didn’t go over too well with my dad. He had recently been honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines after fighting for our country in World War II. When the pastor said this, my dad basically used some colorful language to tell the pastor what he could do. As my dad walked away, the pastor realized the seriousness of what had just transpired, and he literally went running after my dad. He did the service.

B. This true story has made a deep impression on me. People need their pastor’s to be there for them. I am humbled by my limitations, but I pray that I will always be able to serve you faithfully. If I do not respond to the real needs of my people, not only would I hurt them, but I could hurt their faith in the Lord. But what happens when it seems that THE pastor, the Shepherd of our souls, the true God, the Lord Himself is the One who does not answer us? There are times when God is silent, and there are times when we feel that we are being ignored. And it hurts and it can hurt so much that we are tempted to tell God what he can do as we walk away in anger and confusion. Does this ever happen? It happens more often than we think.

 

II. But Faith Looks Past Appearances:

  1. This Gospel is given to us this morning dear Christians so that we would learn from the Canaanite woman. She did not give up on God even though many people would reason that she should have. That’s the problem with us, we don’t want to live by faith, we want God to do exactly what we think is right when and where we say and we prove ourselves to be sinners, because we are always putting ourselves first.
  2. This woman in our Gospel, however, brings out the truth about God. It has been said about this account from Matthew 15 that it really wasn’t the woman who was looking for Jesus, but it was – all along – Jesus who was looking for the woman.
  3. What we take as ignoring her, Luther has a different take:

“Look how Christ drives her faith deep into her heart that it becomes strong and firm.”

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa