Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow January 18th 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Not Enslaved By Anything” (1st Corinthians 6:12-20)

17Jan/15Off

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ -- the whole Christ -- saves us wholly. In Him we have both forgiveness of sins and new lives. There are forces, however, that are very upset about your new life. Your sinful nature doesn't like it, the world doesn't like it, and the enemy -- the devil -- most certainly doesn't like it. So you are assaulted by things in the world that serve as potential "masters"...things that try to take your life over, away from God, away from faith, and away from peace. God's Word in 1st Corinthians 6 recognizes this threat, but then St. Paul says, "I will not be enslaved by anything!"
How can we live with this kind of confidence? What is the basis for abiding in the light of Jesus Christ and remaining protected from all that threatens our lives in Christ? These things will be the focus of tomorrow's proclamation of Law and Gospel.
Most importantly, come and receive the body and blood of our Savior. "The life is in the blood." (Leviticus 17:11) In the Sacrament, you receive God's blood. Talk about life received! There is nothing better!
Tomorrow we are also presenting a special prayer and blessing...someone who was baptized in our congregation as a little baby (back when we were in Laguna Beach) is now ready to embark in full-time ministry...that's all I'm saying for now, but I hope you will there tomorrow to share our joy!
The Lord bless you dear Christian as you continue to abide in the saving faith and may this faith be fed and nourished through Christ's Word and Sacrament tomorrow morning!
Bible Study and Sunday School:
1. We now have two children's Sunday School classes.
2. The high school class will continue our examination on faith and science.
3. The adults are being treated to a study by Dr. Geisler on "Music Among Christians Is..."
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Not Enslaved By Anything”

(1st Corinthians 6:12-20)

Pastor Al Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Epiphany light of Christ cannot be confined to ancient history. It is sometimes easy to get the impression that being stuck in history is what the Church is doing in that our Epiphany Gospels recount such events as the Magi following the miraculous star, the baptism of our Lord at which the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in the form of a dove, the wedding at Cana and our Lord’s first miracle in changing the water to wine, and of course the glorious transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of these were “epiphanies” in and through which the glory of God was revealed in and upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The teaching is clear: this is no mere man, but the very Son of God, true God, true man! He is the God-man, He is the Creator of heaven and earth, He is our brother, and He is the head of the Church!

 

But again the epiphanies cannot be exclusively relegated to the past. The light of Christ showing Christ to the world continues to shine, so we have Scriptures such as these that make this truth abundantly clear:

 

Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

Jesus Christ is indeed the living God, and as the Light of the World, Jesus intends also to shine today, so that His epiphanies are not limited to history. They include this time and this place! They include your life! Point blank: God intends to shine through you! But given this, doesn’t it make sense that that which fights against God, would also fight against your ability to be the modern-day epiphanies of Jesus that you are called to be?! Yes of course it makes sense and furthermore there is a ferocious spiritual battle that includes enemies of God trying to keep you from shining the light of Christ.

 

1st Corinthians 6:12-20 is perhaps one of the most practical Scriptures in making you aware of what is capable of shutting down the light of Christ inside of you and in your life. It is a common problem and it is – make no mistake about it – a problem that relates to your sin, the influences of the world and the evil one. The problem is often purported to be “addiction” in the realm of psychology, a “societal ill” in the realm of sociology, or just “the way of the world”  in the realm of culture, especially our country, the United States of America. But all of these are sometimes ways of re-labeling exactly what we are being warned about here in 1st Corinthians chapter 6.

 

This spiritual threat is summed up by St. Paul: it is the possibility that something in this world could “enslave” you. This is why St. Paul is so adamantly against the possibility: “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything (v 12).” He then goes on to mention food and more importantly, he goes on to mention sex. The list of course could have been much longer than just these two things, but the point is that God is teaching through St. Paul that we have the potential – the constant and real potential – to allow something in life to master us, to grab hold of us…our affections and desires; our alliances and our commitments; our so-called “needs” and “wants” so that before we know it, we act, live and breathe as if we are completely attached to that thing. And we begin to treat that thing as that which is necessary for us to go on.

 

When this happens, dear Christian, we have on our hands a false god, an idol. And these false gods and idols come in all shapes and sizes! They are as varied as human personality. It behooves us to step back and conduct an inventory of our own lives. What is it in our lives that we are tempted to allow to master us? Don’t underestimate what those things may be! For myself, I even need to consider how something like my theological library can get out of hand, though I think as I get older this is less of an issue. However, back in the day when my older children were just little babies, I was tested to say the least! Sometimes they would crawl around make a b-line to one of my books. They were known to do things like grab a pretty valuable book and either rip out a page or put a crayon to it. The first couple of times this happened, you would think the sky was falling! In a nutshell: I was over-reacting. At the end of the day, it was just a book.

 

I’ve shared the story before, but one time the test went up a notch: one of my little girls just old enough to walk, made it into the garage where our brand-new mini-van was sitting. Ingeniously she got a hold of a stone and figured out that she was able to sketch lines into the paint of the brand-new mini-van; the side, sliding door made a great surface and it was so shiny! When I walked into the garage I almost started choking and had to take a deep breath! What happened next must have been from God. Though I was tempted to go nuts, I didn’t. Instead, she turned around and saw me. All by herself she got this guilty look on her face. When I saw that, my heart melted, I smiled and picked her up as I calmly explained that her drawing needed to be confined to paper. All was well. I actually survived. Everything was going to be ok. Yes, we are supposed to manage and care for those things the Lord puts into our lives. Our stewardship counts! But on the other hand, we are also called not to be mastered by anything!

 

But things like books and cars are just the top of the cake. What if we get to the point when a bottle becomes our life? When it just feels that we can’t make it through the day without drinking? What if sexual addiction becomes real? When a person goes back over and over again to this objectivising habit feeling as though they cannot stop? What if it goes even further and invades hallowed and sacred relationships? The world wants to rationalize: “How can anything that feels so right, be so wrong?” This is one of the most popular ideas of someone being on the cusp of losing their soul.

 

We have freedom in Christ. You don’t have Old Testament dietary laws binding you. Go forth and enjoy your steak and potato; have your shrimp, eat your chocolate cake, and if you’re able and old enough, enjoy your beer or wine (after all, the Lord lists in His Word several legitimate reasons for alcohol like celebrations -- e.g. weddings -- medicinal purposes (1st Timothy 5:23), helping those who are grieving (Proverbs 31:6-7), and of course in the reception of the Holy Sacrament). Great! Enjoy your freedom, but the Lord’s message is don’t let any of these things master you (not including the Sacraments)!

 

Know where to draw the line. I was at a restaurant that advertised a chocolate desert called “Death By Chocolate,” and being the theologian that I am realized that that was a real possibility! The same is true for other things, but the Lord is good and has given us ways for us to be protected. Take for example the area of sexuality: the Lord came up with this great plan thousands of years ago to protect us called “marriage”! His call is clear: “Honor it!” Look at Hebrews 13: “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (v 4).” In the very next verse the Lord warns against “the love of money” and commands us to be content with what we have.  The Lord gives us these words to protect us because He cares for us & also because He wishes to have His light shine through you!

[Here ends the Law portion of the sermon...come tomorrow and get the Gospel too!]
Hope to see you in Church!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Tomorrow Sunday January 11th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Under New Ownership” (Romans 6:1-14)

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Christmas Eve: Wednesday, December 24th at 7:00 pm

Christmas Morning: Thursday, December 25th at 9:30 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,

Christ also appears in His people. Romans 6:1-14 presents our new life in two ways: (1) Who are ARE (the indicative); and (2) What you are to DO (the imperative). Sometimes Christians try to jump to the doing without beginning with the being (fully supported by the promise of God! The Christian life begins and ends with what God makes you to BE!
Come and learn more about how it is we are to LIVE as Christians. Come and receive the body and blood of Jesus! Come and receive the greatest gift and resource at NO cost! For FREE!
Come to be blessed.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Under New Ownership”

(Romans 6:1-14)

Pastor Al Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Everything in God’s Word must be believed in. That is the proper response to God’s Word is faith. But not just in the “big things” like creation, or the incarnation of the Lord – when God took on flesh – or like when Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world (and all of your sin) when He died for us on Calvary’s cross, or His resurrection from the grave, but all the “rest” of it too. And perhaps “the rest of the story” is much more important than we give it credit to be. For example what Romans 6:1-14 is all about…the absolutely crucial rest of the story! Please do not miss it!

 

Let me assure you that this text is indeed most appropriate for Epiphany: when Christ showed His glory so that we would know that the babe born on Christmas is actually God in the flesh. He let out glimpses of His glory – many of them -- actually – so that we would know that this baby and this man was no mere human being, but true man who was also true God, the Savior of all of His brothers and sisters…all of the other true humans like you and me. That is, the bible texts during Epiphany are about Christ showing or revealing Himself to the world so that people would see that God is alive and well…and even more than alive and well, but actively and powerfully working among us and to this day rescuing people from the clutches of sin, death, and the power of the devil.

 

All of the bible passages of Epiphany are about this, esp. as is our Gospel today, but so is our epistle from Romans even though it seems so much about our Christian lives today…but this is what makes it so special, because it means that Christ is still “appearing” but now He is doing so through poor sinners like you and me and demonstrating that we are much more than just poor sinners.

 

Romans 6:1-14 is a gold mine on the Christian life. In studying this text I was reminded of why the Christian life can seem so unnecessarily frustrating. Let me start off by presenting this crucial fact about Romans 6:1-14: when God teaches about the Christian life in these verses, He does so by putting forth two crucial components to be aware of:

 

First: The Christian Life is described as an indicative: what you ALREADY are in Christ as a result of what Christ has ALREADY accomplished! These things are true. These things are factual. They go in the category of those objective truths of the faith which are quite simply to be believed in: God created the heavens and the earth; Jesus died and rose again to save you; Jesus is true God and man…AND You have died to sin (6:2); AND You were baptized into the death of Christ (6:3); AND You have been buried with Christ (6:4); AND You shall certainly be united in a resurrection like His (6:5); AND Your old self has been crucified with Jesus (6:6); AND You are now in the position of no longer being enslaved to sin (6:6); AND You’ve been set free from sin (6:7); AND You will also live with Christ (6:8).

 

Let’s soak in this first part: we have a terrible time starting our Christian lives with these Epiphany facts! They seem counter-intuitive. We know about our sin, we feel our sin, we experience our sin…God’s Word teaches about our sin and we know it’s there. We confirm it. And it’s so easy for us to do so that while it is enormously healthy and beneficial to confess our sin (1st John 1:8-9) – and if we don’t, we’re liars and the truth is not in us – on the other hand, sometimes we never get to “the rest of the story.” Christ has forgiven us our sin and this means that we have objectively and truly – actually and factually – received a new position in life; these things are true: you’ve died to sin; you have His resurrection life. And yes, part of St. Paul’s meaning here in Romans 6 is referring to the future resurrection of the body that is yet to come; his meaning, however, also includes the enduring new status that is the life of the Resurrected Lord Jesus already yours!

 

So what? Well, the “so what” answer is everything to the Christian and I hope you will absolutely soak in this truth Christian: the “so what” is that the domination, the mastery, the tyranny of sin has been destroyed. This is a fact. So while it may be so that because you are still in the world, you must still deal with the presence of sin, what has changed is the predominance of sin! Sin is still around, but it is no longer your master. You Christian are now under new ownership. When Christ died, and the life of God entered into the veins and arteries of death itself, death received its terminal cancer; it received its thermal nuclear warhead and it died and sin lost its mastery. This is true, this is factual; this is actual because when Christ died He died to kill sin and you benefited (this is a fact) and when Christ rose He rose to give you life unending (and this is a fact). And those who have been baptized into Christ Jesus – like you have – now have entered into this true status. Sin is no longer your master. That’s a fact!

In Jesus' Love!
Pastor Espinosa
p.s.
1. New Adult Study begins at 11:00 am with Dr. Herb Geisler on "Music among Christians is...."
2. High School Study continues on the relationship between faith and science.
3. Tomorrow for the first time we begin offering TWO Sunday School classes for our children. One class for the little ones AND a separate class for the confirmation aged youth led by Dr. Mary Hobus.
4. Parish Council meeting at 12 pm.
5. Confirmation at 3:00 pm.

Tomorrow January 4th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Where Christ Is Found”

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Christmas Eve: Wednesday, December 24th at 7:00 pm

Christmas Morning: Thursday, December 25th at 9:30 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,

When my dad was nearing the end of his life he had to be in a full-time residential care facility. He always wanted to "come home." This was a very difficult time for the family. One day he told us why "home" was so important to him. "Home" was where my mom was; his "home" was where his wife was. Home was associated with a person. His words were a testimony to his love for my mother.
Our greatest home is also associated with a person. We forget that our Lord Himself designated a special place where He is found and where He has chosen to meet us. When He was on earth, He Himself kept coming back to this home. For us this home is an earthly paradise. This home is where Jesus is.
Come to this home tomorrow morning and connect with Jesus Christ. In this home gathering you will be fed and nourished with His Word and with His Sacrament. This home is offered and accessible to you every Sunday in 2015. It is here to bless you.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“Where Christ Is Found”

(Luke 2:40-52)

Pastor Al Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Church, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, is the only Christian Church body officially represented in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. What a magnificent witness the Lord has permitted us to give to the world every year on national television! But how does one present the saving faith on a float? In 1997 I had the honor to be on our theme-winning float that year and the saving faith was shown through the stages of our lives highlighted by our being in the Father’s house. There was a scene of a baptism, when we were brought to the Father’s house to be born again. It showed confirmation, when we were brought to the Father’s house to confess our faith at about 12 years of age (this was the same age that Jesus was in the temple as recorded in our Luke 2 Gospel: the age at which Jews began advanced training in the Scriptures/the Word of God). And there was a scene of holy matrimony when we came to the Father’s house to become one with our beloved in the Name of the Triune God. That float did not include our funeral (I suppose for understandable reasons: not wanting to dampen the New Year celebration since the world does not see death through the lens of faith). But hopefully our funerals will be in the Father’s house…always in the Father’s house, the best place to be on earth…the Father’s house.

 

The Psalmist wrote, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)    We learn to emphasize all of this in the third commandment and its meaning as taught in Luther’s Small Catechism. Let’s review these. As I ask the questions, please read the answers back (or do so by memory).

 

What is the third commandment?

 

“You shall remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

 

What does this mean?

 

“We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

 

This holy commandment is vital to keep before us. God is taking good care of us by commanding us to be in the best place throughout our lives so that our faith is kept alive and caused to grow in a healthy way. This happens because in the Father’s house the Lord Jesus comes to us to feed and nourish our faith in Him through His Word and Sacrament. Even in the New Testament, we are admonished therefore not to give up gathering in the Father’s house so that we may encourage one another and all the more as the Day of Christ approaches (Hebrews 10:25). To be sure it’s a big deal to be in the Father’s house!

 

The problem dear Christian is that this is not at all obvious to us. This is quite simply not our way of thinking. Our first inclination and natural way of reasoning is not to be in the Father’s house. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is because by nature we don’t believe God’s Word that this is where the Lord is to be found. We want to find God and try to find God in other places; in so many places other than in the Father’s house!

 

We act this way – in sin against the Father’s house – for a wrong internal reason and a wrong external reason. The wrong internal reason is that we want to go along with the idea that “God is in our hearts.” So if God is in your heart, then why in the world would you ever need to connect with Him in His house? You see, if God is in you, then you don’t need the Father’s house! The problem here is that in-spite of how religious and spiritual we might think ourselves to be, our hearts are in themselves in bad shape. Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” It is a bad move Christian to ever substitute your heart for the Father’s house. Not a good idea!

 

The external excuse is the supreme cop-out that equates the Father’s house with the institutions of man. How many of us have heard the objection against attending worship since this is a giving in to “man-made institutions.” The implication is obvious: the church = a man-made institution. Now while it is true that men have created institutions, the Church however is not man’s creation, but God’s. The Church is God’s holy bride; in the Father’s house God has arranged to meet us in order to save us from sin and death. Don’t let the “man-made institution” deception and logical fallacy get you off track in coming to the Father’s house!

 

In the meantime, don’t ever think that it is mere coincidence that one of the basic attacks against our faith is when our minds list all of the reasons why we shouldn’t come to the Father’s house! This is not coincidental but part and parcel the battle that is constant in our lives. Now this is not to say that the Church is not to strive to be as faithful as it can be and avoid unnecessary roadblocks. We are to show Christ and the love of God. When we do a poor job of this, we create obstacles for people to be in the Father’s house. But having said this, we also must be aware that -- at the same time -- our sinful nature generates excuses to avoid the Father’s house.

 

Nowadays the younger generation is challenged in wondering if the church is even relevant anymore. We need to be aware of the current issues that challenge how we present ourselves as the Body of Christ. Tony Cook in his Next Gen. presentation about reaching today’s millennial generation (those born between the early 80’s and the early 2000’s) wants to make us aware of these things that are on the hearts and minds of millennials today. They desire a Church that:

 

  • Focuses on Jesus and his teachings
  • Connects to daily life
  • Provides models of maturity and character
  • Demonstrates love, mutual respect, and unity
  • Doesn’t compromise doctrine
  • Provides supportive intergenerational community
  • Address issues of equality and justice
  • Serves community and world
  • Allows diverse leadership and participation
  • Listens to perspectives and allows discussion
  • Utilizes Internet as educational platform
  • Connects stewardship to mission not administration

 

That is we should do all that can – as long as it is consistent with the Word of Christ – to be faithful to what it means to offer the Father’s house to people for whom Jesus shed His precious blood! We need to do this, because so many people – even those without faith in Christ – know that Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but it is easy for us to miss the rest of the story: the Savior who was born kept coming back to the Father’s house. Have you noticed this about the Word of God? Jesus was only 8 days old when He is brought to the Father’s house to be circumcised. The world celebrated New Years on January 1st, but the Holy Church remembers that this was the 8th day; the day of our Lord’s circumcision. To even mention it seems weird and detached and the skeptic will say, “No wonder people view the Church as irrelevant!” But people often complain about what they don’t understand.

 

Jesus had to go to the Father’s house, the holy temple in Jerusalem to have done to him what the Old Testament Law required. It was the sign that Jesus was truly a son of Abraham, a member of God’s covenant people. But much more occurred that day. Again, this happened in the temple – the Father’s house – where all of the holy and bloody sacrifices were offered up to God, but now an 8-day old baby came and his blood was shed for the first time in the Father’s house…Jesus was not merely keeping the Law of God for you, but He was already showing why He came. He came to shed His blood so that all who come to the Father’s house trusting in Jesus’ blood shed for their sin would be acceptable in the sight of the Heavenly Father. Then 32 days later, Jesus is brought back to the Temple/The Father’s house again. This time for the holy presentation and this was when Simeon sang his song. This was when He said that Jesus was the salvation of God, the long-awaited Savior -- God with us -- hiding in a baby who came to give Himself in the Father’s house for all sinners. And now here we are again – in our Gospel today – Jesus comes back at age 12…and where is He? What is the Biblical message for us Christian? Where is Jesus to be found? Where do we find Him AGAIN?! Answer: in the Father’s House!

In Jesus' Love,
Rev. Alfonso Espinosa, Ph.D.

Christmas Eve (7 pm on December 24th) and Christmas Morning (9:30 am on December 25th) at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine

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Christmas Eve: Wednesday, December 24th at 7:00 pm

Christmas Morning: Thursday, December 25th at 9:30 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 so excited to invite you to our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services at Saint Paul's!

Christmas Eve is a carols and candlelight service of the Word at 7:00 pm at Crean Lutheran High School.

 

Christmas Morning is a Divine Service (with Holy Communion) at 9:30 am (also filled with well-known Christmas hymns).

 

I'm also very excited to announce that while I will proclaim the Word of Christ based on Matthew 1:18-25 on Christmas Eve, the other Alfonso Espinosa (my son) will proclaim the Word of Christ on Christmas morning based on Hebrews 1:1-12! My son, A.J., is a 2014 graduate with honors of Concordia Seminary Saint Louis and is currently completing his S.T.M. He is serving part-time at Messiah Lutheran Church in Saint Louis. He is a gifted preacher and I am sure you will enjoy his proclamation on Christmas morning.

 

Come and celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!

 

In Jesus' Love,

 

Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D., senior pastor, Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow Sunday December 21st at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, The Last Sunday in Advent: “How will this be?” (Luke 1:26-28)

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Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11:00 am (please note: tomorrow we will not have Bible Study and Sunday School due to our New Member reception...this will be a time of fellowship and celebration)

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 Lord has given us one last Sunday to prepare for Christmas. That's tomorrow. In our Gospel from Luke 1:26-38 we will hear of THE preparation for that first and original Christmas: the Virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit which is evidence of the glorious Incarnation (when God took on flesh and became one of us).
Christmas comes because God entered into our lives. God is not far away and detached. He joined our lives by His will and by His Word...it happened out of His great love for you and me.
Come let us receive the Word of Christ as we make our final preparations for Christmas...not just through decorating, and gifts, and parties...but through spiritual preparations: confessing our sin, receiving absolution, receiving the Word proclaimed, and partaking in the Holy Sacrament. Christ comes to prepare us for His coming. That's God's plan for us, keeping our faith alive and growing.
Also, let us rejoice as we receive 19 new members to our congregation! This is indeed a time of great celebration! Along these lines, remember that every individual member has a constant mutual-ministry opportunity: reach out to one another, build bridges, be friendly. If you see someone who is alone, greet them, introduce yourself (even if you've done it before as we live in grace). Let's be one of those congregations that guests will talk about: "they are a friendly church; a loving church!" It makes all the difference in the world.
By the way, this is not a random tag to our theme. God is not just a theological idea of love and mercy...no, He actually came to us in the flesh. We don't just talk and study theology...we live in love. The Christian loves the Word and -- remember -- loves people. Put the two together and now we are on to something!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Advent Service Tonight Wed December 17th + Saturday Choir Practice & Christmas Party

17Dec/14Off

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Tonight we gather for our last Advent Wednesday Night Service. We have presented a special series on "Christ Brings"...we have meditated on the Hope, Peace, Joy, and now tonight, the Love He brings. Here are the details:

We meet at:

Concordia University Irvine

1530 Concordia, Irvine, CA

in the Good Shepherd Chapel

 

Directions to Concordia University:

Coming on the 405 from the North (driving South-bound):

  1. Take University Drive, Exit 4, toward Jeffrey Road
  2. Turn right onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Directions to Concordia University:

 

Coming on the 405 from the South (driving North-bound):

 

  1. Take University Dr./Jeffrey Rd. exit, Exit 4
  2. Turn left onto University Drive
  3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive
  4. Turn right onto Concordia
  5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

For Saturday, December 20th:

Christmas Eve Choir

Singers! Please consider joining us to sing on Christmas Eve in our 7pm Lessons and Carols service.  We will meet to rehearse on Saturday, Dec 20th from 1-2:30pm at Pastor Al’s home.  Contact Karissa today for more information (klystrup@yahoo.com).

Also for Saturday, December 20th:

Please join us for an evening of fun, fellowship, food and holiday treats at our annual Christmas party.

 

 

When: Saturday, December 20th at 5pm.

 

Where: Light of Christ Lutheran Church, 18182

Culver Dr., Irvine, CA, (same place as last year), fellowship hall.

 

What to bring: There will be sign-up sheets in the café on Sundays to sign up for your favorite holiday casseroles, side dishes, salads/veggies/dips, breads/rolls, deserts/holiday treats, drinks(water, soda, hot cider). Main entrée/meat will be provided.

Please RSVP on the sign-up sheets on how many in your family will be attending.

 

Need your help please: If you can help set up/decorate or take down/clean up, please sign up for that also. Thank you!

 

Questions, please see Bill or Ali Frank (or contact at wizardf616@gmail.com)

 

Hope to see you all there!

Thank you dear Christians. May the Lord bless us as we celebrate our Lord's coming and His birth!

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,

Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday December 14th 2014: “The Will of God: Three Things” (1st Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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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,

As Christmas approaches, we want to be ready and we want everything to be in place. We hope that the will of God is to bless us -- as we see blessing -- in every way. And this is where we can struggle. Just what IS the will of God? Too often it is presented as something very difficult to know.
Tomorrow we will bask in the beauty and simplicity of the will of God. We will receive a sense of relief that it is not about manuevering through a maze and it most certainly does not depend on us. The Lord is in control and for our good and nothing is more His will than that we would know His eternal love and mercy for us in Jesus.
Most importantly we will receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. The divine service is where the Lord promises His special sacramental presence in Holy Communion. It is where we can find God ready to forgive and to help our faith.
This is why we gather and flowing from this, to love and encourage one another. Tomorrow we also celebrate a holy baptism (for Harper Grace Gilman, grand-daughter to our very own Steve and Sharon Fischer). We will have many guests. Let us reach out to them, share greetings, and be the family of God that the Lord has called us to be sharing His light and His love.
I look forward to serving you tomorrow morning.
An excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“The Will of God: Three Things” (1st Thessalonians 5:16-18)

For Your Life in Christ the Third Sunday in Advent

December 14th, 2014

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

Pastor Espinosa

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Knowing God’s will can in some respects seem like a very tricky thing. When I first received my call to serve as pastor to Saint Paul’s in 1996 -- when we were in Laguna Beach -- I was excited when I realized that I was being given the opportunity to serve alongside an exceptional congregational president in John W. Lottes. He was the president of the Art Institute of Southern California and a truly exceptional Christian leader gifted in the realm of administration. I remember my deliberations about the call back in ’96 and while I knew that parish council leaders had limited tenures, I felt strongly that serving with John during the first few years of my new pastorate would represent a powerful start for my new calling. When I accepted the call I was excited to get to work with John. Not long after arriving to Saint Paul’s, however, our congregation was rocked with the news that John was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I remember living in a state of disbelief: “How could this be?” And the enthusiast in me actually thought surely what I had determined to be the will of God (namely that I would serve with John Lottes) should not be deterred even by cancer. In the early stages of my ministry to John, I prayed for a miracle.

 

In time it became evident that my brother in the Lord John was dying. No, the Lord did not answer my prayer for exceptional healing (as I understood it at the time) – or affirm that what I believed to be His will was in fact His will – but what the Lord did do was generate a different kind of miracle: I saw the Word of Christ permeate John’s heart and he testified to actually growing in his faith during this time. As a matter of fact I witnessed him as becoming radiant in the faith. As weak as his body became, there was no diminishing his spirit. It was amazing to see! His wife Nancy also matured in ways that she did not expect; testifying to the comforting ministry of the church when one of her members is suffering. All her life she had been a giver, but for the first time she allowed others to give and she realized that to accept the love of Christ from others was in itself an invaluable service in the kingdom of God (blessing both those who give and of course the one who receives). God’s will was for a different course, another way…one which at first I did not suspect and did not know. What became apparent was the fundamental lesson about the will of God in individual situations: God always knows what to do and we oftentimes have not a clue.

 

One of my favorite seminary professors Robert Preus once taught us this about prayer:

 

  1. God always answers the prayers of His children.
  2. He usually does not answer them the way we think He should.
  3. But He always answers them in the way that is best for us.

 

So true and the Lord keeps His promise to work all things out

for our good (Romans 8:28).

 

I remember being especially uptight and worried when the first of our eight children was getting ready to go to high school and then later getting ready to go to college. Where should he go? Where would he be safe? Which institution would offer the best environment? What kinds of influences would impact him? What was God’s will? What was God’s will?!!! He ended up attending a very liberal institution in New Haven, Connecticut! I prayed for him. At that liberal institution, he met the most wonderful young woman (couldn’t ask for a better daughter in law; smart as a tack and full of faith in the Lord); and then a few years into his undergraduate studies, my son informed me that he had decided to go to seminary to also become a pastor. God worked through it all even while I had some Christians intimate that we had made the wrong decision sending him to such a liberal environment. But God was in control, not us.

Fast forward and our third child goes to Chicago – and another liberal institution! -- and meets her future husband. Just one interesting caveat: this young man was from Germany and he would return to Germany to continue his studies while preparing to become a pastor in Germany. But the Lord forges us over time: the fact is that I had nothing to worry about. The word for this new situation was our daily prayer to God: “Thy will be done!” And the truth remains: God is in control! My daughter could not be more blessed and I could not have a better son-in-law for her. It was meant to be. God be praised, even if it was not exactly what I had in mind for God and my daughter…but His way is so much better!

 

But be warned dear Christians, some unfortunately take the beautiful teaching of God’s Word and unnecessarily make it complicated beyond words:

 

One book that I don’t recommend to you is entitled, Finding the Will of God in a Crazy Mixed-Up World. Here is a quick summary of the book that I’m not recommending to you, but making you aware of: God’s known will or universal will is different than God’s specific will or individual will and it should be our goal to know both so that we may live in the center of God’s will. To do this you need to follow a specific roadmap. That roadmap includes following 6 commands so that then you can be in a position to know God’s specific will in 3 areas of your life: everything that represents your major decisions, then your moderate decisions, and finally your minor decisions. Now here is where things get really exciting (according to this book): if you practice the 8 additional road signs for making the right decisions about the will of God then you may experience God’s individual will for you at the level of God’s good will, or if you are more successful, God’s acceptable will – or if you do an exceptional job in your spiritual walk – His perfect will in your life. But remember to take into consideration in your preparation to find God’s will the 4 temperaments. Depending on your temperament, you’ll need to make unique adjustments in your pursuit for discovering the will of God in your life.

How ‘bout that? There are many problems with this approach, but one of them is that it raises a terrible anxiety. First it sets us up for failure. It gives us the sense that we can predict outcomes. William Miller predicted that Jesus would come again in 1843. He was wrong. Hal Lindsey predicted 1988. He was wrong. Harold Camping predicted May of 2011 and then October of 2011. He was wrong. Tim LaHaye has predicted on or before 2024. What does all of this do for you and me? It raises fear, not faith. And furthermore, it turns your walk with God not about faith, but about following a program that can be fine-tuned and controlled. But what if you aren’t doing it right? What if you mess up on your calculations? What if? What if? What if? And in the end the spirit is exhausted and the mind is confused…and the poor soul who has completely mistaken the will of God begins to blame God and often abandon faith (or at least their impression of faith).

 

Where will you be in 5 or 10 years?

Where will your kids go to school?

How will your marriage mature?

What will your health be like?

Where will you be living?

 

We all know the answer: we don’t know. But what we do know is that our gracious Lord Jesus Christ is in control and His plan is – always – to bless His children and often in ways that we do not expect.

 

You’ve heard of the K.I.S.S. principle right? It means “Keep It Simple Studious [One].” Don’t follow the mazes and complications of those who only appear to be spiritual and religious. Stick to the Word of Christ! The good news is that God doesn’t expect us to get our heads spinning when it comes to “knowing His will” and trying to peer into the future! His will for us is clear and direct; and it is much more focused on what really counts.

 

The Christians in Thessalonica had some major issues:

  1. They were so in tune to the imminent coming of Jesus Christ that they were worried about what would happen to their loved ones who had died. Christ was coming, but what about those no longer with them? How would they be included in the coming of the Lord?
  2. The second issue was much more practical: because they were so transfixed on the future, they were “checking out” of today, they were losing their focus on their immediate call and vocations; they were forsaking their responsibilities and they were letting go of their daily duties. So St. Paul wrote 1st Thessalonians to lead them to get back on course and in so doing the Lord taught them about His will.

 

Part I: So Let’s Major in Majors When it Comes to the Will of God

  1. What does God really want you to do? Now I know if you’re a Raider fan like I am, this will be hard to believe: But God doesn’t care about whether you root for the Oakland Raiders or the Green Bay Packers; He is actually fine with whatever you decide to have for lunch today; and He really isn’t that worried about your next business move (because if it doesn’t work out, He will still have your back)! He has more fundamental things on His mind when it comes to His will for you. And when we focus on what is really His will, then everything else has a way of panning out!
  2. He calmed the Thessalonians by revealing the simplicity of His will and gave them (and us) three little basic things that flow from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. And here my dear brothers and sisters in Christ is the will of God for your life! [the Greek has no definite article, so this includes God’s will, but is not exhaustive of it]

1st Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Wednesday December 10th: Advent Service 7 pm at Good Shepherd Chapel Concordia University Irvine

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

You're invited to our mid-week Advent service this Wednesday night, December 10th, at 7:00 pm.

 

We meet at:

Concordia University Irvine

1530 Concordia, Irvine, CA

in the Good Shepherd Chapel

 

Directions to Concordia University:

Coming on the 405 from the North (driving South-bound):

1. Take University Drive, Exit 4, toward Jeffrey Road

2. Turn right onto University Drive

3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive

4. Turn right onto Concordia

5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

 

Directions to Concordia University:

 

Coming on the 405 from the South (driving North-bound):

 

1. Take University Dr./Jeffrey Rd. exit, Exit 4

2. Turn left onto University Drive

3. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive

4. Turn right onto Concordia

5. Good Shepherd Chapel is about 1000 yards to your right as you drive through campus on the main road. Look for the fountain and then the chapel with a white cross on a tower in front of the chapel building.

We are enjoying a special Advent Series.

This Wednesday, December 10th: "Christ is Our Joy!"

 

Hope to see you there!

 

Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D., senior pastor, Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

 

 

Tomorrow Sunday December 7th 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: Prepare The Way Of The Lord, Make His Paths Straight! (Mark 1:1-8)

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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,

When John the Baptist preached he was doing so to prepare people for the coming of Christ. What a golden opportunity this is for us. How do we prepare for Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, the Judge of all people, and the Shepherd of the flock of God? John told us, "make his paths straight." (Mark 1:3)
He elaborated on this through his ministry which was "proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness sins." (Mark 1:4) Even his lifestyle and dress helped convey his message: "Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey." (Mark 1:6)

John's person was a living picture of God's wisdom: "Do not love the world or anything in the world." (1st John 2:15a) Yes, enjoy life's gifts, but don't love them, don't cling to them, don't allow them to define your life. John's dress and diet shouted that he would not be mastered by the world (see St. Paul's thought-line recorded at 1st Corinthians 6:12...he explains that he will not be "mastered" by anything).
This single-mindedness is really concerned about what is most important in life: that we receive the Lord of Life into our lives. The straight path describes the straight path of faith that holds to Jesus...it is the path through which Jesus comes into our lives through faith. But note John's elaboration: in such a faith we are very cognizant of baptism and repentance. We "return" to the significance of our baptisms into Christ: in the eyes of God we were buried with Jesus in baptism (our sins were buried with the One who died for us) and we have been raised with Christ in baptism who conquered death (see Romans 6:3-5).
What does this mean for daily living? We turn from the old things, the worldly priorities that cling to loving the passing things, the things that turn to dust. We may enjoy these things, but we don't depend on these things. We then -- in faith -- turn towards Christ, the Only Lasting One, the Ever-Living God and in Him we not only have all of our needs met, but since He is the One who deals with our sins as they must be dealt with in order for us to be saved, eternity is also given to us...that is, in Christ we get to live forever and even now enjoy His overflowing life; a life of faith, hope, and love.
But how do we attain such a faith and life? Answer: This is why we gather around Christ Word and Sacrament tomorrow morning. Christ is present in His Word and Sacrament to create, sustain and nurture saving faith. Christ is present in the service to keep you connected to the One who works the "straight path" in your heart, keeping you connected to Him, the Savior of the World...YOUR Savior.
This is why we come!
Hope to see you in God's house tomorrow morning.
Special announcement: please rejoice with me: this evening we are conducting a private baptism for Sheryl Kim (wife of Joseph Kim) and the private baptism of their children as well: Caroline and Henry Kim. Presiding elder Mark Kuntz will stand by my side representing our congregation as we conduct these three baptisms! Praise the Lord!
 
Also: We have scheduled our next New Member Sunday for Sunday, December 21st. We will look forward to this blessed day and a reception afterwards in honor of our new members!
 
Also: Please mark on your calendars: our Wednesday Night Advent Service -- this December 10th -- at Concordia University is in the Good Shepherd Chapel. This Wednesday I will proclaim "Christ Brings Joy"...we will mediate on this virtue of the Holy Spirit and how it helps us prepare for Christmas. The service is at 7 pm.
 
Also: Please remember to mark your calendars for our congregational Christmas Party at Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Irvine: Saturday, December 20th at 5 pm. Light of Christ is located at 18182 Culver Dr. in Irvine.
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor
p.s. tomorrow after service Pastor Mueller teaches adult Bible Study and Pastor Espinosa teaches the high school students during the 11:00 am Bible Study/Sunday School hour...come and be equipped in the Word!
May John's call to that first century crowd preparing for the Lord be our call.

Tomorrow Sunday November 30th 2014 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Hosanna!” (Mark 11:1-10) and Advent Devotion #1 for Sunday, November 30th

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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,

A brand new Church Year starts tomorrow. The season is called "Advent" that means "coming." It refers to the coming of Christ the Lord. It is the first season of the church year that ushers in Christmas when God was born to save us from sin and death! It is a season of special reflection in preparation for our Coming King!
Tomorrow we will focus on this prayer cry: "Hosanna!" Why is this the perfect word to welcome God's coming? The word itself helps us understand why we need the Lord to come and for what purpose He comes. The meaning strikes at the heart of what threatens our peace and joy; the meaning uncovers the mission of God in Christ that is about a victory; about a winning of war; about an advancement of a kingdom for your benefit...for your good. Come let us worship tomorrow in this theme of "Hosanna!"
ALSO:
This year I intend to send you a daily Advent devotion. The first installment is for tomorrow, November 30th the first day in the Advent season, and I am including it here one day early so that you have it going into day one. Tomorrow I intend to send you the devotion for day two, Monday, December 1st, etc. The devotions are from Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Here is #1 for the first Sunday in Advent, November 30th:
HOMEWARD BOUND
The First Sunday in Advent, November 30, 2014
Read Psalm 122.
I was glad when they said, “Let us go up to the house of the LORD.”
Psalm 122:1
“Come on up for Thanksgiving!” Did you receive a Thanksgiving invitation this year? I guess all of us who regularly have the chance to gather with family and friends for the holidays take it for granted. The wonderful smells of holiday meals, the laughter filling the house, and everybody catching up with events in each other’s lives are what make the day so special.
But today Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end and all those happy get-togethers must break up. Roads are packed with travelers scattering their separate ways. Of course in a few short weeks, we’ll hear a new invitation: “Come on up for Christmas!” Your church is sending out its own invitation this Advent. In the next few weeks many volunteers will be decorating the church, learning their parts for the Christmas program, and practicing their anthems for the choir. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are going to all this effort because they want to invite you to come on up for Christmas as together we go to worship and celebrate our Savior’s coming.
But there is another come-on-up-for-Christmas invitation unlike any other. When you reach this home you won’t find yourself sitting at the little kid’s table or crammed into a crowded pew. And the festival won’t end too soon like Thanksgiving and Christmas always do. The Lord Jesus Himself is inviting you to come up to His heavenly home and stay there with Him—forever.
That’s what Advent is all about, and that’s what these Advent devotions are all about. We will recall why the Lord Jesus came down from heaven so long ago. We will recall that the only way we can call heaven our home was because Jesus took our guilt and sin upon Himself and suffered and died in our place. Then, putting our faith in Christ, we will join our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in joyful expectation as we journey on together.
So light the first Advent candle, and accept our thrilling invitation: “Let us go up the
house of the Lord!”
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for calling us home to share Your eternal celebration through Your Son Jesus Christ. Help us to truly value Your forgiveness in Jesus and our eternal future, which He won for us by His life, death, and resurrection.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
May the Lord bless us as we commence Advent and may we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Sacrament tomorrow morning.
In Your Service and to Christ's Glory,
Pastor Espinosa