Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Sunday March 1st 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “When Disciples Are Rebuked” (Mark 8:31-38)

28Feb/15Off

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 Lord bless you as we continue to journey through Lent, today -- Saturday, February 28th -- being the 10th day of the 40 days. Tomorrow is the Second Sunday in Lent (recall that the Sundays are "in" Lent and not "of" Lent as Sunday always marks the Day of the Resurrection so that Sundays are not counted as part of the 40 days). Nevertheless, the Gospel for tomorrow is rich in the theme of Lent. It is a humbling text! In Mark 8:31-38 St. Peter stands for us all as a true believer, a true disciple of the Living Lord Jesus Christ who speaks in two ways; in two radically different "languages" so-to-speak: Peter spoke words of God and then in practically the same breath spoke words of the evil one. How can this be? It's seems untenable, illogical, utterly contradictory, and grossly inconsistent! That's right...and this state of affairs describes us too!

If this is so -- and it is -- how then can we ever be saved?! We are saved because of the True Disciple and know that He is Jesus Christ. He followed God not for Himself (as He was already perfect and pure), but He followed God for you and for me. This Disciple, THE Disciple followed God so that WE would be saved!

Tomorrow, we will thoroughly get into this fascinating and crucial text that leads us to true humility for our Lenten journey, but don't worry, it will also lead us to the splendid Gospel that keeps us strong in the grace of God!

Most importantly, we will receive the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ. At Saint Paul's we receive Holy Communion every, single Sunday, because this great gift is God's rich assurance and guarantee that the Gospel is most certainly for us...for you and for me! In this Sacrament of the Altar the True Disciple Jesus incorporates you into Himself so that there is no doubt that in Christ, yes, you do follow God!

This portion of tomorrow's sermon is all Law and no Gospel, but it is an important catechetical introduction teaching us about "sin" (singular) and "sins" (plural). A teaching that is frequently neglected nowadays:

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ who suffered and was crucified for us to save us from sin and death. Amen. Today’s Gospel based on Mark 8:31-38 is a stunning section in the Bible. Why? Because St. Peter gave the best answer one could possibly give in rightly, accurately, and gloriously identifying Jesus. Based on his answer: “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29), case closed: Peter knew Jesus. But when Jesus went on to the rest of the story: not only verifying WHO He was, but for WHAT REASON He had come, this is where Peter got lost. And not just a little lost mind you, but totally and utterly confused! So much so that when Peter responded to the LORD explaining His mission he did not speak as he had before with words of God, but this time he spoke with words from Satan!

 

This is the stunning scene: after Peter rightly and boldly confessed Christ’s identity, Jesus – in Matthew’s parallel to our Mark text – actually tells Peter that his confession (his words on Christ) were from God. (Matthew 16:17) Peter had just spoken God’s word, but now in respect to the WHAT of Jesus (as in WHAT would the Christ do?) the LORD makes clear that Peter was now speaking not for God, but for the devil!

 

Again, this is so shocking a state of affairs that is appears unfathomable; the implications rattle us so that it’s easy to repress its traumatic impact; it is so unsettling that it’s almost as if we ignore the seismic contradiction, the cosmic inconsistency, the duplicitous destructiveness of the situation: the believer – and in this case – the apostle, and not merely the apostle, the leader of the band (even as Peter was assuredly speaking for them all) spoke for God and -- in practically the next breath -- spoke for Satan. The same guy. One man speaking holy and saving words in the one instance; and in the next instance, the same man speaking destructive and evil words.

 

How can this be? One reason is that all of us underestimate -- like Peter did -- the article of the faith on sin. We have this really nasty habit of reducing this article of the faith called “sin” to bad behavior or the lack of good behavior (called “sins”). When we mistakenly reduce our sin (singular) condition with what we do and don’t do – our sins (plural) – we inevitably lose track of our actual diseased condition. How easy it is for us to become blind in any given situation when we feel confident about our actions while forgetting that we still have this horrific problem in us called “sin” (so that in one instance we are speaking the words of God, but in the very next instance we are speaking the words of Satan)?!

 

Our sin-reductionism puts us in the prime position to do this! Sin is the deeper root problem. It is a disease, a sickness that permeates our nature; it is what makes us sinful – as our Lutheran Confessions state – from “head to toe;” it is what makes us towards God “recalcitrant donkeys.” It is the incurvatus en se condition, that condition of being turned or curved inward. We are turned in and curved in to love ourselves, and turned in and curved in so that we stray away from loving God...in fact our curved in and turned in condition makes us love ourselves and love what we want. As a result, it is not that we simply do not believe in God in this sin condition, but in this state we actually hate Him. Peter hated Jesus so much – though he thought with all his might he was saying the right thing – that he was willing to destroy the very mission Jesus was conducting to save you and me (and Peter) from sin! In truth, we are just like Peter: we do both; we speak for and against our Holy God. This is the stunning part of all of this. This is what we are!

 

But this is nothing new and we are blessed in our Christian tradition to confess our condition this way every time we start our liturgy; our worship. Notice the wording that we used today. Let’s read it together and I ask you to take note of what parts are about your sin (singular) and what parts are about your sins (plural). We read together:

 

I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

 

Note that in this morning’s confession, we are confessing both aspects: both our sin (singular) and our sins (plural). It is at the very beginning and the very end of this particular confession of sin that we confess our sin (singular)-condition with the words:

 

  1. “I, a poor, miserable sinner.” This is a confession of condition. We are by nature sinful and unclean, so that by nature we are poor, miserable sinners.
  2. “A poor, sinful being.” Our being (singular) is such that we are continuously committing sins (plural).

 

This is the core of our confession at the beginning of every Divine Service and is part and parcel of properly preparing to receive The Lord’s Supper. And just as it took God The Father to reveal to Peter WHO Jesus is; it takes God the Father to reveal to us what OUR sinful condition is all about. It is a terribly pessimistic article of the faith. It is not what people are looking for. People don’t go looking for churches in hopes that the pastor will tell them that they are an awful, God-hating sinner. It’s not usually on the top of anyone’s list for finding a church home...we want good music and meaty sermons (maybe), but do we actually go out looking for this revelation about our sin?!

 

Things came to a head with some former members in another congregation. They finally had to speak up! “Pastor, why do we say this about ourselves?! The Holy Scriptures say that we’re born again! The Holy Scriptures say that we’re a new creation! These words about being a poor, miserable sinner no longer apply to me! I was ONCE blind, NOW I see; I WAS Lost, but NOW I’m found! Again, I’m a new creation! In Christ, I’m no longer this despicable image! So why do we still confess this?!” Great question and whenever I get questions like this, I quickly pass them on to the other pastor! <smile>

 

So I answered the question. Our conversion, our crossing over from death to life, our being born again, and becoming a new creation in Christ are all descriptors of your most definitely receiving a new nature. It’s true! You are a new creation. You now have a living faith, with new thoughts, new desires, and new impulses. This is God’s gift to you through His Word which unites you to the Living Christ. This is a fides viva...a living faith, that is a saving faith and not the so-called “faith” of the demons (James 2:19), which is a cold and dead intellectual faith that is worthless (leaving one to live in fear as the demons do). Your faith, however, is living as you have been enabled by God to trust in Jesus and the forgiveness of all your sins (plural) AND the forgiveness of your sin (singular) condition...this too does the blood of Jesus cover!

 

Such a faith, such a condition, Peter had. He was a child of God and by the grace of God – again – He was able to accurately and powerfully confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Children of God cannot speak this way – genuinely in faith – without the Holy Spirit enabling them to speak this way (1st Cor. 12:3b).

 

But here we run into being sure that we do not succumb to a logical fallacy called the fallacy of “excluded middle” or an “either-or” fallacy. In this case, the frustrated parishioner was stuck on two options:

 

EITHER we have ONLY the ONE nature!

 

OR we have the OTHER nature!

 

What was missed was a third option. What is the third option? The third option is that we might – and indeed we do – have BOTH! Just like Peter did!

 

Even Ezekiel’s words of removing the old heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19) is not an immediate eradication of sin in the life of the child of God, but is the introduction of a new spirit that is enabled to follow God just like Peter did (even as we await the day that is to come when our hearts of stone will be completely eradicated...and yes that day will come, but it is not yet...for now, it is not an “either-or,” but a “both-and.”

 

Dear One, come to our worship tomorrow and you will hear the Gospel that fills out the rest of the sermon! You are always welcomed to Saint Paul's!

 

In Jesus' Love,

 

Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D.

Tonight Wednesday February 25th 2015 at Concordia University Irvine: Past 2 of our Lent Series: “The Sign of Peace” 7 pm in the Good Shepherd Chapel!

24Feb/15Off

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We continue our special Lenten series entitled, "The Sign of the Cross," with the 2nd installment called, "The Sign of Peace."
These are shorter and beautiful services of the Word of Christ in the inspirational Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine at 7:00 pm. The address is 1530 Concordia West in Irvine.
We would love to see you there. Please invite your friends.
Let us remain in the Word of Jesus and have our faith fed and nourished!
Hope to see you tonight!
In Jesus' Love,
Rev. Alfonso O. Espinosa, Ph.D., senior pastor, Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Sunday February 22nd 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: Testing and Temptation!

21Feb/15Off

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,

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Lent. In Lent we prepare to receive the risen Lord in faith. How do we prepare? One thing that must be worked out (or understood) is how we deal with trial and temptation, but these concepts -- side-by-side -- are confusing. Trial or testing is often presented in Scripture has what the Lord works through to refine our faith. That is, God uses testing to strengthen us as we return to Him and His Word. But temptation is a terrible attack from the evil one that threatens to rob us of faith and to destroy us.
How do we put these in perspective? How do we live in the face of both of these?
Come to worship tomorrow and learn how!
Come also to receive where the Lord guarantees He is found: in His body and blood received in, with, and under the bread and the wine of Holy Communion. In this Sacrament which God gave to His Church He intends to feed and strengthen your faith. It is perhaps the single most underestimated resource for our faith! Don't go along with the blindness of the world. Come to the feast and be blessed!
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa

Ash Wednesday at Good Shepherd Chapel at Concordia University Irvine 7 pm, February 18th, 2015

17Feb/15Off

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

You're invited to our Ash Wednesday service at 7 pm at CUI's Good Shepherd Chapel...Concordia University is located at 1530 Concordia West, Irvine. We commence a six-part Lenten series entitled, "The Sign of the Cross."

 

We hope you'll come and that you'll invite a friend.

 

Below is the sermon, but remember, sermon's are meant to be proclaimed and not simply read...come and hear! Come and receive the forgiveness fo sins by the power of the Word of Christ!

 

“The Sign of Forgiveness”

Luke 23:34

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our crucified Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Lenten series we’re journeying through this year is entitled, “the sign of the cross.” But I have to admit right off that by using the word “cross” instead of the better word “crucifix,” that we’ve already lost something in what we’re trying to convey. Crosses are quite popular, but what actually occurred at Calvary when our Savior was crucified is not nearly as popular. Crosses are everywhere. When you see them along the freeway, they mark the memory of loved ones who lost their lives at those locations thus marked. We don’t see many people marking locations with crucifixes. Crosses are stylish. How common is it to see entertainers donning them left and right? They are common hanging on necklaces, serving as earrings, and tattoos. Crucifixes aren’t quite so “in.” Crosses have seemingly become this “cool” thing. They are a powerful general sign of a type of spirituality. But again what is definitely not as common are crucifixes. The crucifix presents a narrow and precise message that is not at all embraced by popular culture. The crucifix is not just the cross, but the corpus (the body) nailed to the cross. These are much less common. They are esp. less common in churches that claim the name of Jesus. Why would this be? One mega-church pastor said on national television that it is “dangerous” to reduce the Christian faith to just one symbol. On one occasion a neighboring minister of a four-square Pentecostal church noticed my crucifix and felt compelled to remind me, “You know, Jesus isn’t on the cross anymore!” I felt for the poor chap. I knew he meant well, but there was something missing in his theology. But his comment betrays a widespread preoccupation that what actually happened on Calvary’s cross is somehow something quite negative. We know what happened (at least we think we do), but does that mean that we have to keep talking about it, esp. when we know what happened three days later?! Death, after all, is a downer; it’s a negative thing when everyone thinks that the best messages about God should be “uplifting” and focus on life, not death! That Pentecostal pastor had a point: Jesus isn’t dead anymore! Some have even explained that the general Protestant emphasis of crosses is precisely to convey an inherent reminder that Jesus is indeed no longer on the cross...so that the “empty” cross is actually a sign that Jesus is also risen. The cross is also – if one is esp. worried that one might be confused with Roman Catholicism – that which will protect you from being associated with Catholic and (for that matter) Orthodox Christians. But dear Christians, all of these issues are extraordinarily silly and I’d like to say categorically that our series is better named “the sign of the crucifix” and that we are among those Christians (like our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ) who should not avoid this sign, but whole-heartedly embrace it and this by the way, is a very good Lutheran thing to do! Let me say it better, it is the sign of the Christian. It is great Christian sign to convey. The early church cherished the sign of our Savior on the cross and the churches of the Reformation did not hesitate to adorn their sanctuaries not with a cross, but with a crucifix.

 

It must be so if I’m going to offer a sermon on that which is the true sign of forgiveness (the title of this first installment in the series). We can’t know forgiveness apart from our Savior nailed to the cross. Apart from the crucifixion, forget about it: there would be no forgiveness. Period.

On this Ash Wednesday we receive the imposition of ashes, the ashes take us back to one fundamental truth: we are in desperate need of forgiveness. Dusty people who in themselves can do nothing but die, need the LORD to forgive their sins. Our ashes are a confession of sin; and that our sin has cast the curse of death upon us. But I need to lead you to take this one step further: death is a reminder of helplessness in which we cease to function. In effect – and to speak in very mechanical terms – you cease “working.” Your heart stops, the electrical impulses in your brain stop, and things like your vision stop. You can’t think. You don’t see right and wrong. You break down. Again, you don’t “work.” You can’t “see” anymore. And this is the language employed to convey the state of ashes...we are blind...we can’t see...we don’t even realize what we are doing...we don’t see the horrendous nature of our sin. And this means that ash people – people of sin and death – don’t know what they’re doing. And when you get this (by the seeing and knowledge-giving ministry of the Holy Spirit working though the Word of Christ) then our Savior on the cross (and those crucifixes which symbolize our Savior when He was on the cross) take on a whole new meaning...our Savior on the cross, His body nailed to the cross becomes THE sign of forgiveness. And when we see Him on the cross, though we were once blind, by His blood and by His grace-giving prayer, we are enabled to see...but only through His being nailed to the cross. This is the sign of our restoration; this is the sign of our forgiveness!

 

Our sin is unspeakable. It is has done more harm to ourselves than we can even begin to describe; it has done more harm to other people than we can ever begin to imagine; and it has ferociously fought against God and resisted the LORD in ways that would turn our stomach and make us sick if we could truly see the gravity of our resistance against the Lord of Life. Again, our sin means that we don’t even know what we are doing...that’s how bad our sin is; and this is why we receive this stunning reminder of our condition: we are but ashes.

 

But the sign of our Savior’s cross (and the crucifix which reminds us of this singularity of salvation) is what conveys the LORD’S response to our terrible ignorance and blindness: listen to Him as He prays while nailed to the cross (making the cross a crucifix): “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 

These words of Jesus from His crucifixion are recorded in the Gospel of Luke, the gospel among the four gospels that probably conveys God’s universal forgiveness better than any of the others...Christ nailed to His cross forgives ALL: .men, women, children, the sick, the weak, Jews, Gentiles...you. “Therefore, it is entirely in keeping with Luke’s portrait of Jesus that Jesus should ask the Father to forgive those responsible for his crucifixion: not just the soldiers, but also Pilate, Herod, the Sanhedrin, the chief priests, the rulers, and indeed all people...The hearer of the gospel knows that this absolution [“Father, forgive them”] flows from the full and complete atonement Jesus is accomplishing for the sins of the whole world as he speaks these very words. Forgiveness flows from the cross, so how fitting it is that Jesus’ first word from the cross is a word of universal forgiveness.” (Just, Concordia Commentary, 933).

 

Crucified, Jesus was speaking your forgiveness even as His shed blood was accomplishing it. Ash people say, “He must have been speaking about ME...about ME...because I’m but ashes and that means that my sin is so bad that I don’t even know what I’m doing!” But that means you were included in His prayer. Hear it again, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That’s a reference to me; that’s a reference to you. Therefore, in speaking of us; in praying for us, He was forgiving us. He was forgiving you. Before your violations of the Law of God; before you scarred yourself with your sin for life; before you hurt those whom you have hurt; before you ever sinned in thought, word, and deed by what you’ve done and left undone, the LORD knew in what state you would commit these sins: as one who did not know what they were doing...for these He prayed, for these He was crucified, for these He shed His blood...for these He repaid good for evil; your evil covered by His good; your cursing against God repaid by God’s prayer on the cross...”Father, forgive them.” “When he was praying as he hung on the cross, he could see and foresee...[sinners] were raging, but he was praying...He was asking for pardon for those from whom he was receiving [and would receive] hideous treatment.” (Augustine, Ancient Christian Commentary, vol III, p. 361) “It was for enemies that he shed his blood, but by his blood that he converted his enemies...[and He knew] ‘it is blindness that is crucifying me.’ Blindness was crucifying him, and the crucified was making an eye-salve for them from his blood.” (ibid, p. 361) By His prayer and by His blood our eyes and our minds have been healed. We see now, we understand now...we now carry Christ’s crucifix upon our foreheads...His baptism upon us marks us: those once who were only ashes not knowing what they do; are now forgiven...these ash people shall now be raised; their blindness shall receive sight; their lack of knowledge will be given the knowledge of the Savior whose cross is not this negative thing whatsoever, but a glorious thing; their source of life...we know this with certainly, because He prayed...He prayed for us; He prayed for me; He prayed for you: listen to His prayer...this is your guarantee of forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Your ashes testify: “I know that He was praying for me!”

 

In Jesus' Love,

 

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

14Feb/15Off

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,

If you do not believe a real spiritual assault against you exists, then you're toast right out of the starting blocks. It's real. The devil attacks you via 1) temptations; 2) discouragement; and 3) fear. If you know this, then you also take God's protection seriously. You run to the Word of Christ, and live in the life of Christ: His forgiveness and His wisdom.
Tomorrow you will be equipped as to how the Word describes the key to your not losing heart and living with boldness. That's what the sermon is about.
Also, we will show "Irreplacable" for the FAMILY a second time. It is an AMAZING documentary. This time we will show it in the conference room to the high school youth. If any adults missed it last week and would like to see it, you are welcomed to join us.
We are still taking sign-ups for the new study beginning on Thursday, February 26th at Todd and Shannon Gallina's residence (baby sitting WILL be provided).
Come and be fed tomorrow. Not only will you receive a meat-oriented sermon, but you will receive Christ coming to you through His body and blood.
Here is tomorrow's sermon outline:
“We Do Not Lose Heart”
(2nd Corinthians 3:12-13; 4:1-6)
Pastor Espinosa

Introduction: The Christian is very bold:
(1) Having conviction about what life is all about!
(2) That is because of the true source of life, we know vitality even when we are tired, pressed, or going through difficulties!
Why? Hope
(1) Certain hope, objective hope! Not a wish, but something real.
(2) Based on the risen and glorified Savior, the Lord Jesus!
How is this hope FORMED? Christ’s doxa (glory; splendor)
(1) The doxa of His crucifixion
(2) The doxa of His resurrection
(3) The doxa of His second coming (we get a glimpse today, Transfiguration Sunday)!
One of a Kind: Why? Answer: Not like Moses
(1) Moses’ was a fading covenant. The law which condemned was being replaced with a new covenant that would forgive sins!

Romans 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

(2) Ours is a lasting covenant!
 In Christ, there is no limitation.
 In Christ, nothing can cancel it or make it fade! It is too glorious! This is what makes us bold!

Part 1: So we do not lose heart:
(1) In the face of the positive reasons: having this ministry!
(a) Our own salvation.
(b) Our mission to serve others for their salvation.
(2) In the face of the negative reasons: even when many people reject the gospel.

Part 2: So we live a new life:
(1) Renounce disgraceful ways!

Gregory of Nyssa: “Lives filled with light” = it is necessary for our lives also to be illuminated by the rays of the true light. (Ancient Christian Commentary, Volume 7, pg. 227-228)

Clement of Alexandria: “We must try, then, to resemble Him in spirit as far as we are able.” (Ibid., pg. 229)

We esp. strive to avoid intentional or deliberate sin!

(2) Refuse cunning (trying to be spiritual or religious through man’s efforts, not God’s) or adulteration of the Word (changing the Word in order to please people).
(3) Stick to the open statement/publishing of the Truth!

“It is the plain unadulterated gospel of the grace of God revealed supremely in the death and resurrection of Christ that alone strikes home to his conscience.” (Buls, B, Festival Epistles, pg. 68, Buls quoting Tasker)

Part 3: And we understand the battle:
(1) Veiling is going on in those who are perishing...only applies in this text to those who hear the gospel.
(2) So this is also a warning to us since we hear the gospel.
(3) But what is really veiled?
(a) Not really the gospel itself (though it seems this way and that’s why Paul says what he says at 4:3).
(b) But nothing can actually veil the glory of the gospel itself.
(c) Nothing could veil the glory of Jesus at the Transfiguration!
(d) So what is really being veiled are hearts and minds towards the gospel.
(4) Who does the veiling?
(a) The “god of this world” actually the “god of this age” or “god of this aion/this time”.
(b) This is a reference to the devil, not a reference to God.
(c) He is called “god” lower case because he is powerful and can deceive us, but he is not God!
(d) Similar references to the devil in other Scriptures: John 12:31: “the prince of this world;” Ephesians 2:2: “the prince of the power of the air.”
(e) The Lutheran theologian Calov called the devil “the ape of God”...he apes God, tries to imitate God’s authority, but he is a fraud, a fake, a deceiver.
(f) His realm or stage of operations = Aion = “all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations at any time current in the world.” (Buls, C, Festival Epistles, pg. 62, Buls quotes Rienecker who quotes Trench)
(g) So the devil relies on change and instability to deceive you. The gospel, however, is unchanging!
Lenski, pg. 960: “the god of this eon blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving so that the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, did not get to dawn...”

(5) Elements of his strategy:
(a) He wants you to deny his existence. This is the most direct and effective, because if you deny his existence, then why would you ever be worried about him trying to deceive you?! In our sin we act like he’s not real. But the Christian knows better: when we are confronted with temptation, or fear, or discouragement, then we are confronted by the devil. He tries to take you away from your faith -- that conviction and vitality that we mentioned previously -- in Christ.
(b) He also wants you to deny the foundation of absolute truth: the world hates the notion and wants us to capitulate to relativism; that truth has many versions. If there is no single truth, then who are we to say this is true and that is false; or this is right and that is wrong?! In our sin we make exceptions to God’s Word and this is a slap in the face to the Lord. We say we believe in Him, that we follow Him, but then choose to ignore or violate His Word when it is no longer convenient to us. When this happens, we lose our conscience and we give in to sin. This can destroy faith.
Lenski, pg. 961: So though the truth is presented “all...thinking and reasoning are as if it does not see it at all. The thoughts are blinded.”

Warning: remember that all of this “perishing” refers to some who are receiving the gospel! One of the most vivid pictures of this is the parable of the sower (Luke 8:12):

“The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they many not believe and be saved.”

(c) This is isn’t God’s fault; or the gospel’s fault, but the fault of the person whose heart and mind is veiled or covered towards the gospel!

Part 4 & Conclusion: The Source of Glory/Keeping Us Faithful!
(1) Vs 5: the proclamation of Jesus Christ/the gospel!

Lenski, pg. 964: “In him [Jesus Christ] now shines forth forever all God’s love for us, and in him we are to behold all that this love has wrought for our salvation.”

(2) Vs 6: Light = Knowledge of the Glory of God = Jesus Christ.

Think of how God shattered the darkness at creation. The universe has been bathed with light ever since!
In the same way, your darkness has been shattered! God has “come to shine” in your heart; His light coming through the knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord!

Lenski, pg. 970: “Mere nature shines with light; the center of our personal being, shines with the knowledge of the glory of God, with his living, gracious presence in Christ.”

(3) So we get back to the gospel, the source of God’s light in your life to keep you bold without losing heart! And this is your source Christian:

(a) The doxa of the Lord’s crucifixion!
(b) The doxa of the Lord’s resurrection!
(c) The doxa of the Lord’s second coming! (remember The Transfiguration)

This is why we have hope; this is why we do not grow weary. Ambrosiater says that is why we do not lose heart: the mercy of God which cleanses us and makes us righteous; adopts us as the children of God and endows us with a glory like the glory of Christ! And Chrysostom says that this is all attributed to the loving kindness of God so that we do not sink under trial, but we rejoice and speak boldly! (Ancient Christian Commentary, vol 7, pg. 227)

In Jesus' Love,
Pastor

Tomorrow Sunday February 8th, 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “Our Savior Who Heals As He Prays and As He Preaches” (Mark 1:29-39)

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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 Christ,

What of the power of words? They -- words -- make all the difference in the world. They can make or break a marriage; they determine the quality of the relationship parents have with their children; they can build up or they can tear down. But if OUR words are this powerful, then what of God's words?
It is true that the blood of our saving PRIEST Jesus saves us from sin and death, but what of His ministry to us as our saving PROPHET? His words -- through His preaching, teaching, and praying -- also make all the difference in the world for YOUR life. Come and be equipped and blessed through this proclamation of Jesus' saving ministry to us through His words. Tomorrow, God's Word will be given to you and His life will overflow into yours!
ALSO: after church we are showing a FANTASTIC documentary on the FAMILY called "Irreplacable"...our families are under attack in the world today and I would like for all of our member families to see this. This is also introducing our upcoming Bible Study called "The Family Project" that starts later this month. Please stay from 11 am to 12 pm for the documentary. Dr. Geisler's study will be back next Sunday, February 15th.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:
“Our Savior Who Heals As He Prays and As He Preaches”
(Mark 1:29-39)
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 8th, 2015
Pastor Espinosa

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

It is a well known concept that words are very powerful. We tried to protect our fragile childhood psyches by relying on the mantra: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Wishful thinking. How easy it was for us as children to be completely devastated by something we heard about ourselves…how hard it is now that we’re all grown up to pretend we don’t care, but even now we do and we are effected! Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Languages identifies the languages – ways of communicating love – that different people need to know or at least feel that they’re getting love/being loved from those they care about. Chapman has ingeniously identified that some folks are affirmed in believing they are loved through quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, acts of service, and the fifth one is – personally – my most important one: “words of affirmation”…no one knows this better than my wife Traci. She knows how to lift me up; she knows how to encourage me and how to inspire me. Her words are powerful and as I get older and while her words have always been very influential, as of late in the last several years, her words have become extremely influential. Not long ago when I was a little shaky due to some anxiety coming upon me, she put her hands on my face and looked at me with those tender ocean-blue eyes and said with gentleness and yet with great conviction (as she stared into me): “You’re going to be ok.” Her words seeped into my soul and they were as a medicine to me. I calmed down. Her words helped me and they continue to help me a great deal. Indeed, the words we use will either make a marriage stronger than one can imagine, or words can rip into the fiber of a marriage…it matters what we say and do not say; and how we say it or do not say it! It matters, it matters, it matters!

We underestimate the power of our words and we do not watch the portal of our mouths…and we sin…we cut up people and pull them down closer to destruction. And some people wonder why Jesus associated murder (the violation of the 5th commandment) with words (Matthew 5:21ff.).

And words can most definitely destroy right? The LORD warns us about the potential damage that the human tongue can cause: “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell…It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.” (James 3:5b-6, 8b-10)

Words, words, words…we underestimate their power. Last week was a big one for me. I traveled to serve our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on the national level and while attending meetings for the Board for National Mission I was also equipped with tools that I am able to bring back to serve our congregation here in Irvine…I received equipping words. During that week I also traveled to see my daughter Esbeydi on one day and then my son David on another…we shared words at both visits that were loving words and words of grace! I received healing words and I extended healing words and by the grace of God, they were seemingly well received. Then there was a meeting with the CTCR (Commission on Theology and Church Relations) on a draft I’ve been working on to serve the church – and esp. her pastors – through the gift of private/individual confession and absolution. The commission gave me affirming words and the work is 95% complete…but the week was also busy, so as I was driving in between all of this, I needed to hear some good words, so I started scanning all the radio stations and I was reminded of how shallow the words in our music can be: words of desperation, lost desire or corrupt desire, conflict, sadness from the idols of the world that people blindly pursue, on and on and on…so I turned off the radio and opened up a hymn…when it was safe – as I drove -- I put these words into my mind and they became my words for travel last week: “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. While the hope of endless glory Fills my heart with joy and love, Teach me ever to adore Thee; May I still Thy goodness prove.” (LSB 686 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing)

Good, good words! Energizing words, words that make all the difference.

But think about this: if your words are powerful (and they are), and if my words are powerful…and if the words that we hear on the radio can influence us…if all words from all people are significant by virtue of the fact that they affect us, how much more impacted are people when God speaks?

We have to be careful because we get accustomed to certain terminology and we start to take it for granted. You all know that when we refer to the Holy Bible, we often say “The Word of God,” or “The Word of The Lord”…this is a true designation, but we mustn’t permit these words to be taken for granted; to be cheapened, because if your words are powerful…how much more powerful is the Word of The Lord? If when you speak, you impact lives, how much more are lives impacted when God speaks? But perhaps part of the problem is that we forget that that is exactly what is happening when the Word of The Lord is proclaimed and shared…God is speaking. GOD is speaking!

When He speaks, He creates. What He says comes to be. “Let there be light” He once said (Genesis 1:3) and there was light. He spoke to dead Lazarus and dead Lazarus was no longer dead (John 11), but restored to life. He spoke at your baptism, and you came to new life. He spoke at your absolution this morning and you were completely restored in the forgiveness of sins…for absolution is not a wish, but a bestowal; God gives you His grace; He bestows His mercy and love upon you (you receive it as new clothing)…it becomes yours…again, no mere wish, no “hoping for the best;” absolutely is God giving and absolutely you are receiving forgiveness over and over again! This is how powerful His Word is! He will speak again for Holy Communion, and these words of God will guarantee the real body and blood of Christ given to you. I have recently spoken to some grieving people and once again it was celebrated that when we receive Christ in the Sacrament we experience a reunion with all the heavenly host…how precious is this gift? How invaluable are these words that bring heaven and earth together in one place; here through the Words of Christ the veil of heaven is lifted and God comes to you…how fantastically invaluable is that?!

In Jesus' Love,
Rev. Dr. Alfonso O. Espinosa

The Lord’s Day Sunday February 1st 2015 at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine: “The Redeemer Will Stand” (Job 19:23-27) & LIFE Sunday

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Divine Service: 9:30 am

Bible Study and Sunday School: 11:00 am (please note: tomorrow there is no Sunday School and Bible Study due to the Voter's Assembly Meeting)

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 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (our synod; Saint Paul's is one among 6000 + congregations in the country) has a national life ministry committee that I serve on in my role with the synod's board for national mission. It is an amazing and blessed service to our national church. I had the privilege to join in the recent Life Conference at Washington D.C. last week and to take part in the national walk for life along the national mall right up to the steps of the Supreme Court Building on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Since that time some 57 million babies have been lost to abortion and countless parents have suffered the affects emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Jesus calls us to have compassion and to serve all parties involved.
We are called to speak for all who need a voice: the elderly, the disabled, and of course the unborn. Life ministry also remembers the family and is bold to defend biblical marriage even as we are upholding all religious liberty that is so threatened in our country today.
It is recommended by the synod that congregations hold a "LIFE Sunday" once per year to remember our call to serve all of these who need the love and mercy of Jesus Christ and who need a voice in our great country.
Our service will be dedicated to this theme tomorrow and I will share the sermon I had the privilege to proclaim in Washington. The readings, the hymns, the prayers, and again the sermon will all put forth this vital theme.
The culture would have us be quiet and avoid all such things since these are said to be "political issues," but if one were to actually read the Word of God, this is a "separation" that was never intended by our original framers of the constitution.
Come be equipped, inspired, and fed. Come and receive the Holy Sacrament that fills you and equips you with the very life of the Redeemer who stands for all those helpless and hopeless...even like us poor sinners.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow's sermon:

“The Redeemer Will Stand”

(Job 19:23-27)

Life Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Pastor Espinosa

 

[Pastor originally preached this sermon at the 2nd LC-MS life conference in Washington D.C. which took place on January 22nd-24th of this year in conjunction with the national walk for life (on January 22nd) from mid-point the national mall to the supreme court building. About 600,000 people participated in the march remembering the approximately 57 million babies aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark decision. LC-MS life ministries also focus on compassion ministry to parents who have aborted in the past and need the healing grace of the Lord Jesus. Pastor’s role on the LC-MS Board for National Mission is to support the synod’s Life and Health Ministries and we’re excited to be building bridges with Concordia University Irvine on both these fronts. Pastor hopes that Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine will conduct its own life ministry that might support a local pregnancy help ministry that stands for God’s gift of life. Note that the life ministry of the LC-MS is well-rounded and extends care to our elderly and disabled; and is working with the overall synod to stand for biblical marriage and to advocate religious liberty.]

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ who takes up the little ones in His arms to bless them. Amen.

 

Job presents himself – even as one with a fallen nature – as nevertheless righteous and innocent. You know the story of this godly man: he was a man of prayer; a man of faith, but he was also overwhelmed by the seeming injustice of this terrible suffering. What had he done to deserve it? Thus it was for him a burning priority to find some way to defend his integrity. Who would stand for the innocent? Who will stand for the innocent?

 

I imagine that if the holy innocents could speak that they might sound a lot like Job! We probably grossly underestimate their energy and dare I say “passion?” to live. John while in the womb and in close proximity to the LORD (who at the time was Himself in the womb), had a faith which caused him to leap for joy (Luke 1:44)! His life in the womb was uncontainable! But the LORD is always near to each of us. Indeed, who else but Jesus knits us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139)? The LORD is near and especially present with the weak. We must be bolder in this confession and not underestimate the grace of God who delights to be found in the things treated as nothing in the world. Nothing is more dignified than what is despised; and nothing is holier than what is forgotten.

 

So I hear the babies speak as Job: “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! (v 23) Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! (v 24)...My heart faints within me!”

 

The innocent ones created for life deserve at the very least what our great nation has done and is doing for so many others neglected. One of the current exhibits in the magnificent Library of Congress highlights the civil rights movement and presents an overview about so many who have been vindicated. The powerful testament to defend the inalienable rights of those treated as if despised is a hall-mark of America.

 

That same Library of Congress is marked by the word “theology” on the ceiling of the Great Hall which displays two monumental copies of the Word of God (the Giant Bible of Mainz and the Gutenberg). We are primed to speak of “the right thing to do” (even as our president did in his last state of the union address), because truth, the very Word of God is etched into stone throughout our nation’s capital (and indeed throughout our nation)! So I was not surprised when our president – who we are called to love and pray for – said in his state of the union address week before last, “In America we respect human dignity.” But the statement betrays our narrow view because the babies are left out, so much so that they don’t even have their own designation as people who need defending. They are the forgotten citizens as our politics replace the rights of the unborn with the “right to choose.”

 

Nor am I suggesting that you and I point fingers, as an LC-MS pastor going on 24 years I have done very little to speak for the unborn; and as self-absorbed sinners we would rather remain quiet and “not get into it” than live out true faith that is dying to remember the forgotten. We desperately need to pray that the LORD would open our lips so that we would speak for the helpless ones; we must confess our terrible pride which seeks to preserve our reputations while seeking the approval of men over the approval of God. We are called to not simply get over ourselves, but to crucify ourselves, so that “Pro-Life” is a really really good thing to say!

 

And if we cry out to the LORD that we would not be forgotten in our helplessness, what of the innocent ones?

 

O – like Job – they assuredly want someone to make their case; they want to be remembered because they too were gifted with life! They want an indelible record; a durable cast. They want it written in lead so that when the sun shines on their defense, the letters would be caused to glisten. They want their lives remembered on a rock that will stand forever! They want their gift of life to be lasting and it consumes them with longing within them – but unlike John who lept for joy – his little sisters and brothers feel their kidneys fail...they kick against and feel the pain of being slaughtered and robbed of life.

 

Who will vindicate them? And who will restore us who fall short of doing what we ought to do and renew us so that we may do what is beyond our ability?

 

Job and the innocent ones and the other children of Adam like you and me are lifted up by the words given to Job which make the brightest biblical scholars scratch their heads. How can Job find in God who has seemingly abandoned him, the same God who would also vindicate him? This is a paradox; and human reason fails in the face of it, but Job holds the Judge to another one of His offices: He is also the REDEEMER!

[come and get the rest tomorrow!]
In Jesus' Love,
Pastor Espinosa
p.s. All members: please stay for the voter's meeting right after worship and refreshments. Your voice as a confirmed member is very important to the life of our congregation! Thank you!

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

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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)

10Jan/15Off

 

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”

3Jan/15Off

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.