Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine (LC-MS), July 29th, 2012, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:45-52)


Dear Christian Friends,

We get some further information as to what was going on in the Gospel for July 29th from St. John. We are informed that right after our LORD's miracle of the feeding of the 5000, the crowds had very definite plans for the LORD: "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself." (John 6:15) And the disciples were probably influenced by this popular, reflexive impulse: "Let's treat Jesus as a miracle worker and a King for serving what we determine is needed." Such a "king" is not king, but an idol. Nothing new by the way. Too often God is seen as a celestial genie. He is "there" for what we want and what we think we need. Yuck! But our LORD protected His disciples from this influence by sending them away: "Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd." (Mark 6:45). We too must get away from the false caricatures of our LORD!

The notions building up about Jesus didn't see Him or know Him. Even the first disciples did not yet see Him for who He truly was. It is humbling to realize that Jesus knew full well what He was doing: in sending them away, He was sending them into a storm. Really the best sets of circumstances for properly knowing ourselves and for properly knowing our Savior!

It is not until we realize that we have no recourse, that we are utterly helpless, as good as dead...that we are in a position to realize that we cannot save ourselves, nor define Christ. He will define Himself, and He does, as the real God. God who does not come for the strong, or for those who want to write His script. But He comes for lowly sinners who in truth -- beyond their silly imaginations about control of their lives -- are utterly helpless when the storms of life take over.

They must have been afraid of the great winds and waves, but that was nothing compared to seeing the LORD while glimpsing His glory and power...walking on water. Such a sight was too much for them! They were utterly afraid. The reaction of sinners towards God! Fear is the antithesis to faith. Sinners -- on their own -- cannot believe. We cannot exert our will to believe. The flesh cannot choose God. Those dead in sin cannot breath into themselves to inspire faith...all we can do is be afraid and prepare to die.

Then while we are helpless, He comes. The LORD comes into our lives; He climbs into our boats. In Mark 6, when the LORD approached their boat He spoke words to conquer their fear and lack of faith: "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." (Mark 6:50).  And then Jesus got into their boat! And the Scriptures state what happened next in the most simple terms: "and the wind ceased." (verse 51)

Jesus needs to climb into your boat sinner. That is the only way of dealing with your fear, your life without faith. He must climb in every single day, as even the most devout Christians feel the battle with their sinful, unbelieving, fear-plagued flesh...every day, in our baptismal grace, Jesus must come...and not in a metaphorical sense...but really come in and through His Word and Sacraments and climb in your boat, connect Himself to you and your life, and with Him...storms are calmed. And even when they seem they are not, your heart will be. Safe in the blood that covers your sin; safe in the resurrection life that has conquered your death...He has joined your boat; He has calmed your storm!

In Your Service and To His Glory,

Dr. Espinosa

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Tomorrow at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, July 22nd, 2012 and Reflections on last Sunday, July 15th


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I arrived to Castle Rock, CO yesterday (my father-in-law lives here) just in time to get caught up about the horrific news coming out of Aurora, CO: 71 people shot in a movie theater, among whom 12 lost their lives. Such satanic violence marks a fallen world and epitomizes the truth of God's Word that we are perpetually confronted by that which is designed to do far more than disrupt our peace, but also -- if it were possible for those held by Christ -- to rob us of our faith. This is why to know our LORD as Shepherd is so important and that His love is not theoretical, but real. Our LORD also provides under-shepherds who nourish us with the True Word of Christ which feeds our faith. It is a service that demonstrates the love of God in this world.
The Rev. Dr. Steven Mueller is one of the most gifted teachers of God's Word in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod today. We are so blessed to have him in our faith community and blessed to have him proclaim God's Word for us tomorrow at Saint Paul's. Furthermore, I continue to thank God for our excellent musician in Karissa Lystrup whose dedicated service and excellent facilitation of our beautiful liturgical tradition envelopes us in the work of the Holy Spirit expressed  through the sacred Word in liturgy and hymnody.
Let us gather tomorrow in the Name of the LORD to receive His gifts, especially the precious body and blood of Jesus our Savior. Through these means and gifts we will remain steadfast in the forgiveness of our sins and overflowing with His life in us which has no end. Please invite a friend to our divine service that begins at 9:30 am at Crean Lutheran High School, 12500 Sand Canyon Ave, Irvine, CA. We enjoy refreshments and fellowship at 10:45 am, followed by Adult Bible Study and Sunday School for the children at 11:00 am.
In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,
Pastor Espinosa
Last Sunday, July 15th announcement:
Dear Christian Friends,
One of the most potentially confusing articles of the Christian faith is the teaching on election or predestination. Not only do some people present it in a confusing manner, but some present it in a terrifying manner. This is also a terrible shame. Why? Because the Scriptural teaching on this matter is meant to be of great COMFORT to you. Is it important to know God's comfort? Are you kidding me? In this world today, this is EXACTLY what we need! And this is exactly what your Heavenly Father desires to give you through the revealed, beautiful relationship between the saving work of Christ, God's gift of faith formed in you, and the artcile of election/predestination. Tomorrow I will teach on how to identify and avoid the false teaching on election; and then I will present the great comfort revealed in the biblical teaching of election/predestination.
As always after being fed by the Word proclaimed, we will receive the true body and blood of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and for our ongoing sanctification (God's sustaining us as His holy people). What a blessing! What a gift! Invite a friend! Let us rejoice in the love and mercy of God in and through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ!
See you in church tomorrow.
Please remember that we are back at Crean Lutheran High School located at 12500 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, CA 92618. Worship begins at 9:30 am!
In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,

Pastor Espinosa

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Tomorrow at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine (LC-MS), the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, “Blessed By a Messenger of Satan” (2nd Corinthians 12:7-9a)


Dear Christians,

The Word of God turns the wisdom of men on its head. How could something coming from the devil against us, ever be a good thing? 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10 is profound:

"So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger o Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

For this blog, I can't write anything better than what Luther wrote, so I defer to him:

"You should tell the devil: Just by telling me that I am a miserable, great sinner you are placing a sword into my hand with which I can decisively overcome you; yea, with your own weapon I can kill and floor you. For if you can tell me that I am a poor sinner, I, on the other hand, can tell you that Christ died for sinners and is their Intercessor...You remind me of the boundless, great faithfulness and benefaction of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The burden of my sins and all the trouble and misery that were to oppress me eternally He very gladly took upon His shoulders and suffered the bitter death on the cross for them. To Him I direct you. You may accuse and condemn Him. Let me rest in peace; for on His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins and the sins of all the world." (Pless, What Luther Says, 403)

This commentary is applicable to our text in that Luther is making the basic point that when the devil attacks, we are given the occasion to turn to Christ and to see our refuge in the LORD. St. Paul was trained to view his tremendous suffering in the same way. He was permitted a "thorn." A sharply pointed sliver! The kind that gets in you and won't come out! This produces a sharp, piercing pain as it is driven deeply into the flesh...which piercing pain may also stand as a metaphor for a great psychological and/or spiritual struggle (even while possibly including a physical ailment and/or social persecution).  And there is no doubt about the purpose of this messenger of Satan (as the NASB translates it): it is sent to "torment." This is a unique word standing for powerful blows.

In all of this we feel a basic confusion: how can our LORD of love and mercy permit this to happen to us? The answer is given in 2nd Corinthians 12. Paul was being kept "from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations...(verse 7a)."

St. Augustine identified our greatest sin: our pride, the sin that led the devil to try to take God's place; the sin that drove our first parents from paradise. This too is our sin, so while we do not go looking for thorns and crosses -- nor do we treat them as Medieval badges of penance -- we must know that the LORD may choose for us a "thorn" of our own. In every case, however, it is to lead us in the way that it led St. Paul: namely back to Jesus! And when this occurs, hear the sweet words that do more than sustain us:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (verse 9)."

But of course it is! Because it was when our Savior took upon Himself the "thorns" in the form of 5-7 inch-long spikes driven through His hands and feet that His power was perfected in weakness. It was when He took the tormenting blows of the wrath of God for ALL of our sin, for ALL of our pride that His power was perfected in weakness. In His own weakness -- even to the point of death -- His power was perfected, since on the cross He proclaimed the kind of "perfection" St. Paul wrote about in 2nd Corinthians 12; that is, Jesus said, "It is finished (John 19:30)." Finished is the threat of your sin and pride; finished is the power of Satan in your life; and finished is all fear from the struggles that mark our path towards heaven!

Let us thank God that in Christ even the messengers of Satan are used for our good!


In Your Service and To Your Glory,


Dr. Espinosa



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Reflections on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, July 1st, 2012: “Your Faith Has Made You Well” (Mark 5:21-43)


Dear Christian Friends,

The Gospel text in Mark 5:21-43 connect faith to healing:

1. Before Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead, Jesus comforts the father who is begging Jesus for help. Jesus said to Jairus: "Do not fear, only believe (verse 36)." In response to Jairus' call to Jesus driven by his faith in Jesus, Jesus answered that call of faith and raised Jairus' daughter from the dead.

2. This connection between faith and healing is only reinforced in the section right in the middle of the story of Jairus and his daughter; vss 24-34 that records the account of the woman who had been suffering from a condition of a severe flow of blood for 12 years. She touched Christ's garment. In response to realizing that power had gone out from Him on account of the woman touching Him, Jesus sees the woman and says to her: "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease (v 34)."

There is little doubt that Scripture ties faith and healing together. However, there is more to the Scriptural revelation. While Jairus' daughter and the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years both received the grace of God and were healed, there were others who also received the grace of God, but were not healed (at least not physically)! For example:

1. St. Paul had great faith, but we see that in 2nd Timothy 4:20 Paul had to leave Trophimus at Miletus because of his illness. Why didn't Paul just pray over him and physically heal him?

2. Paul himself suffered a debilitating handicap, a thorn in the flesh, that was not taken from him despite his many prayers (2 Corinthians 12:8).

3. St. Paul also encouraged St. Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach malady (1st Timothy 5:23). In other words, his stomach problems were not eliminated in this case through faith and prayer.

This is an interesting state of affairs, and it forces us to avoid simplistic approaches to the Word of God. There is of course, no doubt that every good and perfect gift comes from the LORD (James 1:17); and there is no doubt that in every case of physical healing, we know the LORD is responsible for it in accord with His boundless grace.

But the fact is that the LORD desires to do what is best for us, and through us what is best for our neighbor. If we encounter a disease or injury, the LORD has made us to desire wholeness and to desire healing. He knows of course that we want healing...He designed us that way. Furthermore, we are invited to ask Him for all that we need and for that matter, what we desire so long as it does not conflict with the will of God. So, yes of course, when we have need for healing, we should pray boldly and ask for healing!  When I say "be bold," I am not exaggerating. We need to pray as children of the Heavenly Father confident of His love and favor! Consider this word from Psalm 145:19: "He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them."

The complete witness of Scripture, however, teaches us that "healing" comes in many forms. Certainly, through the blood of Christ and through His glorious resurrection, we look forward to the total and complete healing of our bodies, souls, and minds. The day is coming when at the Great Resurrection, our bodies will be radiant, full of strength, and the epitome of perfect health. For now, however, what is best for us and our service in the kingdom may not necessarily be optimal physical healing.

Again, this doesn't mean we should not ask the LORD in faith to heal us; nor does it mean that anything is too hard for Him and while there are interesting theological arguments in favor of cessationism, I personally don't see any reason why we should ever be surprised at the LORD's miraculous intervention.

Still -- and again -- there are other times when the Lord quite simply says, "No," to our requests and when He does we need to remember that we may receive strength in ways we may not have anticipated. There have been many fantastic witnesses of the Lord's help over the years in pastoral ministries, but among my favorites are Shirley Edwards (who I served at St. John's, Covina, CA) and Mildred Oglesby (who I served at Living Word, The Woodlands, TX). They suffered tremendous debilitating physical conditions and yet, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and powerful in their ministry to others. In fact, I would say that these woman were "healthier" than most people in better physical conditions. The Lord displayed His love, service, and joy through these women who suffered so.

So, at the end of the day, yes, we should pray for healing, and yes, we should know as our Gospel in Mark 5 teaches that great blessings flow from the LORD in connection to faith in Him! At the same time, may our hearts be open to His work; may we trust in Him, and may we remember that no matter what, these words are true because Christ has already won for us the greatest healing, namely the forgiveness of sins through His blood: "your faith has made you well; go in peace!" (Mark 5:34) This is true insofar as the One who is held to by faith is Jesus Christ who prayed for His own deliverance from His cup of excruciating suffering, but then said in faith that He desired to fulfill God's will...and then He did...and when He did, you my dear friend received the greatest healing because "with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)."

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,

Dr. Espinosa

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Reflections on The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24th, 2012: “Make Straight…A Highway For Our God” (Isaiah 40:1-5 & Luke 1:77-79)


Dear Christians,

It might seem strange to some folks that we would commemorate the day of the birth of St. John the Baptist, but consider:

  • Next to the Lord Himself, he was the greatest prophet (Luke 7:28) in the sense that he was the last prophet under the old covenant and this was so on account of his close connection to Jesus.
  • He announced Jesus' advent and preceded our Lord in a martyr's death.
  • John the Baptist and the Lord were so closely related that Herod confused the two of them (Luke 9:7-9) as there was some question as to whether or not John the Baptist had been raised from the dead.
  • But the reason John was truly great was because the Word of the Lord was in this great prophet and furthermore his message is not to be consigned and restricted to ancient history. It is rather a message that is as much needed today as it was the first time John the Baptist proclaimed it!

What was that message? Isaiah 40:3-4:

"A voice cries, 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.'"

What is God saying to us?

#1 Every valley shall be lifted up = valleys are said to symbolize weakness of faith, discouragement, and lack of trust in God's promises!

#2 Every mountain and hill be made low = mountains and hills represent the opposite extreme of valleys; here John is proclaiming that haughtiness of spirit, pride of intellect and heart, presumptuous judging of God's will and criticizing His ways!

#3 Uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain = this condition describes sinful conduct, taking a person away from the straight, smooth path of God's commands!

All of us are sinful, but the sin in our hearts manifests in different ways (in terms of our most formidable spiritual struggles): some of us are in valleys. We struggle with weakness, discouragement, and depression. We can feel as though the LORD is a 1000 miles a way. From our valleys we doubt the LORD and we feel as though His forgiveness and hope cannot reach us in our bottomless pits. Some of us are on mountains and hills. In this way, we are way too full of ourselves and we look down on others from our mountain-tops of pride and egotism. From our perches we love to judge, to criticize, and to condemn. We are so easily angered and frustrated, because we balk at forgiveness even though we have been forgiven. Some of us are on uneven ground and rough places. We are deceiving ourselves by the way we are going along with deliberate and active sinning. In this case, it is not so much thinking that forgiveness is too far up or that forgiveness is too far below, it is rather that we don't care enough about forgiveness to begin with.

But thanks be to God that John's ministry was not just to preach the Law to reveal our sins, but also to proclaim the sweet, sweet Gospel to show us our Savior! So Luke 1:77-79 records:

"to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Dear Christians, thanks be to God that Jesus came. He entered our valley  to the point of becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), closing the gap between our pits and God's mercy; Jesus placed Himself on our mountains and hills by absorbing our self-absorption, humbling Himself to the point of death so that His humble sacrifice would be ours; and Jesus journeyed through our uneven and rough places by becoming sin for us (2nd Cor 5:21), so that on the cross He became the guilty One for all of our acts of rebellion and unbelief.

On account of Christ, John the Baptist was born. He was born to show us that in Christ our darkness has been enveloped by the light of our Savior. Peace is now yours dear Christian. Peace is now yours.


In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,


Dr. Espinosa



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Reflections on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 17th, 2012: “Yes There Is Groaning, but through Faith in Christ, Courage!” (2nd Corinthians 5:1-10)


Dear Christian Friends,

2nd Corinthians 5 begins by referring to our "tent, which is our earthly home (verse 1)." In this particular text, this is not a reference to our physical bodies, but a reference to our earthly lives. Every part of our lives here on earth is subject to entropy. Things waste away: our houses, our cars, our local entertainment venues and supermarkets (and yes our bodies are included). In this way the metaphor "tent" is quite appropriate. Tents are temporary. We pop them up and tear them down. They are not permanent. They wear out.

Under such conditions, the Scriptures reveal that we "groan" (verse 2) while we are "longing" (verse 2) "to put on our heavenly clothing (verse 2)." Who could blame us for groaning? If everything is wasting away around you and being torn down, then who wouldn't groan? That's what we do. As a result, we long for something better. Frankly, something much better.

Everyone is confronted with these facts, but what if you don't know God's good answer to the situation? What if there is no hope of something better to come while facing your groaning? What typically happens -- without faith -- is the effort to completely avoid the inevitable. This is when frenetic, unconscious repression takes over. Life becomes, "Just go, go, go and worry about the rest later." Such is the wasted life: not considering where one has come from, not considering why we are here, and not considering where we are going. When we do nothing but groan, we avoid these vital questions assuming that the answers must be bleak. Needless to say, this is why many bury themselves in alcohol, substance abuse, overeating, and pornography.

But the Christian possesses God's revelation! We will be "further clothed (2nd Cor 5:4)." Why? Because "what is mortal [will be] swallowed up by life." And what is more, the LORD who has prepared this for us "has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (2nd Cor 5:5)."!!!

Christians, we are foreigners and aliens passing through this land (Heb. 11:13) and there is something better to come. This truth does not make us denigrate our present lives, but value them more than ever before. This time on earth is short and God has great things in store for us! So St. Paul says that we are "always of good courage (2nd Cor 5:6)." We will be home soon and in the meantime we have the great invitation, the great opportunity, the great joy and honor to please the Lord during our short stays on earth (2nd Cor 5:9). Think of Jesus. During his earthly sojourn, He was here for all of about 33-34 years. But think of the quality of those years. While here, He saved you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Talk about making the most of your days. The least we can do is live in faith and live our lives in such a way as if to say, "Thank you LORD! Enable me to glorify Your NAME!"


In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,


Dr. Espinosa


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Reflections from the Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 10th, 2012: Satan Bound By Christ (Mark 3:20-35)


Dear Christian Friends,

If Satan has lost his power to Christ -- and He has! --  then what would you expect him to do? Answer: You should expect him to desperately try to convince you otherwise. You should expect him to try to convince you that he is still empowered and in this way achieve a kind of spiritual placebo effect upon you. And this is what he does. He tries to convince you that you are bound by him, trapped in your sin, helpless to your weakness and beaten. But remember dear Christian, you are being lied to! In Mark 3, no one could deny the fact that Jesus was exuding great power and conducting miraculous deeds. So what recourse was left for those against them? Lies had to ensue. All the enemies of Christ could do was falsely accuse the LORD: "He is possessed by the prince of demons he casts out demons." (Mark 3:22)

The Lord, however, answered brilliantly by using a sanctified logic, namely in this case, reductio ad absurdum: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house." (Mark 3:23-27)

Jesus spoke with authority, because He knew the truth. In fact He had proclaimed during his earthly ministry, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven." (Luke 10:18) And we need to know in what way the defeat of the evil one became fact. Jesus Himself described it above: "But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house." (Mark 3:27) And this is exactly what has occurred. Jesus entered into the devil's lair and "plundered him!"

When? It started in what was proclaimed in Genesis 3:15 when the LORD proclaimed that Christ would crush the devil's head (utterly defeat him, Genesis 3;15); and it was evidenced in the LORD overcoming Satan's temptations in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13), but it was absolutely sealed on the cross when the LORD proclaimed, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). When this occurred, the devil was plundered...all of those he was holding captive in his dark power were released. Jesus robbed Satan of souls! Jesus robbed Satan of us! We were set free; released from the devil's prison!

Thus later in this Gospel Jesus is clear about the results of His victory: "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man...(Mark 3:28)." Soak that in: your every sin has been forgiven. No sin can withstand the victory of Jesus; His powerful release of the captives! The one and only exception to this rule is referred to in this text against the one who "blasphemes against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29)," but this is only committed by a person who knows the Word is true, but chooses to speak against and to attack the truth of the Gospel even while dragging others down through their malicious misrepresentation. Needless to say dear Christian, if are even remotely concerned that you've done this, don't worry, you haven't. The one who commits this singular sin of rebellion is dead-set against the LORD. It is clear that if you are reading this article, then it because you are concerned about faith, not rebellion!

But the main point here is know your freedom; know the victory of Jesus; know the looting and plundering of the devil that Jesus conducted for you. You cannot be held back from knowing Christ's freedom; you cannot be denied the inheritance of a child of God! Rejoice dear Christian and live in the consequences of the holy plundering that took place for you!


In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,


Dr. Espinosa


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