Monthly Archives: July 2012

Vacation – rest and revitalization…honestly?

Devotional thought of the day:

It started yesterday – about noonish – we started the packing of our “new” trailer, and it took five-ish hours, with my son giving tours to our neighbors.  Then a little over 2 and a half hours to drive the 90 miles to the campground, another 2 hours to set up.

While our popup trailer is comparatively comfortable – it will take a few days to get used to it – every morning a three inch mattress will remind it us its not a tempurpedic, but chaDevotional thought of the day: It started yesterday – about noonish – we started the packing of our “new” trailer, and it took five-ish hours, with my son giving tours to our neighbors. Then a little over 2 and a half hours to drive the 90 miles to the campground, another 2 hours to set up. While our popup trailer is comparatively comfortable – it will take a few days to get used to it – every morning a three inch mattress will remind it us its not a tempurpedic, but chasing a five year old will bring that mattress to call to us very welcoming at the end of each day! A

And this is supposed to be rest and rejuvination?  Hmmmm…

As we let people know we were actually going on vacation, many said to leave everything behind, just go and have fun… (as if life at Concordia isn’t fun, or at least thrilling in that rollercoaster, stomach twisting kind of adventure way!)

At first I acknowledged their wisdom, but realized that part of me wouldn’t leave Cerritos.  I thought it would be my mind, that it would keep trying to work through everything.  I was wrong, something is still there, but it isn’t my mind, it’s my heart.

In four years at Concordia (this week is the anniversary – so about time for a vacation?)  I have watched people’s faith really blossom. When I got there, they had a unique tradition – every Bible Study starts and ends with the teacher stating, “The Lord is with you!”…  This tradition I have come to love, and it really has become that which shapes our ministry here.  ANd as I look and pray through our families, it only is made clearer that we truly need that knowledge, that blessing, the assurance than comes with His presence.

And they have gotten it – it is evident as they respond to that blessing, with words I love to here – for they are heart felt  – they want me to know God is with me, just as much as they are learning to count on it.

St Paul once wrote a prayer for a church that he loved, and missed, and said,

3:14 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, 15 this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. 16 I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— 17 that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, 18 you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 20 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Ephesians 3:14-20 (MSG) 

If I could describe the people of my church, it is often that they are like kids at Christmas, just opening their eyes to the magnificence of God’s love for them…. they are starting to see this – and oh is it a joy to see it, as they witness another person to whom God’s promises are poured out in baptism, or as they see their burdens and anxieties lifted off them as we hear God’s forgiveness delivered, and as we pray…and as we feast together – in our potlucks for sure, but in the more precious meal of Christ’s Body and Blood..

As they live out our mission and motto – that Concordia is the place where people heal in Christ, while helping others heal…

In this, they are being revealed to be the very craftsmanship of God (see Eph 2:10) , or in Latin, the Opus Dei, in Greek – the Poiema – the poem

It is not my mind I left behind, as much as my heart – and the joy of seeing people know God’s love for them.. of realizing that God has called them into a relationship where He is there Father, and them finding rest there…. of them knowing the words, “the Lord is with you” and reminding me in response, that He is also with me….

That’s where I truly and revitalized, and I look forward to being back!

One of our close friends when we were first married, is an elder at this church and is a missionary in a very unique way. He sent me this – written by his pastor…It leaves me in awe, and yet praying for the other families who will struggle for a long time

Complacent…and Broken

Discussion thought of the day:

“If you obey every law except one, you are still guilty of breaking them all.”     James 2:10 (CEV)

“what little love for God you have, when you give in without a fight because it’s not a grave sin”  Jose marie Escriva.

We have a tendency in the church, to favor (or perhaps more accurately disfavor) one sin more than another.  That is, it seems every decade has the sin that is more evil than any other, and of course that sin, and those who commit that sin are rarely found in the “real” churches.  As a child I remember the whispers about the lady in town who had a child without being married,  Then the sin was divorce that was unforgivable, now, for many Christians – it’s the homosexuals, or the liberals (whatever that means – I thought the church was supposed to be working at liberating people… o well!

But will we dare look in the mirror, and call our sin… well sin?  Will pastors preach against sin that is prevalent in their people’s lives?  Or will we stay safe, preaching against the HHA mandate, or the gun control laws, or… or…or. will we be complacent, hiding our sin, from God, yet letting it consume us, for even the small

It is time to change all that…

Let’s address our sins, let’s stop saying that we are better than those people who are active this or that…Let’s try something new, if we want our world to change.

Let’s confess our sins to God – let’s stop being complacent about our sin… Let’s hit it head on… and see God at work…let’s fight sin – at the place where it cannot win… before the throne of God, for there… we are cleansed… of our sin… our real sin…

this old hymn says it well….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHY8QC0UY-M

So before we go out – and condemn others, or somehow feel more holy, let us indeed cast aside our brokenness.. and see the healing God has called us to.

AMEN

The Breakfast Club Sermon

If a Man’s Home is His castle
God’s People are His Temple!

Eph 2:11-22

 

In Jesus Name

 

May we realize that God has brought the gospel of peace to those who were far off, and to those who have been near, and in so doing, has made us into the place where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell!

Looking in from the outside

 

The most powerful memory from my high school back east was of a morning in a  hallway, where I first realized how much I lived my life on the edge.

We all arrived early, some on the bus, some dropped off, some just because.  There was my best friend John, a gymnast he was heading to the weight rooms. Bill – the star athlete, president of the class, and he was heading to Mrs. Johnson’s Algebra II class.  Mike, well, Mike had interactions with various pharmacology, and was heading for an area we called the “hash block.”  Another friend was heading to band practice, and another to autoshop – which was his second home.  I think that of the 15 kids that hung out for 20 minutes, that of them every major clique in the school had representation.  We hung out there…

every morning, for nearly two years…

It was one cold February morning, whenI realized I lived on the edge.  As I was watching my friends, talking to some, I came to the conclusion that I lived on the edge.

Not the edge of danger, life filled with danger type edge.

But the edge of all their cliques, not really one of the brains, though we were in the same classes, not one of the jocks, though I ran and played with them, though I was a musician, the band geeks were a marching band – and you can’t carry your baby grand down main street.  I knew the druggies and gearheads through my brother.  I knew them all, yet, wasn’t part of their groups.

I was on the edge.   Maybe some of you know what I mean, or maybe you wanted to be in one group – but found yourself in another – shut out from where you wanted to be – an outsider, and maybe you tried to force your way in.  Maybe you still are trying to find that group to which you belong.

Paul’s description – painful but accurate?

         

In Paul’s epistle this morning, he is writing to those God has gathered together and made one in the city of Ephesus.  In verse 11, he brings up the pains of their pasts – he reminds them that they were once on the edge, outside, not part of the group.
He reminds them that they were call names by those who thought they were cool. The phrases Paul writes, one after another, pounded in reminders of the feelings of being excluded, of the pain of realizing that life seemed somehow empty, and there were not part of the group that had it made.  Basically, because you weren’t part of the family, because you didn’t know God, you were without hope.

By the way, there is a subtle reminder to humble those who think they are in the right group.  Paul says, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts”   I would realize much later, that those who made a big deal about being in this clique or that one, were the ones most insecure in those connections, who weren’t sure they belonged.  Same thing in regards to our faith – those who compare themselves as far better than those outside of the faith, are the ones who need to find confidence in God’s work, rather than their own, to take it from being just an outwardly projected image, to seeing the image of Christ in them.
Returning to those of us former outsiders to whom Paul writes. It still seems strange to me, that there are those of us, who are comfortable in living on the edge.  It is as if we desire to be part of the group, yet can’t bring ourselves to risk the rejection, as we may have, once or twice in life.

Will they accept me, both the good and the bad? If this is true with the cliques of our youth, it may be true of our adulthood.  I hate to say it – but sometimes those fears have been proven, as people become part of a church, and struggle with the fact that sometimes we are more comfortable with each other, than the stranger who just walked in. How many in this world, are just looking for a group to belong to, a place where they are no longer the outsiders, living on the edge.

 

We’ve been re-created – a new people.

 

There are reason behind Paul bringing up these memories. First, we need to remember how incredible our Lord is, and how mind-blowing what He has done for us is.

You see the hard memory of the past is to be compared to where we are now, in the present.  I want to re-read these words with you.

13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us.

You’ve been united with Christ!  You aren’t going to get anymore “in” than that.  The one whom all exists for and you are close, He has brought you near to the Father – close and loved.  Hear some more

 

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20

 

You belong!  Not just as the newbee, the one on probation – you are members of the family!  You have been brought with Christ – and God is the One who called you and I into this incredible relationship, – one more – verse 21!


22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

In comparing where we were – on the edge, on the outside looking in, without hope, to being an integral part of the people of God, a active and needed part of the body, we have been given hope, as the prophet Jeremiah tells a broken people who found themselves outside and on the edge.  He said,

“This is God’s word on the subject…., “29:11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:10- 11 (MSG)

And in Christ, that hope is not some far off and barely possible thing, but as the word used to mean – that which we have 100% confidence in, it is our expectation, because God has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of this.

Look whose here…

I said that there were a number of reasons Paul would bring up our painful pasts, the feelings of not even having been abandoned, the feelings of not belonging in the first place.

It is to keep us humble, to help us from becoming, now that we are the people of God, like those who were proud of a circumcision that was only physical, that wasn’t the cutting away of the crap around our hearts, the sin and effcts of sin that can change us, and make us cold.

A number of times Paul helps us with this as well, as he explains that God is pulling all people into Christ, and therefore into His presence.  Hear His words

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

 

15b  He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

 

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

Together, we are the people of Christ – He has brought us all into Him, and joined us to Himself, that He can bring us into the presence of the Father.  The second reason to cause us to remember we were outside, is to explain how much we have all become one.

The sermon has a long title.  If a Man’s Home is His castle God’s People are His Temple!  God’s home isn’t created out of wood and stone, His temple isn’t one built of human hands.  It is a house, a lineage, a people, that He Himself as called together, united, together, joined together,

Made one.

 

20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

One of the things I realized as I grew older, was that as one who lived on the edge, I was part of those groups – all of them.  They weren’t so different than I am, and that each of us, is being called to be part of a bigger group, a real family, where burdens are shared together as we give them to God.  For what defines us, what makes us who we are, is not our personas that we show to the public, not our gifts and abilities and differences and things we have in common, It is Christ, who has made us His.

We see a glimpse of it here, at this altar, as we will feast together, with our Lord, with our Savior, the One who made us His people, the one who calls us together in a life that knows peace.

AMEN?

A Source of Brokenness: Who do you belong to?

Discussion thought of the day

“You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God, and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody, and everybody”  Escriva

In the 1930’s the Biritsh Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, thought the way to peace was to appease Hitler, to give into his little demands, to sacrifice others that Hitler would find contentment.  It didn’t work of course, and the world was plunged into war.  I think many of us do that today.  Our friends are doing something we know is wrong, and we are quiet, afraid to destroy the relationship, yet all the time fearing for the consequences we know will come.  We give in to our children’s demands, thinking that a moment of respite and quiet is worth it, rather than engage in disciplining them. We make deals all the time, with the illusion that it will bring peace, and minimize the impact on our lives.

Except of course, we don’t bow to God, we don’t listen to the one who designed us, and we get mad at Him when peace isn’t there.  He points to simple things – love Him, love your neighbor, and points out the critical ways that can be done and lets us know we don’t have to submit to other God’s, we can use His name to praise and pray to Him instead of using it as a cuss word, we can cherish the blessings of marriage and life. We don’t have to covet other people’s lives and reputations….

DO these things, live in the way He designed, and there is peace.

If you don’t, confess them and He will provide the gift of cleaning it up, and making it right,

But we don’t even like that.  “why do I have to confess my sins” they cry!  “I don’t need a pastor, or a church, my relationship is with God!”  I guess, but even in saying that, the self-centered focus is turning down the gifts of God, and my expectation is the time you could have spent with God’s people, the burdens you have, the guilt and shame  – you will continue to bear as you bow to others agendas, and you appease them, for an illusion of peace in that moment.  The reality of it is, we belong to whomever we try to appease or submit to…

My friends, let God be God, submit to Him, look to His wisdom and promises….. when you belong to Him, the peace isn’t momentary, nor an illusion.  It is peace in the middle of storms, and through them.  It is real peace in life.

And in crying “Lord have mercy,” we acknowledge we belong to Him, when we confess our sins, looking for and receiving His love and compassion and comfort – we realize it again.  When we take part in the family of God, celebrating His presence, His promises, His gifts, the same – we revel in His being our Master, our Lord, our Savior.

SO this morning – who will you belong to?

The world awaits holy priests

A great article, ( though I would replace the word priests with pastors)  The Archbishop’s words about culture, and about the witness of God’s shepherds (and His people) are very true.

The world awaits holy priests.

The Cry of our Brokenness: Pt 2

Devotional/Discussoin thought of the day:

“”Domine – ‘Lord’ Si vis potes me mundare – ‘If you will, you can make me clean!’

What a beautiful prayer for you to say often with the faith of the poor leper, when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen.  You waon’t wait long to hear the Master’s reply:  “Volo Mundare’- ‘I will!  Be made clean'”  (escriva)

As I have been writing on brokenness this week, (and having to deal with it in my life, and in others, I came to this quote in my devotions this morning.  As a pastor who knows the blessing of the sacrament of Confession and Absolution, it is in those italicized words that I see what needs to be heard. and heard loudly.  When dealing with sin, there are three options.

The first is to claim it isn’t sin, that God didn’t really mean to label that as sin, and therefore it isn’t.  Such is a lie, and will require many more lies and the hardening of conscience against that particular sin and many like it.  It will eventually spiral out of control – and we will find ourselves at rock bottom.  (Even there we may point to others and say they are worse off!)  In the end, we have to remember that what we’ve done is sin…and that can be more painful, and harder to deal with. ( I would highly suggest that this is one of the benefits of knowing a good pastor or priest – who can help bring the comfort of Christ’s love as you peel back the levels)

The second is to simply ignore that it is sin, to revel in its pleasure, and to find the emptiness that occurs when the pleasure fades. This results in escalation, and broadening of the sin, looking to something that satisfies even more.  Suffice it to say, this is the addictive bond that many sins have – as they are poor imitations of a blessing that is fulfilling and right, and God ordained.

The third is the most simple – and the best way, the God ordained way, to deal with those times that St Josemarie described as this, “when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen.”  St John in his first epistle talks of this:
1:7 But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away. 8 If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.1 John 1:7-9 (CEV) 

He can always be trusted to forgive us… always…ALWAYS…

My friends, we don’t have to play the games, we don’t have to deny our doubts our fears, we don’t have to hide behind words that betray us, clinging stubbornly to positions we KNOW are wrong. We don’t have to play the game that “everything is all right”, when our relationship are broken, when our lives don’t seem to be filled, when we are waiting – even fearful that everything is about to come crashing down.

Come and learn of the Lord, the One who doesn’t make you wait long to be cleansed, healed, and made whole.

Take it from someone who gets to help in that process, even as I am being healed myself.

We cry “Lord, Have mercy!  Lord make us clean!”  and we look at the cross, and as our sins is cut away and discarded…we realize that He has!!!

The Cry of the Broken life Answered

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

Hear the words of one whose life was broken….

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? Romans 7:24 (MSG)

As I’ve been writing this week on brokenness – passages keep popping into my mind, proof that our generation isn’t the first broken.  And proof that even as those who believe and trust in Jesus, we struggle with sin.  Yesterday I wrote that the first step isn’t confession our brokenness, it is realizing that we are broken.  And for many of us, that realization continues into our new life.  We, like Paul, grasp how life is supposed to be – we are supposed to be whole, saintly people, dedicated to God and to doing his work.   Aren’t we all supposed to have our lives change as Christians.  Why can’t i bring Jesus to people like Billy Graham, or pray and have devotions like St Francis, or serve the needy like Mother Theresa? Or be a preacher and writer like Luther?  Why do I still have to deal with sin, my sin, as it assaults my thoughts, is found in my words, and gulp – is seen in my deeds, (or my lack of deeds)

I think we would be surprised to find out how human they were, that they too struggled with temptation and sin, that like the APOSTLE Paul – they had days where they cried out for Christ to return, to rescue them from this life.  Think about Revelation’s description of saints,

12:11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)

Been there somedays….not wanting to cling to life, not because of the people around me, for them I would gladly stick around, but because of my own brokenness, because of the fact that I know I don’t live the way I would desire to, knowing His love.  When I forget and cry out as Paul did – who will rescue me from this body of death…..

Until a friend reminds me I have been rescued.  Till I stand at an altar, and am given the Bread of Life, and drink of the Cup of Salvation. Till I hear those incredible words “your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit…AMEN!)  The words that Paul rights after His cry of brokeness – in those words we find the answer

7:25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. 8:1 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
Romans 7:25 -8:2 (MSG)

There is our answer !

Our brokenness has been dealt with!

We have been freed from it, healed of it.

We still will struggle – with our own brokenness, even more perhaps as we see people living broken lives, unaware that their cry has been heard, that the Lord has had mercy, that He has come… and will free them….and we not only get the joy of letting them know this – when they do hear – we get to see the weight lifted off of them… we get to share in their realizing His promise…

For we are a church, a people that find healing in Christ, while healing others heal….

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 5. Hate-Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 5. Hate-Voting = Using the Devil’s Weapons Instead of the Armor of God..

Broken People Healing in Christ..one step

Thought of the day….

Earlier this week, my devotional/discussion thgouth included the mission statement of my church.  “where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal”

It had more hits than any other devotional blog I have written, and some pretty nice comments came to me. (By the way – feel free to comment and discuss what I right about here).  It made me think about the need to discuss what it means to be broken, and what it means to be healed, and how this happens when we find ourselves gathered with others in God’s presence….

The first step is a challenge in our society is difficult – it is not only admitting we are broken people, but mourning and being mortified that we are.  Isaiah demonstrated this sorrow and pain this way…
6:5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
Isaiah 6:5 (NLT)

Have you ever, when someone asks you “How is it going”, really wanted to be honest.  To let them know that your heartbroken, or anxious about finances, or challenged, and cannot find any reason for hope?  That you are struggling with depression, or worried about what you might hear at that next doctor’s visit?  That you don’t know how to deal with the issues your kids misbehavior, but it scares you none the less?  But of course you say, “It’s going fine!”

Or what about us as a people, do we take great pride in our country, and pretend that everything is okay?  That families are being ripped apart, that children are growing up without any sense of ethics or morality?  Do we grieve about a country that is so calloused by sin that we don’t notice that most television shows include adultery as the norm?  Do we realize how many people live in great need?  Do we realize we are more concerned about having to pay for abortions, than the fact that 50 million lives have been tossed away?

The first step?  It’s not admitting we are broken people living in a broken world.

It is realizing it.

And realizing – that no matter how much we try…. we can’t fix what is wrong…

We can’t do miracles on that magnitude.  There is only One who can… the One who created us, and can re-create us.  We can trust Him, depend on Him, know that He will fix, heal, repair and make it all new.

For that is why he came…even as He explain in his first sermon – as He quotes Isaiah,

4:18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:18-21 (NKJV)

As your heart cries out, about your own brokenness, or the brokenness of this world, my you realize that for you as well… today this scripture has been fulfilled… as Christ heals your brokenness, and mine, and the worlds….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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