Monthly Archives: January 2013

Don’t Have all the Answers? You aren’t supposed to!


Devotional Thought of the Day:

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 

As a young minister, the greatest challenge for me was when I didn’t have the answers.  To be honest, there would be times where i would put my mind,  and my computer into high gear, trying to come up with answers, any answers. It seems wrong, inconceivable even that we wouldn’t have all answers, that we couldn’t provide the answers to the people they need them.

That we wouldn’t be able to provide them what they need, that we can’t give them the answers that would solve their solution seems horrendous The answers that would bring an end to their pain, to their tears, why can’t we provide those answers, why can’t we know… and help them know… all that they need to know to bring them to peace. 

And we feel we fail…them, ourselves…God – when we don’t have the answers, when we have to admit we see but a sliver of God’s will. 

St Paul’s words here in 1 Corinthians 13 challenge that assumption of failure, that we aren’t strong enough or mature enough or faithful enough because we do not understand. We do know only in part, even as I child does.   Or as one Bible commentary explained – the picture is that of looking at a reflection in a fogged cover series of mirrors – nine of them.  The image is there, but the detail is not quite discernible.

Yet in our childlike view, there is an incredible blessing – we have to turn to someOne for the answers, someOne who is there, who is patient, who is willing to endure and love us, even while we struggle with our limitations.  A Father who we can trust, whom we can depend upon, who will continue to work alongside us.  That is the challenge, to realize the immensity of God’s love for us.  To realize His presence, not just as an academic theological position, to to interact with Him, to relax in His presence. as a child does, assured by the love of his/her Father.Even after the peace comes from throwing a royal tantrum, as we struggle to realize, and get frustrated that we cannot realize, the power of living in God’s presence.

Not knowing, not being able to grasp what is going on in life around you, there is only one option – to depend on the one who welcomes you, and has all the answers.  To walk with God, rather than trying to play a god.   To trust in His logic, in His will, not ours.  To rest assured… knowing His love…knowing His promises

Not an easy task…

But it is one, that will give us more rest.. more peace, even in the midst of storms.  Not because we know about God, but because we know Him…

 

 

The Challenge of Seeming Failure


Devotional Thought/Discussion point of the day”

 10 In my life in union with the Lord it is a great joy to me that after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me. I don’t mean that you had stopped caring for me—you just had no chance to show it. 11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives mePhilippians 4:10-13 (TEV)

One of the conversations during my trip on the mission field, was about the harsh reality of ministry, how the dreams of how it would be can come crashing down, when we face the daily grind on the field.  When the results we long for, do not come to fruition right away, or even after a year or two.  For young people in ministry, this can be a hard lesson.  It doesn’t always get easier either, and far too often I have known the feeling – could I be more productive for God’s kingdom in another place?  Could I do things differently?  It’s easy to get caught up in visible results – and loose hope.  This is most certainly true when it seems we have to teach the same lesson, repeatedly, year after year, month after month, heck – sometimes in the same Bible Study or counseling appointment.

Despite what Paul is saying – it is hard to be content with life at times – and that means it is also hard to be content with life in the ministry at times.  This is true for pastors, and it is true for those one the foreign mission field, and I suspect it is for all of us.

After all, don’t they know the treasure we have?  Why don’t people respond like on the day of Pentecost?  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to happen, with hordes of pagans coming forward to be baptized, to be cleanse of their sins, to win the battle over the anxiety and fear caused by sin, satan and death’s bondage over them?

As I “re-enter civilization” (though I found China far more civilized than the USA) I wonder about my own ministry.  Why can a church in China respond in months and be 500 plus people, while mine hovers in the 50’s?  Is it that my people don’t treasure and trust in God’s love enough?  (and if they don’t – does that mean I am a failure as a pastor?)  Is there something wrong with what we are doing?  Could there be a place where I am more productive, is there a pastor that would be more productive here?  All those questions run through our heads, and I witnessed that in China, among those serving God there as well.   It is easy to get disillusioned, disheartened, it is easy to let our minds run wild with questions….

Those questions occasionally need to be asked.  But not in the darkness of night, not in the times when we are alone, when Satan can even more draw our attention from God’s presence.  We do need to consider what we are doing, how we do it.  But that shouldn’t be such that we feel condemned – but focused, energized, our vision clarified, our hope in God renewed….and ourselves content with the place and situation where God has put us.

That is the purpose of self-evaluation, it why we do it in the light of day, in the presence of God, with strong advisers who are willing to invest themselves in helping us.  We especially focus, not on our work, but on the mercy of God – on the very thing we treasure, for the reason we started to serve others, either as a lifetime, fulltime vocation, or just as part of our regular day.  We have to look to Him at these times… for there the shadows and doubts are dismissed by His glory, and we see things as they are.

Once again, I find some.. help focusing at the end of my devotions…in the words of someone familiar with both the successes and seeming failures of ministry.

“You must be careful: don’t let your professional success or failure—which will certainly come—make you forget, even for a moment, what the true aim of your work is: the glory of God!”  (1)

Now, let’s get back to working at our Father’s side.  Depending on His power, His mercy, His love…..

Godspeed

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2576-2577). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Three Mondays This Week! Lord, have Mercy!


Devotional thought on my first day back in the office:

 17 Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17 (TEV)

Monday morning started early in Hong Kong, as I was up at 4:30 am.  FInalize jamming things into a suitcase, jump in a taxi – then to the airport.  A flight to Tokyo, where at five in the afternoon I boarded another plane.  Eventually fell asleep about 6 hours later… to wake up on Monday morning, and landed at LAX.  That was the second Monday literally, and here in my office, 16 hours later, I face the grind of a third Monday, getting the paperwork and studies down for the week….

Three Mondays… capping a 12 day tour – 5 sermons, 8 Bible studies, tons of encouraging and trying to help those who have sacrificed so much to serve God on the foreign mission field.

Let me be honest – its hard to get my desire up to kick into high gear… to get focused, to plan out my short week.  And oh wait – a pastor’s conference coming up – Thursday afternoon through Saturday Morning.

And then, in devotions this morning – the above passage comes into my view…. and this..

 If we really want to sanctify our work, we have inescapably to fulfil the first condition: that of working—and working well!—with human and supernatural seriousness. (1)

Part of me – wants to dismiss these things as if they are too pietistic, to hear them as law and thereby dismiss them, assuming that grace will overcome my lack of desire, and my lack of action.  THe excuses flow quite naturally, from the old Adam.  You’ve worked hard – you need time to rest, to recuperate, let others… and in my heart…. I know that is why Paul wrote Romans 6:1 – should I let my sin abound… no.

My only cure… my only way to get back in the groove…is too look to that supernatural seriousness – to realize that I am not working alone – that the Lord is with me.  To realize that this work, whether it is doing prep work on a sermon, or visiting shut-ins, or looking through worship for this week and planning Lent… it is all about the greatest, most incredible thing I have ever heard, or experienced, the thing that sustained me on the foreign mission field, and now sustains us, as we work together in this mission field in the USA.

Something so basic, we begin and end every study here at Concordia with it… we use it over and over in our services, as if we need to be constantly reminded of this very things…

The Lord is with you!  And with our spirits..>>

He is here…

Time to get back to work… with HIM!!!!!

What an incredible blessing – to see Him working!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2558-2559). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)

Church- our Home… where we are neveraway from Home


DEvotional thought of the Day…or was it yesterday…?

A small sanctuary, really a room that doubles as a classroom, a meeting room, a reception area, a thousand and one other things.

Not the largest group I have preached too, in fact, perhaps one of the smallest, fourteen people, with two guests, of which I was one.

Two musicians, struggling to learn to play together – very different in styling – yet the voices soared in praise of God.  It was…… how do I find the words.

the word?  Home.

Thousands of miles away – miles I will travel tomorrow…to once again hold my wife, to hug my son.

Yet this odd feeling of being home… in a land I can’t remember coming to…. relationships seemingly forged in 3 days?

A few hours later, I sit in a hotel room – trying to stay awake to greet my family as they wake up…. thinking about the service 5 hours ago… still somewhat in awe…

That is what being part of God’s family is like – being able to be home – to truly neverbe away from our family….for we find ourselves united in Christ Jesus.  It could only be the Lord of all that could make such a time happen, only he could do that which is describable….yet undescribable.

Would we realize that every worship service is this…. incarnational, this relational, this incredible.  They are… for He has promised to be there.. where He gathers, convicts, heals, blesses, reconciles, loves…grants peace.

TOo often, no matter the style, our worship can seem like work, the humdrum daily grind….  Regarding “work” a priest once wrote:

Jesus, our Lord and Model, growing up and living as one of us, reveals to us that human existence—your life—and its humdrum, ordinary business, have a meaning which is divine, which belongs to eternity. (1)

If God can take doing the dishes, or filing paperwork or baking bread and give it a divine meaning… how much more that time where He calls and gathers us together – to reveal again His love… to bless and pour out Himself….

And if moments like this… are so… transcendent… how much more will it be… when we see Home… our eternal Home?

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2525-2526). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Our Identity – United together in Christ


Gung Ho! Serving All Together

1 Cor 12:12-31

In Jesus Name

May you know, intimately and deepy, the gifts of God, the mercy and love and peace that works within you as you love those whose lives you have a share in!

 

The USMC – and Gung Ho!

My father served in our military, in the exclusive branch known as the United States Marine Corps.  He was a corpsman, which is basically a doctor’s assistant in the field of battle – but trained to do what he could to save men’s lives until they could be taken to the doctors, many miles behind the field of battle.

Growing up – and hearing the stories, not of battle – but of the spirit and teamwork of the USMC often, I heard two phrases that are the mottos, the slogans of the USMC.  Neither is English, but they are phrases they have taken from the places they have served.  They express things that take many words in English – and even then are vague.  The first is in Latin, Semper Fi – it means always faithful, always dedicated, always willing to sacrifice, that others may be safe, and protected.  The other my dad had no knowledge of the origin of.  But it turns out to be from China, from the Marines who served hear before World War II.  I would imagine it is very badly mispronounced – but it at the heart of this attitude of the Corps.

In Americanese – it is said this way – Gung Ho…

I don’t know if the USMC got the word right, or even the concept. But the concept they attached to this word is critical to them.  From the way my father described it – it means to strive together – to work with everything everyone has, to achieve their goal. Each person using their skills where they are at – but also helping each other to do their best as well. It is the idea at the heart of the USMC –  and it is the reason they are the most successful of the four parts of our military. It is not about who is strong, or who is weak – it is about the unit, the entire team.

It is a phrase I think – with our “meaning” ascribed to it, that would be most appropriate for a Christian community.

Our Independent Spirit

Not God’s plan!  It is impossible/sin

That is a challenge in America today- where everyone is encouraged to do what is best – not for the community but for themselves.   Independence is perceived as a virtue – and to lose that dependence and depend on others is seen as a weakness.

It is perhaps our greatest weakness, as those with more abilities are encouraged not to help – but to push on, ignoring those around them with different abilities. God’s call to love your neighbors – the people you interact with regularly, as you love yourself is pretty much ignored – in order that you might be successful – or achieve wealth or popularity or material things.

Perhaps that challenge is here in this society as well?  The idea that one should focus on climbing the ladder of success – no matter who you have to step on to achieve that next step?

That is not the way God describes His people, His community functioning.  As Paul says, that is like the foot hating that he isn’t a hand, or the ear not happy and leaving the body unless it can do the work of the ear!  Surely God has chosen were each of us fit – yet no one is more important than the rest.  Some of the most important – are the parts – like the heart and brain, that are never seen- but provide the very life for the rest of the body!

Indeed – such self-centeredness – what sociologists term narcissism, is the basic description of sin.  To chose to love myself more than others, to choose to see myself as valuable, more valuable than the others… that is sin.

An example – I have the most visible role in my church – or perhaps I should say the most audible.  I am the one up front all the time – it is my job to speak.  But there are others, like Wanda and Kay, that keep everything moving in our church – especially Wanda!  She is like the heart which beats – sending God’s love in every direction.  Then there are the brains, Al and Jim and Bob, Manny and Tom and my other leaders – who help decide how best to meet the needs of all.  However, each has their role – but what would happen if one decided to take all of the roles?

Such is sin, pure and simple.
And it is one – it should function as one, it should live as one.

We are the Body of Christ – joined to Him means joined together!  Gung Ho – each with His different talents/abilities/charisms – charisms being the term for the special gifts  – that define each part of the body.

To be united to him means that every barrier is broken down, that we understand every person is part – and not that parts aren’t important, but that they are at their most important, as they interact within the community.

When Christ reconciles us to God our Father, it is not just an individual thing, He reconciles humanity to Himself, all born of water and spirit. In reconciling us to Himself – we find ourselves reconciled to each other. We truly become one body – united in Christ. United in His love, which Paul will discuss in the next chapter- united in His, perfection.
That is the power of the cross – the place Paul described this way:

12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14 (TEV)

 

Think this through – if God nailed sin – all of the debts owed because of it it, to the cross.  If there Christ wiped the slate clean, and cancelled our debts…. Then what is left to divide us from each other?

That person that irritated you, even if it was intentional (as you are certain it was) – that sin is gone – the damage it did healed.  That thing you did, that has been haunting you for years, that too is forgiven.  All of those debts, all of those problems, all of that junk – was nailed to the cross with Christ….

 

Done away with….
You are free…you are a new creation, a part of the body of Jesus Christ.

As are those around you who have been freed, brought into His new life, cleansed, and loved….

We are free….together!

That is how the body of Christ, His people, can be one – with nothing dividing us. Each part moving on its own, yet in sympathy – like a great symphony – each person playing their part. No one focusing on which part is best – because all parts are necessary.  We are the body, We are His body.

We can learn to love, to even love sacrificially, because we are part of the whole, and for one to love another… that is the blessing of our life in Christ.

It is no wonder that God calls us His masterpiece, His worksmanship, as He makes us all into one body, one life.

Living together, living in His mercy and love – knowing that we are forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness… that is the “secret” the mystery of all ages, which we get to reveal to others….

For knowing we are one with Christ, part of each other, His holy people, His body, realizing that means we live in a peace that goes beyond all understanding, as Christ protects and guards His body… in peace.

AMEN?

A Sermon for Those sent to Serve


“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me…so Why?”

Luke 4:14-30

 

In Jesus Name

As you give your lives as a living sacrifice to God, as you are equipped by the Holy Spirit’s gifting in your lives, never forget that for you as well is the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

The Burden of the Call
We So want to see the evidence – to know it has been fulfilled!

It always amazes me, how the man made schedule of readings God is able to use.  The Sunday I am preaching to those apostello’d  – those sent not just by the LCMS but by God to share His message – the gospel reading is about Jesus taking up the burden of His being apostello’d – of His being sent.

Not that you and I have the same burden as Jesus did – or even that of the original 12 plus Paul – but we do share in that burden – you are as surely sent here as God sent them.  Whether you are GEO’s or doing life… err lifetime missionaries or accompanying spouse – or the children – you are all here because God has brought you here.

We look at Jesus taking up His burden as the primary, the first apostello. As He reads the prophecy that points out this very thing in Isaiah – hear these words, not just descriptive of His call – but of your call – because you are united to Him.

18      “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19      to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


The year of the Lord’s favor – the year, when God descreed every debt cancelled, that every bill was paid in full – that everything is restored to its rightful place- including us.  The year of jubilee.

I know when I left the University I worked at – to enter “full-time” ministry, I thought of all those things happenin – all the people that would come to know Jesus, all the wonderful – even miraculous things that would occur – and how God’s people would praise Him… as they saw His love.

But then the questions arise

     Who are you – anyway?

     We even may think they are out to crucify you

          If they are – so what?

That was 15 years ago – nearly 20 if you count my time as a “part-time” minister.  Gonna be a little honest – I think more of my time has been like Jesus’ first service and sermon.  So excited to share God’s call to everyone to enjoy the freedom of Christ.. and I quickly fade as people start questioning me – and while they haven’t picked up stones yet……

It seems like that sometimes – not enough eyes that are blind to the gospel open them – or those who hear that they are free from the bondage of sin, stay in the familiar cells that they have become comfortable to – afraid of venturing out into the reality of God’s love.  Some have questioned me – not the – “aren’t you Joseph’s son”, but the same question, who are you to tell me I am a sinner in need of God’s grace?

I have to admit – I look at myself far more often than the message I am entrusted to bear.  I don’t always hear it for myself first, and so I find myself condemned in the eyes of those I am called to bring it to, those who it is so evident that they need it.

I end up feeling crushed – I end up wanting to go home – to find a little cabin in the mountains of new Hampshire, on a nice quiet lake with a awesome internet connected, and finish out my life canoeing, playing piano and guitar and World of Warcraft.

IT is then, that the law has afflicted me… and I need to be comforted by the very message I bring.  Having talked to a number of folk since I landed in Asia ten days ago, I am not the only one.

We have to know the news we bring… just not know – but know. We have to hear it from Him!

 

As good LC-MS Lutherans – we may have heard the phrase once or twice about proper Law and Gospel tension –  Afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin.

I get the feeling that most of you are as in need of that comfort as I am.  Ou wonder why wasn’t there 100 baptisms or even ten, or just one, to witness recently.  You want to blame someone, lest you have to blame yourselves. Our “Leaders” are really easy targets.  If only they would… then I could see the kinds of results I thought I would.

We who serve in the temple – so need to stop and remember that we are the temple – that God’s spirit is with us here – wherever here is.  The love we want people to know – we need to meditate on it, dwell in it, rest and be strengthened by it.

When we want to go on our way – to escape the crowd as Jesus did we need to realize He went on His way for us, and indeed through us!  As He walked through that crowd, the way He went, the way He chose to go on, was to that cross to did for us, that we could die with Him in baptism, that we could rise with Him.

That is why I am so greatful to end my stay this way – serving you – calling you to remember what I have failed to remember so many times.  That while we share Christ’s calling, we aren’t Christ.  The work doesn’t depend on us, or those holding us back.  No one can separate us from His love, for we are His called one, His loved ones.

When I proclaimed your sins forgiven, and when you proclaimed mine forgiven, did you hear that?  That you are cleansed of all your sin and all unrighteousness?

When we pray together the Lord’s prayer – do you hear yourself correctly addressing God as your Father?  Do you hear what Jesus has taught you to ask for, to pray for, knowing it is the Father’s will to give you all these things?

When you hear the words “for you” during the words of institution, do you get that it is for you… you?

Know this – you have been called and sent into… called and apostell’d to this place.  But you haven’t been sent alone, you have been sent with Him – not just His message – but with Him.

For you are His, as the song said – bought with the precious blood of Christ.

So as you serve – as you are tempted with loneliness, know that is never true… but you are in Christ… with Christ…

 

And he is keeping, guarding your hearts and minds in the glorious peace of God, the peace that goes beyond understanding, the peace that is the Father’s.

The peace that is yours.

AMEN?

Can a life be lived for God


Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day

 1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)

This has been a favorite verse of mine since Bible College.  A call to live a life that is dedicated to God, and to His work.

Most people who study to serve as pastors, missionaries, Christian teachers and a great deal many find this verse resounds with them.  O to live in such a way!  O to give up everything.   We think we might, just might be the next Bonhoeffer, or the next Mother Theresa, or maybe the next Luther – calling people to fix what is wrong with the church!  Or the next St Francis, who ushers in a time of peace and contemplation.

Then we begin to serve… and the realization hits us.  Sacrifice isn’t glamorous – it is often downright boring.  The crowds don’t come in masses (or come to mass/worship often) and it seems like forever between points where we can rejoice and be in awe of God’s work in and around us.

We also struggle with temptation and sin, and often joke that the problem with being a living sacrifice is that we can get off the altar.  Some of us become cynical or sarcastic ( or at least let that part of the “old Adam” come back alive)  I find that especially hard – as I think about the way I see the church here on the field, and the politics of the church at home causing them not to have the emotional, spiritual they need, or hearing how they have to go back to do fundraising, interrupting their work here.

I would long for our service, our sacrifice, to be as easy as Josemaria Escriva wrote:

“Each and every creature, each and every event of this life, without exception, must be steps which take you to God, which move you to know him and love him, to give him thanks, and to strive to make everyone else know and love him.”  (1) 

This is what – in our nobler moments we long for – to make every moment part of our journey toward, and with God.  Lord would You be so merciful as to let our nobler instincts come into existence!  Yet we find ourselves, falling so short!

That is where the second verse in Romans comes into play – we do not transform ourselves – God changes us, almost imperceptibly,  primarily because He does use each and every creature, each and every event, to draw us closer to Him. Paul describes this to the church in Corinth with words that are also so dear to my heart.

 18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)

Josemaria’s “must be steps” is true, but it is not our strength or wisdom, or even our desire that makes it so.  It is His work, the Spirit’s dynamic transformation that comes to us, even as we are helpless babes being baptized, or even the octogenarian, know realizing how much God has been calling them, courting them.

Spiritual Disciplines then, aren’t so much about our molding our hearts and minds and actions into an awesome tool for God.  It is far more simply looking to Jesus, dwelling in His love, realizing more than ever, how much He is present, that the incredible words that we say, over and over each Sunday – still ring true…. and because of that your life is not just lived for God, it is lived with Him.

The Lord is with you!

(1)Escrivaa, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2507-2509). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Shared Life of Community


Devotional Thought as I prepare to leave Jiangmen

25 And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 27 All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (TEV)
14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Romans 12:14-16 (TEV)

“ Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God—your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles? You can… and you must!” (1)

As I prepare to leave this city of Jiangmen, and head off to Macau, I am again consumed by a sense of homesickness, of missing my wife and son, and the people I fellowship. Yet in just a few days, I have come to like this city, its people, the road that runs beside the river with its trees, the noise and neon lights, the contrast of high-rises next to 100 year old brick and stone buildings. The people greeting me with a very enthusiastic “Jo-san” (not sure if spelling is correct)

The people aren’t different.  All have their hopes, their fears, the things they would hide, the laughter that reveals both mirth, and yet…. pain.  It is the same in America, or here in China, and in Italy, and in all the world.  Indeed, some of us, are so used to the tears and pain, I am not sure we know how to deal with estatic joy.

The challenge is to realize that God didn’t mean for us to bear our burdens alone.  They are meant to be shared.  Some couples can do this – yet – many cannot.  Never mind sharing both our joys and sorrows with our church families.  Or our fears and anxieties. The very thought causes more fear and anxiety.

We so need to realize the dynamic that happens when we are joined with Christ.  In each book that Paul writes, there is a need to address our community of faith – not just the local church but the church in its entirety.  We are joined together, and completely and intimately as we are joined with God – because we are joined in God.

That is how both our joys and pains can both serve God, not because we force them to by an act of will, but because they do as we are united in Christ.  It’s the outcome of who we are. For if indeed our bodies are living sacrifices, then everything we do and think and experience and feel – yes our emotions, becomes part of God’s tapestry – and can be used to glorify Him….

I think that is what has made this trip so memorable – seeing God bring home to me the unity of those He has made one in the faith.  Whether it be the pastors showing me their churches, the young Americans here to teach, the people I’ve been able to meet with and pray with….  God is there… having created a dynamic relationship – in Him

As we work together, one body, united in Christ. No walls dividing us, not age or ethnicity, not gender or intellect, not even sin….

That is what it means to be one holy, catholic and apostolic people who God has called together… in Him.

Go and embrace the work God does in your life today…knowing He is with you.
 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2505-2507). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do we do “devotions” or are we devoted?


29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (ESV)

9 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. John 15:9 (MSG)

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. Ephesians 3:14-19 (MSG)
Jesus has died. He is a corpse. Those holy women had no expectations. They had seen how he had been abused, and how he had been crucified. How vivid in their minds was the violence of the Passion he had undergone! They knew, too, that the soldiers were keeping watch over the place. They knew that the tomb was sealed shut: “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door?” they asked themselves, for it was a massive slab. But all the same…, in spite of everything, they went to be with him. Look: difficulties, large and small, can be seen at once… But if there is love, one pays no heed to those obstacles: one goes ahead with daring, with conviction, with courage. Don’t you have to confess your shame when you contemplate the drive, the daring and the courage of these women?  (1)

We hear these words from the Gospels often, we talk of the love of God weekly, if not daily, but how often do we do it?  Would we go and challenge soldiers – an attempt to move away a stone from a tomb, out of love for our Rabbi who has died?  How much more should we strive to show our love to the Resurrected Lord of Lords and King of Kings?  They  went to be with His body, the body given for them, even though they couldn’t understand this completely, they knew the miracles he had done, they had even been the recipients of that kind of grace – and they didn’t realize the grace that was about to be revealed.

Still they went!

How can we show Him a love that has recognized His love for us, the passion that God has, passion that would lead to that grave.  How can we respond in love?

John tells us, in the verses following that we remain in His love by treasuring that which He has commissioned – we often see that translated commandments – but it is more than the 10 – it is the life that God has called us to dwell in – the very work of art (Eph 2:10) that we have been created for – which includes the work – that He has planned for us.

This is nothing more, and certainly nothing less, than walking with Christ.  Realizing that each day is a gift – one that we can be at His side, as He continues to call people into a relationship with Him.  They would be our family, our friends, our co-workers, or even people we meet on the other side of the world from home.  We can’t do this simply out of a desire to obey so that we get something.  We would soon dry out, become weary, give up.

But if we love Him, if we come to adore the Lord who adores us enough to be buried… then we come….

Think often today of God’s love,

4 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! Ephesians 3:14-19 (MSG)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2489-2496). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God really needs our help? Yes..


Devotional Thought of the Day

13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” 14 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? 15 And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God! Romans 10:13-15 (MSG)

 

674      Our Lord wants to make us coredeemers with him. That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders. He could have produced bread from anything… but he doesn’t! He looks for human cooperation: he needs a child, a boy, a few pieces of bread and some fish. He needs you and me: and he is God! This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace.  (1)

A long time ago, in a place very far from where I am sitting in China, a young boy was asked by his dad to help him build the stone walls that would line their yard.  His head in a book, he was reluctant, until his father begged him to come help.  What he would do for his dad – was find the small stones – maybe 5 – 10 bounds that would fit the holes between the 20-60 pounds boulders that his dad would put in place.  He would occasionally stir the cemenet with a small trowel, so that it didn’t harden to fast.

As a child I always wondered why my dad “needed” my assistance.  Now as a dad, missing his son a lot while on a trip far away, I understand the need.  It’s not for the minor assistance, it is for the company, the fellowship, the ability to be engaged in something together.  It is what my friend Mike calls “that R word thingy”.  Relationship.

I have friends who will undoubtedly look at the title of this blog and react – God doesn’t “need” our help!  Our people don’t have to be evangelists within their vocation – at least not actively.  Doing a good job will be enough, we aren’t all called to make disciples.

They are wrong, but I think for the wrong reason.  God could make evangelists out of stone.  He could paint the sky with the revelation of His love.  But what if, He wants, He desires, He needs our “cooperation” in His work, for another reason… the same reason my dad would call upstairs and say, Dustin – I need you… come help me build.

Such is our call- a call to work besides the Creator of All, to see His work, up close and there.. as He builds His kingdom….

Such is our blessing today….

SO go – and tell the world of God’s mercy, and love and peace.

AMEN

 

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2480-2484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Neurodivergent Rebel

Destroying stigma and spreading positivity

Be Inspired..!!

Listen to your inner self..it has all the answers..

www.carlflynn.net/

Helping People Navigate the Intersection Between Theology, Technology & Popular Culture

Julian Stockwin

action-adventure historical fiction

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Kosovo Baseball Initiative

Bringing Baseball to Kosovo

Annalisa Drew

The Ski Adventures of Annalisa Drew

Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait?

Just another WordPress.com site

lhsthriftshop

Just another WordPress.com site

A Good Life

Leaving Cancer Behind

Do Not Fear but Believe

Jesus tells us to be not afraid, so choose wisely

W.onderful W.orld of W.adholms

Random Reflections on Life, Theology, and the Bible

Good Morning Jesus

Let's have a daily conversation with Jesus!

46 Psalm

Be still and know that I am God

Christy Rawls :: Encouraging, Equipping, Empowering Others

E3 Ministries Director, Non-Profit Director, Teacher, Speaker, Encourager

A Peculiar Prophet

The Blog of Will Willimon

%d bloggers like this: