Monthly Archives: November 2013

A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders….


Devotional/Pragmatic THeological Thoguht of the Day:SAMSUNG

18  “But can you, O God, really live on earth among men and women? Not even all of heaven is large enough to hold you, so how can this Temple that I have built be large enough? 19  LORD my God, I am your servant. Listen to my prayer and grant the requests I make to you. 20  Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21  Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us.    2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (TEV) 

32  “When foreigners who live in a distant land hear how great and powerful you are and how you are always ready to act, and then they come to pray at this Temple, 33  listen to their prayers. In heaven, where you live, hear them and do what they ask you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is where you are to be worshiped2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (TEV) 

658  We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, He guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions. We believe this—but we live as if God did not exist. For we do not have a thought or a word for him; for we do not obey him, nor try to control our passions; for we do not show that we love him, and we do not atone… Are we going to continue living with a dead faith”? (1)

“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (2)

Tomorrow we start a new year in the church.  I would ask that for a moment, like “secular” new years, we think about our lives as those who facilitate the worship of the people of God.  (Both those who know they are, and those who will come to know they are in this year)

Tomorrow is also the first Sunday of Advent or the Parousia, that season we spend trying to understand the desire of the peope of God for the Messiah to come, for the promises to be fulfilled, for God to dwell among us.  We do this, so that we too can desire God’s presence and His return.  That is why the ancient church cried out “Maranatha!” the cry of Come Lord Jesus!

There are days, especially in this last year, where I admit I was crying this out for the wrong reason, And perhaps, leading my people to cry this out for the wrong reason as well.

You see, I cried it out because things were rough, because I was in mourning, or in despair.  Where I wanted the suffering of people around me to end,  Not that we would die, but that we would be rescued from this place, and brought into the presence of God in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more cancer, no more death.  I wanted us all to be rescued from this life, and brought into the joy, the glory, the peace of God that we shall know for eternity.  We have endured a lot these last few years…have had to minister to each other, with seemingly no break. We need rest and healing and a time to breath in deeply, and know the message of Christmas, that God is with us.

Something we already know… sort of.

And that is where the challenge for this New Church Year is going to be found.

Making the experience people have when they come to our churches have be one where they are sure Christ is with them.

Where it’s not about us, where we don’t go through the motions, where we don’t block people’s reception of God’s presence because of our poor-formance (misspelling intentional)

Look at the readings from the Dedication of Solomon’s temple above, there is an assurance in Solomon’s words that they are in the very presence of God.  All of Israel, gathered there, assured of His love and that nothing can spearate them from His love.  That strangers, people who don’t even know who God is except for his title, would be able to come and know that this place, this altar, where we stand, is where God has gathered them as well.

For the sake of our people – this article isn’t about worship styles, traditional Liturgy, or contemporary.  It’s about us, you and I, and how we approach this blessed time we share with the people of God. The time were our voices, our body language, our intimate reverence and joy betray to our people that we KNOW we are in the presence of God the Creator, That  He is here.  I would desires that our readings are filled with awe, realizing that this is what God has thought through and inspired so His love is revealed to His people.  That the readings are also clear, and done in a language and manner that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand.  That our prayers, whether pre-written or from the heart, assist them in laying every burden down at His feet, entrusting them to Him, as He desires. That every spoken word be such that thy know this is something we do, but something that is our life.  That our music and the way it is played isn’t about leaving them in awe of our talents and voices, but lead them voicing their awe at the God who loves them so much, that for the joy of revealing this to them, endured the cross and all its sufferings. The God that welcomes them and draws them to Him, broken, sinful, needy, that He might heal and comfort, cleanse and encourage.

That every person, whether life-long church goer, or first time guest of God, encounter Christ.  

That’s what our ceremonies are designed to teach, whether liturgical or common, whether accompanied by majestic pipe organs, or simple strings, or even acapella.

That’s what makes the difference in our lives, in the expression of our trust in God.

KNowing He is here.

Desiring Christ’s last return, not just to escape the pains of this world.. but because we will see Him, the God who loves us, face to face.  That the glory we now see hints of, as we see one baptized, or receive Christ’s Body and Blood, as we see the prodigal welcomed home, and the joy of all in celebrating it, that we would see that joy, that glory in its fullness.

In His presence.

So here is the challenge, as you enter the church tomorrow.  Breathe deeply, let your nerves calm down, your burdens be dropped, His joy lift you high.  For we dwell, as Solomon did that day, in the very presence of God.

The God who has had mercy on us, who has come to us, and in whose presence we live.

Then, as our people see this, may they know and be assured that and rejoice they dwell in Christ as well!

AMEN
(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2759-2766). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession.  Article XXIV  (p. 56)  . Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting…


Devotional Thought of the day>

 1  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you 2  to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it (whether the time is right or not), to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience. 3  The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. 4  They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends. 5  But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (TEV)

\573         Please don’t abandon the task, don’t deviate from the way, even though you have to live with people who are full of prejudices: as if you thought the basis of arguments or the meaning of words were fixed by their behaviour or by their assertions. Do try to get them to understand you… but if you don’t manage it, carry on anyway.  (1)

There is a point in minsitry that occurs when you realizing you are bashing your head against the wall.

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


An example – someone comes to you looking for spiritual guidance, and you offer it, and they go – thanks, and then going back to the same behavior that caused them to come to you in the first place.

Or someone who saks you to help them understand a Bible passage, you take the time to work it through with them, and then watch them return to the confusion, only to ask the same question in a similar manner a few weeks down the road.

It has been said that insanity can be defined by doing the same thing repeatedly, but hoping for a different outcome.   In this case, many pastors, priests, teachers, counselors are not just simply insance, but completely insane.

There see to be two options to this insanity, first – keep doing the work in the same way, but give up caring about the results, or second, change things regularly, looking for the precise combination that will work in your community, in your parish, in your classroom.  Sometimes we even bounce betwen the two, depending on who we last heard that appears to be successful, that appears to at least give an answer to our dilemna.

This glass half full/half open pendulum, and the second guessing and thinking that our “return on inventment” must result in a immediate reult that is satifactory dominates our churches.  We are blown about by winds of, not of doctrine, but of some definitions and measurements of “faithfulness” and “success.”.  We are hurt because we get into these fields beause we desire to change the world, and would like to at least change some lives.  We know the answer is Jesus, (as does every pre-schooler !) we know where people will find the answers, we are trained to give them both clearly and in a way that should appeal to people.

And then we wonder if they will ever hear us…

And eventually we wonder if we are insane (in the sense above) or we act on the lack of success and desperately try new ways.  Even to the point where we don’t give them time to see if they will work.

The nearly identical advice is seen above, ( I saw St. Josemaria’s first – my Bible devotional reading was somewhere else ).  Our endurance in the midst of our preaching, teaching, counseling is not based on their changed lives.  It’s not about “faithfully” doing it by dialing it in either.  It is about realizing our role is to give the message, Because Jesus is coming back, and that is news that is incredible to anyone who trusts in Him, and if they don’t hear it, they won’t be able to trust in it.

Days preaching and teaching and counsling aren’t supposed to be easy, they often demand great sacrfiice, it often requires us to carry on, to keep looking at Christ and realizing the treasure that they need.  Ministry and teaching and cousneling isn’t about our strength, its about the glory of God in which we work, sustaining us, encuraging, helping us endure, and driving us when needed.  We are going to have to suffer in this role.  Not just because of persecution, but because of those who do not hear the message, who we weep for, even as Christ weeped over Jerusalem.  We need to realize that this struggle is okay.

That’s the example we have in Christ, and in our Father in Heaven.  They have kept calling us, hounding us even though the results haven’t been all that spectacularly different.  We still sin, we still forget about God, we still struggle, then repent, then worship.  And still God loves and calls, and forgives and comforts and is here with us.  He doesn’t change.. He never will… although the results can’t be seen b y us yet, He knows them, and dances with joy as He realizes those who trust in Him, who treasure His love.

In Him, we find the strength and the patience to avoid the insanity of reacting to what the world things is insane.  So let us keep our eyes on HIm, He who begins faith and completes it is us, and in those who hear our message.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2448-2452). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then!


Devotional Thought of the Day:

8  “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9  You have six days in which to do your work, 10  but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your countryExodus 20:8-10 (TEV) 

552         It would be bad if you were to waste your time, which is not yours but God’s and is meant for His glory. But if on top of that you make others waste it, you both diminish your own standing and defraud God of more of the glory you owe Him. (1)

There is a song that was once a faovrite of mine, perhaps not so much these days because of the reality of it in life.

Written by Harry Chapin, it tells the story of a dad and his son, who thought they would desire to spend tie together, don’t.  Life and work gets in the way.  And the father who said, “not today”, in his old age hears the same phrase back, “not today”. It looks forward to the day when “we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a

Verities & Balderdash

Verities & Balderdash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

good time, then”

In this life, there will be no more “then’s” for me and my dad, there will be them for my son, and trying to keep that all in balance with the demands of being a servant to the people of God is a challenge.  There are those that say the pastor’s family must always come first.  A noble idea, but an impossibility, if we take our ordination vows seriously.  There are those who use those same vows as an escape from the family, mismanaging their time.  There has to be wisdom, and yes sacrifice.   And in even in that balance, there will be pain to be born.  Someone will have to hear “then”,  and it will hurt to hear it, and hurt to say it.

This blog isn’t about those “then’s”, but rather the one’s we say to God.

God, I’m running late this morning – I’ll spend time with you later.

God, there’s a family event, I need to be at.  I’ll be at church next week.

God, we’ll have a good time together, “then”!

The tragedy is great, this neglecting  of relationship.  Not just for us, even as we so need God’s presence in our lives.  For life is a challenge, there are hurts and betrayals, sins and disasters, and we often need his comfort.  Hard as it is to imagine, our neglect of our relationship with God is hard for God as well.  You see it in God’s word’s to Hosea, as God explains the hurt as Israel prostitutes herself to false idols.  You hear it in Jesus voice, as he cries over Jerusalem, explaining how he longed to comfort them as a mother hen comforts and protects her children.   That’s the idea of a relationship – to spend time together, and the time lost… is time where love isn’t expressed, time where we drift apart.

There is another line in the song, the words of the song where the son says, “I’m gonna be just like you dad…”

And I pray, that with God, that line is true. That we will look to our Abba Father in Heaven, and we will grow up to love Him in the way He loves us.  That we will appreciate our time with Him, the way He desires to spend it with us.

Not just in heaven,but now.  Hear His promises,

“You will be my people, and I will be your God.   Ezekiel 36:28 (TEV)

“and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”    Matthew 28:20 (TEV)

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; “ 1 Corinthians 6:19 (TEV) 

Writing about our time with God is hard, because no matter how hard I try, it sounds like law, it sounds like, well discipline.  I still struggle with calling prayer and bible study and such benefits -spiritual discipines – because that makes it sound like tasks and obligations, rather than the good time we have, when we understand that God is here… that God is with us.   But how we encourage each other to live aware of His presence, aware of His love and comfort, of His guidance.  I Know that’s how Escriva’s words sound at first, yet I also realize that they come from a person who knows God’s presence, and knows how desperately we need to remain aware of His presence.  Yeah – it’s that powerful, that life changing. That everything.

Prayer not just as a formal matter, but as our time with our Dad… where we admit that He’s gotta handle the things which we can’t, where we rejoice as He fixes and heals, as He shares with us His work in recreating this world. As He brings us together to encourage each other, to celebrate His love. To realize that this God did come to us, and is here with us… even this very moment.

Such is the nature of this joy, that we need to realize what it’s cost us to overlook it.  Like Harry Chapin’s song is supposed to help us dad’s, and our sons.

Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to grow up just like Jesus.

.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2370-2372). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Impressive Resume


That’s an Impressive Resume!

Col. 1:13-22

Jesus, Son, Deliverer

May we realize and reveal the depth of God’s grace, that mercy and love He pours out on us, until the day He returns for us.


We’re Looking for a Good Man

Well, here we are, at the end of another church year.

We’ve endured a lot this year, as we have in year’s past.  We’ve endured because of God’s work in our midst, without which I don’t think we would have survived.

We’ve also had a number of great moments, like the baptisms, the weddings and the Combined services Sunday, and every week that we’ve knelt at this altar together, and received the blessings of Christ’s Body and Blood.  They are great moments, not just because we are together, but because we’ve been brought together in the presence of God Almighty, who brings us together in those moments.

As we go into the next church year, as the weeks of advent lead to Christmas, and Ash Wednesday is followed by Lent and Easter and Pentecost, as we endure the summer months, we have to know that the one person that completes our community is here.  The person that can bring it altogether, that will lead us as we try to change the world, by bringing it to the cross.  He is necessary if we are to change our community by bringing it healing where it is broken,  He will always be the only irreplaceable person at Concordia.

We must remember as well where to find Him at work and at home (especially those recently retired!) so that we can follow His lead.

Our epistle this morning presents His resume, His qualifications, this Son of God, this One who existed before all creation, this Man through all things were created and in whom they are created.  This One who is the Alpha and Omega, who carries not just a team on His back, but all of creation.

Of all of this, what makes Him so essential to us here at Concordia, to ministry here in Cerritos and in each of our homes and workplaces,

So let us see why Jesus is qualified to be “the” person here. Why we need Him to be our… auditor.

Some messed up books

Someone made the comment this week, that 50 years ago a president gave an order to send a man to the moon, and it was done.  Another president has given a order to create a web-based program to help people choose insurance, and they cannot.  I thought it ironic, because all of the computers in Houston 50 years ago couldn’t add up to the power of my tablet computer, maybe even my phone today.

The person we have to depend on here at Concordia has a slightly larger job.  To track the sins of at least 15 billion people, and give an accounting for them. To keep a set of books that are accurate not to 99.999999 percent – but perfectly.

If I make a rough estimate that the average age of a person in history is 50, that means tracking 2 quintrillion 190 quadrillion sins (190,000,000,000,000,000)  That’s a lot of bookkeeping!

That weight of sin is incredible, the amount of damage we have done to each other, and to ourselves. It’s a mess that cannot be hidden, it can’t be ignored.  Society has for too long been narcissistic, it has too long encouraged sin, it has too long said that to challenge sin is something we shouldn’t do, because it’s none of our damned business.  Yet the brokenness is there.  You see it in the commercials like I saw that night, where a man who was getting engaged bought a necklace for his fiancé’s daughter.  Are broken marriages that common that we market to the kids of them now?

Yet these broken lives that are the result of sin, that is our business. We’ve been sent to bring them Christ’s healing! To help heal the relationships that the world would rather justify walking away from, as if somehow they can escape the pain.

 

We can’t, and neither can we deal with it on our own… we need someone with, as they say today, skillz. Someone we trust

So we need the ultimate accountant/reconciler

There is some incredible theology in this passage of Colossians, As Jesus is described in the second paragraph, the incredible majesty and glory is described in language that should leave us in awe.  That is not where Christ’s qualifications to fix everything are best shown.

 

The part I would draw you attention to is in the first and third paragraphs, and in the last line of the second.
There we find accounting language, the language of books and audits, profit and loss, the language of running the fiscal operations of a major business, or a kingdom. Consider these phrases,

He “re-established” us!  Where we were a liability, in the red in debt and under the power of darkness, He re-established us, put us in another column – as assets of the Kingdom of heaven1

He redeemed us, purchasing our debt of sin and cancelling it – dismissed the debt – wrote it off.

He reconciled everything (not just us) within Himself.

He restored the books to their proper manner – everything balancing out, everything in good order.  Repeatedly in this passage are words related to the word for place. Moving us from one column to another, sending that which was our sin to a place far away from us.  He restores us and reveals us to be not just something God values but treasures, as we are God treasured children.  Something He treasured so much that Christ would give everything He had to make us the Father’s children, to restore in us the very image of God in which we are created.

And how he does it…

What is so amazing, is that Jesus, in maintaining the books of heaven, in judging who performs the audits, does so in a way that is well unconventional.  He doesn’t consider the value or the cost, he doesn’t care if our “red ink” was 200 or 400 thousand sin.

He doesn’t just ignore the debt, or write it off and declare bankruptcy.  He doesn’t handle it with analytical precision, but by drawing us into to His own death, His blood covering all of the sin completely. His blood cleansing us, reconciling us, purchasing us, moving us from being a liability, a mark in the power of darkness, and re-establishing us in the kingdom of God as a asset, as a valued treasure.

As it say in the last verse – we are set apart as His – made His alone, for that is the definition of Holiness, and beyond censure, we are without a single fault to be called upon.

That’s the way God does accounting, embracing us with all of our debt, bringing us back in Christ, That’s why there is the picture that there is on the front cover – with Jesus embracing a man who cannot go any further, who cannot bring himself to the cross.

For that, beyond everything else Christ is, is what amazes me the most.  That He comes to us, that He reconciles us, that He pulls us into Himself, and carries our burdens, the things that cause us anxieties, our sins, and our very lives.

That is why Jesus is essential to our work here, no matter who pastors our congregations, no matter who our elders are, no matter who comes and sits in the pews, no matter how great the sin is.

We are gathered here by Him, even as He will on the last day, the day which the last Sunday of the Church year focuses.  It is the reason we bow and worship, why we glorify Him.

It’s the reason this place, is His place, where our voices praise His name, where He pours out His gifts on us….It’s the reason He is our irreplaceable person, this Chief Reconciliation Officer, this Lord, this Savior, this King of Kings!

Where He makes us at home, in His peace.  AMEN!

Augustine, St. Francis, Martin Luther, John Wesley walk into a bar…


English: OFM General Curia : Francis of Assisi...

English: OFM General Curia : Francis of Assisi and Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DEvotional thought of the Day:

 33  Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. 34  So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:33-34 (NJB)

537         You take everything so lightly that I am reminded of the old story. The cry went up: “There is a lion coming!” And the naturalist answered: “Why tell me? I catch butterflies.”  (1)

A few days ago, I asked what the four shepherds of God I named above and the reader would talk about, were they found together.

An atheirst and pastors were the first to respond, A joke about them calling Francis A sissi, a quesiton about why two of them would be there, a couple other comments, no one taking the matter all that seriously. Until the final comment – that these incredible men would talk about God, and His gifts of mercy and love and peace.

I thought of it again, coming across the quote from St Josemaria this morning.  We as people will think about everything but the Kingdom of God.  We will be anxious over the state of our nation, ticked off at the government, worried about our health, we’ll struggle over finances, we will concern ourselves about the morality of others, but how often does our heart find itself in awe of God’s presence.  How often do we contemplate the depth of His love?  How often are we willing to place ourselves comepltely in His care, and then live a life that imitates those as they imitated Christ Jesus?

How often are we willing to see God at the center of our lives?  Or are we unwilling to give up that throne?

As I tweeted this mornign, “We trust God with the infinite eternity, but will we trust Him with the finite now?”

Our Faith must not be confused  with our faithfulness, for if we depend on our being faithful, we’ve made ourselves into idols.  Faith is trusting in His faithfulness, to lean upon His goodness, to strive to find rest in Him, to prayt hat the Holy Spirit would help us to do so.  For we don’t enter His presence by our faithfulness, He draws us there… and there we learn to trust Him. .. more and more.  To be in awe that HE would love us, that He would be merciful.

So pray that I, and that you, would relaize where we dwell more often, that we would be open to God revealing to us His grace, That we would learn to be as excited as children on Christmas, as we contemplate His grace, both for what it means eternally, and what it means today.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2325-2326). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edi

Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in?


Devotional THought of the Day:

9  And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10  For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. 11  Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? 12  Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13  As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (TEV) 

469         Lord, I do not deserve to be heard, because I am wicked, a penitent soul prayed: But he added: Yet… listen to me quoniam bonus—because You are good.  (1)

I am in a lousy mood today – so lousy that it is now 9:30 and I am just getting to my blog.  I am not even sure if I wrote one yesterday, which was very busy and tiring.  I am sitting in front of my computer, after wasting time in a doctor’s office, after dealing with traffic and long lines and in starting to do the bills, and tearing up a letter that I wrote no less than 8 times to a friend, who doesn’t quite see eye to eye with me regarding Christ’s church.  What I wanted – on this a “day off”?  To spend some time writing my book, or to re-read “Between Heaven and Hell”.

English: Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Ho...

English: Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, stained glass, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  There is a old phrase, misery loves company…which I believe is totally false.  When I am in such a miserable rotten mood, I don’t want company – i want God to leave me alone.

I wanted to write the blog about what my friend and I disagreed on, or about the 50th anniversary of Aldous Huxley’s death, (as well as some guys named CS Lewish and John F Kennedy ), but did so as my pattern is, and looked at a passage of scripture, thought about it, then looked at St. Josemaria’s book and remembered – oh yeah – dealing with that section on prayer.

I so resonate with his words, for I too do not deserve to be heard.  Not at all.  In one of those moods that makes the impulsive and hotheaded  Peter look like a saint.  ( Uhm… well – you know what I mean)  My attitude isn’t great, and to be honest, I am not sure I want it to change – even as I know it must!  Lord, I trust you can deliver me, help me trust enough to want to be!

This is one of those things I adore about God.   That I don’t have to be perfect to be heard.  Because of Jesus, because of His perfection, because of His love and sacrifice, the Father hears my prayers as if I was Christ.  The Holy Spirit helps by interpreting those prayers into a manner consistent with both my heart – and more importantly the Father’s heart.

So trust I will- that God will, as He promised listen to my prayer, that He will forgive my sins, that He will not just give me what I ask- but that He will provide what calls me home, heals my horrible mood, and reminds me that He is my loving Abba Father…

Even in this mood, I can praise Him, knowing this!

Lord, Father in Heaven, have mercy!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2064-2065). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Is God Listening? Is God here?


Devotional thought of the day:

  “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8  Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT) 7

463         Your prayer will sometimes be discursive; maybe less often, full of fervour; and, perhaps often, dry, dry, dry. But what matters is that you, with God’s help, are not disheartened. Consider the sentry on duty. He does not know if the King or the Head of State is in the palace: he is not told what he might be doing, and generally the public figure does not know who is on guard. It is not at all like that with our God. He lives where you live, He cares for you and knows your inmost thoughts. Do not abandon the guard-duty of your prayer!  (1)
One of the more interesting challenges I have, is teaching my son how to pray.  Not the words to say, he has that down, but how to realize that prayer is a conversation with God.  That God is there, that God is listening, that God is present.

For a very intelligent 6 year old, who can read like a teenager can eat, what isn’t in front of him, visible, is hard to see.  It is hard not to see prayer and simply something we do together, a time we spend together.  Body language and voice intonation lets me know he is involved, yet not quite discerning the presence of God.  At least that seems to me to be what I’ve seen over the last year or so develop.

I look at people, and are we any different?  As we gather, two or three, together.  As we pray together in Church, never mind if I dare ask people about their prayer habits.  I’ve thought about the pastors gathering that is hosted at my church, and wondering what would happen, if we talked about out prayer habits, and how many would show up if I pre-announced that topic!  (Even writing this makes me a bit nervous, because if I ask them, they will surely ask me!)

So how to encourage this regular conversation with God?  How do we dare open our lives to Him?  How do we pour out on Him our anxieties, our concerns and how do we know He is listening?  How do we know the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all creation is waiting to talk to me?  

The problem is, like a 6 year old, we struggle to believe in that we cannot touch, We want documentation, a proven methodical concept that works the same way each time.  In a way, we want to reduce prayer from the dynamic communication it is, to a formulary set of practices that will work the same way, each time.  And when it doesn’t, we can analyze what we did wrong, or dismiss the entire thing as a intellectual fraud.

Relationships are a matter of the heart though, not of our mind.  They are surprising and fluid, they are intense, and yet if abandoned dry out.  They are life, which is why its called a life of prayer. It is experiental – beyond our ability to logically or within our scope of reason.  So why would a relationship with God be any more rational, definable, subject to our control?  Knowing His presence is observable, but not with our eyes. It’s know through a trust in Him that is alien to our minds, but with which the heart overrides that analysis, and does so in great joy… for it is there we find peace.

All I can say is faith relies on Him.  It trusts Him.  He promised to be here,

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and He promised to listen and to craft our lives and all that happens to work out for our best.  He invited us to pray, taught us how to lay it all out before Him, to let Him care for our burdens and bring life to our weary and broken lives.

I pray that we can be aware of the promises and the reality of them.

AMEN

WE WERE ROBBED! yeah…so?


English: David's Joy Over Forgiveness; as in P...

English: David’s Joy Over Forgiveness; as in Psalm 32; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. 9  That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. 10  Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; 11  Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. 12  God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.1 Peter 3:8-12 (MSG)

12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.  Matthew 6:12 (TEV) 

454         Thank the Lord for the enormous gift he has granted you by making you understand that “only one thing is necessary.” And, along with that thanksgiving, may no day go past without your offering a prayer of petition for those who don’t know him yet or have not understood him.

Yesterday was a day full of injustice.

One of the “biggest” injustices of course (said partially toungue in cheek) was the Patriots being robbed of a victory, as a penalty was called because a player was mugged and couldn’t catch the touchdown pass.  He was robbed and assaulted… and we lost.

Another was set the Christian tweet world a fire, as someone labelled Bible in a costo with the department code for fiction when they priced them.  You would have thought by the reaction, that Christians were being fed to the lions and soacked in pitch and set aflame to light Nero’s garden again.

There are so many things that people are upset about these days, even ot the point of tempers boiling and relationships and reputations being completely devastated.

We expect others to be perfect – 60sigma perfect (a business term is 6 sigma – errors less that  0.000000 percent of the time – we expect 60 zeros, not 6)) and we get really, really frustrated we then expect us to be perfect 60% of the time.

Dare you bring in forgiveness to such conversations, forgiving their wrongs, or forgiving our own failues, well, let’s just say I expect stress bringing up forgiveness. The storm caused may settle, or may not settle for a while, as people find forgiveness a difficult task.  Indeed, we often don’t want to , we don’t thinki it is needed.

If forgiveness is made law, if we say, “you have to forgive your brother, you have to forgive that clerk, your must forgive those refereess.. you can’t help that they are blind!” then forgiveness won’t happen.  It just won’t.  You will find a myriad of excuses, a thoughand arguements about why forgiveness, God style forgiveness is neither possible, nor prudent.

But forgiveness that comes out of our times of communion with God, times where we see Him take the sin that burdens us and cleanse us of its filth and infesction.  Times like prayer, times like when we meditate on our baptism, when we receive the Lord’s Body and Blood, times when we read of His love and mercy, and the peace He gives us to live in, the peace in which He keeps our hearts and minds secure. It is from that place, sitting at the feet of Jesus, that mercy flows, that forgiveness is not a decision, it just happens, Where the person’s salvation, where their ability to live in the presence of God becomes more important than their error. Forgiveness flows from realizing you have been rought into the glory of God, and seeing them trying to live without it.

Yeah – so a refereee made the 2nd worst call in Patriots history..The referees don’t need to be ridiculed – they need Christ.

Yeah – so a sticker said the Bible was fiction?   The people involved don’t need condemnation – they need Christ.

Ultimately, it is a matter of trusting Christ, that all things will work for good for those who love Him.  If it is a matter of faith, then the place where our trust is strongest in Him, is when we realize we are in His presence, living at His feet. As to dealing with things that were unjust and unfair and being robbed,,, He let us rob Him of his dignity, of his righteousness, and of His lifee.  So that we could share in His glory…. and His reason He allowed the injustice, was to be able to forgive!

Let us go into His presence.. and become people of mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2007-2009). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Monday and The Priorities of Work


Devotional Thought for a Monday:

 23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24  We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25  But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:23-27 (NLT)

449         Prayer, more prayer! It may seem odd to say that now when you are taking examinations and working harder… But you need prayer, and not only the habitual prayer as an exercise of devotion; you also need to pray during odd moments, to pray between times, instead of allowing your mind to wander on silly things. It does not matter if, in spite of your effort, you do not manage to concentrate and be recollected. That meditation may be of greater value than the one you made, with all ease, in the oratory. (and oratory is like a chapel or small church that is for a specific group)

450         Here is an effective custom for achieving presence of God: your first audience every day should be with Jesus Christ. (1)

It’s a Monday, and I got to the office nearly 2 hours ago.  There was a situation or two (I hate to use the term emergency) that had to be dealt with, there is a call I need to make this afternoon, a friend starting checmotherapy.

I am tempted to put aside my devotional time, and my prayer time, and get craking on my studying the passage for next Sunday’s sermon. I have to have all the research done by 6:30 tonight, to share with the group of guys who study it together, to prepare to pray for another week in the pulpit. My heart sceams not to overlook this time of devotiona and prayer, for then my research will be dry, done as a matter of duty, not as a matter of loving God’s revelation to us, the revealtion of His love.  I need to spend this time thinking of He and I, of laying burdens down, of spending a few moments, completely aware of God’s presence.

Yet my mind urdes me onto the tasks of the day.

I think that if this is my struggle, it must be your struggle as well. Heck I work with the word of God and forget I work in His Presence.  How much more so for those of you who sit behind desks looking at paperwork or terminals, or those of you serving others in industry. Or those of you in class, or in a doctor’s office.  How can you “afford” to take the time to spend a large amount of time on this?  Do you neglect what you are paid for?  I realize we must take time for Jesus, to revel and rest in His presence, but how when the times are so minimal?

We rely on God… we pray what we can – we lay our heart before Him and we trust in His faithfulness, in His love, in the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilling what we are unable to come up for the words to describe.  Romans tells of this, and we count on His promise, His presence, and in doing so, we might find ourselves more refreshed than when we spend great lengths of time in His presence serving Him in prayer and study.  (Please do not use that as an excuse for not spending appointed times in prayer! )  But there is something special, when throughout our day, as we work at being our best,, for us to hold a running conversation with Him, to lay before Him our burdens, and our work, and to realize we do it, strengthened by God.

So make your prioirities, set your days in order… but remember the first priority that each priority is part of, to realize God’s presence with you, through every part of every day.

AMEN

Text of "Our Father" prayer with Tri...

Text of “Our Father” prayer with Trinity in central column (God the Father, dove of the Holy Spirit, Jesus) and Biblical and symbolic scenes in left and right columns. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1998-1999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Finally,… Pray


Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

today at Concordia, just minutes before this sermon, a little girl was baptised, claimed by God to be His daughter.  Read about what happens in baptism in Ezekiel 36:25 and follwoing and in 1 Tim 3:2-8.  This is truly a miracle, one of the greatest we experience!

Finally… Pray!

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

In Jesus Name

As we receive the grace, that mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may Jesus lead our hearts into the full understanding and expression of the love of God, and may we, in Christ patiently endure!

How much will life change in Her life?

I want you for a moment to dream of the future.

A time 60-80 years from now, as Cayleen is sitting in the front row of this church, watching her granddaughter or even great-granddaughter being baptized.  The church might have different music then, our new music becoming the old, archaic stuff that her generation longs to hear occasionally.

Maybe there will not be cars in the parking lot, but those little family jets that we saw on the Jetson’s.. Cell phones?  Texting?  Tablets? I can’t even begin to imagine what life will be like for them. I just think about how much it has changed since my son was baptized 6 years ago.

Except for one thing.

She will still need to know God’s love. There will still be the challenges of life that we will have to endure, for while many things in life changes, life itself will not change as much for her as it did this morning.

Which is why Paul not only asks us to pray, but then offers a blessing for the church in Thessalonica, as He asks God to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God, and the patient endurance that is found in Christ.

Come to think of it, if you can’t remember what to pray for her and indeed for all the baptized, that’s a pretty good prayer to remember!

You promised to pray…
Full understanding and expression of God’s love

                   That means His mercy, and His granting repentance

         
I pray that you remember to keep the commitment you made this morning to God, as you keep Cayleen in your prayers.  Do not just make this something you said, as you were caught up in the moment.  Pray for her, and for those around you, for we all need prayer. Even apostles, even pastors, even grandparents.

Sometimes we do not know how to pray, or what to pray, and I think that is where a passage like this comes in so handy.  Two simple things to pray for, to know and express God’s love, and to endure.  There will probably be some points where you need to pray for Dan and Kristen for that as well – like when Cayleen is 2, or when she’s that sweet age that starts just after the 12th year and 364th day of her life.

Seriously, pray for her, and for all believers in Christ, and for everyone you know.

Pray that they would follow Jesus, as He leads their hearts into a fuller understanding of the depth of God’s love for them.  A love that does not just write us off the first time we sin but he continues to call to us, to urge us to repent, and to sin no more.  The love of God that desires to fix the parts of our lives that are broken, to heal the wounds that our hearts and souls have encountered.

For to fully understand God’s love is to realize we do not have to hide our sins, we do not have to pretend they aren’t sins. Rather, we are to go to God and confess those sins, to ask Him to fix them. That takes faith, and confidence, and knowing God’s love and faithfulness so well, that we run to Him whenever we are struggling, whenever we are broken, whenever we break life.

 

Patient endurance?

Christ must lead us there!
That is how we endure as well, realizing that Jesus has united us to His death, and to His resurrection.  That iss the promise of baptism, that unity to Christ.  It is the hope He’s given us of sharing in His glory (col. 1:26-29 talks of that)

When we realize that our destiny is secure, that this life, as long as it may seem some days is going to become eternity in God’s presence, it helps us incredibly to endure.  We can stand firm, knowing God’s promise that all things will work for good for us, because we love the God who called us and made us His.

It’s in knowing what Christ endured for us, that leads us to endure in His presence.  For that too is a blessing given to Cayleen and all who believe and are baptized.  God promises in Matthew 28 that He will never leave us, even until the end of the ages.
That’s why Paul says Jesus must lead us in knowing and expressing God’s love and into that ability to endure.  It isn’t based in our own inner strength, even as Christians.  Maturity for a believer doesn’t happen after we go through puberty and our voices change.

It happens when we know God’s love, when we know the promises of love given this day.  When we realize how Jesus is always faithful, how He is always guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls. How He leads us as the 23rd Psalm says besides still waters and restores our soul.  (which means it needed restoration)

That’s what Jesus does, that is what our Lord is tasked with, saving us from sin and the power of satan and death, and restoring us to life, quickening it us.  That’s why a believer doesn’t live in terror of God, but in awe of Him, knowing His love, and being able to express that knowing (not knowledge of but knowing) through their voices in praise and through their lives.
But pray also for the mission and for those needing rescue
So pray for Cayleen, pray for those people around you! Make this your prayer for them; that they would be lead by Christ into the full understanding and expression of His love, and that they would, in Christ, endure!

Paul asks us also to pray for the mission, that this message of God’s love be honored, that it is heard and responded to with praise, wherever it goes.  And to pray for those who have to deal with what the translation says are wicked and evil people – those who can’t comprehend God’s love, who don’t feel comfortable dealing with His mercy and those who are guilty, and need to deal with it.  God dealt with them by the way, as we hear all of Paul’s guards in jail came to know God’s love and were granted repentance.

So finally my friends, pray, give into God’s care those you love – and those you struggle with.  Let Him take the anxieties, the worries and challenges from you, freeing you to love them without distraction, to care for them as He would, to point them to Him when you don’t know what to do.

Having does so, knowing God’s love more fully, you will find yourself expressing it, in a place of peace beyond all comprehension. It is there where you are kept, guarded, your heart and mind protected by Jesus himself.  AMEN?

 

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