Monthly Archives: March 2014

How to “Change” Mondays


Devotional Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
22  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:22-25 (TEV)

66         It is true: we are worth nothing, we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have nothing. And, at the same time, in the middle of our daily struggle, obstacles and temptations are not lacking. But the joy of your brothers will banish all difficulties, as soon as you are back with them, because you will see them firmly relying on Him: Quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea—because you, Lord, are our strength. (1)  

It’s Monday again, the weekend is over, and to be honest, that first sentence of St. Josemaria’s note seems all to real.

On Monday’s we often feel challenged, unequal to the task of a long week, It seems our list of weaknesses is all to real, and we’ve forgotten the lessons learned a short twenty-four hours ago.  We may already be tempted to think about and/or do that which is wrong.  Or maybe, the temptation is just to overlook that which others are doing wrong, or even the risk to their souls.

Mondays are hard, even thought 24 hours or so before, we found ourselves close to heaven, as we gathered with others who have been called to be part of God’s family.  Who have learned that we can trust in Him, that we can know the promises He has made us are sure. To hear God’s word together, and rejoice in the love for us that is revealed.  We get to hear that all of our sins are forgiven, erased, that Christ’s merits have brought healing to our souls. and to the relationships that have been marred and broken.  Incredibly, God invites us to a feast, one that calls to mind the feast that will occur in heaven, the wedding supper of Christ.

Mondays are hard, because we forget the lessons we learned again on Sunday.  We forget the words we professed, the words we know are true on Sunday.

My way of dealing with Mondays is simple.

I start preparing for the next time I will find myself with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I think about the service (pretty much I have to ) and the message God will share with us. (as long as I don’t get in the way)  I think about the hands humbly reaching out for the Body of Christ, and the visible change in body language as they receive again the promises of God. the promises of being in Christ.  Of our burdens being taken by God, an offering to Him that is pleasing, as we recognize that He is our God, that He will provide and heal.

It is truly good to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

For where two or three, or sixty or thousands are gathered, here He is, in their midst.

And that changes everything… even Mondays!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 496-499). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Child is This? The One Who Causes Blind to See, And to Reveal Others are Blind


Sermon from Concordia Lutheran ChurchMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal
march 30, 2014

What Child is This?
The One Who Causes Blind to See, 
And to Reveal Others are Blind

John 9:1-41

 May you rejoice as the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ opens your eyes to His presence and the restoration of brokenness!

 

So much talk about sin and its effects!

The gospel reading this morning is one of the longest we have all year, more than half the length of an average sermon.

it reminds me of the Old Testament Book of Job, but not because of the length, it shares the same quality that the Book of Job does, as we look at the discussions that take place.  Discussions that are fascinating, discussions that touch on different theological and philosophical questions.  Discussions that offer little comfort, peace, that are pretty much blind.

But discussions, at the end of it, are blind to the presence of God in the flesh, and blind to the work that Jesus would do. They don’t lead them to the truth, they don’t change their actions, they simply to seek to look back,

It would be like wondering what was responsible for an earthquake, and not bothering to get under a desk, or in a doorway!

Seriously, they while the discussions were going on, incredible things were going on, right there in front of them…..

God, revealed among them, and as we pray in the Kyrie he was helping, saving, comforting, and defending them… even as He does us.

So let’s look at the discussions, and what they missed…..  (click)

Question 1 – who’s responsible for this brokenness

The passage opens up, with a discussion of his committed followers, which they bring to him to answer.

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
We are well into the gospels at this point, they had heard Jesus’s testimony that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the Messiah would bring healing to the blind and to the broken hearted, and their question is about what is the root cause of the blindness?

They could have asked Jesus if he would have healed him.  Or perhaps asked Jesus to heal him. They could have asked how they could have helped.

But instead they treat him like a …. Object? A Thing to be discussed and a lesson in theology and philosophy.

They don’t see the man, and they certainly don’t see the reason that Jesus will lay out before them,
Answer: Jesus heals the brokenness

 

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.
There isn’t a day when I wish such work of God could be done here, that people who have devastating physical issues, couldn’t all be healed, that they couldn’t all be restored.  It would be dangerous to take from this passage the idea that God is only glorified in the physical healing of a person.  We’ll see why in the second discussion.

What I want us to see in this, is not the miracle of a healing, for something greater is about to happen.  Something that will affect the man more deeply, more powerfully.

We need to see though, that Jesus saw the man, the man in great need, and responded.

The disciples didn’t, they hadn’t learned that lesson yet, but Peter would, when Jesus tells him three times to feed my sheep, and when he and John take time to heal the man begging at the Temple’s gates.

CLICK  Discussion lesson number one, Jesus saw the man, not the sin that hinders him.

When we are dealing with people who are broken, as we were, it doesn’t matter how they were broken, whose sin has broken them, or even what the sin was.

It matters that the person was one whom God desired to minister to, to bring them into the kind of transformation where sin could not hinder him from living.  To bring him to the realization that He was God’s child, and NOTHING could separate him from God’s love, revealed in Christ.

Which brings us to the second part of the conversation….the meeting of the Pharisees…

Discussion 2 – how can Jesus do anything about this?

The progress of the discussion went something like this.

A major disagreement about whether Jesus could do such a miracle.  Some say it’s impossible, because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, others are in shock, and can’t explain it… because how does a ordinary man do such things.

The mind works in odd ways, and rather than finding themselves in God’s presence, they decide they don’t have the right information…..so they call in the Blind man…

“We don’t believe you are the blind man.”  “Yes, I am,”  He responds.

Drats – they were hoping that maybe it was a temporary condition, and reversed itself.  So they call in the parents….

“We don’t believe your son was born blind….”

“Yes, he was, but we don’t know what happened to him,” they say in timid, anxious voices, knowing what the Pharisees don’t want to hear….

ARRGGGHHH – get the young man back in….

And they ask his opinion, as if the opinion of a man who never looked at a night sky, at seen trees and looked into the eyes of those he loved, would say something to detract from the miracle that happened to him…. “Simple, He is from God!”  And so they boot him out of the community.

While the first discussion didn’t see the man, the second didn’t see the God who would claim the man as his own, as one of His people.  They couldn’t see God’s love for this man, this one they discounted as the sinner.  CLICK

Discussion lesson #2 – Don’t miss that God wants to do something in every person’s life. To make himself known to them as real, as loving, as merciful, as their Lord, Savior, Father, Friend, Advocate….

You see, the goal of the interaction wasn’t just to heal the man of His physical ailments.  Remember Jesus’ earlier answer?

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.

For to see a man healed of being blind is amazing, miraculous, just as many of Jesus miracles left people stunned,  Yet, something more miraculous happens.  Jesus doesn’t just leave the man with his physical sight….

He establishes a relationship!  The man hears something, that talked of eternity, about the restoration of the people of God.  For in revealing that He is the Son of Man, Jesus reveals that the people of God will be made whole, not some time in the future, but soon, and that Jesus is the long awaited one who will fulfilled the promises revealed in Ezekiel.

Jesus reveals He is the Son of Man the one who knows God’s heart, so clearly revealed in Ezekiel, (CLICK)

21  Suppose wicked people stop sinning and start obeying my laws and doing right. They won’t be put to death. 22  All their sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they did right. 23  I, the LORD God, don’t like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live. Ezekiel 18:21-24 (CEV)
Jesus is revealing that it is time for God to make His people, His again, for them to realize that He will be their God, forever.  He will raise them, even as the prophesy at the Valley of Dry Bones, or the chapter before, where God promises to wash us, to replace our hearts of stones, with hearts of flesh, to send His Spirit to live inside of us…

Such a revelation, to this man who simply realized that Jesus was from God.  That is what is glorious, God coming to this man, God revealing Himself to Him.

When others couldn’t see the simple truth, the truth that they claimed expertise, but overlooked the heart of God who would come to the broken and restore them.

Glorious – that God would come to man, that He would assure them of His love, His faithfulness.  It’s not about who was the sinner, or whether man can heal on Sunday, its’ about the love of God for His people, revealed in Christ. That is why we ask what child is this?  And why we know and trust in Him…..
That would bring His people, broken and abandoned, that would bring us into His peace.  The peace of God, which passes all understanding, the peace of God that you are brought into and kept, by Jesus the Christ.

 

The Lord’s Supper… why it is a regular practice….a regular need in my life…


Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4  “But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne. All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God. 5  But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. 6  All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the LORD made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved. Isaiah 53:4-6 (TEV)

10  The LORD says, “It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness. And so he will see his descendants; he will live a long life, and through him my purpose will succeed. 11  After a life of suffering, he will again have joy; he will know that he did not suffer in vain. My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them. 12  And so I will give him a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful. He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men. He took the place of many sinners and prayed that they might be forgiven.” Isaiah 53:10-12 (TEV)

23  For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24  gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (TEV)

 56 Another man of faith wrote to me: “When you have to be on your own, you can notice clearly the help of your brothers. Now, when it comes to my mind that I have to put up with everything ‘all alone’, I often think that, if it weren’t for that ‘company we keep from afar’—the holy Communion of Saints!—I would not be able to preserve this optimism which fills my heart.”  (1)

I have served as a pastor for 15 some years, and as a Chaplain prior to that. In that time I have preached in churches of a number of denominations, and have been settled where I am now, in the Lutheran Church, for a good deal of that time. In both groups. (the Restoration Movement/Christian Church/churches of Christ and the LC-MS) the practice has been that of communing often, though “often” is up to local interpretation. (Some celebrate weekly, others bi-weekly, some more often than that!)

My own preference is as often as possible, even to the extent that if a number of people wanted to celebrate it daily, I would, and would rejoice over it.

Why?

Read the passages above. Hear of the love of God, the desire to form with us a community, and the extent to which Christ would suffer and die, in order to make possible this relationship.  In participating in this feast, in proclaiming the death of Christ until He comes again, we proclaim a depth of love that extends through every part of our live.  We come humbly together, before the throne of God, we celebrate the grace of God, the gifts of God.

We feast with Him, a foretaste of the promised feast to come, because we have been made His children, because He took on every one of my sins, every sin of every person at the altar, who I serve, as I give the Body broken for them, as they take this cup of the New Covenant, shed for the forgiveness of sin.  As we with angels and archangels, with all the company of heaven, with everyone who has every trusted in God’s promises made to them, revealed in the scriptures.

As we celebrate His presence, His love, His glory, which we begin to see, simply as we find rest for our souls, as we are gathered.

I love the TEV’s words from Isaiah…. read them again..

We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. 

11  After a life of suffering, he will again have joy; he will know that he did not suffer in vain. My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them.

How can you not desire to realize this often?  How can you not be comforted by these words, this remembrance not just of the suffering and death, (and resurrection!) But the comfort of the words that reveal to you the love of God who promises to never leave us, never to forsake us.

How can we not proclaim this death, this love, this Lord of Life’s love, and how can we not desire to, often?

It’s our very life… as His people.  (this is where I find the greatest source of strength, as I realize His love is for all of us)

Lord, have mercy on us, and teach us to treasure that mercy!!


 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 456-460). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I Crazy? Then I Am in Great Company


Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
8  You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, 9  because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him. 1 Peter 1:8-9 (TEV) 

13  Are we really insane? It is for God’s sake. Or are we sane? Then it is for your sake. 14  We are ruled by the love of Christ, now that we recognize that one man died for everyone, which means that they all share in his death. 15  He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but only for him who died and was raised to life for their sake. 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 (TEV) 

44         It is madness to trust in God…!, they say. And is it not greater madness to trust in oneself, or in other men?  (1)

One wonders about anyone who trust God, who bases their life’s decisions on someone that they have never seen, whose voice they have never heard,  A God whose actions we can’t always understand, whose actions we want to question, complain about, even scream at, because we aren’t capable of understanding His ways.

That’s because He is God.

And we are not.

We will screw up, we will misunderstand, we will be unfaithful to Him.  We will fail to hear His voice, we will hold resentment, even hate others we can’t understand.  We will fail to show respect to those God has put in place, placing trust in them, then claiming they violated the trust.

Most of our problems in life are caused because of our trust issues.  Because we trust in ourselves, our understanding, our perceptions.  Or because others fail in the trust we place in them.   We are mad and insane if we let these failure overwhelm us, destroy us, stop us from life.

But that is what sin is… madness, sheer madness.  The delusion of thinking something or someone is god, that is fallible, and then getting mad, angry, hurt, when those things fail.

Yeah…trusting in a God who is bigger than us, who we struggle to hear, may seem insane…but not more than trusting in the things that are going to fail.

He won’t, and as His love is revealed to us, as we trust in Him… the joy we see is more real, more sane, more glorious.

For He is God, a God who loves us, and reveals that love to us.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 413-414). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faithfulness, Sex and our Relationship with God


 Treasuring God’s GiftsSAMSUNG

Means We Value Deep

Relationships, especially Marriage

Ex. 20:14, Eph 2:10. 5:27, Luke 10:25-28

In Jesus Name!

May you know well God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who brings mercy, love nad peace into your life!

Really – This Commandment is a Topic WE need to cover? 

When I started to write out the topics of this series of sermons, when I came to the 6th commandment, my first reaction is that this would be a fine sermon to hear Chris preach on, or perhaps Vicar Mark, or Vicar Albert.

Simply because talking about Adultery means touching on the subject of the three letter word that begins with S and ends with X.

For me, it is one of those topics I would rather not talk about, it is too personal, too intimate, and like many guys, I’d rather talk about anything else, especially in a group with both men and women in it.

Heck, it is a topic I don’t want to talk about with a group of women or a group of men.

But I think my reticence about discussing the topic gives me a hint towards why this commandment, about reserving that level of intimacy, both physical and psychological/spiritual aspects of the relationship, is worth a commandment.

It is because it is so intimate to a relationship, that God treasures it.

And therefore to diminish it, diminishes something God gave us to treasure…..

Because it teaches something about our life, about our relationship with God…..

Let me explain that some..

Why is this so important to God?
While no one will doubt the physical aspects the relationship between a man and a woman, those acts are by no means just physical.

There is a spiritual/psychological aspect to them, something that uses that word that sends shivers down most men’s spines….there is something ….

“Intimate”

Something that takes all of our walls down, that leaves us and our spouse as one, relating to each other, caring for each other.

It is that level of emotional and spiritual intimacy that God desires us to have with Him.  That’s why we heard Ephesians 5 tonight as well as chapter 2. That is why the Old Testament Books of Song of Solomon and Hosea talk of marital faithfulness and love as an example of God’s relationship with His people, and even the unfaithfulness of Hosea’s wife, as an example of Israel’s actions towards God.

A bitter betrayal, the deepest betrayal.

A depth of pain that goes beyond our ability to cope with…..

Yet a level of pain God has endured, as again and again He has picked Israel up from her wandering into idolatry…..

It’s hard to imagine God hurting as the couples I’ve had in my office have hurt.  It’s hard to realize that you or I could hurt the Creator of the universe, that a congregation, that a people could so devastate God by betraying His love.

But we can… and we do…..

We fail to love Him with our entire heart, our soul, our mind, when we trust in our idols the way we are supposed to trust Him.  Even when the idol we trust in is ourselves.  When what we are proudest of, what we are in awe of, isn’t the God who created us, who created this planet.

If how we love our neighbor reveals how we love God, as the apostle John writes in 1 John, how much more does how we treasure our spouse, our faithfulness tell us about our relationship with God?

A Relationship to Cherish, to Guard, to Teach

Hear again Paul’s words from Ephesians 5…

25  For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26  to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27  He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

 If what we’ve been working through, that these 10 commandments actually are the Old Testament Beatitudes, the masterpiece of God that is how we, rescued from Satan are to live, then Jesus’s work to render us a “the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or blemish, makes incredible sense.
It is what Hosea did for his wife, the very model of it.  Even though her sins, like ours, are scarlet red.  It is the depth of Christ’s desire for a relationship with us, the emotional intimacy, the being unified as one.  Not sexually, but in ways that are just as deep.

He is faithful, even when we struggle.  Even when we take the great blessing He has given us, this great example of marriage, that God considers it the model of our special relationship with Him, and we see it trashed around us, and sometimes, in thought or word and deed, we trash it ourselves.  Or don’t speak up when we see it cheapened, and mocked.

God’s faithfulness extends even then, calling us back to our relationship with Him, healing us, restoring us, and yes, He can and has even restored the relationships, He can recreate us, revealing His masterpiece that is creating by uniting us to Jesus.

But it is there, where healing happens, where God ministers to us, Father, Son and Spirit.  It is there were marriages find their healing as well, and the example of faithfulness and yeah – intimacy.  It is there, in that relationship, that all relationships can find the peace that passes all understanding, that peace in which we find ourselves guarded and treasured by Jesus.

AMEN?

Happiness? Sex, Anxiety and the Daily Grind…. but also…


Devotional Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia

4  May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Philippians 4:4 (TEV) 

61 “Happy?”  The question made me think. Words have not yet been invented to express all that we feel in the heart and in the will – when we know ourselves to be children of God!.  (1)

I just entered a chapter in Furrow that is all about happiness, or perhaps, more accurately in English – joy.

I don’t feel all that full of joy today.  I have a bear of a sermon to write ( on the plan of God revealed in “Do not Commit Adultery.” to my older congregation.   I am dealing with some anxiety because of what I know some friends are enduring things I cannot imagine. I am tired and sore and the idea of putting on a fake smile and saying, “It is well”.  I would feel like a hypocrite. a liar, and in this season of Lent, not quite right.  I am supposed to be, and in many ways I am lamenting this broken world in which we walk. THere are days when what resonates with me is not “Rejoice!” but the phrase from my teenage years, “Life a b&@*#” or as Siddhartha Buddha put it, “Life is suffering”

Rejoice always?

Yeah, Sure.

Even as I type, I know that tonight, as the beginning notes of the Kyrie are played, as the voices of our congregation sing God’s praises, as they proclaim His love, I will know joy.  It will hear such joy in laughter, as they watch an middle age pastor try to preach about God’s masterpiece of life….within the scope of God’s words about….. SEX? I will know such joy as we communion, fellowship, as we share in Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper.  It will extend through-out the service, and as we eat together, sharing in each other’s lives.

But what about until then?  How will I know that joy?  How will I obey Paul’s command to “REJOICE?”

I need to hear it less as a command, more of an encouragement, a reminder,

St . Josemaria does a great job helping me see beyond what I have read (and heard ) for years.  It is as we know ourselves as God’s children that we can find that joy. Even in lament, as we know, as we trust God, and know His promises of His presence, of His love, mercy and how He cares for us, It is that incredible love that gives us a sense that all will work it out.

No wonder ancient Jews would bind the word of God to their forehead and to their hands.  TO constantly remind them of this.  It’s why I usually wear a cross, either the one embroidered on my shirt, or one around my neck.

Paul says that to the church in Phillipi, in that passage ( I chose to use the TEV this morning – because it makes it more clear)  Joy is found as we now we are in Christ. In that union.  For God has attached us to Christ, to Him in His death, and in His resurrection.  And even more, in the very presence of the Father.  Again, from Paul,

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.Colossians 3:1-3 (TEV) 

There it is, the words of life, that remind us of our greatest joy…..>

That we aren’t alone, that God is here… with us… and we are more than just walking through this life…

There is our joy, there is our hope, there are we…. with Him.

(1)  Escrvia, Josemaria  Furrow

Have We Failed to Treasure a Blessing Which Saves us From Brokenness, Stress and Anxiety?


Devotional Thought of the Day”

John 20:21-23 (NLT) 21  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

James 5:14-16 (NLT) 14  Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Article XI   Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Psalms 19:12.(2)

45 You wrote to tell me that you have at last gone to confession and that you experienced the humiliation of having to open the sewer—that is what you say—of your life to “a man”. When will you get rid of that feeling of vain self-esteem? You will then go to confession extremely happy to show yourself as you are to “that man”, who, being anointed, is a Christ—Christ himself—and gives you absolution, God’s forgiveness.  (2)

In the Church History class I am teaching, we talked a significant time about the third quote above.  We were dealing with some of the issues at the dawn of what some call the Reformation.

Back then, people in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the Evangelical Church (what we now call Lutheran) understood the Sacrament of Reconciliation’s importance in the life of the believer, in the life on one who knows and follows Jesus. Melancthon, in writing the Augsburg Confession, was brief and short in Article XI.  Private Confession and Absolution should never fall into disuse. it must be retained. Not because it is easy, not because pastors and priests just love to hear of the dark parts of your life.  But because the result of having heard your struggle, we can assure you that you are forgiven.  We assure you that God hasn’t abandoned you, that you are still His children, still loved, and that He is faithful to you.

That assurance is needed, it eliminates much of what troubles us, much of what causes us anxiety, the guilt and shame that stresses us out, and robs us of peace.  To hear that God is committed to forgive you, to heal your brokenness.  For as St Josemarie speaks of, though it is a brother in Christ, a fellow sinner (for all clergy still struggle with sin, from popes and mega-church pastors, to common priests and pastors in ordinary places) we speak for Him, in His stead, by His command.   For that is why we are sent, that is our mission, our apostolate, the good news we preach – you who have been granted repentance, are forgiven in Christ.

You need this, and those around you need this – for the peace you know, having been assured that God will restore us in Christ.  Having been assured of that, our relationships change.  We find ourselves more patient, more willing to forgive, desiring reconciliation.

We find ourselves in the presence of God, in His peace, we find His rest….

A blessing that changes everything. …..

It is no wonder that Luther, and Melanchthon, and so many others throughout the church’s history talked of our need for this gift, this time……to hear of the depth of God’s love…for us.

(1) — Augsberg Confession, The

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 415-420). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why I Can’t Wait For Sundays (and Wednesday Nights)


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

 15  Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. 16  They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. 17  You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong. 18  Yes, our protection comes from the LORD, and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king.  Psalm 89:15-18 (NLT)

“In the periods expressly reserved for this rendezvous with our Lord, the heart is broadened, the will is strengthened, the mind, helped by grace, fills the world of human reality with supernatural content. The results come in the form of clear, practical resolutions to improve your conduct, to deal more charitably with all men, to spare no efforts—like good athletes—in this Christian struggle of love and peace. Prayer then becomes continuous, like the beating of our heart, like our pulse. Without this presence of God, there is no contemplative life. And without contemplative life, our working for Christ is worth very little, for vain is the builder’s toil if the house is not of the Lord’s building.  (1).

It is Monday morning, a morning that is filled with groans, with near despair. We return to our work, our normal daily life. We leave behind, or so we think, what philosophers call the sacred, and we are forced to embrace the profane, the secular, the world.

I write that sentence and I am already tired, discouraged, weary, waiting for the time when the people that are my brothers and sisters in Christ will gather, when I will hear their voices praising God, and yes pleading with Him.  Crying out in awe at His love, and crying out “Lord, Have mercy!”, as they give him that which causes anxiety, that which causes heartbreak, that which pains them.  As they come before the altar and I am able to give them something tangible, a treasure beyond any belief.  As they take the bread, His body broken for them, as they drink the wine, His blood shed for the forgiveness of sin, there is a visible manifestation of relief, of joy, of peace that floods over them.  Their body language changes dramatically, it is amazing.

I long for those moments, and for the times we spend in scripture together, asking the tough questions.  Not tough questions as in the doctrines that we study in seminaries, amonst academics and theologians.  The questions of why God allows evil, or pain or illness. Or the questions about how do I love that neighbor/coworker/family member who said “that”, or always acts like a jackass.  The questions of living daily, as children of God.  THe questions that haunt them at night. ( I don’t know anyone who spends all night contemplating the “communication of magisterial attributes” or even the how the Trinity’s interaction can be explained – okay maybe one or two ….)  But to deal with them, to struggle through them, to realize that the answer is sometimes simply greater than we can comprehend, but God is still in charge….

I long for these Sundays, and Wednesday Nights ( and every other thursday, and the tuesday once a month where our area pastors gather together)

Yet if it wasn’t for the roughly 160-164 hours a week I am not being gathered with other believers…there would be a hole in my life as well.  I wouldn’t understand how the God we are gathered to praise sustains us, even at the point where our endurance is measured by inches. Yes, I long for those moments of God revealing Himself among us, sustaining us, holding us.

I need the time where we aren’t gathered, it stretches my faith (which like working out isn’t always “fun”) but is necessary.  I need to see the impact of our gatherings on us when the chips are down, when the road seems lonely, where the world threatens… for there our trust in God is forged, where it is tempered, where we find out He is as He promised, He is present, merciful, forgiving, loving……ours.

There is a relationship between our times, our appointments with God and HIs people, and the peace we have in the world. I love how St Josemaria says it, this time of strengthening, this time of our heart be broadened.   These words resonate so deeply, it is these times, that remind us of the presence of God, that “synchronize” our lives with the breath of God, that remind us of the cleansing work of God, of how He is crafting us together, as His people, as a masterpiece of incomparable worth……

And these short hours, they do something more, they infect the rest of our lives, as we realize more and more His presence….

How I long to celebrate that with those that God gathers together here… for while this world is not our home…the church, the people of God that are gathered in His name… yeah – that is home.

Have a great Monday, knowing God is with you… and soon, we shall sing His praises together!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 550-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Jesus Satisfies our Thirst


What Child is this?SAMSUNG
The One Who Quenches our Thirst

John 4:5-26.27-30, 39-42

In Jesus Name

May we find our thirst for righteousness quenched, as we encounter the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ!

A Direct Answer… to a Question She didn’t Ask.


Of all places, the revelation of God that took place that day…was there?
Of all the people that asked Jesus, she didn’t directly ask, but it was revealed directly to her?

“I am the Messiah,”

other translations say it, “I am He that speaks to you”
To her.

The wrong person, in the wrong place, heard what millions wanted to hear.

I AM He… I am He that is talking to you…..

I AM the Messiah!

But her?  Of all people?  Yeah – and what that means for us!

Every time I come across this recounting of Jesus meeting a woman, I am astounded.  The chapter before, we see Jesus meeting with a believer, a religious leader in the country.  Not a hypocrite, someone who would die for Jesus.  Yet to him, there were not the words that this lady heard.

Lady?  In Jesus’ eyes, in the Father’s eyes, yes.  However, she would avoid all because back then, her past would render her as an outcast, even among outcasts.  The filth of the world would look down on her, for her past was deserving of death according to the Law….

Not to Jesus.  She meant something to Him, and we would see His love poured out onto her brokenness.

She was not a slut, cheap or whatever euphemism you used for one who sold herself in God’s eyes.  She was someone broken, thirsty, in need of something that would make a difference, which would change survival into something that could be called life.  Sure, her way of survival included a lot of sin, but once that was identified, it didn’t push Jesus away…. In fact, it led to the incredible words of Christ, to her.  I AM the Messiah, I AM he… and I am talking with you.

 

It was to her, to her, that Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah.  That He confessed He was from God.

This was no chance meeting; it was a divine appointment to change her live, then to use her to change others’ lives.

Even ours….. to help us realize how God works….

As I read of her time with Jesus, I think of another person that met Jesus, on a different road. He would explain it this way,

“This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16  but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life.

To this, he would add….

17  To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (TEV) 15  
While I believe that Jesus gone to quench that lady’s thirst, even if she were the only one thirsty for his righteousness, there are lessons for us here…that is why it is included in scripture. The same lesson there as there is in Paul’s story. If God would come to these two people, broken, unstable, oppressed by sin, without hope… then surely we can have confidence that He is interested in people like us.

It doesn’t matter how we see ourselves, or even how the world does.  He wants to quench our desire, our thirst for righteousness, for His justice, a life that is free to interact with God/  A life that is free from starving for affection, for life, for peace. He was there for them, He will be here for us as well.

He is still revealing Himself, this time to us, and through our words to our “villages”, to our people.

One of the first “missionaries”?  But talk about a scary audience!


This lady, the one who was rejected by men, by so many because of her reputation, became an instant missionary.  She drops everything so as to go and tell these people, those she avoided  and tells them about the man who knew everything about her.  Including the bad, and the sinful, and that He didn’t drive her away.  But treated her as a lady, as a sister, as a child of God.

 

So great was her joy, even as Jesus knew all about her! Yet, He still loved her enough to reveal Himself to her. Maybe that has something to do with it, she was humble, not willing to hide anything to Him.

Knowing that kind of mercy, that kind of love, she had to share it with those around her.  Those even that criticized her, hit on her, shamed her,

This Messiah welcomed her, treated her like a lady, like the daughter of God….

If he would do this for her, wouldn’t he do it for all her village?  She didn’t ask herself if they would listen, she didn’t question whether she had what it took,

She knew God’s love… and she had to share it with her village.

 

Those that shouldn’t have heard her… hear her… & Jesus.

As I read through the passage this week… what struck me, that I don’t remember really seeing before, was verse 42.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 

Her testimony they believed, and so they encountered Jesus.  She didn’t have a television ministry, or wear a robe.  She wasn’t the CEO of the company, and most people wouldn’t bother to notice her.  All of society would scream, “don’t listen to herrr..”

But they did… and then, they heard Jesus.

They so heard Him, they begged Him to stay…

They heard, because she heard… because she thirsted, they were all quenched of their thirst for God…..

Because God came to their village.  Because He came, and they were able to learn to worship, in spirit, and in truth.

Today, He is here… will we hear Him?  Will we let Him address our brokenness?  Will we hear of His love for us, and mercy, and will it overwhelm us and lead us to point Him our to “our people?”

He’s here… whether you have as colored a history as she did, or whether you were/are a self righteous Pharisee who only sees others as sinners.

He’s calling, His inviting you to know His peace. He is inviting you to share His peace with your village, in your world.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, and in which we are guarded, our hearts and minds… in Christ Jesus.

Why Do We So Struggle With Sin….


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

 7  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.  1 John 1:7-10 (NLT)

 15  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. 16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:15-16 (NLT)

 25 He shows a great deal of enthusiasm and understanding. But when he realises that it refers to him, and that it is he who has to contribute in earnest, he slinks away like a coward. It reminds me of those who, during moments of grave danger, used to shout with false courage: War! War! But they did not want to give any money or to enrol to defend their country. (1)

In a number of conversations this week, people have had to deal with sin.

In one case, a young man tried to convince me that he is the first since Jesus to completely live without sin, to live the perfect life.  In several others, this being Lent and all, we’ve talked about calling people to repentance.

Like the man in St. Josemaria’s quote, everything changes when it comes to dealing with our sin, with our personal challenges, with our….gulp…. sin.

Take on the sin of the world in your sermons pastor – just don’t hit me with mine.  That’s right, go after the Fred Phelps, the homosexuals, those who are addicted to porn (well the hard stuff) those that fornicate outside of marriage – get them!  Take on those politicians. Warn them all about hell!

My resentments?  My lack of forgiving others,My inability to live at peace with those around me, my inability to love as I want to be loved?  My anger issues, my self-defensive mechanisms?  That just small stuff pastor,  There are bigger sinners to fry.

We struggle with sin,OUR sin. We deal with it, much like we deal with death, or any issue where we find ourselves grieved….

We DENY it… we claim it isn’t sin, even though we know it is.

We BARGAIN  – we want to make it seem less destructive. less of a sin than others sin…

We get DEPRESSED…. – we wonder if we would ever get past win the one that haunts us, the one we can’t overcome!

We get ANGRY… especially if someone questions us, or compares our sin to murder or adultery or gossip…

We ACCEPT it…  we just give up – and continue letting sin dominate us, letting it rule over us, letting it wreck our lives, steal our peace, drive us nuts……..

Unless, in accepting it, we do what God tells us to do, to lay it at His feet.  To let Him bring us healing, to allow those He has brought into our lives, to shepherd us through the dark times.  We learn to accept our brokenness, not in despair, but because in doing so, in admitting it, confessing it, we can hear His voice, “Do not be afraid, do not be anxious…”  When we, like the woman at the well, hear that God has sent us the Messiah, the Lord who will care for us, love us, cleanse us.  When we hear like the man let down through the roof by his friends, and by the man at the pool, “your sins are forgiven.”

When like Peter along the lake, we realize what Jesus is asking, when we are more aware of our failures than His presence isn’t whether He knows whether we love Him, it is whether we know it….

Sin?  Struggling with it isn’t in our job description.  It’s above our pay grade… it is what Jesus did.

So don’t hide it, or minimize it, or despair over it, or get angry when you pastor meddles with it….

Let God deliver you from it, heal and restore you, and remind you that you are His Child, and He is your Loving Father.

Hear Him as He answers your cry, “Lord, have mercy!”

Come, confess your sins, and know He is faithful, they are forgiven, you are cleanse of all unrighteousness.  AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 336-339). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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