Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Paradox of a Christian’s Strongest Moments…..is When We are Broken.


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)
9  But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (TEV)

26  In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27  And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)

1  Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

141 As, sooner or later, you are surely bound to stumble upon the evidence of your own personal wretchedness, I wish to forewarn you about some of the temptations which the devil will suggest to you and which you should reject straight away. These include the thought that God has forgotten about you, that your call to the apostolate is in vain, and that the weight of sorrow and of the sins of the world are greater than your strength as an apostle… None of this is true!  (1) 


From the earliest days I remember hearing men and women preach and teach about Jesus, in ever denomination I have been associated with, there has been an encouragement to become people of great faith.  Some held up Bible figures, Samson and David, Moses and Elijah, Peter (not the one who would break betraying Jesus, but the one who was the only one ot walk on water, and preached at Pentecost), Paul the greatest missionary that ever lived.  Some held up saints that had gone to make their mark on the world, whether Patrick or Francis, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham.   Some hold up the modern heroes now, the Rick Warren’s, the Pope Benedict’s.

I have no problem with us walking in the steps of those who walked before, just as they imitated Christ.

But it is where we imitate them, and where we are encouraged to imitate them, that I find challenging.

You see, every saint is such because of the trust they have in God.  The deep conviction and confidence in God, in knowing His presence.  That trust, that faith is often born in moments of despair, in moments of failure. Joseph in the prison, Gideon hiding out in the whinepress ( pun intended), Elijah in the cave, Peter in tears as the rooster crows and later on the beach, where three times he answers Jesus…not hearing the words that follow.   it’s Billy Graham, having failed as a pastor, or Luther, trembling at the mass, and appearing as a raving lunatic as he took on Satan.  It’s Paul as he bears the thorn in his flesh, and as he agonizes over his countrymen.

It is as St Josemaria says, as we look out on the brokenness of the world, of the brokenness of the church. of our own brokenness and sin.

When we feel handicapped, paralyzed, when our hope in view of the challenges… seems diminished.

We need rest – not just physical, but spiritual. We need to sit in the presence, in the glory in the peace of God and allow Him to heal our brokenness,  As we see Him do that, as we realize what He did to us in our baptism, and we are nourished by His precious Body and Blood, as we hear those precious words, “my child your sins are forgiven,”, we find our trust in God growing, our faith becoming substantial,  We know we can turn to God and depend on Him, that not only will He not condemn us, but He will not allow us to be separated from Him. We learn of his compassion for us, and His call to us, to ensure us He will be our God.

We can’t always hear those words, when we are struggling with the cacophony of life around us, when we are facing temptation, and the guilt and shame of sin.  When we are anxious about those we love, and the life-situations that assault and try them.  It is in those times, that we need to be strong, but a strength based on confidence that God is indeed with us.  With strength that flows from our trust that God will ensure all turns out for good for those who love him.  You see, our strength isn’t ours, it is His.  Much like a astronaut working on the space station depends on it for Oxygen and is tethered to it, so to our ability to endure is tied to Christ.

That is the thing we need to emulate of those people of great faith we are encouraged to imitate. The results of the work we do?  Everyone is different, and for every saint we know of, there are millions whose work was different, who challenges to trust in God were as great, who endured, not because of their strength, but because they trusted in God more than they clinged to life.

They prayed, “Lord have mercy!” confident that because He had, He would!  AMEN

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 788-793). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Another Thought About What Jesus Would/Did Do…. as Did His Followers


Devotional Thought of the Day!photo

40  They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free. 41  As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus. 42  And every day in the Temple and in people’s homes they continued to teach and preach the Good News about Jesus the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42 (TEV)

7  “He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word. 8  He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of our people. Isaiah 53:7-8 (TEV)

2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)

11  “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12  Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted. Matthew 5:11-12 (TEV) 

123         Do you see? With Him you have been able. Why are you surprised? Be convinced: there is nothing to be surprised about. If you trust in God—really trust!—things work out easily. And, what is more, you always go further than you imagined you could.

Right before Easter, a bunch of FB Memes appeared, asking the “What Would Jesus Do” question, and reminding people of Jesus’ clearing the Temple.  As if to justify Christianity on the offensive, a militant form of beat them into submission, a warrior version of Protestantism that confronts and boldly takes on the world and those who oppose the faith. Maybe we don’t want to go to physical war with them, but we want to win the battles of words, the debates.

Sunday, as the first reading ended in church with the quote above from Acts 5, I thought about the fact that the apostles were doing what Jesus did.  They didn’t fight back, they didn’t revile their persecutors, they rejoiced!

Even as Jesus embraced the cross for the joy that was waiting, the apostles rejoiced that because they bore the name of Christ, they were whipped and beaten and brought before authorities – because there, they could share about the love of God, proven at the cross. They knew, because they heard the words on the sermon on the mount, the blessing that such persecution was, not because they loved pain, but because of the gospel.

It is not as if our suffering merits someone else’s salvation, or even ours.  But if we are truly persecuted for our faith, it shows our connection to the one whom we bear witness to.

How many of us are willing to endure persecution, or allow others to do that in this day and age?

How many of us are willing to serve others by sharing about Christ, if that means persecution, pain, suffering, even death?  And yet, even as we go through it, rejoice?

Will we embrace suffering and persecution, knowing that it too testifies of our trust in God?  Or will we fight, complain, slander and disrespect?

Will we do what Jesus’ did?  Will we do what the disciples did, with the attitude they had – one of joy?

In order to do so, our trust has to be in God, we have to know He reigns, that we are His people, and that everything – even that which is meant for evil (like the cross) will work for good.  That is asking us to trust Him in a way most of us are uncomfortable in trying.  We would rather fight, we would rather plan strategic countermeasures, But simple rest in Him, trust Him while others role over us?  Heck even our own people may think us wimps and join in the persecution, mocking us.

That takes a level of trust only possible if we abide in the presence of God, or more precisely, if the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  Because of our baptism, we know that promise is true… He dwells in us, He is transforming us,

Transforming us into the image of Christ, St Paul teachings in 2 Corinthians 3, into the image of the Lord who loved enough to endure punishment, to bring those who persecuted Him into the family of God.

May we learn to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us, and realize that even under persecution we bear witness to the Love of God.

Lord have mercy on us!

 

 
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 706-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Because We Were Raised From the Dead with Jesus, We Dwell in Peace


Alleluia! He is Risen! And ThereforeWill new camera 12 2008 167

We Have Risen and Live Joyfully in His Peace!

John 20:19-31

In Jesus Name

May the God’s desire to make us His own, proven to us through the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, be revealed more and more and therefore may we live in His peace!

The 371 picture….

One day driving up the mountain to Anza, I took what has become the best photo I have ever taken.  It is there on your prayer insert/sermon notes.  There has been nothing done to the picture, there was a fierce and I mean fierce mountain storm that was coming over Thomas Mountain and Mount San Jacinto.

Yet this tree stood as a beacon, the sun breaking through the clouds so gloriously lighting up the tree as if the tree itself was glowing. It stood, unaffected by the storm, unaffected by the clouds.

Completely at peace….

I have so longed to be like that tree – able to withstand the threat of any storm in life. To be able to dwell in God’s glory, to be able to reflect it like that tree, even in the face of such overwhelming storms.  Yet that is not to be….

As I looked at the picture yesterday, it reminded me of the upper room, the storms that threatened the disciples, that raised their anxiety levels to their maximum.  Enough that doors were shut, people weren’t allowed in, as they mourned, as they grieved, as they struggled.

In the midst of their storm… Jesus was revealed in their presence.  Jesus the crucified one, Jesus the Passover sacrifice, Jesus who had been born of Mary, who had taught, who had healed.

Jesus, who was no longer dead, whose glorious resurrection was revealed by His presence! The relationship they had was not over, it had become even more glorious, as they realized, Praise God, He is Risen!  (He is risen Indeed, Alleluia1)

And therefore…. (we have risen Indeed! )

Like the tree in the picture calls our attention, so too He calls our attention, our presence for in His presence we know His peace.

How often must we hear these words?

Jesus appears in the presence, like the tree appears along the side of the road, and the words resound, “Peace be with you!”  Even as their hearts were so flooded with joy that the anxiety was drowned, the words would resound again – “Peace be with you!”

We need to understand that blessing, and its equivalents, “fear not”, and “the Lord is with you!”  We need to hear them, to understand them.  We need to taste them, digest them, to bring them into the very core of who we are.

The problem is that these words can become the church equivalent of “How are you doing?” with the quick response of “And also with you” or “with your spirit”.  We too often reduce a powerful blessing to a greeting and polite response.

Why is that a problem?

We need peace.  Satan would rob us of it constantly. He does it through encouraging our sin, and the shame and guilt it will cause.  He does it through the sins others commit against us, as we allow the resentment to build, as we try to justify our sinful responses.  Satan would use grief and despair as well, even as he did with Thomas.

It can be so easy to take Thomas’ position, to cry out Lord, unless I see you, unless I know you are there, I won’t give up my doubt, or my anxiety, or my pain.  I won’t let you deal with it.

And then, when someone tells us, as we shall moments from now, “God’s peace is with you,” we quickly answer back – even mumble back a suitable response.

My friends, we can’t do that anymore.  We need to hear those words, we need to know as we approach this altar that God will take those anxieties, those pains, the guilt, shame and resentment away from us.

An example of Christ’s ministry

That is exactly how Jesus dealt with Thomas….

“Peace be with you!” He exclaims to the room again, not just for Thomas, but for all of the brothers.

Thomas, you needed these hands?  I am here, in the flesh.  My side? I will offer it to you, the side from which my blood poured. Now, can you live in peace?

I think we read this passage sometimes, without seeing Jesus’ love for Thomas, We want to hear Jesus’s words without compassion, simply going, okay Thomas, here you go.  Now get back to work.

But Jesus knows him, knows his brokenness, knows how much Thomas wants to believe.  He made Thomas, he walked with him for years.

This is the same God who inspired Solomon at the dedication of the temple, to pray,

32  And don’t forget the foreigner who is not a member of your people Israel but has come from a far country because of your reputation—people are going to be attracted here by your great reputation, your wonderworking power—and who come to pray to this Temple. 33 Listen from your home in heaven and honor the prayers of the foreigner, So that people all over the world will know who you are and what you’re like, And live in reverent obedience before you, just as your own people Israel do, So they’ll know that you personally make this Temple that I’ve built what it is.  2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (MSG)

That’s the God who answered Thomas, the Lord who would listen to prayers of people who aren’t even His… as far as they know.  Who would gather them, and encourage them to pray to Him.

Thomas, being ministered to by a Jesus who was real, found the peace he needed to believe.  To declare that Jesus was his master, the One who was in charge of His life! And His benevolent, merciful loving God….

In other words, He knew peace.

What can you do, knowing that peace?

But Jesus didn’t leave the apostles just in that place of peace.  He wanted them to take that peace out of the upper room, even as he wants us to take it outside the walls of this church, and off this property.  Even as the Father in heaven sent Jesus to bring us that peace, we now have to take that peace to the world.

Impossible?  Not if we realize that God is with us. That the Holy Spirit, breathed out on the 10 in the upper room was given to us at our baptism.

How?  In the mercy displayed as we forgive sins, even as we know our sin are forgiven. That peace is found there.  Nothing new about this – for while God answered prayers of those foreigners, Solomon also noted the prayers of the people of God.

18  Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built. 19  Even so, I’m bold to ask: Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O GOD, my God. Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now. 20  Keep your eyes open to this Temple day and night, this place you promised to dignify with your Name. And listen to the prayers that I pray in this place. 21  And listen to your people Israel when they pray at this place. Listen from your home in heaven and when you hear, forgive. 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (MSG)

Sound familiar?

That is what Jesus authorized the apostles to preach – the forgiveness of sins, the freedom given in our baptism.  Whatever you forgive here… is forgiven….

These are the words heard in a few moments, the blood of the New Testament, shed for the forgiveness of sin.  And as you take and eat, and take and drink, what is the blessing the end of communion?  Until we are before His throne in glory, know you dwell in His peace…..

Be at peace, all sin, every sin committed against you is forgiven. Go and share that peace, the peace we know because sin was dealt with at the cross, and while it cannot rise, we know this.

Alleluia!  He is Risen!  (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

and therefore?

(We are risen indeed! Alleluia!)

AMEN

The Secret to Understanding the Relationship Between Faith and Works…is….


Devotional Thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167
1  I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2  I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3  I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned —but if I have no love, this does me no good. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (TEV)

18  But someone may say: So you have faith and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith. James 2:18 (NJB)

 

111 Your faith is not operative enough; it seems that you are over-pious, rather than a man who is struggling to be a saint.  (1)

For centuries, the church has fought over the issue of how faith and works are seen in our salvation.  It is not a new fight, a new argument, and historically, it is like the mystery of a pendulum.  In simpler words, we see the church, and even denominations of the church swing from one extreme to the other.  First the extreme of trying to save ourselves through our work, trying to find the way to discipline ourselves, forcing ourselves to do things, so that we can prove the change.  As we fail (and often miserably at this) we go to the other extreme, rediscovering that we are saved by faith alone, and not by our own merit. The pendulum then swings to the extent that we consider our works and our faith completely separate.  We heavily criticize any attempt of spiritual discipline, even if it doesn’t involve us.

If we take a breath, if we ignore the pendulum swing, we see the common error, and possibly see the solution that James points out, that the comment from Escriva touches upon.  The struggle to be a saint is not about our appearing pious or holy, It is not about what we do to make ourselves good, or even just look good. It is not about having miraculous powers (though those may appear), it isn’t about having the right words, or even being able to make the wrong words seem right.  Knowledge fails as well as faith. We can be quite successful by making our selves into martyrs, annoying the hell out of everyone.

If those things aren’t birthed in love, they are worthless, and that is where both faith and works are born, and where they find their synergy.  Where their find themselves working together, energized by the Holy Spirit together.  For both faith and works are not native to us, but rather are the work of God in us, transforming us,  Neither faith nor works save us, if they are faith generated within us, apart from the Holy Spirit, or works that we are doing to gain God’s favor.  That is why St. Josemaria talks about it places operative in something other that being over-pious.

For being pious, or holy is not about what we do, it’s about being broken enough to let God do what He would do, in us.  It is about being humble enough to remember that we are in God’s hands, not our own,   It is there, in God’s hands, where faith is strengthened, where we find the love that is the power source for the miraculous, that sustains our trust/faith in God, that finds the desire and ability to sacrifice for others.  It is that love that testifies of Christ, even until our death.

To live as a saint, is to live within the glory of God, within His love, firmly secure in His embrace of our hearts, our minds, our very lives.

It’s a struggle, not to be pious, not to prove our devotion, those aren’t the struggles of being a saint.

The struggle of the saint is to dwell in the love, to give up our rights, our ideas, our quests to prove ourselves worthy.  Instead, the struggle is to see His work in our lives, as He takes charge, to see His will be done, to depend on Him for sustenance, and to know mercy – both know we’ve received it, and to know we can show it. To get through times of temptation, and to know we are protected and delivered from evil.

To be be able to say with our whole heart – that to God belongs all the kingdoms of our lives, that He is the power that establishes and sustains us, that to Him all glory belongs……

Faith and works?  They come from knowing God is God, and we are His beloved people.

It’s that simple.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 664-665). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith can’t fit in a meme box or 140 character tweet…


Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

24  The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”    Mark 9:24 (TEV)

8  No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. Micah 6:8 (TEV)

FAITH IS SOMETHING we need to ask for. God forbid that we should fail to be importunate with God and with his saints. One of the most refined forms of arrogance consists in claiming that prayer of petition is inferior to other forms of prayer . Only when we become beggars do we realize that we are creatures. When we don’t honor the faith of humble folk, who can teach us how to ask for what we need, then we think that what saves us is pure faith; but that is empty faith, a faith devoid of all religion and all piety. In such a state, we are unable to interpret religious experience. Our intellects go astray with their feeble lights, and we resort to explaining the truth of faith with slogans borrowed from cultural ideologies .  (1)

This quote from a pope is one we desperately need to hear, especially those of us who spend any amount of time on Facebook or any other social media.

For far too often we reduce our faith on social media to a snappy quote, a “gotcha” meme, or even try to debate theology or the existence of God in 140 character bursts. What this does is what Pope Francis talks about above – a faith without experiencing God.  A Creed, a statement of “faith” that is not communicated, but forced in a way that eliminates conversation, that eliminates discussion.  Such burst messages don’t give the full picture, they miss the context, and therein is the problem.

One of my professors once said that good preaching and good theology contains not only the “what”, but the “so what”.  How the message impacts the hearer, or in the case of tweets, the reader. How do those words, seen digitally on the screen communicate the need we have to relate to God, to live in fellowship with Him?  How can we help people realize that God is dependable, and that they can depend on Him?  Even that sentence doesn’t include the incarnation, the death and resurrection of Christ.  It doesn’t shake us from our idol of self-sufficiency, our illusion that we can control our world, our environment.  For that is where humility begins, knowing that we can’t possibly be God, and in humility finding out that is okay.

Because God,, loves us enough to give up everything for us.

Neither the Pope or I am claiming you need more words to be holier, or more intellectual, but that deep faith is born in deep need.  Holiness originating in us, in our brokenness, healing of our lives comes as we realize how shattered they are.  It is at those points, when we cry out to God, that we can hear His voice.

And that is what faith, what the “Christian religion” is about – walking humbly with God, in a conversation, assured that He will guide us, comfort us, heal us.  Because He has proven, in Christ, the extent to which He will go, and has gone, to do this very thing.

May we today walk humbly, knowing we are His children, and He is our Heavenly father. …

 

Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (p. 28). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

Is God Reasonable or Logical?


Devotional Thought of the Day: God, who am I?


1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. 3  And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.Romans 12:1-3 (TEV)

ANOTHER TEMPTATION is to prefer head-values to heart-values. That should not be the case. Only the heart unifies and integrates. Intellect without a sense of piety tends to divide. The heart unites ideas with reality, time with space, life with death and with eternity. The temptation is to dislodge intellect from the place where God our Lord put it. He gave it to us so that we could clarify faith. God did not create human intelligence so that we could set ourselves up as judges of all things. It is a light that has only been lent to us, a mere reflection. Our intellect is not the light of the world; it is simply a flash for illuminating our faith. The worst thing that can happen is for human beings to let themselves be dragged along by the “lights” of reason. They easily become ignorant intellectuals or carefree “sages.” The true mission of our minds is to discover the seeds of the Word within humanity, the logoi spermatikoi.  (1)
On vacation, so a different set of devotions may appear for the next few days.  I left my normal devotional book in my office, and so I picked up Pope Francis’s book off my kindle – and came to this passage.

It addresses far more clearly that I something I have long thought.

We’ve somehow disconnect the heart of our faith, preferring the reason of faith.   We hear “logos” and reduce it to logic, to human reason, and make the “logos” of God submit to our ability to process it, to analyze it, to dissect it and categorize it.

This despite the numerous passages, scripture that remind us how God’s ways are not ours, how His thoughts are beyond ours.

The result is staggering!  Children of the enlightenment, of the age of reason, we consider ourselves judges of everything.  We judge manuscripts, ignoring the 99.996 percent consistency, but that gives us the right and authority to judge which texts are to be heeded, and which we can dismiss.  On the other edge of the spectrum, we build from scripture a legal system that cares less for mankind, but raises the system we produced to God’s writ.   There is no mercy, confession and absolution becomes a duty, not a sacrament (we even consider ourselves lords over the sacrament!)

The struggle is to dismiss the heart, if we cannot create cardio-eunuchs, we are least circumcise our heart until it is smaller than the Grinch’s. We let reason drag our Christianity behind it, as Pope Francis said.

Faith is like loyalty, like volition, a matter of the heart.  It is the relationship, both with God and with those who live life in our midst, or we in theirs.  Faith is a verb, better translated trust, and the trust we have in God supersedes our knowledge.  Just as a young couple in love will not be reasonable in their parent’s eyes when it comes to establishing a home and finances, there are times our trust and love in God will seem unreasonable and even foolish to those around us, and even us.  We will dare to love our enemies, we will forgive those whom logic demands eye for an eye.  We will sacrifice our desires and preferences in order to see people come to know God’s love, and to love Him in return.

We realize that God has planted, as Solomon wrote, eternity into the hearts of mankind.  As Francis wrote – the seeds of the Word.  That capitalized Word is not logic, it is not reason as man understands it. It is Jesus Christ, the one who came and suffered and died, and rose from the dead (which of these is “logical” by man’s standard?

Does our intellect have its place?  Sure!  Can academic theology have its place, a role in helping us understand the love we know?  Yes, but it is a servant, not a guardian.  It is a tool, not the foreman.

The great commands, and the Great commission bear that out – we are to love, God and our neighbor, we are to make disciples, not converts.  We are to proclaim God’s grace, that mercy and peace that is ours because He loves us…. Even though it doesn’t really seem reasonable….

Let us learn well, but let us trust and love the Lord, and may that love govern our reason.

Amen.

 

(1)      Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 27-28). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

Encouragement for those who wonder “if it is worth it”


Devotional thought of the Day:
1 I urge you, Timothy, as we live in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus (whose coming in power will judge the living and the dead), to preach the Word of God. Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season. Prove, correct, and encourage, using the utmost patience in your teaching.   2 Timothy 4:1 (Phillips NT) 

110  Rest assured: when you work for God, there are no difficulties that cannot be overcome, nor discouragements that will make you abandon the task, nor failures worthy of the name, however unfruitful the results may seem.  (1)

There are times life seems to difficult, the challenges to overwhelming, making progress seems impossible, and even maintaining where we are at, doubtful.

This is especially true for those who walk with God, who look at the world that Jesus sends us to bring the message of His love to, even as the Father sent Jesus.

We hear stories, like that of the lady in Britain who will have an abortion, so that she can appear on a reality television show.  ( She’s publicized it, which will put the reality show in a tough spot – will they re-issue the invite?  It will gain them publicity – but…)

But I don’t even have to go that far to see the challenges faced in this world.  The couple that gets married, but brings too much baggage from prior relationships, the person who is dealing with so much resentment in one relationship that it poisons other relationships, the pastor who is challenged by not seeing any changes in his people., that they haven’t grow in the two, or ten, or twenty years,  Is there a point where we should give up?  Where we stop giving them the answers that point them to Jesus Christ?  Is there a point where we come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth the sacrifice anymore?

Or do we turn to “life coaches”, new programs, spend great deals of money trying to find a way to have measurable success?   There are enough programs out there, enough guru’s and experts and consultants, to last a lifetime.

Or do we stick to our guns, keep things just the way they are, taking great pride in our stubbornness, even in the face of defeat.  After all, one can serve faithfully even if it makes us miserable, the point is being faithful, right?

Faithfulness on our end is not about giving up, or finding the miracle program/person, or even sticking to our idea of being faithful.  It is about having faith, trusting that God has told us to go, but that there will be seasons of life, and seasons of ministry that are barren like winter, some are like the rapid growth of spring, others like the dog days of summer, and others where the beauty of fall shows the glory of God, and the value of being patient. In each of those seasons, our work is to point to Jesus, to His love, to correct those that are veering away from it,

We should evaluate our messages, our work, how we prove and correct and encourage others to look to Jesus. To trust in Him, not in us or to a style of ministry or worship.  But all that work has to be done with patience, knowing that in each of us, there is the struggle of sinners and saints. That is our key, patience that is born in our faith in God, in our confidence that He is reigning, that He is in charge.

It’s hard, very hard. We are like the rest of the world, we want to do what we want. But when we trust in God, when we know we can focus on Him, we begin to see those promises revealed in our midst. Luther, a man who struggled through many dry seasons, and many were life seemed forgotten said it well, as he wrote about the Lord’s prayer:

Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well.  (2)

His will, will be accomplished.  It will, we have that promise.  Yet we need to know it is being accomplished here, in our midst, in our presence. (and it helps a lot to see the role we play in this -even if minimal)  We have to trust God – and keep focused on Him – even if that simply means praying the Kyrie.

Patience is the same kind of trust we have in the Lord, that He will deliver us, it is the faith that sees God revealing to us His love and mercy…

Struggling?  Look to Him.  things not working our – Look to Him…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 661-662). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Moving From Religious Superstition to Religious Faith: Easter and the 666th blog post


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14  And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:12-17 (TEV)

100 I am not the apostle I should be. I am… too timid. Could it not be that you are fainthearted, because your love is small? It is time to change! (1)

Yesterday my blog post was the 666th post on this blog.  It happened to be my Easter Sunday sermon, an odd “coincidence.”

I posed the question on Facebook, about whether I should post a Easter Sermon with post #666, or just post a blank post there.  As I noted in the question, I had already decided my response to the oddity, but I thought posing the question would make for a good learning experience. One of my friends, a devout atheist (and I use “devout” purposefully) indicated I shouldn’t, as did one other.  Some of the others encouraged, even dared me too, two noting that superstition should have no place in the consideration.  A response, which seemed with such certainty, such fervor, that it almost seemed counter-superstitious.  I must, some seem to assert, post it to prove that superstition had no hold over me.  That almost seems superstitious!

I asked the question, partially from curiosity, and partially because it resonated with my sermon.  The sermon was a discussion about faith in God, about trusting in Him, and worshiping Him, and no other gods.  To revel, to find great joy and peace that we are encrypted, hidden with Christ in God; even as we walk our journeys in this world with Christ.  To keep our eyes on Christ in the heavenly places, to know His work redeeming us is done, yet He continues to work within us, as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ,

The image of love.  Bringing us to the point where we truly begin to love one another, including those whom we struggle with, not just being challenged to love them, but even to like them. To realize that this is possible, as we look to Christ, as we keep our minds on heavenly things, to trust God with everything we are, to turn to Him, not only when the burdens overwhelm us, but even in the simple things.  As a simple bread making monk once put it, we need to practice the presence of God.  To be so confident of His love, that all other things are dealt with, while residing in His love, while residing in His peace.

That is when we see that everything has a spiritual component, Making bread, talking to our neighbors, working, being a husband, a father.  Whatever the place where God has guided us to, whatever role, becomes a place of love, for He is there with us.

It is this kind of growth, this need to depend on God, and the confidence that grows in His presence, that leads us from a form of “religious superstition” to a “religious faith”.  That means we know we don’t have to be anxious about 666 or making sure our actions and thoughts conform to some man-made expectation, some man-made ritual,  Because we know, intimately know, God’s heart, we know He secures our salvation, that He is our Hope, and our Way.  That Easter provides for us a remembrance on the depth of His love, the insight to how we live, as we trust in Him above all things.  As we realize He is God, and therefore we don’t have to be.   We can count on Him to be our deliverer, our savior, the One who is our master, our protector.

Where we live in awe of His love, not in superstitious fear.

A relationship, where His faithfulness assures us of what we need, to be able to live freely, to love. Rather that being paranoid about every move we make….

Lord, we trust in You, help us to trust You!

AMEN

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 628-630). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

With Christ, We’ve Been Raised to New Life!


Treasuring God’s Gifts:
You’ve Been Raised to New Life!  
So Set Your Eyes on God Alone

Exodus 6:1-6, Col. 3:1-4

In Jesus Name

As we think about the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, because we know of the Grace of God our Father, may we realize it is our resurrection as well, and knowing that, may we live life focused on Him.

 

Jesus is the Way….

One of the things I am in awe of, is the way in which Jesus deals with those who doubt, especially those who are bluntly, like the Apostle Thomas.  With one exception, Thomas is always pictured as the one who doubts, the one who struggles with his faith in God.

Each time we see Thomas struggling, Jesus turns it into a moment to minister to Thomas, to strengthen Thomas, to build his confidence that God is at work. Because the gospels record the words of some of these circumstances, Jesus ministers to us as well. One of those stories is seen in John’s gospel, chapter 14.

Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.     John 14:5-6 (NLT)

We talk about those words a lot, or at least we quote them, usually in regards to conversations about providing that Jesus is the only way to the Father.  Or that it is “His way or the Highway”.    Today though, we are going, in view of His death and resurrection, we are going to see that this is literally true, and not just figuratively….

That Paul’s words to the church in Colossians, and the words recorded by Moses in Exodus, are talking about this very thing.

That because Jesus is the way, because we’ve been raised to new life in Him

The Decalog –

The LAW I’ve Rescued you, I am God – No other God’s

We’ve been travelling through the decalog, through what we commonly call the Ten Commandments since Ash Wednesday.  As we’ve gone through each, we’ve realize that God didn’t give the commandments to restrict our lives, but to show us how we live life in Him, a life God considers and makes a masterpiece.

We finally get to the beginning, to the core of the message, to the one that resonates with the fact that jesus is “the Way.”  The first word that we usually hear as, “THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.

We always hear it with a deep rumbly voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones, or maybe Darth Vader, going onto describe all the ways in which we create false gods, all the ways we create idols, and worship the things which we create.

Luther was correct in talking about the close connection between worshipping these idols, these false gods, and our putting our trust in them.  For surely he points out – that is what an idol is, what we primarily trust with our lives.  We put our trust in all sorts of things to bless us, to bring us peace, to protect us, to prosper us.

An idol is what we run to first in times of trial, it is where we find the support we need to keep on going, that which is bigger than us, even if we have to lie to self and say we can do it on our own.

We may not make our idols out of wood or clay or stone any longer, but that doesn’t make them any more reliable.  The are the things that run our lives, that we give power over us, that convince us that we will make it, that we shall survive this and that we might even prosper

Money can be our God, or some possession. Perhaps a relationship, or even a vision of what our life should be like and what it takes to serve that vision.  Paul touches on it, when he tells the church folk in Colossae to set their sight on Heaven, on God’s reality.  For idols grab out attention, they put a lockdown, a stranglehold on our hearts and minds.  These things cause envy, they division, they cause pain and unfaithfulness, they wreck out relationships, they cause us to distrust and dishonor authorities, they rob us of rest, and distract us on calling God for help.

Idolatry, having these other gods, including the god of self, lies at the heart of every other sin we have to deal with in our lives. Idols can obscure and attempt to destroy the masterpiece God has planned for our lives.

        You don’t need any other God:  I AM HE

No wonder he says, “Have no other gods,”

He doesn’t want us damaged by them, when they prove to be not our creator, but our creations.  God wants more than just well-behaved people who hide their brokenness.  He wants His kids, even if that means cleaning up their mess at the cost of Jesus.

Remember when I said the commandment was far more than just the “Have no other gods?”

The first word, the first “commandment” starts with the bold text in verse 2 of Exodus 20.

 

2  I am GOD, your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. 3  No other gods, only me.

Eqypt, the land of 1000 gods, the land where even the King, the Pharoah was considered a god.  We’d never do that, would we? Egypt, the land of idols, and idolatry.

The land of sin.

What is your Egypt?  What is the earthly place where sin rules, where temptation gets you, where life isn’t truly living, because you live in captivity.  What is it that in dieing and rising Jesus you’ve been rescued from?

He has rescued us, it has happened, He has sent Jesus to die, not just to pay for the sins which divide us from Him, but because as we are united to Him, in His death and resurrection, we are united to God and brought into the presence of God.

That is why Paul tells us we are hidden with Jesus Christ and therefore in God. I love the Greek there – the word hidden is the word we get encrypted, We are guarded protected, and even all of the hackers in the world can’t corrupt what God’s given us.

That is why we set our eyes on heavenly things – because that is where we are in Christ – that is where life is, where reality is.  We are the children of God, raised with Christ Jesus, just as our sin was put to death with Him at the cross.  We trust Him at His promise, we know that what we deal with here is simply temporary, but reality is lived united to Christ.  Saved from the idols, sure, but raised to live in the presence of God Almighty

We have no other go because we don’t need one… we have the God who came to us, made himself known to us.
You, revealed with Hm in Glory!

        Because of the cross and resurrection

Jesus is not just a way, He didn’t set us on the way, but He is the way we get to the Father. We get to the Father because we are united to Him, and travel with Him through His death and resurrection.  in Him we encounter the holiness of God, the glory of God.

That is why this day, as we celebrate the fact that God has raised Jesus is so critical.  In Him we died to sin, in Him we have been raised to life.  The resurrection is more than just history,  because we find life in Christ. United to Him we are brought to the Father… where we are revealed to be the very children of God…where we find ourselves being healed of our brokenness.

That’s the promise of our lives, it has been since our baptism.

He is our way, our truth and our life…. And because of that, Paul can tell us

4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.Colossians 3:4 (NLT)

All His glory, revealed as the place where we shall be, for this is what we’ve been promised, it is why we are hidden and protected, encrypted in Christ.

So look to Him, keep focused on God, know Him, trust these promise of God.  For there is His indescribable glory, we find His indescribable peace, a peace that keeps us there… for we are encrypted, hidden in Christ.

For Alleluia, He is risen

And therefore….we are risen indeed!

 

 

 

We Call on His Name – Just as Jesus DId!


Treasuring God’s Gifts!Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
He has Given Us the Right to Use His Name!

Exodus 20:7, Romans 10:11-17

In Jesus Name!

May the glory of the cross, the love of God revealed, remind you that you are children of God, and can therefore cry out to the Father!

 

The Journey

We have almost completed our journey through the Decalogue, through the masterpiece God makes of our life, so beautifully described in words we normally call the Ten Commandments.  The journey where we have not heard them as hastily written words, given to cramp our style, to forbid fun.

Instead we remember to hear them as the words of God, which describe for us a way of life He considers His masterpiece.

On this day, when we hear Jesus cry out, “it is finished”, when we know of His cry, “Father, Into Your Hands I commit my spirit,” may we realize we can cry out to the Father, for that is why He has given us His name… to use.

The Third (4th) Word

The Third “word”, the “third commandment” is simple, “Do not use God’s name vainly” or to no good purpose.  If we think it through, that command is simply a correction, a clarification to the idea that we are called to use God’s name.

For as we heard, all who call on the name of the Lord will be delivered, we will be saved.

There are people who misuse God’s name, using it basically in frustration, in anger, to condemn, to mock God, and often His people.  That is sin.

There are also those who do not use His name at all, to lift others in prayer, to offer comfort, even the comfort of a glass of water, who do not care enough about others eternity to share God’s love with them, so they will know heaven and not hell.  Those who do not use His name to reconcile, those who refuse to forgive – for that too is the proper use of His name, and to not do so, is sin.

Seeing the Gospel

When William was born, we were shocked by his pediatrician giving us her cell-phone number.  She has a large office, and an incredible caseload.  Over the years we’ve called it, and been surprised when we didn’t get a answering service, but that she answered it herself.

How many places can you call, where the boss picks up the phone?  Never mind that, where a real person does.

Yet, God, Creator of the Universe, expects us to call out to Him, to give Him our burdens, to ask Him for forgiveness.
That is what the cross is all about, that is what this time and this place is all about.

God gathering His people here,

Gathering His people, marked by His name.

For Christ has been lifted up…..

We have been lifted up with Him.

 

Lifted up into His presence, into His place of peace, The peace that goes beyond all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

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