Monthly Archives: August 2014

Take Up Your Cross: photo What Does that Look Like?


Take Up Your Cross: photo
What Does that Look Like?

Romans 12:9-21

 Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ flood your lives, enabling you to “really” love others!

 

Take up the Cross…but what does that look like?

The words of Jesus we know well, we’ve heard them before, but how often do we think through what they mean?

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.

Turn from our self-centered, self-serving, self-focused needs.  That is a real challenge, especially in a culture that jokes about what it feels to be true.  You know that saying, “It’s all about me”

That’s tough, and God’s law does convict us when we act like life is “all about me.’

But it’s the second and third actions that are required, that make it more challenging.

Taking up a cross?  Which one – the one above the altar – hey no problem.  The one Vicar Chai carried in this morning? It’s kind of heavy – but most people can carry it.  No, it is something far more than that.

Take up the cross, and follow me, Jesus says!

Are you willing? More importantly, are you able?

In order to answer that question, we have to know what does this mean: “take up your cross, and follow Jesus”.

You have to know what it looks like.

That is what the section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes, so let’s look there.
What it looks like

Though the description of taking up your cross and following Jesus flows through the entire twelfth chapter, I want to start with verse 11 this morning, for it is the key

11  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 2 Rejoice in our confident hope.

Now, most of the people here are not even remotely lazy, most work hard.  We commit to serving the Lord enthusiastically. We are confident in the hope we have; that God will be faithful to His promises.  So this bearing the cross thing seems possible, and since we are good people, we can do this!

But those encouraging words are to spur us on to do that which is more challenging….

It goes on,

Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 

And on….

15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 

And on…..

17  Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge.

These actions and attitudes are not easy, they are indeed, what it looks like to take up your cross, and follow Jesus.  They sum as well, this idea of love, which started the reading.

9  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

No hypocrisy allowed, no “but they did, said, thought,” just really love them….

So how do we “really” love

This is difficult, is it not?   I mean we are supposed to really love our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, those annoying phone solicitors and even our pastor?  Really love them?  Not sure we can do that all the time, Are we sure we can bear that cross. Are we sure we want to bear that cross.

But bear it we must, if we follow Christ, if we are with Christ, if we are in Christ.

For that is what bearing our cross is, it is walking in Christ.  To give up our lives, if that is what it takes, for that is what love led Him to do.

Peter said it well,

21  For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)

This doing good, this bearing one’s cross, this setting aside what benefits us, what makes us happy is what happens when we are being transformed by God.  Remember – that is where the chapter started,

1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

So What happens when we slip and throw a whine party?

These words cause a bit of anxiety.  Because I know that we are not always following Christ. I know we struggle to bear our cross, tossing it aside at times.

So what can we do, when we find ourselves justifying why we shouldn’t love this person, or that one?  When we want to justify tossing the cross aside, because we don’t want to love them, to really love them?  Or we are afraid to, for the pain we might go through.

Jeremiah knew that feeling.  In the Old Testament reading we find it, and God’s response to Jeremiah’s whining,

Jer 15:19  To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them.

When we struggle like Jonah loving Nineveh, or Jeremiah loving the rebellious children of Israel, it is simply that, a struggle.  It is the same struggle Jesus had when he looked at the cross, and realize the shame that carrying it might bring, and that is where we find our answer, on how to love others.

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

The struggle for us is not that we can’t love them, it is that we’ve taken our eyes off what Paul told us to do, to 1Rejoice in our confident hope.”

This was Peter’s answer as well, that we should always be ready to have an answer for the reason we have hope.

You want to follow Jesus?  Take up the cross of walking in His love, keeping your eyes on Him.  The cross where He has joined you to Himself, and realize that there, you can see their need for His love, for His mercy, even as you needed it yourself.

This is what it all boils down to, our baptism, our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, our hearing that our sins are forgiven, it is all about God coming to us, uniting us to His cross, bringing us with Him…

Knowing His cross, we cling to that hope, we find the will of God, and a desire to see it come to be, that all would know His love, that all would be ministered to, no matter the sacrifice.

For that is what happens, when we allow God to transform us into people who dwell in is peace, the peace that goes beyond comprehension or explanation.  The very peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?

 

 

Why Write Blogs? Why Preach? Why Worship? Because….


Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. 19  The LORD looked down from his holy place on high, he looked down from heaven to earth. 20  He heard the groans of prisoners and set free those who were condemned to die. 21  And so his name will be proclaimed in Zion, and he will be praised in Jerusalem 22  when nations and kingdoms come together and worship the LORD. Psalm 102:18-22 (TEV)

Gently he helped each person to face up to his or her responsibility to love God and souls. This was always his main concern. No matter what he was talking about, everything he said was linked to this one theme: that because the plenitude of Christian life is rooted in charity , love is of the utmost urgency.”

A young woman who attended a retreat he preached in 1945 found in his preaching “something new, something distinct…. It moved me deeply. Although I had habitually made a retreat in the past, I had never heard anyone speak in the same way about the love of God. It was a great discovery for me, an encounter with God as Father, as friend. It had a great impact on me.”  (1)

I am sitting in my office, having done my devotions, having skimmed through the study notes I prepared earlier in the week.  After this blog is completed, I will review the notes again, and finally put down and polish the words of the sermon for tomorrow.

But why do all this?  Why have i written so many blogs over the last three years, why have I written and delivered somewhere around 1000 sermons.  Why do I get up on Sunday morning?

I hope in retrospect someday someone might say something like the young woman said about a priest back in 1945.   i hope what has been read, what has been heard, what will be heard tomorrow and for the years I have left is what she said about Fr. Portillo’s sermons.  That these messages reveal the love of God, the desire of God to make us His children, the incredible love that Christ showed to a bunch of sinners when He said, ” 15  I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:15 (NLT)

That love was described by the Psalmist above, recorded that we would see the very heart of God.  Those of us that deserve death because of our sin, those of us imprisoned by the snares of sin, He looked down and heard, which means He acted.  Hearing isn’t just an auditory action, it is a stimulus to action.  That action, the Incarnation, the Life and Death of Christ, His resurrection and Ascension and advocacy , the coming of the Holy Spirit and His work as He abides in our lives.  That is what His love for us compelled Him to do, as He heard our cries….

The response, the world worships Him, we praise Him, we proclaim this love in whatever ways possible, to whomever will listen, that they may know His love… for them, for us.  

That’s why….and whether we are telling about God’s love as a pastor preaching or blogging, or as a friend over lunch, or as a parent telling their kids, that is our mission, why we have been sent…. for we too will learn to hear their cries… and respond in love…. as we worship God with our lives.

AMEN….

(1)   Coverdale, John F. (2014-07-09). Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo (Kindle Locations 1100-1105). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Earthquakes, Rocks, and Death, Worship Stimuli?


Devotional thought of the day: The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

11  Praise him, kings and all peoples, princes and all other rulers; 12  young women and young men, old people and children too. 13  Let them all praise the name of the LORD! His name is greater than all others; his glory is above earth and heaven. Psalm 148:11-13 (TEV)
37  When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen: 38  “God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!” 39  Then some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “command your disciples to be quiet!” 40  Jesus answered, “I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will start shouting.” Luke 19:37-40 (TEV)

878         Everything can be put right… except death. And death puts everything right.  (1)

Last Sunday, as we gathered for worship, I was taken back in time.

My friends were trying to get a hold of her dad, who was up in Napa, whose house was in the middle of the area damaged by the earthquake.

I was taken back to the day of the Northridge earthquake.  we were the people on the other side of the phone.  Well actually we were standing outside of the sidewalk, wondering what was next.  We were there, with so many that lived in our complex.  I remember someone, as the sun came up, started singing, and we all joined into the hymn, praising God.  The following Sunday, in order to break the idea, our Worship Minister, Ken Hawes tried to break the idea by saying, “See what happens if we don’t worship? The rocks cry out like last week.”  Luckily we all loved Ken, and he survived that comment!

The readings this morning reminded me of that comment, and our need to praise God.  Not because He will send a earthquake if we don’t, but because it reveals that we understand why we were created.  To walk with God!  This God, YHWH, is greater than any other.  So incredible, so beyond out imagination, the One who creates and redeems and sustains. The God who calls us to walk with Him.  Who stands beside us, no matter the situation.

Which is why we praise Him.

Not just because of earthquakes, and rocks crying out, though those things can easily remind us of our frailty,

So how does death fit into this?  I am just trying to jam it in, because it was part of my reading this morning?  Not necessarily, though I had to think about how it could be a corollary to the quakes.

Some of the most passionate worship comes as we contemplate death, especially the death of a believer.  like in those moments after the quake, priorities line up in the correct order.

and worship, so mellow and sweet that we know He is present, sweeps through us, and His presence brings peace.  For we, in the face of our weakness, in our helplessness, rejoice in His presence.

The events, whether a quake, or cancer, or even death are not the stimuli for our worship.  God’s majesty, His glory, His love and mercy and peace, He presence stimulates that joy. And in those times, all other things set aside… we see it.

May it be we see it more in other moments of our life as well!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3590-3591). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where’s the Rest of my Story? I Have to Know I Get the Miracle, Don’t I?


Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

8  It was then that some Babylonians took the opportunity to denounce the Jews. 9  They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May Your Majesty live forever! 10  Your Majesty has issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue, 11  and that anyone who does not bow down and worship it is to be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12  There are some Jews whom you put in charge of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who are disobeying Your Majesty’s orders. They do not worship your god or bow down to the statue you set up.” 13  At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the three men to be brought before him. 14  He said to them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you refuse to worship my god and to bow down to the gold statue I have set up? 15  Now then, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, oboes, lyres, zithers, harps, and all the other instruments, bow down and worship the statue. If you do not, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Do you think there is any god who can save you?” 16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17  If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18  But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-18 (TEV)

872         To help you keep your peace during those times of hard and unjust contradictions I used to say to you: “If they break our skulls, we shall not take it too seriously. We shall just have to put up with having them broken.”  (1)

In my devotional this morning, the Old Testament reading was exactly what you see above.

My first reaction was, why stop it here?

Why not give us the rest of the story.  (spoiler alert?)  Why not just let us read on, to the glory, to the miracle of the 4th man? To the repentance of the community in its sins, not just to God, but to me!

I want the rest of the story!  And I want it….. now!

I looked ahead – I don’t get the rest of the story tomorrow!  What is up with that?

What is up with that is the words of faith that the three men said.  They were sure of their trust in God enough to embrace the fact that the story might not end with a miracle, and somehow, they are okay with that.  Somehow, knowing that God is at work is enough, being sure He will keep His promises is enough.

Many martyrs die without receiving what we would want, their release back into the world.  Their freedom from those who would oppress, torture, and eventually kill them.

And they were able to endure, knowing something that their captors did not.

That God, by his very cHesed nature,the depth and height, the breadth and width of His love,  is worthy of the trust that the three men showed.  Even if He didn’t rescue them, even if they didn’t get the miracle they expected.  They knew His love.

May we, as we think through the work of God accomplished in our Baptism, as we meditate on the Body and Blood of Christ, as we hear with absolute delight that our sins are forgiven, that all is made right, know God enough to trust Him, even if we don’t get the miracle we want……

For we have the one we need. The Cross.  (see Romans 6:3-8)

He is our God.

AMEN.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3565-3567). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Task of Ministering to Others ( For pastors, priests, deacons, elders, and all who serve in the church)


Devotional Thought of the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

1  I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2  to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3  Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)

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

The Good Shepherd does not demand that shepherds lay down their lives for a real flock of sheep. But every spiritual shepherd must endure the loss of his bodily life for the salvation of the flock, since the spiritual good of the flock is more important that the bodily life of the shepherd, when danger threatens the salvation of the flock. This is why the Lord says: The good shepherd lays down his life, that is, his physical life, for his sheep; this he does because of his authority and love. Both, in fact, are required: that they should be ruled by him, and that he should love them. The first without the second is not enough.
Christ stands out for us as the example of this teaching: If Christ laid down his life for us, so we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
From an exposition on John by Saint Thomas Aquinas, pastor   (Cap. 10, lect 3)

I received the quote from Thomas Aquinas from a friend who I have never met, yet we feel towards each other like brothers.  He is an older priest in Sicily, just about to turn 80, who still serves a parish.  With the help of google translate, we communicate as we can.

Maybe he sent this to me because of my sermon yesterday, on the passage from Romans above.  Maybe it was his reading this morning at Mass, or in his private prayer and devotional time.  I don’t know.  But on Monday, it is a good, no a very good reading for all of us who serve parishes, whether we are volunteers or paid, ordained ministers or lay ministers.  As we call our group of pastors, deacons, elders at our parish  – the diakonos, simply meaning the servants.

We are called to live sacrificially, yet, eventually we find it is not so sacrificial.  We give of our time, our talents, and our treasure (or give up the opportunity to obtain these things for our own use) to those whom we serve, those who become our children in the faith.  My friend, Fr. Giuseppe, has spent his life as a celibate priest, and yet the pictures of his parish show him with his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in the faith.  Those pictures show a love and care for my friend that is incredible.

But still we are called to sacrifice, our all, our lives, our hearts, Paul would even have sacrificed his own soul ( if he could have) , in order that these people know Christ. In order that this is not just book knowledge, but deep intimate knowledge of His love.  The kind of knowledge that in awe leads to worship, that leads to adoration.

It’s a challenge and blessing because in sacrificing these things, we have to also give up our pride, our vanity.  We have to remember that they and we are broken people, needing Christ’s healing.   We have to be slow to anger, quick to forgive.  Quick to apologize and make things right, long-suffering and patient to guide them toward the repentance they so need.   This is the laying down our lives that Aquinas talks about – perhaps not being physically nailed to the cross, but spiritually, and emotionally, and often figuratively, as we work until we are exhausted and more.

It is an impossible task, this being examples to our flocks. Impossible save one thing.  We have a God who answers our cry for mercy, who is our example, who doesn’t lord it over us, but serves us in love.  That is why the task is all gospel, not law, because we encounter and need Christ in every moment, in every sacrifice.

May we follow the examples of those who have served before, who followed the examples of Christ.

Worship Isn’t A Song or and Event: it is our very life!


Worship Isn’t A Song or and Event

It is our very life!

Concordia Lutheran Church
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ leave you in complete, life changing awe of their love and care for you!

 Not now…. Then!

I would hope by this time of the service; your mind is clear of the distractions of life.  That you are getting ready to engage in what God created you to do, to be.  That you have been encouraged by hearing all your sins are forgiven, that the music has inspired you to look to Christ, that the readings have compelled you to draw closer to Him,

It is nearly time…

In about 30 minutes, after the sermon, after communion, after the Benediction and then we begin to worship!

Yes, you heard me right, we begin to worship!

As Paul tells the church in Rome, it will be time to “give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let all that you are become a holy and living sacrifice. This is the kind of worship that God finds acceptable.”

That is what Paul says, “This is truly the way to worship Him!”

This is what worship is!  It isn’t just sitting in here, singing your hearts out.  It isn’t just kneeling here, as you receive Christ’s precious Body and Blood.  Indeed, those events are part of it; this service should encourage your worship – but it isn’t what worship IS.

Worship isn’t a song, or an event, it is your very life!

So how does this happen?

How it all starts, being in awe, 

I asked a question this week online, and I got an incredible answer.  The question was, “Do we desire God’s presence?  Do we desire Eternity?”

Here is what they wrote”

In answer to your question do we really desire to be in God’s house. Maybe one of the reasons is because we keep trying to make it Our house that elevates Our presence rather than Gods.”

Brilliant theological insight!  We make it about us, rather than God

This insight is exactly what keeps us from a life of worship. We somehow think this is our life, not His, That it is our church, not His. That what matters is what our will desires, not His, that this is our time. Our place, our job, our family, our life. We ignore God’s presence in it, His part, His desires, His plan.

That is why Paul starts out with a discussion about the incredible-ness of God.  He wants us to see God’s glorious nature!  To realize that we cannot understand how thoroughly He works.

Remember, God promised back in chapter 8 that all things work for good for those who love God?  Yeah, we don’t see that all the time, even with 20-20 hindsight. We can’t give Him advice, though we try.

A Life of worship starts in being in Awe of God.

In realizing we can’t know His ways, but we can trust Him.

That we aren’t His guide, He doesn’t need our support; we need His!!

That we can never give Him so much, that He is indebted to us, but that He gives us freely, out of the heart of love.

A life of worship recognizes that He is God, we are His children.  And this realization comes as He reveals Himself through His word.  This life of worship starts as we become find ourselves in awe of God.  As we realize what it means that He has given us the Body and Blood of Christ.

Being transformed

When we find ourselves in awe of God’s work in our lives, the very work He promised, we find ourselves being changed.  Which brings us to step two.

“let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

This is part of the worship, allowing God to convict us our sins, in order that He can cleanse us of them.  Easy to face? No, but knowing in advance that God has promised to heal us and He is doing so, makes our confession different.  It is an act of trust, it is worship!

This transformation isn’t just about being freed from sin.  Hear how Ezekiel describes God’s promise:

26I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27  I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)

This is what God is doing in us, to us, and by the Holy Spirit.  He is transforming us, as Paul says renewing our minds, changing our hearts, counting us not only righteous, but making us holy!

Making us able to trust Him, to live out our faith in worship!

Being Trusting

So as we are in awe of God, as we are being transformed, and as the Spirit takes up residence in us, the change that is made in our lives turns them into a life of worship! We begin to see our actions are being done in praise of God.

That is what Paul is talking about, as he talks about us having a proper perspective about ourselves.  Not how tall, or handsome, or intelligent, or how many things you have suffered through.  No, the way we evaluate ourselves is much simpler and much more real.  Do you trust God?  Are you willing to let Him use you, where God would put you?

How we measure ourselves is based in this simple thought.

If God calls us to use the gift He has given us, will we listen and obey, trusting that He will make it work for good?  No matter whether we get it right, or whether we see the outcome, that it will be a blessing to us, and to all who love Him?

Will you use the gift God has given you, at this time, where you live, work, and hangout?  Will you proclaim God’s love, trusting in Him?
Will you serve others, meeting needs, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, and trusting in Him?
Will you teach those who need to be taught, trusting in Him??
Will you come alongside and lift up those who are down, trusting in Him?
Will you give generously, even sacrificially, knowing that God will care for you?

Each has a different gift, and some different gifts for different periods of their lives, but will you use them, not trusting in things of this world but trusting in God?

Not holding those gifts back, not resisting the transformation that God is doing to us, in us.  That happens as the Holy Spirit works in our lives, causing us to live in and reflect the glory of Christ.

That’s worship!  Whether we are asking God to use our life, singing, or when we put out our finances to support His work, or when we offer a cup of cold orange juice and some pancakes to a hungry person.

Worship is our very life, every moment, for worship is living in awe of His presence, here and now, whenever that here and now is.  Worship is letting God run our lives, wherever He sends us.

Worship is also a life in awe, and therefore in a miraculous peace, for we live with God…. His believed children, and guard in Christ.  AMEN.

How Do I Survive the Dark Times


Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
4  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6  God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)

862         When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.  (1)

When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)


I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed.  Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God.  To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.

This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin.  We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.

Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us.  We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ.   This isn’t it.

Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”,  “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”,  the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.

We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.

It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it.  Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care.  The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!

So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time.  Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light.  Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock

Do We Desire God’s Presence? Do we Desire Eternity?


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day       :This was the church of my parochial school... a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..now used for something else.

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. Psalm 27:4 (TEV) 

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) 

857 Someone we know well told us sincerely, in confidence, that he had never been bored, for he had never been on his own, without our Friend. It was late in the evening, and there was a great silence… You felt very intently the presence of God… And, in the knowledge of that reality, what peace!  (1)

Each morning that I find myself in my office, I start the day with the morning liturgy from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  Each morning I do so, after remembering my baptism while making the sign of the cross, the very next thing is Psalm 27:4. I read the words and often ask myself a question.

Do I really want only that – to live in His house all my life, for all eternity?

Let me confess, I struggle with that, as I imagine you do.

And if I struggle with living with Him here, in this time and place; I also struggle with seeing that which Solomon mentioned, that God has planted eternity in my heart.  For often my heart and mind are not centered there.  Some things I desire may be good and beneficial, like seeing people given the gift of faith, and the promises that come from Baptism and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.  I desire the church to grow, to find reconciliation where it is so needed.  But anxiety over making that happen.

Is my first desire God’s presence, to be where He abides?

There are times it is, and I can think back over the years and long for those times again.  The quiet sanctuaries of my youth, the incredible retreats I’ve been on, the baptisms, the putting into people’s hands the body and blood of Christ. The holding someone’s hand while they passed away, just silently praying.  Praying again with my son, when he fit in the niche of my arm, praying that God would bless him, and through him many people.  They are my treasured times, they are the best moments of my life.

Yes I do desire this, and I cannot but help look forward to eternity, because of promises like this:

9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

The times are precious, when I can sit and meditate on this, when I contemplate my baptism, or the Eucharist, or receiving the incredible news that my sins are absolved.

It is then I realize the peace the Josemaria’s friend new, the silence, the presence of God.  That which we do desire the most, if we take a moment to realize it.

Be still, my friends, and know there is a God, and you are His…..

It is worth every micro-second.  For there eternity, the eternity planted in our hearts is revealed.

For eternity is yours already.  He is with you…

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3511-3515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In the Midst of Trauma…You cling to Christ!


Devotional & Discussion THought fo the Day:Dawn at Concordia
7  Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8  He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9  God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 (NLT)

855         Everything may collapse and fail. Events may turn out contrary to what was expected and great adversity may come. But nothing is to be gained by being perturbed. Furthermore, remember the confident prayer of the prophet: “The Lord is our judge, the Lord gives us our laws, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.” Say it devoutly every day, so that your behaviour may agree with the designs of Providence, which governs us for our own good.  (1)

Twelve years ago, this Sunday, I walked into Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Yucca Valley, and began another transition in my life.  I had been the pastor of a great -non-denomination church in the same town, and served as a hospice chaplain there as well.  It is in the latter experiences that I came to appreciate what I had dismissed for years.  The role of liturgy, especially in regards to repetition done with meaning and emphasis.  All repetition is not vain, itcan easily become so, but it can also become that which drives the message deeply into our heart, past the mind’s memory which can fail, and often does.

I learned this as I would visit people with dementia, or alzheimers, or who were on pain meds to deal with their broken, dying bodies.  They wouldn’t remember my name, or often those around them, but when it came time to pray, something miraculous happened.  Voces that only mumbled would strengthen, their tongues loosen when we read the 23rd psalm.  They would have a sense of calm strength as we recited the Apostles Creed, and oh would their bodies and voices resonate the Lord’s Prayer, or when we would sing “Amazing Grace”, or “It is well!”  Oh and the peace with which they would savor the Lord’s Body and Blood!

In those moments, they found their connection to God, they remembered, deep in their heart and soul, His love.  It for a second or two – or for an magnificent moment, broke through the haze……and they found themselves in the presence of God.

This is exactly what each of us needs, every moment, every day.  To find ours in communion with God, to be Christ’s partner’s. To know His presence to the depth of our souls, to see it shatter the darkness.  This is the glory of Christ, shared with us!

I love what St. Josemaria advises us to memorize.  Oddly, it is a very Lutheran passage.

It notes that God is our judge, that His laws are the ones which govern us, by which we will be judge.  (this is the “Lsw” of “Law and Gospel”)

It then notes that He is our Lord, our King, the One who takes responsibility for us, and will rescue us from the penalty of that law.  (the “Gospel” part”)

We need to know this – we need to have it ingrained on our hearts, our minds, our soul.

We need the fear of being judged, and the calmness that knowing He has saved us brings. We need to cling to Christ in those times where our bodies, our minds, and yes our souls fail us.  To cling to him like someone who thought they were drowning clings to the life guard.  Or perhaps more approariately put – we relax when He clings to us..

May you this day, as you cry out for his mercy, realize that He will keep you strong… that He is faithful to His promises, that He has bound you to Jesus, and therefore you cling to Him.  In that place – there is a peace that cuts through any darkness.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3503-3507). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Necessity of Martyrdom, our Martyrdom.


Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Nazarene and Cross
10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

21  But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the LORD and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.” 2 Samuel 15:21 (NLT) 

I’ve seen all over the Facebook and Twitter the Arabic letter Nain.  Most are putting it up; they claim, in solidarity with the Christians in Mosul and Iraq who are facing persecution and reportedly are being martyred.  The story goes that it is the letter that is being painted on the homes of Christians, to mark and identify them.  It’s a handy little symbol and stands for “Nazarene.”  People are free to harass, persecute and even kill those who live in those homes.

I haven’t seen necklaces and wristbands with the symbol on it yet, but I am pretty sure some entrepreneur will develop them soon.

It’s popular; it’s in vogue, it makes us somehow feel like we are doing something against the evil in their lands.

Most of us aren’t. We may change the photo on our FB.  We might even donate an extra 10 or 20 bucks in the offering plate and designate it for relief.  We might have heard them added to our prayers at church on Sunday, and said amen under our breath. (that assumes we were there, and heard the prayers)

But are we really willing to go to Iraq and stand beside them, and/or take their punishment?  ( Sometime read the story of the martyrdom of Maximilian Kolbe – a catholic saint who did that very thing!)   How far are we willing to take this fight?

And what fight is it?  Is it a fight against injustice, the fight for making sure that no one ever suffers persecution.  It’s a fight that no one ever has to faith death because of their faith?

Or is the fight something against something more insidious, something more evil, evil incarnate, the power of Satan. The power of the one who would accuse us of the sins we have committed and demand that we pay for each and everyone.

Revelation is clear on how that evil is defeated.

1.  By remembering that Christ’s death, the shedding of His Blood cleanses, purifies and sanctifies us.  That God declares us righteous and just because of that blood being shed.

2.  By the words of our martyrdom, the words of  our witness.  It is interesting to note that martyrdom and witness are the same word in Greek. That we are so in awe of #1 that we have to share it with others, That God’s love and desire to save us transforms us into wanting others saved, even at great cost.  For some that means they will dedicate their lives to serving wherever God wants, even if it means forgoing things the rest of us take for granted.  Families, homes. jobs, personal pleasure. For others, it may mean their life.

For all of us, it means sacrificing the idol of self and pleasure.  If we aren’t willing to do even that, can we say we stand in solidarity with those who

3.  #1 and #2 lead to this – that we can’t love our life so much that we aren’t willing to sacrifice, or even portions of it (say a day off or a vacation, or even time with family) that others might know.

Paul talks of standing in solidarity, standing in communion, when he encourages the church to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”  He does it again as he asks us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Jesus’ words about those that would save their life must offer it up.   In each, solidarity is not seen apart from martyrdom,  In each we take up our cross, we willingly pay the price that others would know that God can be trusted, even through death

It goes deeper – for we are united with Christ’s martyrdom, with His witness, with His cross.  There is where we find our salvation, our deliverance, in the fact that He didn’t cling to life, but gave up Himself, for us.  You see that Nazarene died for us, even as some die for Him, even as we who live are living sacrifices to Him. Without His cross – without our unity to Him in it, our symbolism is void and worthless.

May we embrace whatever shame, whatever cost, whatever sacrifice is necessary, for the joy that was set before Him and before us.

Lord have mercy on us!

Neurodivergent Rebel

Rebelling against a culture that values assimilation over individuality.

Be Inspired..!!

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

www.carlflynn.net/

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

Julian Stockwin

action-adventure historical fiction

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Kosovo Baseball Initiative

Bringing Baseball to Kosovo

Annalisa Drew

The Ski Adventures of Annalisa Drew

Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait?

Just another WordPress.com site

lhsthriftshop

Just another WordPress.com site

A Good Life

Leaving Cancer Behind

Do Not Fear but Believe

Jesus tells us to be not afraid, so choose wisely

W.onderful W.orld of W.adholms

Random Reflections on Life, Theology, and the Bible

Good Morning Jesus

Let's have a daily conversation with Jesus!

46 Psalm

Be still and know that I am God

Christy Rawls :: Encouraging, Equipping, Empowering Others

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

A Peculiar Prophet

The Blog of Will Willimon

%d bloggers like this: