Monthly Archives: November 2014

Final Preparations For Christ’s Second Coming


 Final Preparations For His Coming

Mark 11:1-10Featured image

IHS

 As You Realize the Depth of the Grace and Peace of God our Father, and Jesus our Lord, May Your Cry for Him to Save Us Become More Confident and Filled With Wonder and Expectation!

 They’ll Be Here Any Second!

You look at your watch, or maybe the clock on the microwave, and as your heart begins to beat faster, you wonder where the last forty-five minutes went!

The company will be here any moment, and you so aren’t ready.

The appetizers are perfect, but you haven’t changed from your bathrobe and pajamas, for that matter, you realized you haven’t showered yet!

The rest of the house, you know, the parts that you asked for help in getting cleaned up, well they are worse than when you asked for help1

The extra chairs are still in the garage, the laundry basket is empty, all over floor.

And as you leave the kitchen to get looking half presentable, you notice you forgot to turn on the oven, and the turkey is still thawing in the sink!

IS this the ultimate nightmare, or worse… reality?

Many people get stressed when company is coming over…. They want things to be perfect for their guests. Perhaps some of us aren’t that noble.  We know life isn’t perfect, but we like it when others think that our lives are!

If we are so concerned about company coming over and finding lives, what concern do we have about Jesus coming back, and finding us ready?

As we spend these weeks prior to Christmas thinking about Jesus’ incarnation and His second coming, we are going to look Advent prayers and preparations. Wednesday Nights we’ll study the prayers in the Bible for Jesus to return, and on Sunday’s we’ll look at how to be prepared, how to be ready.

So let’s begin looking at the final preparations for Advent, or is it Easter!

Easter or Advent?

It may seem a little odd to begin Advent with a reading from Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry.  The beginning of the week leading to Good Friday and Easter. There is a reason.  When the shepherds looked down on Jesus in the manger, they had no clue what it would take to be the Savior. A year or so later, as the wise men presented Jesus gifts, they didn’t know either.  

The disciples have walked with Him for years.  They’ve heard him teach about the Father’s love because of firsthand experience. They’ve seen Jesus heal lepers, give sight to the blind, feed thousands with a few sardines and small roles of bread. They’ve seen Him raise people from the dead.

The Messiah is about to establish His reign over everything, and it is for this reason that He came.  To answer the prayer the people cried out Praise the Lord, as they cried out Hosanna!  (which means save us!)  Everything’s ready for that which had been a mystery from the beginning is about to occur….

It’s almost ready… just a few final preparations.

Are We Willing to Go Get the Donkey…

There is always one task that everyone hates, that has to be done when company’s coming over.  Maybe it’s taking out the trash, maybe it’s cleaning the toilet bowl.

I can’t imagine taking the walk to town to pick up a young unbroken donkey, and dragging it back to Bethany was the greatest of jobs.  But someone had to do it, and these two disciples had to go deal with the donkey.

Some of us may be sent on similar missions still to deal with stubborn donkeys and bring them to Jesus. Some of us are as stubborn and that unbroken donkey.

But are we willing to listen to God’s direction that clearly?  Are we willing to go and take on a task that isn’t glamorous, and may be more than a bit difficult?  These two disciples played a role in fulfilling prophecy, but I am not sure they knew that.  I can imagine one of them wondering if they could find this donkey, the other wondering if no one asked them, would they be charged with Grand Theft Donkey?

Our lives are often like their task that day. We aren’t sure why God wants us to work with donkeys, or why He doesn’t just wipe out those we think are enemies.  Why this action is good, but why doing that is a sin, and doing that is labelled an abomination.   We don’t have the answers, and our answer is the same as those disciples, simply telling people what we are told, by God.

But will we accept that His answer is good enough?

What advent is about is to prepare to welcome the King, to welcome the Messiah who comes in the name of the Lord God Almighty!  Are we ready for that day? Have we done that which He asks, in preparation for that day when He comes, and everyone praises Him?

We are called into this relationship, into this family of God. Are  we waiting for His return!  Will we be found ready?  Or will we be still trying to figure out why we have to work with donkeys?

A Word of Hope!

The anxiety of company arriving at any moment can be matched, when we consider our own work, as we strive to become ready for the second coming of Christ.  Paul addresses that in his letter to the church in Corinth,
I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. 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!

That is the key to Advent, the key to being prepared for Christ’s return.  He isn’t coming to check out that all the trash cans so clean you could eat out of them, or that the toilet is that clean, or even that the feast is perfectly prepared.  He’s coming to see if we are ready to enter the Father’s presence, following behind him like the crowds did on Palm Sunday.

How we are prepared?  We know what God has done, and is doing. We know about the cross, about Jesus dying that we could be free from all blame. That what scripture promises about Christ is true here, in this place.  It is true for all that believe and are baptized!  We are prepared when we have trust in God’s work in this place.  When we know and use the gifts God has given to us, given to us because we belong to Jesus Christ.  When we know that Jesus will keep us strong, and free from all blame.  Because He is faithful we trust in Him, and we look forward to what is promised.

I love verse 8 – we have to hear it again,

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. 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!

There is our hope, and there is the hope of the world, that in Christ, people are free from all blame and will be when He returns. For God has promises this welcomed you into a community led by Jesus!  This is how we prepare for Advent.  We realize our need for Him, our desperate need, and trust that He will meet it!

May our trust in God be seen, as we work with Him, even as His return draws closer!

Amen!

An Advent Resolution: Get a grip!


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. 14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. Hebrews 12:12-17 (NLT)

396      Renew your firm resolution to live your Christian life right now, at every moment and in all circumstances.  (1)

In a little over a month, people will be making sincere resolutions, that will be broken in a month or two.  Some will simply give up, others will be forced by life to change their resolution, until it is no longer visible.  A few will keep them, losing the weight, doing better at their work, spending more time with their family, making a determined try to be at church every week, and Bible Study as well!  Even perhaps, double their time in prayer and God’s word.

As I came across the reading from Hebrews this morning, I was already thinking about how this season of advent is one of rededication, of a renewed commitment.  It is a penitential (2) season, a time of reflection, of prayer, of admitting our need to remember we are God’s children, and that Jesus will return.  This passage is a great one to reflect on, in this case. these are the things we haven’t done well. THe author of Hebrews calls the church to repentance with a clarity that is still amazing,

  • We haven’t walked the paths that God would have us walk
  • We haven’t supported those who are spiritually weak or lame,
  • We need to be better living at peace with others,
  • We need to see that our lives are set apart for walking with God, to seeing Him in our lives
  • We need to watch out for the poison of bitterness, which can corrupt us.
  • We need to understand and treasure what our “birthright” is; what is promised to us when God cleanses us and claims us as His children in the sacramental waters of baptism.
  • We need to realize that life is too short, that tossing aside all the blessings of God will have a consequence.  It is not a scare tactic to describe a time when tears and begging will not replace what has been tossed aside.

Do we even feel remorse in reading this list?  Does it bring us to tears to realize how we have failed, how we haven’t live as those who are God’s children? Or are our minds already trying to justify ourselves, just accepting our sin as some sort of undeniable reality?   Are we ashamed of how we behaved, does it rock us to consider it?

If it doesn’t, how do we see salvation?  Do we not celebrate with as much joy our salvation?  Do we fail to see how incredible the love of God is, in Jesus delivering us from power of sin, satan and assuring that death has no lasting sting?   Is this why our worship is weak?

It’s time to get a hold of why we need to be saved, why we need to be granted repentance, and a faith in God which calls us near, so that He can heal us, so that He can transform us, so that our salvation is no longer neglected.  To do what Hebrews 12 starts the chapter with,

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, 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.  Hebrews 12:1-2a (NLT)

We so need to focus on Jesus, to trust Him, to let Him work on our lives.  He is the one who brought us to life in faith, who redeemed us.  We need to remember He is the one who will perfect us, work with us, comfort us, and yes cleanse us.  Restoring us, calling us back to trusting in Him.

Such a season of advent brings strength ot our lives of prayer, not because we are holy, but because our holiness finds its source, its life as we cling to Him.

May we remember we cry, “Lord, have mercy” and “Lord Save Us”…. that we may cry it all the more often, and be sure it is always answered.

So hear is your resolution:  Get a grip, make your resolution, to realize the presence and work of God in our lives.  AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) A Penitential Season (like Advent and Lent) is a time of repentance, of sorrow for our sins (both individual and corporate) tempered with the expectation of the coming of grace

Why Love Isn’t What Is Needed to Combat Hatred


Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)

2  This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3  For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. Psalm 91:2-3 (NLT)

For the past week, I have been getting more and more weary.  As I see people respond to the unrest in places like Ferguson, or the despair in places like Detroit, as I see the hatred that the President’s actions took regarding immigration, I find myself getting more and more depressed.

If you go – well, of course, look what THEY are doing, please keep reading. For I see the anger and hatred in the reactions of both sides of the issues.  It’s just not electronic social media, you can’t even eat lunch in public place without hearing the hatred, the condescension, the call for others to change, but rarely, very rarely, the call to reconciliation, to coming together, to true fellowship.  We even create ways to mock the injustice we perceive, not seeing the mocking as less than just…

Some have hated the hating.  Demanding that others love, asking why can’t “THEY”  just get along.  Or quoting platitudes about love and hate as if people were easily capable of the former, and able to just stop the latter.  As if we could stop sinning with the snap of a finger, as if we could love without self-sacrifice, as if life was as simple as platitudes and the memes which present them.

I entitled this blog “Why Love isn’t what is needed to combat hatred”, because I keep seeing such memes, such advice.  It’s as if this is a war between good and evil, a war between love and hate.  It’s not. good doesn’t conquer evil, and love cannot hate hatred enough to go to war against it.  What turns love into something that can hatred is fear, fear created because of a lack of what we do need.

Faith.

For without faith in God, faith in Christ’s work on the cross, trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, what we call love, is not love.  It is not the cHesed type of love which sacrifices and bears every burden, so as to bless and reconcile the relationship.  Without faith/trust in God we can’t cope with the pain of others, we can’t stop the fear of being hurt again, we can’t cope with the anxiety that living in a sin-plagued world brings.

When you have a moment, look at home many times the psalms call God a refuge?  It takes faith/trust to see this. Or how God is described as our hiding place, (and include Colossians 3:2) in that.  Look at what God can do to evil, when we trust in Him as our focus, rather than fighting back.  Joseph did this, Paul learned to do this from Stephen.  David did this when Saul was after him.

In order to love, we have to have the faith, the confidence that God will make all things work for good, even though waiting for that good will be…challenging. For we must trust God through the pain, through what we perceive as evil, knowing that He is Lord, that He is our refuge, that we are protected, our hearts and minds, by Jesus.  For as we dwell in Him, the Father surrounds us with peace, the peace that comes from finding refuge.

Lord, help us to trust you more than being repulsed by hatred… and help us love and sacrifice, that all would come to know You1


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1565-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Waiting For Our Prodigals…..Be Like a….


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

11  And he said, There was a man who had two sons. 12  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.And he divided his property between them. 13  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

32  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32 (ESV)

380      Would that you could acquire, as I know you would like to, the virtues of the donkey! Donkeys are humble, hardworking, persevering—stubborn!—and faithful, with a sure step, tough and—if they have a good master—also grateful and obedient.

In the last few months I’ve had a number of parents of adult and teenage children who’ve come to me for prayer.  I hope and pray that my words gave them both hope and comfort.

The issue is often morality, in a couple of the situations, the immorality has led to horrendous consequences.  The trauma on the parents is beyond anything I’e ever experienced. In the others, the fear of such trauma is intense, and seemingly unending. In both cases, fear and pain can seem unending, and reactions from those points can cause even more damage.  Matter of fact, our lack of wisdom may cause more fear and anxiety. Those thoughts, words and actions we know are irreversible, but they aren’t beyond reconciliation.

So what do we do as parents, as pastors, as we wait for our prodigals to return?  How do we deal with the anxieties, as our prodigals are away, enjoying themselves, or living with hogs in the mud?  We don’t know all the story.  We do the story of the prodigal, and hope that our situations will resolve in the same manner.  We look out from our house often, looking down the road for some hope.  We hear a car turn into our driveway, and our hearts are crushed, because it isn’t our prodigal.

Where do we find hope in this?  What can help us find peace, find healing ourselves?  What can help us, between the time they run off to follow strange desires, ignore logical morality, and turn their back on God?  How do we avoid taking on the attitude of the cynical older brother, or just giving up hope, declaring the person dead to us?

We have to know the heart of Father, revealed in passages like this:

11  “I, the Sovereign LORD, tell you that I myself will look for my sheep and take care of them 12  in the same way as shepherds take care of their sheep that were scattered and are brought together again. I will bring them back from all the places where they were scattered on that dark, disastrous day. 13  I will take them out of foreign countries, gather them together, and bring them back to their own land. I will lead them back to the mountains and the streams of Israel and will feed them in pleasant pastures. 14  I will let them graze in safety in the mountain meadows and the valleys and in all the green pastures of the land of Israel. 15  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will find them a place to rest. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken. 16  “I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick; but those that are fat and strong I will destroy, because I am a shepherd who does what is right. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (TEV)

This is our God, the Shepherd who diligently searches for His sheep, to bring them to restoration.  Who hears our prayers, our cries, our grief.  Who longs to rejoice when they come home.  Who will never stop working to grant them repentance, transformation. You are not alone in your desire, and knowing that, we can find the patient hope we need to wait.  We can find sustenance and rest.  We can entrust them to God, knowing His love, and we can entrust ourselves to God at the same time.

Find you rest, your strength in Him. Know the peace of God, and that we can be like the Donkeys that Josemaria encourages us to be like. ( instead of the jackasses we could become! ) Faithful, stubbornly holding out hope, persevering, taking the right steps, one at a time, knowig our Master will guide us, for we dwell in His presence…..

And hopeful, for the Lord Almighty hasn’t forgotten our loved ones for a moment….

Lord, I pray for my friends, who children and grandchildren are caught up in things beyond them.  Who have strayed, who have lost for the moment in darkness, in fog.  Lord, be with them, and with those they love.  Bring hope, bandage the wounds, given strength and sustain them.  Help us to realize that You are reaching out to them, calling them to come home, and give us patience until we see them in Your Hands.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who lies and reigns with you an the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1488-1490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven #11: We’re Here! and It’s Time for the Feast!


Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven #11Featured image
We’re Here! and It’s Time for the Feast!
Ezekiel 24

† IN JESUS NAME †

As You Look into Eternity, May the Grace, the Mercy and Peace of God the Father and our Shepherd Jesus Christ, Bring You Comfort and Build Your Desire for His Return!

Will We Get There… On Time?

Eleven weeks ago, we started on this sermon series, a look at our journey through our life together towards heaven. Today, on the day we celebrate the coronation of Jesus Christ our savior, we come to the end of the sermon series….

We celebrate looking forward to the day, when our journey with Him ends, when we arrive home in His presence and celebrate a feast more incredible than any we have ever experienced.

So this is the one last lesson about our journey in the backseat – on our way toward Heaven.

There is one person in every family, who stands at the door, waiting for everyone else to finally get ready. They are worried about traffic, and being on time. The rest of us are possibly frustrating them, as they don’t want to be late for the plane, or for church, or for dinner. Maybe especially for dinner.

I mean, how many of you want to be late for a holiday dinner?

My dad was the one who waited by the door, or more likely, out in the car. My sister would be hogging the bathroom saying she needed to get ready, my brother watching television, and I probably had my head in a book. My mom would be trying to get us all out to the car… and she had a hard job.

Years later, I would find out my dad’s strategy, when he set the time we “needed” to leave on a car trip, he would always add 20 minutes to his estimation, so that we were actually in the car when we should have been, and we’d arrive on time, a few minutes before the feast would begin.

He would make sure we got there, on time, not because he drove fast, but because he put in place a plan.

God has a plan, and as we look towards the end of this age, and see the plan God has revealed, we will realized that He planned well. We will arrive before the throne of God on time, and the feast will begin!

He has promised this, and He is the faithful shepherd! It is His journey, His ministry towards us.

Distractions Along the Road

As we read Ezekiel 34, our Old Testament text this morning, God commits to going out and find every one of His scattered children.

They are all lost in the dark, in a fog. They have been scattered, they aren’t where they should be, all together, in the presence of the One who loves them. His commitment is to find them, to bring them home, to help them at any cost, even if they as so confused, so stressed, they don’t recognize at first that He is God. That He is their shepherd.

Scattered, lost, in the dark, their minds fogged and confused, the people God loves need help, they need rest, and they to be fed, to be restored. But they have to be found, they have to be rounded up, they need to come home.

In verse 16, the promise is made again, specifically noting that they have strayed away. The word there is the same word in Hebrew for being seduced, being tempted – and the world does that all too well. Think of how materialistic our society has become, and we see one of the ways Satan tempt us, seduces us. We covet power and authority, tempted to believe that if we have it our way, it will all come out right. We make idols our minds, or our hearts, and they demand that we sacrifice everything to satisfy our own desires…..and our hearts drive us away from God, because of sin.

In verse 20 there is another reason why sheep have to be found, have to be rescued and restored.

20 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. 21 For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands.

I’ve met many people over the years that describe church in words like these. Some feel driven away, because it took too long to find a way to meet their needs. Others feel that way because the church. Others feel driven from the church, because those entrusted to share God’s grace, do not, but instead condemn those looking for forgiveness.

This is a challenge, because too often we look at the incident, rather than acknowledge the feelings we see develop from the situation. Whether the situations are as the people perceived it occurring or not, the feelings are valid. They feel driven off, they feel broken and even abused by other sheep. Rarely is one side completely accurate, there are two sides to every story, but the feelings are what drive the people away, or cause resentment to build until the pain is too much to bear, and the flock is scattered.

Sometimes this is done intentionally, but more often than not, we can drive people away because we are so hungry ourselves, so in need of God’s love. It is as if we don’t believe God can care for all of us, and so we fight like triplets for our Father’s attention.

When we sin against someone, when they sin against us, those sins can be brutal, and can drive people away from the church, where God’s put His name… so they can know His love! If we realize we’ve done this, we need to ask forgiveness, if it’s done to us, we need to offer it. We all need to seek reconciliation.

The Rescue

I’ve mentioned this before, when Jesus died to pay for sin, He didn’t just pay for those we’ve committed. Yes, He has rescued us, delivered us from the sins caused by our desires. But He has also rescued his people from the sins committed against them, the times where the fat sheep have driven others away….intentionally or not intentionally.

God goes after us, rescuing us from the darkness, rescuing us from that which clouds our lives. Over and over in scripture that is the promise,

Here it with your name placed there, instead of sheep

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find (your name). 12 I will be like a shepherd looking for (your name). I will find my (your name) and rescue (your name) from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.

and again,

“I will feed (your name) on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where (your name) live(s). 14 Yes, I will give (your name) good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There (your name) will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. 15 I myself will tend (your name) and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for my lost ones, including (your name) who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak including (your name).

and finally

23 And I will set over (your name) one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed (your name) and be a shepherd to (your name). 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people (the church). I, the LORD, have spoken!

This is what God does, He rescues us, makes us His children through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the death and resurrection we are bound to in baptism. He quickens us, brings us to life and faith and repentance, and calls us to journey home with Him.

It is that journey we’ve heard about, as we’ve been asked to “get along back there”, to give up the trash we’ve been hoarding in our lives, as we’ve asked, “are we there yet” and cried “it isn’t fair”, as we’ve realized the beauty of the journey is found in making it with Christ, as we’ve depended upon the Holy Spirit, as we count on Jesus to be our way home, into the presence of the Father, into His glorious presence.

Now it’s time for a feast, a feast that will be complete at the marriage feast of the lamb, when the last prophecies come true, when we hear,

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.

Until that day, live in His peace…for there is safety and security, found in Jesus Christ. AMEN!

Here is an audio version of the sermon:

Can You Hear Him Now?


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

24  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26  But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

364      When are you going to make up your mind! Many people around you live a life of sacrifice simply for human reasons. These poor people forget they are children of God and act the way they do perhaps only out of pride, or to excel, or to be more comfortably off later on in life. They give up all kinds of things! And you, who carry the sweet burden of the Church, of your family, your colleagues and friends, motives for which it is worthwhile sacrificing yourself, what are you doing about it? With what sense of responsibility are you reacting?

Maybe it is helping that guy who is begging, not just giving him five bucks, but actually offering real help, and the respect that befits a child of God.  Maybe it is going out of your way to bring someone to church, or staying for the Bible study, so they can as well.  Maybe it is giving up a saturday morning, or some event you were hoping for, or stepping aside so someone else can do that which you love to do. Maybe it is opening up your house to a missionary who needs a place to stay while in the states, or to someone you know – who can’t live where they did.

Maybe it is forgiving that person who hurt you last week, or 20 years ago.  Deciding to let God judge the situation, rather than seek revenge, or hold in that resentment.

Maybe it is simple, sacrificing a meal, or a movie a week or a month, and sending the money to help a missionary in Papua New Guinea, or a Syrrian or Iraqi refugee in Turkey, or a kid in Kosovo learn about Jesus, while learning to play baseball.  (btw – I know how to make all those happen – contact me if they strike a nerve) Maybe it is going on the mission field youself, or taking your family on the field for a year or 10.

May it is humbling yourself to go to that person you offended, giving up your pride, asking for forgiveness, intent on seeing one thing happen.  Reconciliation.

If you listen to Jesus’ call to follow Him, you will hear a call to sacrifice, a call to humility, a call to go beyond just going to church a sunday a month, or maybe a bible study.  You will hear a call to go, a call to be there as He calls people to faith (even at your work, or at a doctor’s office, or at Walmart, or in the Philippines)  You will look for people in need, and your heart will break, even as Christ’s broke when he saw the widow mourn the loss of her son, or as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.

What are you willing to sacrifice?  That isn’t the question.

What is worth hanging onto, when Jesus is calling you to hear His word?  Will you hear Him calling, when He asks if you love him, not more than things, but with everything you are?  Will you hear Him, see Him, loving you that way?

Look to the cross…. hear, see, know His love…..

For as that happens, all you are, will become something you can demonstrate your love to Him with, as you love those around you….

Can you hear Him?  Listen…. and Love

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1434-1439). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church’s Mission is NOT to Convert People


Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

 26  Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:26 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

Every once in a while, I hear a financial appeal for finances from a mission group. While they may never use the word “heathen”, that is what they are really saying.  It may be to a inner city mission, or some foreign field in the middle of a desert, or swamp, or jungle.  But the idea is that we must convert them, win them to Christ.  Some may say they’ve had so many say a “sinner’s prayer”, or decisions for Christ. Others talk about the numbers of baptisms.

What they are focusing on is that moment when someone “becomes” a believer, the moment they were “saved”.

But the church isn’t in the business of converting people, of a one time moment that changes life, or at least gives us a guaranteed visa to heaven.

That isn’t what Jesus did, not is it what we are commissioned to do.

We are told to make disciples of all nations, not convert them.  

Jesus didn’t tell Peter and Andrew, or James and John to just believe in Him.  He didn’t ask Matthew the tax collector to do that either. 

What God is after, what He desires isn’t a nice photo album of those who repented of their sins at a crusade, or who were convinced by a logical apologetic speech or emotional appeal.. He wants a family, people who are His, who know He is theirs. A relationship where He can bless His children and care for them.  Where He can teach them and share His glory with them.

You might say, that’s what conversion does.  And yes, there is a quickening, a bringing to life.  A baptism, a prayer, a confession of trusting God.  But our transformation, that work of the Trinity in our lives takes a lifetime, the promised completion date is Christ’s return.

What does this matter?  Why am I saying our goal isn’t to make converts?  Why can’t conversion be our mission our goal?

Image a lady, who wants to become a mother. Has she achieved her goal the moment conception occurs?  Or is there 9 months of pregnancy, and then years of sacrifices and successes, of joy and sorrows?

Our journeys only begins at baptism, our life in Christ starts there, when we go from not knowing God, to finding Him revealed in our lives so clearly that we trust Him. Where a relationship occurs as we walk with Him, as we are taught by Him, as we enjoy this life He has brought us.

We don’t want to just convert people, we want to see them become our brothers and sisters, we want our Father in heaven to adopt them….. our mission is far longer, far deeper, far more important than winning a debate.

It’s helping them to walk with God….. to know His love and mercy. To realize that nothing else is important, compared to walking with God.

to know when we cry together, “Lord Have Mercy!”. He answers.

That is what being missional is about, about what the apostolate is about.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Daily War of Renewal and Rebirth


Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image
21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 7:21-25 (NLT) 

344      For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then, with God’s help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!

I have read that Luther advised us to remember our baptism every morning as we prayed, and every evening as we prayed before sleep.  There is a reason for it, to strengthen our knowledge and trust in God, because each day has its own evil, because we will be tempted and fail.

Though some would deny it, the miserable battle Paul identifies above in the Christian goes on daily.  If we examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11)  We must deal with the misery of the guilt and shame we bring upon ourselves, as we fail, as we sin.  As I write this, I am listening to the music from Les Mis, and the song where Javert commits suicide.  Why? Because he knows the war between justice and mercy.  He can’t imagine a world where mercy trumps justice, where love and grace triumph over the law.  Such is Paul’s world – the misery he refers to, the danger to the journey towards love that Escriva mentions as well.

We remember our baptism at night so that we can est in peace, knowing God is merciful, and promised to forgive us.

We pray in the morning, remembering and being thankful as well, knowing that this rebirth and renewal will mark our day.  That we will expect to see God’s work in our day, in our lives, in our interactions.

For without such, our struggle becomes impossible, we forget that there is no condemnation when we are found in Christ.  Instead there is peace, and healing, and assuredness that the Holy Spirit is working there,  We would believe that sin or temptation could separate us from the love of God, that God is limited, and can’t make even the sin we repent of work out for good, for those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.

It is as Paul taught Titus:

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)

But this is a truth we need throughout our days, the truth of being reborn in Christ, of being forgiven, of being shown grace.

that is the way to a victorious Christian life…. to realize our need for the gospel… in our lives, and the hope of it for those around us as well.

Lord have mercy on us sinners!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1356-1359). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Commissioned Masterpiece: A Life of Obedience, and Grace.


Devotional Thought of The Day:Featured image

16  “Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true. (Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me.) 17  The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18  “If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19  Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed.” 20  Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: The LORD has saved his servant Israel! Isaiah 48:16-20 (TEV)

Consequently this teaching concerning faith is not to be accused of forbidding good works but is rather to be praised for teaching that good works are to be done and for offering help as to how they may be done. For without faith and without Christ human nature and human strength are much too weak to do good works,call upon God, have patience in suffering, love one’s neighbor, diligently engage in callings which are commanded, render obedience, avoid evil lusts, etc. Such great and genuine works cannot be done without the help of Christ, (1) 

333      The best way of showing our gratitude to God is to be passionately in love with the fact that we are his children.  (1)
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I was amazed to see the tension between obedience and grace.

God teaches very clearly that what we miss when we disobey Him are the blessings of a life lived in peace, a life lived full of blessings, a life lived content, and flourishing in ways beyond our imagination.

Instead, we treat His law with disdain.  Before we come to know His grace, we dismiss it as archaic.  We think it has no relevance to our lives.  We believe we know better, and we toss it aside the way in favor of what we think i right.  (and it seems that everyone of us has our pet sins to declare good, even as we have our pet sins to condemn)

But those that don’t follow Jesus aren’t the only ones to dismiss the life, the masterpiece God has in mind for us.  We see that in the blue quote above.  For some have been accused of forbidding good works, and some have denied that what God has commissioned should have any influence on the life of those who have been called into a relationship with God.  There are different ways this is done, a denial of the third use of the law is a technical way of describing it.  Others will talk about being free from the bondage of sin, the power of satan and the fear of death and God’s wrath as a freedom to do that which they want – for God in the New Testament is only a God of law, and not of judgment.  There are some who see the issue that we cannot earn or merit God’s coming to us meaning that we should just give up being good, or somehow we will automatically believe and do what is right.  (Those who say this ignore that Romans 7 discourse is part of the larger 6-8 discussion about the struggle with sin)

The Psalmist doesn’t leave us thinking of what could have been, if we obeyed.  He does hold that out, he does make it clear that the way of life God commissions is not for His benefit – but ours.  It is having realized this, that we can then hear the glorious news, God has been merciful, He has saved us.  He’s adopting us, cleansing us, claiming us.  He has delivered us, saved us, reconciled us, redeemed us, rescued us, loved us.

Obedience, what the lutheran confessions call “New Obedience” then comes from seeing what God commissions/commands as a son taking instruction from his Father, learning the family business and the tasks we work as we walk with Him.  Think of a dad teaching his son to play catch, or how to change a bicycle tire, or a mom teaching her daughter to cook (yes I know I am using old fashioned traditional types).  The instruction is beneficial, practical and present.  Not a Lord’s laws layed down, but a Father’s guidance, which can be heard and put into practice, for when it is heard, the heart receives it as well as the mind.

That’s what grace does. It teaches us that God is our Father, our caring, loving Father who desires the best for us, and is wise enough to know it.  Are we gong to screw up, disobey, struggle and even rebel?  Yes, but like the prodigal, we will remember Him, and His love.

Obedience, the fruit of grace and mercy, and dependent upon it.

Lord, thank you that you have mercy on us!.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 46). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1320-1321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lessons of Nostalgia….and Thinking/Being Home


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

1  Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2  Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:1-2 (NLT)

331      Rest in divine filiation (the love between father and son). God is a Father—your Father!—full of warmth and infinite love. Call him Father frequently and tell him, when you are alone, that you love him, that you love him very much!, and that you feel proud and strong because you are his son.  (1)

I have spent this fall in an interesting sermon series, one that has made me go back and look at part of my youth.  In the middle of the series, I went home, driving the same roads that I’ve talked about in the series, walking the same paths my Dad and I trod with my son.  Re-living those conversations when I was sitting in the backseat – a young child with his siblings.

It has been painful along the way, my dad passed away last year, and many of the journeys, to my old elementary school, to Lake Ossipee, to the beaches at Salisbury, even to the old candlepin bowling alley, brought back many memories, some good, some challenging.  Lots of tears, and the odd reversal – now I was the dad, now I had a son.

All of this – there sermon series recounting backseat conversations of childhood, the trip, it all coalesces into a huge lesson of nostalgia, and a realization about God’s presence.

I overlooked – to an extent – the verse above in Sunday’s sermon.  There is a lot there – He is our home, or as we heard a couple of weeks ago, our refuge. But to hear God is our home, the place we come to be nourished, to be sae, to come when we are sick and find healing and rest.  There is a blessing there that goes beyond explanation.  To realize we are the children of our Heavenly Father, that we are on this journey to our home, is overwhelming.

It even overwhelms the overwhelming challenges of this life.

He is our Dad, our Father, the one in whom we trust.

With Him, we are Home.

And He is here… with us.

Amen

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1312-1315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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