Monthly Archives: August 2017
Devotional Thought for our days
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to you who have been made holy in Christ Jesus. You were called to be God’s holy people with all people everywhere who pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:2-3 NCV
This illustration is applicable in every detail to participation in God. The ancient fathers write that baptism is likened to a marriage. Marriage includes a renunciation, a turning away from the single life, a ritual of union, a united vision, a transformation of life as two lives are made one. Marriage implies living together. It is not an experience that, when ritualized between two people, makes no difference in their lives. When two people, united in marriage, return to their old lives, the marriage will at worst die and at best lack any kind of growing relationship according to the I-Thou dynamic.
We talk often about our faith, about the doctrines of our faith, about defending our faith, about the keeping the faith of our fathers pure and undefiled. We define our Christian faith, and then those who aren’t quite up to speed with our doctrine or practices.
But how often do we talk of our faithfulness, or encourage each other to be faithful to God?
It is time.
We have to talk of our calling, our vocation, not primarily in regards to how we worship corporately, or how often we share our faith in this broken world, or how much we give to missionaries or to care for those who have less.
Those acts of faith are good, but they are meaningless if we are not faithful to God, if we don’t realize our primary calling is to be His people, His children, the bride of Jesus Christ.
Our first calling is not to be pastors, evangelists, elders, worship leaders, defenders of the faith. Our primary vocation is not to be parents, employees, however, we define our lives.
Our primary vocation is our deep, abiding, intimate relationship with God. To dwell with Him, as He loves us in ways that only can be described as glorious, praise-worthy, mind-blowing. (Even when we struggle!_
Paul describes that calling as being part of God’s holy people who pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Hebrews 4:16 he describes us being able to confidently approach God’s throne, for there we will receive His mercy and grace, for we belong there.
It is as Dr. Webber talks of, where a married couple lives together, lives as one. That is our relationship with God ( see Eph. 5:21 and following) This relationship we have with God is the most precious thing we have in this life, and without it, nothing we have is worth anything, in fact, if we cling to them, they are liabilities, serious liabilities.
You and I need our time with God, our time where we are reminded of His glory, his value, and the power He exerts in our lives, the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. (Eph.120 ) Just as a couple needs quiet intimate time together (I am not just talking about sex) so we need that time with God, deep, powerful, intimate time where God floods us with His peace, and causes us to rest, free from the crap of this world.
Our time with Him restores us, even reconciles us back to Him when we need to know His mercy and forgiveness.
This is the power behind sacramental times, like communion, where we break from our lives and kneel before Him, not just humbly, but expectantly, to receive the blessing of Christ’s body and blood. Or in the sacramental time where we hear that we can go, our sin is forgiven, or in the sacramental time of prayer, when we live in the promise of our baptism.
We need this rest, this time of Sabbath peace, this moment where we know we know we are loved… and we learn to love back.
Lord Jesus, help us to cry out to you, in need, or in joy. Help us to treasure our time where we confidently enter Your presence and share in Your glorious love and peace. Lord, reconcile us and restore, and help us to seek You first, and always. AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought for our days:
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)
817 The heart! From time to time, without your being able to help it, your all too human memory casts a crude, unhappy, “uncouth” shadow on your mind. Go to the tabernacle immediately, at least in spirit, and you will return to light, happiness and Life.
It seems like everyone is getting one everyone’s nerves the days. People are either ticked off at someone or getting ticked off at those who are ticked off at someone, or perhaps hurt that someone they care for is ticked off.
Or perhaps we are dealing with just our own brokenness, the fact that life isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Finances may be tight, work seems impossible, family demands/needs are being left behind and we can’t keep up. And the stress we are under causes us to struggle with those around us.
Life simply isn’t supposed to be like this.
St. Josemaria mentions this morning that our heart can cast shadows on our mind. He notes we are helpless to stop these shadows, our memories, as our brokenness affects our thoughts and how we live.
St Josemaria directs us to go to the tabernacle, a place where we are reminded of CHrist’s love, of His sacrifice, of His presence. Luther would have you go to your baptismal font for the same, my preference is the altar rail, where you receive Christ’s body and blood. where you are told your sins are forgiven because Jesus loves you enough to die for you.
These sacramental places, even if we only spend time there in our thoughts help us get our lives back on track, as we think about our Lord, His love, His mercy, His promise to never leave us or forsake us. It is at those places where our burdens are lifted, that the glory of God enlightens our soul, removing the darkness and all that the darkness it casts. These moments of sacred time are anchor points in our lives, the places
This is what Paul is talking about when he urges us to think about true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable. excellent and praiseworthy. It gets back to realizing that those things in life come to us because God is with us.
He is with us….
And nothing can separate us from Him…..
So go there, to the places where you know you will encounter His grace. Even if you cannot physically go, remember the last time you were there, and knew God’s peace. He’s still with you, wherever you are at…You just need ot know that!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3371-3374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
1 People of Jerusalem, run through your streets! Look around! See for yourselves! Search the marketplaces! Can you find one person who does what is right and tries to be faithful to God? If you can, the LORD will forgive Jerusalem. Jeremiah 5:1 (TEV)
804 That friend of ours with no false humility used to say: “I haven’t needed to learn how to forgive, because the Lord has taught me how to love.”
Unrighteousness is a contagious disease.
It spreads like wildfire, often consuming those who are trying to fight it the hardest.
We find ourselves caught hating those who hate, gossiping about those who gossip, seeking to be unjust to those who presume are unjust. Not forgiving those who do something unforgivable.
We seriously need to send out search parties to find one righteous, just person. Just one!
At least God lowered the standard from the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! Then Abraham got him down to 10 righteous people. Now we have to find only One! If only there was some way to find that person, if only there was some way He could rise above the crowd, so that God could easily see Him!
The man has been found! He’s been lifted up on the cross! God forgave Jerusalem and all who look to Him for forgiveness!
God’s looked beyond our unrighteousness, beyond our betraying Him, beyond our brokeness and forgave us, not because He had to, but because He loves us. He proved what St. Josemaria states, that one who loves doesn’t have to learn to forgive, the love they are compels them to do so. Love will seek the course of reconciliation, it has to, and that means forgiving.
That is what the righteous and just do…
And that is contagious as well.
Lord, help us ot know we are loved, help us to be so overwhelmed by our experience the incredible height and breadth, depth and width of that love that we begin to love as well, and as we do, forgive as we’ve been forgiven! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3319-3320). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Because of what God has done,
I plead with you…
May you experience the incredible gift of the love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as that love changes your very life!
Because of What He’s Done
Normally, I unveil the bread and wine during the Lord’s prayer.
As I say the words, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, for in that moment we recognize that God’s will, I uncover and reveals the chalice and the tray. That Jesus would die, giving up His body and blood, that our sin would be forgiven, that our lives would be renewed.
I am not going to wait to do that but will do that now, and as I do, I would ask that we all take a moment of silence, and think about the suffering, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now, thinking of all God has done for you, I plead with you, as Paul pleaded with the church in Rome, give your body to Jesus, a sacrifice that lives and breathes and IS holy.
For God has done so much!
As Paul wrote, everything comes from Him, exists by His power and is for Him! All Glory to Him for ever and ever! AMEN!
So let’s find out what it means for us to be living and holy sacrifices…if we can!
I say if there for a reason. We are talking about dealing with, and interacting with God, the Creator of all there is, the one whom Paul started this passage describing when He said,
How great are God’s riches and knowledge, How impossible it is for us to understand His decision and His ways!
We know it is impossible to know what God knows, and I think we get that it is impossible to understand His decisions and the ways He arranges our lives.
Even so, how often do we try to advise God, or throw a tantrum when things do not go our way? How many times do we choose to go our way rather than His? How many times do we struggle with life, and choose to sin because we can’t see how God’s way makes more sense than ours?
Maybe we don’t understand why it’s so important to be faithful to our spouse, (not just sexually faithful – but in all ways) Or maybe we struggle with respecting an authority figure because we can’t figure out why God put them there. Maybe the temptation is to covet what someone else has, not being content with what God has blessed us with in our lives. Or maybe the problem we have is with judging people and sharing that judgment in a way that is called gossip. Or maybe we don’t understand why God would have us set an entire day apart, we don’t get why we should waste it and be still, and know that He is our God, that He is our refuge and strength.
It doesn’t matter which sin it is, for they all find their origination in our not recognizing that God is greater in riches and knowledge, as we determine that since we cannot understand His decisions and ways, that ours is better.
It isn’t, and we don’t realize it until we hit rock bottom. And most of the time not even then.
It takes the grace of God to run us over before we ever can realize that God’s decisions, His ways, His knowledge is best, even if we cannot understand it.
It takes the mercy of God, it takes a transformation, the one Paul describes that happens to us as we realize God’s ways are not just bigger, but far better. Hear Paul again,
You Will learn
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.
Notice it doesn’t say let Pastor Dt change you, or change yourself, or let the latest self help guru change the way you think about yourself.
What Paul wants us to do is to let the Holy Spirit transform us, by changing the way we think. What it says in Greek isn’t just to change a though or two, but to change your mind.
This is an absolute key, and it is what causes our lives to be lived in a way that is discussed in the rest of the chapter, to embrace depending on God, to work as God calls us to live, doing what He has chosen, but doing it in in accord with the faith he gives.
That is part of the result of the transformation.
You are a transformer!
Paul describes this transformation to the Corinthians this way,
18All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.
What a transformation God does to us! (Much better than going from a car to a militant robot!)
A transformation that affects every part of us, every bit of our lives.
For God creates life in us, and shows us that we can have faith, we can depend on Him, and we can know, not all the mysteries of our faith, but what God’s will is for us, His pleasing and perfect will.
What is that will? To do what God has called and equipped you to do.. whether it is to speak publicly about God, to serve others who are in need, to teach, to encourage others, to give beyond normal, to lead others, or simply show kindness to others…
just do it, depending on Jesus – as much as you can, as humbly as you can, as God has called you to do.
just do it, because of God’s love for you – and the work He does, revealing His love to you, serving you, teaching you, encouraging you, giving to you without any boundary, leading you, and simply showing you His mercy and kindness….
live life, moving with Him, for He is your God, and you are His people…..
For that is His good and pleasing will….for you – to know you are His, and He is with you always… AMEN!
Devotional Thought for our days….
Like a young man taking a virgin as his bride, He who formed you will marry you.
As a groom is delighted with his bride, So your God will delight in you. Isaiah 62:4 TEV
8 But you are our Father, LORD. We are like clay, and you are like the potter. You created us, 9so do not be too angry with us or hold our sins against us for ever. We are your people; be merciful to us. Isaiah 64:8-9 TEV
You will be like a child that is nursed by its mother, carried in her arms, and treated with love. 13I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child. Isaiah 66:12-13
For God, we are not numbers! We are important; indeed, the most important of all his creatures, the closest to his heart whether we are saints or sinners.
Yet sisters continued to leave and new ones failed to come. Perhaps, without being fully aware of the reasons, women religious felt a deep unrest at living in a Church in which Christianity is reduced to an ideology of doing, a Church in which there is no longer any place for mystical experience, for that zenith of religious life that has been—and not by chance—the most precious treasure of the Church through centuries of uninterrupted constancy and fullness in the lives of religious, usually women rather than men; in the lives of those extraordinary women whom the Church has honored with the title “saint”, and sometimes even “doctor”, not hesitating to offer them as models for all Christians.
As I study the scriptures with a group of guys, all who are servants of the church, there is a debate that is somewhat constant. It is over the use of a phrase that I use to help us study and communicate the good news of God’s love and care.
The phrase is simple, two words that I feel capture the essence of what we need to make sure people understand about God and them. The words are
They would plead that we can’t use those two words together, they will scare off men, they will be heard and people will think about sex or sensual or even perverse relationships. For years I have asked them to come up with another phrase, another way to express what Hebrew and Greek words like Agape and cHesed and Eleos do.
They cannot. And they admit that this is at the heart of the gospel, this relationship with God that is so deep, so powerful, so captivating. So intimate.
The Old Testament prophets saw this and expressed it simply and clearly. Isaiah even is inspired to compare it to the delight of a groom as he takes his bride to himself. He will also compare it to a woman nourishing her newborn. or an artist crafting His creation ( relative to Eph. 2:10) and the relationship the artist has with his work.
It is scary, as anyone who has been a bride or groom knows, the anxiety of letting a person get that close to you, not just physically, but spiritually, psychologically. Letting every barrier down, turning every defensive mechanism off, simply loving and being loved. Whether it is the groom, the newborn’s mom, or the artist, each opens themselves up to the “Other”, or as some philosophers have said, the “Thou” is important to the I and they reach a point where you can’t define one without the other!
That is what “intimate relationship” describes,
What Isaiah also notes is that God is the one who initiates this, who keeps it going, who is responsible. The groom in those days, the mom feeding the infant, the artist creating the “Work”. Each has the responsibility in the relationship for making it happen, for making the connection.
As Pope Francis notes, we aren’t just numbers, we are just parts of the Body of Christ, Each one of us has that relationship with God! As Benedict grieves, it is this zenith, this mystical experience, this constant fullness of the presence of God has gone missing from the church, and why it is weaker without the women (and some men) who could experience such joy, such delight, such wonder as living in the presence of God brings.
Luther would call this living the baptized life, living in the truth that in our baptism, we are united with Christ, and become one with Him. We live in Christ, for there is love, and joy and peace, far deeper than we could have ever imagined.
Far more intimate that we could normally be comfortable with…
Yet a place of peace. deep abiding peace that is beyond the peace of the world, A peace so unexplainable, save with these words….
The Lord be with you!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thoughts for our days:
10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10-11 TEV
A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great. And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking through the history, and how it affects the Church today. Not just my congregation, or my denomination, but the entire family of God’s children. And what it means to reform.
For example, in my news feed, this morning was a great story of Pope Francis and liturgical reform. If I dare say, it is very Lutheran. At the same time, there are those who are trying, with intent or ignorance, to divide the church further. Not in the hope of reform, but in the desire to keep what they know pure. And in the process, lose what Luther found the greatest comfort in, the love and mercy of God.
Ninety percent of the time I hear Luther’s classic hymn quoted in green above, it is done with the power and energy of a military anthem. Full crescendo Organs, loud brass, even clashing cymbals, as if it is a call to battle, something to unite the forces of good behind as we go to war.
Given that it is derived in part from Psalm 46, I am not sure that interpretation is valid. It is not a mighty anthem, but a recognition that we are not that strong, that we need a refuge, that we cannot have confidence if we are dealing with Satan or the World. I see Luther, inspired by the Psalm, writing this to a soft broken melody of one who knows despair, who is confused and hurt, and who is beginning to realize his hope is found in the one who was nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus who is portrayed on the crucifix he sol tightly grasps. I see this as the resolution of a man who has searched for hope, finding it with his last gasp… the music of reeds and deep strings.. as the words are whispered out…. from broken, contrite spirits that are finding refuge… and rest.
We have to have the confidence to hide in CChrist we must depend on Jesus’ mercy and his patience and to seek and find refuge in Christ, who we are united to in our baptism.
So stop fighting the world, stop striving against the powers of evil, (or those you just think are evil.) Have the courage, the confidence to trust in God. He is dependable, He is the one who has the victory, and in Him…
we are safe. we can rest.
TO do so takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength, to stay firmly planted in Jesus, despite every temptation to fight or flee. It, in fact, takes far more to endure, to wait on Him. Yet the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For the Spirit works through the church to remind us of this fact.
the Lord Almighty is with you, and God is your refuge. AMEN!
Martin Luther – A Mighty Fortress is our God
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print
Devotional thought for our Day:
3 He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise me.” 4 I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.” Yet I can trust the LORD to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do. 5 Before I was born, the LORD appointed me; he made me his servant to bring back his people, to bring back the scattered people of Israel. IS. 49:3-5 TEV
795 To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love.
Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of my installation as Concordia’s pastor. We’ve had some hard times here, as we closed our elementary school. And harder times, as we’ve lost many to people who were a part of our identity, those people who you can’t imagine our church without their smiles, their laughter, and their antics.
We’ve had our times of great joy as well, as children are born and baptized, as others have realized how incredible the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist is, as prodigals have come home.
But there have been days where I have been tired, where I understand the words from Isaiah above. It is the challenge that many in ministry face when we know we are exactly where God wants us, and yet, we don’t see (in that moment) the fruit of our work. When we’ve used up all “us” and don’t see anything beneficial.
I’ve been there a time or two in the last 9 years, I’ll confess it, I’ve been tired. And as I read these words this morning, as I looked at the bulletin that someone saved from my first “official” moment here…. I felt the tiredness again. And when you are tired, your eyes close, your vision isn’t as sharp, and fail to see the beauty around you. For the moment.
My mind focused on the words of the frustrated prophet, they resonated deeply, and I failed to see the words around the passage.
Words that talked about God’s call on our lives, that our vocation, our service to Him is something from birth (see Eph. 2:10 as well) (v.1 & 5 & 7)
Words that promise He is the source of our strength (v.2 & 5)
Words that remind us our task is greater than it appears, (v.6 ) for we have the world to reach with this gospel. (Gee more work?)
But what strikes me after catching the entire context, is that miraculously, this passage isn’t describing just Isaiah’s feelings, or yours and mine. This passage is about Jesus. About his work, not just in the world, but in our lives.
There could be the temptation to give up on us, for the suffering He endured for our sake was great, and seeing the results in our lives, takes an eternal perspective. There is the hatred and dismission, not only that the world has for him, but sometimes seen in our lives, as we fight against His word and promises, as we dismiss our time with Him to do something “more productive)
And yet God continues on, loving us, even when it isn’t easy. And yet, in loving us, we find God full of joy, as He shares with those He calls His glory and the glorious acts that call and reconcile the world to Him.
I wouldn’t say the last 9 years were easy. Our church’s mission statement and motto bear that truth plainly. Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal. But as we see God dealing with that brokenness, as we see Him working in the lives of those we love… there is a special joy and an incredible peace that can’t be explained – only experienced.
For God has called and is calling us together.
To Him be all the honor and praise. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3290-3291). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our day:
22 Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this. “God bless you, Master! Nothing like this must happen to you!” Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter, “Out of my way, Satan! … you stand right in my path, Peter, when you look at things from man’s point of view and not from God’s”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What could a man offer to buy back his soul once he had lost it? Matthew 16:22-26(Phillips NT)
When you want to control your abandonment in the hands of God, the tenderness of your filial relationship is lost. Neither ideology nor psychoanalysis or sociological interpretation of the mystery knows of tenderness. Rather, they know the art of manipulation, not of caress.
You want the world to change.
You can’t understand why the problems in our society exist, why there is hatred, why people can’t work together. You want them to change (whoever “them” is) and you easily get frustrated by their actions.
I get that, I am tired of my own anger at people who are angry at people who are angry because they are reacting against what they perceived as unjust.
I’ve got some news for you (and it applies to me), the change and the peace we seek doesn’t begin with their change, it begins with the change that needs to happen in us, in you and me. It starts with your giving up all rights to yourself. It starts with your relationship to God. It starts with you letting God be God and trusting Him to do exactly what He promised to do in our lives. You need to let Him guide you in life, and listen and follow. Not partially, but totally.
As Pope Francis notes, you can’t really control your abandonment in the hands of God.
There is a reason for this, which he explains as “the tenderness of our filial relationship is lost”. What that means is that as we play God, as we determine we are in control of our lives, we forget and lose track of our relationship with God. We forget about the fact we are His beloved children (hence filial – that of a son), we forget that He desires we walk with Him. , we forget about the love our Father in heaven has for us.
All this happens as we try to take control of our destiny, for 10 minutes or for a lifetime. THat is what Jesus talks about in that trying to save our life, we lose, but if we abandon it to the care of the Father, to the guidance of the Spirit, to the work of Jesus on the cross, we gain it.
And we gain a sense of justice, a sense of righteousness that God fills our life with. We realize that righteousness means we love those we consider unlovable, and rather than just condemn those who acts are unjust and unrighteous, we put them in God’s hands, We pray that He would spare them by transforming them just as He is doing to us. We work to help them realize they are His beloved children and that He has saved them from their sin. That is how injustice is fixed, first as we remember that Jesus’ work has committed us into the Father’s hands, and then, abandoning our will, our destiny, our life into his hands, we see Him work miracles, reconciling others through our work, as He guides us to love them.
Easy? No, and yet yes. He does the work! We have to just stop fighting Him…..
The cost? Already paid for on the cross of Calvary. The blood of Christ that was spilled that sin would be covered, and separated from the sinner.
This is our hope, whether the injustice is minor, or national. That Christ came to redeem the ungodly, and we have seen it happen in our lives.
So go, in His name, and love.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
God says, “I WILL BRING…”
Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8
I pray that you realize the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ which has gathered you into His presence here and that you would realize you aren’t just invited to be here, God desires your presence here!
Doing Right and Good defined…
In the first verses of the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, we heard this morning that God wanted us to do this,
“Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you, and to display my righteousness among you. Blessed are all those who are careful to do this, Blessed are those who honor my sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong….”
That’s a great promise, but perhaps a bit vague. What is right and good to do, what is just and fair? We might have our own ideas, but God gives us a great picture of it in the verse that follows us,
“Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will never let me be a part of His people.”
This isn’t just God commanding us to do this, this work He asks us to do is revealed in the 6-8th verses as His action, as He blesses those who are committed to His care. He pours out the blessings upon them, even as He has on every single one of us.
And so what God is calling us to do is imitate Him, to share His heart towards people He has created, to have His heart and love all those He loves.
It’s not going to be easy… it is, in fact, it will cause us to take up our cross, this call to follow him.
Who are these outcast & foreigners?
This passage shows two groups of people God loves, foreigners and those who are called outcasts. Or as Deacon Bob is preaching about right now, those people who think they can’t be admitted to our club.
And we need to make sure they never, ever think this…. We can’t let them say, “The Lord will never let me be a part of HIS people!”
The first group is simple – they are people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our genes, or our language, or our culture, or economic or social status. Some translations use foreigner, some describe them as alien, some stranger. Given our church’s makeup, I think he’s talking about Australians because we have members from just about everywhere else! Guyana, Germany, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Indonesia, we even love people from places like Boston and Hemet! Yet the command is to make sure they don’t think and say that God won’t let them be part of us.
Some people still struggle to feel comfortable in our presence, and it is our role to help those who God brings here to know they are welcome, that they are part of His people, and therefore part of us.
God is calling us to proactively make sure they know they are welcome,
In verse 8, God adds in another group – those who are outcast.
Back in the days when Moses and Israel left Egypt and were wandering around the desert, hen the Old Covenant was given to the people of Israel, there were a number of sins that could be committed that would require the sinner to leave the camp of the people of God.
Sometimes it was for a day, sometimes it was for life.
Basically, until they served their time, they were outcast, they had to make do for themselves, they weren’t welcome among the people of God. They were the recognized sinners, or those that condoned the sin that was committed. They were the outcasts, the sinners rejected by their own people, who also rejected themselves. Never again would the joy be theirs, or so they thought.
Ever been there? Ever been in a situation where you weren’t in the in group, where you didn’t understand what was going on, or wonder whether you were part of the church?
Ever wonder if you were beyond God’s desire to forgive, beyond His mercy? Either because people treated you that way, or because you simply felt to guilty?
Ever treated people like they weren’t?
Or maybe, like me, you have been all of the above…
Time to hear God, time to make the foreigner and the outcast welcome..
Filling us with joy!
I want you to hear the gospel from the Old Testament again,
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8 For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.” Isaiah 56:6-8 (NLT)
These promises aren’t just basic entry, by saying that God will accept their offerings, because God is hearing their pray- the prayer of all people, he’s talking about full membership in this family.
Not half-sister, or step brother, but complete membership in the house of God….
For those who were once outcast, victims of their own sin, and who were once foreigners. They are family, because of the love of Jesus on the cross, the cross where we were all made family.
We need to understand, and we need to share with people – that Christ died for all. For you and for me, for people from every language, every tribe, ever culture. For people of every economic group and from every generation.
Jesus died for them all. Every person in Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, Whittier.
All those who are different, all those who have sinned and belong somewhere besides a house of prayer.
Jesus changed all that, as Isaiah prophesied, as God unites us to him on the cross, cleansing us of the sin that could have prevented us from being here.
We need to know this, we need to understand that God died for us, that we might live, and we need to welcome all who would know this, that would come to adore the God who loves us all.
Which is why we have hope, no matter where we’ve come from, no matter what we’ve done wrong. HE can and will restore us! We have hope because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us all.
Devotional Thought for Our Day:
5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.” Isiah 38:5-8 TEV
802 When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.
The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me. Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin? Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering?
What kind of king is that?
What kind of father?
Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?
I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation. I am talking about you and me.
In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies. Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass. How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony?
I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people. That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.
I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them. (and a couple of times, I didn’t)
My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need. It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,
“11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)
The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism. To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways. And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone! Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us. (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_
It is in His work, that I must trust. Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.
My hope? In the one who loved me enough to die for me. Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it. My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.
May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.