Monthly Archives: April 2018
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 Then the high priest took action. He and all his colleagues, those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the •temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 In obedience to this, they entered the temple complex at daybreak and began to teach. Acts 5:17-21) HCSB
14 Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Is. 49:14-16 HCSB
378 Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith.
It is not easy to be critiqued, even when the criticism is constructive. When it is influenced by rivalry, by hatred, when its intent is to tear you down and hurt you, it is, even more, a test.
St. Josemaria would tell us to be optimistic and make a passing reference to Romans 8:28, that all things will work for good for those who love God. If you didn’t know his history, you would think him more than a little naive. Be optimistic while people are trying to destroy us? While they are work to tear us down?
We might even feel like the Zion in the second scripture reading above. We might think that God has abandoned us, that He simply forgot we were here, suffering oppressed, attacked. We might think that we need to raise the defenses, that we need to be prepared to defend our Lord, our church, ourselves. For if God has forgotten about us, who will defend us? Or at least that is what we think.
But Isaiah’s words remind us gently, that God can’t forget us, that He could not. His involvement in our lives is as close, as personal, as intimate as a mother nursing her child. Thinking about us is as inescapable as a tattoo on one’s hand, or the scars made by a spike through that hand.
This is how the apostles could keep their minds off the threats issued by the Sadducees and Priests. Their direction was to tell people about this life, this way of living in the presence of God.
So they went and taught people.
About Jesus, about His love and mercy, seen at the cross, seen as He accompanies them through life. They stayed focus on what gave them hope, what brought them peace, what would make a matter in this life and for eternity. They knew nothing could separate them from God.
And such a focus knows that God is still in charge, that God will see is us through.
God is with you!
So go, ignore the threats, ignore the criticism, and simply teach people what they need to know about Jesus.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 958-960). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip
How Accurate is our Sight?
Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.
We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side. Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.
But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.
Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of. He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country. He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.
And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.
And how differently he must have thought.
How accurate was His,
This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome. Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.
The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.
1 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)
The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.
What this means is that this man would face rejection again. Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.
The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God. But it also divided him from his own people as well. No wife for a eunuch. No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.
Like many of us today. We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin. Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.
And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?
That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?
Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,
32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)
And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.
His Hope realized
I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain. He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..
And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count. That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing. We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.
Just like eunuch.
God had prepared this man’s heart. Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.
As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone. No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God. His prayer was answered.
He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.
The lesson we learn..
Maybe you are feeling alone today. It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world. Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others. This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.
And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week. Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are….. And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.
God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.
Devotional THought of the Day:
And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Philippians 1:20-24b (NLT)
We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Since absolution or the power of the keys, which was instituted by Christ in the Gospel, is a consolation and help against sin and a bad conscience, confession and absolution should by no means be allowed to fall into disuse in the church, especially for the sake of timid consciences and for the sake of untrained young people who need to be examined and instructed in Christian doctrine.
Though our faith, our dependence on God based on His promises begins with the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus our Messiah, there are other things we have to depend on Him for, as noted in the epistle in red above.
I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ…
That sounds awesome,
It also sounds impossible.
This week I am all too familiar with my failings, with my brokenness. my own failures, my own struggles with sins that plague me.
So how can God use something so shattered? How can God work through something that has to be so,,, needing healing?
I can trust that He will clean me enough from my own sin and unrighteousnes=, enough that I can be smuggled into the Father’s presence as I dwell in Christ.
But can God work through me?
There are days I am not sure. (especially Saturdays as I struggle to write sermons)
Pope Benedict XVI talks about needing ot go through the cross to the Resurrection, We have to dwell there with Him, as He takes the pain, as He agonizes under the weight of our sin, As He removes it from us, and bares His own soul to takes on the pain our cleansing and healing requires.
It is there, with Him on the cross, that we find the same path that He took, that leads through death to the Resurrection.
It is there, on the cross, that we find hope. It is there. where we find the power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. It is there we find the absolution we need to realize that to live is Christ, and eventually, to die is gain. For if I have died with Christ in all my brokenness, if I have trusted Him to make it all right, If He shows me compassion and consoles me, then there is hope.
This is the power, the reason for private confession, it teaches me the doctrine that God is here, that the Lord is with us, that He is with me. That He just doesn’t forgive my sin our of some kind of duty, some kind of ill-advised promise, but that the promise exists for the same reason the forgiveness does because He loves us. This is remarkable, it leaves me in tears of awe.. it leaves me with hope, for I know why I can depend on Him
Even the Hope that my life is now His to use, His to work through, and the responsibility to make it something good lies on Him. Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis explains it this way,
To place our sight on our own death and resurrection causes our lives to change its center from “what we could do” to “what the Lord has done for us” and “will do with us.”
And so He has done for us and will do with us, many things, for He is our God, and we are His people.
Lord, when we feel broken, when we feel the weight of our sin, remind us that You are here. COmfort us with the gospel, that Jesus has lifted that sin away from us, and died to release us from its weight. Help us to live in view of His cross, where we were united with Him. Help us to rejoice, and then to depend on you as we find that our life is You. Bless people O Lord, and may we see how you use us to do so, as they give you the honor and praise AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 312). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 145). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the day:
I saw the Lord ever before me;
because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart was glad,
and my tongue rejoiced.
Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, Acts 2:25-26 HCSB
364 Ah, if you would only resolve to serve God seriously, with the same earnestness that you put into serving your ambitions, your vanities, your sensuality …
“God often holds back the delightful and tangible blessing so that they may look to God more keenly with eyes of faith.” ( attributed to St John of the Cross – from a retreat handout)
You would think that pastors would remember the verse in red above. That we would realize our being shaken and troubled in life Is a warning sign, a reminder to fix our eyes (see Hebrew 12:1-3) back on Jesus, a reminder that we need to depend on Him to see us through. That when we do, our heart is full of joy, our words praise God and we can rest…
It doesn’t work that way all too often in life.
We may even justify our ambitions, they may not be to have a mega-church, but rather simply one that is peace, that everyone who enters recognizes this place is special, that it is a place where God meets man. A noble ambition for sure, but one that can cause us to overlook those who are severely broken. Maybe it is our vanity, saying that I can endure more than others, that I can sacrifice more than others, even taking a perverse pleasure in sacrificing our sensuality.
We can serve these things in such a way, and count ourselves as saints and martyrs because of it.
And if we are serving our vision, our ambition, our pride, our sensuality, even if our use of it is noble or sacrificial, we take our eyes off of God. There is then no peace.
I think that is why we can’t see, why it appears we don’t have the delightful and tangible blessings that St John of the Cross mentions. Because we are unaware of them, we sooner or later blame God for not fulfilling His promises, and then, as we are looking at Him, we realize that maybe we had them all the time. The lack of peace causes us to seek out the provider of that peace, that comfort, and we find ourselves with God once agan.
We need to focus our lives on Him, we have to depend on Him, for He is the source of our life, our peace. It is not some kind of transactional thing, where God only blesses us if we stroke His ego. It is because He promises and provides, He pours out all we need, even more than we need. And to turn our back on Him, to allow ourselves to be distracted, means we miss out on what He provides. When we aren’t looking at Him, we only see the things that are broken, that need to be redeemed, that need to be repaired.
That is what David is speaking of, why Peter quoted Him, We need to keep the Lord in sight no matter what is going on, we have to look to Him for comfort, for peace, to stabilize our lives. Even David knew God would do all this and more, even when David was unaware of the cross.
Lord, may our hearts rejoice, as we realize You are indeed here, and may our words praise You, even as we find rest in Your presence. Help us as well to find rest You have told us we need and provide for us, even as you draw our attention to you. AMEN!
The questions of the day: Who around you needs ot know God peace and comfort? How will your help it be revealed in their lives?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 927-928). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)
350 In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.
Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.
Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over.
A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing. And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.
It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned. I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.
Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.
And we need to take that time. We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it. As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this? That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully?
They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well. I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him
Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts of the day:
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 HCSB
317 What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.
It’s Monday morning, and another work week stands before us.
What are you going to do with it? Where are you going to spend the assets you have? What can you do, that will give the greatest return on investment?
I dare say St. John had a similar question in mind when he penned the words about Christ that we have come to know as his gospel. And in the quote above we see his priority, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
That was John’s bottom line (and the Holy Spirit’s bottom line as well) That we would know Jesus, trust and depend upon Him, and thereby receive the life He desires us to have. A life lived with Him, a life lived in His presence.
This is Jesus greatest investment, as He invests in us…
And while it is the time I invest in this, what I really invest is my brokenness. The struggle I have with sin, (especially when I don’t struggle with it) the guilt and shame, the hurts and pains, the resentment, the fear, and anxiety.
Those are my investments, the things I have to learn to zealously invest them into my relationship with Jesus, the return on investment is rest from them, a rest in the glory of God, a rest that comes from knowing I am loved.
He heals us, in ways beyond our hearts’ imagination, because the brokenness He will heal goes deeper into our soul than we are willing to explore. But that is what St. Josemaria is talking about when he tells us to have zeal for the affairs of our soul, for our internal lives. Letting God sink deeper into our lives that butter sinks into a hot waffle. It is scary and wonderful, What we need to invest… is the stuff that kills off our life. It is the stuff we need to be removed from our lives, and Jesus will…. with great joy and care… cut it away. ( See Colossians 2:11)
That is when our faith is living and working, when we allow God to deal with our brokenness, all of it, as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, and we can live….
And be sent out, for we are broken people who are finding hope and healing in Jesus, and helping others heal….
Lord have mercy on us, and help us invest our brokenness in your mercy and love… and heal us, dear Lord!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!
A Matter of Perspective
There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.
I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.
And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.
If we are talking about the gospel it does. It bothers me tremendously.
The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does. Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.
His love for us..
A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.
This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.
And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure. We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.
As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.
What they saw… something to reject
As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment. It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene. They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back
And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should. It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.
They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant. They were looking for logic and reason. They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.
That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”
As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening. As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.
But humanity does that all the time. We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.
Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans. ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)
Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin, or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal! When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.
And we find ourselves there too often.
What we see – the basis of our hope
Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data. They did, they just didn’t understand it.
This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.
The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.
it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.
There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though. The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.
Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything. Paul talked about it this way,
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)
Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.
And we need to! We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord! We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.
You, me, him, her, each person here. Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.
This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love. Let’s pray
Some thoughts from my retreat today:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. 11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” Mark 4:3-12 (NLT)
The 75%, the groups that were too hard and callous, or too shallow, or distracted and did not bear fruit. I worry about them
I don’t know why I do, what t always bothered me that they missed out on God’s love, that they didn’t bear fruit, because if they had bore fruit, that meant that they were dwelling with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit was hard at work in their lives. But these people didn’t bear fruit, and therefore…
Some would use this to claim that God was never interested in them, that He was okay with them rejecting Him. Some would even have the nerve to speak for God, and claim that He never planned to save them anyway. That they were, from the start, to be condemned to hell.
That is why they didn’t hear, they didn’t see, they didn’t learn, and why they were not forgiven.
I’ve just got back from a retreat, led by an old friend, actually, my high school youth pastor. The theme of the retreat was based around this passage, and considering the times in our lives when our “ground” was callous and hard paths, or we had to deal with rocks or weeds that choked our faith. It was a good exercise, (gonna take about a week to process it all) but from the time he read the passage above, I kept on thinking about the 75 percent.
Why would God let them go that way…..
Why couldn’t they know the joy and peace that comes from being forgiven, the incredible joy of being reunited with God?
It is a frustration I’ve known as a pastor, since the beginning. Some people we care so much about, that we invest time and energy in, and yet they are the ground too hard to plant, or they get excited at first and then die out, or they get choked by the cares and desires of the world.
And if you care, especially if you are a parent, pastor or priest or elder or Sunday School teacher, their lack of fruit can cause tears and massive heartache. A lot of it over the years…
As our retreat was nearing the end phase, as I just opened my Bible (rare that I actually had a physical one for the retreat – I usually just use my pc/tablet/phone ones) and I came across this…..
4 Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! GOD is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” 5 Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Isaiah 35:4-5 (MSG)
God hasn’t given up on the sinner, or the wayward, or the people who struggle with keeping their faith alive. He never had, He always planned their rescue, He always planned to continue reaching into their lives, He didn’t write them off.
He still wants them to come to repentance.
There is still time to invest, words that can be said with love, and yes, love of God to reveal to them. They can’t open their own eyes, but neither can we, they can’t make themselves hear, but the Holy Spirit can, these are simple miracles.
And they are right in God’s heart. And ours …
Keep praying for them, keep loving them.
God is with you in this, as I close with these words from St. Paul…
16 No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TEV)
So let us pray for these people, that we would have the desire not to write them off, but knowing God’s desire to renew them (to make them right-eous) that we would see this happen, and even be tools God uses to make it happen!
I was given this letter by a friend who is a mom, who wanted not only her daughter to see it, but others parents, and their daughters. For all of us who have kids who are outside the norm, it is an encouragement to love them, care for them and hunt for the teachers who will do the same. Thank you!
There is a picture of you I keep at my desk, a beautiful bubbly blue eyed girl with golden curls. You are standing in the sun eyes closed head tilted toward the sky. It seems as though you are trying to absorb the sun and you look like pure joy. Every time my eyes gaze upon it, it fills my heart with joy. But that joy is fleeting because I know now what was to come. From the moment you were born, and they laid you on my chest I knew that you were going to be a force in this world. You have amazed me with some of the things you have done in your life. At the age of two, you hopped on a bike with no prior experience or even training wheels and rode off down our cul de sac with all the confidence in the world. By age four you were asking me things that I couldn’t answer, like how radio waves worked, how you even knew what a radio wave was at that age has always surprised me. At seven you were rollerblading and skateboarding with amazing balance, and when you got on skies at 17 for the very first time, you tackled the highest slope with the skill of someone who had been skiing their whole life.
When it was time for kindergarten you weren’t scared in fact, the excitement you had was contagious, and I knew just how amazing you were going be. After all, you were clearly very intelligent.
Kindergarten was full of fun and learning new things, but even then, I could tell something was off. The teacher told me you were just a little slow in learning new things. That wasn’t true I knew that in my gut, but I listened to them and took their word for it. First grade proved to be even more difficult for you, and you started to notice that you were different. At seven you asked me why you were stupid. My heart broke into a million pieces, and even though I assured you that you were smart I could see that you didn’t believe me. They told me to hold you back so that you could catch up to the other kids and fearing this would only make you feel dumber I decided to take you to a fancy private school that promised they could “fix” you. Thankfully you flourished there emotionally, but academically you only grew further behind. By the fifth grade you were having anxiety attacks and teachers started to complain about your behavior. You would often hide in the bathroom in favor of going to class. I fought with them, I tried to make them see what I could see in you, I wanted them to see just how intelligent you really were. Nothing I did seem to work, and I could see in your eyes the light beginning to become duller and duller with each passing year. Each time you would bring home a piece of paper that said, “Try harder” or “Did you even STUDY”? in big angry red letters or when teachers would say things to you like, “You should know the answer to that” when you tried asking them questions, and with every bad grade on your report card I could see your confidence evaporating. Those teachers who had the power to lift you up were slowly breaking you down. My heart ached for you. It was as if one day I had this bubbly girl excited about the world and all of its possibilities and the next I looked into your eyes and the light had gone out, you were covered with scars from torture you inflicted upon yourself, and I knew that your soul was full of scars too. I failed you and I am full of regret for not finding the answer in time for you to have not felt like a such a failure. School should have been a wonderful experience for you and instead it was torture.
Today we know the answer to your struggle, Dyslexia. We know that you weren’t just a little slower to develop, but that your brain just works differently. We know that it is because of dyslexia that you have amazing athletic abilities and can remember the words to practically every song you have ever heard. It is because your brain is wired differently that you have such a big imagination and a knack for conversing like an adult even from a very young age. It is not a disadvantage when someone receives the help they need, it is just a difference.
My Dearest Daughter, I want you to know that every time I sit across from one of my students, every time I see their pain, every time I see them struggling to fit in, it is your face I see. Every time a fellow teacher tells me that a child is just slow, or when I hear teachers say they just need to try harder or they are lazy, it is your face I see. It is a fight I choose to fight not only for them but also for you. The reason I get up in the morning is to be the voice for those who don’t have one and deep down it is your voice I am hoping the world hears. Your reach in the world if far greater than you will ever know. In the faces of the Wade’s, the Abigail’s, the Sydnie’s and the Ryan’s the Rachel’s and the Caden’s is your face. As your mother I will never stop trying to heal your soul. As a teacher I will never stop trying to protect theirs from being scarred.
Love Your Mother
one last thing… if this letter resonated with you… please hit like…and let others know as well…it took a lot for my friend and her daughter to make this journey, and dedicate her lives to those who are making it as well, the other daughters and sons, parents, and teachers. God Bless all on the journey!
Devotional Thoughts for our Day:
so David inquired of God, “Should I go to war against the Philistines? Will You hand them over to me?”
The LORD replied, “Go, and I will hand them over to you.”
11 So the Israelites went up to Baal-perazim, and David defeated the Philistines there. Then David said, “Like a bursting flood, God has used me to burst out against my enemies.” Therefore, they named that place the Lord Bursts Out. 12 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David ordered that they be burned in the fire. 1 Chronicles 14:10-12 HCSB
The Lord has shaken you; he has done it without anesthesia, like he did to Abraham, asking him to give up his son, his dreams, his projects.He tested him without explanation, introducing him to the school of detachment to be truly a free man and completely available to the projects of God who was planning to make him a collaborator in the great history of salvation
If you must be heard, let it be like the babbling brook,
laughing over the rocks.
If you must be seen, let it be like sunlight
giving warmth and comfort to all.
If you must be acknowledged, let it be as the eyes
behold the skies in all their glory.
If you must lead, let it be like the wind and all its unshackled direction.
If you must learn, let it be like breathing, the natural flow of in and out, and done without thinking.
I love the naive thoughts in the last of the quotes from my devotional reading this morning. I say naive because I know that the only way to accomplish such communication and leadership You have to be naive, you have to be blessed with a simpleness, that simply does things naturally.
Like Abraham sacrificing Issac, you have to be freed from the things that keep us from living in the freedom we need to be naive, to simply rely on God, detached from all that would possibly separate us from God.
To separate us from our idols, including the idolatry of our dreams, our plans our visions.
Which is something hard to give up, these visions and plans we carefully set up, after careful study, deliberation, and even prayer. (Most churches go through this regularly, trying to craft vision stations, mission statements, delineating core values in a precise and pragmatic way) But what if we have to sacrifice this on the altar, what if we have to realize that while we think we know God’s plan, we may not?
Will we do so as willingly as Abraham did?
Or will we need someone like David for us?
It may seem overlooked in the tremendous victory David had over the Philistines, but there is a more incredible victory that blesses the Philistines more than it blesses the Israelites.
It’s there in verse 12, that because of God working through David, God delivered the Philistines from their idols. In fact, the victory was so complete, they walked away from their idols. They were freed from them, and the emptiness they offered. The Philistines were freed from the brokenness, and though they had other issues to deal with, they weren’t bound to worshipping the dreams, the desires that these idols represented.
While I would wish my relationship with God was so strong, that my faith was so strong I could do what Abraham did, I am not that strong, I am not that devoted, I am not that willing to sacrifice my idols. So I need to pray that God sends a David to bless me, to win the victory for me that only one I count as my adversary could win.
In reality, isn’t this what Jesus did? While we were His enemies, He died for us, freeing us from our idols, freeing us from our self-centered idolatry. And as we are freed, then the Holy Spirit works in us the kind of selflessness that some would count as naivete, the selflessness that is so blessed. He won the victory against our sin and idolatry but won the victory for us. Just as David did.
Lord Jesus, free us from our idolatry, as David freed the Philistines from their idols. (and if necessary, use our adversaries to bless us in this way!) Help us to be like your Son, our Lord Jesus, who was able to love selflessly, and naturally love, show mercy and care for those around Him. AMEN!
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Are you willing to be delivered from that which you depend on more than you depend on God? Do you even know what your idols are?
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.