Category Archives: Devotions

We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…

Please Come Back Soon, Lord! Huh? You Are Here!!!!

Jesus foot washing7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God.  Genesis 45:7-8 GNT

Trial and temptation are the initial means of spiritual formation. Through them the Christian is stripped time and time again of presumption and the delusions of righteousness. One is thrust into a kind of existential free fall with nothing to break the descent into darkness, nothing to hold onto but Jesus the Christ.

309         Far away on the horizon heaven seems to meet the earth. Do not forget that where heaven and earth really meet is in your heart of a child of God.

Yesterday, I posted on FaceBook the following thought

“Struggling with the idea that Maranatha shouldn’t be just a prayer of despair, but one of expectation.”

Let me be honest, the last week or so, as I’ve have witnessed so much trauma, that I would be very grateful for the Second Coming of Christ.  And in a desperate way, I want to plead for it, for the release from the tribulation and tears that seem to be occurring wherever I turn.

And yet part of me regrets wanting the Second Coming for such a personal excuse, for such a homecoming, for such peace.  I know I should know this peace, and there are times where I know it, especially as I hand to my brothers and sisters the Body of Christ, as my elders and deacon encourage them to take and drink the Precious Blood poured out to activate the New Covenant, a relationship where we are free from sin.

As I look out on this broken world, this shattered community, as I see the sin ravaged relationships, my instinct to run and hide from the pain.

And gently confronting my angst this morning, I came across the readings above, and sit in wonder, as I realize God’s providence.

In the reading from Luther’s Spirituality, I see the blessing of such tribulation, as it strips from me everything but Christ.  Out of need I cry out to Him and find He’s already there.  He’s not on the distant horizon, not somewhere out there in time.  But He is here, He is wonderfully sustaining me! He is wonderfully here!

And then, like Joseph, I realize the pain’s purpose, the salvation of all of those around, the chance we all have because even in this midst of the trauma, I see God at work.  Oddly enough through some of the most broken, those in the deepest pain, those with no other option but Christ.

What an amazing paradox, what a wondrous mystery. What an unbelievable peace that is found now, in the presence of the Lord who will wipe away every tear one day, yet now cries with us, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us,

And as I think this through, I realize the peace, the incredible peace of being claimed and cleansed in baptism, of the feast where God celebrates our being united to Him. And though the trauma remains… so can we.

If you too are dealing with, or surrounded by those who are dealing with trauma, pain, whether from nature or because of sin, consider this prayer for you as well.

Lord, there are so many in need of Your peace, as they feel pressures crushing them, or feel for those who are being crushed, Lord reveal yourself to them, may they know the presence of the Holy Spirit, that in the midst of everything, builds within them the undeniable peace that is unable to be explained, but comes from knowing they are loved by you, Jesus, and the by the Father and Holy Spirit, as You reign and care for us, forever and ever, AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxvii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1471-1472). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith in Action is Active in Christ (The Faith in Action Finale) A sermon on Jude 20-25

The Church Service!

Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
Jude 20-25

In Jesus Name

May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!

Faith in Action…

Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like.  We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue.  We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step.  Faith in action learns to be content.  We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.

Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.

For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”

Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”

For that is how “faith in action” is active.  It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.

The Evidence of Faith in Action

You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.

The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.

Look at the things we are called to do,

To build up each other in our most holy faith.  In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God.  A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.

To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy.  To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.

Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering.  Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.

We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that.  Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort.  That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.

And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves.  It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.

This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment.  That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate.  Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.

The need for caution

In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives.  As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices.  The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God.  The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.

Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination.  To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.

We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way

24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24(NLT2)

We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin.  Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.

He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.

Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN!

 

Can I forgive and not forget? How can I ever forget?

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

51 He said, “God has made me forget all my sufferings and all my father’s family”; so he named his first son Manasseh. 52 He also said, “God has given me children in the land of my trouble”; so he named his second son Ephraim. Gen 41:51-52  TEV

I cannot count the times that I have heard, “I will forgive them, but I will never forget.” And I know the difficulty, as we deal with the pain of being betrayed, the pain of being the victim of sin.

But how do we turn our backs on the pain?  How do we risk being so brutally betrayed again? And how can we stand with the victims, and yet be obedient to God’s call to work for the reconciliation of all to Jesus?  How can we have hope as well, when we struggle to obey, “forgive us our sins, and we forgive the sins of others.”

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t just a matter of teaching others. It is a matter of my own ability to forgive. And I deal with the guilt of it, how can I encourage people to turn to God for forgiveness, when I can’t forgive them?

How I long for the blessed peace that Joseph must have felt as he encountered his brothers.  The same brothers that so made his life miserable growing up, that eventually threatened to kill him, but instead simply sold him into slavery.  The brothers he could exact revenge upon, without hesitation.

And he chose to love instead, able to because of God’s making Joseph forget because God giving him a new family in the place where the only a life of struggle had been known.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

It is God’s work that heals us, that removes the burden of resentment, that restores us from the brokenness that shatters us beyond repair. It is the loving mercy of God (cHesed) that enabled this to happen in the life of Joseph.

This is what we need, what we need to hope for and expect from God.  It is the miracle we need to depend upon Him for, as the Holy Spirit comforts us, not only in regards to our being betrayed but in the moments we realize we betrayed someone else.

This is what grace is…

Heavenly Father, bless us as you blessed Joseph, as you made him forget, and enabled him to love and provide for those who betrayed him, knowing it was all Your work and ability to make it so. AMEN!

Being “Not Ashamed” of the gospel, is harder than we think

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.   1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”   Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?

Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.


For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.

This is what we do, or what we try to do.

Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think.  It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist.  It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!

And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.

To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.

6  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)

There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him.  All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear.  Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it. 

Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness. 

That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin. 

And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that. 

Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God.  We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)

It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion.  The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us. 

Are You Ready for God to Invade Your life?

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept thinking about the whole matter.   Gen 37:11 TEV

True evangelization presupposes a desire in the Church to come out of itself and go to the peripheries, not only geographically but also to areas where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, ignorance, and indifference to religion has its permanent dwelling.
We have no right to keep caressing our soul, to stay locked up in our own little, tiny bubble.

we see persons who regard personal communion and communication with God as life-changing episodes and as daily bread. Untold thousands of humble Christians who will never preach a sermon or have their name appear in print can testify to the same kinds of encounters with God as are manifested by the great ones in the Way.
Reflect: How do you respond to God invading human personality as a daily occurrence? How might you want God to invade your personality in greater ways?

As I was reading Genesis this morning, the sentence above struck me.  It reminded me of the times Luke records Mary pondering these things in her heart, and of the Psalms urging us to meditate on God’s word, to consider what He has done for His people.

So Israel considered all that God was showing Joseph, and he tried to think it through, tried to understand these encounters with God, for he recognized that was what his beloved was enduring.

The quote from Dallas Willard in green notes the same kind of encounter. Some radical, something life-changing, something where God invades not just our lives but invades our personality.  Where communion runs deeper than our minds can express, where our hearts and souls are overwhelmed by His mercy and love.  It is what we so desperately need, this invasion of God.

When God invades, there is nothing that He doesn’t affect, there is nothing left untouched. Oh how we need to learn to desire this more, how we need to grow comfortable with His presence!

This is what truly empowers evangelism, It brings us to the place where we are drawn to the brokenness, where sin and all its accompanying problems overwhelm people, we need to be there, as God invades the brokenness.

For while we need to meditate on His love, on His presence, this meditation gives us the ability to be there when the darkness seems to dominate, to be there when the presence of God is needed.

I think, even for those of us who ponder his love, who sit in awe and wonder at the things God is doing, if there isn’t a temptation to stay there, and not join God’s invasion.  The gates of Hell cannot withstand His invasion, His actions to rescue people from their brokennes, from their sin.

So spend time, thinking about how He has sustained His people in the past… and then… be ready, to dwell with Him now means we go places to invade the brokenness with Him.

Lord, help us to be so comforted by You, so confident in your cleansing, so aware of Your presence that You reveal to us, that we become those who reveal Your glorious healing light to those trapped in darkness… AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

 

Why I look forward to the end, and to judgment.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the day:

20  He who gives his testimony to all this says, “Yes indeed! I am coming soon!” So be it. Come, Lord Jesus! 21  May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone. Revelation 22:20-21 (TEV)

8  And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day—and not only to me, but to all those who wait with love for him to appear. 2 Timothy 4:8 (TEV)

The believer has in essence already received God’s favorable verdict. Now, as at the future judgment, he or she stands clothed only in the righteousness of Christ and for his sake is assured of life. Thus, the fear of condemnation disappeared for Luther, and, instead of holding out the return of Christ as an object of terror, he could exhort his parishioners to pray for the speedy arrival of the lieben jungsten Tag, the dear last day, when the riches of divine grace, invisible to the eye and accessible only to faith in this world, would be revealed in the kingdom of God.

I grew up in the midst of a hysteria about the end times.  Even as the revival and renewal of the 60’s and 70’s guided people back into the church, part of that renewal was based on fear, and false teaching about the tribulation, the horrors of God’s wrath powered an evangelistic fever, and a desire to make sure our family, neighbors, and friends were safe.

End times, much like in the time of Luther, were pushed as something to drive people to God in fear of his wrath.

And salvation became a salvation from the extreme power of sin, and Satan, and the power of death.

Men like Tim LaHaye, Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, and Jack Chick became experts in this presentation of end times, and of using what Freud called Thanatos to motivate people’s going to church, and buying books and tracts.

We all grew to fear the second coming, and what preceded it, we studied the news with as much emphasis as studying scripture, and eventually, many burnt out on this fear-of-the-end-driven religion, and many more turned off, as we tried to scare and shame them into our form of Christianity. (and we were often proud of our “evangelistic efforts” being rejected, as proof we were doing the right thing!)

And as the day delayed, the church lost its grasp on people, the fear diminished, as did the fervor to save them from something, for we forgot to teach them what they were saved into…

Luther had this going in his days as well, though instead of buying books and tracts, they bought indulgences.

As I was reading this morning, the passage above from a book on Luther’s Spirituality again helped me to see a different approach regarding the end.  One I’ve come to appreciate on its own but didn’t make the connection of it to Luther.

I want the end to come!  I pray that Christ will return

Sometimes for the wrong reasons, for the end to all the trauma, I see, especially in the church.  Sometimes so there is finally an end to the trauma and pain caused by our sin, that spiritual illness that we are powerless against.

But the real reason to desire the end, to desire the judgment is that we know what Luther knew.  Because of Jesus, we are already judged as righteous, as holy as able to walk into the presence of God, glorifying Him for doing the impossible.  For He has declared and made us as holy, as special as Jesus.

And that makes heaven a homecoming, that makes heaven an entry into something beyond our imagination, beyond our ken.  To see God in all of His glory, and to know we belong in His presence. To hear our welcome, to hear with delight (and still the attitude of “who? me?  really?  when Lord?”) the Lord welcoming us into His presence.  To have answered the prayer that my mornings begin, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, and this is what I seek.:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to seek HIm in HIs temple”

May we all learn to desire this, to pray for it, to realize how real that day is, and rejoice in the thought it is nearer than before. Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!

strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Taken from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/    (psalm 27:4

The Missing Piece in Missional Thinking: D_____ !

boats-lake-haze-fog-40877

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?”   Matt 11:2-3  TEV

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you.  Ps. 9:9-10 TEV

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn  THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)

Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.

I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.

And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.

And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.

The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.

Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.  ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?

His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs.  It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus.   It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us.   But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….

Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all.  Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.

Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything.  The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma.  The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.

So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

 

When Simple Christianity isn’t easy

Devotional THought for this day:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35† I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.
37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples.  Mt 10:35-37 Good News Translation

302         Your task as a Christian citizen is to help see Christ’s love and freedom preside over all aspects of modern life: culture and the economy, work and rest, family life and social relations.

The passage from Matthew’s gospel above is one that always causes a struggle within me. It seems the conflict that Jesus says he came to create is so contrary to his concept of love, the love is spoken about in the second great commandment, the love which is spoken about in 1 John 4, love of neighbor that bears witness our love of God.

I’ve heard all kinds of explanations for this, all types of ways in which people try to reconcile the very conflict that is raised. But I’ve never seen one done adequately, all of them sound hollow and empty at the end of the day, and all the rationalizations seem to reveal themselves to be nothing more than diversions.

Not that I think the primary focus of Jesus ministry is to cause division.  But if you are following Christ, a division will occur.  Especially these days when our relationships often become our gods and goddesses,  For let’s be honest, we too frequently compromise when a special relationship is threatened, and we have to choose between our relationship with God, and the relationship with another person, or even group.

Let’s admit we do that, let’s confess it, let’s appear as broken and torn before God, as we are ripped apart by our loyalties.  The improper work relationship, where our Greed and envy are made manifest. Our improper family relationships, where we tolerate sin, not wanting to confront or cause trouble, our improper sexual relationships, where pleasure and intimacy, which we are designed to need, become so powerful they draw us out of proper relationships.  Our desire for the success of our children and family, that teaches them to value success more than time with God, and resting in the peace He would surround us with in life.

Let’s confess these sins, with the confidence that God will heal us of them, forgive us, cleanse us of all unrighteousness.   We can turn the struggle over to Him, for if we do not, we will surely fall and break.  But if we go to Him, confess these sins, He has promised, He has shed His blood, to bring healing to our brokenness, to forgive our sin.

Lord, help us when we take our relationships with others and treasure them more than we treasure that is Your being in our life.  When those relationships are complicated when we want to tolerate sin rather than embrace struggling with it, help us to look to You for forgiveness and strength.  And when we need to love someone enough to come alongside them and deal with their sin, help us to do so in love.  AMEN

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1443-1445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

A Lesson We Need to Learn. Church is not “Respectable”

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

The devotional thought of the day:

12 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13† Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”  Matt 9:12-13 Good News Translation (TEV)

Neither illumination nor contemplation but rather spiritual attack (tentatio) concluded Luther’s engagement with scripture. For him, when the Holy Spirit breaks our reason and reveals to us the true intention of God’s word, we are not drawn into some sort of heavenly realm or closer contact to the divine by our effort. Instead, all hell breaks loose. The flesh, the world, the devil and any other anti-spiritual power attempt to wrest from the believer the comfort of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. No wonder the psalmist cried out for deliverance from his enemies in Psalm 119!

One of the most serious temptations that lead us to break our contact with the Lord is the feeling of defeat. Facing a combative faith by definition, the enemy under the disguise of an angel of light will sow the seeds of pessimism. No one can take up any fight if, from the outset, one does not fully trust in winning. Those who begin without trust have already lost half the battle.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.
Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship.

When 3 of my devotional readings go in a certain direction, it is not unusual.  When four do, when I see how they resonate,  the lesson just is about to burst forth, not from the readings, but through experience. So it is today;

I guess I will start with Luther’s thoughts, about this idea that the way we learn about God, is found in its last step in a fight, in the tension and battle that comes as all hell breaks loose, and Satan tries to wrest from us the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the comfort that is found in His cHesed, that incredible combination of love and mercy and peace that comprise what we call grace.

The fight is echoed in the words of Pope Francis, as we deal with an unnatural pessimism, a moment of despair and depression that is not like normal depression but is contrary to it.  As Satan tries to convince us that God wouldn’t care about us, that God sees us as riff-raff, as not worth His time or interest.  We know this is not true, yet, it is so hard to shut out the voice of the ones who are masquerading as messengers of God.

It is hard because we struggle to see ourselves as God does, as the beautiful, pure, bride, set apart as the bride of Christ, as one who deserves the respect and admiration of God.  Instead, we see ourselves as those who are broken, not worthy of a glance, nothing close to deserving respect.

Yet we often treat the church as if it is the place we have to demonstrate how respectable we are.  We might pretend, dressing us, smiling and saying we are okay when people ask, smiling and greeting each other as if every day was a party.  When what we really feel like is staying home, hiding under the blankets and ignoring the world.

I think this is enhanced by how we see what some call the heroes of faith, the incredible men and women we see described in the Bible. Except we forget that Moses was running from Egypt, a prince hiding out with sheep in the wilderness.  That Abraham was an exile looking for his home and future as well, that David wasn’t the hero, but the man broken by his sin, and then by the sins of his children.

As shattered as we are, yet…

Willard reminds us that they are examples of a normal human life and that God was present, and lived with them.   That God walked with them in their brokenness, even as He walks with us.   They are not exceptional, their walking with God, finding hope there, is our example, for we can as well.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to snob around with the perfect and respectful.  He came to draw outcasts, broken folk, exiles and those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.  Because He loves us…..

And Satan will unleash all of hell to stop us from experiencing this, and in that tension, we find God’s comfort, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, and our hope.

We are His people, He is our God… and He is calling us to His side, so He can comfort and heal us, the children He loves.

Let us pray,  Heavenly Father, in the midst of trials, in the midst of brokenness, and when it seems all hell is breaking loose.  Help us to see Your glory, revealed in Your love and your comfort.  AMEN!

Wengert, T. J. (2007). Preface. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xiv). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 352). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

How to Have a Significant Life…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

18† And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, 19 blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram! 20 May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised!” And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered.  Genesis 14:18-20 TEV

24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 25  For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. 26  Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life.
Matthew 16:24-26 (TEV)

Gregory the Great: “In comparison with eternal life, earthly life might just as validly be called death as life. For what else is the daily wear-and-tear and deterioration of life but a long drawn-out dying?” … The question about death is, therefore, imperiously raised by life itself. It presents itself inescapably to anyone who is really concerned about life. But if one is not concerned merely exteriorly with caring for and preserving this life but seeks to fill it with meaning and so to give it its true greatness and potential, such a one will not ignore the question about the sense or senselessness of death.

285         Although you don’t amount to much, God has made use of you, and He continues to make use of you to perform fruitful work again and again for his glory. Don’t put on airs. Think what would an instrument of iron or steel say about itself, when a craftsman uses it to set golden jewelry with precious stones?

One of my favorite treatises on philosophy and apologetics is Douglas Adam’s much acclaimed five-book trilogy known as the Hitchhiker’s Guide ot the Galaxy.  With the exception of an odd comment in the prologue, one might think it an Agnostic’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress, or Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress.

Journeying through the universe, the characters are searching for meaning, (except the Vogons who simply love to write modern poetry and contemplate the dried snot that escapes them.)  It is a hilarious, cynical and sarcastic look at the world, and manmade religions.  But it gets to the question – why are we here? What meaning does our life have?

Or a better question, do I have significance in this world?  even in my small lonely corner of it?

Can we really stop caring about preserving this life, can we stop trying to delay this long drawn out process of dying, long enough to fill our lives with meaning?

Abraham found significance in life, after having rescued Lot and his family from captivity, as the King/Prince of Peace comes and gives him a meal of bread and wine.  It was significant enough for Abraham to give a tenth of his earnings, recognizing this man as having come from God, to provide for and minister to Abraham.  (for that is what the tenth is!)

That time with God, eating at His table, with the bread and wine, Body and Blood of Christ is the place where we find significance, it is the place where we are ministered to, because God values us. It starts there, and then, as we dwell in His presence, God uses us, even as the jeweler uses tools of iron or steel ( or aluminum today) to work with the gold and gems.

Our significance comes, not from what God uses us to make, the works he’s planned for us to do, but from the relationship, we have with God.  THat He will then use us, our gifts and abilities to do things are indeed wonderful, but it doesn’t matter what is made… it matters the fellowship we have with Him in the process.  We are guided by His hand, His eyes not only see what we are doing but imagine the end result we can’t see.

That is an amazing thing…

And as we go about our day, it is what we need to recall, what we need to remember, this presence of God, this walking with Him, because we are loved by Him… we are significant.

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. 353). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1378-1381). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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