The Difference…

Jesus LaughingDevotional Thought fo the Day:

But they were no match for Stephen, who spoke with the great wisdom that the Spirit gave himActs 6:10 CEV

28  When Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were surprised at his teaching. 29  He taught them like someone with authority, and not like their teachers of the Law of Moses.   Matthew 7:28-29 (CEV)

In other words, loving neighbor means not only coming under God’s law but coming into God’s life. It also means coming under God’s law but in a deeper sense than obeying the precepts. Law in Scripture sometimes means not just precept or prescription, but also a principle or origin of living.

I have pondered the idea of Jesus teaching with authority often. Indeed, I have often thought it would be a blessing to compare His manuscripts (which we have in the four gospels) to the manuscripts of the teachers of the law. Imagine, being able to sit down and look at some of the greatest teachers in rabbinical history, and compare them to Jesus, to find out what is missing, and then be able ot include that in my preaching, teaching, and writing.

As I’ve grown older, I ‘ve realized that it is not the manuscripts that would hold the answer. I am sure there were men as erudite, that there were those who included more references to back up their teaching, who could also enthrall crowds. So comparing the manuscripts would not lead to an answer.

Jesus gave that ability to His disciples, we see it in the scriptures, for they to taught, empowered by the Holy Spirit. You can see that in their writings, but it is also seen in the way people react to them. Stephen, one of the first deacons, spoke in a way that astounded people. He spoke of Jesus, and as he does, they described his face as like one of the angels.

There was no mistaking it, it was unnerving.

I think Professor Kreeft has an insight into it, that I didn’t think about until my devotions lined up this morning. It is not when we study the law that we can teach it, it is not when we feel its weight, but when we realize we are in Christ, when His logos, His order is rooted in us because He is there. When His love, for He is love, has taken root in us. When we become intimately aware that we are in His presence, and His glory transforms everything.

Including us, and therefore, including our teaching.

Not just the instruction that occurs in a sermon, or a lesson. But the teaching of our lives. The teaching that points people, not to us, but draws them into His glory.  It is the impact of knowing you are loved.

As Jesus taught, the Father was revealed, may as we teach, the Spirit reveals Jesus, and the love He has for those who are listening. 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 170.

Helping others Deal with Brokenness, Stress, Anxiety, ( like teaching them to drive a stick)

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  Psalm 46:1-3 CEV

The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

COMFORT WHEN FACING GRAVE TEMPTATIONS
First, such a person1 must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God’s name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.
Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials [1 Pet. 5:9]. How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, “O God, I am driven far from thy sight” [31:22], and, “I became like those who go into hell” [28:1]. These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.

As I was trying to care for someone yesterday, who was worried and anxious, part of my prayer was a reaction similar to the title of this blog.

Actually, it was said to him with a bit more colorful language, and with, I must admit some anger.

Over my lifetime, I have needed to vent in more than once… and I know God can handle me, much as He did the Prophet, Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 20:7)  Yet, knowing I can vent it, knowing I can get past it, it is not easy to teach this.

Teaching others this, and helping them be patient with themselves as they wait on God’s action, is like teaching someone to drive a manual transmission. YOu have to let them do it, you have to let them drop the clutch at the wrong times, you have ot encourage, and help them make the tiniest of corrections until they feel the shift until it becomes intuitive until it becomes natural.

When we learn to drive a stick until we realize the moments of high anxiety and stress will resolve, as God does what God does, and as we learn to trust Him, life s like those early times of driving a stick. We get jerked all over the place, stall a lot (and still do on occasion), and make very little progress. But then it all comes together, and we can begin to move, as we sop thinking of on it, and simply focus on where we are going.

Spurgeon and Luther help us realize this,  as help us realize that struggles don’t necessarily diminish as we mature, as we grow more dependent on our Lord, and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. How I wish it was the case that life gets easier!

Yet because it doesn’t, we can sit beside those trying to deal with the clutch, trying to learn, or absorb the challenges, and still keep their eyes focused on God.  We can encourage them, and comfort them, and smile as they start to move smoothly again, as they resonate with the love of Christ.

This is our mission… this is who we are..

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 183.

Has My Hope Been Taken From Me?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for this Day
2
 I was resolved that the only knowledge I would have while I was with you was knowledge of Jesus, and of him as the crucified Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NJB)

929    The cross on your breast? Good. But the cross on your shoulders, the cross in your flesh, the cross in your mind. Thus will you live for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ; only thus will you be an apostle.

The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.

There is a  growing multitude of problems that have been caused by the pandemic. Beyond the health concerns, there are significant challenges in finance, in education, in mental health, in social dynamics – of homes and of communities.

Many of us are challenged by depression and temptation, as anger and pain can only be hidden for so long. Often, when we do strikeout, the target is not who it should be. We might even tear ourselves up, thinking that everything is our fault. This is not reasonable, yet there is no reason in a pandemic.

The Apostle Peter writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 (NLT2)) In doing so, he calls me back to remember the hope I do have, a hope that I barely hold on to it at times. More important, that Hope, He holds on to me.

That is why Jesus is all Paul wants to think of, and specifically Jesus – crucified. Jesus bearing every sin, every injustice, every bit of brokenness. Jesus, lifted up, to whom we are not just drawn to, but into whom we are drawn. The Catholic Catechism righty uses the word intimate in regard to our union with Jesus. It is more than we can explain, it is more than we can cognitively know, yet in that movement, it that taking and eating, we go beyond a casual acquaintance with God,.

That is why St Josemaria would have us fixated on the cross. That is why Luther talks about coming out of a time of trial with a faith that is far greater than when we entered. For faith is knowing the presence of Jesus so well, that we just live and move dependent on Him.

That intimacy is not all we need, it is all we have.

Realizing that is the challenge, along with remembering it as we are assailed, as we see the brokenness, as we deal with our issue. not alone, but as He is here, with us.

That is the reason I have hope, this relationship with Jesus- the one crucified for us…

The One who is alive! Praise God – and because He is risen, so are we.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 351.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 182.

Who has a right to commune?

church at communion 2

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.  Matthew 5:6  The Message

Twelfth, you see, that is what happens when one tries to make people pious and lead them to the right by means of commandments and laws. It only makes them worse. Thanks to such tactics, they do unwillingly and drearily whatever they do. This becomes a hindrance to God’s grace and sacrament. God neither wants to nor will he grant this grace to those who were forced, pressed, and driven to the sacrament by commandment and law, but only to hearts that long and pine and thirst for it, to hearts that come voluntarily……
(a little further Luther writes) Therefore, these words of his must be understood to refer to the labor and the burden of the conscience, which is nothing else than a bad conscience oppressed by sins committed, by daily transgressions, and by a leaning toward sin. The Lord does not drive all such people from him, as do those who teach that we must come to the sacrament with purity and worthiness. Nor does he issue a command or compel anyone to go to the sacrament, but rather he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help. The sublime sacrament must be regarded by us not as a poison, but as a medicine for the soul.10 Christ himself declares in Matthew 9 [:12], “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament.

1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity

In some denominations, including mine, there is a concern about who should commune, and who should not.  Arguments abound in regards to what it means to have a close communion policy, Argmenets and division have blossomed over this idea, of who we can allow to commune.

There is something important in this, there is a Biblical basis for denying someone the Lord’s Supper, and it is found in several places – notable 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks of the consequences of approaching the Lord’s Supper without examining yourself first.

But that examination isn’t about whether we are good enough, or getting at least a B- on doctrine test, or having our membership in the right facility. (Remember – we confess that there is only one, holy catholic and apostolic church!) Yet we always seem to make it about such self-centered things.

One of my weight loss groups talks about the idea of eating when you are at the appropriate hunger level.  Not to eat just because of stress, or pattern, (aka tradition) or because it seems like time too.  Eat too soon, gain weight. Eat too late, and find that you overeat – and gain weight.

I think it is the same with God – we need to learn to hunger for Him and feed on Him regularly.  For some, that does mean daily reception, for others weekly. But it is based on need – not on qualification.  It is for those whose souls are tormented by sin and brokenness, who realize their need for Jesus because there is no other hope.

That is why I do not understand why there are people that say there is no emergency need for the Lord’s Supper. As long as there are sinners who need to know God’s grace, who are oppressed and haunted by their pasts, there is a need for this blessing for which Jesus gave thanks, even as He offered it. Luther makes this case clear.  It is worth repeating the words, “he kindly invites and encourages all who are sinners and find themselves burdened and who yearn for help.”  Yearn does not indicate they would like to have it, it means they desire it, they hunger for God, they hunger for the work He does, as He draws us into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

This is where we find hope, there is where we meet God in a very unique and powerful way, and it is where we know we are welcome.

Look at the Catholic Catechism – and see the beauty we need in this! The incredible unity that is found in the Lord’s Supper, as united in Christ, we find ourselves in the presence of God the Father! (see Colossian 3:1-3)

Caught in sin? Struggling with the burden of guilt and shame?  Need to know God’s love and forgiveness?

Come… and find peace at the altar of grace.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 176–177.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 342–343.

Weary at the foot of “the” Mountain…

Altar with communion

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.   1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)

Seventh, when a man has this hunger and so is prepared for the sacrament, he must carefully avoid receiving it while trusting in his own worthiness. Nor must he merely pray, as some do, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but say only a word, and my soul will be healed” [Matt. 8:8]. I am not rejecting that prayer, but one should be aware of something else. I am referring to the words Christ spoke when he instituted the mass: “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Take, drink, all of you; for it is the cup of the new and eternal testament in my blood, poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins” [Matt. 26:26–28].
Although the priest utters these words softly during mass (would to God that he would shout them loudly so that all could hear them clearly, and, moreover, in the German language), every Christian should have these words close to himself and put his mind on them above all others. For just as they are meant for us all, so they are spoken by the priest in the stead of Christ to all who stand around him. We should take all of these words to heart, placing our trust in them and not doubting that with these the Lord invites us to be his guests at this abundant meal.

928    You are right. “The peak,” you write me, “dominates the country for miles around, and yet there is not a single plain to be seen: just one mountain after another. At times the landscape seems to level out, but then the mist rises and reveals another range that had been hidden.” So it is, so it must be, with the horizon of your apostolate: the world has to be crossed. But there are no roads made for you. You yourselves will make the way through the mountains, beating it out by your own footsteps.

It seems like the last month (or is it the last decade) has brought one more challenge after another. And just s one challenge is climbed and another challenge looms.  Not all are mine, yet some I walk over with others, for the church never journeys alone. We weep and laugh together, we strive together, even as we sometimes strive against each other.

The reality St. Josemaria paints is painful, to know this journey isn’t easy, to know the pains we will feel, the times where we are spiritually out of breath and feel like we cannot walk one more step.

Then we look up, and we realize that on this mountain is something worth the effort, something that is worth it, something that will sustain us, give strength to our weariness, and heal our brokenness.

The Lord’s Supper is neither about our worthiness, or a brief confession (often without thought) of our unworthiness. It is about the promise, the incredible blessing of what Christ promised as He broke the bread,  as He blessed the cup. He invites us to share in His being broken, that we can also be made whole.

I have seen it over and over again, the sinner, barely able to address their brokenness, finding peace there, at the communion rail.

This mountain is different, it not another challenge, it is the destination. It is the feast with God, long foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and which foreshadows the final feast…

May we never lose our hunger and thirst for it…
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 173.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Was the Door Still Locked? A sermon on John 20:19-31

Jesus LaughingWhy Was the Door Still Locked?
John 20:19-31

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus cast a shadow on your doubt, as you dwell in Their Presence!

 The Little Details

One of my professors used to talk about the fact that everything in scripture is there for a reason, that there are some small details that are there for a reason.

His goal was to stop us from reading through the scriptures, to slow down, take time, and savor the words.

It took me about 20 years to realize how right Doug Dickey was!

It does cause some interesting observations when you slow down and try to savor each phrase and word. Those observations, in turn, make you realize some incredible things about God, and how He loves you.

Today’s insight comes from pondering a question form something I noticed in verse 26.

“The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before… “

Wait, did you say the doors were locked, the second time Jesus appeared without entering them?

Hence the title of the sermon, “Why was the door still locked?”

But they already encountered Jesus!

The first time they were locked, they were locked because they were afraid of the Jews,

But they had Jesus bless them with peace, not once but twice!

They had been given the Holy Spirit, as the entire church would be on Pentecost.

They had been given divine authority, DIVINE authority to forgive sins, or determine that people in bondage to the sins they would not abandon…

They had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, who had been crucified, and his side pierced with a spear….and had crushed death…walking out of the grave…

They were witnesses of this…and they were still afraid, hiding behind a locked and barred door like…. Cowards?  Like those whose doubts got the better of them?

They still struggled with doubt, in fact, on the day of the ascension they still struggled with it.

In the scene where Jesus ascends, right before the Great Commission is given, Matthew records, “17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!  “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”  Matthew 28:17-18 (NLT2)

You see, we talk about Thomas as being the one who was labeled as the doubter.  But he wasn’t the only one hiding behind locked doors.

Just like some of us struggle with things going on in our lives today. We might doubt, we might struggle, and while we need to grow, that is not something we should hide, or feel guilty and ashamed about.
That is important in times like this when we struggle to figure out what God is doing, or not doing in this pandemic. We don’t have to hide our struggle. It isn’t sin to struggle, it isn’t sin to doubt, it is sin to hide the doubt, or deny it, to pretend we understand it all.
Were the words only for Thomas?

When Jesus says, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” I don’t think he is talking just to Thomas, but to all the believers in the room.

For even though they see him, they are struggling with putting it all together. They are like the young father, who asked by Jesus if he believed, he had to say “yes, but help me in my unbelief!”

That should be our attitude – going to the very God we don’t always understand, or even when we do, we struggle with, and ask for His help.

We have to remember that He is there, that He loves us, and cares for us.

There are written that YOU may continue to believe!

That is the very reason that what Jesus did was written, here it again,

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

The entire scripture is a history of God acting in the lives of His people.  From providing Adam and Eve a sacrifice to help them cover the evidence of their sin, to the second coming that God promised will happen. 

Notice that it doesn’t say the doctrine is written, but the actual things Jesus has done. Not that doctrine isn’t important, but believing that He is risen, that He has the power to do all he did, enables us to believe that because He is risen, we are risen indeed.

And we can believe that, even when struggling behind locked doors, and trying to figure out what is going on, for Jesus Loves you.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And therefore… you are risen indeed.

 

Hell’s Existence a Good Thing? HUH?

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20  you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. 
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927    Pray for one another. One is wavering? … And another? … Keep on praying, without losing your peace. Some are leaving? Some are being lost? …Our Lord has you all numbered from eternity!

Can we relate even Hell to God’s love? It is the most unpopular of Christian dogmas and the one most widely disbelieved, even though Jesus clearly taught it on many different occasions. It is disbelieved mainly because it seems to most people to contradict the dogma of God’s love. And if we have to deny one of the two, then of course let’s deny Hell. Hell without God’s love is … well, just Hell. God’s love without Hell is still God’s love.
But in fact the two do not contradict each other. Far from contradicting God’s love, Hell manifests God’s love. It is the other side of the coin of God’s love.

The question exists in many people’s minds.

How could a good loving God create a place like Hell or even the kind of people that would deserve it?

Theologians and Biblical Scholars will tell you the Hell wasn’t created for mankind, and that hell is an effect caused by our decisions to sin, and even more, our decisions to not seek and claim the forgiveness that God promises.

They are right of course, they often are.

But that doesn’t answer the question, why would God create such a place?

The simple answer is, – there has to be a place that is an option to being in a place where you are loved.

This means because hell exists, so does a place exist where God’s love, His mercy, His care, His presence sustaining us exists.

The existence of Hell doesn’t mean God would force any human being to go there, that it is a place where a loving God would send someone to punish people who rejected Him, who chose to worship themselves, or inanimate objects.

It is simply the option for those who would not be in an intimate, loving relationship with their Creator. And as horrendous as hell would seem, cut off from everything that is good, everything that is love, that tells us how incredible heaven is, and what those who are in this incredible, intimate, merciful love of God will experience.

Something we have begun to experience now, here, together.

The question then is simple, will we, who know this, reveal to those who have wandered off that God loves them?

This about why I said that is the question, more than the question being why would people choose hell. I don’t think they do, as much as most would think. Think about it, and love them.

Heavenly Father, help us love those around us in such a way, that they know YOU LOVE THEM. Empower us with Your Spirit to show them the care, the mercy, the deepest levels of love, even as we embrace the cost, as Jesus embraced the cost to show us Your love. We pray this in His precious name, AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 154.

How Can I Get “Them” to the Altar? A Plea for True Unity among those who trust in Jesus.

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional thought and Prayer of the Day;

2  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT2)

It almost goes without saying that if we realize God’s love and live it, we will heal the divisions and brokenness within Christendom. Only if we realize God’s love is this possible, for no merely theological reconciliation is enough. The tragedy of denominationalism arose through a lack of love, not only a lack of knowledge or theological orthodoxy. Indeed, we cannot even understand what orthodoxy is without love, for orthodoxy means right belief about God. And God is love.
We split God’s visible Church (no one can split the invisible Church) because we were selfish. We decided to be our own conductors rather than all following the divine baton. That has to be the root cause of denominationalism, for God is peace and unity, so if we all loved and obeyed and followed His leading, we would necessarily sing in harmony. We are not singing in harmony, therefore we must have disobeyed Him, disobeyed love. The diagnosis is inescapable.
And so is the prescription. Though a thousand further details need to be addressed, here is the most important ingredient of all in the prescription for reunion. Here is the root of all true ecumenism. All churches and denominations must approach dialogue with purity and simplicity of heart. They must seek not triumph or power or self-justification or conversions but simply to follow God’s will. If that were done, a miracle would happen. Impossible healings of our divisions would become possible. Reunion without compromise would happen. And the world would once again sit up and say, astonished, “See how they love one another!”

The sacrament, Luther says, is not and should not be for those who come solely because they are commanded to do so, but for those who recognize their personal need and are inwardly driven to receive it. Recognition of his sinfulness and unworthiness should not prevent a man’s reception of the sacrament. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ intended his Supper precisely for sinners who trust and believe in the words of institution

In the midst of the present crisis, stress is taking its toll on leadership.

And we begin to see that stress move divide the church even more. Not at the congregational level, I continually hearing of how congregations are doing amazing things. But at denominational levels and in inter-denominational levels.

It is sad and disheartening, and Shakespeare’s words to the Houses of Capulet and Montagu are oddly prophetic, “a pox on both your houses!”

It is in this time that we need to stop the fighting, the backbiting, the games, and strategic sessions. of how we will deal with “them”.

The Apostle Paul is right, the only answer to this is the answer we all need to hear.  It is not the best preaching or the best academic theology that will provide unity, that will create the bond we need to heal the brokenness in the Body of Christ.  That has not accomplished it in the last 120 years. Kreef is right when he discusses that we cannot truly be orthodox without the experience of love.

I might be naive, but I think that Kreeft is absolutely correct about seeing miracles occur when we seek God together; when we confess our sins and are forgiven; when we share in the feast the is the purest of love, the sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus.

For that is why the altar is there, why the pastor/priest urges us to remember Jesus, brutally crucified, His Body broken, His blood being poured out.  Not for the people who have it all together doctrinally, not for those who are without love claiming some form of Orthodoxy. His Body was broken, His blood poured out, and is there on the altar for those who need healing, who need reconciliation, who need a miracle.

That is where unity and revival find are generated, as we pray together, as we we seek His face together, as we experience His love and mercy.  That is where the miracles happen.

As we prepare for Pentecost this year, as we look for the regathering of saints, perhaps it is time to allow God to bring us together, to let His love wash us clean, to invite the Holy Spirit to do the miracles that would truly bring us back together.

Lord, help us to love, as you love us!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 151–152.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 169.

Microchips, the Mark of the Beast, and the Blood of the Lamb

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

10  Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT2)

1  Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. Revelation 14:1 (NLT2)

16  He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17  And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. 18  Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.   Revelation 13:16-18 (NLT2)

I knew it would happen eventually, that some well-meaning people who are anxious would tie the present pandemic into an end-times scenario. I’ve seen it happen before, after the Northridge Earthquake, and as we approached Y2K.

For the first few weeks, no one was really talking about it, now all of a sudden they are.  And the latest fears are that implanted microchips, and Bill Gates and vaccines will somehow enable Satan to drag you into hell. Unless you repent and buy into the teaching of a well-meaning pastor who bought into the theory from someone’s blog.

In order to reduce anxiety, let’s look at a few scriptures.

I will note for the record that I had had microchips in me since 1992 when I received my first Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. I also ran one of the early smart-card programs, as we rolled it out at Pepperdine University in the ’90s. Then, along with several Bible Scholars there, I looked into the claims that I was about to usher in the time of the Mark of the Beast.

I remember a lot of those conversations, and the talks we gave, and letters we answered.

Here is a short version of the points:

  • Notice the “mark” is going to be put on your forehead or hand. Even if it were a physical mark, It wouldn’t be ingested, part of a vaccine.
  • The definitions of the word in greek point at something carved, such as a seal, which is then stamped or impressed ( or branded) on someone.
  • Just a few verses later, in Revelation 14:1, a mark is put on the forehead of the 144,00, a number representing all the people of God throughout history, the people who would praise God with all their voices.  If that mark is not considered a physical mark, why are we concerned its imitation would be?
  • That mark/sign on the people of God is also found in the Old Testament, in Expdis 13:0, 16 In that case, the mark was a reminder of God’s work, that was also on the forehead and hand.
  • So the mark and seal of the beast is simply a counterfeit of the mark given to those who believe and trust in the work of Jesus.

The kicker point is this, that in chapter 12 of Revelation before anything about the mark of the beast, it describes the victory already won by all the people of God. That is the first quote at the top.

There it says we defeated Satan by three things

  • The blood of Jesus Christ, which takes care of every sin. No sin, no condemnation for those in Christ
  • The word of their testimony – what is that?  Simple, our testimony is that Christ has died and risen, and we have been united to Him in both.  (like the mark, this is a reference to baptism – see Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Colossians 2 and Ephesians 1:14)
  • They didn’t count their lives as so important, because they trusted in Jesus’ victory over death.

If those who worried and wrote about this mark of the beast took the time to realize that their victory over Satan was already won by Jesus and that nothing he could do would steal it from us (Romans 8:38), then they could spend more time rejoicing in that! They could spend more time loving their neighbor, and sharing the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, hope that is incorruptible,  hope that eternal, hope that is based on God’s faithfulness.

Relax, look to the cross, see the love of God, and trust in Him!

He has won the victory, your victory!

Being Crossed, Bearing our Cross, Being with Him, on the Cross.

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day

7 How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. 8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. 9 For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. 10 Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; Psalm 36:7-10 NLT

908    It is oversimplicity on your part to judge the value of apostolic undertakings by what you can see of them. With that standard you would have to prefer a ton of coal to a handful of diamonds.

How often do we forget we walk in the presence of God?

How easy we find it, to go about our day without realizing God is there, nudging us this way or that, bringing us into contact with this person, or that one.

Even in challenging situations, we need to realize that God is at work, with a plan for our lives, and in the lives of the one who challenges us!  Their actions may cause us frustration – even extreme frustration.  Yet God is at work there, even there He is our shelter – for He is the shelter of all humanity.  The words of the Psalmist are clear, He would care for all of us there, helping us to find our delight, to find peace in His presence.

St. Josemaria reminds us of looking for those diamonds, in the midst of the coal. It is too easy to neglect the moment where we see God at work, because of all the dirty filth that would hide it. In the midst of all the pain and the frustration, in the midst of storms, we need to look for the sure sign of God’s love.

And as we bear our cross, we are reminded of His… and we realize the unfailing love again.!

If we can remember that, that even those people who cause us to be cross, who are the cross we are to bear, will remind us of the love of God… and if that happens, we remember God hs sent us to each other.

Lord, help us to see even our trials as reminders of Christ’s trial, and then as they become blessings in our sight, help us to realize Your desire that none should perish, but all to come to repentance… 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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