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As Unavoidable as Mondays…

Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13  bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. 14  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 15  And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NAB)

The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace, which is the heart of the New Testament. When we are baptized, when we eat the Lord’s body, when we are absolved, our hearts should firmly believe that God really forgives us for Christ’s sake

292    Your interior life has to be just that: to begin …and to begin again.

Mondays are unavoidable.  The next begins in less that 160 hours.

Two other things are as unavoidable.

The first is sin.  Or at least it seems to be. In thought word and deed, we fail.  We fail to love our brothers and our sisters.  We fail to love God, and we often live life without Him, going without His assistance, without calling on His name.

Sin is like Monday, it will happen, even if we don’t want it to happen!  (not that we should use this as an excuse!)

It is depressing, as Paul admits in the 7th chapter of Romans. What a wretch I am!

Given similar despair, the words of Saint Josemaria give us hope. It is time to begin again!  To approach God’s throne of mercy and ask for what seems impossible, to ask for forgiveness again!

But forgiveness is as ubiquitous, as omnipresent as Mondays!  ( Ubiquitous and omnipresent simply mean “always there” )

The Lutheran Confessions note this when they talk of the sacraments and urge us to firmly believe that God forgives us!  Because of Christ!  He does!  The one who told Peter to forgive Andrew 7 times 70 demonstrates it 1000 times over with you and me.  

He forgives us!

The cross was for you and me!  He did it for the joy He would know, as we are called

That is what St. Paul means when he says we are called into the Body of Christ.

Bring confident of this mercy of God, knowing He will forgive us is the evidence of Christ’s peace controlling our hearts, assured that guilt and shame do not have a place in our life   That we don’t have to keep a record of sins against us and let resentment eat away our soul.

It’s Monday.  You will probably sin, but you can begin again,

9  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.   1 John 1:9 (NAB)

So let us confess, and depending on the promise of God, begin again, dwelling in His peace!  AMEN!

 

 

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 765). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do I Survive the Dark Times

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
4  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6  God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)

862         When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.  (1)

When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)


I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed.  Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God.  To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.

This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin.  We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.

Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us.  We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ.   This isn’t it.

Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”,  “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”,  the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.

We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.

It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it.  Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care.  The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!

So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time.  Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light.  Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock

Do We Desire Christ’s Presence in our Lives? Does it Show?

Devotional Comment of the Day:Dawn at Concordia

1  One night as I lay in bed, I yearned for my lover. I yearned for him, but he did not come. 2  So I said to myself, “I will get up and roam the city, searching in all its streets and squares. I will search for the one I love.” So I searched everywhere but did not find him. 3  The watchmen stopped me as they made their rounds, and I asked, “Have you seen the one I love?” 4  Then scarcely had I left them when I found my love! I caught and held him tightly.  Song of Songs 3:1-4 (NLT) 

“1030      My God, when will I love you for yourself? Although when we think about it, Lord, to desire an everlasting reward is to desire you, for you give yourself as our reward.

1031      Taste and see that the Lord is good, the Psalmist says. Spiritual conquest, which is Love, has to be—in big things and small—a desire for the Infinite, for eternity”.(1)

If you gather ten average men together, they will talk about the desires they have for their baseball or football teams.  They will do so with great energy, with a competitive fever, and with an incredible level of enthusiasm.  You will have great trouble changing the subject.  A similar group of men will wax eloquent about their cars, and the experience driving them, or the cars they dream of driving. ( My preference – just one of two cars from 1970-71 – the Triumph Spitfire or Datsun 240z)

But change the subject and ask them to talk about the passion and admiration they have for their wives, how thye adore them and value them, and they clam up.  ABout the only thing they will discuss with less emotion is their faith.

And that is a problem.

A serious problem.

There are even books out there advising pastors to not talk about God and our relationship with Him, for it will drive men away. Tenderness, compassion, caring, deep love, these are words that we are told we cannot continue to use, for men will turn off their minds, and stop listening to the sermon, or the lesson. Talk about the logic of Christianity, the proofs of it, heavy theology fine.  Create systems and programs and methods for growing the church?  Fine.  Desire for Christ’s presence?  Nope.  Christ’s passion and compassion for people? Never!  Spend an hour weeping and praying over the brokenness of our communities, begging God to show us how to intervene?  You have to be kidding.

It is it any wonder that we’ve ripped the heart out of the church, that we our passion for the lost, the hurting, the broken has all but dried up?  That our church’s have developed into houses of reason, that the “approved music” by denominations is complex and majestic and too dang hard for the average person to sing and praise their God with?  We’ve taught people that they can’t trust their emotions, forgetting that in Christ, those emotions have been cleansed, that in baptism the heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh.  Desire for God is dismissed, too pietistic, too emotional, and those things don’t belong in church, we are told.

Is it any wonder our churches are dying?

The above quote in red is from the Song of Solomon, and ancient commentators thought of it as an appropriate description of the emotinal bond between Christ and His Beloved, the people that are gathered as the church.  The desire there described would blow past any limitations in order to see, to be with, to know (not just “biblically”) the Beloved. And the beloved responds in a similar manner.  Desire, longing, and emptiness when the presence of the loved one isn’t there.  Other theologians have said it can’t be, and I wonder if it is less because of the physically intimate talk, or because of the transparent desire for the presence of God.

St Josemaria didn’t hesitate in describing such love, neither writers like C.S. Lewis (read Till We Have Faces) and Gene Edwards or George McDonald, philosophers like Pascal, pastors like Luther and Wesley. Songs like Amazing Grace and It is Well and A Mighty Fortress in their completeness describe this desire, this longing, this adoration of God, and of His desire to make His presence clear in our lives, as He does throughout all of scripture!

“I will be your God, and you will be My people!  (Leviticus 6:12 and many more places!)

God desires a relationship with us, He desires to pour out His love upon us, that is what salvation is all about. A God passionate for His people. A God who would do more than move heaven and earth for His people, a God who would prove out His love by sacrificing His Son.

Yeah – that’s intimidating, but also so incredible, so overwhelming,

And it is a treasure that we can share, for as we come to know His desire for us, we realize it is a desire for the world, and for our family, neighbors and friends.

HIs desire for us, even before we cry, “Lord have mercy”, is an answer to that cry…

May we respond to His desire for us, with a growing desire to spend our lives in His presence, and exhausting ourselves in that which pleases Him.

AMEN

 
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3643-3647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Real Prayer…Changes things… Will you?

Devotional Thought of the Day…

 1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

426      Today once again I prayed full of confidence. This was my petition: “Lord, may neither our past wretchedness which has been forgiven us, nor the possibility of future wretchedness cause us any disquiet. May we abandon ourselves into your merciful hands. May we bring before you our desires for sanctity and apostolate, which are hidden like embers under the ashes of an apparent coldness” ”Lord, I know you are listening to us.” You should say this to him too.  (1)

It has been said that if we are to preach about sin, we should preach against real sin.  The sin in our lives, the sin in our hearts and minds.  Not the sins of those in Washington D.C., or among some broken group of people.  But our sin.

In my devotions this morning, I came across the above quote by St. Josemaria – and it resonated with me, because it asks us to pray a real prayer.

Not just a prayer to changes things, but a prayer to change us.

A prayer of confession, and a prayer that acknowledges our real weakness, in our past and in our future..(2)  A prayer that acknowledges our wretchedness, and future wretchedness – and begs that this not cause anxiety…for we are confident in Him.

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A prayer that seems to be generated in this midst of our spiritual “dryness”, where we realize our desire to be God’s children has dampened, as has our desire to bring His love to the world.

A prayer that realizes our hope is found, not in our strength, nor in our faithfulness, but a prayer that confidently is spoken, knowing that He who is listening is faithful… knowing that He is listening!!!

In the Romans passage – worship is similarly abandoning our lives in the presence of God.   Letting God transform us, letting God breath life into the barely warms embers, changing our mind (repentance) into the mind of Christ.

That’s a real prayer… change us Lord – make sure we know you are Lord – that you are here, listening and working…

A prayer in confidence that addresses the real issue…

Will you pray so?

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1637-1641). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Comment – the strongest people I have know – have dealt with physical trauma to the point where there bodies are wasted away… there, stripped of their strength – they find God’s immeasurable strength sustaining them.

Why Suffering Can Lead us to Christ…..

English: Apostle Paul in the apse

English: Apostle Paul in the apse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

As I went over our passage for Bible Study tonight, II Corinthians 1, the comfort and strength God gives so supported Paul the Apostle. He was convinced of it, as was many in scripture from Job to David, to John on Patmos. here is part of the verses we shall look at

8  …The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive. 9  We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us. But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead.     2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (TEV) 

Now, I am one of those who hates being discomforted – even if it’s just pricking my finger to check my blood sugar.  But it seems I have to face challenge after challenge these days.  Or worse, I have to watch people I care for endure them. That really… well. sucks…

Yet, I’ve learned that as we take on the challenges, whether they are external afflictions like Paul endured in Acts 17 &18, or those endured by those who penned hymns like “It is Well”, “A Mighty Fortress”, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, or “Amazing Grace” ( or anything by Casting Crowns) we find ourselves face to face with God.  And that is when these times turn to blessings.

It’s not that God wants us to need Him that desperately, it simply is, He will be there when we need Him.  I wish to God that our trials never get that bad (even though some of the stuff I’ve been through recently makes me wonder) but I cannot doubt that He is here, and He will be there…

He is Yahweh – the I AM, and Immanu-EL – the God who is here.

Even if we, in despair, give up all hope, wonder why life is the way it is…

THere is time to be still, and find ourselves praising the God who is with us… for He is with us… and that changes everything. Including us!

Do we get why grace is amazing? Because it frees and heals broken sinners.

English: Amazing Grace, First version, in &quo...

English: Amazing Grace, First version, in “Olney Hymns”, on page 53 (bottom), 1779 Français : Amazing Grace, début de la première version, parue dans le “Oleny Hymns” (1779) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….

 8  Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9  But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10  For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11  For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12  So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13  There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.  James 2:8-13 (NLT)

“When the church meets sinners with hate, condemnation, and a lack of mercy, we deserve the persecution that we encounter. When we treat “their sin” as somehow more defiling and vile than our sin, we deserve persecution. For then all we are doing is beating up those who are blind, deaf and in captivity.  When we are persecuted for trying with all the grace of Christ to reconcile sinners to God, then this is praiseworthy, not praising us, but the One who empowers us to endure in grace.”  (facebook comment)

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see!  (John Newton)

In the past day, my facebook feed has been filled with much emotion, and to be honest it reminds me of a schoolyard ball game.  Some are so jubilant in their “victory” that they have gotten in the cyber-face of those they think wish them ill-will.  Others are so dejected in their loss, that they claim the end of the world, as they prophesy of torture and persecution.  The posts of the first enflame the latter, the reactions of the latter are used to justify the former.  I probably hid no less than 100 posts, sickened as I was by the reactions of both sides.

I did respond to one or two – and the italicized words above are part of my response.  A response which will possibly infuriate both sides of the argument.  (normally I pride myself on being able to do this, this time, I only grieve that it is possible.)

Sin is sin is sin is sin.  It doesn’t matter which sin it is.  James point that out in the quote from His epistle above quite clearly.  And yes, I hold to the position of scripture, that sex outside of a marriage between man and woman is sinful.  But it is no worse a sin than gossip, or murder, or white lies.  James makes that clear as well.  

But that is where I think we get the mission of the church very confused.  The church is not a place that is primarily engaged in behavior modification.  It is not our raison d’etre, the focus of our being the church.  For if that is our existence, we are failures, and will always be so, just looking at who is within us, never mind the rest of the world.   Behaviors will modify, but that is a role that is God’s alone, and it doesn’t start with legalism – it starts with love, His love, poured out on us.

That is why I wrote what I wrote.  As the church, our voice should confront sin, but only in the hopes of pouring out the forgiveness of God.  Apologetics is not about proving that sinners are lost and condemned to hell, but why I, the chief of all sinners, ( or at least in contention with St. Paul over that title) can have hope in spite of my sin.  We are to bring healing to all those broken by sin, and take special care with those that haven’t yet realized they are broken.  That is why I wrote that there are times – especially yesterday, where our reactions surely deserve any persecution we receive.  Because we are not looking to bring healing – but our reaction is one of fear, of anxiety, of condemnation.  Because of that we are rightfully judged, and to be honest, I am less worried about the world’s condemnation in that case, than of God’s.  We’ve taken His mission – and corrupted it. 

If we believe what we sing in Amazing Grace, do we realize the very people we are reacting to are where we once were?  Wretches that are lost, blind, in bondage to sin?  Do we realize that our task isn’t to brutalize them but to bring them comfort?  Do we bring them God’s love, do we go to them with the intent of showing them mercy?  Do we dare to do so in a way that leads to peace?  Are we willing to be patient with them, as God is patient with us?  Do we realize that we have been, and are as broken, but also realize the healing we have in Christ Jesus?

Some hard questions these days bring to those who trust in Christ… but the questions need to be aimed at our actions, our words, and how we will serve those broken in heart in spirit. 

Lord have mercy on us all.

 

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