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Do We Dismiss Satan (and demons and angels) to Easily?

Devotional Thought of the Day

8 Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10 But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation. 11 To him be the power forever! Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 GNT

Nineteenth, let no one presume to perform such things by his own power, but humbly ask God to create and preserve such faith in and such understanding of his holy sacraments in him. He must practice awe and humility in all this, lest he ascribe these works to himself instead of allowing God the glory. To this end he must call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel,13 the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints,14 especially since God has granted him exceptional zeal for this. However, he dare not doubt, but must believe that his prayer will be heard. He has two reasons for this. The first one is that he has just heard from the Scriptures how God commanded the angels to give love and help to all who believe and how the sacrament conveys this. We must hold this before them and remind them of it, not that the angels do not know this, or would otherwise not do it, but to make our faith and trust in them, and through them in God, stronger and bolder as we face death. The other reason is that God has enjoined us firmly to believe in the fulfilment of our prayer [Mark 11:24] and that it is truly an Amen.

Today, in the Roman Catholic Church, they celebrate the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, and as I started my devotional reading, that sat in the back of my mind. Not as a major thing, but I had seen on facebook for or five references to it.

Given some of the things I am dealing with, the idea of a heavenly warrior having my back is quite… comforting. But I dismissed it, until I got to my reading in 1 Peter 5, and the warning that Satan is still out there, trying to drag us away from Jesus.

That isn’t myth, that is reality.

And as Satan exists and demons exist, so do angels. Not as heavenly beings to worship, but rather as servants of God who minister to us. Reading the Book of Daniel you see this as Gabriel and Michael do battle on his behalf.

The key is found in what Peter says after , that as we endure, God himself perfects us. That is what Martin Luther points out in his sermon on preparing for death above as well, as we look to God for the strength, and ask for intercession in our ability to grow in faith, to depend on God’s work, and give glory for what is being done.

The end game is sure, God’s work guaranteeing it, His command to those He sends to serve confirm it, as they point us to Jesus, to the promises the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of, as we dwell united to Christ’s and to His death and resurrection.

This is something to take serious, this spiritual battle we are involved in, to recognize it for what it is, and yet, to have confidence in our endurance, which God provides.


Heavenly Father, help us to realize that we are no in this life alone, but that you surround us with Your people, the church, and with the angels you send to protect us, to point us to Christ. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN

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), 113.

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What is “the Heavenly Prize” for which we seek?

Devotional Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia

 10  I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11  so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:10-14 (NLT)

 1033  Make those reflections of your friend your own. He wrote: “I was considering how good God was to me and, full of interior joy, I was ready to shout out loud, there in the street, for everyone to know about my filial gratitude: ‘Father! Father!’ And though not in fact shouting out loud, I kept calling him so—‘Father!’—in a low voice, many times, quite certain that it pleased him. I seek nothing else. I only want to please him and give him Glory. Everything for him. If I desire my salvation and my sanctification it is because I know that he desires it. If in my Christian life I hunger for souls, it is because I know that he has this great hunger. I say this in all truth: I will never set my sights on the prize. I don’t desire a reward: everything for Love!”  (1)

As I was completing my devotions this morning, I came across the quote above my St. Josemaria Esciva, one of my favorite writers.  My reaction to it, as I was reading it, was “WOW” – this is powerful stuff.  And then I got to the last two sentences and was jarred a bit.  Okay, more than a bit.

It seems to clash with the Bible passage above, one of my favorites since I could actually run long distances, back in high school and college.

I don’t set my eyes on the prize, or I do?  Scripture should win this, the imitation of St/ Paul, an apostle and the author of scripture. RIght?

But what if the prize that Josemaria is speaking of is different than the one St. Paul is speaking of? 

I’ve done enough funerals in my life to know that people have all sorts of interesting images of heaven.  Most of which have nothing to do with what scripture teaches.   A place of no more sorrow and tears for sure, but the idea of our sitting on the porch of our heavely mansions, sipping tea, or getting our wings fitted so we can play in the clouds, those ideas and many others don’t come from scripture.  The peaceful, idealized version of heaven is not the prize we seek.

For Paul, and I believe Josemaria, and I pray for me, that the prize is simply knowing Jesus, to realize He is calling us into a relationship with God our Father.  To enter into and bear witness to the glory and majesty of God which is seen so clearly in the depth of His love for us. To build up a level of faith, a level of trust in God that Josemaria describes so well.  Where our desires become subject to His desires, because we realize the purity of His love.  Where heaven is only a word that describes our cming into His presence. To have our trust in Him become such that His will becomes ours, where His righteousness is ours, where His mission, what Jesus was sent for, to seek and save the lost – is ours.

The prize that both seek is not heaven, it is the Lord of heaven.

It is not a reward for our work, but the reward already won, on a brutal cross.

Where communion with God is more than an event, it simply is life.

Lord have mercy on us, and show us your glory!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3650-3656). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lord is with you, strengthening you…

Realizing and Revealing…
The Lord is With Us..Strengthening Us!

Judges 6:1-24

 

† HIS †

 

As you dwell in the grace and mercy of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize how He strengthens you, just by being there…with you!

 

The Lenten/Gideon Journey

    Am I in the winepress, or just in MIdian’s Hands

As I look at our world, and just Southern California over these weeks since I have returned from China, I think I understand more than ever, the attitude of Gideon, hiding in the winepress.

As the injustice, in and evil in the world floods our lives, I can be easily saddened as the people of God and their leaders are often looking more to other gods, or as St Paul talks about – we make idols of our appetites.  Either we dismiss the impact of sin, or we go to the opposite extreme, demanding perfection and condemning where we see others failing to be perfect.  We are more focused on how things “look” here, than on bringing people into the presence of God, to be cleansed by His flood of love.

My instinct, as I see this world, and consider my role in it, our role in being the ones reflecting this light in the darkness is so close to Gideon’s words, as he hides in the winepress and is greeted by the Lord.

“Lord, if you are with us, then why?   Where are Your Miracles Lord?  Why aren’t you rescuing this people from their sin and the oppression of evil and temptation?”  Why Lord?  What are You going to do about all this, Lord?”

The answer we hear, when we take the time to listen, is even more staggering…

“Why, I am sending you, of course!” 

Uhm – Lord – have you looked at us recently?  Don’t you know we are not one of the big mega churches; we don’t have hardly any young people, and we don’t have a lot of resources, how are we supposed to save the world….”

Call to remember the promise!

If you carefully at this passage, there is something odd to consider.  Gideon recounts easily the miracles of the past, the times where God rescues His people. But what isn’t remembered are the promises, the contractual obligation that God enters into, to be with us, to be with His people, to protect them, to deliver them, and yes, even to chasten them.

As Gideon wavers at the command to go with the strength you have, as he questions the wisdom and knowledge of God, there is a reminder about that strength.

“I will be with you!”

 

That assurance, “I will be with you”, is the bottom line of every covenantal promise of God, of everything God does in our lives.  It is what not only what those who walked with God before us realized; it is what the people of God whom Gideon mentioned realized.  He is with us!  He will save us.. He has come, to deliver and restore and heal us!

Still sometimes, we don’t get it… and he asks for a sign, even as he goes and gets an appropriate offering.  He trusts enough for the offering, but not yet enough to take on the challenge of being the one who God will use to rescue His people.  Sound familiar?  Yes Lord, I trust you enough to go to church on Sunday, and even a few Wednesday nights a year, but show me a sign that you are going to send me to…that you want me to invite “them” to church, that you want me to reach out and show you love to..

I sometimes think we determine that it isn’t God we don’t trust in, but ourselves.  Yet didn’t He choose us… to be His kingdom of priests?

 

I need something to overcome my fear, my anxiety, my doubts about, “why me”, or at least I think I do….

What I need to really here, what I really need to see revealed in my life… is the truth of “I will be with you!”

The Promise fulfilled

    We aren’t doomed when we encounter Christ’s glory

 

Each week, along with Gideon, we get to hear John’s incredible first chapter and especially verse 14.

14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.

 

When we realize that Matthew tells us that Jesus, the Word Made Flesh and living with us” promised He would never leave us, even until the end of the age, this means that we to live with Him, and He is still full of grace and truth.

He is here, as we hear His word, as we feast on His body and blood.  He is meeting our needs to know His presence, for that is our own strength.  Even as Gideon strength, and Moses for that matter was found in their realization that it was God directing their steps, we need to realize that as well.  We desperately need to realize that, for then, our strength is enough to do whatever it takes.

We aren’t alone, He is here!

That is where our hope lies, that is how life is different, that is what we need to realize, not just as we approach the altar, but the breakfast table, our workplace’s front door, the restaurant, or gas station, or when we turn on our computer to check email’s, or read or watch the news.

I will be with you!  – and with us, He is our strength…..

As we take on the impossible, as we confront the evil that would oppress us, as we deal with our own sin, let us find our strength… in the One Who creates, redemption and sanctifies His people.

For His is with us!

Angels and Spiritual Warfare…it is not what we think!

Devotional thought of the day to be discussed.

This week in liturgical churches, we celebrate the Feast of St Michael and all Archangels.  (Yes even in Lutheran Churches – check your pericope!)

Now, with the obvious disclaimer that we do not worship these beings, we can and do interact with them.  Jesus talks about children having such angels in heaven, and we see one in action in the life of the prophet Daniel, and in the life of Moses. One such discussion is noted in the Epistle of Jude:

1:8 In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. 9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) Jude 1:8-9 (NLT)     

Herein lies a great challenge for us, for whether it be spiritual battle, or dealing with those that antagonize or berate us, we want to strike back accordingly.  We want to take justice into our own very creative hands, and trash those who hurt us, or more often, hurt others.  In doing so, we engage our own falseness, we do so in our weakness, we do so in a way, that is sure to find us defeated, demoralized, bitter, broken.   Or we come back that way, but disguised with a sense of triumphant joy.  “We showed them”, “we pounded them into the ground”, “Got’em!” we cry, and we fail to see that both they and we are bleeding from the fight.  There is no winner, just more division, more pain, and another battle to fight another day.

Michael the Archangel fought Lucifer in a different manner.  He didn’t go head to head – could he have?  Perhaps, but we will find that angels primary vocation is not to do battle.  We love to picture them, either as weak cherubs at valentines day – piercing hearts with arrows to cause love. (Interesting thought there -change the love from erotic to agape – that’s how the Holy Spirit works) or a valiant towering warriors with swords laced with purifying fire.  But scripture primarily talks of them in two ways.  One – bringing a message to God’s people.  Secondly, and this is really their place – before the throne of God. leading the hosts of heaven, with the 24 elders, adoringly declaring the praise of God.

So Michael, who like us was designed not for battle, but for worship and fellowship, keeps it simple.  “The Lord correct you!”   and the battle is over.

When we put justice into His hands.. the outcome of spiritual battles is assured.  Christ’s power simply overwhelms Satan’s, because Christ’s power is life, not death.  It is reconciliation of God’s people with God and each other, not division.   FOr someone used to living in the presence of God, the battle is simply a matter of turning it over to our Lord, who died on the cross, that no other need die, that no other need be broken.  It is when we realize this, that gathering together becomes more than a country club like gathering .

But to get to that place, means we have to let Christ deal with our own “demons”.  To break the power of sin and satan over us, for believers, to realize that is what happens in the sacraments, in baptism, as we feast, as we confess and are absolved.  Josemarie Escriva wrote well,

“You, who see yourself so badly lacking in virtues, in talents, in abilities… Do you not feel the desire to cry out like the blind Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”? What a beautiful aspiration for you to say very often, “Lord, have pity on me!” He will hear you and come to your aid.”   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 882-886). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If we need to deal with our own pain which oppresses us, if our “personal demons” (which usually aren’t demons in the way we picture them) need to be dealt with, the cry of Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, will see those “demons” rebuked and their hold broken, and our souls and heart and minds and bodies – freed to worship.  It is a prayer that God always answers, for the promise and fulfillment of the prayer is what the cross is always about.

So Lord, have mercy on us, rebuke that which oppresses us, help us live as Your body, your people.  AMEN

The Saints and Angels in our lives

Discussion thought of the day:

Recently a number of people I know have passed away.  All of them, in simple yet very profound ways, people of great faith.

As I listen to people talk about them, they were described with terms like “saint” or “angel”.  People were in awe of the lives they lived, the strength they appeared to have, the way in which they were able to stick to their convictions regarding right and wrong.  Such people are an obvious blessing in our lives.  But as I have heard people talk of them, the awe also seems to contain an idea, which each of them would find… troubling.

The idea that what made them special could not be duplicated or emulated, that they were so far “beyond” us.  That how they lived is impossible for us mere mortals, whose sainthood is suspect, whose halos are bent and a bit corroded. We know they were special, and I think we, for some reason, have put them on a pedastel that they would find… uncomfortable, and it would bother them, and indeed, we would go – “see – proof of their holiness”.  In knowing a couple of them, as only a pastor can, I think if they had a moment, they would refer those people to two passages.  The first, from St. Paul, would talk about the reason God chose to work in their lives:

1:14 And our Lord poured out his abundant grace on me and gave me the faith and love which are ours in union with Christ Jesus. 15 This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16 but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.
1 Timothy 1:14-17 (TEV)

You see, saints, and angels serve a purpose far different than we think they do.  It’s not that they are so far beyond us, but that they demonstrate the effect of God’s love, something they trust in more than life itself.  (see Rev. 12:11)   The reason for their holiness is simply their trust in God’s work accomplishing it, a spirit that says like Mary, “may it be done to me according to your word”.  (and even that acceptance is something generated in all of us by the work of the Holy Spirit!)   It is not that they are more special, and they know it, indeed – put them in a room with Paul, and perhaps an argument would break out about who is the chief of all sinners.  But they would all agree – that in saving them, in sanctifying them, God was showing what He could do, is doing in the rest of us.  (or as I occasionally say…. if God can save a (insert colorful phrase) like me – the rest of you are a piece of cake!)  But each of these people, each childlike in their joy and faith in God  – oh – how they would desire that each of you know that how God walked with them on their journey, He will walk with you – and often – they believe in ways much more incredible.

That’s where the other quote comes in…

10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (NLT)

I would draw your eyes to that italicized part first – Whether it be any of my friends who are now with God, or St Francis, or St Paul, there is humble sense that says, yes – imitate me, copy my journey – its okay to think I am a saint as long as you make that journey walking besides God as well.  Their desire to reflect God’s image in their lives, despite their propensity to sin, is what we witnessed, and seeing their actions and attitudes that were born  in their relationship where they were united with Jesus, yes – know that God would have you imitate them, show the love they had for you and those around you.  FOr the strength and saintliness that you witnessed was not any more natural to them, than it is to you.

But I would also have you notice the context again – of both passages – there is a sense that their work, their words, what God gave them to do and the workmanship with which He shaped them (and now us) results in others (including us) being saved, in others (including us) realizing that God can and does work in our lives.  Gotta end this one with something that testifies of that work.

2:8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NJB)

We have been blessed to witness lives where it is obvious that God’s mercy was at work, for those lives are “works of art”.   May we imitate them as we trust in God, as they, trusting in God, imitated Christ.

 

 

 

 

What will you do now… having encountered the Lord?

 

What will you do now…

having encountered the Lord?

Isaiah 6:1-8

In Jesus Name

 

The grace of God, the abundant love, the incredible mercy, the peace that comes from being in the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is yours!

928,000 hits for hell, 597 million for heaven

If you look up two words on the internet, one word will return some 597 million references – web pages that deal with the subject in part or are on that topic – just for that one word.  The other word is even more astounding, some 920 million web pages reference it. A combined total of 1.5 billion webpages referencing these two words.

The first word is heaven…
The second…hell.
It amazes me that there is more attention paid to that second word, half again as many webpages referencing something that by definition cannot be compared to heaven, except to say that everything heaven is not, Hell is.

I wonder if humanity is more comfortable with the second word than heaven, and therefore uses it more, because it doesn’t take any imagination to picture what it is like.  We witness hints of it everywhere, as we see suffering lived out, as we witness the broken lives, as we hear the lyrics of music, country, rock, hip-hop – it doesn’t matter the style,

But heaven?  How do you imagine it, much less describe it? Even St. Paul, who indicates that he was taken up to heaven in a vision, when he writes to the church in Corinth struggles, and describes it this way..

What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; (NJB)

Perhaps, because we cannot visualize it, our mind cannot comprehend being in the presence of God, in all of His glory… we struggle to tell people, to describe to them this relationship that we have with God, and what we expect of eternity, walking with Him.

Our knowledge of what heaven is like comes from the brief glimpses of it in scripture, the brief times where God reveals a little of our what heaven looks and sounds like.  I think we deal enough with the other place way to much – so today – let’s spend our time in heaven, and see what happens when we encounter God in all his glory.

It’s a bit… overwhelming

As Isaiah describes where God resides, the incredible, majestic, throne room of God, there is one word that I think describes his emotions better than any other.

Overwhelmed!

Isaiah cannot even describe the Lord God Almighty who we have praised in song – about the closest he comes is describing the hem of his robe – he quickly describes the angelic beings surrounding the throne, singing the praises of God, praises that ring so loud they shake heaven and earth! Which leads him to focus to God, for the focus point of their body, their voices, everything they are focused on Yahweh – the sight is so awe-inspiring that the translators have always replaced God’s name – YHWH, with His title, for it seems so wrong to address One who is the purest form of holiness by His name.

Isaiah, overwhelmed by it all, all of a sudden remembers that he is part of this picture, In this midst of all this purity, in the middle of the hosts of heaven adoring God in all His intimate majesty!  There stands Isaiah, whose “woe” is a phrase that escapes his mouth, before he can control it – one which leads him to identify himself as a man of “unclean lips.”  Unclean being a reference to a flow of mud or sewer waste that has infiltrated your home, something that no matter how hard you try to clean it, infests and infects every part.  Because that is what sin is – no matter how hard you try to clean it – to fix it – you cannot!

Any of you out there dread public speaking and standing before 1000, 10,000 people?  Or have you ever had one of those nightmares where you find yourself at center court of a basketball game, or in the middle of a mall on the day after thanksgiving clad only in an old torn pair of underwear?  Yeah… that’s pretty much how Isaiah feels, as he realizes the only sin in heaven at that point… is him.

No wonder, as he gasps,  that Isaiah confesses that he is a man of filthy lips – not because of anything that he ate – but because of what has come from him!  Such a statement calls to mind Jesus words regarding that it is not what goes into a man that pollutes him, but what comes out reveals how rotten we can be inside.

Like with most of us, having one’s sin revealed is never easy, it is as overwhelming as being found in the presence of God….yet it is then… as Isaiah is standing there, that something incredible happens…

It’s incredibly healing

         

For being found in God’s presence in not just incredibly overwhelming, it is incredibly healing.

Even as the Heavenly choir is singing the Sanctus’ holy, holy, holy, even as Isaiah realizes how exposed he and his sin is, an angel who knows God’s heart, who grasp His desire takes action.  From the altar something is taken, it touches the lips of the man of unclean lips, and those lips are purified, as is the heart and life of the man.  Those lips are cleansed and can praise the God who created them, and cleansed them.  That heart no longer fears being found in the presence of a holy and righteous God, but stands in awe… and basks and rejoices in the love of the Lord God who reveals Himself to us, in order to bring us back to Him, to restore the relationship!

The sewerage, the uncleanness that once polluted us, is diverted, it cannot reach Isaiah, it cannot reach us.

Our is atoned for – an incredibly deep word picture there – as it is removed and the wounds it caused are covered as they are healed!  You see, the roots of the word attone is tar or pitch – the kind used on trees when you remove a diseased or broken limb – and cover that which remains, so the weak bare would cannot be infested!

That is what God’s love, revealed to us in the shedding of Jesus’ blood does to us – is cleanses, and heals and covers and protects.  It’s that simple – takes that ugly spots out of life and makes us whole…just as the fiery coal in Isaiah’s vision did, so does Christ do, as He enters our lives.

But what is best about what God does in our lives – is that He makes us comfortable in His life – in His presence.  The “woe” disappears and the question of Isaiah falls aside, no longer even needing to be considered!

That is what our faith, our religion, what walking and trusting and believing in Christ is all about my friends.  We need to grasp that because what God has promised us in His word was clearly revealed in Christ – that we now know His love – and that name of His – is ours to use, to call upon, to praise – to ask Him to deal with all that burdens us –that we may know He is God – our loving father!

Wait…there are people

          Note – they too will be overwhelmed…

         

As we realize this incredible promise is not just Isaiah’s but ours – we hear the same words as Isaiah does – the Lord’s voice crying out – who can I send?  Who is going to let the people of La Palma, and Cerritos, and Artesia, and Norwalk and Torrance, those who work with the students at Cal State and USC, and in hospitals and at the senior center and even in St Louis – who will God send?  Who else needs to go to the people of unclean lips and unclean lives and tell them that there is cleansing, there is healing, there is life?

As you respond – for you know what God has done for you – and you realize their need for it – realize that their reactions will be as yours were – overwhelmed by the presence of God, in fear that their sins, their struggles in life stand out. Going out with the message isn’t easy, and people’s reaction will be one of struggle – yet, because of Christ, the lamb that was slain, the message that comes from the heart of God’s altar – the message that cleanses – it will cleanse and heal, and cause them to do as we do…

To find ourselves in the presence of God, cleansed, healed – and able to in the midst of a broken world know a peace and rest that is unexplainable – yet calls us to look to an eternity of peace, as we adore the God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has made us His own…..

AMEN!


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