Jesus: The Pathway to Peace
Knowing Jesus Means Letting Him Deal
with the Anxieties caused by having relatives
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus strength help you see the blessing of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of family related anxiety.
- Dysfunction Junction
I love when I find in scripture people struggling with issues similar to what you and I do. It is said there is nothing new under the sun, and that includes all the things that stress us out, that cause us anxiety, that cause our minds to overthink and fear how bad reality is….
And that includes the stress and anxiety caused by family!
Look at the family in the gospel! They could stress out anyone! First you have the helicopter mom, who drives her kids insane, wanting them to be successful! She demands that Jesus give them the top two spots in the kingdom of God! Can you imagine how embarrassed they were? I can still hear their muttered whisper echo through time….. “mom… please don’t, mom please stop! Mom!!”
And they could not, could not disappoint her when Jesus asks them if they can suffer the way He will…
Of course, the boys…. Err men weren’t something to write home about either. So argumentative they were that they are recoded for history as “the sons of thunder.
I imagine all three stressed each other out, quite a bit. Maybe that is why dad was always out fishing!
- Serious harm
We all have stories about some crazy uncle, or some cousins who seemed to thrive on being a pain in the neck. There are other relatives that cause real stress, real pain, and therefore real anxiety. The kind of thing of hurt that starts when we are kids, that affects us until we retire.
This is what Joseph dealt with, the fights and betrayals and failures. King David’s children were even worse in how they treated each other, something that destroyed him as he watched them.
The hardest part of addressing the anxiety and stress caused by relatives is not what they say, or do, or do AND say. That hardest part is our sin. Paul talked about that with the church in Ephesus when he wrote, “26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Ephesians 4:26 (NLT2) It’s our reaction to the sin, to the betrayals, to the pain caused by those who should love us more than the rest of the world.
Our kids, our parents, our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces can do things we don’t like, that cause us to worry, that cause us heartache. We can’t control that – but sin can occur when we loose our ability to control our reaction.
And it is often our sin, or our desire to sin, that causes us as much anxiety and stress. Our feeling that we have to do something, anything…that leads to sin in thought, word and deed. I mean how many of us are willing to let those things go for a couple of months, or years, or even a decade without letting it anger us, hurt us, or just frustrate the hell out of us. How do we deal with their sin, without wanting to sin ourselves? And that causes even more anxiety and stress….
- God lifting the burdens
- Gospel Answer
- OT Response
As we go through this Lent, the purpose of this series is not to face our anxieties and things that cause us stress. It is to shed those anxieties off, to let Jesus remove the burdens they cause, to heal the wounds they leave behind.
That is what Jesus means when He says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That is His response to the disciples’ arguments about who is the greatest. He doesn’t point at this one or that, he points out that He is hear to serve, and to pay off the debt we find we are in to God and each other.
He does away with the sin and its punishment, leaving us free….
This is the work of God that Joseph witnessed, the reason he would weep when his brothers were expecting vengeance.
He knew God would work it out, and His trust in God allowed him to say those incredible words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
That is where forgiveness and reconciliation begins, in seeing what God can do with the situations that cause anxiety and pain. Sometimes we need to be patient and faithful waiting to see God’s plan work out – hopefully it won’t be a decade like Joseph and His brothers.
God did what He promised. He always does. That is what the cross is about, healing the broken relationships now, and forever.
Thoughts encouraging our devotion to Jesus… as we are reminded He is devoted to us!
And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:8-9 NLT
Nor can godly minds be fortified against despair unless they think that through mercy on account of Christ and not on account of the law they with certainty have both righteousness and eternal life. This conviction consoles, uplifts, and saves godly minds.
It seems to me that having watched the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea, the descendants of Abraham should have been ready to see God defeat the giants. That they would be prepared to follow him, abiding in His presence.
My view is unrealistic, those people struggled just like we do today, and while they had the pillar of fire and the cloud with them, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
It is when we forget He has declared us righteous and given us the promise of everlasting life that our eyes look to what they see below.
Too often, we forget Jesus and His promise to never abandon us. That is when our anxiety runs rampant, when our fears overwhelm us when we fall, as Israel did.
This is nothing new; Solomon wrote, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
There is the key to surviving when we know we are up to the challenge. It sounds so easy, so elementary, to simply know that God has promised our righteousness and our eternal welcome into His presence. A presence we boldly enter because of Jesus and the cross. If He has made that sure, then the rest of life’s challenges become acceptable, tolerable, endurable.
One last thing – even thought those people in Numbers did not enter the Holy Land in this life, they were still God’s people. Christ would die for their sins as well as ours. While they didn’t see the promises in this life, He never left them, never stopped providing manna for them, and walked with them through it all Even in ths midst of their wounds… He was there… and at the cross, they truly became righteous, and entered into His rest.
He is here, and will be during our journey, until we are home…with Him. He will walk with us, through our troubled times, and He will bring us home. For we are the people He has declared righteous….and He is faithful to that promise.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV Justification, Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Thoughts to encourage you to love and adore Jesus…
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 3:12-14 (NLT2)
It is related that a pious hermit, one day while the king was hunting through the wood, began to run to and fro as if in search of something; the king, observing him thus occupied, inquired of him who he was and what he was doing; the hermit replied: “And may I ask your majesty what you are engaged about in this desert?” The king made answer: “I am going in pursuit of game.” And the hermit replied: “I, too, am going in pursuit of God.” With these words he continued his road and went away. During the present life this must likewise be our only thought, our only purpose, to go in search of God in order to love him, and in search of his will in order to fulfil it, ridding our heart of all love of creatures.
We get used to getting up every day as if it could not be otherwise; we become accustomed to see violence in the news as something inevitable; we get used to the usual landscape of poverty and misery while walking the streets
of our city.
We get up, we check out email, our twitter/facebook/newest social media feed and go on. We listen to the news, we fet in our cars and go about our day. It doesn’t matter what form of music we listen to, rock, emo, country, edm – the lyrics are anything but positive. And even if they are encouraing our overcoming, whose cost is it at?
Is it any wonder we become pessimistic? Is it any wonder we become anxious?
Pope Francis notes how accustomed we are to conflict and violence. It becomes what we expect. The stories talk of bigotry and racism, greed and hatred, sexual and sensual perversion, so we don’t think anything else exists in the heart of man.
We become acclimatized to these things – they become our norm, and we don’t expect anything else.
For an option to getting beat down by what we see, what if we were DeLigouri’s hermit – looking here, there and everywhere, but expecting to find God? What if we were, with St. Paul, willing to press on, to focus on, to even stalk God, for He has called us, and Jesus pressed on with everything we are…
How different would our outlook be in life?
How different would it be, if our focus was on the God who we depend on for life, and we knew all His promises that fill our lives? If we looked for His touch in every part of each day?
There is part of my daily prayers that helps…. especially if I slow down and hear the words, rather than just saying them. It is a modificaiton of a old Celtic prayer, that helps me realize I will see God at work today.
Here it is, ( the link is at the boottom)
Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day, realize the Lord is all around you – and stalk Him. Look for His work in others, and in your actions. See even the hard times as a blessing – as you reach out to Him, even in desperation.
God is with you…
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 376–377.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 246.
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)
We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.
O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.
The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!
As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.
I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.
I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.
As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well – but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)
That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.
As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.
As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him. As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 147.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 1 Samuel 24:3-7 (NLT2)
You became a bit frightened when you saw so much light, so bright that you thought it would be difficult to look, or even to see. Disregard your obvious weaknesses, and open the eyes of your soul to faith, to hope and to love. Carry on, allowing yourself to be guided by God through whoever directs your soul.
I have to admit that I am more than a little hesitant writing this blog this morning. Yet I have seen to many people who believe in God who struggle to live in the peace God has given them.
Fear, anxiety, anger, even hatred have done this damage to people’s souls. And as I see those emotions pouted out on social media, my heard aches. People look for scapegoats to blame for hurt they even struggle to identify. We look for that one person, or that one group that causes our pain.
David knew that pain. Heck, it wasn’t just projecting his problems on King Saul, Saul was out to kill him. He was hunting him down, and David had to live off the land, and dwell in caves. People who helped him were punished, and rewards were out for his life, and those who served beside him.
And yet, as he tweaks the king, (when he could have assassinated him) he feels guilt. He knows the pain, the betrayal, and et, part of him knows he should not have even tweaked the king….
As I read this, I wondered what it would be like, if we had that much respect for our leaders, that we bathed them in prayer rather than mocked them, or critiqued them and spewed hatred at them behind their back? What would happen if we treated them as we wanted them to treat us? If we didn’t use their actions to justify our own.
What would happen if we loved them as Christ loves us?
This is the kind of light we struggle with entering , this glorious love of God that takes away sin… This is the glory that realizes God’s at work, somehow, in all of this. This is the kind of trust, that comes from knowing God. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.
That will change us, even a it impacts the country.
For if we enter into a time of revival, it will not matter who wins the election.
Lord, reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in this world, Help us to trust you more than we fear, more than we are hurting, more than we have learned to hate…and heal us . AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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.
Why Was the Door Still Locked?
† 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.
Devotional 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!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25 (NLT2)
Thus Psalm 23 [:4] says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me.” If this gain through death has only a small affect on us, it is proof that our faith in Christ is still feeble and does not prize highly enough the reward and gain of a blessed death, nor does it yet believe that death is a blessing. Obviously, we are hindered because the old man and the wisdom of the flesh are still too much alive in us. We should, therefore, try to attain to the knowledge and the love of this blessing of death. It is a great thing that death, which to others is the greatest of evils, is made the greatest gain for us. If it was not this that Christ obtained for us, what then did he do that was worth such a cost, yes, actually the cost of his life? It is indeed a divine work that he wrought, and it is not surprising that he made the evil of death into the greatest blessing.
For the believer death is thus already dead and behind its cloak and mask it holds no terrors. Like a slain serpent, death still has its former terrifying appearance, but now this is only a mask, for it is now a dead and harmless evil
There is an old saying that I resonate with, I fear not death, I just dear dying.”
There is some truth to that for me, partially because of health issues over the years, and the knowledge that my heart was a ticking time bomb. (I say was – because in 1998 I had two heart valves replaced.)
Even so, today, in the midst of a pandemic, we live with fear and anxiety caused by the fact that death threatens us, and threatens those we love. It threatens in a way that we’ve not seen often in the generations alive today.
This is why my devotional reading this morning seems so important to understand.
We have to understand that death will ultimately be a blessing – for it brings us closer to seeing God face to face, and for the believer to an incredible welcome home. . TO see God face to face, to hear His welcome, to hear the celebration thrown for us, to know we are finally where we belong.
To realize with Luther what Paul means when he writes that death has lost its sting, that the grace is no victory for death, no loss, but an incredible gain for us. (see 1 Cor. 15) To understand what Jesus means when he says those who believe will never die.
It is hard to process these days, to take what is a theological truth, an absolute promise of God, and let it affect our heart, our soul.
Even once we realize it there, it is hard to keep that understanding, to not go back, and to fear death again. Every time we have to mourn and grieve, every time our heart is scarred by loss, we revert back to the days before we understood the promises of God, the promises found when we are united to Jesus.
I know this, even as I know what Paul talks about when he talks about ensuring death, for itis better, for him. To realize that death is better n the long run is sobering. To realize that could even lead one to desire death because it means being complete with Jesus,. To realize we do not have to meditate and pray to realize we are in His presence. Instead to look up, and see His face…
To set death completely aside, along with the suffering and brokenness caused by sin, and the fear of death. What a blessing.
Yet it is counting on that blessing that gives us the strength and desire to stay, and minister to those who are in bondage, trying to free them, so that they too can join us in Christ. To see God’s incredible work, as He brings someone to faith, and then strengthens that faith, as burdens slide away, as relationships are healed, as we gain a glance of eternity at the altar together.
To get to that point – to come to the conclusion that it is better to live, we have to realize how incredible eternity is, we have to face the battle of fears, the anxieties, assured of the promises of God are true, that we will be with Him forever. Then we can willingly address the issue, and see the blessing of staying here.. until He calls us home.
Knowing this, we begin to really live…
Walk with Him, through the valley, and learn not to fear it, or any evil.
And become a guide, someone who can help others, helping them to deal with the fears, the anxieties and indeed, the time of death.
Lord, help us walk closer and closer with You, strengthen our faith, be with us, now and at the time when we finally come home. But help us to be there for those who are anxious and fear death, and help us to show them how it will be a blessing. 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), 149–150.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT2)
Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!
There is a balance to life, especially a religious life.
It is hard not to worry about the food we will eat this week or next. It is hard not to see the pictures of the lines. It is hard not to try and make large plans, and make decisions that affect our people. It seems every other day that the government is changing what restrictions are out there, and foreseeing the impact on our people is hard.
As I get to work, my instinct is to lay aside my devotions, to get right to work. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to, care for, so many different things to consider, how do I have time for 30-45 minutes (or preferably 75-90 to catch my breath and remember I dwell in God’s presence?
My devotional readings this morning were kind of bland.. which didn’t help. I didn’t see anything much to think through that was applicable to my day until I got to St. Josemaria.
Soul care! What German Lutherans call seel-sorge – this is our calling as the church. Making sure our people are looking to God – realizing that even now, we still need ot seek Him, and lay our burdens down. Then take the guidance He offers, and go about our lives, assured of His peace.
So I will let those who make the decisions, make the decisions. I will care for those who come to me and go to the ones who are mine. I will point them to Jesus, and find ways to help.
God is with us, and the peace that news brings gives us the ability to live, and love those around us.
Seek Jesus first!
It will make a difference.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.