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A Different Perspective on Death

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional 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.

Priorities in a Time of Plague

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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.

 

Why “I Don’t Get it” is a good thing!

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

29  The LORD our God hasn’t explained the present or the future, but he has commanded us to obey the laws he gave to us and our descendants. Deuteronomy 29:29 (CEV)

29  Things hidden belong to Yahweh our God, but things revealed are ours and our children’s for ever, so that we can put all the words of this Law into practice.’ Deuteronomy 29:29 (NJB)

29  “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT2)

“For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere.” 

Although very few of those who express their uneasiness have a clear picture of these interrelated factors, there is an instinctive grasp of the fact that liturgy cannot be the result of Church regulations, let alone professional erudition, but, to be true to itself, must be the fruit of the Church’s life and vitality.

I read the verse in red in the first translation this morning.  It piqued my interest because I get frustrated when I cannot understand the things going on in life.  That has been happening a lot recently.

So i started looking the passage up in other translations.  Sometimes that helps, sometimes I have ot go a bit deeper than that. I use the NLT in our church, and the NJB is the first full Bible I ever owned. I like it just like people who grew up with the KJV are not comfortable with more modern translations.

Turns out I like all three, but the NJB resonates the most with me.

To paraphrase it, “what God has made a mystery, these things we cannot know.  That is good.  The things God has revealed to us, this is what is needed for us to live in the relationship He created with us…. (at the cross)  For the Law is not just the commandments, but the entire covenant, the entire description of our relationship. It is the explanation of, “I am your God, and you are my people!’

That’s the message – that is the mystery that we can’t conceive of, but we need to know is true.  We have to have that, far more than why we have to understand some of the evil things that happen in this world or even the odd and unexplainable things.

Even if we understood the present or the future, could we change it?

No. Not really. We might even be more frustrated than we are with things all in the dark.

But if we know of God’s presence, HIs promise, HIs love, that changes it all…. and we can His peace and comfort in that revelation.

And this is where the two quotes about liturgy come in, for the liturgy needs to communicate God’s presence, love, and mercy above all.  It cannot be the same, for it has to address the place where people are at, the struggles they face, the despair they know, and to reveal to them that they can depend on God, that He wants them to do so!

That means the liturgy may look a little different here from there. It gives expression to God coming into the presence of His people and healing them of their brokenness. And liturgy comes out of that feeling., as the people respond to the merciful, comforting loving presence of God.  That is why liturgy is fruit, proof of the vitality of a congregation, proof of the truth revealed to them. And it is why those who would use the liturgy to bind the church are not protecting the church, but severely damaging it. Damaging it far more than the changes they fear ever could.

Liturgy is the expression of the faith of those who enter into worship and must always remain so.  For then it gives voice to what God has revealed, and where He has not, where we don’t get it, the liturgy will bring comfort and peace.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Cinnfessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 173–174.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 86–87.

Sometimes it is so good, you have to share

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him…..

The scripture passage above was one I included in a blog a few days ago. It is something I am dealing with, something I, to be honest, am struggling with, as I observe some disconcerting things in the Church, and as I observe some stress and pain, and as I see people who are immune to seeing that stress and pain.

I know that desperation, and the fire burning in the guy. (Jeremiah knew it too – check out Jeremiah 20:7)

There is a tendency to fight or flee. TO argue till they see our side, until they follow our holy rules and acknowledge our superior wisdom, or to take the ball, our ball, and walk away. We don’t see a third option, and to be honest, we often do not want to see that option.

Because it means we lose, that our agenda is set aside, that we have to humble ourselves and work with our adversaries, not only do we have to work with them, we have to listen to them… and instead of winning or losing, instead of compromising, we have to seek God together.

Tony Campolo used to tell the story of walking from a parking structure in Philadelphia to a big meeting, some major players were going to donate a large sum of money to back some mission efforts he was developing. Important stuff, millions of dollars on the line. He was late, and as he walked down the street, he noticed a homeless guy walking toward him. He did what most of us would do, he tried not to make eye-contact with him. After all, he was in a hurry, to do something incredible for God!

Every once in a while he would look up – and the guy had zeroed in on him. I think he used the word, “crap” or perhaps something stronger. He realized he only had a $20 in his pocket, and didn’t want to waste it. The guy approached, Tony got anxious, nercous, tried to think of something to say.

“mister, I want to give you something”

“HUH????”

“Here, you need this, as he tries to hand Tony the cup in his hand”

Tony accepts it, he can feel the heat through the cup. Then he looks and it is a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. He’s like “how much do I owe you”

The guy explains, “Nothing Mister, someone gave me enough for two cups this morning, and mine was so good, I had to give the other to someone else. You looked so stressed out, I had to give it to you. Haven’t you had something so good that you needed to share it with someone else?

I’ve heard Tony tell that story, of that horrible cold, wet Philadelphia day probably 5 or 6 times. Each time he does it with a tear in his eye, as he remembers the swirling feelings of guilt and joy.

Back to my original point.

Paul describes us too well,

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Here is the cup of coffee we need to savor,

Look back u to the words of Spurgeon in purple.

Go ahead…

no really – and if you did ,,, think about it again. really work through it.

Now that is your cup of coffee, and you and your adversary, you and the person in the church who is causing you pain, the one you think you struggle with, that is inconvenient, needs to know this.

Now go and share you cup of coffee…

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

Do We Realize What is Going On Around Us?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting. Exodus 33:11 (NLT2)

We might even venture to say that what God does is always an answer to this kind of appeal from someone who prays. This does not mean that God is like the potentates of this world who want to be asked before they bestow a favor. No—it is so because it must be so by the very nature of things, because it is only when we pray, when we transcend ourselves, when we surrender ourselves, when we recognize God as a reality, when we open ourselves to him, only then that the door of the world is open for God and that space is created in which he can act for and on us men. God is, it is true, always with us, but we are not always with him, says Saint Augustine. It is only when we accept his presence by opening our being to him in prayer that God’s activity can truly become an action on and for us men.

THE SECOND PETITION (of the Lord’s prayer)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us

One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha’s servant had no clue what is going on around him. He sees what the prophet and he will face, and not realizing the power of God, falls into despair.

We do this often, for our faith is weak, and our memory of God’s presence is not so good. We struggle in the face of the problems, the trauma, and the self-doubt that is caused by sin and temptation. We may not want to admit it, but everyone struggles with that self-doubt. For if we can’t do what we want to do, what is right, and we can’t stop the self-defeating sin that has ensnares us, we end up living in a world that is broken, and we can’t find a way to cope with it. Deny it, get distracted from it by our addictions, we just keep going.

Elisha’s servant hadn’t learned what to do yet, but Elisha did. He simply prayed. The servant then saw the truth, and what was real! He found out what was really going on, and it was a different story.

THat’s why Luther and Pope Benedict talk about prayer the way they do. If we don’t pray, it is not that God isn’t active, for He is. What is missing is our awareness of what God is doing.

It is impossible to know what is going on around us, if we don’t see what God is doing.


Prayer is the beginning of that, as we talk with God, much as Moses did, or Enoch or even David. Blunt conversations, face to face, as we would have with a friend. Allowing God to, with all His wisdom and power, to intervene in our lives, as He reveals His love and the mercy which forgives and heals us. That is what Benedict XVI is talking about, as we transcend ourselves in prayer, and meet with God and talk. It is what LUther referred to when he talked of God’s kingdom coming among us.

We see His reality then, as it is revealed at the speed and fullness He knows we can take. We see His love, His concern, we see the power of God at work reforming us into a masterpiece.

Lord, help us to talk with You, as Moses did. Not just face to face, but as a friend talks to a friend. Lord Jesus, help us depend on You, not neglecting You and talking with You. Open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!


Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–287.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.

The Struggle Within…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

3 This is the message which he told them to give to Isaiah: “Today is a day of suffering; we are being punished and are in disgrace. We are like a woman who is ready to give birth, but is too weak to do it.
King Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went to the Temple, placed the letter there in the presence of the LORD, 15 and prayed, 16† “Almighty LORD, God of Israel, seated above the winged creatures, you alone are God, ruling all the kingdoms of the world. You created the earth and the sky. 17 Now, LORD, hear us and look at what is happening to us!
Isaiah 37:3,14-17 GNT

To focus on entering new life with Christ requires that we take a stand as to who we are in this new life, that we identify with the Christ-life in us and against the sin still present in our selves and that we settle in our will the question of who we intend to be. This is what it means to “count [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Pray: Talk to God about the two lives, two streams of awareness and power, mingling together. Ask God to show you what you need to know about how to untangle them and choose more to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

As I read the section from Isaiah this morning, the despair the Hezekiah described struck home. Against his enemies he felt too weak, all Israel seemed to weak. The graphic comment about a woman in labor who cannot, and surrenders to the weakness seems all too similar.

Our enemy is just as powerful, though not a horde, or a arm y can roll over us. It is far too integral to us, this old life of sin. It seems to wrap around us like one of the strands of DNA, unable to be separated from the other, Defining ourselves without the sense of brokenness we care too weak to defeat seems illogical. Like Paul that strand of sin, winding through our being causes us to do what we do not want to do, and prevents us from doing what we desire to do, what we know pleases God.


Theologically we know we are called to be holy, set apart to live life in the glory of God. Practically we find ourselves struggly, and even getting to the point where we give up the fight, where we are unwilling to fight anymore. Sin becomes the norm, again.

In the midst of the weakness, in the midst of despair, Hezekiah does something as outrageous as it is incredible. He enters the temple, he goes and places the letter from his oppressor in the presence of the LORD. He goes into the Holy of Holies, the place a priest awas allowed only once a year, and begs the LORD to look at their situation. The place where high priests could die because of their sin, he walks right in and says, “God, Look at this, help us! We are too weak, we have to have Your help!”

In the Holy of Holies, there he finds hope…

This is huge for us, as we need to realize that we can enter the presence of God almighty with that much boldness, setting aside everything that would restrain us. (see Hebrews!) That place where Hezekiah entered? It was the place of ultimate mercy, the place forgiveness, the place where the blood would be shed.

The place we need to abide, to dwell with God. The place where sin is separated from our DNA, for it was killed off to bring us to this place. The place where we know God rescued us no from the Assyrians, but from that which haunts us, our guilt, our shame, our brokenness, our sin.

The struggle within fades in the presence of God, when we realize His work to defeat it as the cross, and in our baptism, and everytime we take and eat His body, and drink His blood, testifying to the blood out, to cover our sin, to His death for us.

The struggle is still there, and until God complete the work He began is us (Phil. 1:6) we will struggle against this foe… yet that struggle is dealt with, not by our own strength, but simply by being in the place where God is with us…Overcoming it isn’t about 30 seconds there, but learning to dwell with Him (see Col. 3:1-3) To dwell in His presence in the darkest moments, to dwell with Him as He addresses our brokenness.

To know He, the LORD is with us!







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

Dad, Why Does God Allow Earthquakes?

Twenty five years ago, yet as real as yesterday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21  the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT2)

4  What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5  No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” Luke 13:4-5 (TEV)

If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.
This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God
.

As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.

We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.

The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. THat too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.

Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday’s rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that – even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.

And the 12 year old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5’11.5″, 170 lbs and has a IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bed time he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question…

“Why does God allow earthquakes?”

I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above, and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority, because we don’t know what comes next. And while God doesn’t cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder – that creation is subject to God’s curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such “groaning” God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.

He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don’t get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.

Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we ut in place when we can’t find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology, and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount, when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don’t see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma, or frustration.

He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness…

Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn’t make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to, and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.

Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don’t have the answers, Lord bring us peace, and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!



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

A Way to Deal With Stress…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Where there is no vision the people get out of hand; happy are they who keep the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NJB)

2  Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)

958         You have a big problem; but if such things are approached properly, that is to say, with calm and responsible supernatural vision, the solution is always to be found.

Yesterday I attended a class on the relationship between stress and weight loss/gain. Some of the things in the course were quite interesting. others were, hmmm, more challenging to hear, as they led down different paths.

But the first words were about the inavoidability of stress, of problems that we will encounter. It’s there, and there are natural bio-chemical, hormonal reactions to stress. ANd the natural reactions to stress are fight or flee, both kicked into high gear by the rushing hormones that fill our blood stream and affect every muscle and organ in our body.

Stress is unavoidable, brokenness, grief, guilt, shame, worry, all cause this, and more besides. And the toll of such stress over the years is an horrific list of thigns from heart disease and cancer, to forms of mental illness.

Techniques were offered. Breathing, mediation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Visioning. Lacking was anything about prayer, meditative on scripture or on the sacraments. ( Which is odd considering the weight loos program is under the asupices of a Roman Catholic Hospital, administered by an order of nuns. )

For I have found that in the presence of God, when I realize that He is my fortress, the protesction from the trauma of the world (and my own internal trauma as well), that I can begin to relax, that I can begin to hand over the causes of my anxiety.

It is as the Proverb says above, that without that vision, we get out of hand. In other translations, we cast off all restraint, and then, we perish. But when we treasure (for that is what heep means) this revelation of God’s love, of His mercy and healing, we know a joy that is only found in the most perfect peace.

But how do we get there?

It was odd, at the end of the presentation, the last slide included the presenter’s fvorite word. Metanoia a word she knew as change, the change of our mindsets, our way of processing life. You could see her light up as she talked about it.

So I asked if she knew the “other” translation of the word. And then shared with her the word often it is translated into in scripture.

Repentance.

Not the repentance seen in movies, the guilt and shame producing feeling that comes from someone pointing out your guilt and shortcomings. But the kind of transformation seen in Romans 12 above, the very work of God renewing our minds. The work of Holy Spirit in our lives, brinign comfort and healing to our broken hearts and souls. Reminding us that there is no need to beat ourselves up over our sin, rather as 1 John 1:9 says, confessing ti to God, knowing He will cleanse us of all of it, and all injustice.

All of it.

The end of this, the end of seeing/envisioning God, revealed in all his love and mercy in scripture finds us at peace, at home in the presence of God, a place where the anxieities and stress of life may exist, but are so dimiished as we know GOd will bring us through them.

As He has for all who depend, who trust in Him.

Heavenly Father, help us be aware of the Holy Spirit’s work within those who have faith in You, and depend on what You have promised to do and provide for us. Grant us, repentence, the renewing of our hearts and minds and souls, so that we can dwell in the peace You intend for us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who made this all possible at the cross. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3886-3888). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Holy Sacraments: Not a Theological Construct, but an Encounter with God

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 After all the people had been baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened, 22† and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.” Luke 3:21-22 GNT

16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16 (TEV)

7  On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. Acts 20:7 (NLT2)

10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11 (NLT2)

Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.

There are several communion services in my life that will always come to mind. One of those had its sixth anniversary this week, as I remember a dozen, maybe a dozen and a half missionaries gathering in Macao one afternoon.

Another was my first Sunday in my journey in becoming a Lutheran pastor. Despite having been the “officiant” at the celebration for years, there was something different that day. Something that went beyond theology, beyond knowledge.

It started with hearing the elder say these simple words to people. Bod said, “take and drink, the blood shed for the forgiveness of your sin.” He said it with such confidence, such faith that each word hammered into the hardness of our hearts. I don’t remember anything else, save for one thing, as these words of God were heard, not just by ears, but by weary hearts and broken souls.

The other thing I noticed was the body language of the people. People I knew from the community, people dealing with more brokenness (I would learn) than I could ever suspect. They approached the altar, hunched over, unable to look up, the burdens of the world, and their own sin so oppressing them. And then, as they received the body of Jesus on their tongues, as they drank from the chalice or the little cups, their bodies changed. They relaxed, the stern reverence was replaced with smiles that were filled with peace, and joy.

I know no other way to explain it, except to say they encountered Christ. They were overwhelmed by His presence, His mercy, His love. And when they sang the traditional Nunc Dimittis after communion, they like Simeon, knew God’s salvation. Not as theology, not as some fact, but something that resonated with every beat of their heart.

That joy allowed them to leave the brokenness behind, it allowed them to be free of what oppressed them. One of my professors would later describe this using the word “incarnational” not restricting the incarnation to an event in the Judean hills 2000 years ago but seeing it happen here. This is what the early Lutherans meant by the sacrament comforting their frightened consciences.

And each of the sacraments does this, baptism, the Eucharist, Confession and Absolution, as we participate, as we share in life with Jesus, who brought us to life in HIs resurrection.

This can’t be adequately explained, even by the best of theologians. The sacraments aren’t something that man has the power to research, to “objectively observe.” But they bring about a healing of our souls, as the promises of God become true for us, as the love of God, in all its measureless dimensions, is revealed, As we are transformed, and that is revealed as well, the glory of God reflecting from us, as it did from Moses face.

Come, let us adore Him, for the Lord is with us. AMEN!



Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession: The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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Be Full of Joy: A sermon and service based on Phil. 4:4-7

Be Full of Joy
Philippians 4:4-7


† In JesusName †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine!  AMEN!

Irritating tunes…

There are in life some very irritating tunes.

You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?

A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…

“It’s” (a small world after all…

There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.

Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..”   (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to rejoicealways

and sometimes we are not in the mood!

Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging.  (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)

And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.

One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
 
Things that joy needs to replace.

But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be.  Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.

The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress.  Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.

Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives.  Those too take a lot of room in our hearts and minds.  And even if we get them, we aren’t always satisfied.  And chasing after, or hyper-focusing on these things takes up room that should be allocated for joy!

Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us.. And when it does, it steals the place for joy.

I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.

For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree.  For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.

9 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;  1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)

And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.

How did I come up with the list?
          Our conversation with God revolves around these important things

So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?

From the passage of course.  Though I changed the words slightly.

Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other.  Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.

Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.

He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need.  We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.

We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do so, and to fill us with joy, This is the comfortingwork of the Holy Spirit!  As He cleanses us,and fills us with God’s joy!

For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do.  You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it. 

His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…

That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

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