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The Key to Prayer…


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

19 This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God’s presence. 20If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that he knows everything. 21And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God’s presence. 22We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. 24Those who obey God’s commands live in union with God and God lives in union with them. And because of the Spirit that God has given us we know that God lives in union with us.  1 John 3:19-24

386      You lack faith… and you lack love. Were it not so you would go immediately and much more often to Jesus, asking for this thing and that. Don’t delay any further; call out to him and you will hear Christ speaking to you: “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as when he stopped for that poor blind man by the roadside who continued to insist, without giving up. 

To write on prayer is challenging.

In the first place, it is too personal, especially when considering St Josemaria’s words about pleading for this thing or that.  Personal becomes I have, and sometimes been disappointed.  It is also too personal, because some of the things I would ask, are well personal.  Lord, help me with this temptation, Lord, help me with this that causes anxiety and fear to rise up within me.  Not a lot of personal examples would I want to give,

The second reason is that there are two extremes when it comes to prayer.  The first is those who express what is often mocked as “name it – claim it” theology.  These are those who say you should pray like Jabez, and God will bless you with all forms of materialism, perfect families, perfect jobs, perfect health and absolute heaven on earth.  The other extreme confronts this so callously that you would almost think they believe God doesn’t listen to any prayer, that God doesn’t care for His people here.

But there are passages, the blind man that St Josemaria points out, the unjust judge, the father who doesn’t give his son a stone or a viper, but gives him what is asked.  The passages where Jesus invites us to cast all our cares on Him, all our burdens, where He tells us to ask and it will be given.  God wants us to pray, including asking Him to care for us, but I think there is something more that we need to understand.  If we don’t, then God is reduced to being a Genie in a bottle.  ( I think sometimes we think we have to save up for those really big things, so we don’t give him the everyday stuff)

Here is the key, faith and love, the very things that unite us to God, the very things that bind us to Him.  That is where prayer comes from, this close connection, this committed relationship.  It is knowing we are loved and loving back, it is in knowing that God is faithful, trustworthy, completely dependable because He desires what it good for us. Prayer is realizing that in Him we live and breathe and have our very being, so this communication is only natural.

This allows the prayer to come out of the depths, the places in our hearts, soul, and mind where we fear to go. Prayer comes from the place that so needs His peace, to know He is our sanctuary, our deliverance. This is the astonishing depth of prayer, and it shows our trust in the love of God who has come to us and given us life.

It is there that “Lord, have mercy” is simple and yet comprehensive prayer to the one who has brought us into union with Himself, for we are His children.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Paradoxical Mystery of Confession


St Francis Catholic Church

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

14 Since the children, as he calls them, are people of flesh and blood, Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature. He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, 15and in this way set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. 16For it is clear that it is not the angels that he helps. Instead, he helps the descendants of Abraham. 17This means that he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order to be their faithful and merciful High Priest in his service to God, so that the people’s sins would be forgiven. 18And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself was tempted and suffered.  Heb 2:14-18 TEV

261      God is with you. The Blessed Trinity dwells in your soul in grace. That is why, in spite of your wretchedness, you can and should keep up a continuous conversation with the Lord.

Growing up Catholic, the thing you learned to fear was that once a week meeting with your priest.  For us at St. Francis Elementary School, the parish priest would come to the school, and though he never made eye contact with you, his presence intimidated you.

You were afraid to mention your sins, and logically, I do not know why.

He wasn’t a mean.
He wasn’t known for asking outrageous acts of Penance, (the usual was 5 Our Fathers, 10 Hail Mary’s and 2 acts of contrition – you could say that much on your way back to class)

But there was something intimidating about confessing to another person, even to a man God put in place to remind you that you were forgiven because of Christ’s death on the cross!

Now some forty years later, and being a Lutheran pastor who absolves people of sins, I realize there is no difference.  People are still intimidated, still anxious, people still struggle with guilt and shame.

Even though we know the solution is found in our merciful high Priest Jesus, we shy away from Him, we put up our defenses, we deny we have done wrong. We try to hide our wretchedness, the wretchedness that eats us alive, that causes our souls to wither, our hearts to break.

We need to learn to trust, to depend on this God who came to us, to be like us, to free us from that sin, that shame, that oppression.  We need to let Him help us, to speak through those He’s called and ordained to do this very work.

We need to hear, “you are forgiven”

There is the paradox, the One we fear the most, the One we want to hide from the most, is the Lord who can do something to cut away our sin,,,to cleanse and purify us.

This is what we need, this is what we’ve been promised, this is what we should run to in hope, this time where God dwells in our heart with all His grace and love.

So don’t hesitate.  There are pastors and priests waiting, desiring to do their job, to tell you that which is the best news you will here today, or any day….

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1092-1094). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Brother to Brother…..one glorious hope!


church at communion 2Discussion Thought of the Day:
3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.    Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

Where man is no longer believed to be under God’s protection, to have God’s breath in him, then people begin to assess him from a utilitarian point of view. Then there appears the barbarity that tramples on human dignity.  (1)

Twenty-one years ago, an album containing the music of two masters was put together, one singing the lead of the other’s composition, both playing the instruments and blending their voices together.  They went on tour together, and while I would love to see many people in concert, to see Michael Card and John Michael Talbot together, would be one of my dreams.  

The album was called Brother to Brother, and it was playing in the background when I came across the words of Pope Ratzinger in my devotional reading this morning.  The lead song, One Faith,  comes from another favorite album, JMT’s The Regathering, which finds its inspiration in the words above from Ephesians 4.  It pictures the regathering of all the saints, into the perfect communion that is Christ Jesus.  As I look out on a broken world and the one holy, catholic (small c means all of us) apostolic and sadly fractured church, that day seems so precious, so wonderful and so far away.

It is the prayer and desire of Jesus fulfilled, that we truly be one, even as the Father and He are one.

And we see the glimpse of it in Pope Benedict’s (Cardinal Ratzinger when he wrote them) above in blue.  When we realize that every man is under God’s protection, every man has God’s breath in them, we can no longer view them as anything utilitarian.  We cannot hang generalizations, we cannot define them by affiliation or hang demographic labels on them.  Even the labels adversary and enemy fade away, along with fears and anxieties, as we see Christ in them, and therefore find someone who is loved, even as we are loved.  Someone Jesus is calling to, even as he calls to us.

Pope Benedict went on to say, We must always look upon other men as persons with whom we shall one day share God’s joy. We must see them as persons with whom we are called to be members of the body of Christ, with whom we shall one day sit at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the table of Jesus Christ, as persons called to be our brothers or sisters, and to be, with us, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, children of God.”

This isn’t easy.  It means we must trust and depend on God more than our fears, our anxieties, our resentments.  it requires seeing the individual as more than important than those things.  The only way to do that is to see the heart of God, the Lord who gave His body to be broken, and His blood to be shed for all on the cross, and then unify all He calls in a meal where He shares His body and blood again.

Including those that don’t understand yet, for we are called to love them, and invite them to this feast…..We won’t conquer our fears, we won’t willingly become martyrs if necessary if we don’t see them loved by God, even as He loves us.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, and help us to see that You died for each and every individual.  AMEN!

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. 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. Print.

Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness! A Sermon on Micah 6


church at communion 2Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness

Micah 6:1-8

 I.H.S. † 

 May you rejoice today, as you consider the promises of God, made to you and to all people, as He teaches us about His faithfulness!

All Rise… the court is in session:

In today’s sermon, we see an interesting civil court case, one that has some very interesting testimony and a wonderful surprise or two…

Like many civil trials, there is a complaint, and sort of a counter-complaint.

The adversaries are talking about who has kept their part of the deal, and what that means.

The trial is not what you would normally expect, for Man and God going to trial.  It is not one where man is on trial, to see whether a man is guilty or innocent.  Nor is it a trial as someone tries assert that the evidence given to mankind demands a verdict, that God exists.

It is more like a case for what they used to call an “alienation of affection,”

Man’s complaint

The trial opens with God inviting mankind to state their case against Him.  What promises did God make, where in the covenant did God fail? Our carefully planned out points of complaint are seen on the next slide. (Blank)

Yes, there they are….

Now you might be saying that there are plenty of things I can complain about.  The existence of heart diseases, cancer, poverty, hunger, and the lack of peace seem to come right to mind.

Remember, the case is about the alienation of affection.  Did God break his promises to Israel.  Did God break His promises to us.

And there is little evidence that He did, no, there is no evidence he did.

His surprising complaint

We then get to God’s complaint.

It’s then the case becomes clear, for He doesn’t shred us (or Israel) for our sin, for all the disrespect we show to authority, and pain we’ve caused to others lives.  He doesn’t go after us for adultery, or what we’ve taken from others, for our gossip or our jealousy and what it causes us to do.

Instead, hear God’s complaint….

“O my people, what have I done to you?  What have I done to make you tired of me!”

Really?  Of all the things that God could complain of, He complains that we’ve grown tired of Him?

Really?

That sounds… weak?  wimpy?  Like God is a lovestruck teenager, whose girlfriend was stolen by the class president/football team captain?

“What have I done to make you tired of me?”

Could God really be that in love with us?  Does He desire to call us “His” that much?
Epiphany reveals to us that he loves us that much.

Not just infatuation, but pure desire, pure love, and His work proves it.

And His case is.. What?

God will go on to make a case, that there is no reason for us to be alienated from Him, there is no reason to deny Him the affection he so longs for.

Remember the rescue from Egypt?

What about the time that prophet was paid to curse you and blessed you instead?  Do you remember that?

Do you remember me?…..

Do you do something to remember me?

God tells them what He’s done, as he says, in the midst of your rebellion, from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal’s caves, I did everything to teach you about my faithfulness.

God wanted to instill in Israel the idea that He’s not giving up on them.  He wanted them, just like He wants us, to count on Him, to count on Him in the way that a God is supposed to be counted on by His people, by His beloved children.

That’s a challenge for us, to know this love, which is why we have to remember, to see it again over and over.  TO think back daily on God proving that faithfulness as He cleansed us from all sin.   TO think about it as God calls us to remember the Body broken, the wine that was spilled so that we could be with Him, now and for eternity.

That’s why God doesn’t need all the sacrifices, that’s why we don’t have the blood of calves and rams and more oil than you can count.

That’s not what He’s after, He doesn’t want complete submission and surrender, and lives spent in trying to pay back the cost of all we’ve broken.

God wants our affection, our presence, our love.

And in Epiphany we celebrate Him revealed that to us, as Christ comes to love us.

Micah 6:8

Which brings us to that final verse, as God tells us what is good… and what He wants from us.

TO do what is right – or to put it another way, to live in this relationship where He is our God, and we are His people. To love His cHesed, to know that loving kindness/mercy/love, that loyalty, and faithfulness He has for us, and to walk with Him, realizing what it means to be His beloved.

Those things, we don’t tire of, those things will cause us to be in such awe, those things will draw us into His glory and love.

No, they have done those things – for we are in Epiphany, the season celebrating His presence among us, and our presence in Him.   AMEN!

 

 

May the Lord Lead Your Hearts


church at communion 2May the Lord Lead Your Hearts
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

†  I.H.S.

 May the grace, that incredible gift of God’s love, mercy and peace, lead you to share His message in a way that it spreads, and where it is heard and rejoiced in by all you share it with!

Rescue From Wicked People?

This week has been, to be honest, very trying.  My patience hasn’t been all that strong, neither has been my endurance.

It has been challenging, mostly because I wonder if we truly understand the love of God, and how He works in our lives.

I would love to say the election was the cause of it, but I think it only revealed what was hidden, as many of us identified those we thought we needed to be freed, or delivered from; the people Paul asked the Thessalonian people to pray he would be delivered from,

Those wicked, evil people who are not believers.

We think we know what that means; we probably have various people in mind.  Until I remind you that the word belief here is as often translated faith. So, the people we are talking about are those who do not have faith, who do not trust in God.  People who do not depend on Him.

Uhm – is this too close to home for you?  It is for me.

Because while I will easily say I believe in God, it is another thing to ask me whether I trust Him, or whether I truly depend on him.

Especially this week, as I have watched some of my closest friends call each other, and the people we are supposed to love and pray for, well, we haven’t done that this well in America.

Rather, we identified them as the enemy, because we don’t understand how they are different from us… until we realize they are “us.”

When it came to us

Paul is making a similar plea here in verse 1.

He wrote, “Pray that the Lord’s message will be spread and honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you!”

Which leads to a question – is the Lord’s message being spread and by us?

Or has that taken a back seat as our anxieties, and our fears about what other anxious people will do dominate us?

Is God’s message spread and glorified among us still?

Surely it can, yet there are moments where we gossip about our neighbors or fail to put things, as Luther explained, in the best construction. That’s not easy to do, it sometimes takes time, to sit with them and find out their fears, their concerns, their pains, and positions.

It takes communication, and we often damage the opportunity for it.

Can we return to the joy that we had when God’s message of grace we understood with our hearts, souls, minds and strength for the first time?

Can we see the message of God honored again, as it did when we first heard it?  And then can we dare spread it to those, who like us, find themselves broken in this world?

Can we do as Paul was confident the Saints then would, doing and continuing to do that which he taught us to do?

How we do and continue to do what God commissioned

The answer is, yes.

Yes, even though we sin, we can still be restored, the awe at the love of God can be found again.  It was why we remember our baptisms, where sin, all our sin, was washed away by God’s command, because of our connection to Jesus and His death and resurrection. To restore that joy of our salvation is why we gather here, to remember and reveal again the love of God through the words of scripture, and through sermons like this.

It is why we come to the rail, and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ as we take and eat, as we remember the words of Jesus that established the covenant, as we are renewed by the gifts He gives us here.

We need this, all of us, from every demographic you can think of, from every political persuasion, we need to be refocused, revived, delivered and saved from the evil.  That happens one way,

Hear again the blessing of Paul,

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

There it Is, there is what we need, this incredible love of God, revealed to us.  Then trusting in Him, depending upon Him to save us, to strengthen us and guard us against evil becomes our nature.  Doing and continuing to do what we’ve been taught through scripture becomes not only our action; but our desire. This all happens because God leads us, leads our hearts into understanding and expressing His love for us.  That love, as it is revealed, causes us to trust in Him, to depend on Him, no matter what else happens.

For knowing how much he loves us, that is beyond anything.  What that loves is everything, it is glorious, and wonderful, joyful and enables us to endure anything.

We’ll even realize how many people that word “us” contains, and knowing that will cause this love, this message of God to spread rapidly, and be honored and glorified.

For it contains us all, for God so loved us all, and we all need to for Him to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of His love.

Here, he is doing that exact thing… may we realize it.  AMEN!

 

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Preparing for After the Election… “O Lord What Will We Do NOW?!?”



Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 16  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17  Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
2 Kings 6:15-17 (NLT)

482    What does it matter if the whole world with all its power is against you? Forward! Repeat the words of the psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum—“If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.”

If I were to believe everything said about each of the candidates, I would think that no matter who is the next President of the United States, we would be better off with a global flood, or perhaps that the full tribulation had come into effect.

The words of Elisha’s servant would certainly be mine, as fear and anxiety overtook me. “Lord, what are we going to do now?”  How will we survive this?  Every worst case scenario will flash before our eyes, as we expect America to sink in a moral crisis unheard of since.. well at least the 1960’s – and maybe all the way back to the 1890’s! (Or ancient Rome)

Some fear one winning, others fear the opponent dominating.  Some and anxious because they don’t want either to win! No matter who, there will be people displeased and distraught, worried about the world changing, even fearing it ending.

What we need is the same thing the servant needed, to have our eyes opened to the reality that this world is still part of God’s kingdom.  That the richness of His promise of eternity and His presence with us in this life is more than our fears.

Christ is with us.

Think about that….

No, I mean really think about it, let your heart and mind dwell in the presence of Christ here, in your presence right now.  Remember the moment you communed that you shared His Body and Blood and experienced for a moment, the wonder and awe that comes when He is revealed.

This experience, this knowledge, this awareness that God is for us, is what has sustained people of God for millennia.  That has enabled them to know peace in dictatorships and revolutions, in times of global war, and famine.  They have known that peace even as their brothers and sisters are martyred, even as they are martyred.

It is the one constant hope we have, in a broken, hurting, rebellious world.  Knowing this, we are confident not only that the world’s sin cannot separate us from God, but we are reminded that our own cannot either.  Including the anxiety and doubt, we have that God is still in charge, working everything our for good for those who love Him.

And it is more than enough to sustain us at this time.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us to see you, incarnate, present, benevolent and in control.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1179-1181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hang On For the Ride of Your Life! A sermon on Deut. 30:15-20


Hang On For the Ride of Your LIFE!

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

I.H.S.†

 May, in the midst of this crazy life we live, you find exploring the height, the depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for you is more exciting than anything you have ever known!

A Pastor Parker Parable

It’s been a while since I did a Pastor Parker Parable, and today’s Old Testament passage seems to cry out for one.

The Kingdom of God is like a Cannonball.

Specifically, following Jesus, trusting and depending on Him is like a cannonball found in my hometown, just a couple of minutes ride from my house.

Specifically, this cannonball (click to picture) the Yankee Cannonball at Canobie Lake Park.

When I was a kid it was the most creaky, rickety, rollercoaster that I’ve ever been on.  It was a blast and very cool…yet scary!

One that wasn’t scary because of the 120 foot first drop, or the sharp curves, or the screams.  Sometimes it looked like this, when they replaced half the sticks holding up the tracks…

Which made it interesting.

Sort of like life.

And like, you can hang on for dear life, and enjoy the ride, or you can close your eyes, and miss it.  For like the ride, life passes by much too fast – I mean where did July and August go?

So when you hear Moses or myself says, God is giving you a choice between life and death, love God, and hang on for life!

Keep Your Eyes Open!!!

There is a temptation, as you start to climb the long first hill of a rollercoaster, to close your eyes.  To ignore the height, you are climbing above the ground, and if you could, you probably close your ears to the tatatataa of the tracks passing underneath the wheels, bringing you closer and closer to the top of the hill, and the change from a gradual, gentle uphill climb to a plummeting descent that causes your cheeks to be behind your ears.

You want to blame someone, whoever caused you to be on this rollercoaster, even as you feel the entire framework sway in the gentle breeze.

And then your stomach is hovering 128 feet above the ground, while the rest of body is bottoming out at 3 feet above the ground and starting to rise up the next hill!  ( you do wonder why you didn’t crash full force into the ground, especially as you noticed a lot of wood missing…)

That is our life.  There are times where our anxiety rises and turns into a paralyzing fear. We want someone to blame for the mess we are in, and we aren’t having fun.  Where we are certain that we are plummeting to our death, or even hell, and we can’t stop and get off of life.

And so we close our eyes to the sin, to the unrighteousness. We try to dismiss it, and say it doesn’t exist, even as it tears at our face, even as we get that sick to our stomach feeling, even as we are sure we are going to crash.
Without Jesus, we would do exactly that.  We would crash into the ground at 5000 miles an hour!  The supports would give out, and quite possibly, we would take a bunch of people with us.

I am not sure we see sin that clearly.  Oh, we might know the anxiety and the guilt and the shame, but do we realize that its end is death? DO you know that sin is disaster?  Hear scripture

17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed.

Do we get that sin crushes us, destroys us, that it leads us to worship other gods, to place our trust and hope in things that will let us down?

It does – and if the guilt and shame we try so hard to avoid, if the angst and anxiety sin and unrepentance causes doesn’t convince you of your need for Jesus, then take a serious look at hell. Consider life lived with eyes closed in fear, pain, separation from all of those around you.

Imagine enduring that for eternity?
Imagine the darkness closing in on you – that the choice you have, to open your eyes,

Jesus sets before you that, and real life today.  In fact, most of us live with that choice every day.

Life, death, that which is desirable and pleasant, or that which is broken, defective, abandoned.

You’re committed

You see, life is like the rollercoaster – you aren’t in line, you are on the coaster, the wheels are going, the rails are clicking, the wind is blowing past you.

You are committed, but how you react within that commitment makes the difference.

You can close yourself off, from others and from God.

Or you can open your eyes, scream every once in a while, smile and enjoy the ride, trusting in the Lord who is your support, who is your safety, who is your refuge.  Who designed the track, who knows the curves, who ensures that you will keep going!

In our reading – it says the way we “LIVE” is to love God, to treasure all that He has established, the laws, the gospel, the promises, the blessings, and where it says commit – that’s means simply to hold on.

And like the front bat on the rollercoaster, your have on for dear life – and it helps you in the curves and in the drops….

But what keeps you safe is that the coaster hangs onto you – you are belted in, you aren’t going anywhere, until it is time to unfasten this belt, because you find yourself safely back home in the station.  Until you are safely in His presence….even as you are here for a moment, but then for eternity.

He holds onto you – He is the author and finisher of your faith, and He will present you perfect to the Father.

Keep your eyes open, on Him, hold onto Him, knowing He has united you to himself in baptism, and he will not lose you, and live and enjoy the ride.

knowing the peace that comes, even on a roller coaster.  For we are cleansed, made holy, forgiven, healed and never abandoned by our Lord.

And He guards our hearts and minds as we dwell in the peace of our Father, peace that even overcomes fears on a 75-year-old wooden roller coaster!

AMEN!

Isn’t God Listening?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44  NAB-RE

And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies.  (1)

2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death.  (2)

As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.

Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?

I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people.  But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary?  The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?

And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father?  Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep.  (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat.  They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)

I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair.  It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.

It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”.  If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing.  It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.

I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.

The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God.  It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word.  We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love.  There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden.  Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is.  It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God.  We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.

And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.

He will listen.

He does listen.

He is listening, right now!

And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed.  This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.

As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him.  That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.

And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now.  It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.

Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Blessing of Anxiety….?


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Devotional Thought of the day:

1  A great anxiety has God allotted, and a heavy yoke, to the sons of men; From the day one leaves his mother’s womb to the day he returns to the mother of all the living, 2  His thoughts, the fear in his heart, and his troubled forebodings till the day he dies– 3  Whether he sits on a lofty throne or grovels in dust and ashes, 4  Whether he bears a splendid crown or is wrapped in the coarsest of cloaks– 5  Are of wrath and envy, trouble and dread, terror of death, fury and strife. Even when he lies on his bed to rest, his cares at night disturb his sleep. 6  So short is his rest it seems like none, till in his dreams he struggles as he did by day, Terrified by what his mind’s eye sees, like a fugitive being pursued; 7  As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.
Sirach 40:1-7 (NAB)

I cast all my cares upon You. I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon You  (Kelly Willard) 

307      Pray resolutely using the words of the Psalmist: “Lord, you are my refuge and my strength, I trust in thee!” I promise you that he will preserve you from the ambushes of the “noontide devil” when you are tempted and… even when you fall, and when your age and virtues ought to have proved solid and you should have known by heart that He alone is your Strength.  (1)

Anxiety is nothing new. People in every era are plagued or blessed by it. Obviously, the writer of Sirach was well aware of it, as were Solomon and David,  So have been men and women of God throughout the ages.  The most beloved hymn of Luther, “A Mighty Fortress” reveals his dealings with anxiety, His need for a safe place.

It can and should be used as a blessing, rather than the source of paralysis. It can be what drives us to seek peace, rather than dwell in fear and confusion, and it can result in a deep faith, dependence and confidence in God that is truly supernatural.

But to see stress as a blessing takes time, and the ability to be patient with ourselves, knowing God is patient.

When I see this work, it happens something like this.

1.  I enter into a situation where stress is high, or just as likely, something I say or do causes the stress to elevate.

2.  My mind starts to project what the horrid result will be (my mind is quite skilled at this!) and how to minimize pain and damage and drama.  If I let my mind get into this anxiety, the anxiety will increase geometrically, with a decrease in anything practical.

3.  The option is to realize the anxiety is a simple signal; you can’t do this on your own. It is a time to pray; it is time to seek the refuge and the sanctuary that is being in the presence of God.  To trust in and depend on God, for He is faithful.

We have to realize His promises are not impotent but driven by His love and mercy, they are true.  When Jesus asks us to lay our burdens at God’s feet, to cast our cares ( Psalm 37:5, Ps. 55:22, Mt. 5:25 , 1 Cor 7:32, Phil. 4:6 , Heb 13:-6.  1 Peter 5:7 do you want more verses to assure you of this?) upon Him.   When we do so, this is what Sirach is talking about when he mentions us reaching safety and waking up astonished that there was nothing to fear.

As anxiety begins, it is a signal of our need for God’s peace, of our need to remember that God is our refuge, which in Him we are safe.

This is the Lord who responds to cries begging for mercy, who is here to heal the brokenhearted, to free those crushed by life.

So feeling anxious about the political actions of the day?  Feeling frustrated and unsure of the future?  As you begin to worry, as it begins to get confusing, run, knowing God’s love and peace are where you are to dwell, for He is your refuge.   AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1239-1243). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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