Devotional Thought of the Day:
As I went over our passage for Bible Study tonight, II Corinthians 1, the comfort and strength God gives so supported Paul the Apostle. He was convinced of it, as was many in scripture from Job to David, to John on Patmos. here is part of the verses we shall look at
8 …The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive. 9 We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us. But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (TEV)
Now, I am one of those who hates being discomforted – even if it’s just pricking my finger to check my blood sugar. But it seems I have to face challenge after challenge these days. Or worse, I have to watch people I care for endure them. That really… well. sucks…
Yet, I’ve learned that as we take on the challenges, whether they are external afflictions like Paul endured in Acts 17 &18, or those endured by those who penned hymns like “It is Well”, “A Mighty Fortress”, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, or “Amazing Grace” ( or anything by Casting Crowns) we find ourselves face to face with God. And that is when these times turn to blessings.
It’s not that God wants us to need Him that desperately, it simply is, He will be there when we need Him. I wish to God that our trials never get that bad (even though some of the stuff I’ve been through recently makes me wonder) but I cannot doubt that He is here, and He will be there…
He is Yahweh – the I AM, and Immanu-EL – the God who is here.
Even if we, in despair, give up all hope, wonder why life is the way it is…
THere is time to be still, and find ourselves praising the God who is with us… for He is with us… and that changes everything. Including us!
- Becoming Like Christ…. How it Happens: (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Patience, Professors, Persevering, and the Plan of God. (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (TEV)
7 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. 8 Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ 9 and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. Philippians 3:7-9 (MSG)
“You wrote to me: “To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries—even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions—and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself— “to get acquainted!”” (1)
For the last year or so, I have been toying with the idea of going back to school, to get a doctoral degree. I’ve thought about which degree to get, for there are a number of fields that interest me – from worship, to sociology, to counseling, to homiletics and other pragmatic areas of ministry. Yesterday I went back to where it all started, 30 years ago this fall, as I entered a “non-denom” Bible College – in a very accidental “God-thing” type moment.
Combine with that preparing to preach this weekend – “Trinity Sunday” we call it, a day to meditate upon how God has revealed Himself to us, as three distinct, yet …..One. One of the greatest, most complicated theological doctrines there is, and yet, still so far out of ability to comprehend. ( Read the Athanasian Creed – an incredibly beautiful explanation of God, yet each phrase, raises more questions, leaves us more in awe. And for a theologian, albeit an amateur one, (as all pastors are – as serving others takes precedence…always… over such deep thoguhts) I love to just sit back and plumb the depths of the minds who wrote far more comprehensively than I can think.
But then I come to St. Paul – a man who was a first rate theologian in his day, prior to His conversion, who wrote the quotes above. It doesn’t matter how much I know, I’ve got to realize I am loved, I have to understand why Paul so desired to be embraced by Christ, why everything else took a back seat to knowing, not the details.
Which is where Theophilus – the person Luke writes his gospel for comes in. The name in Greek is Loved by God/Lover of God. But it is that relationship that matters, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed that we are the beloved, that we never walk alone, that we have been cleansed and healed and are loved. It is starting from there, realizing the miracles our being justified and sanctified are only to deliver us, the children of the Father, the ones Jesus calls His friends, the ones who are the Home of the Holy Spirit. We must be Theophilus, before we ever become Theologians..
I would never say to not study theology, but first, come to know God, as St Josemaria says – get acquainted with Him in prayer. Talk to Him – about everything and anything. Listen to Him, hear Him tell you of His love, of His mercy, of His grace. That is what matters, in a way, it is ALL that matters….. for knowledge even all the data we can generate about Trinity – without that love… is nothing….empty…worthless.
I pray for you (and ask you to pray for me, as the apostle Paul did for the people of Ephesus…
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 365-368). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Where do we Abide?
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May your life find its focus in the gifts of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, His mercy, His peace. His love, but mostly, in His presence!
The Tears of Paul, the Cry of Jesus
Knowing His past, the way in which he dealt with the enemies of what he perceived his faith to be, these words of Paul testify to His coversion, the transformation that had occurred in his life, as he came to know the love of God.
Hear them again,
18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
Hear His reaction – it is not one of anger, of lust for revenge, but one of great sorrow, of great sadness.
I say it again with tears in my eyes,
It is the reaction, not of a crusader, but of one who has been rescued from brokenness, whose heart has known the healing of being raised from worthlessness and given life and meaning, who has been called to be loved….
And grieves when he sees others who refuse such a call….to live in Christ
It is the attitude that Paul would encourage us all to imitate – the example he tried to set, even as Paul would imitate the Lord who came to him, and called him. We hear the same attitude in Jesus’ cry to the people of God in today’s gospel,
34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
Indeed, Paul had become much like his Lord Jesus… and now he calls to us, to become like him, to follow the path of Christ trod, finding our strength in the God’s presence, and looking forward with Joy, even as we dwell now as citizens of heaven, as the people of God, whom He protects and loves and heals…
Do We Know the Price of Condemnation?
Most of us would hesitate before condemning someone to hell, most of us wouldn’t say “Go to Hell” in anger, or “I hope they burn in Hell” even about the people whom we can only see as “evil”, as they practice which is evil. I have seen similar reactions recently, heard them or read them on internet, against the likes of Jerry Sandusky, or Chris Dorner.
Even while we may not actively hope that others would go to hell, do we passively let others continue on their merry way towards Hell? Does it bother us, as it did the apostle Paul to the point that we cry over such people? Even our enemies? Or maybe we don’t want them to suffer eternally, just a period of time we would consider fair and equitable.
Do we realize that those who oppose Christ, who disdain or passively dismiss the cross are headed for destruction? Or do we just go about our own lives, going by the old saying, “live and let live?” Do we realize that such a attitude is against what scripture teaches about loving your neighbor? Is it loving to allow anyone to head towards experiencing the wrath of God?
Paul says these people are heading to destruction. The word there isn’t destruction as they might lose their house or their job, or that their families and lives will fall apart in this life. It is talking about destruction as in eternal – as in their complete separation from love, and life, and goodness. Total and complete. Do we weep for them?
Do we weep for those who oppose the cross of Christ, who deny mercy, who contend with the gospel, who put stumbling blocks in the ways of those who God would have them call out to? (It is funny that in the context of this passage – Paul is talking about people in the church!)
How many people do we know who are described as Paul describes those he is dealing with?
Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
What a sad way to be described – to realize that our emotions, our “appetites” could have so much control over us. To realize that people can be co confused that they would choose that which is disgraceful over what is good and right and a benefit to themselves and to others, whose choices are selfish and narcissistic and hurt others..
Do we respond to such people in anger? Or is sorrow and tears, grieving how they have chosen to separate themselves from God’s love and mercy?
Do we fall into a reaction that nurtures our appetites, that speaks the truth without love, which becomes condescending and shameful, and is only about that which occurs here on earth?
How do we learn to react as Paul began to react? How do we follow his steps, even as Paul learned to walk as Christ had?
Knowing our End, our Destination,
Paul gives us what he found to be his answer, there in verse 20.
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.
While the focus of those we are to weep for, pray for is on what makes their life here better or easier, our focus is based on whose we are, whose kingdom we are citizens of, to whom we owe our loyalty.
I think we misunderstand this – when we talk of being in the Kingdom of heaven, and for that reason, we’ll talk about it more in Bible Study. But for now, our answer to not being like those whose lives cause us anger – if we respond inappropriately, or sorrow, if we respond like Christ, is to remember where we live, to remember whose kingdom we belong to, to dwell in Christ, and under His rule.
It is here, in our experience at the altar, that we begin to see this. If we see this time and this place, not so much as a routine, or a duty, but a meal with our Father, a time where we remember where our homeland is, a time to look forward to our going home.
A number of people have asked me how I liked the food in China. It’s kind of funny, because the Cajun food was good, the American restaurants were fine, the Italian was as good as in Italy – maybe better! Even though I worked a with some Chinese nationals, a lot of time was spent ministering to our missionaries, folks who were there with a purpose, but who hearts and lives were lived in view of “home”. They needed a reminder of where they were from – even more spiritually than physically.
Likewise it is for us, we are here in Cerritos, as God’s ambassadors, as missionaries ourselves. A lot of our lives is lived in being “homesick” for heaven. That is why communion becomes so central, so necessary in our lives. Our communion feast is the “missionary team dinner” at Red Garlic, or up on the Peak at Bubba Gump – a time to look forward to our going home to be with our family, the angels and archangels and whole company of heaven.
Please understand, I am not saying Christ isn’t with us 24/7/365, but that this time is a special one, where we encourage each other, and are encouraged to dwell in God’s presence, where our hearts and minds are re-focused on God’s love, and the extent that His love is there for us, healing us, providing for us.
It is a moment in our week of being home…
Until the time our weak mortal humble bodies are found transformed into glorious bodies… for the same power that is at work then, has been at work, as all things have come into His kingdom, as He reigns and guides and protects, His people…
As we dwell in peace, and yes, weep over those who have yet to know that peace, or who confuse and bind others and prove themselves lacking in it..
This peace is yours, people of God, this peace of our Father, which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds as we dwell, citizens of where our Lord reigns… and cares for His people.
Devitional/Discussion thought of the Day:
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. “Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NASB77)
“Say slowly and in all earnestness: Nunc coepi—now I begin! Don’t get discouraged if, unfortunately, you don’t see any great change in yourself brought about by the Lord’s right hand… From your lowliness you can cry out: Help me, my Jesus, because I want to fulfil Your Will… Your most lovable Will!” (1)
It is amazing how God can use the simplest of things to create lessons for us. For the last week, I have been putting eye drops – more like a gel in my eyes to counteract the effects of a eye infection. I push the kell through a tube and into my eye, and then wait.. I never knew how long three minutes could be. Then 10 minutes later – another eye drop and more time waiting, eyes closed. Five times a day.. I repeat this – and now, 8 days later, my eye is a little less affected by light.
Change can take forever, especially when it is for the good.
Thirty years ago, we became a culture that sped up. Things like microwaves and cordless phones and the first remotes for our 13 channel televisions came out. And patience as a virtue became ever more rare, and ever more valuable. Back then – being connected to the internet (remember Prodigy) meant you could communicate online and the speed of 2 letters a second…with a good connection! Now with Smart Phones and testing with wireless routers and all the other changes, our attention spans and our patience is even more…. rare. ( sit at Jack and the Box drive-thru for 4 minutes with a five year old if you want to see what I mean!)
Change is needed in our lives, but not often the kind of transformation we think. The kind that is spoken of in Romans 12 – the transformation of our minds This is known another way as well – the churchy word “repentance”. Scripture talks often of that change – as we are transformed into the image of Christ – the work that God does in our lives and the lives of those around us.
But sometimes, this transformation is very slow in appearing. In fact – it will not be fully revealed until Christ’s return. (see last Sunday’s sermon blog) The challenge is not to look at ourselves – not to grow in despari – but to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, cry out to Him, meditate on His love and sacrifice. You may not see the difference, but others will! And take this thought in closing…. it is not you that completes the work – look to Him and keep looking…
“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1550-1553). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Knowing What to Expect
1 John 3:1-3
†In Jesus Name†
May our joy be complete, as we find our fellowship is the fellowship shared between the Father, and Jesus Our Lord, as we realize that the God our Father has created us to be His children!
Where have the Father’s gone?
When you are taught to preach, one of the things you are taught is to understand not only the context of the passage, what things in the life of the original readers impact them, how they live, what the words mean to them then. You are also that you need to consider the context of those who will be listening to you. How they will hear the words today. What things in life will shape their hearing, from education to experience to one of the most dominant forces in our culture – television!
That is certainly the case today, as we examine 1 John 3 – our epistle reading. Some of us were blessed to have incredible parents who taught us about life, and God, who taught us about getting things right, who comforted us when we really screwed up. Others did not, but they knew of fathers who did those kinds of things. Fathers like Ward Cleaver, or Andy Griffith, or the character Fred McMurray played on “my three sons.” They were re-runs in my youth, and I doubt they are even on the “oldies” stations now.
Instead, the most famous father on television now (and in re-runs) is …. Homer Simpson!
If children today don’t have a role model of fatherhood in the home, if they cannot find such a role model of a father’s love, and his devotion to his children, how can they understand the passage today? How can they understand God our Father’s desire to pour out love on us? How can they understand a passage like:
11:11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13 (NKJV)
So what can we expect of God our Father, what can we teach these little ones to expect of a Father whose love knows no bounds?
We are already God’s Children… yet
The apostle John starts out the third chapter – by talking about the fact, the fact that we are God’s children, even if the world doesn’t recognize us as that, even if we haven’t really begun to understand what that means, and how God has transformed us.
There are a couple of issues here, first the challenge to believe that God can and does transform people. The world doesn’t know us, because they really, really don’t understand God. Their picture of Him is based only in justice, they don’t understand His mercy, His love, and the extent of that love. Perhaps that is due to us at times, where our desire for people not to get hurt comes across as a legalistic moral standard. And where we should be concerned for the damage sin does to their lives, they hear God’s warnings as condemnation.
As a parent, how easy is it to let your children suffer the consequences of their actions? How many of us enjoy disciplining them, and correcting them? But how much more do we hate they pain they have to deal with, when they have done wrong? It takes a little thought, but God’s desire is never to punish never mind condemn. It is that we live life walking with Him, guided away from those things which we might chose, even as a young child doesn’t always choose that which is needed, Like when we warn our kids, those warnings that God gives us aren’t always heard as warnings by those who hear them from us.
It’s hard to understand why we can’t have fun, how such things could result in great pain, to us, and often to others.
Not only do those who do not comprehend God’s love not see us as we are in Christ, but neither do we. There are days I admit, that I don’t see myself as one of God’s kids, and there are days that I wonder about the church as a whole. Part of that is I look at my actions, our actions, and I wonder how in the world we can call ourselves God’s kids, when we aren’t the most loving, or the most patient, or the most merciful. It’s hard to see myself as holy at times, or to see the church, as it acts in the world as holy, as the people God has called and chosen.
While we should never excuse our sin, we should understand the tension of not really grasping how much God is changing us. Hear again John’s words,
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
which Paul echoes,
3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV)
what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him
and Paul said,
your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
They agree! Imagine that! They both were led to write that by God, because they too struggled with sin, and occasionally, doubt. Yet there were equally sure of what they knew of God’s character – that as our loving, merciful Father, who chose us to be His children, He isn’t about to give up on us, and our salvation is guaranteed by the one who guards our hearts and minds
Keeping ourselves pure
Besides reminding us that we are going to struggle to realize who we have become as the children of God, both Paul and John then talk about our lives. John tells us,
“3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. “
While Paul defines it a little more,
3:8 But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, (improper) passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips. 9 Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits 10 and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. Colossians 3:8-10 (TEV)
I added in Paul, because otherwise we are challenged to know what this word “pure” or holy is about. It sounds like at first it is a standard of behavior, a what not to do list. Part of that is because of the translation, and it sounds like we were most active in this, that being holy depends on what we do. Yet it is talking more about what has happened to us, when God calls us to be His children, and cleanses us of all our sin in Baptism.
But it is that promise of God’s renewing, or better translated – renovating or transforming us into the image of Christ to which I would call your attention. That transformation started in your baptism, as God cleansed you of every sin, and every bit of unrighteousness that was part of your life – even those sins you will commit next week, or the sins these kids will commit when they are their grandparents’ age! That renovation, that transformation continues every time we hear God’s word, as the Holy Spirit uses it to cauterize our wounds, to heal our brokenness, to give us the strength to love God and love and serve others. It continues as we come, called to this altar to share in Christ’s body and blood, broken and spilled that we would know the depth of His love, as He gave up His life, to give us life.
To make us his co-heirs.
To bring us the promise of living eternally with our Father, the one who has made us his children.
1 Cor 2:9-0
John and Paul both tell us, that when we see Jesus return, then we will full grasp how much He has transformed us, when we see Him, we will fully know, even as we are known. When we realize what God has done to purify us. There is one verse I would leave you with, that will help you look forward to that day… even more.
2:9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
Know you are His beloved children. And therefore know His peace.
Discussion thought of the day:
I would have each of us, myself included, as how we define ourselves, who are we, and how do we stand in the midst of darkness.
I read this morning something which really gets to the heart of this:
“Your life, your work, should never be negative, nor anti anything. It is—it must be!—positive, optimistic, youthful, cheerful and peaceful.” (1)
To often I think we define ourselves and let others define us based on what we are against. A great example is in the present election. It is not that I am for Candidate X, it is that I am dead set against Candidate Y. It is not that I am for this, but I would never want that to happen. Another example is that if I narrowly define myself against abortion, and take an “anti-abortion” stance, I have truly missed out on what it means to be for life – and life abundant. It works in “religion” as well – I am neither anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh, anti-agnostic, anti-atheist (the latter two interesting double negatives!) but instead I find great hope in being claimed by Christ, and being freed of sin and satan and and the anxiety over death. And knowing that incredible blessing, it is that I want to share with others – for it does leave me “optimistic, youth, cheerful and peaceful” in the midst of an anxiety based world.
The depth of this idea is so freeing – if you have to be against things – create a list of all the things you have to be against, all the ways you have to defeat them, all the things you have to know. But if we are only looking for that which we are for, that to which we can entrust our soul, our life, everything we are, then we can say with the apostle Paul,
“2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NKJV)
Heavenly Father, as we cry out for your mercy, may the Spirit help us to keep our eyes simply focused on Your Son, help us to live deeply simply trusting in Your love. Amen
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 575-576). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional point of the day…
“Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and the correspondence of man. As one of the early Christian writers says, referring to union with God, “Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big.”12 So I say to you, if you want to become a thorough-going Christian—and I know you are willing, even though you often find it difficult to conquer yourself or to keep climbing upward with this poor body of ours—then you will have to be very attentive to the minutest of details, for the holiness that our Lord demands of you is to be achieved by carrying out with love of God your work and your daily duties, and these will almost always consist of small realities.” Escriva, Josemaria
There is a reaction in us, at times -to immediately react to what we read. So it was this morning, as I read this quote – I love the beginning – and the idea that holiness is forged in us, as Escriva uses something in his life, the forge, to replace the illustration of the potter’s wheel.
The I have to start and think – for surely the forge includes the interplay of God’s grace in our lives – it is that grace that constantly hammers away our impurity, but what about this correspondence of man? How much do we have to do with becoming holy, becoming the tools of God – set apart for His usage. Surely it will happen in communion, in unity with God, yet, do we have a role?
The apostle Paul talks of a race – of striving to grasp that which took hold of him. The author of Hebrews talks of laying aside every burden, and every sin which would hold us, even as Christ starts and completes the race in us.
But what is this correspondence of grace? Perhaps it is found in not in our maturity leading to independence, that somehow our maturity results in our needing God less, but precisely the opposite, by becoming more dependent, to desire His presence, to yearn for the times we spend with Him. That communion with God, confidence of His make us His craftsmanship – leads us to be that new creation, to be the ones who do walk in the works (vocation) that God has prepared for us to walk in… to walk in that love…even as we exult in His presence, as we remember what He accomplished in our baptism, as we rejoice in the Feast that He invites and welcomes us to, to feast upon His Body and Blood and know we have life. To rejoice as we hear – “your sins – your sins – they are forgiven. To be so filled with joy as we read of His incredible love and mercy, the gifts of peace and comfort that are ours and are found in scripture, to rejoice at the times of fellowship we have in prayer…
These may seem little to us, the details… and perhaps we see them now as only duties..but continue in them – they will soon be revealed to be something more, the very charisma of God…as they bring us more and more aware of His presence in our lives… of the peace in which we truly dwell, that results in a manner of Holiness which is somewhat foreign to us at first – and truly foreign and needed in this world…
Lord, Have mercy… my friends, know He has!