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do your job….. people of God!

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It was the mantra of my favorite football team two seasons ago.  Each person, from the owner and head coach to the Cheerleaders, field goal kicker and waterboys had a job to do, and they did it.

I think we need that in the church today, for each person to focus on their vocation, and do it and live as God wants, and please Him.

Too often we get distracted.  Sometimes it is by sin and temptation, and sometimes it is more subtle, by comfort and preference, which leads us to abandon our vocation, our call. Sometimes it is even by the illusion we are doing ministry when all we are ministering too is our own ego.

But it is critically important to realize that the wisdom, the understanding, and knowledge of God’s will comes from, along with the ability and strength to do this work, enduring in it, and finding joy in it.

That only comes from the relationship we have with God.  For none of us is greater than the apostles, yet in many ways, we look at them in a far more common role. Fisherman, tax collectors, rebels without a cause, highly competitive brothers.

They learned to do their job at the side of Jesus, with His coaching, yet they still needed the upper room, where Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and Pentecost, where the Spirit testified to their ministry, with signs and wonders, with tongues of fire, which resulted in people hearing God’s love revealed through them.

We need the Spirit to fall upon us in the same way, helping us to see the mission, the apostolate, the role God has given us.  Simply put, the will of God that none should perish, but all enter into a relationship with Him that transcends time.

But to do that, we need to depend on Him, growing in the confidence that comes from realizing God is with us. We need to know His presence and peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit brings, even in the midst of the greatest storms.

FOr we don’t do the work without Him active in our lives.

It all comes back to that relationship, which really is our first vocation, our first job. That comes first, and then, the ministry to the world flows from there.

May we be blessed as we spend all our time in His presence!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Have We Set Aside?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought for the day:
3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Hebrews 2:3-4 (NLT2)

4  “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5  But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6  Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. 7  “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. Matthew 22:4-7 (NLT2)

4         You often ask yourself why souls who have had the great fortune of knowing the true Jesus ever since their childhood, hesitate so much in responding with the best they have: their life, their family, their ideals. Look: you are bound to show yourself very grateful to the Lord, precisely because you have received ‘everything’ in one go. Just as it would strike a blind man if he suddenly recovered his sight, while it does not even occur to others to give thanks because they see. But that is not enough. You have to help those around you, daily, to behave with gratitude for their being sons of God. If you don’t, don’t tell me you are grateful.

When some Christians think of neglecting salvation, they think of the people they know who once attended church, yet now only show up for “special events.”  The people that may go to a Christian Concert, or listen to Christian music, but aren’t involved in a community of believers.

Like the ones in the story, invited by the King to share in His son’s wedding feast, who dismiss or are violent to the King’s servants.   Some who do neglect God’s delivering us from the power of sin do so by finding other priorities over church, other priorities over studying the scriptures and praying with others.

But we also neglect such a great blessing as salvation is when we do nothing with it.  When we go through the motions at church, when we soak in all the Bible Studies when we reduce our life to “attendance”. It may be because we’ve simply got comfortable in our routine, that we’ve reduced walking thru life with God to just showing up once in a while.  We can become the people that always have been able to see, that don’t appreciate it. Or who have received God’s mercy for so long we take it for granted and think every one we know also is going to be saved.

Neglecting salvation begins not with passivity, but in not realizing the profound difference it makes in our lives, and the difference it could make in the lives of those around us. And knowing that difference, helping them to see it. (Not forcing it one them, but revealing and encouraging them to believe in the promises.

We need to be grateful for this greatest gift in our lives.

A gift that all can receive.

The problem is that many of will read this and respond (or at least commit to respond out of guilt and obligation.  Instead, we should respond naturally, in awe and joy, in gratitude for the life that has been given to us.

This amazing gift of freedom from sin, of knowing we have life eternal, of knowing that we walk with God, because He wants to walk with us,,, He wants to be with us,.  He wants us to know that He, God our Creator and Redeemer loves us.

Think about that love… dwell in it.. and live in it.

May God’s richest blessings that He gives you, be recognized and hold the greatest attention in our lives!

The question of the Day:  What distracts you from God’s love, what causes you to neglect it? 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 253-260). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Soul Care… A Necessity for churches in our Day?

photoDevotional Thought of the Day:

Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.   1 Thessalonians 5:13-15

Tenderness is not a virtue of the weak; on the contrary, it spells fortitude, attentiveness, compassion, openness to the other, in short, tenderness is the daughter of love.

If you minister to anyone, whether as a “professional” (pastor/priest, ministry director, worship facilitator) or as a  volunteer (elder, deacon, altar guild, bible teacher etc) I want you to go back and read those words in red again.

Go ahead.  Go back and read them.

One more time, please.

Sounds like a formidable task!  I am not sure which of the tasks is the most challenging!  Patience is tough, warning folks is often an invitation to pain. Then there is this, stopping people from repaying evil with evil.   That might mean taking the damage intended yourself.

And this letter wasn’t written to pastors, but to the church.  It is how we are to minister as a whole, to each other.  And these things are challenging because they require great care and caution.  They can’t be done with a velvet-gloved iron fist, but with tenderness, with discernment.

With love.

And it is what our broken society needs.  It is what is relegated to a class or two in seminary, and rarely do we train our elders or Sunday school teachers in it.  We by-pass this critical step of being a brother, of helping people to learn to love as Christ loved. For that is what soul care is, loving our neighbor, even loving our enemy.

It is the fulfillment of the law that happens as we are transformed into the image of Jesus.

We need to be there for each other, for the broken in our communities, for those who are questioning the world and all there is in it.  We need to be there when we are broken when we are hurting when we want to give up.  When our souls are thirsty.

That is what the body of Christ does for each other.

Who is God calling for your to treat tenderly today?  WHo will you minister to tomorrow, that needs God’s mercy and love?

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 274). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

10 years, 20 years, some thoughts about God’s work in and through us.

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional thought of the Day:

61 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;  to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to provide for those who mourn in •Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.  Isaiah 61:1-3  HCSB

This is important:
the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.

Today is the 10th anniversary of my installation as the senior pastor of the Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, Ca.  This month is the 20th anniversary of my going from part-time ministry as a jail chaplain and preaching during vacations and when churches were looking for a new pastor, as I became the pastor of First Christian Church of Yucca Valley, Ca.

As these anniversaries approached, other things have happened that have made me think about ministry, of what I’ve seen God do in these places I have served. It’s been an interesting road, with lots of laughter and probably more tears with people I grew to love, that I was sent to care for.

The passage in red primarily applies to Jesus, and a little less to Isaiah.  Yet it is what Paul imitated of Jesus, what he encourages the entire church to imitate in 1 Corinthians 11.  We are to bring God’s healing, revealing His love and mercy, and the presence of the Holy Spirit to people that are brokenhearted, to free those who are oppressed, to comfort those who mourn.

It’s not been easy.  Nor has it always been successful. There is heartache when people would rather deal with the consequences of sin, and the guilt and shame that oppress them. We mourn because of their sin, we mourn as others would rather condemn them than seek to reconcile them back to God.  There are the times where we don’t have the words that we would think are needed to comfort those who grieve.

And yet, trusting Him, the church and those who serve it plod on. We might be distracted for a moment, but by the Spirit’s call, we re-focus again, as we go where God wants us to be, as He guides us to serve those who need His love.

It is bearing such a burden, as I think about the baptisms, the funerals, the sorrow and grief, tears and joy that Pope Francis’s words gave me comfort this morning.  We have to find the courage to trust in His mercy, in His patience, to look for our sanctuary, which is found in His ever-presence.  That is where we are safe, that is where we find peace and find healing for our own brokenness.

But it takes courage, and trust to dwell there.  For we have to lay aside our sorrow and grief, our own guilt and shame, our own “wisdom” and often our own sense of self-preservation. We have to learn to trust God, to be able to cry out, Lord, we trust you, help us when we don’t.

Ultimately, the ministry of the priesthood of all believers comes down to these simple things, to help people know the cleansing, comforting, healing merciful presence of God.   When we do this, it is amazing…. when we struggle, we need to trust God that He will fulfill the work that has begun.

He will.. for He has.

For those who have trusted God to speak through me, thank you.  I hope you have grown in experiencing His love.  May we all see Him at work in all of us in the years and decades to come.

AMEN!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 273). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Same Words… found back to back, that help in the dark times of life!

IMAG0406

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)

695    In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.

As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.

The amount of trauma and conflict  (more of the former than the latter)  I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.

So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him.  Can?  I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.

At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words!  Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.

I need to… I really do.

Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing.  For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.

WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.

Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others.   Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.

including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.

What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken?  What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little?  How incredible is that?  How amazing?

Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.

As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!

Amen!

What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?  

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Job that Pastors and the Church Needs to Be Better Trained to Do

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth s of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part Eph 4:10-16  HCSB

They are to be carefully instructed in the art of directing souls, whereby they will be able to bring all the sons of the Church first of all to a fully conscious and apostolic Christian life and to the fulfillment of the duties of their state of life. Let them learn to help, with equal solicitude, religious men and women that they may persevere in the grace of their vocations and may make progress according to the spirit of their various Institutes.
In general, those capabilities are to be developed in the students which especially contribute to dialogue with men, such as the ability to listen to others and to open their hearts and minds in the spirit of charity to the various circumstances and needs of men.

675    It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgment. Have pity in your heart and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity.

There is a term I was introduced to when I became a Lutheran pastor.  

It was “seelsorge” or caretaker of souls.  It is similar to the idea in the Anglican Church of being a curate of the church,  The person responsible to see people guided into God’s presence so that their hearts and souls (and often more) can be healed. 

But that just doesn’t include the members of a congregation or parish.  It is the entire community.   As St Josemaria reminds us, those whom we might discount because of their past may be called to something “more.”,  they may become the giants we are looking to as examples. 

It doesn’t matter if they are the mouth of the church, or the heart, hidden away, praying in their prayer closet. Our job as the caretakers is to make sure they have what they need, the ability to depend on God because we know Him.  This drives the ministries of the church, This drives the work of helping everyone mature in the presence of God, 

To help people grow in their dependence (for that is what faith is) in God, to help them grow in knowing and experiencing His love as He is present in their lives, Vatican II was correct.  Those who minister, those of us who pastor and care for souls need to know how to guide them. to help them be conscious of their calling and being sent out into the world, of what Catholics call their apostolate, what Protestants call being missional.

We are to train them, to guide them into the presence of Jesus, into knowing His mercy, His love, His gift that cause us to dwell in peace. This isn’t just the pastor’s job, it is the work of every minister in the church. 

It is who we are… it is why we exist, and it was what we need to be trained to do.  I really think that needs to become more and more how we train our pastors, our deacons, our elders and various ministers of the church.  It is more important than knowing the trivia of scripture or knowing the all the theological information there is.   We have o know God is with us, and we have to teach God will be with them.

We have to know how to use God’s word, to administer the sacraments in such a way that people know they belong in God’s presence, whether they are young or old, male or female, whether their sin is hidden or notorious. Whether they become ushers in the church or the next Augustine or do the really critical work of teaching the children of the church.  (which is all to often overlooked!)

This is the ministry of the church.  The caretaking of souls entrusted to it by God.  Not just the recognized members of the church.. but the church.

Lord have mercy on us and help us to be trained and train people to care for souls.  AMEN!

Questions:
What do you think the hardest part of caring for souls is?

What do you think the greatest blessing is?

 

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1568-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is it worth it? A reflection on 20 plus years of ministry….

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. 
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first.  Job 42:10-12  HCSB

670    Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!

Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness.  Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome”  a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.

As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear.  I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.

I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me.  There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings.  They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.

Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.

So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?

If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.

No, absolutely not.

While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42.  It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.

It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.

And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.

He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.

And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself;  my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB

There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it.  To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger.  This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.

Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all.  And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”

For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Hardest Lesson: One We Can’t Learn on Our Own

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought fo the Day:

9  Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10  If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11  If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? 12  Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (TEV)

11  May our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus prepare the way for us to come to you! 12  May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you. 13  In this way he will strengthen you, and you will be perfect and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all who belong to him. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (TEV)

26  “The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. John 15:26 (TEV)

21 So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.

Luther’s words about the first commandment are always convicting to me at first. For it is too simple to set up an idol.  We can make them out of anything, ranging from money and worldly success to our dreams, to our honor.

Whatever we place our hope in, whatever we pursue as if attaining it will give us peace, that becomes our idol. 

Even if it was something that was given to us by God for good. An example of this is the Bronze Serpent, a foreshadow of Christ, that brought healing to a situation, that people later worshipped.  The same for Gideon’s ephod, and later relics and holy objects.  These should have pointed us to God, but sometimes we forget the reality of God and focus on something that should remind us of Him.  We can even do this with our church life, where we only want certain hymns or songs, or we want a certain kind of sermon or lesson. Because that is what gives us comfort.  

Solomon’s words out of Ecclesiastes should help here, especially when taken along with Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit.  Two are better than one, and when the One we are tied to is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, it is His immeasurable strength that holds us as one.   The same with the promise in Thessalonians, the work God does in our lives to strengthen us. 

This gets to the heart of faith, why it is more than simply knowing the facts. Faith isn’t depending on the facts, it depends on the God who draws us into Himself. Who cleanses us from all our idols (see Ezekiel 36:25). 

Even in this sin of idolatry, it is too hard for us to overcome ourselves. Again, even as we struggle with this, God is at work, healing us, cleansing us, comforting us.  He is incredible that way and has shown His continual patience, patience that wisely tempers His jealousy.  Yes, God is jealous when you turn away from Him to idols of your own making!

We need to learn to trust and depend upon Him, We need to realize that He cares, that He wants to help, that even the things we don’t like that He provides, (like broccoli or the situations that cause growth!)

He is good, He loves you, more than you know, and the only way to grow is to experience that love.

So I pray you do this week… and that we all can learn to rejoice as idols are removed….

The Lord is with you! Rejoice!

What things do you struggle to trust God with?  What things might offer more comfort than God at first glance?

as always, comments and discussions gladly accepted 

 

The Large Catechism of Martin Luther:   FIrst Part, The First CommandmentTappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 367). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

How revival and renewal begins…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written.  But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy,  and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments. 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing •fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors.
23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy,  2 Chronicles 30:18-23  HCSB

462    The power of charity! If you live that blessed brotherly spirit, your mutual weakness will also be a support to keep you upright in the fulfillment of duty—just as in a house of cards, one card supports the other.

I have read this Bible passage before. and yet it struck me this time as a critical part of the love that is shared between God and His people.   What amazing lesson about God and His people!

Despite the sin of the people, and despite them following the proper methods and rites for being cleansed of those sins, the prayer of Hezekiah was heard, and those who were supposed to be shut out were welcome to the feast. (even the foreigners and aliens among them if you keep reading down to verse 25)

The people prayed for weren’t pure, they weren’t holy, they shouldn’t have been included according to a strict reading of the Law of Moses. Hezekiah should have just told them – forget about it, take a year, study more, ensure you know the right way to appear before God, then we will welcome you back.

He didn’t.  He prayed, acknowledging the sin, and asking that God would provide the atonement, the satisfaction, the healing that would allow these people to enter into the celebration of God and His people, and the life that is ours as we dwell in God’s presence.  

And as James would right centuries later, 

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT2)

God heard the prayer, healed His people, and the party began. A party that was supposed to last a week, and lasted two.  A party that resulted in people giving away their riches, of the congregation having more money than the people could give, and of those who were previously unclean going home, and removing from their lives of all of their idols.  (see Chapter 31)

Not by command, they just knew this was how they could live, assured they were God’s people. This is the power of charity, the power of love.  You see it in the prayer of Hezekiah (would all church leaders have this heart!) who prays on behalf of these people.  You see this charity in God, whose love Hezekiah knew so well that the Spirit could lead him to pray on behalf of those who were sinners and unclean. You see this love in the people, bound together in celebrating the love of God, and in their charity/love in their destroying their idols 

This needs to happen in the church today, for this is how the church is revived, how it is renewed, how it returns to its First love!

Let us pray  †
heavenly Father, cause the hearts of your leaders to be so filled with your love, that they think of those who are cut off, who the world says aren’t clean enough.  Lord, help us, for their sake, pray that they would know that Jesus has fully atoned for them, that they are welcome to this feast of those who love You, who would walk with you, depending on your love. Move our hearts Lord, and may all those around us come to dwell in Your peace, in Your Presence.  AMEN!

 

NOTE:  If you have been made ot feel like an outsider by the people of God, please forgive us,

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1128-1130). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Focus We Need under Fire

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17 Then the high priest took action. He and all his colleagues, those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said,  20 “Go and stand in the •temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 In obedience to this, they entered the temple complex at daybreak and began to teach.  Acts 5:17-21) HCSB

14 Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me;  The Lord has forgotten me!” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
   Is. 49:14-16 HCSB

378    Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith.

It is not easy to be critiqued, even when the criticism is constructive.  When it is influenced by rivalry, by hatred, when its intent is to tear you down and hurt you, it is, even more, a test.

St. Josemaria would tell us to be optimistic and make a passing reference to Romans 8:28, that all things will work for good for those who love God.  If you didn’t know his history, you would think him more than a little naive.  Be optimistic while people are trying to destroy us?  While they are work to tear us down?

We might even feel like the Zion in the second scripture reading above.  We might think that God has abandoned us, that He simply forgot we were here, suffering oppressed, attacked.   We might think that we need to raise the defenses, that we need to be prepared to defend our Lord, our church, ourselves.  For if God has forgotten about us, who will defend us? Or at least that is what we think.

But Isaiah’s words remind us gently, that God can’t forget us, that He could not.  His involvement in our lives is as close, as personal, as intimate as a mother nursing her child.  Thinking about us is as inescapable as a tattoo on one’s hand, or the scars made by a spike through that hand.

This is how the apostles could keep their minds off the threats issued by the Sadducees and Priests.  Their direction was to tell people about this life, this way of living in the presence of God. 

So they went and taught people. 

About Jesus, about His love and mercy, seen at the cross, seen as He accompanies them through life. They stayed focus on what gave them hope, what brought them peace, what would make a matter in this life and for eternity.  They knew nothing could separate them from God.

And such a focus knows that God is still in charge, that God will see is us through.

God is with you!

So go, ignore the threats, ignore the criticism, and simply teach people what they need to know about Jesus.  

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 958-960). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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