Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)
684 So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”
It seems like a silly “dream”, yet it was the only option I ever thought of as an option to being a pastor. It was to use my musical talents in the way Billy Joel sang about in the song “Piano Man”. “And the manager gives me a smile, because he knows that it’s me they are coming to see, to forget about life for a while.”
Of course my classical piano teacher would have been aghast to hear me talk of using my potential for that lowly pursuit. He wanted me to play Rachmaninov and talked about how my finger spread would make it possible to do what so few could do.
I could look back and wonder if I wasted that talent, to be honest I couldn’t play either piece anymore without a month or four of serious practice and stretching out my fingers. I can pick up a guitar, or sit at a keyboard and do simple back-up to other musicians, but be the primary instrumentalist? Not so much…
SO did I waste my talent, and the odd gift that is found in the hands of someone with Marphan’s Syndrome? Did I not take full advantage of them?
Not that I haven’t’ wondered this on occasion, as I’ve sat down and just messed around on the piano, playing whatever my fingers want me to play. Or when I have had the chance to back up my friend Chris, or when a famous CHirstian musician came to do a couple of solos and asked if he could play with our church liturgy band.
What if… and what would have happened if…
St Josemaria has it right, I think. The little talent I have had, well, had it grown, what good would it have served, as compared to how it has served? It’s been used to help people worship, and to be honest, hearing 80 or 100 voices sing His praises, drowning out my voice is a blessing beyond anything I could experience
There is something amazing about hearing people who know and are responding to God’s presence, something that occasionally makes the musicians stop playing, as just find themselves lifted up by hearts resonating with the love of God, as they drop their pain and their burdens, as their souls find healing, deep healing, as tears still flow, but from joy and relief, not from pain and grief. To see people, as St. Paul wrote, understanding themselves in view of their relationship with God, as they realize the love that is beyond measure that is seen in the cross, and in their resurrection, their being born again.
These are moments I have never experienced at a live concert, as enjoyable as they are.
Talented wasted? Not in the least.
I can’t think of a better use… than when the musicians can’t play, and the pastor can’t speak, because His presence is so incredibly present and overwhelming.
May we all have the blessing of knowing God’s presence… to the extent that every
we are is dropped aside in awe.. and gratitude. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1591-1593). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:11-13 (TEV)
1035 Do not fear death. Death is your friend! Try to get used to the fact of death: peer into your grave often, looking at and smelling, and touching your own rotting corpse there, a week, no more, after your death. Remember this especially when you are troubled by the impulses of the flesh. (1)
Twice on this day, February 26th, I have faced death and found life.
The second time was in 1998, as I lay on a gurney in West Hills, California. I was about to have surgery to replace two heart valves, damaged by a genetic connective tissue disorder. The surgery was supposed to last 4 hours, and was very risky. The surgeon explained it was as challenging as sewing two wet pieces of toilet paper together. He would later ask me how many people were praying, not that he believed in it, but that the surgery was so easy.
That ended an anxiety I had struggled with since childhood, the threat of death because of the genetic issues. Yes, there are still heart issues, yes, I am still on medicine and undergo tests. But the threat of aortic dissection is minimal. For six years prior to the surgery, I had been concerned – with the heart issues had already tried to kill me once, causing a cardiac arrest.
Life changed a little that time I faced death. There was a new freedom, a new life. Yes, it had restrictions and changes, but it was also free of my fears about death that was…. I can’t even explain how overwhelming it could be.
It had even more the other time, thirty-three years before that. I was only a few weeks old and at a church. I faced a different form of death, one with the promise far greater, in fact; that was the reason I had to face death, in order to gain the promise.
On February 26, in the year of our Lord 1965, I was baptized. As the passage above discusses, in baptism we die. ( Romans 6:1-8, Titus 3, my favorite, Ezekiel 36:25-27 and 37:1-12 speak of this as well) It is there, in our baptism, that we die with Christ. It is there as well, that we are quickened, that we come alive in faith. That we enter a relationship that is amazing, with God.
The picture of baptism and being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, is not just symbolism. It is not just an act of our obedience. It is God at work. It is a promise God has made, to all those who believe in Him. It is how He brings us through Christ’s death and resurrection that enables us to be freed from our sin, and the debt it causes. It is a wonderful, miraculous promise of eternity, a promise God is willing to sign, to guarantee, to stake His name to, that we would know His love.
His promise, given to us in a Covenant, a Testament, an unbreakable contract. His work, cleansing us,
This time, facing death has eternal implications. It enables us to look death in the face, and not be afraid. To realize the glory of God, which He desires to share with us, will be our eternity. For something awaits us, which scripture describes this way.
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3664-3668). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the day:
I write a lot about broken people – and even about broken churches. One of the reasons is there seems to be an endless supply of them. And every time I think I am completely healed, or those I minister to are, life comes along and seems to break us again. It really doesn’t, but boy does the agony, and the pain, feel like we are broken again.
St. Paul reminds us what it is like to be broken, even as he reminds us of our being made whole….
3 There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and dissipations; we lived then in wickedness and malice, hating each other and hateful ourselves. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity were revealed, 5 it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit 6 which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8 This is doctrine that you can rely on. I want you to be quite uncompromising in teaching all this, so that those who now believe in God may keep their minds constantly occupied in doing good works. All this is good, and useful for everybody.
Titus 3:3-8 (NJB)
Obviously the way we were, – very broken- you can’t but read that and realize that Paul is describing people traumatized and torn by sin. As much their own sin ( which we don’t like to face at all ) and the sins of those around us, and even the sins of those who went before us. To be blunt – life being broken sucks!
Yet, God doesn’t – He won’t leave us there. I absolutely love the description of baptism in this and those two words:
Rebirth – being born again of water and of spirit – taking what is dead, and giving it new life.
Renewal/Restoraton – to make brand new! (and it seems like He has to do this daily – sometimes hourly)
It changes everything – our brokenness – no longer is there – though it may appear that way, though it may cause us to struggle,. That is why Paul urges us to keep teaching this – without any compromise – because our hearts need to trust in God’s doing this, more than in the circumstances in which we find ourselves! We are healed – by His stripes ( see Isaiah 53) God hasn’t abandoned us, He has rescued us and we can and do praise Him as the One in Psalm 22 does, as we realize we are not abandoned – we are His!
Living in view of that is different than living broken as well…. for our thoughts become less and less about ourselves – and more about others who are broken. We begin to do good works because He is working in us. This is a promise long awaiting prior to Christ – God’s great plan – which so many testitfied to – but one of my favorite promises of it is found in Ezekiel:
36:25 I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. 26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27 I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)
God has done amazing things to those He has cleansed – as He fulfills a promise to take our weary broken, anxiety laden hearts, and transforms them into His own image….
As we cry, “Lord, Have Mercy” may we trust that He has done what He said He would do! AMEN!
Devotional Discussion thought of the day!
You wake up, role over, hit the snooze alarm, and get out of bed to creaks and groans – not just you voice, but it seems the muscles groan as well… It’s Tuesday, and you wonder how your body will make it to Friday – you body know this as well – why do you think it groans and aches and cracks and creeks!
It’s not always just physical either – if Monday slams home the (false) reality that breaks our restful break from life that is Sunday…Tuesday makes us wonder if we’ll make it to our next sabbath rest! Tuesdays, especially overcast ones like this morning.. ugghhh will this week drag on! It seems like all of Creation is groaning – and yes it is…. so says Paul!
8:20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:20-23 (NLT)
The futility we know is just physical, as I noted above – in some ways it is very spiritual. How do we survive? I believe it is as we are reminded by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – as we are giving foretastes of our future glory, as we are awakened from spiritual slumber and see the glory of God revealed.
One of my favorite authors speaks of such:
” The world is waiting for us to wake up those who are asleep, to encourage the timid, to guide those who have lost their way; in other words, for us to enroll them in the ranks of Christ….. (Escriva, Josemaria . Furrow )
If we need a reminder of the glory that awaits us, such is easily seen as people are woken up, as they are freed from the burdens of their own sin, as they are healed from the sins committed against them, as they too learn to forgive. As they realize they are welcome in the presence of God, as God comes to them and makes them part of His family.
The joy of that moment – that rebirth and renewal as they are baptized (TIt 3:2-6) that moment when they realize the promises of Christ are theirs – as they realize that He does come to them and sups with them… such are the foretastes of glory, as the Spirit reminds us…”you are mine…”
And Tuesdays, we realize, are as full of mercy and grace.. and His resting/basquing in His love… as Sundays…
Godspeed you through this week!