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At the End of the Day; What have you seen?

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought fo the Day:
17 For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. 
Rev. 7:17  HCSB

Blessing
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

The ancient Celtic prayer that ends a section of my devotional time each day is one I to often overlook. Especially the part I emphasized with Italics.

I need to place the words on the door from my garage into the house?  I need to come home with an inventory of where I have seen God at work during that day.

I need to remember the blessings, the wonders, the things that caused me to stop and pause, and consider the presence of God.

Things like a week ago, when a five-year-old, hearing her grandpa talk about how the church needs ot help us with my wife out of work, took our her change purse, put one of her precious dimes in an envelope with a picture she colored for me and left it on my desk.

Or the guy who needed to come home to his church, to find the peace he knows is here for him, as he is dealing with so much brokenness.  (He ministers in a bunch of places – but this is his home)

The odd thing, at least to my mind, is not how incredible these things are, but how they surprise us.  We know Jesus us the One who shepherds us, we know that He loves and cares for us, but we don’t always take the time to see the Spirit at work in our daily lives.  Yet we confess He is with us, we chant it, sing about it, hear it in sermons, read it in the Bible, as God reveals it to us.

Or maybe we do see it, but we don’t remember it, at the end of the day.

We need to!  One might say we desperately need to remember God at work in our lives.

From hearing our sins are forgiven by His command, to seeing His handiwork in nature and the skies, to the wonders of the miracles we too often overlook.

He is here… working…through us.

May we remember the blessed wonders we see, and may we see them!  AMEN!

Question
Where have you seen God working in your life in the last day or two?

https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/

When Something Excellent Turns Bad…the Challenge of Teaching in the Church

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

4  Teach me your ways, O LORD; make them known to me. 5  Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you. 6  Remember, O LORD, your kindness and constant love which you have shown from long ago. 7  Forgive the sins and errors of my youth. In your constant love and goodness, remember me, LORD! Psalm 25:4-7 (TEV)

5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6  Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. 7  Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the LORD and refuse to do wrong. 8  If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains. Proverbs 3:5-8 (TEV)

Deliver me from self-trustfulness, In the frequent days in which I must do battle with my self as foe, arm me with a constant trust in Thee. (1)

 

Heresy is not so much a new doctrine, but an Orthodox doctrine that is overemphasized. (2) 

A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.

When I read the quote in blue above, from the biography of a man who personally impacted how I preach, it stunned me for its simplicity, and its truth.

I could give example after example of when man’s reason and pride joined together to subtly and slowly twist doctrine, or the reaction to that heresy which caused a quicker reaction that threw them off the cliff in the other direction.

One example is in the discussion of how faith and works are related.  If one overemphasizes the doctrine of justification, he may end up teaching that works and piety are not needed in the Christian life. A reaction to that would be an overemphasis on the doctrine of sanctification, where certain works/gifts/charisms once seen as a reaction to grace now become legislated and those who don’t practice or show those works are taught to question their salvation.  The two sides meet, they harden their position, defending what they see as a true doctrinal position, to the extent that only that doctrine matters.

When I read the quote on the plane, 30 such issues came to mind.  (examples include the Sacraments, the Commandments – especially the Sabbath,  Religion versus Relationship, the Work of the Holy Spirit, Worship Wars, Evangelism/Mission versus Orthodoxy)   Several that friends of mine are dealing with, or have dealt with in recent years. I tucked it away in the back of my mind.  This morning my regular devotions (from which the other four quotes come)  brought up the problem again, and the answer to it.

Hence the blog this morning.

The issue is one of sin, specifically the sin of pride and the exaltation of man’s ability to reason.

We know the danger of man’s reason apart from God, but do we realize that we still fall prey to the pride which exalts our reason, our understanding?  That makes us believe that we know all we need, even more than those around us?  Do we realize we are still but the children of God, that we don’t know it all, and even more importantly, we can’t apply all that we do know?

It is, as the quote in green above states, the battle of self idolatry.  Proverbs reiterates the same thing, our need not to be able to understand, but to trust God, to lean on Him, to continually refer back, not just to man’s wisdom, but to scripture, to prayer. Psalms reiterates this theme of trust, of walking with God.

The challenge is that doctrines are beautiful, there is something overwhelming about those “aha” moments when something life-changing is realized.  But that one doctrine cannot become the defining doctrine of our life.  Even the study of all doctrine cannot be, for doctrine itself doesn’t save us, Christ does.  Doctrine may instruct us in how our souls are healed in how reconciliation occurs, of how the means of grace deliver that precious grace.  The wisdom of God being revealed is a wonderful thing.

But it isn’t our God.

Imagine studying about marriage,  You’ve read every sociological book, every psychological book, every book describing the intimacy that a husband and wife share, physical, spiritual, emotional.  You look at your own marriage certificate, memorizing it so well, that you could reproduce it from memory…even the crinkle in the seal.  You invest every moment of your time in such learning about marriage that many consider you an expert.

But you’ve done so, at the expense of time with your spouse…..

How well can you really know what the union of two souls are?

Same thing with God.

The key to avoiding heresy is not managing to juggle and keep in balance all the doctrines that are taught in scripture.

The key is abiding in Christ.  Of walking with God, of realizing that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Of knowing the dimensions of His love for you and all His people. To receive His mercy, His forgiveness and the healing of our souls. It is then you can hear His voice, it is then you know His love and mercy and grace.  It is then you treasure its words, for what it reveals about God and His people.  It is then that doctrines aren’t just a matter of knowledge, a matter of the mind.  But then that they are a description of our life as thise who trust God.

It is then, that these words, in bold colors above, resonate with us, because they are our prayers.

God’s peace to you… and know that you are kept, your heart and mind, in that peace. by Christ.  AMEN.

 

(1)  From Celtic Daily Prayer, Aidan Readings for 10/25, credited as from Hebridean Altars

(2)  Ortiz, Juan Carlos (2011-08-09). From the Jungles to the Cathedrals: The Captivating Story of Juan Carlos Ortiz (Biography: Great Leaders of Our Times) (Kindle Locations 1717-1718). Vida. Kindle Edition.

(3)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 924-925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Dream for the Church I pastor…

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2 (NLT)

“A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and of the faith that enshrines them.  One such is….”  Celtic Prayer Book, Reading for 8/11)

For the last couple of months, I have been praying about my congregations, the church that gathers here in Cerritos.

As a entity, there are necessary complications to ministry.  How do we deal with an aging facility, how do we accomplish evangelistic outreach and meet the needs of people in our community.  How do we make disciples of all peoples – of those young and old, of the stranger, of our own people.  How do we effectively use all the talents God gives us.  Big questions for sure, and we are working through them as a people.

But the biggest answer for my dream for our church is seen, not in our future plans, but in the green words above.

It doesn’t matter if we have a sanctuary that sits 500.  Or if we have a school.  Or even if there are 50000 people that attend our services and watch them on television, hear them on radio or live-feed them from the internet.

What matters to me is that where Concordia meets, becomes known as a place of holiness, a place where the love of God is known, a place where people’s trust in God’s faithfulness sees them through their lives.  Where people are devoted to God, where His vision compels them to act in others lives, bringing that holiness there. What disciples become crafted, not just through intellectual stimuli, but by worship, by adoring God, by the thoughts about His love.

I think that was what the prophet Micah is referring to, the ways we are taught by God, to walk His way, That is the change that God’s word makes in our lives, it opens up a relationship defined by words like cHesed, agape, phileo, charis… love, mercy, grace.

If the people of Concordia (or your church, or any church) grow in these things, then we have succeeded as a church.  We are a place where disciples are made, where God’s ways are treasured, where people live the life of those cleansed by God, and are immersed in His life. Where they are sure He will be with them, even until the end of the earth!

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One Last Thought About Ministry and “Spinning our Wheels”

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

13  “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘What have we said about you?’ 14  You have said, ‘It’s useless to serve God. What’s the use of doing what he says or of trying to show the LORD Almighty that we are sorry for what we have done? 15  As we see it, proud people are the ones who are happy. Evil people not only prosper, but they test God’s patience with their evil deeds and get away with it.’ ” 16  Then the people who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the LORD and respected him. 17  “They will be my people,” says the LORD Almighty. “On the day when I act, they will be my very own. I will be merciful to them as parents are merciful to the children who serve them.  Malachi 3:13-17 (TEV) 

 “The apostle has no aim other than letting God work, making himself available.”  (1)

“It is by God’s grace that our feet don’t lose contact with the path we are set out to follow.  We say, “here I am, Lord” when He calls.  He calls continually to the willing, and the unwilling.  It is not so much our ability He has need of, but our availability.  (2)

I started a number of blogs this week, questioning the validity of our feelings, when they question the results of our ministries and our very lives.  When we wonder if the effort is worth it, when we wonder if we are just spinning our wheels. As I looked at the “hit count”, and the responses to these posts, the results were staggering – a lot of people read these posts.  I am not sure whether I should be sad at this being so common, or relieved that I am not alone.

But as I’ve written each day, there is a faith issue involved, as well as one of discernment.  It is really easy, as in the Malachi passage to look at this world and see people getting “blessed” for doing good, and those who struggle, not being blessed, at least from our view.  Do we see those people who know God is with them and therefore make incredible sacrifices to serve being pointed out as great examples of faith, or those whose political machinations earning them praise?

Do we trust that God is here, listening, acting, being part of our lives as He has promised over and over and over to His people?

Oh how easy it is to question God, or the more “mature” version (since we know we can’t do that) our questioning our own results, the benefit of “our” ministry.

When we trust in God, yes, we rejoice in the the hard times. But we also rejoice in the times of rest, the times where we need to realize God is at work, and that the present trying times are not an indication of His faithfulness to us, nor of His love.  We simply make ourselves available, keeping our eyes focused on Him, or remembeing His work in us in our baptism – and rejoicing.  Of remembering His invitation to come and dine with Him, to do this knowing His work, His love, His presence.  Of seeing His unmatched love for us.

As we do – our focus comes off of us, we stop evaluating things by our standards, our expectations, and realize that He is at work in us.

And that.. simply is glorious.

To reveal the work that happens, that God makes profitable within His will and His desire.

To realize the ways He wants to walk with us may seem different – but then again – He is with us…….

Cry out in those times, Lord Have Mercy, and wait and listen, and know He already has…

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2454-2455). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Northumbrian Community, Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper One  p. 313

Be a Missionary: Serve All People, including the most broken around us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9  letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10  a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earthEphesians 1:8-10 (MSG)

22  On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; 23  and those parts that we think aren’t worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don’t look very nice are treated with special modesty, 24  which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honor to those parts that need it. 25  And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26  If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 1 Corinthians 12:22-26 (TEV) 

“It’s easy to love the people who are standing hard and fast, pressing on to meet their higher calling.  
But the one’s who might be struiggling?  We tend to judge to harshly, and refuse to try and catch them when they’re falling.
We put people into boxes and draw our hard conclusions, and when they do the things we know they should not do we sometimes write them off as hopeless and we throw them to the dogs.  Our compassion and forgiveness sometimes seem in short supply.”  (1)

600  Serving and forming children, caring lovingly for the sick. To make ourselves understood by simple souls, we have to humble our intelligence; to understand poor sick people we have to humble our heart. In this way, on our knees in both intellect and body, it is easy to reach Jesus along that sure way of human wretchedness, of our own wretchedness. It will lead us to make ‘a nothing’ of ourselves in order to let God build on our nothingness.  (2)

On my mail pile, and about to be in my discard pile is a small poster, challenging people to “become a missionary.”  It saddens me in a way, because the it focuses mission somewhere “out there”.  It is of course, and there are those God is calling to be a missionary in places that are far different, far more “extreme”.   But it overlooks the fact that we are all missionaries, we are all “sent” as the apostles were, to take the gospel into places where only we go.  To our families, to our neighborhood, to our work places. 

We are missionaries when we determine to love those that are struggling, when we reach out to those that are falling, when we patiently work with them, helping them take each step, being there when they cannot.  Being willing to look at their situation, their actions, their lives, not to condemn them, but to realize how much they need God’s love, and how they will have to be nursed back to spiritual health. 

Make no mistake, ministering to the broken takes time and effort, patience and endurance, and mostly, trust in God.  Know that God has given us all we need to minister to them, He has provided all that is needed to see them brought into His family.  They are the ones to whom we are sent, even though the work may bend us over, and we feel like we will break.  If not break, that we will lose our patience, succumb to frustration, or even despair. 

Yet that is our calling, they aren’t just a mission field, they are the mission, they are the ones God has loved enough to send Jesus to die for, and to send us to serve, to minister to, to bring God’s love so that they can find healing.

Perhaps the challenge in doing so is that we have to confront our own brokenness, our own inability, our own failures.  Indeed we must, for it is then we see the power of God at work in our healing, that leads us to the confidence that God desires that they, yes, even they, can come to know that healing.   It is through our weakness, that we see the power of God unleashed, and trust Him enough to do what others see as impossible, There, in our humility, we find the very things they need, the mercy, the comfort, the peace, the love of God, who delights in making us His own.

SO do not fear, do not hide. cry out Lord Have Mercy, and go tho those He has sent you to, that they may learn the cry as well!

(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper One Publishing, pg. 307  (attributed to Chuck Firard)

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2220-2224). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Celtic Advent II: Jesus’ Thoughts on the Incarnation

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus’ Thoughts
Looking toward Being Born of Mary

Isaiah 49:4-6

 

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May we be in awe of the love of Christ, demonstrated in His leaving heaven, to come dwell with us, even as He saved us.

 

The impossibility of the task:

It Is as difficult to picture Jesus in heaven before the incarnation, as it is trying to see what life will be life when we dwell eternally with God.  We are after all, talking about dwelling with God. We are talking about Jesus the Messiah, the one through whom all things were created.

And now through whom all things are recreated, in order that we do the good works planned for us since before the foundation of the world.

Even so, the exercise is useful, trying to imagine what Jesus thought and felt a few hours (however one experience that) in heaven.

Can you imagine Him and the Father, looking down at the world, knowing what was to come, having planted the seed of this even before Adam and Eve were ushered out of the garden for their own protection?

Even before the garden was?
What did he see?

As he looked down at their brokenness, as he considered the sing, the evil, the hardness of hearts that Jesus knew He was going to encounter, as He considered the beauty, the glory, the incomparable, indescribable, life He was going to freely give up…

How could He not be repelled?  How could the stench of sin, the overwhelming self-centeredness of mankind not turn Him away?  How could he not react as we do when we face making sacrifices for those that would rather not be helped?

How could He not hesitate, but for the joy that was set before Him, smile at the Father and with a sparkle in His eye, say, “It’s time” and in a moment, find Himself defenseless, in the womb of a young woman?

The mission was always bigger

As we travel through Advent, that is what we must see, this deep desire of the Father, of the Son and of the Spirit to rescue us from the death that is life apart from God?

We see this in the old testament reading – the absolute exhaustion that Isaiah prophetically sees in Christ.  He’s been born, struggled with our rejecting Him, dealt with people like the sons of Thunder, those people who act so brashly and loudly… he’s dealt with Pilate and Matthew, with Judas’s betrayal, and perhaps more painfully Peter’s betrayal.

He knows that those are just foretaste of ours, the days when our behavior, our thoughts and words do not reflect our love for God.  The days when our resentment and desire for revenge and our own self gratification seems to dominate.

He knows this pain – but the mission He was sent on by the Father, that they planned together – the time to that point is now gone… and the knowledge is seen.  Hear Isaiah’s prophecy about Christ’s attitude:

.” 5  Even before I was born, the LORD God chose me to serve him and to lead back the people of Israel.

 

He will go on..
 Now the YHWH – God the Father says to me, “It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.”

He comes – just as planned – to save Israel, and to save all nations.  Not just our friends and family, but our enemy.  Not just to forgive our sins, but the sins committed against us. To free us from all of that… for that was the plan, even before His birth.
Why?

The gospel, in its simple yet profound language tells us.

. 57  In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me.

 

In the same way our meal over on that side of the room shows our life together, so this meal here does.  They are, in many ways, the same thing.  Our fellowship here with God, reflected there.

He came to give us life, to redeem us and return us to the Father, to bring us back Isaiah says.  To have life because His saving power, this love and mercy, this invitation to communion, to fellowship, to living with Him has been His plan since before He entered Mary’s womb.

For we live with Him, because we have died with Him.

As Jesus stood there, ready to enter time, ready to leave heaven, ready to be born of Mary and live among the sin and brokenness, the stench of sin and the horror of lives that are spiritually rotten.. He heard the Father’s voice… and loving the Father, loving us, became Immanuel

God with us… The Lord God Creator, Savior, Redeemer Re-Creator.. has come to us….

It was what they wanted.. it is what changes everything…

With Him, having been rescued from darkness, let our lives reflect His glory and mercy and peace to this world.  AMEN?

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