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WHen You Want to Run Away….should you… or not?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image12  When Mordecai received Esther’s message, 13  he sent her this warning: “Don’t imagine that you are safer than any other Jew just because you are in the royal palace. 14  If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” 15  Esther sent Mordecai this reply: 16  “Go and get all the Jews in Susa together; hold a fast and pray for me. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days and nights. My servant women and I will be doing the same. After that, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. If I must die for doing it, I will die.” 17  Mordecai then left and did everything that Esther had told him to do. Esther 4:12-17 (TEV)

29    The limited and pitiful happiness of the selfish man, who withdraws into his shell, his ivory tower … is not difficult to attain in this world. But that happiness of the selfish is not lasting. For this false semblance of Heaven are you going to forsake the Joy of Glory without end?  (1)

There are times in our lives where we want to runaway.

There are times we want to run because of conflict, and we think that peace is found in avoidance.  

There are times we want to run away because of the sacrifice we know we will need to make.  Sometimes it is not even a major sacrifice, sometimes it is an inconvenience.

There are other times, when we are weary, when we are afraid, when we just want some time to kick back, and rest, because the battle is to hard, the suffering we encounter is to overwhelming.

There are also times when we need to retreat, when we need to walk away and pray. There are times I struggle with this more than I struggle with staying.  Sometimes it is a war within myself, as I question myself.  Should we stay in place, even beyond our strength?  Should we run?

We have to ask a couple of questions, even seek out a confidant to help us examine our situation. We need to ask Why and Where.

Why – am I simply running for my own comfort, my own survival? There is a point, like Esther faced, where running was a matter of selfish self-preservation.  A door was opened so that she could do God’s will, in this case to save the people of God.  There is a time for a rest, to be ready to re-enter the fray, that is the idea of the sabbath.

Where – This is ahar question.  Do I want to run to where the grass is greener, where there appears to be more peace, an easier life?  Or do I need to find  cave like Elijah, a place to find respite and allow God to bring healing. (if you have encountered this before, you know that it isn’t the easier path.)  Am I running from God, or to Him?  We need the latter.

Ultimately, the answer isn’t found in a logical examination of our thoughts and desires. And our perceptions can be shaded, and if our lives are turbulent, our thoughts may be as well.  The answer is going to found, not in whether we run or not, but whether we realize we are in God’s presence wherever we are. When we realize his unexplainable peace, a peace so different from the world, can sustain us in the harshest of times.  That is the key in the times that challenge us and make us want to run, and in the times where we need to find rest and a time of prayer and communion.

Ultimately, it boils down to this:  are you where you are at for such a time as this?  To be there, that people would know the Kingdom of God is near, that His presence is there to pardon, to love, to heal?  Are you depending on your own strength, or on His?

Then you are there for a purpose – take time to rest, ot know God’s presence… and then glorify Him as He works in your life and community… bringing hope and peace, healing and love.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 228-230). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to “Change” Mondays

Devotional Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
22  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:22-25 (TEV)

66         It is true: we are worth nothing, we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have nothing. And, at the same time, in the middle of our daily struggle, obstacles and temptations are not lacking. But the joy of your brothers will banish all difficulties, as soon as you are back with them, because you will see them firmly relying on Him: Quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea—because you, Lord, are our strength. (1)  

It’s Monday again, the weekend is over, and to be honest, that first sentence of St. Josemaria’s note seems all to real.

On Monday’s we often feel challenged, unequal to the task of a long week, It seems our list of weaknesses is all to real, and we’ve forgotten the lessons learned a short twenty-four hours ago.  We may already be tempted to think about and/or do that which is wrong.  Or maybe, the temptation is just to overlook that which others are doing wrong, or even the risk to their souls.

Mondays are hard, even thought 24 hours or so before, we found ourselves close to heaven, as we gathered with others who have been called to be part of God’s family.  Who have learned that we can trust in Him, that we can know the promises He has made us are sure. To hear God’s word together, and rejoice in the love for us that is revealed.  We get to hear that all of our sins are forgiven, erased, that Christ’s merits have brought healing to our souls. and to the relationships that have been marred and broken.  Incredibly, God invites us to a feast, one that calls to mind the feast that will occur in heaven, the wedding supper of Christ.

Mondays are hard, because we forget the lessons we learned again on Sunday.  We forget the words we professed, the words we know are true on Sunday.

My way of dealing with Mondays is simple.

I start preparing for the next time I will find myself with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I think about the service (pretty much I have to ) and the message God will share with us. (as long as I don’t get in the way)  I think about the hands humbly reaching out for the Body of Christ, and the visible change in body language as they receive again the promises of God. the promises of being in Christ.  Of our burdens being taken by God, an offering to Him that is pleasing, as we recognize that He is our God, that He will provide and heal.

It is truly good to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

For where two or three, or sixty or thousands are gathered, here He is, in their midst.

And that changes everything… even Mondays!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 496-499). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware, I Have Come Down!

I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware,

I Have Come Down…

Exodus 3:1-15

Jesus, Son, Savior

 

It is my prayer for you, that you realize the grace of God, that His merciful love and peace wash over you, cleansing you, as we realize that He has come to us!

 

The Burning Bush?  Big Deal…

It draws our attention like a moth is drawn to a flame, like the day after thanksgiving gathers shoppers to stores.  Like chocolate draws the attention of some people… or like Best Buy adds draw William’s attention… well and mine. 

Yet in our Old Testament reading this morning, it is about as important on its own as the color and smell of the sheep Moses shepherded.

Burning Bushes are interesting, they get our attention, they call us to look at this passage, they gain our attention.

But this passage is about the burning bush.  It is about what God reveals to Moses, something that after this week of challenges I don’t just want to preach about. I need to know it as you do.  I need to know it is as true for us, as it was for Israel.

Verse 7, slightly adapted:

Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. So I have come down to rescue you.

God says,

I have certainly seen….. I am aware…. And

I have come down
Our struggle – we aren’t sure if He sees, if He is aware…

I think we get that God has come down in the past, in the time where He walked with Abraham, or Moses, or when He inspired King David to write incredible songs of transparency and praise.   We know He was there for the prophets. Yet when God talks so passionately about His people, about seeing them and being aware their troubles, and coming down to rescue them, I think we lose something in translation.

Because we use the pronoun “them”, rather the “us”

There are days I wonder, does God see us the way He saw Israel, does He know the pain we endure, whether it is our grief, or our anxieties.  When our complaints and our brokenness seem unheard, seem that they do not gain His attention.  Just like Israel, crying out for His help, as they struggled under oppression in Egypt.  Faith is realizing the them is us.

So that we can cry out like the man who encountered Jesus, “Lord, we trust in you, help us trust in you!”

We look around to see if there is a burning bush nearby… or maybe we check with our friends, or maybe even our pastor, to see if they’ve seen one. After all – Moses was not outside the Starbucks in Cairo, Egypt when the people were crying out.  He was out in the desert, out in the wilderness, trying to avoid his own problems. Hmmm.. maybe I should check with my friends in Anza and Yucca Valley, see if they’ve seen our bush?

I have to be honest in this, there are the days, where like the Israelites wandering in Sinai, I wonder if it would be better to go back to New Eng..err Egypt.  That the problems and sufferings might have been less there.

We are not the super-heroes of the faith.  Matter of fact, if we read their stories, Abraham, and Moses, David and Jeremiah were not superheroes either.  They struggled as we do, to see God’s presence, to see God’s faithfulness.  

Otherwise, why do burning bushes and arks of the covenant exist?

Because we need to know this: that He sees us, we need to know He is aware… and to remember He has come to rescue us.  We need something to distract us from our normal grind of life, to call us to realize that we stand on Holy Ground… not because of a burning bush or a beautiful sanctuary, but because we live in God’s presence.

But He has… and He therefore comes down!

We are not in the situation Israel thought they were in, when Moses turned back to see phenomena, and instead realized He was in the glorious presence of God.  We are in the journey from that place, on our way to the Promised Land, the place God has set aside for us to dwell with Him eternally.

He has come down! He is guiding us, even as He guided them through the Sinai.  We are not in paradise, in heaven just yet.  He calls us together like a shepherd gathering a flock, like Moses was sent back to Egypt to go get God’s people.  Because our oppressors have been defeated.

It is not in today’s reading but not long after that the miracle at the Red Sea happened. Like this it was prophetic, a picture of our baptism.  When the Israelites walked through that sea – it was to get to the other side.  Passing through the sea was to get them to the place where God arranged for them to live in His presence.  However, those that oppressed them died in the water, they did not pass through it.

Just like that is our baptism, where the goal is not just the removal of our sin, not just to unite with Christ’s death, but with His resurrection as well.  Though we pass under/through the water of baptism that which would and could separate us from Jesus does not.  It died – then and there.  Our oppressor and the sins which enslaved us died and lost all authority over us there.

Because God saw, and was aware of our situation, and came down to rescue us.  The rescue is only the beginning, even as sending Moses to Egypt was only the beginning for Israel!

And He is still here… because He has seen, and is aware… and is with you

 

Flash forward 1500 years, to two more mountains, the first and encounter between another tree, and another man, another appointment arranged by God.  The second mountain, where that man would turn to his apprentices, to send them back to their lives, to free others still captive in sin, still oppressed by it.

Christ would die on that cross, and I pray that everyone we come in contact would turn to look at that tree, on which God was killed, yet would live.

It is that other mountain, that I would look at, to close this sermon and lead us toward prayer.  The words that we know, but again, that we miss part of at times.  The words that send us back out into our worlds, back to the places where people need to know God’s love. 

18  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”    Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)

All authority is invested by the Father in the Son, and even as the Father sends the Son, so He sends us. Just like Moses was sent.  The key is in the other part of the passage that is underlined.

I am with you… the same message that Moses would hear… as he was sent to deliver people from bondage. The same message those people would hear, as God guided them to the Holy Land. The same promise made to us when we were called into this relationship, the same promise made to every believer, as they are sent to free others from the bondage of sin.  

He is with you.

He certainly sees, He is so aware, and He’s come down to rescue us.

That’s what the tree on the mountain that wasn’t consumed by fire was really about.

That’s what the parting of the water of Red Sea was about.

That’s what the cross on another mountain is about…

That’s what the water of baptism is about..

And it is what this altar, and this meal is about…when we, as Moses was told remember His name. 

Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. So I have come down to rescue you.

And He brings us into His peace, His indescribable peace that passes all understanding, where Jesus will keep us, mind and heart, safe and secure; for the Lord dwells with you!  AMEN!

Good timing? Coincidence? or orchastration Divine

Last night I was up late – a friend had asked me to drop them at LAX – for a midnightish flight. I thought – hey, at least I won’t have to deal with traffic!  The request was a couple of weeks ago, and I general like driving people places… but I thought I would be tired coming home.

No problem – turns out I was talking to another friend who is flying into LAX – and can save his family getting out of bed.  Get this – they are even at the same terminal!  Little things like that – and I get to spend some time with friends (btw – anyone need a ride to the airport next Monday night late?)

Makes me think though – of how God knows us, and our lives, and uses them.

Does He put us in places in life – where we get to be with people who minister to us, while we minister to them?  Do our experiences end up preparing us for other things, other times, other places?  What does God mean when He says, “all things work for good….”  Is that just He can spin it to us?  Or does He really keep everything set up in such a way it is a blessing?

The latter is the answer of course, and yet… it is amazing… mindblowing to witness, even more when it is not a short drive to and fro… but a friend’s daughter in the hospital, or a co-worker having an accident, or a deacon-friend taking on seminary while seeing a little church come to life….while he tells them about Jesus presence in His life – that makes the many serious personal challenges…something which gives him the strength to sacrifice more.. not hide…

Timing?  Yeah – it’s amazing…. it’s evidence of God’s love and mercy… and wisdom….. His handiwork, His craftsmanship displayed not only in saving us, but in making our lives a masterpiece, as we walk in what He has planned for us… and you know something… it is good …. (even if we don’t see it that way… sometimes)

Lord have mercy on us, this day… and may we get a glimpse of Your plan… Your will, the way in which we be that which You have crafted – for a purpose… to be the work of God!

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