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Love is, Jesus is, We are! Never Jealous, Boastful, or Proud


church at communion 2Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud

 In Jesus Name

 As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!


Love IS

 Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself.  Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.

Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.

We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.

Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.

But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?

Jesus Is

The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.

He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.

There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.

And what to be proud of?  That He could do miracles?  That He could teach thousands?  That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?

What good would any of that have done.

Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved.  He was love!

We Are

So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness?  How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration?  How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?

The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him.  And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,

As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.

As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others.  He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough.    Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.

But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……

It is then I understand these words of Mary,

46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49  For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51  His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)

And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,

16  But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace.  AMEN!

 

 

 

Love is, Jesus IS, We are! Sermons for Lent #1 Patient and Kind


concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - CopyLove Is; Jesus is; We are

Patient and Kind

 In Jesus Name

 As you experience the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may you see God enabling you to really love Him and others!

During this season of Lent, many people think we are to beat ourselves up for our sin.  That we give up something in order to atone for our continued sin, to show God how sorry for what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do.

That’s not completely accurate, though it moves us to where we need to be.

The goal of Lent is to stop us, to help us realize we aren’t who we should be, as the children of God. Not to beat us up, but to encourage us to have a life that is more like Jesus’ life.  The goal is to build in us a desire to imitate Christ, and to live like Paul, who could say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

Love Is

So this Lent, we are looking at one of the best descriptions of Jesus we can find, one we hear more often at weddings.  We’ll take a couple of the descriptions each week, and this week we are looking at these two.  

Love is patient and Love is kind.

The Message translation gives us another perspective:

Love never gives up.

Love cares for others more than for self.

Can you imagine if we were so patient we never gave up?  Or if everyone was more interested in what was good for others rather than just being self-centered?

Not just within families and churches, but if everyone loved everyone. This is who we are supposed to be!

This is not just a nice idea, it is what God commands us to do, to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love those who hate us.  We know this, but I wonder if we desire it, if this is truly who we want to be.

It should be

Jesus Is

As we look at love being described by St Paul, we have to realize how it describes Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless man.  If we evaluated how he loved by these words, we see it perfectly.

Not just with his patience and not giving up on the Apostles, especially Peter.  But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, He isn’t even tempted to do so.

And we see his kindness, His putting others first as He ministered to those around them, having compassion on the crowds who followed them, always being able to find the people who needed His care.  Being there for those who would give up, or struggle with their sin, and don’t know how to break it.

This is what the Apostle John meant when he said God is love, for in Jesus, they found out what that really means…we see this amazing level of patience, that God will embrace suffering a long time, for His goal is bring everyone to repentance, to transform everyone so that their lives are a picture of Christ’s love.  That is the ultimate example of kindness,

We Are

So we know this description of love should describe our life as well.  We know it doesn’t, at least as we struggle with it, so how can we desire to grow in our ability to love?

The answer is on all of your minds.  Look, you can see it on those around you.

The cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for you.  We could put a blob on your forehead, but we put a cross.  To remind you that while you have sinned, you really aren’t sinners anymore.

You have been united to Christ, and the ashes that mark you, mark you as His, just as the cross made over your head and heart at baptism did.  His sacrifice, His body and blood broken and given for you provides the answer.

It is what we need to spend contemplating.  As we think about this great love, a love that cleanses us from sin, and leaves us holy, set apart to God, set apart for God to dwell with.  The more we spend time talking to God, exploring the breadth and width, the height and depth of His love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing and enabling us to love as He does…. For we are with Him.

As the song we will sing in a moment says, where You are Lord, I am free….

Free to love.. to be patient, to be kind, to be like Christ who not only sets you free, but makes you Holy.

AMEN!

 

Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness! A Sermon on Micah 6


church at communion 2Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness

Micah 6:1-8

 I.H.S. † 

 May you rejoice today, as you consider the promises of God, made to you and to all people, as He teaches us about His faithfulness!

All Rise… the court is in session:

In today’s sermon, we see an interesting civil court case, one that has some very interesting testimony and a wonderful surprise or two…

Like many civil trials, there is a complaint, and sort of a counter-complaint.

The adversaries are talking about who has kept their part of the deal, and what that means.

The trial is not what you would normally expect, for Man and God going to trial.  It is not one where man is on trial, to see whether a man is guilty or innocent.  Nor is it a trial as someone tries assert that the evidence given to mankind demands a verdict, that God exists.

It is more like a case for what they used to call an “alienation of affection,”

Man’s complaint

The trial opens with God inviting mankind to state their case against Him.  What promises did God make, where in the covenant did God fail? Our carefully planned out points of complaint are seen on the next slide. (Blank)

Yes, there they are….

Now you might be saying that there are plenty of things I can complain about.  The existence of heart diseases, cancer, poverty, hunger, and the lack of peace seem to come right to mind.

Remember, the case is about the alienation of affection.  Did God break his promises to Israel.  Did God break His promises to us.

And there is little evidence that He did, no, there is no evidence he did.

His surprising complaint

We then get to God’s complaint.

It’s then the case becomes clear, for He doesn’t shred us (or Israel) for our sin, for all the disrespect we show to authority, and pain we’ve caused to others lives.  He doesn’t go after us for adultery, or what we’ve taken from others, for our gossip or our jealousy and what it causes us to do.

Instead, hear God’s complaint….

“O my people, what have I done to you?  What have I done to make you tired of me!”

Really?  Of all the things that God could complain of, He complains that we’ve grown tired of Him?

Really?

That sounds… weak?  wimpy?  Like God is a lovestruck teenager, whose girlfriend was stolen by the class president/football team captain?

“What have I done to make you tired of me?”

Could God really be that in love with us?  Does He desire to call us “His” that much?
Epiphany reveals to us that he loves us that much.

Not just infatuation, but pure desire, pure love, and His work proves it.

And His case is.. What?

God will go on to make a case, that there is no reason for us to be alienated from Him, there is no reason to deny Him the affection he so longs for.

Remember the rescue from Egypt?

What about the time that prophet was paid to curse you and blessed you instead?  Do you remember that?

Do you remember me?…..

Do you do something to remember me?

God tells them what He’s done, as he says, in the midst of your rebellion, from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal’s caves, I did everything to teach you about my faithfulness.

God wanted to instill in Israel the idea that He’s not giving up on them.  He wanted them, just like He wants us, to count on Him, to count on Him in the way that a God is supposed to be counted on by His people, by His beloved children.

That’s a challenge for us, to know this love, which is why we have to remember, to see it again over and over.  TO think back daily on God proving that faithfulness as He cleansed us from all sin.   TO think about it as God calls us to remember the Body broken, the wine that was spilled so that we could be with Him, now and for eternity.

That’s why God doesn’t need all the sacrifices, that’s why we don’t have the blood of calves and rams and more oil than you can count.

That’s not what He’s after, He doesn’t want complete submission and surrender, and lives spent in trying to pay back the cost of all we’ve broken.

God wants our affection, our presence, our love.

And in Epiphany we celebrate Him revealed that to us, as Christ comes to love us.

Micah 6:8

Which brings us to that final verse, as God tells us what is good… and what He wants from us.

TO do what is right – or to put it another way, to live in this relationship where He is our God, and we are His people. To love His cHesed, to know that loving kindness/mercy/love, that loyalty, and faithfulness He has for us, and to walk with Him, realizing what it means to be His beloved.

Those things, we don’t tire of, those things will cause us to be in such awe, those things will draw us into His glory and love.

No, they have done those things – for we are in Epiphany, the season celebrating His presence among us, and our presence in Him.   AMEN!

 

 

Awe: Love that Embraces…. Pain?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.   Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)

9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.   Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

Love has certain standard features. Sometimes we speak o love as if it were an impulse to self-satisfaction or a mere means to selfish fulfillment of one’s own personality. But that’s not love. True love means going out of oneself, giving oneself. Love brings joy, but a joy whose roots are in the shape of a cross. As long as we are on earth and have not yet arrived at the fullness of the future life, we can never have true love without sacrifice and pain. This pain becomes sweet and lovable; it is a source of interior joy. But it is an authentic pain, for it involves overcoming one’s own selfishness and taking Love as the rule of each and every thing we do.

As my son, moments after being born, was laid on my wife’s chest, I witnessed a sense of profound joy. Despite the pain, despite the discomfort, despite the complete lack of privacy, there was great joy!  (Enough so that i didn’t realize my mask was on backward and I was about to pass out from breathing my CO2!)

I thought of that scene as I read the words of St. Josemaria.  They are correct, to love people can hurt, it can disappoint, it can demand that we make sacrifices, or embrace situations where our dignity is cast aside. It is not the one who is our beloved that demands this, but love itself means we take action, we sacrifice, and we embrace the pain.

And yet, I think about the smile on my wife’s face, and realize this dear priest is right again – the pain is no less sharp, the tears no less real, and yet the joy given in the sacrifice is wonderful. .There is no one, in the midst of loving another, that would say the love isn’t worth it, that they would rather go without the one they love. ( again I remind you – the beloved does no, should not demand the sacrifice, or require the pain – that doesn’t love)

This involves us, as St. Paul notes, in the joy and tears of those we love. When one hurts, we all hurt.  When one is enjoying life, that sparks joy in us all.   In every way, the community of faith is affected alongside those who are loved by God together. Who are united in that love, and therefore begin to truly love each other.  We truly embrace the costs of loving, just as Jesus did, know the joy that comes from this love, not only in heaven, but now in reconciliation, and in sharing in the blessings of God.

It even makes those who believe they are our enemies, our beloved.  Just as Christ loves us when we were His enemies.

This is love.

While it is unmerited by the beloved, it costs the one who loves.

But the joy, in inexpressible, beautiful awe-inspiring.

You are the beloved, and because of that, you also love.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1387-1392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Incarnation, Sacramental, and Mystical: Our Communion with God!


Devotional Thought of the day:
10  “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” 11  The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.   Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT)

14  For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.   Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)

54      You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such.  (1)

With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is!  Of Sabaoth Lord! (2)
And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever! (3) 

In a recent blog, I used the phrase, “basking in God’s love”, which apparently upset someone.  Enough that I was accused, behind my back, of advocating mysticism.   Now while I will freely admit to being on the mystical side of Christianity, that is not the same as mysticism.

Rather, it is the approach of being in reverent awe, and meditating on, with heart, mind, and soul, the very love of God.  The devotion, the loyalty and faithfulness of God to a wretch like me, and a wretch like you.  it is coming upon the absolute love of God (see the Hebrew word cHesed, and the Greek words agape and elios) for His children, and as it is revealed, being stunned and pondering its depths, while enjoying the peace that love brings to us. 

It is that sacramental moment, that point of communion with God, where we find out what David advocated, being still, not fighting, knowing that God is God, our refuge, our place of peace, In Him we find that moment where all is abandoned as Josemaria, and our woes, and see them, along with our sin, sliding away (see Hebrews 12:2).

It is that incarnational moment, when we truly understand with everything we are that Jesus the Christ is here, that the Lord Sabaoth is with you.  It is a moment of utter submission, of allowing God to be responsible, to be our benevolent Master, the Lord of Life, to reign over us.

And it is in that truth we need to bask, we need to be still, we need to enjoy those moments. To realize how precious are these foretastes of the feast to come, as we encounter them at the baptismal font, as we hear our sins absolved, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ.

That moment where the presence of God is not just a academic theological expression but palpable, a moment where we realize our faith is found in Him.  Not in a leap of our own logic, not in a decision in a case made to prove to us He was a historic figure.  It is a moment that is a mystery, something we can explain the dymamics of, save to save He dwells in us, that this love is the basis and foundation, something that is far more than our words and blogs can explain.  It is sacramental; it is incarnational, a mystery of our faith.

Yes, these moments we need to bask in, not for the sake of the moment, but for the communion of God and man that occurs.  As the church, we need to provide them for those who we care for, those we shepherd, for there they will find Christ, and being amazed by His glory, the Holy Spirit will transform them into His image.It has the assurance that our cry for HIs mercy is heard, and answered, when the world looks on stunned at the peace we know.

Call this being a mystic?  That’s fine; God isn’t small enough for us not to be mystified, taken aback, and to become hungry to explore the dimensions of His love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus.

But it is a far cry from mysticism.

So bask in this love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, know His presence, and peace, and as you rest in Him, may you realize you are being transformed by the Spirit’s renewing of your mind.  This is my prayer for you. and for me.

Godspeed!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Sabbaoth Lord – often translated as the Lord God Almighty, it is a reference to Christ being the Lord (commander) of all of Heaven’s armies and strength.

(3)  A Mighty Fortress is our God, quote from TLH at http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/tlh262.htm

Christmas, Children and the Wisdom of Philosophers & Theologians


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

13  Then some people came to him bringing little children for him to touch. The disciples tried to discourage them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant and told them, “You must let little children come to me – never stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Indeed, I assure you that the man who does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and laid his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13 (Phillips NT)

But behold, I see a thing not understood by the proud, nor laid open to children, lowly in access, in its recesses lofty, and veiled with mysteries; and I was not such as could enter into it, or stoop my neck to follow its steps. For not as I now speak, did I feel when I turned to those Scriptures; but they seemed to me unworthy to he compared to the stateliness of Tully: for my swelling pride shrunk from their lowliness, nor could my sharp wit pierce the interior thereof. Yet were they such as would grow up in a little one. But I disdained to be a little one; and, swollen with pride, took myself to be a great one.

But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.

The words in blue from Augustine, one of the smartest philosopher-theologians amazed me this morning.  As he writes his confession, not unlike Solomon, he describes the times of darkness.  Even as he hungered for truth, he couldn’t find it.

Pope Benedict XVI’s words in the third quote support this lack of finding that which is sought for, as he responds that only conversion can bring what we need, what we search for in our lives.  To paraphrase Socrates, we are only truly wise when we realize how much we don’t know..

It is ike Christmas and the difference between a child and an adult receiving a gift.  The child is awe of the gift, even the box the gift came in!  They are in the moment, enjoying it. They are often in awe, as if to say, “this is for me?”   They dive into the joy of the moment, and that is their reality

As we grow older and know more, there is an innocence lost about such moments.  We don’t often dive into the presents, the moments of joy, and we contemplate instead on how we will pay the bills, or why people don’t understand us (proven by one of those gifts again!

( I was thinking, based on years of marital counseling – people can treat sex the same way, losing the awe and being int he moment, instead trying to analyze it!)

SO it is with God, if we stay outside and try to study and understand Him.  When developing the next great theological manuscript, or understanding what a dead guy said about some aspect of God, or His creation.   We spend too much time looking for the big answers, seeking to understand things that are far greater than us, things that simply exist when we approach them as children

The solution to this is simple. The same as it is for the adult at Christmas.  We need to get down on the floor and become part of the celebration. We need to engage in the joy, in the moment, in the relationship that God desires with us.   We need to pray more, trust more and celebrate His love with all of our heart and soul, mind and strength.

That may mean dropping that theology text, or putting aside that debate.

That’s okay, if you were meant to write it, or read it, you will get far more out of it when you have spent some time in the moment with the Lord who created that moment, and desires to spend it with you.  If you don’t believe me, think about Augustine, Benedict, Luther, Socrates, and the 2-year old who simply wants to sit at the altar rail throughout the church service.

Lord, have mercy on us, please give us the trust and awe of a child!

Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

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Our Intimate Relationship with God: His Desire, His choice, His Work!


Devotional Thought of the Day:

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you are telling me: Lead this people. But you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said: You are my intimate friend; You have found favor with me. 13 Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways so that, in knowing you, I may continue to find favor with you. See, this nation is indeed your own people. 14 The LORD answered: I myself will go along, to give you rest. 15 Moses replied, “If you are not going yourself, do not make us go up from here. 16 For how can it be known that I and your people have found favor with you, except by your going with us? Then we, your people and I, will be singled out from every other people on the surface of the earth.” 17 The LORD said to Moses: This request, too, which you have made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.
18 Then Moses said, “Please let me see your glory!” 19 The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, “LORD,” before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.f 20 But you cannot see my face,g for no one can see me and live. 21 Here, continued the LORD, is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. 22 When my glory passes I will set you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face may not be seen.  Ex 33:11–23 NABRE

The New Testament does not say that men conciliate God, as we really ought to expect, since after all it is they who have failed, not God. It says on the contrary that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This is truly something new, something unheard of—the starting-point of Christian existence and the center of New Testament theology of the Cross: God does not wait until the guilty come to be reconciled; he goes to meet them and reconciles them. Here we can see the true direction of the Incarnation, of the Cross. Accordingly, in the New Testament the Cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way around.

Moses is not the only one to have the struggle he describes in this passage from Exodus.  We all do, we all face situations where we don’t want to go another step further, because we simply do not have the strength.

It may be that we can’t deal with the people we are called to serve, as Moses often struggled.  Or maybe we see how impossible the task is, and we know it cannot be done with God’s presence.  Maybe we perceive the situation as being unfair, (whether it is or not is actually not relevant -get used to this idea:  life isn’t fair!)

It might be more personal, the struggle that you have that you don’t want to face. It may be that you have to be freed from a sin that has its hooks in you, like Israel faced so many times in the desert.  It could be some dark area that God wants you to be freed from, but it is so hard to break free.

Moses keeps telling God – I can’t go there without you!  If you are my God, please help, if I have an intimate relationship with you, don’t leave me alone.  He’s pleading for what every other religion tells us is impossible.

For God to come to us, as we are crushed, oppressed, weary and broken.  As we know the law that condemns us or the people we care about all to well.

As Pope Benedict XVI points out, this is where things are different with Jesus, with the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  He comes to us, He always has!  He came to Adam and Eve in the garden, He came to Abraham (even when he was trying to pass off his wife as his sister!)  He came to Hagar at the well.  He came to David in his sin, and encouraged Moses and even Hosea to deal mercifully with the unfaithful, and gave them the strength of heart and soul to deal with those trapped in sin.

He even gives us glimpses of Him, as He ministers to us.  Yes, the obvious glimpses of His faithfulness in the past, to those who are broken like us, in need of healing, like us.  In need of knowing we are in His presence.

But glimpses as well in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, the feast were we see the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away our sin.

Who comes to us, and we hear Him as He promises, “your sins are forgiven.”

He comes to us… He brings us through the transformation that is repentance and makes His presence known, and that His presence is, as this translation puts it, that of an intimate friend.

This is what Advent is all about, as we meditate on His coming to us, in all our need!

May we realize our need, the same need as Moses, and may our eyes be opened to His presence.

AMEN.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 372). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

A Missional Lesson Not ot Be Forgotten…the Epistle Written on Hearts


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  It was He (Jesus ) who “gave gifts to people“; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)

1  Does this sound as if we were again boasting about ourselves? Could it be that, like some other people, we need letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2  You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read. 3  It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us. It is written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, and not on stone tablets but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TEV)

195         When there is zeal for souls, good people can always be found, fertile soil can always be discovered. There is no excuse!  (1)

This weekend was one of those lessons in ministry that had to be driven home with an exclamation point.  I listened to 6 sermons, all by men who desired to serve God, who knew HIs love.  One was during our church service when a deacon preached about a widow who would give all because she God could care for her.  Then five deacon candidates preached a sermon on Philippians 2 as part of their homiletics course.

There were other sermons, not prepared, but sermons like the letters Paul mentions to the church in Corinth.  The letters testifying to ministry being done, of the word being preached, of the Holy Spirit at work

One lady, who very rarely comes to church (like 3 times 7 years!) who was telling another guest about how great the church was, and that she should come here regularly.  (And her laugh as I looked at her, and she realized she was talking to herself)  Another man who was taken aback by several telling him he should be in the next class, and seeing his heart consider it, as He was speechless at the thought.  Another man talked to me about how much these friends of his matured, how God had caused them to grow.  Most impacting were the tears of one lady, as she watched her husband of forty-plus years come alive as he preached, and as she encountered the power of God at work in their lives.  I could go on, to tell the stories I witnessed, as people were impacted by those messages, by those messengers.

None of the men who I heard yesterday would most consider “Minister material.” But the people they ministered too could not deny God’s work through them.  Like the small shepherd who would be king, or the terrorist who would become an apostle, or the coward who would lead God’s people to freedom.  They have some rough edges; each has significant struggles in life that would make most hesitate to put them in a pulpit.   But this is undeniable, God used them.  The proof was seen in the lives and conversations they touched.  They worked their tails off, and God blessed others through them.

We are all called to ministry, and it is a wondrous thing to watch the church growing and serving each other.  Even those we don’t anticipate God use so dramatically.

So how are you going to become the messenger whom God will write on others hearts this day?  Or how will someone else by used by the Holy Spirit to imprint on your heart the message of God’s love?  For we need both, we are fertile fields, and workers set apart to work in the fields ready for harvest.

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1026-1027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

does how we view God affect our ministry?


Featured imagedevotional thought of the day;

18 You have not come to a physical mountain,* to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”* 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”*
22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.   Heb 12:18–24 nlt

119         Those problems which used to overwhelm you—and seemed like enormous mountains—disappeared completely. They were solved in a divine way, as when Our Lord commanded the winds and the waters to be calm. And to think that you still doubted!

when i read the verses from Hebrews this morning, i knew i would be writing about them, though i didn’t know how until i read the passage from St. Josemaria.

for i think we would all say that we understand the scripture passage, that we all agree, we do not dwell in the presence of God in the way Moses perceived.  we live in grace, we live in a God who reveals His presence as the comforter, the paraclete, the refuge, the One in Whom we can trust, and upon Whom we depend.

if that is so, shouldn’t that be evident in our life?  we should live in a manner that reflects the joy of coming into the presence of God as one whose name is written in heaven. we should live without fear, for we depend upon the fact that Jesus mediated the new covenant, a covenant which cries out with mercy, that speaks of forgiveness.

we need to realize what this means for life now, here and now.  those mountains of fear that assail us, that challenged our desire to serve God, cannot cause us to fail, for forgiveness and mercy follow us, as David wrote. we may need to find our rest, our sanctuary, and a place to heal now and then, but God will guide us past the mountains, and through the storms. we don’t have to walk around on eggshells, as if failing God, He’s already proven what He does with our sins, would He somehow less merciful because we tried to love, care, and bring the gospel to others?

this means we can dream big – not of our fame, but of God’s glory.  we can try something that we might not have seen as possible, or possible for us. we can reach out in love, without fear of rejection. we can simply love, not to be loved in return, but because we know we already are.

walking into God’s presence is something that leaves us in awe.  yet it transforms us as well, freeing us to hear His voice, to realize we walk with Him.  as we heard yesterday in Mark 9, that means the impossible – of seeing God at work in our lives… is not just possible.  it is probable.

live in Christ Jesus my friends, for that is why you were born again. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 692-694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hang on to God, not gods, a sermon on Mark 10:23-31


The Companions of the Cross

Hang on to GOD, not gods

Mark 10:23–31

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe, that no idol, no other desire would distract you from their love and mercy.  Amen!

Can’t get in!

I remember almost thirty years ago, standing at the desk at St joseph’s hospital in Orange.  A young man was standing outside the obstetrics ward, as his girlfriend had given birth to his son.  Big kid, some 13 pounds 8 ounces. He was frustrated, because it wasn’t visiting hours, he was there too early, and he wanted to see his son and his lady.

But there are rules, and at that hospital, back in those days, no one was allowed on a floor.

I remember the tiny little nun and the nurse, standing there, telling him there was no way they would let him in, never mind any of the other family standing around. He tried every argument, even suggesting a small bribe and then a bigger bribe.  Well, that didn’t make things much better,

No access.  No way.

I think the camel would have passed through the needle twice before he would get in past the nun and nurse prior to visiting hours.  .

No access.  No way.

Last week we saw the rich young man walk away because he owned too much property, and it was his idol, how he identified himself, and to give it all up to follow Jesus.

The rich man so wanted to find a way to get into heaven, and walked away realizing it would cost him more than he was willing to part with, it would cost him everything to walk with Jesus.

In today’s gospel, the story continues.  The apostles are amazed that the rich man can’t get into to heaven. They were astounded that Jesus compared the difficulty of taking a camel weighing 2000 pounds and forcing it through a sewing needle.

About the same likelihood of a young father getting to see his son in a Catholic hospital thirty years ago, a son born to a woman he was not married to…

Astounded and amazed – Powerless – really

It says twice in our gospel reading that the apostles were amazed and astounded by the fact the man couldn’t be among those blessed.  After all, the man they saw before Jesus had EVERYTHING they believed marked one as a blessed son of God.

He had property in the holy land, what God had promised to Israel, or so they thought.

He was able to keep the commandments and claim it before Jesus, something Jesus didn’t contest.  That didn’t mean he broke them, but that when he did, he offered the appropriate sacrifices to atone for them.

Mark even records that he was greatly loved by Jesus.  Either this was based on a comment or observation, but the proof was evident, so evident that the holy spirit recorded it in the scriptures.

With all of that, he wasn’t able to be given a free pass into the kingdom of God.

If anyone should have been, it should have been him.

Reminds me of paul’s words in Philippians

4  though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! 5  I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6  I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Philippians 3:4-6 (NLT)

Sounds like the young rich young man, doesn’t it.

Matter of fact, some in the early church thought it might have been.  A man with all the right stuff, all the right credentials, and he couldn’t get into heaven on his own.

The barriers were still up, and the idols he clung too were too much.

Amazed he can’t, the disciples are dismayed.  They wonder who can be saved, they ask the same question, what will it ake.  And if the apostles and the rich man can’t impressed Jesus enough, how in the world do you and I have a chance.

I guarantee I am not able to measure up to someone like Paul, and sorry, there isn’t one of you who can either.

Let’s be serious, we have as many false gods we cling too, we have our idols, and the things that control us, our identities, our sins.

And if it is impossible for a man who was, by all accounts a saint, who desired to be in heaven, to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, then it is impossible for us as well.

What hope is there then Peter says, we’ve given it all up.. is there any hope/

Empowered

While Jesus says it is impossible for man, it is possible for God.

The man, impatient to see his son and lady, realized someone walked up behind him.  It was his younger brother, who had a name badge identifying himself as a chaplain at another hospital.  The nun and nurse greeted him warmly, noting the badge.

He asked if he could see his brother’s lady, and the nun graciously said she would immediately show the young chaplain into see her.  The chaplain asked if his brother would come, and was told, ‘yes, chaplain.’  The man went in and saw his newborn son and lady.

What power and money couldn’t do, having a connection to the right person could. As we said in Boston,  click  “ya gotta know somebody.”

It is as Jesus said, what is impossible for man, God is able to do.

Or as Paul the apostle wrote,

7  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT)

That is what heaven is about.  About having a relationship with the creator of the universe.  It is about knowing his grace, his mercy, and his love. That we become one with Him, that we know we are the kids that God has given birth to in our baptism.

Nothing is more valuable, nothing is even comparable to knowing the love of God, love so incredible that St. Paul talked of our exploring its height, its depth, its width and breadth.

It is worth abandoning all, as peter indicated that he and the other apostles had.

And then heard Jesus remark something incredible,

I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

my brothers, sisters, we have been given each other, a gift from God as we’ve been born again.  We are going to have some struggles, but together, as His family, we will one day be home with our Father, and with our Lord and the Holy Spirit.

Until that day, we are His, and will dwell, guarded in peace, a peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

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