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What Would Socrates Think of Our Facebook Profiles?

Featured imageDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
15  You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!” 16  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17  If we are his children, we are also God’s heirs. If we share in Christ’s suffering in order to share his glory, we are heirs together with him. Romans 8:15-17 (GW)

Do not forget: anyone who does not realize that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts, he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love our Lord above all else. (1)

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  (attributed to Socrates)

One of my favorite authors back in my collegiate days was Peter Kreeft.  He had a couple of books that portrayed the average college student, questing after the best things in life. Socrates would show up on campus, and through some strategically asked questions, the person would find their quest changing, and what they would see is that they needed God.

They needed to see reality from His perspective.  By asking themselves the questions that Socrates put forth, they realized how twisted life becomes, and how what we desire, isn’t what we desire.

The questions weren’t easy to face; The same questions we need to face, the questions that aren’t easy, either.

Will we face them?  Especially as we put our views out on FB as if we were had the knowledge of Einstein, or the Wisdom of Pope Francis, or the power of a president or a king?  FB is the place that empowers us to put whatever we want out for the world to read. We might even think that it happens without consequence. We will use the power of FB and Twitter to announce that we are gods?  That we have the authority to determine what is right, no matter what God says.  That we have the authority to condemn those who are evil, not according to scripture, but because we think they are.  We may be the conservative calling those who sin differently to repentance, we might be the liberal condemning those who don’t see things our way, and throwing away our religion.  Will we continue to defend our divinity, and deny it to those unlike us?

Or will we, in humble awe, with incredible adoration, realize that God has desired, made possible, and re-created us to be the children of God?

Examining our life, asking the questions that Socrates would ask, guiding us into what is real, what is important, brings us to a shocking reality.

That we aren’t gods, but that we desperately need a God, who cares, who loves, who heals, who guides and empowers us.  A God who instructs us how to love, not just by laying down the guidelines, but is the example of that perfect life.

The deepest truth?  Yeah – we were sinners, we still struggle incredibly with sin. If we say, we don’t, we lie, and accuse God of being a liar.  But the deepest truth is that He will make sinners saints, and is doing so now.

We have to realize that God neither approves of our sin.  That like the women caught in adultery, His words are, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Rather Jesus gives us repentance as He reconciles us to Him, helping us to endure, and healing us of the sin’s damage, and restoring us to life.

That is who we are, the children of God, the friends of Christ.

to base our lives on any other identity, is to fail to examine our life, and is to live life as a lie.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 619-621). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Crying Out Loud

Crying Out Loud

Featured imageGalatians 4:4-7

IHS

We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”

A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!

A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.

I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between.  People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.

I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.

How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?

Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.

For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.

Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….

For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer…  and in praise.

That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His  being Immanuel – God with us,

It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…

This What the Right Time is about!

When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.

It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.

He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity.  I love how one theologian-pastor put it:

Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]

What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!

No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.

Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.

It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.

The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!

That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right.  He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God.  Another Christian leader put it this way:

“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,

We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father.  Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.

The pastor went on….

It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ,  To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.

Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”

AMEN!

[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

God’s Commissioned Masterpiece: A Life of Obedience, and Grace.

Devotional Thought of The Day:Featured image

16  “Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true. (Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me.) 17  The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18  “If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19  Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed.” 20  Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: The LORD has saved his servant Israel! Isaiah 48:16-20 (TEV)

Consequently this teaching concerning faith is not to be accused of forbidding good works but is rather to be praised for teaching that good works are to be done and for offering help as to how they may be done. For without faith and without Christ human nature and human strength are much too weak to do good works,call upon God, have patience in suffering, love one’s neighbor, diligently engage in callings which are commanded, render obedience, avoid evil lusts, etc. Such great and genuine works cannot be done without the help of Christ, (1) 

333      The best way of showing our gratitude to God is to be passionately in love with the fact that we are his children.  (1)
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I was amazed to see the tension between obedience and grace.

God teaches very clearly that what we miss when we disobey Him are the blessings of a life lived in peace, a life lived full of blessings, a life lived content, and flourishing in ways beyond our imagination.

Instead, we treat His law with disdain.  Before we come to know His grace, we dismiss it as archaic.  We think it has no relevance to our lives.  We believe we know better, and we toss it aside the way in favor of what we think i right.  (and it seems that everyone of us has our pet sins to declare good, even as we have our pet sins to condemn)

But those that don’t follow Jesus aren’t the only ones to dismiss the life, the masterpiece God has in mind for us.  We see that in the blue quote above.  For some have been accused of forbidding good works, and some have denied that what God has commissioned should have any influence on the life of those who have been called into a relationship with God.  There are different ways this is done, a denial of the third use of the law is a technical way of describing it.  Others will talk about being free from the bondage of sin, the power of satan and the fear of death and God’s wrath as a freedom to do that which they want – for God in the New Testament is only a God of law, and not of judgment.  There are some who see the issue that we cannot earn or merit God’s coming to us meaning that we should just give up being good, or somehow we will automatically believe and do what is right.  (Those who say this ignore that Romans 7 discourse is part of the larger 6-8 discussion about the struggle with sin)

The Psalmist doesn’t leave us thinking of what could have been, if we obeyed.  He does hold that out, he does make it clear that the way of life God commissions is not for His benefit – but ours.  It is having realized this, that we can then hear the glorious news, God has been merciful, He has saved us.  He’s adopting us, cleansing us, claiming us.  He has delivered us, saved us, reconciled us, redeemed us, rescued us, loved us.

Obedience, what the lutheran confessions call “New Obedience” then comes from seeing what God commissions/commands as a son taking instruction from his Father, learning the family business and the tasks we work as we walk with Him.  Think of a dad teaching his son to play catch, or how to change a bicycle tire, or a mom teaching her daughter to cook (yes I know I am using old fashioned traditional types).  The instruction is beneficial, practical and present.  Not a Lord’s laws layed down, but a Father’s guidance, which can be heard and put into practice, for when it is heard, the heart receives it as well as the mind.

That’s what grace does. It teaches us that God is our Father, our caring, loving Father who desires the best for us, and is wise enough to know it.  Are we gong to screw up, disobey, struggle and even rebel?  Yes, but like the prodigal, we will remember Him, and His love.

Obedience, the fruit of grace and mercy, and dependent upon it.

Lord, thank you that you have mercy on us!.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 46). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1320-1321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Family of God… and death

devotional thought of the day:Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

27  At this Peter exclaimed, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What is that going to be worth to us?” 28  “Believe me,” said Jesus, “when I tell you that in the next world, when the Son of Man shall sit down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and become judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or land for my sake will receive it all back many times over, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first now will be last then – and the last first! Matthew 19:27-28 (Phillips NT)

In the last few days, I have been thinking about death a bit.  No, not because of the movie and television star who died, but because of someone important in my life.  Someone I barely knew, yet revealed to me again a truth about family, especially the family of God.

As we stood at her graveside this morning, as her children dropped beautiful red roses flowers onto the urn’s vault, someone suggested that I do, as one of the family, drop a flower into the vault as well.  I flashed back to the service at church, a few days before, and a story where another of her “children”  was told, “you maybe one of my daughters, but I am sure I didn’t give birth to you!”

As I stood there, a rose in my hand, the verse above came into my head.  This Lady whose ashes were being lade to rest – could very well be an elder sister, if not a mother in the faith.  Her husband was surely one of the great father-figures in my faith.  And her six children, they truly are like my brothers and sisters, even though we grew up on different continents, Even though they and their children live all over the world today, even though there is little at first glance that we would have in common, they welcomed me as their brother.  Though I have spent less than 24 hours with some of them, I yearned to bring them comfort as a sibling would in those moments, and felt the impact of their mom’s temporary loss in those moments.

There are two things that can bind people together, (there are more – but these two are the most powerful)  The first is traumatic, the fact that those we love, and we ourselves will die.  It can cause us great despair, despair that is more than individual, yet more deeply felt than anything we feel individually.

But even as powerful, even as final as death seems to be.  There is something that binds us even closer, that is far more powerful, and endures far greater.

The Love of God.  The love which binds us, the children of God, together more powerfully.  That transcends culture, that transcends age, nationality, ethnicity, It is a love reflected in the words read this morning.

3  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6  And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:3-7 (NLT)

We are His children. The lady whose ashes were laid to rest most certainly understands that now – the promises of God to her in her baptism, that she heard all her life, that her husband proclaimed from pulpits, that she taught her children – all of us, that was proclaimed loudly.

For she is one of those brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children  that I have received. 

That message that this couple shared with so many of their children, they shared with their New England born and raised kids, Who didn’t get to know them long enough, and yet knew their home was my home as well – where brothers and sisters welcome me still! .

Truly in Christ Jesus we gain more relatives, more family, and a hope that extends far beyond this life….. into eternity.

We are God’s children….. created in Christ to do good works, to love… to care for each other, to share the hope given to us.

Amen!

Our Need for Vacation, (or the Sabbath) is Really Our Need for Christ

DSCF1083

a nice peaceful sunset off of the Huntington Beach Pier..

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:

1   LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3  Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)

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; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. 16  So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. 17  All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. Colossians 2:11-17 (TEV)

657 Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can!  (1)

Today starts my vacation, so it was a coincidence?  Ironic?  God having fun? that my devotional readings switched from focusing on sacrificing to focusing on resting in Christ Jesus this morning.

As I started to read the Psalm this morning, and the other passages and the devotional reading, (with my son at my side – which was great!) I started thinking – how much people look forward to vacation, how much we look forward to a break from the grind of daily work. Even though many of us physically do not rest, do not take a break, but fill as much of our time as we can!

Matter of fact, we spend extra time preparing our work places and lives for vacation, we know we will have more work when we get back, we tire ourselves out during it and… well.. we don’t always get what we need – rest, a chance to breath, a chance to recover and be revitalized. It works against the Human Resources justification of Vacation – that employees will be more energetic and productive with that time away for rest and recreation, That it will reduce burnout, that it will have a positive impact on our work.

As I was thinking through this, I realized what vacations are supposed to be about is why God created sabbath times – not just weeks, but yearly and even sabbaticals where things rested for a year. When all pressure is off, where time is spent simply, without concern, knowing that God is caring for us, protecting us, Where we can find contentment, and peace.  Where we can be still, knowing that it will take a couple of days to do so… to unwind, to breathe, to even gasp.

We need to do this more, setting aside even in a minute or two an hour, an hour a day, a day a month?  And yes – our week or two a year…..

We need our time with our Father, for that is precious and restores our soul… It can give us the strength to face the rest of the hour, the pains of a day, the punishing grind of a year.

My son got it, when we talked of my role as a pastor, and why I need to start the morning with a devotional time.  He said if I didn’t spend time with God, even though the time I spend with people is very good – I can’t really pastor!  (He indicated he was guessing – he knew it was right – but he didn’t know why!)

How can we live as believers, if we don’t spend time, talking to Him with the love and adoration a son has for his dad?

This is why it doesn’t make sense to restrict people to a specific day for such rest, for dwelling in such love. If someone needs that rest on Tuesday night, or on Thursday morning.  We need it.  The Sabbath is about man receiving the peace and rest God would give them.  It isn’t about obedience, but about restoration. That is why some prefer daily mass, and some churches with staff and time enough – have multiple service times across the week.

Well time to wrap this up – need to finish getting ready for some time of rest……

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2756-2758). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s own Child

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God’s Own Child

Galatians 3:23-4:7

†  Jesus`Son`Savior

 

May you realize the joy of being the very children of God!

 

The Joy of Baptism

After one of the recent baptisms, as I was walking out of church, someone said to me, “Pastor, you really enjoy baptisms, don’t you?”

I am not sure if it was a surprise to them, or just a an observation, but yes, I do.  More than anything else I do in ministry, I love it when there are sacraments delivering God’s miraculous grace to those people He loves, to those He has called into relationship with Him.

When God takes a person and the Holy Spirit breathes faith and eternal life into them, declaring them to be His children.

It is an amazing miracle….

Matter of fact, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Absolution, all three of the major sacraments are miracles, something to be incredibly joyous about.  They are, in my opinion, more important than any other miracle, more important than healings, or the story in the gospel of the man who was freed from demon possession…more incredible than the parting of the Red Sea, or anything else.
We’ve witnessed a miracle, one that has happened in our own lives as well.

Scripture describes what happens in baptism in many many ways.  We often focus on the cleansing of sin, the being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, with a transformed life, even if it takes a while to see it completely.  In baptism we are clothed with Christ, and the old sinful nature is drowned.  We’ll talk about some of these things in our Bible Study today… but in the sermon, there is one thing, that sums up this miracle…

 

It’s there in verse 7, J, and all that are baptized know this…. you are God’s own Child…
I would hope that our reaction to realizing what Jesus has done here, and did in each of our lives would be like what the response of the man given life in the gospels did.

Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

Including this amazing fact, that each of us has been made God’s own child!

 

The Law was More than A Friend

If we are going to tell people what God has done here, and in each of our lives when He baptized us, when He cleansed us and gave us abundant and eternal life, we start as Paul did, talking about where we were before this.

He uses this great illustration about the law being our guardian, that God’s rules were put into play, not to condemn us, but to protect us.  That’s not usually how the law is presented to unbelievers by many Christians. Many people think evangelism means talking about how the law condemns us, how people who don’t know about Jesus fail to live up to its standards, and need to do something about it.

Paul explains it differently here, that the law is our guardian, our teacher, the pedagogue, or to use and older term – our governess. It’s job isn’t to condemn us, but to protect us until we come to trust in God, until we journey on this “way of faith”, until we are united in baptism.

The law served, in many ways, like our babysitter – with carefully laid down rules so that we couldn’t maneuver around them, or find the loopholes in it.  Yes, it pointed out what we’ve done wrong – but it always points to the solution, that God would provide a way of forgiveness, a way that He would make it right…
He did that, in our baptism. In clothing us with not just with Christ’s righteousness, but with Christ Himself.

But the law was there, bringing us to Christ, showing us our need, like a teacher guiding us on a field trip – ensuring that we are safe, ensuring that we would get to our destination in time.  The moment the way of trusting Christ was available to us.

But there is something so much more!

 

It is not just baptism that should excite us, but what it means for the rest of life, in a real way, the beginning of life.

It’s like yesterday, when James and Doran were married up in Seattle.  A lot of planning goes into a wedding – and a lot of excitement builds up as the event gets closer. I have heard it can even become stressful for some brides.

The day is nothing compared to the life together that has begun.  There may be challenges, there may be days where they will be tired, but they will be there for each other.  Weddings are a blast – but they now have a life together.  They have a blessing beyond any other blessing.

In a similar way, the journey only begins this morning for J.  She will walk with God all her life, as each of us does who trusts in Him, who realizes that He has claimed us as His children in baptism, that we have been given Christ’s name, that we have been given Christ’s spirit, sent into hearts.

We will never be alone, we will never be without hope.

We’ve been claimed… His children…the one’s He takes care of, the ones that don’t need the law keeping guard on us, because He is with us.

That’s incredible.

That’s the miracle that is in baptism – that’s the power of Christ’s death and resurrection – it’s not just about the sins that are gone… it’s about the relationship that is revealed, that begins, for God has adopted us, made us His own children, claimed us as His own.

 

Talking to God!

Hear it again…


But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

 

If baptism as an event is important – then this, the idea that because we are the very children of God, that the Holy Spirit prompts us to call God, Abba!  We are prompted, by the Holy Spirit to call God – Daddy – that’s the point of it all, that is why this is so amazing, that we can call out to the Creator of the universe, to the God who placed the Sun and the moon in their positions!  We can call out
in time of need,

to fix the things we have broken…

to help us be able to deal with things we cannot understand..

 

or just call out to Him.. to praise and adore Him, Father, we love you!

Conclusion

So I get excited about days like this – for the right time has come, and we have a new sister, who will share in all of the blessings of being clothed with Christ.. who will with us, walk in great peace with God, who will feast with us, who is like us,

God’s own child.

That’s something to praise God for… even as we realize again, what He has done to each of us.  AMEN?

Grateful to be used…

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the day:

 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of lifeEphesians 2:10 (NJB)

I don’t like to speak of someone being singled out to be part of a privileged elect. But it is Christ who speaks, who chooses. It is the language of holy Scripture: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy,” Saint Paul tells us.3 I know that such thoughts don’t fill you with pride nor lead you to think yourself better than other men. That choice, the root of our vocation, should be the basis of our humility. Do we build monuments to an artist’s paintbrush? Granted the brush had a part in creating masterpieces, but we give credit only to the painter. We Christians are nothing more than instruments in the hands of the creator of the world, of the redeemer of all men.  (1)

Among the mysteries of God that easily overwhelm me, is the idea that God uses us….especially that he uses me….

But this idea of someone else, even Someone else, using me – at times rubs raw against the way I have been raised.  Don’t I have a choice in the matter?  Can’t I choose when and where and … how much?

Especially the how much!

It seems like God wants an aweful lot from us at times!  First all the behaving appropriate, following the rules, do this, don’t do that, and even though I know the rules are there to protect my peace, my sanity, my eternity – there is a part of me that just…needs to rebel.  Claim some of my own time, take a spiritual day off, get some freedom…..maybe even adopt a pet (sin) or two.  I mean, does God really expect us to be available for others, serve others, love others, and forgive others, all the time?

The answer is – yeah – pretty much.

After all, He didn’t just create us, He designed and created and breathed life into us.  He created us and then cleans us up – renews us – breathes life into beings that really, only knew death.  In doing so, He makes of us even a more glorious masterpiece – but the glory is all His.  For in us – we find a masterpiece that is an incredible paradox.  Spirit and flesh, sinner and saint, creature yet friends, partners with creation, dead to sin, yet alive in Christ, part of the Body of Christ, yet also His Bride.  Living in mortal bodies, yet blessed with immortality… people who walk with God.

For we are created… to be His children.

That is His goal, that has always been His goal…. and He is the only one that can assure it.

And even as He uses us, even if that means like Paul we are to be poured out like a drink offering… we come to rejoice even in that…. and we find ourselves…grateful… joyful, that God would use us…. for that proves we are His chosen people.

AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 379-385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Not Ashamed to Call us Brothers

Not Ashamed… to call us brothers!

Hebrews 2:1–13 (14–18)

 

In Jesus Name

 

As you begin to comprehend that Jesus is not ashamed to call you His brothers and sisters, may you never neglect this news, this message of the cross, and may you realize what it means that we have been brought into His glory!

That first date and that relative…

I think each one us has someone in their past, that was capable of embarrassing us at the drop of the hat.

 

It might have been the over-enthusiastic younger sibling who tried to pretend they were all grown up and equal to you and your friends.

Or that aunt who managed to show up at the wrong moment just in time to share with your first date the cute stories of you early child-hood.  She was trying to make you look cute, but the more she spoke, the more you tried to shrink between the seat cushions.  Maybe it was the obnoxious, boisterous uncle, who wanted to relive his youth with you.

Maybe it is your offspring, or your parents.  As I said, sometime in our life there probably was someone we are ashamed of, embarrassed by, not really happy when they show up
For some of us, it wasn’t that we were embarrassed and shamed when others showed up in our lives, maybe we were the sibling that was dragged along, and were treated like a ball and chain around our older brother’s ankle.  It could have been as we were sharing that important story, well it was important to us, that we finally noticed everyone rolling their eyes…

Being embarrassed by someone, or being the person everyone is ashamed to admit they are related too are simply opposite sides of the same coin. The relationship is invariably fractured, maybe even shattered, as we wonder will they ever change… will we ever change…

As I thought through this passage from the book of Hebrews, there is one phrase that keeps coming back to mind…

 

. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers

 

He is not ashamed to call us brothers…

Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers..

Can you hear Me now?

         

Knowing that truth, that Jesus is NOT afraid to call us His brothers and sisters, is something that I pray we never forget.  It is what the writer of Hebrews is telling us that we need to pay closer attention to – literally to grasp onto for dear life. If we don’t, we will drift away as the cares of the world drag us down stream toward the falls. We have to hear Jesus’ message, to what we hear in this place, and to what we read in the scriptures of the love of the Creator of all, the love of the God who cleanses us and sets us apart for a relationship,

who sets us apart for a relationship with Him!

This epistle, my favorite book of the New Testament makes a great deal of this relationship for which we have been saved.  The relationship we are delivered into, a relationship that is glorious, as it based in the love of God.

This isn’t just the message of a pastor, or even a prophet or apostle, or any other messenger of God, whether human or angelic.  But it is the message from which every other message of God takes its cue, it is the measure against all messages which are claimed to be from God must be measured.

 

But it starts with the Annointed/Chosen Christ

         

Often we hear of Christ being the Lord of all, and that we need to learn to submit to His lordship, to put Him in charge of our lives. There is a strong lesson there, and yes, we need to know Jesus reigns, that He is in charge, that the way He commissioned us to live life is the way we should, for we have learned to trust in Him.

There is another side to this idea of Lordship though, it isn’t just about our submitting to God, it is about His taking responsibility over us, that He would commit His life, and all eternity to being responsible for our lives.  The one who created the mountains, and the oceans, we’ve talked about it so many times, He has promised to make our lives a masterpiece, to forge them into something incredible and miraculous and His.

I think we’ve lost that in the church in the USA today.  I know when I talk to people who’ve have negative experiences with churches, it was because they felt an incredible pressure to conform – to shape up or ship out  – that it was about domination, and unless YOU made God the Lord of your life- and obeyed perfectly, you weren’t good enough.  That is, simply put, wrong.

Jesus being the Lord of your life isn’t about a perfect life submitting to the domination of another.  It is about the ill letting the nurse attend them, about the broken letting the One who can heal the brokenness get in and get to work…It’s about the leper hearing he’s healed, the prostitute hearing, “go and sin no more,” the adultress being offered living water. The one weary and tired being offered rest.  I love what I came across in my devotions this week,

If the outlook in your interior life, in your soul, is darkened, allow yourself to be led along by the hand, as a blind man would do. In time the Lord will reward this humble surrendering of your own judgment by giving you clarity of mind. 

 

What we surrender to the Lord is that which could have been embarrassing, that which is shameful, that which He suffered death to remove from us, and did.

 

Or as a favorite song of mine puts it:

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they’re the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

Except at the cross, where He died for the joy of bringing us into the love of God,

For listen again to Hebrews, when it talks about Jesus being Lord…

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

He was crowned with glory and honor because He was willing to experience death for you, for me, to bear the shame, and disgrace that we were, that we struggle with, as we struggle to pay attention, to grasp on for dear life, for eternal life, this very message that occurs in the next paragraph

 

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

 

In committing to be our Lord, in committing to care for us, He commits to bringing us, among many sons and daughters, to glory!

He commits to being never ashamed to call His brothers, never embarrassed to deal with our frailty, our immaturity, our brokenness!  He went to the cross to deal with it all, and in our baptism – we are united to Him, we have life in Him and are cleansed and claimed as His. The scripture describes as having one source of sanctification, that of the Father who raised Christ from the dead, and with Him, you and I!

 

You are His beloved family, He is your beloved Lord…

That is the message that we have to hold onto my friends, that we have been so cleansed, so rescued, so made holy and set apart for a relationship with God that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Nothing.

You are His family, He is our beloved Father, Jesus our brother, by His decision not ours.  This is our hope, it is that He clings to us with more determination that even found in our desperation.

Don’t neglect that, celebrate it daily, you have been adopted by the Father, for you have been cleansed by the Spirit, and your brother Jesus, is never ashamed to be there for you….

And there, sharing in the love of Trinity, we find something special, the peace of God which passes all understanding, and a peace in which we are guarded, our hearts and minds secured and kept safe by our brother Jesus.

AMEN?

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