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You Need Hope! (whether you think you do or not….)

Devotional Thought of the day:
15 When Jesus heard about the plot against him, he went away from that place; and large crowds followed him. He healed all those who were ill 16and gave them orders not to tell others about him. 17He did this so as to make what God had said through the prophet Isaiah come true:
18 “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, the one I love, and with whom I am pleased. I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will announce my judgment to the nations. 19 He will not argue or shout, or make loud speeches in the streets. 20 He will not break off a bent reed, or put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,
21 and in him all peoples will put their hope.”  Mark 12:15-24

491    Nonne hic est fabri filius? Nonne hic est faber, filius Mariae?—“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” This, said of Jesus, may very well be said of you, with a bit of amazement and a bit of mockery, when you really decide to carry out the will of God, to be an instrument: “But isn’t this the one…?” Say nothing, and let your works confirm your mission.(1)

I stood there, having voted for everything but a candidate for President.  My mind was not made up  even then even after praying a lot. Serious concerns over both candidates, and indeed about the political spectrum in which we exist delayed that vote.  I have dear friends, many of them who follow Christ, who made passionate pleas for me to vote for their candidate, and those friends were advocating four different choices.

My thoughts were about them, and as the night closed, and this morning dawned, I saw some urging us to work together, others railing in triumph, and others drowned in despair.  What words could I write this morning that would minister to these beloved friends?  There is comfort needed, encouragement needed, and in some cases, a gentle rebuke, on that would re-focus them on Jesus, and restore a true hope.

Daily I do what I call devotional reading.  Reading not to prove my devotion, but to see God’s devoted care for us revealed. It is there I found these readings this morning, and the promise of God’s precise care for us.

Even as we are at our weakest, our most broken, shattered point, Jesus does not crush us. Even though we are burnt out, God knows where that little spark can be found, enough that with care the fire will roar again.  Even when we are at our weaknest – not because of despair, but because our success leads us to be vulnerable, and we don’t see a need for the hope we have in Jesus.

Yet justice, His justice, not ours, will prevail.

His.

No loud speeches needed, no arguments, no cheering or wailing.   Instead caring, comfort, a correction of course for those, re-orienting all to the presence of Christ.

It is so hard in these days when we let anxiety rain, or celebrate beyond what is beneficial.  When we go on the defensive, trying to justify our position, to show those who mock us they are wrong. When overwhelmed by sorrow or joy we don’t pay attention to those around us and end up breaking yet another relationship.

It’s time to stop – get back to what we do, to be silent and not take things personally, and to simply point people to the comfort and grace that is found in Christ, because He died, He rose, and He leads us into and keep us in His peace.

Rest there, no matter who you backed, and greet those who like you, find a respite from the days past. Let Jesus minister to you – bringing you life and hope!  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1199-1203). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why I Am NOT Anxious About the Election:

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.  Matt. 6:31-34 TEV

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all Christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself (cf. Rahner, Schriften II, p. 221). One is in heaven when and to the degree that one is in Christ, where one finds the true location of one’s existence as a human being in the existence of God himself. Heaven is, then, primarily a personal reality. It remains forever stamped by its historical origin in the Easter mystery of death and Resurrection. (1)

110 hours from now, people will be shattered.  

The reason they will be shattered is that the media and the social media is making this election sound like the end of the world could occur if one of the two were elected.  I even see articles about no matter which are elected; the American life is over as we know it.

No matter who is triumphant, no matter who is crushed by defeat, no matter how depressing this election campaign season is, there is something far more important.  There is something that neither candidate can affect.  There is always an opportunity to know peace in the middle of the storm.

Jesus is clear about that in Matthew’s gospel.  Your anxiety, your fear, your angst about the candidates will not change anything, from the outcome of the election to the number of hairs on your head.

You’ve prayed for God to provide you the necessities of life, your daily bread, trust Him on that.  You’ve asked Him to have His will be done as well – again, this is something we can depend on, even when we don’t understand it!  So think first of His kingdom, that God is in charge, that He has made you incredible promises, that those can’t be affected by who is the president of our country, the governor of our state.

Focus on God, on His love, on HIs mercy.  This is why Pope Benedict XVI once wrote the passage in blue, and where I underlined it, we have to realize this.  Heaven isn’t some far off place, where we will go and play golf, or play a harp when we die.  Heaven is revealed as that place we are, when in doubt and pain we find ourselves surrounded with hope and peace.  When we realize God is in charge, when His presence becomes so real, we cannot deny it.  (Which is why the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so critical in the life of the church!)  It is our presently reality, and it has been one since Peter walked into an empty tomb, and Jesus walked through locked doors. That is what Paul talks of as well – as he urges the Colossian believers to focus their lives on the reality of heaven.

He is risen!  ALLELUIA!

And therefore, we can pray and vote, and know God is with us, so everything will work out for good, because He loves us.

AMEN!

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

 

 

Spiritual Formation, Gossip and Presidential Campaigns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (NLT)

263 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
265 To avoid this vice, therefore, we should note that nobody has the right to judge and reprove his neighbor publicly, even when he has seen a sin committed, unless he has been authorized to judge and reprove

444    Never speak badly of your brother, not even when you have plenty of reasons for doing so. Go first to the tabernacle, and then go to the priest, your father, and also tell him what is bothering you. And to no one else.

As I have been considering God’s discipline recently, and the way in which God forms us, I realize we are in a season where our faith is either tried significantly.  It is a time where we can depend on God, or we can rebel, being disobedient children ruled by fear and anxiety.

For the temptation is great during this presidential campaign to gossip, to speak ill of people, from the candidates themselves to those who back them.

Please hear me, there are issues that we need to discuss, issues that themselves lead to sin, advocate and approve of it.

There is more to the debate, both in this world and in the cyber portion of it.  There are rumors, which we are ready to believe and exaggerate as we spread them throughout our spheres of influence. There is character assassination done, and we rejoice as we have the chance to “speak the truth.”

If we took St. Josemaria’s advice, how better off would we be?  If we took those anxieties and laid them at the altar from which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?  If we still struggled, going to our pastor, our priest, those who assist them in guiding us, and let them reassure us of God’s promises, his presence, and His benevolent, loving merciful reign over all of His creation including our hearts and mind.

What we happen if we didn’t try to destroy the people running for office, but instead prayer for their salvation, and that they would know, without any doubt, the love of God or them?

What I am saying takes a lot of faith, it requires us to depend on God in a way similar to the children of Israel were supposed to trust during the Exodus a the Exile.

This is spiritual formation, this is spiritual growth, this is living the life of a disciple.

It is my prayer that this election season that we all may grow in the awareness of God’s grace and love, so that this faith would be revealed to all.

AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1090-1092). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

My thoughts on the election…

 

 

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.i 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”   NAB-RE 1 John 4:16-21

As i worked through my social media accounts last night I grew quite depressed.  Friends of mine, including pastors and priests, were commenting about the upcoming presidential elections.

Let me make it clear, I don’t mind people discussing the issues, or the candidates.  I think that is beneficial.  When the things discussed are not based in fear and anxiety, when they don’t spew hatred towards the candidates and those who support them.

I may never again talk to Mr. Trump, or ever talk to Mrs. Clinton.  Yet they still are neighbors, those we, who claim to love and follow Jesus, are called to love and not hate.  We are also called to love those who support them, and not insult them, or belittle them.  (see Matthew 5:22)

I am not saying this will be easy, we need to be on guard, whether we support or the other. There are many fears, there is much in the lives of those running for office that we cannot approve of, that may even cause us to recoil in disgust, or horror.  Yet their sin is no worse than ours, we have no right to stand before God and thank Him for our not being wretched sinners like them, apart from the grace of Christ.

We have to overcome our fears and anxieties, we have to get past the hatred, and there is only one way to do that.  To remain in Christ, to dwell in the love of God,.  We need to be focused on that which is revealed, the presence of God in which we dwell, safe there, welcome there because of the Cross of Jesus.   Because he died, we have been freed us from sin, and Satan, and even the fear of death.  Because we are united to that death, we are also united to Him in the resurrection, and nothing can separate us from His love.

Even having to vote.

So look to God, continually think about your Creator, who hasn’t abandoned you, and will not. Rejoice in His presence, and from that place of unsurpassed peace, pray for those running for office, not just president – but all those we elect.  Pray for them a lot, and even for yourself, that if you do get the chance to talk to them, you would show them love, the love of God reflected through your very being.

Lord Have Mercy on us, sinners all!  AMEN!

The Emperor’s New Clothes, and our Need for a(nother) sacrificial victim.

Devotional Thought for the Day:

10  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)

20  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21  But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22  Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23  And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)

It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.

Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world.  The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.

Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify.  During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police.  Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others.  I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something  – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.  

We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay.  Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results. 

 What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”  We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it.  We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace.  And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.

And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.

if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness.   The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target.  Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame.  But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.

We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.

We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.

We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality.  We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was.  For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one.  There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.

He also rose from the dead.

Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.

He died, and no one else has to be crucified.

He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.

Even those we wanted to crucify…

Unfair Laws, Taxes, Corrupt Government and the Duty of the Christian

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Remind your people to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey them, and to be ready to do good in every way. 2  Tell them not to speak evil of anyone, but to be peaceful and friendly, and always to show a gentle attitude toward everyone.
Titus 3:1-2 (TEV)

10  So Samuel told them, delivered GOD‘s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. 11  He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, 12  regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. 13  He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. 14  He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. 15  He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. 16  Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. 17  He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. 18  The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect GOD to answer.”
1 Samuel 8:10-18 (MSG)

13  For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, 14  and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. 15  For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16  Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 17  Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (TEV)

As the political campaigns for President get more heated, I am becoming more and more concerned with our response as those who trust in and follow Jesus.  Some are Republican and some are Democrats. Most have a hot button issue, but even more often they have a candidate, within or without their own party, who riles them, whose success can cause great anxiety, whose name alone affects body language and betrays thoughts.  (And sometimes the words match!)

(the idea that Christians may faithfully follow God while in the other party also causes division, dissension and resentment!)

And so I take a moment to call to mind the words of Paul to a young bishop named Titus.  Who urged us to obedience, and St Peter, who urged us to respect those in authority and obey their laws as well.  I could also quote Jesus. who talked of giving to Casesar what is rightfully his, but to God what is His.

But it is this respect thing that will rankle many.

Some will even talk about respecting the office instead of the man, and then deride their opposition personally rather than the laws and policies they put in place.  As a side note, dividing the office from the person means that they are now your neighbor, and you should treat them accordingly!

Others will talk about how evil their leaders (or potential leaders) are, and the evil they do.  As if leaders in the past where always honorable and self-sacrificing.  Hence I call to mind the Emperors and Governors (Caesars, the Herods, Pontus Pilate who killed people and mixed their blood with the sacrifices) who Peter and Paul had to submit to and obey.  Or the words of Samuel above, who described what kings and national leaders would do, warning us of the cost of living in this world, as well as in God’s kingdom.  Evil and corrupt leaders are nothing new, nor are laws which seem patently unfair, and taxes that are not used for the good of all.

In countries like ours, we have the blessing of being active in our governance.  We have the ability to vote, to work for change, to strive for what is good, and right.  Yet we still have the obligation, not to man, but to God, of respecting those that are in leadership.  And striving to be in leadership.  Other countries don’t have that blessing.  It doesn’t even matter what kind of political system is at work, monarch, democratic republic, one based on Socialist or Communist, or even a Dictatorship that is less than benevolent.  Peter is clear, it is not because of their righteousness, or their corruption and threats that we submit to their leadership.  It is for the Lord’s sake!!

So we do, and so we become martyrs, witnesses not to the righteousness of the government, but to the righteousness of God.

For what should it matter that we gain the White House, have a clear majority in Congress and the Supreme Court, if we even gain the whole world, if the cost of that is bondage to sin, and losing our relationship with God?

Dear brothers and sisters, this is something we all have to work on, to so treasure God’s love that we hear him, that we give up our fears and frustrations, that we are good stewards of both Kingdoms we are in, that we reflect His love.  The only way to do this is to keep our eyes on Christ, our Lord, our master and King.  For He is our hope, for He is the One who can bring about real transformation, real change!  He is the King who is looking out after all our interests. He is our savior.

For in Christ nothing is impossible, knowing that even if those we are subject to plan to do evil, our God will use it for good.

AMEN!

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