Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Thank GOD because he’s good, because his love never quits. 2 Tell the world, Israel, “His love never quits.” 3 And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world, “His love never quits.” 4 And you who fear GOD, join in, “His love never quits.“ 5 Pushed to the wall, I called to GOD; from the wide open spaces, he answered. 6 GOD’s now at my side and I’m not afraid; who would dare lay a hand on me? Psalm 118:1-6 (MSG)
286 There is nothing better in the world than to be in the grace of God. (1)
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, there is an experience that burns into your mind as you go on what seems to be a simple, sweet ride. Just reading the title will bring back the melody that for the first 30 seconds seems nice, but after the three days inside the ride, you will never again be the same. (Okay – Google said it is only a 12 minutes ride – but it does seem longer than that, like the length of Gilligan’s 3-hour tour!)
The same intense pain may have echoed through your mind, if you took your 2-10 year old child to see the movie “Frozen”, and proceeded to have every day for the next few years haunted by shrill remembrances of “Let it Go, Let it Go!
I sometimes wonder if the music teams will be tasked for providing the music in Hades
Now that I’ve traumatized you ( we call that preaching the law in all of it strength!) it is time for another message to burn into your minds. The message that the Psalmist repeats so often in scripture,
His love never quits
The Psalms have us repeat the message over and over, His love never quits! (Some translations prefer to translate it “His mercy endures forever!”
I prefer the “His love never quits” but also recognize that we have to understand the definition of love, in this case, the word “cHesed” in Hebrew. It is more than just an infatuation, or a desire to be physically intimate with someone. Matter of fact, it is much more intimate than can be seen just in physical actions. It is a communion of souls, a dance of lives so intertwined that we cannot distinguish who is who anymore, for those who love each other not only fit that well together, they move that well together.
They are melded into each other’s life so completely that it is deeper than “it’s a small world” or “let it go” can burn into our minds.
It’s to receive God’s grace, the gift of His love and mercy, which we find our hearts and souls healed. That we find ourselves so caught up in His presence that we sing His praises even without consciously thinking to sing. To know His mercy and love so well that His love and mercy exudes (I can’t think of a simpler way – except for sweat – and that doesn’t sound right)
Try whistling it’s a small world near someone over the age of 30… they will continue where you left off (warning – they will be upset at you) Or sneak up behind a family at Targe or Walmart and sign softly, “Let it go…”. The impact of those songs will resonate with them, and though they hate it, it will dominate their mind for a while.
The same idea, without the hatred, is true of the gospel! It is true of this statement, “His Loves never quits” You can use “His mercy endures forever” if you want. The more we recognize this truth, the more it burns into our hearts and souls, the more it will affect our lives, our thoughts, our very being. The more comfortable we will be, living in the presence of God, knowing our body is the temple, the place set apart for His body to dwell.
The more we will realize a level of joy and peace… that truly helps us to desire to dwell in His Kingdom.
That’s why we repeat these phrases, over and over, and over.
God’s love NEVER quits….
Lord have mercy upon us, and refine us in the fire of Your love that never quits!
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 755). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Why is Prayer Answered?
† In Jesus Name †
As you are overwhelmed by the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, in you may there develop an unquenchable desire to commune and communicate with our Father, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit!
We can’t understand if… if we don’t understand why…
Of all the times I have taught about prayer in sermons, in Bible Studies, in classes, on retreats and in conversations over meals, I have never taken the approach I will in this sermon.
For that, I ask your forgiveness.
For I think that the question the sermon title asks and answers is the only question that really needs to be answered. This question can confidently be answered; one, without cliché’s or well-meaning stock answers that avoid the responsibility of saying, “I do not know.” This question, why are our prayers answered…silences many of the other questions.
This question causes us to see His heart… we need to grasp how much He loves us, how much He is our Father…and how much at relationship is the reason our prayers are answered.
Or our prayers are simply rote and in vain…as empty as praying to some gold lacquered statue.
So let’s answer the question – why are our prayers answered?
The Burden of Life – Melancthon
Instead of just a prayer sheet this week – I included two short excerpts about prayer. The first is by someone that Luther was a father figure for, the deacon Phillip Melancthon. Asked why we should pray when we don’t want to… he responded with 9 reasons. Look at number II.
II. The great and manifold need by which we are burdened in this penitentiary of the world, and which we cannot sufficiently understand or comprehend by thinking, must less guard against or avert by our effort, should properly move us to pray even all by itself.
In simpler language – we need to pray because this life isn’t easy, and it can overwhelm us all to easily. Whether it is the challenge of our sin and the struggle to overcome temptation, or the effects of others sin, or the brokenness of the world and even the church, prayer is what will make the difference, what helps us get through the day.
Melancthon is right – we are burdened in this world, and there are times where prayer is barely able to be said, never mind can we grasp what we are saying. This isn’t something new, it isn’t something we are the first generations to encounter this. Remember what St Paul said to the early believers in Rome/
26 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27 He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our (pregnant) condition, and keeps us present before God. 28 That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)
It is often in such desperate times we remember to pray… yet would we pray sooner if we understood why prayer is answered?
The Blessing of Presence
If we pray only in such oppressive times, we do because we hope someone will hear us. Maybe we realize it can’t hurt, or we vaguely remember a promise that God has made. Melancthon mentions this as well,.
IV. Very sweet divine promises draw and incite us, namely that God the Father embraces us with such great love in Christ His Son, that He regards it as pleasing and acceptable if we approach and address Him with our prayers, and He has promised to incline His ears and hear us.
I love this point – and how clearly it is seen in the Lord’s prayer, as God promises to take care of our physical needs (like providing bread) and spiritual needs – helping us with knowing we are forgiven, helping us forgive, dealing with temptation and protecting us from evil.
I love the verses that follow the prayer – those that cause us to think of how we love our kids and our grandkids. They compare the Creator of the Universe to us – to help us realize our love for them is but a small example of His love for us. If we want the best things – imagine the “best things” that He has planned and created for us!
But if reason number IV, is true, then look at number V.
V. Likewise, that our mediator, Christ, has bound Himself with the firm promise that He would be present when we pray (Mt 18:20) and as our advocate and High Priest Himself bring our supplications to the Father, and intercede for us, and ask the Father together with us.
Remember Matthew 18:20 (TEV) 20 For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
Jesus has promised to be here – where we pray, the Father has promised to answer our prayers. Not because of some incantation or form, or because we are holier than the people praying down the street, or on the other side of the world.
He answers our prayers because He loves us, because He is here, because we are His.
So Let Prayer Arise from within
On the prayer list, along with the quote from Melancthon, is a description of a type of prayer and devotion that is indeed ancient. It is called Lectio Divina. The quote is from one of Chris’ mentors. The man who is the reason he is the Rev. Dr. Chris Gillette. It’s a great way of doing devotions – one Luther used as well. Look at the part I underlined:
Let the word touch your heart (prayer, Oratio). In Oratio, the Word of God goes deeper into the self and becomes the prayer of the heart. In this prayer, open your heart so that his light may enter. The goal is like that of St. Augustine, who cried, “O God, our hearts are made for thee, and they shall be restless until they rest in thee.” There emerges within the heart a holy desire, a longing for the text, the Word of God, to be concretized in reality.
Enter into contemplation (Contemplatio). Contemplatio shifts praying the Scripture into a new language (silence). This silence does not ask us to do anything, it is a call to being. Thomas Merton says, “The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not.”17
This concept is especially true, as we work through the Lord’s prayer, or even the Old Testament account where Abraham learned to pray for those who were lost. As we know these words, they well up within us, they become part of our life, because God makes them live in us, even as He quickens life in us.
The words ingrain is us these promises – they cause us to desire to pray even more. They bring the words to life in us, when nothing else brings comfort – a message from God. When thought through… they cause us to realize this important thing..
Why does God answer our prayers…
Because He is our father… because He loves us… because He is with us….
Use His name, not in vain my brothers and sisters…but as He encourages us to, to talk to Him – to know Him as our Father… to know His love and mercy…for us.
17 Thomas Merton, Seeds, ed. Robert Inchausti (Boston: Shambhala, 2002).
- Some wise words to encourage us to pray (justifiedandsinner.com)
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
“There are some who pass through life as through a tunnel, without ever understanding the splendour, the security and the warmth of the sun of Faith” (1)
As I read this little quote this morning, my mind goes back to the study I did yesterday, for Sunday’s sermon on the gospel reading which is found in St. John 5:1-18. It is the story of the invalid man -whom Jesus heals, after Jesus asks him, “do you want to be made whole?” An incredible story!
What struck me while I did my research was the comments and references to the passages throughout church history. Early on, the church Father’s talked about how this story represents Christ coming to us, and even before the man is ready to face the change of a new life, Christ gives him that new life. It is a picture of the miracle down to each of us in our baptism.
Then I moved into the reformation, and the enlightenment. The use of the passage changed, now it became a source for “doctrine”- especially regarding the divinity and humanity of Jesus. ( Albeit I have less “sermons” and letters to churches from that era). There are a couple of exceptions- such as Newman. But for the most part, in order to focus on the deep theology, they overlook the incarnation of Christ into this man’s life. They miss His passion, and the healing- which is a type of the very healing Christ does in each of our lives. We can miss Christ coming to us, we can miss His presence, His healing, and the peace and security Jesus brings us, who dwell in pain.
I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting to, in this little quote. Do we see Jesus – do we see the beauty of His love, and the beauty of the relationship that He builds with us, as we learn that we can trust Him, and how much we can trust Him. Or do we see the minutae – the stuff about Christ, the things that are beyond our comprehension – not because we are so small, but compared to knowing Him, they are! I can’t think of any of the unknown things of Christianity, the stuff that academic theologians often get distracted by, that is more glorious, more profound, than what has been revealed to us, in Christ.
And that’s the point.
So for today, think, meditate, and be still and know – all the thoughts, the meditations, the knowledge focused on knowing the Lord Jesus, who has come into your life to make you whole…..
(1) Escriva, Josemaria
- It’s Not About Calling the Qualified, or Even Qualifying the Called… it’s about revealing Christ. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- I Have Decided, to Follow Jesus! (Controversy? Not so much…) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Us and Them…. both granted by God repentance to life! (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day…
14 “So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)
15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:15-21 (NLT)
I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intellegence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is true! (1)
When God our Lord gives us his grace, when he calls us by a specific vocation, it is as if he were stretching out his hand to us, in a fatherly way. A strong hand, full of love, because he seeks us out individually, as his own sons and daughters, knowing our weakness. The Lord expects us to make the effort to take his hand, his helping hand. He asks us to make an effort and show we are free. To be able to do this, we must be humble and realize we are little children of God. We must love the blessed obedience with which we respond to God’s marvelous fatherhood. We should let our Lord get involved in our lives, admitting him confidently, removing from his way any obstacles or complications. We tend to be on the defensive, to be attached to our selfishness. We always want to be top dog, even if it’s only to be on top of our wretchedness. That is why we must go to Jesus, so that he will make us truly free. Only then will we be able to serve God and all men. This is the only way to realize the truth of Saint Paul’s words: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)
There are going to be some friends of mine who are going to strongly react to the title of this blog entry. They are going to wonder if I have returned to my days of teaching “decision theology”, or somehow have abandoned the Lutheran Confessions, or don’t believe they are an accurate explanation of scripture. (the third quote is from Luther’s small catechism and I agree with it without any reservation)
However, deciding to follow Jesus is different that deciding I want to be saved by Him. It is not the action of initial salvation, but a response to His invitation to take up our cross and follow Him, to interact with Him, to humbly partner with Him, as He leads us through life as a man leads his partner across the dance floor. It is what we are called to – as disciples, as friends, as working beside the greatest example of humility and servanthood.
But we rebel against this idea – much as St. Josemaria indicates, we are defensive – and we can even use our theology to “back” that selfishness, to defend our “precious” (see Tolkein’s Hobbit and LOTR charachter Gollum) Indeed, the only freedom from the idols we would partner with instead of God, is found when we let God strip them from us, as we instead are focused on Him, devoted to Him, (again – these things are His work – not ours) drawn to Him. That’s what following Jesus is about – letting Him lead in life, letting Him cleanse us and set us apart to walk with, to dance with, Him.
Joshua challenge us to this – if you aren’t going to interact, if you aren’t going to engage in the relationship, go follow other gods and see where they lead you. John is directed to write in Revelation – open the door – don’t be wishy-washy. Live life as one united to Christ in baptism. IOW – Let God direct your steps – and engaged in worship – you then will follow Him, even as the lady moves with her strong dance partner.
So decide today – my fellows Christians, those who claim to trust in Christ, to follow where He leads you…. even, especially when you can’t see where you are going – for then you are looking at the right place – at Him!
We cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!” But will we see and hear…that He has?
(1) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 745-756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.