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What Did the Apostles Do Today…?


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8  None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9  but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him10  to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God.   1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)

318      Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you.   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge

Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping.  They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.

They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him.  They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him.  They rejected Him.

Just like we do at times.

But what did they do today?  Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors?  Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught?  Did their fears and anxieties oppress them?  Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?

What did they do?

I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today.  Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame.  We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.

We need to see Jesus.  As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive.  We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.

And with Him, we died and rise as well….

 † Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises.  We pray this in the name of the Father,  † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN! 

I Will Trust in My God! A sermon for the second week of Epiphany!


church at communion 2Epiphany!
I will Trust My God!

Isaiah 49:1-17

 In Jesus’ Name!

As the light of Christ’s glory shines in your hearts, may you know how great His mercy, how complete His peace, and how deep His love for you is!

Is it him, or me?

When we look at a prophecy in the Old Testament, there are some things we have to consider. 

How was it in originally fulfilled.

Is it primarily about Jesus during the time from His incarnation to his

But there is a third application of the prophecy – whether it is just a lesson for us, revealing Jesus, or whether it is directly applicable to us.  For example, in the 23rd Psalm, or in Psalm 51 or 139, the words are as applicable to you and me as they are to David.

But what about today’s selection?  Is it like those Psalms that are more about Jesus, or the ones that tell us more about ourselves?

Are we the ones who were named by God before our birth, while in our mother’s womb known by God?  Or is it Jesus?

Are we the ones hidden in the shadow of His hand, who serve God the Father and will bring Him glory, or is it only Jesus who is so aimed, whose words will cause people to know God’s decision that declares them righteous?

Who is this passage about?  Jesus, our Lord, the one who brings the light of His glory into our darkness, or are these words of Isaiah about you and me?

Al – don’t say it!

Could He know the despair?

If I were to make the case that it is about us, what would seem to make that point is found in verse 4.

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

That sounds like something you or I would say, far more than it sounds like something the only begotten Son of God would say.

Think about those words for a moment.  Do these words of despair sound like they would come from the mouth of the Lord Jesus?  From the same lips that blessed bread and fish and fed thousands upon thousands?  From the same lips that calmed storms, and called the little girl and the widow’s son and Lazarus back to life?  Could Jesus, who forgave the adulteress, and healed the blind and paralyzed, could he have uttered such words of hopelessness?

Doesn’t this lead us to think these words, therefore, must be just about you and me?

Or is this what the writer of Hebrews means when he says,

15  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. 16  So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (MSG)

If so, then this passage could still be about Him.  If it is, then we have a God who doesn’t just look down on us, but can be there for us, knowing the challenges.  He just doesn’t sympathize with us, this God who lights up our darkness with His light, it is His empathy that drives Him to do so!

If this passage is about Jesus, then it brings a whole different understanding to our faith.  It isn’t n vain, and it isn’t a leap.  Our hope is an expectation, just like Jesus’ faith is expressed back in verse 4,

“But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.

Somehow, Jesus was able to trust the Father, He was able to leave it all in the Father’s hands.  Dealing with Peter and James and John and the wishy-washy disciples, dealing with Herod and the religious leaders who wanted to kill him.  Dealing with the rich young ruler who walked away.

Did Jesus know those days when it seems like nothing works, that nothing makes a difference, and simply trusted in the Father’s will?

yes.

It is both, because we find life, in Christ!

So is this passage only about Jesus?  Or can we utter those words as well?  Can we leave it all in the hands of God, trusting in God to see us through?

Is He the only one who God formed to be his servant?  Is he the only One who God uses to bring back those who’ve wandered off, to bring salvation to all who are far off, even to the ends of the earth?  Who will see the powers and authorities of this world bowing before?

While it is about Jesus, it is about us as well, for we find our lives, the lives the Holy Spirit calls into existence, cleansing us from sin, in Christ Jesus.  It is true of us because it is true of Him.  For in the book of Acts Paul tells some gentiles in Athens that their poets had it correct when they said, “In Him we live and move and have our being”.

That is what it means to be in the season of Epiphany, to share in the glory of Christ Jesus.  This is what it means for Him to be here, shattering our darkness.  As we realize His presence anew every time we commune at the altar, every we time we hear His voice speak to us, as the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to create life within us!

We see this the last verse, where Isaiah says to those in Christ, it is the LORD, the faithful One, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you…

This is not about the one who is spoken too, it is not about their faith, but the faithfulness of the LORD who speaks.  It is about His faithfulness in saving us, in lighting our way, in ensuring we endure, ensuring we hear His call of us, by name.  The name for the church throughout scripture is this very term – the chosen or called ones.  Called by name, kept in the hand of God, given a message to deliver to the nations.

This is our life, spent in Christ, our journey in the light of His glory, the glory that came when He came to dwell with man, and in our baptism as the Spirit comes to give us this wondrous life.

This is our focus during Epiphany, this is why we sing, as we recognize His glory has appeared here, where the Lord is with you!  AMEN!

Why is it so hard to remember this.. on Monday?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
23  “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).  Matthew 1:23 (TEV)

“… And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28:20 (TEV)

159      In my wretchedness I complained to a friend of mine, saying that it seemed as if Jesus were passing me by… and leaving me on my own. But immediately I thought better of it and was sorry. Full of confidence, I said: It is not true, my Love. Quite clearly it is I who have gone away from you. Never again!  (1)

Yesterday’s church service was phenomenal.  Even overwhelming as we considered the difference between life with and without the presence of God.  To think of the difference of going from life being in ruins, to being delivered, redeemed, welcomed into the presence of God Almighty.

But today is Monday, and it started out as a Monday on steroids. I am not sure which is the dominant feeling right now, anxiety, frustration, grief, sadness.  It is Monday, which perhaps should be renamed moanday.

I so resonate with St. Josemaria’s words this morning, I feel like Christ has come, spent some incredible time with my people and me/. But then, He has moved on now, leaving us on our own, leaving us to deal with life, its problems, its brokenness, its frustrations and that which causes us to grieve.

It seems that all the rest, all the spiritual nourishment that should have lasted me well into the week, that nourishment is gone before 9 a.m.

So what is next?  How do I get my work done.  How do I focus, how do I think outside my tiny section fo the world to see who needs to be pointed to the hope Christ gives, hope that I’ve seemed to misplace, myself.

Scripture helps, the words of a consummate pastor and shepherd help, the hug of a four-year-old, who came in the church/preschool office, and offered one helps.

What I have to realize is that this is a passing moment, and my heart is deceived.  God is here; Christ is still the Lord and the one who shepherds our souls. He is here, revealing Himself, if I can but be patience, breathe, and shift my focus onto Him.

There is what I need on Monday…. to be still, to know He is God, my God, and I am one of His people.  Therefore, I can be sure of His promise… sure of His presence, and mercy.

He is here!  As the Son breaks through the moanday gloom, we find His peace… 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 754-757). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Monday’s Question: Why Are You Working so Hard?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

2  Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. 3  What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? 4  One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth. Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 (MSG)

Then suddenly, filled with a holy love, and a sober shame, in anger with himself cast his eyes upon his friend, saying, “Tell me, I pray thee, what would we attain by all these labours of ours? what aim we at? what serve we for? Can our hopes in court rise higher than to be the Emperor’s favourites? and in this, what is there not brittle, and full of perils? and by how many perils arrive we at a greater peril? and when arrive we thither? But a friend of God, if I wish it, I become now at once.”  (1)

As I sit in my office this morning, looking at perhaps a busier week than last, I am overwhelmed with thought’s like Solomon’s this morning.

Older translations use the word vanity; all is vain.  Others use futile, or emptiness.Most of us on Monday can easily sympathize, why are we here?  Is it just to earn a small paycheck, to buy food, pay for a roof over our heads, and find our “escape” whether it be television, or a vacation, or something less positive, like drugs, alcohol, gambling or other addictions.

On Mondays, we tend to be more aware of this futility.  Even those of us who work in “noble” jobs, which strive to help.  The work is unending, the pain we observe just seems to move from one family to another.

Augustine’s recounting of a friend shows a similar revelation, as they realize their futility.  Even if they rise to the highest of heights, there they find the probability that such a place is fleeting. That the favor of those they would count on could shift like the wind, and they could be on the way out, terminated by the boss.  In their day, termination was more than going on the unemployment line.  It was an actual termination, with prejudice.

So why do we do what we do?  What is the end reward, besides simple survival?  Occasional moments of pleasure which cost us more in the end?

Augustine’s friend found an answer, simpler than he ever expected, and something I need to remember as I struggle on Mondays.

Being a friend of God.

TO know that we are loved, that we are the children of a promise.

15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another.  John 15:15-17 (TEV)

To walk with God, to talk with Jesus, not as some great Lord, but as with a friend.  To hear His encouraging voice, to know that He walks with us, His people.  That He draws us together to be His family. What a blessing to be reminded by a hundred voices yesterday that God is with me, to hear them bless me, reminding me of the peace that is mine. To see God’s love revealed, through those who know the love of God!

I am, today, looking at a hard week, as I will deal with family after family struggling with death. It would seem vain, meaningless, even painful, where I not living in the shadow of Easter, the place where God proves His love for me, and for all those He yearns to call his friends.   Because of that, I know why I work so hard, why I endure.

It is to give others the hope that all is not futile, that all is not vain, that it all will not just go up in smoke.   It isn’t just a pastor’s job to do this, but the life of those who Jesus called friends, who someday He will welcome home.

As St. Peter said,

“simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you1 Peter 3 (Phillips NT)

And may you realize you dwell in God’s peace – a peace that goes beyond all logic, yet a peace where your hearts and minds are kept safe, guarded by Christ.  AMEN

(1)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine

. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Coincidences? Or Do Demons Exist? If So, How Are We Freed From Them?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

8  I was left there alone, watching this amazing vision. I had no strength left, and my face was so changed that no one could have recognized me. 9  When I heard his voice, I fell to the ground unconscious and lay there face downward. 10  Then a hand took hold of me and raised me to my hands and knees; I was still trembling. 11  The angel said to me, “Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” When he had said this, I stood up, still trembling. 12  Then he said, “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13  The angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia. Daniel 10:8-13 (TEV)

931    Saint Ignatius, with his military genius, gives us a picture of the devil calling up innumerable demons and scattering them through nations, states, cities, and villages after a “sermon” in which he exhorts them to fasten their chains and fetters on the world, leaving no one unbound. You’ve told me that you want to be a leader … and what good is a leader in chains?  (1)

100 Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, still you are daily under the dominion of the devil, who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it.(2)

As I looked at our gospel passage for this Sunday, I realized it touched on something pastors and priests don’t like to talk about.

Demons.

In it, a poor lady comes and asks for Jesus to free her daughter who has a demon.  The passage is about God’s love, but it is demonstrated Jesus freeing the woman’s daughter.

He didn’t heal her from a mental illness, this wasn’t a medical or psychological problem.  It wasn’t something that could be cured by becoing gluten free, or getting your sugar under control, or taking some supplements.

This was first class spiritual warfare.

Warfare that may be more common than we ever want to admit.   More common than we eve want to face.

Heck we have enough trouble with those struggling through physical health issues or mental illness issues, dealing with cancer, dealing with being bereaved.  Others whose marriages are challenges, those who are financially strapped, those whose families are damaged by criminal activity, people who are in bondage to alcohol or drugs. .  It seems like the challenges to life grow and grow, peole are afficted, in ways that seem to frequent to be simply “coincidences”.

But how do you know which is a spiritual attack, and which is just “life” being a….pain.  ( I so wanted to use a different word there!)  I mean – there are attacks – really annoyances, just enough to distratct us from God’s presence.  There are times of oppression – like the scene in daniel, and then there are the times more serious.   The first two we might right off as coincidences, or just life being a pain.  But the overwhelmi that darkness is looming, that God may have hidden his face from us, that isn’t just a coincidence.  That is what Daniel experienced.

And we learn from his example how to deal with such times.

We pray and pray and then hear the voice of God,

“Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” and Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer.”

The methodology for dealing with demonic attacks is and always must be to hear the voice of God. We must hear and know and depend on His promises to us.  We have to realize that He loves us and nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Not illness, not jails, not losing it, not all the trials of life. He loves you – start there, hear it often (hence Luther’s comments about church)  Remember your baptism, feast on God’s word, and at His table, hear his words (Not the pastor’s or priest’s) that you are forgiven, that you are His beloeved chidlren.

Hearing this changes everything for Daniel, knowing the presence of God is what is needed, for Satan can’t stand against those words.  Even for the exocrcists – those skilled in dealing with demonic, the presence of God is always what makes the difference, always the necessity.  The guarantees that we celebrate in the sacraments are that what tells us that there is more than our clining to thoughts and ideas given to us from those who have gone before.

He is clinging to us.  He loves us.  That is the message we need to know, to depend upon, to trust.

For the Lord will always answer our cry for mercy.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2164-2167). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 378–379). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. cited fromt he Large Catechism Explanation of the Third Commandment

February 26: My Anniversary of Facing Death….. twice…


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
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; Colossians 2:11-13 (TEV)

1035      Do not fear death. Death is your friend! Try to get used to the fact of death: peer into your grave often, looking at and smelling, and touching your own rotting corpse there, a week, no more, after your death. Remember this especially when you are troubled by the impulses of the flesh.  (1) 

Twice on this day, February 26th, I have faced death and found life.

The second time was in 1998, as I lay on a gurney in West Hills, California.  I was about to have surgery to replace two heart valves, damaged by a genetic connective tissue disorder. The surgery was supposed to last 4 hours, and was very risky.  The surgeon explained it was as challenging as sewing two wet pieces of toilet paper together. He would later ask me how many people were praying, not that he believed in it, but that the surgery was so easy.

That ended an anxiety I had struggled with since childhood, the threat of death because of the genetic issues.  Yes, there are still heart issues, yes, I am still on medicine and undergo tests.  But the threat of aortic dissection is minimal. For six years prior to the surgery, I had been concerned – with the heart issues had already tried to kill me once, causing a cardiac arrest.

Life changed a little that time I faced death. There was a new freedom, a new life.  Yes, it had restrictions and changes, but it was also free of  my fears about death that was…. I can’t even explain how overwhelming it could be.

It had even more the other time, thirty-three years before that.  I was only a few weeks old and at a church.  I faced a different form of death, one with the promise far greater, in fact; that was the reason I had to face death, in order to gain the promise.

On February 26, in the year of our Lord 1965, I was baptized. As the passage above discusses, in baptism we die. ( Romans 6:1-8, Titus 3, my favorite, Ezekiel 36:25-27 and 37:1-12 speak of this as well) It is there, in our baptism, that we die with Christ.  It is there as well, that we are quickened, that we come alive in faith.  That we enter a relationship that is amazing, with God.

The picture of baptism and being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, is not just symbolism. It is not just an act of our obedience.  It is God at work.  It is a promise God has made, to all those who believe in Him.  It is how He brings us through Christ’s death and resurrection that enables us to be freed from our sin, and the debt it causes.  It is a wonderful, miraculous promise of eternity, a promise God is willing to sign, to guarantee, to stake His name to, that we would know His love.

His promise, given to us in a Covenant, a Testament, an unbreakable contract.  His work, cleansing us,

This time, facing death has eternal implications.  It enables us to look death in the face, and not be afraid.  To realize the glory of God, which He desires to share with us, will be our eternity. For something awaits us, which scripture describes this way.

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)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3664-3668). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are We So Afraid of Our Darkness?


Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
Featured image
11  I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12  but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (NLT)

“Nobody is wise who does not know the darkness.  I appreciate the dark hours of my existence in which my senses are sharpened.”  (1)

678      From Saint Paul’s teaching, we know that we have to renew the world in the spirit of Jesus Christ, that we have to place Our Lord at the summit and at the heart of all things. Do you think you are carrying this out in your work, in your professional task?

Some recent events corresponded to my devotional readings this morning.

The thing we have in common is the darkness that affects our lives. In some cases, it may be depression, or loneliness. It could also be grief, and dealing with the threat of death, or death itself.  It can also be dealing with the consequences of sin, and falling in times of great temptation.

Each of these times have their own level of darkness, and we encounter them in life.  They are there, unavoidable. Yes, even Christians have to deal with the darkness of life, the despair that can creep up and oppress us,

The challenge is not the darkness, but rather in not facing the darkness,  It isn’t the pain and anxiety the darkness can cause, but in trying to become comfortable with it, rather than being comforted as we endure it.

In one of my devotions, quoted above in green bold print, there was the comment that we can find our senses sharpened by the darkness.  Based on the rest of the reading this doesn’t mean we look to embrace the darkness, but rather that there, acknowledging the darkness, we become more aware of God’s presence, as God comforts us, protects us, gives our hearts and minds peace that is…supernatural, unexplainable, glorious.

THe pslamist knew this as well, for even that darkness cannot stop God, He sees us, hears our cries.  The Hly Spirit, the gift of our baptism, the one called the Paraclete, the comforter, comes an supports us, and we become aware of it as well.
The Spirit of God reminds us of all the promises given to us, as we are united with Christ, in His death, in His resurrection, and even while we await for His return. (Check our Colossians 3:1-3 about this – it is amazing!)  This is why the promise of baptism is so… incredible.

Darkness and light in our lives fade in their meaning, as we realize the presence of God.  His presence, His glory.

If we hide in the darkness, if we ignore its oppression, if we try to make people comfortable with it, by diminishing the pain, diminishing the horror, discounting the anxiety and angst, we are not doing them any good.  Trauma sucks, Depression is scary and overwhelming.  Loneliness is something beyond which we normally can deal with, even introverts. Grave illness and death cause our souls to shrink and become almost fetal as we fear that which we cannot overcome.  And sin destroys.

Unless the glorious healing power of Jesus presence is known.  Unless we realize that He is here, caring for us, our wonderful Lord and Savior, who does reign.  Who is, as Escriva writes, the heart and summit of all things.

So even in the darkness, He is there… eliminating it.

The words of Hebrews 12 come so clearly to mind>

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

and take great joy – here is that verse from Colossians

1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

And rejoice, and sing His praises, for as we endure the darkness of our lives, the lives in which He is the Lord, the darkness simply helps us be aware of His work in our lives……

To Him who sits on the throne, be all glory and honor and praise…. AMEN

(1)  From Celtic Daily Book, devotional for 1/8 Finian Series

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2501-2504). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God, please leave me alone!!! (and thank you Holy Spirit!)


Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5  Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” 6  It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. 7  They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8  Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Luke 5:4-8 (MSG)

574      You insist on trying to walk on your own, doing your own will, guided solely by your own judgement… And you can see for yourself that the fruit of this is fruitlessness. My child, if you don’t give up your own judgement, if you are proud, if you devote yourself to “your” apostolate, you will work all night—your whole life will be one long night—and at the end of it all the dawn will find you with your nets empty.  (1)

This morning I made it through my devotional time, without a thought that struck me hard.  I would think I was just going through the motions, but that is a poor excuse.  The reason I enjoy the time I spend in the scriptures, reading through the Book of Concord and Vatican II documents (my goal for this church year) and the writings of St Josemaria Escriva is because one of them reveals to me the presence and promises of God.

i do it so I don’t get into the practice of doing by just going through the motions.

I am in mourning this morning, and that has an effect on me, I am sure.  A very good friend from one of my previous congregations passed away, and it is hitting me all to hard. I haven’t seen him in a while, maybe two years…. and I miss him a lot.  This is on top of a very emotional week.  Two other friends in ICU, and pouring out in sermons on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday the miracle of Christ’s presence, and the desire of God to make us His holy children.

I feel a lot like Peter, as Jesus performs the miracle and fills his boat with abundance. Lord, I am tired, weary, not holy enough to be in your presence. Just leave me alone….. please…..

As I was finishing up with devotions, the very first point in The Forge, is the one quoted in brown above. I knew I had to write on it, and the event that inspired it, the scripture passage.

What I didn’t realize, even as I started writing, having copied and pasted both quotes, was how Peter’s request would affect me.  It is how I feel.

Lost
Full of remorse,
Tired
Hurting.bereaved

And yet, all around me, I see miracles, stuff God is doing, there is no other explanation for what is going on….

“Leave me alone, I can’t handle this holiness Lord!” This is Peter’s cry… but it is echoing over and over in my soul.

Even as I am writing this, another passage comes to mind….

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)

I will hang on this this today, despite my wanting to find a cave like Elijah, or the spot David can’t find in Psalm 139, a place where God isn’t.  I need to know God doesn’t forsake or abandon us, He is there, a Father who keeps His promise, a Brother who gives His life for us, who bears our sorrows, and iniquities… (taking away our excuse to run because we aren’t holy) and the Holy Spirit, who brings comfort and peace, and takes our cries…and prays for what we really need……

The assurance of God’s presence, and love.

Lord Have Mercy….. and He does!  

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2137-2140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Christianity is More That Just Spiritual Anti-depressant


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day….
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (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)

573      When you are with someone, you have to see a soul: a soul who has to be helped, who has to be understood, with whom you have to live in harmony, and who has to be saved.

I’ve seen a number of blogs that would have you believe that a good Christian, is one who never feels depression or grief during Christmas season.  Who because they know Christ, because the Holy Spirit dwells within them, there is no longer any darkness that attempts to consume them, no more doubts, no more pains…..no more tears.  As if this world is utopia…
Just happiness, and smiles,

It is as if they believe that Christianity is some kind of spiritual anti-depressant, that allows us to balance out, and that the balance is somewhere on the upside of life. Please hear me – there is a great need for psychiatric medicine, and the balance it can provide to life, it is just that Christianity doesn’t work like that….

This week I am living proof of that.

Between planning 6 services this week, writing sermons that were… emotionally challenging, doing a memorial service, and then having two very good friends in the hospital with potentially life threatening issues (both are dong better now) I am emotionally a wreck.  I am not “happy” but very challenged emotionally and spiritually.  I am still grieving over some significant losses in my life, and the losses and struggles my friends are enduring.  Let’s add into it some physical back pain.

There is a lot of grief, a lot of weariness, a lot of “why God?!!!?  (matter of fact, one of my sermons had that name as well!)

Reading someone’s words that say that all good Christians are full of cheer and joy and don’t struggle?   Part of me wants to laugh at the silliness/ignorance of such a statement, part of me wants to take the writer through a few hospital wards or skilled nursing facilities I know of, to a mortuary or two, or the homes of people whose family members are in harms way in the military.  There are many people of great faith who are suffering, bravely suffering, but are wearing down.

So where does Christianity, where does being a Christian help in such times, if not to provide a lift of emotions, or at least the illusion of such a lift?

It is better than that…. it allows for honesty, and therefore allows for hope.

As you read through the scriptures, there are people with real problems, real trauma, real issues.  Some things are external, some are internal like the ravage that sin can do to a soul.

God doesn’t cut them off… he doesn’t tell them to get their act straight. He doesn’t give them some placebo of hope.

He comes and makes His home among us.  He dwells with us, in us.  He helps us to embrace Him so that we can embrace the hard times with Him. No longer alone, those traumas are one’s we don’t have to hide. We know that we are with Him, and that there is a future.. because He dwells with us, we dwell with Him.

That doesn’t change the situation, but the scars… are that.  They hurt badly, they sting, but even so… there is healing on the way….

He is with us,,,,

He is comforting us….

He is providing us peace… even in the midst of the depressing times, in the midst of grief and anxiety and pain….for we dwell in Him.

That is what

This is God, with us…

If you aren’t the one struggling, look around, there are people that are, souls weary and tired, laden with anxiety and fear, and grief….. you can’t change their situation, but you can be there with them… and remind them Christ is present with both of you.  That is Christianity as Paul describes it:

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.  Romans 12:12-16a (TEV)

Know He walks with you… and therefore would meet all you encounter… and share His love with them as well.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2134-2136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Love Isn’t What Is Needed to Combat Hatred


Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)

2  This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3  For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. Psalm 91:2-3 (NLT)

For the past week, I have been getting more and more weary.  As I see people respond to the unrest in places like Ferguson, or the despair in places like Detroit, as I see the hatred that the President’s actions took regarding immigration, I find myself getting more and more depressed.

If you go – well, of course, look what THEY are doing, please keep reading. For I see the anger and hatred in the reactions of both sides of the issues.  It’s just not electronic social media, you can’t even eat lunch in public place without hearing the hatred, the condescension, the call for others to change, but rarely, very rarely, the call to reconciliation, to coming together, to true fellowship.  We even create ways to mock the injustice we perceive, not seeing the mocking as less than just…

Some have hated the hating.  Demanding that others love, asking why can’t “THEY”  just get along.  Or quoting platitudes about love and hate as if people were easily capable of the former, and able to just stop the latter.  As if we could stop sinning with the snap of a finger, as if we could love without self-sacrifice, as if life was as simple as platitudes and the memes which present them.

I entitled this blog “Why Love isn’t what is needed to combat hatred”, because I keep seeing such memes, such advice.  It’s as if this is a war between good and evil, a war between love and hate.  It’s not. good doesn’t conquer evil, and love cannot hate hatred enough to go to war against it.  What turns love into something that can hatred is fear, fear created because of a lack of what we do need.

Faith.

For without faith in God, faith in Christ’s work on the cross, trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, what we call love, is not love.  It is not the cHesed type of love which sacrifices and bears every burden, so as to bless and reconcile the relationship.  Without faith/trust in God we can’t cope with the pain of others, we can’t stop the fear of being hurt again, we can’t cope with the anxiety that living in a sin-plagued world brings.

When you have a moment, look at home many times the psalms call God a refuge?  It takes faith/trust to see this. Or how God is described as our hiding place, (and include Colossians 3:2) in that.  Look at what God can do to evil, when we trust in Him as our focus, rather than fighting back.  Joseph did this, Paul learned to do this from Stephen.  David did this when Saul was after him.

In order to love, we have to have the faith, the confidence that God will make all things work for good, even though waiting for that good will be…challenging. For we must trust God through the pain, through what we perceive as evil, knowing that He is Lord, that He is our refuge, that we are protected, our hearts and minds, by Jesus.  For as we dwell in Him, the Father surrounds us with peace, the peace that comes from finding refuge.

Lord, help us to trust you more than being repulsed by hatred… and help us love and sacrifice, that all would come to know You1


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1565-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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