Blog Archives

Obeying God: Is it Necessary? Is it Required by His Law, or a Blessing of His Gospel?

Discussion/Devotional THought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

9  So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, Colossians 1:9-11 (NLT)

1  Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)

18      Please echo these words for me: it is no “sacrifice” for parents when God asks them for their children. Neither, for those he calls, is it a sacrifice to follow him. It is, on the contrary, an immense honour, a reason for a great and holy pride, a mark of predilection, a very special affection that God has shown at a particular time, but which has been in his mind from all eternity.  (1)

There is a misunderstanding among many Christians about things like obedience and sacrifice and striving to overcome temptation and sin.  Some will demand other people the strictest levels of obedience, Others will say that even calling for people to obey is wrong, because we are not saved by our works, and they take that to mean they are not required of those who are saved. That they cannot be required, They would argue that to encourage people to live out their lives, trusting in God’s promises is somehow wrong.

Neither quite gets it,

Obedience doesn’t come about from a requirement, it comes about from love.  You don’t willingly sacrifice your life, you don’t set it apart our of obligation, but instead you do it because of knowing God’s love.  Obedience is an act of adoration, Sacrificing yourself, as a minister or missionary, or just the time you invest in teaching some junior highers isn’t an obligation, but rather a life lived in response to love.  It is the way the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing us to focus on Christ’s love for us, even as He changes and empowers us. The call to obedience is that which should naturally be drawn to, even as they are drawn to confess their sins when they fail. For they know and trust in God’s love, a love that will heal and cleanse, a love that will strengthen and assure.  A love which shares with us His desire, that as His children we may work alongside Him.

That is why there is such good fruit that cones from it, that is why serving God, obeying God, following God’s way, working to see His will complete is such a blessing.  For we often do not think of such things as sacrifices, such work is not a burden.

It is simply walking with our God, who considers us His beloved!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 300-303). 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!

Will We Treat God Then, the Way We Do Now?

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)

 16  Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17  But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17 (NLT)

 2  Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever. Psalm 125:2 (NLT)

470         Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day.  (1)

Last night, as we studied the passage we are preaching on this week I began thinking of the question that is the title of this post.  I meet with several guys and we work together on the Bible passage for this week, which was talking about the struggles in this life are nothing compared to the glory that is awaiting us.  It also talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit being the foretaste of that glory.  This morning, my devotional readings included all three passages above, further fueling the thoughts and the need to meditate on this – and share it here.

We have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, therefore the places we stand and sit, as plain and simple as they are, are holy ground.  But do we realize it?  Do we realize that God surrounds us, His people – now and forever, Do we realize that as God makes His home in us, as we come to know the measure of His love, may we begin to really live?

Will we rest in Christ, and find the peace our souls depend upon, even as our bodies depend on food?  Will we struggle with the concept of an incarnate God in our lives?  Will we learn to depend upon His presence the way we depend on oxygen in the air we breathe?

A way to ask that is the title – do we expect to treat God in heaven the way we do now?

Will we forget about His presence, will we do what we want, will we go days without thinking of Him, talking to Him, hearing His voice as we meditate on His word?  Will we keep Him at a distance, fighting with others for the furthest row from His presence?   Or will will be in awe of the glory He shares with us? Will we run to Him, will we rejoice as He welcomed us, His children, into His presence?

Will our relationship change, and if so, why isn’t it changing already?

Look again at the above readings, what will change about the relationship, except perhaps that what we know, will also be what we see?

I pray that we would enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Love of God, that we are in awe at the thought of eternity with Him!

Godspeed!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

When Is Enough… Enough!?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols and the sacrifice of innocents, but reborn to host the worship of God, to celebrate Christ's sacrifice  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

38  “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ 39  Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40  If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41  And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42  No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. 43  “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer,  Matthew 5:38-44 (MSG)

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 3  He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 5  The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 6  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 7  The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8  The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.   Psalm 121:1-8 (NLT)

“Here am I Lord,  I’ve come to do Your will, Here am I Lord, In Your presence, I am still” (1) 

5 “Meditate on this slowly: I am asked for very little compared to how much I am being given.”  (2)

It is, I know personally, a struggle to deal with some people.

I witnessed it in the past few days, as several people I know were offended (not at the same time), and found myself extremely frustrated by the way I was treated. It literally took me a couple of hours, and some distraction to deal with my own frustration.  No, let me be honest, it wasn’t just frustration, there was some anger that was beginning to settle in and take residence in my heart.

The first reading, especially the italicized part, came to mind in the shower this morning.  Except in the older translations sense, this is the passage about “turning the other cheek”.  But I think Peterson does a good job in getting the heart of the matter.  I’ve heard a lot of people “explain” this passage, trying to get out of what we are called to do, trying to justify their own anger, or resentment.  We try to justify our thirst for revenge by saying we want to stop them from doing this to others. Or that Jesus couldn’t have had what this person did…

Skip past the second passage for a moment, it was part of my devotions this morning, as were the two short extra-biblical readings.  Look at them.

From the Celtic Prayer Book, we find the idea that serving God sometimes means standing still.  Psalm 46 comes to mind, but that to is written amidst a storm, against threats.  Written by one who was no stranger to war, and yet must trust God to deliver the stillness, to deliver the victory!  What a challenge when you know how to treat those who oppress and attack us.  Can I be still in those times?  Confident in God’s presence and His strength and His desire to work in my life?

Even as I read that, the next part of my devotions include this little passage by St. Josemaria.  And I think that I have done far worse to Jesus, and perhaps to others, than was said to me.   I think of the others I know, that I observed getting offended, Yeah – we, the offended, the oppressed are not innocent of similar offenses, we don’t have the right to cast the first stone, for the One who would crush us, died for us instead. That puts things into better perspective, as I realize how blessed we are, how the times we’ve offended people were paid for, as Christ proved the depth of God’s love for us by coming and living among us, by dying, by rising, by ascending and He still is there, at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us.

His ministry to us, through us, isn’t over, until the last sinner/saint has come home.

That is where the second reading, my psalm of the day comes into this discussion.  Do I trust God at these words? Do I know my help is coming from on high?  Do I realize that He doesn’t sleep, Do I realize that what happens to me will work out for good somehow, for this is His promise.  The promise of the crucified Lord.  The promise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

In the words of a man who needed to know God’s deliverance….

Yes, I believe, Lord help me believe.

A form of a heart depth’s cry for the Lord’s compassion…. and the hope, the expectation that we will know it.  AMEN

 

(1)  Meditations for day 17, Celtic Daily Prayer 

(2)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 261-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: