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Another Day, Another Struggle, but that is why there is Hope.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  Our LORD, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3  Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4  Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. 5  Look and be amazed at what’s happening among the nations! Even if you were told, you would never believe what’s taking place now. Habakkuk 1:2-5 (CEV)

We still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among people who sorely vex us and give us occasion for impatience, wrath, vengeance, etc.
87 Besides, Satan is at our backs, besieging us on every side and, as we have heard, directing his attacks against all the previous petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a ceaseless conflict.
88 Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray, “Dear Father, forgive us our debts.” Not that he does not forgive sin even without and before our prayer; and he gave us the Gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness, before we prayed or even thought of it. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness.

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

I came across the Luther quote this morning, and it resonated with me.

We stumble and sin far too often. We want to use other people for the reason, but it is still our weakness that allows us to sin. Luther was right, it is not possible always to stand firm in such a ceaseless conflict. Every fall seems highlighted by Satan, emphasized to cause us to grow in despair, and even to doubt God’s presence and work in our lives.

My reaction to the passage from Habakkuk is that I don’t have ot look out into the world to see the brokenness he describes. He could be looking at me, prophetically. Maybe at you as well. I resonate deeply with the question of why do we have ot watch this all?  Why do we have to see the sin and brokenness in the world, and then realize it is just a reflection of our own lives?

I missed out on other things in those passages, and it took St Josemaria to see what I was missing.

It is the impression that I am going backward, not necessarily reality.  It is a deception of Satan, much as he did when he took Peter’s eyes off of Jesus while he was strolling on the waves. (I just realize the winds and waves weren’t the issue to be scared of – drowning was!)  St Josemaria urges us to keep struggling, don’t worry about the progress,  for the struggle is proof of it.

The struggle is proof of God at work in us.

God is still doing what He promised Habakkuk – He is at work, and if we look at Him and see it, we should collapse in awe. God is at work, and even the passage from Luther notes that –  we need to recognize and accept the forgiveness God already provided. He forgave us already! He took care of it!

I didn’t see that beforehand but reminded of His promise, I remember He is there. Perhaps that too is understandable, for God says, “Even if you were told, you would never believe what is taking place now…”  We just have to trust Him that He is at the world, and depend on His view, for He is at work in us.

Mercifully, lovingly, compassionately comforting and healing broken sinners like you and me.

Even before we cry out, “Lord have mercy on me, a poor sinner!” God has, and our healing is beginning and guaranteed to be completed!

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 432.E

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Isn’t God Helping? Something I learned as I cry out…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Remember, life is short! Why did you empty our lives of all meaning? 48 No one can escape the power of death and the grave. Our Lord, where is the love you have always shown and that you promised so faithfully to David? Psalm 89:47-49 CEV

All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.

Dearest brothers, we should turn our minds and understand not only that we call him “Father who is in heaven,” but that we add to this and say: “Our Father,” that is of those who believe, of those who have begun to be children of God, sanctified through him and restored by a birth of spiritual grace.

I have to admit I feel much like the writer of the psalms this morning.

I feel useless, I feel as if my work on earth has no impact. Does being a pastor, or a friend, or a father mean anything anymore?

THought I saw and heard it three days ago on Sunday, as people received Christ’s body and blood, that seems a century ago. The curfews certainly add to it, after the months of stay at home orders.  One doctor says it will be a year or more before life returns to normal because of the virus, another says months, another says years. The despair that results from the murder of a man and the reactions to it will take longer to heal.

And in this, I find I must cry out to God and ask “Why? Where are you?” “What the ….. is going on?”

I have to, or my heart will be crushed.

But it is the fact that I can cry out, that I realize there is someone there to hear my cries. IN crying out I use god’s name in one of the holiest ways possible. I use it and you should, for the very reason, God revealed His existence to us.

Deliver us from all of this, from all the unrighteousness, from all the injustice, from the sin. Clean us up Lord, start with me. Or just come back, as you have promised.

Even as I cry out to Him, I realize the cry is not just an act of despair, it is an act of faith. Perhaps only the weakest of faith, a hope that somehow He will answer my cry.

But even that amount of faith is miraculous amid the pain, the turmoil, the hatred I am seeing. I am crying out to my Father, the only one who can do anything about this.

That is faith.

That is the Holy Spirit at work, the Comforter breaking through the spiritual blackness, reminding me of Christ’s love.

That is why Cyprian says we need to move from Address God as “the” to “our”, why we need to realize the significance of that cry as we pray, even praying the Lord’s Prayer.

He is our Father, He is our God, and He hears our cries, and responds…

We need to cry out, to use the old word, lament. To confess how broken we are, and that we are depending on God to fix us.  We need to do this!

Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with peace and strengthen our faith, our dependence on God to bring healing to the world, bring healing to us.  AMEN!

Luther, Martin. The Lord’s Prayer,   Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 373.

Cyprian: On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer,  Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 71.

Time to Stop Running and Hiding… Trust Him Instead!

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional thought fo the Day:

I don’t know what will happen to me in Jerusalem, but I must obey God’s Spirit and go there. 23 In every city I visit, I am told by the Holy Spirit that I will be put in jail and will be in trouble in Jerusalem. †24 But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the good news about God’s great kindness.   Acts 20:22-24 CEV

Thinking of the love of God as something nice is forgetting that the love of God is the love of God. The awesomeness of God makes the love of God equally awesome. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great Jewish theologian of the twentieth century, said, “God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake.” If you do not like that (one of my students responded to that quotation, “I prefer a God I can handle”; indeed!), then you do not like the love of God, for the love of God is also an earthquake, not an uncle’s love, but a Father’s.

“To die is a good thing. How can anyone with faith, at the same time, be afraid to die? But as long as the Lord wants to keep you here on earth, it would be cowardice for you to want to die. You must live, live and suffer, and work for Love: that is your task” (1037).

I wish I had Paul’s attitude.

I think I am far more like Jonah, who faced a difficult task and chose ot be cast overboard rather than do what God had called him to do.

The is a temptation to run and hid, even if that means embracing death for the wrong reason. For while we know, we are bound to heaven, even though we know God desires us there; eventually, it is not a place to escape the pain and suffering life brings. 

We can’t be cowards, abandon our lot in life, and run away.  No matter how tempting it may seem.

We have been called to share in the ministry of reconciling people to God. Every single one of us has a role in this. That means we have to be so sure of God’s presence, that we can enter their darkness, that we can break through the gates of hell and endure it, in order to be there and witness God’s love shattering their darkness.

God isn’t the kindly uncle, He is the Father who expects us to take on the family work, to embrace the suffering and pain it will require. To trust Him enough to hand over to Him the things we cannot understand or handle, freeing us to love those we minister too.  We need to trust Him enough to let the Holy Spirit comfort us in our distress, as is promised.

That is the key, depending on His promises.

To know that even if we are heading toward imprisonment, or martyrdom, or simply the struggle of our lives, He is with us.

He will see us through. He will be with us through it all…

Lord Jesus, help us to know You, to experience Your love so deeply, that our trust in You overrides our ignorance, our doubt, our fears.  Help us embrace the life You have created in us, and called us to live. AMEN!

 

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 201.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge. Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does God Still Love Me?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25 He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. 26 From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be. Acts 17:25-26 CEV

We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei contantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.

How can I know God loves me? I believe it, or I want to believe it. But how can I know it for sure? How can I get assurance of the most important thing in the world?
The question is an excellent one. It demands something more than the mere mental acceptance of the three-word proposition “God loves me.” It demands three greater forms of intimacy or closeness.
First, I want to know that God loves me, not just everyone. Me, with all my very specific and very real sins and uglinesses and unlovablenesses. Does God really love me just as I am? Am I really completely forgiven? All my sufferings and failures seem to me to be a just punishment that proves that God does not and should not love me completely because I do not deserve it. I need to know instead that my very sufferings and failures are the caress of his personal, individual love-plan for me, not the inevitable result of His impersonal justice.

The title of my blog post this morning is not a rhetorical question.

It is a question I struggle with, and have struggled with often in my life. Apparently I am not the only one, as the notes in the introduction to the Forge indicate.

We are going to have days when we struggle, when we face discouragement because our spiritual life, our “interior life” seems poor, lifeless, oppressed. We bay seem beaten and rundown. In the midst of physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, I don’t have to wonder what I’ve done wrong. Satan is there to remind me of my sins, and of my failures. He will throw it all at me, for that is what Devil means in the original language.

And my cry out to Jesus, do you still love me, do you still care is actually a cry of the soul engaged in spiritual warfare. It is not just a cry of despair, for this cry will be answered. It is the cry, as Peter Kreeft notes, that betrays an intimacy with God that requires trust.

Trust that He will answer. Trust to even dare ask, trust to realize He is listening and will answer.

He always does.

Look at the cross, there is your answer. Let the Holy Spirit comfort you, and be the assurance, the guarantee that Paul described.

21  It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart, 22  who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (TEV)

God guarantees that He loves us, for we are His, and we need to hear this often, especially in this midst of despair, or depression, or whatever struggle we are facing.

Remind each of this, often!

The Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 194.

Has My Hope Been Taken From Me?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for this Day
2
 I was resolved that the only knowledge I would have while I was with you was knowledge of Jesus, and of him as the crucified Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NJB)

929    The cross on your breast? Good. But the cross on your shoulders, the cross in your flesh, the cross in your mind. Thus will you live for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ; only thus will you be an apostle.

The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.

There is a  growing multitude of problems that have been caused by the pandemic. Beyond the health concerns, there are significant challenges in finance, in education, in mental health, in social dynamics – of homes and of communities.

Many of us are challenged by depression and temptation, as anger and pain can only be hidden for so long. Often, when we do strikeout, the target is not who it should be. We might even tear ourselves up, thinking that everything is our fault. This is not reasonable, yet there is no reason in a pandemic.

The Apostle Peter writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 (NLT2)) In doing so, he calls me back to remember the hope I do have, a hope that I barely hold on to it at times. More important, that Hope, He holds on to me.

That is why Jesus is all Paul wants to think of, and specifically Jesus – crucified. Jesus bearing every sin, every injustice, every bit of brokenness. Jesus, lifted up, to whom we are not just drawn to, but into whom we are drawn. The Catholic Catechism righty uses the word intimate in regard to our union with Jesus. It is more than we can explain, it is more than we can cognitively know, yet in that movement, it that taking and eating, we go beyond a casual acquaintance with God,.

That is why St Josemaria would have us fixated on the cross. That is why Luther talks about coming out of a time of trial with a faith that is far greater than when we entered. For faith is knowing the presence of Jesus so well, that we just live and move dependent on Him.

That intimacy is not all we need, it is all we have.

Realizing that is the challenge, along with remembering it as we are assailed, as we see the brokenness, as we deal with our issue. not alone, but as He is here, with us.

That is the reason I have hope, this relationship with Jesus- the one crucified for us…

The One who is alive! Praise God – and because He is risen, so are we.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 351.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 182.

Come Back to Me and Live- A Midweek Lenten Sermon based on Ezekiel 37

Come Back to Me
And Live

Ezekiel 37:1-14

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that the Holy Spirit has been breathed into Your Life and that you Live.

Valley of the Empty Sanctuary
         Will these seats be filled?

As I look out over this nearly empty sanctuary, I think I understand how Ezekiel felt looking out over the valley filled with dry bones.

I will be honest, it is hard to do this, looking out over empty seats where there should be life.  Where a sermon should bring smiles, and deeper thoughts when a call for repentance might bring some tears when the announcement of forgiveness brings from those seats a full, powerful and joy-filled amen!

And I almost hear the Lord asking me, as He once asked Ezekiel, a question. “Can these seats be filled”  When will Concordia’s sanctuary be filled again with life?

And all I can answer is the same answer, O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that!

He does…  but I wish I could do what Ezekiel did next… and speak and see a miracle take place.

Are we dry bones?
         Is our Hope gone?
         Are We finished?

As I talk to many of our people, and others who are reaching out, the words of the dry bones resonate with what I am hearing.  There in verse 11, are the words of complaint.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Ezekiel 37:11 (NLT2)

Though many people have a good attitude about this, many talk of the weariness, even the times of tears that cannot be stopped…

We grow weary, and hope isn’t gone, but it does seem a long way off in the distance. We miss each other, the handshakes, the hugs, the elbows we usually pass off to each other.  Obviously, the “the Lord is with you and also with you’s” and the hands that reach out an receive the body and blood of Christ.

We are weary, we feel isolated, we feel like the people who Ezekiel wrote too – who were scattered and distant, and not “at home”, even as we are stuck in our homes. They weren’t literally the bones in the valley, but they certainly felt that way.

Which I think we understand, at least in the present moment

Again we don’t know our hope is gone, but it feels like it. We don’t know the effect on our people, but it doesn’t seem good.

So we cry out to God, together… and ask that the Holy Spirit breaths new life into us…

And God has promised that Spirit, the one Jesus calls the Comforter, will do just that.

Come Holy Spirit – Come comforter –
         He will bring us back!
         He will return us Home, He will gather us

There is our hope, as the Holy Spirit has already, because of the blood of Christ, defeated death.  That’s symbolized by the cartilage, muscles, and skin coming back on the skeletons.

But then there is a pause, and life is breathed back in – the Spirit of God, which breathed life into us… once again comes and breathes life into us, and the process of bringing us into the presence of God.

Making us know God is at home with us, wherever we are.

Helping us know that He will restore us to each other…

He is bringing He people back to life – His great army as Ezekiel describes.

And it won’t take as long as it took for Ezekiel’s vision to come to pass.

For God has already guaranteed this promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us, first at the cross and resurrection, and then in our Baptism.  The Spirit has come to us, we are its temple – and God will never ever leave or forsake us.

This is our greatest asset in times like this, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life as we say in the creed, the description of why we have hope, the description of what makes life, life.

This is our hope in this, the word of the Holy Spirit.

There is an old prayer I would like to end with…
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them, the fire of your love!”

Come, fill the place, and every place where people are watching..  AMEN!

Will You Catch Me, Lord?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of my day:

The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back.  Deut. 32:11 CEV

The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God

This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.

In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.

That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!

Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.

It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true.  God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.

Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash.  I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.

But in the midst of falling, He is always there…

And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.

Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence.  Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98

It’s All Useless! A sermon and another sermon in the service – based on Isaiah 49:1-7

Useless!  It’s All Useless! ??
Isaiah 49:1-7
† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that your life and your ministry is not worthless!

The Feeling of Uselessness

There are times in life when you will put all your effort into your work, or into the work you do here at church.

But when you sit back at the end of a day or a week, you look and wonder why you worked so hard.  You wonder why you tried so hard,

And yet, you seem to have accomplished so little.

There are still bills to be paid, dishes to be done, there is still a pile of tasks at work, and the church doesn’t seem to grow the way you would like.

It is not a good feeling, and it can tempt you to despair.

to wonder why things aren’t getting better

to wonder if they ever will.

My friends, we aren’t the first to ever wonder that!

In fact, that is part of our reading from the book of Isaiah. Part of our reading this morning was this,

He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” 4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Is. 49:3-4

I’ve had days like that, where I know that my actions and thoughts should be bringing God glory, that they should have some tangible results, and yet…

So how do we deal with this feeling?

Why does it exist?

First, we have to identify where it comes from.

The first is simple and often overlooked.

Satan would try to cause us to believe there is nothing to our relationship with God.

He would love to paralyze us, blinding us to the work God is actually doing in our lives,

and through our lives.

You heard that! God does the work through us!

The second cause is our own sin,

When we want to play God and determine the impact and effect of what we do.

You see, we aren’t the ones who determine the results of the actions that God calls us to do, and the Holy Spirit guides us and empowers us to do.

When we demand to know the results, we usually have demanded to determine the actions as well.

What we’ve forgotten is what Paul taught the Corinthians,

5  After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6  I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7  It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NLT2)

That is what is comes down to sometimes, we want to determine the growth.  We want to be in charge, rather than letting God be in charge.

We try to get the results we want, and ignore living and ministering to others in the way He has directed us to live.

Loving Him with all our heart, soul and mind.

Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. (depending on God’s love to make this happen)

When we demand the results, per our standards, per our expectations, we need to go back and double-check our actions, our plans, and see whether they are in line with His commands.

And if not, repent, and seek the forgiveness that God graciously plans for us.

The Real Answer

The person Isaiah writes about found the same answer, and the way to measure the results.

Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” Isaiah 49:4b (NLT2)

That’s a challenge, to simply place all that we do in the Lord’s hands, to let Him determine how He will use what He directs and empowers us to do.

He is God remember?  He is with us!  His Holy Spirit dwells in us, gives us the gifts that we have to use in loving Him and loving each other!

Our reward ultimately is when He tells us, “well done, MY good and faithful servant!”  Matthew 25:21NLT2

That reward is what is guaranteed when we leave it in His hands!

Remember He makes what is righteous, righteous, and in cleansing us from all sin and unrighteousness, even that is judged righteous!

Without having to worry about how we will be judged, we can simply look at what we want to do, measure it by how it loves God and our neighbor, and if it does, go with it.

That’s why I tell people in the English service, whatever idea you have for this church to minister to others, let’s pray about, make sure it loves God and our neighbor, and ask God to bless it, and do it!

Leaving the results in the hands of our loving, heavenly Father.

Remember, He cares for you… and for the people around you.

He sent Jesus to correct all the times we try to be in charge, when we try to manipulate the results, and when we despair when we don’t get what we want.

Conclusion

That’s why the cross, and that is the final proof of this passage.

You see, the passage isn’t just about us. At the cross, one could easily wonder if the work of Jesus was useless! He had spent his life investing in the people of Israel, and in 12 guys, all of whom betrayed Him.

Sounds useless to me!

What value was it?  He didn’t cause great revival during His life, he couldn’t even get 12 guys to get it right.

Yet, His reward is that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess He is Lord.

No, His reward is greater than that. His reward is our homecoming, our relationship with the Father, that He invested His life, and death to re-create

If Jesus didn’t love the Father and love us, the cross makes no sense. But because of that love, it makes sense, and it is rewarded!

Loving the Father who loves us, loving our neighbor, even if they would crucify us…  or just make our life inconvenient, and less about…. Us.  That is how we live in Christ, that is what makes our life incredible.

We can do that because of His forgiveness, because He heals our souls, because the Spirit, given to us in baptism, empowers that and makes it happen. Look to Him, fall madly in love with God, pray, and let us serve Him together!

AMEN!

Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and… what we are afraid to talk about in the Church.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everyone who does wrong or causes others to sin. 42 Then he will throw them into a flaming furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. 43 But everyone who has done right will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. If you have ears, pay attention! Mt 13:41-43 CEV

Properly speaking, true repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin, and yet at the same time to believe the Gospel and absolution (namely, that sin has been forgiven and grace has been obtained through Christ), and this faith will comfort the heart and again set it at rest.1
6 Amendment of life and the forsaking of sin would then follow, for these must be the fruits of repentance, as John says, “Bear fruit that befits repentance”
(Matt. 3:8).

We must give ourselves wholly to this matter, for the main benefit of Christ’s passion is that man sees into his own true self and that he be terrified and crushed by this. Unless we seek that knowledge, we do not derive much benefit from Christ’s passion……..
No meditation or any other doctrine is granted to you that you might be boldly inspired by your own will to accomplish this. You must first seek God’s grace and ask that it be accomplished by his grace and not by your own power. That is why the people we referred to above fail to view Christ’s passion aright. They do not seek God’s help for this, but look to their own ability to devise their own means of accomplishing this. They deal with the matter in a completely human but also unfruitful way.

Star Wars would not be beloved the way it is, unless Luke and his family had to deal with their dark side. The Lord of the Rings would not be the same unless you experience the dark journey of two Hobbits, Smeagol and Frodo. We even see it in the old classics like The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables, as the hero’s are survive their own darkness,

Every good epic tale had those dark times. Time s that some survive, some do not, and yet all bear the scars of throughout their lives. This is called a meta-narrative, a truth seen in God’s general revelation, that becomes clear in His specific revelation in scripture.

What these stories touch on is our own spiritual walk, what they illustrate is our own spiritual journey.

And just like Luke is afraid to face the darkness, like Frodo has to get used to his darkness calling him to wear the ring, of Val Jean dealing with his own brokenness, we have to face our own.

We have to face our sin. We have to own it, and the pain of the brokenness. As Luther writes about mediating on the cross, he goes ballistic on this point, ( I am hoping he is equally powerful about grace – but I have gotten there yet!)

Our sin does need to have an impact on us, crushing us, terrifying us at first, but as the Augsburg Confession discusses we have to believe in the gospel, that we’ve been forgiven, healed.

The weeds of Matthew 13 don’t want to admit they need that care. They go about doing wrong and encouraging others to do wrong. They refuse to see their brokenness, and therefore see no need for the cross, and the God to die upon it, bearing the weight of their sin.

They are Smeagol/Gollum, Vader and they Emperor, Javert, and those who betray the young sailor. They find their place in the darkness, and are afraid to deal with the evil they see within themselves.

But the main characters do not find their redemption in their heroics, they are almost surprised they survive, as they consider how close they came to embracing hell. There is a sense of joyous relief, even awe, as they look to their surviving the journey into darkness.

This is truly what happens to the sinner, drawn to the cross, where Jesus is lifted up. To get there, we need to see the brokenness sin has cause in our lives. We need to consider what would have happened if Jesus wasn’t sacrificed, and realize how incredible the love of God is that saves us from what we earned.

It isn’t all hell, fire and brimstone, for we know, we are fully confident in our deliverance. Yet… that confidence comes from realizing the painful emptiness that is the the effect being imprisoned by sin, and being rescued, the bonds shattered as the nails pierced Jesus’ wrists and ankles.

We have survived, in Christ overcoming our sin, we have endured. He has seen our darkness, more clearly that we ever have… and loved us more than despising the darkness.

May our lives reflect that love.. that would not let us go…

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 34–35.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 10-11

How You See the World (and Yourself) Needs to Change

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  For this reason, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 16  I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I remember you in my prayers 17  and ask the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveal God to you, so that you will know him. 18  I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19  and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20  which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:15-20 (TEV)

283    A little diversion! You’ve got to have a change! So you open your eyes wide to let in images of things, or you squint because you’re nearsighted! Close them altogether! Have interior life, and you’ll see the wonders of a better world, a new world with undreamed-of color and perspective … and you’ll draw close to God. You’ll feel your weaknesses; and you’ll become more God-like…with a godliness that will make you more of a brother to your fellow men by bringing you closer to your Father.

There is a vision problem in this country, and in the church.

The way people see the world, their communities, their churches and their own lives, well, lets put it honestly, sucks.

This includes me, perhaps mostly me.

That view point can lead to anger, to frustration, to putting hope in people, who are frankly, no better than the people who have let us down in the past. They are sinners, they are broken, they will at some time or another, let you down.

We look for change, but we look for it in the wrong place.

We might even look at the need to change in ourselves, and try to force it, trying to make ourselves into an image that is not necessarily what or whom we are supposed to be.

And so, maybe in desperation, we hear the voice of saints who knew enough self doubt. One whose words are simply his own reflections on the matter, and one whose words are divinely inspired.

We have to be careful to hear exactly what St Josemaria is saying, and not hear what we think we hear. When He talks of an interior life, He is talking about our walk with God. He is not talking about a brutal self examination where we focus on our own brokenness, our own sin, our own perception of who we are, god or bad.

He’s talking about seeing you as God knows you, (see Colossians 3:1) the real you. Theone loved enough that Christ died for them, and had planned to from before the foundation of the earth. He’s talking about the very thing St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus about – to know the glorious hope, the amazing promises that comes as God is revealed to you, and you realize who you are in relation to God.

It is then, knowing we are beloved, that the world changes in our sight. From being hopelessly broken to seeing the redemption and reconciliation going on, such that we become so confident of it, we patiently wait for the return of Jesus. We begin to see the beauty God created, both in nature and in others, and we see the potential of what it will be like, when it is renewed.

When we see the power of God, that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, at work in us, then everything changes, and our prayer, “Lord, have mercy!” goes from a begging plea of desperation to a cry of confidence…assured of His presence, His promises, His love.

And it can all start, by closing our eyes, picturing Jesus on the cross, and with a growing confidence praying, “our Father, who art in heaven…”

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 749-753). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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