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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! 

Surviving Cloudy, Dark, Hopeless Mondays


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

Devotional Thought of the Day

24  He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25  Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.     1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)

241      If the outlook in your interior life, in your soul, is darkened, allow yourself to be led along by the hand, as a blind man would do. In time the Lord will reward this humble surrendering of your own judgment by giving you clarity of mind. (1)

I took a class a year ago on the text of St John of the Cross’s spiritual classic called Dark Night of the Soul. It was a hard read, not because of the language, but because it opened parts of my life where I need to let the Holy Spirit bring comfort and peace, cleansing them and helping us find God.  Yes, even there we can find Him.

As the Apostle Peter says, He is the Guardian of our souls.

In these days where everything seems broken, we need to understand that role that Jesus has in our lives.  It doesn’t matter whether the brokenness that clouds our Mondays is global, national, in our community or our church, or simply in the depth of our heart and soul, He is there.

Despite our sin, despite the injustice that oppresses us.  He is there.

It doesn’t matter if it is 2:30 AM, and we can’t sleep, or Monday morning when caffeine doesn’t seem to help us overcome our…. Mondayness.

He is there, guarding us, protecting us, providing for us, caring for us and bringing us the healing our souls so desperately cry out for, whether we allow them to do so audibly, or bury it and let it cry through our bodies.

He is there. He is caring for you, for me.

St Josemaria explains this using the idea of our being blinded – and there are times where surely I am spiritually.  The spiritual equivalent to the wasteland of a Monday, where nothing makes sense, nothing motivates, nothing is hoped for or planned for in our lives.  Where we might be in that wasteland, and so deprived of hope that we don’t care it is Monday. The key then is to allow Him to shepherd us, to guide our steps.

This is faith, the trust, the dependence on God.  It requires knowing those promises He has made us, that nothing can separate us from Him, that He will complete the work He began in us, that He will never leave us, never forsake us.

Here He is, guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls.  He is guiding us, and as we feel the warmth of His glorious mercy and love, we find peace….and hope.

Even on a dark, cloudy, Monday….

Lord, have mercy upon us, and reveal Your care and work as our guardian!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1021-1023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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!

Unnecessary Suffering….how do we cope?


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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14  Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15  Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)

Do not limit your patience to such or such kind of injuries and afflictions, but extend it to all such as it shall please God to send you. Some are unwilling to suffer any tribulations, but such as are honourable; for example, to be wounded in battle, to be a prisoner of war, to be persecuted for religion, or to be impoverished by some lawsuit determined in their favour. Now, these people do not love the tribulation, but the honour which accompanies it; whereas, he that is truly patient, suffers tribulations indifferently, whether accompanied by ignominy or honour.

As I write this, in the background is Anne Hathaway’s version of “I dreamed a dream” from the movie version of Les Mis.  I can’t help but think of the character, and the background found in the novel.  ALothough in the beginning a victim of her own sin, others make her misery and despair far more oppressive.

Some, like Val Jean, do so without thought. Others, like the Innkeeper and his wife, or the supervisor in the shop, do so with evil and malice. 

Either way, the suffering is real, the oppression stifling, the pain incapacitating.

As I read St. Francis De Sales words this morning, it, this idea of unnecessary suffering started dominating my thoughts. How do we deal with the suffering we don’t deserve, the pains that are caused by others, or whose biological cause cannot be blamed on anyone.

Things like my genetic heart issues, my dear friend’s ongoing battle with cancer, the unknown victims of terrorism and their families, those who suffer from PTSD, or some other mental illness and those who suffer with them.

This is different than the cyber-crusader who looks and desires and rejoices in his being “persecuted for rightness ( not righteousness) sake.”  Those people love the honor they receive from being a victim, and they deserve the persecution and the problems.

But what about the innocent who suffer?  Or those who suffering is so compounded by others neglect or deliberate harm?

As one, I’ve learned the hard way, through many sleepless nights, and times of tears that I cannot justify the suffering, I cannot find the “why” that I so desperately want to know.  I can strike out in anger, I can slip into the deepest of depression, I can, and have at times, hoped the suffering would simply end. 

Those thoughts don’t diminish the suffering, if anything, it gives the suffering more power over me, increasing the anxiety.  Nor am I strong enough, on my own, to avoid those feelings.  

I need to be patient, with these things I cannot explain, with the pain I can’t bear on my own. I need to have the patience De Sales calls for, I need the assurance of God’s empathy and benevolence of a God who invites me into HIS presence. I need to have the confidence to look to HIM, to understand how His innocent suffering had a purpose, and that somehow God will use mine for good.

It is not an easy task, coming to this conclusion, gaining this confidence. It is one I often fail to achieve, as this day or that is spent letting the darkness enclose me. Devotion is the answer, not devotions (remember – my strength had already failed), but devotion.  Considering Christ’s devotion to me, and as I do, growing to adore Him.

There is the answer.  Considering the depth of Christ’s devotion, there I find the hope that enable the patience I need, the strength to endure, the ability to take my mind off of my problems.  Being encouraged by others, who endure, and hear my words and find the same strength to endure.  That helps me realize the depth of Christ’s empathy.  As odd as it sounds, I can embrace the suffering, knowing His suffering that He embraced.  For He embraced it for a simple reason.  He loved you andI

Will I need the encouragement of others, pointing me back to the cross?  Yes!  Will I still struggle at times?  After 45 years of dealing with this, the answers is, yes. But I know I will come out of the depths, sustained by Jesus, who volunteered to suffer so that I would know His empathy, HIs love, and ultimately, His peace. 

This is my goal for today, to walk confidently into His presence, to accept His invitation to walk with Him. 

And to pray you will boldly, confidently walk with our God as well.  

Godspeed!

dt

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

In My Search for Meaning, In Our Search for Truth, Have We Lost Our Minds?


Featured imageDiscussion/Devotion Thought of the Day:

2  “Everything is meaningless, says the Teacher,completely meaningless! 3  What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4  Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6  The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7  Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8  Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. Ecclesiastes 1:2-8 (NLT)

Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility.  (1)

425    To realize that you love me so much, my God, and yet I haven’t lost my mind!

I am not a natural born philosopher.  Matter of fact, my “favorite” quote on Philosophy sums it up – I may be wise simply because I know I don’t know it all. ( Paraphrased of course)

I once did, well, at least I thought I did know it all.  I knew a lot back then.  No, let me rephrase that, I picked up an retained data, and found uses for it faster than some others. But knowing data is not the same things as having complete knowledge, much less being wise.

Solomon had this problem as well, at least in the early chapters.  For his wisdom and knowledge, recognized by all, still led him into discontent, a sense of failure, a sense of meaninglessness.

In the same place are all philosophers who try and hold the position of judge, as Benedict XVI points out clearly.  Philosophers must be observers of reality, to live in awe of it.  To ponder its depth, not rule over it. Solomon would eventually get there, (tomorrow in my readings perhaps?) to the point where he will define himself by his relationship with God.  But even that is a position of suppliance, of faith, of dependence.

The philosopher who approaches reality without the reverence and humility that Benedict recommends ends up in Solomon’s position, a place where we indeed lose our mind, our psyche, and perhaps, our soul.

I am not saying we are to give up on philosophy, on deep thought, on exploring, with great awe, the existence and meaning of life.  To search out what is real, what is true.  We need to do this, and St. Josemaria gives us the place to start, in realizing the love of God, for us.  That is where philosophy and theology should, no must start. In the depth of a relationship with the God who not only defines reality, but creates it. As St. Paul encourages,

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. Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 166–167). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 1053). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition

Are We Willing to Pray for Our Needs?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

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31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)

9  “If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:9 (Phillips NT) 

“Give us this day our daily bread.” What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
14 What is meant by daily bread?
Answer: Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.  (1)

807      I copy these words for you because they can bring peace to your soul. “My financial situation is as tight as it ever has been. But I don’t lose my peace. I’m quite sure that God, my Father, will settle the whole business once and for all. I want, Lord, to abandon the care of all my affairs into your generous hands. Our Mother—your Mother—will have let you hear those words, now as in Cana: ‘They have none!’ I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you, Jesus. I want nothing for myself: it’s for them.”

in the Lutheran and evangelical churches, there is a reaction to the works of those like Joel Osteen and those who teach what is referred to as Dominion Theology, or more degradingly, as the prosperity gospel, or the “Name it-Claim it” movement.  So much of a reaction, I think we forget to tell people to pray, even as the Lord taught us to, and to recognize He will meet our needs.  He will care for us, and while we have to live wisely, we also need to live trusting Him.

Our reaction to those who sometimes advocate praying for selfish desires to be met, whether financial or relational is damaging.  Yes, we know God doesn’t necessarily want us to win the lottery,  He probably won’t grant always grant that teenager’s prayer to date the supermodel, or that everything will wok out perfectly, as we see it.  He does want us to look to Him, to see His love, to see His care for us. To have us depend on Him, like a child depends on their dad.

Yes, to often our prayers can become a form of idolatry, as we put our desires before our relationship with God, or make that relationship conditional upon getting what we want. (and we’ll even throw a tantrum when we don’t!)  But to stop depending on God, leads to anxiety, and coveting, and temptations to get what we want, without God.  To manipulate our situations, to become machivellian, that is what happens when we forget God is our source

We need to be aware of God’s gifts, we need to receive them and celebrate them, whether it is that last can of soup in the cupboard, or the bank account that is down to $2 the day before payday.  As we do realize that even these things are gifts of God, our attitude towards them will change. We’ll treasure what we have, not because of its fiscal value, but because of from whom we received it.

We need to pray, God give us what we need, even fervently pray for it.  Our relationship must be that kind of relationship – where He is the source of all our blessings… not just the eternal ones.    Don’t forget those, but also realize, from Him we have life,

Praying for our daily bread is not just about spiritual nurture. for we aren’t called to love Him with just our soul, but with every part of our lives.  Mind, Soul, Body and Spirit.  We need to realize our dependence and His faithfulness in this part of the prayer as much as any other!

So let us pray, even as our Savior taught us…

(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 347). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2877-2882). 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.

Where’s the Rest of my Story? I Have to Know I Get the Miracle, Don’t I?


Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

8  It was then that some Babylonians took the opportunity to denounce the Jews. 9  They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May Your Majesty live forever! 10  Your Majesty has issued an order that as soon as the music starts, everyone is to bow down and worship the gold statue, 11  and that anyone who does not bow down and worship it is to be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12  There are some Jews whom you put in charge of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who are disobeying Your Majesty’s orders. They do not worship your god or bow down to the statue you set up.” 13  At that, the king flew into a rage and ordered the three men to be brought before him. 14  He said to them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you refuse to worship my god and to bow down to the gold statue I have set up? 15  Now then, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, oboes, lyres, zithers, harps, and all the other instruments, bow down and worship the statue. If you do not, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Do you think there is any god who can save you?” 16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17  If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18  But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-18 (TEV)

872         To help you keep your peace during those times of hard and unjust contradictions I used to say to you: “If they break our skulls, we shall not take it too seriously. We shall just have to put up with having them broken.”  (1)

In my devotional this morning, the Old Testament reading was exactly what you see above.

My first reaction was, why stop it here?

Why not give us the rest of the story.  (spoiler alert?)  Why not just let us read on, to the glory, to the miracle of the 4th man? To the repentance of the community in its sins, not just to God, but to me!

I want the rest of the story!  And I want it….. now!

I looked ahead – I don’t get the rest of the story tomorrow!  What is up with that?

What is up with that is the words of faith that the three men said.  They were sure of their trust in God enough to embrace the fact that the story might not end with a miracle, and somehow, they are okay with that.  Somehow, knowing that God is at work is enough, being sure He will keep His promises is enough.

Many martyrs die without receiving what we would want, their release back into the world.  Their freedom from those who would oppress, torture, and eventually kill them.

And they were able to endure, knowing something that their captors did not.

That God, by his very cHesed nature,the depth and height, the breadth and width of His love,  is worthy of the trust that the three men showed.  Even if He didn’t rescue them, even if they didn’t get the miracle they expected.  They knew His love.

May we, as we think through the work of God accomplished in our Baptism, as we meditate on the Body and Blood of Christ, as we hear with absolute delight that our sins are forgiven, that all is made right, know God enough to trust Him, even if we don’t get the miracle we want……

For we have the one we need. The Cross.  (see Romans 6:3-8)

He is our God.

AMEN.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3565-3567). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Even if I am a dog, He’s my Master!


Even if I am a Dog,

He is MY Master

Matthew 15:21-28

Kyrie Iesou, Eleison


May you realize that when God is your Master, your Lord, which means He obligates Himself to showing you love, and mercy, so that you live in peace!  

It’s not about tenacity; it’s about recognition

A question for you to start this message.

Does God simply answer our prayers because we are so tenacious?  Did Jesus answer this lady’s prayers just because she followed them through town, or did Jesus answer her to silence the apostles who were whining about her bothering them with her begging?

Is that the way God works, that He rewards those who are persistent, who are tenacious?  Who don’t give up?  Do we have to workout spiritually, so that we can endure, and then receive that which is promised?

We might say, “No, that doesn’t sound right.” But when it comes to unanswered prayer, do we sometimes hear this story, or the parable of the elderly woman and the judge, and wonder; is that the key to getting a prayer answered?

Persistence, dedication to the cause, determination and good old-fashioned stubbornness?

Or is there something else…. Perhaps something like recognizing the Truth?

The truth that it is okay to be a dog; if that means that He is our Lord, that He is our Master?

That is what was revealed to her, which confirmed to her that He was her Lord!

What She Saw:   Lord Son of David!

A little background helps.  When the lady first starts yelling to Jesus “Kyrie Eleison” she is saying something we sang a few moments ago.

The translation phrases it, “have mercy Lord.”  We sing it the Kyrie in the opposite order, but the plea is the same.  Lord, love us and because of that love, care for us.  That is what the word mercy means.  cHesed means to have great love, care for, provide, protect, forgive and do everything in your power to care for and help those who with who you have a relationship.  She demands this of him.

Pour out you love and care on us Lord, she cries, Over and over, she begs this very thing.

She goes one step further; she calls Him Lord! She acknowledges that He is her master.  She lays herself at his feet, and she worships Him as her Lord.

You see, cHesed is that loving-mercy of God.  It is an obligation of the Lord to His people.  I’ve mentioned that word here before, this incredible word that binds a Lord, a Master to His people. He will take care of them, for He has made that commitment to them, as their Lord. He has become their Master.

That is what she wants! That is why she keeps calling Him Lord! Every time she speaks, this is how she addresses Him, as the one who is obligated to care for her.

She wants to be part of His Kingdom, His Household, to be His!

More Precise!

The first time she calls out for mercy, she adds something to it.

Have mercy Lord, Son of David!

Somehow, she knew about this promise of the Messiah.  She uses one of the titles for the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one of God!  The Lord through whom salvation would come! Salvation to the Jewish people, but also to all who would call out to the Messiah.

When she cries out for mercy, she is crying out to the Messiah!  She is crying out to the long-awaited Son of David! She recognizes that He is the Lord and Master; the One who would bring about what we heard from the prophet Isaiah,

“I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name,
who worship him!”

She knows who Jesus is, she knows the help that only He can offer!  She comes and places herself in His care, begging that He would accept Her!

His response finally is heard.

You are nothing but a dog.

Surprisingly, that is what she is longing to hear!

Dogs are part of the family

Consider this quote, about John Chrysostom, one of the most-quoted preachers in  history.

Chrysostom seems to recognise the shade of meaning conveyed by τ κυνάρια (the dogs of the household). “On the very words of the Lord she founds her plea. If I am a dog (κυνάριον), she says, I am no alien.”[i]

I belong!

She understands these “terms”; that the promises go first to the people of God, those he counts as His children.  She rejoices in knowing that the promise is there for her as well. This Lord has accepted her as part of the household, part of the family of God.

Think about it!  How many people refer to their dogs as their children!

She’ll take it, even as the Psalm 84 talks of a similar attitude:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 (NLT)

To be the mutt, waiting under the table for scraps, the Kingdom of God is a great place to be, knowing the love of the Master.  As long as she knows the love of the Lord, as long as she is one of the people He brings home, she will be content.

She will trust in her Master; she will bask in His love…she will trust His reign over her life.

Scraps aren’t good enough!

He will at first acknowledge her faith, by providing the salvation of her daughter, freeing her from the demons that afflict her.

That is only the beginning of the fulfillment of His promises to her, and to all of us, who though not physical descendants of Abraham, are the spiritual descendants.  It is just the beginning for those who trust in God as our Lord, our Master!

A blessing for those who know that our cries for His love are answered.  His mercy is always the answer! He hears us and will bring us home.  That woman didn’t get the scraps from the table; neither will any who trust in the promises that are made ours in Christ.

 

She is invited to a feast – one beyond all comparison…the wedding feast of the Lamb, the feast to celebrate the welcoming home of all the people of God.

Including this gentile woman and her daughter.
When we approach this altar, we see this feast in part.  The love of God, the love of our Master, our Lord, and the mercy which makes it possible.  These are not bread scraps and the last drops of wine.  This is the body and blood of Jesus Christ!

This feast is the answer of a God, who would provide for all of His children, for all who will call upon His name.

Yes, I am your Lord.  Come and feast with me!

Yes, dear friends, Jesus says I will be your Lord, your Messiah, I will care for you. I will provide.  That was what the cross was about, not just saving us from our sins, but opening up a relationship for all people with God the Father.  He says,  “You are my people, come and know my peace!”  For this, this peace of God, is promised, which passes all understanding, and in which our hearts and minds are kept safe, by our Lord.

AMEN!

[i] Chase, F. H. (1887). Chrysostom: A Study in the History of Biblical Interpretation (p. 130). Cambridge; London: Deighton Bell and Co.; George Bell and Sons.

Walking Away from God and His People? Please read….


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo

17  When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. Matthew 28:17 (TEV)

343         That passage of the Second Epistle to Timothy makes me shudder, when the Apostle laments that Demas has deserted him for love of this life and gone to Thessalonica. For a trifle, and for fear of persecution, this man, whom Saint Paul had quoted in other epistles as being among the saints, had betrayed the divine enterprise. I shudder when I realise how little I am: and it leads me to demand from myself faithfulness to the Lord even in events that might seem to be indifferent—for if they do not help me to be more united to Him, I do not want them!  (1)

I have some friends who I am thinking of, even as I write this blogpost.  If you are reading this, you probably are not them…. but it might apply anyway.

They are facing challenges in life, hard challenges, painful challenges. Enough so that while praying that they would see God revealed in their life, considering what they’ve gone through brings tears to my eyes.  I can’t know the pain as deeply of course, ,but the pain is visible and tangible.

And the temptation is to walk away from the one place where their hearts can be lifted, where they can find peace.

How do I know this?  Been there, been tempted to walk away once or twice…heck who am I kidding.  It’s a lot more than that, and I have. As the prodigal found out, it isn’t better there.  Not even close. the scars get bigger, the healing doesn’t come, the loneliness seems to grow and dominate, as does the despair.

St. Josemaria gets the point, the more I walk away, the littler I become.  The answer isn’t running away, trying to slide away unnoticed, as if the pain will simply dissipate….

I’ve found the answer is to embrace God even more strongly, to bug him like the old lady bugged the judge, to yell at Him like Jeremiah does in chapter 20 of his book, to try and wrestle with him as Jacob/Israel did.  To trust Him so much that I can doubt what’s going on, and I can express my doubt that He is present.  That kind of doubt takes faith, faith that He won’t turn us away if we are blunt and honest.  Trust that will work out in our lives, as that trust in His presence, His love and care allows us to dump all the crap in our lives onto the cross – where it will die with all sin and shame.

Don’t run away, don’t walk… come back, join us who struggle with our faithfulness – and trust in His. Let us encourage each other, for these last days… we need that encouragement, that reminder of God’s presence..

For that is having great faith.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1595-1600). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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