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Where are you? Where is your focus?


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
7  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9  Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:7-9 (TEV)

How does your heart stand with regard to God Himself? Does it delight in the remembrance of God? Does this remembrance leave an agreeable sweetness behind it? “Ah!” said David, “I remembered God and was delighted.” Do you find a certain propensity in your heart to love God and a particular satisfaction in relishing that love? Does your heart feel joy in reflecting on the immensity, goodness, or sweetness of God? If the remembrance of God comes to you amidst the occupations and vanities of the world, does it make room for itself? Does it seize upon your heart? Does it seem to you that your heart turns in that direction, and, is it were, runs to meet God? Certainly, there are such souls to be found.

We all have our breaking point.  It may not be caused by the same stresses, the same anxieties, the same temptations, but each of us has a point where we lose focus.

Without regular self-examination, it is all too common for such a breaking point to catch us off guard.  Without a regular time of giving to God our sin and the unrighteousness we deal with, we are setting ourselves up as easy targets.

One of the things to consider is what is our heart resonating with?  Is it the kind of things Paul urges us to think of in Phil 4:8 above?  Are we rejoicing when we consider our time with God?

Or is our heart being torn apart by cynicism, by gossip and complaining?  Does our time feed such bitter things captivate us?  Are we devoting that time to that which is depraved or immoral?  ( we might not even realize it is so…)

The good stuff in Philippians, and in the quote from St Francis De Sales isn’t self-generated.  It isn’t something we can just make up our mind and focus upon. It comes from being sure we dwell in God’s peace.  It is about relaxing in the presence of God, sure that He is our fortress, our strength, our life. It is our focus because that is what is, when we are aware of His presence. It is a more “natural” way of existence.  That is why Paul surrounds this second about our minds being filled with good things with the thought of God giving and preserving our peace.

The key then is the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the Lord of Life who calms our hearts and sets them at peace.  The Spirit who cleanses us from the brokenness of the world, and heals our souls.

As we open ourselves up to the Spirit, as we search for Him and find He is here, we desire Him more, we desire His presence more, and we see the difference it makes as being a difference the world needs, that our neighbors and family and friends need. For we need it, and are amazed the need is so completely met by the Holy Spirit.

This is the Christian faith, the dependence on God’s presence that makes everything beautiful, everything precious, everything good.

May we desire His precence more and more.  AMEN!

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

Is Holiness Still Possible?


Devotional Thought of the Day

13  “You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it. 14  “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16  In the same way your light must shine before people, be so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 (TEV)

Almost all those who have hitherto treated of devotion have had the instruction of persons wholly retired from the world in view, or have taught a kind of devotion leading to this absolute retirement: whereas my intention is to instruct such as live in towns, in households, or in courts, and who, by their condition, are obliged to lead, as to the exterior, an ordinary life, and who frequently, under the pretext of a pretended impossibility, will not even think of undertaking a devout life, believing, that as no animal dares to taste the seed of the herb called Palma Christi, so no man ought to aspire to the palm of Christian piety so long as he lives in the turmoil of worldly affairs.  (1)

As I read the quote in blue, the thought resonated with me.  I had found some interesting quotes from this book in the past, so I added ti to my devotional reading for the year.

Some many devotional writings are written to either people who spend hours a day in meditation and reflection, or they are 200 words or less that are to be read while driving one’s morning coffee, or while sitting at traffic lights as we hurry from place to place.  The latter pacify our spiritual hunger,satisfying it, or perhaps numbing it.

Yes we say, I’ve done my devotions, as if to check them off a list, and not be concerned about God in the midst of a broken life.  We’ve been taught that the prayers of those who shut themselves away are not as noble as those that live them out, but how many of us do?   Even a generation after Luther, de Sales wrote that many think leading a holy and devout life to be impossible within the turmoil of worldly affairs.

So Francis de Sales wrote a book, very much along the lines of how I desire.  There has to be a way to turn devotion from a duty into a life.  To realize that devotion is a combination of adoration (being in awe of God’s love ) and mercy- showing that love to all we encounter. it is a way of life, a way of walking with God where we allow Him to transform us into His image.

It is the place where God is incarnate, so incarnate, so real that our hearts, souls, minds and strength resonate with love for Him, because we are sure we are loved. It is a place where joy overwhelms suffering or pain.  It is a life set apart to God, for God has set Himself apart to us.

He is our God, we are His people, and we are more aware of this than not.

Being devoted to God, Holiness, Sanctification, living the baptized life, this is possible. Even in the middle of 2016, and as we approach 2017.

St Paul describes it this way

18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)

Lord have mercy upon us sinners, and help us to see the Spirit’s work in our lives.  AMEN!

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

Why Isn’t Our Faith “Greater”


Devotional Thought of the Day:

If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me?b 47 Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.” John 8:46-47 NAB-RE

Faith is a vital, deliberate trust in God’s grace, so certain that it would die a thousand times for it. And such confidence and knowledge of divine grace makes us joyous, mettlesome, and merry toward God and all creatures. This the Holy Spirit works by faith, and therefore without any coercion a man is willing and desirous to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything for the love of God and to his glory, who has been so gracious to him. It is therefore as impossible to separate works from faith as it is to separate heat and light from fire.”  (1)

. But devotion to the Cross had a very different origin. Christians used to turn toward the east when they prayed as a sign of their hope that Christ, the true sun, would rise upon history—as a sign, then, of their belief in the future coming of the Lord. In the beginning, the Cross was closely linked to this eastward orientation of prayer. It was represented as the standard carried before the King on his arrival—with the appearance of the Cross the head of the procession had reached the throng of praying people. For the early Christians, the Cross was primarily a sign of hope—not so much a turning back to the past as a turning forward to the coming of the Lord.  (2)

As a pastor, I am used to people struggling with “Faith.”

Most often, this is because they define faith as a known, for example, “the Christian Fatih” or the subdivisions such as  “the Catholic Faith” or the “Orthodox Faith”.or the myriad and diversity of “Protestant Faith.”  This definition reduces faith to a list of doctrines, a list of teachings, and reduces the Bible to a textbook to be learned, studied and interpreted. This definition confuses us then when we talk about “sharing” our faith, leading us to believe such is a matter of indoctrination, of our doctrinal positions overwhelming yours in some cosmic spiritual battle.

Faith doesn’t know doctrine, it is, as the Lutheran Confessions say, It is a vital, deliberate trust (or dependence) in God’s grace.   It is listening to God and rejoicing not just in the rules, but realizing that God encodes in the law these incredible promises, incredible blessings.  Such is what He commanded, what He commissioned and guaranteed with the cross and by the sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

That’s why the issue of works being aa result of faith is not surprising, and not all that complicated.  The vital trust results in it!  If you trust God,  if you hear Him declare you are His, that nothing can separate you from  His love, then you simply live.

That is why Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote about the cross the way he did – it not only talked of the blessing of the cross in the past, but the sign of Christ’s return. ( the old Celtic crosses always included the sunrise behind the cross for the reason as well!)  For faith is not just hope about the sins being covered by Calvary’s cross, it is the hope or eternal life, of eternal joy, of the day when every tear is wiped away.

The cross is a symbol of the hope of the future, of what God has promised to open up for us, the very thing we trust Him to achiece>  Eternity, lived in the full glory of God, this is our hope, this is the end goal for the scriptures, the end of the means of grace poured out for us in baptism, the Lord’s supper and the mercy of being cleansed of every sin.

Eternity is when our faith is fulfilled, when our dependence on God is proven, when hope is seen to be reality.

This we can share – at whatever cost it takes – this we can rejoice in, this we can know, even when we can’t explain every bit of theology.

This is our faith, our vital dependence on God.

This is what happens when we hear Him testify,

“I love you so much; Christ died on the cross so we could be re-united..”

AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.  FOrmula of Concord SD IV

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Why I Gave Up Exegetical Preaching for Apocalyptic Preaching


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (NLT)

“The key is not to offer commentary but to help the people in the pews understand what is happening in the text so that they can understand what is happening now and respond in faith,”  (1)

Just as steel must be warmed before it can be molded or bent, the human heart must be warmed by the love of God in order to overcome fear and be molded by the truth of Gospel, the archbishop said. Without encountering the love of Christ, “the faith simply looks like rules and regulations.” Ultimately, priests and deacons foster an encounter with God when they preach Christ crucified, he said.  (2)

When I was a Bible College Student, the method of preaching that everyone was being trained in was called expository or exegetical preaching.  You went through a book of the scriptures, chapter by chapter, sometimes verse by verse, explaining the background, the language, the details so that people would have a deep knowledge of the passage.  This was the method of greatly admired preachers like Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Haddon Robinson, and within my brother at the time, pastors like Ben Merold and Max Lucado.  Denominations like Calvary Chapel still make the claim that this is the only way to preach.

It was such a popular method that 3 of my four undergraduate courses in preaching were based in it, as were most of the 40 units I had in Bible.  I have a good friend who has his MDiv and another graduate degree in it. I was trained in that way, and I still teach some Bible studies that way.

But I don’t preach that way anymore. Haven’t in a while.

And as I am teaching a course in preaching (called Homiletics) at the present moment, I’ve been thinking about it.  How do you describe the style of preaching?  I was reading the article the blue quotes come from, and I realized the word I was looking for to describe the style of preaching.

APOCALYPTIC

Now, before you get the idea that I am talking about end times scary stuff, that is not what apocalyptic means, nor for that matter what the apocalypse is about.

Apocalyptic preaching is revelatory! It reveals! It is about teaching what was hidden, what was concealed.  Apocalyptic preaching is about that which was hidden behind the curtain (not the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, but the one in the Tabernacle/Temple.)  It is what Paul is talking about to the church in Colossae – our hope is found in the secret being revealed.  The secret of Christ being in us, being united to us, and us to His cross and resurrection.  That united to Him, we will share in His glory, we will live eternally in the presence and love of God the Father.

Revealing that secret to people who are broken by this world, by its sin, just as the people ere in the days of Jesus, and all the days since Adam and Eve were broken.  That God desires to bring healing to them, not just understanding.  That God wants to reconcile them, not just demand from them. The sermon is to reveal Him to them, the relationship He desires to have with them, it should strengthen that relationship, help they trust Him, depend on them.

That isn’t always done if you are worried about defining the minutiae.  What needs to be done, – show them their need for God, and show them, God, not just wanting to meet that need, but desiring to, no matter what it costs. Or what it costed. This is what gets us through the tough days, this is what gives us hope as we try to cope without our brokenness and the worlds.  It is what gives us hope, even as we deal with death.

One last quote from the article.

“Sobering recent statistics reveal many Catholics (I would say Christians of many stripes) don’t even think it’s possible to have a friendship with God, so they certainly don’t know, with every fiber of their being, that they are loved, infinitely and passionately, by the One who has made it all,” he said  (3)

Helping then know that, this is the nature of apocalyptic preaching. It is giving them the reason we have hope.  To know that are cry, “Lord have mercy” is heard.

May everyone who preaches this weekend do that, and may people see revealed the love they need… and have.  God’s.

(1)  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-to-priests-heres-how-to-not-give-bad-homilies-17455/

(2)  Ibid

(3)  Ibid

Are We Willing to Pray for Our Needs?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image

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.

Remember…..


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23  For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24  gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (TEV)

15      In these times of violence and brutal, savage sexuality, we have to be rebels: we refuse point blank to go with the tide, and become beasts. We want to behave like children of God, like men and women who are on intimate terms with their Father, who is in Heaven and who wants to be very close to—inside!—each one of us.  (1)

Disclaimer:  This blog is not primarily about 9-11.

there was a massacre once, the slaughter of the innocent, that we should not, will not, cannot forget.

It was ultimate act of depravity, the ultimate act of violence, and it is something we have to remember, not because of the violence, not because of the savagery, but because in that very act, we are given hope.  Even in that death, we are given life. Even in that savage, torturous, incomprehensible act, we find our rest an peace.

There is no greater paradox.

Paul instructs the church to remember not just the act above, but the One who was brutalized and killed.  In Greek the work translaeted “to remember, to not forget, to memorialize, etc”  is much stronger than just give him a passing thought.  It is related to words like repentance (to have a new mind) and the root where we get paranoia.  It is something that deeply affects and is rooted in the mind.  Not just knowledge, not just a passing thought, but something that burns into our mind and soul, that causes in us a change.

We proclaim that death, we reveal again the love that is revealed in His willing sacrifice of His life for us.

Something that changes everything.

Some of us will remember 9-11, like those before us remember the Shuttle exploding, or the Oklahoma City Bombing, like those, who remember Kennedy getting shot, or Pearl Harbor.  There are other events that we will never forget because they scar our souls, they ring us to the core, they cause us to be on guard.

this remembrance, where we take and eat the Body of Christ given up for us, where we drink the Blood of Christ given and shed so that sin is forgiven, this knowing the presence and depth of the love of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, doesn’t just scar our souls, it brings healing and life to our heart and soul, our mind and body that have been scarred by sin and the injustice of the world.  It sustains us through the rush of the world’s evil, and the traumas of life.

That is why we remember, that is why we proclaim His death until He comes….

For in knowing Him, we know peace.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 290-293). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

A Dream for the Church I pastor…


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2 (NLT)

“A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and of the faith that enshrines them.  One such is….”  Celtic Prayer Book, Reading for 8/11)

For the last couple of months, I have been praying about my congregations, the church that gathers here in Cerritos.

As a entity, there are necessary complications to ministry.  How do we deal with an aging facility, how do we accomplish evangelistic outreach and meet the needs of people in our community.  How do we make disciples of all peoples – of those young and old, of the stranger, of our own people.  How do we effectively use all the talents God gives us.  Big questions for sure, and we are working through them as a people.

But the biggest answer for my dream for our church is seen, not in our future plans, but in the green words above.

It doesn’t matter if we have a sanctuary that sits 500.  Or if we have a school.  Or even if there are 50000 people that attend our services and watch them on television, hear them on radio or live-feed them from the internet.

What matters to me is that where Concordia meets, becomes known as a place of holiness, a place where the love of God is known, a place where people’s trust in God’s faithfulness sees them through their lives.  Where people are devoted to God, where His vision compels them to act in others lives, bringing that holiness there. What disciples become crafted, not just through intellectual stimuli, but by worship, by adoring God, by the thoughts about His love.

I think that was what the prophet Micah is referring to, the ways we are taught by God, to walk His way, That is the change that God’s word makes in our lives, it opens up a relationship defined by words like cHesed, agape, phileo, charis… love, mercy, grace.

If the people of Concordia (or your church, or any church) grow in these things, then we have succeeded as a church.  We are a place where disciples are made, where God’s ways are treasured, where people live the life of those cleansed by God, and are immersed in His life. Where they are sure He will be with them, even until the end of the earth!

.

The Key to Loving Your Enemies, Loving God. The Key to Loving God…


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9  O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. 10  As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. Psalm 48:9-10 (NLT)

You still do not love the Lord as a miser loves his riches, as a mother loves her child… You are still too concerned about yourself and about your petty affairs! And yet you have noticed that Jesus has already become indispensable in your life… Well, as soon as you correspond completely to his call, he will also be indispensable to you in each one of your actions. (1)

Yesterday’s Bible Study time at church was talking about the attitude of St. Paul towards the people of Israel. How, even though those people would have killed him outright, his love for God, and His knowledge of God’s promises, led him to desire their salvation, no matter the cost.  He said he would even give up is salvation, if that were possible,

A tough act to follow, as many of us realized, and even grieved over during the Bible Study.

Paul’s comments, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ,” take on a far more challenging perspective.  They drive home the idea of loving our neighbor – for love doesn’t count the cost.  Even when our neighbor is our enemy, our adversary, or just a huge pain in the neck.  Imitate Paul as he desires their salvation more than even his own, even as Paul imitated Jesus, as He died for those who caused His suffering and death.  You and I.  (All that debate about whether the Jews were responsible for His death, or the Romans is nonsense.  He chose to die to save us from our sins, to restore us to the Father.)

Are you willing to give up all for those you love?  Are you willing to love those who hate you?

Tough questions.

Even more difficult, when we realize Paul’s challenge to us is not alone, John issues it with these words,

20  If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21  And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:20-21 (NLT)

So how do we do this?  Is there some metaphysical knowledge that unlocks in us the ability to love our neighbor?  Is it some ritual that we must undergo, that magically gives us the ability to sacrifice all for our neighbor?

No, just simply – if you love God with all you are, when you correspond to His call on your life, then this happens.  Not because of our will or volition, it is deeper than that.  It is the work of God in our lives, what He has ordained for us.  it is a life of Holiness, it is a life, set apart to Him.

Again, not easy, a radical transformation in our lives.

So how do we do these things, things God has emphasized through His word, through the Apostles, the Prophets, in the Law of Moses, in the Gospel of Christ?

Think.

No – not think about where the solution, that won’t help.  We aren’t capable of it.

Do what the psalmist asks us to do – meditate on the Lord, on His love, on His mercy, on His promises revealed in His word. On His unfailing love.  As Paul will say, explore its depths, its height, its width, its breadth.  Realize how God’s love consumes us, how it transforms us, How the Holy Spirit makes it a reality in our life.

It sounds too easy, but keep in the forefront of your thoughts during the day the incredible love and grace of God.  Spend time just thinking about it.

Don’t limit yourself to worship and praise, to just studying the Bible in classes, or studying it as you read it.

Just read and be in awe, let the words run through your heart like a bubbling brook, occasionally like a waterfall, Like the Niagara Falls, or Iguazu Falls in South America. (Watch the movie “The Mission” to see this – and an incredible story of loving your enemy!)

Let the promises amaze you, the patience of God astonich you, the miracles and wonders of God leave you without the ability to read any further.

And delight that all of this has been done and revealed – to you… for you, for your neighbor, for that person…….

Then you will love, ot as a command, but because the gospel is alive in you, you won’t be able to resist,

It will be our lives… lived as our Lord lived.

We’ll stumble for sure, we struggle at times, but the correlation between realizing the love of God, and loving others is clear… and it is necessary…

So dwell in Him, rejoice in His presence. Know His love!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3299-3303). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Strong Enough to Really Love as Jesus Asks You to Love?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
11  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. John 15:11-12 (TEV)

749  Your charity must be adapted and tailored to the needs of others… not to yours.  (1)

It sounds simple and nice, this idea of loving one another.

I think we romanticize it, not in the sense of erotic love, but in the idea of some kind of peaceful utopia.  That all we need is love, and somehow the world will straighten out, the Middle East conflicts will resolve, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria will come home, those who have suffered from hurricanes, earthquakes, and drought will find all they need.

Love, and the relationships, the deep intimate relationships that are created and bound in love are the farthest thing from some restful utopia. Ask any mother who has to care for a newborn,  There is a deep level of love, but it isn’t all cooing and cuddling.  It’s waking up every 2-3 hours to feed and change them, it is dealing with sickness, even when you are sick, it is learning to discipline and teach, it is sacrifice, it is work.

Intimate relationships between soldiers are no different (again we aren’t talking sexual – but simply things so close they can’t describe the bond between them, the extend they will go for their brothers, the sacrifices they make, without hesitation, without thought of cost.  It simply is a bond that goes beyond description, that means more than life itself.

In these two examples, and in so many others, the words of St Josemaria are found to be true.  Love isn’t about our needs… its about life lived in community, loving others as much as we love ourselves.  Walking in the steps of Jesus, who did this better than us all.

In the book of Romans, I was amazed by how many times the prefix syn/sun shows up, How many times the concept is one where we are joined to each other, and the Holy Spirit is likewise joined to us.  It is an incredible journey, not just theologically, but together.  We share in our calling, our joys, our sorrows, in prayer, in being gathered in hope, and in prayer.  Romans isn’t just about the mission and the question of predestination, it is not just about Justification and gifts and Israel.

It’s about a life lived in relationship – a deep relationship between God and His people. A life that can be messy, and painful, that can be sacrificial to the point of heroic, a life that is full of Love… May God enable us both to desire this, and to do it… with Him

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3118-3119). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?


Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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