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My Struggles with “Devotions”, “Spiritual Disciplines”, “Prayer”. Maybe its time to take a walk!

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day

11  I will live among you, and I will not despise you. 12  I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12 (NLT2)

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
2 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Men are not the result of chance or of a struggle for existence that brings victory to the practical and the strong. No, man is the product of God’s creative love. God is. That means that he can act, and that he truly does act—now—in this world and in our lives.… Do we trust him? Do we regard him as a reality when we assess our lives, our day-to-day experiences?

Some time back I was telling you: come out of the caves! Today I repeat: come out of the sacristy, of the parish’s offices, of the VIP rooms! Get out! Engage in the pastoral of the atrium, of the doors, of the houses, of the street.
Don’t wait; get out!

“I want more the Sundays and Wednesday nights!  Because if you can’t come to me every day, then don’t bother coming at all!”

I remember those words of Keith Green playing from my radio, and from the old cassette tapes I had while I was in high school.  And I thought they were God’s words, backed up by scripture and the Holy Spirit, for they caused great conviction, great guilt and shame when I missed my devotions when I struggled with times of prayer.

I had to spend time in the word, I had to spend time in prayer, I must, or God would refuse to talk to me, after all, we know He is a jealous God!

Yet the despair, the guilt, and the shame… easily I could have thought, maybe I am just not one of those called to follow God.  I thought often that I am not holy enough, spiritual enough, good enough for God. How could he love one as weak, and as full of coubts as I am?

Even today, I tend to define my time with God as Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights with God’s people, and the hour or so of prayer and reading I do.  Corporate and Individual.  Times that I truly treasure. times that sustains me.  Times that I wish I could instill in my son how precious they are, that I could help him and my church family see how much a treasure they have waiting for them.

Have to admit, that is frustrating!  How can they not see how much they need this time?  How can they not see how it will benefit them? Why can’t they see how much they need to know what scripture will show them.  Others who writings told the story struggled and found strength in knowing what God would reveal to them are precious as well!  ALl these blessings, that simply get overlooked, and put on the shelf, or the Bible App relegated to the back page of our phones/Tablets, etc)

You can’t force people to spend time with God, you can’t manipulate it, you can’t threaten hell.  So how can I help people find the blessings that are so necessary in my life?  THat I depend upon, given the brokenness that I have to encounter.

As I read the readings above this morning, perhaps I have found something that I knew but didn’t appreciate recently.  The reason that all these things I set apart time to do helps is because it helps me realize that God is there 24/7/365.   That we are His people, that He loves to not just meet us in the “designated” place and the “appointed” times, but He wants to walk through life with us, pointing out the ways He provides and sustains us.

That is why I need my devotional times, my time in prayer, my time reading scripture and those who went before.  Because I need to know that God is with me in the rest of the day, in the walks we take, in the people we encounter (and He is with them as well) In every aspect of life.

He is there.

He created us to be His people.  And so He loves us, sustains us, provides for us, and wipes away our tears when needed.  It is encountering these truths in my “special times” that sustains me in the broken times…and in the good times, and in the routine times.  That is why I treasure them, and that is why my son, and my church family, need ot know.

God is with you…. when you need Him. Everywhere, walking with you. He is your God…your Creator, Sustainer, Comforter,  AMEN!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 344–345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 163). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 165). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

A Radical. Ordinary,Practical Faith….Woven Into Our Very Lives

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

25  And I have been made a servant of the church by God, who gave me this task to perform for your good. It is the task of fully proclaiming his message, 26  which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all human beings but has now revealed to his people. 27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. Colossians 1:25-28 (TEV)

Recognizing time as a reality made holy by a loving God, the Celtic saints valued the daily, the routine, the ordinary. They believed God is found, not so much at the end of time when the reign of God finally comes, but now,where the reign ous already being lived by God’s faithful people.  Theirs was a spirituality characterized by gratitude, and in our stories,we find them worshipping God in their daily work and very ordinary chores.  (1)

140      Live your Christian life with naturalness! Let me stress this: make Christ known through your behaviour, just as an ordinary mirror reproduces an image without distorting it or turning it into a caricature. If, like the mirror, you are normal, you will reflect Christ’s life, and show it to others.

It is rare, but every once in a while people ask me why this blog quotes a Catholic saint by the name of Josemaria Escriva so often.  After all he is the founder of what seem to think is a radical catholic movement called Opus Dei. I am a Lutheran pastor, a spiritual descendant of one who didn’t quite get along with the Catholic hierarchy of his day.

So what are you thinking pastor?  ( Some might even think I am some kind of radical infiltrator, a sheep in wolves clothing, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing!  ( I guess mot only would Lutherans be suspicious, maybe some Catholics might be as well?)

An explanation is in order, and my thoughts this morning, looking on the lake near where I grew up got me thinking about this.

I want, no, I need a practical faith.  Like the quote in green above, like the Celts had.  A relationship with God who is Immanuel, that is God with us!  A daily relationship with jesus – whose names is literally Yhwh (the name of God in Hebrew) and saves,

I don’t want a God who is locked in libraries, or only found in the sanctuaries where He does gather His people.  I need one who bakes bread with bakers (I highly suggest Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of Christ) , and is with kids and collegians in classrooms, and with maudlin 50 year old pastors, going back to where they grew up.

I need, no, we need, a God who is closer to our hearts than our skin. Who brings peace where there was anxiety, where broken hearts find healing.  A God who ensures we are not, whether in Los Angeles or a small New England town, or a city of 15 million in China. that we are never, never alone.

A God who not only shares our lives, but His own, Not just His death, but His glory.

A God who I am grateful to know.

All of my favorite Christian writers talk of such, find rest and sanctuary in this God.  St Escriva and Martin Luther perhaps more than any, but also Gene Edwards, or Martyn Lloyd Jones, Brother Lawrence, or Robert Webber and William Willimon.  In Escriva’s books, it is boiled down simply, naturally, Christ is here… we just need to realize it.

We need a God whom we can worship, because He is here…

And praise and glorify Him, for He is here…. we don’t have to find Him, He found us, even at great cost… and is bringing us home!

(1)  From Celtic Daily Prayer, for October 18:  Original from EC Sellner, Wisdom of Celtic Saints. .

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 690-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Editi

Facing Death Clarifies our Priorities….

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

10  Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. 12  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! ”     Revelation 12:10-12 (NLT)

 

 36  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36 (NLT)

Driving home from a meeting last night, I drove past a place where my dad had worked……wasn’t planning on it, just trying to avoid the mess on California freeways.

But there it was, another company in the building, but it still looked the same…. still a place where carpet and tile was sold, still had the weeds I was paid to pull out some 30+ years ago…..grief I thought that I had processed welled up again…

It’s not been a year since my dad died… and when I got home, I heard that another friend had passed away.  A man unique in that, though my dad’s age, he treated me like I was his dad, a spiritual father perhaps.  Not the only one he had, by any means, but still, even at our last breakfast together, as he told me of his days left…. I found myself in awe, as he asked me how to live that life. “Pastor Dt,” Bill asked, “How can I minister to people in the last months of my life….”

No one has ever been that direct.  Like the first reading above, my friend wasn’t afraid to die, or even the process of dieing.  He was afraid of not being a significant part of God’s work, in the months (actually less a little more than two) that he had left.  He knew the power of sharing the gospel with people – even rejoiced and joked about his struggles to do so.   He, I think, got the idea that Pope Francis wrote, that I quoted yesterday….

“Our mission, then— the mission that frightens us and makes us offer excuses like the ones we hear from the lips of the reluctant prophets in the scriptures— is to evangelize, to shepherd the faithful people of God. And that mission establishes us in our vocation. In calling us to that mission, Jesus gives us solidity in the depths of our hearts: he establishes us as pastors and makes that our identity. In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments , in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly activity, we are collaborating with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own.”  (1) 

He desired that Jesus would take root deeply in his heart, in his soul.  He knew the joy of baptizing someone, of partaking in that miracle. Or in handing someone the chalice containing the blood of Christ.

I am not saying he was perfect – heck, he would be the first to indicate that was so untrue, that it wasn’t even funny.  He struggled with a lot of things, things he didn’t think were right. He sinned, like the rest of us,

Yet, as he was facing death, his concern was how to see God use his time, how God could redeem it, make it worth the suffering, the pain.

That’s the edge he had over most of us, for we feel like we are immortal, that we’ve got decades ahead of us, and in a way, I hope we do….

But may we learn that these days are still but too short, may we realize the vocation we have as disciples, as the priesthood of all believers.  That death comes way to fast, even for men who have lived 8 decades or 9. That we find life in its fullest, not when we make ourselves the center of our universes, but Christ that center, when His will becomes ours, when we ask Him, Lord, use us….may we be your instruments being the means of hope, of mercy, of love.  May we too, defeat satan by the power of the blood of Christ, by our trust in Him, and our testifying of that love, and that we come to love our life in Him, that we no longer longer cling to find our life in this world.

And as we think of those who have gone before us, may the examples of Christ’s faithfulness to them help us get our priorities right….. Lord have mercy…

(1)   Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

 

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