Devotional THought to End the Year:
1 Praise the LORD! Sing a new song to the LORD; praise him in the assembly of his faithful people! 2 Be glad, Israel, because of your Creator; rejoice, people of Zion, because of your king! 3 Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him. 4 The LORD takes pleasure in his people; he honors the humble with victory. 5 Let God’s people rejoice in their triumph and sing joyfully all night long. Psalm 149:1-5 (TEV)
950 We should indeed respect things that are old, and be grateful for them. Learn from them by all means, and bear in mind those past experiences, too. But let us not exaggerate; everything has its own time and place. Do we now dress in doublet and hose or wear powdered wigs on our heads? (1)
As a minister, as a servant of Christ and His church, I have had the chance to stand in awe, as I’ve observed God work. Last year, as I was in China, and saw people hungry for the gospel, as I saw pastors and church leaders hungry for training. As I visited missionaries and saw in them a hunger to be minister to, a hunger so met, that a simple worship service was fileld with tears, with incredible joy, with incredible love. I’ve seen it here at my church, as those who needed God’s comfort and peace in times that trusting in God and knowing HIs presence shuold have been challenged, were comforted and able to pray with a quiet confidence. As people approach the altar, leaving burdens dropped, and receiving in exchange, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and treasuring that joyous moment.
He is amazing, this God of ours, and we should stand in awe of His presence. A presence we should melt in, not from fear, but in awe of His love that I can only use terms like passionate, and intimate, not because of it being erotic, but because of its power and completeness.
A love that is the stuff of song, a love that creates in the musician, the artist, the poet, the wood and metal worker, the blogger, a new work as we find ways to express that awe.
Others have done this in the past, as they have used their heart and minds and hands to create masterpieces in every form, visible, audidble, tactile, They give us examples of what can be done, they can help keep us focused on Jesus.
Without such awe, Luther would have never realized what a place of rest God’s presence is, and written of Him as our Mighty Fortress. Augustine wouldn’t have penned tomes, exploring the fullness of theology. St Francis and Mother Theresa wouldn’t have found His beauty among lepers, Pascal wouldn’t have written of the fire that burns. And people like Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, Matt West and Mark Hall and Chris Gillette wouldn’t be writing music now. To express the joy that is found in knowing God’s presence here, in that awe inspiring us to worship Him.
You see, God didn’t stop inspiting people after the sixteenth century, He didn’t stop working in people’s lives after the death of the apostles, Or after the publication of any hymnal. When we cling to these things, and demand that they are the only way to properly worship God, it can be admission that we don’t see Him working today, that nothing He is doing leaves us in awe, and we create an idol out of past. We stand in awe, not of God, but of their experience, their awe. We end up like the sons of Sceva, trying to rid people of what oppresses them by incanting God because of someone else’s relationship.
Do you see what God is doing now? In your life? In the life of your family, the church, and in your community, which He longs to bring into Christ, through your love demonstrating His?
God;s presence recognized now means that people will need to express their awe, people will need to use their words, their instruments, their talents within their culture, within their time, to do so. Learning from those who’ve gone before, listening to ensure they do not stray, yes. But the people of God need to praise God for what He is doing in their lives, Lives that are claimed at the cross, year lives we lived in 2013, and soon in 2014. The Lord is with us! Rejoice! Be in absolute awe! With all you are, respond in joyous praise!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3851-3854). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Let us worship Him (poetryjoy.com)
- I Got Nuthin… or do I? The Hard Lesson of Trusting (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Pragmatic THeological Thoguht of the Day:
18 “But can you, O God, really live on earth among men and women? Not even all of heaven is large enough to hold you, so how can this Temple that I have built be large enough? 19 LORD my God, I am your servant. Listen to my prayer and grant the requests I make to you. 20 Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (TEV)
32 “When foreigners who live in a distant land hear how great and powerful you are and how you are always ready to act, and then they come to pray at this Temple, 33 listen to their prayers. In heaven, where you live, hear them and do what they ask you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is where you are to be worshiped. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (TEV)
658 We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, He guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions. We believe this—but we live as if God did not exist. For we do not have a thought or a word for him; for we do not obey him, nor try to control our passions; for we do not show that we love him, and we do not atone… Are we going to continue living with a dead faith”? (1)
“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (2)
Tomorrow we start a new year in the church. I would ask that for a moment, like “secular” new years, we think about our lives as those who facilitate the worship of the people of God. (Both those who know they are, and those who will come to know they are in this year)
Tomorrow is also the first Sunday of Advent or the Parousia, that season we spend trying to understand the desire of the peope of God for the Messiah to come, for the promises to be fulfilled, for God to dwell among us. We do this, so that we too can desire God’s presence and His return. That is why the ancient church cried out “Maranatha!” the cry of Come Lord Jesus!
There are days, especially in this last year, where I admit I was crying this out for the wrong reason, And perhaps, leading my people to cry this out for the wrong reason as well.
You see, I cried it out because things were rough, because I was in mourning, or in despair. Where I wanted the suffering of people around me to end, Not that we would die, but that we would be rescued from this place, and brought into the presence of God in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more cancer, no more death. I wanted us all to be rescued from this life, and brought into the joy, the glory, the peace of God that we shall know for eternity. We have endured a lot these last few years…have had to minister to each other, with seemingly no break. We need rest and healing and a time to breath in deeply, and know the message of Christmas, that God is with us.
Something we already know… sort of.
And that is where the challenge for this New Church Year is going to be found.
Making the experience people have when they come to our churches have be one where they are sure Christ is with them.
Where it’s not about us, where we don’t go through the motions, where we don’t block people’s reception of God’s presence because of our poor-formance (misspelling intentional)
Look at the readings from the Dedication of Solomon’s temple above, there is an assurance in Solomon’s words that they are in the very presence of God. All of Israel, gathered there, assured of His love and that nothing can spearate them from His love. That strangers, people who don’t even know who God is except for his title, would be able to come and know that this place, this altar, where we stand, is where God has gathered them as well.
For the sake of our people – this article isn’t about worship styles, traditional Liturgy, or contemporary. It’s about us, you and I, and how we approach this blessed time we share with the people of God. The time were our voices, our body language, our intimate reverence and joy betray to our people that we KNOW we are in the presence of God the Creator, That He is here. I would desires that our readings are filled with awe, realizing that this is what God has thought through and inspired so His love is revealed to His people. That the readings are also clear, and done in a language and manner that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand. That our prayers, whether pre-written or from the heart, assist them in laying every burden down at His feet, entrusting them to Him, as He desires. That every spoken word be such that thy know this is something we do, but something that is our life. That our music and the way it is played isn’t about leaving them in awe of our talents and voices, but lead them voicing their awe at the God who loves them so much, that for the joy of revealing this to them, endured the cross and all its sufferings. The God that welcomes them and draws them to Him, broken, sinful, needy, that He might heal and comfort, cleanse and encourage.
That every person, whether life-long church goer, or first time guest of God, encounter Christ.
That’s what our ceremonies are designed to teach, whether liturgical or common, whether accompanied by majestic pipe organs, or simple strings, or even acapella.
That’s what makes the difference in our lives, in the expression of our trust in God.
KNowing He is here.
Desiring Christ’s last return, not just to escape the pains of this world.. but because we will see Him, the God who loves us, face to face. That the glory we now see hints of, as we see one baptized, or receive Christ’s Body and Blood, as we see the prodigal welcomed home, and the joy of all in celebrating it, that we would see that joy, that glory in its fullness.
In His presence.
So here is the challenge, as you enter the church tomorrow. Breathe deeply, let your nerves calm down, your burdens be dropped, His joy lift you high. For we dwell, as Solomon did that day, in the very presence of God.
The God who has had mercy on us, who has come to us, and in whose presence we live.
Then, as our people see this, may they know and be assured that and rejoice they dwell in Christ as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2759-2766). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession. Article XXIV (p. 56) . Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
- An Impressive Resume (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- “We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (joshuareich.org)
Devotional thought of the day…
18 Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! 19 Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to treasure (do) everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. Matthew 28:18-20 (CEV) adapted
Monday, Wednesday and this mornign I returned to my undergraduate alma mater, the school were 30 years ago I started my journey towards becoming a pastor. I had the pleasure of working with some senior students, talking to them about sacramental views of the Lord’s Supper. It’s been a great experience, and provoked not only much thought about what I beleive and why I trust in God, but many memories.
As I walked across campus, I saw where the escalators were, and even though they never ran, it still seemed odd that they weren’t there.
Even odder was that the walking bridge that cross Nutwood Avenue is no longer there. Though never an “official” symbol of the school, it was a valued object lesson in missions, and in going to “all nations”. For across that bridge was the world, or at least the 28,000 students of California State University at Fullerton. A veritable mission field, and one of the reasons my alma mater, Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University), was re-located from Long Beach to Fullerton. 28,000 students, their faculty and staff, and our little school of 400 students had a mission field.
That bridge was our access point. Sure, you could cross at crosswalks – crosswalks that were still there.
Doug Dickey was one of my professors, as in his retirement he served as a professor of homilatics (preaching) and as the pastor of Campus Christian Fellowship. He led the students who did outreach over the CSUF. He constantly encouraged and molded us to keep our sermons and our ministry focused on Jesus, on Christ crucified. When i would write a sermon about some great theological truth, the question asked was, “where is Christ-crucified in your sermon Dustin? How will it save anyone, how will it give them hope?”
The Bridge….. was a way to share Christ… it was a way into others lives… it was a way to get to the what Peter called, “the words of life!” The words that were the reason Peter and others stayed with Christ. Words that made even more sense after the cross. A Bridge Doug would cross – leading us in prayer, zealous to engage our peers and friends in conversation, conversations that would eventually focus them on the cross, and on the love of God, and the presence of God in thieir lives. That bridge, it was the way to get the message out to the world, to people of every ethnicity, of every imaginable type.
It leaves me think ing….
Where are my bridges today? Where are yours? Were are the places we can go – to teach people of all nations about a Lord who loves them enough to die for them?
The local coffee shop? A Doctor’s office?
Where are our bridges, where we can teach everyone to treasure what Jesus has taught us…
To teach us His love…
May we never forget those people – or how to get to them….
- Persecution, Martyrdom, the Love of Christ…. and a hard lesson in prayer (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Eucharist and Its Effective Work on our Hearts: (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion thoughts for the day….
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. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)
224 It’s intolerable that you should waste your time with “your own silly little concerns” when there are so many souls awaiting you. (1)
I received an invitation yesterday to fill out a barna survey. Thouh I usually trash such invitaitons, I took this one, and it got me thinking.
You see – it was all about politics and the pulpit. Questions about would I preach sermons specifically on various issues, from gun control, to civil disobedience (required byt he gospel?) to homesexuality and abortion and immigration reform. THey wanted to know whether I thought of myself as a conservative, and whether I agreed with the Tea Party or considered myself part of that group. It also asked to what extent the church would be involved in voter registration drives, encouragin people to vote/ assisting them to get to the polls, pand other forms of activism.
I will probably skew their polls incredibly. Because while I am a conservative in many of the above topics, I do not believe that any of them is so “concerning” that it should become the sole topic for a time set apart to help people know God. Using St Josemaria’s quote – though I am not sure the concerns are silly, they are small compared in view of people needing to know God’s love, and to introduce them to Jesus, who will transform their lives, and give them hearts and quicken their souls. That’s the purpose of preaching – as Paul so adequately tells the church in Colossae. It’s abot knowing Jesus,a nd His love…
That is why we don’t have a church that is all Republicans, or all Democrat, or all Tea Party or Green Party. Every member of every party and every independent needs to know Christ far more than they need to know how to vote. They need to begin to understand how hide and wide, how deep and broad God’s love is. They need to know that God gives us faith, calls and empowers our repentance, and comletely makes us His own. That’s what I am called and ordained to provide them – the knowledge that they are in the presence of God.
He gives us peace…. even when the world is, as it always seems to be, falling apart, the sky crashing down on us, and the sea storms ready to overwhelm us.
even when “the othe party’s guy” sits in the chair and supposedly has the power to make decisions. God’s still in charge my friends,,,, see what Joseph realized in Gen. 50:20….
And even when the other guys are in power – pray for them, as much as you can – live at peace with them…and avoid despair by knowing the Lord is with us…
That’s our message – one every needs to hear…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1137-1139). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I suppose I
- Love Them, Love Them, Love Them: Discipleship lessons from the gym…and Coach C (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Ministry is not a profession… it is the vocation of all…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
22 Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, 23 “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (TEV)
20 . ..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:20 (ESV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
“In many Catholic parishes of the twenty-first century there is little sense of sacred space. The reverent silence that used to prevail in Catholic churches is rarely encountered, even in churches that have an ample narthex where the gathering congregation can greet one another before entering the church proper. Yet if the church proper is the Porta Coeli, the door of heaven and the portal of the Kingdom, then surely one ought to act in that space somewhat differently than one acts at the local mall or supermarket.“ (1)
I have, in the last few months as I have digested Weigel’s book on the century long changes in the Roman Catholic Church, found many things that are well stated, many things that are Biblical, many things I wish my own church would implement in attitude. But no church denomination is perfect, and no plan of man for its reform is without error, And I think I’ve found one, one that is sadly reflected in my own church as well.
It’s this idea that there is a distinction between that which is sacred and that which is secular, or to use the philosophical categories – sacred and the profane.
Like many people, Weigel sees the church facility as a transition place, a place where we go from the unreligious, unrighteousness of our world into a transition zone – we are coming close to God, and therefore our mind, our attitudes, our bodies must change. His line about acting differently in that space, more reverential. more sanctified, more holy, is a great point – and yes – I would love for my own church to have a time of meditative silence, to think about how much we need to remember we dwell in God’s presence. It would be beneficial, it would be nice.
But the reasoning is flawed. It’s not about what we do that prepares us for the blessings of sharing in Word in sacrament.
It is even more flawed because it teaches us that our lives are somewhat split. We behave one way in church, when we are in the presence of God, and one way when we are at work, or home, or a ball game. It’s as if we say – hey we aren’t in God’s presence anymore, we can now behave like the rest of the world. That was “His time” and now – the rest of the week is “ours” It doesn’t work that way – and that we allow people to think that way is not a beneficial thing.
God doesn’t want that 60-75 minutes a week. ( but the more we realize how it blesses us, we should! ) He wants to share every moment with us, that is why He is called Immanuel ( Immanent/Immediate God), that is what He has promised us. That is the gift of our baptism, as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Yes the time where blessings are poured out are awesome, but so can be the times in the night, when we need His comfort, and realize He is there. The blessings of having Him bring us peace, in the midst of trauma or adversity. Even the restoration, when we realize the depth of our sin, or how we have created an idol that we put in His place… and cry out for forgiveness and restoration.
Christianity is not about our practices, it is about our living with God. It is about the fact that there is no secular space for us, there is no profane time, because He has invaded it, cleansed it, set it apart for our time with Him.
The church doors being a division between such? May we never think that way… may we never teach it that way… may we live each day, each moment, whereever we are, in His peace, in His mercy, in His glory…. in HIs love.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 157). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. 10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.“Luke 14:7-11 (NAB)
949 To aspire to positions of responsibility in any apostolic undertaking is a useless thing in this life and a danger for the next. If it’s what God wants, you’ll be called. And then you ought to accept. But don’t forget that wherever you are, you can and you must sanctify yourself, for that is why you are there. (1)
One of my favorite apologetic works, The Hitchhilker’s Guide to the Galaxy, talks about the leadership in a rather unique way. Simply put, the one who is best to lead is the one who desires it the least, and even abhors it, but takes it on because of necessity.
It’s one thing to want to be the leader in elementary school or even the class president in high school, or the captain of a team. It is far different to lead a company, or for that matter, to lead a congregation or a church body. It is a task that no one should want, for the pains, and experiences can shatter a man’s faith. And they often do.
But there is something else that can grow in such a crucible, a level of faith and dependence upon God that goes beyond the security we seek. An assurance of the presence of God’s comfort, of God’s love, and of His presence. An accepting of the task, a determination to go the distance. Not confident of our own abilities or strengths, but simply confident of the fact that we aren’t leading, He is. THat is what holiness, sanctification is truly about. Not about pious appearance,,, but about walking with Christ.
It is then we are ready to undertake such a role….
Thanks to all who lead…. in Christ. ANd may those who lead btw own strength, find the courage and strength to let the Paraclete lift them, turn them and guide and support them as they follow God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2201-2204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
16 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17 He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19 and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ 21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” Luke 12:16-21 (MSG)
People engaged in worldly business say that time is money. That means little to me. For us who are engaged in the business of souls, time is glory! (1)
It seems we live in a world that concentrates on the here and now, and that now is imitated by the church. Back in the ’80’s,w e called this the Tyranny of the Urgent.
I think it has gotten worse, and we rarely, if ever, look to the long run, whether in how we invest our money, or something even more precious, our time. We want thee quickest turn around The quickest route to healing and recovery, and we will settle for far less than God has promised. Heck – do we even bother to consider the long range outcomes anymore, or do we just react to everything that is happening, to focused on “this moment” and what has to be accomplished?
What would happen if we did pay attention to our future? How would it change how we spend our time, our money, our lives? Would we give more time spent in God’s presence? Would we spnd time – not questioning those mysteries He hasn’t revealed to us, but simply being amazed by the truth of them? Would we consider our careers differently? Would we see what we do with our spare time differently?
Josemaria Escriva said, “time is glory”. The more I read that, the more I realize it is true. Because time, our time, has been revealed to be spent in the presence of God. God promises to never leave s, has promised to be very patient with us. Do we realize the time spent in His presence is spent in His glory – even if we cannot see it revealed clearly as it will be in heaven?
I think this is the biggest difference maker, to know God’s presence, to revel in it – to value and cherish it. To even be a little defensive of those times – until we realize how to integrate them into our blessed lives and walk with God.
So take a afternoon – find a quiet place – and think it through – what takes your time, how is it invested..
Then figure out how to spend it, knowing that you are in the presence of God!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 904-906). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- VIP Concert Passes, Surgical Nurses and Divine Appointments.. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- What Do We Choose to Invite into our Lives? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Meditating on God’s Love (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotion Thought of the Day…
26 From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. 27 He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us; 28 as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children.’ Acts 17:26-28 (TEV)
There are a couple of young guys I get to interact with once in a while. ( I get to interact with others, but this morning I am thinking and praying for these two. ) Like I was at their age, I want to change the world, or at least a small section of it. Yet, like them, I wandered through careers, trying to find that place where I could not just excel at what I did, but find some kind of contentment at it.
I got to talk to one yesterday, the other, well I will hopefully see him soon.
But I feel both have a call to ministry. They are avoiding it, and well I was there too, once upon a time. Matter of fact, I can be pretty good at avoiding God still. Pretty simple for a pastor – the more we minister to others, the more we don’t allow God to minister to us.
But this blog entry isn’t about them or about me, it’s about all of us, and what we try to avoid. It is not about serving either – well one of the fringe benefits of realizing what this blog is about – well you will begin to desire to be more and more like Jesus, especially as He ministered to those who were, well, a little obstinate, a little desperate, pretty defensive, and well were sinners. Because that’ what we were…when He found us.
This blog is too help us mature, but Christian maturity, as my young friends will realize, is less about becoming independent and self-sufficient. It is, rather, about becoming dependent on God’s presence, on realizing He is with you – that your very life is found, in His presence, that He guides your movements, that because in Him we exist, He is never far from us.
I know most of us guys will grimace at the use of the word “intimacy”, but I have yet to find a word to describe this relationship that God has called us into. But to try and accept this – even it is too much to comprehend – God is with us. We dwell, we live, everything we do is in His presence. It is when we realize this, when we revel in it, when we dance with joy and abandon because we know His love… (like Snoopy) that everything changes. That we realize His promises, that we realize His providing for us and His protection. That we take chances, that we sacrifice, that we endure – knowing, expecting, trusting that He has us in the palm of His hand.
It becomes the center of our existence, and everything else is measured – not by how many dollars we earn, or what we have, but simply – knowing God….
And it is there – in His presence, that we realize our true life, our true calling.
May S and K find that calling – that seems a bit obvious to us, and may we as well realize that where God has placed us, He has done so for a reason – it’s where He has chosen to dwell with us.
Discussion thought of the Day:
“The wilderness is still the place of worship. (as it was for Israel) But for you and me ist is a matter of dunes and dry ground. In fact, it may be deceptively gree. Our Hunger and thirst are more spiritual realities than physical ones. The desolation we often experience involves our yearning for a more palpable feeling of the Presence of God. We need spiritual bread every it as much as they needed the manna in the wilderness. Our deep need for Living Water is as intense as any thirst their parch throats ever knew.
As so we look to the One whose coming incranated for us the Manna, the Living Waterand the presence of God. Jesus has entered into the wilderness of our wilderness and found us…. ” (1)
In a few hours I will be mentioning this passage in class. This morning – as most morning goes – the revelation that Michael Card mentions above was why we gathered for church. And even there, as I preached about the bondage caused by sin, and talked about our helplessness and need for Christ, I could “see” those who were burdened for others or by their own problems. We are, in many ways – so similar to Israel wandering in the desert – awaiting a promised land.
I wonder how many of us realize the fertile ground that exists in the desert – just a little water – and it blossoms with plants and flowers, incredible beauty – in the midst of what was thought to be barren. It just takes the touch of heaven to bring it forth.
So to in our lives….I’ve seen it too many many times to count. There is great beauty in the wilderness – there is a dance that comes from mourning, there is always life and reconciliation where we thought there was only darkness and despair. The key… simply is worship – worshipping the One who invades our wilderness, who brings light into the darkness. Who comes with compassion and comfort.
And in that darkness, in that solitude – as we find Christ finding us… we find life – and a life that praises – that glories – that begins to recognize the healing brought to us. …
And oh – how we need it. O how I need it – even though I know it is there…
If I can help you find it – this hope, this incredible mercy, this love and the presence of God, I would love to….
For as I see you find it – I am reminded it is there for me as well.
Lord Have mercy on us, and help us realize Jesus, that you have!
(1) Michael Card, The Sacred Sorrow – page 24
Realizing and Revealing…
The Lord is With Us
Assuring us of His Presence!
† IHS †
May you be so blessed as God reveals His presence in the journey of your life, that you find your journey so full of mercy and peace, that His presence in revealed to others.
Gideon’s Fleece Overlooked
Have you ever watched a favorite movie, or read a favorite book, and come across a scene that you did not remember? A part of the plot that made the scene, that was critical for really comprehending the entire story.
Where we walk with Gideon tonight, as he realizes the presence of God is really, really with him, is a story familiar to many of us, even if we don’t remember who Gideon was, or where in the Bible this story is found. Because this is where we get the phrase about “putting a fleece before the Lord”.
It’s where we get the concept of asking God to make clear which way we are to go, which road we are to take, if this is really God’s plan for our lives.
And if that is the concept we have, we are going to see a missing piece to the story tonight. One that will correct our understanding a little, and in the end, bring us even more comfort, as we realize His presence in our lives, and how He saves people, rescuing them from what oppresses and binds them, revealing how He loves and provides for His people.
Gideon was Enveloped/Clothed/Came Upon
When we left Gideon last week, he had desecrated and destroyed an idol that had kept the people of God in bondage. He started, with God’s guidance, the rescue that the people of God had cried out for, even in their unbelief, even in the midst of their rebellion. This had a tremendous impact on God’s people, even to the point that Gideon’s father, who once was proud of hosting the idol’s altar, challenged the idolatry publicly, defending his son.
The battle to rescue God’s people tonight shifts, as now the battle goes from spiritual to physical. Side question to consider sometime – why do we find the physical battles in life more “serious” or more “threatening” than the spiritual battle?
In order to take on the physical – and I love how the New American Bible phrases this – the Holy Spirit envelops Gideon – other translations use clothe, or comes over, the picture is wrapping around for protection and warmth. Gideon’s walk with God takes on a new dimension, a new vocation; he is called to be one who speaks for God, who leads God’s people, while God rescues them.
It is the same kind of language that describes our Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us then. We are clothed with Christ, the Holy Spirit comes upon us as is talked about in Acts and we are sealed in the Holy Spirit in Ephesians.
Gideon wanted confirmation… of God’s presence
He got it… and went..
Even as Gideon begins to live within what we would call the life of the baptized, he, like us, still struggles with the idea that God would dwell with Him that the Holy Spirit would continue to be there. Perhaps like Paul he struggles with the things he wants to do, but does not and the things he knows He should not do, but does.
That is why Gideon needs to have confirmation, to know not only that God is with Him, but also that God is with Him in this particular journey, in this mission to save God’s people. He needs to know, even as he looks at the life of Israel, that God isn’t giving up on them, that this is really God’s intent.
It would be as if we were to send out a missionary to Cambodia – or wait an even more challenging place – Washington D.C. to save all the people there, wouldn’t the one chosen to go really want to know God’s desire – that God really desires to save them? Are you really serious God – do you really want to save these people of Cerritos and Artesia, La Palma and Whittier and Bellflower? That you want to use people like us?
Lord, do you still want to keep your promise?
Do you still love them? Do you still love us?
The lambskin was treated as it needed to be, to become proof of God’s love, of His presence of God’s will. Proof to assure Gideon of the promise. Just as another Lamb, the very Lamb of God became proof of God’s love, as God prepared to send those apostles out. even as He sends us out. As we go out, to neighborhoods, to offices, to workplaces, in response to people crying out to be rescued, to be loved, to see that which enslaves defeated…
That they would come to know that which we know… even as we celebrate the presence among us of the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… and grants us peace.