Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT2)
776 Don’t fall into a vicious circle. You are thinking: when this is settled one way or another, I’ll be very generous with my God. Can’t you see that Jesus is waiting for you to be generous without any reservation, so that he can settle things far better than you imagine? A firm resolution, as a logical consequence: in each moment of each day I will try generously to carry out the will of God.
I have been at people’s sides when they were so overwhelmed that they thought they would never live through it. And I’ve been there when they not only expected to die, they actually expected it. The feeling as darkness closes in, as our hope in this life seems to fade, these emotions? feelings? Those words aren’t strong enough, this level of life seems too unbearable, even as tears come without warning, or worse, the days when you wonder if there are any left.
It is those times we want to be like Luther, hiding in plain sight in a thunderstorm, trying to make a deal with God. “God, if you will only let me survive this, I will dedicate my life to you as a monk, or go on the mission field, or give up my favorite moments of sinful joy.”
In Josemaria’s words, we refuse to be generous with God unless He miraculously settles the issue, solves the problem, provides the miracle. We look at accounts like Luther’s, or we misappropriate the story of Gideon’s fleece, and blackmail God, only giving Him what He should have if our demands are met if our rescue is completed if we receive the blessings we want. We can even find justification for our actions in Jacob’s wrestling with God, demanding a blessing from Him.
Except that Gideon’s fleece wasn’t something that directly benefited him, and Jacob’s blessing was not a blessing of his choosing.
I wonder if God hadn’t already been working on his to give up the legal profession for the ministry. Seems like an awfully random thing to come up with in the midst of a storm. Repent of something might be more common, fearing God’s wrath certainly, but sacrificing his life as a living sacrifice?
I think he may have already been doing a Jonah routine on that one.
And God used his suffering to benefit many. God would use his sacrifice to reform the church (yes the Catholic Church reformed after that – some of his issues were handled at Trent, and then Vatican I & II… and maybe some more..eventually)
When we try, under duress or plan, to blackmail God, we take our eyes off of Him, and we ignore or refuse to see and hear His plan, and how it will be good. Even in this midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering.
That’s when we need to listen to Paul, and the sure confidence he has in God, who rescues us from sin and death. We learned to rely on God he writes. instead of relying on ourselves. It is a plea to us as well; that we would know we can rely on Him, too. “He will continue to rescue..”
We need to know that. For the, we can hear Josemaria’s advice, to give generously, without any reservation, without any thought of the suffering, for we shall endure eternally with Jesus. Don’t wait for everything to work out, give of yourself generously during the crisis. Depend on His faithful love. Look forward to the day we will be at home with the Father/ As it is now, with the Spirit indwelling in us, so it will be with our dwelling in the Father’s presence, fully experiencing the breadth, width, height, and depth of His love.
Heavenly Father, when we suffer, help us to keep looking to you, knowing Your love is faithful always, that you do promise all to work for good for us who love You. Help us to realize we aren’t always the best judge of that, and simply trust in You.
We pray this in Jesus name, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1791-1795). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)
12 Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, 14 I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 So this is the way in which all of us who are mature should be thinking, and if you are still thinking differently in any way, then God has yet to make this matter clear to you. 16 Meanwhile, let us go forward from the point we have each attained. Philippians 3:12-16 (NJB)
708 The world, the devil, and the flesh are a band of adventurers who take advantage of the weakness of that savage you have within you. In exchange for the poor bauble of pleasure, which is worth nothing, they want you to hand over to them the pure gold and the pearls, the diamonds and the rubies, drenched in the living and redeeming blood of your God—the price and the treasure of your eternity.
There are days when I ask myself the question that is the title of this blog.
The problem is that I ask it at the wrong times, or perhaps with the wrong attitude.
I ask it on rough days when I am weary, broken by the events I endured, the pain and suffering encountered. I ask it with the attitude of trying to find a way out, a way to alleviate the stress that ll of the trauma and drama causes. I ask because, in the moment of the struggle, doubt creeps in and temptations arise.
The answer is that walking with Christ is always worth it, usually, somewhere between my heart, mind, and soul, I know this. Yet I also know Satan and the sinful nature that I still have to fight (see that described in Romans 7). It doesn’t have to be the poor bauble of pleasure, it could even be the illusion that suffering and drama doesn’t exist.
In those times, I need to remember the suffering He endured, and that He thought I was worth it! I have to breathe, allowing the Holy Spirit to quiet and comfort me, allowing the Spirit to work deep within, reminding me of who God is, of where God is.
This is why passing the peace and the Lord’s Supper are such important times in my life, For there I am driven to remember He is with me, that His peace is where I am kept, I just have to remember it. As person after person shakes my hand, or grips me in a bear hug, I am reminded of where I am. As they say, “peace be with you,” I realize that they know this because they have seen it in their own lives, as I tell them. I dwell in His peace.
That message is even more reinforced as I take in my hand body of Christ, and the cup containing His precious blood. What a gift! What a reminder that from the pain of the cross comes my hope, and the joy that is unspeakable.
Is it worth it? This life lived, walking with people who struggling, each carrying his own burden? This carrying of burdens? Of course.
God is with us!
So hang on to this hope, and know He is hanging on to you, as He walks with you.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1656-1659). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Evidence is Within
2 Cor 4:5-12
† I.H.S. †
May the gifts of God’s mercy and peace become so integrated in your lives that everyone can see and praise God that Christ lives in you!
Can you keep going?
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see my first two churches. They are 115 miles from here, in a desert community called Yucca Valley. Saw a lot of friends at one of them, as we gathered to pay respects to a man I helped trained in ministry. He was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks after he was installed as a pastor at his first church. Drove by the other, my very first church.
During the drive I back, I did a lot of thinking, about why I’ve been doing this twenty years as a pastor and years before that as a chaplain. I thought about my friend, who at 62 started seminary to become a pastor, and who died a week ago. I thought my own mentor that retired in that place whom I was able to see. And I thought about some of the challenges that fellow pastors and ministers are facing…
And I heard again these words of St Paul that were read this morning…
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
I’ve seen that statement become true not just in pastors’ lives, but Christians who live all over the world. Some face physical threats, in places like the Sudan, or China. Some are harassed and mocked because of their faith. Some face challenges in the inner city, or in churches that struggle to survive, both financially and because of conflict. I know a younger lady, with a master’s degree in International Business, who set that aide to be a missionary among the refugees in Turkey, while her sister is working at an orphanage school in Nigeria. I know people who serve in churches as teachers or setting up everything every Saturday for Sunday service, who volunteer thousands of hours.
Not one of them does it for the accolades or the applause. Just like the Apostle Paul in that passage – we don’t talk about ourselves. Those who know and follow Jesus serve each other and the world for Jesus sake.
Because God has shown the light of His glorious light into our hearts.
That is why all this is here… To help people know that…
In verse 6-7, Paul explains why people would embrace suffering,
. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
The light that invades the darkness…A darkness that affects our hearts and oppresses our very lives.
The darkness has a name, it is called sin.
What is this thing we call sin? Basically, It is failing to love God and hear His voice as He shows us how to live. It is failing to love Him and all those around us, helping them. even those that count themselves, enemies and adversaries, because God loves them and would invite them into this incredible relationship with Him, that would make them our family.
Sin can seem as little as a tiny lie or breaking an oath or gossiping about someone. It can seem as big as murder or theft. In every case, it works to destroy relationships, it plunges us into darkness.
This is the darkness God’s love shatters.
The love that we see in Jesus, as He died to remove all that darkness, all of the burdens, healing the relationships that have been broken.
That is what the cross is all about… the payment for the sin, but in order that we can be in fellowship with God, so that we walk with Him, not only during this life but eternally.
That is the reason for the forgiveness of sin, for the forgiveness of those times where we put ourselves first and forget God and others. Yet despite the damage we’ve done, and may still do, God is willing to deal with it, He has dealt with it. By dying on the cross for us, and rising from that death, so that even death cannot separate us from Him
This is what it means for Him to shine His glorious love into our lives, by revealing to us the love that erases the punishment, in the life and eternity, that we would have earned.
It is that glory that you see, in the lives of people that are willing to give up everything, fame, fortune, salaries, comfort, their own pride, even the right to be angry at someone who has hurt them. This is the love you see, as someone gives up their comfort, or even their retirement, to serve others, This is the glory you see, the evidence that Jesus lives in us, even in us broken down older folk.
God loves us, and wants to cleanse all of us and make us His own people. His own children. It is then we know the peace of God, which goes beyond all comprehension, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 HCSB
They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” m 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, n “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell •asleep. Acts 7:59-60 HCSB
45 Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders.
If the story of St. Josemaria was not known to me, I would consider his words above to be a mere platitude, words of someone who have never been betrayed, never hurt by a good friend, never the subject of gossip and ridicule.
Having read his biographies, I realize that they are written from the place of experience, of having to depend on God’s strength to lift the shoulders, to shrug off the pain, To see the need, the deep spiritual neediness of those who hurt us, rather to draw ourselves in, to protect our own shattered hearts.
It is the same kind of strength that St Stephen showed in Acts, as stones broke the bones as they tried to crush his spirit as well as his body. The same kind of love, inconceivable, overwhelming love that Jesus showed while being crucified.
But how do you and I find the faith, for it is faith, not our own will, and determination that will sustain us in these times of trial, the times where our heart and souls are stretched, where the pain wreaks havoc inside us.
I mean, does God our Father expect us to be saints? Do we all have to go through the traumas and persecution that others experienced? Will you and I have to suffer worse betrayals?
I don’t know, but the lack of persecution isn’t an excuse for a weak faith. Each of us should see a dependence on God, a trust in God nurtured to the point where our confidence in God, our adoration of Him who is present in our lives that any trial is considered far less than the blessing of being His.
Notice that dependence in Stephen as he cries out in faith, “Lord, receive me!” See in in the words of St Josemaria as he points out the hopefully obvious, it is far worse to lose the presence of God in our lives. ( I sometimes think that the obvious has to be etched onto my eyes, lest I forget it!)
In order to do with anything that requires faith, I need to know God is here, that He is present, that He is caring for me, that He will comfort me and be there when I need Him. All this is promised to us in our baptism, as we are united with His death and resurrection (see Romans 6, Colossian 2–3)
It doesn’t matter what is challenging my faith, that is stretching my heart and soul, whether it is something internal, some fear or frustration, or some kind of persecution or harassment, what sustains us, what enables us to endure, is to know Jesus, to hold on to Him, knowing He is holding on to us.
This is how we forgive those who set themselves against us, this is how we ask God to forgive them, how we keep doing good, knowing this…
The Lord is with you!
(P.S. If you have been able to shrug off pain and forgive, and can talk about it, please leave some encouraing words about this… so others can see that God does help us with this! THANKS!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional thought for these traumatic times
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8 Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)
22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
214 Trust fully in God and have a greater desire each day never to run away from him.
There are days I want to run away from God. I have to be honest, there are days I just don’t get it, days that life hurts so much I wish I had the speed and the endurance to run from Him. When what happens in life doesn’t make sense, and there is really no one to blame….
I think Jeremiah had days like that, and probably King David (who wrote Psalm 139 in a deal of pain as well) did. Not everyone is as strong as St. Paul seemed to be.
Today is one of those days, and I expect I will feel the same way Monday evening… and for many to come. I know quite a few people are reacting the same way, which is why I dare write this, just as Jeremiah dared to write that God deceived him, tricked him, and it hurt because life just isn’t supposed to be like this.
Grief sucks, there is no doubt about it.
A man well acquainted with it, St. Josemaria, tells me not to run (convenient that was in my devotions this morning… ) He tells me not to desire to run, Jeremiah even says that if I do, God’s word, His message, the gospel, will burn a hole in me, or at least that’s what Jeremiah thought. I suppose we could even bring Jonah and Job into this, for they would say the same thing.
God will sustain us, He will help us cope with the burdens, the pain, the hurt…
And we need Him too.
The Lord is with us!
Lord, Have mercy on us!
These aren’t empty words, they are worth more to me than all the other words I type….
You need to hear them, my friends so need to hear them… I need to hear them…
So I will stay, and let them burn themselves into my heart, and soul, rather than my stomach…repeated often…
and praying for the strength to trust Him for them. Which He will provide as well.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 932-934). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
16 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17 When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18 Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.‘ Matthew 28:16-20 (NJB)
198 That way is very hard, he told you. And, on hearing it, you heartily agreed, remembering that bit about the Cross being a sure sign of the true way… But your friend noticed only the rough part of the road, without bringing to mind Jesus’ promise: “My yoke is sweet.” Remind him about it, because—perhaps when he realizes it—he will give himself.
Even as each of us is called into a relationship with God and all of His people, each of us has been given vocations, a great diversity of roles, and the gifts needed to fulfill them.
Yet, there is a common vocation, that of making disciples, for that vocation doesn’t belong to just a person, it is the vocation of the Body of Christ, the people of God. If we are part of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, we are a people who have been sent into the world. We have an apostolate, we are to be a mission-focused people. Wherever we are, whatever other vocations we have, we are called to make disciples of those we encounter.
This way is hard, as St. Josemaria tells us, it can be brutal, and lonely. It may have long stretches of doubt, of not seeing the fruit of our work. It is all too easy to notice the rough parts of the road, the problems, and trials that exist on the road. For the work is hard, our Lord even had to die to make our discipleship a possibility, and so we shouldn’t expect this to be easy.
Fearing this hardship we hesitate, (some translations say doubt) We have trouble committing to God’s work, knowing it will take us on a rough road, knowing it will cost. We hesitate, we wonder if we can do this if we are truly called to it if God would actually ask us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And Jesus tells us, in the midst of the hesitation, even as we doubt ourselves, “Let’s go, we’ve got people to disciple, even as I disciple you!”
But how can we embrace the roughness?
Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, the joy of knowing His mission, the reason the Father sent Him was for our salvation, for bringing us back into the family. He suffered in order to welcome us home. Expecting that joy allowed Him to endure the pain, the insults, the betrayals, the loneliness. He saw us, cleansed, holy, redeemed, and was able to see it through.
For us to learn to have that attitude is beneficial, but we have something that even makes it sweeter. We have His authority backing us, and His presence sustaining us, that the Holy Spirit causes (and therefore is responsible) the changes in the lives we of the people we are sent to serve. We have the incredibly sweet joy of knowing God is with us, sharing in our ministry, even as we share in His.
So, in the midst of the bitter road, we anticipate hearing the angels rejoicing, as another sinner is transformed by the power of God. We hear the joy as one is baptized, or bows their knees at the altar, amazed that they are welcome, that their presence is desired. What joy they know, and how joyous is it for us to see!
This is our vocation, for all the members of the Body of Christ, we share in it, in the joy, in the tears, led by or Lord who shares in it all with us.
And that is truly sweet….
So when tired, worn out, struggling, look to the Lord who is with you, and know the joy set before us all. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1034-1038). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Attitude of Endurance Pt 1
As You Journey through this life, may the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the God’s passionate care for His people!
Nothing will stand in the way
Attitude is often the difference between victory, and failure.
For a student, it is necessary, in order to master the material. Determination makes the difference, far more often than intelligence does. For some things can only be learned through slow repetition. Attitude matters then because a determined attitude will see you through the boring times
For an athlete, an attitude of determination can be the difference between victory and defeat. When an inch matters, determination can stop your opponent.
What about a husband and wife? Do they need to have the correct attitude to see their marriage survive?
What about a believer? Does our attitude help us endure, trusting in God
Or an elder or a pastor? Does attitude have anything to do with how we minister to those around us?
What about our Savior?
If we are to endure this life, and the challenges to our faith, does Christ’s attitude matter?
As Jesus clears the temple courtyard, we see His dedication to seeing us endure. An attitude we need to imitate, that we all need to model for those who need to know His love.
Why was this wrong? Some background
As the Passover nears, people gathered from all over the Mediterranean Basin. They traveled from Rome, from Greece, from Alexandria Egypt and Babylon. Two parts of their journey that mattered were paying the temple tax, and offering pure; unblemished sacrifices, as important to them as our sacraments are to us
Without doing these things, they weren’t included in the people of God. Not by their choice, by God’s rules.
So people provided what they needed, the bulls, the sheep and pigeons, and others provided the special coins needed to pay the temple tax and offering. In the process, a business came up, and some people thrived on it, some even made quite a prophet, as people had to offer these sacrifices.
It wasn’t just the extraordinarily high-profit margins that bothered Jesus. Far more critical was the location for these religious businesses.
The Courtyard of the Gentiles, also known as the courtyard of prayer.
The place set aside, the holy place where the people who were not in Covenant could come and pray. The people Solomon prayed for at the dedication of the temple, centuries before:
41 And don’t forget the foreigner who is not a member of your people Israel but has come from a far country because of your reputation. 42 People are going to be attracted here by your great reputation, your wonder-working power, who come to pray at this Temple. 43 Listen from your home in heaven. Honor the prayers of the foreigner so that people all over the world will know who you are and what you’re like and will live in reverent obedience before you, just as your own people Israel do; so they’ll know that you personally make this Temple that I’ve built what it is. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (MSG)
Imagine the noise of the animals of those people running the coin exchange and the negotiations.
Imagine the noise of Walmart at Christmas time, going on here, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper!
People, who’ve journeyed days and weeks are trying to cry out to God, and they so need to hear him. While bath’s and moo’s and the high-pitched cry of the birds and the all the talking is going on.
Don’t you see people trying to pray amid all the distractions?
They will be able to pray soon, for Jesus will make it peaceful, just as soon as He cleans house.
Bring it home
As I read this, I wonder how Jesus would clean up the church today. It is easy to answer that for the church throughout the world, but how would he clean house here?
What things do we do, that get in the way of people knowing they are forgiven children of God? What here at Concordia would make it difficult for someone who isn’t yet a believer, find it hard to hear His voice, and see His love revealed?
Maybe these aren’t things we do for money, but that we do for our comfort. Or things we don’t do, because they would make our lives uncomfortable?
If you think about the church in Luther’s time, it’s easy.
The church did everything in a language that people didn’t understand. And in order to find complete forgiveness, there was always something attached. You needed to purchase this indulgence, go on that pilgrimage, be blessed by this relic or that.
They blocked the people from having access to God’s love, to His comfort, to knowing they were forgiven. We do the same thing, perhaps without realizing it, as we cherish our practices, without realizing why they are precious. We want to keep them, but do we realize they might get in the way of someone searching for God?
The church at large could have a myriad of examples, and that is perhaps the biggest. We don’t speak with one voice about our World’s need for God, their only hope to deal with the brokenness of sin in their lives.
Some hide the brokenness, others simply condemn it, without sharing the hope God has given us, in our brokenness. We do the same thing, depending on the sin. Some we treat as unforgivable, without knowing the person sitting next to us is dealing with brokenness because of that sin. Other sins, we overlook, knowing that we are struggling with it, or someone else we love is.
And our house needs to be cleaned out. We need God to come through, and break down the barriers we set up. We need Him to help us realize that this place is a place of prayer, for Christians, and for those He is calling to, desire that they come to repentance!
Endurance – loving God, loving those around us
This is where attitude and endurance come into play. It is not our attitude and endurance rather it is our Lord’s.
He will do whatever it takes to bring people to the Father. He will humble the proud and lift up the weak. He will comfort those who need it, come alongside those who are mourning, confront the hard-hearted believers, who believe in God, yet need their hardened hearts broken and cleansed. He will forgive those who confess their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. He will also challenge those whose sin is so controlling them, that only He can free them from it.
He will hear our prayers! The Spirit will reveal God in all His glory, in all His mercy, in all His love.
As we are transformed into His image, this becomes our lives, as we struggle with those things that stop people from knowing His love, His grace, His peace. Those things will come to bug us, and we will struggle with them but realizing His grace and what it means, and that others know it,
We will endure, we will ask Him to cleanse our spiritual homes, we will ask Him to know His love. His attitude will become our attitude…
And it will happen. As we treasure His peace, they will come to know it, and know that He hears their prayers, even as He does ours!
The Benefit of Endurance: Part II
† IHS †
As you endure the challenges of this life, may your realize the height, the depth, the width and the breadth of the Father’s love, revealed to you, as you dwell in Christ Jesus!
What’s the use?
There are days, I wonder if all of this is worth it.
The amount of work it takes to pastor a church, to train deacons, to mentor vicars, to work with our school. Why not just work a normal 40 or 50 hour a week job, and have a nice home Bible Study.
It is not that I dislike being a pastor, or that I can’t do anything else. There are days when this job is depressing, and then there are the bad days.
Days were I see the grip that sin has on people and have to wait and watch them struggle. Where I have to watch the effect of that sin on the families and friends who are torn apart by the impact of the sin.
Days where those in the church act less like Jesus than those who seem to be outside the family of God. When people try to run churches and ministries and Christian universities and seminaries as if the bottom line was what mattered.
Days where I see those in the church suffering and hear of those who are being persecuted.
Days where I sit alongside those who are battling life itself.
There is a temptation to ask, “what’s the use”?
That is when we need something because there are days when caffeine doesn’t work!
We need to endure and to do that; we need to see the benefit of enduring.
We Seem So Helpless!
In our reading from Romans, St. Paul notes the way we are before we know God’s love. He describes us this way,
“When we were utterly helpless,”
The context of this is in regards to sin, that point “while we were still sinners”.
The challenge is seeing this in view of sin, not as one part particular sin, but the bondage that sin has us under, apart from being in Christ.
The helplessness that being in bondage to sin causes is that it blinds us to God. It can cause us to chase our desires, rather than choose what is good and right in God’s sight. It causes us to doubt, it can blind us to the hope God has given us. Sin robs us of our strength of character. Sin robs us of our peace with God, the comfort that comes from knowing and trusting in Him.
As believers, we know the damage a sin can cause.
Even as we look at the sins, we commit in thought, word and deed, there is a sense of helplessness. As we look at the sinfulness, the injustice, the evil and brokenness of this world, that sense of helplessness could almost overwhelm us.
Occasionally, it still does.
We’ve lost sight of God, and for the moment, our faith waivers, and we fall.
It is then that we feel utterly helpless, and we ask, what’s the use? What difference will it make? Why do we have to endure?
The helplessness comes from missing the end result, the difference the cross makes.
Here is why: We Are Reconciled
Hear again the words of Paul,
10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
We need to understand that, the reason Christ died for us, while we in bondage to sin, while we were dead in our sins and trespasses, is to restore us from enemies to being friends with God.
That is what reconciliation is, that is what this is all about, to help us understand God’s desire for His people. To help us hear the words found in John’s gospel,
“15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. John 15:15 (TEV)
This is the reason we endure! To know God this well!
You look at all the ways God tells us that we are His; we are His family, the bride of Jesus Christ, the children of God. He calls us by His name, He cleanses us, adopts us, gives us life. He redeems us, paying for us to be freed from the slavery we were in to sin.
We have been made friends with God, as Paul puts it,
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
This is why we endure, not because of our strength, but the place God puts us, as we trust Him. He places us in life, and the Holy Spirit testifies to us, that we shall share in the glory of God. This is the very work of Holy Spirit, as the Spirit brings to mind the words of Christ, that we know His work, and we trust in His promises.
So Let’s Rejoice!
So how do we endure? How do we find ourselves strengthened, becoming more and more confident in our salvation? How do we do what Paul describes us doing in verse 11?
11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us we do this for each other, coming alongside each other to remind each other of the love of God for us, His family. As I think of that, I can picture time after time that you’ve done this for me. From those who treasure their baptism, to the look in people’s eyes as they come to the feast and receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
I think of Mr. Anderson’s remembering his baptism as he walks by the font, and Chuck’s desire to be part of every baptism since Kay and Rachel were baptized. I think of Chris, and his meddling with his own faith, struggling to not only preach about what it means to pray that God’s name would be holy, but to let God make it happen in His life. I see people enduring things that stymie the imagination, occasionally struggling but looking to God and His people for relief. And I think of the next generation, of Isabelle and XXX, just young children, imitating their parents with great desire and joy at the altar a few weeks ago. Even little Violet, as she cried when mom wanted to take her away from the altar rail last Wednesday night. She was comfortable here, knowing God’s peace. So much so that leaving the communion rail was worth a few cries of objection.
Is it worth it? What is the use of all this?
I love Paul’s prayer for the church, the very thing that turns our struggles into endurance, our endurance based on confidence in God’s faithfulness His prayer which I pray for you as well.
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 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. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)
That as Paul opened with, that we would endure knowing that,
“we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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. Revelation 12:11 (NLT)
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 (NLT)
1008 In the hour of temptation, practise the virtue of Hope, saying: For my rest and enjoyment I have the whole of eternity ahead of me. Here and now, full of Faith, I will earn my rest through work and win my joy through suffering. What will Love be like in Heaven? Better still, you should practise your Love by saying: What I want is to please my God, my Love, by doing his Will in all things, as though there were neither reward nor punishment—simply to please him. (1)
We all have temptations.
Some involve things we desire. Chocolate, desserts, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex in any form other than marriage, gossip, slander (especially those people we don’t like). We can even be tempted to whine and throw a pity party, confident that no one has ever been challenged with what we face.
There are also temptations to avoid things: confrontation, suffering, discomfort, having to sacrifice things that are important to us, even martyrdom. We may not like reality as we perceive it, and the temptation is to believe that perception and hide from that which we cannot control or enjoy.
We pray to God that He would strengthen us against such things, but we fail for so many of them. You aren’t alone in this dear reader, I fail as well, so does every priest and pastor you encounter. Every saint was tempted, and of all History, only Jesus was tested in all points and never succumbed.
Does that mean we stop striving for it and give it up? Do we just enjoy that which damages our bodies and souls? Do we just find our cave, and hide from anyone who might do us harm, including ourselves?
For if we can’t overcome temptation, if we can’t live the perfect, holy life, then why try?
Does God really expect us to live miserably, failing over and again?
The answer is seen in the quotes above, in the description of our lives, found in the Book of Revelation. Yes, the description of our lives, pictured as those who have overcome, (the word nike in Greek – we just did it!) How?
By the blood of Christ – the promise of our being rescued from this life and the damage caused to it by sin. We count on that; we have confidence that God is doing exactly that in this wearying life.
We trust in what God reveals! We know it so well that we are willing to testify to it, testify to it, even like the martyrs who died, rather than give up the hope that God instills in us…
The last comment is perhaps the hardest; we don’t cling to this life so much, that we face anxiety and fear in view of death. This isn’t easy, to not know this life, the only life we know. It is hard to focus on the future. We have obligations and pressures. We have to keep in balance so many different things.
I love Escriva’s two-step approach to this. The first, to have the ultimate sense of delayed gratification. To know what God awaits us, and press on like Paul – to reach that which God has already made it possible to enjoy. That challenges our perceptions, which our sacrifices are complete, that our commitment goes over and above what should be expected.
The second phase is where Christian maturity is revealed, where we have started to understand the depth of God’s love, the blessings He pours out on us, by loving us like that.
To endure life, to work through temptation and trial, to sacrifice things in this life, because doing so frees us to do something that brings God joy! When we got to the point where we don’t do things for the rewards of heaven, but simply because of love for God.
This attitude only occurs when we realize first His love.
Realizing His love puts this life with its trials, temptations and sacrifices into perspective.
I pray that as we deal with the trials and temptations of life, that first and foremost, we look to God and know His love and promises.
For then we know the Blood of Christ, we see it at work in our lives, we treat life in view of eternity, and because of God, we overcome.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3553-3557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Benefit of Endurance
May you recognize the presence of God so clearly, and His attitude toward you, which you simply endure with patience all that is on your journey towards home.
How do you?
Her words, words of one who endured the greatest of hardships, echo through our souls. Hear them, as reported in an interview with her son.
“Asked by host Maher Fayez what he would say if he were asked to forgive ISIS, he related what his mother said she would do if she saw one of the men who killed her son. “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.” (1)
There is a lady who knows how to endure, because of her faith in Christ.
Her desire is not revenge, it is not to cause pain, it is to see the mercy of God be revealed as clearly as it was at the cross. A mother of a martyr, inviting her son’s murderer’s to come into her house? An invitation of hospitality that guaranteed them of her love, and that no harm would come to them.
How could she endure the pain, the suffering and relive it with ISIS militants in her home?
She knew the benefit that endurance brings. She could revel in it, knowing the goodness of God. She would have no problems with the words from our epistle today. She would understand well verse 12,
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!
There is no way to compare the lives we endure to hers. But the testing we endure has the similar out, the similar temptation.
To cry out to God, with pain and doubt, “God, why did You allow this to happen? Why would You allow evil to flourish on this day?”
Hear the words of James again,
13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.
These trials, these temptations to abandon God are not His work. These sins committed against us, as well as the sins we commit, are not His fault, nor His work.
They develop from our own desire, our inability to look past what benefits us and our own. It is easy to see in the violence of groups like ISIS, or the groups in our country who promote death as a solution to inconveniences like pregnancy or old age.
It is that same narcissism, that same self-centeredness that is at the heart of all sin. Whether it be envy, gossip, disobedience and disrespect to parents and authorities or the sexual sins, that seem to head often up such lists.
Sin is sin, whether in thought, word or deed, originates in the desire to serve ourselves, to put ourselves in God’s place. In order to get that which we think we would like, we would have to be in charge. Such is the nature of revenge, which Paul says in Romans 13 belongs to God alone. Desire to make our lives something, to value them, lies at the heart of all sin.
Sin, which takes hold of our life, and snuffs it out. Sin that suffocates us, destroying relationships, eventually crushing us and leaving us in hell.
So where does a lady find the strength to endure, to entrust not only her son to God, but to embrace his killers, with the hope they would see God’s love revealed to them?
Really? His Prized Possession?
it is trusting words like these, “16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
There is our key, understanding that what God does give us is good. Trusting Him to know what is perfect for us, not just for the moment, not just to satisfy a desire, but to give us far more than we could ever desire.
That uneducated Coptic lady, she was able to endure because she knew the good and perfect gift of God, something so incredible, she wanted it even for those who killed her son.
She trusted God, and the answer is how?
She knew His heart, His love, His mercy, from the gift He had given her, of His Son. The Son who would die that we could be born again in baptism. The Son, who was the Word of God made flesh and living with us. A God who comes to people, imperfect, sinful people and transforms them into saints.
Who would become His prized possession.
Think of that – out of all of creation, what God prizes most is His relationship with His people, you and I and those who died, and maybe, those who killed them, who were touched by the faith of martyrs, and those who respond with God’s love.
What an incredible miracle, what a blessing.
This message, like the series that follows, is all about the benefits of endurance. The benefit of endurance is not just our heavenly crowns that God has promised. The benefit of endurance is found in the only way we can find the way to endure.
In being found in Christ, in knowing His forgiving mercy, in knowing His love, in living in the peace of Christ that is yours…..
The benefit of endurance is found in our relationship with Him being revealed. For in Him we live and breath and endure…
- “Brother of slain Coptic Christians thanks ISIS for including …” ttp://christiantoday.com/article/brother.of.slain.coptic.christians.thanks.isis.for.including.their.words.of.faith.in.murder.video/48412.htm_br