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Wasting Time…

Devotional Thought of the Day.. err Night… well.. you know…
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4  For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5  Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. 6  Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”
Hebrews 12:1-6 (TEV)

522      Even on those days when you seem to be wasting time, in the prose of the thousand details of the day there is more than enough poetry for you to feel that you are on the Cross: on a Cross, which no one notices.  (1)

In more than one way, I feel like I have been wasting time over the last few days.  Nothing has been accomplished, tasks at home and church are going on without completion, and to be honest, the place I am is one of pain, betrayal, incredible frustration and where I am witnessing the brokenness of humanity in ways I’ve never seen before.

It seems like I am wasting time, just waiting to get off a plane and hug my wife and son, and celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for me, for those I love, including my birth family, my adopted family, my church family, and for all the world.  Sunday can’t come along fast enough, as we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for us as we take and eat, and take and drink, the Body and Blood of Christ.

In the meantime there is this brokenness, both that I observe (tears, frustrations,) and the feeling like I am wasting time.

Even here, this is not death I am facing, it is not the shedding of blood, it is an incredible lesson in depending on God. It’s about fixing my eyes on Christ, about remembering His sacrifice, about realizing I have been united to that death, so that I can survive this life, even trying times such as these.  I am driven to the cross to avoid the despair, to avoid the discouragement, for there, standing before my Lord, contemplating His love, in awe adoring Him because of His mercy – there I find the poetry, the craftsmanship that leads me in peace. That poetry Josemaria notes is seen in lives that are broken and healing, in lives that likewise only can find peace there.

The poetry, the poiema of God (the word in Eph. 2:10 which guarantees this isn’t wasting time), healing brokenness.  That I can appreciate, in that I can find hope and peace,  comfort and even joy.   At the cross where He Bled – at the cross where we join Him, at the cross where all is made righteous.

Realizing that, many this LCMS convention is not as much wasting time as I think it is….

Still hurtful, still feel like I have been betrayed… yet God… is working – and that is enough for me to find rest in Him.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1980-1982). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Works are Necessary to Faith…?!?

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

22  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:22-25 (NLT)

 1  Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)

8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

 

 Another of the elders said:  When the eyes of an ox or mule are covered then he goes round and round, turning the mill wheel But if is eyes are uncovered he will not around the circle of the mill wheel.  So too, the devil if he manages to covered the eyes of a man can humiliate im in every sin.  But if that man’s eyes are not closed, he can easily escape the devil.  (From Celtic Prayer Book,, 6/18, Aiden Readings)

355 Sooner or later, those who do not wish to understand that the faith demands service to the Church and to souls, invert the terms, and end up by having the Church and souls serving their own personal ends.  (Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1642-1644). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

For centuries, the church has argued about what role we play in our lives as God’s people.  TO be honest, I find the arguments tiresome, and most of them end up with their own distortion of the truth.  Some would pit Paul against James, some, but looking at the above passages, there doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference.  Some get it wrong by saying there is no work at all involved in faith, and they misquote passages like those that say all work is like filthy rags, or that all have fallen short of the glory of God.  In doing so, they forget the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer.  They forget the transforming work of God in our lives.  On the other side of the pendulum swing, there are those that say we must work to earn  our salvation – that unless we work alongside of God we aren’t saved.

Within the sphere of Lutheran Theology – some would deny that there is a “third use” of the law – that there is a line that we should adhere to, as those who trust in Jesus Christ.  They would say this is a violation of our understanding of the proper tension between law and gospel, forgetting that we don’t preach the uses, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that not only applies the uses, but as He transforms us, equips us with the charis to be used in service to others.

In this I really like the words from my devotional this morning, and our being portrayed as a bunch of stubborn oxen or jackasses. (which we pretty much are)  We just plod along, focused on what is before our eyes. If we are focused on Christ, we work, we do what we are led to do, we walk in faith and do that which God calls and chooses us to do.  We are led – and we do the things that we do… focused on Christ. (see 2 Cor. 3:16ff, Titus 3 etc)   Our service is about what we need, it isn’t about our glory, it isn’t about what others do, it is just what God calls us to do.  Heck, we might not even know it.

The other option is to remove the focus on Christ, to be overwhelmed by all the options for sin, to have the eyes blinded to Christ, but open to everything else. Then man believes everything is about his, about His pleasure, about His life.  Church becomes what is pleasure for him, rather than what is best.  That’s why we see pressure being put on the church to turn a blind eye to certain sins, like sex outside of marriage, or gossip, or any other self-centeredness and self idolatry.

But if our eyes are fixed on Jesus, the sin which ensnares us loses its grip – and we find ourselves being transformed by the Spirit.  This results in works which please God – a necessary by-product of faith.  Works don’t save us, they don’t produce faith or faithfulness, they are simply evidence of our trust in God.

So when the world is tempting you, when you are overwhelmed, remember your focus on Christ, encourage others to keep their eyes on Christ as well.

AMEN…

 

 

 

Grateful to be used…

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the day:

 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of lifeEphesians 2:10 (NJB)

I don’t like to speak of someone being singled out to be part of a privileged elect. But it is Christ who speaks, who chooses. It is the language of holy Scripture: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy,” Saint Paul tells us.3 I know that such thoughts don’t fill you with pride nor lead you to think yourself better than other men. That choice, the root of our vocation, should be the basis of our humility. Do we build monuments to an artist’s paintbrush? Granted the brush had a part in creating masterpieces, but we give credit only to the painter. We Christians are nothing more than instruments in the hands of the creator of the world, of the redeemer of all men.  (1)

Among the mysteries of God that easily overwhelm me, is the idea that God uses us….especially that he uses me….

But this idea of someone else, even Someone else, using me – at times rubs raw against the way I have been raised.  Don’t I have a choice in the matter?  Can’t I choose when and where and … how much?

Especially the how much!

It seems like God wants an aweful lot from us at times!  First all the behaving appropriate, following the rules, do this, don’t do that, and even though I know the rules are there to protect my peace, my sanity, my eternity – there is a part of me that just…needs to rebel.  Claim some of my own time, take a spiritual day off, get some freedom…..maybe even adopt a pet (sin) or two.  I mean, does God really expect us to be available for others, serve others, love others, and forgive others, all the time?

The answer is – yeah – pretty much.

After all, He didn’t just create us, He designed and created and breathed life into us.  He created us and then cleans us up – renews us – breathes life into beings that really, only knew death.  In doing so, He makes of us even a more glorious masterpiece – but the glory is all His.  For in us – we find a masterpiece that is an incredible paradox.  Spirit and flesh, sinner and saint, creature yet friends, partners with creation, dead to sin, yet alive in Christ, part of the Body of Christ, yet also His Bride.  Living in mortal bodies, yet blessed with immortality… people who walk with God.

For we are created… to be His children.

That is His goal, that has always been His goal…. and He is the only one that can assure it.

And even as He uses us, even if that means like Paul we are to be poured out like a drink offering… we come to rejoice even in that…. and we find ourselves…grateful… joyful, that God would use us…. for that proves we are His chosen people.

AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 379-385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Vacation – rest and revitalization…honestly?

Devotional thought of the day:

It started yesterday – about noonish – we started the packing of our “new” trailer, and it took five-ish hours, with my son giving tours to our neighbors.  Then a little over 2 and a half hours to drive the 90 miles to the campground, another 2 hours to set up.

While our popup trailer is comparatively comfortable – it will take a few days to get used to it – every morning a three inch mattress will remind it us its not a tempurpedic, but chaDevotional thought of the day: It started yesterday – about noonish – we started the packing of our “new” trailer, and it took five-ish hours, with my son giving tours to our neighbors. Then a little over 2 and a half hours to drive the 90 miles to the campground, another 2 hours to set up. While our popup trailer is comparatively comfortable – it will take a few days to get used to it – every morning a three inch mattress will remind it us its not a tempurpedic, but chasing a five year old will bring that mattress to call to us very welcoming at the end of each day! A

And this is supposed to be rest and rejuvination?  Hmmmm…

As we let people know we were actually going on vacation, many said to leave everything behind, just go and have fun… (as if life at Concordia isn’t fun, or at least thrilling in that rollercoaster, stomach twisting kind of adventure way!)

At first I acknowledged their wisdom, but realized that part of me wouldn’t leave Cerritos.  I thought it would be my mind, that it would keep trying to work through everything.  I was wrong, something is still there, but it isn’t my mind, it’s my heart.

In four years at Concordia (this week is the anniversary – so about time for a vacation?)  I have watched people’s faith really blossom. When I got there, they had a unique tradition – every Bible Study starts and ends with the teacher stating, “The Lord is with you!”…  This tradition I have come to love, and it really has become that which shapes our ministry here.  ANd as I look and pray through our families, it only is made clearer that we truly need that knowledge, that blessing, the assurance than comes with His presence.

And they have gotten it – it is evident as they respond to that blessing, with words I love to here – for they are heart felt  – they want me to know God is with me, just as much as they are learning to count on it.

St Paul once wrote a prayer for a church that he loved, and missed, and said,

3:14 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, 15 this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. 16 I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— 17 that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, 18 you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 20 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Ephesians 3:14-20 (MSG) 

If I could describe the people of my church, it is often that they are like kids at Christmas, just opening their eyes to the magnificence of God’s love for them…. they are starting to see this – and oh is it a joy to see it, as they witness another person to whom God’s promises are poured out in baptism, or as they see their burdens and anxieties lifted off them as we hear God’s forgiveness delivered, and as we pray…and as we feast together – in our potlucks for sure, but in the more precious meal of Christ’s Body and Blood..

As they live out our mission and motto – that Concordia is the place where people heal in Christ, while helping others heal…

In this, they are being revealed to be the very craftsmanship of God (see Eph 2:10) , or in Latin, the Opus Dei, in Greek – the Poiema – the poem

It is not my mind I left behind, as much as my heart – and the joy of seeing people know God’s love for them.. of realizing that God has called them into a relationship where He is there Father, and them finding rest there…. of them knowing the words, “the Lord is with you” and reminding me in response, that He is also with me….

That’s where I truly and revitalized, and I look forward to being back!

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