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Do we take this faith seriously?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  For you said, “We have made a covenant with Death, and we have an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming catastrophe passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.” 16  Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. 17  And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. Isaiah 28:15-17 (CSBBible)

In thy name do we receive remission of sin and walk in newness of life. In thy name will our bodies rise from the earth at the last day, and be clothed with immortality, incorruption and glory. And before this great and notable day, arouse those, O Lord, who are dead in trespasses and sin. Quicken them by the power of thy holy Word, that they may hear thy voice and by true faith arise from their sins. By the power of thy ressurrection comfort and relieve those who are in any sorrow, tribulation or temptation, that they may assuredly believe that thou art able to deliver them from all evil and bring them into thine everlasting Kingdom, where thou, in unity with the Father and Holy Ghost, wilt be worshiped and glorified. Amen.

We all choose our places to hide, our ways to escape from life. We think of them as safe places, places of refuge, a place to hide from the insanity and pain in this world.

I believe there is a time where rest is needed, a time for a sabbath, a time to be refreshed, a place to catch our breath.

Regrettably, we do not look for that though, we don’t often look for the presence of Christ to restore us as we find rest and remain in Him.

Anywhere else that we try to escape is making a covenant with death. That is a harsh comment, but one we need to hear. We cannot escape the world by running and hiding in a place in it. For catastrophes will happen, and the false sense of security will be stripped away from us.

God will strip those places away, He will shake and destroy them, not in anger though. He will do this because He loves us, He doesn’t want us caught in the illusion, and trying to find deeper and deeper ways to escape the threat of
death, or it as the norm.

There are days we see this, where we find our peace in Christ, where we are aware that we remain in Him. In those days, as we recognize the peace, as Loehe says we receive the remission of sins, It is then we can ask God to quicken, to bring to life those who are searching for refuge and safety in sin. Where Christ’s comfort ministers to them in the midst of their brokenness, where they find God delivering them into His Kingdom.

This is what faith is – depending on God to provide that safe place, that sanctuary in His presence. So that when the world is shaken, we are at peace. It is something we can share, and desire for others. Faith isn’t the doctrine – that simply helps us define the trust we have in God, based on what He says. Faith isn’t what we do – that is simply celebrating that God is faithful.

Faith is living in the moment – with God….

Let’s us do so, and intercede with others, that they might join us in God’s peace!

 

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 139–140.

It’s Coming!

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for the Day!

31  “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32  This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33  “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34  And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT2)

Expectation has always been present in the Church in the times of her greatest power. When she believed, she expected, and her Lord never disappointed her.…
Every great movement of God in history, every unusual advance in the Church, every revival, has been preceded by a sense of keen anticipation. Expectation accompanied the operations of the Spirit always. His bestowals hardly surprised His people because they were gazing expectantly toward the risen Lord and looking confidently for His word to be fulfilled. His blessings accorded with their expectations.…
We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us

As we come out of the COVID lockdown, I am starting to see life in the church more clearly that I have in a long time. If you study history, you know Europe and the U.S.A..Canada are at the bottom, with people doing what is right in their own eyes, which means revival is near. It is already occuring in places on the Eastern side of Africa, and in parts of South East Asia.

But will it happen here?

If Tozer is correct, one of the signs of a revival is the church having the attitude of expectation, the attitude of anticipation. Both are a signs of trust and dependence on God – God who is acitive in our lives, God who wants to redeem everyone. Looking for God to do that, our expectations change, and church changes from being a refuge fro the faithful into a refuge and sanctuary for everyone.

Its time to stop trying to manufacture church growth, it’s time to stop trying ot manufacture a pure and perfect church. It is time for revival, to rejoice in what God is doing…

God has promised this covenant… it is time for the church to believe it is here… for this is the covenant of life!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Stop Teaching the Faith… teach faith!

The word? FAITH

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

32  How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:32-34a (NLT2)

The catechist then takes up a part of the catechism, and begins to catechise not only the children and those to be confirmed, but also the older and matured members of the congregation. Adults shall not be forbidden to ask questions, state doubts or whatever may trouble them, so that the minister may encourage or warn them as need may require.

In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God

O foolish ones of the world, says St. Augustine, miserable creatures, where are you going to satisfy your hearts? Come to Jesus; for by him alone can that pleasure which you seek be bestowed. “Unhappy creatures, whither are you going? The good you seek for comes from him.”1 My soul, be not of the number of these foolish ones; seek God alone: “seek for that one good in which are all good things.”

Loehe, a German Lutheran pastor from the 19th century, prepares young people to be part of God’s family in a unique way.  Look at this demonstrated in the purple quote this morning. He lets the Adults (apparently they sat in on the youth’s classes) state their doubts and what troubles them! These “older and more matured church members are allowed, no encouraged, to speak of their doubts and their troubles in front of the impressionable young minds? The young people witness the pastor working with these older people, encouraging and warning them!

This isn’t how catechesis works today. Now it is all about “teaching the faith,” or to use a less politically correct term, indoctrination. Here is the material, here is data. Digest it, spit it back, and we will make a church service all about you, praising you for passing our class.

Instead of “teaching the faith,” I think we need to teach faith. We need to arrange our instruction so that those we are responsible for experience the love of God!  It is a love with vast dimensions, far more than we can explore, a love that is experienced, for words cannot describe it. (see Ephesians 3:18-19) Tozer talks of this in noting that being born again is beyond Psychology’s science. It is beyond human reason, yet not beyond us.

Augustine, perhaps the greatest and simplest of theologians, speaks to this as well. He just wants people to come to Jesus, to be drawn to Him. There the contentment, the joy they chase is experienced. There is the highest good, the sunnom bonnum of which poets and songwriters attempt to describe. It is no wonder the Old Testament includes a book, solely describes the intimacy Christians have with God, using romance and sex to describe it. Not that our relationship with God is sexual; instead, like sex, it goes beyond explanation and yet envelopes us entirely in the dance.

Teaching this is more than teaching someone to memorize the Decalogue or the Lord’s Prayer. It is teaching them to find peace in the silence of a sanctuary as they contemplate the truth of the phrase, “The LORD is with you!” The moments between the notes of a hymn, where the words take root in the heart. It is in the tears of the one worn out by guilt and shame, as the tears flow even more as the guilt and shame are lifted by the sin being forgiven.

Teach people to depend on God, trust Him, and entrust Himself to His care. This is what catechesis should be.

Then, as they begin to sing…stand back, and look in awe at what God has created…in us.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 68.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 149.

This is the Way… what that truly means!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.”
16 So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a command: 17 ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him.
Genesis 50:15-17 CSB

The Holy Spirit, when He effects His gracious invasion of the believing heart, must win that heart to glad and voluntary obedience to the whole will of God. The cure must be wrought from within; no outward conformity will do.

I still marvel at the hardeness of the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. Years after they joined their brother in Egypt, they are still dealing with guilt and shame. He provided for them richly, and yet they still live in fear, as if the sins he already forgave them for, still divide them from him. They fear his wrath, not understanding the mercy he has shown them.

I wonder if we are any different, wondering if somehow Jesus will pour out God’s wrath on us for the sins we have committed, We hear pastors and priests announce that we are forgiven, we take communion, knowing the blood of Christ was given to provide for the forgiveness of sin. Yet we still live in the anxious moments here we fear His wrath, and try to deny or hide our sin.

But we cannot hide them, and to be honest, we cannot deny them. They stil haunt us.

The key is found in the words the brothers used… “please forgive the transgression of the serviants of the God of your father.” There is a distance there, they don’t understand the God of their dad, who so very often forgave their dad! Joseph knew God, as well as he knew His father. That is what makes the difference, that knowing of our Lord. To understand HIs desire to be part of our lives, to work in and through us, bringing healing, and the hope of eternity.

We need to understand Him, and not just doctrinally. We have to realize His presence in our lives, and rejoice in it. We can run to Him, and not just when life fails, or is hard. We need to play and weep, to struggle and rest, to love because we are loved. This happens as the Holy Spirit invades our hearts, cuts away the brokenness and death that sin has caused, and is the breath of life that restores us. That enables us to trust Him with the greatest pains, the gravest sins, the greatest challenges in our lives.

This is the Way… for He is our Way!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Faith requires our Intellect be taken Captive

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. †3 Remember the teaching that you were given and that you heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don’t wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does. Rev. 3:1-3 CEV

Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven.

2735 In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2779)

Since the Holy Scriptures call Christ a mystery over which all heretics break their heads, we admonish all Christians not to pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, but with the holy apostles simply to believe, close the eyes of reason, take their intellect captive to obey Christ, comfort themselves therewith, and rejoice constantly that our flesh and blood have in Christ been made to sit so high at the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God!

When I was in doing my undergraduate work in preaching, the British pastor Spurgeon was held up to be a paragon of reason. A great man who explained the scriptures in a way that amazed people. We were urged to imitate him.

Yet I don’t remember the passion in his quote above (in purple) nor his appeal for the Lord’s Supper and to realize it is unexplainable, unfathomable, by our greatest minds. Read it again, see the incredible appetite that he notes all believers should develop, an appetite that displays our unity in Christ!

Likewise, the quote from the Formula of Concord, admonishing those who would pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, tells of something wonderful, and amazing. It encourages us to let Chirst take our intellect captive… to turn it over to God, and rejoice!

The Catholic Catechism’s rough question, about how we perceive the God we pray to nails our intellect once more. Give up trying to reason God into what you want, stop trying to find the way to manipulate Him, and realize this is the Father who sent Jesus to suffer on a Cross for you…

This is how the situation the church is facing in Sardis is avoided. People who were considered mature in their faith, but lived an empty life. That forgot the wonder of the teaching that Christ had made them His own, a gift for the Father. A teaching that left them in awe, that made them realize the moments in prayer, and in sharing the feast together in the presence of God were beyond any treasure they would ever know. That nothing could explain it.

Some may thing this means following Christ is not for the intellectual, the people who are brilliant, who are able to capture the knowledge that is beyond so many of us. That simply isn’t true, for these blessings are beyond their ability to explain as well…and the smartest people know their limitations as the ancient philosopher Socrates did, as well as the Solomon. (That time wandering with God will make the earthly knowledge more practical in its application to the benefit of man!)

The more I age, the more I seen the wisdom of this passage from Paul, “

1  Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn’t use big words or try to sound wise. 2  In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (CEV)

This matters… and makes all else relevant, for if we don’t know Jesus, we simply chase after the wind…

He loves you! He died for you, so that you would rise with Him! And the Spirit dwells with you, until Jesus returns.

Rejoice.. and desire to experience His love more and more….e

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 656.

The Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration: The Person of Christ. from Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 609–610.

A Reasoned Inquiry into Faith and Theology?

May I desire to be like this saint, more than being known as a scholar

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking. 24  Don’t let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true. Psalm 139:23-24 (CEV)

One day he startled Mr. Rittles with the question: “Why cannot moral questions be posed with the same precision as a mathematical equation, so that given X and Y, Z is the only possible answer?” The tutor scratched his peruke, at a loss to answer. He had never heard the question posed before; and it had been asked by a mere boy. Finally, he ventured a reply, hoping that it did not precipitate another query. “Because many such questions do not require precise answers. Theology and the Scriptures do not invite reasoned inquiry. And moral philosophy only seems to.” “No, they don’t,” remarked Hugh. “But I believe they should.”

2697 Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.

The best way to see how contemplative intimacy and love are the same reality is to look at the radiant image of the Father, Jesus himself (Heb 1:3). He habitually spent hours “long before dawn” deeply absorbed in the Father, and even on occasion it was the whole night in this profound communion (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:16; 6:12). He obviously was totally in love with his Father, for the Father was always present to him (Jn 16:32). Indeed his deepest love was coterminous with his deepest prayer

I usually do not quote from historical novels in my blog, though I love the genre, especially the era from 1750-1815 or so. It is one of the ways I relax, to enter the age of sail, and ignore the techno social babble from which I need to escape.

I read the words penned by Cline, and a part of me resonated with the students question, and the desire to be able to approach theology and faith like mathematics or a science class with a laboratory aspect. That is why one undertakes learning Greek, and picking up Hebrew, why we spend semester after semester in Systematic Theology, trying to derive the unity between Faith and Reason as if it is some kind of Venn Diagram.

“I believe they should (invite reasoned inquiry)!” That was the young students response. Since i am no longer a young man, I can tell them they don’t, and while disappointed, I also find myself glad they cannot be subjected to reason inquiry.

For our Faith, our Dependence on God cannot be subject to a reasoned inquiry any more than a husband’s love for his wife can be something he understands. It is there, mysterious yet comforting, it is overwhelming and awe-inspiring, yet so critically part of us. The husband is to close, to involved, to intimate for him to stand back and appraise its value.

The is why the CCC tells us we need to remember God more often than we breathe, and for the same reason. Failure to breathe results in our death. Failure to remember God’s presence, and love, to taste and see His goodness and His mercy results in living a life numb to existence!

Spurgeon, that incredibly rational and logical preacher described it this way, “

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them!

Intimacy with God is so different than a reasoned inquiry into dogma, than using superlatives, trying to describe how it is better, is meaningless.

Search out God, even better, let Him search within you. Trust Him enough to let Him in to clean the dark crap you’ve tried to buy. Run to Him to heal the emptiness that is there because of sin. Find yourself drawn into the intimate relationship of the Father and the Son… and let that become who you are, as the Spirit transforms you.

This isn’t theology… it is something far more… that will make that theology mean something far more than data… that will make you understand and be joyous when those rational inquiries can’t be answered…

For then you will know you are in love with God.

Cline, Edward. Sparrowhawk: Book Two, Hugh Kenrick: A Novel of the American Revolution (p. 97). Kindle Edition.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 648.

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 72–73.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

The Paradox of the Pinnacle of Holiness

Devotional Thought for the Day
5  Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)

This passage reminds us that during the offering the Eucharistic liturgy all of us are to taste, to experience fully—not something less—of this paschal mystery. Indeed, this renewal of the Lord’s covenant in Mass draws the faithful into a compelling love “and sets them afire”. This burning love reminds us of Psalm 34:8 where we read of tasting and drinking deeply of the goodness of the Lord. When a person reaches this depth he is close to the pinnacle of holiness.

True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

The “pinnacle of Holiness!’ I love the images that come to mind from such an idea. A tangible sense of the sacred, of standing on holy ground, of being so aware of the presence of God that you collapse on your knees and cry out of the purest joy.

How I wish everyone could simply ascend to that pinnacle. To know that you are that blessed. To be able to resonate with Mary as she is told she will be the mother of God incarnate, to know that undeniable experience that we are God’s, that He has brought us into His presence.

Such is what Dubray is describing, the at the moment experience of communing with God, of encountering Jesus in the sacrament. But he also indicates it is a moment of renewal, or restoring the promises of the covenant. The quote from the Lutheran Confessions, (Specifically the Formula of Concord) gives us the context, and why that renewal is necessary.

The Lord’s supper isn’t the kind of feast that is given to the victorious. It is the feast given to the broken, to the homeless, to those who are hungry for something that they cannot satisfy. That is when it makes the difference, that is when this meal brings the most joy. It takes self examination to realize we are at that point, where without God breaking into our world, we are doomed.

And there He is, renewing us. Healing us, comforting us, empowering us.

There, in an under the bread and the wine..

Jesus…for us…

A foretaste of the feast….

and yes, a holy moment beyond compare, until we stand before the throne.

Lord, as we approach Your Altar, to share in Your feast, help us to understand that we so need it, help to experience our unity in You, that was delivered in our baptism, and is renewed as we share in Your Body and Blood. AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 44.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 582.

Thoughts after Twelve Years in One Place

Devotional Thoughts for this Day

My friends, even though we have a lot of trouble and suffering, your faith makes us feel better about you. 8 Your strong faith in the Lord is like a breath of new life. 9 How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us? 1 Thes. 3:7-9 CEV

Like homing pigeons flying home, like iron filings drawn irresistably to a magnet, like solar flares falling back to their parent sun from which they had sprung, lovers of God become one with the fire of their Beloved. The twentieth-century British poet Stephen Spender wrote their epitaph: “Born of the sun, they travelled a brief while toward the sun and left the vivid air singed with their honor.”
That is what a Christian is. Not to be one is life’s only real tragedy.


Twelve years ago today, two friends, I knelt down and my District President installed me as the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos. A few weeks before that, the church had laid to rest a beloved retired pastor and his wife. Within three months, I would bless the graves of another couple. And over the years, there have been a lot of deaths, people that had become not only parishioners, but good friends. There has also been trauma that scars one deep, and ministering to those broken by such, has been commonplace. Enough so that prayers start ascending every time the phone rings, or a text message beeps.

It would be lying to saying this has been an easy time. It would also be lying to say this time has not been a huge blessing. My devotional reading this morning explains why:

It is all about the faith of the people I see, a faith that is lived out in the midst of trauma, in the midst of sacrifice. A faith that keeps coming back to God, must as Kreeft’s pigeons and iron filings being attracted to their “home.” There is a joy in this, even amidst the shared tears. There is a confidence, born out of the Body and Blood of Jesus in which we share, that even the tears are somehow beneficial.

The ability of people to depend on God in this time is what lifts me up. Just as it did Paul, to see people being sustained by God, to the point where they are ministering to others during their own trauma, is the best feeling a pastor can observe. It is what sustains us, as we see the effect of them being drawn back to God.
This is how, after 12 years, I can look to the future.
Knowing the response of those to whom I remind, “the Lord is with you!”
And knowing they are right when they answer back, trusting in God, “and also with you!”

Lord, as we go through these days, help us to continue to help each other, trusting You to show us their needs, and empowering us to meet them. Help us set our own brokenness aside, help us to leace it there… knowing You are healing us in this time. We pray this, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 93.

When Life Seems Like the Titanic, or worse.

pexels-photo-2056194

Devotional Thought for the day

I belong to God, and I worship him. Last night he sent an angel 24 to tell me, “Paul, don’t be afraid! You will stand trial before the Emperor. And because of you, God will save the lives of everyone on the ship.” 25 Cheer up! I am sure that God will do exactly what he promised. 26 But we will first be shipwrecked on some island.  Acts 27:23-26 CEV

Christians have been making Peter’s mistake ever since, trusting in Caesar and chariots and horses and treaties and nukes and antinukes rather than in the love of God, the love on the Cross. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it, all the chariots and horsemen, even the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety.

We go on to say: “Let your will be done in heaven and on earth.” We say this not so that God might do what he wishes, but that we should be able to do what God wishes

I do not know how I would react, if I was one of the sailors or passengers on the ship with Paul. Yeah, we’ll be safe – all of us – but the ship will be wrecked. I imagine that even Noah was a bit anxious as the floods lifted him higher than some planes normally fly.

It is no wonder that we want to trust our weapons, our country, and our ability to fight back. For how do we find peace in times of oppression, in times where we are persecuted and attacked.

Many communities are facing this – those who find that nothing has changed in the death of George Floyd, or David Dorn. Those whose streets are filled with plywood rather than windows, those who cannot even find a home, because they are refugees. Some places where seniors dwell together still live in great fear of COVID 19. We all live in fear, and turn to something, anything for protection. Just about everyone I have met is stressed, worried, and focused on surviving today.

I wish we could all have the faith of Paul, who not only was ready for the shipwreck but to testify in front of Nero.

Please understand, we advocate for justice – even when we have to ask forgiveness for the injustice we actually committed.

At the same time, we need even more to trust in the Lord, for whether our boat is lifted by the floodwaters, or crushed against the rocks, He is with us.

We need to be aware that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us, (Eph. 1:19-20) and that power is the love of God.  That is why Kreeft makes the comment. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it,” 

Even if crucified, even if killed, our life is there, hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) and the power of death has already been defeated. That knowledge, that trust in God should empower us to work for justice, even as we do so peacefully, aware that He is stronger than the world.

So as Paul said, “Cheer up!  Just a shipwreck ahead of you, and then a trial, but God will deliver exactly what is promised!”

Your salvation and mine. ANd the presence of God in this midst of the storm…. the God who loves you.

Lord, help us to depend on you as Paul did. Even thru the shipwrecks, and the trials, through the persecutions and oppression, and even our own death. Lord may Your will be cone in our lives… and help our seeing that cheer us up.

AMEN!

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 212–213.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 75.

Microchips, the Mark of the Beast, and the Blood of the Lamb

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

10  Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT2)

1  Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. Revelation 14:1 (NLT2)

16  He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17  And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. 18  Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.   Revelation 13:16-18 (NLT2)

I knew it would happen eventually, that some well-meaning people who are anxious would tie the present pandemic into an end-times scenario. I’ve seen it happen before, after the Northridge Earthquake, and as we approached Y2K.

For the first few weeks, no one was really talking about it, now all of a sudden they are.  And the latest fears are that implanted microchips, and Bill Gates and vaccines will somehow enable Satan to drag you into hell. Unless you repent and buy into the teaching of a well-meaning pastor who bought into the theory from someone’s blog.

In order to reduce anxiety, let’s look at a few scriptures.

I will note for the record that I had had microchips in me since 1992 when I received my first Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. I also ran one of the early smart-card programs, as we rolled it out at Pepperdine University in the ’90s. Then, along with several Bible Scholars there, I looked into the claims that I was about to usher in the time of the Mark of the Beast.

I remember a lot of those conversations, and the talks we gave, and letters we answered.

Here is a short version of the points:

  • Notice the “mark” is going to be put on your forehead or hand. Even if it were a physical mark, It wouldn’t be ingested, part of a vaccine.
  • The definitions of the word in greek point at something carved, such as a seal, which is then stamped or impressed ( or branded) on someone.
  • Just a few verses later, in Revelation 14:1, a mark is put on the forehead of the 144,00, a number representing all the people of God throughout history, the people who would praise God with all their voices.  If that mark is not considered a physical mark, why are we concerned its imitation would be?
  • That mark/sign on the people of God is also found in the Old Testament, in Expdis 13:0, 16 In that case, the mark was a reminder of God’s work, that was also on the forehead and hand.
  • So the mark and seal of the beast is simply a counterfeit of the mark given to those who believe and trust in the work of Jesus.

The kicker point is this, that in chapter 12 of Revelation before anything about the mark of the beast, it describes the victory already won by all the people of God. That is the first quote at the top.

There it says we defeated Satan by three things

  • The blood of Jesus Christ, which takes care of every sin. No sin, no condemnation for those in Christ
  • The word of their testimony – what is that?  Simple, our testimony is that Christ has died and risen, and we have been united to Him in both.  (like the mark, this is a reference to baptism – see Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Colossians 2 and Ephesians 1:14)
  • They didn’t count their lives as so important, because they trusted in Jesus’ victory over death.

If those who worried and wrote about this mark of the beast took the time to realize that their victory over Satan was already won by Jesus and that nothing he could do would steal it from us (Romans 8:38), then they could spend more time rejoicing in that! They could spend more time loving their neighbor, and sharing the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, hope that is incorruptible,  hope that eternal, hope that is based on God’s faithfulness.

Relax, look to the cross, see the love of God, and trust in Him!

He has won the victory, your victory!

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