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Why is it so hard to remember this.. on Monday?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
23  “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).  Matthew 1:23 (TEV)

“… And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28:20 (TEV)

159      In my wretchedness I complained to a friend of mine, saying that it seemed as if Jesus were passing me by… and leaving me on my own. But immediately I thought better of it and was sorry. Full of confidence, I said: It is not true, my Love. Quite clearly it is I who have gone away from you. Never again!  (1)

Yesterday’s church service was phenomenal.  Even overwhelming as we considered the difference between life with and without the presence of God.  To think of the difference of going from life being in ruins, to being delivered, redeemed, welcomed into the presence of God Almighty.

But today is Monday, and it started out as a Monday on steroids. I am not sure which is the dominant feeling right now, anxiety, frustration, grief, sadness.  It is Monday, which perhaps should be renamed moanday.

I so resonate with St. Josemaria’s words this morning, I feel like Christ has come, spent some incredible time with my people and me/. But then, He has moved on now, leaving us on our own, leaving us to deal with life, its problems, its brokenness, its frustrations and that which causes us to grieve.

It seems that all the rest, all the spiritual nourishment that should have lasted me well into the week, that nourishment is gone before 9 a.m.

So what is next?  How do I get my work done.  How do I focus, how do I think outside my tiny section fo the world to see who needs to be pointed to the hope Christ gives, hope that I’ve seemed to misplace, myself.

Scripture helps, the words of a consummate pastor and shepherd help, the hug of a four-year-old, who came in the church/preschool office, and offered one helps.

What I have to realize is that this is a passing moment, and my heart is deceived.  God is here; Christ is still the Lord and the one who shepherds our souls. He is here, revealing Himself, if I can but be patience, breathe, and shift my focus onto Him.

There is what I need on Monday…. to be still, to know He is God, my God, and I am one of His people.  Therefore, I can be sure of His promise… sure of His presence, and mercy.

He is here!  As the Son breaks through the moanday gloom, we find His peace… 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 754-757). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to Prepare for Suffering (aka Monday )

Devotional Thought of the Day:

38  Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39  Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.   Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)

5  For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6  And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.   Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)

14  But far be it from me to have glory in anything, but only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which this world has come to an end on the cross for me, and I for it. Galatians 6:14 (BBE)

On the Cross this readiness is put to the proof, and precisely the darkness in which Mary stands engulfed reflects the fullness of the identity of her will with that of Jesus. Faith is a community formed by the Cross, and it is only on the Cross that it achieves its full perfection: the place where redemption seemed utterly beyond our reach is actually the place where it is consummated. We must, I think, relearn our devotion to the Cross. It seemed too passive to us, too pessimistic, too sentimental—but if we have not been devoted to the Cross of Jesus in our lifetime, how will we endure our own cross when the time comes for it to be laid upon us? (1)

It is the week after Holy Week, and many students are returning to school after a week of freedom.  They dread it, for the switch from freedom to discipline, from play to work is never easy.  I think they get this, in part, from the adults they observe who return to work every Monday weary, tired, robbed of hopelessness.   It’s as if we, adults and students, expect a lifetime of suffering during the week. 

In truth, most of us don’t have ti that bad.  It may not be Disneyland, but then again we aren’t listening to “it’s a small world” 400 times!

To put it simply, we don’t know how to deal with discomfort; we don’t know how to embrace suffering.  We don’t want to lose the things that are precious to us, from family to creature comforts, to the comfort of our sin.  And so we avoid those things, find escapes from dealing with the reality of life.

Which is why we so hate Mondays, why they cause such dread.

We don’t want these crosses, because we haven’t taken the time to contemplate the glory of the cross.  Even the idea of it being glorious is a thought we are troubled by.  We might write it off as a necessary evil, or the price Christ had to pay to redeem us. Glory in it?  That sounds absurd!

Yet the man who would become Pope Benedict has it right, he understood Paul the Apostle so well!  We need to contemplate the cross, to meditate on it, and understand what it means that no only was Jesus crucified there, we were crucified with Him. Our real life begins there, with Him, in a place where redemption and healing seem absurd, but both begin.

The Test of Discipleship, so fearfully laid out in Matthew’s gospel no longer seems as daunting. For when we realize the glory of His cross, when we realize it’s impact on us, then we can trust God to get us through the little cross we struggle with, especially on Mondays.

Our cross?  In light of His cross, in light of the glory revealed there, may we run to it, bearing it, trusting God to use these crosses to bring blessings, to create something good, evil when “they” meant evil, or when the cost of suffering seems too high.

Even on Monday.

Cry out on Monday that cry that speaks of both despair and faith, “LORD HAVE MERCY!!”

And rejoice as that mercy is made sure.

AMEN.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 110). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

God, please turns their hearts.. not to me, but to You!

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1 John 4:11-12 (NLT)  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.

But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.

We all have people that seem to cause pain in our lives.  Often we label the pains in the neck, or compare them unfavorably to hemorrhoids.  Some of us have people that cause a more negative response, people who threaten us, who we label adversaries, or perhaps even enemies.

We may not even know them, they may be politicians of the opposing view, or someone who has their 15 minutes of fame for something that causes anger to well up in us.  We may even label them names – either in discussion on FB or over lunch.  Maybe we even can keep those names in our minds,  But we still think of them as jerks, the personification of evil or simply call them assholes.  You might, having read the last word of the prior sentence be shocked I use it, or you might be saying, “But pastor, they really are!”

Or you may feel guilt, worrying about why you can’t get over the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, hurt, and resentment.

Read the passage again that is in red above.  Can we do this?  Can we love each other, knowing that “other” has the same definition the lawyer received when he heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This ability to love them is the work that the Lutheran Confessions (in green) speak of, where the Holy Spirit makes our lives and instrument, and a means of the Holy Spirit’s work.  It is the heart of Christianity that then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of, to realize that for each one of us, every human being on earth, Jesus died, willing let his blood be spilled for you, and for them.

In an old hymnal (TLH), as part of the prayer of God’s people we found a very proper and timely prayer. It said something like this. “Father, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries to you.”

This is where our heart begins to change, as we see their need, (and ours) to be reconciled to God.  For that is the answer to everything.   Without the blood of Christ, spilled to heal us all from the damage of sin, there is no hope to come together in peace.  In Christ, the peace is not just compromise, but it becomes community, it becomes love deeper than any other.

It is in Christ, seeing Christ’s love for them, which we begin to be able to love them as well.  That love may end up pleading with them, not to deal favorably with us, but that which is more important – their reconciliation with God. That becomes our goal; it becomes what we pray for, what we begin to do, to live for, even as God does…

And as we see the glory of God, as we worship Him, the glory of the Holy Spirit works through us… and they know they are loved.

As do we.

”Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 290). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Discouraged? Well then….

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
4  Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! 5  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! 6  Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. 7  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:4-7 (MSG)

660    If you’re an apostle you should never feel discouraged. There is no obstacle that you cannot overcome. Then why are you sad?

Every once in a while, when I read St Josemaria’s little notes, I have an urge to argue with him.

This is one of those times.

I want to remind him of Paul describes himself to the church in 2 Corinthians 6 and in other places. Surely he felt downcast a time or two, as he poured out his life into the lives of others.  Even in those situations, despite the exhaustion the pain, the hunger, the lies, the trying of his patience, he noted,

  10  Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:10 (NLT)

We should never feel discourages.  Sometimes, I will be honest, I feel very discouraged. I can weary and question whether ministry is worth it.  That’s when I come across passages like Phil 4.  “Rejoice in the Lord always” other translations say. That one hits me like the law; maybe I am not a good Christian because I struggle to rejoice at times.

The Message shows the gospel a little clearer – Celebrate God!  That’s the point!  It is in His presence we rejoice. Not that we have to celebrate, like a court jester before a king, but that we can celebrate because He is here!  We are here, with Him.  He wants us in His presence, He wants to be part of our lives, He loves us!

That’s why we celebrate – and knowing we aren’t alone, knowing the work He has commissioned in and through our lives isn’t dependent upon us, those are the reasons we shouldn’t get discouraged.

God Is with us.

Therefore nothing can stop His plan that all works for good.

So if you feel discouraged, go to a place where you can focus on God’s presence.  Meditate on the promises of your baptism, or contemplate the gift given you, and know the assurance of the Lord’s Supper  Find a sanctuary to pray in, even go to confession and hear that your sins are forgiven!

The more you think about His love, the more you will know He is with you!

That will cause the discouragement to evaporate like a rain drop in the desert. St Josemaria was right – we shouldn’t be discouraged, the Lord is with us!

Cry our Lord have mercy… and realize He is close enough you could have whispered it.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1542-1543). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What the Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Death…..

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55  “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt? 56  Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 57  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (TEV)

383 The scholastics do not teach the righteousness of faith. They interpret faith as merely a knowledge of history or of dogmas, not as the power that grasps the promise of grace and righteousness, quickening the heart amid the terrors of sin and death.

(disclaimer, I haven’t watched GoT yet…. but please keep reading)

Last night my Twitter and FB feeds went crazy, I mean really crazy. Like 1000 posts in five minutes crazy. 

Everyone was talking about someone dying, reacting the way I remember us reacting when the Challenger exploded, or perhaps when the way people did when Kennedy was shot.

Turns out it was a character on a television show called Game of Thrones. ( I vaguely remember a similar incident when someone shot JR, but then again, I didn’t watch that show either!)

One of my much younger friends tried to explain it to me.  She was kind of shocked that I hadn’t watched GoT yet and tried to convince me I MUST watch it. We “chatted” across FB for a while, and I went to sleep thinking I might be able to watch and episode or two… maybe in August?  

But I thought about it, apparently this show, like a few others this last year, have made a point about people dying who are someone special to the show.  Someone died in Gray’s Anatomy (McDreamy McSteamy, McBlasphemy?) , And I think there is some other show where they regularly kill off a character. I suppose if BlackList (the only show I regularly watch, and I am a season behind)

All this shock of death, even the death of a fictional character is, in my mind a good thing.  We can learn from it, that death is fleeting, and that life needs to be taken in a proper perspective.  That the relationships, we count on can be horribly marred by death, Whether that death is a friend in their 90’s or infant still in the womb. Whether it is the death of a dear friend whom we will miss for years or of someone across the world.

Dying sucks.

It can cause fear as well, I can testify to that.  Because of a genetic heart condition, I’ve faced it for a long time though since 1998 the threat has lessened because of surgery.  Even so, death has an incredible power over us who live. It threatens us, it hurts us, it damages our psyche as we try to cope with our lives being shorter and more tragic than we want to admit, that we want to face.

Yeah – a character can be killed off.  Even more importantly, a friend can die, or you can.  An accident, a cardiac arrest, food poisoning, cancer, war, civil unrest.  No one is immune.  No one.  (as GoT so aptly proves!)

In the quote above in blue, a man named Phillip Melancthon talked about belief, about faith, in a way that can give us some comfort.  Faith is what gives us peace in the midst of death and dying,  It isn’t just knowing some facts and figures, it isn’t just about thinking about God, or trying to behave well.  It is clinging to God in a way that brings hope, even in the midst of tears, and anger, and trying to make sense out of this life, and the terminal nature of it.

Faith clings to the God, who promises that death is not as brutal, that there is something more to life than ending in death.

It clings to the promises God has made, that He has revealed, that He sends the Holy Spirit to confirm to us and to comfort us and to be our guarantee of eternity. When we have faith, we count on God more and more, and He sustains us, comforts us, holds us close.  And nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love.

So if GoT caused you to grieve, to be angry, to hold onto speculation that the character really isn’t dead, to go even into a small depression, maybe that’s a good thing.  Take the time to think through your reaction, to realize the power of death, and the only way to break its very real hold on you, is to hold on to Jesus.

He’s promised to protect your heart and your mind… and surround you with the incomprehensible peace of God our Father.

You’ll be okay.  He died to make sure of it!

God’s peace!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 165). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Dare We Speak of Wanting to Leave God???? We must??

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

67  Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. 69  We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69 (MSG)

257         The Lord, the Eternal Priest, always blesses with the Cross.  (1)

Last night, as we gathered in Bible Study, we talked about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12.  We talked of how he had a thorn in the flesh, and how he begged the Father in Heaven to remove it, not once but three times.  Each time he received an answer.  Peter had a similar discussion once with Jesus as well, three times having to hear an answer. We all laughed, knowing that some of us need to hear what has to be said 4 or 5 or even 211 times. Jeremiah accused God of deceiving Jeremiah.  St Josemaria tells us that Jesus always blesses with the cross…. but that means there is a cross.

Yeah, there are days like that.  Days were we have to give voice to that which flows from our hearts. The pains, the doubt, the brokenness. We can’t bury it, we can’t just ignore it, and let our hearts harden, for then they will surely shatter.

There are times where you have to exhale the poisons in your system, before you can breath in the Spirit.  You have to let it go (O gosh – not that phrase!  🙂 )  Prior to seeing the answer that is there.

In the gospel reading above, the crowds have abandoned Jesus.  They don’t want to admit the depth of their need, a need that can only be met through the body and blood of Christ be given and shed for us, to be more than just those who observe, but those who are joined to Christ’s death, that we would be joined to His resurrection. With all abandoning Jesus, He turns to the last dozen…..and offers them an opportunity to leave the pain, to leave the discomfort of the message that challenges their nicely fabricated holiness.

Somehow Peter gets it right, No, not somehow rather by God’s grace.

Where else could we go Lord? The best hope we have, the only hope, is to walk with you, through whatever it is that opposes us.  It’s the cry of faith, that God is God, we aren’t, and so we trust in Him. Or like a paralytics father cried out, “Yes I trust in you Lord, help me to trust in you!” As odd as it seems, we need the times in Elijah’s cave, we need to have rants like Jeremiah or Moses or David.  We need to have the times like Peter on the beach, and like Paul struggling to really hear God, distracted by a thorn in the flesh.

I think that cry of faith can only come from the point where we know nothing else, Where we are broken and weak, the place and time we’ve given up on trying to do it by ourselves.  It is then we look up and see that God’s been there all the time. It is then we hear His words, and know they are the words of life. It is then, as we feel His embrace, that we know His mercy, love and peace are endless.  Sometimes we don’t realize the value of that, until we face walking away from it.

And then – our hearts lifted by the the words of life, we find ourselves given that life, dwelling in it, for we walk in the presence of God.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Location 1254). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

One of the greatest blessings, that (or those) who annoy us?

Devotional thought of the Day: 

Romans 8:26-28 (NJB) 26  And as well as this, the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words; 27  and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God’s holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God. 28  We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.

 250         We could get rid of so much neurosis and hysteria if people were taught—together with Christian doctrine—really to live as Christians: loving God and knowing how to accept things that annoy us as a blessing from His hand!  (1)

Romans 8:28 is often used by those who minister and serve others, when we want to bring comfort to people.  Especially those in deep trauma and those who have to deal with the impossible.  Those times when we don’t know what to ask God, those times when all there seems to be, is pain.

Those times when we don’t want to admit we are over our heads.  Like when the pain of loss of a loved one stops us from being able to think or act.

But what about the other times?  What about the times (and the people) that a so frustrating its silly?  When they just bug us to no end?  What about when they drive us bonkers with the way they see things, when the situation is so…oddly broken that we can’t do anything? When the questions asked are such that we just don’t even know what to say?

Are these times really blessings?  Are these people really a great blessing from God’s hand?

According to scripture, they are!

Talk about requiring us to have faith!  To trust in God!

But that’s what Romans 8:28 says.  Everything is turns out to be for our good.

Even the frustrating, even the annoying, even that which is so broken, so wrong, that it is silly.

So what do we do in those times?  What do we do when we can’t find the answer?

Just pray, just put it in God’s hands, let the Holy Trinity bring you comfort and a sense of peace that also passes all understanding.  Let the Holy Spirit interpret, and then trust in the God who sent His son, who died for us on a cross.

That everything would be a blessing, that everything would work out right.

I know – that doesn’t make sense to our rational, logical, minds.

Neither does the cross.

But the One who promised that the cross would be a blessing – that looked forward to it for the joy set before Him.  He’s the One who also promises that all will work out for our best.  Even the frustrating, even the annoying…

Even that which causes us to scratch our head, look to the heavens… and say…

Really?

Yes!

Lord Have Mercy!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1230-1232). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where do we Abide?

Where do we Abide?

Philippians 3:17–4:1

 

Jesus, Son and Savior

May your life find its focus in the gifts of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, His mercy, His peace. His love, but mostly, in His presence!

 

The Tears of Paul, the Cry of Jesus 

Knowing His past, the way in which he dealt with the enemies of what he perceived his faith to be, these words of Paul testify to His coversion, the transformation that had occurred in his life, as he came to know the love of God.

Hear them again,


18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

Hear His reaction – it is not one of anger, of lust for revenge, but one of great sorrow, of great sadness.

I say it again with tears in my eyes,

It is the reaction, not of a crusader, but of one who has been rescued from brokenness, whose heart has known the healing of being raised from worthlessness and given life and meaning, who has been called to be loved….

And grieves when he sees others who refuse such a call….to live in Christ
It is the attitude that Paul would encourage us all to imitate – the example he tried to set, even as Paul would imitate the Lord who came to him, and called him.  We hear the same attitude in Jesus’ cry to the people of God in today’s gospel,

34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.

 

Indeed, Paul had become much like his Lord Jesus… and now he calls to us, to become like him, to follow the path of Christ trod, finding our strength in the God’s presence, and looking forward with Joy, even as we dwell now as citizens of heaven, as the people of God, whom He protects and loves and heals…
Do We Know the Price of Condemnation?

Most of us would hesitate before condemning someone to hell, most of us wouldn’t say “Go to Hell” in anger, or “I hope they burn in Hell” even about the people whom we can only see as “evil”, as they practice which is evil.  I have seen similar reactions recently, heard them or read them on internet, against the likes of Jerry Sandusky, or Chris Dorner.

Even while we may not actively hope that others would go to hell, do we passively let others continue on their merry way towards Hell?  Does it bother us, as it did the apostle Paul to the point that we cry over such people?  Even our enemies? Or maybe we don’t want them to suffer eternally, just a period of time we would consider fair and equitable. 

Do we realize that those who oppose Christ, who disdain or passively dismiss the cross are headed for destruction?  Or do we just go about our own lives, going by the old saying, “live and let live?” Do we realize that such a attitude is against what scripture teaches about loving your neighbor?  Is it loving to allow anyone to head towards experiencing the wrath of God?

Paul says these people are heading to destruction.  The word there isn’t destruction as they might lose their house or their job, or that their families and lives will fall apart in this life. It is talking about destruction as in eternal – as in their complete separation from love, and life, and goodness.  Total and complete.  Do we weep for them?

Do we weep for those who oppose the cross of Christ, who deny mercy, who contend with the gospel, who put stumbling blocks in the ways of those who God would have them call out to?  (It is funny that in the context of this passage – Paul is talking about people in the church!)

How many people do we know who are described as Paul describes those he is dealing with?

Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

What a sad way to be described – to realize that our emotions, our “appetites” could have so much control over us. To realize that people can be co confused that they would choose that which is disgraceful over what is good and right and a benefit to themselves and to others, whose choices are selfish and narcissistic and hurt others..

Do we respond to such people in anger?  Or is sorrow and tears, grieving how they have chosen to separate themselves from God’s love and mercy?

Do we fall into a reaction that nurtures our appetites, that speaks the truth without love, which becomes condescending and shameful, and is only about that which occurs here on earth?

How do we learn to react as Paul began to react?  How do we follow his steps, even as Paul learned to walk as Christ had?

Knowing our End, our Destination,

Paul gives us what he found to be his answer, there in verse 20.

20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.

While the focus of those we are to weep for, pray for is on what makes their life here better or easier, our focus is based on whose we are, whose kingdom we are citizens of, to whom we owe our loyalty.

I think we misunderstand this – when we talk of being in the Kingdom of heaven, and for that reason, we’ll talk about it more in Bible Study.  But for now, our answer to not being like those whose lives cause us anger – if we respond inappropriately, or sorrow, if we respond like Christ, is to remember where we live, to remember whose kingdom we belong to, to dwell in Christ, and under His rule.

It is here, in our experience at the altar, that we begin to see this.  If we see this time and this place, not so much as a routine, or a duty, but a meal with our Father, a time where we remember where our homeland is, a time to look forward to our going home.

A number of people have asked me how I liked the food in China.  It’s kind of funny, because the Cajun food was good, the American restaurants were fine, the Italian was as good as in Italy – maybe better!  Even though I worked a with some Chinese nationals, a lot of time was spent ministering to our missionaries, folks who were there with a purpose, but who hearts and lives were lived in view of “home”.  They needed a reminder of where they were from – even more spiritually than physically.

Likewise it is for us, we are here in Cerritos, as God’s ambassadors, as missionaries ourselves.  A lot of our lives is lived in being “homesick” for heaven.  That is why communion becomes so central, so necessary in our lives.  Our communion feast is the “missionary team dinner” at Red Garlic, or up on the Peak at Bubba Gump – a time to look forward to our going home to be with our family, the angels and archangels and whole company of heaven.

Please understand, I am not saying Christ isn’t with us 24/7/365, but that this time is a special one, where we encourage each other, and are encouraged to dwell in God’s presence, where our hearts and minds are re-focused on God’s love, and the extent that His love is there for us, healing us, providing for us.

It is a moment in our week of being home…

Until the time our weak mortal humble bodies are found transformed into glorious bodies… for the same power that is at work then, has been at work, as all things have come into His kingdom, as He reigns and guides and protects, His people…

As we dwell in peace, and yes, weep over those who have yet to know that peace, or who confuse and bind others and prove themselves lacking in it..

This peace is yours, people of God, this peace of our Father, which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds as we dwell, citizens of where our Lord reigns… and cares for His people.

AMEN?

Posting, Tweeting and the Real Source of Comfort.

“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. 27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. John 14:26-27 (TEV) 

“Don’t look for consolations apart from God. See what that priest wrote: There should be no unburdening of your heart to any other friend when there is no need to do so.”(1)

There is a cartoon of a priest, sitting in the confessional.  In the booth next to him, a youth is saying, “Father forgive me, for I have sinned.”  The priest, with a laptop open to Facebook nods his head and says, “Yes, I see you have!”  While meant to be funny, there is a great deal of truth there – most of us would never say in person what we type into our computers, tablets, and phones.  We would never purge our soul for all to see.  (I note – I have a dozen or so friends with multiple accounts, so that they can tweet or post things that those they are posting about can’t see their gripes and complaints.

The problem is of course, that such posting rarely leads to reconciliation, indeed it often prohibits it.  it may feel like such purging is beneficial, but what does it say of your faith?  What testimony does it give.  If everyone agrees with you and has your “cyber-six” does it increase your peace, or lead to more anxiety?  Will blasting your lack of trust in your boss, your parents, your president really help the situation?

Jesus has blessed us, by giving us the Helper, the Advocate, the Paraclete (the one called alongside to support and guide) rhw Holy Spirit.  It is my thought that when Luther indicated that the commandment about no misusing God’s name also inferred that we must us His Name correctly, Luther had such in mind.  Do we turn to God with our burdens,with that which causes us anxiety or pain?  Do we let Him deal with us first, do we see Him reconciling the situation and causing it to work our for good,  as He promised?

There are times where God will call someone alongside, someone through whom the Spirit will bring comfort, encouragement, I am not talking about that as much as our mass distribution of our gripes, complains, anxieties.  Will we bring them to God before bringing them to the world? WIll we take it to the Lord of All, who can change the situation, or change us within it?  (nor am I talking about asking people for prayer btw)

Or will we turn away… and let the entire world see how little we trust in God?

My friends- cry to God for mercy first – and watch how different things take on a different view…..

He always has answered, He always will…He will now….

So go ahead, He is listening..

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1645-1646). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

On Surviving Mondays…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“By yourself, if you don’t count on grace, you can do nothing worthwhile, for you would be cutting the link which connects you with God. With grace, on the other hand, you can do all things” (1)

Peter, James and John were on a short side trip with Jesus when the man came, looking for help.  Desperate he was, to find some comfort, some rest, some refuge for his tormented son.

The apostles tried, but to no avail, what they had done before wasn’t working, for some reason they couldn’t help, they couldn’t find the power, the “dunamis” to cast out those oppressive spirits.

Mondays can be like that, as we come back to “reality”, to the grind of another week.  Maybe the weekend was not a restful one, maybe it wasn’t what we expected, or maybe it was too much – and we need to recover from it!  Either way, back on the job on Mondays is always difficult, even oppressive.  I wouldn’t go so far as saying demonic… (well there have been some Mondays… )

But where do we find the strength for them.  In the same place that Jesus instructed his men to find their strength.

“his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Mark 9:28-29 (ESV) 

We were reminded on Sunday about this rtuth – that we must depend on Jesus, that we must entrust ourselves into God’s hands, to recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  Yet on Mondays, so often we forget this, so often we fail to remember this.  We let the situations get the best of us, we look at everything with a darkened, pessimistic view, we approach life, if not paranoid, then at least a little hesitant – wondering which trauma, which challenge, which confrontation will next pop up to bash us like a storm.

Yesterday in Sunday School I used a long quote from another pastor.  Not my usual thing – but this one – despite it’s somewhat archaic language rings so true.  Even though it will extend this devotion out – it is good for us to read:

” ( God’s ) Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us. “(2)


In closing consider this – you look at Catholic Saints like St Josemarie Escriva, you look at protestant preachers like Spurgeon, or hymn writers like Wimber or Newton or Wesley and Luther – the one common thread they have – is that we have to trust – we have to depend on God’s presence in our life.  Not just to get into heaven, but to enjoy the life eternal that starts when God makes us his…

Cry out Lord have mercy my friends, and know He has, He is, and He will…

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2)  Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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