The Evidence is Within
2 Cor 4:5-12
† I.H.S. †
May the gifts of God’s mercy and peace become so integrated in your lives that everyone can see and praise God that Christ lives in you!
Can you keep going?
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see my first two churches. They are 115 miles from here, in a desert community called Yucca Valley. Saw a lot of friends at one of them, as we gathered to pay respects to a man I helped trained in ministry. He was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks after he was installed as a pastor at his first church. Drove by the other, my very first church.
During the drive I back, I did a lot of thinking, about why I’ve been doing this twenty years as a pastor and years before that as a chaplain. I thought about my friend, who at 62 started seminary to become a pastor, and who died a week ago. I thought my own mentor that retired in that place whom I was able to see. And I thought about some of the challenges that fellow pastors and ministers are facing…
And I heard again these words of St Paul that were read this morning…
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
I’ve seen that statement become true not just in pastors’ lives, but Christians who live all over the world. Some face physical threats, in places like the Sudan, or China. Some are harassed and mocked because of their faith. Some face challenges in the inner city, or in churches that struggle to survive, both financially and because of conflict. I know a younger lady, with a master’s degree in International Business, who set that aide to be a missionary among the refugees in Turkey, while her sister is working at an orphanage school in Nigeria. I know people who serve in churches as teachers or setting up everything every Saturday for Sunday service, who volunteer thousands of hours.
Not one of them does it for the accolades or the applause. Just like the Apostle Paul in that passage – we don’t talk about ourselves. Those who know and follow Jesus serve each other and the world for Jesus sake.
Because God has shown the light of His glorious light into our hearts.
That is why all this is here… To help people know that…
In verse 6-7, Paul explains why people would embrace suffering,
. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
The light that invades the darkness…A darkness that affects our hearts and oppresses our very lives.
The darkness has a name, it is called sin.
What is this thing we call sin? Basically, It is failing to love God and hear His voice as He shows us how to live. It is failing to love Him and all those around us, helping them. even those that count themselves, enemies and adversaries, because God loves them and would invite them into this incredible relationship with Him, that would make them our family.
Sin can seem as little as a tiny lie or breaking an oath or gossiping about someone. It can seem as big as murder or theft. In every case, it works to destroy relationships, it plunges us into darkness.
This is the darkness God’s love shatters.
The love that we see in Jesus, as He died to remove all that darkness, all of the burdens, healing the relationships that have been broken.
That is what the cross is all about… the payment for the sin, but in order that we can be in fellowship with God, so that we walk with Him, not only during this life but eternally.
That is the reason for the forgiveness of sin, for the forgiveness of those times where we put ourselves first and forget God and others. Yet despite the damage we’ve done, and may still do, God is willing to deal with it, He has dealt with it. By dying on the cross for us, and rising from that death, so that even death cannot separate us from Him
This is what it means for Him to shine His glorious love into our lives, by revealing to us the love that erases the punishment, in the life and eternity, that we would have earned.
It is that glory that you see, in the lives of people that are willing to give up everything, fame, fortune, salaries, comfort, their own pride, even the right to be angry at someone who has hurt them. This is the love you see, as someone gives up their comfort, or even their retirement, to serve others, This is the glory you see, the evidence that Jesus lives in us, even in us broken down older folk.
God loves us, and wants to cleanse all of us and make us His own people. His own children. It is then we know the peace of God, which goes beyond all comprehension, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 4In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4 TEV
At first we do not know him, but the voice of the Church tells us: it is he. It is up to us, then, to set out in haste to seek him, to come closer to him. We meet him by listening to the words of Holy Scripture, by sharing his life through the sacraments, by our encounter with him in our personal prayers, by our encounter with those whose lives are filled with Jesus, in the various occupations of daily life, and in innumerable other ways. He seeks us wherever we are, and thus we learn to know him. To come closer to him in a variety of ways, to learn to see him—that is the primary purpose of the study of theology. For this study has basically nothing to teach us if the knowledge it imparts does not refer to the reality of our life. (1)
All day yesterday I saw people putting “He is risen! Alleluia!” on their FB posts, on Tweets, on Memes. And most of the time, I was able to resist the temptation of asking “So what?”
I wanted to avoid the temptation because I knew the responses would miss the reason why I asked. You see, I’ve asked people before, and they look at me, stunned, as if trying to figure out if I was insane, or an atheist, or …
But it is a question we need to ask!
So what He is risen? SO what the cross didn’t defeat him? So what difference does this event make in your life today?
If you don’t know, then tomorrow or maybe by Thursday that post on Sunday will be forgotten, the response said on Sunday with such enthusiasm will be put in the closet until next year, when it will be dusted off again.
Does the resurrection have enough personal value to you that you will post He is risen in October or January? Will you praise God that Christ is risen the midst of 100-degree temps in August when your A/C is broken, or when your family is in the midst of Trauma? What about when everything is going well, and you begin to relax and enjoy your life?
Answering “so what” now will help you know the answer when all around you everything is perfect, or everything sucks.
Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI gets this. He is one of the most brilliant theologians in the last 150 years. Yet for him, it boils down encountering Jesus, not just alone, but in the midst of the church, in the midst of others who are the children of God. In our prayer life, in our time reading scripture and sharing in the sacrament, but also in our work. St Peter talks about it (as does St. Paul) using the thought that we actually share in His glory, we are welcomed into, and that is the place we belong.
This is what it is about, this walking with God, this knowing Him whom we trust and depend upon, this being humble enough to be spiritual children, rushing into the arms of our heavenly Father.
This is what it means that He is risen. It means we are as well. It means the Holy Spirit dwells in us. It means we are the people of God, the ones He died and rose to share His life, His glory, His peace with, and whom He loves!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
An Odd Responsibility
† I.H.S. †
May you enjoy the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that joy, may He shine through you to a broken world!
An Odd Responsibility
Of all the things scripture tells us to do, the one we heard in the first reading today may be the oddest.
I mean we are encouraged to love God, to love our neighbor, to love even our enemy. We are told to honor our parents, be faithful to our wives and husbands, to care for our children. We are told to no gossip, and be content rather than being jealous of what others are blessed with by God.
None of these are easy, but then we hear this one today, and they seem.. better defined?
Here it is again,
“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord”
Across all of the Bible translations in English that I have, two of them use acceptable, and one uses “what God wants of you”. The rest use the word please, or pleasing. Knowing the Greek word behind it doesn’t help that much – it means good pleasure – or causing or creating peace.
So we are responsible for… making God’s life good?
That seems a bit odd.
And more than a little difficult! How are we supposed to figure this out? Even more concurring,, how can we accomplish it?
I mean if God can’t find peace or be pleased, how are we to see that happen?
The Darkness that consumes and burdens
I mean, at least for me, I feel that life is often just a longer edition of that feeling when you are asleep and someone comes in and turns on the 250 watt light in your bedroom in order to wake you up.
You know, the disorientation, the inability to really see clearly, the pain of looking at everything in harsh, painful more powerful than the sun – light?
Spiritually the world seems that dark at times, as people stumble around, not sure of what is right, but absolutely convinced of what is not good. Sometimes we even justify staying in the dark, because if we saw what was truly going on, the shock and horror would be even more overwhelming.
If the darkness hides the world’s evil deeds and intentions, it can also do the same thing for us, hiding the thoughts, words, and deeds that we are personally ashamed of, the failures that haunt us, that cause us shame. Yet the spiritual darkness gives us the illusion that no one sees those things, no one else knows them, even God.
The darkness may seem comforting, it may seem safe, but spiritual darkness and ignorance has severe problems, Guilt, shame, loneliness, despair, and the pervasive darkness which causes us to live without hope, without any healing of our soul, or the relationships that break.
The work of the light
So into this darkness that oppresses more than it relieves, that hides from the world but not our conscience, comes the glory of Christ.
it takes us a while to get used to it. At first, we might think that the light is the spotlight used to interrogate us, like the third-degree interrogations in old war and spy movies. For it does reveal the dark shameful things, the thoughts and words and deeds of the past that haunt us.
We need to understand that rather than being an interrogation tool, this is the light by which God examines us, to cut away that which isn’t of us, the sin and unrighteousness, the shame and the grief, the pain and resentment, and the light which strengthens and allows our souls to heal.
It takes a while to get used to, to learn to welcome, but as Paul promises,
“This light within you produces only what is good, and right, and true.”
This light, this glory of God so shows things for what they are that we let God remove them from our lives.
Which is why we can live without them, though it may take a while to realize that, as we wander around, trying to get used to walking in the light, as those people who are the people of light.
This is what grace is, this is why we are here, to help each other realize we aren’t alone in this world, that we can live lives where forgiveness is more powerful than brokenness, where reconciliation is always possible, and is desired by God. That not only can we desire to grow in holiness, we can see God at work in us, transforming us into His holy people.
And this is what we discover pleases Him, it is what He desires, it is what He spent eternity planning, and why Jesus came and died on the cross to shatter our darkness, to remove our sin. It is what we truly need to understand – that what pleases God is our being His people, trusting in Him, depending on Him to care and provide for us, having faith in the promises He has made us, including forgiving our sins, and make us His holy people, and welcoming us as we dwell in His glory.
And freed from the darkness, freed from its oppression and evil, freed from the guilt and shame it causes, we live in the light, for we have had revealed to us the truth of the old hymn Paul quoted,
We have awoken, We have risen from the dead! For Christ has come and dwelt with us, and we have seen His glory. AMEN!
Devotional Thought fo the Day”
1 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?
Hebrews 2:1-3 (NLT)
7 A day of salvation, of eternity, has come for us. Once again the call of the Divine Shepherd can be heard, those affectionate words: Vocavi te nomine tuo—I have called you by your name. Just like our mother, he calls us by our name, even by the name we were affectionately called at home. There, in the depths of our soul, he calls us and we just have to answer: Ecce ego quia vocasti me—here I am, for you have called me, and this time I’m determined not to let time flow by like water over rounded stones, leaving no trace behind. (1)
It is Monday morning, and the temptation is to simply outlast the day. To go through work and life on some kind of automatic pilot, to ignore the boredom, or monotony, to survive the stress and anxiety it causes.TO just moan about the impact of the time change and on top of it, the normal Monday grind. We can, to use the phrase from St Josemaria – just let Monday pass us by, without leaving any trace…
There is an option.
We can hear His voice. We can hear Him call our name, and transform our Monday into something greater, a journey with our friend, the Lord who loves us and cares for us. Hearing His voice, letting it resonate within us, makes Mondays (and everyday ) a time of awe, a time where His work leaves us breathless, as He transforms everything around us. On Mondays we have the opportunity to radiate His glory, to share in His mission, to realize as Jesus was sent by the Father, so He has sent us.
For while He has saved us for eternity, He has also sent us back into this world to help save it, as we journey through life with Him.
Why would it make sense to waste this? Do we value our life in CHirst so little that we would rather walk into the darkness without being by His side?
Or would we rather see this as another day for salvation, another chance to see the masterpieces God creates as He calls to others through us?
May we not neglect this day, and the Lord who calls to us in it!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 257-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
4The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to humanity. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out….. 9This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on everyone……14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. John 1:4,9,14 TEV
786 May no attachment bind you to earth except the most divine desire of giving glory to Christ and, through him and with him and in him, to the Father and to the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
6 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
Man has searched for enlightenment for centuries, we see it in the writings of the Ancient Greeks, the Ancient Chinese, the Incas and others. We see it in the gnostic cults that sprang up in early Christianity, and in their Jewish predecessors that looked for enlightenment deeper than the actual words in the Old Testament. Of course, there is what we call the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. This latter period is one I tend to credit for screwing up the world that I know.
We’ve fallen for the same line that Satan gave Adam and Eve, that knowledge leads us to be like gods. And so, while we are blinded to our brokenness, to the gaps in our reasoning, to the limited knowledge we have, Satan convinces us that we are the judges of what is reasonable, that we know what is best, that if it doesn’t make sense to us, it can’t be right. (Which is a claim for being all-knowing)
Pastors and Theologians fall into this all the time, as we try to explain mysteries like how God is Three, and yet One. Or how the Body and Blood of Jesus are physically present or not in the Celebration of the Eucharist, or how we have the free will to reject Jesus, but not choose to be saved. We want the knowledge of life and death, of good and evil, and if we can’t have it if we are blind to the brilliance of God, we (or Satan) baffle ourselves with our own bullshit.
Which is where our readings and the liturgical season that begins tomorrow comes into play. It corrects our thirst to know the unknowable, by focusing us on what we need to know.
Epiphany is the celebration of God’s glory coming and dwelling with us. It is the realization of the light that shined, that the Wise Man saw and searched for diligently. (even that search was because of the promises God revealed through the prophet Daniel and others) Even as a babe – the glory was revealed. Throughout His ministry, including the Transfiguration, but also the teaching, the miracles, the peace that people knew, His glory was revealed. On the cross, where our sin, the guilt, the shame, the wrath that it deserved, he freed su from all of that, there is where His glory is revealed the clearest. For what we praise God for, is the love He has for us, and the way that love causes Him to act toward us.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit, revealing to us the love of God, the glorious love of God that is found in Jesus. True God, True man, and complete in truth. It is the Spirit that helps us to see Jesus, that draws us to Him, and to the cross, the most glorious moment – because at the cross His love for us, His mercy, His care was fully revealed.
We saw His glory, John says in his gospel, and that is enough. Being drawn into that glory, into the love of God, is what we really need to know, it is what we have to know, no matter the size of our bank account, our IQ, how much talent we have, or knowledge. Everything else we thirst for as far as knowledge is but a shadow,
It is our need to know, and the Holy Spirit has revealed to us Jesus, and we know Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1813-1814). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl;p instead, he puts it on the lamp-stand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.” Luke 11:33-36 TEV
Constantine the Great, having written with great respect to St. Anthony, the religious about him were greatly astonished. “Why,” said he, “do you feel astonished that a king should write to a man? Be astonished, rather, that the Eternal God should have written down his law to mortal men; yea, more, should have spoken to them by word of mouth in the person of his Son.” (1)
God does not want
a house built by people,
but faithfulness to his word
and acceptance of his design.
It is God himself
who builds the house
but of living stones
marked by his Spirit.
It is a blessing for parents of toddlers, this truth that out of sight, out of mind.
Yet it is true for us as adults as well, and then can become a curse if we aren’t careful. For the longer our eyes are taken off of something, the easier it is for us to forget and even neglect that which was once all important.
We can forget Him, if not completely, then enough to obscure who He is, what He has instilled in us.
His peace, His comfort, His mercy, His love.
And what it means to live life in reflection of that love. What Pope Francis calls “His design”, what He wills, the plans He has laid out for us. The more we neglect seeing Chirst in our lives, the more sin reigns, the more it makes sense, the more it offers false comfort, quickly fading imitations of joy, and quickly tires us out. A lack of seeing Christ leasd us to a life we cannot be satisfied with, on that quickly turns toxic, as we do what is right in our own eyes.
We need to regain this vision of Christ, we need to let His light enter through our eyes, to contemplate, to think about, to become enlightened to the depth of His love for us, His people, His family. We need to realize that not only did God love us enough to guide our lives with His law. but that He revealed us the love in and through Jesus.
He is our light, He is our life, and our thoughts need to be infused by the presence of our God. Not as in a rote behavior, or religious obligation, but as our very life. With the joy that comes from walking with One whose love for you is proven over and over.
So fill your eyes with Him! Fill your mind with those things that we praise Him for, things that are true, noble, holy, just, pure, lovely, sacrificial, (see Phil.4:8)
He is with you!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
(1) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
18 But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22 Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, 23 and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, 24 whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. 26 If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. NABRE – 1 Cor 12:18-26
Our faith is not for ourselves alone; it is also for others. Faith wants to be shared. Consequently, it always involves a going out to others, going with the steps of a heart enlightened by the name of Jesus. (1)
I can’t help but think of the the old catch-phrase. “parts is parts” when I come across this section of the 1 Corinthians. So I looked it up, and it comes from an old fast food commercial, mocking another food chains description of their chicken product. The basic idea that the 2nd chain’s employees tossed every part of the bird into the grinders – saying the description is “parts” and therefore any part meets the description.
We’ve come to the point in the church where I think we take the same attitude. Toss anyone into any role, it doesn’t matter what their vocation, or their training. After all – we are all believers; we are all priests and children of the king. So we are like legos – and we can fit in anywhere. Just plug them in, and keep building. Don’t worry if they do or don’t fit there, don’t be concerned whether they burn out. Don’t treat them as an individual. Cause parts are parts
The result of such is a generation of people who don’t value the church, because the church didn’t value them. The church didn’t take the time, invest in them, provided what they need, to be the part of the God designed them to be.
The problem with this attitude is that it doesn’t value the person, or the work God is doing through them. It assigns to each person a generic value, and may even put them and others in spiritual danger. Sometimes, this is simply because the frustration leads them to give up on being “part” and they walk away. Other times, their inaction leads a part of the body to get overlooked, and sometimes they drive others away because they don’t function well where we put them.
Each “part” has its place. A vocation where that person can share the grace and mercy, the peace and love that God has blessed them with. Sometimes that is very surprising, both to them and to us. For all the interests and surveys ever written cannot adequately understand the plans of God. As they find their “part,” they do what they are called to do, and it is natural as they flourish, as all benefit of their talents, their gifts, and the knowledge and wisdom God gives them.
This takes faith, a trust in God that calls for discernment, as those who care and serve the church watch the “parts” come together, and shepherd them into places. It takes patience, and understanding that we can only do what we have parts to do, and yet that work in and of itself is beautiful. )too often we force people into parts that aren’t their vocation and calling because we “have” to have that ministry, or offer this or that)
Each person has their place; each person has their vocation, their part. When we allow them, and guide them to finding it, what we see is amazing. It is nothing less than the Body of Jesus Christ.
(1) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
The Simple Christian Life – Love, HOPE, FAITH
Hope Generated in His Promised Plans
† I.H.S. †
May this message about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ increase your hope and expectation of God’s role in your life!
Even though the sermon is based on the Psalm – I want to start with the Old Testament reading about Abraham. God is talking about hiding His plans from Abraham, and there are days I wonder if the Trinity hasn’t had the same conversations about us.
Not that God is going to do something like he did through Abraham with us. I mean, having a kid at 100, or when Kay is 90? Maybe that is Al and Shirley’s task? Carol and Chuck’s?
But what about this idea that we don’t know the plans God has for us. TO be honest, I am personally struggling with that one right now. God, I don’t understand what You are doing, it doesn’t make sense!
You see that in the psalm as well – when at the end of praising God, when at that end of realizing that God has saved us while realizing that God will work out His plans for our life because His love is faithful. The psalmist then pleads…
“Don’t abandon me. (remember) you made me.”
I get that… and yet.. the entire Psalm speaks to the fact He will not.
There, we can find the truth that helps us, when we don’t have a clue about what God has planned for our lives.
The answer is profound, and it will give a profound hope, an incredible expectation of what God can and will do in our lives.
Even after the praise – Even after the climb
I am going to shift for the moment, to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, to a seen that didn’t make sense to me when I first realized what it says:
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:16-18 (NLT)
They had seen him crucified, they spent significant time with him after the resurrection, and it said that some of them still doubted.
Just like the Psalmist.
Just like me when I am at a convention, or when I am struggling with not knowing which way life will twist next. When I don’t know the plans He has for me, and to be honest; I wonder if the plans are truly good and right.
Because of the sin of the world, because of my sin, because of the brokenness of everything, trusting, expecting, depending on everything to turn out right is a challenge at times. Sometimes it isn’t even about sin; it may be that we are simply tired.
Like the 11, some of us doubt,
It’s not new; it’s not something that will result in your condemnation, or in God abandoning you, even though it seems at times like He has, or He might or He should.
Just because you don’t know his plans, doesn’t mean that what He has planned for us is horrid or evil.
So how do we cope when we don’t know his plans, and this leads to doubt?
Back to the basics – He rescued us -why would he waste us?
We go back to what we do know, what we count on.
Who He is.
Seven times his name, His personal name is used in this passage. Eight more times David uses pronouns directly talking to or about Him. 2 more times he references the name of God.
We have to hear these things for ourselves. Let’s read them together
- You answer me
- Your unfailing love and faithfulness
- Your praises (backed by your name – who you are!)
- You answer me
- You encourage by giving strength
- You will protect me
- You reach out your hands
- Your right-hand saves me
- Your faithful love endures forever.
- You made me.
The very reason we praise Him, along with Kings from all over the earth is that we Hear His words, we understand His care for all – especially those of us who are broken and humbled by life. They need to hear Him, and they shall, for this is His desire.
This is the reason we have hope in life, why we expect that at the end of our days there is life everlasting. This is why we know that as we walk through this life – we hear Him. For we are people who are people who are His priests and kings.
Behind the plans, God has made His nature, the very same nature we see backing up the promises He made and kept in the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Like Abraham, and even more closely, we walk with God, His Spirit dwells within us, His voice resonates in us because He is with you.
Which is why we do what he did,
Hear the words again,
I have singled you out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord, by doing what is right and just.
Does that sound like this?
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
We, those who God has made plans for, who are blind to them, and sometimes doubt, have the same call – to help all of Abraham’s children of faith, not matter Jew or Gentile, to hear His voice, including the answer to the last cry of the Psalmist
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)
He won’t abandon us; He is with us… This is most certainly true. AMEN
Into Your Hands…
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May you realize the depth of the love of God our Father for you, revealed in Christ’s purchase of your grace. AMEN!
Is this what we perceive?
It has been said that people hear what they want to hear. Matter of fact, I think most of us are pretty good at it.
Like for instance, if I ask my wife if I can go to Sam Ash or Guitar City, her approval also means I can come home with a new guitar or keyboard. After 28 years of marriage, she won’t let me go to Best Buy or Fry’s alone. She did, however, make the mistake of letting me go to the car dealership to get my oil changed two weeks ago…
It can work the other way as well if a professor says something critical, a student’s world collapses, or if a boss says you need to improve, you go home and tell the wife you are in danger of getting fired.
When we hear the words from the cross, we hear things through our frame of reference as well.
It’s true in the last words Jesus says, the words that he pushes out with his last breath…
Into your hands….I commit my spirit.
They are not just the final words of a man who has been betrayed by his friends, tried, beaten, forced to carry a cross out of the city, up a hill and be nailed on it.
They are a lesson in faith, an example of great dependence on God.
It would be what Paul talks about when we are told to imitate him, as He imitates Christ Jesus.
It was a cry of faith, not one of despair.
But that is not how we hear it.
The struggle of faith, and praying
There is rapid decline, or so the experts say, in the prayer life of people in America.
I can believe it because we have forgotten the joy, the comfort, the peace that comes in trusting God. In depending upon Him, in the words of Jesus, in our ability to says these words, “into your hands I commit my Spirit.”
We hear Jesus, broken physical and I think we expect Him to be broken spiritually. We hear the pain in His voice, the anguish, the trauma. There is, in my mind, no doubt of the pain and anguish, that He felt, and I struggle to imagine these cries being anything else but the despair I would feel in such a situation.
The despair and even doubt I feel when I am subjected to suffering, or when those I love and care for are.
I hear these words, when I am in pain, when I hear them said with His dying breath, and they sound like a surrender, an admission that I am defeated, that you can feel the hope draining out from Jesus,
Because that is what I feel, that is the effect of the brokenness of sin on us who are mortal.
There is nothing left, no strength of body, or mind, or will. There is only the inevitable; there is only death.
In times less trying we can’t even think of God because the weight of despair is too much. We just feel numb, lost, empty. hopeless. It is as if, for the moment, sin has won, and life has been taken from us.
We hear these words as the final admission of defeat.
He breathed His last…
But what if these words mean something more? What if they are not the words of despair, but words from the last breath that reveal hope, that reveal faith, that reveal a trust that is deeper than the pain?
What if these words, like Psalm 22’s cry, accept the pain of the moment given victory that is complete and total and joyous?
Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.
A quote from Psalm 31, a quote which continues
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Hear it one more time…
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. 6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. 7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, Psalm 31:5-7 (ESV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
These last words, are not just those of a man has hit rock bottom. They are a cry of faith, a cry of wisdom that knows that the answer is found in the very steadfast love of God. A cry that celebrates that we aren’t alone in our distress, that we aren’t alone in our grief.
That though we barely have a breath left, it is a breath that is taken with God’s spirit.
It is a lesson for us, a cry for us to utter, not just when we have only one breath left, but when we are brought to life in Christ. When we are crucified with Him in our baptism when we kneel and take and eat the Body and Blood of Christ, when we share in His death… and in the promise of His life.
It is His cry, a lesson to us with our very last breath.
A lesson in trusting God through it all, a lesson that we aren’t alone in our trial, in our fight, even when it gets down to the last breath.
St. Paul said it well,
4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Romans 6:4 (NLT)
So repeat these last words of Jesus with me, knowing that the Holy Spirit with strengthening you, and help you make them your own.
Into your hands, I commit my Spirit…
And in God’s hands, in the Father’s hands, you will know peace that goes beyond your understanding, even as it guards your weary hearts and minds, for as you died with Christ in His death, so you find life in Christ. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day….
19 Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 (MSG)
24 ” ‘For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. 25 I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26 I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27 I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. 28 You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God! Ezekiel 36:24-28 (MSG)
2 God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours. (1)
This morning one of the first things I read was this…
We wait for years for an extra day, and it is a Monday. A Monday? Really? I mean why couldn’t we have the extra day be a Sunday? Or at least a Friday?
Why did it have to be a Monday? What kind of Madness is this?
I could make the point it is a divine sort of madness. A reminder that God doesn’t want us just on Sundays.
God, our Father, doesn’t want “visitation” rights. he doesn’t want to be our God on a part-time or occasional basis He doesn’t just want to see us when we are on our best behavior, expecting times of great joy. He wants to be in our lives on Monday mornings, before we shower, or have that first 32 oz coffee (or in my case, diet Coke with line) He wants to be beside us at 10 am – when we realized we had a deadline at nine a.m.
What madness! How insane! He wants to be there, to show us His love, even when we admit we aren’t all that lovable, or all that ready to be loved. He not only loves us on Mondays when we are unbearable, but He also loves us as our sin crucified Jesus, His only begotten Son, our Savior and Friend.
What comfort that gives, what peace it brings, when we take a moment and catch ou breath, and realize He is still God, our God. And we are still His children, His beloved children. He has marked us as His, and not just for the good times, for the challenged times, for the times where we throw a tantrum and whine, because it is Monday…..
So know His peace…for God is mad enough to love us even now….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.