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Longing for God: What ministry should foster in us!

William first night in real bedDevotional Thought for the Day:

8 Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. 9 I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are in the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.  Isaiah 26:8-9  HCSB

919    By calling you to be an apostle, our Lord has reminded you, so that you will never forget it, that you are a child of God.

Today is the 9th anniversary of my son moving from his crib to his bed.  Or at least the “on this day” photo app told me it is!  The picture shows him lying peacefully in bed, his three friends lying beside him.

What before had been a bundle of nerves, worried about falling the 4 inches to the mat covered floor. We reminded him we were just down the hall, that we could hear him, that he would safe, that all would be well.

That even if he fell, we would be there, to comfort him, to pick him back up, to put in back in place.  We were there. As we had been, just a few feet down the hall.

That is the kind of reminder we need form God.  That He will always be there, that He will help us and comfort us when fall, helping us back up into place. That He will provide the type of intimate, loving care that a parent provides for their scared and hurting child.

Even when the child is a grown up, one sent by God to reveal him to the world, or to our neighbor. For we are all sent, even as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so He sends us.

All of us.

And He will be there to pick us up, to comfort and care for us.

And eventually, we grow to be dependent upon Him, to long for His presence, knowing that the righteousness and injustice we see cause us anxiety and stress us out. We need Him, just like our children need us.  TO calm our fears, to being our ansiety burdened hearts to know peace. To assure us that He is still God, our Father.

We need Him,, and we need to learn He is there.. and as He sends us out into the world, to reveal Him to others, we will find His presence more and more.

Lord, help us to see ourselves as your kids, the kids whom you love, and care for, whom you protect and bandage up and heal. Lord, help us to long for your presence, even as a child longs for his parents.  Thank you!  Amen†

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2136-2137). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Can’t Grow Up… I fall too much!

Will new camera 12 2008 167Devotional Thought of the Day:
13  Then some little children were brought to Him (Jesus), so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples frowned on the parents’ action but Jesus said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!” Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.    Matthew 19:13 (Phillips NT)

870    Don’t try to be older. A child, always a child, even when you are dying of old age. When a child stumbles and falls, nobody is surprised, and his father promptly picks him up. When the person who stumbles and falls is older, the immediate reaction is one of laughter. Sometimes, after this first impulse, the laughter gives way to pity. But older people have to get up by themselves. Your sad experience is that each day is full of stumbles and falls. What would become of you if you were not continually more of a child? Don’t try to be older. Be a child, and when you stumble, may your Father God pick you up by the hand.

Of all the spiritual writers I have read, and there have been a lot, from every little corner of Christianity, St Josemaria Escriva has had the most profound impact, because of the practical way he sees our faith, our dependence on God.   I would recommend his book “The Way,” to anyone seeking a faith that is more than Sunday morning, or 5 minutes reading a devotion the size of a postcard.  It is no different today, my 52nd birthday, as his words hit home, and hit home hard.

There is a part of me that wants to know more, be wiser, have words of wisdom and maturity that are profound.  To be able to preach words that inspire those who are down, which call people to repentance in a way that they run like mad into the waiting arms of God, trusting in His mercy.  I want to help people explore the height and depth, the width and breadth of God’s love for them.

This has been my dream since I was an awkwardly tall 8-year-old with untied sneakers, telling a family friend, Fr. Alex, that I wanted to be a priest, I wanted to tell people about Jesus and give them His body in communion.

At 52, I am still awkward, my sneakers are still often untied, and though my falls aren’t physical, they are still there.  I understand Paul’s words in Romans 7 all too; clearly, I am not the mature, wise, holy person I know I should be.  In fact, like most pastors and priests, there are days I wonder why I am here.  Can’t God do better?  Can’t He make me the kind of shepherd these people need?  Can’t Jesus find someone who does better with temptation, and able to deal wisely with the evil that is so oppressive?

St. Josemaria snaps me out of this spiritual downward spiral with his words this morning  (odd they show up on my birthday, isn’t it?)  The best thing I can do is not astound people with wisdom, it is to let them see God pick me up.  To let them see the joy in my eyes when He does.  To be the child that runs and desires to be in His presence, even if the foolish disciples try to bar my way, I am going to see Him, I am going to hear His blessing.

Hopefully, along the way, I will drag some of my friends with me, and maybe even an enemy or 2….000?

If I pretend to be something other than a child, as I’ve tried, I will still fall. But I will try, as an adult, to excuse the fall, to justify it, to make it out to be less painful.  I will force myself to try and get up on my own, only to fall again, and perhaps even harder, or take others with me. But as a child, as one who is confident of God’s presence, who knows His love and mercy, then I know He will pick me up, that He will run to my side, that He will care for me.

Not that I want to fall, I want to make Him proud.  But as a child, when I do, I can cry out for help, and He will come.

And if I can teach my people that, and they confidently cry out (knowing His love and mercy)  when they fall as well… I’ve done my job as a brother in Christ, and as their pastor. For they have learned about His love… and have experienced it.

A simple cry, “Lord Have mercy on me, a sinner….Papa, help!” 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2005-2010). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Commissioned Masterpiece: A Life of Obedience, and Grace.

Devotional Thought of The Day:Featured image

16  “Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true. (Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me.) 17  The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18  “If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19  Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed.” 20  Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: The LORD has saved his servant Israel! Isaiah 48:16-20 (TEV)

Consequently this teaching concerning faith is not to be accused of forbidding good works but is rather to be praised for teaching that good works are to be done and for offering help as to how they may be done. For without faith and without Christ human nature and human strength are much too weak to do good works,call upon God, have patience in suffering, love one’s neighbor, diligently engage in callings which are commanded, render obedience, avoid evil lusts, etc. Such great and genuine works cannot be done without the help of Christ, (1) 

333      The best way of showing our gratitude to God is to be passionately in love with the fact that we are his children.  (1)
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I was amazed to see the tension between obedience and grace.

God teaches very clearly that what we miss when we disobey Him are the blessings of a life lived in peace, a life lived full of blessings, a life lived content, and flourishing in ways beyond our imagination.

Instead, we treat His law with disdain.  Before we come to know His grace, we dismiss it as archaic.  We think it has no relevance to our lives.  We believe we know better, and we toss it aside the way in favor of what we think i right.  (and it seems that everyone of us has our pet sins to declare good, even as we have our pet sins to condemn)

But those that don’t follow Jesus aren’t the only ones to dismiss the life, the masterpiece God has in mind for us.  We see that in the blue quote above.  For some have been accused of forbidding good works, and some have denied that what God has commissioned should have any influence on the life of those who have been called into a relationship with God.  There are different ways this is done, a denial of the third use of the law is a technical way of describing it.  Others will talk about being free from the bondage of sin, the power of satan and the fear of death and God’s wrath as a freedom to do that which they want – for God in the New Testament is only a God of law, and not of judgment.  There are some who see the issue that we cannot earn or merit God’s coming to us meaning that we should just give up being good, or somehow we will automatically believe and do what is right.  (Those who say this ignore that Romans 7 discourse is part of the larger 6-8 discussion about the struggle with sin)

The Psalmist doesn’t leave us thinking of what could have been, if we obeyed.  He does hold that out, he does make it clear that the way of life God commissions is not for His benefit – but ours.  It is having realized this, that we can then hear the glorious news, God has been merciful, He has saved us.  He’s adopting us, cleansing us, claiming us.  He has delivered us, saved us, reconciled us, redeemed us, rescued us, loved us.

Obedience, what the lutheran confessions call “New Obedience” then comes from seeing what God commissions/commands as a son taking instruction from his Father, learning the family business and the tasks we work as we walk with Him.  Think of a dad teaching his son to play catch, or how to change a bicycle tire, or a mom teaching her daughter to cook (yes I know I am using old fashioned traditional types).  The instruction is beneficial, practical and present.  Not a Lord’s laws layed down, but a Father’s guidance, which can be heard and put into practice, for when it is heard, the heart receives it as well as the mind.

That’s what grace does. It teaches us that God is our Father, our caring, loving Father who desires the best for us, and is wise enough to know it.  Are we gong to screw up, disobey, struggle and even rebel?  Yes, but like the prodigal, we will remember Him, and His love.

Obedience, the fruit of grace and mercy, and dependent upon it.

Lord, thank you that you have mercy on us!.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 46). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1320-1321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Are You Still Getting Paid for Sin?

Why Are You Still Being Paid…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
For the Wages of Sin?

In Jesus Name

May you know in the depths of your being, that incredible gift of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the freedom from sin, satan and the fear of death, and the gift of eternal life!

That’s it?

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you worked so hard you were physically and emotionally exhausted?  Where you were so tired you couldn’t get up to walk to the refrigerator to get something to drink?

When you finally got home, kissed your spouse, hugged your kids, patted the dog (at least you know you did those things, not sure which thing to whom! ) sat down and fell asleep?

And then, you wake up, realize your paycheck is still in your pocket, you open it up and wonder…. “that’s it?”

That’s all I get for breaking my back, for losing my hair over this job?

I ought to go look for another one.  There has got to be something better out there… something less exhausting, something with more of a reward, something that gives me some sense of satisfaction, some sense of life.

Now let’s say that you are offered the position of a lifetime, you are to replace the president of Microsoft, or Apple computers, or become the new head of the I.R.S.  Your salary won’t be 6 figures, it will be 8……. A 30 hour work week, and that includes your own staff that does your nails, combs your hair, flies you to Hawaii in your own personal jet….gets you front row tickets to the Spurs, Patriots and Red Sox games…

After taking a week to think it through, you aren’t sure, and so you ask for a month, and for some reason you still aren’t sure…..

Wait – why wouldn’t you take that job?

Well, my bet is that is what you are doing spiritually these days… because I know I am doing it too!  Matter of fact, that problem goes all the way back to St. Paul, and the church in Rome!

We have to stop collecting the wages of death, and allow God to give us life!

Why are still collecting death?

As we look at this passage of Romans, we see this point in each paragraph.

In verse 12 and 13, Paul begs us,

12  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Romans 6:12-13 (ESV)

In verse 16 he Says,

16  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16 (ESV)

And in verse 21, Paul reminds US,

21  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
Romans 6:21 (ESV)

What don’t we understand about this?

Yet we freely give in to envy, to lust, to hatred, to gossip about each other, to selfishness.  We forget the needs fo those around us, and focus on our wants.  We even disregard what God says, choosing to think what we want, thinking what we know is right, doing what brings us momentary pleasure?

We should be receiving Holiness, Righteousness, the Ability to do the things that take us this way…

Paul has spent an entire chapter telling us to live so hindered, so in bondage to sin is unnecessary.  In the next two chapters, he will describe this war even more,  For he fights it as well.  Paul knows what it is, to do the things we know are sin, and do not want to do.  He knows the heartache of wanting to do what is right, but failing to do it, over and over.

He started by saying we died to the power of sin, and satan, and the fear of death in our Baptism, when we were united to Christ’s death and resurrection,  He will say in chapter 8, again referring to our being united to Christ, that there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ.

Here he says,

“present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Romans 6:13 (ESV)

and

17  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18  and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18 (ESV)

and

the free gift of God is eternal life….

You see, this justified, sanctified life that we have, isn’t by our power, it isnt’ lived by our strength.  It is found in dwelling in Christ, in realizing His work, in keeping our eyes on Him, and realizing He lives in us.  It is found in being quiet, and listening to the Holy Spirit.

It is realizing what happened to you in your baptism, what is given you at this altar, it is the reason we have joy and hope, the answer we have when others wonder why we can have hope, in the midst of this exhausting world.

It is the same power at work in us, when we look around us, and see the needs of others for Christ, and do everything we can, even more than we can, sacrificing to help them see Christ revealed in their lives.  That same power, as we are focused on Christ that enables us to serve the hurting, the broken, whether they don’t know Jesus yet, or whether they’ve known Him for 30 years, or 80.

For we all struggle, for we all do battle with sin, and all need to be re-focused on God’s work in our lives, as He counts us righteous, as He works through us, to see His greatest desire come pass, that all come to repentance, to realize that He is their delivered, their Lord.

As we realize that those who serve Christ, aren’t just counted as slaves, but as His friends, (John 15:15)  As we become adopted children of God the Father, co-heirs with Christ.

This is why we don’t continue to dwell as if we’ve earned death as our paycheck, as if we are still slaves, employed by the firm of Sin, Shame & Guilt LLP

Know my friends, that this is God’s plan for you, that you would see Christ. That would know Christ, that you would love Christ…..

And then look back, and see that God has used you, to bring to others, that incredible peace you know, the peace of God our Father, in which you dwell in Christ, your hearts and minds secure in Him.  AMEN?

 

He Thinks about, and Cares for US!!

He Thinks About, and Cares for Us!
Psalm 8

In Jesus Name

May you receive the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that you resonate with the cry for His majestic name, His incredible glory, to fill the earth!

What to Preach about this Week?

When I looked at the readings this week, and realized that on hallmark calendars it was Father’s Day, and on the Church Calendar it is Trinity Sunday, I faced a dilemma.

Which incredible thing do I preach on?

Do it preach on Trinity Sunday, and what the Athanasians’ Creed means?  Do I preach on how those of us who are fathers can try to be like our Father in heaven?  Or how our children should respect us like we are supposed to respect our Father in Heaven?  Look at the readings – we have the incredible passage about the great commission! Go into all the world my friends and let’s get to work making disciples!  Or about baptism, or doubt, or faith?  I could have even preached on the longer optional reading today, which was all of Creation in chapter 1 and some of chapter 2 of Genesis.

Lot’s of great choices!  Which one do we need to hear the most?

Not one of those…

We need to hear the words of the Psalm… we need to grasp the incredible praises that are communicated in those words, and then, join in the praises!

Though we rarely give thought to the psalms, besides to pray through them, I think this day… everything else, why we want to explain the Trinity, the Mission of the Church, the role of fathers, everything, begins to make sense…..  so let’s get to it!

  • What is Man?

How many of you saw the moon Friday night, or last night?  How many have looked up into the sky and seen the brilliance of the millions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy?   Or simply lain in the grass and looked at the clouds passing by on a beautiful day, and realized that it is God who put these things in place…it is He who ordained all of creation…..
How glorious, how inspirational, how even creating something like a star, or the universe through which it’s light and energy travel.. How it is all kept in balance, how amazing…
Compare that to us.

Who are we, compared to the distances of space, the energy that could reflect off a moon and shine so gloriously in the night sky?

The psalmist asks that very same question:

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

Who are we?

We might answer we are dads, or moms, we might answer by what we do for a living, I am a pastor, Tom is retired, Chris is a professor and a musician…

We might answer more honestly from our perspective, we are people who know sorrow and grief, are anxious, sometimes dwell in guilt and shame, we are broken, sinful.  We struggle to understand things of God, like how the God is three and one, or how Jesus is 100% God and 100% man… or how a creed written 1400-1700 years ago explains it.

But that is from our perspective, from our view, and the Psalmist is asking God what He thinks about us……. and why He would care for us….

That is why the Psalmist praises God, because God does think about us, and He does care for us…..

Unbelievable, Incredible!

Not just think as in – oh yeah, there they are, the word has a depth of perception, of looking into deeply and understanding.

God – the one who thought for a moment and the moon and stars were made….

Thinks deeply and cares about us.  About you, about me, about us together as Concordia…

And He cares.. more deeply than we can imagine..

Yhwh and Adonai

I want you to go back, and look at verse one for a moment.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Do you notice that the first LORD there is all in capitals, and the second is normal?  That is because in Hebrew, there are different words.  The first, the one all in capitals, isn’t the word LORD, but the actual name of God.  Yhwh or Jehovah depending on pronunciation.  The Name that is to fill the earth, the Name above all names.  The Name God has given us to call upon Him, that we would know He saves us!

The second is His title – Lord, Master, King, the one who reigns over us.  But that to is not always what we think.  The word comes from the idea of a foundation, of the one who provides support and sets us up firmly to stand.

The description of it in Hebrew reminded me of something here, the base for the processional cross.  Hmmm…. Vicar, come up here for a moment please.

We are like the processional cross… without a base – we look nice – and maybe able to stand for a moment.  But without the base, we will fall eventually and maybe even crack someone on the head…

But with the base…the foundation, the place where we fit, we stand….

And that is the nature of God’s reign, of His Lordship.  It focuses on His commitment to us, the promises He makes and fulfills in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

We see it in His sharing His creation with us, giving us responsibility for it.  A responsibility to care for it, to care for each other, even as He cares for us.

It makes sense for God to do this to Jesus, to place all this authority and responsibility in His hands.  But does it make sense to put it in our hands?

It does, when we realize that God never leaves us, that God is always present here, in our lives, even as Christ’s Body and Blood are present in the Lord’s Supper.

And in Christ, joined to His death and resurrection in baptism, we find ourselves alive in Him, His co-heirs, God’s children.  I love the Apostle Paul’s way of phrasing this:

12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.
Colossians 2:12-15 (TEV)

Does God think about you?  Does God care?

Look at what He has done for us in Christ……

And know He knows you, He cares for you…

The Majestic, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Triune God… thinks about you, cares about you… loves you….

And brings you into His glory and peace, a place beyond all description, where we are guarded and protected by Christ….

So let us worship Him!  AMEN?

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