Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. 21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22 The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— 23 I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:20-23 (MSG)
But the opposite can also happen: men, who are made for love, can find in this presence that is everywhere around them the security for which their whole being cries out. They can see therein a victory over the loneliness that no human individual can ever banish even though it is in direct contradiction to our being, which cries out for a You, for someone to share our life. In this secret presence, men can find a reason for the confidence that makes life possible for them. At this point, their response to the question of God’s existence acquires critical proportions.
Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him266 and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,267 some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;1* but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him
My name is Dustin, and I am an extrovert. My vocation is that of being a pastor, where it seems I am constantly surrounded by people.
And I get lonely.
Even with an awesome church that doesn’t acknowledge the formal line between my being their pastor and being their friend! (this is a great blessing, an incredible one) Even with a great wife and incredibly bright son. it still happens.
There is time to be alone, but loneliness is a different thing. Being alone is needed at times, and is both restful and restorative. Loneliness is wearing, it is needing someone to relate to, of not wanting to be alone, of needing not to be alone.
Loneliness, Pope Benedict wrote, was something we can never banish. He also noted how it is in direct contradiction to our very existence. That creates a very ugly paradox, the one thing we can’t avoid is what robs us of who we are. The emptiness, the inability to express love, and ot know we are loved wreaks havoc with our psyche, with our soul. We are designed to share this life we live with others, which is why sin is so devastating, as it shatters our ability to relate to others. It devalues them, and without anyone to truly value us, the loneliness drives us further into despair, and into the bondage of sin and addiction.
I said I knew this struggle, as do many of those I know in ministry, as most people who are happily married. There are still times where the darkness of loneliness forms and tries to crush the individual.
so where do I find hope?
Among other places, I find it in singing a hymn in our liturgy. The words preceding it are “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven, we praise and magnify your glorious name..even more praising you and singing” In that moment, I realize that friends that have passed away, and others that are singing it with me, and millions across the globe (along with angels ) are praising God together. Our voices are crying out to save us, (for this is what Hosanna means) to the One who can save us. Save us from the sin which divides us, from that which makes breaks us and leaves us unable to love, and unable to perceive we are loved.
We are, the very people the Spirit draws to Jesus, and in united to Jesus, we find our unity in God our Father, we are in Him, even a Jesus is.
As I read these words of mine, they seem too theological, to philosophical, to other-worldly to communicate the truth, the reality that I know. The presence of God, that should I remember leaves me never alone, and brings draws me out of the darkness, of my loneliness, and fills me with peace and comfort and joy.
This is why the gathering of believers around God’s word, and the sacraments where God pours out Hiss
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.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34 (NLT)
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69 (NLT)
906 Et regni eius non erit finis—“His kingdom will have no end.” Doesn’t it fill you with joy to work for a kingdom like that?
A little over a year ago, I was at a funeral where one of my early mentors preached. He made a point very clear that we no longer preach about eternity. He asked me if I, no longer in that denomination, ever mentioned eternity in my sermons, and I indicated I did, and while I do, the conversation took a back burner for a while.
I do mention it in sermons, for it is the 2nd great promise of our baptism,, the first being the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is why the removal of our sin is so critical, for those who are counted as sinners, those who are bound by them, have an eternity that is not what I would call life. (hell does exist, but how it is clearly described is an existence that is not what we think of as life.)
But I think we put off eternity, we have defined it as a reality we cannot know until we die. It is “after-life” in many people’s thoughts. Not life right now, eternity and heaven are not visible we think. I believe this is, in part due to passages that describe the final judgment, and what theologians call the “not yet”.of the “now and not yet.”
We need to understand that there is a “now” to eternity. That even as we struggle to see it, the love we know now is no different than the love we shall know then. We will just be more aware of it, we will see it more clearly.
How different would our lives be if we could begin to realize the truth of Paul’s words to the church in Colossae,
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT)
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)
Eternity has begun. It is hard to see at times, and yes, Satan and the world would love to obstruct our vision of Jesus, to diminish our ability to sense His presence and be comforted and consoled by it. As we realize that, our duty becomes reminding each other, teaching and preaching about our eternal life. Meditating on it, partaking in the sacraments, and celebrating those who enter this life by being united to Jesus in the sacrament baptism.
This is who we are…those living in Christ eternally… this is our hope, our trust, and dependence on God and His promises, including the love that will see us to the day when we see Him face to face.
Until then, as St. Paul says, sets your sight on the realities of heaven… for that is where you real life is, hidden in Christ. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there. Acts 16:13 (TEV)
14 And this Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a witness to all people; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (TEV)
799 What amazes you seems quite natural to me: God has sought you out right in the midst of your work. That is how he sought the first, Peter and Andrew, John and James, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the customhouse. And—wonder of wonders—Paul, in his eagerness to destroy the seeds of Christianity!
St. Josemaria’s words this morning about Paul get me to thinking.
Paul encountered God on the road, as he was journeying to do damage to the church. Paul would then go where he knew to go to persecute, but with a different purpose. Now he was there to bless, to share the mercy, the love, the very glory of God. The knowledge once used to persecute those who trusted in God was now transformed, and being used to bless them, and enlarge their numbers.
This is the work of God.
People don’t seek Him out as much as He seeks them out.
I’ve seen this in my own life, the very thing that torments me, that causes anxiety and pain, that has required so many surgeries over the years (Nost to change batteries) and odd hospital trips had caused me to often me angry with God, to question “why me”, to doubt.
It has also led me to be able to minister to others, to be able to seek them out, even when withdrawn. It has enabled me to minister to the nurses and occasionally the doctors who are over worked, overwhelmed and dealing with their own anxieties, their own problems, their own challenges. They needed someone there, and God brought me there, and everything seemed to work right.
It is amazing to see God encounter us, and then lead us to encounter others. It sometimes seems far beyond coincidence, and it is, these are divine appointments. SO don’t sweat the change of plans, He’s directing your day!
So look for God in your day, and look for those he’s sent you too…
Rejoice the Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1840-1843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
He Will Do All the Good Things He has promised!
He will gather (JOY)
† I.H.S. †
I pray that the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that all you can do is rejoice as you think of His coming…even as God does!
How Can I….Know this Joy
A pastor once wrote,
Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this[i]
Sometimes I feel like that, like all of world that I encounter wants to assault me, attack me, trample all over me.
I so understand those words, that we assume there is nothing else but this….
And this week, when the darkness of the dark “blue” weeks of Advent are interrupted, as if a hint of a new day were peaking through, even as the darkness still threatens, we are encouraged to rejoice. Not just look forward to the day of rejoicing… but to rejoice.
Now, today, even as we struggle with world events, with national and local problems; as we struggle with our finances, or families or maybe it is just our personal struggles, we are urged to sing and shout praises, to be glad and rejoice with everything in our hearts and minds and souls. We are called to cheer up, and not be afraid.
Thank God that He gives us a reason too…
The people that rejoice in the presence of God are described in the following ways,
Those who need to be calmed, for they are afraid and anxious,
Those who mourn as they consider the state of appointed festivals like Christmas, and how they have become less about God and His people.
The people who will rejoice are those who are oppressed, to those who are weak and helpless.
Those who were chased away, or exiled.
This is referring to those who were run out of the camp in the days of the Exodus, who were cut off from the people of God because of their sin, yet will be welcomed back and restored.
Those who were exiled because of their sin and shame, for they too will be drawn back by God and restored.
Yeah, those who will rejoice in Jesus’s coming will include those who are burdened by shame and guilt, but who will be called by a new name, who will be given a new name, whose life will be restored. The prodigals who return, those crushed by their sin. For that is what Jesus does, as He was lifted up on the cross.
Lifted there because Jesus wasn’t just called a friend to tax collectors and sinners, He is a friend to them. And lifted up on the cross, the very image of God’s mercy and grace, He draws people to Him, as He desires.
Gather, for the Lord Will Live Among US
The pastor quoted earlier, who talked about the world assaulting us, following those words with these,
One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, (your soul) is worth more (to God) than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.
There is the key to seeing where our joy comes from, in the midst of a world that will try to make life a living hell.
Realizing the worth of a single soul, your soul, to God.
And that is why we are gathered by God together. For in this Old Testament prophecy, over and over it mentions this promise – six times! – the fact that God will gather His people together, that He will make things right, and twice more just so we understand, he explains that happens as God lives in the midst of His people.
God living among His people
God gathering His people together
God living among His people
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
The apostle John said it this way,
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 1:14 (TEV)
The hardest thing to get theologically is a concept known as “now, and not yet.”
Jesus has been lifted up, He has drawn us into Himself in His death, and in our baptism, bringing us into life everlasting. We celebrate now the feast that is the first taste of the feast to come. We can live free of the guilt and shame, free of what separated us from God.
We don’t see it yet, but we get glimpses of it. As we gather, and as we do, our hearts should cry out His praises, for He is our Savior. And I want you to hear one more “now and not yet
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Know this, like the prodigal’s father, our Father rejoices as we are gathered into His presence… that is His love and mercy… AMEN!
[i] 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. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Is Spiritual Growth Necessary? The Benefit of Prayer, Meditation and Frequent Reception of the Sacraments
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)
9 For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10 Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)
90 Optimism? Yes, always! Even when things seem to turn out badly: perhaps that is the time to break into a song, with a Gloria, because you have sought refuge in Him, and nothing but good can come to you from Him.
24 For the Old Adam, like an unmanageable and recalcitrant donkey, is still a part of them and must be coerced into the obedience of Christ, not only with the instruction, admonition, urging, and threatening of the law, but frequently also with the club of punishments and miseries, until the flesh of sin is put off entirely and man is completely renewed in the resurrection.
I started to write this blog yesterday, and then life seemed to get in the way. Life can be like that.
My devotional reading this morning again hammered it home, as Paul’s prayer for those who followed Christ in a city named Colossae makes clear. A life following Christ will be different than the life that doesn’t. It is challenging to hear those words of Paul, who desires we be able to live as God desires and that our actions please Him.
The challenge is seen in the quote in green, that our old nature, which we believe was killed off in baptism, continues to rise, challenge us and dominate our lives. And the Lutheran Confessions (you know – from the “saved by grace, through faith, no works folks – talk about the law still impacting and disciplining the believer. Of the sin-nature is put off entirely and the Paul mentions needing to discipline the body as well, and Hebrews talks of shedding the sin and everything that so easily ensnares us.
But what are those things that help us grow? What are the things in our lives that encourage the growth that transforms us more and more into those who resemble Jesus?
We see it in all the passages, perhaps most clearly in St. Josemaria’s words in blue. To, in the middle of the darkness of this world, break into praising and glorifying God, in Whose presence you dwell! We need to take refuge in Him, to seek the peace that comes from being brought back to the Father, cleansed and healed and transformed, conformed to the image of Jesus. (Think that Phil. 2:5-10 is in context with the first verses, the ones that talk about being of one mind, one heart.
It is that transformation that is spiritual growth, and so things that help us grow to know we are in God’s presence, God’s loving, transforming presence, are what cause us to grow in and like Christ. In Hebrews. This is described as fixing ou eyes on Jesus, who creates faith in us, and sustains it to completion. In Colossians, we talk about the knowledge of God. Not knowing about God as we know about Adam and Eve, or BioChemistry. But knowing Him, the knowledge of His presence, His mercy, His love.
So how do we grow in this? How does Spiritual Growth happen?
So obviously prayer fits in there, not just a casual Lord’s prayer, but a deep conversation, including listening.
Which brings us to meditating on God’s word, whether we scan a book, or meditate on one verse. Both have their time and place. And sharing scripture with each other, studying not in a vacuum, meditating on it with others, that we can encourage each other, teach, and pick up those who have stumbled off the past, or lost sight of Jesus. Even those who shepherd the people of God need not just to study scripture, but also pray through it, listen and meditate on it.
The sacraments also stimulate this growth, for they not only make us aware of God’s presence but remind us of what happens in His presence. That’s why Luther often talked of remembering our baptism, not just as a passing thought, but considering what God did there. How we were joined to Jesus Christ, to His death and resurrection. How our sins were nailed to the cross, and we were cleansed of them. How the promises of eternal life was guaranteed, and the Holy Spirit began o reside in us.
Communion, the Eucharist does the same thing, as we take and eat, take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. As He invites us to His feast and again reminds us of how He gives himself for us. How welcome we are at the feast celebrating His work, His work not just saving us, but re-creating us, of His makin us the Father’s children.
I could go on and on, talking about the blessings of Confession, and hearing our sins are forgiven, of worship and praise, singing and celebrating, I could speak of the blessing of seeing a friend brought to God and made aware of HIs love, or of doing the same for an enemy.
This is the spiritual life, and it is found and grows in His presence…. learning to trust God, and entrust everything to Him.
There is His peace… and may you grow more and more aware of it, in your life, and may it spread from you into your community.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 594-596). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 568). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Is God Stalking Me?
† IHS †
May we revel in the presence of God our Father, who knows everything about us, and yet is determined to show us His mercy and love.
I could see you… WHAT?
You are walking up to someone, you have never met before. While the person is becoming famous, you aren’t sure why, matter of fact you are cynical about him.
You go to meet him, and as you are walking up to him, and instead of the meeting being all about him, he makes it all about you….
As He does, it becomes very, very personal….
So personal it is eerie…
We don’t know why Nathaniel’s attitude changed so rapidly in the gospel, or what he was thinking underneath the tree… yet…
It was so personal! it was so deep that Nathaniel only had two possible thoughts,
The first was that Jesus was stalking him… how else could he know…
The second was that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one that Moses and the prophets promised, that Jesus was the son of God.
It is both frightening and yet comforting; to know that God knows each and every one of us that well.
The gospel reading this morning is a great illustration of the psalm, and this sermon about how well God knows each of you….
The depth of God’s knowledge
David’s psalm should frighten us a little
The psalm starts out with an amazing concept, that God has examined each one of us. The word there in Hebrew is rich! It pictures a legal investigation, not just the facts of the case. It is deeper than that, probing not just what we do, by why we do it. God examines our integrity, our heart, our emotions, and knows even those parts of us, that we don’t want to face. The parts of us that keep us awake at night, or cause us to shudder.
He knows those times…
God knows our movements, our thoughts, when we are praising Him and close, and when we try to rebel. God knows what we are going to say, and sing even if those words were going to be cuss words, or words that take His name in vain.
The one that hit me as I was reading it this time, was the phrase, “If I go down to the grave.”, or if I translated it, “if I took my place of rest in death”. The words of despair that King David knew all too well. This isn’t just a statement about location, there are words born of despair.
We can’t escape Him, we can’t get away from Him. Even though there are days we are so confused, so anxious, so in pain that we try to run…
We can’t get away!
He is here…. He is here…
Not to condemn, not to chastise, which we deserve, but as the Psalm says,
“You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
It’s too glorious for me
You will support me
If God knows everything about me, if He knows everything, then why doesn’t He give up on us?
If He knows us in the midst of our anxieties, in the midst of our doubt, or depression; if he knows us as we are about to sin, and do so, knowing it is sin, why does He continue to seek us out? He continues to be ready to catch us, even seems obsessed with the need to care for us.
God, the creator, the Holy One, the One who determines what is right and wrong.
David, the prophet-king-worship leader described as the man who knew God’s heart, thought the reasoning was beyond him. No wonder I don’t have a clue as to why God loves us.
Seriously, I can’t tell you why God loves us, yet we know He does. We don’t know why He has chosen us to be His people. We don’t know why our salvation and the salvation of our friends, our family, our peoples is His obsession. Why He decided to love us, and pour out His mercy upon us.
We simply know He has.
We see that love in the cross, in the very coming of Christ, and the promises that tell us why He came. To bear the stripes and nails, to satisfy the very wrath we deserve. We see it as well, as God promises time after time, to call us by name,
He places His hand upon our head… and marks us with His blessing.
No wonder some make the sign of the cross, the sign of our baptism, with such meaning…. For it reminds them of the wonderful things God has done to us!
The promise of His presence, of His guidance, of His support!
Even more… and invitation…
The idea of God stalking us, of God being obsessed with us may seem a bit odd. Yet that is what He does. His thoughts are of us, Peter says He desires that all of us come to repentance.
Not all of us at Concordia…. All of us… each one of us. Peter tells us that He desires all will come to repentance…
But salvation is not just God knowing us, it is about us knowing Him. About our being as in love with Him, as He is with us. I love how St Paul puts it:
May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
That isn’t what happens in sermons, but it is why we have them. It is what happens in the sacred times, especially the one we are about to share in…
Come my friends, to the table of mercy, and know something too wonderful, to glorious, something we struggle to understand, yet that brings us the greatest of comfort, the greatest of support, the greatest of joy.
God has examined you, and loves you, and calls you His own…. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5 Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” 6 It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. 7 They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Luke 5:4-8 (MSG)
574 You insist on trying to walk on your own, doing your own will, guided solely by your own judgement… And you can see for yourself that the fruit of this is fruitlessness. My child, if you don’t give up your own judgement, if you are proud, if you devote yourself to “your” apostolate, you will work all night—your whole life will be one long night—and at the end of it all the dawn will find you with your nets empty. (1)
This morning I made it through my devotional time, without a thought that struck me hard. I would think I was just going through the motions, but that is a poor excuse. The reason I enjoy the time I spend in the scriptures, reading through the Book of Concord and Vatican II documents (my goal for this church year) and the writings of St Josemaria Escriva is because one of them reveals to me the presence and promises of God.
i do it so I don’t get into the practice of doing by just going through the motions.
I am in mourning this morning, and that has an effect on me, I am sure. A very good friend from one of my previous congregations passed away, and it is hitting me all to hard. I haven’t seen him in a while, maybe two years…. and I miss him a lot. This is on top of a very emotional week. Two other friends in ICU, and pouring out in sermons on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday the miracle of Christ’s presence, and the desire of God to make us His holy children.
I feel a lot like Peter, as Jesus performs the miracle and fills his boat with abundance. Lord, I am tired, weary, not holy enough to be in your presence. Just leave me alone….. please…..
As I was finishing up with devotions, the very first point in The Forge, is the one quoted in brown above. I knew I had to write on it, and the event that inspired it, the scripture passage.
What I didn’t realize, even as I started writing, having copied and pasted both quotes, was how Peter’s request would affect me. It is how I feel.
Full of remorse,
And yet, all around me, I see miracles, stuff God is doing, there is no other explanation for what is going on….
“Leave me alone, I can’t handle this holiness Lord!” This is Peter’s cry… but it is echoing over and over in my soul.
Even as I am writing this, another passage comes to mind….
26 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27 He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28 That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)
I will hang on this this today, despite my wanting to find a cave like Elijah, or the spot David can’t find in Psalm 139, a place where God isn’t. I need to know God doesn’t forsake or abandon us, He is there, a Father who keeps His promise, a Brother who gives His life for us, who bears our sorrows, and iniquities… (taking away our excuse to run because we aren’t holy) and the Holy Spirit, who brings comfort and peace, and takes our cries…and prays for what we really need……
The assurance of God’s presence, and love.
Lord Have Mercy….. and He does!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2137-2140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age” Mt 28:20, MSG
341 You told me that God sometimes fills you with light for a while and sometimes does not. I reminded you, firmly, that the Lord is always infinitely good. That is why those bright days are enough to help you carry on; but the times when you see no light are good for you too, and make you more faithful.
Deep faith is seen is us, when we can’t hear or see God, yet still we instinctively recognize His presence and trust him ( I don’t remember who he was quoting CS Lewis maybe, but I remember the Bible Study where Doug Dickey taught me this )
My son yesterday bought a computer game called Minecraft, which is a bit much for a 7 year old, even one as precocious as my son. He waited for it to download (he gave me the money to buy it with my credit card, ) and took the computer over. Even as I knew he would, he immediate found himself in a situation he didn’t know how to get out of easily. After a wile helped him with it, and then, when he got in a similar one, I had to let him struggle and insisted he did, rather than just start it over.
This morning the lesson was repeated, this time with a yo-yo, which he said didn’t work. (He got it as a prize at school, and despite flashing lights, was somewhat cheap) Again, showed him it could work, gave a little advice, and then let him struggle with it. He understood this lesson this morning, and achieved his goal of bouncing the you-yo ten times. He made the connection to last night – and said – this is why you didn’t let me restart? Why I had to keep going and work it out? Yes, son, and what would happen if I fixed everything the first time you got stuck? With a smile he replied, “I wouldn’t learn to do things myself”
Smart kid! (takes after his mom)
So now I am at work, and got 6 million things to do, all the while trying to recover from 2 days of grief, grief that I couldn’t get past, as this was the first Father’s Day without my dad. I know enough to know that grief can’t just be shaken off, or ignored, Scars open, scabs rip off – and sometimes the healing in complete, and sometimes we find it hasn’t really begun. We have to trust God through it all, and let the time pass…..
The lesson to my son now comes and slams home on me. The quote in blue above slammed it home to, as I am not as quick to pick up on things as my son is. There are days everything seems to click, where God’s presence is so clear, that I feel like I could figuratively reach out and hug him. There are other days, where from my perspective, I can’t see His light as clearly, where life obscures the glory He has invited us to share in forever. Where life seems to be a “Spiritual Monday”, and while we go through Monday, maybe God took it off like some pastors do?
I mean it – where is God on Monday? And why can we have a spiritual version of Monday on a Thursday, or a Saturday, or even a Sunday?
St. Josemaria and Dr. Doug were right though, that faith is seen and grows, when we learn to recognize God’s presence, even when we think it isn’t there. When we rely on His promises rather than our perception, When we reach out in faith, and receive the blessings of mercy and peace, and love. When we call out “Lord have mercy on Us” and we find our eyes opened, or maybe just our hearts, assured and calmed by His presence.
You see, what I know is this, as my son struggled with a computer game, as he got frustrated by “spaghetti string” on his yo-yo, his dad was there, watching, knowing there was a way to fix what was going on in both situations. Yet if he had really gotten stuck beyond his ability, I would be there, rescuing him, fixing things, restoring things. Even more so has God promised to do that, even more does He perceive where we are at, and care for us.
He is there, even when we can’t see Him. His presence, His protection, His comfort, His peace, His glory……
So rest, cling to the One who promised to be our God, who promised that we would be His people… and your heart will know what your mind can’t always process.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1584-1587). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought to End the Year:
1 Praise the LORD! Sing a new song to the LORD; praise him in the assembly of his faithful people! 2 Be glad, Israel, because of your Creator; rejoice, people of Zion, because of your king! 3 Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him. 4 The LORD takes pleasure in his people; he honors the humble with victory. 5 Let God’s people rejoice in their triumph and sing joyfully all night long. Psalm 149:1-5 (TEV)
950 We should indeed respect things that are old, and be grateful for them. Learn from them by all means, and bear in mind those past experiences, too. But let us not exaggerate; everything has its own time and place. Do we now dress in doublet and hose or wear powdered wigs on our heads? (1)
As a minister, as a servant of Christ and His church, I have had the chance to stand in awe, as I’ve observed God work. Last year, as I was in China, and saw people hungry for the gospel, as I saw pastors and church leaders hungry for training. As I visited missionaries and saw in them a hunger to be minister to, a hunger so met, that a simple worship service was fileld with tears, with incredible joy, with incredible love. I’ve seen it here at my church, as those who needed God’s comfort and peace in times that trusting in God and knowing HIs presence shuold have been challenged, were comforted and able to pray with a quiet confidence. As people approach the altar, leaving burdens dropped, and receiving in exchange, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and treasuring that joyous moment.
He is amazing, this God of ours, and we should stand in awe of His presence. A presence we should melt in, not from fear, but in awe of His love that I can only use terms like passionate, and intimate, not because of it being erotic, but because of its power and completeness.
A love that is the stuff of song, a love that creates in the musician, the artist, the poet, the wood and metal worker, the blogger, a new work as we find ways to express that awe.
Others have done this in the past, as they have used their heart and minds and hands to create masterpieces in every form, visible, audidble, tactile, They give us examples of what can be done, they can help keep us focused on Jesus.
Without such awe, Luther would have never realized what a place of rest God’s presence is, and written of Him as our Mighty Fortress. Augustine wouldn’t have penned tomes, exploring the fullness of theology. St Francis and Mother Theresa wouldn’t have found His beauty among lepers, Pascal wouldn’t have written of the fire that burns. And people like Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, Matt West and Mark Hall and Chris Gillette wouldn’t be writing music now. To express the joy that is found in knowing God’s presence here, in that awe inspiring us to worship Him.
You see, God didn’t stop inspiting people after the sixteenth century, He didn’t stop working in people’s lives after the death of the apostles, Or after the publication of any hymnal. When we cling to these things, and demand that they are the only way to properly worship God, it can be admission that we don’t see Him working today, that nothing He is doing leaves us in awe, and we create an idol out of past. We stand in awe, not of God, but of their experience, their awe. We end up like the sons of Sceva, trying to rid people of what oppresses them by incanting God because of someone else’s relationship.
Do you see what God is doing now? In your life? In the life of your family, the church, and in your community, which He longs to bring into Christ, through your love demonstrating His?
God;s presence recognized now means that people will need to express their awe, people will need to use their words, their instruments, their talents within their culture, within their time, to do so. Learning from those who’ve gone before, listening to ensure they do not stray, yes. But the people of God need to praise God for what He is doing in their lives, Lives that are claimed at the cross, year lives we lived in 2013, and soon in 2014. The Lord is with us! Rejoice! Be in absolute awe! With all you are, respond in joyous praise!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3851-3854). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
883 You were consoled by the idea that life is to be spent, burned in the service of God. And spending ourselves entirely for him is how we shall be freed from death, which brings us the possession of Life. (1)
I am sitting in my office – contemplating the 6 sermons I will preach in the next 7 days.
I got nothing… the words on the paper, the studies I have done in preparation, all seem limited in view of the world that seems so…broken, so darkened. So broken that even we who have been entrusted with the one thing that will bring change and hope, are too distracted, to eager to go on the offensive, whether it be about saying Merry Christmas and decorating our yards, or claiming our “rights”, or taking our stand against those who favor things we find abhorent, from child euthenasia being allowed now, to abortion, to bigamy to… name the sin, there are people defending their right to it, and those who trust in God saying tolerating that sin is the end of the world. That’s not mentioning real traumas, like bringing comfort and God’s peace to those who are missing loved ones, or seeing their relationships crumble, or dealing with financial crises.
6 sermons in 7 days? Maybe 80-100 differemt people hearing them? How will that stem the tide?
As I look at the blank word document, I got nothing… I don’t have the words…I don’t even have the idea of where to begin.
O Come, O Come Immanuel… the words echo in my mind.
Yesterday I wrote that I want to get past wanting Him to come and save us, I want to want Him to come, so that we can rejoice in His presence, that we will finally be “united” with Him, face to face, in all of His glory. I don’t just want Him to come to deliver us from the challenges of this world, of this time.
Yet maybe that is what Lent is about – looking both to what He delivers us from and what He delivers us to, from darkness to light, from sin to justice, from brokenness to glory. From loneliness to community. Maybe we have to know the evil, to recognize the incredible nature of what God is giving us, as He claims us as His children. Maybe we need to know the barrenness of a Bethlehem Stable, to know the glory of the love revealed there, and on a rugged cross, to face our need for it, so that we realize the glorious, merciful, life changing love of God who dwells with us.
In the midst of the struggles of this life…in the midst of visions of how it is supposed to be, there is a need to trust the One who is with us, sterngthening us in our weakness, as we realize His love for us… These days help that we have nuthin.. are great for strengthening that trust, that faith….
May we take the time to realize our brokenness.. so that we can recognize our healing. It is as the Psalmist wrote:
10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.Psalm 46:10-11 (TEV)
You see, somethings when we realize we got nuthin, we realize we have His presence, His love, His mercy… we have HIm!
And nothing can change that…
Lord Have Mercy on us! I pray we grow in the trust that He has…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3611-3612). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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