Devotional Thought of the Day….
3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:3-6 (NLT2)
9 When they talked to him about committing himself personally, his reaction was to reason in the following manner: “If I did, I could do that…, I would have to do this other… “ The answer he got was: “Here, we don’t bargain with the Lord. The law of God, the invitation of the Lord, is something you either take or leave, just as it is. You need to make up your mind: go forward, fully decided and without holding back; otherwise, go away. Qui non est mecum…— whoever is not with Me, is against Me.”
Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s there was a huge battle over something called “lordship salvation”. The question pit some of the mega-church, whose services were on television and radio against each other. The battle also sold a lot of books for them as well, as they countered each other with the dedication of boxers, each looking for the knock-out punch.
They battled over justification, could a person become a Christian unless they sold out completely to God. Was He going to become your Lord and Master, and would you follow him perfectly? They would use the parables like the king going to war without considering how his army matched up to his enemy or the man who built his house on rock versus sand.
Neither side accounted for the ongoing struggle with sin. Neither side considered the work of the Holy Spirit.
And yet, we need to regularly ask the question, Are we praying to God, or an idol of our own making? Do we worship God, for the love He has for us, revealed in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, or do we create a God that will answer our own desires?
We need to think these things through, regularly. Are we willing to go where God wants us to go? To do what He asks us to do? Or do we just do what we want, what we desire, what seemingly benefits us the most?
It is a hard question, but I like the way St. Josemaria phrases it. Do we consider our relationship with God based on a plus and minus calculation of how it benefits or makes u uncomfortable?
Do we struggle with the big decisions, trying to ascertain His will? What if it means we lose? What if it requires us to suffer?
And what about the small everyday decisions, the challenges to bypass the temptations that leave us broken in sin? For those too deal with the idea of hearing God, and relating to Him as he determines.
So, where is the hope? How do we deal with our own infidelity when it comes to God? How do we admit we’ve turned from our relationship with God, and put in His place an idol?
We learn to do so, to go to God, so that He can deal with the guilt, the shame. That He can remove us again. For just as He called us originally, He will forgive us, and revive us and cleanse us. That too is His promise, and what we need to cling to. he will not reject us, indeed, He will continue to try and call us home, or bring us home, to unite us to the 99.
It is worth the struggle, it is worth seeing what God has in store, it is worth it, for, in the end, our idols can’t answer us or help us, but God can…. and does. So let Him pick you up… and rejoice in resting in His care.
What are the things you don’t like about what God wants in His relationship with Him? Have you checked to see if they are actually Biblical? How will you deal with them?
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 274-279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)
12 Let obstacles only make you bigger. The grace of our Lord will not be lacking: Inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae!—“Through the very midst of the mountains the waters shall pass.” You will pass through mountains! What does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment, if later, like a spring which has been compressed, you’ll advance much farther than you ever dreamed?
There are times I read Psalm 23 and I wonder where the still, restful waters are, the places where peace, where it seems that the green peaceful pastures are not easily found. For it seems my soul isn’t “restored”, instead, I find my life to be one that is weary, harried, and in great need.
So what happened?
Are those words only for King David and/or really devout believers?
Are they for most Christians, and not for me?
Are they just words on a piece of paper, and not the word of God?
There is a question that I haven’t asked, but I need to ask.
Is it possible that He is here, that He is leading me where He would, guiding me, protecting me, delivering me from the evil I fear?
I’ve been through times where I don’t know God is there too many times in life. Where the stress is too distracting, where the concerns seem too overwhelming, to serious, and I cannot see the Spirit at work, I don’t feel the comfort that is promised. I just see the shadows, I just know the evil that is lurking there.
I want to break through the stress, I want to learn to fight it, to be strong in my faith and face the storm head on…
And then, in such a time, I need to realize the point that St Josemaria makes, the grace of our Lord will not be lacking.
I don’t have ot wield the rod and staff, instead, I can realize that my Shepherd does. That God’s grace will provide, and that provision includes the comfort. For there are the meadows and streams, but the valleys exist as well.
He is there.. He is here.
He is here.
That’s what I need to gain by working through the 23rd Psalm. Though my mind wants to struggle with what I can’t see, I need to grow in my ability to know what is promised is the reality. And as I do, my faith, put under pressure, is finally released, the energy released being spent in praise and adoration of the Lord, my shepherd, my protector, my God.
Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to see that which is revealed to us in Your word. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 191-195). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Promise of God: I Will!
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
† In the Name of Jesus, our King †
May the comfort that comes from receiving the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as we wait for the joyful return of our King, Jesus the Messiah!
At Least 18 times…the work of a shepherd
One part of the Feast of Christ the King Sunday is the purest celebration, as we look forward to seeing God in all His glory, as we hear Him welcome us home.
Another part to consider, I think, is the relief, for the battle is over. Not the battle on the grand cosmic scale. That battle ended when the ladies found the tombstone rolled away. I was thinking the battles we face individually, the battles with life’s daily challenges, the people we interact with, who challenge us, and the inner battles we deal with, the anxiety, the pain, and yes, the sin.
Yet even as we celebrate Jesus as our King, as our Lord, we also celebrate His being the Shepherd King, the one who will guide us through every aspect of life, and frees us from the stuff that hinders us knowing God’s love and peace, the stuff that hinders us right now, right here.
We see that in the Old Testament reading today, as 18 times in English, and more in Hebrew we hear God making us a promise. He makes you and me, and everyone that hears His voice a single promise.
That promise is described in detail but it boils down to this. God promises, “I will!”
“I will be your shepherd”
So we are going to look at what that means, using the phrases said over and over…so that we would know His promise.
The first part of the shepherd’s work, described multiple times – is that God will search us out. Two words used here for searching.
The first describes the intensity and range of the search. To look for something with incredible diligence, without consideration of effort and range. To look in every place, under every stone, and under the stone under that. God searches for us far and wide, wherever we are, whatever trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into.
The second is more along the lines of a very thorough examination of our situation, to understand our brokenness in order to care for us. As we will hear about in our advent readings, the God who will care for us so tenderly that He will not break a damaged reed, but nourish it back to health, or a dying ember in a fire, that He will restore to a burning inferno. It says He will bandage us, those who are broken and strengthen us.
He will do this, He is doing it right now, as we dwell in His presence.
Bring them safely home
The next “I will” our Shepherd promises is to bring us safely home. For the Jewish people, the promise was to bring them back from where they were taken into exile, either by the Assyrians, or the Babylonians. For us, the captivity is no less severe, but we are more likely to willingly enter it. For sin not only tempts us, it drives and drags us away from God. It doesn’t matter the sin, whether murder, whether sexual sin, whether gossip or coveting what others have.
But Jesus will bring us home, as He searches us out, where ever we are, whatever mess we’ve gotten ourselves, He will rescue and provide for us, and cares for us.
Feed/provide pasture land
And on this journey, He cares for us, He doesn’t leave us alone.
Numerous times he talks of feeding us, of providing us safe pastures, providing us the nourishment we need. In verse 16, he defines that nourishment, what He feeds us is justice, righteousness,
And you could say because of Christ’s coming, we become what He feeds us, we are counted as righteous, that on judgment day, that is what the Father sees.
But that is what happens, as God nourishes us with His word, and with the word, the promise, that makes the Lord’s Supper more than just bread and wine.
He searches us out, rescues us, brings us home and nourishes us, with His word, His body and Blood!
I the Lord, will be their God!
Which brings us to the final I will, which is even more compelling, more incredible than Jesus being our shepherd, the one who searches and heals, rescues us and brings us home, nourishing us all the way.
verse 24 says it well, I, YHWH (the LORD will be their God, and Jesus will be the prince the ruler, the King of His People, for God HAS SPOKEN.
May we hear this clearly, for this Is the God who so dearly loves us. The God who made us His own.
May we rely and depend upon His work, to the day we are all found in His glory! AMEN!
Devotional Thought for our days:
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)
During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.
Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”. According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation. (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)
The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi. One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system.
They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago)
Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.
What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.
A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me. As it did the generations before us.
It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.
The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it. To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it.
I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!
May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.” Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
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.