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Where Does the Strength to Praise God Come from?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional THought of the Day:
7  But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8  Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9  But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (TEV)

604    Humbly acknowledge your weakness. Then you can say with the Apostle: Cum enim infirmor, tunc potens sum—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
605    “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.

There is a point of burn out in ministry, at least that is what I have often thought.  There is a point where a pastor simply can’t take anymore, where the grief and the problems simply overwhelm his strength. We aren’t superheroes, after all, and it doesn’t take kryptonite to drop us into times of depression, into times of great angst, into times where we just aren’t sure of anything, at least in our minds.

And yet out of such times, can come the most incredible moments of praise.

Out of brokenness, when we realize how our sin has caused devastation when like the person confessing their sins wonders how their priest can stand the filth, only to hear that once that is cleansed, then God strength resonates through us.  He renews us in a way that we cannot even completely understand, protecting us as we stand in awe at His strength.  As He watches over us, as He guards us, as His power cares and comforts us in our brokenness, and as we live in a world horrifically broken.

It is in such moments, humbled, broken, we stop trying to play God, and our prayers finally reach out to Him.

He’s been there, for He never abandons his children.

Even when we struggle to see Him, even when we struggle to entrust our brokenness to Him.

Waiting to pour His love into us… waiting to show us His glory, as He redeems and reconciles us, our very lives, and uses us to spread His love to this unjust and broken world.

Father, help us realize our weakness, our brokenness, and humbly walk with You.  Help us to stop playing God, and realize again that You are God, and that you love us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1438-1442). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let Everyone know! A sermon for Trinity Sunday (Acts 2:22-26)

church at communion 2Let Everyone Know
Acts 2:22-26

I.H.S. †

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so visibly impact your life that you indeed let everyone know of His love, for you and for them!

 “whom you crucified”

In our reading from acts, we find the title for today’s message.

It is a command, an urgent command,

Let Everyone know!

Let Everyone know for certain!

Let everyone know this, and not just as data, but as the knowledge that sinks deep within you, and changes your life forever.

Let everyone know for certain… that God has made this Jesus to be both Lord and Messiah!

Because of this, Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!  And therefore.. We are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

O wait, I forgot a part of that verse.

God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!

Now, you may be thinking, at least it wasn’t me who crucified Jesus. That’s been an interesting discussion for centuries, who killed Jesus.  Was it the authorities?  Was it the Roman’s who weren’t in covenant with God?  What it the Jews who cried out. “Crucify Him?”

Or was it every one of us, with each of our sins pounding the nails into Jesus’s feet, into His hands? 

It was your sins, and mine, that caused him to be crucified, and we need to know this.  Just as much as the Jews and Romans of that day, with others help, we nailed Him to the cross and crucified him.  We need to realize that, we can’t just pretend that because we come to church we don’t sin, or that our sin didn’t really cause Jesus to suffer, not as much as other people’s sin. 

Our sins put Him there.

Our sins killed Him.

Our sin, our greased, our lust, our anger, our jealousy, our gossip, our desire to be in charge, our desire to be judge, jury and executioner, our desire to be God, that is what cost Jesus His life.  That is what crucified him.

Our sin.

Hear it again, from the other place in Acts.  Hear and face the truth,

23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him

Hear that…. God knew what would happen, and it did, just as God the Father had planned.

Jesus died for your sin, and for mine.

But He wouldn’t stay dead…. As planned!

Even as we realize it was for our sins that Jesus embraced the agony and pain of the cross, we need to realize as well that His death wasn’t the end of the plan.  God had something more in store, just as David said,

26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

This is the faith of Jesus, these words are His words, His attitude, His faith in God our Father. Death could not keep him in its grip, Jesus wasn’t bound to death, He wouldn’t stay dead.

This too was planned, just as His dying for out sins was planned, so to was the resurrection.

Jesus was to say, “You ( Father) will fill me with the joy of your presence!”

Since we are united with Jesus in His death…

In Romans and Colossians, it talks of our being put to death with Christ, that we might rise with Him, so these words of David’s about Jesus, apply to us, that we can know these things because they are true about Christ Jesus.

Because you have been redeemed, because you have been cleansed, because you have been united with Christ, these words are your as well,

I see that the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence!

That is the wonderful description of a life lived depending on Jesus, where we realize that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of His holiness, that we rest in hope. That is where the joy comes from, and the incredible power of our praises, as we know He is here.  That is where we find rest, and the way of life, found

This is what happens when we are united to Christ, all of this!

Let’s repeat that thought together, knowing that these words, so used of Christ, also describe those who are in Him and trust in Him.

I see that the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence!

AMEN!

So now, let everyone know, that He is our Lord and Our Messiah! AMEN

My ongoing lesson….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16  but do it with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)

350    In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.

Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.

Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over. 

A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing.  And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.

It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned.  I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.  

Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around  It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.

And we need to take that time.   We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it.  As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.  

Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this?  That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully? 

They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well.  I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him

Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us.  AMEN. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection We see things differently! A sermon on Acts 4

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
Acts 4:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!

A Matter of Perspective

There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.

I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.

And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.

If we are talking about the gospel it does.  It bothers me tremendously.

The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does.  Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.

His love for us..

A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.

This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.

And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure.  We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.

As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.

What they saw… something to reject

As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment.  It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene.  They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back

And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should.  It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.

They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant.  They were looking for logic and reason.  They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.

That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”

As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening.  As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.

But humanity does that all the time.  We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.

Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans.  ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)

Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin,  or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal!  When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.

And we find ourselves there too often.

What we see – the basis of our hope

Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data.  They did, they just didn’t understand it.

This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.

The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.

it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.

There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though.    The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything.  Paul talked about it this way,

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.

And we need to!  We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord!  We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.

You, me, him, her, each person here.  Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.

This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love.  Let’s pray

 

 

There is only one way to deal with Mondays: with our eyes opened!

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the day:

When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”
16 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” 
17 Then Elisha prayed, “LORD, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the LORD opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  1 King 6:15-17  HCSB

 

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:26-29 (NLT)

404    You say you’ve failed! We never fail. You placed your confidence wholly in God. And you did not neglect any human means. Convince yourself of this truth: your success—this time— was to fail. Give thanks to our Lord, and try again!

There was a great desire to sleep in this morning, to pretend Monday didn’t exist. While Mondays are a study day, I have to admit Holy Week exhausted me.

And while I didn’t feel like a failure yesterday, today I am not so sure!  (This is called the Elijah syndrome – after major spiritual victories we want to hide!)  But I’ve often dealt with failure, especially on Mondays. Not just the feeling I’ve failed, but the knowledge I have failed, or I am actively experiencing failure.

In those moments, I feel like Elisha’s servant, all I see around me is pressing in on me, and there is no escape.  “Oh no, it’s Monday, what are we to do!!!”  And the sake of being alone, and without hope rises like the tide and we fear it will drown us.

At least that’s how my Mondays and several other days a month often feel.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten the promise in Romans 8:28, that all things work for good, including Mondays.  That I can’t picture God doing something in the present circumstances, so I can’t understand my success is found right in the midst of the failure.  Just as the time between the cross and the resurrection was not a failure in the true sense of the word, neither is this time or failure, or anxiety about it, a true failure.

We need to have our eyes opened to this, just as Elisha’s servant did.  We need our trust in God rekindled until we can go through the dark times, and trust that the good times are coming.

For God is with us, Jesus is risen indeed, and that means we are given life and a life where the plan all works together….

His plan, not mine.

This is why I adore Him (when I can remember this!) This is why I praise Him, for He is our God, and we are the people whom He loves.

Just need to remember that on Mondays…. and every other day that has a d in it.

Let me pray for you ( and please pray for me)
As our Lord opens your eyes to His presence today, may you rest, as you dwell in His peace!

Question of the day….. how does knowing you are loved help you through the hardest of days?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1013-1015). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dealing with Loneliness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional 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.

The Question of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”   Luke 3:7-14  HCSB

36  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)

A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active,  I’ve written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!

But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)

John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,  

And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, “What should we do?”   It’s the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them. 

What should we do?  You could add, “now?” to the end of the question.

The reason that this is THE question of repentance is that when repetnance comes to us, the only questions that remains is – what do we do…. because repentance is happening already!

Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused.  We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.  

And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas.  Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow.  But examples.  Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.

Think of John’s advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized.  There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power.

Do things that don’t serve your self-interest, don’t be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness.  Do things that are loving.  And when you find you aren’t…. pray, and confess and know that God is with you!  He came to save you!  He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.

The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same – in Christ, love those you encounter.

Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live!  AMEN!

 

 

With God’s Grace….even this is possible.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days…

Then Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”  Matthew 4:1 HCSB

15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 
17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16:15-19  HCSB

216      With God’s grace, you have to tackle and carry out the impossible… because anybody can do what is possible.

I sit here, just finishing my devotional time up, having done the reading, having prayed, and now I try to put what I’ve read into some kind of concrete summation. After that Iw ill try and write a sermon, but to be honest, it is going to be a struggle.

Even writing this is, as I try to think, what will people hear tomorrow, what might they read in this, that will help them know God’s love, know God’s mercy, know His comfort.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year, a day when we look at Christ’s second coming, not from the point of judgment, but from the point of the promises given to us in Baptism being fully seen, fully revealed, fully experienced.  it supposed to be a joyous celebration, yet my heart will struggle, caught up in what it should be, versus where we are, in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death.  

It seems impossible, and I understand how Moses felt, trying to find reasons to no go back to Egypt, to the place of suffering. How will they believe?

And yet, it is the very thing I need to preach, the lesson in my gospel reading this morning, the promise that this valley is not unending, the promise backed up in the very confession of Peter, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

There is a lot to unpack in that confession, from Jesus unique role as the Son of God, to what it means to be the Messiah, the One anointed by God to save God’s people.  All of God’s people, those the Spirit calls and gathers.

Because of His work, the gates of Hell have been shattered, that the bondage of sin has been cut, that we, in the midst of the shadow of death, can have hope.

God is with us, the promise is complete, even though we don’t see it fully…yet.

That is why we are reminded by Josemaria that we can tackle and carry out the impossible, a reminder I need today, and tomorrow.  For it is in knowing God’s grace in the middle of the impossibility, that we realize He is working through us, with us, and it is His word that will make a difference.

That’s what I have to count on tomorrow, and every day until we see the reality of Christ the King is clearly visible.  For He is coming, and His Spirit is here, comforting us, reminding us that He is with us, that we aren’t alone. 

And because of that, the impossible is not.  For we walk with Him.  And somehow, others will know this, because our words and lives will testify to His presence.  

Lord, have mercy on us.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 940-942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Real Spiritual War We Must Fight…

Life is painDevotional Thought for our days…
24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TEV)

13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.

60      Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.

Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders.  Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy.  Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.

Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation.  And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection.  (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_

The struggle is real.

The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives.  Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,

But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it?  Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it?  Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle?  A different sort of discipline?

There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing.  I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.

So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it?  Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries?  Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?

I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us.  Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God.  These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.

That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple.  Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.

In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it!  We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us.  FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far… 

And still, He is here…

 


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Can You Leave Your Friend there… in danger?

Devotional Thought for our days…

20 “If a truly good person starts doing evil and I put him in a dangerous situation, he will die if you do not warn him. He will die because of his sins—I will not remember the good he did—and I will hold you responsible for his death.  Ezekiel 3:20  GNT

13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. John 15:13 (GNT)

993         In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.

I read an article the other day, that made the argument that a pastor cannot be friends with his congregation.  That he has to stay aloof, separated so that he can call them to repentance when needed, and that they will hear him when he does.

One of my questions in the conversation that followed was, “shouldn’t your friend also care enough, love you enough to call you to repentance”  I had several questions about the concept, but this question is one I think we need to address today.

Should a friend help a person see the error of their way?

Or should we simply ignore the path they were on, letting them move on to perdition?

This job isn’t just a pastors.  It belongs to anyone that cares about anyone else. A parent, a teacher, a co-worker, a son or daughter, a friend.

There are a couple of challenges to this.  

The first is taking sin seriously enough.  St Josemaria helps here, helping us realize that sin can only be reconciled at the cost of life, the life of Jesus.   His brutal death, the shedding of His blood.  We get that about murder, or grand theft, or adultery.  I am not sure we realize that about that little white lie, or lust, or envy or gossip, And what about not treasuring the restful time we call the Sabbath when we gather with other believers and weep and laugh and rejoice together? Do we see this as sin?  

The second is more akin to comfort.  We are afraid to broach the subject, we are afraid our desire to care for our friend will be misunderstood as condemning them (We are trying to stop that!)  We are afraid of that awkward moment when they have to look in the mirror when they have to see their sin and error.

But their salvation, is that not worth the discomfort we might experience in calling them back? 

These are hard questions, and yet, evangelism is not a matter of “Law”, but one of Gospel, one of Love.  One of Joy.  We want people to experience this because we know the difference being forgiven makes.   We know the difference being clean creates in our lives, and knowing the hope of eternal life.

Our friends need this to know about this love of God that can take a sinner and make them a friend, that revive a broken soul, that can restore to its strength.  We can’t-do this because we have to, because it is a duty because it is what good Christians do.  We do this because we love them, and we love the God who is merciful.  For then, our thoughts aren’t about preserving our life or being comfortable.  It is about knowing them.

SO that we all can have the same heart and mind – that of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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