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Dealing with the Prophecies of Condemnation: Finding Hope rather than despair

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts   Rev. 9:20-21 HCSB

10 I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I caused the stench of your camp to fill your nostrils, yet you did not return to Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. Amos 4:10) HCSB

212         Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

7 The source and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge (since God neither creates nor works evil, nor does he help it along and promote it), but rather the wicked and perverse will of the devil and of men, as it is written, “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation” (Hos. 13:9). Likewise, “Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4).
8 God’s eternal election, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and whatever pertains to

Every year at this time I end up reading the minor prophets and the BOok of Revelation. It is not a pleasant time in my devotions, as I am forced to face passages like those above. 

Passages that deal with the stubbornness of man, and our ability to ignore God’s call to repentance, and to the healing repentance offers.  It is all too easy to see myself among the sinners, the idolators, to see friends, people I dearly love, condemned by such words.  

Our rebellion is clear, our inability to give up the sins that we fall into, time after time., to powerful. Reformed and Arminian Theologians will argue about predestination, in an attempt to hide from the sorrow that one observes in our lives. Even the Lutheran Theologians who come up with the answer that is described, their words about predestination and foreknowledge don’t help the one who is struggling, questioning their salvation in light of their sin.

For scripture declares that some will never repent of their idolatry and sin. 

And there are days when we wonder with the apostles, “Is it I, Lord?”

AM I the one who won’t beat sin and temptation?  Do I know people like these the prophets and Revelation describe?  And if I do, given that they won’t respond to the gospel ( or I won’t) what good is the ministry, what good is evangelism?

Why engage in a task that has no promise of being fulfilled, given the weight of our sin?

And what can I do, if, like Elijah, I see no hope for the brokenness of this day, and how those broken will have to stand before You, Lord?

I thank God for the words of St Josemaria this morning, the very first quote I came to among his writings, and the heartfelt prayer he wrote,

Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

There are times when dealing with these quotes from the prophets and Revelation, I could give up, I could write it all off, and leave their salvation and mine in the hands of God.  It belongs there, right? 

But He calls each of us to take the news of His love and mercy, of the forgiveness of our sins, of our restoration and healing that He will provide into this world.  It is not all of us that Revelation describes, and the prophets always return to God saving Israel, to His saving a remnant, to the light of the world reaching out to every nation, every tribe, every language.

The answer to the prophetic trauma is to remember the end of the story, not just the cross and God’s wrath, but the Resurrection and God’s joy.  To know that God will save sinners like me, that I can trust and depend on Him for that, and to help me grow more aware of His holiness, His setting Himself apart for us – to be His children, His people, His beloved. 

If people will change, and many many will be changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit. We need to know His mercy and the promise.  We have ot let the Spirit internalize it, even as the Spirit transforms our minds, and replaces our hearts. For this scripture reveals as well, as His promise becomes reality.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 617). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Pres

Can God use us? The miracle for those with broken lives.

Will new camera 12 2008 167Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16  but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (TEV)

182         What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and mortify yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society.

There should be, within each of us, the self-awareness that is seen in St. Paul’s words above.  The realization that each of us is the worst of those who sin.

We struggle with the guilt and shame that comes from reflecting on our day, and realizing the people we may have hurt, either intentionally, or whom we neglected.  The time where we should have helped, and like the priest and Levite on the road, passed by those who are broken and wounded. The times where we wanted what we want, and worked to make it happen, not counting into the equation, their need, their pain, and the fact that God put us there to minister to them.

But if I am, if we are the worst of sinners, barely saved, are we too broken for God to use?  St. Josemaria describes it as being a miserable creature, who knows grace, who sees the world passing that offer of love by, unable to see it.

Could God use us, the admittedly broken?  Those who sin haunt us, even as we struggle to trust that because of Jesus, we are righteous in the Father’s eyes?  Could God use you and me?  I mean, it is incredible that He saves us, yet how can we make a dent in the evil and injustice that has people so entangled that they can’t see God?  Can God use us to change all that?

Indeed, He can, and does!  He has always planned to share with us His incredible work of renewing all of creation. Ephesians 2:10 tells us of this, even verse 8 and 9 assured us of His delivering us from sin. Romans 12:1-8 describes it as well, as we consider the mercy He shows us and then urges us to lay our lives before Him, doing what He has gifted us to do.

It is a miracle, as great of one as God’s delivering us from sin.  And it happens to all who depend on Him, all who trust to go where He places them.  All who are willing to be humble, and to communicate with God, hearing His voice.

Here is your God, let Him work through you!

And then be amazed, as they find God in their daily lives.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Bother Sneaking in?

Canobie CannonballDevotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.”  John 10:1-5 TEV

782    How can you dare use that spark of the divine intelligence—your mind—in any way other than in giving glory to your Lord?

The boys didn’t need to climb over the 10-foot fence or risk getting caught on the barbed wire that topped it.  The old delivery gate chain was so loose, you could just push the gate open and walk through.  The old dirt road, rumored once to have tracks on it was long abandoned, deliveries were taken a different way into the amusement park for decades.

But it was a right of passage in the neighborhood, and the guy that ran the park’s roller rink would wink at us, as he handed us skates and told us to make sure everyone had a good time.  Even he let the boys in for free, though he would ask them to sweep the rink occasionally.  He knew we snuck in, and he knew that many of us didn’t have the 2 bucks to get in, then pay for skating and skate rental.  So he turned a blind eye to our entrance, and made us “work” the rink, doing odd jobs around the place.

The first five or six times someone snuck in, you could see it in their hesitation, in their movement to the other side of the skating rink when the park’s security walked through. But eventually the excitement and fear would diminish, the guilt would fade, and the sin just became a normal part of life.

As adults, as believers in Christ, sin has a similar effect on us. It may seem exciting at even unsettling at first. But over time we realize we haven’t gotten caught, and others turn a blind eye to our actions.

Even as the friends hung out, even as they pretended they were the tough guys, we saw those who came into the park the right way, paying the price, and riding the cannonball rollercoaster, and went through the haunted house. They had a different joy, they belonged there.  Their fun was legitimate, they came with their families, or their girls, they had money and ride tickets.

We had some fun, and we had our gang.  We had the rink. But we knew we didn’t have it all.

In the gospel reading above, we were the guys who snuck in, who didn’t belong. We could have been brought in by the front, but we liked our way better. Many of us still do that, as we expect that our peace and comfort can be achieved through ways scripture calls sin. As we hide them, rather than letting the price be paid, the illusion holds up, and others might even encourage it. What is your choice to find your joy and peace?  Greed?  Desire for fame?  Lust and illicit sex?  Gossip?  All these sins do is try to create the illusion of pleasure, or peace, contentment and joy.  If we pause long enough to consider it… we know they do not.  We don’t belong and we are lieing to ourselves if we think we do.

Sin is still sin?  Of course.  And if you take a moment to think it over, you know it.

As I hear St Josemaria talk, I think about the things we could do with our time, our money, our intelligence and talents, the blessings God has given us, to bring God glory.  TO know the joy of seeing God  rejoice as we do what He had planned for us. As we hear Him saying “well done.”

Then I realize that we aren’t just robbing God of His glory.  For Jesus died to bring us into that glory, to share that love.  What we’ve done, is chosen not to live in it, and to live in the shadows, moving toward the darkness.

It’s not too late… it never is.

Cry out to Him, ask for forgiveness, ask to see His mercy, ask for Jesus to reconcile you to the Father, and find that He paid your way in, and you are counted as an honored guest.  Indeed, that has been His desire from the beginning. No more sneaking in.. not more justifying our existence, no more hiding from security.  It wasn’t necessary int he first place.

true peace, true comfort, true belonging.

with others, of every tribe and language and nation. All who belong, none who have to come over the fence…

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1807-1808). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Making Ready for the mission.. today’s

Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day…

 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evilMatthew 6:34 (NAB)

Tomorrow evening I head to the airport – I am travelling to a foreign land, where i will be sharing God’s love with others.  Will proclaim God’s word to some, will worship and pray alongside others, will teach and share as I am able.

I am looking forward to it, as I try to work on what the messages will be each day, and wonder how best to reveal to them the height and breadth, depth and width of God’s love for them in Christ.  It is my first oversees mission experience, and I am looking forward to it.

It is no odd thing, that among my devotional readings this morning, this came up:

When you are preparing for a work of apostolate (this is his and an ancient term for a mission endeaevor), make your own these words of a man who was seeking God: “Today I start to preach a retreat for priests. God grant we may draw profit from it—and, first of all, myself!” And later: “I have been on this retreat for several days now. There are a hundred and twenty on it. I hope that Our Lord will do good work in our souls.”  (1)

We know that God will do these things – yet we pray that we are realizing it is done around us, that God is doing this here!

But even as I planned to plan, I had to encounter that quote from Matthew, and realized, my mission, my apostolate doesn’t start when I land in Asia, today there is a mission. Today’s mission has begun…. Today I will encounter people that need, desperately need to know God’s love.

Are you ready for your mission? Are you ready to be sent – to be God’s apostle to your workplace today?  It is not as much “work”, as it is simply realizing that you dwell in God’s presence, realizing that He brought you into His presence. That everything you need, He provides, the cleansing of sin, the removal of guilt and shame, the love and peace that makes life truly abundant….

Living the mission, living the apostolate, is simply living in and depending on God’s grace.. and that occurs whether you are in Cerritos, or Hong Kong…

Godspeed

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2435-2438). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Overwhelmed? Broken?

Quote to ponder this day:

When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, He will cure you. (1)

As i read this quote this morning, I recoiled a bit at the phrasing, especially “the weight of your wretchedness”.   Wretched?  Isn’t that a bit strong?   I mean, my life certainly faces a lot of “challenges”, but “wretched”?

If I am honest, those “challenges” do weigh heavily on me, as can the guilt and shame that comes with dealing effectively with those challenges.  I want to face them on my own, have the wisdom to deal with them, and I often instead cower in fear, or at least become paralyzed by it.   I don’t think my wretchedness is just about my sin, though it obviously would include it. But we live in a broken world, and we live among broken people, and the situation at times does seem “wretched”, and that there is no way out.  If I dwell on it long enough, I can become depressed and bitter towards God, – why haven’t You helped me!

It is then that a friend, or a passage like this shows up, and my world which was turned upside down… become at peace.

I may have to cry out to Him until I am exhausted and fall mercifully to sleep.  It’s not because He isn’t answering, He does and I am often so overwhelmed, so wretched I don’t hear Him clearly.  For what He will say is often not what I want to hear, but it is always there,, and is effective.

James talks about the prayer of a righteous man is very very effective – so is it that I am not righteous enough?  Interestingly, that question’s answer is found in itself – the reason someone is counted righteous is because they trust God. because they know His presence, and rejoice in Christ.  It is when we draw close, that we find those answers, that peace, that assurance in the middle of being overwhelmed, of being wretched.   The situation doesn’t change as much as we think – what changes is that we are not as concerned as we are in awe…

So are you overwhelmed, has the situation nearly crushed you?  Or at least, do you think it has?   Keep crying out to God – until your heart is ready to listen, to be set at peace.  I love the bullet point before the one quoted above, for it states why this is effective.

“Let us marvel at the lovable paradox of our Christian condition: it is our own wretchedness which leads us to seek refuge in God, to become “like unto God”. With him we can do all things.” (1)

Jesus said it this way:

6:31 What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Matthew 6:31-34 (MSG) 

Lord, have mercy upon us, and as we are seeking that mercy, draw us through it to be aware of You Presence.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 927-931). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Source of Brokenness: Who do you belong to?

Discussion thought of the day

“You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God, and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody, and everybody”  Escriva

In the 1930’s the Biritsh Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, thought the way to peace was to appease Hitler, to give into his little demands, to sacrifice others that Hitler would find contentment.  It didn’t work of course, and the world was plunged into war.  I think many of us do that today.  Our friends are doing something we know is wrong, and we are quiet, afraid to destroy the relationship, yet all the time fearing for the consequences we know will come.  We give in to our children’s demands, thinking that a moment of respite and quiet is worth it, rather than engage in disciplining them. We make deals all the time, with the illusion that it will bring peace, and minimize the impact on our lives.

Except of course, we don’t bow to God, we don’t listen to the one who designed us, and we get mad at Him when peace isn’t there.  He points to simple things – love Him, love your neighbor, and points out the critical ways that can be done and lets us know we don’t have to submit to other God’s, we can use His name to praise and pray to Him instead of using it as a cuss word, we can cherish the blessings of marriage and life. We don’t have to covet other people’s lives and reputations….

DO these things, live in the way He designed, and there is peace.

If you don’t, confess them and He will provide the gift of cleaning it up, and making it right,

But we don’t even like that.  “why do I have to confess my sins” they cry!  “I don’t need a pastor, or a church, my relationship is with God!”  I guess, but even in saying that, the self-centered focus is turning down the gifts of God, and my expectation is the time you could have spent with God’s people, the burdens you have, the guilt and shame  – you will continue to bear as you bow to others agendas, and you appease them, for an illusion of peace in that moment.  The reality of it is, we belong to whomever we try to appease or submit to…

My friends, let God be God, submit to Him, look to His wisdom and promises….. when you belong to Him, the peace isn’t momentary, nor an illusion.  It is peace in the middle of storms, and through them.  It is real peace in life.

And in crying “Lord have mercy,” we acknowledge we belong to Him, when we confess our sins, looking for and receiving His love and compassion and comfort – we realize it again.  When we take part in the family of God, celebrating His presence, His promises, His gifts, the same – we revel in His being our Master, our Lord, our Savior.

SO this morning – who will you belong to?

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