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Great Expectations for the Church in America

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collectorq named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
†10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew’s house.r Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11 Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12 Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. †13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”
Matt. 9:9-13 CEV

Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.

In the readings for the course I am in, I am finding great hope for the church, even the church in the United States and Europe. The times are similar to the times when great revivals broke out in our past, when people began to worship God, abandoning all else.

The statisticians and consultants will tell you different, but their projections of based on recent trends, and on philosophies that place the future of the church in the hands of the pastors, and those who train and equip them. If it is up to us, this indeed may be the post Christian and post church era. THinking about it more, no not maybe – it is.

But what is our downfall, can be turned into the very thing that will bring revival to our land. For when we fail, maybe some will call us back to what brings revival.

Faith.

This is the time when our faith, that wonderful gift of depending on God for everything in life becomes reality. When in the despair of the storm, we reach out to the Lord who is with us, and He leaves us in awe, as the storm obeys His commands.

It is when we realize that Matthew, that we can join Jesus on His mission to heal the hearts and minds and souls of people, (and when we realize that includes our hearts and minds and souls) that movement in the church happens. When we grieve over our sins, and are comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit, who draws us into God’s presence.

This is what Matthew’s gospel is talking about, when it says that Christ came to invite sinners to be His followers. As the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus, the church will stop its slumbering, it will stop its decline.

Not because of great preaching, but simply revealing Christ. Not because of powerful praise bands or stunning choirs, but because we simply begin to experience the grace of God, poured out on us, and knowing the relief, the joy, the power of God’s work, we invite other sinners to join Him, depending on Him, and letting all else, including sin, drop to the side.

We are at a point in the church’s life in America where we will realize that our perfect liturgies, our dynamic programs, our logic and theology, our programs won’t grow the church, nor stop it from dying.. The only thing that can is the Holy Spirit, healing sinners by drawing them to Christ Jesus. And those sinners depending on Him. ANd that includes you and I.

Heavenly Father, stir us sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit, to respond to Your invitation follow Jesus, to walk with Him. Help us to welcome the Spirit’s healing our hearts, souls and minds, and not just ours, but those in our community. We pray this in Jesus name! AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).



How Long Will We Procrastinate?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2 The LORD Almighty said to Haggai, “These people say that this is not the right time to rebuild the Temple.” 3 The LORD then gave this message to the people through the prophet Haggai: 4 “My people, why should you be living in well-built houses while my Temple lies in ruins? 5 Don’t you see what is happening to you? 6 You have planted much grain, but have harvested very little. You have food to eat, but not enough to make you full. You have wine to drink, but not enough to get drunk on! You have clothing, but not enough to keep you warm. And workers cannot earn enough to live on. 7 Can’t you see why this has happened? 8 Now go up into the hills, get lumber, and rebuild the Temple; then I will be pleased and will be worshiped as I should be. Haggai 1:2-8 GNT

412    May the fire of your love not be a will-o’-the-wisp, a vain fire, an illusion—an illusion of fire, which neither enkindles what it touches nor gives any heat.

As I look at the prophets words above, I wonder how many of us see the application in the life of the church today? Let me rephrase that, in our lives today.

The parallel is simple, and while they were talking about building a temple of stone and wood, the temple now is made of people, the living stones that
St. Peter talks about,

5  Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (TEV)

In building this temple, made of us and those we know, we have to stop procrastinating. We can’t use our age, our lack of knowledge or skill, our over-burdened schedules, or anything else as an excuse any longer.

But this won’t be done unless we realize what men like Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola, and Martin Luther realized, the wonder and splendour of what it means to walk with God, as He removes all the obstacles and the sin.

That is how God builds us up, smoothing out our edges, that which has been made rough by guilt and shame, by denial and bargaining. He is the one who places each “living stone”, He is the one who makes us all fit together.

My personal opinion is that even in back in Haggai’s day, the issue was helping people realize that this isn’t about duty, it isn’t about even fulfilling the mission of God. That is His responsibility, to get the work done. It is about seeing God’s desire, that all people come to Him, and about realizing the joy when one prodigal, or one sheep is brought home. It’s about seeing the sinner who realizes they are forgiven, and that they are welcome in church.

You see, this temple we witness God building in our midst, it is the greatest of temples – for it is the temple that will endure for eternity. Each person that comes to know Jesus, who comes to realize His love, who is united to Him in the water of Baptism, who receives His promise, this is the eternal temple, and we will dwell with Him forever.

We could talk about what they are saved from, but what they are delivered into, what is given them in this relationship with God, is incredible, and we get to be part of that temple, and part of its being built. Part of each victory of God over satan, sin and death.

We keep our eyes open, we pray, and we mention to people why we have hope in view of the broken, battered world. It doesn’t matter if they are in our age group, in our socio -economic bracket, whether we serve them, or they serve us, it doesn’t even matter if we can barely communicate because of language differences. It doesn’t even matter if they are of a different political party, or are fans of different sports teams!

We all need to know Jesus loves us…

It’s time to stop procrastination.. to share the one thing we treasure above all.. the love of God.

ANd then, we witness the wonder of the place God will dwell.. among us. AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1029-1031). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Do Mondays Exist? (and other mysteries of God that are a pain!)

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4  So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5  Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. 6  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Are you going to wash my feet, Lord?” 7  Jesus answered him, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later.” 8  Peter declared, “Never at any time will you wash my feet!” “If I do not wash your feet,” Jesus answered, “you will no longer be my disciple.” 9  Simon Peter answered, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!” John 13:3-9 (TEV)

294    The plants were hidden under the snow. And the farmer, the owner of the land, remarked with satisfaction: “Now they’re growing on the inside.” I thought of you, of your forced inactivity … Tell me, are you also growing on the inside?

Most people hate Mondays. I understand, and commiserate.

Not because the weekend has ended, not just because being back at work is such a challenge. Primarily I hate them because I don’t get to do what I do on Sundays, when I hear the people respond, “and also with you!” (In response to my statement that the Lord is with them!)

But back to Mondays. The second day of the week, the day everyone loves to hate, the day no one wants to come.

Why did God make it?

What is up with that?

There are a lot of similar questions, like why did God make mosquitoes? Why do people have to go through the terrible twos, or the angst of teenage years, or why do we have to grow weaker (and endure more pain) as we age?

A lot of that stuff, to put it simply, “suck”.

But what we can’t see, is what exists beneath the surface. Like St. Josemaria’s farmer knew, something is growing there. Something wonderful, but our sight is obscured.

For Peter, this was the heart of a martyr, A man who would embrace the suffering that following Jesus brought. The man who writes those beautiful epistles could not have done so, unless he had allowed himself to learn the lesson given when Jesus washed his feet.

Jesus had to remind Peter that he didn’t have a clue as to what Jesus was doing. But he also assured him that there was a reason. THat this action that Jesus, this logos/word of the moment, was critical. “Just relax Peter, you know ME, this will make sense…but for now, it is hidden.”

This is what faith is, this trust in God and dependence on His, His character and the promises He gives us in scripture. It means trusting God has a plan for Mondays, or the times where we are laid up recovering. The Spirit is working deep within us, creating in our life a work of art. (see Ephesians 2:10)

even when bit by a mosquito, on a Monday, when we are waiting for one of “those” conversations.. and are twiddling our thumbs until it happens.

Lord Jesus, help us to experience your promise, that you will never leave or forsake us. Help us to be patient, depending on You to work as You have promised in our lives. Cleanse us and help us see the Holy Spirit at work giving us the desire and the power to do that which You would do. AMEN!





Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 767-769). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You Know It’s a Hard Week When…

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Devotional Thought of the Day

81  I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82  My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83  I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84  How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)

165    You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?

I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.

God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.

Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.

Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.

Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.

It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.

In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”

St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.

This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.

“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.

That this time will pass, and we will see God.

This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Joy of Re..

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  “No longer will the sun be your light by day Or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; The light of my glory will shine on you. 20  Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the LORD, will be your eternal light, More lasting than the sun and moon. 21  Your people will all do what is right, And will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, To reveal my greatness to all.
Isaiah 60:19-21 (TEV)

It isn’t God who must change but the person. This is the obvious goal of prayer, and that is the reason why prayer is the privileged place of exile where the revelation is given, that is, the passage from what one thinks of God to what he truly is.
It is an exodus of purification where we are led by God through the dark night of the exile on the way to the contemplation of his face.
Then, we finally will be changed and transformed into the likeness of Him.

Often it will be an act of real humility and creaturely honesty to stop what we are doing, to acknowledge our limits, to take time to draw breath and rest—as the creature, man, is designed to do. I am not suggesting that sloth is a good thing, but I do want to suggest that we revise our catalogue of virtues, as it has developed in the Western world, where activity alone is regarded as valid and where the attitudes of beholding, wonder, recollection, and quiet are of no account, or at least are felt to need some justification.

Before we explain the Lord’s Prayer sequentially, we must first counsel and entice the people to prayer, just as Christ and the apostles did.2 First, we are obligated to pray because God has commanded it. Thus, we heard in the commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain,” that God’s holy name should be praised, called upon, or prayed to in every need. To call upon it is nothing other than praying

It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”

I am hoping you made it through the incredible quotes above, looking forward to finding out where this incredible joy is found. What the “Re” is… are you ready for it?

Repentance..

Yes, you read that right, there is an incredible joy when the Holy Spirit gifts us with repentance. It is freeing, it lifts burdens, it is that wonderful mysterious transformation that God works in us.

It is why Luther urges us to prayer, reminding that this commanded, not for God’s sake, but for ours. For it is in that transformation that we experience that mercy and love of God that causes the repentance to occur.

Repentance, this transformation, finds us with the ability to bhold, wonder and remember the presence of God leaves us stunned, and sometimes, unable to speak, because the grace of God is so wonderful, because it so sets our hearts at ease, our mind cannot proceed. Repentance leaves us in awe, for the work the Holy Spirit crafts turns causes us to reflect and resemble Jesus , something that is beyond our ability to conceive of..

That is why Pope Francis talks of this change in the way he does. As we go from our thoughts and our visions of what a god should be, and it is revealed to us, who God is. He is the One who loves His people, and repentance is that process where experiencing that love changes everything, for it changes us.

Lord, help us not fear this work of Yours that is repentance. Help us to embrace it, to revel in it, for it is an experience where Your love is so manifested in our lives. When we are struggling with sin, grant the desire ofr repentance. in Jesus name. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 258). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 255). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Will We Let The Holy Spirit Get Back to Work?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20  do not despise inspired messages. 21  Put all things to the test: keep what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (TEV)

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.

The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.

My youngest years were spent on the fringes of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Roman Catholic Church. And like many, I witnessed abuses, the one lady who always had to have a prophecy, the crowd of people mumbling their prayers, each one trying to be louder than the next, the people that claimed spiritually giftedness, only to go hang out after the prayer meeting talking in ways that weren’t godly. I know too many people who bore scars and are afraid of churches because of those days.

(Note: I have seen similar folk in most of the churches and denominations I’ve been associated with over the years.)

And noting the extremes of such movements, if people stay in the church, they end up in churches that deny the Holy Spirit works in any miraculous way today. They come so close to embracing a form of deism, thinking that God left us the scriptures (and maybe the sacraments) and therefore we need nothing else, even His presence.

You really can’t claim that Pope Benedict or Martin Luther were charismatic or pentecostal extremists. In fact, most would assume they are contrary to the position of those movements.

Yet they both see an incredible need for the church to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Their words resonate with St. Paul’s about ot restraining the Holy Spirit, but heeding the Spirit’s call, and taking joy in the work of the Holy Spirit, as He calls, gathers, enlightens us and makes us Holy.

Such is a miracle, it is a supernatural work. It goes beyond on anything we can control, and therefore it makes us nervous. Theologians and people who need to understand get anxious, and as we realize God’s ways are not our ways, that who He sends us to serve, that those He brings us to love are not whom we would choose. Nor it the way we are to minister to them the way we would prefer.

As Pope Benedict notes, this isn’t the most comfortable of places to be, as we are directed by the Holy Spirit, given gifts and abilities, insights and a new heart (see Ex 36:25ff) that resonates with the will and desire of God.

So how do we listen and hear? How are we guided by the Holy Spirit? How do we know if what we are hearing is the Spirit’s guidance?

Luther would say prayer, meditation, and faith-building stress. For the more we look to Christ- the more we realize He is our hope, our life, the revelation of the Trinity’s love, the more we are hearing the call, the more we are gathered, made holy and used by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glorious love of God into the darkness of this world.

So don’t hold back the Spirit… don’t depend on your own reason or strength, but rather depend on God, as He reveals Himself in scripture.

And dwell in His peace!

Luther’s Small Catechism: Part 2 The Creed: Article Three

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why are we so willing to judge and condemn?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  James 4:11-12  HCSB

28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11

There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.

It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world.  And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.

A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love.  And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.

Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.

A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee.  I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape.   I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him.  In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.

Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind.  And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims.  No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.

Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.

And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues.  And my heart tears for them as well.

And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism.  All three warn us, they even command us not to judge.  They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.

But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.

Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…

And rejoice in the presence in your life.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life!

church at communion 2The Gift of Pentecost:
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and Giver of Life
John 15:26-27-16:4b-15

In Jesus Name

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!

The gifts of Pentecost 

Advocate, Paraclete, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, these are words that describe the incredible gift gibe by God to us in the Holy Spirit.

The gift was given to the church at Pentecost and given to every member of the church ever since when God cleansed them with water and His word.

That is the great gift of Pentecost, that we can count on, that we can depend on the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us life, and life that is full, for our brokenness is healed.

25  I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26  I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27  I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)

 This is the Advocate, the Spirit who will testify to us all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts, transforming us, this is the Spirit that came because Jesus went to the Father until the day He returns.

The World’s Sin

One of the things that Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will do is convict the world of its sin.

But Jesus is very clear about what sin is, and what the Holy Spirit will convict us of, which is not trusting and depending on Jesus. That is the bottom line, sin is not having faith in the promises Jesus has made us.  To lack faith is to not believe in Jesus’s words, His promises of love, His promises to guide and shepherd us.
That is where sin begins, in the attitude or action that proclaims, “I know which way to go, God,!” or “I know what is right FOR me” rather than hearing, “this is the body broken FOR you”, “this is the blood shed FOR you – for the forgiveness of sin!!”

That is what the Holy Spirit is going to remind us of, that the Spirit, our Advocate/Comforter/helper who will convict the world of its sin, of it’s not trusting God and depending upon Him…

I want to go back to verse 8 for a moment,

And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

Between Conviction and Judgment

I asked a bunch of people this week this question:

When you hear “judgment” is your first reaction negative or positive?
It was not surprising that most said negative, even one lawyer who said “always negative”.  (do I want him defending me?) Note in the quote in scripture, there is something between convicting us of sin, and the coming final judgment.

The righteousness of God.

There is what the Spirit reminds us of, most of all.  That God is just and righteous, but that righteousness includes fulfilling in us what is lacking, healing what is broken, forgiving that which is marred by sin.

The Spirit picks us help, helps us, comforts us, acts as our counselor, our advocate in these situations.   The Spirit’s role is to bring us to Christ, to help us to cry out to God for mercy, even using the term of endearment, ABBA!

You see, putting the righteousness of God in between our realizing we are sinners and the final judgment turns that judgment from something negative into something positive.

For those who come, by the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, that judgment of God is this.

“You are righteous, innocent, holy, and mine!

That is what the insertion of God’s righteousness does, it makes sinners who trust in God holy.  That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Lord and giver of life.

And this is what Jesus is talking about when He promises that the Holy Spirit will testify all about Jesus. Everything that Jesus has been, and done, and will continue to do.

That the Holy Spirit would comfort us, counsel us, help us, come alongside, be our advocate, and testify to us of the love of Christ, which draws us to the Father so we can live in peace.  AMEN!

Brighten up! It is Monday!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. f 15 No one lights a lamp  and puts it under a basket,  but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine  before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16  HCSB

113      Don’t wait until you are old to start becoming a saint. That would be a great mistake! Begin right now, in earnest, cheerfully and joyfully, by fulfilling the duties of your work and of your everyday life. Don’t wait until you are old to become a saint. Because—I insist—apart from its being a great mistake, you never know whether you will live as long as that.

So it is Monday, and most of us are weary from the time change.  (Even though we got an extra hour of sleep yesterday!) Already encountered a number of irritable people, and I know several more who will be irritable as I deal with them today.  

Such is life!  Not just Mondays, but every day we live.  

Yet Jesus calls us to be the light of the world.  Please understand, Jesus isn’t saying that He is the light of the world here, nor is He commanding us to be. 

He is stating it as a fact.  

We can cover the light up, we can hide it, we can waste it away.  We do this all too easily when we forget that we are in God’s presence when we choose to ignore the fact that we dwell in His glory.  insted of realizing the blessings, we get dismayed, irritated, tempted and exhausted by the things of this world.  But we still are the light of the world.

Jesus, in uniting us to Himself at the cross and in our baptism had made this possible.  The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, nourishing us, comforting us, is the guarantee of 

Yeah, today is Monday, and not even as especially good Monday.  Never the less, the Lord is with YOU.

So, be a saint, walk with God, know His love. and dwell in His peace.  And when you think you can’t be, cry out, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner!”  And know He has. That is why you are a saint, why you are the light of the world. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 599-604). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Priceless Blessing We Cannot Afford to Neglect…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional thought of the Day:

23  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

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. Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1) 

The intercessor is a worshipper who has understood the deepest feelings of God and clings to them, despite contrary appearances.

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit, and through the Son.
He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

I am sitting in my office, as I do most Saturdays.  My primary task is finalizing my sermon, the two Bible studies I teach tomorrow.  As I do, there is another task I do… on that can be heartbreaking at times.

It is receiving the prayers that people drop into mention, that text or message me or email me about.  They want to make sure they are included in the bulletin for our people to pray about, or if more confidential, that I will include them in my private prayers. 

This morning has been no different, in fact, one could say “business” has been a bit brisker than normal.  A military person going to Korea, another beloved friend diagnosed with cancer, a friend dealing with diabetes and other health concerns, people with family problems, people looking for a new home, people with family struggles.  There are a lot of people we pray for, an act often called intercession, or petitioning God on their behalf.  Or more simply – we ask God to bless them and care for them in their situation.  That includes praying for healing, for strengthening their trust and dependence on Him, which will give them hope.  Mostly that they would see God acting in their lives. 

This is prayer, this is, in a very real way, communing with God.  Or as the Lutheran confessions (in green) call it, a sacramental time.  Pope Franci echoes this sentiment when he calls it the mystery that is unfolded and revealed, a time of intimate communion, a time where we understand the deepest feelings of God and cling to them.

As I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon, this hits home strong.  Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, he sends the crowds away, and he heads in to the hills to be alone, to pray.  Specifically, the word for prayer is the word for petition.  He has to talk wiht the Father about the people he encountered, He has to bring them into the relaitonship He has with the Father because they matter to both of them!

Add to this the action of the Holy Spirit, seen in the passage from Romans. This incredible thought that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well, praying when we are too overwhelmed when we cannot find the words when we can’t find the words or thoughts to pray.  It is then that the Spirit is definitely interceding with and for us, with words that are inaudible, because the Spirit’s groans,, the Spirit’s pleading is beyond expression. 

That is how much the Spirit cares, how much the Spirit is in touch with our needs, with the needs of those we love, and those they love.

Prayer isn’t some empty time of waiting for an appeal to be heard and decided.  It isn’t a time to do out of a sense of obligation, either to God or to those who ask.

It is the time we have been given to walk with God, to see His heart, to realize His love for them is even deeper than ours.  THat He cares more for those we intercede for than He does for flowers and birds, and if he cares for them and makes them beautiful bow much more for us is He active, then we can relax, we can be at peace.

Such is this priceless gift of prayer, our time with God. And like the other sacramental times, we need to slow it down hear his voice. To let Him comfort our tears, to let Him still our anxious hearts, to help us realize He is with us….even when we don’t know what to pray.

He is with us…

If that is all prayer did,, was make us aware of that, it would be worth it.

Yet to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocating for us, pleading for us, praying with us….. how that helps us… how incredible, how much more does it help us understand the heart of our incredible God who loves us!

Be at peace, the Lord is with you!

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

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

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