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Try to Not Let “Them” Steal Our Joy!


Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)

83         Faced by all those men without faith, without hope; by minds desperately near the borders of anguish, seeking for a meaning in their life, you found your purpose: Him! This discovery will permanently inject a new happiness into your existence, it will transform you, and present you with an immense daily hoard of beautiful things of which you were unaware, and which show you the joyful expanse of that broad path that leads you to God.

There are times where the actions of people affect us.  Times where evil or unjust actions cause us to struggle, to even despair and sink into depression.  Some of us are more susceptible to this than others, as we do not understand how in the world they justify their actions.

This kind of trauma can paralyze us, make us ask unanswerable questions, we can even begin to doubt God, for how can he allow this level of brokenness, this sin to dominate and evil to flourish.  As we ask these questions, out hearts and souls receive hit after hit, even as we try to determine if this is the time to fight, or flee.

I hate to say it is “natural” to enter such struggles but after 50 years, I find that I don’t have the strength to avoid such, nor the power to overcome the tendency to be so affected.  Simply put, you can’t care for people, you can’t try to love them without opening yourself up to such burdens, to such struggles.

So how do you cope?

St. Josemaria and St. Paul agree.  The answer is to look to Jesus, to find our purpose is Him.  They agree that our relationship with Jesus is so precious that we can look to Him and discover the greatest joy. This is the same joy that Jesus saw as he walked to, and was nailed to the cross.

Looking to Him, finding our life our breath and very being located in Him, allows us to see that our trust in Him is true. He will sustain us from the beginning to the end, it will reveal to us the incredible vastness of the love of God, and we will experience it more as we see ourselves as part of His story.

That’s what I need to know, that is why we need to go to the cross when we are feeling this way.  Our hearts and souls and minds need to understand what happened when God baptized us when God drew us to Jesus and united us to His death and resurrection,  When God declared us righteous, cleansing us of sin, and declared we are His children.  We need to allow His presence to dominate our awareness, to let, for then His peace settles over us.  Assured He is our fortress, we can then begin to respond in love, and in prayer for those who actions or words drew us deep into despair.

This is what we need, to focus in on Jesus, and be forewarned, it isn’t easy.  Satan will buffet us all the way.  This is where the communion of saints is so precious, for their testimonies in scripture and in the millennia since demonstrates God’s faithfulness.  This is where the sacraments and the word of God come into play, ministering to our hearts, souls, and minds, bringing the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Here is our hope and joy are restored, renewed, here in this sanctuary we call the presence of God, for know this my friends, “the Lord is with you!”

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 571-576). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can We Neglect Prayer and Meditation? Are they “optional?”


20170124_103703Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (TEV)

49  Zain Keep in mind your promise to your servant on which I have built my hope. 50  It is my comfort in distress, that your promise gives me life.   Psalm 119:49-50 (NJB)

579      There was a young priest who used to address Jesus with the words of the Apostles: Edissere nobis parabolam, explain the parable to us. He would add: Master, put into our souls the clarity of your teaching, so that it may never be absent from our lives and our works. And so that we can give it to others. You too should say this to Our Lord.

Maybe a year ago, a missionary friend of mine and I were talking about the balance of ministry.  He had recently gone through a rough patch, and he realized that he had been so busy that he neglected what he was saved to be.  He as neglecting his time with God.

It is far too easy, in this day when time demands all we have, and far more.  Especially for those in ministry, whether in a congregation, on the mission field, or in preparing those who will minister in the classrooms of our colleges and seminaries. It is tempting to reduce our time with God to the study of His word for teaching others.  After all, it is similar, it is similar motions, it is dealing with the same material.

Yet Jesus did the same things – and still went away to pray to the Father.  He didn’t just count the sermon on the mount and preparing for it as His time with the Father.   And he praised Mary for sitting at his feet, rather than serving those in her vocation as hostess.

There is a time for both.  There is a need for both, but especially for our regular, deeply intimate time with God.  A time where we ask Him to show us how to pray, a time where we ask Him to explain to us His teachings, where the Holy Spirit takes us to school in prayer, so that He permeates our very lives, and from that life, we can give it to others.

We need this time with Him.  It is what underlies the basis of a sacramental approach to God.  Otherwise, we could just replace the church with a classroom, we could make do even with the latest book or podcast, getting knowledge from others. I believe some churches have done this, diminishing prayer and worship, times of meditation and absolution for a longer exegetical sermon that may or may not mention Jesus, and may or may not bring comfort to broken hearts.

The gathering, the church service, the mass is a time of prayer, it is a time waiting on Jesus, listening to Him, seeing His love revealed and given to us, not just taught to us.  Our times of prayer, of spending time contemplating and meditating on His word is similar. This is why the early Lutheran priests talked about prayer as a sacrament, it is why the ancient church fathers talked about how we pray is how we believe, and why the dedication of Solomon’s temple talked all about “when people pray”.

Spend time with God, talk, listen, ask for insight, ask to understand, that what you experience may be an integral part of your life, a delight, and that it may flow from you to others.

I pray that you see revealed and experience the peace of God which passes all understanding, and that found in the presence of Christ, you know He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2156-2159). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whatever happened to purity?


Discussion Thought fo the Day:

2  But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. 3  All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
1 John 3:2-3 (MSG)

2  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV)

413      Each person in his own situation should lead a pure life, courageously lived. We have to learn to say No for the sake of that great Love, Love with a capital letter.

We hear the word used in church, or maybe we read it in scripture, We bypass it quickly, either not thinking about it or dismissing it as a foreign concept.

Pressed on the issue, we will probably define purity in a way that appeases our nature. We will dismiss it as impossible, we will justify our impurity by indicating such purity doesn’t save us, that the law of Moses which defined purity isn’t binding on us any longer.  We will hide our desire for impurity behind theology, behind reason, behind whatever we think will cover it up.  And we will accuse those who encourage/demand purity it of being pietistic and hypocritical.  ( This is not to say that some who encourage and demand purity are pietistic and hypocritical, but we apply the mocking labels far too liberally!)

So let’s talk about it. is there a sense of purity that is neither hypocritical, but that we should strive to be?  Is it possible to be concerned with our own state without submitting to a legalistic system of demands?

Of course! It is possible!

The problem is that our idea of purity is too narrow, it is focused on behaviors, what we do or do not do, and maybe what we say or don’t say, rather than on who we are.

Purity in Greek is related to the idea of holiness, of being set apart to a relationship with God. It is about who we are in God’s sight, in His eyes.  It means living a life that is devoted to Him, that we strive to please the Lord who loves us, who is compassionate toward us, that is merciful.

Which means we strive to live life as He would desire.  That when we fail and think, say or do things that are not pure, we immediately we turn to Him and let Him cleanse us once again. For God purifies us, He refines us.  Purity is about being grieved by our sin enough that we desire that he care for us, about hearing His voice comforting us with the words of forgiveness, and encouraging us not to sin anymore.

Is this easy?  No, it is much harder to seek forgiveness than it is to enjoy for a moment the sin.  But it is needed.

This is what life really is, living in His presence, not anxious or afraid, but full of joy.  It is about dwelling in peace, assured that our purity isn’t fake – because He is the one who is our model, and who makes us pure and holy.

Let’s not waste His work, let’s not run or hide from it,, but rejoice as His glistening purity becomes ours, as we dwell in Him.

AMEN1

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1597-1598). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Surviving Cloudy, Dark, Hopeless Mondays


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

Devotional Thought of the Day

24  He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25  Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.     1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)

241      If the outlook in your interior life, in your soul, is darkened, allow yourself to be led along by the hand, as a blind man would do. In time the Lord will reward this humble surrendering of your own judgment by giving you clarity of mind. (1)

I took a class a year ago on the text of St John of the Cross’s spiritual classic called Dark Night of the Soul. It was a hard read, not because of the language, but because it opened parts of my life where I need to let the Holy Spirit bring comfort and peace, cleansing them and helping us find God.  Yes, even there we can find Him.

As the Apostle Peter says, He is the Guardian of our souls.

In these days where everything seems broken, we need to understand that role that Jesus has in our lives.  It doesn’t matter whether the brokenness that clouds our Mondays is global, national, in our community or our church, or simply in the depth of our heart and soul, He is there.

Despite our sin, despite the injustice that oppresses us.  He is there.

It doesn’t matter if it is 2:30 AM, and we can’t sleep, or Monday morning when caffeine doesn’t seem to help us overcome our…. Mondayness.

He is there, guarding us, protecting us, providing for us, caring for us and bringing us the healing our souls so desperately cry out for, whether we allow them to do so audibly, or bury it and let it cry through our bodies.

He is there. He is caring for you, for me.

St Josemaria explains this using the idea of our being blinded – and there are times where surely I am spiritually.  The spiritual equivalent to the wasteland of a Monday, where nothing makes sense, nothing motivates, nothing is hoped for or planned for in our lives.  Where we might be in that wasteland, and so deprived of hope that we don’t care it is Monday. The key then is to allow Him to shepherd us, to guide our steps.

This is faith, the trust, the dependence on God.  It requires knowing those promises He has made us, that nothing can separate us from Him, that He will complete the work He began in us, that He will never leave us, never forsake us.

Here He is, guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls.  He is guiding us, and as we feel the warmth of His glorious mercy and love, we find peace….and hope.

Even on a dark, cloudy, Monday….

Lord, have mercy upon us, and reveal Your care and work as our guardian!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1021-1023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We aren’t just obligated to go to church, it is something we desperately need


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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
20  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22  let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.     Hebrews 10:20-25 (NLT)

997    Absence, isolation: trials for your perseverance. Holy Mass, prayer, sacraments, sacrifices, communion of the saints: weapons to conquer in the trial.

Growing up, there was a sense that church was an obligation.  In fact, there were days called “holy days of obligation.” To miss going to church on these days was considered a sin.

But I never asked why it was a sin, I was just told it was, and I responded as everyone does when forced to do a task, I rebelled.  Didn’t go, and even if I did, I wasn’t really there, I wasn’t really particpating. So even if I was there, I really wasn’t. 

The one thing I never asked was why we were obligated, and if I had, I am hoping the answer would have been what we see above in Hebrews 10.  There God makes clear that we are welcome there, and there we find encouragement to endure until Christ returns. 

We need to be with each other, we need to be celebrating God’s presence together, we need to share as those who receive His mercy.  (this is why I am so in favor of having the Lord’s Supper weekly, if not offered more frequently!)  
For there together, we find God keeping His promises – reconciling that which was torn apart, healing that which is broken.Bringing together that which was isolated and fitting into the place it fits in His body.  We were created to experience life in community, as part of something that endures, that is sustained, that grows healthy and strong. 

As we realize that this is not an obligation of force, but one of need, our hearts change.We begin to treasure what church brings, we see it as a time that is holy, set apart as a time for us to find rest, and refuge, forgiveness, and the awareness of God’s presence in our lives.  A presence confirmed as others tell us His peace is with us, that He is with us. 

As we realize this church goes from being more than an inspiring message, or uplifting music.  The gathering of people we realize is something sacred, the place they occupy becomes holy, it becomes a moment where heaven is revealed. 

It is what we desperately need, it is what those around us need……and so the more we go, the more we realized we needed to…. 

For this is why we were made…. to live in peace with God and each other.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2315-2316). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Have we forgotten eternity?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
9  That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) 

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  Matthew 25:34 (NLT)

68  Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69  We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69 (NLT)

906    Et regni eius non erit finis—“His kingdom will have no end.” Doesn’t it fill you with joy to work for a kingdom like that?

A little over a year ago, I was at a funeral where one of my early mentors preached.  He made a point very clear that we no longer preach about eternity. He asked me if I, no longer in that denomination, ever mentioned eternity in my sermons, and I indicated I did, and while I do, the conversation took a back burner for a while.

I do mention it in sermons, for it is the 2nd great promise of our baptism,, the first being the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is why the removal of our sin is so critical, for those who are counted as sinners, those who are bound by them, have an eternity that is not what I would call life.  (hell does exist, but how it is clearly described is an existence that is not what we think of as life.)

But I think we put off eternity, we have defined it as a reality we cannot know until we die.  It is “after-life” in many people’s thoughts.  Not life right now, eternity and heaven are not visible we think.  I believe this is, in part due to passages that describe the final judgment, and what theologians call the “not yet”.of the “now and not yet.”

We need to understand that there is a “now” to eternity.  That even as we struggle to see it, the love we know now is no different than the love we shall know then.  We will just be more aware of it, we will see it more clearly. 

How different would our lives be if we could begin to realize the truth of Paul’s words to the church in Colossae,

12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT)

and

1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

Eternity has begun.  It is hard to see at times, and yes, Satan and the world would love to obstruct our vision of Jesus, to diminish our ability to sense His presence and be comforted and consoled by it.  As we realize that, our duty becomes reminding each other, teaching and preaching about our eternal life. Meditating on it, partaking in the sacraments, and celebrating those who enter this life by being united to Jesus in the sacrament baptism.

This is who we are…those living in Christ eternally… this is our hope, our trust, and dependence on God and His promises, including the love that will see us to the day when we see Him face to face.

Until then, as St. Paul says, sets your sight on the realities of heaven… for that is where you real life is, hidden in Christ.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Pastoral Confession: The Paradox of Holiness


DSCF1421Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

13  So brace up your minds, and, as men who know what they are doing, rest the full weight of your hopes on the grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ reveals himself. Live as obedient children before God. Don’t let your character be moulded by the desires of your ignorant days, but be holy in every department of your lives, for the one who has called you is himself holy. The scripture says: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’.
1 Peter 1:13 (Phillips NT)

887    That discouragement produced by your repeated lack of generosity, by your relapses, by your falls—perhaps only apparent—often makes you feel as if you had broken something of exceptional value: your sanctification. Don’t be worried: bring to your supernatural life the wise way simple children have of resolving such a conflict. They have broken—nearly always through frailty—an object that is dear to their father. They’re sorry, perhaps they shed tears, but they go to seek consolation from the owner of what has been damaged through their awkwardness; and their father forgets the value—great though it may be—of the broken object and, filled with tenderness, he not only pardons, but consoles and encourages the little one. Learn.

Like most pastors, I struggle with this thing called holiness.

On the one hand, Scripture clearly lays it out as a requirement for our lives, and as a measuring stick for me personally, and for my vocation, my life as pastor.  If my goal is a pastor is to present you perfect and holy to God (see Col. 1:28)) then it is the standard to judge my work, my vocation, my life.

I’ve looked at how pastors treat holiness, looking for examples and encouragement, but I find too little.  I see most pastors and priest taking one of two attitudes about it, and neither seems to help.  I will go so far as saying both are contrary to scripture.

The first attitude is one of regimentation, of physical and mental obedience that doesn’t affect the heart.  This quickly develops into legalism, that is less concerned about you than about your life being lived visibly according to the set standards.  Everything becomes measured, notated and analyzed like a geometry test.  It is not discipleship as much as a form of cloning.  And it burns people out, for no one can live up to the standard, including those who see themselves as being responsible for measuring people against it.

The second attitude is just as dangerous, even though it seems the exact opposite.  TO deny the need for holiness, to say it is a unachievable goal, and that Jesus broke us free from answering completely to the law. ( For Lutherans, this would be those who deny that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a third use of the law)   As the legalists do this is not about the person, it is about the behavior.  They might say since holiness is impossible, just rely on grace to forgive you.  Not directly, but that is the result of their theory.

So I either push them too hard or don’t care what they do.

So where am I to shepherd them too?  How are they to be holy even as the Father is holy if they aren’t taught what holiness is, and how it develops in a person?

Even harder is my own application of holiness if I am not holy, how in the world can I expect to lead them into holiness, into a deeper, more committed, more fulfilling relationship where the peace and comfort that comes from knowing God loves them is their primary desire?

I think it comes from understanding what holiness is, what it looks like.

St. Josemaria gives a picture of it, with his description of a child breaking a treasured item. This is going to God, the owner, the author, and perfector of our holiness, and asking for comfort, for consolation – this is holiness.  At the very purest level, this seeing God’s help in restoring what is marred, what is broken, what is shattered, this is the kind of holiness we need to see.

The holiness of a child, seeking comfort, seeking peace, because we know what we have done, this destruction of what God treasured, is an act of faith, and an act of trust.

God will look past it; He promised He could because it was taken care of by Jesus on the cross. Knowing this, we can run to Him; we can tell those running to Him the words of comfort, “Your sins are forgiven!”

This is the faith that runs to God, knowing He is with us.  Knowing and depending on a love that will allow nothing to separate us from Him. Providing for the people of God this encouragement, this blessing, this life.

Not just dismissing their sin, as if it didn’t cost the blood of Christ, nor scourging them and beating them up for their not living like the Lord who shed His blood for them.

It is in His death, which we are united to in baptism, that we find the grace St Peter talks of, the grace that gives us our hope, the hope that sustains us, and actually sanctifies us, for when we walk in His presence, when we run to Him for forgiveness and comfort, there He is working, making us Holy.

May we all run to our Father, and cry out for His help!

AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2049-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Am NOT Anxious About the Election:


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.  Matt. 6:31-34 TEV

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all Christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself (cf. Rahner, Schriften II, p. 221). One is in heaven when and to the degree that one is in Christ, where one finds the true location of one’s existence as a human being in the existence of God himself. Heaven is, then, primarily a personal reality. It remains forever stamped by its historical origin in the Easter mystery of death and Resurrection. (1)

110 hours from now, people will be shattered.  

The reason they will be shattered is that the media and the social media is making this election sound like the end of the world could occur if one of the two were elected.  I even see articles about no matter which are elected; the American life is over as we know it.

No matter who is triumphant, no matter who is crushed by defeat, no matter how depressing this election campaign season is, there is something far more important.  There is something that neither candidate can affect.  There is always an opportunity to know peace in the middle of the storm.

Jesus is clear about that in Matthew’s gospel.  Your anxiety, your fear, your angst about the candidates will not change anything, from the outcome of the election to the number of hairs on your head.

You’ve prayed for God to provide you the necessities of life, your daily bread, trust Him on that.  You’ve asked Him to have His will be done as well – again, this is something we can depend on, even when we don’t understand it!  So think first of His kingdom, that God is in charge, that He has made you incredible promises, that those can’t be affected by who is the president of our country, the governor of our state.

Focus on God, on His love, on HIs mercy.  This is why Pope Benedict XVI once wrote the passage in blue, and where I underlined it, we have to realize this.  Heaven isn’t some far off place, where we will go and play golf, or play a harp when we die.  Heaven is revealed as that place we are, when in doubt and pain we find ourselves surrounded with hope and peace.  When we realize God is in charge, when His presence becomes so real, we cannot deny it.  (Which is why the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so critical in the life of the church!)  It is our presently reality, and it has been one since Peter walked into an empty tomb, and Jesus walked through locked doors. That is what Paul talks of as well – as he urges the Colossian believers to focus their lives on the reality of heaven.

He is risen!  ALLELUIA!

And therefore, we can pray and vote, and know God is with us, so everything will work out for good, because He loves us.

AMEN!

(1)  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.

 

 

 

Presidential Elections, Culture and the Church


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

Devotional & Discussion thought of the day:

1 I mean that as long as the heir is not of age,* he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. 3 aIn the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.* 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,b 5 to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.c 6 As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”d 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   New American Bible. Revised Edition. Galatians 4:1-7

The history into which Jesus enters is a quite ordinary history, marked by all the scandals and ignominy that are inherent in humanity, all the advances and good beginnings, but also all the sinfulness and baseness—a totally human history!… We may ask: Is this the context into which the Son of God could be born? Holy Scripture answers: Yes. But all this is meant as a sign for us. The Incarnation of God does not result from an ascent on the part of the human race but from a descent on the part of God. The ascent of mankind: the attempt to bring God forth by one’s own efforts and to attain the status of superman—long ago in paradise this attempt failed utterly. One who wants to become God by his own efforts, who reaches arbitrarily for the stars, always ends by destroying himself.…

58. There are many ties between the message of salvation and human culture. For God, revealing Himself to His people to the extent of a full manifestation of Himself in His Incarnate Son, has spoken according to the culture proper to each epoch.
Likewise the Church, living in various circumstances in the course of time, has used the discoveries of different cultures so that in her preaching she might spread and explain the message of Christ to all nations, that she might examine it and more deeply understand it, that she might give it better expression in liturgical celebration and in the varied life of the community of the faithful.

In writing this post, perhaps I go where angels fear to tread. 

Entering the place where politics, religion and culture interact, in that place we called life.  
There is a part of me that wants to flee from any political conversation; there is another part of me that wants to call out those who are acting contrary to their relationship with God, as they criticize that candidate, or defend this candidate.  For what good is it if “our” party gains the majority in Congress or the Presidency, but in the process we lose our soul, we neglect salvation, we turn our back on God?

In my devotional reading today, three times I come across the same answer.  

Jesus comes to us, as we are, in our brokenness, in our broken world.  As when He was born of Mary, the leadership of the world isn’t righteous, and our culture is challenged.  Our nation is so immersed in immorality that we don’t even see it affecting our lives.  

Instead of struggling like a man drowning, I need to see Christ here, descending to us, coming to rescue us who try to reach for the stars, or think we’ve arrived among them. 

This Christ, who descended once to be crucified, is still here, (see Matt 28:20) reaching out to us who are drowning, reaching the world through the people among whom He dwells.  Reaching out in every cultural context, reaching out to those paralyzed by anxiety, by doubt, by a distinct lack of hope. 

Ultimately the answer is not going to be found in November, but in what we know and celebrate in Advent, as we look for hope, as we anticipate what God has promised, that we will dwell with Him, that we do dwell with Him, that we can cry out Abba!

And here His voice calm us, give us hope, and freedom as He softly says, “I am here! Do not be anxious… I with you.

AMEN!

 

 

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. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

What Will It Take you To Prove


What will it take to prove…

Luke 16:19-31

In Jesus Name

 May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as His unsurpassable peace guards your hearts, and your mind, until He returns.

From Lazarus’s Perspective

We know his name – but we’ve never heard his thoughts, save one.  Even as he stands at Abraham’s side, we hear him thought of as a servant – someone to dispatch with a message, not like an apostle, but like and errand boy.

While he is alive, suffering, unable to care for himself, the only thing we head from him is his desire to be fed by what falls from the rich’s man’s table.  How he longed for a piece of bread, a morsel of lamb, even and onion.

Something, anything!

And he was so weak; he couldn’t even brash away the dogs who would lick and nibble at his open wounds.

Some scraps, please? Please?

A man who knew only hunger and pain.

And then one day, a procession of angels came, sent by God, to bring him to Abraham’s side, to wait for the day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when God will dwell with His people, and we will see Him!

He was welcomed home, as we will be.

For like Lazarus, God knows our name!

The journey home
But what is this screaming in the distance?

As Lazarus is standing by Abraham’s side, he hears something you can’t usually hear in heaven, in fact, this may be the only time.  Some un-named (and that is important) man is trying to get Abraham’s attention from across the gulf, from the place for those not welcome in God’s presence.

It’s a voice that sounds familiar, and maybe Lazarus even recognized it as the voice, that echoed through the gates, the laughed and enjoyed the fine banquets and parties.
But now the voice was one of anguish, one begging for help, begging for reliefs from the heat, crying for pity,

Because of his past, maybe we would think Lazarus was thinking Mr. No-Name was getting what he deserved.  Or more likely, because of the very reasons he was escorted by angels, his heart was moved, and as Abraham was asked to send a messenger, maybe Lazarus was in tears, wanting to help.

Even so, the man’s torment would continue, his heart still not turned. And as he pleads for his brothers, Abraham’s words are haunting,

“‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

What will it take to convince us?

These words that Lazarus hears are scary when you think about them, and who is saying them.  What kind of proof would convince someone about the consequences of their sin?  If the words of scripture will not, if even the fact that Jesus not only raised people from death but rose from the dead himself – if that doesn’t cause people to think a little more, what will?

How do we reach people, and bring them to Jesus, If they aren’t persuaded by Jesus rising from the dead?

Or perhaps a better question – does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives?

Does it give us hope?

Does it help give us peace?

Does that hope, that peace transforms our lives in such a way we aren’t tied to stuff, but that we realize people have names, that we are to love them in the way that God does?

What difference does the resurrection of Jesus have for the way we look at life, and death?

What difference would it make if we realize that God, and all heaven, knew us by name because Jesus lived and died and rose again?

What will it take for us to realize God knows us and calls us by name?

Col. 1:28 –

The apostle Paul explains it this way.

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

This is the message that changes us, knowing that God loves us, and indeed loves every human being changes everything.  It means everything.  It means that each one of us is God’s beloved.

Knowing that means that loving others is no longer a duty, no longer a sacrifice, but it is glorious and wonderful to see them come alive in Christ, to see their lives transform, for they begin to share in God’s glory as well.

They have a name; they mean something to us.  This is why Paul would go on to say,

28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)

People need to hear of God’s love, while they are still alive. They need to see that love in a way that they can hear; that isn’t someone trying to persuade them, but rather share with them this glory, this love.  They

But that happens best when we know His love when we realize He knows our name!  It is then, as we hear Him calling us by name that we realize in awe that He has given us His peace, peace that goes beyond understanding, peace that we dwell in because Christ calls us His treasure, and keeps our hearts and minds there.

This is our life… where God calls us by name – so live it!  AMEN!

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