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Is it worth it? A reflection on 20 plus years of ministry….

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. 
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first.  Job 42:10-12  HCSB

670    Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!

Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness.  Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome”  a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.

As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear.  I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.

I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me.  There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings.  They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.

Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.

So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?

If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.

No, absolutely not.

While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42.  It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.

It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.

And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.

He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.

And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself;  my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB

There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it.  To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger.  This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.

Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all.  And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”

For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

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

I.H.S. †

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

 “whom you crucified”

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

It is a command, an urgent command,

Let Everyone know!

Let Everyone know for certain!

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

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

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

O wait, I forgot a part of that verse.

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

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

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

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

Our sins put Him there.

Our sins killed Him.

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

Our sin.

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

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

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

Jesus died for your sin, and for mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since we are united with Jesus in His death…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN!

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

How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When It All Seems…. Too, Too Much!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. 
The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away.
Praise the name of Yahweh.   Job 1:21 HCSB

10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. Job:210  HCSB

535 Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.

As I read through the Old Testament, I hate it when I come to the book of Job.

For one thing, all the wisdom of his friends. which in the end is declared useless – why bother with it?

The more scary thought, is my life going to resemble this soon (or I could make the argument it does it now!)  If so, how will I survive?  If so, why does God allow these times of adversity? 

How will I survive?  Will the darkness overwhelm me?

And then I get mad at God, I would even say I get pissed off at Him. I don’t have the patience or righteousness or wisdom of Job!  

That is perhaps, why I need to read of his travail.

I need to know that kind of confidence, that accepts God’s providence, even when it is adversity, even when it will stretch us, even when we think we are at the end and can’t take one more thing.  When we realize there is no strength in us.

It is then we realize that there is only one option.

Communion.

Intimacy with God.

It is there we can be assured of His love.  It is there, in His presence, we know His mercy so completely that we cannot doubt that even the adversity is somehow a blessing.  It is there, as we receive Him, as He comes to us, that His peace overwhelms everything.

That is the communion that led to Job’s faith.  That is the communion that sustains the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, and saints throughout time.  It is that communion that enables us to go on.  It is that communion that has sustained me through dark times in my life.

It is that communion, that presence of God that lifts me up, comforts me, guides me…

My only wish is that I could have it more often…

No, my wish is we could have it together more often.

Lord have mercy on us!  

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1295-1296). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whistle While You Work… (or sing while you suffer!)

7 dwarvesDevotional THought of the Day:

16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy,  the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  T  Acts 16:1-3, HCSB

13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14  HCSB

524    “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.

I have a confession to give.  I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!

( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)

The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work”  Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding.  Don’t those characters know how serious work is?  Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!

Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.

First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul.  Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive?  Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment!  ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)

Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love.  The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people?  How do you whistle or sing during that?

Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured.  And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.

Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria.  “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!”  Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church.  Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering.  You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God.  That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.

And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God.  The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison.  SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.

So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time.  And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)

Amen

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

My Struggles with “Devotions”, “Spiritual Disciplines”, “Prayer”. Maybe its time to take a walk!

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day

11  I will live among you, and I will not despise you. 12  I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12 (NLT2)

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
2 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Men are not the result of chance or of a struggle for existence that brings victory to the practical and the strong. No, man is the product of God’s creative love. God is. That means that he can act, and that he truly does act—now—in this world and in our lives.… Do we trust him? Do we regard him as a reality when we assess our lives, our day-to-day experiences?

Some time back I was telling you: come out of the caves! Today I repeat: come out of the sacristy, of the parish’s offices, of the VIP rooms! Get out! Engage in the pastoral of the atrium, of the doors, of the houses, of the street.
Don’t wait; get out!

“I want more the Sundays and Wednesday nights!  Because if you can’t come to me every day, then don’t bother coming at all!”

I remember those words of Keith Green playing from my radio, and from the old cassette tapes I had while I was in high school.  And I thought they were God’s words, backed up by scripture and the Holy Spirit, for they caused great conviction, great guilt and shame when I missed my devotions when I struggled with times of prayer.

I had to spend time in the word, I had to spend time in prayer, I must, or God would refuse to talk to me, after all, we know He is a jealous God!

Yet the despair, the guilt, and the shame… easily I could have thought, maybe I am just not one of those called to follow God.  I thought often that I am not holy enough, spiritual enough, good enough for God. How could he love one as weak, and as full of coubts as I am?

Even today, I tend to define my time with God as Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights with God’s people, and the hour or so of prayer and reading I do.  Corporate and Individual.  Times that I truly treasure. times that sustains me.  Times that I wish I could instill in my son how precious they are, that I could help him and my church family see how much a treasure they have waiting for them.

Have to admit, that is frustrating!  How can they not see how much they need this time?  How can they not see how it will benefit them? Why can’t they see how much they need to know what scripture will show them.  Others who writings told the story struggled and found strength in knowing what God would reveal to them are precious as well!  ALl these blessings, that simply get overlooked, and put on the shelf, or the Bible App relegated to the back page of our phones/Tablets, etc)

You can’t force people to spend time with God, you can’t manipulate it, you can’t threaten hell.  So how can I help people find the blessings that are so necessary in my life?  THat I depend upon, given the brokenness that I have to encounter.

As I read the readings above this morning, perhaps I have found something that I knew but didn’t appreciate recently.  The reason that all these things I set apart time to do helps is because it helps me realize that God is there 24/7/365.   That we are His people, that He loves to not just meet us in the “designated” place and the “appointed” times, but He wants to walk through life with us, pointing out the ways He provides and sustains us.

That is why I need my devotional times, my time in prayer, my time reading scripture and those who went before.  Because I need to know that God is with me in the rest of the day, in the walks we take, in the people we encounter (and He is with them as well) In every aspect of life.

He is there.

He created us to be His people.  And so He loves us, sustains us, provides for us, and wipes away our tears when needed.  It is encountering these truths in my “special times” that sustains me in the broken times…and in the good times, and in the routine times.  That is why I treasure them, and that is why my son, and my church family, need ot know.

God is with you…. when you need Him. Everywhere, walking with you. He is your God…your Creator, Sustainer, Comforter,  AMEN!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 344–345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg 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.) (p. 163). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 165). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Do We Have To Talk about the “S” Word?

pexels-photo-279991.jpegDevotional THought of the Day:
16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)

18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.

531    “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!

The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”

It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason.  It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.

And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex.  For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.

Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.

So it is one we need to have.  Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.

We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.

but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them.  To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.

We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use.  I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us.  They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.

This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.

This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others.  Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.

This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Need to All Get Along? Do We Have A Choice?

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day
12  You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14  And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)

480    Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living

I am tired. 

I am tired because of the fighting going around us.  In this world as nation is against nation.  As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun!  And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.

The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues.  Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable. 

I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life. 

I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others.  That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them. 

But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works.  No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.

It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness.  That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything.  That unity is found in Christ’s love, 

Nowhere else.

It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us. 

Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.

Can we all get along?  Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him.  This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong. 

Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one.  Amen!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Don’t Like the Heat? Stay IN the Kitchen!

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26  I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27  Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. Isaiah 1:25-27 (TEV)

 The LORD says that his people reject him.7  Because of this the LORD Almighty says, “I will refine my people like metal and put them to the test. My people have done evil— what else can I do with them? Jeremiah 9:5-7 (TEV)

485    Well, so what? Unless your motive is hidden pride (you think you’re perfect), I don’t understand how you can give up that work for souls just because God’s fire which first attracted you, besides giving the light and warmth that aroused your enthusiasm, should also at times produce the smoke that results from the weakness of the instrument!

I don’t like confrontations, and even less do I like politics, of either the secular or church variety.  They raise too much heat, they cause too much stress, they cause a reaction that is to fight or to flee, neither of which is good, right or beneficial.

Yet, as a pastor who is a sinner as much as the flock, he guides towards Jesus, I have realized two things about both confrontations and the politics that lead to them.

1.  Heat caused by conflict is inevitable in the church.

2.  Despite my dislike for it, despite how uncomfortable it makes people, there is always a blessing for those who neither fight nor flee, but depend upon God to resolve the conflict and reconcile those who struggle with each other.

Conflict can dull our enthusiasm for the church, and for the apostolate, the mission God has sent us all on, to bring the message of reconciliation to the people He would call His own.  But the very idea that reconciliation is needed means there is heat somewhere, and that the mission will be uncomfortable.

One of the reasons it is uncomfortable is that part of what the heat will remove, our pride.  This is the refining, the heat applied in such a way it gets rid of the imputiries, Even the pride that is buried deep within us, hidden even from our own conscious view.

If we can remember that even the person we are in conflict with can and will be used by God if we remember even if they are 90 percent wrong, there is ten percent of their statement that is a message from God, sent to purify us.

And it will, and the more pride that is hidden within us, the more the heat will rise. ANd we have to let it, w have to be patient, for to throw cold water on it will cause more of an explosion.   We have to let it work itself out.  It will, For God will perfect us, in His time, and this heat is part of the process!

That’s uncomfortable, but it is okay.  You and I can survive the heat, we can stay in the kitchen.  For I am confident that God will use this for good. He will refine us in it, the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort, even as we are transformed, purified.  (and I still won’t like it!)

For what else can God do?  He loves us, He can’t leave us broken, impure, spoilt. This heat can be part of our salvation, part of our sanctification.

So even as we struggle, even as we hate the challenges, the heat, we can stay, trusting God.  He will work during the time when the heat is up, when we have to cry out,, Lord have mercy!   And we can learn to cry it out confidently, and be patient for the resolution, for the reconciliation.

For He is with us!  AMEN!

Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit to all who are enduring times where the heat is rising when life is challenging because of conflicts, even those that we try and ignore, or hide.  Lord during these times, help us depend on You, trusting You to keep your promises to us.  Humble us when needed Lord,  keep us pliable and patient, comfort us and sustain us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Darkness seems to close in… yet…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” 12  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (MSG) \

19  O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21  Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22  Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance! Isaiah 30:19-22 (NLT2)

470    The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?

There are days that seem absolutely dark, where the sinful nature of mankind is so dominant in my environment, that it seems like the darkness creeps in, and there is no light to see things by, to discern what is truth, what is shadow and what is evil. 

It seems like such times may never end, but how can we truly know that, when the darkness seems to totally envelop us.  How can we know that the next step won’t lead us out of the threatening forest and into the light? ( I often think that next step will be over the edge of a cliff, as my anxiety twists my discernment even more than the darkness had blinded it!)

As I read the first verse in my devotions, a song I’ve never heard from one of my favorite artists quoted it. And I knew that this is part of what I need to write, and hear this morning. 

Even though I can’t see in the dark, my Rescuer can, and He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. Even though I endure adversity, and suffer as I struggle to know God’s presence, it is there.  He can see us, and guide us, gently, firmly.

So much so that we will destroy those false gods, those things that supply a false hope. We will simply abandon them, finding no need to cling to them. 

This is why the saints and “great Christians” of the past are who they are.  Not because of their own faithful battle against the evil they encountered in their world, or in their own hearts. 

Why there were saints?  They clung to the God who saw them in their darkness.  They clung to the Lord who has them safely in His hands.  In the cross, not just at it, they found the peace that allowed them to relax, and be sustained by the God who came to them. St. Josemaria nails it, there is the cross, the Gospel, and they promise that we will rise with Christ, that we have risen with Jesus.

Even if we can’t see it yet.

He has found us, for He sees in the darkness. 

Count on that, even as you listen for His voice, even as He reveals the glorious light of His love for you.  

Lord, have mercy on us, as we struggle in the darkness.  Help us to depend on You, to be guided, cared for and healed by Jesus, for this is what You have always promised your people.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1153). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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