Blog Archives

We All Need to Find our Safe Place…

A Safe Place… A Sanctuary

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3  For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)

14 As for me, however, I will boast only about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross the world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world. Galatians 6:14 GNT

Because rock music (and country and others – DP) seeks redemption through liberation from personality and its responsibilities, it incorporates very precisely the anarchistic ideas of freedom that today are more undisguisedly dominant in the West than in the East. For that very reason it is fundamentally opposed to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, is its real antithesis

A “God” is that upon which one relies for all good things and in whom one takes refuge in all times of trouble. Thus, to have a God is nothing less than to trust and believe in that one from the whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that makes both a God and an idol.

We went with a priest to bless a dying woman who was in great distress and fear. He did a wonderful thing. He took her face in his bands and said: ‘Giuseppina, one day Jesus said ‘Do you love Me?’ You said ‘yes!’ Then He said, ‘Giuseppina, I want you to help Me, you said ‘yes!’ Then He said: ‘come up here on the cross with Me’. You said ‘yes!’ Now Giuseppina, you are on the cross with Jesus and you are helping Him to save souls’. A tremendous peace came over her. Sometimes we also have to believe in the meaning of their sufferings.

As I look at hodge-podge of quotes above, the comment about Rock music strikes a bit hard. I understand it is a generalization, and there is abundant examples of what Pope Benedict speaks of, when talking about the search for freedom, and losing yourself. It is a sublime imitation with a twist, it not only seeks freedom from self, it creates a godless option, which itself becomes the god, the place to pursue, the place to run. It is a freedom that is not free, for there is no redemption.

But that is what we do when we create idols.

We create a place to run to when we are hurt, when we are broken, when we no longer care, because of the pain we encounter. Even as Pope Benedict notes the role of one of our idols. Luther describes what makes one, the need to have someone/something to run to for comfort, for hope when all is broken. A place to hide and heal, entrusting that what remains of us can be revived.

I am in one of those times now, a time where I simply need to be patient and trust God. Yet my heart would draw me to look other places. I need ot learn again that the place to run to is the cross. To understand like the dying woman that our suffering, our challenges should draw us there, where the challenges and suffering can have meaning, where they work to bring others to salvation. When we realize this, that God uses everything for good, then we are amazed and find that peace we so desperately need.

Its not easy.

But look at the scriptures verses in red. They reinforce, both from the Old Testament and the New, that this is part of our relationship with God. He wants to be our refuge, our safe place, our God. He is there when we are overwhelmed, He is there when things are broken, there to comfort us, there to protect us, there to not just put our lives back together, but to make them new.

This is what it means for Him to be our God, and for us to be His children, the children He loves. It is how and why we trust in Him.

He is here, I can break down and be safe… I can take the time to heal.

So can you..

We’ve found our safe place. It is in Jesus.



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. 249–250). 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. 193). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 188). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Center Stage: The Cross – A sermon on Galatians 6:14-18

Centerstage:
The Cross
Galatians 6:14-18

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May God’s peace and mercy be upon you, as you live knowing this, you are a new creation, the very people of God

Where do we find contentment?

The Apostle Paul desired that he would never, ever boast in anything except the cross of Christ.

Not in His favorite sports teams

Not in a promotion, or an award given at work

Not in his citizenship or Nationality

Not even in the academic grades or the sports accomplishments of his children or grandchildren.

That makes some sense, even as we know we do those things regularly.  When we look a little deeper at the word behind the word “boast,” the lesson gets a little harder.

The Greek word means to be proud of or to be satisfied and content with your situation or accomplishments. 

Should I go back through that list? 

We find many things that we find contentment, many things in which we find satisfaction.  Paul would have us only find contentment, only find satisfaction when we looked there, at the cross which reminds you that God loves you enough that Christ died… for you!

Nothing is more important in your life than to know God loves you.  Seeing the cross at the center stage of our lives, yet…

The Law – The world rules

That is why Paul talks about the need to see our interest in the world crucified, and the world’s interest in us terminated.  This is hard to comprehend at times, for how do we live in the world and yet, as Jesus tells us, not be of the world?  How can we deal with the family and friends we might lose, the jobs we might have to turn down, all because they do not understand?

It is not easy,

I need to say here we don’t lose them because we annoy them with our condescension, or pretend we are holier or more special that they are.  We better not lose them because we condemn their sin, while ignoring our own.

But the ability to dwell miraculously in peace, and receive God’s mercy will create a difference, and not understanding that is challenging.  As is the change in priorities that occurs when we are transformed by the presence of God in our lives.

The Transformation

You see, God starts transforming us, the moment He claims us in baptism.  We might not even realize the difference He is making, But we become something new, something different, as we experience His love.

We live differently, what the Apostle talks of, to live by this principle, the principle is this: that we are the new people of God.  In Greek, this is the word canon. Not the kind I would like to play with, but canon as in the Biblical Canon.  It means the rule, the form, the standard that we can be measured by. 

Luther talks about something similar when he talks about the third use of the law, that we live in a peace and mercy that affects our life, causing us to live as new creations.

While the world may not understand it, God changes us.  It is why kneeling here is so incredible.  It is why Al when he stood here and baptized his granddaughters was crying for joy.  It is why people, when they hear that they are forgiven, every sin from murder to those little white lies that haunt us, feel as if they were released from the greatest of burdens.  This is the transformation!

It is something the world just can’t understand, this remarkable peace and grace of God which defines us, when we remember that we have been made the children of God.

The Mark How does that happen?  Paul describes it this way, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.

The stigmata in Greek.  A Reference to the marks, the wounds of Christ.  For it primarily means the mark left by the healing of injured tissue, in a way, a natural tattoo.

But it is deeper than that, because Paul says it is a mark that shows that he belongs to Jesus.  A mark that tells us we are His, that we are united to Him and His death on the cross. We bear that mark of the cross, the stigma of it, for with it we were baptized , marked and sealed, so that not only do we die with Christ.

We live with Him as well.

Which is why I make the sign of the cross during the creed, because of His cross, and our death with Him there, we will rise from the dead and living in the glory of the Father forever! 

And until that day comes, when all men will be judged, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, comforting us, transforming and guiding us, as we live as the new people of God… AMEN!

What Idols Will You Destroy this Week?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

He also broke in pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made, which was called Nehushtan. Up to that time the people of Israel had burned incense in its honor. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; Judah never had another king like him, either before or after his time.
2Kings 18:4-8 GNT

14† As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15 GNT

Very well, let it happen in God’s name, except that I make this friendly request: if you want to have my books at this time, do not, on pain of death, let them hinder you from studying the Scriptures themselves

The Bronze Serpent, once a tool crafted and used by God’s command to bless the people of God, to provide them a source of healing, this incredible, miraculous tool had turned into an idol. People worshipped it, prayed to it, honored it.

And for the sake of the people, Hezekiah destroyed what had become an idol.

Luther saw the same potential in the books he had written, that people would take those books and value them above scripture itself. He feared the idea that people would spend more time in his books than in scripture. It terrified him.

I think today he would either be the first to burn the books which bear his name, or rejoice that they are gathering dust on the shelves.

Things that are supposed to point us to Jesus, that are simply signs or foreshadows of the Lord coming to us, loving us, cleansing and healing us from the damage sin has caused in our lives.

And w become dependent, we place our faith in these tools, rather than in the one they point to. It may be a building, a pastor’s blog, ( or the pastor himself!) a youtube channel of sermons, or books. In some cases, it might be a translation of the Bible, or a collection of hymns we have grown up with, or even the liturgy. It might even be the denomination that you thought was as Biblical and orthodox as it gets.

These things point us to Jesus, they can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, but we can’t depend upon them, we can’t make them our life.

It is that point when we being to depend on them more than realizing that they only point to God, that we’ve turned them into an idol. ANd that is when, like the bronze serpent, or Gideon’s ephod, they need to be destroyed.

What will help is realizing what the item or person did in the first place. They focused our attention on Jesus, they informed us of God’s loving care for us. As we look to Jesus, as we find peace as we realize the dimensions of His love, these idols will fade away.

As they should.

And realize this, even in the moments you miss your idols, the Lord is with you.

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. 121). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


Is God Serious about this? He can’t mean this, can He?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26† “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Luke 14:26 GNT

676         Have you noticed how many of your companions know how to be very kind and considerate when dealing with the people they love, whether it is their girlfriend, their wife, their children or their family? Tell them—and ask it of yourself too— that the Lord does not deserve less. They must treat him that way! Advise them, besides, to continue practising that kindness and consideration, but do it with Him and for Him,and they will achieve, even here on earth, a happiness they had never dreamed of.

Is God really serious with this?

That I have to love Him, be more devoted to Him that to my wife, my son, my mother, my friends?

Other translations phrase it more bluntly, indicating that we have to “hate” those relations. The root word can extend from the hate that is actively working against the person to simple indifference, where the blessing we could be is neglected, to refrain from being in the person’s life.

I have to admit this, I don’t like these words of Jesus.

I struggle with them.

I can try to rationalize a million reasons why Jesus didn’t mean what he said. From talking about our responsibilities under the fourth commandment ( Honor thy father and mother) to talk ing about the witness we need to have with our lives, as we care for those God has put in our lives. And I know people that have done as the Pharisees and discounted their parents out of religious obligation. Jesus talks about them as well, calling that practice wicked.

Yet these words will not disappear from scripture.

And as much as we are shocked by them, we need to hear them. We desperately need to hear them. We need to admit how we too often turn these relationships into idolatry When we live through them or define ourselves first as a husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, friend. When the devotion we should have towards God is sacrificed on the altar of these relationships. When we tolerate sinful behaviors or brokenness because we are afraid of hurting the relationship. When we are more worried about losing this person’s favor than we are about losing the love of God.

And there is the problem, this idolatry of relationships, this giving of the place that God designed in your life, so that you can know His love, that you can know His care, that you can realize His presence.

Yeah, He means it. not out of some self-centered jealousy and need for self-affirmation, but because of what He can provide for us, that no one else can.

As we learn to live in that love, as that relationship defines us, we even find out our care for others becomes more like God’s, truly loving and not just caring for what we get out of it.

A hard lesson to hear, a harder one to live out. Yet so necessary…

Lord, help us to receive Your love for us, and help us to respond to it, living in it, letting it define who we are, and how we live… AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2824-2829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Hardest Lesson: One We Can’t Learn on Our Own

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought fo the Day:

9  Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10  If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11  If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? 12  Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (TEV)

11  May our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus prepare the way for us to come to you! 12  May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you. 13  In this way he will strengthen you, and you will be perfect and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all who belong to him. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (TEV)

26  “The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. John 15:26 (TEV)

21 So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.

Luther’s words about the first commandment are always convicting to me at first. For it is too simple to set up an idol.  We can make them out of anything, ranging from money and worldly success to our dreams, to our honor.

Whatever we place our hope in, whatever we pursue as if attaining it will give us peace, that becomes our idol. 

Even if it was something that was given to us by God for good. An example of this is the Bronze Serpent, a foreshadow of Christ, that brought healing to a situation, that people later worshipped.  The same for Gideon’s ephod, and later relics and holy objects.  These should have pointed us to God, but sometimes we forget the reality of God and focus on something that should remind us of Him.  We can even do this with our church life, where we only want certain hymns or songs, or we want a certain kind of sermon or lesson. Because that is what gives us comfort.  

Solomon’s words out of Ecclesiastes should help here, especially when taken along with Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit.  Two are better than one, and when the One we are tied to is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, it is His immeasurable strength that holds us as one.   The same with the promise in Thessalonians, the work God does in our lives to strengthen us. 

This gets to the heart of faith, why it is more than simply knowing the facts. Faith isn’t depending on the facts, it depends on the God who draws us into Himself. Who cleanses us from all our idols (see Ezekiel 36:25). 

Even in this sin of idolatry, it is too hard for us to overcome ourselves. Again, even as we struggle with this, God is at work, healing us, cleansing us, comforting us.  He is incredible that way and has shown His continual patience, patience that wisely tempers His jealousy.  Yes, God is jealous when you turn away from Him to idols of your own making!

We need to learn to trust and depend upon Him, We need to realize that He cares, that He wants to help, that even the things we don’t like that He provides, (like broccoli or the situations that cause growth!)

He is good, He loves you, more than you know, and the only way to grow is to experience that love.

So I pray you do this week… and that we all can learn to rejoice as idols are removed….

The Lord is with you! Rejoice!

What things do you struggle to trust God with?  What things might offer more comfort than God at first glance?

as always, comments and discussions gladly accepted 

 

The Large Catechism of Martin Luther:   FIrst Part, The First CommandmentTappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 367). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

What are you eating? Not Physically, but Spiritually?

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:
19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, m where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matt 6:19-21  HCSB

165      You must always remember that the spiritual faculties are fed by what they receive from the senses. Guard them well!

“You shall have no other gods.”
1 That is, you shall regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God?
2 Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.

I really don’t like meditating on this passage in scripture, because if I do, then waht follows next is an inventory of what I truly treasure.

Add to it the words of Luther and St. Josemaria, and I begin to realize what I treasure, what I value, have slowly become my idols, and just as gently, they wean me away from my faith, my trust and dependence on God.

For there is no idol we create and feed that knows satisfaction.  They desire more and more of our attention, more and more of our devotion, more and more time and money to satisfy them.

These idols may not be things we carve out of wood and stone, they can range from our health to our technology, to our careers, to even our family and their success. it might make more sense to ask what we value, what our priorities are, for it is the same question.  What do we invest, not our money, but our time, and our thoughts in, because they are our top priority?

This is hard for me, there are a number of things I invest too much time, too much thought in, that can dominate my day, and often determine whether it is a good day, or it sucks.

So where is my hope, how do I break away from these idols, and see my support systems taken away?

Simply put, to treasure heaven, to treasure the intimacy with God that is ours because of the work of Christ Jesus. To put our focus on what truly matters, His love. His mercy.  To take him up on his invitation to walk with Him, to dwell in His glory.  To feast at His table, knowing that such is reserved for His people, His children, on those he’s called there.

These things we are drawn into, prayer, meditation on His message, the incredible blessing gives to us in our baptism, strengthened as we are told again, “your sins are forgiven” and nourished at the altar; they are not our work. We are drawn into this glory of God, we are declared to be His beloved, and transformed into that which receives that love, and can love in return.

We need to be drawn into that love, constantly.  We need to know we are welcome there, not only that, that God desires us there.

That is the only answer to our idolatry.  To hear His voice, to treasure His love…which means we need it revealed.

Heavenly Father, please help us to listen to the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Reveal His presence through little children, through elderly saints, through our pastors and priests, so that we can drop our sin, our idolatry and cling to our hope in you.  We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 774-776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

 

Is Correct Doctrine and Practice Enough? Are We Just Going Through the Motions?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our Day:

2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6  NCV

Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.

A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God. 

It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church.  That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol.  That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.  

It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing. 

The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above. 

They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.

They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)  

They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it!  Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against.  When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)

Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even.  Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important.  Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous.  But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry. 

St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God.  It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway.  The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!

I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution.  THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself.  Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him.  I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.

FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.

For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…

Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.  quote from Melancthon

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.

 

It’s Time to Make Jesus Known!

     church at communion 2It’s Time to Make Him Known!

Acts 17:16-31

I.H.S.†

 May you see Christ so clearly revealed through His word and sacraments, that the grace of God our Father, and our Lord shine brightly through you, to those who need to know His name!

Deeply Troubled, Are We?

Imagine walking around Athens as Paul did, waiting for his friends to show up.  This capital city, formerly the capital of the world, this place that might cause wonder, disturbed him greatly.

Scripture says he was deeply troubled, deeply and profoundly bothered by what he saw, what he experienced.  Wherever he looked there was idolatry, people trying to find hope, and looking to man-made things to provide hope.

Broken, weary, unfulfilled desires become even more broken as their false gods revealed themselves to be nothing but a bunch of rocks.  These people that were searching for answers, those who led them who loved to hear of new thoughts about God, they all needed a God to depend upon, a God to turn to, a God that would be there, a God who would help.

It wasn’t the first time, 600 years before, Diogenes records that Epimenides, a philosopher from Crete was sent for because no one had an answer to their problems, a plague, a drought, a famine all at once went through the land.  Epimenides looked at all the temples, all these false gods and idols and suggested that the answer was that their prayers and sacrifices didn’t work because they didn’t know the real God they could pray to….

And so they made an altar to an unknown God, and prayed, and dedicated an altar with the words agnosto theo – and dedicated the altar to the unknown and real God, asking Him to save them, asking Him to hear their prayers.  For a few centuries they remembered this God and His mercy, then, like many others, they forgot this nameless, faceless, benevolent God.
As Paul arrives, the altar was probably near ruins, the story all but was forgotten, and the people were back to looking anywhere for an answer.

But it was time to make this God known… even as it is today.

Can People Pray to A God they Don’t know?  Will He answer them?

This passage plays havoc with what are called closed theological systems, or those systems that people close off themselves. It has caused a lot of debate, especially among conservative Lutherans.  Because it isn’t beautiful and tidy, and God doesn’t fit in our box.

For example, there is the question of people praying to a God whom they don’t know.

We know we can’t find God if all we are using is our own reason and strength, that is solid, basic theology.  But does that stop them from looking for Him?  Does that stop them from praying to Him, begging Him for help.. and to reveal that He is present here.

Well, rather than just say yes, let me share a few passages, starting with today’s reading,

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

and then this from Solomon’s dedication of the temple

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)

And one more, from the Large Catechism, one of the primary documents describing our faith,

All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[1]

Unless of course, someone reveals God to them, as God desires!

So is it wrong for people to pray, even if they aren’t sure who God is?  Will He hear their cries and respond?

Of course, for He desires to draw them close, to save and deliver them into His Father’s presence. Scripture tells us this is God’s will, His desire, to draw everyone to Himself, to cleanse them from sin, to restore them as His children.  He will never force us, but He will always hear us and care and love us.

Paul was sent to Athens by the Lord to do what he did, to reveal to them that He was their Creator, but also that He was their redeemer. He died and rose from the dead so that He could judge the world, and judge us just, righteous, holy, the people who could cry out to Him.

If you kept on reading, Paul would speak to them more about the resurrection from the dead that he mentions in verse 31.  There Paul mentioned that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead,   Some would stop listening to then, others wanted to hear more about it later, including some very learned people.
They heard about the God who would come and die, to deliver them from sin, and the power of death.  They would hear about the God who rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, the God who would draw us to Jesus lifted on the cross, where we would die with Him, our sin nailed to that cross.  And then, as He rose from the dead, so do we, forgiven, cleansed, separated from sin, now children of the Father.

For the unknown God has made Himself known, and calls us to be transformed and trust in Him.

And so we do, the broken finding healing in Jesus, while we reveal Him to others as Paul did.

This is our life in Christ, for in Him we live and move and exist. For we are His children.  AMEN!

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

Do We Choose and Pursue the Unprofitable?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought fo the Day:

38 And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  TEV Mark 14:38

23  “We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything”—but not everything is helpful. 24  None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interests of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (TEV)

Games, balls, feasts, dress, theatres, are not evil things in their nature, but indifferent, and may be used both well and ill; yet, notwithstanding, these things are dangerous, and to have an affection for them is yet more dangerous. I say then, Philothea, that although it may be lawful to play, to dance, to advice yourself, to be present at moral dramas, and at banquets; yet to be over fond of such things is contrary to devotion, and very offensive and dangerous. It is no sin to do such things, but it is a sin to pursue them to extremes. It is a pity to sow in the garden of our heart such vain and foolish affections, which take up the room of virtuous impressions, and hinder the sap of our souls from nourishing good inclinations.

When my devotional readings harmoniously scream the same message and grab my attention, I tend to want to hide, accosted by a law which seeks to conform us to the image of Christ.

It’s too random to be random, one might say. 

As I did my reading this morning, this happened.  De Sales’s comments struck a chord, thought I would replace the events with other things. Hobbies, Television, “computer” games, golf, even social media, all these things can be neutral, and even positive.  Moments to relax, times to share with friends (Pokemon hunting with 4 or 5 is kinda fun, and other conversations happen ) theses are all beneficial.  We could add to that even our religious traditions, music, cultural identity, etc.  We in the USA talk about the “pursuit of happiness”, which, divorced of the joy of God’s presence, becomes a demanding idol to pursue.

Any of these can dominate our lives (and some are programmed to!) as they become things we grow in affection for, as we grow fond of, and those feeling turn to desire, desire which enslaves us. Which is when what is permissible become unprofitable, when our desire for these things override our desire to love God, and love our neighbor.

Which sounds all too easy. 

For we are like St. Peter, so desiring to follow Christ in the spirit, yet so weak.  Affections for things distract us, anxieties cause us to turn away. We deny Christ, we allow our time with Him, and our time working in his kingdom to be minimized.  Am I one of His?  Hmmm, I will be after I do this.  I’ll get back to you after I….

I am not talking about asceticism here, that too has its ability to become an affection, it too can become a form of pietism, and looking after out own self-interest.  (think about the idea that those who fast should not show their hunger – but how do you do that without your own pride taking control?)

I am talking about realizing the presence of God, in our lives.  I am talking about depending on Him, asking the Spirit to mold us as He would. To see others needs before our own, because God puts us in the place we are, not for our benefit, but that they would be reconciled to Him, that they would be cared for, that they would realize they are loved.

The only way to see these things put in their proper place, is to find Christ’s love so incredible, that it draws our attention. To become so enamored, so wanting to know His love, that all else fades, and is dropped asidee.

This isn’t easy…. for it means shedding those things we are overly attracted to…. to allow God to break their hold on us.

Lord have mercy on us!  Help us to have no greater desire that to know your presence, and then to minister at Your side to those you bring into our life.  AMEN! 

 

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

 

The Emperor’s New Clothes, and our Need for a(nother) sacrificial victim.

Devotional Thought for the Day:

10  But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)

20  But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21  But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22  Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23  And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)

It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.

Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world.  The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.

Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify.  During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police.  Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others.  I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something  – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.  

We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay.  Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results. 

 What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.”  We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it.  We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace.  And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.

And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.

if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness.   The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target.  Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame.  But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.

We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.

We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.

We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality.  We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was.  For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one.  There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.

He also rose from the dead.

Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.

He died, and no one else has to be crucified.

He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.

Even those we wanted to crucify…

%d bloggers like this: