Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 (NLT)
456 You belittle meditation… Might you not be afraid, and so seek anonymity since you dare not speak with Christ face to face? You must see that there are many ways of belittling meditation, even though you might say you are practising it. (1)
Yesterday, in our adult Bible Study, I asked a question…..
“Would it seem right to pray the Lord’s prayer, “Dad in heaven”.
A number of people were squirming! “It isn’t reverent enough”, As I asked people what difference it would make, “it would make Him seem closer,”,As we talked through the idea, it also became apparent that it would make Him seem to be listening more directly, and more involved in our lives.
After all, besides my friend the seminary president who dropped in for a visit, none of us addressed our parents as “Dear Father reading the paper”, or “Dear Mother in the Kitchen”!
We want a safe distance as we pray, we want to be able to keep God there, over in the sanctuary, or a reminder on the fireplace mantle, or perhaps, we want to see Him in far out in the Galaxy. Seeing him sitting on our couch, or at our dinner table, or talking to us in the backyard while we are barbecuing? Would that be too close for you? What if God shared even more intimate moments with us?
Does the thought of God living with you strike fear in your hearts? Does it cause you to think first of that time – where your thoughts were impure, or when you couldn’t resist letting your anger, or jealousy, or lust reign in your life? Are we terrorized when we read that God knows our thoughts?
What would happen if we looked forward to that level of intimacy, counted on it? What if our reaction was the same as when a child is waiting for Dad to get home, to share with him the day, to play catch, to tell Him of our heartbreaks? What would happen if we took to times of meditation and prayer for what they were – times of intimate, deep times with God, even if a word is not said? ( I remember my times of walking down the shore road with my dad – neither saying a word for a mile or two – as some of our greatest times…) What if our conversations with God resembled Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in the closing credits of the black and white television show? That is the gift promised and given in our baptism! The presence of the Holy Spirit, for such is the gift to those God claims as His children!
think of this – in times of joy – you can cry out – Daddy – come look and see, (as He smiles, for who do you think set up the glorious moment), in times of great trauma – you can cry our Daddy, and know His comfort and healing will be there, as He assures us, promises us that all will work out… for good, because of His love. And in the between times, we walk with Him…revealing His mercy, His care, His cleansing our lives. Revealing how deep, how high, how broad – how wide His love is for us.
Why are we afraid of this/
As we sang as children – with great joy, “Lord, be with us!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2013-2016). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me. Revelation 3:20 (TEV)
“Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is to think often of God, by day, by night, in your business,and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone…” brother lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God – quote from Celtic Daily Prayer..
Some of us, when we read this passage, visualize a painting of Jesus, standing outside the door, robed in glory, ever hair perfectly in place. The entire walled garden radiating a sense of peace, the originates with Him.
We hear evangelists like Billy Graham, pleading with thousands to just open that door, to let Jesus in, for then their life will be idyllic, clean, and at peace.
Some of us nod our head even, thinking of that, picturing people we would like to see open that door, and let Jesus come in….
Except, that passage is not directed to unbelievers at all. We don’t think of the context, we might know it is in the book of the Revelaiton of Jesus Christ, (no “revelationS”) but we don’t realize that it was part of a letter to a church. TO people just like us, to people who claim to believe, are part of a church, and yet somehow….. are missing out on communing with God – not just daily, but all the time.
This passage isn’t talking about daily quiet times, or a prayer life that is at meals, and before bed. It’s not advocating going on some retreat either, spending time in silence and meditation.
And the time Jesus would spend with us isn’t just the perfect times, when everything is in place. It is the times where our lives are in storms, where we’ve been bruised and battered by sin, the times where we are grieving, and anxious because of the presence of death. And the simple times, as we hug our kids and grandkids, as we watch the superbowl with friends, even as we hum a song that is in our mind, as we go about cleaning our homes, or shoveling snow. He is even in our “nothingness”, those times we have when we are just vegetating, thinking of nothing, just.. there.
The church in Laodecia had forgotten this. They thought they had everything in its right place in life. Work had its place – and it was good, family its place, and they were fine, church had its place, and when it was convenient, they would make it part of their life.
But God is there, patiently waiting, pleading even, wanting to share life with them, with me, with you.
Not just to teach us, and to guide us, not just to clean up our sins, but to laugh with us, to feast with us, to share life – even the nothingness of life with us.
When we remember Jesus is here… it changes everything, The storms, though raging and violent, seem less threatening. Death loses its sting and the grief becomes a ache that is matched by knowing His comfort and finding rest.
And life is as it should be, shared with God… as we go with Him, watching Him redeeming the time.. and those we love (and will come to love)
So walk with God, throughout your days… and know He hears you when you cry, “Lord have mercy”. For He is there…
Where do we Abide?
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May your life find its focus in the gifts of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, His mercy, His peace. His love, but mostly, in His presence!
The Tears of Paul, the Cry of Jesus
Knowing His past, the way in which he dealt with the enemies of what he perceived his faith to be, these words of Paul testify to His coversion, the transformation that had occurred in his life, as he came to know the love of God.
Hear them again,
18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
Hear His reaction – it is not one of anger, of lust for revenge, but one of great sorrow, of great sadness.
I say it again with tears in my eyes,
It is the reaction, not of a crusader, but of one who has been rescued from brokenness, whose heart has known the healing of being raised from worthlessness and given life and meaning, who has been called to be loved….
And grieves when he sees others who refuse such a call….to live in Christ
It is the attitude that Paul would encourage us all to imitate – the example he tried to set, even as Paul would imitate the Lord who came to him, and called him. We hear the same attitude in Jesus’ cry to the people of God in today’s gospel,
34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
Indeed, Paul had become much like his Lord Jesus… and now he calls to us, to become like him, to follow the path of Christ trod, finding our strength in the God’s presence, and looking forward with Joy, even as we dwell now as citizens of heaven, as the people of God, whom He protects and loves and heals…
Do We Know the Price of Condemnation?
Most of us would hesitate before condemning someone to hell, most of us wouldn’t say “Go to Hell” in anger, or “I hope they burn in Hell” even about the people whom we can only see as “evil”, as they practice which is evil. I have seen similar reactions recently, heard them or read them on internet, against the likes of Jerry Sandusky, or Chris Dorner.
Even while we may not actively hope that others would go to hell, do we passively let others continue on their merry way towards Hell? Does it bother us, as it did the apostle Paul to the point that we cry over such people? Even our enemies? Or maybe we don’t want them to suffer eternally, just a period of time we would consider fair and equitable.
Do we realize that those who oppose Christ, who disdain or passively dismiss the cross are headed for destruction? Or do we just go about our own lives, going by the old saying, “live and let live?” Do we realize that such a attitude is against what scripture teaches about loving your neighbor? Is it loving to allow anyone to head towards experiencing the wrath of God?
Paul says these people are heading to destruction. The word there isn’t destruction as they might lose their house or their job, or that their families and lives will fall apart in this life. It is talking about destruction as in eternal – as in their complete separation from love, and life, and goodness. Total and complete. Do we weep for them?
Do we weep for those who oppose the cross of Christ, who deny mercy, who contend with the gospel, who put stumbling blocks in the ways of those who God would have them call out to? (It is funny that in the context of this passage – Paul is talking about people in the church!)
How many people do we know who are described as Paul describes those he is dealing with?
Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
What a sad way to be described – to realize that our emotions, our “appetites” could have so much control over us. To realize that people can be co confused that they would choose that which is disgraceful over what is good and right and a benefit to themselves and to others, whose choices are selfish and narcissistic and hurt others..
Do we respond to such people in anger? Or is sorrow and tears, grieving how they have chosen to separate themselves from God’s love and mercy?
Do we fall into a reaction that nurtures our appetites, that speaks the truth without love, which becomes condescending and shameful, and is only about that which occurs here on earth?
How do we learn to react as Paul began to react? How do we follow his steps, even as Paul learned to walk as Christ had?
Knowing our End, our Destination,
Paul gives us what he found to be his answer, there in verse 20.
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.
While the focus of those we are to weep for, pray for is on what makes their life here better or easier, our focus is based on whose we are, whose kingdom we are citizens of, to whom we owe our loyalty.
I think we misunderstand this – when we talk of being in the Kingdom of heaven, and for that reason, we’ll talk about it more in Bible Study. But for now, our answer to not being like those whose lives cause us anger – if we respond inappropriately, or sorrow, if we respond like Christ, is to remember where we live, to remember whose kingdom we belong to, to dwell in Christ, and under His rule.
It is here, in our experience at the altar, that we begin to see this. If we see this time and this place, not so much as a routine, or a duty, but a meal with our Father, a time where we remember where our homeland is, a time to look forward to our going home.
A number of people have asked me how I liked the food in China. It’s kind of funny, because the Cajun food was good, the American restaurants were fine, the Italian was as good as in Italy – maybe better! Even though I worked a with some Chinese nationals, a lot of time was spent ministering to our missionaries, folks who were there with a purpose, but who hearts and lives were lived in view of “home”. They needed a reminder of where they were from – even more spiritually than physically.
Likewise it is for us, we are here in Cerritos, as God’s ambassadors, as missionaries ourselves. A lot of our lives is lived in being “homesick” for heaven. That is why communion becomes so central, so necessary in our lives. Our communion feast is the “missionary team dinner” at Red Garlic, or up on the Peak at Bubba Gump – a time to look forward to our going home to be with our family, the angels and archangels and whole company of heaven.
Please understand, I am not saying Christ isn’t with us 24/7/365, but that this time is a special one, where we encourage each other, and are encouraged to dwell in God’s presence, where our hearts and minds are re-focused on God’s love, and the extent that His love is there for us, healing us, providing for us.
It is a moment in our week of being home…
Until the time our weak mortal humble bodies are found transformed into glorious bodies… for the same power that is at work then, has been at work, as all things have come into His kingdom, as He reigns and guides and protects, His people…
As we dwell in peace, and yes, weep over those who have yet to know that peace, or who confuse and bind others and prove themselves lacking in it..
This peace is yours, people of God, this peace of our Father, which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds as we dwell, citizens of where our Lord reigns… and cares for His people.