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The Key to Prayer…


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

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

19 This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God’s presence. 20If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that he knows everything. 21And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God’s presence. 22We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. 24Those who obey God’s commands live in union with God and God lives in union with them. And because of the Spirit that God has given us we know that God lives in union with us.  1 John 3:19-24

386      You lack faith… and you lack love. Were it not so you would go immediately and much more often to Jesus, asking for this thing and that. Don’t delay any further; call out to him and you will hear Christ speaking to you: “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as when he stopped for that poor blind man by the roadside who continued to insist, without giving up. 

To write on prayer is challenging.

In the first place, it is too personal, especially when considering St Josemaria’s words about pleading for this thing or that.  Personal becomes I have, and sometimes been disappointed.  It is also too personal, because some of the things I would ask, are well personal.  Lord, help me with this temptation, Lord, help me with this that causes anxiety and fear to rise up within me.  Not a lot of personal examples would I want to give,

The second reason is that there are two extremes when it comes to prayer.  The first is those who express what is often mocked as “name it – claim it” theology.  These are those who say you should pray like Jabez, and God will bless you with all forms of materialism, perfect families, perfect jobs, perfect health and absolute heaven on earth.  The other extreme confronts this so callously that you would almost think they believe God doesn’t listen to any prayer, that God doesn’t care for His people here.

But there are passages, the blind man that St Josemaria points out, the unjust judge, the father who doesn’t give his son a stone or a viper, but gives him what is asked.  The passages where Jesus invites us to cast all our cares on Him, all our burdens, where He tells us to ask and it will be given.  God wants us to pray, including asking Him to care for us, but I think there is something more that we need to understand.  If we don’t, then God is reduced to being a Genie in a bottle.  ( I think sometimes we think we have to save up for those really big things, so we don’t give him the everyday stuff)

Here is the key, faith and love, the very things that unite us to God, the very things that bind us to Him.  That is where prayer comes from, this close connection, this committed relationship.  It is knowing we are loved and loving back, it is in knowing that God is faithful, trustworthy, completely dependable because He desires what it good for us. Prayer is realizing that in Him we live and breathe and have our very being, so this communication is only natural.

This allows the prayer to come out of the depths, the places in our hearts, soul, and mind where we fear to go. Prayer comes from the place that so needs His peace, to know He is our sanctuary, our deliverance. This is the astonishing depth of prayer, and it shows our trust in the love of God who has come to us and given us life.

It is there that “Lord, have mercy” is simple and yet comprehensive prayer to the one who has brought us into union with Himself, for we are His children.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Intimate Prayer, the Theologians Fertilizer


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

6 Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was once a man who had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He went looking for figs on it but found none. 7So he said to his gardener, ‘Look, for three years I have been coming here looking for figs on this fig tree, and I haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it go on using up the soil?’ 8But the gardener answered, ‘Leave it alone, sir, just one more year; I will dig round it and put in some manure. 9Then if the tree bears figs next year, so much the better; if not, then you can have it cut down.’ ”  Luke 13:6-9

 

To God the Holy Spirit:

KYRIE, bountiful Spirit, united with the Father and the Son in a subsistence of one substance, proceeding from both the Father and the Son, have mercy.
KYRIE, who, when Christ was baptized in the waves of the Jordan, appeared in Your glory in the form of a dove, have mercy.
KYRIE, kindle our hearts with divine fire so that we are made worthy to praise You forever, have mercy.  (2)

And what about us? Are we so far away from the stable because we are much too refined and too smart for that? Do we not get all entangled in scholarly exegesis, in the proof or disproof of historical authenticity to the extent that we have become blind and deaf to the Child himself? Do we not really all too intensely dwell in “Jerusalem”, in a palace, withdrawn within ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of being challenged, too much so to be able to hear the voice of the angels, to set out to worship? Thus, in this holy night, the faces of ox and ass are turned toward us questioningly: My people does not understand, do you recognize the voice of your Lord? When we put the familiar figures in our crèche, we would do well to pray that God would bestow on our heart the kind of simplicity that recognizes the Lord in this Child—just like Francis in Greccio. Then this might happen also to us: everyone returned home, full of rejoicing.

Martin Chemnitz, perhaps the greatest of the Lutheran theologians.   Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Later Pope Benedict XVI, in my opinion, the greatest of the theologians in the last century.

Martin’s prayer and Joseph’s words about the birth of Jesus give us a picture of their souls.  Brilliant though they may be, they see the need for God to work on our hearts, to create the simplicity, to kindle in them a divine fire.

These words help us realize that the study of theology must take a back seat to those intimate times where we realize the presence of God. Where we hear HIs voice, where we see His hand at work, where we experience His glory.

Good theology is a result (not the result) of a prayer life that is created, nurtured and guided by the Lord and Giver of Life. It cannot simply be the work of active minds but needs to be preceded and immersed in the presence of God.  It then becomes more than an academic pursuit, it becomes life, a life pregnant and incarnate with the presence of God.

It is the same for those theological masterpieces we call sermons and Bible studies.  They need to come our of our devotional life, out of the riches of our interaction with God.  If Chemnitz and Pope Benedict need this in their lives, how could we think we don’t need this work of the Holy Spirit?

Otherwise, we may look like a fig tree, have the leaves and trunk of a fig tree, but we won’t bear any fruit.

May we pray with simple hearts, formed and enkindled by Holy Spirit, as we do what God has called and planned for us to do!  AMEN!

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

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.

What Sex Can Teach us About our Relationship with God.


Devotional Thought for the Day:

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6NAB-RE

Men experience the preciousness of things, and experience it fully, only in the company of those who share their enjoyment; in this way, they become aware of the festive quality of an existence that is so often hostile and ill-humored in their regard but is present at a meal, as it were, with open hands, with a gesture of lavish generosity, of unrestrained joy. This liberality of existence, which is rich and bestows itself freely, is an intrinsic part of a meal. The same is true of a wedding. In it, the elevation of the biological process of sexual attraction to a fundamental spiritual act of Eros, of the human being’s loving transcendence of self, is crystallized, epitomized, and confirmed. Here, too, we experience the liberal graciousness of existence, which grants us the festive wonder of a love we cannot force but that comes to us of its own accord, takes us by surprise and overwhelms us, transforms our life, gives us a new inner center, and even, in moments of ecstatic bliss, confers on us a foretaste of a life that is brighter and fuller than our everyday life.  (1)

I’ve been known to use the phrase “intimate relationship with God” more than once, and more than in one setting.  Reactions are often very strong and very polarized to it.  Some feel it is too common, to base, even too perverted,  or it could be taken that way.  Some understand it, even though they might struggle with the implications of a God that desires that we should be His people.

The words in blue above come from a man whose took an oath to remain celibate for the rest of his life.  His words describe it well thought – the transcendence, the even spiritual act of eros – of giving and being given, or experiencing a level of transcendence, and even “confers on us a foretaste of a life that is bright and fuller than our everyday life”.

The physical act is not contrary to God’s purposes – he established it as something two should share. two that committed before God and man to each other, as a way of testifying to the love.  It is as much spiritual as it is physical, and in that sense gives us a look at what our spiritual relationship with God is like, and what it will be like in heaven.

Please hear this – we aren’t saying eternity is sexual – that our relationship with God is simply physical – but rather – that the spiritual aspect gives us an insight into what it means to truly commit to another – to love them, to seek our their best interest.  Love means losing yourself, the awareness of yourself, as you care for the other person – and as you do that – there is something overwhelming, something that transforms us, something that is more than life, alone, abandoned, broken.  It is intimate in it reveals the innermost parts of us, the part that is being recreated in Christ Jesus – the most intimate, deep, definition who we are – defined in relationship to God – the I AM.

You see this a little earlier – as a father reacts to his beloved son’s return,

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  – Luke 15:20

The father doesn’t care about his dignity, he doesn’t care about his prestige or reputation.  He doesn’t care about people (including his other son) thinking he is fool who will be taken advantage of.   All that is set aside – this is a son, whom he loves, and the answer to many a night without sleep.  THIS IS HIS SON!!!

It is that transcendent moment, the moment the I become I-Thou, the moment we realize how deeply God loves us, and how it transforms us, as we learn to love in return, as He teaches us.  As we are united to Him in baptism, reunited as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, as we celebrate this relationship – this holy relationship as He gives us His body and blood.

Bringing us back to the original quote of scripture.  They ask fo more faith, and what they are really asking for is to trust God more, that God would draw us closer to Him, make Himself more real, defeat our defenses – and show us His complete love for us.

That is, of course, the answer to another prayer as well…

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And it is answered, and we see it when we are in union with Christ Jesus. 

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

The Common Work of Marriage and the Faith


Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day:

16  So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.   Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)

346 Loyalty  demands a real hunger for formation, because you are moved by a sincere love and you do not wish to run the risk of spreading or defending, through ignorance, principles or attitudes which are very far from being in accordance  with the Truth.  (1)

In a few hours, I will be officiating at the wedding of a cute couple, both incredibly passionate about each other.  It will be fun, as was most of the pre-marital counseling I subjected them to undergo.

Some may think such a day is the best day of their lives. My prayer is that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will know much joy, much peace, even as they will undoubtedly have trying days.  They might have a fight or two, they will definitely misunderstand each other, and the very passion that can result in incredible tenderness, incredible hunger for the other (in every way including sexually!) , can also turn on a dime and be focused on betrayal, or a perception that they are betrayed.  For passion, and words, are meant for us to use positively,

It is not unlike our relationship with God.  We should be passionate in our relationship with God, but I have often seen such passion turned against God when God doesn’t deliver what we think should be delivered.  In btoh our relationship with our spouses, and our relationship with God, our sense of self-preservation and selfishness can misinterpret the One (or the one) we love.

This is when we need to realize that a major component of love is loyalty.  Both the Hebrew cHesed and the Greek agape see loyalty, dedication to the “other” as the true nature of love.  To desire and use everything that the one has to achieve what is best in the relationship.

Escriva is right, and it is applicable in our intimate relationship with God and our intimate relationship with our spouse.  Formation is key, because it is there when we encounter love at its most incredible level.  It is revealed to us, this love that sustains us, that empowers us, that purifies us.  It is as we get to know the other (whether God or our spouse) that the relationship takes on such value that we would never want to risk damaging it.  When such damage does occur, we need to grow to where we run to see it healed.

That is what formation does, it trains us, it helps us grow, it brings healing with it, for growth can’t occur if we are damaged beyond our ability to even seek healing.  Formation is encountering mercy at its sweetest, at the moment it is unexpected.

For then it is revealed to be love.

Such love draws us to God, such love will bring a couple through anything that could occur.

I pray we all find those who will encourage and guide our formation with God, and for those who are married, I pray that your being formed with God provides the strength to really set aside your own needs, to meet the other’s needs.

Lord, in your great love, have mercy upon us.

AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria, The Furrow

3rd Week of Advent: He Gathers Us!


He Will Do All the Good Things He has promised!

He will gather   (JOY)

Zephaniah 3:14–20

† I.H.S. †

I pray that the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that all you can do is rejoice as you think of His coming…even as God does!

How Can I….Know this Joy

A pastor once wrote,

Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this[i]

Sometimes I feel like that, like all of world that I encounter wants to assault me, attack me, trample all over me.

I so understand those words, that we assume there is nothing else but this….

struggle.

And this week, when the darkness of the dark “blue” weeks of Advent are interrupted, as if a hint of a new day were peaking through, even as the darkness still threatens, we are encouraged to rejoice.  Not just look forward to the day of rejoicing… but to rejoice.

Now, today, even as we struggle with world events, with national and local problems; as we struggle with our finances, or families or maybe it is just our personal struggles, we are urged to sing and shout praises, to be glad and rejoice with everything in our hearts and minds and souls.  We are called to cheer up, and not be afraid.

Thank God that He gives us a reason too…

Are We?

The people that rejoice in the presence of God are described in the following ways,

Those who need to be calmed, for they are afraid and anxious,

Those who mourn as they consider the state of appointed festivals like Christmas, and how they have become less about God and His people.

The people who will rejoice are those who are oppressed, to those who are weak and helpless.

Those who were chased away, or exiled.

This is referring to those who were run out of the camp in the days of the Exodus, who were cut off from the people of God because of their sin, yet will be welcomed back and restored.

Those who were exiled because of their sin and shame, for they too will be drawn back by God and restored.

Yeah, those who will rejoice in Jesus’s coming will include those who are burdened by shame and guilt, but who will be called by a new name, who will be given a new name, whose life will be restored.  The prodigals who return, those crushed by their sin.  For that is what Jesus does, as He was lifted up on the cross.

Lifted there because Jesus wasn’t just called a friend to tax collectors and sinners, He is a friend to them.  And lifted up on the cross, the very image of God’s mercy and grace, He draws people to Him, as He desires.

Gather, for the Lord Will Live Among US

The pastor  quoted earlier, who talked about the world assaulting us, following those words with these,

One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, (your soul) is worth more (to God) than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.

There is the key to seeing where our joy comes from, in the midst of a world that will try to make life a living hell.

Realizing the worth of a single soul, your soul, to God.

And that is why we are gathered by God together.  For in this Old Testament prophecy, over and over it mentions this promise – six times! – the fact that God will gather His people together, that He will make things right, and twice more just so we understand, he explains that happens as God lives in the midst of His people.

God living among His people

God gathering His people together

God living among His people

23  “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)

The apostle John said it this way,

14  The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. John 1:14 (TEV)

and

The hardest thing to get theologically is a concept known as “now, and not yet.”

Jesus has been lifted up, He has drawn us into Himself in His death, and in our baptism, bringing us into life everlasting. We celebrate now the feast that is the first taste of the feast to come. We can live free of the guilt and shame, free of what separated us from God.

We don’t see it yet, but we get glimpses of it.  As we gather, and as we do, our hearts should cry out His praises, for He is our Savior.  And I want you to hear one more “now and not yet

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Know this, like the prodigal’s father, our Father rejoices as we are gathered into His presence…  that is His love and mercy… AMEN!

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Can You Hear God Now? Why You Need to!


Featured imageDevotional Thought of The Day:

28  About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. Luke 9:28 (TEV)

42  They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (TEV)

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. (1)

There is a joke (at least I hope it is a joke) about an elderly gentleman and an odd sense of romance.  He was asked by a newlywed how often he told his wife he loved her. The old guy thought for a moment and said, “the day we got engaged.”  Seeing the shocked look on the young man’s face, he followed that up with, “and I told her if I changed my mind, I would surely let her know!”

I can’t believe there exists a woman for whom this would be satisfactory.

And so I wonder why many of us settle for that kind of relationship with God. It’s not that He doesn’t tell us constantly that He loves us, for He dearly wants us to know He loves us, to be aware of His presence.

That is what all of creation is about, about our relationship with Him.

Imagine for a moment that the old man’s wife told the young couple, “Oh, don’t worry about us, I am too tired to pay attention to my husband telling me he love me.  It’s too much work to drop what I am doing, and read a loveletter he carefully wrote me.  I don’t want his comfort, or for him to treat me special. Are our excuses for not spending time with God, with His people, any better?

Are our lives so perfect that we don’t need to be comforted by the Holy Spirit, that we don’t need to be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in the church?  Are we somehow more mature than the early church, who gathered regularly to pray?

If this letter is producing some guilt, that is not its intent. We have been given an amazing gift, a blessing beyond compare.  The presence of God, and in scripture, the proof of His love.  A gift we need to use, a gift that is a life changer, to know we walk through life with God.

Spending time in prayer, in readying and stuyding His word wih others, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper – it isn’t about duty, it is about knowing we are love… about hearing and seein that love…. Together, as His family.. And there is nothing better…

1.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Image of God and His People You Will Never Forget (though you might want to!)


Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  This is what the LORD said to me: “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it on, but do not wash it.” 2  So I bought the loincloth as the LORD directed me, and I put it on. 3  Then the LORD gave me another message: 4  “Take the linen loincloth you are wearing, and go to the Euphrates River. Hide it there in a hole in the rocks.” 5  So I went and hid it by the Euphrates as the LORD had instructed me. 6  A long time afterward the LORD said to me, “Go back to the Euphrates and get the loincloth I told you to hide there.” 7  So I went to the Euphrates and dug it out of the hole where I had hidden it. But now it was rotting and falling apart. The loincloth was good for nothing. 8  Then I received this message from the LORD: 9  “This is what the LORD says: This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem. 10  These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They stubbornly follow their own desires and worship other gods. Therefore, they will become like this loincloth—good for nothing! 11  As a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the LORD. They were to be my people, my pride, my gloryan honor to my name. But they would not listen to me. Jeremiah 13:1-11 (NLT)


538    There he is: King of Kings and Lord of Lords, hidden in the bread. To this extreme has he humbled himself for love of you.  (1)

There are many images in scripture used to describe the close, intimate relationship between God and His people.  He is the Good Shepherd who carries his lost sheep home, the Father who runs to meet His prodigal son,  The Bridegroom awaiting His perfect spotless Bride.   We are His temple, His dwelling place, His home…

And then there is this one

God and His people, who are pictured as… His underwear?  (that’s what a loincloth is…)

I mean, that is how close God wants His people to be to Him?  Not only that, He wants us to be like clingy underwear?

TMI!!!

(which could stand for too much information  or too much intimacy!)

It is an odd picture to be sure, this picture that the prophet Jeremiah puts on paper, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  But it drives the point home in a way we cannot deny.

God wants His people close to Him, Closer than anything else.

Yet too often, we don’t want to be that close to Him, we don’t even want to be in his bureau.  We want to keep God at just the proper distance.  Close enough to rescue us when we sin, but not so close that His presence causes us to move with Him,   We want to have our sins forgiven, but not have to spend time clinging to Him, having our lives wrapped around His life, going where He wants to go.

He wants us that close. He wants to be that involved in our lives, and we to be that involved in His.  For even as the prophet Jeremiah pictures us as God’s clothes, Paul will picture God wrapping Himself around us

26  It is through faith that all of you are God’s children in union with Christ Jesus. 27  You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. Galatians 3:26-27 (TEV)

This intimacy is not just pictured, but occurs at a deeper level, as we take Christ’s Body and Blood into us, in the Lord’s Supper, where Christ hides Himself, as St. Josemaria tells us, that we can know His love.

This intimate relationship is why the Father sent Jesus to live among us, to die for us, to restore us to the very ideal that God created us to be…. HIs people, His pride, His glory, and that we can bring Honor to His name.

Remember, the Lord is with you!

And if you need help remember how close… remember this picture from Jeremiah!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1299-1301). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May These Words Burn into You Mind, with more intensity than “It’s A Small World” or “Let it Go”


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

1  Thank GOD because he’s good, because his love never quits. 2  Tell the world, Israel, His love never quits.” 3  And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world, His love never quits.” 4  And you who fear GOD, join in, “His love never quits. 5  Pushed to the wall, I called to GOD; from the wide open spaces, he answered. 6  GOD’s now at my side and I’m not afraid; who would dare lay a hand on me? Psalm 118:1-6 (MSG)

286    There is nothing better in the world than to be in the grace of God.  (1)

If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, there is an experience that burns into your mind as you go on what seems to be a simple, sweet ride.  Just reading the title will bring back the melody that for the first 30 seconds seems nice, but after the three days inside the ride, you will never again be the same.  (Okay – Google said it is only a 12 minutes ride – but it does seem longer than that, like the length of Gilligan’s 3-hour tour!)

The same intense pain may have echoed through your mind, if you took your 2-10 year old child to see the movie “Frozen”, and proceeded to have every day for the next few years haunted by shrill remembrances of “Let it Go, Let it Go!

I sometimes wonder if the music teams will be tasked for providing the music in Hades

Now that I’ve traumatized you ( we call that preaching the law in all of it strength!)  it is time for another message to burn into your minds.  The message that the Psalmist repeats so often in scripture,

His love never quits

The Psalms have us repeat the message over and over, His love never quits! (Some translations prefer to translate it “His mercy endures forever!”

I prefer the “His love never quits” but also recognize that we have to understand the definition of love, in this case, the word “cHesed” in Hebrew.  It is more than just an infatuation, or a desire to be physically intimate with someone.  Matter of fact, it is much more intimate than can be seen just in physical actions.  It is a communion of souls, a dance of lives so intertwined that we cannot distinguish who is who anymore, for those who love each other not only fit that well together, they move that well together.

They are melded into each other’s life so completely that it is deeper than “it’s a small world” or “let it go” can burn into our minds.

It’s to receive God’s grace, the gift of His love and mercy, which we find our hearts and souls healed. That we find ourselves so caught up in His presence that we sing His praises even without consciously thinking to sing.   To know His mercy and love so well that His love and mercy exudes (I can’t think of a simpler way – except for sweat – and that doesn’t sound right)

Try whistling it’s a small world near someone over the age of 30… they will continue where you left off (warning – they will be upset at you) Or sneak up behind a family at Targe or Walmart and sign softly, “Let it go…”.  The impact of those songs will resonate with them, and though they hate it, it will dominate their mind for a while.

The same idea, without the hatred, is true of the gospel! It is true of this statement, “His Loves never quits”  You can use “His mercy endures forever” if you want.  The more we recognize this truth, the more it burns into our hearts and souls, the more it will affect our lives, our thoughts, our very being.   The more comfortable we will be, living in the presence of God, knowing our body is the temple, the place set apart for His body to dwell.

The more we will realize a level of joy and peace… that truly helps us to desire to dwell in His Kingdom.

That’s why we repeat these phrases, over and over, and over.

God’s love NEVER quits….

Lord have mercy upon us, and refine us in the fire of Your love that never quits!

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 755). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church’s Mission is NOT to Convert People


Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

 26  Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:26 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

Every once in a while, I hear a financial appeal for finances from a mission group. While they may never use the word “heathen”, that is what they are really saying.  It may be to a inner city mission, or some foreign field in the middle of a desert, or swamp, or jungle.  But the idea is that we must convert them, win them to Christ.  Some may say they’ve had so many say a “sinner’s prayer”, or decisions for Christ. Others talk about the numbers of baptisms.

What they are focusing on is that moment when someone “becomes” a believer, the moment they were “saved”.

But the church isn’t in the business of converting people, of a one time moment that changes life, or at least gives us a guaranteed visa to heaven.

That isn’t what Jesus did, not is it what we are commissioned to do.

We are told to make disciples of all nations, not convert them.  

Jesus didn’t tell Peter and Andrew, or James and John to just believe in Him.  He didn’t ask Matthew the tax collector to do that either. 

What God is after, what He desires isn’t a nice photo album of those who repented of their sins at a crusade, or who were convinced by a logical apologetic speech or emotional appeal.. He wants a family, people who are His, who know He is theirs. A relationship where He can bless His children and care for them.  Where He can teach them and share His glory with them.

You might say, that’s what conversion does.  And yes, there is a quickening, a bringing to life.  A baptism, a prayer, a confession of trusting God.  But our transformation, that work of the Trinity in our lives takes a lifetime, the promised completion date is Christ’s return.

What does this matter?  Why am I saying our goal isn’t to make converts?  Why can’t conversion be our mission our goal?

Image a lady, who wants to become a mother. Has she achieved her goal the moment conception occurs?  Or is there 9 months of pregnancy, and then years of sacrifices and successes, of joy and sorrows?

Our journeys only begins at baptism, our life in Christ starts there, when we go from not knowing God, to finding Him revealed in our lives so clearly that we trust Him. Where a relationship occurs as we walk with Him, as we are taught by Him, as we enjoy this life He has brought us.

We don’t want to just convert people, we want to see them become our brothers and sisters, we want our Father in heaven to adopt them….. our mission is far longer, far deeper, far more important than winning a debate.

It’s helping them to walk with God….. to know His love and mercy. To realize that nothing else is important, compared to walking with God.

to know when we cry together, “Lord Have Mercy!”. He answers.

That is what being missional is about, about what the apostolate is about.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Are We Afraid of Intimacy With God?


Discussion and Devotional Thoughts of the Day:Dawn at Concordia

 11  I will live among you in my sacred Tent, and I will never turn away from you. 12  I will be with you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12 (TEV)

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. (1)

78      Heroism, sanctity, daring, require a constant spiritual preparation. You can only ever give to others what you already have. And, to give God to them, you yourself need to get to know him, to live his Life, to serve him. (2)

I have pondered why the church is anemic in America.

We have incredible theologians, great exegetes, and emphasis on apologetics.  We have Church Growth studies and strategies, church planters, church restorers, more seminaries than anywhere else in the world.

Yet the church in America still is in decline.  It is so bad now, that we actually have experts in church viability, and strategies to close churches.  The key phrase these days is a legacy church – a church which realizes it isn’t viable, and therefore determines how to will its assets to something that will live and thrive.

We’e forgotten His promises, we’ve forgotten that this faith we have, is faith in those promises, a trust that is based in not knowing about God

A trust not founded in theological treatises, or exegeting the word skuballw correctly, or in knowing which studies to use to understand a church, or which programs might work in which context. It’s a trust that isn’t dependent on using a 14th century liturgy, (or one from a red, blue or maroon hymnal) or haing the right contemporary service order.  All these things are tools, they can be used in our churches, But we never, ever dare put our trust in them.  They are not what we count on, they are not whom we believe on, and they will let us down.

It is a trust that comes from knowing God, and knowing Him intimately.

It is then we can study His promises and claim those promises (not promises we or others create) as His promises to us.

But it still isn’t about the promises.  They are incredible, they are awesome… but our faith isn’t in them.

It is in Him.

It is in realize that He lives with us, in us, that He has come to us, and saved us, cleansed us, is healing us, and is shepherding us, His church, that we come to know Him.  Yes, intimately, and we know He knows us more intimately that we will ever know ourselves.  It was that knowledge that caused Him to comes to us, to die for us, for in knowing us, He loves us, and we… amazed, in awe, begin to learn to love Him back.

That love of His for us is what makes us holy..  It is what drives missionaries and martyrs.  It’s what makes grandma’s and great aunt’s pray for their prodigals on their knees, It is what makes all the heroes of the faith trust in God in their darkest hour.  It is what is causing the church in the “third world” or the Global South, to grow in the face of persecution, in the face of famine, in the face of spiritual warfare.

It’s time we remembered that…. its times we shared that, in chruches, and restaurants, in our homes, our workplaces.

God is with us.  God loves us… and share the extent of that love.

 

(1)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 493-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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