Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. 12 Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. Jeremiah 29:11-12 (TEV)
545 Live a special Communion of the Saints, and at the moment of interior struggle, as well as during the long hours of your work, each of you will feel the joy and the strength of not being alone. (1)
The above quote from scripture (the red quote) is often used to lift people’s spirits, It appears on cards and meme’s with beautiful sunrises and glorious backgrounds. People share it with those they know need a spiritual boost, a holy “pick me up,” assurance. jeremiah, the prophet of troubling messages assured us of a light at the end of the tunnel. He promises, as God’s spokesman, that there is hope, and it is found in the presence of God. The presence that we are believers dwell in, for we are His people!
He will hear our prayer, He has a plan, He has an answer, and all of that is true.
You might ask where the fine print is, and there is something in the context of this verse that you need to hear. Read this carefully,
7 Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too. Jeremiah 29:7 (TEV)
Read the verse again? Do you realize that God is tieing the future of the Babylonians to the future of the Jewish people? That God’s people are to pray for their enemies, their persecutors, that the future and hope of both Jews and Gentiles is linked? That the people of God should work hard to benefit those who oppress them,
We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute. That is what we do, as we trust in Jesus’ promise to us in the sermon on the Mount. And it is nothing really new. That kind of love Israel was supposed to show people back in the Old Testament. It is very radical, it is not logical by man’s standards! Yet in 1 Cor. 5 we are told that we don’t judge men by those standards, but by the value Jesus has placed on them. They will become part fo the Communion of Saints, the very people that will lift you up.
God has radical plans for you, plans that are beyond awesome. Those plans include all He brings into His family, all He wants to bring into His family. That includes those people, the ones you struggle to love. The ones who take every bit of trust you have in God to deal with, and then some.
Pray for them, do everything you can to help them… trusting not in their response, but in God’s role in your life. You will be amazed at His plans, at the reconciliation and restoration he accomplishes!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1317-1319). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (TEV)
174 Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”
It may be a political figure, stoked by the internet gossip that reports and interprets what he is doing.
It may be that guy who cut you off on the freeway.
It may even be that church leader, either in your congregation or perhaps in your denomination.
It could be someone much closer, a family member, a best friend, even your spouse.
It might be me.
Everyone has someone who can irritate them to the point where the frustration dominates their life. We may be ticked off, or hurt. It may be for a few minutes or a few hours, or if the adversary is irritating, a week or a month or a lifetime.
We would love to “fix” them, we would love to see them change, or if not, to just leave them alone. We might even think our life would be better without them. I’ll tell you a secret,
We need them!
We need their irritation, even their persecution. We need them to teach us how to love them, how to care for them, how to listen.
For St Josemaria is correct, they are part of our sanctification!
Part of their role in our lives is to make us holier, to cause us to be closer and closer to God. For it is only as we see them as He sees them, that we will find the strength, the courage, to power to love them, to minister to them. To reveal to them the healing power of the love that we find, when we see Jesus.
That is why we are urged to pray to Him, that God would intercede in their lives. This is why we love them, for they (should) drive us closer to Jesus. As we abide in Christ, we find the peace from which we can minister to them. He gives us the assurance that allows us to sacrifice for them, no matter whether it is our time, our money or even our lives.
I am preaching on 1 John 3 this weekend, where the Apostle hears the Holy Spirit telling us that we should love as Christ did, that we should minister to those in need, who lack what we have. The context is physically, but it works emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well. But we only find that ability, as we live in Christ. As we embrace the discomfort, for their sakes, for God’s glory. If we trust God, we encounter Christ as we encounter those who irritate us. Amazing this Lord of ours!
It is a challenge, but it is what we are called to… so it is time do our job.
May God reveal His work in you, as you minister to them…. and may His peace, which is beyond our imagination, guard our hearts and minds, as we follow in His steps.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)
43 ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44 But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)
23 Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)
The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines. The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.
This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ. And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.
I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.
Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”
Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this? Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?
My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.
Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.
This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life? Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death? We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it. The Blood of Christ? Sure – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus? yes definitely!
But… death? Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ? You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death. And will embrace it because of that truth.
That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.
And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.
God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them. Not for a second. Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.
And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.
This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.
Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…
So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.
And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!
The Mission: Briefing #2
Our Strategic Plan: Prayer
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
As You look around you, may you realize the great need there is for the grace, the mercy and love that is yours to give, for that is your gift from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
At least we can? Not..
It’s probably a matter of semantics, just the way people phrase things, but I have heard it a lot this week. It’s been said different ways, but it still sounds the same…
“Pastor, we’ll be praying, but if there is anything we can do….” Or
“Pastor, we know there is probably nothing we can do, but we’ll be praying for you and your family…”
By the way, if you’ve said that, I know that isn’t how we mean it. Or at least I don’t think we think that way. Or maybe….. we do.
In contrast – today’s epistle reading takes a different tact…
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
In our Lutheran Confessions, Melancthon wrote of it this way,
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.[i]
So I repeat Paul’s words – and will more and more today, I urge you, first of all… to pray for all people!
Where is our faith?
Whether we realize it, or not, when we set prayer as a secondary action, as a safety valve, we are breaking the first and second commandment. You heard me, we are sinning, by placing another god in our lives, by not calling upon God in both prayer and praise.
Luther wrote about it this way:
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;
For faith is not just about salvation, it’s about deacon Mike’s favorite theological phrase! It’s about that intimate relationship we have with God. It’s about trusting Him in everything – and running to Him first when we don’t know what to do, or how to love and care, all that we know is that He is where we find hope, and comfort, and love.
So Paul urges not just Timothy, but us to pray for all people. To get God involved in their situation, to deliver them from whatever is oppressing them, especially the sin and unrighteousness of this world. To pray that God would save them, even as He has saved us. That His grace, His mercy and love that we know – for that is why we praise Him…would be revealed to them so clearly it would knock them over…like Paul was knocked over on the road to Damascus.
You see that’s how we deal with all people! Yes – I mean all people. Pray for those who annoy you, who irritate you, who’ve hurt you, who’ve betrayed you! Put them in God’s hands, let God help them with their hurts, and your will find yourself healing as well. For that is what it means that God is our God – that we trust Him with our who heart – even with our bruised and battered hearts…
For He is faithful and He will reconcile us all in His heart.
We have to grasp the heart of God!
That is really what prayer is about, and why it makes so much sense to put those we care for, and those who we struggle to care for, into the very hands of God. He’s the one who can take care of their burdens, and the burdens and anxieties that they can cause us.
That is why Paul brings in God’s will. He just does not want everyone to be saved – that is a weak translation there. The word is desire; it is a word full of passion and zeal. It is all about His heart yearning to know each and every one of us, to bring healing to us, and you know – that means He has to deal with those we love whose situations break our hearts… and those who simply break our hearts.
For Jesus came and lived and died for each of us, even as we broke the Father’s heart, and occasionally still do. As we get to know God’s heart; as His love is revealed to each of us.
That’s why the great prophecy about baptism in Ezekiel 36 talks about God cleansing us and removing our hard stone hearts and putting in them a heart of flesh and His Spirit – that’s part of the transformation that begins in us when we are baptized, when God gives us His Spirit.
The closer we come to God, the more His love is revealed in our lives, the more we find ourselves trusting in Him enough to give Him our pains and anxieties, which so often include, or are about, or caused by others.
The same “others” that Jesus also hunt on the cross and for whom He died.
That’s what we have to understand, that is what is true – the love of Go, seen as Jesus, the only one who can act as an intermediary between God and man – does that very thing.
We’ll talk about that more in Bible study – but think about this – the reason Jesus can bring God and man together.. is because He is… God and Man.
His heart is for us, and He brings us into His sacred heart – He brings us into a relationship so clear that the more we spend time in it, the more we heal and our new heart is revealed to be His.
But our first step isn’t to go on a crusade…
That is why our first step is not some crusade to go save the world. Our first step is to fall on our knees and ask God to bless people, to help them, that’s why we intercede on their behalf.
It’s not something we do as a last resort, or when we can’t think of something else to do. Paul urges us, literally he comes along side to help us and points out our first step – is to reach out…not to them, but to the Father who will have Jesus intercede in their lives.
This is the strategy of our mission as believers, our mission of the church.
I urge you, first of all to pray for all people.
And Paul repeats the concept – Ask God to help them..
Intercede with Him on their behalf.. even if you don’t like them… ask God to be with them..
Four times in four ways… God asks us this. It’s called a parallelism.
It’s like when you wife, or your mother, tells you to do something… if she tells you twice.. uhm you better listen…
But if she gets to three…
But this is even more important…we’re talking about our eternity here, and about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God…. Like communion its not an individual thing – but a God pulling us all into Him thing. That’s what He does – that’s why we go to Him, and as Paul says – as Paul urges us, we go to Him first.
A last thought: Why give thanks?
As we chew on this, for the heart of God is something we cannot just academically “get”, as we strive to realize what it means that God wants us all, in Christ, reconciled, as we learn to pray for all men, I would ask one more thing….
Why do we give thanks for them? Why are we urged by Paul, along with praying for them, to give thanks for them? Even the politicians and bosses and all that oppress and antagonize us?
Because, when we realize God’s heart toward them, our hearts melt as well… and even more..
Because whether positive or negative influences in our lives…when we are urged to bring them and their situation before God.. wefind we are in His presence… and there…
There is peace. And may your realize that unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.