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Did You See What He Did There? a lenten sermon on Exodus 17


church at communion 2Did You See What He Did There?
Exodus 17:1-7

I.H.S

 May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!

 Did you see what Israel did?

Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning?  A little of what went before.

In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.

In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all

In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.

After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?

Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight,  Just because they are struggling with the thirst,  they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….

Did you see what they did there?  Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?

Did you see what they did there?  Yeah – that isn’t important.

Did you see what Moses did?

What about Moses?  Did you see what he did there?

He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God!  Why me Lord?  Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me?  He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!

He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.

God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?

Did you see what he did there?

That isn’t important either,  There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story

Did you see what God did there?

God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is

Do we see what God is doing?

First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.

Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints.  He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him.  Walk out in front, gather them around.  Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.

Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..

And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful.  He provides what they need, as He planned.

He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him.  So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.

To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)

Did you see what He did there?

People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted.  People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?

For those people, God again provided what they needed.

Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.

Did you see what He did there?

So what?

The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.

It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.

We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different.  Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there.  He is faithful.

I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life.  That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle.  I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.

But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question.  He is with us!  The Lord is with you!

Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.

That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.

That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about.  He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.

Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him.  And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”

He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.

AMEN!

Struggling in Your Relationship with God: A Absolute Necessity


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
24  This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25  When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26  Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27  “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob. 28  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29  “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. 30  Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.Genesis 32:24-30 (NLT)

21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)

158         You have become more keenly aware of the urgency, of the “preoccupation” of being a saint; and you have gone into battle daily with no hesitation, convinced that you have to root out bravely any symptom of being fond of comfort. Later, while talking to Our Lord in your prayer you understood that fighting is a synonym for Love, and you asked for a greater Love, with no fear of the struggle awaiting you, since you would be fighting for Him, with Him and in Him

It is one of the hardest things to accept as a Christian.

That I will continue to struggle with sin, especially the sin of idolatry, especially the concept of self-idolatry.  Not that I worship and praise myself, but that I depend on myself more than I depend on Jesus.  That I listen to my own reason more than I listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   An idol or a god isn’t just whom you worship with your voices, and maybe with an act to appease anger.  It’s so much more than that, as we enter into a relationship with God, on His terms.

A relationship between God and man is not just about praise and worship a few hours a week.  It is an intimate, dependent relationship.  Where we turn to Him, rely on Him, in every situation in life. We rely on Him to rescue us from the sin that entraps us, from the despair of dealing with death and in dealing with Satan, and the temptations that would see us crushed.

As St. Josemaria says, the life of holiness, of being a “saint,” one separated from the world to have that relationship with God, is a nearly constant fight.  Sometimes that fight is a battle against the spiritual powers in the world as He guides us in redeeming and reconciling the world to the Father.  But as often, the fight is our human nature, battling for supremacy, rather than simply realizing that God is God.  Such battles leave us tired, weary, even depressed seeing our lives not dominated by God as we would like, but by the sin that leaves us broken.

The hope is the hope that Jacob, the one re-named Israel finds in his dark night of the soul.  Where he wrestles with God, trying to dominate, trying to show his mastery over God.  When he can’t, the struggle changes – I won’t let go until you bless me, God, I won’t relax the struggle until I know your peace.   It is one of those things that amazes me, that the name of God’s people was taken from the last of the Patriarchs.  Not Abraham, or Issac, or even Jacob, his given name.

But Israel, the one who wrestles with God.. the people who would wrestle with God.  They entire history is a similar fight, and in Christ, the blessing comes, through the fight on a cross, and through a grave until the morning comes and the grace is revealed.

So you like I, struggle in your faith.  This is good.  May you learn to, like Israel, struggle through the darkness of night, and refuse to give up, but hang on for dear life, and hang on until you knw the blessing of His peace.   For that is what it means to not only fight for God, to not only fight with Him, but to fight in Him.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 865-869). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Can You Bring on the Journey – A sermon on Mark 10:17–22 (with Audio)


Traveling Companions of the Cross
Lesson IV – What Can You Bring on the Journey

Mark 10:17–22

Iesou, Huios, Soter

May the God our Father, the God of peace make you hoy in everyway, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!

What can I bring?

It is expected.

You may be bringing the side dish, or the desert.

Or if you are going to Dr. Chris’s you may bring a box of wine.

But we are trained to bring something with us when we go to someone else’s house.

If we are going on a long trip, we may offer to pay for the gas, or grab the snacks and drinks for the trip.

We might call it having good manners, or being raised and trained well.

Certainly the man in the parable was like us, he wanted to journey with Jesus, to be guaranteed that eternal life with God.

But he didn’t expect, and he couldn’t handle Jesus telling him he couldn’t do his fair share.

He couldn’t accept that when he asked Jesus what he could bring on the journey, Jesus’ answer was,

Nothing! Matter of fact, “go, sell everything you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and without bringing anything, “come follow me.”

We, like the man in the gospel struggle when Jesus invites us to come follow Him, and adds, leave everything behind… and I mean everything!

The problem of what we cling to… our idols

For the man, a man by all accounts righteous, what he wanted to bring along the way was his possessions.  That was what he clung to, actually it was what clung to him.  He wouldn’t let go, and walk with Jesus.

I hope we will….

You see, some will make this passage about the money, that we should use our money well for the kingdom.  That it proves that we are responsible to use our money and all we possess to praise God.  It could be our golf clubs, our sewing machines, our guitars or homes.  Sell it all, give it to God. NO!

Actually God didn’t want it.  Use it to help those without, set it aside. Come with me!

There is a bigger issue here. The way things control us, the way count on things to identify who we are.  It might be something we possess,  or it might be a talent, or our intellect. Jesus isn’t just asking the man to leave stuff behind.

Think about what Jesus asks people to leave behind in scripture.

Their jobs, and Matthew and Zaccheus left their tax tables

Their families, and Andrew, Peter, James and John left their families as they left their boats

Their nations, as Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and Paul would leave those behind

Their “rights”? a disciple follows His master… abandoning all for the honor.

And amazingly, their guilt and shame, as both David and Peter took on leadership roles they didn’t think they were qualified for,

Often how we define ourselves shows us what our idols, our false gods are. What we cling to, what we think defines us.  What we cling to, what defines us in the darkness of a night…..

Hear how Luther put it

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.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

Where does your confidence lie, when all else is falling around you?

It might even be negative – that you deserve to suffer, because your are no good.

Or it might be the idea that you are a victim.  That life is the way it is because you’ve been crushed by others, or attacked, or mocked.

**Whatever it is, what we define ourselves as, hints at what our gods and idols are.

They are the things that get in the way of walking with Jesus, what get in the way of our following him.

And like the man, if we are to be Christ’s, then we have to let go of that other stuff….

and walk with Christ, letting Him provide everything we are to be, to need. Letting Him show us what gets in the way of our relationship with Him, and letting him destroy those false idols, those false gods.

Come Follow Me!

That’s what we see as Jesus responds to the man,

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Catch that first line –

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him.

Jesus didn’t see the man as too proud, too conceited.  He saw a man that he loved, that Jesus came to die for, to make the man’s idyllic dream of heaven and eternity true.

In His love for the man, he saw what would stop him.  The things he possessed that meant more to him, at the moment.

Jesus loved him… Jesus wanted this man to join Him.  Just like Jesus wants us to join Him, to accompany Him to the Father’s side.

And Jesus would die, to show this man, and each of us, how much God treasures us. To give him a glimpse of the treasure a life lived with God is.  To show him the treasure that Jesus would bring him to know.

The treasure promised in the cross, given to all who would be joined to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, that incredible mystery we proclaim in the Memorial Acclimation, that we proclaim every time we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

We don’t have to bring anything, as what we have, what we put our trust in what we depend upon doesn’t define us.

The fact that God loves us does.  The fact that He loves us enough to do what it took, the cross and the grave, to make us His children.

That love defines us.

The love that says come with me.  Accompany me through life unto eternity.

I love the quote that shows how we are defined, found in Paul’s words to the crowd in Athens,

as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children
.’ Acts 17:28 (TEV)

And so we understand what the man couldn’t, what the writer of Hebrews wrote so clearly,

So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)

That’s the point of selling the stuff, getting rid of the stuff that gets in the way, whether it is good or bad.

So because of His genuine love for us, come, let us follow Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, the One who loves us more than life.  I tell you this, we won’t even remember what we’ve left behind!

AMEN!

God Knows His Plans For You, Are You Ready for The Hope They Bring?.


Featured imageDevotional 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.

Worship Wars: What Both Sides Are Missing!


Discussion & Devotional Thought of the Day:10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_n

12  I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:12 (NLT)

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. 28  “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:25-28 (NLT)

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1 (NLT)

43      We should offer the Lord the sacrifice of Abel. A sacrifice of young unblemished flesh, the best of the flock; of healthy and holy flesh; a sacrifice of hearts that have one love alone—you, my God. A sacrifice of minds, which have been shaped through deep study and will surrender to your Wisdom; of childlike souls who will think only of pleasing you. Lord, receive even now this sweet and fragrant sacrifice.

For forty to fifty years there has been a war raging in the church, transcending denominations, dividing churches, causing much pain, and without the sorrow which should be accompanied by such division.  It is known as “Worship Wars.”
It is often said to be about whether a church will use classic hymns, or contemporary praise music.  It is also defined as whether you use us a traditional liturgy, or a simper (yet often more complex) order of service. There is also the arguments over whether a worship service should be planned primarily for the believer, or for the seeker.

The final point of division is thought to be profound:

Is a worship service about man praising God, and the movement from earth to heaven?  Or is a worship service about God delivering gifts to men?

And the arguments go on, dividing the church.  People will actually be so defensive, so demanding, that they are willing to break apart what Christ died to bring together.

And both sides are missing the point.

Worship Services aren’t  primarily about God being served, or primarily about man being served. As one of my professors used to describe the liturgy,

“Worship and Liturgy is about the people of God being in the presence of God”  it is not all about God, and it is not all about man.  It is about the communion of God and Man.  It is about fellowship.  We are His people, He is our God, and He gathers us together to celebrate this reconciliation, this amazing miracle.

It is incarnational, as we find ourselves in the presence of a God who invaded the world 2000 years ago, and still invades and takes up residence in the lives of His people today.

That is what the worship service, the mass, the gathering,  the church service is about.  Nothing less than a feast that gives us a glimpse of the feast to come.  To recognize the truth that God is in our midst together, at work in our lives, giving us the power and desire to to do His will, to accomplish what pleases Him.

To only focus on God serving man leaves the people without a voice to praise Him, it becomes a one way monologue, where everyone becomes passive.  You see this when people can’t sing, where they are limited in serving, where the sermon and sacraments take on a uni-directional focus.  The same passivity is seen if the service focuses only on man serving God, as we start to assume He is silent, that we have to strive to make ourselves acceptable to Him.  This is seen where the sermon becomes a self help session, the worship is led, rather than facilitated.

it’s about God and man, together, as God has always desired, as He has always revealed to His people as His plan.

Receive His love with joy, offer Him your life to use, and go into the world knowing His presence, and His desire to see prodigals come home, and join in the celebration that they do.

Amen.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 387-391). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What is So Special About the Gospel?


What’s So Special About the Gospel?  Will new camera 12 2008 167
August 3rd, 2014

Romans 9: 1-5

 Greetings to you in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, our author and perfecter of our faith!  Alleluia, amen!

 

What is so special about the Gospel?

What is so important about the Gospel that Paul says in verse 2 from our Epistle on Romans today that he would be willing to give up everything he has including his salvation and be willing to be forever cursed, that is cut off from Christ, if that would save them?

What is so important and who are the “them” that Paul is talking about?

His people; or who he calls his Jewish brothers and sisters.  Jews, Hebrews, Israelites!

His people, the people of Israel chosen by God to be the Father’s adopted children.

But aren’t these Jews the same people who have flogged Paul with forty lashes minus one? Didn’t they beat him with rods? Didn’t they stone him and treat him like garbage?

With friends like that who needs enemies?

Well it was probably for good reason I’m sure. I’m sure Paul deserved what he got!

So what did he do that was so heinous?

Was he a drug dealer or a terrorist? Maybe he was a gang banger or a thug or thief or a burglar. One thing for sure is that he had gone from a prosecutor of Christians in the name of the Jews to an enemy of the Jews.

No, this all happened to Paul at the hands of the Jews because of his mouth.

He had gone from prosecuting to proclaiming.

Paul had these things happen because of the Gospel that he was proclaiming.

What is so important and so incredibly powerful to Paul that he would give up his own salvation so that his enemies who hated him and persecuted him would know and be saved?

What is so important to you?

Is it the Gospel of Christ? The Gospel which witnesses to Christ descending in the Incarnation and being born the savior of the world in a feeding trough? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that through Him sacrificing His own life atones for our sin on that old rugged cross?

Is it the witness of that blessed Easter Sunday of the true and living resurrection of our God?

Is it the power of the Gospel that frees us through Christ from our sin and calls us to baptism and where we die with Christ only to live in the resurrection eternally with Him?

Is it the Gospel of Christ given, witnessed and heard for all people even your enemies or people that you just don’t care for?

Like Paul are you willing to give up everything including your own salvation so that another might come to Christ and hear the call?

Or is only for you?

The Gospel is great as long as it meets in my wheelhouse or comfort zone. I believe in Jesus but I don’t want a messy Gospel or ministry!

Maybe your sincere intention is that you really want all people to believe and know Christ; but in a convenient, leave me alone sort of way. Let’s put up signs and keep it chained up and locked up and keep those in our lives we deem undesirable out of the way. Jesus would say and do this but I am no Jesus, yet we are called to be little Christs are we not?

All these ideas may That may seem logical and valid until you read what Paul wrote in verse 2 about his Jewish brothers and sisters when he wrote, “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief.”

How do you render that? Paul ached for these people, his people to know the freedom of the Gospel and the relationship repaired that all God’s children share in that adoption into Him.

He was torn apart that even his very enemies who scorned and despised him and more importantly Jesus, didn’t know Christ and His free gift of reconciliation.

How did they not get it? These were the people of Israel, remember Israel? His name was Jacob but it was changed because he struggled with God. They were God’s people, descendents of Jacob or Israel. God had chosen them like He has chosen us to be His people. Israel, His adopted children and He has revealed His glory to them and us in the risen Christ.

He had and has given them and us the privilege of worshipping Him and living and living in and receiving His wonderful promises.

These enemies of Paul had it right there in front of them and they rejected it and even despised it. Isn’t that our M.O. every time we sin? Isn’t it right there in front of us? Yet we reject God all the time but still His heart desires us and His heart is filled with bitter grief and sorrow whenever someone rejects Him.

These enemies had it right there in front of them as Jesus walked among them but yet they rejected the cornerstone. As I hear Paul cry and suffer for these people I am reminded of Jesus doing the same. Jesus wanted nothing more than to gather these people and die and suffer for them and live for them so that they would live but no…yet even on the cross he forgave them.

But weren’t they his enemies? Weren’t they enemies of God who rejected Christ.

Wait a minute, weren’t we enemies of God? Do we really deserve to be saved and adopted into Him? If God does this saving work through His Son and willingly gives Him up to die for His enemies, what does that say to you and I and our enemies or those we struggle and have difficult times with?

In the eyes of the world, Paul should just cut his losses and run, shake off his sandals and go.

But the power of the Gospel wouldn’t and won’t do that. The promises that God gives to Paul and to us through the Holy Spirit will not give up on us or anybody else even to people who are trying to do us harm whether it is by thought, word and deed and even people we want to harm in thought, word and deed.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends our human feebleness and frailty and our sinfulness and like last week’s parable seeks to catch us like a net.

What is so important about the Gospel that it crosses lines and dividers and smashes down walls, breaking chains and unlocking doors and ripping signs down? How does it make enemies become brothers in Christ? Not by anything or the work of you and i! It is the message of Christ Himself, the very Son of God who takes our sin and God’s wrath and heaps it all upon His shoulders so that you and I through the Holy Spirit may share in His joy and His peace as brothers in sisters of the cross.

It is the Gospel of Christ that wades through all the garbage and all the junk that Satan tries to use to pull us from God in our lives outside of church and even in the church. Boil it all down and what does it come out to? It has to be about Christ.

If it is about Christ then it is about life not death, life in Him for eternity, even eternal life with people that we may not enjoy or get along with so much. You have been called by God to be His. Through the Gospel we have been given a relationship with the Father of confidence in hope as we trust in faith, a faith given freely through Christ to all those who proclaim Him.

Paul knew why the Gospel was and is so important and what they were missing. It was so crucial that he would even give up his salvation so they would know it in every fiber of their being.

So that it would affect and circumcise their very hearts and they would be washed and made new creations. So that they could live in the perfect promises of the Trinity.

He was so sure of the Gospel that he would stake his salvation so that others would have the same thing on it.

Would God take his salvation from him? No. God will never take our salvation away. He will never deny us the forgiveness of sins and our faith.

Your salvation has been freely given through Christ and for God to take it away would make His promises deceitful and untrue and not faithful to His people.

The point is Paul through being convicted and called by the Holy Spirit knew how important the Gospel of Christ was and is. He knew that it is a life restorer and saver and he knew tht this free gift of mercy, love and grace was given through Christ on the cross.

Do we? Do we really understand not from our heads, but from our hearts and would that change us and would it change how we see the world, our lives and our church?

Would we be filled with bitter grief and sorrow over those who don’t know the life saving Gospel of Christ and complete joy when ones proclaims and confesses Christ?

It might get messy and yucky. It might even get uncomfortable. It may cause us to suffer and It may even cost us our lives.

But that’s ok because we live through Christ in the power and the glory of the Gospel and through that we are the body of Christ called in baptism and united in Him who suffered and gave His life. It was messy and it was uncomfortable and it was God’s love for you and I.

What is so important and special that the Gospel would unite enemies together?

Jesus Christ given and shed for you and for all.

Alleluia, amen.  

Football Season Starts Soon: Whose side is God On? (and in other rivalries as well)


Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

13  When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” 14  “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” 15  The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. Joshua 5:13-15 (NLT)   

759         You complain that he shows you no understanding. I am certain he does as much as he can to try to understand you. But what about you? When will you make a bit of an effort to understand him?  (1)

It is getting near that time of year when men pray more consistently on Sundays.  They thank God more often, they pray too him more deeply, the acknowledge His presence and ask His blessings (and  quote all the passages about cursing and defeating their enemies…)

Well, those men who are football fans, and those who are fanatics.

I wonder if God ever tires of those prayers, if he ever gets tired of the rivalries that He is included in by prayer? As if God really had a favorite football team, as if he really has a favorite team or a favorite player, or even a favorite sport?

I think of Joshua’s words above – he wanted to be sure this soldier was on his side…… and that was even before he knew the Soldier was Christ Jesus.

Whose side are you on?

Neither.

Which football team is favored by God?  Neither.

With that out of the way – let’s get on to what is important.  I am here.. you are here, therefore this is Holy Ground.  

The purpose of God isn’t to have this team or that team win, or even this nation or that nation be the dominant power.  People will get mad at me, but it is not whether the Ukraine or Russia prevails, whether ISIS is in power in Iraq, or some other group.  Or who is guiltier in the war between Hamas and Israel.

Even if those who oppose God are “victorious”, or seem to be, that doesn’t mean God is not working in their lives.  That is why God raised up Nineveh, why Jeremiah 29:7 talks about praying for oppressors, why Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Do we understand people enough to see their need for God in their lives?  Do we see that we, as His people, as to be beacons, to bring light into their darkness?

Those steps are needed, but first we desperately need to know that we are in the presence of God.  That it is not our agenda, or even our nation’s agenda that is important.  There is only one agenda, there is only one will that matters.  God’s.

It is His – that none should perish – but that all wold come to repentance, as St Peter instructs.  Raider fans, Bills fans, Broncos Fans, even Patriots fans.  Russians, Ukrainians, Iraqi’s of every ethnicity and culture, Palestinians, those in Hamas, even the Israeli’s.

That they would come to know they live in God’s presence, that the Holy Spirit would replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, that they would have the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, give them life.

That is why Joshua would meet the pre-incarnate Christ,   it is why Israel was loved, and protected,   SO that we could heed the words of King David in the second Psalm,

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:11-12 (NKJV)

Lord have mercy on us!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3155-3157). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hope Amidst Distant Wars, Rumours of Wars, and Your Personal Battles…


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

1  How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 (NLT) 

756         I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity throughout the day.  (1)

I’ve heard a lot of speculation recently on Israel and Palestine, people trying to justify the killing that is going on, from one side or the other.  Even the passages from scripture, about wars and rumours of wars have been used to justify war, ( I think those passages can bring us comfort and solace – but to justify it?)  The same kind of speculation about what is going on in Iraq, and in the Ukraine, and in a dozen other places around this world.

Yeah, there are going to be wars.  But that doesn’t mean we have to like it!  It doesn’t mean, that like Pope Francis, we can’t pray diligently that these brothers would stop warring against each other. (It amazes me  For them to realize they are brothers and sisters, that who they are killing are their own.

(Yeah, I realize that what I am saying is going to tick them both off at me – but hey – it just proves that they can agree on something!)

Its hard for them to see, I realize, that they are all related through Noah, and perhaps through Abraham. That even more, as people who Jesus Christ was crucified to redeem, they could be brothers via the application of His blood for all the sins that separate them.  After all, we see such an example in people like the Apostles Matthew and Simon the Zealot, and of course in the Apostle Paul

Peace, real peace, not just a passing cease fire, or a UN mediated true, has to come spiritually, It has to come from the One who died to end sin, to bring hope, to establish peace in our hearts.  As St Josemaria wrote, we have to increase our awareness of the supernatural, of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.  Only then will we see our brothers and sisters in a different light, only then will we see them as children of God, as righteous in Christ, and realize that to cause them sorrow, is to cause ourselves sorrow. Consider these verses, and God’s call to love your adversaries,

  14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!   Romans 12:14-16 (NLT)

That is true whether we are talking about national and international battles, or the battles that can rage in our workplaces, or homes.  Or the relationships that cause us stress, anxiety, even mild cases of paranoia.

Is it possible to live at peace?  I do not know.  I know it is possible to live In peace, the peace of Christ.

May you find yourself drawn into that peace, and may you draw those you are “at war” with, into that peace as well.

And pray, for the peace of Israel, and for those who oppress them!  (Jeremiah 29:7)

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3142-3144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do I Really Have to????? Yes! Love Them!


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

7  And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:7 (TLB) 

760         All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added. I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?  (1)

I am on vacation, and we’ve driven a bit here and there, and my memories go back to my childhood vacations in the lake region and in White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Three kids in the back of the old Chevy Malibu, and later in the Monte Carlo. God a bit cramped back there, and let’s just say it is was about as peaceful as the Holy Land. There was even the innocent victim (me) caught in between the rival factions.. I can still hear my dad and mom instructing my siblings to get along, to love each other, sometimes even to give each other a hug… a nice gentle one.

And the loud pitched, whining reply, ‘do I really have too???????”

Move forward to today.  Even if we are not caught into a political and historical mess like Israel and Palestine, we find ourselves in serious disagreements, We have rivals, we have those we don’t like, and we have those we are seemed destined to hate, because they hate us.  We are at war, sometimes in our workplaces, other times in our neighborhoods, with distant family, and sometimes, sad to say, in our homes.

We justify our anger, we get protective to stop the pain, to defend our reputations, even our families. There is a meme going around, saying that if they drop their guns, there will be peace, but if we drop ours, we will be annihilated. Not sure how true this is, but we take it is as truth, and apply that truth in our lives. We want at least the personal version of Mutually Assured Destruction.

We don’t realize how damaging this is, this dealing with enemies, this always defending ourselves.

Israel was in captivity when Jeremiah wrote these words, with the ancestors of those they have been engaged in hostilities with for centuries.  The prophet’s words are different, they don’t call for strategy, they don’t call for defensive posturing.  I chose the translation from the Living Bible because it identifies the city, these enemies.  Here it is, as we would normally here it,

7  And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT) 

Do I really have to?  Do I really have to love them, to pray for them?  Do I have to sacrifice time and energy to work for their peace and not just survival, but prosperity?

Do I really have to?

I mean St Josemaria described them so well, “All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.”

And the response, read it again,

I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?

Here is a way, similar to the words above, that helps.  Hear Jesus words from the cross, Father, forgive (insert your name), for they know not what they do.  See Him utter those words, even as He is dieing, even as the pain wracks His body, even as the blood drips to the ground.  Now, Look at your adversary, see Jesus on the cross, begging the Father to forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing as well.  Let this thought be pondered in your heart for 10 or 15 minutes…. really dwell on it. Not just picture it for a second – go that’s nice.  But dwell on it until the tears come, till the pain is pulsing in your body, and then purged of it, the peace rushes into your soul.

See both of you, broken there… yet being lifted by Christ.  For in Christ, that which divides us is broken, in Christ there is mercy, in Christ, there is healing.

That’s why Jeremiah calls for us to pray for those who oppress us, because as God makes Himself known to them, as He calls them to be His children, as He blesses them, the blessing to us is beyond compare.

St Paul mentions this in his words to the Church in Galatia…

27  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 (NLT)

There is our goal, this is our mission, our apostolate, to long for this healing, this reconciliation.  Tough?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes?  Calling us to sacrifice beyond our means?  Yes.

In Christ, there is no other choice.  It is our vocation, our life.

We pray, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners!”

 

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3158-3162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rejocing During Lent? Inconcievable? Not at All!


Devotional THought of the Day:concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - Copy

 25  Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26  And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27  David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment. 28  So all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres. 29  But as the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.   1 Chronicles 15:25-29 (NLT)

16  “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17  ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’   Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

Tonight my church will gather to celebrate the love of God.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say God will gather them, for that too is part of the celebration.

We are in the beginning days of Lent, just a week ago we celebrated Ash Wednesday, with a service that…could only be called a celebration. It wasn’t just that we had a much larger group than is our pattern. It was the idea that people gathered, and with reverent smiles  they were marked with ashes, knowing that this reminder of their sin, which grieves them, would be accompanied by another trip forward, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, proof that God wouldn’t leave them in ashes, that they would not be left in the dust.

That’s something to rejoice in, that’s something to celebrate, and even…like King David, dance over.

Yes, like Isiah, we are people who sturggle with sin, (and sometmies struggle is a strong word) , who live in a world that more and more rejoices in sin.  This is indeed something we should grieve over, it is something that we should never be callous about either.  Christ grieved and wept as He looked over Jeruslaem, the prophets wept as they reminded Isarel of what would be the consequences of their sin, especially their abandoning their relationship with God in order to choose idols of their own making.  Even so, Jesus went on to the cross, to do something about that grief, just as the prophets would foretell not just of doom and judgment, but of the glory of Christ incarnation, death and resurrection, and what it means.

So to, our journey of Lent, the remorse and grief we find as we review our lives, is tempered by the glory of God. The shear joy of realizing that we will soon be in Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday!  The joy of knowing that our grief has been dealt with, our expectation of God’s promises have been fulfilled. This is also a season of expectation, a season of hope that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!  How can we not be excited y the promise, and knowing it is fulfilled in Christ.

And so each service is a mini-lent to easter celebration, from the death of sin, to the resurrection to life in Christ, celebrated as we feast together at the altar (and on Wednesday nights, at the table)

Rejioce?  How can I not, when the glory of God is present, when His people are gathered together, when He gives us life and shares with us His mercy, His peace, His love?

As we walk through lent, even as the priests and David walked with God toward the Holy CIty, let us rejoice in His glory.  As well, may the light of His glory draw all to Him.

AMEN.

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishe(1rs. Kindle Edition.

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