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Dare I pray this? Dare I not?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. 24  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. Psalm 139:23-24 (NJB)

Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another •language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks •mysteries in the Spirit. l 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.  1 Cor 14:1-4 HCSB

771    God exalts those who carry out his will in the very same things in which he humbled them.

There is a joke about being cautious as you pray for things like patience and faith, because surely God will hear those prayers, and give you the opportunity to see your growth.  Of course, the only way to see growth in those things is when you have to demonstrate them.

Even though the idea of having to be patient is scary, the idea of praying the psalmist pray this morning is even scarier.  To give God permission, to beg God to investigate every nook and cranny of our heart, our soul, our very being, and to make sure I am not doing anything offensive, anything evil, anything that would lead me to ruin.

God knows our right and our wrong, our acts of rebellion, our sin, but to invite Him in to purge them from us?  That is a hard prayer, that is one that scares me, for somehow I think that what I hide from him, what I deny to myself, somehow doesn’t count, it doesn’t affect me and others, it just was a passing moment, something I barely remember.

And yet, it is only after I pray that, only after letting Jesus carefully circumcise my heart, that I can begin to understand how great His love his and be in awe of His mercy. It is only then that I can begin to realize what it means to be the one He loves, and adore God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only then that life begins.

A focus on such love, pursuing such love is essential for those of us who preach, who prophesy, who teach.  Whether it is to a parish of thousands, or to two or three in a elementary sunday school class.  I believe there is a distinct impact on preaching and teaching that comes from knowing we are loved.  Not just knowing it as a fact, but living in the midst of that love, knowing that love so well that we easily trust Him, even with the darkest parts of our lives.

It is as we are rescued from that darkness we can speak of it in a way that edifies the church, that lifts them up, that convinces them of the love of God.  THat allow them to realize that God loves them as well, that they can trust Him to transform them.

That when God humbles us, it is so that, cleansed of all that has damaged us, we can be lifted up, healed, and in awe, knowing He loves us.

Such is our calling, such is our relationship with HIm… and though this prayer still scares me, can we pray it together?

Heavenly Father, we count on our love, we acknowledge the need of the Spirit to come through our lives, cleansing us from our sin, our brokenness, our pursuit of things we know distress you. Lord, help us to pursue the love you told us you have, and counting on that love, search our hearts our souls and minds, Find the things that displease You and take them away, so that you may guide us on this way of everlasting life.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1785-1786). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Faithful Love! A Sermon on Lamentations 3:22-33

church at communion 2God’s Faithful Love
Lamentations 3:22-33

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you peace and help you to realize how faithfully He loves you!  And knowing this, may you learn to wait in hope, knowing He will never abandon you forever!

Fear of Abandonment

In that day, people had turned their back on God.  They had chosen lives filled with immorality and deceit, lives that were so perverse that they didn’t even realize how badly they were enslaved to sin.

They were beginning to reap the consequences of their action, as families were divided, as their cities were being destroyed from within and without, as they were no longer a place where refugees came for hope, but a place where they fled from, not with any plan, but they simply had to “get away.

They were a people that were broken, much like many in our community in our nation, in our world today.  There felt like they were alone – and that they were abandoned by God.  This was reinforced by the shame that what they were experiencing, shame they knew they deserved because of their sin.  They felt abandoned, without any hope…

And then a prophet spoke.

There would be healing, so that even in their grief, they would know not only that God was compassionate, they would experience that compassion.  For God has promised that His love is faithful and unending, that His mercy, His compassion, His work forgiving and restoring people will never end.

And this faithful love of God endures today.  It is why this church can be what we say it is, the place where people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.

Submitting to the yoke…together

I want to read verse 24 through 27 again,

24  I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 25  The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. 27  And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28  Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands

While we look at 26 through 28 a little closer, please keep in mind the attitude expressed in 24 and 25, that we have hope, for God is our inheritance, that He is good to those who depend upon Him.

But in verse 26-28 we find some things that are… challenging, and if we think through them, disturbing.

The first is that it is good to wait quietly, (and the Hebrew includes the idea of expectantly) for God to rescue us.  Let’s get past the word salvation and realize that this is a matter of spiritual life and death we are talking about.

This word salvation, getting down to simple thoughts, is about being rescued, about being picked up from the crap that we have gotten ourselves into, the trouble we have made for ourselves, the sin we committed, that leaves us broken, frustrated, and alone.

The issue of sin is the reason Jeremiah tells us that it is better for us to submit to a yoke of discipline at an early age.  A little explanation there.  A yoke was that which was put over a team of oxen or horses’ necks so that they could be used to work.  It was a way of controlling them, but even more, a way of teaching and guiding them.  For a new ox would be paired with one who was experienced and together they would get the job done,

In the same way, it may seem hard to think of God disciplining people, but He doesn’t leave us alone, for as He disciplines us with that yoke, he is also carrying it with us, doing the work, making sure we “get” it, never leaving us alone, even though we think we can’t bear it anymore.

And that is the way it is throughout our entire life.  Even when we struggle, He is there, right beside us, working us through it, bringing us back on track.  Far better to learn this as a young person, but it is never too late!

For we find as God guides us, even if it is with a “strong hand” that we not only endure, we are blessed by His presence, even if we don’t really enjoy His strong hand, and His correction.

His Mercies begin Fresh, they never cease

But this is what it means that His love is faithful, and it never ends.  God’s love for you and it means that He will always, always do what is best for us.  That is the nature of this love, this cHesed.  It binds Him to us, His love for us demands He be faithful to us, even when that faithfulness isn’t easy, or comfortable, say for instance when it required the death of Jesus.

On the cross.

Because He loves us, and He will not ever give up on us, or abandon us.  But we live forever with Him.

In this book of lament, there is one thing that still amazes me, and brings me to tears, not of grief, sorrow or shame.

It is verse 23, “His mercies begin afresh every morning.”

Every morning.  No matter how bad I screwed up yesterday, no matter how shameful my sin, no matter how badly you think you shattered that relationship, that mercy, that bond that God has with you is there, as new and precious as it was when He cleansed you from sin in your baptism.

That is why we are told to remember our baptism every evening before we go to sleep, so that we may sleep without guilt and shame, and why we should begin every day thinking of what God promised us here, not just the forgiveness of sin, but the presence of the Holy Spirit, who will accompany you all day, guiding you, correcting you, comforting you.

That is the faithfulness that Jeremiah offered to the sin-ridden people of Israel

And it is the faithful love of God I promise you is there, for you this day.

God is with you, and because of that, you can know He will be merciful, He will forgive because He loves you.  And like Jeremiah, as He is healing you, you can reach out to others who need healing.

For you can live with Him, knowing His incredible peace, now and forever!

Let’s pray.

God’s “safe place”…the place He fits in…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  1 Co 3:16   HCSB

1 How lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD of Hosts. 2 I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 64:1-2 HCSB

37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

King Solomon once asked if there was ever a place God could fit in.

As I read the readings quoted this moring I thought of Solomon’s words at the dedication of the temple, and as I read that we were God’s sanctuary, I didn’t think about it in view of a huge cathedral’s sanctuary, but the place for someone seeking a home, seeking a place where you “fit in”, where You were loved.  To quote the old song from the show “Cheers”, the place where “everybody knows Your name”.

A sanctuary is a place where you are at peace, where you can rest, and be yourself.  Where it is safe.  Where you are worry free and free to discover who you are, and live as you were meant ot live. Some people mock those described as “millenials” for wanting such a place, for struggling to understand this world and the chaos we have seen it become.

Yet even as the Psalmist desires to be in the dwelling place of God, (something I resonate with a lot, as I struggle with my own sin and the sin of the world)  I find it comforting to know God seeks this place as well.  That God would look for His safe place, the place where He would be who He knows Himself to be, to create and find every part of His sanctuary.  God is far more desirous of that place than we are, and the extreme measures He will go to create that place, to found the place where He fits in, to dwell in the place where everyone knows (and praises) His name.

People reading this may think that I am picturing God as a wimpy needy person, just as they picture the millennials who they berate and mock.  The need for a safe place and a call for it by the younger adults of this day is not about them being wimps, it is about their keen sense of the dissonance that sin causes, the brokenness that our hearts and souls cannot tolerate.

And neither should ours.

We, especially those in the church, should be crying out to God, to make His presence know, to help us to understand that He dwells in our midst, that we are the sanctuary we so eagerly seek out.  We can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, see those out searching for a place, drawn to Him, pointed there by our words, by our lives.  For this church is the place we find ourselves in the heart of Christ, and it is there, as the Spirit dwells in us,.

This is the sanctuary God desires more than anything, for Jesus, died to establish it.  This is the community that is called holy, that is set apart to know and love one another, where everyone knows your name, and everyone knows His. This is His masterpiece, this church made not of wood and stone, but of hearts and souls, the place figured in the words of John 1, where it says he came and made His home among us. This is what all creation culminated in, this sanctuary, this safe place God has made to dwell in with us.

Realize my friends, you dwell in Him, and you are His sanctuary.  For this is His desire, to have this sanctuary for Himself.

Lord,, help ys to realize that in the Sabbath you rest, and envisioned us finding rest and peace with You.  In making us Your Holy People, you created a place where You fit in, where You would rest in peace with those you call by name, who call You by Name and call upon that Name. Help us to do so often so that every burden is lifted, and every praise is sung.   AMEN!

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

The Bottom Line

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
1  When I came to you, my friends, to preach God’s secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2  For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (TEV)

729    Each day, O my God, I am less sure of myself and more sure of you!

Back in my youth, there was a phrase used that described the attitude of many students in college.  It went like this, “If you cannot blind them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit!”

With intent or not, that may have gotten many of us a grade or two better than we deserve.  Like most sophomore (from the greek where we get the words wise and fool/moron) we thought we knew everything about everything, and we tried to impress others with those beliefs and impose those beliefs on them.

I don’t think those attitudes have changed all that much, even as I encountered them as an instructor in both computer information systems and in world religions in the last two decades.

As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, and I considered all the fake news out there, I remembered the attitude and the bravado and crap that we typed onto papers and presented in class.

And I regret that past, for instead of shuffling data to look good and trying to impress professors and classmates, I could have been learning more about the love of God. The love revealed in the incarnation, in the life and teaching of Jesus the Messiah, in His suffering and death which frees you and I from sin, from the resurrection, which brings us to live in Him.  I could have been looking for to the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come.

For that is the bottom line in life.  Nothing else truly matters.

We keep it simple, Christ came to save sinners. sinners like me.  To save us from ourselves. To save us to himself.  AMEN

Lord, help us each day to become less sure of ourselves, and surer of Your love and presence in our lives.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1711-1712). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is it worth it?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)

12  Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13  Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, 14  I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15  So this is the way in which all of us who are mature should be thinking, and if you are still thinking differently in any way, then God has yet to make this matter clear to you. 16  Meanwhile, let us go forward from the point we have each attained. Philippians 3:12-16 (NJB)

708    The world, the devil, and the flesh are a band of adventurers who take advantage of the weakness of that savage you have within you. In exchange for the poor bauble of pleasure, which is worth nothing, they want you to hand over to them the pure gold and the pearls, the diamonds and the rubies, drenched in the living and redeeming blood of your God—the price and the treasure of your eternity.

There are days when I ask myself the question that is the title of this blog.

The problem is that I ask it at the wrong times, or perhaps with the wrong attitude.  

I ask it on rough days when I am weary, broken by the events I endured, the pain and suffering encountered. I ask it with the attitude of trying to find a way out, a way to alleviate the stress that ll of the trauma and drama causes. I ask because, in the moment of the struggle, doubt creeps in and temptations arise.

The answer is that walking with Christ is always worth it, usually, somewhere between my heart, mind, and soul, I know this. Yet I also know Satan and the sinful nature that I still have to fight (see that described in Romans 7).  It doesn’t have to be the poor bauble of pleasure, it could even be the illusion that suffering and drama doesn’t exist. 

In those times, I need to remember the suffering He endured, and that He thought I was worth it!  I have to breathe, allowing the Holy Spirit to quiet and comfort me, allowing the Spirit to work deep within, reminding me of who God is, of where God is. 

This is why passing the peace and the Lord’s Supper are such important times in my life,  For there I am driven to remember He is with me, that His peace is where I am kept, I just have to remember it. As person after person shakes my hand, or grips me in a bear hug, I am reminded of where I am.  As they say, “peace be with you,” I realize that they know this because they have seen it in their own lives, as I tell them. I dwell in His peace.

That message is even more reinforced as I take in my hand body of Christ, and the cup containing His precious blood.   What a gift!  What a reminder that from the pain of the cross comes my hope, and the joy that is unspeakable.

Is it worth it?  This life lived, walking with people who struggling, each carrying his own burden? This carrying of burdens?  Of course.

God is with us!

So hang on to this hope, and know He is hanging on to you, as He walks with you.

AMEN. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1656-1659). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Same Words… found back to back, that help in the dark times of life!

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)

695    In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.

As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.

The amount of trauma and conflict  (more of the former than the latter)  I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.

So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him.  Can?  I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.

At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words!  Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.

I need to… I really do.

Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing.  For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.

WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.

Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others.   Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.

including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.

What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken?  What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little?  How incredible is that?  How amazing?

Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.

As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!

Amen!

What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?  

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

How Ministry Works – A Concordia Sermon based on Mark 4

church at communion 2How Ministry Works
Mark 4:26-34

I.H.S.

 May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you mature in trusting God and serve those around you!

 Cornfields of Dandelions?

As we look at the kingdom parables in our gospel reading this morning, I imagine you think the Farmer creates a farm like the ones we may be had driven by, where the seeds are planted in nice neat rows.

But the scripture says he throws the seeds, just slings them across the field, so a better illustration would be those beautiful flowers that spread their spores across the fields of my youth.

You know, those lovely things we call dandelions!

The spores fly where ever there wind blows, and overnight your beautiful yard is covered In bright yellow flowers, though some might call them weeds.

That is how the Kingdom of God is, as the seed of the gospel is blown about, and creates life from seemed barren, lifeless, and even dead.  Yet that seemingly dead and lifeless seed, like the spores on a dandelion, produces incredible abundant life.

Without any manipulation of the farmer.

Which is why Jesus shared this parable with the disciples, and with us.

We’ve lost control!!!!

The first commandment is, I believe the simplest, and yet the hardest to put into play.

“You shall have no other gods to rival me. 4  ‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. 5  ‘You shall not bow down to them or serve them.; Exodus 20:3-5a (NJB)

That bow down part needs to be explained a little.  In the culture of the time, it was more than a mark of respect, it was a mark of submission, of recognizing that the other person was responsible for you and had the right to direct your life any way they wished, including ending it.  It was the kind of complete submission that occurs to one who has lost a war, or who really trusts the person they bow to, knowing the character of the person that they entrusted themselves to, as they bowed.

TO have a God means to trust them with your life, to run to them in times of trouble and need, and to trust their compassion, to trust them to make things right.

There is a problem with that, and it is not a new one.  It is the reason Jesus told this parable.

We like to be in control, we like to know the outcome of our days, and whether the times we endured are worth it.  We want to be able to have the right to question God and tell Him how we want the universe ran, or at least our tiny corner of it.

So too in the church, the challenge is to be focused on the gospel, on sharing God’s love as far as we can fling it and trusting the Holy Spirit to provide the result that our Triune God desires.

Except it always doesn’t work quite the way we like, and the Kingdom of God, which we would like to see nicely organized and ordered, in our opinion, seems messy and slow in its growth, and we can’t stand not seeing what is happening.  We can’t wait for the blade to explode out of the seed, and the heads of wheat to form, and the plant to mature.

So we might get impatient, and rather than trust God, we trust ourselves.  We strive to control and determine how and when growth happens. And in making ourselves God, we fall deep into sin.  Believe me, it is easy to do, to become distracted from sharing the reason we have hope in what seems to be a dark and trying life.

It is pretty easy to move from frustration to sin, from impatience with God’s process to trying to take over and play God ourselves.

And yet the seed lies there, about to burst into life, all under the control of God, and not ours.

So how do we learn to trust Him, to look to Him to provide the growth, while still planting the seeds?

Time to find rest in the trees!

The other parable gives us the idea of how to do so, as we realize the seed of the gospel is simply Christ, who was planted in the ground.

This seemingly simple man, in the most remote part of the Roman Empire, dies, killed by his “own” people, those that claimed to follow God. And even as He is planted in the ground, the apostles had no idea of what we think of as Christianity today.  They could see nothing but pain.  Yet in His being planted, life is formed and created in us.  A Billion people have found life in Christ, and in the second service, as a lady is baptized, another finds rest, like the birds that find a home in a mustard tree, safe deeply within from the predators.

It is when we know we are there when we can breathe deeply, and rest, and realize how God cares and provides for us that we learn to trust Him when we learn that He is the Lord of the church when we realize that He is God.

For we find our refuge and our hope in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in the promised God gives us, as we are united to Jesus in our baptism.  He cleanses us of all our brokenness and all the times where we’ve tried to play God.

This is what God does, hiding us so completely in His grace that we simply trust Him, that we simply relax and know His love, so incredible that we simply get back to work, throwing out the seed of the gospel, the very love of Jesus.

The gospel that draws people into a relationship deep within Christ, a place where we are revived and renewed, as we dwell in His love!  AMEN!

Who Told You? A Sermon on Genesis 3:8-15

church at communion 2Who Told You?
Genesis 3:8-15

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that instead of seeking a hiding place from God, you should seek the refuge you find in Him!

Who Told You?

In today’s first reading, the one from Genesis 3, there is a question that God asks Adam, one that is relevant to ask today.

Who told you?

Specifically, who told you that you were naked, literally that you were exposed, who told you that your sin was visible for all to see?  ( who was all anyway?)

How did you find out you had sinned, how did you come across that information?

Where did this guilt come from that drives you to do things that are as unnatural as the sin you are trying to hide?

As I thought about this question, it came to me that you and I need to ask that question today as we have to deal with our own brokenness, with our own sin, and the damage it does to us.

For I think we’ve been taught about sin in such a way that we react to it as Adam did, hiding, getting defensive, shifting blame, all in response to the guilt that convicts us far more cruelly than God would.

So who told you that you were exposed, that your sin was something so horrible that you had to hide?

Who told you to pass the blame?

As Adam was anxiously dealing with the idea that God found him.  As God asks Adam who told you that you were naked, did you eat of the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  While all that is scrambling his mind, he comes up with an answer.

Not my fault God!  It’s her fault, you know, the one YOU gave me.   She gave me the fruit, and because she is a blessing from you, I listened to her.

And since then, some men have avoided that problem, simply by not listening to their wives!

Of course, that causes other problems, and is just as sinful!

But who told Adam that the best way to deal with sin was to pass the blame?  To hide behind Eve, rather than hiding behind a tree?  Who told him that he wasn’t responsible for stopping Eve from falling into sin?

In trying to defend himself, to justify his own sin, Adam finds himself guilty of more than one sin, he finds himself shattering more relationships and allowing sin to get a better and better hold on his soul.

We do this all the time, and so does most of the world.  When we fear getting caught when we know the guilt and shame and embarrassment that comes from doing something we know we shouldn’t do or refusing to do something we should.

Who told us to do that?  Who told us that we needed to be defensive, that a defense even needed to be given?  For that is as much of a lie as the temptation to sin was in the first place.

Yet Adam does it, as will Eve, who will follow the pattern and play the blame game, blaming the snake for deceiving her, for leading her into temptation.

Who told us to hide, to try and escape from God’s notice. Who told us to hide behind others, trying to get them to pay for our sin?

Who told you about Eve’s offspring?

I am not sure where we get this idea to hide from God, but we do it all the time, don’t we?

What we need to hear, is the last verse of the passage, for it tells us how sin is to be dealt with.  It is the very first prophecy about Jesus in the Bible, what Luther called the “proto-gospel”.

You see it on the painting on the cover of the bulletin, as the offspring of Eve crushes Satan and all his minions on the cross.  Even as the serpent sees Christ die, Satan’s efforts to dominate, to lead people away from God are crushed.

This is what we need to know!  That sin, Satan, and death are crushed at the cross of Christ.  We have been made free!

Seeking Refuge, not Hiding

There is something that drives us to hide from God, and from others, like our parents, our spouses, our children, even our pastor, when we sin.

It is ironic when we run from God when we hide behind someone else, I think what we are trying to do is to find a place of rest, a place where the effects of our sin are negated, and we think hiding will provide it.  We don’t understand there is an option, there always has been.

We can seek refuge in God, instead of seeking a hiding place from Him.

Instead of laying the blame off on others, Christ will willingly, even joyfully remove it.

Seek refuge, not a hiding place.

Which means seek a refuge in God, we allow Him to remove all the guilt and shame, all the anxiety over punishment, all the anxiety of having our sinfulness exposed to the world.

For that was why He was looking for Adam and Eve, and until the cross, why He put them out of the garden.  Not as a punishment, but to sustain them until Christ’s death and resurrection would cleanse them from sin, and they and all who trust and depend on God were given refuge, in the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

For there we find life, and peace that is beyond compare or comprehension.  For in Christ we are kept secure, our hearts and minds are in His possession.  AMEN!!!

Are We Superheroes, or Slimeballs?

boy child clouds kid

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created 7  This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8  Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9  not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)

592    Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?

There is a balance to everything in life, especially in how we are to view ourselves. The problem is we fail to judge ourselves accurately.  And sometimes we believe we are superheroes, and sometimes just the opposite. 

Pride may cause our self=examination to fail n that we think we are better than we are, smarter, more beautiful, more successful, more in tune with life.   So too may a poor self-esteem, as we consider ourselves the ugliest, the most wretched, the failures that deserve nothing more than eating dirt.

Asking others doesn’t help, they may boost our pride, they may tear us down even more. And when these statements are coming from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we keep them in balance? 

Into this discussion comes the words of a simple, but a very effective priest.  St Josemaria was fond of describing himself as a donkey, tied to one of those decides that lets him walk in a circle, faithfully plodding, though sometimes in need of some “encouragement”  His words today, describing us as a garbage, re-purposed as a planter makes so much sense.

It establishes our value, who we are, not based on our natural talents, abilities, charisma, but rather on what the “divine gardener does with us”.   Our value, our being is so integrated into God, that we take on both humility and yet a meaning deeper than anything we could have imagined. 

This is God at work in you and I, God at work creating something in us not seen before, A value that finds fulfillment in the greatest work there is, the saving of souls. What an incredible joy it is to know that someone will be in heaven rather than hell because I took a moment to pray, a moment to offer comfort, a moment to help them know peace.  

That somehow, God can use you and me to reveal His glorious love to others.

Even if how he uses us in the same way he used St. Paul

15  This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17  All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT2)

God is at work… He is with us… all glory and honor to Him, who makes us His children, and invites us to the feast!

 

Conversation:  Which do you think you are, the superhero or the slimeball  Do you struggle more with being humble, or with seeing yourself having value?  

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds: The effect of the Resurrection. We have life together… (with Him) Acts 1:12-20

church at communion 2Transformed Minds: The effect of the Resurrection
We Have a Life to Live, Together (with Him!)

Acts 1:12-20

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ surround us with peace, even as He guides our work together in Him!

A Test of Faith 

Most of you know I wasn’t always a pastor, for a while I was in management, and my undergraduate degree is in Organizational Management.

This is probably most surprising to some, but for a while, I was pretty decent at managing things, from restaurants and bookstores to a divisional department at Pepperdine.

When I became a pastor, I found out that not everything in management theory is transferable to church, and it is taking me over 20 years to determine what things will work, and what things do not.   One of those things is finance, personnel management quite fit either, and another is leadership development.

Look at today’s reading from Acts, I mean who would ever tell a CEO or COO to pick a replacement for the Board of Directors by flipping a coin or rolling a dice?   I mean what if our nominations committee did that… they just gave us a list of names of all qualified people for each office, and we just rolled a die to see who the next president, vice president, secretary and treasurer were?

Anyone want to take a chance at that method?  Let’s see, who would be qualified to be the next congregational president?  Al? Jim?  Bob?  You guys meet the qualifications, so we add you to the list…and flip a coin and let’s see what happens. Okay?  For vice president, all the names, and let’s roll some dice!

How much faith does it take, to hear God, and trust in an ancient way of asking His guidance that basically accepted that guidance based on a flip of a coin, or a roll of the dice?  We’ll get to the faith in a moment.

Replacing Judas ( to do what?)

That’s what they did, they cast lots, like the Urim and Thummim to choose who would replace Judas among the Twelve.

We know why he had to be replaced. In his actions we see the damage sin can do played out completely.  He didn’t trust Jesus, and so Judas betrayed Jesus, trying to force him to do what Judas thought was right.

That’s not only a sin we are all capable of, it is a sin that most of us are guilty of this week, and often enough to realize the guilt and shame that would drive Judas to death.  For that is what the guilt and shame does, when we realize the damage we have done, not listening to God or obeying His word.

Without Jesus, what happened to Judas would happen to us all,

Obviously, replacing Judas was important.  It is the first act of the church after the Ascension.  But one of the questions to ask is for what reason was Judas replaced?  Was it to be a leader or ruler of the church?  Was it to be a VIP on the Board of Directors, or to be the new Chief Financial Officer?

I mean we must have structure in the church, and these twelve and their roles are pillars in the church. So what does scripture say the role he was chosen for was.

Hear scripture again,

21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

Witnesses of Jesus Resurrection.  That is the role of the Twelve.  In Greek, they were the twelve Martyrion, the me who would be witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I wonder if Matthias and Barsabbas were volunteered for this?

That is the critical role of the church, to bear witness to the fact that Alleluia, He is Risen!
All other roles, whether elected offices or hired positions work to make this one task, being a witness to Jesus possible.  Which brings us back to choosing, and having faith in God in that choice.

How do we get that kind of faith?

So where should the faith come from, that leads us to trust God’s leading in choosing who will do this kind of work, or any work today?  It doesn’t matter whether it is a vote, or a flip of a coin, or whatever method, it doesn’t matter.

We have to trust God for whom He calls into leadership through the church.

Verse 14 and verse 2 show the secret.

“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer” and “they all prayed”.

They were gathered in the presence of God and communicated together as one! It is where the church finds unity, it is there where our dependence on God is encouraged, nurtured, strengthened, where we encounter God’s mercy as others show it us as well,

As one pastor shared it, Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

It is not because of our own strength that this happens, it takes God weaving us together, splicing the places where we have become frayed.  It is in the peace that the church is the church, that it bears witness to God’s love.

It as we find our lives in Jesus that things become clearer, and we simply focus in on the mission, of bearing witness to His resurrection, and our resurrection in Him.

For a Paul quotes,

27  “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)

That’s what the world needs to know, and you and I are sent to share that message, a message of great hope, incredible peace, all sustained by His mercy and love.  AMEN!

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