Devotional Thought of the Day:
33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)
258 What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is! (1)
I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need. I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict XVI. I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham, I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness. Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives. I think of King David and Bede, Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.
And I wonder, do I belong in their company?
My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me. This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.
Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven? In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?
After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me. I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game. God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.
In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust. How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.
But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people. People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt. People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.
First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;
40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Without us. Without you and I.
God has something in mind… that we will join them.
These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..
And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did. Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus. He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained. He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..
they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.
We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ. And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought to End the Year:
1 Praise the LORD! Sing a new song to the LORD; praise him in the assembly of his faithful people! 2 Be glad, Israel, because of your Creator; rejoice, people of Zion, because of your king! 3 Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him. 4 The LORD takes pleasure in his people; he honors the humble with victory. 5 Let God’s people rejoice in their triumph and sing joyfully all night long. Psalm 149:1-5 (TEV)
950 We should indeed respect things that are old, and be grateful for them. Learn from them by all means, and bear in mind those past experiences, too. But let us not exaggerate; everything has its own time and place. Do we now dress in doublet and hose or wear powdered wigs on our heads? (1)
As a minister, as a servant of Christ and His church, I have had the chance to stand in awe, as I’ve observed God work. Last year, as I was in China, and saw people hungry for the gospel, as I saw pastors and church leaders hungry for training. As I visited missionaries and saw in them a hunger to be minister to, a hunger so met, that a simple worship service was fileld with tears, with incredible joy, with incredible love. I’ve seen it here at my church, as those who needed God’s comfort and peace in times that trusting in God and knowing HIs presence shuold have been challenged, were comforted and able to pray with a quiet confidence. As people approach the altar, leaving burdens dropped, and receiving in exchange, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and treasuring that joyous moment.
He is amazing, this God of ours, and we should stand in awe of His presence. A presence we should melt in, not from fear, but in awe of His love that I can only use terms like passionate, and intimate, not because of it being erotic, but because of its power and completeness.
A love that is the stuff of song, a love that creates in the musician, the artist, the poet, the wood and metal worker, the blogger, a new work as we find ways to express that awe.
Others have done this in the past, as they have used their heart and minds and hands to create masterpieces in every form, visible, audidble, tactile, They give us examples of what can be done, they can help keep us focused on Jesus.
Without such awe, Luther would have never realized what a place of rest God’s presence is, and written of Him as our Mighty Fortress. Augustine wouldn’t have penned tomes, exploring the fullness of theology. St Francis and Mother Theresa wouldn’t have found His beauty among lepers, Pascal wouldn’t have written of the fire that burns. And people like Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, Matt West and Mark Hall and Chris Gillette wouldn’t be writing music now. To express the joy that is found in knowing God’s presence here, in that awe inspiring us to worship Him.
You see, God didn’t stop inspiting people after the sixteenth century, He didn’t stop working in people’s lives after the death of the apostles, Or after the publication of any hymnal. When we cling to these things, and demand that they are the only way to properly worship God, it can be admission that we don’t see Him working today, that nothing He is doing leaves us in awe, and we create an idol out of past. We stand in awe, not of God, but of their experience, their awe. We end up like the sons of Sceva, trying to rid people of what oppresses them by incanting God because of someone else’s relationship.
Do you see what God is doing now? In your life? In the life of your family, the church, and in your community, which He longs to bring into Christ, through your love demonstrating His?
God;s presence recognized now means that people will need to express their awe, people will need to use their words, their instruments, their talents within their culture, within their time, to do so. Learning from those who’ve gone before, listening to ensure they do not stray, yes. But the people of God need to praise God for what He is doing in their lives, Lives that are claimed at the cross, year lives we lived in 2013, and soon in 2014. The Lord is with us! Rejoice! Be in absolute awe! With all you are, respond in joyous praise!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3851-3854). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Let us worship Him (poetryjoy.com)
- I Got Nuthin… or do I? The Hard Lesson of Trusting (justifiedandsinner.com)