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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.

When All Seems Meaningless….

 6  And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, two of the spies, tore their clothes in sorrow 7  and said to the people, “The land we explored is an excellent land. 8  If the LORD is pleased with us, he will take us there and give us that rich and fertile land. 9  Do not rebel against the LORD and don’t be afraid of the people who live there. We will conquer them easily. The LORD is with us and has defeated the gods who protected them; so don’t be afraid.” 10  The whole community was threatening to stone them to death, but suddenly the people saw the dazzling light of the LORD’S presence appear over the Tent. Numbers 14:6-10 (TEV)

“To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for saints. May your perseverance not be a blind consequence of the first impulse, the effect of inertia; may it be a reflective perseverance.”  (1)

It was once said that “life is suffering”.  Another wise man, wrote that all is vanity, it is all meaningless.  While both were significantly wiser than I, I know the feeling after a week among church leaders in my denomination.  It may only be my thinking, but we spent several million dollars on a convention that did nothing, but remanded more things to study, and ignored the issues we all wanted to work through.  Even if we would have come to the table with extremely divergent ideas.

Add to that 12 hours days, some people I dearly care for going through tremendous trauma, some really meaningless and almost incomprehensible theology reading for a class I am taking and a long flight and time change, and as I sit to write my blog and then my sermon,

It is far too easy to be like Israel, approaching the promise land and wondering – why go on?  Why keep pushing through this “stuff” (insert any term relating to digestive system end product) and fighting the system?  Why not just go back to places like Eqypt, as the Israelites wanted to, where at least the pain and suffering where known and you could brace yourself for them?  Why push through to a land of promise that we will have to fight to enter?  Even as we realize the threat isn’t external, but internal?

Why go on?

As I read the account this morning from scripture, I am reminded why I preach, and the message that I will share tomorrow, and indeed the entire service is gear to a fact that is far too often overlooked.

The LORD is with us and has defeated the gods who protected them; so don’t be afraid.” 

All our false gods, all our struggles, all the sin that would so easily ensnare us has already been defeated.  God has won the battle, He has overcome.  His promises are to that extent, if we can remember to hear them.

THe people there, ready to take out their angst on others, ready to through it in and abandon their mission, give up on the course God sent for them needed to remember this simple thing – “The Lord is with us!”  That changes everything.

The look to the place where God put His name, where He promised He would be for them… and He was there.  His promises, His presence, His glory shown as He was where He promised He would be, in the midst of His people.  As He has been, ever since.

That is why gathering together, as the Body of Christ is so critical.  We need our Calebs, our Joshuas, those who lead us to remind us of this… to drag our eyes to look to Him, not to the past where we were comfortable, but even to embrace the journey and battle we have until we reach the “promised land”, that place where we will finally see Him face to face, the place were others will find themselves because Jesus was there for them, even as we are there for them.  The strength to persevere is indeed there for saints… because He is with us, and He is our perseverance.

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan (il...

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan (illustration by Gustave Doré) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Go with God this day… and know that He is the reason you have hope!

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2286-2288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I Have Decided, to Follow Jesus! (Controversy? Not so much…)

Follow Me

Follow Me (Photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day…

 14  “So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. 15  But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”     Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)

15  “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17  You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18  So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19  I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21  Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.   Revelation 3:15-21 (NLT) 

 I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intellegence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is true! (1)

When God our Lord gives us his grace, when he calls us by a specific vocation, it is as if he were stretching out his hand to us, in a fatherly way. A strong hand, full of love, because he seeks us out individually, as his own sons and daughters, knowing our weakness. The Lord expects us to make the effort to take his hand, his helping hand. He asks us to make an effort and show we are free. To be able to do this, we must be humble and realize we are little children of God. We must love the blessed obedience with which we respond to God’s marvelous fatherhood. We should let our Lord get involved in our lives, admitting him confidently, removing from his way any obstacles or complications. We tend to be on the defensive, to be attached to our selfishness. We always want to be top dog, even if it’s only to be on top of our wretchedness. That is why we must go to Jesus, so that he will make us truly free. Only then will we be able to serve God and all men. This is the only way to realize the truth of Saint Paul’s words: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)

There are going to be some friends of mine who are going to strongly react to the title of this blog entry.  They are going to wonder if I have returned to my days of teaching “decision theology”, or somehow have abandoned the  Lutheran Confessions, or don’t believe they are an accurate explanation of scripture.  (the third quote is from Luther’s small catechism and I agree with it without any reservation)

However, deciding to follow Jesus is different that deciding I want to be saved by Him.  It is not the action of initial salvation, but a response to His invitation to take up our cross and follow Him, to interact with Him, to humbly partner with Him, as He leads us through life as a man leads his partner across the dance floor.  It is what we  are called to – as disciples, as friends, as working beside the greatest example of humility and servanthood.

But we rebel against this idea – much as St. Josemaria indicates, we are defensive – and we can even use our theology to “back” that selfishness, to defend our “precious” (see Tolkein’s Hobbit and LOTR charachter Gollum)  Indeed, the only freedom from the idols we would partner with instead of God, is found when we let God strip them from us, as we instead are focused on Him, devoted to Him, (again – these things are His work – not ours) drawn to Him.  That’s what following Jesus is about – letting Him lead in life, letting Him cleanse us and set us apart to walk with, to dance with, Him.

Joshua challenge us to this – if you aren’t going to interact, if you aren’t going to engage in the relationship, go follow other gods and see where they lead you.  John is directed to write in Revelation – open the door – don’t be wishy-washy.  Live life as one united to Christ in baptism.  IOW – Let God direct your steps – and engaged in worship – you then will follow Him, even as the lady moves with her strong dance partner.

So decide today – my fellows Christians, those who claim to trust in Christ, to follow where He leads you…. even, especially when you can’t see where you are going – for then you are looking at the right place – at Him!

We cry out, “Lord, Have Mercy!”  But will we see and hear…that He has?

(1)   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 745-756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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