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Church on Sunday, Work on Monday… Why do we have such burdens?

Can we bear to see the pain,
in order to see the beauty?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

With your faithful love, you will lead the people you have redeemed; you will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength. Exodus 15:13 CSB

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross!

For many of our contemporaries, though, work is “a tedious function”: they see their professional obligations—intellectual or manual, of public relevance or unfolding quietly within the four walls of home—as a weight that must be carried “because there’s no way out of it.” Some live for the weekend and try to bear with the fatigues of work with the consolation that their well-deserved break is coming. Thus, they condemn themselves to five days of suffering and two of fleeting enjoyment, for the gray monotony of the next Monday appears immediately on the horizon. Others imagine that work is a divine punishment, the fruit of original sin. They forget that when God created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden ut operantur, to work, he gave this command before the Fall of our first parents.

Yesterday, I had the honor of confirming 4 young adults in the faith. Over the time we studied together, I hope I gave them a different view of church than many adults have. A way that Fazio expressed above regarding work, the idea that we have to go “because there’s no way out of it.” That church is somehow an invasion, God trying to take his chunk out of the time of rest that people are owed for their back breaking work.

I think people need to see both work and church in a different way. Not as tedious things they must do, but as a time they are able to work alongside the God who loves them. Managers and bosses can encourage this, giving people the freedom to do their work in a way that encourages their artistic sense, or gives them a measure of satisfaction and joy.

We need to do this with church as well. To help people run to the cross, because they know the faithful love that is revealed there. They know how singing and even dancing in the presence of God, no dancing with God, is more fulfilling than anything else. That the feast of the Lord’s Supper is something to be celebrated, a time of great joy and wonder. We need to be drawn to the cross, not purpose driven.

This is the picture Moses drew for the Israelites in Exodus, as God guides His people into His presence, into their home. To see the faithful love of God at work in those moments, and to see it infect people who take that joy of being home with God into their work places, recognizing His presence there. He would guide them there, patiently, just as He guides us…

To that place where we look on awe, realizing the strength of the love that endured all of it, from the pain of the betrayal to the beating, from the mocking voices ot the tearing pain of the spikes which pierced His hands and feet. Hebrews tells us that He not only endured it, He did it for the joy set before Him, the joy of reuniting us with the Father, of bringing us home.

When we are there..at the foot of the cross, it changes everything. No longer is work an obligation, no longer is church a duty to do, a burden laid on us. It is a time of refreshment, of joy, of being reminded that God surrounds us in peace. That peace extends out from these few hours on Sunday, and makes even work come alive.

For we are His people…His beloved people, and He is with us… even if all we do is work in the kitchen…

Lord, help the people i minister to see Your love for them, and rejoice in it.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 105-106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pursuit of Happiness? Don’t try, for it is futile…

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for this Day:

13  “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ 14  “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? 15  From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’” 16  Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. 17  “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Malachi 3:13-17 (NLT2)

The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy. The holy heart alone can be the habitation of the Holy Ghost.

59 All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily to increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins. Then, when we pass from this life, he will instantly perfect our holiness and will eternally preserve us in it by means of the last two parts of this article.

I know it is part of the Declaration of Independence, but I’ve see too many people try to pursue happiness, and get lost in the frustration, and come to the conclusion that being happy is simply an excecise in futility.

That futility leads to the kinds of sin that the reading from Malachi above talks about. If we are pusuing happiness or pleasure for its own sake, we will never find it. Then we will start to question God, as if somehow He was responsible to make us happy, or at least remove the barriers to happiness.

There is a problem in this that the founding father’s of the United States didn’t see two hundred and fifty years ago. Simply put, happiness should not be the goal, it is not the destination or our reason for living.

Happiness is caused by life being lived in the maner it should be… not by something we do, or something we chase. It happens when we find contentment and peace, a side effect of those two things that cannot be pursued as well.

Luther understood this, as he saw the need to reveal the work of the Holy Spirit. That work, strengthening our ability to trust, to depend on Jesus. It is there, dwelling in the presence of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in ours. that our lives set apart to walk with Him, that we find everything we need, including joy. The joy that comes when we realize our lives, as broken sa they appear, are treasured by God. A joy that goes far beyond mere happiness, that sustains us in the midst of every thing… even the hardest trauma.

A joy that passes all understanding, for our hearts and minds are maintained in Jesus, secure and safe.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 418.

What Now? Hope…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 On the third dayq Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac.r In his hand he took the fire and the knife,s and the two of them walked on together.
7 Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”
And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”
Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provideG,t the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
Genesis 22:4-8 CSB

Love also implies hope. The Christian’s vision of our surroundings has to be optimistic. Not the naïve optimism of someone oblivious to the undeniable presence of evil, but that supernatural joy that is founded on a trusting abandonment to the plans of God’s loving Providence and on the free collaboration of people of good will with those plans.

To their mortal eyes He appeared as fire, and may we not safely conclude that those Scripture-taught believers knew at once what it meant? The God who had appeared to them as fire throughout all their long history was now dwelling in them as fire. He had moved from without to the interior of their lives. The Shekinah that had once blazed over the mercy seat now blazed on their foreheads as an external emblem of the fire that had invaded their natures.
This was Deity giving Himself to ransomed men. The flame was the seal of a new union. They were now men and women of the Fire.

I have seen a lot of despair in the last week. Politically among both those expeccted to win, and thosse expeccted to lose. I have seen it as well asthoseewh look at their churches and wonder how the churh will continue to be the church. They look for aswers, they dreamm dreamss, they read book about journeying into the unknown, looking for anything that wilgive them hope to continue their ministry, no matter how different it will look. Some of us, are in despair, because a good friend is ill, another is dealing with the loss of memory, and th ability to express their wisdom. More despair is being adresed by those who have someone dear to thm dying, and even harder, when onperson is being sucked into a ife of sn.

In the midst of this, I have hearpeople cry out, “now what?”

And I cry with them. I have to ask that question, for if I do not, I will not see the answer.

What now?

Hope!

(remember, it is a verb!) Hope, looking forward to the things God has promised.

So, what now? HOPE

You see that hope in Abraham, knowing he was going to sacrifice his son, and yet he says, that they will return together. You see it as he is tying up his son, and utters that God will provide.

No knowledge of how, but clinging to the idea that God cannot go back on his promise!

Hope is not naive! Hope is not to be confused with blind optimism. Hope is not blind to either evil, or the consequences of sin that is so visible in our broken world. It recognizes that, and something more….

It is abandoning our worries, our anxieities, our fears and pains simply because the Holy Spirit has invaded our lives. His presence, an unquenchable fire, causes us to endure…. even as it purifies us. This is where hope comes from, as the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of God’s love for us.

To realize the promises of God, such as this one, 5  Then I, myself, will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the LORD. And I will be the glory inside the city!’” Zechariah 2:5 (NLT2)

This is the role of the Spirit in our lives… it is the Spirit who gives us real life… who gives us hope.

So what now? Hope! for the Lord is with you!!

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 68). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Why Religion is the Relationship: A Call to Something Deeper than a Meme or Tweet

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20  We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. 21  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22  Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT2)

Among all worldviews it is the gospel alone that produces the beauty of the saints. Nothing else does. They are deeply converted, and therefore utterly in love with triune Beauty. Even though our surefire program is cast in contemporary thought patterns and terminology, it is pure gospel. As we have noted, this plan contains no gimmicks, no pop psychology. Clever phrases and shallow ideas do not, and cannot produce the splendor of profound intimacy with anyone, least of all with the radiance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit—our eternal enthrallment.

I have seen it on tweets, and on memes. Cute and clever sayings that are not unpacked, that do not consider the unintended consequences that actually considering what is said, means.

None more dangerous than the, “relationship not religion” concept that has been floating around for years…

If you have ever heard me teach or preach, you know how I refer to not just a relationship with God, but an intimate relationship with Him. Enough that with some folk, i just mention the I.R. because they don’t like that word intimate.

What leads us from just knowing God exists, to believing in Him, to being a disciple, the point where the relationship is becoming ever more and more intimate? Well that is where religion comes into play, that is where God’s revelation to us, the covenant with its blessings and curses, with its promised intimacy and its discipline come into play.

That is where we get to know (another IR word!) Him. It is where we find we can trust Him, where His faithful devotion to us becomes our hope, and our joy. It is in the midst of the religious frame of reference that we understand His love for us, the mercy and comfort He will show us.

This can’t be understood in a meme, or a tweet, or even in this WordPress post. Because it is more than the words on the screen. It is revealed in meditating (not reading or studying) His word. Letting the thoughts of God, revealed to us, sink beyond our mind into our heart, into our soul. Into the depth of our being, where the Spirit transforms us.

And as it does, those places that we once feared to go, the depth of our being, are converted by the Spirit, and it is there we begin to realize the splendour of having a God who wants to know us at the very depths of our being. And He wants us to know Him there, to know His faithfulness, His mercy, His comfort, His healing and His love.

That kind of work takes time, and sometimes, it is scary, and it hurts, for He cuts away what is not good and holy and right. So be patient with the process, and ask God to keep working, even as He comofrts you in the mist of it.

Have a relationship far deeper than a cute saying… have one based in the framework, the religion that is more intimate than anything else we know. For this is what God designed and created you for… to walk with Him!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 121.

Faith requires our Intellect be taken Captive

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. †3 Remember the teaching that you were given and that you heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don’t wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does. Rev. 3:1-3 CEV

Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven.

2735 In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2779)

Since the Holy Scriptures call Christ a mystery over which all heretics break their heads, we admonish all Christians not to pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, but with the holy apostles simply to believe, close the eyes of reason, take their intellect captive to obey Christ, comfort themselves therewith, and rejoice constantly that our flesh and blood have in Christ been made to sit so high at the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God!

When I was in doing my undergraduate work in preaching, the British pastor Spurgeon was held up to be a paragon of reason. A great man who explained the scriptures in a way that amazed people. We were urged to imitate him.

Yet I don’t remember the passion in his quote above (in purple) nor his appeal for the Lord’s Supper and to realize it is unexplainable, unfathomable, by our greatest minds. Read it again, see the incredible appetite that he notes all believers should develop, an appetite that displays our unity in Christ!

Likewise, the quote from the Formula of Concord, admonishing those who would pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, tells of something wonderful, and amazing. It encourages us to let Chirst take our intellect captive… to turn it over to God, and rejoice!

The Catholic Catechism’s rough question, about how we perceive the God we pray to nails our intellect once more. Give up trying to reason God into what you want, stop trying to find the way to manipulate Him, and realize this is the Father who sent Jesus to suffer on a Cross for you…

This is how the situation the church is facing in Sardis is avoided. People who were considered mature in their faith, but lived an empty life. That forgot the wonder of the teaching that Christ had made them His own, a gift for the Father. A teaching that left them in awe, that made them realize the moments in prayer, and in sharing the feast together in the presence of God were beyond any treasure they would ever know. That nothing could explain it.

Some may thing this means following Christ is not for the intellectual, the people who are brilliant, who are able to capture the knowledge that is beyond so many of us. That simply isn’t true, for these blessings are beyond their ability to explain as well…and the smartest people know their limitations as the ancient philosopher Socrates did, as well as the Solomon. (That time wandering with God will make the earthly knowledge more practical in its application to the benefit of man!)

The more I age, the more I seen the wisdom of this passage from Paul, “

1  Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn’t use big words or try to sound wise. 2  In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (CEV)

This matters… and makes all else relevant, for if we don’t know Jesus, we simply chase after the wind…

He loves you! He died for you, so that you would rise with Him! And the Spirit dwells with you, until Jesus returns.

Rejoice.. and desire to experience His love more and more….e

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 656.

The Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration: The Person of Christ. from Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 609–610.

Dealing with a Spiritual Fog

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. 15 Don’t forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15 CEV

Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray.

But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.

To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.

Time for some honesty.

I am struggling through my devotional time this morning. Too many distractions, phone calls, texts, emails. Add to that the weariness of 202 days of COVID. Back pain worse than usual adds to the total, not to mention grief and stressors that are there. I feel like I am in a deep fog…spiritually.

This is where I need to be, oddly enough, still trying to pray, and meditate, searching for my Lord’s voice, eventually, this is where my heart will find its rest.

Part of my mind hears other, save yourself for work, you have tasks to do. I’ve been mocked by others, who say they don’t need such a time, they pray throughout the day, holding conversations on the fly. I’ve got others who see no pragmatic reason for prayer, since God is all knowing, all powerful and what He does is for our best anyway. (Assuming of course that we love Him and are called according to His purposes. ) So if we can’t change what God’s going to do… why bother?

It’s time to breathe. to slowly and simply pray, to e quiet, and realize where I stand is holy ground – as is the place where you are standing. We aren’t professional prayers, there will be days of struggle. God knows that too, that is why there is the Holy Spirit there to comfort us, to empower us, to help us find the will and desire to keep seeking, to keep struggling to hear His voice.

in that process, God will strip away everything that divides us from Him. The anxiety, the grief, the pain will help sharpen the focus, and the sin will drift away. Been through this cycle enough to know this, even as I am stuck in it once again.

God is here, He sees us, and is working even now… and knowing His patience and desire guarantees that I am not alone in this struggle. that I am not alone in working on this moment.

He is here, so I can pick up the tablet again, and read His word, and see the stories of those who struggle as well. Struggle though I may, I know He struggles with me.

Lord, please don’t only have mercy on us, reveal that mercy clearly! AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 637. (#2650)

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.

The True Evangelical Life…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26 Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward. Hebrews 11:26 CEV

Putting the saint’s observation in simple contemporary terms may help. Bernard was saying that there are more men who give up serious alienation from God, mortal sin, than there are people who give up small wrongs, willed venial sins. And there are even fewer who grow into heroic virtue and live as saints live. If we are not saddened by this realization, we ought to be.

1 The law of God serves (1) not only to maintain external discipline and decency against dissolute and disobedient people, (2) and to bring people to a knowledge of their sin through the law, (3) but those who have been born anew through the Holy Spirit, who have been converted to the Lord and from whom the veil of Moses has been taken away, learn from the law to7 live and walk in the law.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best; seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest!

Being and Evangelical should not be about a political perspective, To be honest, it shouldn’t even be a theological perspective, as in choosing to be more Reformed, more Arminian, even more Lutheran or Catholic, or catholic.

Being Evangelical is about life, and about our greatest need in life. After reading Dubay’s comments (purple) above, Jackson’s beloved evangelical hymn made more sense to me. I need to keep hearing the gospel, not to celebrate what Jesus has done, but in order to continually be evangelized, to continually be confronted with my guilt, not so I wallow in shame, but because I need the grace of God to be applied to my life today, in this moment.

I need to go from rejoicing and being satisfied that the cross saved me, to imitating Christ. Some might call this sainthood, Wesley would talk about a second infilling of grace. Lutheran theologians talk about it as the Third use of the Law. I prefer Luther’s view of living in the promises made to us in our baptism. Or living the Evangelical life. Letting the news of God’s love, of His mercy being applied and washing away our sin so affect us, that our lives are changed. Not by our actions, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to realize that God’s work isn’t done in us, yet. Paul would describe this in several ways in Romans. The battle with old Adam, the struggle with feeling like a wretch because we can’t seem to conquer temptation, even the attitude of some that others must eat the way they do, and worship n the way they do, because they’ve arrived and everyone else has not.

We can’t be passive in our conversion, as if just being saved is enough. Not that we active make ourselves holy, the Spirit does, as the word of God, law and gospel bring us healing. We need to learn to desire that, to rejoice in it, to welcome it, and more than anything else, to expect and look for it.

To become like Moses, who would learn to set aside the things of this world, to embrace the suffering that comes with following God. The suffering of having our hearts circumcised, as sin and its cohorts are cut away. Suffering as we share this incredible joy that is affecting our life with others.

That is what the evangelical life is really about…

Lord, help us to hear anew of Your love and mercy daily, and grant that we would never tire of seeing You at work in our lives… AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 12.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 563–564.

Alan Jackson, “I Love to Tell the Story”

Heavy Burdened for a While? Please consider this!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. 5 God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it. 6 So always be cheerful!  2 Cor. 5:4-6

Full of burning affection he toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by his Spirit, and brought her to know and love him, he awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

Of all the people in scripture, I pity, I don’t think anyone deserves it more than Leah. She who was the first wife of Jacob, the sister of Rachel. I thought of her as I read Spurgeon’s words this morning. She didn’t have someone “full of burning affection” for her, she had someone whose marriage to her was like a duty.  He did it, gave her sons (lots of them), but there was no passion, no desire.

There are days I do not just pity here, I resonate with her.  I wonder if God treats me the way Jacob treated Leah. He loves and desires the rest of you, but the cost of that is fulfilling his duty and saving me so that He can bring His true love, YOU, home.

I know the feeling isn’t valid, but it is still there. Using the wedding analogy, you all have your reception at some posh Bel-Air hotel, and I get drive-through at Burger King.  I am still glad to be provided for, I am glad to be in the household, yet am I a second class citizen?

I think this is just weariness from the burden that Paul describes to the church in Corinth. We want to give up theses second class bodies, this life that isn’t really living. This being Leah. We want the first-class life, the real living, knowing that we aren’t just loved, but really loved.

And in this part of life, the weariness gets to us, the burden of brokenness challenges our hearts and minds. We begin to think we are second class, that we belong in the background, that even in heaven, we will be given the “nose-bleed” seats. (Maybe this is why the back rows of churches are so popular?)

It is hard to realize we are viewed more like Rachel than Leah. It is hard to believe God could love billions of people, including us, with that same level of passion. That there aren’t 999,999,999,999 people in front of us for God to care for, to cherish, to love and adore.

There isn’t. He desires your love, your companionship, as fully as He does anyone. You aren’t on His list of things to do today… You are whom He wants to spend the day with, whom He rejoices in the presence of, you are the beloved.

Understand this, He loves you! (me too)  The presence of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our baptism, earned for us at the cross, proves it.  Look at all the promises God makes, to you and me. Look at the love He shows us, directly.  Spend time with Him now, hear Him reveal His love for you, through His word, See His desire for you, and the joy He looked forward to, even while embracing the cross to make it happen.

Think about that… and be at peace… for you are loved like Rachel… by the One who is love.

AMEN

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

 

Really God? You Have to Remind Me of this today?

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

It’s better to go to a funeral than to attend a feast; funerals remind us that we all must die.  Ecc. 7:2 CEV

Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day.

I guess God likes a sense of irony.

Tomorrow I go under the knife.

Just cataract surgery, but still, it is surgery.

Read through the Bible in a year, and the reading I come to the day before surgery deals with death!  So did the book report I had to deal ith last night, chapter after chapter of dying to self that as awesome, but also passages that told us to desire death

Not what I want to think about, at least that is my first reaction.

But why not?

We need to think about death for a number of reasons, that are practical, and spiritual.

1.  So we learn to value the life we have.
To often we take life for granted, we don’t think about making the most of it, we just let it slide by. Especially in these days of isolation. We can see God at work in every day of our lives, working in relationships good and bad

2.  So we leave things somewhat in order, as a blessing to others.
It can be things as simple as your favorite songs for your funeral.  Or where money is stashed and other issues of that note.  (Of course, now I have to think of all this stuff) Wills, testaments, advanced directives, all that messy stuff.  But it is even messier if you don’t do it.

3.  Not taking even for granted, or the gifts that assure us of our eternity.
Living life fearing deaeth is no fun… I spent nearly half my life living in fear of dying. THat’s what happens when you have Marfans and you think about it. Working as a hospice chaplain, and seeing many people pass away has led to the point where I am not as afraid of dying.
But what I am talking about is being excited about seeing God face to face. NOt just the benefits of less back pain, and less trauma, and no more dang surgeries. But see God, who loves us so much, and being welcomed into His presence, and sharing in the glory and love of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. That is more than exciting, that should leave us in awe,

Kempis’s thought is that we should think about heaven, so that we behave better in this life. Not quite fear driven, but somewhere between fear and reward driven behavior modification. That might work, but works better is to live life, thinking about the glory and love of God. Of letting the thought of that love, that care fill your life. That will change you far deeper than mere intellect. It will change your soul, and you will desire to see others find that place of rest, that place of pace.

So making me think of death… it’s not that bad.  Actually, it is a huge blessing.

Now, thinking of them slicing my eye open, to replace the lens… ugh!

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 46.

The Synonym of Happiness… (or how to get happy in the midst of suffering)

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If our faith is strong, we should be patient with the Lord’s followers whose faith is weak. We should try to please them instead of ourselves. 2 We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them. 3 Even Christ did not try to please himself. But as the Scriptures say, “The people who insulted you also insulted me.”Romans 15:1–3 (CEV)

Instead, it took half a lifetime to appreciate, through a million experiments, every one of which proved the same result: that the way to happiness is self-forgetful love and the way to unhappiness is self-regard, self-worry, and the search for personal happiness. Our happiness comes to us only when we do not seek for it. It comes to us when we seek others’ happiness instead.

Happiness has an odd synonym, Or perhaps not a synonym, but a word that is so intimately related to it that they can’t be divided.

Happiness and self-denial.

We see that in the fact that it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the suffering on the cross. We see it in the appeal to Christliness – and the definition of Jesus who age it all up in Philippians 2. We see the same thing in Paul’s words to the church in Rome that appears above. As we are patient (long-suffering is a better transition) with those who are weak, we are focusing on their joy, on their contentment, on their ability to experience the love of God.

That doesn’t mean we condone their weak faith, but we put their growth as more important than ours.

We seek their best interests, we look to strengthen their faith, and in doing so, we find the joy we need. As Kreeft points out, forgetting self in the cause of love is key to joy, the key to happiness.

I know this to be true, as I see people amid suffering, and watch they grow in their faith as the Holy Spirit comforts them as they realize God’s peace. Seeing this happen is the greatest and most enjoyable of blessings.

It is why I love to share the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. When I see people realize the incredible blessing they’re receiving, it makes everything else worth it. It’s when I hear that the Holy SPirit’s comfort is helping people through what they are going thru and that a simple word, or just being there helps them, this too is something that is a blessing.

It is the real reason why some pastors work more, ot have more opportunities to see God at work in people’s lives.

A warning about all this is in order.

Don’t just try and start living sacrificially on your own strength. It will burn you out. And examine yourself regularly, make sure you haven’t begun to live sacrificially on your own strength – you will burn out, and even develop a martyrdom complex.

Note that Paula advised this for those stronger in the faith – trust in God is the only way to accomplish this. We have to depend on Him for the joy, as well as the strength to do this, it is our intimate relationship with Jesus, that unity as we are drawn and united to His death and resurrection that makes self-sacrifice not only necessary but the great blessing it is.

He is our joy, and seeing others find that joy and the peace that comes with it can only be done as we are there with Him.

So you want joy, spend time with the Lord of life, the ord of Life, and as you do, you will be transformed, and love in a sacrificial manner as He did.

Lord, help us find life in Christ and find the joy He knew.  AMEN

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16–17.

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