Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus… and entrust yourself to His care.
32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us. Hebrews 11:32-40 CSB
I want to live so fully in the Spirit that all my thoughts may be as sweet incense ascending to Thee and every act of my life may be an act of worship. Therefore I pray in the words of Thy great servant of old, “I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise thee.” (1)
In this life every one must carry his cross; but St. Teresa says, that the cross is heavy for him that drags it, not for him that embraces it. Thus our Lord knows well how to strike and how to heal: He woundeth, and cureth, says Job.3 The Holy Spirit, by his sweet unction, renders even ignominies and torments sweet and pleasant: Yea, Lord; for so hath it seemed good in Thy sight. Thus ought we to say in all adversities that happen to us: So be it done, Lord, because so hath it pleased Thee.
As I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, I feel inadequate, week, and by no means deserving of being in the same book, never mind being in the same chapter of these giants of the faith.
Especially right now, I am dragging… and I struggle, wondering if there is another way, a less exhausting way, to do what needs to get done. It is getting done, but it seems like it is taking so much more…
And then in my devotions I came across de Ligouri’s words, and I think I found an error. The reason I am dragging is that I am dragging my cross rather than embracing it. Instead of looking for where God is working, I am focused on what I’ve been gifted to endure. I should know better!
Those in Hebrews 11 endured far more than I ever will! They embraced their crosses, they didn’t try to gain a release from them, they embraced them – knowing the end is Christ, and knowing He would sustain them through the storms. That is how “ignominies and torments” are rendered sweet and pleasant. (that does sound wonderful!) The problems aren’t removed… they are just changed into moments of communion with Christ…
That is where Tozer’s prayer completed my reading this morning. The idea of living in the Spirit sound incredible, even unbelievable. It is truly, our reality. Praying that we realize this is a great idea! For God will cleanse our heart, and empower us to love Him… that is why the cross is there in the first place. For Him to embrace us, as we learn to embrace Him… and rise with Him into a new life.
(1) A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007). (1)
(2) Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 486.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
†14 I am the LORD your God, and I command you not to make fun of the deaf or to cause a blind person to stumble. Leviticus 19:14 CEV
17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting. 18 Stop being angry and don’t try to take revenge. I am the LORD, and I command you to love others as much as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:17-18 CEV
So they ran all over that part of the country to bring their sick people to him on mats. They brought them each time they heard where he was. 56 In every village or farm or marketplace where Jesus went, the people brought their sick to him. They begged him to let them just touch his clothes, and everyone who did was healed. Mark 6:55-56 CEV
I wondered this morning as I read the first passage whether the deaf and blind were only physically blind, or if it included those we consider spiritually blind as well.
It doesn’t matter if we a progressive or conservative, contemporary or traditional, right or left, or somewhere on a different spectrum. We all believe there are people that are so out of touch with reality. that they can’t see or hear, because otherwise, how could they be that stupid?
Or perhaps they are the people we resent, with cause perhaps. People we are angry with, people we want ot hurt just as much (if not more) than they hurt us. We will take ourselves out of their lives, stating they are the toxic ones, they are the ones that shattered the relationship that was once valued, even treasured.
What would life be like if we, like those who dragged their ailing friends, neighbors, brought these people, the spiritually deaf and blind or those who have hurt us and those we love, before the throne of God?
What would happen if we prayed for them, even wept over the brokenness we think we perceive?
Would God be any less willing to listen, to interact, to bring sight to their eyes (or ours) and enable their ears to hear? Would He bring them to repentance, and forgive their sins?
Or maybe, answering our prayers, would He change us…
Something to think through and pray about this new year, as we look forward to seeing how God is God, our Almighty God, our Wonderful Counselor, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.
Godspeed to you and yours… and this time next year, may you see the healing God has long desired in your life! AMEN!
Devotional Thoughts of the day:
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 HCSB
317 What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.
It’s Monday morning, and another work week stands before us.
What are you going to do with it? Where are you going to spend the assets you have? What can you do, that will give the greatest return on investment?
I dare say St. John had a similar question in mind when he penned the words about Christ that we have come to know as his gospel. And in the quote above we see his priority, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
That was John’s bottom line (and the Holy Spirit’s bottom line as well) That we would know Jesus, trust and depend upon Him, and thereby receive the life He desires us to have. A life lived with Him, a life lived in His presence.
This is Jesus greatest investment, as He invests in us…
And while it is the time I invest in this, what I really invest is my brokenness. The struggle I have with sin, (especially when I don’t struggle with it) the guilt and shame, the hurts and pains, the resentment, the fear, and anxiety.
Those are my investments, the things I have to learn to zealously invest them into my relationship with Jesus, the return on investment is rest from them, a rest in the glory of God, a rest that comes from knowing I am loved.
He heals us, in ways beyond our hearts’ imagination, because the brokenness He will heal goes deeper into our soul than we are willing to explore. But that is what St. Josemaria is talking about when he tells us to have zeal for the affairs of our soul, for our internal lives. Letting God sink deeper into our lives that butter sinks into a hot waffle. It is scary and wonderful, What we need to invest… is the stuff that kills off our life. It is the stuff we need to be removed from our lives, and Jesus will…. with great joy and care… cut it away. ( See Colossians 2:11)
That is when our faith is living and working, when we allow God to deal with our brokenness, all of it, as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, and we can live….
And be sent out, for we are broken people who are finding hope and healing in Jesus, and helping others heal….
Lord have mercy on us, and help us invest our brokenness in your mercy and love… and heal us, dear Lord!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A devotional thought for our days…
Jesus went with them, and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Him, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. d I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Luke 7:6-8 HCSB
705 Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.
Yesterday, my birthday presents were delivered a bit early. Actually, they came just in time for the Superbowl ( my second favorite part of tomorrow!)
The present included two items, a hat and a sign for my office.
The first is a new cap, with what I thought was my favorite slogan for sports and ministry. “Do Your Job” and that is a critical aspect in football, in the military (as the centurion noted) or in our relationship with God and the ministry that is created by God in our lives.
We simply need to walk with Him and do as He leads. Which takes faith, the dependence on God that provides the will and ability (Eph 2:13) to do what pleases Him! Do Your Job, do it trusting in God. Do Your Job, loving God
The second slogan now hands on my office door, a few feet from me. No Days Off! Oddly enough, this slogan was not revealed during the march to last year’s Superbowl victory, but afterward, during the victory parade. What was the secret to the victory? The coaches and players lived football, they lived the game, in season and out of season. They lived according to the standard of their slogans… and did their job, whatever it required.
Can you imagine if the church did this? If it made the sacrifices to walk with God each day? If it dwelt in His presence, depended on His mercy, realized His love and peace fills our lives? If we stopped treated being Christian was a part-time gig, and desired to live in His love, not just part-time (as if to hit the minimum requirements to gain heaven) nor even full-time ( meeting what we think is our duty) but every day treasured our time with Him, and rejoiced in the love that is our, in and through Jesus? That is really what our “job” is, everything else, worship, loving for others, caring for others, these things are just the impact of walking with Him.
Then there is the motto I don’t have anything on, one that I couldn’t find applicable in the Kingdon of God. The most recent slogan, ‘Not Done Yet”
Then I realized where that slogan comes into play in the church. It happens as the sermon finishes, and for some people, that is the high point of our church time together.
It isn’t even close.
For the sermon is simply revealing God’s plan in our lives. But we aren’t close to being done at that point. The greatest time in the church comes when we approach the rail together, as we bow together, recognizing the presence and invitation of God, and those who can kneel, and as a community of His people, share in the Eucharist as one.
As I preach, my hunger for the sacrament grows, and I pray it grows in my people. To be welcome at the table, fully righteous in the eyes of God, fully cleansed by Him and made ready to celebrate. Even as we realize we are not done yet, as we take a knee, the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the celebration of Jesus completing His work in us, For He has done all it takes to make us His own. And the Eucharist is His thanks to the Father, and our thanks to Him, for it is finished.
He Has done and is doing, His job.
He takes no days off…
And He is not done yet but will be, when He brings the last prodigal home.
Until then, let us walk with, work with and celebrate the love of God. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for your day:
23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:23-25 (TEV)
16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)
667 Haven’t you noticed how people in love dress to please one another by their appearance? Well, that is how you should tidy up and deck out your soul.
I have seen and heard a couple of people challenge the idea of going to church recently. Sometimes it is direct, saying that people who go to church are needy (we are!) and hypocrites ( correct again). Or perhaps the challenge is that you can worship God anywhere (but will you?) or that truly being a Christian is demonstrated in how you care for people. ( it is, but exactly how good are you at loving the unlovable?)
Some may say that I am biased because of my occupation/vocation, that because I often invest 60 hours a week in “church” I have a stake in whether people come or not. If it was only a stake, if it was only to make my investment of time, talent, and tears pay off, I wouldn’t do it. The amount of time, whether as a pastor or a lay person is great. But it demands more than that – it demands the investment of your soul.
So why go to church?
Well, the obvious one is in the first quote, simply because God’s word tells us we need to, we need to encourage each other as we gather together, not setting it aside, it is too important, too critical to keep each person encouraged, to support each person in their life, to help guide each other, and sometimes carry each other, into the presence of God. It is in church that we learn why we find hope in knowing God, and more importantly, exactly what that hope, that incredible hope is.
That is the purpose for the music, which expresses our pain ( this type of worship is called lament) and the healing God brings, which celebrates His love and His presence. That is the purpose of the sermon and Bible studies, to reveal the hope that knowing, intimately knowing God’s love. It is even the purpose of the various things we do in church, and everything we take in with our eyes.
It’s all about God… and us.
Which is what Paul expresses in the second quote, where he talks of knowing, of experiencing ( because we can’t fully know/understand) the dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. The soaring heights as we realized we are loved, the depth of God’s compassion, as He is with us at the rock bottom parts of His life. In the midst of this, Paul inserts the word together. That all God’s people need to experience this love, together. That too is what church is, not just what it is about.
It is the moment we hear we are all forgiven of our sin. All of it. Completely.
It is int he moment when we realize God’s peace is with us, and we share that peace with those around us. celebrating the love of God which glues us together, and together with Him.
It is in that moment when we are given proof of that love, as we are given His body and blood, to remind us of His death for us, and His opening the door which reveals God’s love to us, together. Even that person I was so ticked off at, is there, being loved by God, as I am. To realize we’ve both been freed of the sin and guilt, the shame and resentment, the burdens that crush and divide us.
It is then when loving them becomes a joy, not a duty obeyed because we have to .
It is then when church becomes more than an organization, or a costly bit of entertainment mixed with some positive “feel good” messages, or a club where we celebrate our being holier than those people out playing golf or watching their kids play soccer, or working.
Church isn’t some obligation, it is what St. Josemaria talks about, a time to get our soul ready to interact with God, by hearing again and again how He has prepared us to be with Him and then spending the time with Him. the early part of a service, as we are forgiven, as we hear of His love, of his promises, that is like a bride being made ready for her wedding. And the Lord’s Supper is then the wedding and all joy of life brought together, as we realize how much we are loved.
This is what church is, this is what we need, a place to find hope, healing, reconciliation, and joy as we dwell together in Christ, while helping others find those same things, as God revelas His love to them.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2792-2794). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Love is, Jesus Is, We are
Not Demanding of our Way
1 Corinthians 13:5
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!
Love is not
The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing. Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….
When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. To love my neighbor as I love myself.
Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.
We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way. It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs. Or what it thinks is the right way to go….
And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…
“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.
I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.
There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……
You know what I mean? What were they thinking? How could they be so blind, so stupid,
and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….
For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.
Jesus is not
When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus. Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.
In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.
Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.
38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)
That certainly is not demanding your way!
And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,
He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.
We are not!
So what about us? How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially? How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?
On our own, we cannot.
As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there. This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.
As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us. He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.
The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.
Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.
A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.
That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:11-13 (TEV)
117 “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.” (1)
e need to stopIt is rare these days for pe]eople to ask how to grow stronger in their faith. I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Some might not care to grow, some might be afraid to grow. While others are growing, their faith being stretched like taffy, or a balloon expanding so fast that you wonder if it will burst.
There is a secret to this growth, a need for freedom from things that tether us down, box us in, that define the boundaries that we think define us, but in reality simply constrain us, and eventually choke out our faith.
Let me give you an example. As a young man wanting to be a pastor, I set a boundary on where I would serve. I asked God to send me anywhere, except for the desert. I narrowed the scope of my vision, and I would come to realize that the people in that desert needed the comfort and peace, the contentment that only comes from when you realize you live in the presence of God. (Yes, my first three churches I served were in the desert – and I needed to be there more than the people needed me)
I still occasionally do that, narrowing down where I will serve, or to whom I would “allow” God to send me. God, you couldn’t have me in that kind of position, or ministering in that kind of church. God you couldn’t use someone like me like that, etc.
And so do you.
We need to stop setting boundaries, we need to stop tying ourselves down, tethering ourselves to things that stop us from growing in our faith. St Josemaria considers that might even include good things that hinder our detachment. Things our ego depends upon to identify us as individuals, and therefore stop us from trusting that God knows what He is doing.
For growth, maturity in the faith is not confidence in ourselves, it is confidence in God, a deepening sense of contentment. Whether it means we have to go without, or we have to learn to deal with having more than we need. ( I know some of us find that harder to deal with! ) Spiritual growth is the abandonment of self, assured that God will develop what in us, and dependent on His promises.
Whatever He wants, where ever He wants, however long He wants; depending on the presence of Jesus, the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit
This is faith, a faith that grow and be stretched, a faith without boundaries, a faith that grows significantly, because God causes the increase.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We will be Like Him!
1 John 3:1-3
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, as you realize you are the Father’s beloved, blessed children!
Awfully Big Shoes to Fill!
Jesus often taught in parables, so it makes sense that pastors should use them on occasion. Stories and words that paint a picture, and that we get the lesson of, intuitively.
I also like to use them because I can then address them as “Pastor Parker’s Panoramic Parables.
I bet that doesn’t sound quite as nice in Chinese!
Well here is today’s parable, the kingdom of God is like this,
The kingdom of God is like a child trying on their Father’s shoes!
We are just kids who can’t resist trying on Dad’s shoes.
And while the desire to be “grown-up” seems a good thing, we far too often want to try on God’s shoes and walk in them. And the usual result is that we fall down and hurt ourselves, and others.
We Can’t Walk in them Yet!
As children, we often want to be like our parents, to act like they do, and putting on their shoes is symbolic of that. It is a cute thing, but not so much when we try to put on God’s shoes.
It happens, we play God when we want that parental level of authority, we want to be in charge. Usually, there is another brother or sister involved, and if we have God our Father’s authority, we can judge them and put them in their place.
Instead of being responsible we want to condemn them, or get revenge, or just make sure everything is fair, according to what we perceive!
I mean, even as adults we have trouble loving our neighbors as we are supposed to love them. Can you imagine the temptation and the damage we would do if we were actually God?
I mean – it would be nice to get on the freeway and command everyone else to get off, so we wouldn’t be stuck in traffic!
Really, we are still kids, we still can be a little self-centered, we can still do things where we try and play God. We still mess up – we still get self-centered, we still want things our way, and will do things to try and make it happen. We even still throw tantrums when we don’t get our way – if you don’t believe me, wait until Tuesday, when some adults will be poor winners, and others poor losers. Either way – there will be tantrums, arguments, accusations of cheating and people saying “It’s not fair!”
And God will still be God, and He will look on us and show us mercy and love, and as that love leads us to repent, our sins will be washed away
That is why the Father sent the Son to the cross – to draw us into Jesus, to restore that relationship, to make us again His children, and to show us what we will be like when Christ appears, for we will be like Him.
But We will – This is assured!
Hear the words of the Apostle Paul that were written to the Colossian Church.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)
This is the same thing the apostle John wrote that we heard today
But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.
Holiness, purity, is simply living like Jesus, being like Jesus, and that is the transformation that happens, starting when the Holy Spirit brings us to life, gives us faith and cleanses us in baptism.
It comes as the Holy Spirit transforms us, as we gain that hope, that expectation that God will complete the work, the transformation He has began in us, as He promised.
We like all children will grow up – spiritually, this happens when we arrive at being completely like Christ Jesus. The good news, is that is His work, and the world of our loving Father. Want to know what you will be like – you will love the Father like Christ loves the Father, you will love each other the way Christ loves us.
So trust God, depend on God, and know that in Him we have a peace that goes beyond all understanding – that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!