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Please tell us, “What Does this Mean (for me)?”


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 I will thank you, O Lord, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 10 Your constant love reaches the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies!  Psalm 57:9-10  GNT

52 “How terrible for you, you experts on the law. You have taken away the key to learning about God. You yourselves would not learn, and you stopped others from learning, too.”  Luke 11:52  NCV

Baptism has also shifted away from identity with Jesus in his death and resurrection and turned into “my personal testimony to others that I have given my life over to Jesus.” The spiritual life in this case is not a passionate embrace of God signified by a baptism into his death and resurrection but a passionate embrace of my personal decision to follow Jesus signified by my conversion. In the outworking of this experiential spirituality, baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus is replaced by confidence in my personal decision. And baptism no longer has any meaning. (1)

In Martin Luther’s small catechism, there is one phrase that constantly appears.

What does this mean?

It appears so often, that it has become part of Lutheran’s vocabulary, a phrase that is reduced to a thought.

Even so, as we excel at defining the concept, it seems we’ve lost our ability to make the connection. We have become the experts in the law Jesus is talking about in Luke’s gospel, able to become experts on the Greek and Hebrew, experts on the nuances of the history/ grammar, but we’ve lost the key to it all, and in our pride, refused to learn.   The impact on our churches is enormous, and though the details can hold some people’s attention and fascination, it does only that, and it neglects their heart, their soul.

This is demonstrated in the quote from Dr. Webber, where he summarizes a shift that took centuries, showing our teaching on baptism moving from something that had great personal meaning to a teaching that highly defines baptism, yet robs it of its connection to the person we are instructing.

But it is not just those who have lost sacramental insight that rob scripture and religious teaching of what Webber caused the Divine Embrace ( I often use “intimate relationship” while others use sacramental or incarnational).  I have seen this occur in my own denomination, as teaching on ministry becomes more and more about proper order and understanding regarding the ordained clergy than what the role of the ordained is. We are nothing more than conduits, the pipe of the pipeline that carries grace.  We are necessary only when our role is that of dispensing grace through Word and Sacrament. But our teaching has elevated the understanding of the ordained to a higher priority than preparing and placing them where people need them.

That’s where “what does it mean (to me)” is such a necessary question.  Or where we ask “so what” when someone explains the “what” of theology. We give them what the caused the psalmist to rejoice, the revelation of God’s love, of God’s faithfulness, of a God comes to us, and shares with us His glory, His love, HIs peace. A God who nurtures and cares for you and I – not just some group which we may be on the fringe of, but He desires and cares for us specifically.

He embraces us.

This is what evangelism is about, what sharing the hope we have in these dark times means.  It is the gospel we preach,  it is why we should teach scripture. To answer the question that they should have – “what does this mean…. to me?”

May God bless us, as we reach out with His love… and may they hear it.  AMEN!

 

(1)  Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

 

Whatever happened to purity?


Discussion Thought fo the Day:

2  But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. 3  All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
1 John 3:2-3 (MSG)

2  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV)

413      Each person in his own situation should lead a pure life, courageously lived. We have to learn to say No for the sake of that great Love, Love with a capital letter.

We hear the word used in church, or maybe we read it in scripture, We bypass it quickly, either not thinking about it or dismissing it as a foreign concept.

Pressed on the issue, we will probably define purity in a way that appeases our nature. We will dismiss it as impossible, we will justify our impurity by indicating such purity doesn’t save us, that the law of Moses which defined purity isn’t binding on us any longer.  We will hide our desire for impurity behind theology, behind reason, behind whatever we think will cover it up.  And we will accuse those who encourage/demand purity it of being pietistic and hypocritical.  ( This is not to say that some who encourage and demand purity are pietistic and hypocritical, but we apply the mocking labels far too liberally!)

So let’s talk about it. is there a sense of purity that is neither hypocritical, but that we should strive to be?  Is it possible to be concerned with our own state without submitting to a legalistic system of demands?

Of course! It is possible!

The problem is that our idea of purity is too narrow, it is focused on behaviors, what we do or do not do, and maybe what we say or don’t say, rather than on who we are.

Purity in Greek is related to the idea of holiness, of being set apart to a relationship with God. It is about who we are in God’s sight, in His eyes.  It means living a life that is devoted to Him, that we strive to please the Lord who loves us, who is compassionate toward us, that is merciful.

Which means we strive to live life as He would desire.  That when we fail and think, say or do things that are not pure, we immediately we turn to Him and let Him cleanse us once again. For God purifies us, He refines us.  Purity is about being grieved by our sin enough that we desire that he care for us, about hearing His voice comforting us with the words of forgiveness, and encouraging us not to sin anymore.

Is this easy?  No, it is much harder to seek forgiveness than it is to enjoy for a moment the sin.  But it is needed.

This is what life really is, living in His presence, not anxious or afraid, but full of joy.  It is about dwelling in peace, assured that our purity isn’t fake – because He is the one who is our model, and who makes us pure and holy.

Let’s not waste His work, let’s not run or hide from it,, but rejoice as His glistening purity becomes ours, as we dwell in Him.

AMEN1

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1597-1598). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Key to Prayer…


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

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

19 This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God’s presence. 20If our conscience condemns us, we know that God is greater than our conscience and that he knows everything. 21And so, my dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God’s presence. 22We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23What he commands is that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ commanded us. 24Those who obey God’s commands live in union with God and God lives in union with them. And because of the Spirit that God has given us we know that God lives in union with us.  1 John 3:19-24

386      You lack faith… and you lack love. Were it not so you would go immediately and much more often to Jesus, asking for this thing and that. Don’t delay any further; call out to him and you will hear Christ speaking to you: “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as when he stopped for that poor blind man by the roadside who continued to insist, without giving up. 

To write on prayer is challenging.

In the first place, it is too personal, especially when considering St Josemaria’s words about pleading for this thing or that.  Personal becomes I have, and sometimes been disappointed.  It is also too personal, because some of the things I would ask, are well personal.  Lord, help me with this temptation, Lord, help me with this that causes anxiety and fear to rise up within me.  Not a lot of personal examples would I want to give,

The second reason is that there are two extremes when it comes to prayer.  The first is those who express what is often mocked as “name it – claim it” theology.  These are those who say you should pray like Jabez, and God will bless you with all forms of materialism, perfect families, perfect jobs, perfect health and absolute heaven on earth.  The other extreme confronts this so callously that you would almost think they believe God doesn’t listen to any prayer, that God doesn’t care for His people here.

But there are passages, the blind man that St Josemaria points out, the unjust judge, the father who doesn’t give his son a stone or a viper, but gives him what is asked.  The passages where Jesus invites us to cast all our cares on Him, all our burdens, where He tells us to ask and it will be given.  God wants us to pray, including asking Him to care for us, but I think there is something more that we need to understand.  If we don’t, then God is reduced to being a Genie in a bottle.  ( I think sometimes we think we have to save up for those really big things, so we don’t give him the everyday stuff)

Here is the key, faith and love, the very things that unite us to God, the very things that bind us to Him.  That is where prayer comes from, this close connection, this committed relationship.  It is knowing we are loved and loving back, it is in knowing that God is faithful, trustworthy, completely dependable because He desires what it good for us. Prayer is realizing that in Him we live and breathe and have our very being, so this communication is only natural.

This allows the prayer to come out of the depths, the places in our hearts, soul, and mind where we fear to go. Prayer comes from the place that so needs His peace, to know He is our sanctuary, our deliverance. This is the astonishing depth of prayer, and it shows our trust in the love of God who has come to us and given us life.

It is there that “Lord, have mercy” is simple and yet comprehensive prayer to the one who has brought us into union with Himself, for we are His children.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May the Lord Lead Your Hearts


church at communion 2May the Lord Lead Your Hearts
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

†  I.H.S.

 May the grace, that incredible gift of God’s love, mercy and peace, lead you to share His message in a way that it spreads, and where it is heard and rejoiced in by all you share it with!

Rescue From Wicked People?

This week has been, to be honest, very trying.  My patience hasn’t been all that strong, neither has been my endurance.

It has been challenging, mostly because I wonder if we truly understand the love of God, and how He works in our lives.

I would love to say the election was the cause of it, but I think it only revealed what was hidden, as many of us identified those we thought we needed to be freed, or delivered from; the people Paul asked the Thessalonian people to pray he would be delivered from,

Those wicked, evil people who are not believers.

We think we know what that means; we probably have various people in mind.  Until I remind you that the word belief here is as often translated faith. So, the people we are talking about are those who do not have faith, who do not trust in God.  People who do not depend on Him.

Uhm – is this too close to home for you?  It is for me.

Because while I will easily say I believe in God, it is another thing to ask me whether I trust Him, or whether I truly depend on him.

Especially this week, as I have watched some of my closest friends call each other, and the people we are supposed to love and pray for, well, we haven’t done that this well in America.

Rather, we identified them as the enemy, because we don’t understand how they are different from us… until we realize they are “us.”

When it came to us

Paul is making a similar plea here in verse 1.

He wrote, “Pray that the Lord’s message will be spread and honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you!”

Which leads to a question – is the Lord’s message being spread and by us?

Or has that taken a back seat as our anxieties, and our fears about what other anxious people will do dominate us?

Is God’s message spread and glorified among us still?

Surely it can, yet there are moments where we gossip about our neighbors or fail to put things, as Luther explained, in the best construction. That’s not easy to do, it sometimes takes time, to sit with them and find out their fears, their concerns, their pains, and positions.

It takes communication, and we often damage the opportunity for it.

Can we return to the joy that we had when God’s message of grace we understood with our hearts, souls, minds and strength for the first time?

Can we see the message of God honored again, as it did when we first heard it?  And then can we dare spread it to those, who like us, find themselves broken in this world?

Can we do as Paul was confident the Saints then would, doing and continuing to do that which he taught us to do?

How we do and continue to do what God commissioned

The answer is, yes.

Yes, even though we sin, we can still be restored, the awe at the love of God can be found again.  It was why we remember our baptisms, where sin, all our sin, was washed away by God’s command, because of our connection to Jesus and His death and resurrection. To restore that joy of our salvation is why we gather here, to remember and reveal again the love of God through the words of scripture, and through sermons like this.

It is why we come to the rail, and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ as we take and eat, as we remember the words of Jesus that established the covenant, as we are renewed by the gifts He gives us here.

We need this, all of us, from every demographic you can think of, from every political persuasion, we need to be refocused, revived, delivered and saved from the evil.  That happens one way,

Hear again the blessing of Paul,

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

There it Is, there is what we need, this incredible love of God, revealed to us.  Then trusting in Him, depending upon Him to save us, to strengthen us and guard us against evil becomes our nature.  Doing and continuing to do what we’ve been taught through scripture becomes not only our action; but our desire. This all happens because God leads us, leads our hearts into understanding and expressing His love for us.  That love, as it is revealed, causes us to trust in Him, to depend on Him, no matter what else happens.

For knowing how much he loves us, that is beyond anything.  What that loves is everything, it is glorious, and wonderful, joyful and enables us to endure anything.

We’ll even realize how many people that word “us” contains, and knowing that will cause this love, this message of God to spread rapidly, and be honored and glorified.

For it contains us all, for God so loved us all, and we all need to for Him to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of His love.

Here, he is doing that exact thing… may we realize it.  AMEN!

 

Give Thanks!


Give Thanks!

Luke 17:11-19

In Jesus Name

May the compassion of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed for you, that you hear Him as He tell you to rise up!

Jesus Frustration:

Jesus asks, “where are the other nine?!” and I can’t imagine hearing that without hearing some frustration in His voice, and maybe even a little pain.

Where are they?

Don’t they realize what I’ve done for them?  And don’t they know that this is only the beginning?

Where are the other nine?

I don’t know how you read it any differently, though it may seem odd to hear God being pained by our inattentiveness, by our being ungrateful, by our not being aware of the incredible mercy and compassion that goes neglected.

But consider this.

God describes himself in Exodus 34 with these words,

14  You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.    Exodus 34:14 (NLT)
and in Hebrews we find this,

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

This is the God who weeps over Jerusalem, who compares himself to the man whose beloved wife whom he rescued from a horrible life cheats on Him.

Now can you hear the pain in his voice, as he asks, “Didn’t I heal ten?  Where are the other nine?

is it enough to color between the lines?

Where are they?  Why at the priest’s, showing them the healing so they confirm it.  They are obeying Jesus, but isn’t that enough? Isn’t’ that the point of scripture, and the commandments, to get us to obey the commandments?

A quick illustration why it is not enough might help.

Think of  a children’s coloring book – with pictures of great masterpieces in it.

Forgetting the parental requirement to love every piece of art your child or grandchild colors in; is it enough to color between the lines? Can a Van Gogh be as beautiful or a Mona Lisa look as stunning if the colors don’t make sense?

Or to use another illustration – if we stay in our lane on the freeway, does that mean we can travel as fast as we want?

Of course not!

So in this case, while listening makes sense, what they didn’t hear was that Jesus had heard them, and answered.

A quick background – these lepers were supposed to cry out when people approached, “UNCLEAN!  UNCLEAN!”  They were to warn people to not come close, their disease was not only devastating, it was contagious.

Instead, somehow this group recognized Jesus, they recognized that though he wasn’t their Lord, He was one with authority, and they called out to him have mercy, to have compassion on them.  Mercy and compassion aren’t just about feelings, but love so full that it acts, it finds a way to relieve the burdens, to bring comfort and peace to lives that were broken, that were shattered.

As Jesus speaks, he offers them something they could only have dreamt of – to go and show themselves to the priests, to be declared free from the ravaged brokenness they knew, to be welcomed back into the community of the people of God.

And as they left, they were healed physically, miraculously.  Bodies that were more rotting than whole, bow showed skin that was a whole and new and vibrant as any.

This was the Master that spoke, that commanded this.  The Master, the one promised and sent by God. This is the Messiah, the one who would not just restore bodies, but souls. That would cleanse not just skin, but hearts and minds. Who would make them His people for eternity!

And we walked away.  We neglected the salvation, we obeyed the letter of the law, and missed something more important.  The Spirit, the messiah, Fellowship with God.

Even though they obeyed to the letter of the law – they missed what the law was given to do, to show them they were in fellowship with God.
Rise up!  Not only healed – but saved.

There is Jesus, and we’ve just heard him ask where the other nine was, when he focuses on the man again, lying there on the ground in front of him.  Who voice, which was loud when he cried for mercy, was mega loud when cried out God’s praises, when he offered great thanks – using the very word Jesus will use as he starts the last supper and gives thanks.

And what Jesus says is lost in almost every translation.

In this one it says this,

“Didn’t I heal ten men?” Then it says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

A few others say, Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.Luke 17:19 (NASB)

But a few say it this way – reflecting the Greek, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’ Luke 17:19 (NJB)

Not just made well, not just healed, his faith, his trust in God demonstrated in the return to praise God was the trust, the dependence that saw a much greater gift given – and invitation, and the recognition that he was no longer an alien, no longer a foreigner, but a part of the people of God.

Jesus was now this man’s Lord, this man’s master.  Salvation, like the healing that was for so long only a dream, this salvation was now his.

And Jesus tells him to stand, he doesn’t have to grovel, he doesn’t have to lay there in the dirt.  He was made whole and saved, therefore he was welcome to stand!

If there was gratitude when he only knew the healing, can you imagine the gratitude when salvation was what was given?  When eternity, in fellowship with God, given the ability to stand in His presence, to truly live life.

Can you imagine how incredible the mercy, the compassion he cried out for was revealed?

Yet that compassion, that mercy, that love, that acceptance of God is ours.

It is time to revel in it, to give thanks and praise.

And to hear, as Jesus look at the table, and considers the bread and wine, the gratitude he shows the Father, who will allow Jesus to give His body and blood for us, to save us.

For it our time to hear those words, you trust in God has saved you,,, for He has had compassion on you.  AMEN!

Don’t Know it All? What an Incredible Blessing!


Devotional Thought of the Day:

8 *Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. 9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.g 13 *So faith, hope, love remain, these three;h but the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor. 13:8-13 New American Bible. Revised Edition.

152    Don’t you sense that more peace and more union await you when you have corresponded to that extraordinary grace that requires complete detachment? Struggle for him to please him, but strengthen your hope.

As our Wednesday Night Bible Study has been meandering through the Acts of the Apostles, the last two weeks have encountered people with partial knowledge.  Apollos and the 12 Ephesian disciples.  In both cases, they were missing significant, I would even say critical knowledge about Jesus, about His death and resurrection, and about what it means to depend on Him in life.

Yet they were still called believers, disciples, knowledgeable.

They had people lovingly correct them, Priscilla and Aquilla, and Paul.  Things were corrected, and God was revealed to them, so much more graceful, so much more loving.

But it, and today’s readings. got me thinking about how easy it is to idolize knowledge, especially theological and spiritual knowledge.We expect that it will protect us against heresy and heterodoxy, that it will cause us to mature, to grow in our ability to enter into discussions and win them (the discussions/debates – not necessarily the people) for Christ.  I’ve been there, done that,offended people, been condescending and arrogant, as I’ve strived to know it all. I’ve had to repent, and on more than one occasion apologize and  confess and pray for forgiveness. 

Yet scripture is clear, and we need to understand we can’t know it all. I can’t learn it all, nor keep tomes and tomes in my brain. I won’t be the next Augustine or Pascal or Melancthon.

To realize this, is a blessing that is incredible. 

To realize that I won’t have every answer, that I will continue to grow, that my sight will always be indistinct, that my knowledge will always be partial is so freeing!

It frees me from an idol, one called knowledge.  It stops me from becoming thinking that knowledge is the highest of virtues, and reminds me of something I need- to depend on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

Coming face to face with my own inadequacies leads me to search out for Jesus Christ  more than to search out for another theological guru, another academic tome.  For His grace is communicated through His word and sacraments, through the Lord’s supper, and in the promises poured out with water in baptism, as the burdens of sin and unrighteousness are relieved as I hear the words,”Your sins are forgiven!”.(2)

It is Christ that protects us, it is the Holy Spirit that lifts us up, whether we can adequately diagram the text, or explain the communication of magisterial attributes.  (these are actually helpful – but they ain’t God, nor do they automatically make us more godly!)

Knowing we don’t know it all, that we can’t, drives us to the cross, brings us to walk humbly next to Him, depending on His as a disciple, and this is good.

It is a great blessing – for as we lean on Him, as we trust our Lord, this is where we find peace, and the greatest knowledge of all.

That is this:

“The Lord is with you!”

AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 488-490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  I would recommend reading the Apology of the Augsburg Confession for a partial list of other sacraments, such as prayer, and helping the poor.

What Will It Take you To Prove


What will it take to prove…

Luke 16:19-31

In Jesus Name

 May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as His unsurpassable peace guards your hearts, and your mind, until He returns.

From Lazarus’s Perspective

We know his name – but we’ve never heard his thoughts, save one.  Even as he stands at Abraham’s side, we hear him thought of as a servant – someone to dispatch with a message, not like an apostle, but like and errand boy.

While he is alive, suffering, unable to care for himself, the only thing we head from him is his desire to be fed by what falls from the rich’s man’s table.  How he longed for a piece of bread, a morsel of lamb, even and onion.

Something, anything!

And he was so weak; he couldn’t even brash away the dogs who would lick and nibble at his open wounds.

Some scraps, please? Please?

A man who knew only hunger and pain.

And then one day, a procession of angels came, sent by God, to bring him to Abraham’s side, to wait for the day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when God will dwell with His people, and we will see Him!

He was welcomed home, as we will be.

For like Lazarus, God knows our name!

The journey home
But what is this screaming in the distance?

As Lazarus is standing by Abraham’s side, he hears something you can’t usually hear in heaven, in fact, this may be the only time.  Some un-named (and that is important) man is trying to get Abraham’s attention from across the gulf, from the place for those not welcome in God’s presence.

It’s a voice that sounds familiar, and maybe Lazarus even recognized it as the voice, that echoed through the gates, the laughed and enjoyed the fine banquets and parties.
But now the voice was one of anguish, one begging for help, begging for reliefs from the heat, crying for pity,

Because of his past, maybe we would think Lazarus was thinking Mr. No-Name was getting what he deserved.  Or more likely, because of the very reasons he was escorted by angels, his heart was moved, and as Abraham was asked to send a messenger, maybe Lazarus was in tears, wanting to help.

Even so, the man’s torment would continue, his heart still not turned. And as he pleads for his brothers, Abraham’s words are haunting,

“‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

What will it take to convince us?

These words that Lazarus hears are scary when you think about them, and who is saying them.  What kind of proof would convince someone about the consequences of their sin?  If the words of scripture will not, if even the fact that Jesus not only raised people from death but rose from the dead himself – if that doesn’t cause people to think a little more, what will?

How do we reach people, and bring them to Jesus, If they aren’t persuaded by Jesus rising from the dead?

Or perhaps a better question – does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives?

Does it give us hope?

Does it help give us peace?

Does that hope, that peace transforms our lives in such a way we aren’t tied to stuff, but that we realize people have names, that we are to love them in the way that God does?

What difference does the resurrection of Jesus have for the way we look at life, and death?

What difference would it make if we realize that God, and all heaven, knew us by name because Jesus lived and died and rose again?

What will it take for us to realize God knows us and calls us by name?

Col. 1:28 –

The apostle Paul explains it this way.

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

This is the message that changes us, knowing that God loves us, and indeed loves every human being changes everything.  It means everything.  It means that each one of us is God’s beloved.

Knowing that means that loving others is no longer a duty, no longer a sacrifice, but it is glorious and wonderful to see them come alive in Christ, to see their lives transform, for they begin to share in God’s glory as well.

They have a name; they mean something to us.  This is why Paul would go on to say,

28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)

People need to hear of God’s love, while they are still alive. They need to see that love in a way that they can hear; that isn’t someone trying to persuade them, but rather share with them this glory, this love.  They

But that happens best when we know His love when we realize He knows our name!  It is then, as we hear Him calling us by name that we realize in awe that He has given us His peace, peace that goes beyond understanding, peace that we dwell in because Christ calls us His treasure, and keeps our hearts and minds there.

This is our life… where God calls us by name – so live it!  AMEN!

Eight Years, and Still Learning this Lesson; A Sermon on Job 38


Why Ask?

Job 38:1-18

†  In the Name of Jesus †

May you be blessed by truly grasping that the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ Jesus is indeed yours, even as it was Job’s!

A Questioned answered, with a Question

I know it is very valid educational method, but it still irritates me.  It is called the Socratic Method, and it can be very effective, in both teaching and in counseling.  You simply make the student process the information by only responding to them with a series of questions, based on their answers.

As I said, it can be very effective, because it makes the person you are teaching or counseling think.  Instead of giving them the answers, you guide them in finding the answer. It does wear on the student a little, as they struggle with the process.  But because they come to the conclusion, they understand the answer far better.

25 years ago, this month, I was a freshman at a Bible College, and my first class in Ephesians had a professor who taught in this manner.  It was great, and he was excellent at this style of teaching.  I still remember some of the discussions in that course.  The next semester though, he used the same educational theory.  The only problem was the course was elementary Greek!  So Mr. Parker, what do you really think the 2nd person aorist passive verb “pistis” means!  Socratic teaching doesn’t work for things like ancient Greek, or Algebra.  But it has its place.

Like when someone like Job is looking for an answer, an answer they already have.  It is then far more beneficial to have them answer the questions, moving ever towards the answer that they already know.

When Job asks why? God doesn’t answer directly, but starts Job on a series of questions, that will lead Job back to what is essential, not only for Job, but indeed, for us.

What the question isn’t asking

            How dare you? 

            Why do we hear it that way?

            We are attuned to the Law, to the Wind and Waves

Hear again, the first verses of our reading,

 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding Job 38:1-4 (ESV)

A bit attention getting? I think so!  Out in Anza, we had a lot of dust devils – miniature tornadoes which spiraled dirt a hundred feet in the air.  They made a lot of noise when they hit the church, and if you drove through one, the dirt will come flying through the A/C vents!  I can’t even imagine the whirlwind that hits job, both the one out of which God answers, and the one his life was in.  He lost everything, he had friend doubting his faith, and as he sits there, crushed and broken, Godfinally answers.  “Get up, and answer me…”

I have to wonder, if when we read this passage, we read it as God criticizing Job, as God putting Job in his place.  Hey Job, don’t you realize that you are nothing, that you can’t measure up to me, that you are insignificant in my eyes?  After all you’ve never done anything, and you won’t measure up to what I can do.  Come on Job, be a man, put up your dukes and let’s rumble! Winner takes all, and I, Almighty Sovereign, Everlasting God will challenge you to a fight of 10 rounds. Ready?

Except can’t be that.  We know from the rest of the book that God favors Job, that He loves him. That God counted Job as His.  That God said that Job would not stop entrusting himself to the God that love him, because the love is beyond the stuff of the world.

So why do we hear these questions of God in this way?  Why do we not question the way this sounds?  Does it seem to be the God you would want to follow? To be that petty, that mean, that self-serving?  Yet, how often do the people of this world see God, and indeed, His church, as that kind of God?  How many think that God and the church only exist to condemn, and brutally use guilt and shame to control them? Do we give them that expectation?  Do we expect it ourselves?  Why?

Is it perhaps because we are afraid that God would be that way?  That we hear God’s law questioning our lives, and we automatically assume that the reason He is questioning us, is to prosecute us?  So we are afraid to admit that we have failed, that we gossiped, or lied, or lusted or wanted to kill someone, or betrayed someone’s trust, or didn’t love that person.

How many of us are afraid of the voice that would answer us, out of the storms that are our lives?  We fear being blown over by that wind, or maybe we are afraid of what God will ask of us, and that as sinners, we will be called to do something incredible, like Peter’s walking on water.

The danger of not getting the Entire story!         

But Peter didn’t drown in his storm, and neither did Job. We know that Jesus reached down and saved Peter, and if we read three more chapters of Job, we would know that God also redeemed his life.  The issu

You see, God is asking these questions in a Socratic form.  The answer to each of them, “No, I wasn’t there Lord”, “no, I didn’t do that”, is not to humiliate Job, but to get him to think.  The questions are asked with a goal in mind for Job.  That he would understand that it is okay for mankind to struggle with life, and the heavy questions of suffering and why things happen.  That we don’t have the answers to why, but that we can answer who is the One who determined the measurements of the world.  Then we know the answer to whom controls the waters and who the morning stars, and the angels shouted for joy to see!

A few chapters after these questions, God says if Job can only answer him, 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.”  Job 40:14(ESV)I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want God to think, is that I can save myself.  I cannot, for I will screw it up.  I don’t want God to applaud my efforts, I want Him to reach out and save us, to make us His, to redeem us.

That is what the questions lead to, and what Job remembers, when in chapter 42 we find this. “1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:1-2 (ESV)

Job is back, back to where he was in the beginning, when all was going well.  He remembered that his trusting God was based, not on his holiness, but on God’s faithfulness, on God’s character and strength.  That is where the questioning leads, to the very relationship that God assured satan was unshakeable.  Not because Job was perfect, but because Job knew whom to trust.

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-27 (ESV)

Job knew, in the midst of his suffering, that God would redeem him. That somehow, even though he were to die, that he would then live to see God. That is the voice speaking of someone who knows they are God’s, that is assured that God is one their side, that their redeemer will come.  In God’s answer to Job’s complaint here is a far better answer.  You are not God – I am.

I am.. I am your God.  I am the one who will save an redeem, and answer.

In Christ’s death, centuries after Job’s life ended, the answer was seen in its fullness.

That is where God was leading Job in the questioning, not to self-suffiency, or humiliation, but to call on Him, trusting in the His love.  Love so strong, that it would pay the highest cost, the Body and Blood of Jesus, to redeem us, to save us from our sins, and the sin of the world.

I have a son, a cute little pain in the neck.  As I leave in the morning, I call out to Him and ask, do you love me?  He runs and hides, or says no, with a great big smile on his face.  I long to hear him say I love you dad, or to reach out His arms to me. Patience will get me the hug I want – and God is more patient with me – waiting for me to remember He is God. The God who asks me to call upon Him,.

That is the nature of God and Job, it’s not about the suffering, it’s not about the challenges, it’s not about humiliation.  It is about a God, and one of His people.  The One who promised to redeem, and the one who would be redeemed.

My friends, we are the redeemed.  Redeemed not by our own works, but called to redemption by God, and made to be His people.

May you live in God’s peace, knowing this.  Peace that surpasses all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.

Amen?

Be at peace.

The Challenge of Being Right


16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

When relating these events in his Gospel, Saint Matthew continually emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness. He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him. The Fathers of the Church and other spiritual writers frequently emphasize the firmness of Joseph’s faith. Referring to the angel’s command to fly from Herod and take refuge in Egypt,7 Saint John Chrysostom comments: “On hearing this, Joseph was not shocked nor did he say: ‘This is strange. You yourself made it known not long ago that he would save his people, and now you are incapable even of saving him—we have to flee, to set out on a long journey and spend a long while in a strange place; that contradicts your promise.’ Joseph does not think in this way, for he is a man who trusts God. Nor does he ask when he will return, even though the angel left it so vague: ‘Stay there, until I tell you to return.’ Joseph does not object; he obeys and believes and joyfully accepts all the trials.”8 Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia, or lack of initiative. Joseph entrusted himself unreservedly to the care of God, but he always reflected on events and so was able to reach that level of understanding of the works of God which is true wisdom. In this way he learned little by little that supernatural plans have a logic which at times upsets human plans.

There are days where it is a challenge to live by faith, to live in view of the brutal world where people are butchered, tortured, and enslaved.  There are days where the pain is much closer, a friend struggling with cancer, a son dealing with the death of a parent, the parent dealing with the death of a child. It can even be more of an irritant, an argument among friends, or even a relationship being broken, a relationship between people who should be united, but can’t get past their brokenness.

Some may dismiss these latter things by noting that we are sinners, that we are supposed to be broken, that what we need to do is be confident in our absolution. Surely that is true for sins in our past, but the danger lies in assuming that such a lack of faith is appropriate for tomorrow.  The lesson that some will hear is that we don’t have to be concerned about loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, and if we fail to because of self-interest or greed or apathy?  Oh well, confess it, and be confident in your forgiveness.

St Josemaria, in talking about Joseph, quotes one of the key verses for Martin Luther. The just shall live by faith!    But what does that mean?  Does it mean that we are simply quickened (as the old Creed says) and are alive because of faith, or does it mean we actually LIVE, day by day, moment by moment, dependent on God, trusting Him for what He has promised, revelling in the joy of His presence, even when life sucks?

That is life by faith, life in Christ, real life, the kind of life that accepts what comes to us, trusting and depending on God. This was ultimately freeing to Luther, not just in absolution, but in living.  For Joseph, Escriva claims it gave him the strength to obey the angelic visitation that occurred in dreams (unlike Mary who encountered the angel face to face.)  He just went, because he trusted God.  He went depending on God, despite the oddities, despite the lack of answers, despite the appearance that God didn’t care.

You want to be right?  Live this way, dependent on God, so dependent that obedience becomes more natural, and that when we fail, we run for forgiveness – in both cases dependent on the promise of God… How does this grow?  Through encountering Christ through His word, through sacraments like the Eucharist, and through prayer and meditation on Christ.

For this is life!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1355-1371). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Theology that Truly Matters Meets Us….


Devotional THoguht fo the Day:
14  Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15  Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)

290      Joy, and supernatural and human optimism, can go hand in hand with physical tiredness, with sorrow, with tears (because we have a heart), and with difficulties in our interior life or our apostolic work. He who is perfectus Deus, perfectus Homo—perfect God and perfect Man—and who enjoyed every happiness in Heaven, chose to experience fatigue and tiredness, tears and suffering… so that we might understand that if we are to be supernatural we must also be very human.  (1)

Tomorrow in church we will use the Athanasian Creed, an incredible wonderful set of words that describe the nature of God who is so much more than we can understand or conceive.  It first describes Father Son and Holy Spirit (or for us older folk Holy Ghost).  Mindblowing in both its simplicity and complexity.  Very appropriate as we dedicate the day to thinking about the Trinity, this majestic and glorious God, who has revealed Himself to us.

The second aspect I want to deal with here, well sort of…

It describes, as best as one can, the divine and human nature of Christ.  That he is 100% man, 100% divine.  Theologians will talk about this ad nauseum, with fancy Latin phrases and epic tomes which make us sound far more brilliant than we are.  Where it matters is where the saint who wrote Hebrews mentions above.

Christ has sympathy for us.  Not just a sympathetic ear, but true sympathy for us.  Or perhaps more accurately, empathy.   He’s been here, done this, and instead of having a t-shirt to wear, He has stripes on His back, a gaping hole in His side, and in his wrists and feet.  As the scriptures tell us, he endured the temptations we face, (and then some extras!)  He experienced the fatigue and suffering, the tears and emotional exhaustion.  his sacrifice was on the cross, but it was also His very life.  A life that was an offering for us, and to us, to show us the depth of God’s love.

Which is why, broken and weary, tired and drained, even doubting and in despair, we can turn to Him.  Or more precisely drawn to Him.  We don’t have to avoid the pain, and the sorrow, the tears and the grief.  For there, in the midst of the brokenness, we find Jesus, who was broken for us. We find in our Humanity, the Lord and Savior, who loved us enough to become human, and there, at that moment, we find the joy of His making us holy, and supernatural, as we share in His glory.

So if you are preaching tomorrow, remember to link the Trinity to their beloved, remember to mention the Birde of Christ.  If you are hearing a sermon, worship with great joy, knowing that God is with you… that He has chosen to share your life, and at that moment, know the peace and joy that is beyond all understanding.  For Jesus the Christ is with you, guarding you heart and mind.  AMEN!




 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1181-1185). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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