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The Darkness seems to close in… yet…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” 12  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (MSG) \

19  O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21  Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22  Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance! Isaiah 30:19-22 (NLT2)

470    The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?

There are days that seem absolutely dark, where the sinful nature of mankind is so dominant in my environment, that it seems like the darkness creeps in, and there is no light to see things by, to discern what is truth, what is shadow and what is evil. 

It seems like such times may never end, but how can we truly know that, when the darkness seems to totally envelop us.  How can we know that the next step won’t lead us out of the threatening forest and into the light? ( I often think that next step will be over the edge of a cliff, as my anxiety twists my discernment even more than the darkness had blinded it!)

As I read the first verse in my devotions, a song I’ve never heard from one of my favorite artists quoted it. And I knew that this is part of what I need to write, and hear this morning. 

Even though I can’t see in the dark, my Rescuer can, and He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. Even though I endure adversity, and suffer as I struggle to know God’s presence, it is there.  He can see us, and guide us, gently, firmly.

So much so that we will destroy those false gods, those things that supply a false hope. We will simply abandon them, finding no need to cling to them. 

This is why the saints and “great Christians” of the past are who they are.  Not because of their own faithful battle against the evil they encountered in their world, or in their own hearts. 

Why there were saints?  They clung to the God who saw them in their darkness.  They clung to the Lord who has them safely in His hands.  In the cross, not just at it, they found the peace that allowed them to relax, and be sustained by the God who came to them. St. Josemaria nails it, there is the cross, the Gospel, and they promise that we will rise with Christ, that we have risen with Jesus.

Even if we can’t see it yet.

He has found us, for He sees in the darkness. 

Count on that, even as you listen for His voice, even as He reveals the glorious light of His love for you.  

Lord, have mercy on us, as we struggle in the darkness.  Help us to depend on You, to be guided, cared for and healed by Jesus, for this is what You have always promised your people.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1153). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do I Survive the Dark Times

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
4  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6  God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)

862         When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.  (1)

When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)


I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed.  Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God.  To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.

This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin.  We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.

Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us.  We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ.   This isn’t it.

Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”,  “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”,  the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.

We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.

It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it.  Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care.  The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!

So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time.  Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light.  Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock

How long will Easter’s glory shine in our hearts?

4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.John 1:4-5 (NLT) 

You became a bit frightened when you saw so much light, so bright that you thought it would be difficult to look, or even to see. Disregard your obvious weaknesses, and open the eyes of your soul to faith, to hope and to love. Carry on, allowing yourself to be guided by God through whoever directs your soul. (1)

It seems many churches yesterday saw incredible spikes in their attendance counts.  We had nearly a triple digit spike!  It was great to hear all these voices, responding with strong “Amens” and singing and praying together.  The cynical side of me wonders if the same people will return to church in the weeks to come, or will attendance fade back to normal.  But even among those who normally are here, who normally sing his praises, will His  glory continue to shine through us, or will it fade as well?  Will we sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today still? and if we do, will it sound more like “Were you there..hen they crucified my Lord”.   (As it did this morning on the radio)

How do we keep the glorious light we experienced yesterday from fading?

The answer is simple – by realizing – each and every day – as many times a day as possible – that the Lord is with us!  That He doesn’t slumber of sleep or take a vacation, or even a day off.

We need to realize we live in the presence of God.

And we need to encourage each other to see God’s revealing Himself.

Simple perhaps – but as profound as an open tomb.

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3577-3580). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Source of Hope…

Devotional-Discussion thought of the evening….

There are days where it seems that what we do makes little difference, the flood caused by sin’s damage is too great, to overwhelming.  No matter where you look in this world, we see the damage caused by sin, the brokenness, the wounded, even those we think are the perpetrators – yet are victims of sin’s bondage as well.

The tendency to drop into despair, to get depressed, to want to give in, give up is there.  I’ve known those kinds of days

But surrendering to hopelessness is only one of the choices to make… there is another way to surrender ….

Seek union with God and buoy yourself up with hope—that sure virtue!—because Jesus will illuminate the way for you with the light of his mercy, even in the darkest night. (1)

You see, there is a blessing in the darkness – for in the darkness we find our exactly how much we need His light.  We realize our helplessness, we realize we cannot make it, and we remember….. His Body, His Blood, broken and shed for us, the promise that we aren’t in the darkness, not meant to be there, but we belong in His glory, brought there in His mercy, because of His love.

We have to remember that, when the darkness seems to overwhelming, when the cares of the world cause anxiety, when we for the moment… forget His love…

Lord – Have mercy upon us, may we ever dwell in Your glory… and may we be confident, that we are never left by You, in the dark.  AMEN!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1192-1194). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Look Carefully How You Walk

Look carefully then how you walk!

Ephesians 5:5-21

In Jesus Name


God’s gifts of love and mercy are yours in Christ Jesus!

 

Look carefully then how you walk!

 

It was too bad, that I didn’t happen to read in my devotions back in February our epistle reading this morning.  I left home that morning, having decided it would be a great habit to walk to the office each morning.

I will admit, as I left the house, my mind was in a couple of different places, and I wasn’t doing what Paul advised.  Looking carefully then how I walked, o come on, this is Cerritos! About 150 yards from the house, the raised sidewalk and my foot confronted each other. In such that my knee and should a half second later met that sidewalk even more forcefully.

After getting through the maze of our medical system, I started therapy two weeks ago.  Bbecause I hadn’t looked carefully at how I walked afterwards, I didn’t realize how odd my way of walking had become – because my left knee and hip were compensating for an much weaker right knee and hip.  Literally one step I was taking was 2 feet shorter than the next, and imbalance from the damaged side having 40 percent of the strength of the other side.  The “therapy” (I think that’s Greek for torture) will last a couple of months, rather than a week or two.  I should have watched how I walked!

If it is important to watch where we are walk physically in this life, it’s more important to watch how we walk spiritually.  As Paul describes our journey of faith in our reading, he mentions consequences that are worse than anything a physical therapist can do to torture us!  The danger of walking with those who walk in darkness, partnering with them, allowing them to deceive us and draw us into their sin, is that it leads to suffering God’s wrath.  Why would we risk that, in view of what awaits us with Him?

That is why Paul talks about looking carefully at how we walk!  He urges us to analyze how we walk – and walk as those who are wise, and not unwise.
The Challenge of Walking in Darkness

         
Though I was walking in broad daylight when I wasn’t paying attention, how much harder is it to pay attention in the dark?  How many of us, on a trip have tried to walk around in a strange house, or hotel room in the dark?  Usually its because we woke up, need to use the restroom quickly, and we get out of bed and look like a fool as we walk into a chair, a couch, a wall!  Which doesn’t make our body any less needing to go!

People wandering in spiritual darkness remind me of a children’s game – pin the tail on the donkey.  Like the game, spiritually those in the darkness are spun around, and their ability to navigate is highly compromised!   That’s what living life dominated in sin, and caving into our desires does.   We can’t tell which direction we are supposed to be heading, and while we know where we would like to go, where we would like to be, we have no ability to get there!  The journey is worthless, it does us no good, and indeed, that life is lived with more and more frustration, and less and less peace.

Even that which God writes in all hearts – the natural law which most people acknowledge, those directions to live life can’t be followed, for our hearts were hardened and in the dark confusion, our instincts for self-protection and for pleasure override common sense.  Every religion, even atheism indicates that certain actions, certain attitudes are wrong and evil – yet those lost in darkness seem to choose them over and over.  This is not to forget, that in the darkness, you can’t see who is talking, and it is easy to be deceived, to be seduced into a relationship that damages us, for it ignores the warnings God provides to keep us safe.

Wandering in the darkness, not a good idea…

Entering the Light is a Challenge!

         
There is a challenge though, for to not walk in the darkness means that we have to struggle learning how to deal with walking in the light!  Which is easier said than done!  When you were walking around in that dark house, and someone turned a bright light on, didn’t it take a little bit before you really could see?

As we awoke from our sleep, and arose from the dead because Christ’s light shown on us as it says in verse 14, we had to learn to walk spiritually, to walk with God.   It is a whole different life, a complete change of how we do things, and to be honest, we need to remember that – it’s too easy to slip back into doing things the way the world does, its do easy to be deceived and enticed into sinful thoughts, and evil deeds.  For this world encourages us to be narcissistic, to look out for #1, even to do things unethically and immorally, if it makes our life better, or is just more pleasurable.

As we walk in Christ, that life we see for what it is – evil, immoral, shameful, and we struggle even more!  We see it for what it is, even as we “see” deeply into things that are not so visible, such as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, and the benefit of hearing that our sins… our individual sins are forgiven, and we are cleansed from every sin and all unrighteousness.
We learn that the light shows us what to flee from, what to let God sever us from, cleanse us from, freeing us so that we can learn to live life with what is beautiful.  It takes a little to get used to! We realize that being in the light is more a blessing, and less that which we should fear.   We learn as well that analyzing how we walk is also a blessing – as we become wise, and we learn to redeem the time, to make it profitable, not in the world’s views perhaps, but definitely in Gods view.

Our lives encounter healing!  God heals them spiritually with therapy that is not full of pain, but rather a feast that causes us to rejoice!

Walking in the Light

          We can discern what is pleasing to the Lord

          We can understand what the will of the Lord is

I love that Paul linked worship, in a variety of ways, to this idea of looking at how we walk in the light.   As we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to each other, giving thanks and praise to God the Father for everything, everything that has been poured out on us, by Jesus, because of Jesus, in the Name of Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is how praising God is link to walking in Christ light.  Read with me the end of verse 8 and 9 – without what’s in parenthesis .

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

 

And then in verse 17,

 

16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

 

What pleases God?  What is His will, what does He desire above all?  Peter tells us it is this:

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, (desiring that no one would ) wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.      2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

And Paul guided by the Holy Spirit wrote:

 

2:3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV)

 

As we realize that God’s desire is to have a relationship with us, to establish us as His people, to have us know that He will care for us! He cares as the best Father could care for His children, we find ourselves renewed, rejuvenated, relieved of burdens and sins.  We come to trust that our journey is not just in the light of a star we call the sun, but in the light of God’s glory.  That His promises are all true, that all things will work out for good, that He will never forsake us, nor abandon us.   “Us” isn’t just the people in this room – it includes all who have heard of His love, and those with whom God has sent us to share His love!

As we realize that – we sing – we praise Him, from simple psalms like Jesus Loves Me and Change my heart o God, to incredible hymns like A Mighty Fortress and Just a Closer Walk with Thee, to the spiritual songs that call us to realize we dwell in the presence of God, that plead with God, confident that He will shine on us… each different yet coming from the same place – a place of joy, a place of peace, a place where hope is incredible.

For God would calls into His light, into His glory, into His peace which surpasses all understanding, even as Christ keeps our hearts and minds there…with Him.  AMEN?

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