Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I lift my eyes to You, the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor. Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB
Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.
For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth. It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.
I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place.
When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place.
Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap. What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom. What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.
We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules. We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening.
While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God. So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!) We were made to live in community.
But that community starts in the presence of God, Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace. (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.) As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.
Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.
Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes. As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears.
For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace.
Which is what we need, more than anything.
Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8
Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip
How Accurate is our Sight?
Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.
We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side. Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.
But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.
Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of. He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country. He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.
And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.
And how differently he must have thought.
How accurate was His,
This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome. Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.
The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.
1 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)
The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.
What this means is that this man would face rejection again. Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.
The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God. But it also divided him from his own people as well. No wife for a eunuch. No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.
Like many of us today. We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin. Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.
And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?
That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?
Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,
32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)
And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.
His Hope realized
I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain. He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..
And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count. That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing. We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.
Just like eunuch.
God had prepared this man’s heart. Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.
As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone. No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God. His prayer was answered.
He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.
The lesson we learn..
Maybe you are feeling alone today. It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world. Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others. This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.
And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week. Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are….. And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.
God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. 21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22 The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— 23 I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:20-23 (MSG)
But the opposite can also happen: men, who are made for love, can find in this presence that is everywhere around them the security for which their whole being cries out. They can see therein a victory over the loneliness that no human individual can ever banish even though it is in direct contradiction to our being, which cries out for a You, for someone to share our life. In this secret presence, men can find a reason for the confidence that makes life possible for them. At this point, their response to the question of God’s existence acquires critical proportions.
Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him266 and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,267 some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;1* but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him
My name is Dustin, and I am an extrovert. My vocation is that of being a pastor, where it seems I am constantly surrounded by people.
And I get lonely.
Even with an awesome church that doesn’t acknowledge the formal line between my being their pastor and being their friend! (this is a great blessing, an incredible one) Even with a great wife and incredibly bright son. it still happens.
There is time to be alone, but loneliness is a different thing. Being alone is needed at times, and is both restful and restorative. Loneliness is wearing, it is needing someone to relate to, of not wanting to be alone, of needing not to be alone.
Loneliness, Pope Benedict wrote, was something we can never banish. He also noted how it is in direct contradiction to our very existence. That creates a very ugly paradox, the one thing we can’t avoid is what robs us of who we are. The emptiness, the inability to express love, and ot know we are loved wreaks havoc with our psyche, with our soul. We are designed to share this life we live with others, which is why sin is so devastating, as it shatters our ability to relate to others. It devalues them, and without anyone to truly value us, the loneliness drives us further into despair, and into the bondage of sin and addiction.
I said I knew this struggle, as do many of those I know in ministry, as most people who are happily married. There are still times where the darkness of loneliness forms and tries to crush the individual.
so where do I find hope?
Among other places, I find it in singing a hymn in our liturgy. The words preceding it are “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven, we praise and magnify your glorious name..even more praising you and singing” In that moment, I realize that friends that have passed away, and others that are singing it with me, and millions across the globe (along with angels ) are praising God together. Our voices are crying out to save us, (for this is what Hosanna means) to the One who can save us. Save us from the sin which divides us, from that which makes breaks us and leaves us unable to love, and unable to perceive we are loved.
We are, the very people the Spirit draws to Jesus, and in united to Jesus, we find our unity in God our Father, we are in Him, even a Jesus is.
As I read these words of mine, they seem too theological, to philosophical, to other-worldly to communicate the truth, the reality that I know. The presence of God, that should I remember leaves me never alone, and brings draws me out of the darkness, of my loneliness, and fills me with peace and comfort and joy.
This is why the gathering of believers around God’s word, and the sacraments where God pours out Hiss
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
22 “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Luke 9:22-24 (NLT)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)
252 Grant me, Jesus, the Cross with no Simon of Cyrene to help me. No, that’s not right; I need your grace, I need your help here as in everything. You must be my Simon of Cyrene. With you, my God, no trial can daunt me… But what if my Cross should consist in boredom or sadness? In that case I say to you, Lord, with You I would gladly be sad. (1)
Occaisonally I hear the complaint, “no one knows what I am going through, and no one understands, no one cares.” Sometimes I want to argue the point, confronting the opinion with that which proves it is not true. Other times I simply want to say, “stop whining, trust in God, you know that is not true!” And sometimes I want to walk away, tired of the complaints, which seem more an excuse for not living as one should.
But how do I walk away from myself?
Though I have heard such as a pastor and as a friend, I have heard it often in those internal arguments we have when we have that moment to think, when we have a moment where we are not recoiling from the constant stress that life provides. Even as I’ve shepherded others through those times, (some have even suggested I have a talent for it?) applying the same truth to my own life is difficult.
Part of me just wants to accept it, it’s part of taking up my cross, and I will get through it, eventually. After all, good Christians endure all things, right?
We are not meant ot bear our burdens alone. We are meant to share them, with God, and as our trust in God grows, with the people He’s called to be His own.
St Josemaria’s words that I read, that I need to inwardly digest this morning confront me in my struggles.They don’t dismiss the cross I’ve got to bear, but they remind me that a Christian doesn’t walk through such times alone. And we certainly aren’t the heroes who bear the weight by our own strength. We need to let Jesus be our Simon of Cyrene. We have to let the Spirit intercede for us, even as we are too overwhelmed to know what to pray.
We have to know we walk with God, we walk in Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We need to depend on a God who reveals Himself to be not just in a relationship, but to be the Relationship.
This is how we find ourselves to be able to rejoice in all things, and to not be anxious about anything. In order to survive, it is not about bearing up with things bravely, it is about depending on Jesus, about living, not in view of that would crush us, but in view of the cross and the love revealed to us there.
For taking up the cross, our cross, is found in being united to His suffering and death, and His life. That is where our peace comes from.. a peace that doesn’t make sense.
A peace that is ours, as we let Jesus be our Simon, as we let Him be our Paraclete, our Comforter, as we let HIm be our Lord and Savior!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1060-1063). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, 9 I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. 10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:8-10 (NLT)
254 An incurable illness restricted his movements. And yet he cheerfully assured me: “The illness suits me well and I love it more all the time. If I were given the choice, I would be born again this way a hundred times!”(1)
Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass (2)
I have the honor to visit a 97 year old lady for about 10 minutes a week. She lives with some other eldery people around the corner. It isn’t much of a visit by the world’s standards, but it is one I treasure.
She has lived a fascinating life, one that would have me asking her to tell the stories from, for she has worked in places that I find extremely fascinating. But with the strength she has, just a few minutes of hearing about God working with our preschoolers, and a prayer of blessing, and it is time to leave.
Yet her contentment is amazing, her joy as she sees me is so evident. She doesn’t mind her weakness. She seems to treasure our brief moments together. This incredible lady, me, and the God who loves us so! A few moments that make such an incredible difference.. in my life.
It is hard to look at her weariness, for the smile and the assurance of her love for God overwhems it. She is more at peace than so many I know. So much more full of joy. Despite the suffering, despite the hours spent alone.
There are all different types of suffering. Suffering can be caused by evil oppression, by poverty, by health, by age, by loneliness?
But what we find in the suffering makes all the difference in the world. In this time of Advent, can we find Christ there? Can we find the joy of having no other hope but that which is found in Christ Jesus? The hope of sharing in His glory?
When we do, when in the midst of the pain we hear His voice; when we realize the comfort Jesus brings to us in the Lord’s Supper; in those moments of prayer when we can only listen, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to us, that is when the quiet joy comes flooding through our souls. That is when the brokenness finds healing.
That is when we know we are loved.
Such a joyous thought…
I pray that you and I would know God’s love that deeply, with that assurance, at any age, in any situation. Because of that love, may joy be generated at our very core.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1244-1246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional after a long Day:
15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. 16 Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. . Romans 12:15-16 (NJB)
442 Diamonds are polished with diamonds…, and souls with souls. (1)
On Sunday, the people of my church will promise to a little baby, to be there when she is full of joy, to cry with her when her heart aches. In all things, to pray for her, and to remind her that the Lord is with her, for He has claimed her and united her to Himself. And as a baptized belever, she will grow in this as well, and as we struggle, she will be there for us, and as we know Christ’s peace, she will as well.
That’s the way Paul says we are supposed to be, as Jesus church, the people called together as His own, whom He calls His friends (yeah He does – look it up) But since you are His sibling and son or daughter of God, as am I, we are siiblings, we are united together in Christ. As Paul says
25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. .1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NLT)
But this is where we in the western world, seem to short circuit. We don’t like people to know our “business”. We don’t mind them knowing our successes, our joys, but dare we let them see us when we are crushed, bruised, hurting, anxious and scared? When our health is failing, when someone is breaking our heart, when we are lost in sin, when we can’t escape its trap on our own, the causes of our pain and brokenness,
But will we dare to reveal ourselves, so that others can cry with us? So that others can be there, and remind us Jesus is there.. Will we let them see us, let them minister to us, cr with us? Will we we let their presence remind us of His presence, their love remind us of His love.
For the sake of the body… will we let it do what bodies are supposed to do?
I know it’s uncomfortable, I know its awkward, and we fear the embarassment….
O well, we are a family, let’s get used to being one…
For as that family, we have Christ, we have the Faher, and we have the Holy Spirit, the one who’s title is, the Comforter.
Will we cry out together, Lord have Mercy! and Maranatha! and Hallelujah?
If you want to see a church that does this… come join us at Concordia…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1964-1965). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
1 That is why we must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so that we will not be carried away. 2 The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3 How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. 4 At the same time God added his witness to theirs by performing all kinds of miracles and wonders and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will. Hebrews 2:1-4 (TEV)
When the branches are united to the vine they grow to maturity and bear fruit. What then should you and I do? We should get right close to Jesus, through the Bread and through the Word. He is our vine… We should speak affectionate words to him throughout the day. That is what people in love do. (1)
Been through a bit of stress this week… and part of me wants to lock myself in a room – or dive into a book or a video game. It takes a lot to make me go introverted… and while it is a defense mechanism… it is dark at times when you are alone. (What is really hard is when I need to do the opposite – and have many people encouraging me to climb into my hole and lock them out..)
I added 10 people to our prayer list this morning…. people recovering from surgery. People mourning friends who we won’t see until we are before the throne, I’ve talked too others, very afraid of another war, and others whose finances are so stretched beyond belief. These are hard times, for so many, times of tears and weariness and emotional exhaustion.
THe strength we have, if at all, in these times, is remarkable and extraordinary. It comes from deep within us… yes, even as it is not ours, and is clearly something alien to our basic nature. It is because at such times, everything is cut away, and we find ourselves in Christ’s embrace. And there, we find His heart, and the strong beat of life that calms our soul.
When my 6 year old was an infant, he used to go to sleep at night in my arms with his head over my heart. Because I have two artificial heart valves – my heart literally clicks. Its funny – on the nights when he 2-4 and was scared or sick and desperately asks to sleep in our bed – he usually ended up with his head pressed (not just touching) about the same place – or against my back – where he could hear my heart click. I can only imagine it brought him comfort and security. He could rest.
We need to be like that with Jesus, that close, that spiritually aware, that intimate, that involved in the relationship. As Escrvia says – we do this with the Bread and in the Word, as we connect to Jesus, to our Lord. As Lutherans our way of saying this is through word and Sacrament. For as we hear the word, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life does more than just “teaches” us, that word is planted in us and grows, and we don’t just know it academically, but intuitively, with all that we are. The same thing as we commune with God, and notice it is not you or I, but we…. the family of God. It is these times we see Christ, revealed to us is His very Heart, the love He has for us… and how He has taken us into His heart, even as the Holy Spirit abides in ours.
There is a part of me that hates these hard times… I despise the pain, the abslutely… stripped feeling I have. The seeming loneliness, the emotional rollercoasters…
Yet there is a part of me that has learned to deal with them… to welcome rather than run… because I know in these times… the Lord who makes us one with Him is there… ready to love, ready to show mercy… ready to embrace us….
And for that… what else can we do but adore Him?
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1683-1686). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- What can be done to help??? The greatest thing… prayer! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Heart of Theology & the Heart of Ministry is the Heart of Christ (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Love Them, Love Them, Love Them: Discipleship lessons from the gym…and Coach C (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Real Prayer…Changes things… Will you? (justifiedandsinner.com)