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How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Because of What He is Done: A Sermon on Romans 11:33-12:8

church at communion 2Because of what God has done,
I plead with you…

Romans 11:33-12:8

I.H.S.

May you experience the incredible gift of the love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as that love changes your very life!

Because of What He’s Done

Normally, I unveil the bread and wine during the Lord’s prayer.

As I say the words, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, for in that moment we recognize that God’s will, I uncover and reveals the chalice and the tray.  That Jesus would die, giving up His body and blood, that our sin would be forgiven, that our lives would be renewed.

I am not going to wait to do that but will do that now, and as I do, I would ask that we all take a moment of silence, and think about the suffering, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(pause)

Now, thinking of all God has done for you, I plead with you, as Paul pleaded with the church in Rome, give your body to Jesus, a sacrifice that lives and breathes and IS holy.

For God has done so much!

As Paul wrote, everything comes from Him, exists by His power and is for Him! All Glory to Him for ever and ever!  AMEN!

So let’s find out what it means for us to be living and holy sacrifices…if we can!

How Impossible
I say if there for a reason.  We are talking about dealing with, and interacting with God, the Creator of all there is, the one whom Paul started this passage describing when He said,

How great are God’s riches and knowledge, How impossible it is for us to understand His decision and His ways!

We know it is impossible to know what God knows, and I think we get that it is impossible to understand His decisions and the ways He arranges our lives.

Even so, how often do we try to advise God, or throw a tantrum when things do not go our way?  How many times do we choose to go our way rather than His?  How many times do we struggle with life, and choose to sin because we can’t see how God’s way makes more sense than ours?

Maybe we don’t understand why it’s so important to be faithful to our spouse, (not just sexually faithful – but in all ways) Or maybe we struggle with respecting an authority figure because we can’t figure out why God put them there.  Maybe the temptation is to covet what someone else has, not being content with what God has blessed us with in our lives. Or maybe the problem we have is with judging people and sharing that judgment in a way that is called gossip.  Or maybe we don’t understand why God would have us set an entire day apart, we don’t get why we should waste it and be still, and know that He is our God, that He is our refuge and strength.

It doesn’t matter which sin it is, for they all find their origination in our not recognizing that God is greater in riches and knowledge, as we determine that since we cannot understand His decisions and ways, that ours is better.

It isn’t, and we don’t realize it until we hit rock bottom.  And most of the time not even then.

It takes the grace of God to run us over before we ever can realize that God’s decisions, His ways, His knowledge is best, even if we cannot understand it.

It takes the mercy of God, it takes a transformation, the one Paul describes that happens to us as we realize God’s ways are not just bigger, but far better.  Hear Paul again,

You Will learn

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Notice it doesn’t say let Pastor Dt change you, or change yourself, or let the latest self help guru change the way you think about yourself.

What Paul wants us to do is to let the Holy Spirit transform us, by changing the way we think.  What it says in Greek isn’t just to change a though or two, but to change your mind.

This is an absolute key, and it is what causes our lives to be lived in a way that is discussed in the rest of the chapter, to embrace depending on God, to work as God calls us to live, doing what He has chosen, but doing it in in accord with the faith he gives.

That is part of the result of the transformation.

You are a transformer!

Paul describes this transformation to the Corinthians this way,

18All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.

 

What a transformation God does to us!  (Much better than going from a car to a militant robot!)

A transformation that affects every part of us, every bit of our lives.

For God creates life in us, and shows us that we can have faith, we can depend on Him, and we can know, not all the mysteries of our faith, but what God’s will is for us, His pleasing and perfect will.

What is that will?  To do what God has called and equipped you to do.. whether it is to speak publicly about God, to serve others who are in need, to teach, to encourage others, to give beyond normal, to lead others, or simply show kindness to others…

just do it, depending on Jesus – as much as you can, as humbly as you can, as God has called you to do.

just do it, because of God’s love for you – and the work He does, revealing His love to you, serving you, teaching you, encouraging you, giving to you without any boundary, leading you, and simply showing you His mercy and kindness….

live life, moving with Him, for He is your God, and you are His people…..

For that is His good and pleasing will….for you – to know you are His, and He is with you always…  AMEN!

 

The Prayer, and the Cross.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
29      My God, how is it that I do not cry out in sorrow and love whenever I see a Crucifix?  (2)

They are to correct the mistaken view that prayer is not action. The men are admonished to overcome the false sense of shame that would seek to conceal their interior life—their silent relationship with God—as something unmanly and old-fashioned. Granted, piety is not to become a public exhibition; discretion is always necessary. But neither is it to be hidden away. It should be courageous, for the body, too, belongs to God. Faith is not just a matter of the spirit; prayer is not just interior. The body must pray, too.  (3)

.Yesterday, I thought, and introduced the idea that the Lord’s prayer is not just what he taught us with words, but rather with how Jesus actually lived.  His life was the prayer, a lesson in humility, in being the Son, not the Father.

If we are to be Christlike, if we are to grow and mature in our trust in God, this prayer must be seen worked out in our lives as well.   For it is not enough to just say the words, but rather we need to trust in God hearing them, and answering them, here and now.  That is faith that is not just Spirit, but life.  It is prayer that is not just internal, but the prayer of our life.

So as I encouraged us yesterday, let’s begin to see the Lord’s Prayer lived out again, in the life of the Lord we are called to imitate, to be transformed into the image of.

 Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.  (1)

Here is where it all begins, as Jesus lives as the Son.  Fully obedient, fully adoring, fully bending His will to the will of the Father.  Equal in divinity, the creed informs us, Jesus still submitted in His humanity to the Father.

He didn’t seek emancipation, he didn’t strive to become the alpha male.  He loved the Father, He honored Him, He grew up (as a man) to be like His Father, to the extent that to look on Christ was to look on the Father. The image of the invisible God, that is how He is described.  We know about the love of the Father because we see it in Christ and his movement to the cross.  We know about the Father’s desire that no one should perish, again because of the love of the Son which accomplished the calling of all to repentance.

Something that doesn’t happen unless there is communication. And as Jesus lived in view of the first commandment, He lived in view of the second.  For to use a name, to keep it holy, is to use it well, to pray, praise, give thanks, to pour out your heart.  We see that in the garden so clearly, and in the high priestly prayer.  Prayers we know about, so that we can trust in Jesus, so we can learn to pray as well.

 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (1)

I just referred to this, but it iis one thing to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done, and another thing to grow in desire and want it to come here, right now.

To love your enemies, to live life full of mercy and righteousness. To live a life where you live humbly, as Jesus did.  He laid aside it all that was self-centered.  Even facing the betrayal, the kiss of Judas, the denial of Peter, He loved.

Someone once said that Christ would have died on the cross for us, even if they didn’t nail Him there. He wanted the nails though, not because of some masochistic tendency, but because the Father had said they would look upon the one they had pierced.

God’s will, God’s kingdom doesn’t always seem pleasant, or easy, or joyous.  Until you realize the joy is in the one lost sheep coming home, one of the repentant who brings heaven so much joy!

To pray that God’s Kingdom comes, and will is done, requires that we accept the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, that we die to self with Him, and bear our own cross, humbly, and in love of the Father.

We need to pray, not ofor God’s sake, but for ours.  To communicate with Him, to know His love, to see His work, tfor it is in prayer’s dialogue, and in celebrating the sacraments (which is really prayer as well!) that we begin to see the trasnformation God would owrk in us, where faith and work are not longer divided.

It is the beginning of Christlikeness!

So cry out, and pray!

.
(1)  Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 344-345). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(3)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 98–99). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

Walking with Our Father, during Easter Week

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9  This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 10  may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today the food we need. 12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. 13  Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.’    Matthew 6:9-13 (TEV)

The word “Father” makes me sure of one thing: I do not come from myself; I am a child. I am tempted at first to protest against this reminder as the prodigal son did. I want to be “of age”, “emancipated”, my own master. But then I ask myself: What is the alternative for me—or for any person—if I no longer have a Father, if I have left my state as child definitively behind me? What have I gained thereby? Am I really free? No, I am really free only when there is a principle of freedom, when there is someone who loves and whose love is strong. Ultimately, then, I have no alternative but to turn back again, to say “Father”, and in that way to gain access to freedom by acknowledging the truth about myself. Then my glance falls on him who, his whole life long, identified himself as child, as Son, and who, precisely as child and Son, was consubstantial with God himself: Jesus Christ

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.

My work today in the office is to try to get 8 services planned and prepared for printing, all which will occur in the next week. Services for Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and two funerals as well.

It was a good reminder then to hear the words in green above, that remind me of why we do these things, what the ultimate purpose is, that trusting in God, and being in awe of His love and mercy, that we can turn to Him…. and pray.  The result of a worship service is to teach people to communicate with God!  What a radical idea!

Talk to your creator, talk to Him, not as a minion to a master, not as a lowly employee to the CEO of the company, not as a prisoner to a warden, but as a child, who knows they are loved, talked to their dad.

Yes it is a level of humility that we would not normally want to admit to, but it is not the kind of humility or perhaps better, humiliation, that those other relationships often create.

You see, I think we see the Father-child relationship the wrong way.  Pope Benedict nails it, we want our independence, we want to be emancipated, freed from the burden of answering to someone else. But that isn’t the relationship that is pictured in the Lord’s prayer, in all of the times God shares his desire to care for us, to encourage us, to nurture us.

Benedict XVI’s words call us back to that point, to the point where we like Christ identify ourselves as the sons (and daughters) of God.

As you walk with the Father through this week, as we prepare to remember the last supper, the garden, the cross, consider the Father hearing these words from Jesus.  Consider our Father hearing these words from Jesus, this incredible prayer he taught us, not just in words, but with His very life…  For this is the prayer of a Son to the Father. It is His prayer, and as we go through this week… don’t just say it, hear it said, from Jesus to the Father….
… as Jesus clears the temple courtyard., so people who are not His people can pray and know they are heard
….. as Jesus washes the feet of sinners, because they argued about who was greatest and taught them the greatest serves
…. as He breaks the bread, and blesses the wine, and gives us a feast beyond anything we could imagine
…. as Jesus is whipped and beaten, that by the scars we would find healing,
…. as Jesus carries the beam he would be nailed to
….as Jesus dies, showing the world that all glory, honor and power is the Father’s.

So come to worship the King of Love, our Lord, and learn to depend on Him, and depending on Him, share your life in words, of praise, and of prayer.

as the sons of our Father!

AMEN!

 

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 97–98). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and The Glory: The Prayer of Easter!

For Thine IS the Kingdom,

The Power, and the Glory!

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In Jesus Name

We need to be Reminded – 

Yesterday, as I was at a loss for words for this message, I received an email from Linda and Tom.

It opened up with these words,

“You just can’t let me forget that God is ever present in our lives.”

Then he added,   

“Don’t stop !”

As I read them, the words that we heard from another letter this morning burned even deeper in my heart

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before.

All of us need to be reminded of the good news, that God is ever-present in our lives.

Solomon once wrote

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (NLT)

The passage goes on for another 4 verses, 8 more comparisons of what we might say is a contrast between good and bad, joy and sorrow if we don’t hear how the thought ends,

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

In Solomon’s time, this is true, we couldn’t father the scope of God’s work. Now, in the Gospel message, in the good news, we see the scope of God’s work as we realize the message revealed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We have heard this message, a message that God is ever-present in your lives.

(wait…)

I said the Lord is with YOU.

Oh! Now you remember.  As Tom wrote – don’t stop telling me this! We need to hear that God is ever-present with us. He died for our sin, was buried and rose again!

Alleluia! He is Risen!

(He is Risen indeed!)

And that means?
(we are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

in other words
The Lord is With You!
(and also with You!)

AMEN!

The Message of Hope

Hear Paul again,

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

Most important is actually a little weak, it is not only of prime importance, this is foundational. It is the basis for everything else in our lives.

That Christ died – not just that He died, but for you He died but that He was buried and raised from the dead, which is what we celebrate today.
Later Paul will say that if Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead, we of all people are to be pitied more than anything else in the world.

Jesus death for our sins, Paul tells us, was told about for centuries prior to His being born. Over and over the Old Testament tells us He would die, that God would provide an offering for our sins, and proof of the depth of His love and commitment to us.

The same for His burial and resurrection, and the praises that would result, as God made sure that we knew this wasn’t haphazard, but that this previous weekend was planned before He ever created light.

Jesus would die for our sins, be buried and rise again.

We need to hear this and hear it again and again.  Without the series of events for Holy Week, we cannot hear what we need to,

That the Lord is with you!

The Witnesses

Paul wants to make sure the Corinthians know this well, so well, that they can base their lives on the Jesus’ death for our sins, on His Burial and Resurrection.

Maybe they won’t believe me, he thinks.  No problem.  I’ll refer them to other, for there are so many others who can bear witness.  Peter’s in town, they call him Cephas, he can share how important this message is.  Paul is going to go through all the eye witnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus so that people will know.

It’s not a dream, it is not something Paul cooked up, it is something that happened, really happened. Five Hundred people witnesses it all at once, not just one hear and one there, 500 at once, and most still lived, in case people wanted to get an opinion other than Paul’s!

And Paul wants us to be assured of it, in order that our lives are based on it.

Paul’s words at the end – it doesn’t matter who tells you, the message is the same, and people like James are more than willing to die, even as they share it.  We don’t know if Paul was there when James was martyred, but we know he was when Stephen forgave him, and all those who killed him, simply because he trusted in Jesus, the one who died for Stephen’s sins, and Paul’s and yours and mine.  As he trusted in the Jesus, who was buried and rose again from the dead.

Whatever we are now!
We often talk of Christ’s death – for our sins, but there is more to the story of Easter than that.  Paul gets to that in verse 10, and what he says of himself, is true for every one of us, read the words with me,

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me.

For that grace, that very same grace is yours.   It is not special to Paul but is the very blessing that God gives to everyone He calls, every person He pours His Spirit on, making them part of His church.

You see, just like if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead our lives are meaningless, so are they not the same if we don’t realize the change He is making to us because Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and Jesus is Risen!

and, therefore?

We are risen to a new life, a life lived with God, a life that we need to know God is ever-present in.  Something we can’t stop reminding each other of, even in the times where we aren’t sure that God will make these things beautiful.  Sure of that, and that being the foundation of our life, we can understand why the Paul told Hebrew Christians,

23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)
That is part of the new life of Paul, to continually remind people of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and that Praise God with everything in us, for He has risen!

And that means….

Why we end our prayer with praise

48 days ago, on Ash Wednesday, we began a look at the Lord’s prayer.  We finished the requests on Friday, as we realized that at the cross Jesus delivered us from evil and answered every request.

Which leaves only this to finish that journey today, as we celebrate our life with God.

Let us pray,

Our Father, Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever. AMEN!

Deliver Us From Evil

Featured imageDare We Pray:

Deliver Us From Evil

Matthew 6:13 and John 19:16-42

As you contemplate Christ’s death for you, and how that delivered you from evil, may you understand a little more the love of God our Father,

Intro – Deliver Us

We arrive here, this evening, at the foot of the cross.

To think through what it means for Jesus to die, his wrists and ankles shattered by spikes.  We look on a broken man, one who endured so much pain and agony.  Agony not just of the physical pain, but the agony of being alone, abandoned by those who counted themselves as His friends.  Mocked by those whom he taught to pray

Whom He taught to pray to our Father in heaven these words…

“Deliver us from Evil”

It is the last request of the prayer.
And the most painful, and the hardest to pray.

For it is a confession we don’t want to make.

That we have gotten so entangled with evil, that only God can deliver us from it.  That He had to make the decision to do so.

Life without evil sounds nice, though what it took, and what it takes, is a price that goes beyond what most of us are willing to pay, or for which we will find it easy to pray.

Yet He taught us to pray to the loving Father, “Deliver us from evil.”

And died on the cross to make it happen.

The Problem  Why is it hard to pray this?  What is Evil?

When we think of being rid of evil, it is often evil somewhere “out there” Satan’s work in the world, and as His demons work throughout the world. We speak of those evil empires, or the evil politicians, or the murderers and rapists and real serious sinners in prisons, those who God would never save, or it is a miracle if He does.

We don’t pray, “Deliver the world from evil,”

We pray deliver us from evil.

It is personal. We need the Father to deliver us, His people, from evil.

It is a hard prayer to pray, because we have to admit that evil can get a grip on us.  That we are the sinners, that evil can get its grip on us, affect us, and that we can think, say, and do that which is evil

We do though, when we make decisions about who is righteous in God’s eyes, and who will be judged, (because God won’t save them!) and condemned for being evil.

We do it when we try to make our actions look righteous, even though we know they aren’t, when we try to justify ourselves, or those like us, rather than pray for all involved. When we gossip and assume the worst possible reason for why someone would do something, or say something. We even pat each other on the back, and congratulate each other when we shred our adversaries rather than pray for them.

There are so many ways we in which we sin, in which we choose that which is evil, over that which is blessed by God.

And today we come to the cross, seeking mercy and grace, praying, Father, deliver us from evil.

We can pray it here…at the foot of the cross.

That is why we are here.  To pray, and to remember that the Father has delivered us from evil.
Look at the cross; there is where it happened.  Where God unites sinners to Jesus, nailing their sins to Christ, and transforming us into saints, crediting us with His righteousness.

Look at the cross, where our attempts to justify ourselves, our futile attempts are dismissed, for because of Christ being nailed there.

Look at the cross, and know this prayer the Lord has taught us, an every phrase, every word is answered,

He proves He is our Father
His makes His name is holy, as He uses it to claim us, His children, with the seal of the cross in baptism
His kingdom is revealed to include us, for He purchases and redeems us with the blood of Christ.
His desire, His will is seen, as He enables us to not perish, but to repent and be transformed as we are united to Christ, and given the Holy Spirit

He gives us all we need, and care for us, making everything work for good for those He has called, for those who love Him
He forgives us, and helps us forgive others
He leads us away from temptation, as we look to Jesus, and are transformed into sacrificing servants who reflect His glory and embrace our own cross
and He delivers us from evil.. Cleansing us of it, by nailing it to the cross.

And so let us give Him every burden, every anxiety, every pain… even as we pray, trusting Him to answer…

Dare We Pray, THY Will Be Done?

Featured imageDo we Dare Pray:
Thy Will Be Done On Earth?

 

May you be so aware of the grace and mercy of God our Father that you desire and to see His will revealed in your life!

A Picture of God’s Will, made Complete in heaven:

I want to re-read the Revelation passage, that describe what God’s will looks like, when revealed in Heaven:

9  When this was done I looked again, and before my eyes appeared a vast crowd beyond man’s power to number. They came from every nation and tribe and people and language, and they stood before the throne of the Lamb, dressed in white robes with palm-branches in their hands. With a great voice they shouted these words: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!”
11  Then all the angels stood encircling the throne, the elders and the four living creatures, and prostrated themselves with heads bowed before the throne and worshipped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength be given to our God for timeless ages!”     
Revelation 7:9-14 (Phillips NT)

It is the vision of the Nunc Dimitis, the incredible song Simeon spoke as he held Jesus. The song we will sing, having been given Christ’s body and blood…

29  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30  I have seen your salvation, 31  which you have prepared for all people. 32  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Luke 2:29-32 (NLT)

When we pray for God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, we are asking Him to save the world, to bring us all into a relationship with God the father, through Christ.  To see the love of God revealed, to and in the people we know, to see them join the name of those whose names are written in the book of life.

What a thing to celebrate.

For every time a sinner is welcome home, cleansed and made a child of God, the heavens rejoice, and so should we!

Every time they learn to pray and trust to lay everything in God’s hands, including their very lives, the joy of heaven is inexpressible.  God’s will had been revealed in our midst.  Every time we approach this altar and share in His feast…. His will is seen again, for we take His body and blood into us, even as we have been joined to His death, and the resurrection, and added to the number whose voices will thunder His praises!

But Why Would We Hesitate?

       To see this happen, what needs to happen to us?
Do we dare pray this happen?

Do we realize what we are asking God to do?  How He will change us?

What will it take, for Jesus to be that well known here by people here, in our little corner of Cerritos?

it is the same question that Chris asked a couple of weeks ago, when He asked what it meant for God’s name to be Holy in this place.   We are going to have to let God, not Chris or Albert or I, meddle in our lives.

We will have to embrace being uncomfortable, as we have to make sure our traditions and practices work to draw people to Jesus, that what we do and say and think reveal that our lives have been changed by God, and that we are eternally grateful.

We will have to embrace change, as God cleans us up, ridding our lives of our desires, our words and actions that aren’t consistent with His will, strengthening us against the temptation, ridding our hearts of anything that isn’t loving towards anyone.

We are asking God to invade our lives, and rip out anything that isn’t loving, that isn’t reflecting His love and mercy.

Because if His will is to be seen in our midst, it has to be seen in our lives.

You resent others?  That has to go.
You hold on to things people have done and said to you?  Those feelings and thoughts have to go.
You are jealous and envious of others things or relationships or roles because you deserve better – that attitude has to go.
You would rather be safe and secure, rather than be willing to give up all, that some would know Jesus?  Time for that to change as well.
Frustrations, Anxieties, Lust, unrighteous anger, desire for revenge?

They all go, because they will stop you from realizing the will of God, and seeing what God desires happening in your life, in our life together.

Do you still want to pray this prayer?

Are you ready to?

Why We Pray this may be done among us.

So why do we pray this?

Go back to the vision, of people from every place and time, from every culture, from every language coming together in the presence of God – all of gathered as His people, as His family.

To a place where tears no longer flow, where there are no enemies, no adversaries.  Where we gather to celebrate His love, to see the miracle that we are, when we have been saved, and realize that God wanted to do this very thing.

To realize that when we pray this, that God’s will be done, it is being done in our lives, personally, and as a community.  Right now!  When see someone baptized, and united to Christ means they are united to us as well, they become part of that crowd that will be there in heaven, with each of us. This service is a foretaste of that To kneel at this altar with people, to be part of the great company of heaven singing His praises.

You and I, despite our selfishness, despite our sin, welcome into His kingdom, and not just welcome, but welcome as His children, His blessed children He wants to share His glory with.  His greatest desire, His will is that we would be with Him.
May it happen in heaven… and may it happen here and now….

For the Lord is with us, and we know we need to know His will, will be done here in our lives.  So let us spend the rest of this service talking in prayer with our Father…. Amen!

Do We Dare Pray, “Thy Kingdom Come?”

Featured imageDo you Dare Pray
Thy Kingdom Come?

Matthew 6:6-9

May the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, cause you to desire that when you pray His Kingdom Come, that you desire it more and more

Introduction – 

It is one thing to pray a prayer, especially a prayer as well known as the prayer our Lord taught us.

It is another thing to desire that God would hear that prayer, and answer it, making what we pray for come into existence before our eyes.

During this Lenten journey, that is what we are looking at, do we have the faith to desire that these prayer requests.  Do we really desire that what we pray for?  Do we recognize what we are praying for?  Do we even realize what we are praying for and that this request will mean changes in our lives?

As we heard on Ash Wednesday, do we desire that God be our Father?  Last week, as Chris asked are we ready to see God’s name be holy and praised because of how we live in Him?

Tonight we face the question, do we have the faith to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come?”   Knowing that we are praying that God’s kingdom come here, right now, that He is in charge, and that how it is in heaven will be here on earth.

What will God’s Kingdom Look Like
       
In order to pray this, we shall have to understand what it means for God’s kingdom to come, and for us to realize it is in existence here, right where we live.

We could talk of what God’s kingdom is, but to desire it we need to visualize it, to hear it described to us.  Think about a child, having gone to the magic kingdom for the first time.  You don’t hear him talk about the machinery, about the payroll and the challenges of parking and waiting in long lines. When they describe Disneyland, the wonder, the awe, the joy is what dominates the conversation.

We need to hear Kingdom of Heaven described, what leaves you in awe, the joy, and what makes it so.

While we can’t describe the appearance of heaven, we can describe the joy that is known.  A joy that exists because of the Love that God has for His people.

You see, that is what makes the kingdom of God so incredible.  It’s not the heavenly temple or the Throne of God; it is the God who loves us, who welcomes us home.  The God who poured our His love on us at the cross, as the blood of Christ poured out on the ground.

It is that agape love, loyalty, mercy, faithfulness that brings us into His kingdom on the day of Christ, and it is that love that brings us into His kingdom now.  That love that sustains us comforts us, lovingly ministers to us, forgiving us of all sin, and all unrighteousness.

The love of God that does all this now, even as our sins are forgiven, as we are welcomed to the feast where the Body and Blood of Christ confirm this Kingdom and that we do live in it now.

In God’s kingdom, that love joins us to each other, healing broken relationships.  Helping us to see that other’s lives  are more important than the details that can divide us.  That is why the ten commandments become more than rules; they are the description of lives lived in the love of God.

In God’s Kingdom, we will not murder, commit adultery, steal, gossip and ruin the reputation of those we love.  We would celebrate how God blesses each other, rather than letting jealousy ruin relationships.   That love of God, in His kingdom, unites us all so that when one cries, we all do, when one laughs, we all join in the celebration.  That is why we rejoice when the prodigal comes home, rather than talk about all the things they did, that the good people didn’t do.

We love, as He loves.  And in praying “They Kingdom come”, that is what we pray.  That kind of life we don’t want to wait until heaven to experience!

Do You Really Want to Pray this happens now?  

Are we willing to pray it?  Do we have the faith required, the trust that says, God, make my life the same as it will be in heaven.  May you rule over it now, may I become more and more like you, may I love ever more deeply.

That is a heavy prayer.

Because God becoming the focus of our lives, because of hearing that He will provide for us because He is our Lord and Master, challenges us.  For that to happen, we have to realize that if Christ is our Lord, He is in control, and His love will pour through us.

That is harder than it looks, as it means we have to let Him rid our lives of those things that aren’t of love. We have to let Him get rid of that which gets in the way of our knowing His love, that which stops us from loving others.

Things like guilt and shame, because we choose to do what we want, rather than know His love.  Where we, like Adam and Eve hiding and covering their sin, try to pretend everything is perfect, or try to justify what we do, because we know better than God does.  Where we get rid of our pride and realize, He is right.

That He is our master.

To see His kingdom come means that we have to give up hatred and resentment towards those who have hurt us, who have sinned us again.  We not only give up our “right” to revenge, as we dwell in His kingdom, we come to desire that they know His mercy.  We desire to share in their lives, to reach out to them, even sacrifice our desires, our own time, even those things we treasure.  We sacrifice those things in order to help those who do not have what we have, the knowledge of God’s peace, the ability to walk through life, confident of His love.

Are we ready to really give that up?

The Way this happens – (gospel) 

That is perhaps one of the neatest things about prayer.  We know that God’s kingdom coming to exist in our lives would be a blessing.

If we are honest, it is a hard thing to pray, to desire.  To allow ourselves to be stripped of all that is not love, that is not reflective of all His love, maybe painful, no, it will be painful.

But in doing so, what is left, is Christ.

What is left is the Kingdom of God.

What is left, is the love of God. The love that transforms us, as we dwell in a relationship deeper than any other.  As we are invited to share in the very love of God, together, as His people.

A love that seems unnatural, even supernatural to us, but is the love that brings healing, that is so miraculous, that it can cause a martyr’s mother to pray that God would reveal Himself to the killers.  A love that can heal wounds decades old, that washes away our guilt and shame.

It is a Kingdom life we need.  It is a life we need to desire.

Paul says of such prayers,

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)

So knowing this, this desire of God to bring us into His kingdom, NOW, let us pray, with confidence.. for we know His love.  AMEN?

That’s Tempting…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 (NLT) 

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 (NLT) 

1008      In the hour of temptation, practise the virtue of Hope, saying: For my rest and enjoyment I have the whole of eternity ahead of me. Here and now, full of Faith, I will earn my rest through work and win my joy through suffering. What will Love be like in Heaven? Better still, you should practise your Love by saying: What I want is to please my God, my Love, by doing his Will in all things, as though there were neither reward nor punishment—simply to please him.  (1)

We all have temptations.

Some involve things we desire.  Chocolate, desserts, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex in any form other than marriage, gossip, slander (especially those people we don’t like).  We can even be tempted to whine and throw a pity party, confident that no one has ever been challenged with what we face.

There are also temptations to avoid things: confrontation, suffering, discomfort, having to sacrifice things that are important to us, even martyrdom.  We may not like reality as we perceive it, and the temptation is to believe that perception and hide from that which we cannot control or enjoy.

We pray to God that He would strengthen us against such things, but we fail for so many of them.  You aren’t alone in this dear reader, I fail as well, so does every priest and pastor you encounter.  Every saint was tempted, and of all History, only Jesus was tested in all points and never succumbed.

Does that mean we stop striving for it and give it up?  Do we just enjoy that which damages our bodies and souls?  Do we just find our cave, and hide from anyone who might do us harm, including ourselves?

For if we can’t overcome temptation, if we can’t live the perfect, holy life, then why try?

Does God really expect us to live miserably, failing over and again?

The answer is seen in the quotes above, in the description of our lives, found in the Book of Revelation.  Yes, the description of our lives, pictured as those who have overcome, (the word nike in Greek – we just did it!)  How?

By the blood of Christ – the promise of our being rescued from this life and the damage caused to it by sin.  We count on that; we have confidence that God is doing exactly that in this wearying life.

We trust in what God reveals! We know it so well that we are willing to testify to it, testify to it, even like the martyrs who died, rather than give up the hope that God instills in us…

The last comment is perhaps the hardest; we don’t cling to this life so much, that we face anxiety and fear in view of death.  This isn’t easy, to not know this life, the only life we know.  It is hard to focus on the future.  We have obligations and pressures.  We have to keep in balance so many different things.

I love Escriva’s two-step approach to this.  The first, to have the ultimate sense of delayed gratification.  To know what God awaits us, and press on like Paul – to reach that which God has already made it possible to enjoy.  That challenges our perceptions, which our sacrifices are complete, that our commitment goes over and above what should be expected.

The second phase is where Christian maturity is revealed, where we have started to understand the depth of God’s love, the blessings He pours out on us, by loving us like that.

To endure life, to work through temptation and trial, to sacrifice things in this life, because doing so frees us to do something that brings God joy!   When we got to the point where we don’t do things for the rewards of heaven, but simply because of love for God.

This attitude only occurs when we realize first His love.

Realizing His love puts this life with its trials, temptations and sacrifices into perspective.

I pray that as we deal with the trials and temptations of life, that first and foremost, we look to God and know His love and promises.

For then we know the Blood of Christ, we see it at work in our lives, we treat life in view of eternity, and because of God, we overcome.

AMEN.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3553-3557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are We Willing to Pray for Our Needs?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image

31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)

9  “If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:9 (Phillips NT) 

“Give us this day our daily bread.” What does this mean?

Answer: To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
14 What is meant by daily bread?
Answer: Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.  (1)

807      I copy these words for you because they can bring peace to your soul. “My financial situation is as tight as it ever has been. But I don’t lose my peace. I’m quite sure that God, my Father, will settle the whole business once and for all. I want, Lord, to abandon the care of all my affairs into your generous hands. Our Mother—your Mother—will have let you hear those words, now as in Cana: ‘They have none!’ I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you, Jesus. I want nothing for myself: it’s for them.”

in the Lutheran and evangelical churches, there is a reaction to the works of those like Joel Osteen and those who teach what is referred to as Dominion Theology, or more degradingly, as the prosperity gospel, or the “Name it-Claim it” movement.  So much of a reaction, I think we forget to tell people to pray, even as the Lord taught us to, and to recognize He will meet our needs.  He will care for us, and while we have to live wisely, we also need to live trusting Him.

Our reaction to those who sometimes advocate praying for selfish desires to be met, whether financial or relational is damaging.  Yes, we know God doesn’t necessarily want us to win the lottery,  He probably won’t grant always grant that teenager’s prayer to date the supermodel, or that everything will wok out perfectly, as we see it.  He does want us to look to Him, to see His love, to see His care for us. To have us depend on Him, like a child depends on their dad.

Yes, to often our prayers can become a form of idolatry, as we put our desires before our relationship with God, or make that relationship conditional upon getting what we want. (and we’ll even throw a tantrum when we don’t!)  But to stop depending on God, leads to anxiety, and coveting, and temptations to get what we want, without God.  To manipulate our situations, to become machivellian, that is what happens when we forget God is our source

We need to be aware of God’s gifts, we need to receive them and celebrate them, whether it is that last can of soup in the cupboard, or the bank account that is down to $2 the day before payday.  As we do realize that even these things are gifts of God, our attitude towards them will change. We’ll treasure what we have, not because of its fiscal value, but because of from whom we received it.

We need to pray, God give us what we need, even fervently pray for it.  Our relationship must be that kind of relationship – where He is the source of all our blessings… not just the eternal ones.    Don’t forget those, but also realize, from Him we have life,

Praying for our daily bread is not just about spiritual nurture. for we aren’t called to love Him with just our soul, but with every part of our lives.  Mind, Soul, Body and Spirit.  We need to realize our dependence and His faithfulness in this part of the prayer as much as any other!

So let us pray, even as our Savior taught us…

(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 347). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2877-2882). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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