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Do We Need Escapes or Sabbath Rests?

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3  For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. I will give up Egypt to set you free; I will give up Ethiopia and Seba. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)

Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when “it is enough.

In the class I am taking, there is the usual insistence on pastors and those in ministry taking time to rest, to take a sabbath, a vacation from all the stresses that we encounter. They point o Jesus going away, sometimes with the disciples, sometimes alone. He went off to pray to the Father, and one to converse with Moses and Elijah.

It hit me, as I was reading the words of Spurgeon in blue above, that we can want those times of rest for the wrong reason. We want them, much as we might long for death, as an escape from life. An escape from the problems.

We need to change that, we need to re-orient and want these times as a sabbath, a time of rest in God, a chance to be nurtured and to see the healing. We need to remember what God is communicating through Isaiah this morning, that God saves us.

We may not be comfortable in the fire, or in the storm, or in the midst of the troubles that we are caught up in at the moment. We may weep, and cry, and struggle, and yes, even want it all to end. It is in those moments, we have to see the cross, we have to see the love, we have to cry out, “Lord have mercy,” and find our rest, in Him.

We need to learn ot run to Jesus, not just escape, but to glorify Him, as we realize His love for us all. The love that will sustain us, even in these times.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Helping others Deal with Brokenness, Stress, Anxiety, ( like teaching them to drive a stick)

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  Psalm 46:1-3 CEV

The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

COMFORT WHEN FACING GRAVE TEMPTATIONS
First, such a person1 must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God’s name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.
Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials [1 Pet. 5:9]. How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, “O God, I am driven far from thy sight” [31:22], and, “I became like those who go into hell” [28:1]. These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.

As I was trying to care for someone yesterday, who was worried and anxious, part of my prayer was a reaction similar to the title of this blog.

Actually, it was said to him with a bit more colorful language, and with, I must admit some anger.

Over my lifetime, I have needed to vent in more than once… and I know God can handle me, much as He did the Prophet, Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 20:7)  Yet, knowing I can vent it, knowing I can get past it, it is not easy to teach this.

Teaching others this, and helping them be patient with themselves as they wait on God’s action, is like teaching someone to drive a manual transmission. YOu have to let them do it, you have to let them drop the clutch at the wrong times, you have ot encourage, and help them make the tiniest of corrections until they feel the shift until it becomes intuitive until it becomes natural.

When we learn to drive a stick until we realize the moments of high anxiety and stress will resolve, as God does what God does, and as we learn to trust Him, life s like those early times of driving a stick. We get jerked all over the place, stall a lot (and still do on occasion), and make very little progress. But then it all comes together, and we can begin to move, as we sop thinking of on it, and simply focus on where we are going.

Spurgeon and Luther help us realize this,  as help us realize that struggles don’t necessarily diminish as we mature, as we grow more dependent on our Lord, and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. How I wish it was the case that life gets easier!

Yet because it doesn’t, we can sit beside those trying to deal with the clutch, trying to learn, or absorb the challenges, and still keep their eyes focused on God.  We can encourage them, and comfort them, and smile as they start to move smoothly again, as they resonate with the love of Christ.

This is our mission… this is who we are..

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 183.

The Myth Of the Protestant Work Ethic

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16  Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)

When you want to do things well, really well, it’s then you do them worse. Humble yourself before Jesus, saying to him: Don’t you see how I do everything wrong? Well, if you don’t help me very much, I’ll do it all even worse! Take pity on your child: You see, I want to write a big page each day in the book of my life. But, I’m so clumsy, that if the Master doesn’t guide my hand, instead of graceful strokes my pen leaves behind blots and scratches that can’t be shown to anyone. From now on, Jesus, the writing will always be done by both of us together.

One of the greatest challenges in life has been living up to the standards I have set, to live up to my expectations. As a result, I’ve battled self-esteem issues. and I’ve felt like a  failure in a lot of things I do.

Or at best, I am a jack of a few things, master of none. Barely competent. and knowing that is incredibly frustrating.

I never ever thought that the problem was with my expectations, I always blamed it on what I did. And so I would push myself more, and fail more. I would read books of people that were successful, and try to emulate what they did. Or at least what they looked back and saw themselves doing right.

The passage from Paul, read out of context, added to my stress.  It is one of those upon which the mythical protestant work ethic is based.  Work hard, gee approved b God.  Overcome, adapt, succeed. If you have enough drive – you can do anything! Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get er done.

But the context of service there is, the diligence is focused on our relationship with God, keeping His message, the gospel correct.

Or in the words of St. Josemaria, depending on God, and welcoming His participation in our life. His work in keeping us righteous, His guidance working through us in our ministry, whatever that is, wherever it is.

Even if it is at home during a virus. …

Life is too important to do our work alone, struggling through it, trying to keep up with images that we cannot hope to attain. The stress alone will destroy our effectiveness. The times of failure, of guilt and shame, even of inactivity will shatter us.

But as we relax, as we focus on God’s presence with Him, as we walk with Him, it changes how we work, as we begin to enjoy it, even the rough parts. It becomes like a child’s play! Not that we are any less enthusiastic, in fact, we might be more so, as we depend on God’s presence, as we work with Him.

But the work isn’t the primary focus – it is all about Him….

For the Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Strongest People in Times of Crisis

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2)

What made saints, saints? What makes the cynical, skeptical world turn its head at a Mother Teresa? What made the hard-nosed Roman Empire convert to the religion of a crucified Jewish carpenter? The world did not say: “See how they explain one another!” but “See how they love one another!” The most effective argument for Christianity is Christians who are saints, lovers. The saints are the Spirit’s salesmen. You cannot argue with a saint. He would just kiss you, as Jesus did to Judas and as He did to the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevski’s parable in The Brothers Karamazov. How do you fight love? You don’t. You lose. That is, you win.

Unity does not come about by polemics nor by academic argument but by the radiance of Easter joy; this is what leads to the core of the Christian profession, namely: Jesus is risen. This leads, too, to the core of our humanity, which yearns for this joy with its every fiber. So it is this Easter joy which is fundamental to all ecumenical and missionary activity; this is where Christians should vie with each other; this is what they should show forth to the world.

I encountered the reading from Kreeft first this morning and knew it would be part of these thoughts. It hits the basic thought I have about ministry and evangelism – it is not about appealing to logic and reason – it is about loving people.

Kreeft mentions Jesus allowing Judas to embrace him, and one can think of the deacon Stephen, loving the people who were torturing and stoning him.  The stories of such saints are easy to find, even if they are hard to understand how people can love so completely!

Loving like this is hard, it requires sacrifice, It requires humility, it requires all the things that 1 Corinthians 13 discusses.

But then I came across Pope Benedict’s (aka Joseph Ratzinger) words, and the idea of how we can love others appears – we love them because we are united in Jesus. The death and resurrection of Christ, the purest love ever seen in history, unites us in a way that nothing else can. At the cross, we all have died to sin and been raised, without that sins eternal stain. All that was there to not love about another person has been done away with, all that remains of it is a shadow.

In the resurrection, we not only see the power of love, we are enveloped by it, transformed by it, we are united to it, united to the God who is love.

And therefore, unity is possible.

Therefore, there is hope.

You want to know how to remain strong in this time, know God loves you, then ask Him to help you love others.

It makes all the difference.

Lord, help us revel in Your love, help us soak it in, to the extent that loving others is a natural inclination.  † Amen!

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 131.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 133.

A Different Perspective on Death

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25  Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25 (NLT2)

Thus Psalm 23 [:4] says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me.” If this gain through death has only a small affect on us, it is proof that our faith in Christ is still feeble and does not prize highly enough the reward and gain of a blessed death, nor does it yet believe that death is a blessing. Obviously, we are hindered because the old man and the wisdom of the flesh are still too much alive in us. We should, therefore, try to attain to the knowledge and the love of this blessing of death. It is a great thing that death, which to others is the greatest of evils, is made the greatest gain for us. If it was not this that Christ obtained for us, what then did he do that was worth such a cost, yes, actually the cost of his life? It is indeed a divine work that he wrought, and it is not surprising that he made the evil of death into the greatest blessing.
For the believer death is thus already dead and behind its cloak and mask it holds no terrors. Like a slain serpent, death still has its former terrifying appearance, but now this is only a mask, for it is now a dead and harmless evil

There is an old saying that I resonate with, I fear not death, I just dear dying.”

There is some truth to that for me, partially because of health issues over the years, and the knowledge that my heart was a ticking time bomb. (I say was – because in 1998 I had two heart valves replaced.)

Even so, today, in the midst of a pandemic, we live with fear and anxiety caused by the fact that death threatens us, and threatens those we love.  It threatens in a way that we’ve not seen often in the generations alive today.

This is why my devotional reading this morning seems so important to understand.

We have to understand that death will ultimately be a blessing – for it brings us closer to seeing God face to face, and for the believer to an incredible welcome home. .  TO see God face to face, to hear His welcome, to hear the celebration thrown for us, to know we are finally where we belong.

To realize with Luther what Paul means when he writes that death has lost its sting, that the grace is no victory for death, no loss, but an incredible gain for us. (see 1 Cor. 15)  To understand what Jesus means when he says those who believe will never die.

It is hard to process these days, to take what is a theological truth, an absolute promise of God, and let it affect our heart, our soul.

Even once we realize it there, it is hard to keep that understanding, to not go back, and to fear death again. Every time we have to mourn and grieve, every time our heart is scarred by loss, we revert back to the days before we understood the promises of God, the promises found when we are united to Jesus.

I know this, even as I know what Paul talks about when he talks about ensuring death, for itis better, for him. To realize that death is better n the long run is sobering. To realize that could even lead one to desire death because it means being complete with Jesus,. To realize we do not have to meditate and pray to realize we are in His presence. Instead to look up, and see His face…

To set death completely aside, along with the suffering and brokenness caused by sin, and the fear of death.  What a blessing.

Yet it is counting on that blessing that gives us the strength and desire to stay, and minister to those who are in bondage, trying to free them, so that they too can join us in Christ. To see God’s incredible work, as He brings someone to faith, and then strengthens that faith, as burdens slide away, as relationships are healed, as we gain a glance of eternity at the altar together.

To get to that point – to come to the conclusion that it is better to live, we have to realize how incredible eternity is, we have to face the battle of fears, the anxieties, assured of the promises of God are true, that we will be with Him forever. Then we can willingly address the issue, and see the blessing of staying here.. until He calls us home.

Knowing this, we begin to really live…

Walk with Him, through the valley, and learn not to fear it, or any evil.

And become a guide, someone who can help others, helping them to deal with the fears, the anxieties and indeed, the time of death.

Lord, help us walk closer and closer with You, strengthen our faith, be with us, now and at the time when we finally come home. But help us to be there for those who are anxious and fear death, and help us to show them how it will be a blessing. AMEN!


Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 149–150.

Why I Don’t Care How Fast Your Church is Growing (or Shrinking)

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  I will live there with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28  When I place my Temple there to be among them forever, then the nations will know that I, the LORD, have chosen Israel to be my own people.” Ezekiel 37:27-28 (TEV)

I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!
On the other hand, God has never been more gracious to the world than when he granted it well-informed and devoted spiritual leaders, who supplied this Word daily and abundantly. Christendom, and every Christian soul, is born in and through the Word of God.

The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.

Luther’s words are scathing, brutal, and today are as true as they ever have been.

O sure, we have more pastors with higher education perhaps, more and more of my friends are getting Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D./Th.D  degrees. I am going for one myself.

So why am I saying that we are in a period where church leaders are blind and ignorant?

I think it is because we are spending most of our time on things besides the gospel. We are trying to find the answers to the declining church attendance, the aging church, how to fight the decline in morality, the sociological and political jungles out there.  We hear the latest Barna report,, the latest Pew Research Study, the latest from our favorite religious blogger/vlogger/podcast and we treat our parishioners to our newfound wisdom, our conservative theological acumen, or our theory on how to get our churches to grow and be relevant while staying confessionally centered.

We might even wax eloquently on the core doctrine of Justification by Faith!

Yet we forget the point of justification is to return us to God, to cause us to walk in the presence of God. To realize, using Dr. Kreeft’s words, that God is scandalous, and crazy, as He loves us!

I don’t care if your church is growing 40 percent a year, or declining as you weed out the refuse. If pastors and church leaders aren’t revealing to people the wonderful, crazy, scandalous love of God for them, their work is a curse!  Whether the church is 2000 people on Sunday morning, or 24 faithful, confessional, traditional people.

We have to get back to preaching about God’s love for us broken people. It has to be our message.  We have to reveal to them that love as we preach and teach, as we give voice to God’s forgiving them (a wonderful, crazy, scandalous thing on its own,) as we give them the Body and Blood to eat and drink.

Pastors, do these things – we know they bring life to our people.  People, pray for your pastors, ask them to focus on revealing God’s love for you, constantly.  You are in this all together, and you are not alone.  For the scandalous, crazy, wonderful God who loves you, is with you!  AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 55–56.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 25.

Advent Streams: Singing – a sermon on Isaiah 35:1-10

Altar with communionStreaming to a Joyous Place!
Isaiah 35:1-10

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to sing!

Getting excited…

I had a great conversation (well, we sent messages across the internet) with a promising young theologian this week. He went to the youth group here back in the day, and he asked me some questions about advent.

As we were talking about the idea that Advent is just as much about the Second Coming as Christmas, you could see his mind spinning and a grin break out as he wrote:

“The hope is that the whole of creation can finally Shabbat (that is rest)!

:” and you can wrap in that from the winter (sin) comes the new spring and the new life”

“I like it.  I mostly remember the songs and candles of Advent. But it’s awesome to really dig into what the message is all about”

And finally,

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation.  The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

He gets it, that advent is not about looking back to the past, because Christmas is beautiful and the kids in Sheep hats are cute, but advent is about looking forward to the second coming and getting excited about what it means.

The first time, Jesus came and dwelt in our presence.  This time, He is coming to bring us back, so we can dwell in the Father’s presence.

You saw a description of that day when even the wilderness and desert will be glad!

Of all the cool things that will happen, I want to focus on two this morning,

Here is the first…

Those who can’t speak…

Hear the first part of verse 6 again.

“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”

Now, I look forward to the day when not one member of Concordia needs a cane or a walker, but they are lining up to go in the bounce house after

But what I am looking more towards is when those who cannot speak sing out for joy.

Interestingly, this is not just any song, it is the song of Jubilee in Hebrew, the rejoicing when every debt is cancelled, when everything is restored. It is the most joyous of sabbaths, the greatest rest in the presence of God that could be known in a lifetime.

That is what the people that can’t sing, learn to sing.

That is what being in the presence of God, and knowing how much he loves you does. It happens when we realize that He has taken care of all our sin, when everything we’ve ever done that has hurt someone, betrayed them, crushed their spirit is forgiven, all of it. I think it will be something like this,

Free at last! Free at last, praise God Almighty I am free of sin… at last!

Or maybe more like this…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow…praise Him all Creatures ..(and let them sing it out)

Streaming in..

If you think that was something now, imagine what it will be like in a year, when there will be 60-100 more people here?

Or what it will be like with a couple billion here, around the throne of God.  All excited because Christ has returned, the walkers and canes are tossed aside, and we are singing God’s praises. And all the other blessings are being realized.

When we see Jesus, who died that we might live eternally.

That bore the cost of sin so we didn’t have to,… not that’s not right.

He bore the cost of sin, so we could be with God the Father, forever.

That’s why verse 10 means so much, and so amazes me.

10  Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Imagine how great that procession is going to be, every person for who Jesus died for, every person healed of everything, from blindness and being unable to walk to cancer and heart diseases, and most of all, healing of the damage that sin has done to us.

Ransomed, all the debt paid off we will flood into heaven like a flash food.. the mega crowd of billions heading to see God, to worship Him, to praise Him, to hear Him welcome us all home.

This is what we wait for in advent, and get a little foretaste of, every time we hear we are forgiven, every time we hear He is with us, every time we remember what He promised here, and see it again as another person is cleansed in the waters of baptism… We experience His presence, as he takes our cares away as we realize our prayers are answered, in ways more precious than we can imagine.

It is just as Brandon noted..with one thing added in… the Trinity.

“That is the Christian life, isn’t it?  We look to a future hope of a restored creation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”

And every time Jesus meets us here, as we gather, and once again receive His Body and Blood…

This is advent, a time of now and not yet, a time where we glimpse a little of what it will be like when He returns because He has dwelt among us….and we beheld His glory, just as we will, even more clearly when He comes among us, and we dwell in the Father’s presence.  Amen!

“we”

 

Combined 4

Devotional Thought of the Day:

22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.  Heb 10:25

544    The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.

There is a challenge today that the church needs to embrace.

One that describes us as the author of Hebrews does, in the third person plural.  “Our,” “We”, “You” (the plural kind not singular.) these are words we need to restore to practice in the church.

Our faith is not an individualistic faith, it is always a corporate sharing of pain and sorrow, a sharing of joy and wonder at the grace of God.

That is why St Josemaria pictures it as an infusion of life as the Blood that is shared covers our sins as it brings life to us as a community, as a body, as the Body of Christ. For when a person is weak in their faith, the faith of the community lifts them up, comforting them and reminding them of the presence of God.

Without that infusion, life takes its toll, draining us of energy and the ability to depend on God. Without hearing others say the Lord is with you, without knowing that they are praying for you, we battle with the idea that the battle is ours, that we are alone. We need that input, we need the comfort and the encouragement we receive through the church, broken as she may appear.

“We” are the church, the people of God whom He ministers to through His word and the Sacraments. We need to be her…together.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Rush Past Thanksgiving (or Advent) to get to Christmas!

Devotional Thought of the Day

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow… …Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. 5 Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives. ….
Tell your brothers to load their donkeys and return to Canaan. 18 Have them bring their father and their families here. I will give them the best land in Egypt, and they can eat and enjoy everything that grows on it. 19 Also tell your brothers to take some wagons from Egypt for their wives and children to ride in. And be sure to have them bring their father. 20 They can leave their possessions behind, because they will be given the best of everything in Egypt.
Gen. 44:33-45:1, 4-5, 17-20 CEV

One good deed is more worth than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we “find to do” day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but time present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavour now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now

You may just have read the excerpts from my devotional reading this morning and thought that I am a little… confused.

After all, neither reading has anything to do with Christmas, Thanksgiving or Advent. You probably have a point, yet,please listen to me for a moment.

Far too often we look past this moment, thinking of something in the future. At least I do, and in the process I miss the work God is doing, right now, today, here where I am. Other times, I miss where I am because I am haunted by my past. (this is starting to sound a little like A Christmas Carol!) We have to hear Spurgeon’s urging us to to live in the present, we have to see what God is doing.

We see that in the in the three voices from Genesis. They all live in the moment, and find themselves acting like Jesus.

Judah, remembering how he didn’t help Joseph, is willing to lay his life down for his brother Benjamin. He lives in the moment, and acts like Jesus would (maybe for a different motive) but he is willing to take the heat, and deal with the wrath that could be poured out on his brother. Jesus couldn’t go back tot the Father without his brother either, so He took your place.

Joseph, lived in the moment as well, looking past the sins committed against him, was able to see God’s hand in bringing him to this moment, for the purpose of saving lives. Despite the pain, despite all the suffering, he was sure that God had him there, and was able to minister out of the present moment, even to those who sinned against him. Sound familiar?

And then there is the Pharoah, the guy who ministers in the present, welcoming his “new” people home, and ministering to those who were broken by the famine, and were wasting away. He welcomes them into His presence and gives them of the best that He has. He even tells them to leave all the stuff they had behind, for he will provide all they need. Again, we see that in the moment, someone acting like God, who has us leave the brokenness of our spiritually famished lives behind, giving us more life than we can ever imagine,

There is something about living in the moment, seeing those in need around us, and ministering to them. Something that allows us to be God’s person in this place, brought here in advance, to save people.

So look around, and see who is there…

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

They Didn’t Know, but He Did!

They Didn’t Know,
But He did
Luke 23:27-43
† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ help you to know that you will be with Him in paradise.

They Didn’t Know – 1 Cor. 2:8

I have a confession to make.

When it comes to politics, I am slightly… okay… mostly… apathetic!

I like to blame it on scripture, you know, passages like Psalm 146,

3  Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. Psalm 146:3 (NLT2)

Or Psalm 118

8  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT2)

I mean –I can justify my apathy there, can’t I?

But if I am honest, it is because I have known a few politicians in my life, and I don’t understand them, or a system where what is popular is better than what is right by God’s standard.

I’ve even got one more passage that talks about people in power, one that nails their lack of knowledge clear. Paul tells the church in Corinth this,
7  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)

Jesus saw this as well, as he looked out on those who were crucifying them and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

They didn’t know what they were doing as they crucified Jesus, and what they really did not understand was that they were doing exactly what they needed him to do/

Hear that again, in their ignorance they did exactly what God wanted them to do, what He needed them to do.

They crucified Jesus.

He did

When Jesus forgives them, he does so with full knowledge.  Not just the experience of the crucial pain of the cross, but the full knowledge of why He was hanging there. To be able to say “you are forgiven”. To be able to say to us, as we realize the depth of our sin, rise, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more…. Only to be ready to tell that to us again the next time.

Presently I am reading Luther’s little pamphlet on meditating upon the cross. It is powerful, not just in the depth of walking us through the depths of our sin, but helping us realize the love of God that causes Jesus to volunteer to bear that pain. He chose it, knowing over and over from where the Triune God inspired the Old Testament, that He had to suffer and die!

Time and time he told the apostles it had to come about, that He had to die for them, that He had to die for us.

They didn’t see it coming, the leaders didn’t, the people didn’t, and Jesus died, which would have never happened if they truly understood and lived their lives knowing He was the Son of God..

And the thief realized it…

Only one man that day, dealing with the pain of his own sin, realized what Jesus being the Messiah meant. The man being crucified next him. 

Hear this man’s words again,

Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Do you realize how crazy this is to say?  How insane/

They are hanging there, on the cross, both about to die! To die! 

Hey Jesus, when this is over, can I be part of what you’ve got coming next?  Please?  I mean, really Jesus, and as he leans to speak to Jesus, the pain once again robs him of all His strength.

please..? Can you imagine the joy that comes from hearing Jesus response? 

I am not sure if he even heard the word, day….. or maybe the word paradise.

He heard what was in between though, “YOU will be with ME”

“You will be with me”

That is why Jesus came to the cross, to be able to say those words to that sinner.  To that man who spent his life doing what He shouldn’t do, and not doing what he should do.  The kings and leaders who crucified him didn’t know this was Jesus’ intent.  Neither did all the people who cried “Crucify Him” and mocked him.

By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, this man knew… and he heard the sweetest words.

Words that every sinner can hear.  Including you and I.

Jesus says, “you will be with ME!”

And as we hear that, all else fades away. 

The sin, the shame, the grief, the pain. The doubts, the anguish…. It all faded away faster than this man’s life was, for he hear Jesus’s words…

We need to hear that, even as we struggle with out own brokenness and apathy.  We need to realize that all things – – including Jesus dying for our sins, works out for good, so even the ignorance of kings and leaders can, as well.

“You will be with ME!”

You will be with ME!

We indeed are with Him!!  AMEN!

Let us pray….

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