Devotional thought and Prayer of the Day;
2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT2)
It almost goes without saying that if we realize God’s love and live it, we will heal the divisions and brokenness within Christendom. Only if we realize God’s love is this possible, for no merely theological reconciliation is enough. The tragedy of denominationalism arose through a lack of love, not only a lack of knowledge or theological orthodoxy. Indeed, we cannot even understand what orthodoxy is without love, for orthodoxy means right belief about God. And God is love.
We split God’s visible Church (no one can split the invisible Church) because we were selfish. We decided to be our own conductors rather than all following the divine baton. That has to be the root cause of denominationalism, for God is peace and unity, so if we all loved and obeyed and followed His leading, we would necessarily sing in harmony. We are not singing in harmony, therefore we must have disobeyed Him, disobeyed love. The diagnosis is inescapable.
And so is the prescription. Though a thousand further details need to be addressed, here is the most important ingredient of all in the prescription for reunion. Here is the root of all true ecumenism. All churches and denominations must approach dialogue with purity and simplicity of heart. They must seek not triumph or power or self-justification or conversions but simply to follow God’s will. If that were done, a miracle would happen. Impossible healings of our divisions would become possible. Reunion without compromise would happen. And the world would once again sit up and say, astonished, “See how they love one another!”
The sacrament, Luther says, is not and should not be for those who come solely because they are commanded to do so, but for those who recognize their personal need and are inwardly driven to receive it. Recognition of his sinfulness and unworthiness should not prevent a man’s reception of the sacrament. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ intended his Supper precisely for sinners who trust and believe in the words of institution
In the midst of the present crisis, stress is taking its toll on leadership.
And we begin to see that stress move divide the church even more. Not at the congregational level, I continually hearing of how congregations are doing amazing things. But at denominational levels and in inter-denominational levels.
It is sad and disheartening, and Shakespeare’s words to the Houses of Capulet and Montagu are oddly prophetic, “a pox on both your houses!”
It is in this time that we need to stop the fighting, the backbiting, the games, and strategic sessions. of how we will deal with “them”.
The Apostle Paul is right, the only answer to this is the answer we all need to hear. It is not the best preaching or the best academic theology that will provide unity, that will create the bond we need to heal the brokenness in the Body of Christ. That has not accomplished it in the last 120 years. Kreef is right when he discusses that we cannot truly be orthodox without the experience of love.
I might be naive, but I think that Kreeft is absolutely correct about seeing miracles occur when we seek God together; when we confess our sins and are forgiven; when we share in the feast the is the purest of love, the sharing of the Body and Blood of Jesus.
For that is why the altar is there, why the pastor/priest urges us to remember Jesus, brutally crucified, His Body broken, His blood being poured out. Not for the people who have it all together doctrinally, not for those who are without love claiming some form of Orthodoxy. His Body was broken, His blood poured out, and is there on the altar for those who need healing, who need reconciliation, who need a miracle.
That is where unity and revival find are generated, as we pray together, as we we seek His face together, as we experience His love and mercy. That is where the miracles happen.
As we prepare for Pentecost this year, as we look for the regathering of saints, perhaps it is time to allow God to bring us together, to let His love wash us clean, to invite the Holy Spirit to do the miracles that would truly bring us back together.
Lord, help us to love, as you love us!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 151–152.
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), 169.
Revealed His Glory
† In Jesus Name†
May the grace of God help you realize the glory of God that is revealed to you as experience His glory, may you grow to do what He asks, and depend
Who saw the glory revealed?
As I studied the gospel reading this week, one phrase kept grabbing my attention.
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory
This thought, that Jesus revealed His glory for the first time, just needed to be looked into, it needed to be meditated upon, and I think it is a key for us today.
There is a question that accompanies it though, something else we need to think through.
Here it is, “who was this glory revealed to?”
We are going to look at three different groups, those who experienced it, the servants who had done what He said, and the disciples who would grow in their faith and dependence upon Jesus, as they saw His glory revealed.
As we see and experience His glory, I pray we are changed even more dramatically that the wine was changed!
Experiencing it without seeing it
The first group is the “master of ceremonies” and the bridegroom, and probably most of the guests. They certainly experienced the miracle, yet they didn’t know where the wine had come from, they simply enjoyed the wine, and the fellowship it caused.
The master of ceremonies didn’t understand
it either, as he asks the logic of
serving the best, when people are drunk .
Yet that is part of the glory of God,
Even when we have been consuming the cheap stuff of the world, when we are tired and worn out, and even broken by
The world will do that, as it tempts us to believe we enjoy the cheap things it offers. Fame, pleasure, the things money can buy, or the security of having a solid financial portfolio, or our political party ascend in government.
These things are illusions, and like cheap wine, they will seem to satisfy for a moment. Compared to the glorious mercy and love of Jesus, they simply begin to fade away.
People encounter God’s glory all the time. But will they recognize it?
Will they see it in the hand of someone who comes to their aid, or their neighbor who tries to tell them about Jesus? Will they see God’s hand guiding them?
Will we recognize His presence, when we hear His word, will we realize His presence when we kneel here, when we
Or will we not discern His presence, and as Paul warns, and eat and drink judgment upon ourselves?
The second group to experience the glory of God, revealed in Christ, was the servants. They knew where the wine had come from, they played a role in the miracle’s occurrence.
Told by Mary to do what Jesus said, they did. I can’t imagine why they did, but they did!
Grabbing some huge stone pitchers, filling them with water, and then taking a ladle of it over to the master of ceremonies.
Seriously? Taking a ladle of water over, and …. A miracle happened…
I mean if that could happen, if water could
be turned to wine, what else could happen?
Could wine also be the blood of Christ? Could a little round piece of bread also be His body?
Could we be transformed into the image of Christ?
The disciples depended on him
The glory of Jesus revealed in that miracle had the greatest effect on the last group.
They had only recently started hanging out
with the odd rabbi, scripture tells us just a day or so, just after Jesus
baptism. I am not sure they knew all
that much about him, but they were invited to the party with Jesus.
So they went.
They would have seen the interaction of Jesus with his mother, and with the servants.
They surely would have sampled the wine and been amazed.
And scripture says they believed in Him.
Not believed in him like a mathematical fact, because the miracle defied all form of logic.
Miracles always do.
Believed in him, had faith in Him in a way that changed everything else in their lives.
That’s what truly seeing the glory of God revealed to us does,
It helps us see that we can and should depend on God.
We can toss aside every other thing that we would depend upon for joy, or the illusion of it, for we have found real joy! We have found real peace, knowing that God will provide what we need in life!
The disciples would do that, these men that would watch Jesus die, and then see Him, risen from the dead. They would experience the Holy Spirit, they would baptize thousands, and share every day in the body and blood Christ, as they prayed and fellowshipped with all that would be united to Jesus.
They believed in Jesus, for they had seen His glory revealed!
His glory revealed?
I need to make one thing clear. We need to define what it was that Jesus did that revealed His glory.
Some may think it is transformation of water to wine, and that is, I have to admit, a pretty cool miracle.
I think it is more than that though, it is the response of Jesus to those in need, the response to a plea from His mother to come to their aid. To make sure the celebration of two becoming one was not diminished.
Remember, a way for us to understand the love of Jesus for the church is the true love between a husband and wife. Ephesians 5 describes that so well, especially the mercy of Christ, which sees us as holy and perfect and glorious.
We understand this miracle in view of that,
and we realize that He loves us in the same exact way. That Jesus will transform us, just as He
transformed the water.
Even as His glory is revealed through scripture now, and when someone was baptized, and as we take and eat His body and drink His blood, in an under the bread and wine.
Jesus loves you, and the glory you see I that love, and know in that mercy is eternal.
And each day, the Spirit readies us for the final wedding feast, described in Revelation
I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty
ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us
give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and
his bride has prepared herself. 8 She
has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen
represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who
are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true
words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:6-9 (NLT2)
And as those disciples were invited to the wedding feast in Cana, so you are invited to this wedding feast. For you, church, are His beloved.
And until that day, you dwell, your hearts and minds guarded by Jesus, in that inexpressible peace of God. AMEN!
Two Encounters With Jesus
† Jesus, Son, Saviour †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause you to recognize Him, and bring to Him those who need to be made whole.
The Challenge to Evangelism?
In twenty years of ministry, one of the hardest things to see develop in a church is the attitude that we exist and serve to bring others to Christ. Some call this being missional, some call it recognizing our apostolate.
You see, each of us is sent by God, to live where we are, and to reflect the love of God to those who are broken and so desperately need His touch upon their lives.
The challenge is not in learning what to say, most of us have been taught how to explain our faith. I mean how many of us can say the Lord’s Prayer and the apostles’ creed without looking at the bulletin?
We know the teachings, the basic doctrine.
So what do we need? What will change us into being a church that reveals to people the Jesus who will make them whole?
The key to Concordia, or any other church, becoming an evangelistic church, is simple. We need to know how to act when we encounter Jesus.
For when our souls learn to recognize Jesus, when our hearts know we dwell in His presence, the intuitive thing to do will be to drag people to Jesus, to the places where we know they will encounter them.
In today’s gospel, there are three encounters with Jesus. Two will show us how we can react to seeing Him. And the third, well, we will get to it later.
Seeing Him, amazed and confused!
The first way people reacted to Jesus is seen in the boat. The apostles, tired and weary, still overwhelmed by their first mission trip, and the feeding of thousands, see Jesus.
They see him, the word there is from where we get “identify.” Picture someone routinely checking driver’s licenses, and then realizing the person in front of them is someone famous. This is how they reacted, and their hearts, confused by all of life, were described as too petrified to take it all in. We all get that way sometimes, as life throws a few curves at us. As we get overwhelmed, as we are struggling with what is going on, or with the storms in our lives.
The apostles were there, “hey” its Jesus. Oh no! It’s beyond natural! It’s something supernatural! It’s not something normal.
Uhm, yeah Peter and James and John. It’s Jesus! What did you expect from Him, if not the supernatural?
We don’t recognize Jesus all that well at times, or the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We struggle to see Him during the hard times, and we don’t completely get what God is up too when we see the miraculous happen.
Our hearts are petrified, they are too hard to take it all in. But can we change?
Knowing Him – and dragging people in bed to Him
The second group was the group that encountered Jesus when He got out of the boat. These people just didn’t identify Jesus, the Greek indicates they knew Him, they deeply knew Him, who He was, and what it meant for Him to be there.
Whereas the Apostles went crazy with fear, these people went crazy bringing every person they could find that was broken. They ran around, grabbing people on mattresses and carrying them, they even just knew that if they could encounter Jesus, even just touching the edge of their robes, it would change everything….
And it did.
They encountered Him in the everyday mess of life. Though they had no clue about the cross, or the grave, the resurrection, they were sure He was a messenger from God, and they knew he would do the supernatural. So they brought the broken, the needy, almost without thinking about it!
Imagine lying there on your bed, some guys storm in, and the next thing you know, you are being dragged to meet Jesus, no explanation given. As you encounter Jesus, something more occurs than just being healed. You are made holy, you are saved. You are made right, perfect.
That’s what happens when you reveal the love of God to someone, that is what happens when Jesus is revealed In your life, what occurs when you encounter Him.
So How? Close Encounter of the Third Kind
So how do we go from the first reaction to reacting like the evangelists in the second group of people? How do we go from going crazy because of trauma and stress, to being crazy trying to get people to come to Jesus? What hope is there for those of us who are overwhelmed, whose hearts are too hard to take it all in?
Because even the holiest and most devout of us can get overwhelmed by life.
I did this week, as the prayer list seemed to explode with people in need.
It isn’t within me to remember 24/7 that God is here, actively working in our lives, actively working through our lives. I get too distracted, I get too overwhelmed by the storm, I get too frustrated by the work that God sent me to do.
So how do we keep centered on Jesus? How do we stay aware of His presence in life?
One pastor wrote it this way,
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering. (Pope Francis)
Remember where the disciples were heading with Jesus when they came back from their first mission trip? When they took off and found people chasing them on the shore, and then Jesus fed them?
They were heading off to a place to be with Jesus, to find time to pray, to find time for that personal encounter with God. To know Him enough to recognize Him.
Jesus did this, He went away for a time to talk to the Father, that was why He had to chase the boat, and if it is a blessing for Him, it is necessary for us.
Not just to please God, though it does. I need it, and you need it too. We need to be able to recognize God’s presence in our lives, to expect it, and the healing and peace that He brings. For that presence ties out theology to life, it makes what we say more than words.
To know Him, to encounter Him in prayer, and in the sacraments, they help us to now He is there. And so this week, God blessed me by helping me encounter Him more, as people took time out, and we shared in the Lord’s Supper together. Then when the storms hit, we know to look for Him, to expect His presence.
For from there, recognizing God at work is easier, knowing He is here, and He will make us whole is easier. For with Him revealed, we are still, and we know He is indeed God. And that He keeps us, our hearts and minds safe in Jesus. AMEN!
I AM here!
Matthew 14: 22-33
As you hear and think about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize as well, that is only possible because He is here, with you!
An Interrupted Prayer time?
As I study a passage of scripture to preach on it, I look at other passages that are similar. With the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is pretty easy, as they cover more than 2/3rds of the same stories.
In this case, Mark’s gospel adds one interesting note, that Jesus’s prayer time, his time talking with God the Father was interrupted. Mark’s gospel adds this little note in
47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, Mark 6:47-48 (NLT)
While Mark doesn’t mention Jesus praying, it does mention that HE SAW THEM!
So Jesus heads out – checks on them as He is passing, and that is when something interesting happens.
No, not their freaking out, as they’ve been struggling for 9 plus hours to row and sail a boat against contrary seas. That isn’t interesting, it is tragic. They are tired, and to see someone walking across the sea, in the midst of a horrible eastern Mediterranean storm… well – it’s got to be supernatural, a phantasmic (not fantastic) experience in Greek.
What is interesting is Jesus response to their cries of fear. I AM here.
Sounds like what I keep telling you, you know, “the Lord is with you!”!!!
The Struggles are Real
We need to know that, and some weeks, and some Saturdays, we need to know it even more.
Sometimes we are like the disciples, tired from fighting contrary winds, feeling like the world is going to overwhelm and drown us. Sometimes the other guys in the boat aren’t much of a help, or at least we don’t thing they are. And the wind – there is nothing we can do…
A few years ago, when Kay came back from a mission trip to Siberia, they had a team reunion near a reservoir in San Diego. The reservoir had little sailboats, brand new, in fact the one she and I got in had never been used!
We found that out as we get maybe 100 feet away from the dock, and the rudder, not fully screwed in , because it decides to float away! Then I notice they didn’t insert the centerboard, so there is nothing to keep the boat stable,, and then of course, the wind picks up.
We got blown across the reservoir, where a park ranger met us. She then told kay to get out of the front of the boat, and I learned they didn’t insert the ballast either, and the boat flips over with only my weight on board! Funny it was.. but more than a bit frustrating!
And we didn’t even get to see Jesus walking on the water, and when I got out – I didn’t walk on it! But life sometimes feels like it was that day, failing miserably, helpless, unable to go where I should, and ending up soaking wet!
But Jesus still sees us struggling, even when we aren’t aware of His presence, or His care for us. We don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t freak out, or scream like the disciples did, in fear of their lives.
We often talk about sin as this action, or that action. This evil thought, or those words that hurt that we say. But sin is also when we ignore God, when we try and play God, or choose things our way.
Please hear me, I am not saying the struggle is sin, absolutely not! By no means! But during the struggle, have we forgotten Jesus? Do we remember He cares? If not sin, or often the effect of sin in our lives is evident, for we’ve lost sight of our Lord, our Deliver.
I am here, compared to I AM HERE
Which is why we need to hear his voice, we need to be reminded of His presence. We need to realize it,, we need to let Him calm our fears, put to rest our anxieties, heal our souls and bring peace to our hearts.
By the way, there is a spelling error on the Bulletin, and I may have set this one up when I told Cris the sermon title.
It isn’t I Am Here…. It is I AM here.
That doesn’t seem like much does it? It would be to Peter and Andrew, James, Hahn, Mathew and the rest. You see, in both Greek and Hebrew, Jesus didn’t just reveal that he was walking by.
He revealed he was God, and that He was involved in their life. You see, that I AM is the I AM Moses heard at the burning bush, it is the name of God that is translated as LORD throughout scripture, the name God gave us to call out to him. Yahweh, Ego Eimi, the I AM THAT IAM . The name that was put on the temple for people to know who to pray to, and of course, the name we aren’t to take in vain, but use to pray and to praise God.
During the storm, and at the cross, God is there for you. In the trauma of everyday life, He answers us, and to finally get to that other guy on the water, He says to us as He did to Peter.
Don’t be afraid, I am here – come on – walk with me!
And so we shall, trusting in the Lord who is with you! AMEN!
Then You Will Know
† In Jesus Name †
As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!
In the midst of the miraculous
There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…
It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….
And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!
What a wonder it would be!
A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!
What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!
And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…
The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?
Yea – those are our bones…
The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.
Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out. We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.
It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on. Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved. Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.
It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.
Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.
And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.
But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell. Can our dried bones live? Can we, despite our sin and shame find life? The LORD knows…
It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history
Yea – that is the Quickening
Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.
It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross. Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.
This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.
But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…
But here is what you need to know.
Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:
We may skip over that far too quickly. For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.
But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM. To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden. Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.
We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.
This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul. Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it. Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.
This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.
For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God. AMEN!
Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:
9 O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. 10 As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. Psalm 48:9-10 (NLT)
You still do not love the Lord as a miser loves his riches, as a mother loves her child… You are still too concerned about yourself and about your petty affairs! And yet you have noticed that Jesus has already become indispensable in your life… Well, as soon as you correspond completely to his call, he will also be indispensable to you in each one of your actions. (1)
Yesterday’s Bible Study time at church was talking about the attitude of St. Paul towards the people of Israel. How, even though those people would have killed him outright, his love for God, and His knowledge of God’s promises, led him to desire their salvation, no matter the cost. He said he would even give up is salvation, if that were possible,
A tough act to follow, as many of us realized, and even grieved over during the Bible Study.
Paul’s comments, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ,” take on a far more challenging perspective. They drive home the idea of loving our neighbor – for love doesn’t count the cost. Even when our neighbor is our enemy, our adversary, or just a huge pain in the neck. Imitate Paul as he desires their salvation more than even his own, even as Paul imitated Jesus, as He died for those who caused His suffering and death. You and I. (All that debate about whether the Jews were responsible for His death, or the Romans is nonsense. He chose to die to save us from our sins, to restore us to the Father.)
Are you willing to give up all for those you love? Are you willing to love those who hate you?
Even more difficult, when we realize Paul’s challenge to us is not alone, John issues it with these words,
20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:20-21 (NLT)
So how do we do this? Is there some metaphysical knowledge that unlocks in us the ability to love our neighbor? Is it some ritual that we must undergo, that magically gives us the ability to sacrifice all for our neighbor?
No, just simply – if you love God with all you are, when you correspond to His call on your life, then this happens. Not because of our will or volition, it is deeper than that. It is the work of God in our lives, what He has ordained for us. it is a life of Holiness, it is a life, set apart to Him.
Again, not easy, a radical transformation in our lives.
So how do we do these things, things God has emphasized through His word, through the Apostles, the Prophets, in the Law of Moses, in the Gospel of Christ?
No – not think about where the solution, that won’t help. We aren’t capable of it.
Do what the psalmist asks us to do – meditate on the Lord, on His love, on His mercy, on His promises revealed in His word. On His unfailing love. As Paul will say, explore its depths, its height, its width, its breadth. Realize how God’s love consumes us, how it transforms us, How the Holy Spirit makes it a reality in our life.
It sounds too easy, but keep in the forefront of your thoughts during the day the incredible love and grace of God. Spend time just thinking about it.
Don’t limit yourself to worship and praise, to just studying the Bible in classes, or studying it as you read it.
Just read and be in awe, let the words run through your heart like a bubbling brook, occasionally like a waterfall, Like the Niagara Falls, or Iguazu Falls in South America. (Watch the movie “The Mission” to see this – and an incredible story of loving your enemy!)
Let the promises amaze you, the patience of God astonich you, the miracles and wonders of God leave you without the ability to read any further.
And delight that all of this has been done and revealed – to you… for you, for your neighbor, for that person…….
Then you will love, ot as a command, but because the gospel is alive in you, you won’t be able to resist,
It will be our lives… lived as our Lord lived.
We’ll stumble for sure, we struggle at times, but the correlation between realizing the love of God, and loving others is clear… and it is necessary…
So dwell in Him, rejoice in His presence. Know His love!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3299-3303). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:20-23 (NLT)
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NLT)
193 Those who have met Christ cannot shut themselves in their own little world: how sad such a limitation would be! They must open out like a fan in order to reach all souls. Each one has to create—and widen— a circle of friends, whom he can influence with his professional prestige, with his behaviour, with his friendship, so that Christ may exercise his influence by means of that professional prestige, that behaviour, that friendship. (1)
In a recent class i was teaching, the question of miracles came up. Does the Holy Spirit still accomplish them, and does He still do it through people that have been saved?
My answer, “Without a doubt yes. God isn’t subject to the doctrines of the enlightenment.”
But it got me thinking, what is a miracle, and are we as aware of God doing the impossible as we should be? Also, I thought a moment, if the Resurrection of Jesus is the greatest of miracles, is not the resurrection of one dead in sin, which happens when they are united to Christ in His death and resurrection, also a glorious thing? It is, whether it is a newborn baby, a prodigal teen, or an elderly person, who finally heard that God’s love was for them. This is why the reading from Corinthians starts with our being given a new life
But that life, like Christ’s is sent into the world, and given the same task, the task of reconciling the world to the Father. Just as Christ brought us back to the Father. The word there that the NLT translates as task, other translations talk about as ministry, or service. I am not sure why, but many in the church hear this as optional, or restricted to a few, or perhaps we are just apathetic. But this is why we are sent, more importantly it is why He was sent, to see God at work, through His word, through the sacraments, calling people and seeing the reconciled to God. That is what forgiveness is about – not just wiping a slate clean – but healing and restoring relationships that have been broken.
We weren’t sent to establish clubs, or to be wordsmiths, or to write music, or to become rich and respected. That is not our raison d’etre, our reason for being. Walking with God is, and part of that is doing what He does, reconciling people to Himself. Whatever it takes, even death..
God does use those talents, the respect or prestige we gain, our behavior and our friendships to reach people. Even as Christ befriended us. But the talents are given to use as we see people reconciled to God. It is part of the very gift we are given as God makes us new creations, as He gives us new life.
And yes, that means we find new people to reach, that they may be reconciled. It means we do see our vocations as part of our ministry, part of our Christian life. Not just as an obligation, but whom we are in Christ.
May we be in awe at the work Jesus does in us, and through us, as God reconciles the world to Himself! AMEN
While this is eternal, there is also a
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1017-1021). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover my thoughts. 24 Find out if there is any evil in me and guide me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (TEV)
40 A man suffering from a dreaded skin disease came to Jesus, knelt down, and begged him for help. “If you want to,” he said, “you can make me clean.” 41 Jesus was filled with pity, and reached out and touched him. “I do want to,” he answered. “Be clean!” 42 At once the disease left the man, and he was clean. Mark 1:40-42 (TEV)
86 With God, I thought, every day seems more attractive. I can see “little bits” at a time. One day I notice some wonderful detail; on another, I discover a sight I had not seen before… At this rate, it is impossible to say what will happen next. Then, I noticed that He was reassuring me: “Your happiness will grow greater every day, for you will be drawn deeper and deeper into that divine adventure, into that great ‘complication’ with which you have become involved. And you will realise that I will never abandon you.”
A Crown of thorns, a thick “royal robe”, placed on a back that is raw from a whipping, Spikes hammered through each wrist, One more hammered through the ankles. Ankles already tired from carrying the beam up a mountain side.
People mocking Him, the people who called for His death, the people who once praised and followed Him, but followed Him hear for a different reason…..to watch Him suffer and die.
We were not able to cry out, as the man did at the beginning of Mark’s gospel. A cry that echo’s David’s cry in Psalm 139. Examine us! Make us clean – completely. If you desire to Lord, you can.
And He did. By hanging on the cross.
He cleansed us of every sin, He brought us into Himself – we share in that death – we hang there with Him, nailed to that cross in our baptism. We rise with Him as well, brought into His very glory.
We receive all His promises, He guards us, never abandoning us, never forsaking us, always there, always faithful. The promises that we find more and more of, as we plunge the scriptures, as we meet and pray and hear God’s word together. As we kneel at an altar, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. These details, declaring God’s desire – that we are all transformed, that explain His patience…His will, what He did, for us, as Christ hung on that cross.
This day, as you consider the cross, as you consider that Jesus endured that pain, for the joy set before Him. The joy of bringing us into the Father’s glory.
And here His answer to you….. I do want to… be clean!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 581-586). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional thought of the day….
“I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity through the day!” (Esciva, The Furrow)
Having just finished about preaching about those whose faith and life are withered and, for all we can tell, extinct, this one hits home hard. So often I see people writing off others as fallen, or congregations and parishes as “dead”. Have to admit – I’ve been there as well. Indeed, Sunday I quoted the lyrics of Casting Crowns song about Ezekiel’s experience….
A pastor stands before his congregation
Once a mighty army for the Lord
But now he stares into the lifeless eyes
Believers leading carnal lives
He wonders what they’re fighting for
But driven by a calling on his life
He spoke God’s word
Like he’d done a hundred times before
But this time he comes broken and weeping
With tears of a broken heart
And he cries out to the Lord
Oh Lord send Your wind into this valley
And breathe the breath of life into their souls
And raise them again a mighty army
For soon these arisen warriors will battle again
For they have been filled with the spirit wind
But a person’s spiritual life, or for that matter a congregations, is not measured by its faithfulness, but by God’s. Our work in revitalizing congregations and parishes that appears lifeless is never successful if the call is fire them up, to get them to work – but rather – to cause them to see the supernatural that occurs. Our work: to help them see the Spirit’s presence and promise in their lives, this will free them from the anxieties, guilt, and damage of their own sin, and that of the world.
It is then, as they see the Holy Spirit’s work and witness in their life, as they sense their lives changing that you see their desire to love God return, and then the desire to share the peace they know. You see more time in prayer, more hunger as they study the Bible. ( From my Lutheran/small “c” catholic perspective – even a greater desire for the Eucharist – the feast of Christ, the Lord’s Supper) As the Spirit sweeps clear their lives (which He actually did at their baptism – they often just don’t realize it for years or decades…) this abundant love brings them a peace… and that peace must be shared.
The supernatural which causes us to love and have compassion on each other is present…the challenge for a person… realizing it, reveling in it… the challenge for pastor’s and priests… helping people to see it, even as we struggle to as well.
This day… look for the supernatural – the dry bones coming to life, as God’s word bubbles forth from you,… and rejoice- the Lord is with you!