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Presidential Elections, Culture and the Church

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

Devotional & Discussion thought of the day:

1 I mean that as long as the heir is not of age,* he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. 3 aIn the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.* 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,b 5 to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.c 6 As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”d 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   New American Bible. Revised Edition. Galatians 4:1-7

The history into which Jesus enters is a quite ordinary history, marked by all the scandals and ignominy that are inherent in humanity, all the advances and good beginnings, but also all the sinfulness and baseness—a totally human history!… We may ask: Is this the context into which the Son of God could be born? Holy Scripture answers: Yes. But all this is meant as a sign for us. The Incarnation of God does not result from an ascent on the part of the human race but from a descent on the part of God. The ascent of mankind: the attempt to bring God forth by one’s own efforts and to attain the status of superman—long ago in paradise this attempt failed utterly. One who wants to become God by his own efforts, who reaches arbitrarily for the stars, always ends by destroying himself.…

58. There are many ties between the message of salvation and human culture. For God, revealing Himself to His people to the extent of a full manifestation of Himself in His Incarnate Son, has spoken according to the culture proper to each epoch.
Likewise the Church, living in various circumstances in the course of time, has used the discoveries of different cultures so that in her preaching she might spread and explain the message of Christ to all nations, that she might examine it and more deeply understand it, that she might give it better expression in liturgical celebration and in the varied life of the community of the faithful.

In writing this post, perhaps I go where angels fear to tread. 

Entering the place where politics, religion and culture interact, in that place we called life.  
There is a part of me that wants to flee from any political conversation; there is another part of me that wants to call out those who are acting contrary to their relationship with God, as they criticize that candidate, or defend this candidate.  For what good is it if “our” party gains the majority in Congress or the Presidency, but in the process we lose our soul, we neglect salvation, we turn our back on God?

In my devotional reading today, three times I come across the same answer.  

Jesus comes to us, as we are, in our brokenness, in our broken world.  As when He was born of Mary, the leadership of the world isn’t righteous, and our culture is challenged.  Our nation is so immersed in immorality that we don’t even see it affecting our lives.  

Instead of struggling like a man drowning, I need to see Christ here, descending to us, coming to rescue us who try to reach for the stars, or think we’ve arrived among them. 

This Christ, who descended once to be crucified, is still here, (see Matt 28:20) reaching out to us who are drowning, reaching the world through the people among whom He dwells.  Reaching out in every cultural context, reaching out to those paralyzed by anxiety, by doubt, by a distinct lack of hope. 

Ultimately the answer is not going to be found in November, but in what we know and celebrate in Advent, as we look for hope, as we anticipate what God has promised, that we will dwell with Him, that we do dwell with Him, that we can cry out Abba!

And here His voice calm us, give us hope, and freedom as He softly says, “I am here! Do not be anxious… I with you.

AMEN!

 

 

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Do You Struggle To Live as a Christian?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

155    Jesus is never satisfied “sharing.” He wants all.

156    You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God … and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody and everybody.

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. (2)

A few days ago, my facebook history brought up a blog I wrote about the crucifix.  How some churches and believers avoid it, how we would prefer to have an empty cross, I’ve also been thinking about what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What would our reaction be if that read, “let yourself be crucified as you follow me”?

That makes the question very real.  The question then challenges us greatly.  Let myself be crucified?  Willingly submit to suffering and being a sacrifice?  To what end?

St. Paul tells us we have seen crucified our passions and our lusts (Gal 5:24) if we know Christ.  That our sin has been crucified, that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:1-8) That is part of it, and it is no error that concept arrives above in Timothy’s case. It is also the kind of life St Josemaria advocates, in giving ourselves completely to God, to letting Jesus take “all”.

It isn’t optional, it is what really happens in our baptism.  It isn’t a requirement of our salvation, as the Augsburg Confession testifies.  St Paul agrees with that when he says we strive to possess that which already possesses us.

But we do strive, we do struggle, for it is a struggle.  Satan would distract us, the temptation would draw us away, our own pride and brokenness will oppress us.  It takes effort to keep our eyes on Christ, to confess our sins, to gather with others in prayer and worship, and to pray on our own. It takes efforts to walk with Christ, to abide with Him.

It may seem less beneficial than working out, or writing some theological or political manifesto,

It isn’t, nothing is more important than communing with God.  That is what this is all about.

Walking with God, being His kids, enjoying the peace that comes from that…. that is enough.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 494-496). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.Augsberg Confession, The

(2)  Augsberg Confession, The

Look Carefully How You Walk

Look carefully then how you walk!

Ephesians 5:5-21

In Jesus Name


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

 

Look carefully then how you walk!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wandering in the darkness, not a good idea…

Entering the Light is a Challenge!

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

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

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

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

Walking in the Light

          We can discern what is pleasing to the Lord

          We can understand what the will of the Lord is

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

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

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

 

And then in verse 17,

 

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

 

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

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

And Paul guided by the Holy Spirit wrote:

 

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

 

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

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

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

The Decision Christians Need to Make!

Thought of the Day:

As I peruse my fb page, and I see the “soundbites” that proliferate it, many include a call to make a choice.

Some call to make a political choice.

Some call us to make a purchase – making a choice to spend money so that our life will be perfect.  ( I tend to block MLM posts quickly)

Many call us to make a moral choice, or urge others to make a choice, or even to force them to make a choice.

These are choices that fellow believers would have us make – stating how critical they are.  These choices are not critical! For a believer, for one in a relationship with God, there is only  one decision.

All three readings today talk of it – and why we make the one we do:

Joshua said this “choose this day whom you will serve,”

Are you going to choose to walk with God, or will you continue to follow some other god, made in an image you find palatable.  Remember – he is talking to people who have seen God at work, who know His love.  He’s not speaking to unbelievers, those unfamiliar with His love and power.  Yet we, like those who heard these words, struggle with listening to God, to following His call, to giving up all the things that burden and distract and enslave us.  Until we realize what the apostles did, when they too were faced with the decision.  Here is that account.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

You’ve come to know He is God, that His words bring life….that’s what you need to know, as a believer, how to live.

Choose wisely…and know His love and mercy never will fail you.

 

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