Devotional Thoughts for this day:
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever!
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
2 Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. Psalm 89:1-2 NLT
What Satan intends for evil, God uses for good. By these assaults we move from mere intellectual comprehension of his grace to very personal and experiential enjoyment of the multifaceted dimensions of God’s comforting mercy and love.
Prayer and meditation do not occur in blissful peace in some sweet never-never land or beautiful isle somewhere, but in the throes of real life. Prayer, meditation, and spiritual warfare are a package deal. The struggle goes with the territory in God’s economy. Pain, distress of body and soul, emotional struggle and spiritual assault come to all of God’s people. And you can be sure that they will come to you—if they haven’t already
Just as the First Commandment instructs the heart and teaches faith, so this commandment leads us outward and directs the lips and tongue into a right relationship with God. For the first things that burst forth and emerge from the heart are words.
The songs of prayer
The songs of prayer lodge in our mouths.
Let us sing through the snow.
At the dinner table.
On the rooftop where we dance.
May these sounds heal our ears
and those distant ears that hear.
This morning I want to start with Luther’s words in dark blue above. They sound so nice and innocent at first, for if we recognize God is God, and specifically the God who loves us, then words of praise will just force themselves from our heart, through our vocal cords and we will use God’s name to praise Him. An awesome picture!
Just like the Psalmist who sings of God’s unfailing love forever! If only our lives were that simple! If only we were aware of His grace every moment of every day! Then we would spend more time talking to God, thanking Him and giving our problems and anxieties to Him, trusting Him to deal with them
Except that the easier life is, the more like I am to forget God exists. I won’t remember how faithful He is, unless I have a need, and then see His faithfulness as He comforts and cares for me.
It is the relieved heart that overwhelms the voice and causes it to sing praises. It is the broken heart that is rescued and healed that tells others, even distant others, of God’s healing!
And as odd as it sounds, Senkbeil is right. The more Satan attacks a mature Christian, the more we do not fight, but run inot the arms of our Lord, knowing His death rebukes Satan and totally defeats him. The more we spend time in God’s presence, the more we release our hearts’ burdens. It is a blessed circle of freedom, one that affects not only us, but others, as they hear our sincere praises, and see lives at peace amid chaos. Satan and his minions will do everything they can to stop this. But all that should do is drive us back to the hope of the cross and empty grave. This sounds like a high cost, spending time in prayer and becoming susceptible to attack, but it is more dangerous for Satan, as others see his attempts backfire
Trials will come for a season, yet they will cause a closer, more intimate relationship with God. This I’ve found true in my life, over and over. God is there, and the more trauma I see, the more oppression, the more things don’t make sense, the more it is time to stop everything, pray and count the blessings we have, because we are His children.
Heavenly Father, help us hear your offers of comfort in times of trauma, or when Satan is prowling about. My our hearts praise You, even as we recognize Your salvation, and the peace found as we find refuge in You. Amen!
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 256.
Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 392.
Hawksley Workman from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ for 5/27/2022
Devotional Thought for the day
I belong to God, and I worship him. Last night he sent an angel 24 to tell me, “Paul, don’t be afraid! You will stand trial before the Emperor. And because of you, God will save the lives of everyone on the ship.” 25 Cheer up! I am sure that God will do exactly what he promised. 26 But we will first be shipwrecked on some island. Acts 27:23-26 CEV
Christians have been making Peter’s mistake ever since, trusting in Caesar and chariots and horses and treaties and nukes and antinukes rather than in the love of God, the love on the Cross. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it, all the chariots and horsemen, even the horsemen of the apocalypse.
Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety.
We go on to say: “Let your will be done in heaven and on earth.” We say this not so that God might do what he wishes, but that we should be able to do what God wishes
I do not know how I would react, if I was one of the sailors or passengers on the ship with Paul. Yeah, we’ll be safe – all of us – but the ship will be wrecked. I imagine that even Noah was a bit anxious as the floods lifted him higher than some planes normally fly.
It is no wonder that we want to trust our weapons, our country, and our ability to fight back. For how do we find peace in times of oppression, in times where we are persecuted and attacked.
Many communities are facing this – those who find that nothing has changed in the death of George Floyd, or David Dorn. Those whose streets are filled with plywood rather than windows, those who cannot even find a home, because they are refugees. Some places where seniors dwell together still live in great fear of COVID 19. We all live in fear, and turn to something, anything for protection. Just about everyone I have met is stressed, worried, and focused on surviving today.
I wish we could all have the faith of Paul, who not only was ready for the shipwreck but to testify in front of Nero.
Please understand, we advocate for justice – even when we have to ask forgiveness for the injustice we actually committed.
At the same time, we need even more to trust in the Lord, for whether our boat is lifted by the floodwaters, or crushed against the rocks, He is with us.
We need to be aware that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us, (Eph. 1:19-20) and that power is the love of God. That is why Kreeft makes the comment. “This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it,”
Even if crucified, even if killed, our life is there, hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) and the power of death has already been defeated. That knowledge, that trust in God should empower us to work for justice, even as we do so peacefully, aware that He is stronger than the world.
So as Paul said, “Cheer up! Just a shipwreck ahead of you, and then a trial, but God will deliver exactly what is promised!”
Your salvation and mine. ANd the presence of God in this midst of the storm…. the God who loves you.
Lord, help us to depend on you as Paul did. Even thru the shipwrecks, and the trials, through the persecutions and oppression, and even our own death. Lord may Your will be cone in our lives… and help our seeing that cheer us up.
Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 212–213.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 75.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
David sneaked over and cut off a small piecen of Saul’s robe, but Saul didn’t notice a thing. 5 Afterwards, David was sorry that he had even done that, †7 and he told his men, “Stop talking foolishly. We’re not going to attack Saul. He’s my king, and I pray that the LORD will keep me from doing anything to harm his chosen king.” 1 Sam. 24:4-7 CEV
One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King’s mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, “Our Father.”
Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace.
Of all the things King David did in his life that demonstrate trust in God, there are two that stick out as incredible.
Twice he had the opportunity to kill the man who was hunting him down, who was stalking him. He could have killed him right there, and the nation would have never batted an eye.
He didn’t though, and he demonstrated the kind of faith we need in this time, a faith that can obey God, even when disobeying would make life easier, or less worrisome. Faith that isn’t content with self-preservation, but trusts God when we are oppressed, when we are struggling, and when we are being tempted
Spurgeon is right of course, that those who are weak in faith, yet still have it, will find themselves in heaven, but the earth will be more like hell. Anxieties and self-preservation will lead to temptations which will lead to the brokenness of sin.
Yet trusting God, hearing His voice as He cleanses us of all sin and shows us how to truly love others, is what faith is all about. It sets aside our fears, knowing that God is bigger than what our minds imagine.
He is with us… and His love inspires and empowers our ability to love more than seek after our own needs and preservation.
even in the presence of those who think they are our enemies…
God is with you and loves you….
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 This is the message which he told them to give to Isaiah: “Today is a day of suffering; we are being punished and are in disgrace. We are like a woman who is ready to give birth, but is too weak to do it.
King Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went to the Temple, placed the letter there in the presence of the LORD, 15 and prayed, 16† “Almighty LORD, God of Israel, seated above the winged creatures, you alone are God, ruling all the kingdoms of the world. You created the earth and the sky. 17 Now, LORD, hear us and look at what is happening to us! Isaiah 37:3,14-17 GNT
To focus on entering new life with Christ requires that we take a stand as to who we are in this new life, that we identify with the Christ-life in us and against the sin still present in our selves and that we settle in our will the question of who we intend to be. This is what it means to “count [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Pray: Talk to God about the two lives, two streams of awareness and power, mingling together. Ask God to show you what you need to know about how to untangle them and choose more to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
As I read the section from Isaiah this morning, the despair the Hezekiah described struck home. Against his enemies he felt too weak, all Israel seemed to weak. The graphic comment about a woman in labor who cannot, and surrenders to the weakness seems all too similar.
Our enemy is just as powerful, though not a horde, or a arm y can roll over us. It is far too integral to us, this old life of sin. It seems to wrap around us like one of the strands of DNA, unable to be separated from the other, Defining ourselves without the sense of brokenness we care too weak to defeat seems illogical. Like Paul that strand of sin, winding through our being causes us to do what we do not want to do, and prevents us from doing what we desire to do, what we know pleases God.
Theologically we know we are called to be holy, set apart to live life in the glory of God. Practically we find ourselves struggly, and even getting to the point where we give up the fight, where we are unwilling to fight anymore. Sin becomes the norm, again.
In the midst of the weakness, in the midst of despair, Hezekiah does something as outrageous as it is incredible. He enters the temple, he goes and places the letter from his oppressor in the presence of the LORD. He goes into the Holy of Holies, the place a priest awas allowed only once a year, and begs the LORD to look at their situation. The place where high priests could die because of their sin, he walks right in and says, “God, Look at this, help us! We are too weak, we have to have Your help!”
In the Holy of Holies, there he finds hope…
This is huge for us, as we need to realize that we can enter the presence of God almighty with that much boldness, setting aside everything that would restrain us. (see Hebrews!) That place where Hezekiah entered? It was the place of ultimate mercy, the place forgiveness, the place where the blood would be shed.
The place we need to abide, to dwell with God. The place where sin is separated from our DNA, for it was killed off to bring us to this place. The place where we know God rescued us no from the Assyrians, but from that which haunts us, our guilt, our shame, our brokenness, our sin.
The struggle within fades in the presence of God, when we realize His work to defeat it as the cross, and in our baptism, and everytime we take and eat His body, and drink His blood, testifying to the blood out, to cover our sin, to His death for us.
The struggle is still there, and until God complete the work He began is us (Phil. 1:6) we will struggle against this foe… yet that struggle is dealt with, not by our own strength, but simply by being in the place where God is with us…Overcoming it isn’t about 30 seconds there, but learning to dwell with Him (see Col. 3:1-3) To dwell in His presence in the darkest moments, to dwell with Him as He addresses our brokenness.
To know He, the LORD is with us!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
“No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” 1 Samuel 1:15-18
Does our daily anxiety about life seem so important to us that we can find no time to look above it? There is the daily anxiety about food and lodging for ourselves and for those who are dear to us; our profession, our work; there is our responsibility for society in general, for its improvement, and that injustice may cease to exist in it so that all of us can eat our bread in peace and freedom. Does not all that seem so urgent that everything else seems of no consequence? And is that the whole problem? Today more and more individuals are of the opinion that religion is a waste of time, that only social action can make a significant contribution to man’s well-being. As a result, it will require a kind of miracle to make us let ourselves be lifted up to what is higher. But God be praised, such miracles do occur even today.
Christ as a light illumine and guide me. Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me, on my left and on my right.
This day Lord, be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each that speaks to me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, and yet all-powerful. Christ as a light, Christ as a shield, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.
Joseph Ratzinger’s words this morning, written perhaps 20 years ago or more, ring so true today. We see so many things that need to be done, so many things that need to be corrected, so many things that cause anxiety, so many things that have to be addressed, otherwise, we cannot find the time to eat our bread in peace, truly free.
These things are so urgent that everything else seems. not to matter, not to be of importance. Including our religion, our walking with God, our taking the time in prayer, to pour out our hearts like Hannah did.
Last night in our church service, I saw something I have long dreamed of and encouraged. People staying at the communion rail, emptying themselves, even through the tears, finding the freedom that comes as we, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, find that we cannot leave until we have emptied ourselves until we are confident that God has heard us.
Do I like the fact that these people’s lives are so challenged, so anxious that they must look for comfort, for peace there at the rail? No, but I do love that they have come to recognize that it is the place where miracles begin. Where they can unburden, where they can drop the stuff that oppresses them and find hope, where they can find the peace they need.
We need to pray, we need to know what the ancient Celtic Christians reveled in, the presence of God in every moment of our lives. God so intimately involved, so compassionate that He will bear our burdens, that He will help us cope with anxieties, (whether we know what we are anxious about or not)
Prayer isn’t about duty, it isn’t just another task in our calendar, it is where we find the miracle of peace, where we are reminded He is there, where we can pour out our heart, and ask for the faith to leave the burdens behind.
God is with you… prayer makes that truth come alive!!!!
So take the time, see the miracle begin and lead in freedom and peace! AMEN!
(and anytime you want to come and prayer… you are welcome too!)
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.
from the daily office: morning prayer of Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 2
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
7 And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:7 (TLB)
760 All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added. I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to? (1)
I am on vacation, and we’ve driven a bit here and there, and my memories go back to my childhood vacations in the lake region and in White Mountains of New Hampshire. Three kids in the back of the old Chevy Malibu, and later in the Monte Carlo. God a bit cramped back there, and let’s just say it is was about as peaceful as the Holy Land. There was even the innocent victim (me) caught in between the rival factions.. I can still hear my dad and mom instructing my siblings to get along, to love each other, sometimes even to give each other a hug… a nice gentle one.
And the loud pitched, whining reply, ‘do I really have too???????”
Move forward to today. Even if we are not caught into a political and historical mess like Israel and Palestine, we find ourselves in serious disagreements, We have rivals, we have those we don’t like, and we have those we are seemed destined to hate, because they hate us. We are at war, sometimes in our workplaces, other times in our neighborhoods, with distant family, and sometimes, sad to say, in our homes.
We justify our anger, we get protective to stop the pain, to defend our reputations, even our families. There is a meme going around, saying that if they drop their guns, there will be peace, but if we drop ours, we will be annihilated. Not sure how true this is, but we take it is as truth, and apply that truth in our lives. We want at least the personal version of Mutually Assured Destruction.
We don’t realize how damaging this is, this dealing with enemies, this always defending ourselves.
Israel was in captivity when Jeremiah wrote these words, with the ancestors of those they have been engaged in hostilities with for centuries. The prophet’s words are different, they don’t call for strategy, they don’t call for defensive posturing. I chose the translation from the Living Bible because it identifies the city, these enemies. Here it is, as we would normally here it,
7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT)
Do I really have to? Do I really have to love them, to pray for them? Do I have to sacrifice time and energy to work for their peace and not just survival, but prosperity?
Do I really have to?
I mean St Josemaria described them so well, “All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.”
And the response, read it again,
I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?
Here is a way, similar to the words above, that helps. Hear Jesus words from the cross, Father, forgive (insert your name), for they know not what they do. See Him utter those words, even as He is dieing, even as the pain wracks His body, even as the blood drips to the ground. Now, Look at your adversary, see Jesus on the cross, begging the Father to forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing as well. Let this thought be pondered in your heart for 10 or 15 minutes…. really dwell on it. Not just picture it for a second – go that’s nice. But dwell on it until the tears come, till the pain is pulsing in your body, and then purged of it, the peace rushes into your soul.
See both of you, broken there… yet being lifted by Christ. For in Christ, that which divides us is broken, in Christ there is mercy, in Christ, there is healing.
That’s why Jeremiah calls for us to pray for those who oppress us, because as God makes Himself known to them, as He calls them to be His children, as He blesses them, the blessing to us is beyond compare.
St Paul mentions this in his words to the Church in Galatia…
27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 (NLT)
There is our goal, this is our mission, our apostolate, to long for this healing, this reconciliation. Tough? Yes. Painful? Yes? Calling us to sacrifice beyond our means? Yes.
In Christ, there is no other choice. It is our vocation, our life.
We pray, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3158-3162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2 Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3 Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)
268 If you are convinced of your “poor quality”—if you know yourself—you will react to events supernaturally. Joy and peace will take a firmer root in your soul, in the face of humiliations, being despised, calumnies… In these cases, after saying fiat—Lord, whatever you want—you should think: “Is that all he said? He obviously does not know me, otherwise he wouldn’t have left it at that.” Being convinced that you deserve worse treatment, you will feel grateful to that person, and rejoice at what might have made somebody else suffer. (1)I
it is Tuesday morning, but not a normal Tuesday. It is more like a triple espresso version of Monday.
I could go into why, but each of us has our challenges, our crosses, our burdens to bear, The secret is to bear them with great joy, because of the peace that we have, that surpasses all understanding, a peace that comes to all who trust in God.
But that trust isn’t easy, having faith in God is something itself that is miraculous, that is supernatural because it simply isn’t natural to us.
There is a point in life where the world so overwhelms and oppresses us, that we want to emotionally crawl into a corner and go into a fetal position. To find a place where we can find security, where we can find peace, where we can find healing for our souls.
As I read this passage from Psalms this morning, as I looked at St Josemaria’s words in Furrow, something came to mind. When we are so spiritually exhausted, when we are so tired, so beyond our abilities, focusing on being humbled isn’t an issue. We simply are, and when we call out to God in such despair, we somehow, miraculously hear His voice, we recognize His presence. We find that we are embraced by Him, that we have found the rest and healing our souls so long desire.
All of a sudden, the supernatural becomes the natural, the work of God becomes our norm, and we walk through life, frazzled and joyous, oppressed and yet peace-filled, harried but trusting in a God who has proved His love for us at a wretched torturous cross, and proved to us that we dwell in Him. It is hard to explain, but it comes down to the simple humility that is described in the first commandment,
5 “The LORD said, 6 ‘I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. 7 ” ‘Worship no god but me. Deuteronomy 5:5b-7 (TEV)
It is that simple, humility is recognizing that we aren’t gods, that we aren’t in charge, but that He is. He is our God, the One who has promised us peace, mercy, joy, because of the love He has for us. Living simply in that, we find something beyond, something supernatural, something that should become more and more natural. That is why reading and studying (they are different disciplines) God’s word is crucial to our lives, it is why the sacraments, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) are blessings that should be received frequently. These means of grace bring us back to that level of humility, that place where we are curled up in God’s arms… that place where we simply know His presence, and His love… and that, that is enough for incredible peace, mind-blowing joy, and a strengthening of our faith as we walk humbly with Him.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1320-1326). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware,
I Have Come Down…
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
It is my prayer for you, that you realize the grace of God, that His merciful love and peace wash over you, cleansing you, as we realize that He has come to us!
The Burning Bush? Big Deal…
It draws our attention like a moth is drawn to a flame, like the day after thanksgiving gathers shoppers to stores. Like chocolate draws the attention of some people… or like Best Buy adds draw William’s attention… well and mine.
Yet in our Old Testament reading this morning, it is about as important on its own as the color and smell of the sheep Moses shepherded.
Burning Bushes are interesting, they get our attention, they call us to look at this passage, they gain our attention.
But this passage is about the burning bush. It is about what God reveals to Moses, something that after this week of challenges I don’t just want to preach about. I need to know it as you do. I need to know it is as true for us, as it was for Israel.
Verse 7, slightly adapted:
7 Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue you.
I have certainly seen….. I am aware…. And
I have come down
Our struggle – we aren’t sure if He sees, if He is aware…
I think we get that God has come down in the past, in the time where He walked with Abraham, or Moses, or when He inspired King David to write incredible songs of transparency and praise. We know He was there for the prophets. Yet when God talks so passionately about His people, about seeing them and being aware their troubles, and coming down to rescue them, I think we lose something in translation.
Because we use the pronoun “them”, rather the “us”
There are days I wonder, does God see us the way He saw Israel, does He know the pain we endure, whether it is our grief, or our anxieties. When our complaints and our brokenness seem unheard, seem that they do not gain His attention. Just like Israel, crying out for His help, as they struggled under oppression in Egypt. Faith is realizing the them is us.
So that we can cry out like the man who encountered Jesus, “Lord, we trust in you, help us trust in you!”
We look around to see if there is a burning bush nearby… or maybe we check with our friends, or maybe even our pastor, to see if they’ve seen one. After all – Moses was not outside the Starbucks in Cairo, Egypt when the people were crying out. He was out in the desert, out in the wilderness, trying to avoid his own problems. Hmmm.. maybe I should check with my friends in Anza and Yucca Valley, see if they’ve seen our bush?
I have to be honest in this, there are the days, where like the Israelites wandering in Sinai, I wonder if it would be better to go back to New Eng..err Egypt. That the problems and sufferings might have been less there.
We are not the super-heroes of the faith. Matter of fact, if we read their stories, Abraham, and Moses, David and Jeremiah were not superheroes either. They struggled as we do, to see God’s presence, to see God’s faithfulness.
Otherwise, why do burning bushes and arks of the covenant exist?
Because we need to know this: that He sees us, we need to know He is aware… and to remember He has come to rescue us. We need something to distract us from our normal grind of life, to call us to realize that we stand on Holy Ground… not because of a burning bush or a beautiful sanctuary, but because we live in God’s presence.
But He has… and He therefore comes down!
We are not in the situation Israel thought they were in, when Moses turned back to see phenomena, and instead realized He was in the glorious presence of God. We are in the journey from that place, on our way to the Promised Land, the place God has set aside for us to dwell with Him eternally.
He has come down! He is guiding us, even as He guided them through the Sinai. We are not in paradise, in heaven just yet. He calls us together like a shepherd gathering a flock, like Moses was sent back to Egypt to go get God’s people. Because our oppressors have been defeated.
It is not in today’s reading but not long after that the miracle at the Red Sea happened. Like this it was prophetic, a picture of our baptism. When the Israelites walked through that sea – it was to get to the other side. Passing through the sea was to get them to the place where God arranged for them to live in His presence. However, those that oppressed them died in the water, they did not pass through it.
Just like that is our baptism, where the goal is not just the removal of our sin, not just to unite with Christ’s death, but with His resurrection as well. Though we pass under/through the water of baptism that which would and could separate us from Jesus does not. It died – then and there. Our oppressor and the sins which enslaved us died and lost all authority over us there.
Because God saw, and was aware of our situation, and came down to rescue us. The rescue is only the beginning, even as sending Moses to Egypt was only the beginning for Israel!
And He is still here… because He has seen, and is aware… and is with you
Flash forward 1500 years, to two more mountains, the first and encounter between another tree, and another man, another appointment arranged by God. The second mountain, where that man would turn to his apprentices, to send them back to their lives, to free others still captive in sin, still oppressed by it.
Christ would die on that cross, and I pray that everyone we come in contact would turn to look at that tree, on which God was killed, yet would live.
It is that other mountain, that I would look at, to close this sermon and lead us toward prayer. The words that we know, but again, that we miss part of at times. The words that send us back out into our worlds, back to the places where people need to know God’s love.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
All authority is invested by the Father in the Son, and even as the Father sends the Son, so He sends us. Just like Moses was sent. The key is in the other part of the passage that is underlined.
I am with you… the same message that Moses would hear… as he was sent to deliver people from bondage. The same message those people would hear, as God guided them to the Holy Land. The same promise made to us when we were called into this relationship, the same promise made to every believer, as they are sent to free others from the bondage of sin.
He is with you.
He certainly sees, He is so aware, and He’s come down to rescue us.
That’s what the tree on the mountain that wasn’t consumed by fire was really about.
That’s what the parting of the water of Red Sea was about.
That’s what the cross on another mountain is about…
That’s what the water of baptism is about..
And it is what this altar, and this meal is about…when we, as Moses was told remember His name.
7 Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue you.
And He brings us into His peace, His indescribable peace that passes all understanding, where Jesus will keep us, mind and heart, safe and secure; for the Lord dwells with you! AMEN!
Stressed? Challenged? Attacked? Oppressed? Your reaction can be Fight or Flight…….or Trust and Testify
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
11 Boaz answered her: “I have had a complete account of what you have done for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death; you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know previously. 12 May the LORD reward what you have done! May you receive a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Ruth 2:11-12 (NAB)
5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:5-10 (NLT)
Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, my mind was working through all the issues of the week, and there were a number of serious ones. Even two that sprang up a couple of hours before bed. Some will be dealt with quickly, some are going to linger for months, and all of them have the potential to cause both anxiety and worse heartache. I can often deal with the stress, and with others heartache, but when I encounter some things – and see the lack of grace, and concern for the people whom God has created, the heart ache is overwhelming.
Scientists from Biologist to Sociologists talk about such times being the mechanism which fire off a “fight or flight” response. That is, the trauma is such that we have an energy spike, and our reaction is to use that energy to run away and hide (the Elijah response – where is that cave again?) or fight (remember St. Peter in the garden with a sword?) Things get tense – and we are informed it is “natural” to feel the pull to one response or the other. Or sometimes we are paralyzed, as our minds can’t decide which to do – and the energy is release, and instead of one or the other…we simply get more anxious, more agitated.
Been there, done that, have the hole in the ground because my head was spinning so fast it turned my body into a drill bit. Fight or Flee – I want to do both right now – and so I look like Shaggy on the old scoobydo cartoons – feeting moving faster then the eye can perceive – and going no where.
For those of us whom God has claimed in the waters of Baptism – there is actually another option. It requires something more than fight or flight.
It takes remember that God is God. That He is our refuge, our strength – as Martin Luther said – he is our Fortress. (that hymn btw is not the anthem of a warrior, but the lament of those needing refuge and their joy in finding it in Christ)
The option is to trust. To have confidence in all of God’s promises – not just about being our refuge, but indeed seeing how God will bless us even more. Taking refuge as Ruth did, in God is about more than spending time in His sanctuary, it is realizing that He has made us His sanctuary. To know that God has called us to these times and these places – to testify of His love, to reveal to people His will, that He doesn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked – that He desires to bring people to reconciliation and repentance, to have Him the trust in Him – even to the extent of what He teaches.
Trust and Testify.
To know He is God, to intimately, deeply, without reservation know it. To know He is our refuge, our sanctuary. Our Hope, our love.
To testify to that – to show others how He has saved us from sin, how being in His presence, death is no longer something to be feared, To realize we don’t have to reach out to Him, but He has us in the firmly in His grasp.
Lord, help us to realize that when we cry out – Lord Have Mercy, it is for the same reason Luther said we pray “They will be done”. Not because You will not, but that we would know You have. AMEN.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“By yourself, if you don’t count on grace, you can do nothing worthwhile, for you would be cutting the link which connects you with God. With grace, on the other hand, you can do all things” (1)
Peter, James and John were on a short side trip with Jesus when the man came, looking for help. Desperate he was, to find some comfort, some rest, some refuge for his tormented son.
The apostles tried, but to no avail, what they had done before wasn’t working, for some reason they couldn’t help, they couldn’t find the power, the “dunamis” to cast out those oppressive spirits.
Mondays can be like that, as we come back to “reality”, to the grind of another week. Maybe the weekend was not a restful one, maybe it wasn’t what we expected, or maybe it was too much – and we need to recover from it! Either way, back on the job on Mondays is always difficult, even oppressive. I wouldn’t go so far as saying demonic… (well there have been some Mondays… )
But where do we find the strength for them. In the same place that Jesus instructed his men to find their strength.
“his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Mark 9:28-29 (ESV)
We were reminded on Sunday about this rtuth – that we must depend on Jesus, that we must entrust ourselves into God’s hands, to recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Yet on Mondays, so often we forget this, so often we fail to remember this. We let the situations get the best of us, we look at everything with a darkened, pessimistic view, we approach life, if not paranoid, then at least a little hesitant – wondering which trauma, which challenge, which confrontation will next pop up to bash us like a storm.
Yesterday in Sunday School I used a long quote from another pastor. Not my usual thing – but this one – despite it’s somewhat archaic language rings so true. Even though it will extend this devotion out – it is good for us to read:
” ( God’s ) Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us. “(2)
In closing consider this – you look at Catholic Saints like St Josemarie Escriva, you look at protestant preachers like Spurgeon, or hymn writers like Wimber or Newton or Wesley and Luther – the one common thread they have – is that we have to trust – we have to depend on God’s presence in our life. Not just to get into heaven, but to enjoy the life eternal that starts when God makes us his…
Cry out Lord have mercy my friends, and know He has, He is, and He will…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.