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How Important is Our Belief In Jesus?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.  Job 19:25-27 HCSB

22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, j not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.  Acts 20:22-24 HCSB

15 These are the most necessary parts of Christian instruction. We should learn to repeat them word for word.
16 Our children should be taught the habit of reciting them daily when they rise in the morning, when they go to their meals, and they go to bed at night; until they repeat them they should not be given anything to eat or drink.
17 Every father has the same duty to his household; he should dismiss man-servants and maid-servants if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them.
18 Under no circumstances should a person be tolerated if he is so rude and unruly that he refuses to learn these three parts in which everything contained in Scripture is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms,
19 for the dear fathers or apostles, whoever they were,7 have thus summed up the doctrine, life, wisdom, and learning which constitute the Christian’s conversation, conduct and concern.

579    Faith. It’s a pity to see how frequently many Christians have it on their lips and yet how sparingly they put it into their actions. You would think it a virtue to be preached only, and not one to be practiced.

If you read the words from Luther in blue above, they might seem a bit extreme.  Over the top.  Harsh.  One might even accuse him of child neglect or abuse for insisting that children don’t eat until they can repeat them. (please notice it says repeat them)  And employees be terminated for not knowing them?  Isn’t that a bit much?

Then look at St. Josemaria’s words, decrying the life-less faith of those who can say they believe, but that belief doesn’t impact their lives.  They can preach it, they can state the arguments, but there is something missing.  One might even ask if they truly have faith if they depend on the Jesus they confess to with their words.

We need to have the kind of dependence on God that we see in Job, or in Paul.  One was encountering great trauma (and then it was greatly compounded by his wife and wise counselors) and the other, went where everyone told him not to go because the Spirit revealed to them the pain and trauma he would endure.

Job said no matter how bad it gets, he knew God would be faithful and would raise him from the dead just so he could be with God.  Paul corrected them, noting that the chains and afflictions were easily worth it, knowing that people’s salvation was at stake, knowing that without knowing God, there would be no comfort, no solace, no serenity found in the midst of life.

So how does our faith, our ability to depend on the God whom we can’t see, grow?  Is it possible to have the faith of Job, Paul, Luther, or Escriva?  Or are they just heroes of the faith that we cannot hope to be like?

For myself, my faith, my dependence on God grows or deepens, the more I encounter God’s love.  Whether that encounter is at the Altar, sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper with others who are struggling, whether it is in studying the word and teaching it.  Whether it is in times of prayer.

Perhaps the greatest times of growth occur when I hit rock bottom.  When I have no other option, no other hope, and I cry out to God.  I may cry out for a day, or even a week, but in the end, I find out He was always there.  In the end, I realize where He was working in my life, especially in the words of those who pointed me to God’s mercy and peace. It is then what I was taught in the basic tenets of our faith, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the promises attached to the sacraments also cause me to be still, to catch my breath, to know that He is God.  Our God.

This is why those that went before us are so insistent that we learn these basic things. It is critical, for people were right in the 80’s.  Life can be a bitch, and in the end, we die.  But for those who know God, even then, in our flesh we will see God, our Redeemer.  And until then, depending on Him, we can live in a peace that doesn’t make sense, kept there by Jesus himself.

Depend on it.  He who promised this is faithful.  AMEN!

Lord, have mercy upon us, and grant us the ability to depend on you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 363). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1383-1386). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Necessity of Martyrdom, our Martyrdom.

Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Nazarene and Cross
10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

21  But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the LORD and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.” 2 Samuel 15:21 (NLT) 

I’ve seen all over the Facebook and Twitter the Arabic letter Nain.  Most are putting it up; they claim, in solidarity with the Christians in Mosul and Iraq who are facing persecution and reportedly are being martyred.  The story goes that it is the letter that is being painted on the homes of Christians, to mark and identify them.  It’s a handy little symbol and stands for “Nazarene.”  People are free to harass, persecute and even kill those who live in those homes.

I haven’t seen necklaces and wristbands with the symbol on it yet, but I am pretty sure some entrepreneur will develop them soon.

It’s popular; it’s in vogue, it makes us somehow feel like we are doing something against the evil in their lands.

Most of us aren’t. We may change the photo on our FB.  We might even donate an extra 10 or 20 bucks in the offering plate and designate it for relief.  We might have heard them added to our prayers at church on Sunday, and said amen under our breath. (that assumes we were there, and heard the prayers)

But are we really willing to go to Iraq and stand beside them, and/or take their punishment?  ( Sometime read the story of the martyrdom of Maximilian Kolbe – a catholic saint who did that very thing!)   How far are we willing to take this fight?

And what fight is it?  Is it a fight against injustice, the fight for making sure that no one ever suffers persecution.  It’s a fight that no one ever has to faith death because of their faith?

Or is the fight something against something more insidious, something more evil, evil incarnate, the power of Satan. The power of the one who would accuse us of the sins we have committed and demand that we pay for each and everyone.

Revelation is clear on how that evil is defeated.

1.  By remembering that Christ’s death, the shedding of His Blood cleanses, purifies and sanctifies us.  That God declares us righteous and just because of that blood being shed.

2.  By the words of our martyrdom, the words of  our witness.  It is interesting to note that martyrdom and witness are the same word in Greek. That we are so in awe of #1 that we have to share it with others, That God’s love and desire to save us transforms us into wanting others saved, even at great cost.  For some that means they will dedicate their lives to serving wherever God wants, even if it means forgoing things the rest of us take for granted.  Families, homes. jobs, personal pleasure. For others, it may mean their life.

For all of us, it means sacrificing the idol of self and pleasure.  If we aren’t willing to do even that, can we say we stand in solidarity with those who

3.  #1 and #2 lead to this – that we can’t love our life so much that we aren’t willing to sacrifice, or even portions of it (say a day off or a vacation, or even time with family) that others might know.

Paul talks of standing in solidarity, standing in communion, when he encourages the church to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”  He does it again as he asks us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Jesus’ words about those that would save their life must offer it up.   In each, solidarity is not seen apart from martyrdom,  In each we take up our cross, we willingly pay the price that others would know that God can be trusted, even through death

It goes deeper – for we are united with Christ’s martyrdom, with His witness, with His cross.  There is where we find our salvation, our deliverance, in the fact that He didn’t cling to life, but gave up Himself, for us.  You see that Nazarene died for us, even as some die for Him, even as we who live are living sacrifices to Him. Without His cross – without our unity to Him in it, our symbolism is void and worthless.

May we embrace whatever shame, whatever cost, whatever sacrifice is necessary, for the joy that was set before Him and before us.

Lord have mercy on us!

Why I Love the Old Testament

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day 

4  And all these things which were written so long ago were written so that we, learning perseverance and the encouragement which the scriptures give, should have hope.  Romans 15:4 (NJB)

“By reading,” you wrote me, “I build   up a store of fuel. It seems a lifeless pile, but I often find that my mind spontaneously draws from it material which fills my prayer with life and inflames my thanksgiving after communion.”  (1)

Tomorrow morning I find myself preaching on the Old Testament again. As is my habit, early in the week I asked a question that helps me see where people where at.  One of the responses was basically, :we are in the New Coveant, why worry about all that old history?”  The person was basically questioning whether the Old Testament was relevant to us.

There are a number of reasons I can think of….including those written above:

St. Paul’s comment to the church in Rome goes directly to the heart of the matter.  Hope. The expectation that God will see us through the matter, that God not only will be looking after us from heaven, but that He is with us through it all.  Look at the Old Testament as a love story, between God and the one (HIs people) He is working to make the Bride of Christ,  God’s passion for the people He would call His own is infinitely more than any chick-flick ever endured by man…

And that devotion of God, that love, that desire – we see illustrated over and over in the Old Testament.   The more time I spend in Isaiah, or Exodus, or Jeremiah… well in any book – the more that desire is revealed.

Even to the extent that God is willing to look past our sin, to clean us up (remember Hosea and Gomer) that none of us in unreachable, unredeemable.  That we don’t have to hide from God – as so many did, that we don’t need to make up excuses.  That we, to paraphrase Luther – sin boldly – that we might boldly go before the throne of God.  We can’t do that if we hide, or if we justify our sins, or if we simply ignore God.

That is where St. Josemaria’s interaction with one of his students comes into such clarity for me.  As I have ministered to the dieing, to those incarcerated, to those in crisis – whether they realize it or not, to those in bondage to sin; the Old Testament becomes a wonderful resource for revealing to people God’s faithfulness, God’s merciful love (see the word cHesed).The resources just spring to mind, the love of God is so carefully documented and chronicled.  His pain over His people’s sin and immorality – yet His steadfast work to call them back, to clean them up again, so marvellous.  His presence through the valley of the shadow of death, ours, our friends, our children (see King David) so incredible.

How could I not want to share this with the people I care about?  How could I not desire that they know His faithfulness?

Yes, I love to preach on the Old Testament – for it testifies of Christ, and it gives me hope – even as I see His people live in the hope that was even harder to see fulfilled – but was, completely in Christ Jesus.

The Old Testament?  The record of people crying out, “Lord have Mercy!”  And the answer, over and over… “yes my people, I will be merciful – for I, the Lord God, love you!”

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 417-419). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Narcissism in the Church today….breaking it down so “they” can say AMEN!

First United Lutheran Church ca.1890

First United Lutheran Church ca.1890 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 19  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. 20  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. 21  It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. 22  “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. 23  If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! 24  “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. Matthew 6:19-24 (MSG)

Saint John tells us that the other enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep-seated avariciousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, then, use this expression of Sacred Scripture to indicate that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us—other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age—with just human vision. Then the eyes of our soul grow dull. Reason proclaims itself sufficient to understand everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation, which hides behind the power of our intellect, given by our Father God to man so that he might know and love him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human mind appoints itself the center of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect that “you shall be like gods.”22 So filled with love for itself, it turns its back on the love of God. (1)

When we hear the words of the gospel, we often look to our society, to the excess of things that people have.  The chasing after the faster car, the nicer home, the bigger screen.  Some of it comes as well as we think about our children or grandchildren, and we want “the best” for them as well.  The best schools, the best universities, the best spouses.  All around us is this culture of narcissism, and yes, even among us in the church as we buy into the ways of the world.

But it can slip into the church in a different way as well – when we demand that the church meet our needs, that it provides for us.  That the worship service provide what we think we need, that the beauty there is for us to enjoy, that everything in the church revolves around its members – for isn’t the church here to minister to “us”?  You want to know whether a church is healthy or narcisstic?  Look at where it’s treasures are.  Is the budget and the best resources, focused on ministering inward?  Or is it on ministering to those around us – and we the center of the church’s work.  Does the church find comfort in its own secret language, in being anti-cultural instead of counter-cultural?  What about the music – and the sermons?  Do we want the sin confronted to be the sins in our community, or are we willing to have our sins addressed, with both the law that nails them to the cross – and the grace that cleanses us of them? Is the beauty of our liturgy, our sanctuaries, our Bible translations and sermons and our music such that someone who is not familiar with the church, will perceive God’s glory during the service?  Or is it all about those within the church?

Or are we willing to be such a church, that we see what Paul is really saying to the church in Corinth,

 16  Otherwise, if you say your blessing only with the spirit, how is the uninitiated person going to answer ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, without understanding what you are saying? 17  You may be making your thanksgiving well, but the other person is not built up at all. 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 (NJB)  

Paul is telling us, that church doesn’t exist just to encourage the individual – especially the individual who already has been baptized, gifted with faith and repentance, and sealed as God’s child.  The world doesn’t revolve around the believer, nor should the church.  Instead, we are called to love as Christ loved, to submit ourselves to others our of reverence for Christ, to die to self.

For interestingly, it is then, as we willing lose our life – that we find it, and in dieing to self – we truly live.

So this week – as you receive God’s love – see who God is sending you to… to love so well – that they find themselves saying Amen….

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 475-484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Sacrifice greater than Chocolate, or Caffeine, or Alcohol or even Bacon

Lenten Devotional, Discussion thought:

Love for God invites us to shoulder the Cross squarely: to feel on our back the weight of the whole human race, and to fulfil, in the circumstances of our own situation in life and the job we have, the clear and at the same time loving designs of the Will of the Father.(1)

We are in Lent, a time where many people sacrifice something for a season, in order that they can focus more clearly on God.  Sometimes these things are things we are mildly addicted to – (see the list above ) or aren’t the greatest things for us.

As I look at the quote of St Josemaria above, I find a sacrifice that is harder than the minor addictions.  Like yesterday’s sermon, I wonder if we do see the weight of the world that Christ bore, that as we are in Him, as His will becomes our will?  Do we weep, as Paul did, over the enemies of the cross of Christ, as we realize what they are missing?  Or as Jesus did, as He expresses the desire that the people of God (i.e. Jerusalem) would respond to His offers of compassion and mercy?

Hear clearly, bearing the weight of Christ’s cross doesn’t mean we have to be crucified, but we are untied, we become one with His as He is.  We understand why – the great love which would result in joy as people are freed from bondage to sin.  We begin to see that our enemy isn’t the flesh and blood that irritate and antagonizes and pushes the buttons that set off our anger, our desire for vengeance, but Satan.

We realize that God’s desire, His will, is that those people come to know Him, that they hear His word, often because we are the ones who are sent, and make sacrifices, that they can.

There is a Lenten sacrifice that will bear much fruit…or…bacon.

Lord have mercy on us, that we might show Your mercy to this world!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2925-2927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Where do we Abide?

Where do we Abide?

Philippians 3:17–4:1

 

Jesus, Son and Savior

May your life find its focus in the gifts of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, His mercy, His peace. His love, but mostly, in His presence!

 

The Tears of Paul, the Cry of Jesus 

Knowing His past, the way in which he dealt with the enemies of what he perceived his faith to be, these words of Paul testify to His coversion, the transformation that had occurred in his life, as he came to know the love of God.

Hear them again,


18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

Hear His reaction – it is not one of anger, of lust for revenge, but one of great sorrow, of great sadness.

I say it again with tears in my eyes,

It is the reaction, not of a crusader, but of one who has been rescued from brokenness, whose heart has known the healing of being raised from worthlessness and given life and meaning, who has been called to be loved….

And grieves when he sees others who refuse such a call….to live in Christ
It is the attitude that Paul would encourage us all to imitate – the example he tried to set, even as Paul would imitate the Lord who came to him, and called him.  We hear the same attitude in Jesus’ cry to the people of God in today’s gospel,

34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.

 

Indeed, Paul had become much like his Lord Jesus… and now he calls to us, to become like him, to follow the path of Christ trod, finding our strength in the God’s presence, and looking forward with Joy, even as we dwell now as citizens of heaven, as the people of God, whom He protects and loves and heals…
Do We Know the Price of Condemnation?

Most of us would hesitate before condemning someone to hell, most of us wouldn’t say “Go to Hell” in anger, or “I hope they burn in Hell” even about the people whom we can only see as “evil”, as they practice which is evil.  I have seen similar reactions recently, heard them or read them on internet, against the likes of Jerry Sandusky, or Chris Dorner.

Even while we may not actively hope that others would go to hell, do we passively let others continue on their merry way towards Hell?  Does it bother us, as it did the apostle Paul to the point that we cry over such people?  Even our enemies? Or maybe we don’t want them to suffer eternally, just a period of time we would consider fair and equitable. 

Do we realize that those who oppose Christ, who disdain or passively dismiss the cross are headed for destruction?  Or do we just go about our own lives, going by the old saying, “live and let live?” Do we realize that such a attitude is against what scripture teaches about loving your neighbor?  Is it loving to allow anyone to head towards experiencing the wrath of God?

Paul says these people are heading to destruction.  The word there isn’t destruction as they might lose their house or their job, or that their families and lives will fall apart in this life. It is talking about destruction as in eternal – as in their complete separation from love, and life, and goodness.  Total and complete.  Do we weep for them?

Do we weep for those who oppose the cross of Christ, who deny mercy, who contend with the gospel, who put stumbling blocks in the ways of those who God would have them call out to?  (It is funny that in the context of this passage – Paul is talking about people in the church!)

How many people do we know who are described as Paul describes those he is dealing with?

Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

What a sad way to be described – to realize that our emotions, our “appetites” could have so much control over us. To realize that people can be co confused that they would choose that which is disgraceful over what is good and right and a benefit to themselves and to others, whose choices are selfish and narcissistic and hurt others..

Do we respond to such people in anger?  Or is sorrow and tears, grieving how they have chosen to separate themselves from God’s love and mercy?

Do we fall into a reaction that nurtures our appetites, that speaks the truth without love, which becomes condescending and shameful, and is only about that which occurs here on earth?

How do we learn to react as Paul began to react?  How do we follow his steps, even as Paul learned to walk as Christ had?

Knowing our End, our Destination,

Paul gives us what he found to be his answer, there in verse 20.

20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.

While the focus of those we are to weep for, pray for is on what makes their life here better or easier, our focus is based on whose we are, whose kingdom we are citizens of, to whom we owe our loyalty.

I think we misunderstand this – when we talk of being in the Kingdom of heaven, and for that reason, we’ll talk about it more in Bible Study.  But for now, our answer to not being like those whose lives cause us anger – if we respond inappropriately, or sorrow, if we respond like Christ, is to remember where we live, to remember whose kingdom we belong to, to dwell in Christ, and under His rule.

It is here, in our experience at the altar, that we begin to see this.  If we see this time and this place, not so much as a routine, or a duty, but a meal with our Father, a time where we remember where our homeland is, a time to look forward to our going home.

A number of people have asked me how I liked the food in China.  It’s kind of funny, because the Cajun food was good, the American restaurants were fine, the Italian was as good as in Italy – maybe better!  Even though I worked a with some Chinese nationals, a lot of time was spent ministering to our missionaries, folks who were there with a purpose, but who hearts and lives were lived in view of “home”.  They needed a reminder of where they were from – even more spiritually than physically.

Likewise it is for us, we are here in Cerritos, as God’s ambassadors, as missionaries ourselves.  A lot of our lives is lived in being “homesick” for heaven.  That is why communion becomes so central, so necessary in our lives.  Our communion feast is the “missionary team dinner” at Red Garlic, or up on the Peak at Bubba Gump – a time to look forward to our going home to be with our family, the angels and archangels and whole company of heaven.

Please understand, I am not saying Christ isn’t with us 24/7/365, but that this time is a special one, where we encourage each other, and are encouraged to dwell in God’s presence, where our hearts and minds are re-focused on God’s love, and the extent that His love is there for us, healing us, providing for us.

It is a moment in our week of being home…

Until the time our weak mortal humble bodies are found transformed into glorious bodies… for the same power that is at work then, has been at work, as all things have come into His kingdom, as He reigns and guides and protects, His people…

As we dwell in peace, and yes, weep over those who have yet to know that peace, or who confuse and bind others and prove themselves lacking in it..

This peace is yours, people of God, this peace of our Father, which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds as we dwell, citizens of where our Lord reigns… and cares for His people.

AMEN?

In Trouble? Call Collect!

Call Collect!
Romans 10:8-13

IHS

May you realize the grace and peace given to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and may your life reveal it to our broken world!

 

If you get in trouble, call collect!

I still remember hearing the words, as I went out the door on February 13, 1981, my gosh, 32 years ago this week.  I had just gotten my license two days before, and as I left the house, to go pick up my buddy John Cartier and the two girls that were supposed to go skating with, I heard these words…
if you get into trouble, remember – you can call us collect!”

So I hopped in my first car, a very fast Pontiac Astra – and headed out, not thinking about the words much.

 

As I was writing this sermon, I was thinking how odd it is this sermon illustration has run its course – the people younger than 30 will never understand it!  The kids today can call on their cells, text, even drop pictures of the car with the flat tire.  Or skype their parents – even if they are on the other side of the world!   I mean – when was the last time you saw a pay-phone anyway?

Calling collect?  Wow – that was a big thing back then!  It cost so much money!  It was only for emergencies, or perhaps, to call a grandparent on a birthday.

That was the big thing about it – being given the assurance that my parents would help – or at least try to help if I found myself in trouble.  Even if it meant I was calling collect from whatever problem I would find myself.  They would be there.  Looking back – a very special promise.

If you need to be saved…

          Do you? That’s the walk of Lent!

          The irony of a 40 day temporary change!

 

Generally, there were only two reasons to call collect in the old days.  Incredibly joyous news, or oh boy, were you in trouble.  Cell phones and skype are used now – the incredible technology we only dream of in comic books back in the day.

But you can still call collect if you are in trouble, matter of fact at county jail that is the only way you can call someone, I hope you all never find out how very, very expensive it is.

As we look at Paul’s epistle today, there is a similar call that is encouraged. As Paul tells us, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved!”


It is logical- that if you call on someone to save you, that there is something serious going on, and it isn’t a good thing!  Especially for us guys – because we will take something that is a minor problem – and before we call someone else for help – we have turned it into a major crisis.

That is so often with the sin in our lives, as one sin leads to another sin, and rather than confess our sin, we end up creating a major war. Even so, one sin is enough to render us broken, one crisis caused by someone else’s sin enough to render us useless.

It is part of our walk during lent, to survey the damage that sin has caused, the problems and divisions, the anger and resentment and hurt, and to realize, just as my parents did – God encourages us to call out to Him –that we may be rescued!

It’s a pretty harsh thing – to look at the brokenness caused by generations of sin, but our generations aren’t innocent either – just the sins of the past months would be a harsh devastation to face for most of us.  Yet, looking at such isn’t about creating within us a level of guilt or shame, or disgrace.  For as Paul reminds us,

“As the scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced!”

That is the thing about knowing we have the ability to call collect – the assurance that though we are in trouble, we won’t be turned away – that there is almost an expectation that someday, we will be in a situation where our parents, or our close friends, may need to rescue us.

If our parents were so willing to care, how much more does God – who paid the price for our “collect call”, as Christ hung on the cross.

That is what church is about; a bunch of God’s kids reminding each other that God isn’t impossible to get to!  That God isn’t going to be upset at us, when we call out to him to rescue us, or to rescue someone else who we care about – to rescues those who’ve we hurt, and even those who have hurt us.

That is what is so incredible, that God knowing our lives, the temptations we would face, the struggles we would have, the sin we would commit, planned and paid for all of our collect calls.

Indeed, it is even our normal thing to call, it is something that God places in our hearts, in our lives,  It is the power of the Holy Spirit, working through God’s word, as it is communicated to others, that brings us to the point where we can call.  Where, tired of the burdens we bear, tired of the hurts, tired of the stress in our lives and in the lives of those we love… we are compelled to reach out to the hand that has been offered, as we realize the price has been paid for the call…already

Is it time to call?

          Generously He Gives

He answers all – Judean and Greek
None are disgraced!

There have been days where I thought that this passage was only about our call to faith, that it was a passage that a pastor or preacher would use at a revival, to assure us that our prayers to be saved would be heard, and having taken care of that, we could go about our lives, joyfully, complete.

We have a Lord who gives generously scripture tells us. A Lord who we can call on as we deal with all the struggles we have in this life, as He answers all of us, no matter our ethnicity, or our age, none who call on His Name – is disgraced.  For that is why we’ve been given it – to call upon in need. We can call on Him anytime, in any place, and know that He is there.  Ready to show mercy, ready to clean up the mess, ready to heal our brokenness, ready to heal and help us back on the road.

The sermon is short today, with a reason.  It’s time to call upon His name – to give us time to call on God’s name – to extend our prayer time out a little, to take Him at His word.

That relieved of all stress, of all burdens, of all the sin and unrighteousness we deal with, and which we think about at this time, that our hearts and voices, undisgraced, can rejoice that indeed, His message, His declaration of love, is indeed on our lips.. and in our hearts.

AMEN.

The Shared Life of Community

Devotional Thought as I prepare to leave Jiangmen

25 And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 27 All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (TEV)
14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Romans 12:14-16 (TEV)

“ Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God—your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles? You can… and you must!” (1)

As I prepare to leave this city of Jiangmen, and head off to Macau, I am again consumed by a sense of homesickness, of missing my wife and son, and the people I fellowship. Yet in just a few days, I have come to like this city, its people, the road that runs beside the river with its trees, the noise and neon lights, the contrast of high-rises next to 100 year old brick and stone buildings. The people greeting me with a very enthusiastic “Jo-san” (not sure if spelling is correct)

The people aren’t different.  All have their hopes, their fears, the things they would hide, the laughter that reveals both mirth, and yet…. pain.  It is the same in America, or here in China, and in Italy, and in all the world.  Indeed, some of us, are so used to the tears and pain, I am not sure we know how to deal with estatic joy.

The challenge is to realize that God didn’t mean for us to bear our burdens alone.  They are meant to be shared.  Some couples can do this – yet – many cannot.  Never mind sharing both our joys and sorrows with our church families.  Or our fears and anxieties. The very thought causes more fear and anxiety.

We so need to realize the dynamic that happens when we are joined with Christ.  In each book that Paul writes, there is a need to address our community of faith – not just the local church but the church in its entirety.  We are joined together, and completely and intimately as we are joined with God – because we are joined in God.

That is how both our joys and pains can both serve God, not because we force them to by an act of will, but because they do as we are united in Christ.  It’s the outcome of who we are. For if indeed our bodies are living sacrifices, then everything we do and think and experience and feel – yes our emotions, becomes part of God’s tapestry – and can be used to glorify Him….

I think that is what has made this trip so memorable – seeing God bring home to me the unity of those He has made one in the faith.  Whether it be the pastors showing me their churches, the young Americans here to teach, the people I’ve been able to meet with and pray with….  God is there… having created a dynamic relationship – in Him

As we work together, one body, united in Christ. No walls dividing us, not age or ethnicity, not gender or intellect, not even sin….

That is what it means to be one holy, catholic and apostolic people who God has called together… in Him.

Go and embrace the work God does in your life today…knowing He is with you.
 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2505-2507). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Get’Erdone and Gotterdienst – the Church and the Work of God

devotional thought of the day (or technically tomorrow for some of you- since I am already there!)
If you are familiar with redneck comedy, or  Vicar Mark, those words should sound familiar.

Maybe it is because of lieing awake at 3 am that this comes to mind – after 24 plus hours in planes, airport terminals – losing a day and finding myself feeling somewhat alone in a city of 12 million.

But I can’t hear get’erdone without thinking of it’s German relative Gotterdienst. Which translates (or so I’ve been told) as God’s work or God’s service.   (similar to the Latin Opus Dei)

WE talk about Gotterdienst as a name for the gathering when God’s people come together – and His work is done in their midst.  He brings mercy and peace to them as He gives them the ability to trust and repentance.  We are transformed in His presence, and begin to serve Him – with our praises, with our words, with our lives.

It is all His work, really – even as He works through us – preparing us for the day when we are all before His throne – as we celebrate the wedding feast of the lamb.

I love how St Paul describes this work in Ephesians

Ephesians 5:25ff (Phillips NT) 25 But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for her. Christ gave himself to make her holy, having cleansed her through the baptism of his Word – to make her an altogether glorious Church in his eyes. She is to be free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement – a Church holy and perfect. 28 Men ought to give their wives the love they naturally have for their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her. Nobody ever hates or neglects his own body; he feeds and looks after it. And that is what Christ does for his body, the Church. And we are all members of that body, we are his flesh and blood! ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. The marriage relationship is doubtless a great mystery, but I am speaking of something deeper still – the marriage of Christ and his Church. 

Such is truly a beautiful thing – this work of Christ which makes us, His church, His people – glorious in His eyes.  Perhaps that is why St Paul also wrote

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NJB) 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.

In other words – God is at work – truly – He is ministering to us – and if the church the the “er” in the get’erdone – then Gottesdienst means pretty much the same thing.

Rejoice my friends, for God is at work, in you…… and with Paul, I can confidently say:

Philippians 1:6 (NJB) 6 I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes.

Godspeed – from tomorrow!

Today is the Day…. (gulp) please pray!

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

Fifteen hours from now, I will board a airplane and head west…into tomorrow.

When I get to my destination, I will get to meet with Christians, to preach and teach and hear how God is with these people in a land foreign to me.

Have to admit – while I am looking forward to the experience, I also have a bit of trepidation, and more a sense of “why me”.   Some of you know that feeling, when God brings you to a place that you aren’t quite comfortable with, that you do not feel perfectly equipped for, that you think – “can’t God find someone…. better, someone wiser, someone more trained and equipped, someone more charismatic, or.. just someone else!”

I have heard all the cliche’s, (and unfortunately, ashamedly,  used them once or twice…)  You know the “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called” type of nonsense.  God knows what He is doing, of that I have no doubt, but we are trained, our lives have come to these moments, and the Spirit is working in us.  Yet…. the trepidation still remains.

In such times – it is good to look at those that went forth with the gospel in scripture.  (Ignoring the obvious fact that in the Old Testament most of them were killed…. and in the New Testament… yeah…same problem)  Paul writes often of the partnership he had with those who prayed for him.

Ephesians 6:19 (ESV) 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, (don’t look at the next verse… okay – at least I won’t.)

Colossians 4:3-4 (ESV) 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak

2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV) 1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, (again, the next verse… well uhm…yeah – don’t look!)

And of course, as I did my usual light reading this morning at the end of devotions, I came across:

664      During a war, the courage of the soldiers facing the enemy would be of little use if there were not others who seem to take no part in the struggle but who supply the fighting men with armaments and food and medicines… Without the prayer and sacrifice of many souls there would be no genuine apostolate of action. (1)

In a real way, you are that supply line for me, you are those whose prayers are as much part of my mission trip, as anything I do, anything I bring.  Knowing that some of you are praying will remind me of Christ’s work in us, and prayerfully, in the people I minister to. So, obviously, I am asking for your prayers, to still my soul, to help me reflect God’s love, to be able to do what Paul and  Isaiah described so well:

 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (ESV)

 4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taughtIsaiah 50:4 (ESV)

May these things, be true of my ministry overseas during the next 2 weeks… and may God’s grace be evident – with you, as well as with them.

Thanks for the prayers!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2442-2445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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