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Dwelling in Jesus…is more incredible that we can know (for now)


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

97      Renew each day the effective desire to empty yourself, to deny yourself, to forget yourself, to walk in novitiate census, with a new life, exchanging this misery of ours for all the hidden and eternal grandeur of God.  (1)

Since teaching through Colossians a couple of years ago, these words in red above seem to resonate with me more and more.  I have written about them before, and will probably do so again. 

I think they are critical for us to understand, this idea of our “real life”, a life which seems hidden, a life which is easily overlooked and forgotten, a life that is found at the throne of God.

THat’s where we belong, it is our eternal life.  The life that began when God circumcised our hearts, cutting away the sin and unrighteousness as He baptized us.  That was the conversation in the previous chapter in St. Paul’s letter to these saints.

But in chapter 3 he gets to the impact of that cleansing, the difference it makes in our lives today, and every day that will come.  He talks of our eternal life as our real life, our reality.    He urges us to set our hearts on this dance with God the Father, Son and Spirit.  The dance we’ve been invited too, and see glimpses of, even if our mind cannot clearly picture it.

If our mind cannot, our hearts and soul can be set on this.  For our hearts are better at knowing we are loved, knowing we are forgiven, and being able to accept the mysteries that our minds can’t fathom.

But as our hearts settle there, we dwell in the peace of God, we lose ourselves, yet find our life in Jesus.  For everything changes, from our priorities, to our relationships, from what we “need” to how we view those around us.

So today, think about the glory of heaven and come to realize with your heart that not only do you have a place there… you are already in His presence… 

and rejoice in that peace!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 556-558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Comfortable In Your Faith? Some Thoughts as We Approach Lent.


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

Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25  But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

938    Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.

As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have.  From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.

Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you.  Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics.  Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.

And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.

What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change?  What if the sacrifices became our way fo life?  What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?

Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God?  Is this even a desire in our lives?  Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God?  Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth?  Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?

This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Out of Sight? Out of Mind?


pope-francis-on-the-building-of-the-churchDevotional Thought of The Day:

33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl;p instead, he puts it on the lamp-stand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.”  Luke 11:33-36  TEV

Constantine the Great, having written with great respect to St. Anthony, the religious about him were greatly astonished. “Why,” said he, “do you feel astonished that a king should write to a man? Be astonished, rather, that the Eternal God should have written down his law to mortal men; yea, more, should have spoken to them by word of mouth in the person of his Son.”  (1)

God does not want
a house built by people,
but faithfulness to his word
and acceptance of his design.
It is God himself
who builds the house
but of living stones
marked by his Spirit.

It is a blessing for parents of toddlers, this truth that out of sight, out of mind.  

Yet it is true for us as adults as well, and then can become a curse if we aren’t careful.  For the longer our eyes are taken off of something, the easier it is for us to forget and even neglect that which was once all important. 

Like God.

We can forget Him, if not completely, then enough to obscure who He is, what He has instilled in us.

His peace, His comfort, His mercy, His love.

And what it means to live life in reflection of that love.  What Pope Francis calls “His design”, what He wills, the plans He has laid out for us. The more we neglect seeing Chirst in our lives, the more sin reigns, the more it makes sense, the more it offers false comfort, quickly fading imitations of joy, and quickly tires us out. A lack of seeing Christ leasd us to a life we cannot be satisfied with, on that quickly turns toxic, as we do what is right in our own eyes. 

We need to regain this vision of Christ, we need to let His light enter through our eyes, to contemplate, to think about, to become enlightened to the depth of His love for us, His people, His family.  We need to realize that not only did God love us enough to guide our lives with His law. but that He revealed us the love in and through Jesus.  

He is our light, He is our life, and our thoughts need to be infused by the presence of our God.  Not as in a rote behavior, or religious obligation, but as our very life.  With the joy that comes from walking with One whose love for you is proven over and over. 

So fill your eyes with Him! Fill your mind with those things that we praise Him for, things that are true, noble, holy, just, pure, lovely, sacrificial, (see Phil.4:8)   

He is with you!

AMEN!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

(1)  Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

That Manger Has A Specific Message for You.


Image result for coke nativityDevotional Thought fo the Day:

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 36Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. 37For there is nothing that God cannot do.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.  Luke 1:35-38 TEV

18  “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see. 19  “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! 20  “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.
Revelation 3:18-20 (MSG)

The second (step to learning mental prayer (1)  ) means to place yourself in his sacred presence is, to reflect that God is not only in the place where you are, but that He is, after a most particular manner, in your heart, nay, in the very centre of your soul, which He enlivens and animates by his divine presence, being there as the heart of your heart, and the spirit of your spirit; for as the soul, being diffused through the whole body, is present.  (2)

Wednesday nights, we’ve been looking at the incarnation for something unique, as we find in the night’s darkness that is shattered by the glory of God, the reason we love Him with everything we are.  As we learn why our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind cry out for his love.

Francis de Sales wrote something quite similar, which appeared in my morning devotional readings.  Teaching a lady about prayer, he commented as you see above.  An intimacy we each have, because of the incarnation.  Just as Mary’s womb bore Jesus, just as He became incarnate there, so too does he become incarnate in the very center our soul. He comes into us, makes Himself home, so incredibly home that He intertwines himself into who we are.

Think of this, as through Mary’s umbilical cord shared her and his blood, so too our life and his life circulate within us because He is there.

That is how He “enlivens (the old quicken in the Creeds) and animates us by His presence. He clothes us, He heals, He corrects and comforts.

All because he is there, in your heart, in the depth of your soul.

He’s there, knocking at the door to you and me…for we are the people he loves. Read that second quote again, and hear His knock….and His desire to be incarnate, to be entwined in your heart and soul, to be your life blood.

May you answer, as Mary did – “may it happen to me as you have said…”

AMEN

(1)  The first step is simply to that God is everywhere, and in everything.

(2) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Tired at Work? of Work? Me too! Yet….



Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17  And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NAB)

23  Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, 24  knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.   Colossians 3:23-24 (NAB)

277    You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.”  (1)

It is Friday, and I am sitting in my office, trying to get my act together, to prepare an inspiring sermon.  I’m tired, my allergies are not helping! Neither is a sore back.  I want to whine and complain and go home and escape into a television show, or more likely a book.

And I know even those who aren’t tired are counting down the hours until the work day is over, and then get that rush of energy which signifies that it is the weekend!

O wait – the laundry needs, to be done, the garage cleaned, the …..

The energy drains and we are back to being tired.

As I was reading this morning, I was reading the book of Colossians, lots of good rich teaching in that work of Paul. Could have written about anything from preaching and baptism to the fact we dwell in and for Christ.  IN fact, I was thinking about writing on the incredible song of praise that starts in 1:15, until I got to Josemaria’s writings, and the quote in blue above.

“Tired and abandoning my work….”

Uhm, yeah – I have not only been there, I am there.

And the ministry waits… and yet the cross has no body…

Will I bear my cross?

Part of me wants to say no, I’m too tired.  I hear the invitation to bear the cross as one demanding more sacrifice.

Then I remember the other cross, the one where I am there, and His body has taken it up. There love is revealed in all of its fullness, where I find hope beyond belief.  Where joy is the focus, not the shame (see Heb 12:1-3) Where I am invited to die with Him, that I may live with Him.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether my work is writing a manuscript from which to preach from, or listening to a co-worker, or a friend. “Whatever you do” Paul reminds us – all of it do in God’s name, for His glory, knowing we have already been guaranteed a reward of all of eternity, sharing in His glory.

To run to bear our cross, to embrace the work, even the suffering is not just a challenge, it is an opportunity to experience God, to know His presence that sustains us.  For while we were nailed to a cross with Christ, He is with us, as we bear our cross.

Knowing that, the work takes on a new meaning, a time of contemplation, a time where His peace overwhelms my brokenness, my tiredness.

God is with you, share the work with Him, as a child shares their work with their dad.

Have a blessed Friday!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

What Sex Can Teach us About our Relationship with God.


Devotional Thought for the Day:

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6NAB-RE

Men experience the preciousness of things, and experience it fully, only in the company of those who share their enjoyment; in this way, they become aware of the festive quality of an existence that is so often hostile and ill-humored in their regard but is present at a meal, as it were, with open hands, with a gesture of lavish generosity, of unrestrained joy. This liberality of existence, which is rich and bestows itself freely, is an intrinsic part of a meal. The same is true of a wedding. In it, the elevation of the biological process of sexual attraction to a fundamental spiritual act of Eros, of the human being’s loving transcendence of self, is crystallized, epitomized, and confirmed. Here, too, we experience the liberal graciousness of existence, which grants us the festive wonder of a love we cannot force but that comes to us of its own accord, takes us by surprise and overwhelms us, transforms our life, gives us a new inner center, and even, in moments of ecstatic bliss, confers on us a foretaste of a life that is brighter and fuller than our everyday life.  (1)

I’ve been known to use the phrase “intimate relationship with God” more than once, and more than in one setting.  Reactions are often very strong and very polarized to it.  Some feel it is too common, to base, even too perverted,  or it could be taken that way.  Some understand it, even though they might struggle with the implications of a God that desires that we should be His people.

The words in blue above come from a man whose took an oath to remain celibate for the rest of his life.  His words describe it well thought – the transcendence, the even spiritual act of eros – of giving and being given, or experiencing a level of transcendence, and even “confers on us a foretaste of a life that is bright and fuller than our everyday life”.

The physical act is not contrary to God’s purposes – he established it as something two should share. two that committed before God and man to each other, as a way of testifying to the love.  It is as much spiritual as it is physical, and in that sense gives us a look at what our spiritual relationship with God is like, and what it will be like in heaven.

Please hear this – we aren’t saying eternity is sexual – that our relationship with God is simply physical – but rather – that the spiritual aspect gives us an insight into what it means to truly commit to another – to love them, to seek our their best interest.  Love means losing yourself, the awareness of yourself, as you care for the other person – and as you do that – there is something overwhelming, something that transforms us, something that is more than life, alone, abandoned, broken.  It is intimate in it reveals the innermost parts of us, the part that is being recreated in Christ Jesus – the most intimate, deep, definition who we are – defined in relationship to God – the I AM.

You see this a little earlier – as a father reacts to his beloved son’s return,

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  – Luke 15:20

The father doesn’t care about his dignity, he doesn’t care about his prestige or reputation.  He doesn’t care about people (including his other son) thinking he is fool who will be taken advantage of.   All that is set aside – this is a son, whom he loves, and the answer to many a night without sleep.  THIS IS HIS SON!!!

It is that transcendent moment, the moment the I become I-Thou, the moment we realize how deeply God loves us, and how it transforms us, as we learn to love in return, as He teaches us.  As we are united to Him in baptism, reunited as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, as we celebrate this relationship – this holy relationship as He gives us His body and blood.

Bringing us back to the original quote of scripture.  They ask fo more faith, and what they are really asking for is to trust God more, that God would draw us closer to Him, make Himself more real, defeat our defenses – and show us His complete love for us.

That is, of course, the answer to another prayer as well…

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And it is answered, and we see it when we are in union with Christ Jesus. 

(1)  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.

It’s Monday, Are You Ready for a Good Cleansing?


Devotional thought of a Monday

 And this is what he (John the baptist/cleanser) proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8  I have cleansed you with water; he will cleanse you with the holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:7-8 – my paraphrase

Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in your professional work done for God. The incidents, the problems, the friendships which your work brings with it will give you food for prayer. The effort to improve your own daily occupation will give you the chance to experience the cross which is essential for a Christian. When you feel your weakness, the failures which arise even in human undertakings, you will gain in objectivity, in humility, and in understanding for others. Successes and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realize that you do not live for yourself, but for the service of others and of God.  (1)

It’s Monday, and many of us on Monday’s are suffering from the toxicity of life.

Maybe it is because we overdid it on the weekends. Some have a tendency to enjoy some things a little too much, and what is good in moderation affects us when we move past the line of moderation into levels of excess.  It can become toxic.

Others aren’t enjoying their weekends, the dynamics of what might be called their “home life” is the source of the toxicity.  Broken families, broken relationships, broken lives.  Or maybe those we love, are suffering from this, and we spend our free time anxious on their behalf.  Our inability to do anything we consider tangible leads to a toxicity that is paralyzing.

Or maybe the toxicity is what we spend our weekends dreading, the return of Monday and the toxicity of our workplaces.  Maybe our work situation forces us to be too competitive, to unethical, or to take on burdens and scars we are tired of facing.

I have a bunch of people who are into various cleansing diets.  They purge the bad stuff from their system with shakes or drinks that basically cleanse their digestive tracts, and maybe their bloodstream as well.

I think we see our baptism as such – a spiritual cleansing – a purging of all the sin and unrighteousness that oppresses us.  Confession and Communion, as sacraments, have a similar effect.

Oddly enough, my devotional reading this morning lead me to believe a similar blessing is found in that dreadful thing known as Monday.  For in the suffering, in the toxicity, we find the cross, we find a reason for prayer, we find the need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s presence.  For the Holy Spirit, often through the oddest people, brings comfort and cleansing to the toxicity.  The Spirit enables us to know peace, unexplainable peace, that comes from being assured of the presence of God, and His cleansing, the power of His blood poured out for us in death, and his body, in which we are raised to life. Abundant life.

This is the work of the Spirit in our various vocations, the roles we take on, often just for physical survival, yet which the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, uses to bless us, and those around us.  For in exercising our faith our trust in God, we come to hope, to expect, that His love sustains us, even on Monday.

For if in the midst of all the toxicity that surrounds such a day, we can know peace, then we realize His presence is with us, not just in church on Sunday, but in the moments of every day.

So rejoice, it is Monday!  God is with you!  The Holy Spirit is drawing yo into the glory of God, intoHolinesss, into that moment of peace!

And remember – when you are given food for prayer because of the incidents and problems, when the suffering helps you be aware of the cross, and the need for Christ’s love, cry out Lord Have Mercy on Us!

Know He will!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1477-1481). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Confronting The Inner Pharisee…


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. NABRE Matt 23:13-15

I have loved thy beauty, and the place of the habitation of the glory of my Lord, thy builder and possessor. Let my wayfaring sigh after thee, and I say to Him that made thee, let Him take possession of me also in thee, seeing He hath made me likewise. I have gone astray like a lost sheep: yet upon the shoulders of my Shepherd, thy builder, hope I to be brought back to thee. (1) 

As I come to Matthew 23 in my devotions, I feel the necessity to guard my heart.  It is all too easy as Jesus begins to challenge Pharisees and Sadducees to begin to name their modern counterparts.

I know them, as they sit on either end of the spectrum, trying to create a system out of the covenant relationship God calls us into being , as His children, His beloved.   As they create rules and rubrics, best practices and by-laws, assuring others that doing so is faithful and proper, missional and confessional.

I see them as either throwing out the baby with the baptismal water or drowning the baby in it, oblivious to the baby, for the sake of the holy water.

And this is exactly why I have to guard my heart, for Jesus words aren’t just calling them to repentance, but they are calling me to repentance.  For I can lock the door on these Pharisees and Sadducees as quickly as they do for those I find myself akin to, those who are broken, lost and trying desperately to hear His voice of hope. What is worse, my cynical and sarcastic response to the Pharisee or Sadducee sets a horrid example for those I am leading, those who I am discipling.  An example which doesn’t shepherd them into the presence of Christ who would heal them, but away from Him, into the desert where they will trust no one, eventually including me.

So where is my hope, how can I allow my inner Pharisee to be called to repentance, and see God deal with those who would drive people to a place outside the church?

I think Augustine in his simple brilliance showed me an answer this morning.

Focus on the presence of God!  Let him carry you broken back tot he Father.  We have to abandon yourself into His care, His guidance, join Him on the cross, and let Him heal us, including killing off our inner pharisee, or at preferably, purifying that devoted pharisee in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We need to let the Father remind us that we are in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, and call our mind back from the pigpens where our brothers were living large.

There is hope for Pharisees, and Sadduccees and so many others…

In the cross, in being carried back, physically or spiritually, into the presence of God’s glory, God’s mercy, God’s love.

And that is where we belong….   AMEN!

(1)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 

Eight Years, and Still Learning this Lesson; A Sermon on Job 38


Why Ask?

Job 38:1-18

†  In the Name of Jesus †

May you be blessed by truly grasping that the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ Jesus is indeed yours, even as it was Job’s!

A Questioned answered, with a Question

I know it is very valid educational method, but it still irritates me.  It is called the Socratic Method, and it can be very effective, in both teaching and in counseling.  You simply make the student process the information by only responding to them with a series of questions, based on their answers.

As I said, it can be very effective, because it makes the person you are teaching or counseling think.  Instead of giving them the answers, you guide them in finding the answer. It does wear on the student a little, as they struggle with the process.  But because they come to the conclusion, they understand the answer far better.

25 years ago, this month, I was a freshman at a Bible College, and my first class in Ephesians had a professor who taught in this manner.  It was great, and he was excellent at this style of teaching.  I still remember some of the discussions in that course.  The next semester though, he used the same educational theory.  The only problem was the course was elementary Greek!  So Mr. Parker, what do you really think the 2nd person aorist passive verb “pistis” means!  Socratic teaching doesn’t work for things like ancient Greek, or Algebra.  But it has its place.

Like when someone like Job is looking for an answer, an answer they already have.  It is then far more beneficial to have them answer the questions, moving ever towards the answer that they already know.

When Job asks why? God doesn’t answer directly, but starts Job on a series of questions, that will lead Job back to what is essential, not only for Job, but indeed, for us.

What the question isn’t asking

            How dare you? 

            Why do we hear it that way?

            We are attuned to the Law, to the Wind and Waves

Hear again, the first verses of our reading,

 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding Job 38:1-4 (ESV)

A bit attention getting? I think so!  Out in Anza, we had a lot of dust devils – miniature tornadoes which spiraled dirt a hundred feet in the air.  They made a lot of noise when they hit the church, and if you drove through one, the dirt will come flying through the A/C vents!  I can’t even imagine the whirlwind that hits job, both the one out of which God answers, and the one his life was in.  He lost everything, he had friend doubting his faith, and as he sits there, crushed and broken, Godfinally answers.  “Get up, and answer me…”

I have to wonder, if when we read this passage, we read it as God criticizing Job, as God putting Job in his place.  Hey Job, don’t you realize that you are nothing, that you can’t measure up to me, that you are insignificant in my eyes?  After all you’ve never done anything, and you won’t measure up to what I can do.  Come on Job, be a man, put up your dukes and let’s rumble! Winner takes all, and I, Almighty Sovereign, Everlasting God will challenge you to a fight of 10 rounds. Ready?

Except can’t be that.  We know from the rest of the book that God favors Job, that He loves him. That God counted Job as His.  That God said that Job would not stop entrusting himself to the God that love him, because the love is beyond the stuff of the world.

So why do we hear these questions of God in this way?  Why do we not question the way this sounds?  Does it seem to be the God you would want to follow? To be that petty, that mean, that self-serving?  Yet, how often do the people of this world see God, and indeed, His church, as that kind of God?  How many think that God and the church only exist to condemn, and brutally use guilt and shame to control them? Do we give them that expectation?  Do we expect it ourselves?  Why?

Is it perhaps because we are afraid that God would be that way?  That we hear God’s law questioning our lives, and we automatically assume that the reason He is questioning us, is to prosecute us?  So we are afraid to admit that we have failed, that we gossiped, or lied, or lusted or wanted to kill someone, or betrayed someone’s trust, or didn’t love that person.

How many of us are afraid of the voice that would answer us, out of the storms that are our lives?  We fear being blown over by that wind, or maybe we are afraid of what God will ask of us, and that as sinners, we will be called to do something incredible, like Peter’s walking on water.

The danger of not getting the Entire story!         

But Peter didn’t drown in his storm, and neither did Job. We know that Jesus reached down and saved Peter, and if we read three more chapters of Job, we would know that God also redeemed his life.  The issu

You see, God is asking these questions in a Socratic form.  The answer to each of them, “No, I wasn’t there Lord”, “no, I didn’t do that”, is not to humiliate Job, but to get him to think.  The questions are asked with a goal in mind for Job.  That he would understand that it is okay for mankind to struggle with life, and the heavy questions of suffering and why things happen.  That we don’t have the answers to why, but that we can answer who is the One who determined the measurements of the world.  Then we know the answer to whom controls the waters and who the morning stars, and the angels shouted for joy to see!

A few chapters after these questions, God says if Job can only answer him, 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.”  Job 40:14(ESV)I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want God to think, is that I can save myself.  I cannot, for I will screw it up.  I don’t want God to applaud my efforts, I want Him to reach out and save us, to make us His, to redeem us.

That is what the questions lead to, and what Job remembers, when in chapter 42 we find this. “1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:1-2 (ESV)

Job is back, back to where he was in the beginning, when all was going well.  He remembered that his trusting God was based, not on his holiness, but on God’s faithfulness, on God’s character and strength.  That is where the questioning leads, to the very relationship that God assured satan was unshakeable.  Not because Job was perfect, but because Job knew whom to trust.

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-27 (ESV)

Job knew, in the midst of his suffering, that God would redeem him. That somehow, even though he were to die, that he would then live to see God. That is the voice speaking of someone who knows they are God’s, that is assured that God is one their side, that their redeemer will come.  In God’s answer to Job’s complaint here is a far better answer.  You are not God – I am.

I am.. I am your God.  I am the one who will save an redeem, and answer.

In Christ’s death, centuries after Job’s life ended, the answer was seen in its fullness.

That is where God was leading Job in the questioning, not to self-suffiency, or humiliation, but to call on Him, trusting in the His love.  Love so strong, that it would pay the highest cost, the Body and Blood of Jesus, to redeem us, to save us from our sins, and the sin of the world.

I have a son, a cute little pain in the neck.  As I leave in the morning, I call out to Him and ask, do you love me?  He runs and hides, or says no, with a great big smile on his face.  I long to hear him say I love you dad, or to reach out His arms to me. Patience will get me the hug I want – and God is more patient with me – waiting for me to remember He is God. The God who asks me to call upon Him,.

That is the nature of God and Job, it’s not about the suffering, it’s not about the challenges, it’s not about humiliation.  It is about a God, and one of His people.  The One who promised to redeem, and the one who would be redeemed.

My friends, we are the redeemed.  Redeemed not by our own works, but called to redemption by God, and made to be His people.

May you live in God’s peace, knowing this.  Peace that surpasses all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.

Amen?

Be at peace.

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