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Who Is Really Your King? A Tough Question for the Church.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

14 ,,,Pilate said to the crowd, “Here is your king!”
15 They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?”
The leading priests answered, “The only king we have is Caesar.”
16 So Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.  John 19:14-16

508         The Lord has the right to be glorified by us “at every moment”—it is an obligation for each one of us. So if we waste time we are robbing God of his glory.

One of my greatest temptations is to respond to my friends on the left and the right political spectrums who say (and post and tweet) news that seems to replace God with Donald, or bash him and say if only we had Hilary, if only we had Bernie. if only “they” would get their act together and think about us.

Some even talk as if the end of the world is imminent, because of the “others” being so stupid, so ignorant. As if the eschatology of the universe was completely dependent on American politics.

It is as if we are back on Pilate’s porch, willingly casting aside Jesus, as we pin our hopes to a god that is foreign to us.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Trump or it is the idea of someone else needing to sit in that seat – both sides find their only hope in either Trump or getting rid of him.  As if that we do away with all that is evil, all that is negative, all that is broken in our lives.

But kings and presidents, governors and judges cannot save us from ourselves, from the evil within that demands to be fed, demands to be taken care of, that demands to have our desires met and fulfilled.

Not only is that not the job description of any government official, often it is contrary to their work, especially the work God gives them as is described in places like Romans 13.

Yet we still lay aside Jesus, we still forget about God, we still shatter the commandment to not beat false witness, all in hopes.

It is time to stop, time to repent.  We know that Christ died on the cross to redeem us, to save us, to bring us into the kingdom of heaven. He is our God, He is our King, Jesus is the one who presides over us.  He is the one who gives us hope, who sustains us in times of trouble, and who defends us, promising nothing can separate us from his love.  And may God be glorified in everything we say and post and tweet.

May we trust in and depend on Him more than we trust or distruct in those who lead us.  Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2214-2216). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

How should we, the little folk, respond to evil?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Discussion thought of the Day:

7  “The LORD did not love you and choose you because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the smallest nation on earth. 8  But the LORD loved you and wanted to keep the promise that he made to your ancestors. That is why he saved you by his great might and set you free from slavery to the king of Egypt. 9  Remember that the LORD your God is the only God and that he is faithful. He will keep his covenant and show his constant love to a thousand generations of those who love him and obey his commands,
Deuteronomy 7:7-9 (TEV)

10  Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power. 11  Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks. 12  For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:10-12 (TEV)

830    Don’t be a fool! It’s true that at most you play the part of a small bolt in that great undertaking of Christ’s. But do you know what happens when a bolt is not tight enough or when it works itself out of place? Bigger parts also work loose or gears are damaged or broken. The whole work is slowed up. Perhaps the whole machine will be rendered useless. What a big thing it is to be a little bolt!

I am struggling with the paradox that was America yesterday.

We saw an action taken that will defend the life of an innocent, defenseless human being, found in the womb. Not long after we saw other defenseless innocent humans denied assistance, denied protection. Irony isn’t the right word, and paradox doesn’t express my grief, and indeed my fear.

Both pro-life issues are close to my heart. I’ve known refugees and immigrants as long as I’ve can remember.  From my adopted grandfather, to Bing, a family friend who escaped his country, to classmates in junior high and high school.  Even the city (and my church ) I live in now is one of the most diverse in California, full of immigrants, and yes refugees who are thriving here.  Make no mistake, this closing of our doors to those in need is as evil as the act of taking a child from the womb to die.  I’ve counseled too many who have had abortions, and dwelt is silent guilt and shame when they later had another child, and they realized the blessing they were convinced was simply an “inconvenience”. There are other reasons this burdens my heart as well, too deep for me to quickly comment upon.

But what can I, the pastor of a small church, without any political or influence, do in the face of such evil actions as the denial of life?  I feel powerless, that my grief and sorrow and even anger is meaningless.

St Josemaria reminds me that even the smallest washer and bolt is critical to a machine.  if it isn’t tight enough, if it has worked itself out of place, then the entire machine and process could be at risk.

I understand the illustration, I even like it,  but am not sure of its application here.  Can my 100 or so people actually make a difference?

I then look to the first quote from scripture, that Israel too was not a large and powerful country. Even at its biggest, under David and Solomon, it couldn’t compete against Egypt or Assyria, against Greece or Rome.  Yet its power, its very existence wasn’t to be the powerful kingdom dynasty.  The reason God sustained them, the reasoned God remained faithful to them, was in order to reveal HIs love in the incarnation.  In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus] we find God.

Which is what St Paul is telling us as well.  Our ENEMY isn’t Donald Trump, just as it wasn’t Barack Obama, the Bushes, or the Clintons. Our weapons aren’t our marches for justice, our clever memes, our reasoned (if only half researched) articles that we share or chant.

It is not those things that brought us to Christ ourselves, It wasn’t our strength or our reason.  So what makes us think our strength and reason will make a bit of difference to those we oppose? (Assuming somehow they heard it?)  No, our place is as that bolt, holding fast, just as St Paul tells us,

Holding fast to Christ, to the hope the Israelites were to see bless the world. Our hope is our being united with Christ.  He is our weapon, He is our hope for victory.  He who defends the defenseless, whether they are too weak, or too guilty.

This is why Paul and Peter both urge us to prayer, to ask God to bless those who are enemies, our adversaries, to see God transform them as He is revealed, just as He did to us.  Even as we pray, our pain sacrificed becomes the love which will impact others, and bring about new life.

This is no little task, this gripping Christ as tightly as any bolt to any screw.  This praying and depending on Him, and learning to love those we could easily hate, just as Christ loves us.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of God that is at work in you, or HIs desire to bring us all to transformation.   That is where our hope is, and continues to be.

And pray and don’t be surprised if you become the next Ananias….

We pray through the tears, “Lord, have mercy”, and hear His comforting answer.

Lord, we pray this morning for our President, and all those that work with them.  That they would know your mercy, and as they begin to realize they are loved, that they would show your mercy and love to all who are defenseless, all who are looking for sanctuary and hope. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1905-1909). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Preparing for After the Election… “O Lord What Will We Do NOW?!?”


Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 16  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17  Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
2 Kings 6:15-17 (NLT)

482    What does it matter if the whole world with all its power is against you? Forward! Repeat the words of the psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum—“If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.”

If I were to believe everything said about each of the candidates, I would think that no matter who is the next President of the United States, we would be better off with a global flood, or perhaps that the full tribulation had come into effect.

The words of Elisha’s servant would certainly be mine, as fear and anxiety overtook me. “Lord, what are we going to do now?”  How will we survive this?  Every worst case scenario will flash before our eyes, as we expect America to sink in a moral crisis unheard of since.. well at least the 1960’s – and maybe all the way back to the 1890’s! (Or ancient Rome)

Some fear one winning, others fear the opponent dominating.  Some and anxious because they don’t want either to win! No matter who, there will be people displeased and distraught, worried about the world changing, even fearing it ending.

What we need is the same thing the servant needed, to have our eyes opened to the reality that this world is still part of God’s kingdom.  That the richness of His promise of eternity and His presence with us in this life is more than our fears.

Christ is with us.

Think about that….

No, I mean really think about it, let your heart and mind dwell in the presence of Christ here, in your presence right now.  Remember the moment you communed that you shared His Body and Blood and experienced for a moment, the wonder and awe that comes when He is revealed.

This experience, this knowledge, this awareness that God is for us, is what has sustained people of God for millennia.  That has enabled them to know peace in dictatorships and revolutions, in times of global war, and famine.  They have known that peace even as their brothers and sisters are martyred, even as they are martyred.

It is the one constant hope we have, in a broken, hurting, rebellious world.  Knowing this, we are confident not only that the world’s sin cannot separate us from God, but we are reminded that our own cannot either.  Including the anxiety and doubt, we have that God is still in charge, working everything our for good for those who love Him.

And it is more than enough to sustain us at this time.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us to see you, incarnate, present, benevolent and in control.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1179-1181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual Formation, Gossip and Presidential Campaigns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (NLT)

263 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
265 To avoid this vice, therefore, we should note that nobody has the right to judge and reprove his neighbor publicly, even when he has seen a sin committed, unless he has been authorized to judge and reprove

444    Never speak badly of your brother, not even when you have plenty of reasons for doing so. Go first to the tabernacle, and then go to the priest, your father, and also tell him what is bothering you. And to no one else.

As I have been considering God’s discipline recently, and the way in which God forms us, I realize we are in a season where our faith is either tried significantly.  It is a time where we can depend on God, or we can rebel, being disobedient children ruled by fear and anxiety.

For the temptation is great during this presidential campaign to gossip, to speak ill of people, from the candidates themselves to those who back them.

Please hear me, there are issues that we need to discuss, issues that themselves lead to sin, advocate and approve of it.

There is more to the debate, both in this world and in the cyber portion of it.  There are rumors, which we are ready to believe and exaggerate as we spread them throughout our spheres of influence. There is character assassination done, and we rejoice as we have the chance to “speak the truth.”

If we took St. Josemaria’s advice, how better off would we be?  If we took those anxieties and laid them at the altar from which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?  If we still struggled, going to our pastor, our priest, those who assist them in guiding us, and let them reassure us of God’s promises, his presence, and His benevolent, loving merciful reign over all of His creation including our hearts and mind.

What we happen if we didn’t try to destroy the people running for office, but instead prayer for their salvation, and that they would know, without any doubt, the love of God or them?

What I am saying takes a lot of faith, it requires us to depend on God in a way similar to the children of Israel were supposed to trust during the Exodus a the Exile.

This is spiritual formation, this is spiritual growth, this is living the life of a disciple.

It is my prayer that this election season that we all may grow in the awareness of God’s grace and love, so that this faith would be revealed to all.

AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1090-1092). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

What Scripture Says about the Presidential Election…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.   1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44  But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46  Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47  And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48  You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (TEV)

145      You must never treat anyone unmercifully. If you think someone is not worthy of your mercy, you should realise that neither do you deserve anything. You don’t deserve to have been created, or to be a Christian, or to be a son of God, or to have the family you have…

If you are hoping for me to justify voting for your preferred candidate, you might want to stop reading now.  But I pray you continue to read, and think through the Bible verses above, the quote from St. Josemaria, and the words I write.  Struggle with them, doesn’t dismiss them.

You might get angry; you might say what I am saying isn’t realistic, that I don’t know how evil the “other” candidates are, and how your candidate is the only hope we have. 

That doesn’t matter.  I think, no, I know God well enough to know He will keep His promises no matter who is elected. 

What I am concerned about is how your heart, your soul is doing, and what this election will do to it.   Will you so harden yourself, will you be so affected by those who would have you live in fear and even hate the other candidates, that you forget you have been given the grace that would lead you to love each of the candidates?  

You have been made a new creation, you have been counted righteous, you’ve been given the Holy Spirit, and are reminded by word and sacrament to imitate Christ Jesus, even as the Holy Spirit transforms you into His image.   (see 2 Cor. 3:16ff)

Which means you are called to love those you can see, in this case, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders.  People who were created in the image of God, people who Christ died for on the cross, even as He died for you. 

Look at the Gospel readings from Mathew, and the call to love your enemies.   Look at the first reading, where St. John tells us we are made to love, and if we don’t love those we see, how can we the God who made them, whom we can’t see?

This isn’t easy, I understand this, and I struggle with it.  I personally don’t like the positions of any of the candidates, and I am tired of making a decision based on the “least of all evils.” Possibly because I can’t be sure which is the least? 

But if I give into the fears, the anxieties, if I read the materials all over the internet, and sent to me, if I engage in the hatred and fear of those I don’t like, the biggest damage I do is not to my country, but to myself, and to those whose lives I will impact. 

For I will have lost the ability to love, to trust God enough to love those that aren’t lovable.  I will have lost the ability to show mercy, and to trust God for promises like Romans 8:28. And I will have lost my understanding of that which David so clearly explained. 

1  Whoever goes to the LORD for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, 2  can say to him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.” 3  He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and all deadly diseases. 4  He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.    Psalm 91:1-4 (TEV)

So learn to love these people!  Desire what is best for them, that they would know the love that will give them peace. When it is time, you will know how to vote, and you will know that no matter who wins, God is at work.  

Pray for them all, and place their care in the hands of a God who showed you mercy, and as you do, that mercy will be revealed, and in this time where the country is going ballistic with anxiety and angst, you will dwell in peace.

Lord, have mercy on us sinners!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 707-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Election That Truely Matters!

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day….

If God’s Love has chosen you out and called you to follow him, you have a duty to respond to him… and it is also your duty, an equally serious duty, to lead and to contribute to the holiness and good progress of other men, your brothers.  (1)

As I am a bit late writing my devotional blog today, I have to think of all the political hype that is dominating everywhere I look.  Driving down the streets, the television, the radio, Facebook and Twitter.  It is as if many believe our very fate as a nation, or as a state, depends on this election.  Not just the presidency, but even ballot measures at state and local level.  In one ballot initiative here in California – the amount of money being spent could underwrite 6 private/parochial schools for 50 years! (Nearly 120 million!)

The word for church is from the root word for being called out, being selected or chosen or elected to fulfill a role – that role of being the family of God.  It is our primary vocation in life, this relationship we have with God, this relationship He has, not just with an individual, but with His family – what we call the church.

I would say, knowing that many would disagree. that it is the “election” that truely matters, and I would go so far as to say, it is the ONLY election that matters.  For you can win or lose another election, and it will not have the impact of responding to this election, or denying it.

St. Josemarie Escriva points out something obvious here, that being elected changes things.  He uses the word “duty”, some may refer to it as an Obligation.  I tend to think it is simpler than that.  If you are elected to office, your role, your responsibility changes in life.  You are not as free to do certain things, you may have to even have limits on your personal freedom.  The same is true in our lives.  As we have become children of God, our life dramatically transforms, we change priorities, and yes, in a way, we lose some of our personal freedom.  We have a new relationship, a new role in life, we are the children of God.  As such, in that transformation, we realize the heart of our Father, we realize His love and mercy, we realize His peace.  And we realize that we respond to that love, and being to see the need to respond to it by bringing those God also calls to be part of His family.

There is such a difference, that we become driven to see people come to know our Father, our Lord, the One who called, chose, selected, elected us to be His.  And so we begin our work to see others begin to comprehend that they two have been elected to be transformed into being a son or daughter of the Father.

And they will, eventually, even as we do,  realize this is the only election that matters…

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1422-1424). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(10

Live Graciously, even in an Election Year!

Consider these passages – as you engage others, and post your positions on facebook…

5:43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG) 

4:19 Let us love, then, because he first loved us. 20 Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since whoever does not love the brother whom he can see cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.
1 John 4:19-21 (NJB) 

May that which we say, and post, reflect God’s glory to a world that more than enough evil and darkness.

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