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The Difference made…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25 So, Ezekiel, tell them I am saying: How can you think the land is still yours? You eat meat with blood in it and worship idols. You commit murder 26 and spread violence throughout the land. Everything you do is wicked; you are even unfaithful in marriage. And you claim the land is yours! Ezekiel 33:25–26 (CEV)

2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12

And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.

I have to admit that Ezekiel’s words scare me.

I look around us these days, and we are not so far from the disobedience and idolatry that was prevalent then. The use of “we” there is intentional, these is as much idolatry and character assassination in church as is there is in the world. There is as much wickedness and narcissism found in the church as outside of it. We try to claim that we do the right thing, that we make all the right moves, but how can we know that, without the dependence on God, the willingness that dependence brings to let Him correct us?

We need to have a relationship with God, we need to welcome into our lives as Abraham welcomed him at Mamre. We need to know His love to the point where we trust Him to guide us through the labyrinths. St John of the cross is correct, our judgment will be based on how we have loved. Not because of our works, but because that love testifies to whether or not we’ve experienced His love for us, whether God is at work in us, transforming us. You see this in Abraham, as he welcome God to his habitation, and his annoyance at his nephew turns to concern, to trying to save his nephew’s city. This change in attitude can only occur when we realize God’s role in our life. It is not an act of our will but the transformation that happens when we know we are loved.

That has to be the solution for this time of racial unrest, for this time of bitter politics, for this time when everyone is on edge. That love of God will not only forgive that brokenness and sin, it will bring reconciliation and healing to us, and through us, to our time.

It is that simple… if you want to make a difference, spend time with the one who will make a difference for you.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 617.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.

What does it mean when God says, “you are Mine’

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. Isaiah 43:1-2 (TEV)

The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ (Col 2:12). Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).

A couple of decades ago, I took a class from UC Berkely’s online program in Shakespearean Literature. One of the essays we had to pen was a reaction to the play, “The Taming of the Shrew” and the query we had to respond to was, “Is there a relationship today where respect and obedience are demanded?”

My paper indicated this was so, that there was a relationship where respect and obedience was required and that a negative consequence was automatic if that obedience wasn’t fulfilled. That relationship was the relationship between a teacher and a student. From there I could extrapolate forward to both governments and contracts, and backward to the parent/child relationship as well.

To be honest, we spend most of our lives struggling for freedom. As students, we are encouraged to “be ourselves” and discover “ourselves”. TO cast off the restraints our parents laid upon us.

As we get older, as our bodies and minds fail, as our finances are challenged, we again find ourselves desiring freedom from that which restrains us, from that which hampers life.

Between our youth and old age, we find that we are not really free. Our employers control our work, the government controls many aspects of our lives, and family obligations remind us that freedom is… not a reality.

Given that, as the great philosopher, Bob Dylan wrote, “you gotta serve somebody”, we might look for the most benevolent master we can find. For rare is it a master who desires the best for those that are “His”.

One such Master, one such Lord is found in scripture. He is described in the words of Isaiah above, and His love pours out on all He claims responsibility for, as He claims them as His. A Master who would give His life for those He calls His own, for those He calls His finest work (Eph. 2:10)

Knowing He is our Master, our Lord, is different than thinking He is just our boss, He is only interested in us for how our work benefits Him. Knowing Him, and His attitude toward us, we understand why it is a blessing for Him to be our Master.

Which is why it doesn’t make sense to dismiss Him work, to dismiss our belonging to Him. We need to rejoice in that He is responsible for us, cares for us, and yes, guides us. Being ashamed of Him makes little sense, adn turning our back on Him becomes unimaginable.

Not to mention, it leaves you in hell, a slave to your appetites, and never, ever, fulfilled.

In the end, consider these words,

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; 20  he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 (TEV)

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 57). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Where is God While We Wander in Sin?

pexels-photo-434501.jpegDevotional Thought of the Day:’

He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness. The LORD your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.’ Deut 2:7 HCSB

It has become habit to read through the Old Testament every year, and changing translations each new year.  There are times it seems a drudgery, a journey through this guy begat that guy or a recitation of all of the different ways to sin. (as if I needed a detailed list!)  What will I find here, I wonder, that will make this habit worth it.  Where will I find something that is nourishing in this wilderness?

And then I come to a verse like the one above, Tucked into the history of Israel’s rebellion and sin, a recounting of all the times they did what was right to them, completely disregarding God’s directions, given through Moses.

Go here, they go there.  Do this, they do something else. It sounds like a group I would find myself some like-minded companions. People who struggle just the way Paul did, doing what they shouldn’t, and failing to do what they should.

As Moses tells them their own history, there is this incredible verse.  He tells them that as they have walked through the Wilderness, their punishment, their discipline for the sin they have committed, where God was.

There. providing for them. For 40 years, He didn’t abandon them as He disciplined them.

That is an incredible thing to realize.

By no means should that continue to wander in sin, we need to confess our sin, trusting in God to forgive those sins, because Jesus came and died to pay for them.

But there is a comfort to know that God doesn’t abandon His rebellious children, that He desires, truly desires that all come to repentance and that this is part of the work of the Holy Spirit. 

What an amazing, loving merciful God we have, that allows us to wander, that disciplines us, and yet provides for us during that time, giving us what is truly beneficial!

He is with us, even when we don’t see it, even when we don’t want to see it.  When we are faithless, still e is faithful. 

So if you are wandering today, you can’t escape Him, so it is time to come home, and confess your sins, and find the incredible love and mercy of God is yours.  Come, confess your sins, and find that He is faithful, forgiving you of those sins, and cleansing you of all unrighteousness. 

Do We Dare Pray, “Thy Kingdom Come?”

Featured imageDo you Dare Pray
Thy Kingdom Come?

Matthew 6:6-9

May the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, cause you to desire that when you pray His Kingdom Come, that you desire it more and more

Introduction – 

It is one thing to pray a prayer, especially a prayer as well known as the prayer our Lord taught us.

It is another thing to desire that God would hear that prayer, and answer it, making what we pray for come into existence before our eyes.

During this Lenten journey, that is what we are looking at, do we have the faith to desire that these prayer requests.  Do we really desire that what we pray for?  Do we recognize what we are praying for?  Do we even realize what we are praying for and that this request will mean changes in our lives?

As we heard on Ash Wednesday, do we desire that God be our Father?  Last week, as Chris asked are we ready to see God’s name be holy and praised because of how we live in Him?

Tonight we face the question, do we have the faith to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come?”   Knowing that we are praying that God’s kingdom come here, right now, that He is in charge, and that how it is in heaven will be here on earth.

What will God’s Kingdom Look Like
In order to pray this, we shall have to understand what it means for God’s kingdom to come, and for us to realize it is in existence here, right where we live.

We could talk of what God’s kingdom is, but to desire it we need to visualize it, to hear it described to us.  Think about a child, having gone to the magic kingdom for the first time.  You don’t hear him talk about the machinery, about the payroll and the challenges of parking and waiting in long lines. When they describe Disneyland, the wonder, the awe, the joy is what dominates the conversation.

We need to hear Kingdom of Heaven described, what leaves you in awe, the joy, and what makes it so.

While we can’t describe the appearance of heaven, we can describe the joy that is known.  A joy that exists because of the Love that God has for His people.

You see, that is what makes the kingdom of God so incredible.  It’s not the heavenly temple or the Throne of God; it is the God who loves us, who welcomes us home.  The God who poured our His love on us at the cross, as the blood of Christ poured out on the ground.

It is that agape love, loyalty, mercy, faithfulness that brings us into His kingdom on the day of Christ, and it is that love that brings us into His kingdom now.  That love that sustains us comforts us, lovingly ministers to us, forgiving us of all sin, and all unrighteousness.

The love of God that does all this now, even as our sins are forgiven, as we are welcomed to the feast where the Body and Blood of Christ confirm this Kingdom and that we do live in it now.

In God’s kingdom, that love joins us to each other, healing broken relationships.  Helping us to see that other’s lives  are more important than the details that can divide us.  That is why the ten commandments become more than rules; they are the description of lives lived in the love of God.

In God’s Kingdom, we will not murder, commit adultery, steal, gossip and ruin the reputation of those we love.  We would celebrate how God blesses each other, rather than letting jealousy ruin relationships.   That love of God, in His kingdom, unites us all so that when one cries, we all do, when one laughs, we all join in the celebration.  That is why we rejoice when the prodigal comes home, rather than talk about all the things they did, that the good people didn’t do.

We love, as He loves.  And in praying “They Kingdom come”, that is what we pray.  That kind of life we don’t want to wait until heaven to experience!

Do You Really Want to Pray this happens now?  

Are we willing to pray it?  Do we have the faith required, the trust that says, God, make my life the same as it will be in heaven.  May you rule over it now, may I become more and more like you, may I love ever more deeply.

That is a heavy prayer.

Because God becoming the focus of our lives, because of hearing that He will provide for us because He is our Lord and Master, challenges us.  For that to happen, we have to realize that if Christ is our Lord, He is in control, and His love will pour through us.

That is harder than it looks, as it means we have to let Him rid our lives of those things that aren’t of love. We have to let Him get rid of that which gets in the way of our knowing His love, that which stops us from loving others.

Things like guilt and shame, because we choose to do what we want, rather than know His love.  Where we, like Adam and Eve hiding and covering their sin, try to pretend everything is perfect, or try to justify what we do, because we know better than God does.  Where we get rid of our pride and realize, He is right.

That He is our master.

To see His kingdom come means that we have to give up hatred and resentment towards those who have hurt us, who have sinned us again.  We not only give up our “right” to revenge, as we dwell in His kingdom, we come to desire that they know His mercy.  We desire to share in their lives, to reach out to them, even sacrifice our desires, our own time, even those things we treasure.  We sacrifice those things in order to help those who do not have what we have, the knowledge of God’s peace, the ability to walk through life, confident of His love.

Are we ready to really give that up?

The Way this happens – (gospel) 

That is perhaps one of the neatest things about prayer.  We know that God’s kingdom coming to exist in our lives would be a blessing.

If we are honest, it is a hard thing to pray, to desire.  To allow ourselves to be stripped of all that is not love, that is not reflective of all His love, maybe painful, no, it will be painful.

But in doing so, what is left, is Christ.

What is left is the Kingdom of God.

What is left, is the love of God. The love that transforms us, as we dwell in a relationship deeper than any other.  As we are invited to share in the very love of God, together, as His people.

A love that seems unnatural, even supernatural to us, but is the love that brings healing, that is so miraculous, that it can cause a martyr’s mother to pray that God would reveal Himself to the killers.  A love that can heal wounds decades old, that washes away our guilt and shame.

It is a Kingdom life we need.  It is a life we need to desire.

Paul says of such prayers,

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)

So knowing this, this desire of God to bring us into His kingdom, NOW, let us pray, with confidence.. for we know His love.  AMEN?

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