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God doesn’t throw tea parties…**

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, 19 to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, 20 for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! 21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. Heb. 12:18-24

I have a dear friend, who owns an antique shop*, which specializes in China and glassware and all the fancy stuff.  When I drop in to visit her lovely shop, I tend to get a bit… anxious.

You see, at 6’2, 300+ pounds and with the grace that could only be compared to a drunk giraffe on ice skates, I am paranoid that I will trip and fall and set off her entire shoop like one of those domino exhibits.

Why am I telling you this?  I think we occasionally get the idea that God is fragile, that His holiness somehow makes Him brittle.  Or perhaps it is His patience with us that is brittle.

Either way, we become stand-offish,  trying to find the one safe place that is safe to stand, out of the way, out of the danger, unable to cause a major spiritual catastrophe.  We aren’t to stand and gaze on HIs beauty from afar, afraid to touch, afraid to approach, afraid to get personal with God. Worried that we will screw up something, or do something that will His anger, that we will deserve His wrath and punishment for breaking things, including our own lives.

That isn’t the God we have been drawn to, as the author of Hebrews tells us.

Holiness isn’t some kind of proper, reserved, dainty, perfect mannered attitude suitable for tea parties.  (though Jesus does care for those who go to such events!**)  It is an incredibly emotional overwhelming experience of relief or peace of love.  It is like the time when our Soldiers first returned after the post-9-11 invasion of Iraq, as people lined the road out to the Marine Corps base for nearly 20 miles, celebrating the return of their loved ones.

Except holiness is not seen in celebrating the return of heroes coming home, but prodigals, sinners.  Or holiness celebrates our being made holy, our being cleansed and set apart for this incredible relationship we have with God.  We are reunited with the God who offered Thomas the chance to put his hand in His lance-pierced side, to know Jesus was with Him.  We walk with the God who is willing to transform our heart and mind and share with s His in the process.

This is our God, a God who makes contact with us, who just doesn’t sit on a shelf, or look down on us from heaven.  He is a God who shows us How much He loves us… by coming and dwelling among us, carefully restoring that which we’ve broken…because…

He loves us!

Relax, and soak in that love, and as you see people afraid of God, share with them the God who knows you!  AMEN!

 

*If you are in Orange, Ca, you can visit my friend’s show at A&P collectibles in the Orange Circle   🙂

**  the ladies of our church have an incredible ladies advent tea each year… and I am sure Jesus is present at it… 🙂

Communicating the Beauty of the Gospel

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

A good communicator is sensitive to beauty, perceives it and does not confuse what is beautiful with what is fashionable or only “nice” or simply “neat.”
Because it is human, sometimes beauty is tragic, amazing, touching; it sometimes pushes us to think what we do not want or unmasks our errors.

One of the challenges we face, whether we are with friends and family at a meal, or if we are before the church preaching the gospel, is communicating the beauty that is our relationship with God.

We can’t describe heaven, and I think that is intentional, for heaven is not about the location as much as it is the presence.  The presence of the people of God in the presence of God. No sorrow, no tears, no pain, rather we will know the purest of joy, the most incredible peace.  These are things that cant be described in words, we just will never find ones that significantly portray this beauty.

Not that we understand beauty all that much.

A pretty girl in a bathing suit may be considered beautiful by most, year, does that compare to a picture of a wounded soldier, being greeted and welcomed home by his family?  Or a picture of Mother Theresa embracing a poor victim of leprosy in the streets of India? What about a rainbow, coming out on the edge of a storm,

I think the most vivid thing we can communicate, the most beautiful thing we can describe is the scene of redemption, the prodigal being embraced by a father, whose tears of joy wash the young sinner.  The face of Peter, as Jesus reminds him, despite the betrayal, to feed the sheep.  The face of Moses, a stubborn pessimistic, man hiding from his destiny, in awe at the bush on fire that doesn’t burn.  The sinner at the communion rail, who finally understands the words, “for you…” and doesn’t want to leave the only place they have found peace.  The old man, who with severe memory problems, looks for meaning in the church, decides to study for the diaconate and preaches an incredible sermon of our need for God, and the fact God was with us.  (the amazing tears that flowed from his wife’s face, as she was convinced that he actually could do this… I cry just thinking of them. )  The little six-year-old, who begs and pleads for the body and blood of Christ, and lights up at her first communion

These things are beautiful, and though not perfectly described, give us a hint of the beauty that awaits us, as the redemption, as what is broken in our lives is healed. THere is beauty, a beauty that is found in the incredible transformation as we go from being alone to being in a relationship with God. As we realize that is our existence, our meaning in life.

God with us… nothing more beautiful in this life, or the next…

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 302). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

There is Another Way: A Lenten Sermon on Romans 4

church at communion 2There is another Way

Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

 In Jesus Name

As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!

Parenthetical Statement

 In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis.  They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…

They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”

That seems simple.  No law, no breaking the law.

Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us.  They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”.  A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.

You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.

For one thing, it’s impossible.

For another… well you will see.

We can’t avoid it – because of Adam

Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.

All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.” 
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it?  You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!

Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.

Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…

You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.

Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.

 Hear David’s words again,

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”

This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed.  This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!

Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.

Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand.  Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.

That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart.  Paul gets this as well,

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.   1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.

His friends.

Let that sink in.

Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
His friend.

That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.

During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.

And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,

to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.

And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin.  And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.

AMEN!

It’s Time to Stop Hiding Behind Our Sinful Nature

Discussion Thought of the Day:
22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.1  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.  Romans 7:22-25, 8:1-4 (NLT)

4    Don’t say, “That’s the way I am—it’s my character.” It’s your lack of character. Esto vir!—Be a man!

125 Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.

“Pastor, I can’t help it, I am just a poor, poor sinner.”

That response is a conditioned response, it is what pastors and priests have taught people to say. It is the response to sin of a generation where the sacraments have been diminished.  Where absolution is not really heard and understood in the heart and the mind.

But what it does pick up on, is the law that convicts it, the passages that say, “no one is good”, “all have sinned”, and a focus that never is taken off of the doctrine of justification.  People have heard all about, they know what it is, well as far as we can’t save ourselves, we are dead in sin and God delivers us. But they don’t hear the so what – how this absolution, how this declaration that we are righteous changes our lives.

With on the “what”, people (and I include pastors and priests as people – we are really) will make the what the end of the story.  We still sin, God still forgives.  We aren’t perfect, we’re just forgiven, and people will turn that into permission to keep on sinning.

We believe that works can’t save us, we know that nothing we do merits salvation, and we stop (and encourage people to stop ) there.  That’s enough, trust in God and you will be saved people believe.

When we allow this, o what a great disserve we do!  It would be like telling a convict the charges against them are overturned, but not unlocking their cell door, not removing the handcuffs, nor giving them clothes that identified them as something other.  We have to share the complete gospel, all of the mercy, reveal to them the wonder of His love.

They’ve been not only declared righteous, but the Holy Spirit dwells in them, making them holy. sanctifying them, empowering them to live the baptized, repentant (transformed ) life.  Our people don’t need to live in secret, hiding behind their sin or their propensity to sin. They can be encouraged to live in the freedom that Christ has given them.

That is what the third quote, from the Lutheran Confessions, is telling us. That the Spirit creating life in our hearts, is creating the impulses to do that which isn’t sin, impulses to love God, impulses to love our neighbor, impulses to trust Him more and more, and because we trust Him we are driven to reach our and serve those around us, meeting needs from physical to emotional to spiritual.

This is how Paul, distraught over his sin, finally comes to the realization (and needed to remember it daily) that justified, we can set aside that sin, and follow the Spirit.  Does that mean we won’t sin on occasion?  No, but it changes what drives us, what impulses we want to follow -and as time goes by, as we explore the depth of God’s love revealed in Christ, those impulses bring us great joy.

This is what St. Josemaria talks about when he challenges us to be men, not those who hide behind the weakness of character, who justify sin by saying that is who they are.

It is a challenge to live life as God intended, walking with Him, focused on Him, but even when we fail, He has, He is the answer.  The Christian life is knowing this and living in light of it.

Heavenly Father, have mercy on us, your children!

AMEN!

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 177-178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

Crying Out Loud

Crying Out Loud

Featured imageGalatians 4:4-7

IHS

We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”

A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!

A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.

I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between.  People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.

I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.

How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?

Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.

For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.

Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….

For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer…  and in praise.

That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His  being Immanuel – God with us,

It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…

This What the Right Time is about!

When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.

It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.

He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity.  I love how one theologian-pastor put it:

Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]

What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!

No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.

Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.

It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.

The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!

That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right.  He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God.  Another Christian leader put it this way:

“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,

We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father.  Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.

The pastor went on….

It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ,  To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.

Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”

AMEN!

[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Are We Worthy to Be In Their Company?

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35  Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)

258      What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is!  (1)

I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need.  I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict  XVI.  I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham,   I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness.  Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives.  I think of King David and Bede,  Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley,  Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.

And I wonder, do I belong in their company?

My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me.  This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.

Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven?  In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?

After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me.  I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.

Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game.  God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.

In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust.  How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.

But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people.  People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt.  People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.

First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;

40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Without us.  Without you and I.

God has something in mind… that we will join them.

These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..

And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did.  Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus.  He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained.  He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..

they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.  

We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ.  And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…

AMEN….




Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Lord, I Believe You Will Do the Impossible… Help me trust you will!

Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

15  Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15 (NJB)

23  “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)

929         Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are. (1)

I’ve had a task to do, that I am not looking forward to handling.  Simply put, there are things we are called to do as believers that are impossible.

This is one of those.

The temptation is to really on our own wisdom, our own strength.  To force the issue, to pretend we are God, that all things can be fixed, with the “if only” caveat.  That caveat justifies failure, it allows us to walk away without having to admit the failure.  It allows us to walk away without feeling disappointment.

That caveat is the seed of our defeat, just like a prenuptial agreement is a danger sign in a marriage, because it leaves open the room for failure, and nearly guarantees it will happen. It puts the success or failure somewhere besides making us responsible for it, and therefore leaves out the one crucial ingredient for success.  The one ingredient?  Oh, you want to know what it is?

Jesus makes it known in the 2nd quote above.  If you believe, if you trust in God, if you know His heart well enough to base your life on it, even risk your life on it.

To which the man cries out a Kyrie Eleison – Lord have mercy – help me when I cannot trust.

Depend on Him.  That sounds simple, but it isn’t.  We have to know His desire, we have to understand the effort God will put into keeping his promises. We have to realize the depth of His love.  We have to know it – deeply in order to trust in it, even as this man had to trust that Jesus could heal his son.

It isn’t easy – but we can pray, we can communicate our need for something to booster our faith, we can admit we need His help – even to trust.

But when we do, patience comes naturally, peace flows, the impossible seems be have cracks of God’s probability shine through. We realize we can wait for it to happen, we realize that God will make all things work for good, we realize the power of mercy and forgiveness.

And we trust in His presence to make all the difference, and it does.

For He has promised – and He is faithful.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Forgiveness for Any Other Reason but Love…. Is Not…

Devotional THought of the Day:
38  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39  But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40  And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41  And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. Matthew 5:38-41 (TEV)

806         You were very sorry to hear that most un-Christian comment, “Forgive your enemies: you can’t imagine how it angers them!” You could not keep quiet, and you replied calmly, “I don’t want to cheapen love by humiliating my neighbour. I forgive, because I love, and I am hungry to imitate the Master.” (1)

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that forgiveness is not learned, it is not a discipline, it is simply the result of love.

Today, I cam across the quote from Escriva, and I again was amazed at the thought.  Simply because I’ve heard this said before, I’ve even probably used something like it along the way.  Just show them you are bigger than them, and forgive them.  ( I apologize to any I’ve said that too.  I’ve also heard it said this way, you don’t have to like forgiving them, you just have to obey God and do it.

Or perhaps the most common excuse.  Forgive them, for it may not benefit them, but it benefits you

Somehow I can’t see Jesus, on the cross, being benefitted by forgiving his captors, or Stephen, being stoned by Paul’s friends, being benefited.  Or any of the martyrs over the last 2 millennia, who forgave as they were tortured and died, benefitting from being free of the resentment and anger they felt.

If we forgive because we desire what is beneficial for ourselves, when the hurt and pain come back, then we will be ill-prepared to deal with it.  It will again fuel resentment and anger, and thoughts of how to make them pay for the sin will creep back into our hearts

The way to forgive, to bypass revenge is simple – love.

To accept the pain, the hurt, the cost of loving that person. To give that all over to Christ, the one who taught us to pray to the Father to be forgive and to be able to forgive. The one who died for His enemies, because He loved them.  The One who frees us, by paying for every debt, every trespass, every pain.

The one we hunger to love, and desire to imitate, because He has loved us…..

Mercy, Love, forgiveness….. on package deal.

May we do so…counting on the Lord’s mercy

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3326-3329). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Life is About…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

8  Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’ Luke 4:8 (NLT)

424         Your relatives, colleagues and friends are beginning to notice the change, and realise that it is not a temporary phase, but that you are no longer the same. Don’t worry, carry on! Vivit vero in me Christus—it is now Christ that lives in me —that’s what is happening.(1)

Question 1:  What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer:   Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The picture accompanying is this blog is on of the high points of a trip I took a few years ago.  My wife and I were wandering around Rome, on a trip that was an incredible gift.  As we were, we came across this building, with lots of excavation around it. It was rough, worn, old, and we wondered what it was….

As we rounded the front, we realized it was the Pantheon, a place built and rebuilt for the Roman Cultic worship…. a place were ritual sacrifice was done, a place of martyrdom as well. The Roman Pantheon, perhaps the best kept of all of the ancient buildings of Rome…Re-built early in the 2nd century, it is amazing.

But for nearly 1500 years… it has been something more significant – it has been a church.  A place where God is glorified, a place where His peopel have been gathered, and blessed.  A place that has over time been redeemed, been blessed, and amazed people for its grandeur, for its arts and craftsmanship, for the history and skill it contains, skill that speaks of something greater… the work of God. The meeting of God and His people to celebrate a love that is beyond measure….for His people to return that love, as they lay their lives down as living sacrifices to Him, giving of themselves to love Him, including loving Him by loving those He’s brought into our lives. That place where other gods demanded their sacrifices, for a longer period of time celebrated that God sacriced Jesus… for us.

This love of His changes us, completes us as we walk with Him.  St Josemaria is correct – there is a change in us, even as there was in the use of the Pantheon, We cannot know God’s love and be the same.   The Westminster Catechism as it right as well – our purpose in life changes drastically, as we realize who God is, and how He relates to us.

Worship becomes more powerful, as we realize it isn’t a duty, something we must do, but as it becomes a reaction to God sharing everything with us, including His glory.  How can we read St. Paul’s words to the church in Colossae and not rejoice?

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (NLT)

This is what life is about, this is the abundant life…

Lord have mercy, and help us to share Who makes us who we are…

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1898-1902). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Westminster Larger and Smaller Catechisms; Electronic Edition, Wordsearch

 

 

Is It Time to Shake the Dust off our Sandals?

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An amazing look at a storm coming up, threatening the church and the village it is the center of life for….

Devotional Thought of the Day::

11  If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!”      Mark 6:11 (TEV) 

27  “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.  Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”  Matthew 13:27-30 (NLT)

9  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

1 Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

It seems as winter comes to an end, as we ready to change our clocks tonight, many of us are struggling with relationships.  Even relationships that were broken many moons ago.

I’ve probably heard the top verse, about “shaking the dust” fifteen or twenty times in the past month.  From pastors and church leaders, to those who come to church maybe once or twice a year. ( One of the conversations was about wiping the dust of a church off their feet – but I think they met the church as as an entire entity.) 

I am tempted, in such conversations, to make them pull out a BIble, and look at the context of the passage.  But often, in that moment, the pain they are reliving blinds them to that context.  WHat would happen, what has happened, is that they selectively hear me, and continue to use the passage, or add me to those who dust has left their feet.  

You see this passage isn’t about getting the people who are negative in our life, and doing away with them.  It’s not even about pruning our relationship “tree”, cutting off the dead wood.  Or getting those who presently won’t listen to the gospel out of our lives and circles, lest they comehow pollute our world, and our relationships.  The shaking the dust off their feet was their ignoring the message of Jesus kingdom being established soon, not about our personal pains, oru brokenness, whether by our actions, theirs or a combination and desire for mutually assured destruction.

It’s not even about their rejecting the love of God, as we present it. 

It can’t be, for if it were so, then what about the other passages I placed above, about Jesus commanding His servants to leave the weeds side by side until the Harvest, and about God’s desire and will that none perish.  This passage about shaking the dust from one’s feet has to be understood in context with it. Could Peter be wrong about the patience of God?  Could Jesus’ parable be set aside, if the people are too evil?  That we rip them out of our lives, and refuse to share with them the very love of God, because we’ve closed the door?

You might ask about the two disciples in 1 Timothy, that Paul hands over to Satan, or the people in Matthew 18, that a congregation treats like publicans and sinners.  Can’t we do that, we ask ourselves, trying to justify our own defenses.  The question is, do you really see them, as former brothers and sisters in Christ?  Those who have walked away, and only by experiencing the depth of despair that is found in being in bondage to Satan, will they cry out for mercy?  Even then, you must ask yourself – if they repent, are you willing to take them back, to forgive them 7 times 70, or as many times as Jesus forgives…you?   Are you willing to bring them and the issue before pastors, and event he chruch, in an attempt to reconcile it?

Are you willing to face the pain, embarassment, struggle, in order that reconciliation can happen?

Is it time to shake the dust off our feet?  Are we willing that our action will be a testimony, a witness against them, that would see them in Hell?  Or can we trust in Chirst, and with Him, blaze a trail of the glory of the gospel, His light that redeems and reconciles and heals?  That covers their sins, not with time, but with the blood of Christ that will cleanse them?

Can we work to bring them to the altar of Christ?

Tough questions this day……

Lord, Have Mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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