Devotional Thought of the New Year
5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?
My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.
Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.
What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….
To realize our imperfection, and our hope!
Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.
This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.
This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….
God with us…
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 89.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.
1 Cor. 3:1-9
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus help you see God at work, causing you to depend on the fact God loves you!
Teaching Little Ones ( or Big Ones!)
There are a lot of amazing things in life. The Grand Canyon, the dawn on the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and the sunset’s you see sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Things people do also amaze me, whether it is skilled athlete, or our musicians.
Or our preschool teachers, especially Lisa and Lorena – who work with the tiniest of toddlers. Keeping them focused on a lesson, and sitting still in chapel, well, mostly still
Keeping big kids focused is hard enough, I can’t imagine the faith that results in patience that God gives our teachers!
That’s why Paul will compare the Corinthians (and us) to infants in Christ! For while they should be focused on what is important, they are not. And so in frustration Paul tells them that he has to treat them like toddlers, or people that have absolutely no clue about the love and mercy of God.
Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
But all we have to do is look around, and we see the leaders who act as if they are playing out back in the playground. Then we see similar things among our church leaders. I will freely admit to getting distracted from what is important, and acting more than a toddler at times! I want what’s mine! Give it back! That’s not fair!
In the background, Jesus waits, for the Holy Spirit is at work… and will use God’s word, including these words penned by Paul, to correct us, to help us to focus, to get us back into what comes close to a line!
Distracted by what is not important
In the readings from 1 Corinthians, we see what was the distraction of the day. It was who the people followed. It must have been a significant problem, for Paul spends some time on it.
For some reason, they tried to establish a spiritual pedigree. I have seen that – even among pastors! They somewhat jokingly compare whether they were trained at our Ft. Wayne Seminary, or St. Louis Serminary! How ludicrous, especially when they know that the best pastors come from Irvine!
Can you imagine if people here argued about whether the Lord’s supper was better from the hand of Pr. Mazemke, or Pr. Rossow, or Pr. Hsu, or Pr. CHen or from me? The bread and the wine are what is important, not whose hand put it into your hand.
If that is true for the communion we serve, it should be true for the message we give. As long as that message is about Jesus, about His love for you, about His forgiveness, that message that we sum up in a couple of statements…
The Lord is with YOU! ( and also with you)
Alleluia! His is risen! (He is risen indeed!) and therefore (we are risen indeed!)
Everything else, including which pastor brought you to know Jesus, or where you learned about His love, isn’t as important as the fact that God loves YOU!
What is important
You see, the intellect, the charisma of the pastor, that is not what caused you to believe. It was not by your reason or strength nor mine. It is, and always will be the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the growth.
All of us and everything we do is used by the Holy Spirit, whether it is the music team, or Lisa teaching the kids, or Sandi keeping the books, or Dane, Bob, and Tom as they bring other people the Lord’s Supper. Even our coming to the altar is about one thing – letting God do the work of making a masterpiece of our lives,
Hear the verse again,
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
To truly being to understand that verse, we need to replace the word seed with the word, us,
What’s important is that God makes me grow!
What’s important is that God makes us grow!
God causes the growth in each one of us, and in us as a while.
We must realize this my friends, this is what is important, the work God does in your life! In our lives together. Seeing that He is working in our midst, through each other, all to the same purpose of helping everyone know God is actively part of their life. That is perfecting them, transforming them as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
“17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
That is the purpose – that God is making us more and more like Jesus… that’s the goal and that is how God will continue to work in us, and through us.
That is what encourages pastors to do what we do, and empowers us to be there… -when we see people grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust in Him, to believe in Him. For the miracle we see occurring is that transformation that only the Holy Spirit can be credited for…
and so we shall… (lead into doxology…)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me. 6 You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.
Psalm 13:5-6 (CEV)
O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.
548 If you feel the Communion of the Saints—if you live it—you’ll gladly be a man of penance. And you will realize that penance is gaudium etsi laboriosum—“joy in spite of hardship,” and you will feel yourself “allied” to all the penitent souls that have been, that are, and that ever will be.
I grew up among a generation that was told not to focus on experiences, not to trust our feelings. to only focus on a logical, rational presentation of Christianity.
I’ve also seen the other extreme in my youth, where people chased after religious experiences, who wanted to feel the positive vibes that come when experiencing the supernatural, I think those excesses of the late 60’s and 70’s led to the pendulum swing of the 80’s and into the new millenium.
Both sides treat the other side with suspicion, both sides blame the other for the death or at least the hospice status of the church. ANd both try to convince me and others that their focus is the best and only hope, relying not on God for the growth of the church, but on man’s wisdom, and man’s ability to create the right… environment… that will bring about revival.
While I think both are wrong, and grow weary of both, I do think think that a sign of revival is an experience, Not one of great passion, not one of great signs and wonders.
Instead a humbling experience, one that touches the depth of our brokenness, and leaves us tired, exhausted, and in awe of what we’ve encountered… the grace of God.
That is what Spurgeon is talking about with the term loving kindness. cHesed in Hebrew, it is that experience of the merciful love of God that comes to us in our brokenness, in the depth our our sin, when we are with hope, and dries our tears and whispers to us that we are forgiven, that we are being healed, and restored.
That is what Escriva is talking about with the joy in the midst of hardship, the experience that causes us, in the future when we sin again, to pray for repentance and restoration with confidence,
It is the quiet celebration of the Psalmist, who though he believed there was no hope, found that hope in the middle of despair.
We aren’t talking about seeing a miracle that leaves everyone applauding like a Superbowl victory, (Well heaven parties like that) but one that leaves us like the feeling, having worked all night, to see the break of dawn…knowing that peace and rest is near… yet struggling to believe it.
We have to experience this healing, we can’t just “know” it happened once. We need to struggle with it, to ask, ‘could God have really loved me this much, and then be assured, by scripture and by the sacraments, yes, He does.
THis experience is contagious, it sweeps communities and nations, it changes individuals and countries, it changes the church, which welcomes sinners home with confidence, expecting to see the miracle again that reminds us of our miracle…. as we share in something that leaves us… awe doesn’t seem strong enough a word.
This experience can’t be manipulated, it is not subject to our feelings or our knowledge. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us, even dragging us to the foot of the cross, helping us see we belong there, nailed to the cross, sharing in Christ’s death, and wondering why we are even allowed near Him. And then coming to the realization that because we died with Him, we rise from the dead with Him.
That’s not head knowledge, that is life…and that life has to be lived….
Heavenly Father, help us to see the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, drawing us to the cross, uniting us to His death and resurrection. Help us to see this, not as observers, but from actually experiencing the reality of the SPirit’s work. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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… 🙂
Devotional 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
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!
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,
7 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. 8 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.
Let that sink in.
Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
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.
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!
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
† 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!”
[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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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.