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Which Miracle Would You Choose? Which is more needed?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for our Broken Days:

Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?  9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man  has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” Mark 2:8-11  HCSB

476      For each one of us, as for Lazarus, it was really a veni foras—come out—which got us moving. How sad it is to see those who are still dead and don’t know the power of God’s mercy! Renew your holy joy, for opposite the man who is decomposing without Christ, there is another who has risen with him.

A little background is necessary for this blog.

I grew up with a genetic disorder known as Marfan’s Syndrome.  It’s one of those nasty connective tissue disorders that affects my eyes, my spine, and my heart.  It was responsible for a cardiac arrest in my twenties, and the necessity of two of my heart valves being replaced 20 years ago.  I also had to deal with severe asthma attacks and allergies that put me in the hospital often and caused me to miss as many as 60 days of school in third grade.  Looking back, I was probably significantly on the Asperger’s spectrum, because my social skill wasn’t exactly…. normal. (If you know me, you know it still isn’t!)

In the process, for all of the above, my parents would have people pray for me.  We even went to see Kathryn Kuhlman once, which required a really long bus trip. My folks did what they could as did the experts.  If ripping off the roof of a house would have secured my healing – they would have done it.  For me, the idea of physical healing isn’t just a passing idea, it is something desired for a long time.  Regular back pain, poor eyesight, and the clicking of mechanical valves impact me greatly at times – both physically and psychologically, and more times than I want to admit, spiritually.

As I read that passage this morning, it hit me.  God did answer a prayer for healing in my life, but not the physical healing we all wanted.  Instead, what God gave me was what the paralytic was offered, the forgiveness of my sin.

All of it, and that is a lot.

From the things that would cause me not to sleep at night because of guilt and shame, to the little things in the eyes of the world, to the sin that I attempt to justify.

He came to die, that all my sin would be paid for, the debt I incurred by committing it erased.  For that, I will ever be grateful.

I think the scribes had it right for once when they noted that forgiving sins was a far greater miraculous act, a act far more requiring the full power, authority and responsibility of God.  

There are doctors and others who can perform physical miracles today, there are people who have the gift of doing so, and among those even some who don’t believe in God.  But forgiving sin, that is a whole different matter.

And Jesus, fully God, fully man, can forgive our sin and does.  He has that right, He has the ability, and he invested that ability in His people, with the responsibility given to those who shepherd them, who guide them into God’s presence, the men who reveal God’s presence in their lives.

This miracle is one that impacts us far beyond our mortal life.  That is why it required more dunamis, more power/authority/responsibility/capability than other miracles.  It was why the scribe doubted.

Would I love to be healed completely of the effect of Marphans?  Yes
Would I like to be more socially skilled, and less awkward?  Hmmm… tough one. 🙂  (there are days when the world not making sense is a good thing)

But were I to have all that, and not have the forgiveness of sins, all would be lost.  So I will rejoice in my weakness, and rejoice in a Lord that loves me and shows me the mercy I so need, and so do not deserve.  This is what raises us like Lazarus from the dead, this is the power of God’s mercy at work, this is the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in you and I!

Come know the joy of being forgiven, reconciled, redeemed,

( and we can still pray that God heals the rest!)

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1820-1824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will you let them see you….

Devotional after a long Day:

 15  Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. 16  Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. .  Romans 12:15-16 (NJB)

442         Diamonds are polished with diamonds…, and souls with souls. (1)

On Sunday, the people of my church will promise to a little baby, to be there when she is full of joy, to cry with her when her heart aches.  In all things, to pray for her, and to remind her that the Lord is with her, for He has claimed her and united her to Himself.  And as a baptized belever, she will grow in this as well, and as we struggle, she will be there for us, and as we know Christ’s peace, she will as well.

That’s the way Paul says we are supposed to be, as Jesus church, the people called together as His own, whom He calls His friends (yeah He does – look it up) But since you are His sibling and son or daughter of God, as am I, we are siiblings, we are united together in Christ.  As Paul says

25  This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27  All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. .1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NLT) 

But this is where we in the western world, seem to short circuit.  We don’t like people to know our “business”.  We don’t mind them knowing our successes, our joys, but dare we let them see us when we are crushed, bruised, hurting, anxious and scared?  When our health is failing, when someone is breaking our heart, when we are lost in sin, when we can’t escape its trap on our own, the causes of our pain and brokenness,

But will we dare to reveal ourselves, so that others can cry with us?  So that others can be there, and remind us Jesus is there.. Will we let them see us, let them minister to us, cr with us?  Will we we let their presence remind us of His presence, their love remind us of His love.

For the sake of the body… will we let it do what bodies are supposed to do?

I know it’s uncomfortable, I know its awkward, and we fear the embarassment….

O well, we are a family, let’s get used to being one…

For as that family, we have Christ, we have the Faher, and we have the Holy Spirit, the one who’s title is, the Comforter.

Will we cry out together, Lord have Mercy! and Maranatha! and Hallelujah?

If you want to see a church that does this… come join us at Concordia…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1964-1965). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Sin with Boldness?

Devotion/Discussion of the Day;

 3  When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4  Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. 5  Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins. 6  So all your loyal people should pray to you in times of need; when a great flood of trouble comes rushing in, it will not reach them. 7  You are my hiding place; you will save me from trouble. I sing aloud of your salvation, because you protect me.    Psalm 32:3-7 (TEV)

8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (TEV) 

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious  sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world]  we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness  dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner. (1)

It’s one of the best known partial  quotes of Luther, the line “Sin Boldly”.  Misquoted, used to justify all sorts of sins and perversions, but it is not about sinning.

It’s about God’s Faithfulness.  It’s about God’s desire… it’s about the joy of knowing that we are cleansed, forgiven, absolved, made new.

But in order to know the peace and joy that comes from being saved from sin… we have to realize we have sinned, we need to confess it, so that we realize we can be cleansed of it, that it can be purged.  Otherwise it will overwhelm us, it will drown our lives… the anxiety will overcome us…

But if we confess it – if we allow that sin to be revealed, it we know Christ will take it away… we can rejoice and be at peace.

So why hide it?  Why shrink in shame from God?  Why act like He is not involved in every part of our lives?

Why not let Jesus break the hold it has on our lives?

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 48: Luther’s works, vol. 48: Letters I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (281–282). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

How Important is our Salvation?

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Important is our Salvation?

Psalm 30

 Jesus, Son and Savior

May we realize how precious this love and mercy is, which we have been given by God our Father, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

 

What Changes Men
In the gospel reading this morning, and in the one from Acts, we have too long narratives, the stories of the conversion of Paul, and the renewal of Peter.

Amazing stories – as men who struggled with God, find themselves, and the healing of a relationship that no one would have ever thought possible, heck most of us wouldn’t even think they had a chance of making up for what they did.

The man who murdered and imprisoned believers… and the man who, when given a chance to confess his friendship, his relationship with Christ, betrayed him…not just once – but three times.

And they were changed, their lives, as Paul would write to Titus, were re-vitalized – quickened – born again – and renewed.  Everything changed in a flash of light, in a moment, as the darkness they dwelled in, was dispelled by the love of Christ, by His mercy, by His presence and comfort in their lives.

Such a great salvation, such a great deliverance and rescue of their hearts and minds. How sad would it have been, if they had just dismissed it, and went about their daily business, as if nothing had happened.

Such is the experience of David as well, the one who wrote our other reading, Psalm 30. A Psalm whose words describe this incredible work of God, as God saves David, as God brings healing to David’s wounds, as God restores him…

As God has promised to do in our lives, as indeed He is doing.

Sing Praise – Remember what the Holy One Has done, and give thanks!

David starts the Psalm out in such an upbeat manner – he’s seen God’s had at work, freeing him from what oppressed him, freeing him what is against him.  No one can point out David’s shame, no one can gloat over the situation he has found himself in, God has rescued him from the situation.  He hasn’t just been revitalized – he has been completely renewed  – as He himself testifies to in verse 2 –

“I cried to you for help, O Lord my God, and YOU healed me!”

He was healed, He was delivered, saved, everything changed – life changed, it began anew – David was given a new life!  In verse three, we see that, for David thought his life was heading for the death and hell.  God restored David’s life, – we call it being “born again’ these days, and it was brand new.  A life unmarked by the strife, by the sin, but dwelling secured and safe.

Of the ways David describes God’s delivering him, my favorite is found in verse 4, as we  worship Him – remembering what He did, and giving Him thanks.  For those words are the ones we find – even as we will hear in a few moments – as we hear Christ’s words about the true nature of the bread and wine, the Body and Blood. Echo His praises, give thanks, and when you do this.. remember me.  Know me, Know intimately my presence, my love, my promises, my presence – know me.

David understood the way that God works, even as he points to the day of the feast – of the celebration of God’s goodness!

So with Jesus, let us give thanks – and we comprehend, as we remember He is here….

not quite yet… for David reveals something next…that is shocking… for its clarity.

But what about the terrifying days…when we don’t see God?

King David a number of his times experiences the trauma that he describes in verse five to seven.  They aren’t part of his life before God revealed his love to him, but were very much a part of his life as a believer, as one who trusted in God – who walked with the Lord and was given the ability to address God by His name, Yahweh, the IAM.

Hear again verse 5-7

5  His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning. 6  I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7  You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid.

There is a famous, probably in the history of the United States, entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.  Having known God’s love, having known how He delivers those He loves, those who trust in Him, it is not being in God’s presence that scares the life out of me, it is when I think God has abandoned me, when He has looked away.  That is when the tears – can last through the night, when sleep fails, when as David says – “I was terrified”.

O, how my anxiety soars, when I’ve lost sight of the fact that God has me, not just in His sight, but in His son,  We can, we indeed do walk with God through just about anything.  I can look around this sanctuary and see incredible saints, who have walked with God through incredible challenges.  Yet it is the times, where we aren’t sure God is with us, that drive us to despair, that rob us of the life God’s given us. Or at least Satan would like us to think that God has abandoned us, that God has forsaken us…

That’s when we play games like David mentions. Our version goes like this. “Hey God – remember me?  I’m the one you saved so I could worship you – do you want all your hard work to go to waste?  Who’s going to go out and save the world?  Who’s going to teach my grandkids about you, Lord?  or make sure this place stays open to proclaim your faithfulness.”

It is in the darkness of night, the sleepless night that we ask those kinds of questions.  Forgetting that God can raise up the rocks to praise Him.  It is when we get what it must have been like for Peter… why he had to run to the tomb, and why it took a few weeks to sink in,  Until Jesus took him on a walk along a beach and reminded him… I am with you… and reminded Peter that Peter knew this – because Peter loved him!

Hear me – o wait… you did!

That is why there is such a quick transition from the whining of David, into the rejoicing.  He remembers…well what He was supposed to remember – that God has changed everything.

From the mourning that exists in the depth of your soul, the grief that causes those tears to last all night, into the joyous dance that comes as dawn breaks – that joy that comes as we hear God’s joyous cry of jubilation!  That’s the reason we dance – that is why we are changed from clothes of mourning, into that fit for a celebration, a time of great praise –

Because God commanded – everything is restored, everything is renewed, life is given!

I love how a pastor 15 centuries ago described this psalm,

John tells us most fully how and when this appearance took place. But the Lord rose in the morning from the sepulchre in which He had been laid in the evening, that those words of the Psalm might be fulfilled, Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)[i]

It is that moment – the moment of the stone being rolled away, the empty tomb, the cry He is Risen, that we need to comprehend – for it was then our salvation was made sure – it was not just a guarantee – it was real.
That tomb – it is …

That means Praise God – He is risen!
and that means – The Lord is …
and if the Son has set you free – you are free

So rejoice – praise Him, glorify Him, never be quiet – always know, even when you don’t feel it, that you dwell in His undescribable peace…

For He keeps you there… your heart, your mind… AMEN!

 


[i] Thomas Aquinas, S., & Newman, J. H. (1842). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 2: St. Mark (340). Oxford: John Henry Parker.

“Why don’t they get it?”

Discussion and devotional thought of the day: Another interesting thing popped up at the end of my devotions this morning.

” Don’t expect people’s applause for your work. What is more, sometimes you mustn’t even expect other people and institutions, who like you are working for Christ, to understand you. Seek only the glory of God and, while loving everyone, don’t worry if there are some who don’t understand you.”  (1)

I have to admit a problem with this one, not that I like applause, but rather that I like confirmation.  A strong amen at the end of the sermon, a “like” or a “share” on one of my posts that has a special meaning to me.  (as opposed to those where my sarcasm and cyncism rules) I want people to grasp how deep and wide and broad and high is God’s love for them in Christ, and they instead get the point about social action  I want them to realize that we need to rid ourselves of idols, and they focus in on giving to others.  I want them to realize the key to worship is realizing they are in the presence of God, and the use my writings to either attack or defend the worship flavor they prefer.

UGGGGGHHHHH…

How frustrating it is when people don’t get it!

I need to step back at these points, to realize my blindness is as desperate as theirs, just on different issues.As maybe the depth of their trust and appreciation of God’s love.  My job isn’t to stimulate their growth to be like me, but to help them focus on Jesus.  To see His glory, not to admire my turn of the phrase.

As I’ve spent the last year reading the works of St Josemarie Escriva, I look back and see somethings that have resounded in my soul, and others well, I would try to argue with him about if he were around.  Some I need to think through, some like today’s, well hit me between my eyes (see yday’s blog – you’ll see my point.

So maybe I will just write – and if it blesses you praise God, and if you don’t care for it, or don’t get it – That’s okay.  The only thing you need to get is Jesus, -who will rescue you from your sin. (Not sure its a sin – it is…don’t think it is – check against scripture – it probably is)  Let Him rescue you, let Him bring you to glory…

Know His love, revel in the relationship you have with His people in His presence….

And rejoice!

AMEN?

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Triune God…revealed

Devotional thought of the Day:

A Catholic priest once wrote:

“God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours”       Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It is a beneficial thing to contemplate on the trinity.  From an Academic standpoint, the creeds, those incredible statements summarizing the work of the Trinity – they are great!  Pretty good for contemplation as well, as we focus in on why we have confidence, why we trust in God, Father Son and Spirit.  A lot of weight in these statements that we have had handed down to us!

Escriva’s words, taken in conjunction with those creeds reminds us that there is more to the Trinity than academic and theological insight.  There is an intimacy with God, what some of the guys I work with reluctantly once, now playfully refer to the “r” word – the relationship. And that’s what Escriva’s words help us to remember – all those incredible things – all the creation, all the word redeeming us, all the work in making us holy, making us saints – proof that God is with us.   The challenge, when we are talking about the Trinity, is to realize that They keep us in their conversation, that They are One, yet call us into that dance, that call us to share in that love, that dance with joy as the people that are called by Their name… realize that very truth.

Rejoice my friends, the Triune GOd loves you!

Deliver us, from our complaining and judging!

Devotional thought of the day:

5:9 Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. 10 For your example, brothers, in patiently putting up with persecution, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name; 11 remember it is those who had perseverance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate.
James 5:9-11 (NJB)

In my devotion today ( i read some scripture – and then one of several devotional books) I came across this quote:

“Many false apostles, in spite of themselves, do good to the masses, to the people, through the very power of the doctrine of Jesus which they preach—even though they don’t practice it.

But this good does not compensate for the enormous and very real harm they do by killing the souls of leaders, of apostles, who turn away in disgust from those who don’t practice what they preach.

That’s why such men and women, if they are not willing to live an upright life, should never push themselves”forward as leaders. “(Escriva, Josemaria . The Way (Kindle Locations 1024-1028). Scepter Publishers.

I have to confess, I have my own list of such false prophets, men who do preach Christ crucified that people come to know the love of God, but then whose lives are filled with things that don’t quite resemble the God-man who gave up heaven to come down and live humbly among us and die, that we might live.  Or those that encourage us to try and obey God, and then call for the stoning of those who don’t live up to the expectations they have placed on others.  Such hypocrites (the greek for judge is krites btw) do, as Escriva points out – cause much damage – even as God uses what they planned for evil, for good.  (see Gen. 50:20 for the first time someone planned evil and God used it to bless others- the cross is another example)

To me it is amazing that God can and does use their words to bless people.  But hear Paul’s words about this:

1:15 It is true that some of them are preaching Christ out of malice and rivalry; but there are many as well whose intentions are good; 16 some are doing it out of love, knowing that I remain firm in my defence of the gospel. 17 There are others who are proclaiming Christ out of jealousy, not in sincerity but meaning to add to the weight of my chains. 18 But what does it matter? Only that in both ways, whether with false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and for that I am happy; [19a] and I shall go on being happy, too,
Philippians 1:15-18 (NJB)

What really begins to get me – is when I realize – that when I condemn those I consider hypocritical, i am acting exactly as St. Escriva describes.  That is, my judgment and condemnation simply is living very inconsistently with the message I preach – for I proclaim clearly that the hope of sinners is found in Jesus’ love, in His cleansing them, and that there is hope.  Yet when I condemn these men, (not just warning them, or warning others to stay away from them and why) when I bitterly judge them, when I gossip about them, or even compromise and do not confront them (if such is my responsibility) then I have become the kind of pastor I loathe most.   It was once said that we need to preach about real sin – not the sin of those unlike me, but the sins that assault and tempt me and mine.  And condemning those who preach and are hypocritical – in a way different than mine, doesn’t bring healing of my own sin-wracked life.

It is then, i need to hear what every hypocrite does – what every false prophet does.  That there is no reason to delay our repentance, that God is willing to forgive and does.  Then, refreshed by His forgiveness, encouraged by His love – we can return to preaching about Him, and living in Him.  ANd perhaps, knowing my own hypocritical nature is forgiven, I can help others find that same forgiveness,… and peace!

“Lord Have mercy!” we cry!  To our great relief, even as we cry it, we realize He promised to… and has!

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