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The Infinitely Valuable, That Leaves All in the Dust; A sermon on Phil. 3:4-14

church at communion 2 The Infinite Valuable

That leaves all in the dust…

Phil. 3:4-14b

 In Jesus Name

 May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.

Value beyond calculation…

Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it.  It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.

500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.

Interesting,

It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done.  And its value?  That is easier to calculate.  A half of a billion dollars could provide

2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊

So its value isn’t infinite

Not even close.

Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.

Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.

An Important word?

Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage.  Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was.  Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.

Me?  I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.

Skubala.

Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today?  Rubbish?) or garbage.  The old King James was more accurate with dung.  While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.

For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.

Rubbish?  really?

But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.

I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.

Important enough to leave all else in the dust.

For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.

Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught

Paul explains why a few verses down,

I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable.  Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.  To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.

To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.

In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor,

Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”[1]

That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was.  And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it.  No way, no how.

Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy.  Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty.  All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life,  all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.

But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…

That is infinitely valuable.

So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.

Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…

For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace.  AMEN.

 

 

[1] Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

The Reason the Church is Here….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  When they saw him, they fell at his feet in worship, even though some of them struggled to trust Him. 18  Jesus went to them and said, “I have been given all responsibility in heaven and on earth. 19  You area going disciple people of all cultures: by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and instructing them to treasure this covenant relationship I committed to with you! And I am with you ever day, for forever.”   Matthew 28:17-20 (parker’s paraphrase)

To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.

I have to start with a disclaimer.  I want to write nothing about this post, save what you see above.  The charge for us to disciple the world, by helping people enter into a relationship as part of the people of God, and then to teach them to treasure this covenant relationship, this relationship based on God’s plan, on His terms, for Hs is God.  That is the work of the church that is how we are to love our neighbor; that is the work of God, or as my favorite pastor/author noted, the Opus Dei.

These words of Cardinal Ratzinger in blue (later Pope Benedict XVI)  are an incredible description of that relationship, this discipling process.  Go back and read them again.  Go ahead, go do it.  And again, savor the words describing your relationship with God, as you are pulled into this incredible.

But is this what we are about in the church?

Is this what we value in our own lives personally? Do we understand this incredible, blessed fellowship we have been brought into with the Father, Sona nd Holy Spirit?

We need to, and we need to get that this is far more than obeying laws and commandments (though that is part of it).  It is, to use the Old Testament prophecies, the very “being” that is knowing that we God has made us HIs people, and He is our God.

This is what is revealed, from the very beginning to creation to each time someone is baptized or is revived as their sins are forgiven, or are renewed as they take and eat the Body broken for them, the bloodshed to bring them into this covenant relationship.

This is what we treasure; this is what we guard, (which is what tereo means – not just obey/observe) This is what we reveal to the world, it is how we disciple, this is how we live.

Even when we struggle, or doubt, for Jesus is our Lord. And He is with us.

AMEN!

(1)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Were you Talking to Me? Yes! You Were! A sermon about God’s relationship with us!

Were You Talking To Me?
Yes, You Were Talking to Me

Isaiah 62:1-5

IHS

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ continue to astound you, as you realize that means God really loves YOU, He really loves You!

A More than a Bit Uncomfortable

One of the odd pleasures in my life happens on Monday Evening, as I hear the guys that I study worth gripe and complain about a term we use, to describe what we have as believers.  It is almost funny to watch their discomfort as we talk about relationships.

They struggle with the idea that God calls us into an intimate relationship with Him.  They will complain that guys don’t like to talk about relationships in general and that using the word “intimate” will shut almost every man down.

They will admit that there is no better phrase to describe what God calls us into. But they will still struggle with the phrase, and I don’t think it is just because of the words involved.

I think there is something deeper that bothers us, something that unnerves us.

Yes, it unnerves me as well! Please don’t tell the Monday night guys this, as much as I love talking about the intimate relationship God desires to have with his people, when it comes to talking about the God desiring that kind of relationship with me, my reaction is like Al Pacino’s.

Are you talking to me?  Are you talking to… ME?

Yes, the Old Testament is talking to us, about God and us, and a relationship deeper than anything we’ve ever known!

Why had the discomfort?

Hear some of the phrases from our Old Testament reading this morning,

Because I love (insert your name), I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for (insert your name again), I cannot remain silent.

How about this one,

2  The nations will see (insert your name) righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by (insert your name) glory!

It keeps going

(insert your name), new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim (Insert your name) as his bride.

And finally

Then God will rejoice over (insert your name one last time) as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

Yes, God is talking to us, these incredible words are
How comfortable are you with this?

Have to admit, it is a bit awkward for me to hear these words. I mean I love God, I love to hear about His love for me and all of His people, but it is a challenge to work through God not only loving us but desiring us, yearning for us, delighting in us. And it only gets worse when we take our us, and put in our individual names.  It is awkward, but once we get past that awkwardness, it is amazing!

I think the key is that second phrase up there, the one about the nations seeing our righteousness, about the world leaders being blinding by our glory.

It would make sense if we were that righteous, that holy, that glorious.  But I have to admit I am not.  A person who is righteous, who is holy, yes, they would certainly deserve the love of God. They would be the kind of person God would like, that he would delight in, that makes sense.

But you and I?

How righteous are we?  How much would God delight in what I did on Wednesday, or what you over there were thinking on Thursday, or on what you said to that irritating person last Monday?  What about the musicians, would God delight in everything you thought, said or did on Friday?
Really?

I think far more than the word relationship or the word intimate is our knowledge that God yearns, loves, and delights in us who do not deserve that kind of attention.  Someone else surely might, but not us.

We sin.  In our thoughts, in our words, and in what we do, and did not do.

That is why we are uncomfortable with this. We don’t deserve this kind of attention.

What if God, after all of this, realized that who He loved would struggle with faithfulness.  For that is what sin is, it is our not being faithful to God.  When we sin, it is as if we were cheating on God.  No, not as if we were cheating on God, we do cheat on God when we sin.

Unfaithful in a deep, intimate relationship with the God who loves us.

Yeah, that makes us uncomfortable.

This is Your God…


But hear God again,

1  Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.

It may seem odd for God to pray for us, you should insert the word “interceding”. He promises He isn’t going to stay passive, He says that twice!  He isn’t going to stop interceding in our lives until we are as righteous until the fact of our salvation is so glorious that no one can deny it.

That’s the love of God for you.  That is the work on the cross, and the work of the Holy Spirit every day.

God determines that He guarantees that no one can ever call us forsaken, for He will not forsake us. We will have hope, for God ensures no one can call us desolate. Instead, God tells us He will delight in us, That we are the Bride of Christ, that He has made a covenant, a promise to us that we will always be His as He marks us with His name.

Here God is giving us a new name again, this time from the Book of Revelation.

Rev 3:12 — All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

And God won’t stop working in our lives until we are victorious.

This is our God, this is the God who yearns for us, who loves us, who delights in us, Who shows that love in the work He does, making us His own.  In the work, He accomplishes in us, and through us.

That is the relationship He creates in our Baptism, that He restores through our hearing of His love and hearing that we are forgiven, that we celebrate with a foretaste of the wedding feast, that we call communion and the Lord’s Supper.

For this is our God, who works in us deeper than we even are aware of, this is the God, who yearns for His people, so much that Christ would die to make our new name a reality.

So let us celebrate!  He knows our name when making these promises, Yes, He is really talking to you when He talks of His love and delight. (and me!)

AMEN!

 

?? Is the Church Asking the Right Quesion as It Tries to Share its Hope??

Featured imageDiscussion/Devotional Thought  of the Day

10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (TEV)

15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

“If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?”  “why?  (1)

“The only preparation which multitudes seem to make for heaven is for its judgment bar,” (2)

Nearly 30 years ago, my pastor and I were trained in what was known as Evangelism Explosion. The goal of the ministry was to prepare people with a scripted message that they could share the Christian faith. Tens of thousands of pastors and people were trained in the method.  The scripts basic concept (as with most evangelism methods ) was to give peopel the assurance of eternal life in heaven, rather than eternal damnation/annihilation/punishment and the wrath of God.

In fact, last week someone asked those very questions to me via social media.

And this blog has been simmering ever since.  The key was the quote from my devotions this morning, which brought it home.  is our evangelistic work as believers primarily focused on making sure people get into heaven? Or is it about giving them the life, the peace, and the knowledge of God’s presence in this life, that is our hope for eternity?

If it is evangelism to prevent them from being sent to hell, there is strong motivation that would cause us to share God’s love with those we care for, with those we love. But that mission accomplished, is there the tight communion that you should see, is there the shared life, is there a willingness to stay together through thick and thin.  To be blunt, does create a life that struggles with sin, and strives to love others as Christ did?

If our questions and manuscripts lead people only to get past the St Peter and those who guard the gates of heaven, what are we really doing?  is conversion something that happens in a twinkling of an eye?  You were going to hell, woops now you are going to heaven?

Or is our hope, our expectation based on a promise that we have a hint, a glimpse of in this life, and that glimpse changes everything?  A promise that is repeated time and time in the scriptures.You will be my people, and I will be your God.”

isn’t that where our hope lies? In the fact that who weren’t once a people, are now a people?  Isn’t our hope seen in the promise that God will transform us and cause us to walk in ways that are incredible and blessed. (even though they might include suffering)

The evangelism explosion questions have their place, much of the material I still use to this day. Even so, the direction of our evangelism must be more than selling eternal fire insurance.  What our hope is based on is one promise, that is as true now as it will be then.  That gives us hope for this world, when it seems like it is falling apart, and yes  for eternity.

The hope that is found when we know that the Lord is with us, and will never abandon us.

May the questions you ask lead people to realize this.

(1)  paraphrase of the two questions from Evangelism Explosion used in many evangelism training seminars

(2)  Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper 1 Publcishing – the devotion for this day

The Lord Is With You! What Does This Mean?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’” Ezekiel 48:35b (NLT)

12  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT) 

Being saved means being loved and only the love of God can purify damaged human love and restore the network of relationships that has been fundamentally alienated. (1)

7 First of all, there is in this article no disagreement among us concerning the following points: That it is God’s will, ordinance, and command that believers walk in good works; that only those are truly good works which God himself prescribes and commands in his Word, and not those that an individual may devise according to his own opinion or that are based on human traditions; that truly good works are not done by a person’s own natural powers but only after a person has been reconciled to God through faith and renewed through the Holy Spirit, or, as St. Paul says, “has been created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

In church gatherings following what is called the traditional liturgy(3)  there are two phrases, a statement, and a response, which I have come to treasure.

The pastor/priest/bishop says, “The LORD is with you!”  And the people respond, “And also with you”, or perhaps in some forms, “and with your spirit”.

As I write this, the 1001st blog on justifiedandsinner, I can think of no better phrase, nor better promise to explore. If justification is the core doctrine in theology, this statement is the heart of theology. In fact, it is the sole reason for justification.  Justification exists in order to draw and unite to God, a people who weren’t a people, to create His family, to give those who did not have a real god, but followed idols, a God that loves and cares who heals and forgives, who is merciful, and therefore just.

That is what it means; that is the bottom line promise throughout scripture.  It was the promise in the Garden, and the promise of the Exodus, the promise of the restoration of Israel, as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold it.  Though we can’t realize it, this promise was fulfilled and made real at the cross.  The promise was restated as Jesus promised at the Ascension that He would never forsake us, and at Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came to abide in those God called and made His own.  In the people, God is transforming and making into the image of His son.

This freedom from sin God gives us has a dramatic effect.  It changes us into God’s workmanship – not just someday, but even now.  That is what repentance is, not just some heartfelt apology, but the transformation of our mind, the putting on of Christ.

Side effects of the Lord being with you are well described above, but  few highlights

  • We are clothed with love Paul says, not as a command, but as the promise of our Baptism, a love that flows out to others.  This isn’t some matter of force, or of obligation.  It is a transformation God works inside us, the effect of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in us.
  • We become those who walk in good works, as the Lutheran Confessions describe.  Again, it is not a matter of obedience of our will, but the effect of reconciliation and renewal.
  • We see relationships in a new light – that they are healing and healed by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead

These are incredible blessings, things beyond our ability to see and lay hold of perfectly.  That again proves it is not ours naturally, but still something that becomes more and more our transformed nature, the effect of the trust in God the Holy Spirit works in us.  It is part of what this idea that God is with us means.

But it is not the primary, glorious meaning to the Lord is with you….

The primary, glorious meaning of this simple phrase, is the phrase itself…..

HE is with YOU!

Revel in that, knowing that nothing can separate you from His love.  AMEN!

1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 221). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 552). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(3)  What traditional liturgy means fluctuates greatly over time and denominational affiliation -but the basic outline is similar.

Has the Church Forgotten the only Fact it needs to focus on?

devotional thought fo the day
Featured image
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”   Mt 1:23 

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Mt 18:20 

“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”  (1)

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.  (2)

584    Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!”  (3)

We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things  (4)

When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog.  Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read.  It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember.  The critical fact I need to remember.

To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us.  He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us.  Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.

It all begins and ends with that relationship.

Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship.  The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.

This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism.  It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)

This is what our religion is all about, walking with God.  Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.

It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.

I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.

The Lord is with you!

1.   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana

3.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4.  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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.

Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Loving Your Neighbors…Does it Look Like This?

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

 I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the holy Spirit in bearing me witness 2  that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. 3  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh. Romans 9:1-3 (NAB)

436 Experience, great knowledge of the world, being able to read between the lines, an exaggerated sharpness, a critical spirit… All those things, in your business and social relations, have led you too far, to such an extent that you have become a bit cynical. All that “excessive realism”, which is a lack of supernatural spirit, has even invaded your interior life. Through failing to be simple, you have become at times cold and unfeeling.  (1)

Most of realize that the great commandments are to love God with everything, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Though we all struggle with this, I sometimes wonder if we know what it means to love them.  It’s not just giving them a hug as we greet them during the peace,  Or giving them a high five when we see them, hearing that they made a hole in one. It even goes beyond cooking a meal for them when they are recovering from a hospital stay, or helping them when they are short of cash.  Loving goes a lot more.  Too often, St. Josemaria has it right, the very lives we live, the successes we have in our “real world” leave us cold, and unfeeling.  To be honest, sometimes we are un-loving.  This Catholic priest/pastor has it right – our realism leaves us dried out spiritually.

But we are called to love, to love supernaturally, and we have a great example,

Do we feel like St Paul does, when he writes to the Romans, explaining that he desires that he would be able to give up his life, his eternal life, be completely separated from Christ,  that those who were His brothers could know Jesus.  

Two things about this passage need to be noted

First, what Paul wants for his people more than anything is that they would know Christ, that the power of His resurrection would be theirs, that they would walk with God, as they (and all of us) are meant to do.  Nothing else matches that priority. For nothing, absolutely nothing, in life compares to the peace we have, knowing God lives in us,  This love of God which compels us to love in return, the depth of that love, the height, the width and the breadth – to even glimpse of God’s love for us, leaves us in awe.

He wants that experience for them more than anything, and truly loving someone else means not just wanting them to have good, but to have the best.

Which leads us to the second thing – that he desires this so much for them, that he would desire this so much, that he is willing to give up his own place in Christ, if it meant that they would be there.  He won’t just die for them, he would be willing to give all up for them. Including eternity, including Christ.  (yes I know, and Paul knows that this is impossible… )  Still his desire that they know God, intimately relate and communicate and love God, he is willing to sacrifice all for that to happen.  Are we?  Can we trust in God to the point where God’s desire becomes more and more the dominant desire in us?   Can we see our families, our neighbor’s need, their brokenness, their desperation to be loved completely, to be freed from guilt and shame, to be able not to be anxious or fear, to live in peace?  Would we die on a spiritual grenade for them?   Would we endure some discomfort?  Would we confront them in love, showing them their need for Him?

Love you neighbor, Jesus said……….

Here is an example.

Lord, pour out your mercy on Your people.  AMEn!..
Oh…. One last though in passing….Jesus also said love your enemies…

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1944-1947). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

An Individual Relationship with God? Inconceivable…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 24:7 (NLT) 

19  We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20  He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21  We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:19-25 (TEV)

 

409         “I was a guerrilla fighter,” he wrote, “and I moved around the hills, shooting whenever I wanted. But I thought I had better become a soldier, because I realised that wars are won more easily by organised armies and well-disciplined armies. A poor guerrilla fighter on his own cannot take whole cities, or conquer the world. I hung up my old musket—it was so out of date!—and now I am better armed. At the same time, I know that I can no longer lie down in the hills, under the shade of a tree, and dream about winning the war all on my own.” Blessed be the discipline and blessed be the unity of our Holy Mother the Church!  (1)

I was asked this week, how do I respond to people who think that they can worship God all by themselves.  It’s not the first time, people have asked that question of me.  Apparently someone asked Pope Francis that earlier this week as well, as one of his tweets responded to such a question. He admitted that it was difficult, because people are sinners, and we can frustrate anger and even cause each other great anxiety.  But it was, nevertheless necessary.

We know God because others who are part of the body of Christ have shared His love with us.  No one comes to know Jesus, unless He is revealed to us by another.  It could be parents, uncles or aunts, a friend, even someone we were interested in dating.  But someone revealed to us the depth of God’s love for us.

The writer of Hebrews knows this all too well, as he begins to some up his letter, he address those who want to have some kind of individual relationship with God –  where it is just God and them, at the beach, in the forest, on their motorcycle, playing their music, where ever. The argument is that the relationship could be purer, less restricted, less affected by hypocrisy, or their own inability to be patient and deal with others.   But that presumes that the kind of relationship God has designed for each of us is one on one with Him.  That we don’t need the encouragement of others, that those times where we stress, where we worry, where we hurt, are going to take away from our relationship with God, rather than intensify it, as we realize our need for God, to need to know His presence, His comfort, His peace.  It

I love the quote from St. Josemaria, because it nails me to the cross.  For years growing up, desiring to be a pastor, I thought about my winning the world for God, the great things I could do.  I was the idyllic “guerrilla”, solider of the cross. There was a lot of encouragement for this, a naivete about the need for true fellowship – as working as one body in Christ. Of realizing what affects one believer affects us all, without regard to denomination or theology, or personal journey.  It’s not about what I’ve chosen to believe, or you think in right.

Paul explains it well in his letter to the church in Ephesus,

3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

Our unity is not found in our diversity, but in Christ, in His revelation, in His Love.  In what binds us together in His un-explainable peace.

That’s why we need to no abandon each other, finding reasons to walk alone.

It can’t be done.  For God has designed us to be His people – together, and He comes to us to be our (together) God.

The strength we find in this, the peace, the encouragement, even in times of stress, of anxiety, of dealing with brokenness, of dealing with sin…

It’s why church and Bible study are important.  Not to prove our holiness, but to encourage each other to remember we are holy, separated together for a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s the Church, simply put, His people….

Come and join us, as we walk with Christ, together.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1835-1841). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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