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A Way to Deal With Stress…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Where there is no vision the people get out of hand; happy are they who keep the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NJB)

2  Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)

958         You have a big problem; but if such things are approached properly, that is to say, with calm and responsible supernatural vision, the solution is always to be found.

Yesterday I attended a class on the relationship between stress and weight loss/gain. Some of the things in the course were quite interesting. others were, hmmm, more challenging to hear, as they led down different paths.

But the first words were about the inavoidability of stress, of problems that we will encounter. It’s there, and there are natural bio-chemical, hormonal reactions to stress. ANd the natural reactions to stress are fight or flee, both kicked into high gear by the rushing hormones that fill our blood stream and affect every muscle and organ in our body.

Stress is unavoidable, brokenness, grief, guilt, shame, worry, all cause this, and more besides. And the toll of such stress over the years is an horrific list of thigns from heart disease and cancer, to forms of mental illness.

Techniques were offered. Breathing, mediation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Visioning. Lacking was anything about prayer, meditative on scripture or on the sacraments. ( Which is odd considering the weight loos program is under the asupices of a Roman Catholic Hospital, administered by an order of nuns. )

For I have found that in the presence of God, when I realize that He is my fortress, the protesction from the trauma of the world (and my own internal trauma as well), that I can begin to relax, that I can begin to hand over the causes of my anxiety.

It is as the Proverb says above, that without that vision, we get out of hand. In other translations, we cast off all restraint, and then, we perish. But when we treasure (for that is what heep means) this revelation of God’s love, of His mercy and healing, we know a joy that is only found in the most perfect peace.

But how do we get there?

It was odd, at the end of the presentation, the last slide included the presenter’s fvorite word. Metanoia a word she knew as change, the change of our mindsets, our way of processing life. You could see her light up as she talked about it.

So I asked if she knew the “other” translation of the word. And then shared with her the word often it is translated into in scripture.

Repentance.

Not the repentance seen in movies, the guilt and shame producing feeling that comes from someone pointing out your guilt and shortcomings. But the kind of transformation seen in Romans 12 above, the very work of God renewing our minds. The work of Holy Spirit in our lives, brinign comfort and healing to our broken hearts and souls. Reminding us that there is no need to beat ourselves up over our sin, rather as 1 John 1:9 says, confessing ti to God, knowing He will cleanse us of all of it, and all injustice.

All of it.

The end of this, the end of seeing/envisioning God, revealed in all his love and mercy in scripture finds us at peace, at home in the presence of God, a place where the anxieities and stress of life may exist, but are so dimiished as we know GOd will bring us through them.

As He has for all who depend, who trust in Him.

Heavenly Father, help us be aware of the Holy Spirit’s work within those who have faith in You, and depend on what You have promised to do and provide for us. Grant us, repentence, the renewing of our hearts and minds and souls, so that we can dwell in the peace You intend for us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who made this all possible at the cross. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3886-3888). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Truth Seen in Lent

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

“Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 GNT

But Peter answered, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!”
At once, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned around and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, “Before the rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 62 Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:60-62 GNT.

Even as the adorer enters into the ‘ascending’ reparation made by the Lamb of God to the Father, he opens himself to the ‘descending’ reparation by which the Lamb of God restores likeness to the image of God in souls disfigured by sin. Christ presents Himself in the Most Holy Eucharist as the spotless Victim come to repair sinners, restoring wholeness and beauty to souls. At the same time He is the Priest who offers perfect reparation to the Father by restoring all things to Him ‘whether in heaven or on earth, making peace by the Blood of His cross’ (Col. 1:20).

The apostle Paul one said that he was the chief of sinners, and that was good news, because it showed us that if God could save even him, we are a piece of cake.

Peter is the same kind of confidence builder. After all, the first of the apostles is a man who is as broken as any of us. He puts his foot in his mouth, he is rash, he thinks of himself. He is a great symbol of humanity.

And in today’s gospel reading, he gives us a great example to understand who we are in Christ. There we see his sincerity, he wants to stand by Jesus, even to the point of death. He will vow, he will promise, and I don’t think it is from pride alone. He is devoted to Jesus. He’s left everything to follow him, and even as the storm clouds gather this night before the cross, Peter has bought in fully with his heart.

In the early morning, just a few hours later, he would fail. He would sin as grievously as any person could in life. He would directly deny God. Not once, but three times.

His sincerity went out the window, as his courage failed him. Broken, he weeps even as Jesus looks upon him, with compassion.

Just as you and I do…

We sin, we deny God, our sincerity fails, it is simply not enough to overcome the temptations our desires, our lust, our anger, our idolatry place before us.

We fail as Peter did…and Jesus still looks upon us with compassion, desiring that we would run to Him for refuge, wanting us to come and be cleansed. ANd if we take the time to consider our brokenness and the depth of our sin, we like Peter would weep bitterly.

That is why Jesus promises that when Peter fails when Peter falls into sin, his faith, his dependence on Jesus will not fail. The very thing Peter couldn’t do, Jesus did.

That is why the Eucharist is so needed in our lives. It reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice that provides not only the payment for our sin but the repair of our lives. In the Lord’s Supper, this Communion with Jesus, we find the Spirit at work, restoring us, transforming us even as the New Covenant promises, for that is why His body was broken, and His blood shed.

for us.

To renew, restore, repair us into the image of Christ, and then bring us into the relationship we were meant to have with the entire Trinity.

It is never easy to admit we sin, that despite our best attempts not to, despite our most sincere desires to overcome it, we will sin. Perhaps less and less as we mature, but the unthinkable will happen.

And when it does, hearing this exchange between Peter and Jesus will hopefully come to mind, and we ill realize Christ’s compassion and the fact that we can depend upon Him.

Look to him, remember his compassion, and let the Spirit comfort and transform you.

This is the lesson of lent…. I pray we all learn it well!

AMEN!


Kirby, D. M. D. (2012). A Mystagogical Catechesis of Eucharistic Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 35). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Our Love/Hate Relationship With God (and those who speak for Him)

devotional thought of the day:

20 Herod was afraid of John because he knew that John was a good and holy man, and so he kept him safe. He liked to listen to him, even though he became greatly disturbed every time he heard him. Mark 6:20 GNT

The biblical term shalom, which is usually so translated, implies much more than the absence of armed conflict; it means the right order of human affairs, well-being—a world where trust and friendship prevail, where neither fear nor want nor treachery nor dishonesty is found. Yet the song of the angels first lays down a precondition, without which there can be no lasting peace: God’s glory. This is the message of peace at Bethlehem: peace among men results from God’s glory. Those who are concerned about the human race and its well-being have to be concerned about God’s glory first of all. God’s glory is not some private concern, left to the personal choice of the individual; it is a public affair. It is a common good, and wherever God is not honored among men, there man as well will not remain honorable. The reason why Christmas affects the peace of man lies in this: because it has restored God’s glory among men.

9 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out. 10 I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life. I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away. Psalm 31:9-10 GNT

We are all like Herod.

And even as I say that I prove it is true.

I recoil at the thought, I am not as evil as he was, I console myself. But yet, if someone is preaching about my sin, I am disturbed, I am very uncomfortable, I feel like he’s laid my brokenness out there for everyone to see. I may even be a bit pissed off, and wanting to strike back as the pain of having my brokenness revealed causes that.

Which is hard when I am the pastor, and the one preaching! 🙂

But there is something comforting as well, I like listening to the promise that even thoguh I have sinned, that there is the possibility, the potential of being forgiven, of being healed and made whole. I may think I am not ready for it, but I need to know it is there.

I need to cry out with the Psalmist for God’s mercy, and I need to know He will answer. I need to know there can and will be peace.

I sandwiched the quote from Pope Benedict in between the gospels for a reason. There is our key to why Herod (and we) like the presence of God and God’s spokesperson in our lives.

The Glory of God which leads to peace, and the promise of that peace. For while we see God’s glory as something to be in awe of, even scared of, for those who know Him, for those who listen to Him, that glory has another name.

That name is “love” and “mercy”, It it glorious that God is compassionate, sympathetic, and in Christ, even empathestic to our brokenness. For while Jesus didn’t sin, He bore the wieght of that sin, and its wrath on the cross. Revealing that glory is something that leaves us unexplainably at peace, knowing God can cleanse us and heal us.

Will we let Him, how much more do we need endure of our brokenness before we shall?

Praying that it not be long… but rather we would find ourselves at home in His glory, experiencing His love, and dwelling, finally at home in His peace!


AMEN!

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. 409). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


The Reformation wasn’t a call to war…..but a call to a life of repentance

Large Catechism  COmmunionDevotional Thought of the Day:
37  Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38  “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 18:37-38 (NLT2)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I wish I could have seen the body language and tone of voice of Pilate when he asked, “What is Truth?”

Was it from exasperation?  Did his non-verbals betray a sad sense of fatalism or sarcasm?  Did he really want to know the truth, but feel that his search was so in vain?

He was face to face with God’s revelation of the truth, and couldn’t see it. He heard it, but he didn’t realize it. 

Approximately 1500 years later, Luther was struggling with the truth as well.  He found the truth, and the mercy it promised so much like chasing after the wind.  What he had been taught obscured it, to the extent that he knew deep despair and depression. 

The hammering of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg wasn’t a call to arms, it wasn’t the equivalent of the first shot of the American Revolution, it wasn’t a cry for the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It was a plea to examine what was believed, and compare it to scripture, in the hope of finding out the truth of God’s love.

My denomination celebrates this day, and I am not sure I do.  I don’t regret the work of Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz and their brothers, but I do regret the necessity.  And I, even more, regret that we’ve lost the focus, that the events surrounding Luther’s search for and finding grace are lost in the triumphalism, in the “we’ve shown them.”

You see, in my mind, the reformation should still be about redirecting us to the mercy of Christ, and to the fact we need it.  It should be about the hope we who are broken find in the healer. It must be about Jesus.

That is why the first thesis read.

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

To remember the beginning of the reformation means we remember the call to a life of repentance.

And that means we have to admit where we are wrong and be willing to be questioned regarding our presuppositions, about our theology and practice. We have to accept the invitations to discuss where we have obscured Jesus, and be willing to repent.

That is reformation, that is putting Christ first, and seeing Him at work, redeeming and reforming His people.

 

Luther, M. (1996). Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of indulgences: October 31, 1517 (electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Your Life Has a Different Meaning…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.     2 Peter 3:8-14  HSCB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.

Patience is one of those things we don’t like to talk about.  Simply put, it is something that is beyond us.  Our culture thrives on impatience.  Cell Phones (remember having to wait to get home to call someone?), DVR’s (so we can fast forward past the stuff we don’t like), microwaves and now insta-pots all serve our desire not to wait.  We might try to justify it as “not wasting time” but in reality, it is our god of impatience that we continually try to find ways to serve.

Into this comes a passage about God’s patience, and the fact that He is patient with us, His people.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, to be destroyed on the day to come.

Be sure, all will be destroyed, this He has promised.

Judgment will happen, this too is promised.  Some to be judged as lacking trust in God’s mercy, and therefore, trusting in themselves they stand condemned. And some, trusting in Christ’ intercession, in His death which erases our sin, and in His resurrection, which brings us to life, they will be judged righteous and welcomed into heaven.

So if God is patient with His church, and yet, will fulfill His word, we find the meaning of life as we imitate His.  We, the church, need to be both patient and yet focused on drawing people to Jesus.  For the day is coming.

It is hard to see the truth of the second coming without wanting to badger people, to not just draw them into Christianity, but to drive them into it, like a rancher driving his cattle.  It takes the patience of a shepherd, who uses his voice and staff guides his flock and leads it into the presence of God.  Or a parent guiding a child to learn to walk, and then ensures where they walk is safe.

This work requires love and thereby provides the new meaning in our lives.

To love those caught in sin, those in bondage to grief and shame, who are caught in selfishness and greed.  This is the meaning of our lives, to love God, to love those whose lives are broken, and help them find the healing that is in Jesus, even while we heal ourselves.

God is with you.. never forget it, and help others know it.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Dare I pray this? Dare I not?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. 24  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. Psalm 139:23-24 (NJB)

Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another •language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks •mysteries in the Spirit. l 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.  1 Cor 14:1-4 HCSB

771    God exalts those who carry out his will in the very same things in which he humbled them.

There is a joke about being cautious as you pray for things like patience and faith, because surely God will hear those prayers, and give you the opportunity to see your growth.  Of course, the only way to see growth in those things is when you have to demonstrate them.

Even though the idea of having to be patient is scary, the idea of praying the psalmist pray this morning is even scarier.  To give God permission, to beg God to investigate every nook and cranny of our heart, our soul, our very being, and to make sure I am not doing anything offensive, anything evil, anything that would lead me to ruin.

God knows our right and our wrong, our acts of rebellion, our sin, but to invite Him in to purge them from us?  That is a hard prayer, that is one that scares me, for somehow I think that what I hide from him, what I deny to myself, somehow doesn’t count, it doesn’t affect me and others, it just was a passing moment, something I barely remember.

And yet, it is only after I pray that, only after letting Jesus carefully circumcise my heart, that I can begin to understand how great His love his and be in awe of His mercy. It is only then that I can begin to realize what it means to be the one He loves, and adore God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only then that life begins.

A focus on such love, pursuing such love is essential for those of us who preach, who prophesy, who teach.  Whether it is to a parish of thousands, or to two or three in a elementary sunday school class.  I believe there is a distinct impact on preaching and teaching that comes from knowing we are loved.  Not just knowing it as a fact, but living in the midst of that love, knowing that love so well that we easily trust Him, even with the darkest parts of our lives.

It is as we are rescued from that darkness we can speak of it in a way that edifies the church, that lifts them up, that convinces them of the love of God.  THat allow them to realize that God loves them as well, that they can trust Him to transform them.

That when God humbles us, it is so that, cleansed of all that has damaged us, we can be lifted up, healed, and in awe, knowing He loves us.

Such is our calling, such is our relationship with HIm… and though this prayer still scares me, can we pray it together?

Heavenly Father, we count on our love, we acknowledge the need of the Spirit to come through our lives, cleansing us from our sin, our brokenness, our pursuit of things we know distress you. Lord, help us to pursue the love you told us you have, and counting on that love, search our hearts our souls and minds, Find the things that displease You and take them away, so that you may guide us on this way of everlasting life.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1785-1786). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is there hope for the 75%? Or do we just write them off? (or right them off?)

DSCN0014Some thoughts from my retreat today:

3  “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4  As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5  Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6  But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7  Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9  Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 10  Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. 11  He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12  so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven. Mark 4:3-12 (NLT)

The 75%, the groups that were too hard and callous, or too shallow, or distracted and did not bear fruit.  I worry about them

I don’t know why I do, what t always bothered me that they missed out on God’s love, that they didn’t bear fruit, because if they had bore fruit, that meant that they were dwelling with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit was hard at work in their lives.  But these people didn’t bear fruit, and therefore…

Some would use this to claim that God was never interested in them, that He was okay with them rejecting Him.  Some would even have the nerve to speak for God, and claim that He never planned to save them anyway.  That they were, from the start, to be condemned to hell.

That is why they didn’t hear, they didn’t see, they didn’t learn, and why they were not forgiven.

I’ve just got back from a retreat, led by an old friend, actually, my high school youth pastor.  The theme of the retreat was based around this passage, and considering the times in our lives when our “ground” was callous and hard paths, or we had to deal with rocks or weeds that choked our faith.  It was a good exercise,  (gonna take about a week to process it all)  but from the time he read the passage above, I kept on thinking about the 75 percent.

Why would God let them go that way…..

Why couldn’t they know the joy and peace that comes from being forgiven, the incredible joy of being reunited with God?

It is a frustration I’ve known as a pastor, since the beginning. Some people we care so much about, that we invest time and energy in, and yet they are the ground too hard to plant, or they get excited at first and then die out, or they get choked by the cares and desires of the world.

And if you care, especially if you are a parent, pastor or priest or elder or Sunday School teacher, their lack of fruit can cause tears and massive heartache. A lot of it over the years…

As our retreat was nearing the end phase, as I just opened my Bible (rare that I actually had a physical one for the retreat – I usually just use my pc/tablet/phone ones) and I came across this…..

4  Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! GOD is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” 5  Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Isaiah 35:4-5 (MSG)

God hasn’t given up on the sinner, or the wayward, or the people who struggle with keeping their faith alive.  He never had, He always planned their rescue, He always planned to continue reaching into their lives, He didn’t write them off.

He still wants them to come to repentance.

There is still time to invest, words that can be said with love, and yes, love of God to reveal to them. They can’t open their own eyes, but neither can we, they can’t make themselves hear, but the Holy Spirit can, these are simple miracles.

And they are right in God’s heart.  And ours …

Keep praying for them, keep loving them.

God is with you in this, as I close with these words from St. Paul…

16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18  All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19  Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 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! 21  Christ 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. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TEV)

So let us pray for these people, that we would have the desire not to write them off, but knowing God’s desire to renew them (to make them right-eous) that we would see this happen, and even be tools God uses to make it happen!

Our Lenten Journey: walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph: Finding mercy on the walk

Our Lenten Journey:  Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Mercy Found on the walk
Numbers 21:4-9

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to realize contentment and patience that comes from realizing you are God’s children!

 Mercy Needed on the Walk

It’s been a while since the last one, so we are due for a Pastor Parker Parable.

In the Kingdom of God, Lent is like setting your clocks ahead.

I mean time change wrecks everything, it takes forever to get used to, it affects everything, and to be honest, we don’t always understand why we do it.

Lent is like that, it is a needed, but hard to welcome transition, It requires us to do things that are not easy, that take time to get used to, and that affects every part of our lives.  Most of the time, we go through lent without thinking about why we do it.

Like time change, we just accept that its happening, grin, grunt, and struggle through it, often complaining as we go.

Really, lent is not only like dealing with the time change, but it is like the journey from the slavery of Egypt to the promised land.

And if we aren’t careful, if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t’ stay focused, we will get bit.

Then again, we might get bit anyway, so we need something more… we need mercy.

Mercy not seen on the walk

The problem is, we don’t often see the mercy, as we walk with Jesus

TO be honest, we do the same things that the people did in Moses day, we grow impatient with God’s plan, and we aren’t satisfied with what we perceive He is doing, and rather than wait for God’s actions to be seen, we start to complain, we start to doubt that God will provide.

Look at the words the first time the people of God open their mouths,

“Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”

They were tired, they were frustrated, I get that. Especially this week!  Especially these last couple of days, when trauma followed trauma like waves lined up at the beach. Or like the slow ticks of a click as the day seems last longer than it did last week.

The ironic thing is that the words “nothing to eat” and “Manna” are the same word in Hebrew.

Same word.  We have not bread to eat and we hate what we do have to eat.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

They weren’t thankful for the manna, the quail, to water form a rock, being saved by a miracle.  Nope, what have you done for us lately God, because we don’t like what You are giving us.

How often do we, struggling on our own with life, complain to God about what He is doing?  Or simply forget He is here at all?  We talk about the second commandment, about calling on the name of the Lord, not in vain, but using His name to pray and to praise God,

but do we?

Mercy found… in not getting rid of the snakes

Last week, when President Stoterau was preaching, he found a key to the passage in the pigeon cages that weren’t destroyed.  There is a similar key in today’s Old Testament passage, something that helps us when we realize what God does.

When the people ask God to take away the snakes, what happens to the snakes?

Does God take them away?

Oddly enough, God leaves them there. Happily sinking their fangs into who every complains and moans. I mean, that’s what snakes do right?

God’s answer to the prayers is in bringing another on of them into the picture, one in the same image as the others, but this time fixed high upon a pole.  And anyone, once bitten by a snake, can simply look up, and see hope and healing, trusting God to do exactly what He said he would.

Heal them,

Take care of them, the very thing they didn’t realize God was doing, in providing the manna, and the quail and the water.  Providing proof of His presence with them, a proof they could see when they needed to be saved.

Friends, you and I are going to struggle through life.  We can try with everything we are, and we should try with everything we are to please the God who loves and cares for us.  But there are times, times when we forget He is with us, times where we forget how deep His love is.

But every time we get bit by sin, every time we have to deal with our own brokenness, we have an advocate who has been lifted up on the cross, who has since been lifted up into heaven, where Jesus still intercedes on our behalf.  Still intercedes for us, still loves us, still cares for else, still forgives our sins.  This is the mercy of God, the mercy that keeps us on the journey home, the mercy that continually brings us the healing we need to stay on the journey!

We just need to look to Him, we just need to trust Him, and know that as we do, we shall be healed of the damage sin causes and plagues us with.

God doesn’t always take care of this snake or that one because the temptations and trials will bother us, until we reach the promised land. Sometimes we will be victorious over them, sometimes we won’t.

Either way, He will be here, lifted up for us to look at and know how much God loves us, and that He promised to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness.

Which is why we are here at church, to look up to the Lord, lifted up for us, the Lord who will heal us, the Lord who will bring us peace.

AMEN?

 

The Question of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”   Luke 3:7-14  HCSB

36  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)

A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active,  I’ve written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!

But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)

John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,  

And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, “What should we do?”   It’s the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them. 

What should we do?  You could add, “now?” to the end of the question.

The reason that this is THE question of repentance is that when repetnance comes to us, the only questions that remains is – what do we do…. because repentance is happening already!

Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused.  We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.  

And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas.  Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow.  But examples.  Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.

Think of John’s advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized.  There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power.

Do things that don’t serve your self-interest, don’t be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness.  Do things that are loving.  And when you find you aren’t…. pray, and confess and know that God is with you!  He came to save you!  He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.

The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same – in Christ, love those you encounter.

Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live!  AMEN!

 

 

The Greatest Thing a Pastor/Priest can do! (for you!)

A Devotional Thought for the day:

Sunrise at Concordia

Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9

486         That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!

When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger,  We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.

What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest.  The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life.  Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.

THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives?  For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,

“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins!  In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”

For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different.  The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language.  These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.

It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed.  We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us.  We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed. 

Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once.  Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day.  We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has.  Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.

This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.

So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)

See you soon!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. 

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