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It’s Coming!

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for the Day!

31  “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32  This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33  “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34  And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT2)

Expectation has always been present in the Church in the times of her greatest power. When she believed, she expected, and her Lord never disappointed her.…
Every great movement of God in history, every unusual advance in the Church, every revival, has been preceded by a sense of keen anticipation. Expectation accompanied the operations of the Spirit always. His bestowals hardly surprised His people because they were gazing expectantly toward the risen Lord and looking confidently for His word to be fulfilled. His blessings accorded with their expectations.…
We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us

As we come out of the COVID lockdown, I am starting to see life in the church more clearly that I have in a long time. If you study history, you know Europe and the U.S.A..Canada are at the bottom, with people doing what is right in their own eyes, which means revival is near. It is already occuring in places on the Eastern side of Africa, and in parts of South East Asia.

But will it happen here?

If Tozer is correct, one of the signs of a revival is the church having the attitude of expectation, the attitude of anticipation. Both are a signs of trust and dependence on God – God who is acitive in our lives, God who wants to redeem everyone. Looking for God to do that, our expectations change, and church changes from being a refuge fro the faithful into a refuge and sanctuary for everyone.

Its time to stop trying to manufacture church growth, it’s time to stop trying ot manufacture a pure and perfect church. It is time for revival, to rejoice in what God is doing…

God has promised this covenant… it is time for the church to believe it is here… for this is the covenant of life!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Tell God to Deal With It! To Deal with What Lurks Within… A Sermon 19:12-14

actually – he does’t… but God does!

Tell God to Deal With It…
To Deal with What Lurks within….
Psalm 19:12-14

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus so fill your life that all is made new!

1.  Does Only the Shadow know?

Most of us wouldn’t know the name of Frank Readick and may only have a vague recollection of the words he said in the past.

But I thought of them while reading verse 12 of today’s Psalm. It says there,

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?”

Here is the line from Readick,

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows!”

Anyone remember those words? They are old, from the 1930s. More than that, they are incredibly inaccurate. God knows, and unlike the Shadow – God can do something about it and will!

The only question is, will we tell Him to deal with it, or will we keep what lurks within, deep within, burying it deeper and deeper.

Before we get there… we need to understand why evil lurks there….

2.  Getting anxious

When I read the beginning of the Psalm, I get more than a little anxious because I become aware that stuff does lurk deep within our hearts.

I become more aware of it as I hear about the glory of God. As I consider the works, as I consider the praises.  I am in awe, but like Moses and Isaiah, there is some fear there, too, because sin lurks there.

And the dissonance between the all powerlful, all-knowing, glorious God and my darkness is just overwhelming. The more I read how radiant that glory is, how the sky proclaims it, how and nothing can hide from it, I am at once warmed and yet frightened by it.

For the light of Jesus, the glory of God is so bright that there are no shadows allowed, for He is our light.

And that means my darkness will be revealed.

Sin can lurk deep within us, as the pain it causes dominates our hearts and minds. We know it’s there, but we try to bottle it in to stop it from being revealed. That pressure builds, as that sin that lurks breeds its guilt and shame. It may even be telling you that you don’t belong here in church, that you really don’t belong here at the altar.

The Shadow would convince you of that, for his closing line was, “”As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay…The Shadow knows!”

If the Shadow was correct and only he knew, you would be in trouble…for indeed, all you could gain would be evil in return.

3.  The Answered prayer

But He isn’t the only one who knows. God knows. We have to learn that this is a great blessing. For when we cry out for Him to “just deal with it!” He is ready.

Hear King David’s prayer again,

12  How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13  Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

That is where we need to be in life. We need to come to this point where our frustration with our lives, both individually and corporately, causes us to cry out to God.

God is there, ready to cleanse you from hidden faults!

God is there, ready to guard you against the sins that are so tempting. He is there to stop them from controlling you!

We need to know this, not just as individuals but as a community.

We need to see this community be cleansed of all sin, of rebellion against God, of all the ways in which we all don’t love our neighbor.

We need to help people see that God will help them deal with those deliberate sins they struggle with and help them break free of sin’s control over them. And we do this together; the glory of God is revealed more and more!

For only He can deal with the sin and temptation that assaults us from what is within.

He is the one Who breaks us free from the Shadow.

He can break us all free from that Shadow as we enter His glorious light.

That is what Lent is, this glorious time like the moments just before the dawn. When you know it is coming, the shadows that seem to lengthen even as they fade. And then there is nothing but glorious light, and we can come to the final part of the prayer.

4. Final prayer

Knowing you are free from that which lurks within, that God is dealing with the deliberate sin and its control, we find ourselves “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Hear that again, you are, “”free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Hmm  – maybe we need to say that together,,, 

We are “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Knowing that, and knowing that God has cleansed what lurked deep within, we can, with confidence pray this.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Those words and meditations will be pleasing, for He knows what lurks in your heart… and when He is working, the answer is nothing.  AMEN!

The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

Revival Realized: If Only?…? A sermon on Amos 5:18-24

Revival: Realized
If Only….   ????

† Jesus, Son, Savior †


May the grace and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus bring you such contentment in these times… that the idea of “if only” doesn’t come to mind!

What are you wishing for?

When I read the first verse of the Old Testament reading this week, my thought was simple.

“why didn’t I have Bob preach this week!”

Seriously, hear it again…

“What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the LORD were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for.” Amos 5:18

And the passage gets harsher after that!

Why didn’t I have you preach on this one Bob?

I think, especially as we dealt with the trauma of an election, as we deal with the trauma of COVID, as we all deal with other hurts, other grieving, there is a necessity to look toward the second coming – never think I believe otherwise.

This passage doesn’t say that is wrong, but it addresses a major issue, one that we need to address.

And understanding that helps us see the revival that God is working in our midst.

If only… we didn’t say… “if only!”

If you are seeking “if only”… what is missing?

I want you to hear what it means to say, “if only”

That day will bring darkness, not light. 19  In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion— only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house— and he’s bitten by a snake.

Of course, there is the modern version. When you run from the political discussions, you end up running into another COVID scare, and when you escape that, and rest, you have to deal with a household of people with cabin fever!

The “if only” attitude creates a problem for us, simply because it shows where our faith is, in a weak and even dangerous place. We go looking for God to come back, simply because we want to escape our problems here and now.

I know that desire all to well, but it is so dangerous!  For it means that we have forgotten that God has promised everything, including these times, will work out for good, and that nothing can separate us from Him.

Which means sin is having and impact on us. Either the sin of the world weighing us down, or the damage our sin does, hiding the presence of God from our eyes. In fact, it is usually both, both.

Both because we usually don’t react to the sins of others without sinning ourselves. Be honest…. as all the stuff has been going on this week, how many of yousr thoughts were about God providing for you caring for you? How many thoughts, and how many words recognized that God was here, that you were being cared for by God?

And how many were doubting the future, and complaining about the present situations we are enduring?

Those thoughts, those sins, are all sin.

That is the problem with the “if only”! 

We are looking for an escape from our situation, that is the reason we want God to come back. Not to dwell in His presence, simply to get out of the problems we are dealing with here.

And that attitude is a lack of trust in God, and a desire to not depend on Him to deal with us. It is one thing to seek salvation from our sin, another to seek being rescued from situations beyond our control, but not beyond God’s.

So how do we learn to trust Him, to depend on His keeping His promises, in such a time as this?

The time for a flood

The answer is a flood….

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. 
Amos 5:24

Going through the motions won’t do it.  We can sing loudly, we can memorize the entire liturgy, we can even receive communion every day… but what matters is Go’s justice, and God’s righteousness.

God’s justice, God’s righteousness needs to flood over us.

We need to see the world, and see God’s way of declaring people right with Him as the answer to our lives. We need to see His idea of justice come to be our reality.

The idea where sinners are justified, not faking it, but being justified by the blood of Christ.

To trust God, to know the power of the cross, to be drawn to receive the forgiveness of our sins. To live in the ministry of God reconciling us to Him, and cleansed of sin.

This is what it means for revival to happen in our lives.

We realize the presence of God in our lives, a presence so powerful that we can be righteous, we can look at the sin and realize God has the answer for it.

So instead of sin, we see God’s work, making all things work for good. He is our protection, so we can run to Him, we can bring others to Him.

This is the flood we need! To see that we dwell in God’s presence, no matter what… that this flood is the Holy Spirit coming into out lives, washing away every that is not holy, not pure.

This is revival. Right now, in this moment. This is why we are here… to see the Holy Spirit cleanse us, and so many others! For only He can bring the justice and righteousness we have.

This is a time to rejoice, and to desire God’s presence, now and for eternity.

Not because we want to escape… but because we are content, and at peace in His presence, and desire it more!

For in His presence, we know a peace that is beyond explanation… for Jesus rules our hearts and minds…even as we long to see Him face to face!

AMEN!

The Church will not die in America.

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for the Day”

7  Please hurry, LORD, and answer my prayer. I feel hopeless. Don’t turn away and leave me here to die. 8  Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you. I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance. Psalm 143:7-8 (CEV)

To bring people closer to God, competency and clarity are important, but they are not enough. Of themselves they do not touch hearts deeply. Personal sanctity and goodness do. It is the saints who light fires. There is a direct correlation between the beauty of holiness and the fruitfulness of our work and interpersonal relationships.

When we believe God is something other than a lover, it is inevitable that we will sin.

As I look at some of my more competent friends in ministry, to those who are skilled communicators, who sermons hit all the right points, I grow concerned for them, and for the church.

Even before COVID hit, they were scrambling. There was concern first about us being in the post -modern age, and how do ou communicate to millennials. (Of course, that originated in not being able to communicate to GenXer’s, or trying all sorts of things to communicate to Baby-boomers (see the Seeker movement)

I even heard one such friend, a man in ministry for nearly 40 years, write “I just don’t know how to do this!” This written for all to see in a on-line training session with one of the latest book writing gurus, who found a theory on how to survive in these times.

If these experts don’t have the answers, if they are getting to the point where ministry must be completely re-thought… what hope does the church have in America?

As I read the despair in the voice of the Psalmist this morning, I found great hope, and a model for revival.

It is to do what I’ve done many times in ministry, cry out in despair, and realize my hope in ministry is not found in what I do. I am competent, but that is often set aside because of the tyranny of the moment. I am not always clear… (I’ve had people lovingly tell me so, and their body language in the church helps keep me focused )

Our hope must be in learning, in experiencing the love of God.

That is what is needed for the church to revive in the midst of this time, a dedication ot spend more time getting to experience the love of God than simply reading about it. More time spent rejoicing His promises delivered through word and sacrament than trying to find the latest thoughts on making the church relevant, or faithful to our traditions.

We NEED Jesus in our lives, we need to know God is love, we desperately need to experience that love, poured out through His word, and with the sacraments He ordained to deliver us what we need to revive…

We need to let Him transform us, to covert us, and we need to pour out to Him our frustration, our despair, our brokenness, assured of His love and desire to heal us.

This is the hope for the church… to dwell in Christ…anything else is simply a manmade patch on a sinking ship.. and will leave us in even greater despair.

And that is true whether our church is 50 people or 5000…..it was true in first century Ephesus, or 21st century Los Angeles, or Lawrence, Massachusetts…

Cry out to Him, and then spend time experiencing the love of God.


Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 97.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 166.

Saul, David and the American Political Season

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4  “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5  But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6  “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” 7  So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 1 Samuel 24:3-7 (NLT2)

You became a bit frightened when you saw so much light, so bright that you thought it would be difficult to look, or even to see. Disregard your obvious weaknesses, and open the eyes of your soul to faith, to hope and to love. Carry on, allowing yourself to be guided by God through whoever directs your soul.

I have to admit that I am more than a little hesitant writing this blog this morning. Yet I have seen to many people who believe in God who struggle to live in the peace God has given them.

Fear, anxiety, anger, even hatred have done this damage to people’s souls. And as I see those emotions pouted out on social media, my heard aches. People look for scapegoats to blame for hurt they even struggle to identify. We look for that one person, or that one group that causes our pain.

David knew that pain. Heck, it wasn’t just projecting his problems on King Saul, Saul was out to kill him. He was hunting him down, and David had to live off the land, and dwell in caves. People who helped him were punished, and rewards were out for his life, and those who served beside him.

And yet, as he tweaks the king, (when he could have assassinated him) he feels guilt. He knows the pain, the betrayal, and et, part of him knows he should not have even tweaked the king….

As I read this, I wondered what it would be like, if we had that much respect for our leaders, that we bathed them in prayer rather than mocked them, or critiqued them and spewed hatred at them behind their back? What would happen if we treated them as we wanted them to treat us? If we didn’t use their actions to justify our own.

What would happen if we loved them as Christ loves us?

This is the kind of light we struggle with entering , this glorious love of God that takes away sin… This is the glory that realizes God’s at work, somehow, in all of this. This is the kind of trust, that comes from knowing God. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.

That will change us, even a it impacts the country.

For if we enter into a time of revival, it will not matter who wins the election.

Lord, reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in this world, Help us to trust you more than we fear, more than we are hurting, more than we have learned to hate…and heal us . AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Great Expectations for the Church in America

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collectorq named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
†10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew’s house.r Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11 Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12 Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. †13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”
Matt. 9:9-13 CEV

Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.

In the readings for the course I am in, I am finding great hope for the church, even the church in the United States and Europe. The times are similar to the times when great revivals broke out in our past, when people began to worship God, abandoning all else.

The statisticians and consultants will tell you different, but their projections of based on recent trends, and on philosophies that place the future of the church in the hands of the pastors, and those who train and equip them. If it is up to us, this indeed may be the post Christian and post church era. THinking about it more, no not maybe – it is.

But what is our downfall, can be turned into the very thing that will bring revival to our land. For when we fail, maybe some will call us back to what brings revival.

Faith.

This is the time when our faith, that wonderful gift of depending on God for everything in life becomes reality. When in the despair of the storm, we reach out to the Lord who is with us, and He leaves us in awe, as the storm obeys His commands.

It is when we realize that Matthew, that we can join Jesus on His mission to heal the hearts and minds and souls of people, (and when we realize that includes our hearts and minds and souls) that movement in the church happens. When we grieve over our sins, and are comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit, who draws us into God’s presence.

This is what Matthew’s gospel is talking about, when it says that Christ came to invite sinners to be His followers. As the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus, the church will stop its slumbering, it will stop its decline.

Not because of great preaching, but simply revealing Christ. Not because of powerful praise bands or stunning choirs, but because we simply begin to experience the grace of God, poured out on us, and knowing the relief, the joy, the power of God’s work, we invite other sinners to join Him, depending on Him, and letting all else, including sin, drop to the side.

We are at a point in the church’s life in America where we will realize that our perfect liturgies, our dynamic programs, our logic and theology, our programs won’t grow the church, nor stop it from dying.. The only thing that can is the Holy Spirit, healing sinners by drawing them to Christ Jesus. And those sinners depending on Him. ANd that includes you and I.

Heavenly Father, stir us sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit, to respond to Your invitation follow Jesus, to walk with Him. Help us to welcome the Spirit’s healing our hearts, souls and minds, and not just ours, but those in our community. We pray this in Jesus name! AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).



Hope for Believers (and Churches) Burnt Out, or Just Going Through the Motions

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12  Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13  Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14  Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” 16  The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17  All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18  Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. Acts 19:11-18 (TEV)

We need to “go out,” then, in order to test and experience our own anointing and its power and redemptive efficacy into the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness longing for sight and prisoners under so many evil masters.

It may sound harsh, but I wonder today if the church is more like the sons of Sceva than like the Apostle Paul.

We go through the motions, we say the right things (at times) we have a good intent, but we lack the faith, the trust in a God we know, to truly minister to others the way we should.

As our efforts don’t result in any significant change, we slowly give up our our outreach. We begin to rely on what others have said or written, rather than express our awe of God directly. We rely on canned presentations, Bible studies written by someone we’ve never met, who doesn’t know the people we study with and/or teach. Prayer and meditation on scripture become things we will do “when we have time”.

And we wonder why we ministry seems a drain, why people don’t realize the blessing that church should be, and why they never are free of their demons.

The more we do, the more the church gets focused internally, the more church politics rips us to shreds, the more churches close their doors, or become places that focus on things other than Jesus, and exploring the incredible dimensions of His love, experiencing what we can never completely explain.

So what is the answer, how do we go from a church of Sceva’s sons, to being an apostolic church.

How do we live out the work of God that became possible when the Holy Spirit called us, when God the Father united us with Jesus, and the same power which raised Him from the dead gave us new life?

I think Pope Francis has the answer, just “go out”, trusting in God enough to go where there is need, to the broken, to those who are blind and suffering, to those who are prisoners . Asking God to make His annointing of our lives known in our lives as we minister to those He puts in front of us.

In order to know that, we have to know He has indeed redeemed us, that we are His people, not because we are so good, but because He has indeed redeemed us. As a pastor, everytime I baptize someone, everytime I give someone the body of Christ, whether the person kneeling at the altar, or the shut-in in their home, or the counselee, whose burdens are lifted as they experience the love of God, the lesson of my own redemption is renewed.

I’ve seen the same thing when parents assist in their child’s baptism, or a sponsor assists in the friend who has come to know God’s love. Our faith is renewed, our dependence on God becomes a great joy, and we realize the world without hope is indeed full of God’s hope.

You see the church may sometimes act like the sons of Sceva, but she isn’t. She may be depressed, and dejected, focused on survival more than mission, but her Lord is with her, strengthening her, giving her life, and urging her to go to the broken in the world, with the assurance she doesn’t do so alone, or on her own power.

We go with the Lord and Giver of Life, empowered by God to do the works He has planned.

This is our call.. this is who we are..

Let’s get back it, walking with our God.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 190). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Dare We Pray this….how dare we not?

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the day:

“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.* 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.* 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.*”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God
. 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 NLT

2  But who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like strong soap, like a fire that refines metal. 3  He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver. As a metalworker refines silver and gold, so the LORD’S messenger will purify the priests, so that they will bring to the LORD the right kind of offerings. 4  Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the LORD will be pleasing to him, as they used to be in the past.
Malachi 3:2-4 (TEV)

814         Ask Jesus to grant you a Love like a purifying furnace, where your poor flesh —your poor heart—may be consumed and cleansed of all earthly miseries. Pray that it may be emptied of self and filled with him. Ask him to grant you a deep-seated aversion to all that is worldly so that you may be sustained only by Love.

There is a part of me that fears to pray as St. Josemaria suggests.

There is so much to lose, so many things I cannot see apart from myself. Yes, those things include not only what I perceive as the pleasures of life (and are not) and the miseries of my existence.

Could I deal with that radical of a change in me? Could I allow myself to be defined not by broken heart (in my case, both physically and figuratively) but spiritually as well? How can I allow God to take the scar, many of which I find a perverse pleasure in, knowing I somewhat survived them, and not just remove them, but heal the damage they have done?

St Josemaria describes it well as a furnace, for the heat and pain it will take to separate us from these things which haunt us is intense. How do I let Him remove all this, and the sin which so easily ensnares me?(and you as well)

How do I find the strength to pray this?

How dare I?

What if he doesn’t answer the prayer? What if He does?

As Malachi points out – how will we endure it?

I think St Paul has the answer, it is not found in us, but in the promises God has made to us, promises He stands behind, promises that are coming true in our lives, even if we do not see it.

It is in those promises, in His making us holy, that we find comfort and learn to trust Him. In those promises, we find the strength to work, to hear Him in a way our soul resonates with what He is doing, to nor fight against His purifying our lives.

You and I, we need this, we can’t continue to live in our brokenness, even if we have gotten used to its stench. The life that God provides, cleansed, purified, holy, is beyond our comprehension. We see it here and there, our souls thrive on it in the moments we experience it, at the communion rail, deep in lament, in the middle of serving others, As God purifies us, as He applies the heat and we cling to Him, these moments we are aware of Him grow… and we begin to desire them more.

So pray for God to refine you and purify you. Pray for me as well, and I pray we all will realize the blessing of walking with God. AMEN!




Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3357-3360). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“Baptized, but not Evangelised” Why the Church seems to be dying.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a ggreat numberof priests accepted the faith. Acts 6:7 (TEV)

At the dawn of the third millennium not only are there many peoples who do not yet know the Good News, but there are many Christians who need the Word of God to be re-announced to them in a persuasive manner so that they may concretely experience the power of the Gospel.
Many of our brothers and sisters are ‘baptized, but insufficiently evangelized’. In a number of cases, nations once rich in faith and in vocations are losing their identity under the influence of a secularized culture … The Church, sure of her Lord’s fidelity, never tires of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and invites all Christians to discover anew the attraction of following Christ. (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 96)
The history of Evangelization across the centuries witnesses that the great missionaries were also great people of prayer, more specifically that they were authentic adorers. Indeed, the Eucharist is ‘the source and the summit of the Christian life’ (Lumen gentium, 11), and the ‘source and summit of all evangelisation’ (Presbyterorum ordinis, ).

608         Against those who reduce religion to a set of negative statements, or are happy to settle for a watered-down Catholicism; against those who wish to see the Lord with his face against the wall, or to put him in a corner of their souls… we have to affirm, with our words and with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King reign indeed over all hearts… theirs included.

The church pictured above has been empty for decades. The doors are bordered up, and voices have long been silent. There is no prayer offered, not voices lifting up praises as the realize the love and mercy of God,

There are other churches just as lifeless, even though the bodies are in them, even though voices can be heard, their words empty, vain. They try to make things better in life, they try to either legislate it or inspire people to behave, to live inspiring, meaningful lives. Some consider themselves traditional (or faithful) and others claim to be progressive and socially active.

And they are as empty and lifeless as St Anne’s.

They have been, “baptized, but not evangelized.”

They’ve been made part of the church, but they haven’t experienced the love of God. They haven’t learned to sit in silence and contemplate how much God desires to be with them, to guide them through life, to fix their brokenness, to forgive their sins.

So they put God on time out, reaching out to him the least amount of times they feel necessary, or reaching out to Him when there is trouble or trauma.

The priests in Jesus day were like that, they knew the scriptures, they put their trust in the promises that were theirs because they were circumcised, but the idea of talking with God, interacting with God, being guided by God, those were all missing.

But they heard the gospel, and they were changed.

And so can our people, our pastors, and priests, our ministers, our worship leaders. They can experience the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love.

They can realize they are loved, and adore God, not forced or manipulated, but simply adore Him – because He loves them. And their prayers and their worship will rise louder and stronger, and it will impact more and more.

Lord, reveal yourself through those who serve you, to both the church and the world, and revive both.  AMEN!

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 3–4). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2579-2582). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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