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Life’s Priorities and Work

Devotional Thought of the day:

15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16  Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)

538         A terrible person is one who is ignorant but at the same time works tirelessly. Take care that even when you are old and decrepit, you keep on wanting to be better trained.

One of my favorite sports teams has a motto, “No Day’s Off!”

And it doesn’t mean 7 days in the office, 10 hours a day. As St Josemaria says, it is a terrible thing for a ignorant people to work tirelessly. But it does mean that what we do in our freetime affects what we do in our work.

And example of the athlete that trains and rests and eats as one fluid process, a process that is his vocation. Even when he isn’t playing what he is doing is in sync with the goals of his vocation. Time off to rest, training, time spent studying his art, all of those things are geared to make him better.

You could say the same for a surgeon, whose hands are precious. He wouldn’t engage in activities that would over stress and/or damage his hands, he wouldn’t get drunk the night before a major surgery, he would find ways to ensure he gets the rest and excercise he needs.

The same would be true for a pastor, a minister (in our synod, a Director of Christian Ed, Director of Worship, Deaconess or Deacon) any lay leader or really anyone in the church. Our lives need to be not just balanced between work and rest and time spent in devotional reading of God’s word, prayer, and adoration/worship of God, in receiving the sacraments (all of them!)

But we have to understand what our primary vocation is, what we need to focus and work on, and what are the things that support that work.

What is it? Something we have in common…

Being the Church, being the bride of Christ. Finding our rest and peace in Christ as He mercifully heals our brokenness, as our sin is forgiven, as we are made alive as we are joined to Him in baptism. Our vocation is our being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Those things I mentioned as part of the balance that are what some call “spiritual disciplines” are not what we do to balance the rest out, rather, they are our life, they are ways to strengthen our awareness that we are walking with God.

It is that walk which the rest of our “life” (our work, our family, our roles at church and in our community) needs to resonate. Depending on God, realizing that He is involved in every part of our life, He sustains us, this is our primary role in life – our relationship with Him.

And as St. Josemaria points out, we need to continually be guided in this and to be trained by those who walk with Jesus as well. (that is another post perhaps) We need to work hard at it, for depending on God takes intent and focus, things easily lost in this crazy world and time.

This is our core, the experience of the love of God that is beyond our ability to explain. To spend time realizing that love, and learning to depend upon it.

Know you are God’s family and spend time experiencing and learning what that means. Celebrate it with others, and realize, this is your life!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2327-2330). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Do we understand what “rest” is?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. Leviticus 23:3 GNT

“Ever since he was a child,” he replied. 22 “Many times the evil spirit has tried to kill him by throwing him in the fire and into water. Have pity on us and help us, if you possibly can!”
23 “Yes,” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
24 The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”
25 Jesus noticed that the crowd was closing in on them, so he gave a command to the evil spirit. “Deaf and dumb spirit,” he said, “I order you to come out of the boy and never go into him again!”
26 The spirit screamed, threw the boy into a bad fit, and came out. The boy looked like a corpse, and everyone said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took the boy by the hand and helped him rise, and he stood up
. Mark 9:21-27 GNT

445         If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.

So, as the holidays come to a close, as Advent’s focus and the joy of celebrating Jesus coming into the world begines to wane, a number of people have asked me what my plans were.

Actually, they phrase it like this, “go get some rest pastor!”

Then they ask, where I will go, to get the rest! What plans do I have, what will my family and I do.

As if rest is a synonym for travel and vacation. As if spending all day getting tired doing “fun” things provides what our souls need. Please note, I am not saying we shouldn’t take vacations, but rest is something very different.

Rest is what the boy and his dad gained, as Jesus freed them from the grip of demons. It is the time when we step aside from life, ot remember God is with us, to celebrate His presence, to remember His mercy, to let Him free us from the demons that afflict us, and the trauma that so assaults our hearts and souls.

That is what rest is, a time for our lives to relax, and leave everything in the hands of God Almighty, (and not giving him instructions and timelines!).

It enables us to truly pray, which enables us to truly live, and to know that God is here, with us, right now. That allows us to set aside the masks that hide our brokenness, the hypocrisy that everything is perfect in our lives, and the idea that we are saints, by our own power.

Taking this rest in Christ allows us to be human, forgiven, healing from the brokenness and even the demonic activity around us, as we depend on God, who has promised to care for us.

That’s the rest we need, and that is why I believe the place of greatest rest is at the altar rail, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Jesus, as He strips us of our sin, and heals us..It is there I am most aware of His peace, of the presence of God where He pours out all His love on us.

So I had my rest, and maybe we’ll sneak in some vacation time as well…. after I get past my traditional new years cold.

May you allow God to grant you the rest that your souls need!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Are You Burdened As You Follow Jesus? Here is Where I Find Help and Rest

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (TEV)

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

72 If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength.73 If you wait until you are rid of your burden in order to come to the sacrament purely and worthily, you must stay away from it forever.

Open your own hearts to Jesus and tell him your story. I don’t want to generalize. But one day perhaps an ordinary Christian, just like you, opened your eyes to horizons both deep and new, yet as old as the gospel. He suggested to you the prospect of following Christ earnestly, seriously, of becoming an apostle of apostles. Perhaps you lost your balance then and didn’t recover it. Your complacency wasn’t quite replaced by true peace until you freely said “yes” to God, because you wanted to, which is the most supernatural of reasons. And in its wake came a strong, constant joy, which disappears only when you abandon him.

In the last week, I have had to deal with a lot of people whose lives are in turmoil.  Some are dealing with health issues, some are dealing with financial issues, a lot are dealing with the impact of sin, either others sins, their own, or both.

I’ve tried to be there when I can, or at least send a note or someone who can be there for them.  Not that I am any greater than anyone else, but I am, by call, a pastor.  I want to be there, as do many who have closer relationships.   Somewhere in the middle I plan worship, write sermons and Bible studies, and am married.

Just like every other person I know who has a relationship with God, there are times the burdens seem overwhelming.  Let me drop the pride, they are overwhelming. Every pastor, every priest, every chaplain, youth worker, Christian educator (whether a professional teacher or just a Bible Study leader) I know gets weary; the burdens mount up.  They get overwhelmed.

Usually when I start to show wear, my elders remind me to take a vacation.  Take a few days off, play golf, (and I sometimes do!) Go get your mind off of things.  To be honest, that doesn’t work that well, either my mind doesn’t leave the “office” (because the office is the life of people I care for) , or I end up finding someone else that needs help, and I struggle to remember I need it too.

So where do I find rest?  I’ll tell you – Sunday mornings, about 1045 to 1100.  As people come and kneel, as eventually I will kneel with them.  On every Wednesday evening during Advent and Lent, when we are in that same place.  When pastors gather together once a month, and recently, as some other servants of God, gather on Monday evening.   Guys who are as weary, as broken, as under pressure as I am. Some work 1 or 2 jobs, some of us have relaxing careers as pastors ( please note sarcasm)

We gather in His present, and as the elders did with Moses on Sinai, or as the apostles did in churches (even house churches) the sacrament is shared.

Martin Luther in the blue quote above talks about receiving refreshment, comfort, and strength as we do.  St Josemaria Escriva notes that as we say “yes” and walk with Him, we gain a level of peace beyond comparison.  St Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, echoes this, talking about sharing the blood and body of Christ as ONE people, of finding in that feast a level of unity and therefore peace beyond comprehension.

This is where the burdens are lifted, where they are removed.  Where we find God working in our lives and even celebrating His work.  There is a sense of peace, a sense that all is right in the world.  This is where again God tells you of His love, of the promises He makes to all those He brings into a relationship (that is what a covenant is) with Him.  It is there we are assured that our sins are forgiven, that they can’t separate us from God’s love.

As a pastor, from my perspective, this isn’t just theory.  I wish I should show you the changes in people’s posture as the anxiety leaves them, as the guilt drains from them, leavening refreshment. As joy replaces tiredness, weariness in people.  For God is doing what He has promised, what He has done for others.

He has visited His people, demonstrated His love, and the fact that they will never be alone.  He has given us a glimpse into the amazing height, the glorious depth, the abundant breadth and measureless width of His love.

We know it and celebrate that together.

I wouldn’t trade it for a month in Hawaii – or in New Hampshire.

For it in sharing His presence that we are refreshed, strengthened, lifted up and where we find healing for our hearts and souls.

Come join me tomorrow – come feast with God, come revel in His presence. And then let us go out and bring this hope to others.   AMEN.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 455). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 374-378). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Need for Vacation, (or the Sabbath) is Really Our Need for Christ

DSCF1083

a nice peaceful sunset off of the Huntington Beach Pier..

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:

1   LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3  Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. 16  So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. 17  All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. Colossians 2:11-17 (TEV)

657 Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can!  (1)

Today starts my vacation, so it was a coincidence?  Ironic?  God having fun? that my devotional readings switched from focusing on sacrificing to focusing on resting in Christ Jesus this morning.

As I started to read the Psalm this morning, and the other passages and the devotional reading, (with my son at my side – which was great!) I started thinking – how much people look forward to vacation, how much we look forward to a break from the grind of daily work. Even though many of us physically do not rest, do not take a break, but fill as much of our time as we can!

Matter of fact, we spend extra time preparing our work places and lives for vacation, we know we will have more work when we get back, we tire ourselves out during it and… well.. we don’t always get what we need – rest, a chance to breath, a chance to recover and be revitalized. It works against the Human Resources justification of Vacation – that employees will be more energetic and productive with that time away for rest and recreation, That it will reduce burnout, that it will have a positive impact on our work.

As I was thinking through this, I realized what vacations are supposed to be about is why God created sabbath times – not just weeks, but yearly and even sabbaticals where things rested for a year. When all pressure is off, where time is spent simply, without concern, knowing that God is caring for us, protecting us, Where we can find contentment, and peace.  Where we can be still, knowing that it will take a couple of days to do so… to unwind, to breathe, to even gasp.

We need to do this more, setting aside even in a minute or two an hour, an hour a day, a day a month?  And yes – our week or two a year…..

We need our time with our Father, for that is precious and restores our soul… It can give us the strength to face the rest of the hour, the pains of a day, the punishing grind of a year.

My son got it, when we talked of my role as a pastor, and why I need to start the morning with a devotional time.  He said if I didn’t spend time with God, even though the time I spend with people is very good – I can’t really pastor!  (He indicated he was guessing – he knew it was right – but he didn’t know why!)

How can we live as believers, if we don’t spend time, talking to Him with the love and adoration a son has for his dad?

This is why it doesn’t make sense to restrict people to a specific day for such rest, for dwelling in such love. If someone needs that rest on Tuesday night, or on Thursday morning.  We need it.  The Sabbath is about man receiving the peace and rest God would give them.  It isn’t about obedience, but about restoration. That is why some prefer daily mass, and some churches with staff and time enough – have multiple service times across the week.

Well time to wrap this up – need to finish getting ready for some time of rest……

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2756-2758). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did Jesus Rest on this Sabbath?

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

18  For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. 19  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20  who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21   This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NAB)

“Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead:”  (1)

A conversation yesterday, between Good Friday Services, brought up the issue of what Jesus was doing, in the time between His death on the cross, and the Resurrection.

The people I was in dialogue with said he simply rested in the grave. They were using this to “prove” that everyone should worship on the Sabbath, during the time between Sunset on Friday, and Sunset on Saturday.

It brought up memories of my childhood, sitting in the pews at St. Francis in Lawrence, or St. Joes in Salem, and wondering about the line in the Apostle’s Creed above.

Why did Jesus have to descend to Hell?  Wasn’t the suffering and death on the cross enough?

It bothered me greatly, and those I asked about it, had no answer. Which bothered me a little more.  Would the Father let Jesus go to Hell, to suffer there for our sins? Why did He have to go?

I am not sure when I came across the verses in Peter’s epistle above, but they seem to settle the issue.  Jesus didn’t go to Hell to suffer, but to preach, to proclaim the love of God, that He would die for the sin of the world.  All sin. That those who trust in Him as their God, would know His salvation.  it is not quite a victory parade, though it is to declare victory.  And the gates of Hell cannot prevent it, Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God.   He was sent, apostle’d to deliver to the Father, those who have, would, will become the children of God

The words about baptism are not remiss therefore, for it is in Baptism that we are united with the death of Christ, and with His Resurrection.  Glorious events, worthy of praise, (yes the cross is glorious) for they show the depth of God’s love for us.  Love that wouldn’t even let those imprisoned by sin not know of His love, of His grace.  It is what takes those dead in sin, and makes them alive in Christ Jesus.

Which brings us back to the Sabbath, and the purpose of it.

It’s not about not working, for surely God is continually at work, sustaining the universe.  And those of us, who preach, who lead worship, who do a myriad of things on Sunday (or Saturday – Romans tells us we have this Freedom) certainly are at work in the House of God.    The Sabbath is about priority, teaching us to rest – not just from labor, but to rest in the presence of God.  To be in awe of His love, to be aware of the depth of His love, that will even descend into hell to deliver the children of God to their home… with Him.  That is why Paul says the sabbath is simply a foreshadowing of Christ, for it is in Him we truly find rest.

Even on a Saturday, while we prepare to celebrate the resurrection… Even here, the Lord of the Sabbath reigns, and because He does, we know we dwell in the Father’s peace, an indescribable peace, a peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
AMEN.

 

(1)  The Apostles Creed

Church Services. To serve God, or to serve people?

Devotional Thought of the day:

23  Jesus was walking through some wheat fields on a Sabbath. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the heads of wheat. 24  So the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do that on the Sabbath!” 25  Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he needed something to eat? He and his men were hungry, 26  so he went into the house of God and ate the bread offered to God. This happened when Abiathar was the High Priest. According to our Law only the priests may eat this bread—but David ate it and even gave it to his men.” 27  And Jesus concluded, “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; they were not made for the Sabbath. 28  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”  Mark 2:23-28 (TEV) 

Sunday, a friend of mine shared a article he read on FB.  It was on a topic near and dea to my heart – the topic of worship.  More specifically, the type of worship that happens when God gathers His people together and there is something called a mass, or a worship service, or church service.

Here is the article:   http://www.thewinedarksea.com/2013/10/27/can-perfect-mass-idol/

The thoughts in the article, though not my own, are so akin to it, that it might as well be.

You see, a mass, or church service isn’t about our impressing God.  It’s not something we do to gain points with God, and if we gain enough, then we get into heaven, or a better viewof God in heaven, or a nicer mansion.   It’s not about who sings the best, or how hip or how smooth the pastor or priest is, or how dynamic the “show” is.  I am not saying that any pastor, or any musicians shouldn’t do their best, we should, because it is often through us that people receive what God meant them to receive – the reveleation of His love and His mercy and His invitation to share in His glory.   Here is a passage that demonstrates that:

27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

The point is this – that church is not about how well we do it.  It’s about our realizing the depth of God’s love, the lengths He will go to bring healing to our souls, to bring peace to our hearts. That can’t happen if we treat church, whether very anicent liturgy or very contempory service, (both can be high choreographed and rehearsed)  as if anything that distracts from what happens up fron is more important than any person there.

God wants to gather all people to Himself, to bring them inot our family, to make them a part of us.  All people. And so each one has a role in church, and in every event the church has, from Bible Studies to Potlucks.

The first and primary role, whether pastor or infant, the couple celebrating their 70th anniversary or the single mom, the people whose parents or grandparents were there when the church was built, and the family hasn’t missed a sunday since, or the person who immigrated to the US yesterday.. and wandered in accidently.  Every one of them belongs in God’s house.  Every one of them God wants to reveal His love to, whether for the first time, or the 10,000th. These times are about God taking care of His people, all of them, all He created.

That means it will be messy, because people are messy.  Sometimes visibly so, more often emotionally and spiritually so.  And all need the healing of their hearts and souls….which are butalized by sin and the world’s pressures.

That’s why He gathers us… and that’s why we praise Him.

Because of His great love for us.

May we remember that as we worship together, as we study together, and as we find those around us that need His love, and share it with them in their homes, or bring them home to church!

AMEN

Get up – Get Walking… with Jesus

English: The healing of the paralytic : wall p...

English: The healing of the paralytic : wall painting in the baptistry of the domus ecclesiae in Dura Europos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do You Want? Then Rise Up

John 17:20-26

 

Jesus! Son and Savior!

 My Dear Friends, as Jesus comes to you in your brokenness, and with grace and mercy calls for you to get up and walk… may you trust in His healing, and run to His rest and peace!



Poolside – what else do we need?

        Rest – Deep, reviving rest…

 

For some, it may seem like a dream lifestyle, and once adjusted to it, it might be a little want to change from it.

Imagine, you get to lie out by the pool every day, take in all the sun, have people bring you food, have people attend to your needs…well all but one.  Some of us might like that as well – for there was no one that would toss you into the pool!

Sounds like the dream California life, and like I said, once used to it, could you give it up easily?

There was once a man who gave it up, in the course of a few moments,

All it took was one question, and one word of encouragement.

It was then, that this man who had spent 38 years, laying out by the pool, learned finally what it meant… to rest.

It is time to get up – and walk and find some real rest….

The Scene –


I want you to put yourself in the man’s place, to imagine the sights, the sounds, the smells, the voice.

The poolside was crowded that day, as it was so many.  It would be as crowded as a Palm Springs, Miami or Vegas hotel swimming pool on Spring break, with every spot taken, and people just sitting and laying out, enjoying their week of rest, having people to care for them. Having the staff of the pool caring for their every need.

This pool where the man lay was as crowded, but not with people looking for rest, but desiring to be given an active life, to have a miracle happen that would change everything, that would make them whole.  They filled every spot – these blind, weak people, these people who had to have people care for them, because they couldn’t care for themselves. .

I imagine after the first few healings, their attention would be focused on the water with everything they were.  Ready like sprinters in the blocks, knowing that the answer to their life would be met with the stirring of the water… but after a few weeks?  After a few months?

What about 38 years later..

Was he still as ready?  Was he as desiring to get into the water?

Or was He comfortable, and had he made this place a “home”.

It may not be a poolside spot in the sun that has been made our home, our comfort zone.  However, each of us can easily tire of this life, and become accustom to a sin,  Or maybe we’ve given up on praying for a life that is going to pieces, or we find that we can’t stop that which causes our anxiety. Whatever it is, we can feel blind, weak, paralyzed.

There is a point where the emotional overload, whether pain or guilt or shame or anxiety just pounds us down – and we find ourselves giving up on the possibility of being healed, we think overcoming, or seeing things change… no that’s for others….. We just lie there spiritually depressed and defeated.  Not bothering even to ask anyone for help – not even realizing that we can pray for that which we need.

Do you want… then get up…

        The authority in that command.

 

Into this pit of despair, walks a man that draws everyone’s attention.  They had heard many things about him, rumors of the healings that run through the families of those who had hoped for healings, and would take any opportunity, consider any remedy, try any curative.

He’s here, everyone is whispering to their neighbors, He’s here….as a thousand desperate eyes, desperate for themselves, desperate for those they love, focus in on this man, followed by a few guys, some of them probably arguing among themselves.

He sets his eyes on one man, the one who has been there so long… and he walks up…and asks….”Do you want to be made whole, do you want to be revived and cleansed?”  For those words – get is the word – genesis, and the word for well is the word we get hygienic from. Do you want to become, to be born again…clean, whole, perfect?

There is a part of me, the part of me that is a pastor that loves that the excuse is not considered – that Jesus simply says, “Get up – take away that old mat, and walk.  I love the authority, His response, the simple way in which Jesus deals with this man.  I wish I had the confidence to do this more, and the wisdom to know when!

It scares me a little as well, as one who wants to walk with Jesus. Does He want me to do likewise?  Is Jesus not going to hear my excuses?  Will He compel me to get up?  Are these words just not to that man, on that mat, besides that pool?  Or are they to you and I?  Is it time to get up – to abandon the things that hold us back, and walk with Christ?

Friends, He has told us this… and it is time to get up – to leave that old life behind, and walk with Him.


Note what awaits us when we Get up?

        The Sabbath!


As the end of the gospel reading – the last sentence, the last thought seemed like a comment made in oversight – sort of a “o yeah – it was Saturday….” A nice passing comment – I thought at first.  It caught my attention, and I thought about it a little more.

The symbolism is phenomenal.  The very thing this man was to do, on his first day of wholeness, it to keep Holy the Sabbath.  To spend the time with God, in prayer, in reading the word, in the community of the people of God, gathered in His name.  Not out of duty, but in prayer and praise, in rejoicing with them in their healing, in God answering their prayers as well.

There, walking with Jesus, we gain what most people look for, when they plan a vacation poolside.  We find our burdens lifted off our shoulders, our sins erased, our hearts and souls healing, for He is here, just as He was for that man who laid around for 38 years.  Telling us to get up – and to walk up here… and find rest in Him.

This man who had for so long laid by the pool at Bethsaida – translated as the House of cHesed, the House of God’s loving mercy.  That man found the strength he needed – not just the strength of body, but the strength of the soul.  He didn’t find it himself – he was right – he needed someone’s assistance, and that someone was the Lord, the God who heals, the God who makes whole,

The God who says to you – even as He prepares to feed you with Christ’s body and blood, “get up – get rid of the stuff and walk…. and come – rest with me.”

As you do – may His peace flood over you – and may you realize it guards you – heart and soul for you dwell in Christ.   AMEN!

 

 

I love to deal with sin!

Devotional/Discussion of the Day

 6 I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 9 Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. 10 But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 11 No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. 12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. 16 Respect your father and mother—GOD, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well. 17 No murder. 18 No adultery. 19 No stealing. 20 No lies about your neighbor. 21 No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor! Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (MSG)

We often talk of the above list as the Ten Commandments, (although I prefer to refer to them as how God has commissioned our lives – but that’s another blog entry)  Violating these guidelines, whether intentionally or without conscious desire or knowledge is what we theologically call sin.  Sin simply is living outside the way God would desire us to live, based on His wisdom, based on His love, His wisdom, His desire for our best.

I wrote as the title of this blog, that I love to deal  with sin.   I have had to deal with people who struggled with every one of the sins in the last two months, maybe even in the last few days… no definitely in the last 48 hours.   And I love to deal with sin.

And I don’t like to not deal with it.

Let me unpack that.  People like to deal with sin in the same ways they cope with trauma – or death.  We go through the same kinds of phases.

We deny it is sin – it doesn’t matter whether it is missing church or Bible study, or engaging in sin that is outside the bonds of marriage.
We bargain – I won’t commit that other sin, if you God overlook that other sin…
We get depressed – as we realize that on our own, we are weak and helpless to overcome temptation
We get angry – often very angry as we crucify ourselves- or worse- those who try to help us through it – even though that means they have to make the mistake of pointing out the sin.
Or we accept that we are sinners – and just keep on… well sinning.

And in everyone of those phases – we don’t deal with sin at all.  We smother it, we cover it, we celebrate it, but the very last thing we could possibly do – is deal with it. And if we fail to deal with it, we find ourselves in the place St. John talked about.

10 If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. 

There is a way to deal with it – a very simple, powerful, wonderful, mindblowing way to deal with the sin….  it comes from the very same place as the quote a moment ago. 

 8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-10 (MSG)

That’s how we deal with it – a simple confession, a simple proclamation of forgiveness – and it’s done.

It could look something like this,

Individual Confession 
Pastor, please hear my confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.
Proceed.

I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.

What troubles me particularly is that . . .

The penitent confesses whatever he has done against the commandments of God, according to his place in life. The he concludes by saying:

I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.

God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.
Amen.

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?
Yes.

Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive You all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Dealt with.. Done.

Sin is simple to deal with, so let’s deal with it... knowing the Lord has had mercy on us.

Anxiety, Temptation, Fear, or Peace…. Choose you this day…

Discussion Quote/Devotional THought of the Day:

“God is with you!” So cast far away from you that fear and spiritual agitation.  They are reactions to avoid in the first place, for they only serve to multiply temptations and increase danger! ”  St Josemarie Escriva,

Within our worship service, multiple times a phrase is said by the pastor, noting that the presence, the peace of God is with His people, and then we pray together, or feast together at the Lord’s table. It is a powerful thing, this knowing that the Lord is present, that He is here, that we have a relationship with Him, and that He is the Paraclete, the Encourager/Comforter/one who comes alongside and supports us.

To lack that presence is to invite in something else, Escriva says agitation,  I tend to call that anxiety, the peace robbing emotional reaction that doesn’t trust in God, but wonders about all the permutations of the situation and starts spinning our hearts and minds out of control, as fears take over. We seek to escape such, and there is Satan, holding out temptations that will kill the anxiety, or at least hide it, for a few hours, for a few minutes.  Those temptations often become addictions, because we turn, over and over, for some kind of release, some kind of escape, a vacation from the stressful strain of the world.  With those temptations is always danger, always a struggle, always…..more stress

The  option to it is simple – to simply rest and find yourself in the presence of God.  To know His peace is with you.  Luther talked of dwelling on the promises of your baptism, others talk about contemplating the incredible truth found in the Lord’s Supper – that there, we come face to face with the truth of how much the Father loves us, how much Christ was willing to sacrifice.   ( Our brothers and sisters in the RCC talk about Eucharistic Adoration – a complex devotional time before a host that is saved for that very time – it is my thought that it developed simply from stopping and considering what the Lord’s Supper reveals, and not wanting that moment to just come and go so quickly)  How deep the Father’s love for us… for me… to dwell on these things…. how the burdens, the transient, temporary burdens disappear! How the escapes that we had planned, as we broke before temptation now seem so.. empty… because we know that which makes a difference.

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with you always……

And even as I write, I can hear my people say “AMEN!”

(and under their breaths… utter.. Thank God!)

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