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Mondays, Faith, and Encountering the Face of God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

It is God’s will and express command that believers should do good works which the Holy Spirit works in them, and God is willing to be pleased with them for Christ’s sake and he promises to reward them gloriously in this and in the future life. (1)  

Our faith is not for ourselves alone; it is also for others. Faith wants to be shared. Consequently, it always involves a going out to others, going with the steps of a heart enlightened by the name of Jesus.  (2)

It is another Monday.
We’ve left our sanctuaries, and re-entered the harsh “reality” of the world.(3)
We’ve left behind the peace and joy and restoration we encountered at our churches.
We’ve left behind the security and love that surrounds our homes.

Now, in our workplaces, in our classrooms, in our doctor’s offices, we realize it is Monday.  The day we claim to dread, the day were frustrations forgotten for a brief moment called “the weekend” come back to hammer us.

It is now time we get to do God’s work, to see how the praises we sang and said yesterday turn into worship today.  For today is our day of worship, the day to praise God with our lives.  It is the day to see our faith become more than what we think, but to be what we know, what we rejoice in, to be what we share.

It is time to see God turn us into His masterpiece; It is time to encounter Jesus in the faces of the least of these.  Those broken, those beaten and harassed.  Those so destroyed by their own sin, those so crushed by the sins of others, that they don’t know how to do anything but strike out in frustration.  Those so broken that in pain they cause us pain and frustration. They may not look like the least, but God knows their need, and you’ve been sent, so go…to the least…

This is where worship proves the transformation that God is causing in our lives.  As we embrace those who antagonize us, who would hurt us,  who strike out with words, and yes sometimes with violence. As we go to them, as we trust in God’s guidance, we worship Him by embracing them.  We worship God by knowing He can change them, calm them, transform them. Even those that need a miracle to change.  In Christ, we find the strength to imitate Him, and bear our crosses, for them, because He bore a cross for us.

It’s a Monday; it is time to worship… let nothing distract you from His love, or the least of these.

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 557). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 317). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(3)  I would contend that we confuse reality, for reality is best determined by God’s perspective, not our own.

Two Kinds of Apostles: Which Are You?

Devotional THought of the day:Featured image

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.

19 This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” 23  John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’ ”24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” 26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”  28 This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.   John 1:6–8, 19–28

This morning a group of pastors and I gathered around an altar, and then a table.  During our time for communion, and then later, this passage formed the basis for our conversation.  The attitude of John the baptist.  This is a summary of my devotion.

You know in this passage there are two types of disciples, and in our own ministry we have to choose which we are, and which type we will encourage our people to be.

The first type of apostle is John.  He’s the sent one, the apostle’d one.  The one that comes from God to bring a message – a message that affects his very life.  He pours his life into the message, and he will have his up and downtimes.  But he is not just a messenger, he is a martyr, a witness (martyr is a Greek word for witness – but the witness is willing to die to prove their truthfulness)  to the work of God, and to the message God has given him to share.  The Holy Spirit is working through him, and the results are evident.  Those who hear the word are granted repentance, and will be cleansed of their sins.

That’s not to say he is perfect.  We will struggle with faith while imprisoned because of the faith.  He trusts in God, and yet, the despair can reach in, and he knows he needs to be reminded again of the promises of God.   John knows who he is in relationship to the messiah, yet his message is to point to Jesus, where we will find hope, mercy and the love of God.

The priests and levites (temple assistants) are also sent, but by man.

Look at the attitude of these ecclesiastical visitors, these men who are sent.

They demand to know who John is, they have their checklist, they want to know why John is caring for the needs of the people they were supposed to shepherd and serve.  They are all about the examination of John, ignoring the needs that are being met, ignoring the response of people whose lives are being cleansed and cleared of sin.  They know the limits of their authority and responsibility only in view of those who sent them, their message is to bring back an evaluation, answers to whether the ministry is done well and proper.

How different is God’s messenger, who humbly gets down in the water, who serves, who doesn’t demand an answer, but gives the answer, the answer full of hope, the answer that will reveal the depth of the love of God.  That’s his message, as imperfect and outrageous he is.  His message is from a humble man – to other men.  Truly a cry of brokenness and despair, a call to make ready the way for the Messiah for everyone.

And people listen, they hear his message and respond…… they know He is there to bring them a message of repentance and yes hope.  I really like how Luther explains it:

Build up, build up, prepare the way. “Behold, this person shall become a preacher for you, because one who will trust in Me will be full of the Spirit so that he is able also to teach others.” Now, this is the voice: Build up, as John says, “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). The preacher must first reprove the world, so that they may repent and remove the roadblocks, that is, their own righteousnesses and religions. The preacher’s first message is to teach penitence, remove offenses, proclaim the Law, humiliate ( I would rather see this as the verb humble)  and terrify the sinners. No one can do this but a godly preacher. Hypocrites cannot preach this way because they do not truly feel sins.[i]

John is sent/apostoled/given the mission by God.  He knows the brokenness of sin, and the blessings of God’s promised mercy.  The apostles of men can’t know that, they haven’t witnessed it personally, they don’t know this love, this grace, this overwhelming peace. That’s the difference, the difference that all of us, sent by Jesus into the world, clergy, laity, pastor, prophet and simple witness need to realize. THe message only gives hope, it can only transform and bring faith and repentance, if it is a witness to the work of jesus..

May we indeed bring a message to others of what we’ve seen God do, that they too may believe!

[i] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 17, p. 277). Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

He is Risen, Therefore – why are you standing around?

He is Risen!  Therefore…SAMSUNG

Why are you standing around?

Acts 1:1-11

 In Jesus Name

May you go out from this place, realizing that the grace, mercy and peace of God is with you, with the understanding that is it more glorious when you share it with others!

The Memorial Acclimation:  

The words are familiar…..

“Christ has died!  Christ has Risen, Christ will come again!”

At least, they should be to those of us who regularly gather here.  We say something like them when we testify of our faith, using the words of the Creed.  We sing them occasionally, too, when Chris puts the Memorial Acclimation in the service.

How often do we do those things anyways?  ( both every week, twice in lent and advent!)

Yet I wonder if we hear them, when we do?

I think we get that He has died, for we celebrate that constantly.  And that He is Risen? (He has Risen Indeed, Alleluia!  And therefore  We are risen indeed!)

But what about that last part, words similar to those two men, who spoke to the disciples, while they were just staring off into, well as they were staring off into space.

They ended the discussion with these words, “but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Do we hear those words?  I mean, not just like hearing them as the sound waves travel in one ear and out the other.  But hearing those words, and having them stick to our very soul.  Do we hear that Jesus Christ will come again?  Do we know it, count on it, live our lives in view of it?

Or do we need to hear the first words of the two men in white….

Men, why are you standing here, staring into heaven?

But why do we stand around like the apostles?

As I read the entire story, recorded by Luke for his friend, Theophilus, I wonder about these apostles, and I guess I am not surprised by their standing around.  They weren’t the quickest to understand something.

Consider this.

in verse 2, we see that Jesus, in the forty days he walked with the apostles, had to prove to them in many ways that he was alive.  That just seems more unbelievable than believing that someone could rise from the dead in the first place!

In the upper room twice, on the shores of Lake Galilee, appearing to Peter one other time, and I imagine that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 as Paul writes about, some of the apostles were probably there!

Yet he still has to teach them, proving to them He was alive!  Even that day, for Matthew 28 says, Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Matthew 28:16-17 (NLT)

It seems strange, that these men who walked with Jesus more than three years, who saw His wounds, who saw Him heal, who heard Him teach would still struggle to put together everything.  Yet in those forty days, Jesus continued to invest Himself in His chosen men.

He went over the same lessons that He taught them prior to the cross, At least four times Jesus talked about the coming of God’s kingdom, and that it wasn’t known until it was revealed.  At the last supper it was an issue, and here at the ascension, it still is!  “When will we see you reigning over the world Lord?” they asked.

Maybe we still do?

Among the things He kept teaching them, indeed twice in this passage, is that they would be His witnesses.  He had to keep letting them know that they would testify of what people needed to know about Jesus, to the world.  He actually commissions them to this in verse 2, and then reminds them again in verse 8!

Yet, after all that, they are standing around, staring up into space?

Is it any wonder that we have the same issues today?

If we are like the apostles, what made a difference in their lives will make a difference in our lives, as we become witnesses of His to this world.

You see in the middle of the passage – Jesus reminds them that they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  That the Holy Spirit will come into their lives, and that this is the reason they will be able to tell people about His life, his death, resurrection and that He is coming back.

That is part of what Jesus taught them, about the role of the Holy Spirit.  In John 14, Jesus promised,

25  “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)

This includes us by the way, for even as the Apostles were baptized in the Spirit, so were you and I, when we were baptized in Christ. That what these apostles heard and saw, over and over, we too will recall.  Prodded by the Holy Spirit, and those messengers that might just say to us, “why are you standing here, looking into space?”

Sharing our faith isn’t about the law – a duty enforced on us, any more than having the grace of God our father, the love and mercy show to us in Christ is.  It is what happens when Jesus is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, as we are continually taught about that love and mercy, and the Kingdom of God, and the day we shall see it.

It is what we are commissioned to do, because we are the children of God, sent into places like Cerritos, and Downey, La Palma and Buena Park and Lakewood.  Sent to places like China, or the Philippines or Northern California, or even the doctor’s office or Walmart, to be His witnesses.

Even as we are in awe of God’s presence among us, even as we consider that Christ has Died, Christ has risen (wait for it), and yes, He will come again…….even as all that goes through our mind, it is time to stop standing around, and it is time to bring the news of God’s love to this lost and broken world.

We can do it, because we know that we dwell in the peace of God that passes all understanding, a peace in which Christ guards our hearts and minds… and therefore, we don’t have to just stand around!

AMEN?

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