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When the Struggle is Real….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

24  The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away. 25  When your people meet, you will fill my heart with your praises, LORD, and everyone will see me keep my promises to you. 26  The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope. Psalm 22:24-26 (CEV)

Joshua, please come and rescue us! The Amorite kings from the hill country have joined together and are attacking us. We are your servants, so don’t let us down. Please hurry!” Joshua 10:6 CEV

Grace and mercy are there where Christ on the cross takes your sin from you, bears it for you, and destroys it. To believe this firmly, to keep it before your eyes and not to doubt it, means to view the picture of Christ and to engrave it in yourself. Likewise, all the saints who suffer and die in Christ also bear your sins and suffer and labor for you, as we find it written, “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfil the command of Christ” [Gal. 6:2]. Christ himself exclaims in Matthew 11 [:28], “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you.” In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ.

I sat in the E.R. hallway, trying to come up with something to calm my anxious soul.  The lady, screaming profanities at the top of her voice didn’t help, but I was able to pray for her, and the staff that tried to calm her down. The flood of traffic, and the delay at seeing how I was bothered and comforted me at the same time.  After all, if they were really worried about me, wouldn’t they have me in a bed, and be constantly looking in on me?

So I sat in the hall… trying to block out the noises, trying to find some sort of peace.

My prayer was not so different from the people sending word to Joshua ( whose name is shared with our Savior Jesus) Lord have mercy!  Come help… make everything all right.

It took a while, six hours later to say I had severe gas bloating….

Six hours that seemed like a year.

As I have struggled with a few serious health issues over there, I will admit, I have wondered if God hates me. I have wondered if this sin or that is not forgiven, and that is why I have to suffer. I wonder if the suffering I help people endure in the churches I pastor is my fault, It is not a challenge to spiral, to let depression or anxiety fill the space where I forgot God was…

He is still there of course, as Psalm 22 reminds us.  He has not forsaken us in our sufferings, He is there. Reminding each other of that..of God who is present, who is merciful, who is loving,,. well, that is how we carry each other’s burdens.

As to sin being the cause of our personal suffering, and the suffering all around us, consider the words Luther was able to pen…

Here sins are never sins… for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ!

Be at peace, Christ has not only overcome the world, He has overcome your world.

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 105.

Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Is in Dialogue
James 5:13-20

† I.H.S. 

May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them

People in trauma

The people that James was writing too sound like us.  Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia!  Hear how James describes them

verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14  ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.

Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.

As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?

This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches.  But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.

Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way.  And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.

Pray.

There is an answer

Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other

Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick  call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins?  Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.

Pray… Pray… Pray…

Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for  reason.

We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.

It is what you do first, and always.

Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.

That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray.  It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.

But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.

James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather.  That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)

You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.

In other words, he is a man like us!  And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,

24  “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)

God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.

And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.

To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.

We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.

Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.

This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life.  That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,

Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
[1]

So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  AMEN!

[1] Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Suck it up… and go talk to Jesus

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

Psalm 32:1-7 (NLT) 1

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude 5  Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude 6  Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7  For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.

 253         That sick person, consumed by a zeal for souls, said: sometimes the body protests a little and complains, but I also try to transform “those moans” into smiles, because then they become very effective. (1)

A lot of people out there are paralyzed, not physically, but spiritually.  Simply put, they know what they want to do,  They have no strength to do that which they want to accomplish, they can’t escape the pain and the brokenness of their lives. They say they are believers, that they are Christians, they even may sit in church this morning. They may even say they have a zeal for souls, and give money to missions…

But can they love their neighbor?

Can they forgive their family?

Can they reach out, even as St. Josemaria describes, in their physical weakness?

Can they sacrifice themselves, so that they desire to see others know Christ can be fulfilled?

How much of their spiritual weakness comes from not dealing with their own sin, as the quote from the psalms describes?  How much of it comes from hiding their guilt?

Why can’t they just suck it up, and turn to God, knowing His promises, knowing His love, knowing He has promised that He will forgive?

I am presently on a elders retreat – and it is amazing, as each leads a devotion, as we do our impromptu Bible Studies (go find a passage – and explain what it says to you) The theme for the retreat is that we are “sent”.  But each section has shown us not that we are… but that we are sent from the place where God deals with our sin, with our brokenness, our pains.

It is from that place –quickened by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, made alive in Christ, freed from sin and delivered into a place full of joy and peace, that we find ourselves ministering to others without thought, serving others, sharing with others, with everyone, the glory of God in which we live.

So suck it up ( a phrase that was often used in past retreats – but the elder who used it has moved south) go to the Father… confess your sins… and go from there… and know He is God.

AMEN
(1)                Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1241-1243). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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