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What Did the Apostles Do Today…?


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8  None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9  but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him10  to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God.   1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)

318      Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you.   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge

Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping.  They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.

They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him.  They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him.  They rejected Him.

Just like we do at times.

But what did they do today?  Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors?  Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught?  Did their fears and anxieties oppress them?  Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?

What did they do?

I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today.  Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame.  We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.

We need to see Jesus.  As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive.  We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.

And with Him, we died and rise as well….

 † Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises.  We pray this in the name of the Father,  † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN! 

When God Doesn’t Answer….then what? The Dark Days of Being a Pastor/Elder/Parent


Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17  I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18  Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19  To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:16-19 (TEV)

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8  Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)

224      Interior dryness is not lukewarmness. When a person is lukewarm the waters of grace slide over him without being soaked in. In contrast, there are dry lands which seem arid but which, with a few drops of rain at the right time, yield abundant flowers and delicious fruit. That is why I ask: When are we going to be convinced? How important it is to be docile to the divine calls which come at each moment of the day, because it is precisely there that God is awaiting us!  (1)

There are days where events and situations occur in such a way, I have to wonder if God is on vacation.  

It might be that the burdens i deal with just tire me our, that as prayer requests seem to add up, as more and more people I know have to deal with severe trauma and grief.

It could be the burdens that come as I try to balance being a pastor and a father, as days go longer than I thought, or I don’t get the break I need somewhere in the middle.  Or that somehow my own physical  and personal issues challenge me as well.

It could be that working with some people is such a challenge, even as Jeremiah notes, as they continue to rebel against God, thinking their own way is better. Today they don’t kill those who would warn them, they just laugh it off, or simply ignore it and do what they want to do, not thinking about the consequences, and that God does have a reason for the guidance He gives us.  You can tell them, and sometimes they will listen, and sometimes they will come back, with tears in their eyes…. we pray that God would reveal Himself to them in a way they can’t deny… to quote the gospels,  ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets (and the gospels and epistles), they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (NLT)

Whether the people we deal with are victims or the guilty, or even both simultaneously, why does it take so long for them to be restored?  Why do we have to see them struggle?  Why can’t everything be fixed, why can’t prayer work like a magic wand….?  Why doesn’t God just fix their problems – both the problems of the good and the bad?  After all, isn’t that what ministry is about?

Why do Jeremiah’s whines resonate deeply within the souls of so many pastors, priests, lay leaders in every form of ministry, including those who are parents?

is there a cure for how we feel when we wonder why God hasn’t provided the answer to our prayers?

One of the steps is to deal with the issue of self-righteousness.

That’s God’s answer in the first quote from Jeremiah.  He doesn’t tell Jeremiah to force the people to return.  God tells Jeremiah to return!

Jeremiah, you come back, you get back to doing what I’ve called you to do.  You serve, you stop whining, stop making it sound like you are the martyr, the suffering servant.  Proclaim Christ (though it was in the nature of prophecy for Jeremiah – we can point more clearly to the cross)   Time to end the self-pitying, the grass is greener ( or in my case, the leaves ae more colorful) over there.

When we stop making ourselves out to be the crucified one, the martyr of God’s cause,

But how?

I love Josemaria’s answer, for it changes the game.  When there is no answer to prayers, we usually either blame God (as Jeremiah does) or we think there is something wrong with our prayer – either our heart, or our form, that God’s not listening because something we have done is prohibiting the God of the universe from either hearing our prayer, or taking action upon it.

There is a difference between being in rebellion from God, and being in a dry spell, of not praying because we don’t trust or know God is there, and wondering why the prayers aren’t answered yet.  Sometimes, that dryness is needed, because we have to learn that God is there….even when we can’t see Him. We have to learn to be stiil, to wait on the Lord, to know that He is God.

It from such dryness that a revival can spring, that incredible growth may com.  Some places are like gardens, slow and steady, others are like the desert – where a light rain on Tuesday is followed by plants literally bursting forth.  It is that message, the very gospel that causes such, that snapped Jeremiah out of his silence, it is that gospel message that causes the life that seems to be buried to explode out of our parched souls. It is that word of God that brings to us the perspective of God’s love, of His desire, of His work that quickens people, that quickens us.

The gospel message of God’s love, that draws us to Him, that reveals how deep and high, how broad, how wide, that love is… for us.

For them.

A love that answers those prayers, in ways we can’t quite understand, yet ways fulfilling His promise to never leave or forsake us.  The promises that nothing can separate us from Him, even the valley of the shadow of death.  The gospel that says even though we think His words we proclaim may return void, they won’t.   He has promised.

And knowing Him, remembering His promises, we return from our whining to get back to our calling, to proclaiming that love we need to know ourselves to others.

And then, they come… they find that love, they find the healing for the brokenness they chose…. and our prayers… well they are answered.

For He is our God, our refuge, and we are His people, the children He cares for by providing them peace.

AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 964-968). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is God Listening? Is God here?


Devotional thought of the day:

  “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8  Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT) 7

463         Your prayer will sometimes be discursive; maybe less often, full of fervour; and, perhaps often, dry, dry, dry. But what matters is that you, with God’s help, are not disheartened. Consider the sentry on duty. He does not know if the King or the Head of State is in the palace: he is not told what he might be doing, and generally the public figure does not know who is on guard. It is not at all like that with our God. He lives where you live, He cares for you and knows your inmost thoughts. Do not abandon the guard-duty of your prayer!  (1)
One of the more interesting challenges I have, is teaching my son how to pray.  Not the words to say, he has that down, but how to realize that prayer is a conversation with God.  That God is there, that God is listening, that God is present.

For a very intelligent 6 year old, who can read like a teenager can eat, what isn’t in front of him, visible, is hard to see.  It is hard not to see prayer and simply something we do together, a time we spend together.  Body language and voice intonation lets me know he is involved, yet not quite discerning the presence of God.  At least that seems to me to be what I’ve seen over the last year or so develop.

I look at people, and are we any different?  As we gather, two or three, together.  As we pray together in Church, never mind if I dare ask people about their prayer habits.  I’ve thought about the pastors gathering that is hosted at my church, and wondering what would happen, if we talked about out prayer habits, and how many would show up if I pre-announced that topic!  (Even writing this makes me a bit nervous, because if I ask them, they will surely ask me!)

So how to encourage this regular conversation with God?  How do we dare open our lives to Him?  How do we pour out on Him our anxieties, our concerns and how do we know He is listening?  How do we know the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all creation is waiting to talk to me?  

The problem is, like a 6 year old, we struggle to believe in that we cannot touch, We want documentation, a proven methodical concept that works the same way each time.  In a way, we want to reduce prayer from the dynamic communication it is, to a formulary set of practices that will work the same way, each time.  And when it doesn’t, we can analyze what we did wrong, or dismiss the entire thing as a intellectual fraud.

Relationships are a matter of the heart though, not of our mind.  They are surprising and fluid, they are intense, and yet if abandoned dry out.  They are life, which is why its called a life of prayer. It is experiental – beyond our ability to logically or within our scope of reason.  So why would a relationship with God be any more rational, definable, subject to our control?  Knowing His presence is observable, but not with our eyes. It’s know through a trust in Him that is alien to our minds, but with which the heart overrides that analysis, and does so in great joy… for it is there we find peace.

All I can say is faith relies on Him.  It trusts Him.  He promised to be here,

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and He promised to listen and to craft our lives and all that happens to work out for our best.  He invited us to pray, taught us how to lay it all out before Him, to let Him care for our burdens and bring life to our weary and broken lives.

I pray that we can be aware of the promises and the reality of them.

AMEN

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