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How Do I Survive the Dark Times

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
4  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6  God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)

862         When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.  (1)

When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)


I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed.  Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God.  To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.

This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin.  We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.

Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us.  We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ.   This isn’t it.

Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”,  “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”,  the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.

We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.

It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it.  Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care.  The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!

So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time.  Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light.  Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock

Preaching with A Soul on Fire: A Necessity!

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church
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)

14  But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

815         You have seen very clearly your vocation to love God, but only with your head. You assure me that you have put your heart into the way you are following. But you say that you are distracted at times, and even attempt to look back. That is a sign that you have not completely put your heart into it. You need to be more sensitive!  (1)

The second requisite for effective preaching is that the preacher not only himself believe the things he preaches to others, but that his heart be full of the truths which he proclaims, so that he enters his pulpit with the ardent desire to pour out his heart to his hearers. He must have an enthusiastic grasp, in the right sense of the word, of his subject. Then his hearers get the impression that the words dropping from his lips are flames from a soul on fire. That does not mean that the Word of God must receive its power and life from the living faith of the preacher; for the Lord says distinctly: “The words that I speak, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. Moreover, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12. But when a preacher proclaims what he has ever so often experienced in his own heart, he easily finds the right words to speak convincingly to his hearers. Coming from the heart, his words, in turn, go to the hearts of his hearers, according to the good old saying: Pectus disertum facit, that is, it is the heart that makes eloquent. This does not mean the artificial eloquence acquired in a school of elocution, but the sane spiritual art of reaching the hearts of hearers. For when the hearers get the impression that the preacher is in full and dread earnest, they feel themselves drawn with an irresistible force to pay the closest attention to what the preacher is teaching in his sermon. That is the reason why many simple, less gifted, and less learned preachers accomplish more than the most highly gifted and profoundly learned men.  (1)

In our midweek Bible Study, I have been teaching about preaching this summer.  Not because my people are going to preach from the pulpit, but because:

1)  It will help them interact with the sermon/homily more, and therefore benefit from it more

2)  It may help me grow in the area of preaching>

As we are going through a very elemental book on the craft of preaching, I came across the quote above in blue.  I very well may take the italicised part of that and hang it above my desk,   It is to become a goal of mine, knowing the context from where the quote comes.

I want people to know what I know, the presence of God.  Gosh I want them to know it.

Why?

Because it seems to me the only way to survive this life.  To get through things like I’ve gone through in life. the pains, the surgeries, the anxieties, the pain.  To deal with things like the sin which the author of Hebrews says so easily ensnares us.  For it does, and the grief and shame of our own sin can crush us, and resentment towards those who sin against us can tear our souls apart.

To be able to deal with death, something I’ve had to deal with since a child, my own hovering over me, and later, ministering to those who are dieing, and those who were left behind.  Knowing God’s promises are the only way to deal with that pressure.  To deal with demons as well, both those who are figurative, the idols we create that drag our life’s focus from God, and the real one’s who work to destroy our life by attempting to destroy our relationship with God.  We see both of those demons at work today, although we can never quite be sure which is which… both are real.

I love Escriva’s words, and I Pray mine would encourage people to believe with their heart (as Paul talks about in Romans 10), to know God, and relate to Him as their Lord, as their Savior.  Not to just know about Him.

Can a sermon be passionate, charismatic, full of zeal and dripping with flames from a soul on fire?

It can, if the pastor, the priest, the preacher has been broken and by God’s loving kindness is healing.

For as we heal – we begin to see the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of the love of God, revealed to us all in Christ Jesus.

That’s preaching…. that’s proclaiming.

And our people, not from pulpits, but in their homes, and their workplaces, in restaurants, coffee shops, in line at Walmart, will begin to do the same.

For such is our glory, the hope that we have in Christ Jesus….

And may we share it with zealous love.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3361-3364). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Walther, C. F. W., Dau, W. H. T., & Eckhardt, E. (2000). The proper distinction between law and gospel: 39 evening lectures (electronic ed., p. 112). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Another Challenging “imitate Paul as he Imitates Jesus moment…”

Devotional Thought ot the Day:

14  Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have—I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children. 15  I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me. 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 (NLT)

288 When the Lord makes use of you to pour His grace into souls remember that you are only the wrapping round the gift, the paper that is torn up and thrown away.  (1)

Over the last couple of days, my blogs have focused on the relationship of faith (trusting in God ) and humility.  It’s not an easy thing to manage – this idea of humility. To let God be our God, to entrust our entire lives into His wise care, this is what faith is. The result is being transformed into His image, growing in His likeness.  Learning to see His will as ours, and caring for what He cares for, that people come to repentance, to transformation.  Learning to value what He does, the way He does.

We see this in Paul’s words, as he tells the church in Corinth how he isn’t in anything they have.  He wants them to know Jesus. He wants them in the Father’s hands, no matter the cost.

Do we look at the world, as evil as it may seem, at those broken, from the homeless guy to the “big names” in sports, business, and politics in the same way?  As people who desperately need to know Jesus?   How are we welling to die to self, that people may know Christ.  Not just about Him, but really know Him?

Are we willing to be the paper that Josemaria speaks of tossed aside, even trashed, as long as the Father’s gift to them is revealed and received?

This takes humility, it takes Christ-likeness, for this is what He has done… it takes trust in God, it takes knowing Him.

It is who we are called to be, it is to walk where God planned for us to walk – from before time.

Will you walk with Him today?  Lord have mercy, we will let Him walk as our guide.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1388-1389). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is It Time to Shake the Dust off our Sandals?

IMAG0406

An amazing look at a storm coming up, threatening the church and the village it is the center of life for….

Devotional Thought of the Day::

11  If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!”      Mark 6:11 (TEV) 

27  “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.  Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”  Matthew 13:27-30 (NLT)

9  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

1 Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

It seems as winter comes to an end, as we ready to change our clocks tonight, many of us are struggling with relationships.  Even relationships that were broken many moons ago.

I’ve probably heard the top verse, about “shaking the dust” fifteen or twenty times in the past month.  From pastors and church leaders, to those who come to church maybe once or twice a year. ( One of the conversations was about wiping the dust of a church off their feet – but I think they met the church as as an entire entity.) 

I am tempted, in such conversations, to make them pull out a BIble, and look at the context of the passage.  But often, in that moment, the pain they are reliving blinds them to that context.  WHat would happen, what has happened, is that they selectively hear me, and continue to use the passage, or add me to those who dust has left their feet.  

You see this passage isn’t about getting the people who are negative in our life, and doing away with them.  It’s not even about pruning our relationship “tree”, cutting off the dead wood.  Or getting those who presently won’t listen to the gospel out of our lives and circles, lest they comehow pollute our world, and our relationships.  The shaking the dust off their feet was their ignoring the message of Jesus kingdom being established soon, not about our personal pains, oru brokenness, whether by our actions, theirs or a combination and desire for mutually assured destruction.

It’s not even about their rejecting the love of God, as we present it. 

It can’t be, for if it were so, then what about the other passages I placed above, about Jesus commanding His servants to leave the weeds side by side until the Harvest, and about God’s desire and will that none perish.  This passage about shaking the dust from one’s feet has to be understood in context with it. Could Peter be wrong about the patience of God?  Could Jesus’ parable be set aside, if the people are too evil?  That we rip them out of our lives, and refuse to share with them the very love of God, because we’ve closed the door?

You might ask about the two disciples in 1 Timothy, that Paul hands over to Satan, or the people in Matthew 18, that a congregation treats like publicans and sinners.  Can’t we do that, we ask ourselves, trying to justify our own defenses.  The question is, do you really see them, as former brothers and sisters in Christ?  Those who have walked away, and only by experiencing the depth of despair that is found in being in bondage to Satan, will they cry out for mercy?  Even then, you must ask yourself – if they repent, are you willing to take them back, to forgive them 7 times 70, or as many times as Jesus forgives…you?   Are you willing to bring them and the issue before pastors, and event he chruch, in an attempt to reconcile it?

Are you willing to face the pain, embarassment, struggle, in order that reconciliation can happen?

Is it time to shake the dust off our feet?  Are we willing that our action will be a testimony, a witness against them, that would see them in Hell?  Or can we trust in Chirst, and with Him, blaze a trail of the glory of the gospel, His light that redeems and reconciles and heals?  That covers their sins, not with time, but with the blood of Christ that will cleanse them?

Can we work to bring them to the altar of Christ?

Tough questions this day……

Lord, Have Mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question!

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day

8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9  Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by themHebrews 13:8-9 (TEV) 

Although it seems a paradox, those who call themselves sons of the Church may often be precisely those who sow greater confusion.  (1)

I see a lot of confusion among the people of the church caused by those in the church today.  Matter of fact, the old cliche, “we’ve met the enemy and we are it!” may be at a epic high.  It doesn’t matter what denomination, what movement, what area, there is a battle who is more faithful.  In my denomination, the battle as to who is most faithful often is waged between those who want to abide by the old rules, the old ways and customs and methods of the church in its 1940’s-1950’s heyday, and those who define faithfulness as being tied to ourreach and mission.  We get convinced that only if we can find the right box, with the right walls, then God will bless us – because we are faithful. That God will cause the church to thrive because of our perfect liturgy, our our desire to see people know Christ.

And we lovk ourslves in a box…. Sometimes in fear, sometimes in frustration, sometimes just because we want and need a way to now we are okay with God.

It is ironic.  But then, as sinners, we are good about making it all about ourselves.

In other times, it was waged over music, or church governance or finances or any of a number of good and practical things.  We focus on concepts, on the theology, on the practice… and we forget about the content, the relationship.. to put it bluntly, what I see lacking the most in these battles, is our desire to know and make known the Lord who loves us.

It’s time to cut through the confusion, its time to strip away both new ideas and old man-made requitements and just draw our strength from where it comes.  Hebrews says it is a gift of God, it is grace, it is walking each day in His presence, reveling in His mercy, depending on His faithfulness, trusting ourselves into His loving hands…confident of His faithfulness.

Seeing whatever happens as something He is working through, whether it is joyous or a cross, whether it is in abundancae …well… let me quote Paul

8  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9  there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10  At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (TEV)

Here is the key that stops us from looking for affirmation of our faithfulness- because we don’t need it.  We have Christ.   We have a God who says, “you are my child, I have begotten you… dwell in my love.”

And when we do.. all sorts of interesting things happen…not that we’d notice… for our lives would be constantly praising Him… for His faithfulness.

So stop trying to prove your faithful, that your faithfulness is superior or more holy.. and just dwell in His presence, evjoy His love.. and adore Him..for He is our God, and we are His kids.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1664-1665). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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