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What Are You Used to Seeing (Maybe it is time to stalk God?)

Thoughts to encourage you to love and adore Jesus…

12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT2)

It is related that a pious hermit, one day while the king was hunting through the wood, began to run to and fro as if in search of something; the king, observing him thus occupied, inquired of him who he was and what he was doing; the hermit replied: “And may I ask your majesty what you are engaged about in this desert?” The king made answer: “I am going in pursuit of game.” And the hermit replied: “I, too, am going in pursuit of God.” With these words he continued his road and went away. During the present life this must likewise be our only thought, our only purpose, to go in search of God in order to love him, and in search of his will in order to fulfil it, ridding our heart of all love of creatures.

We get used to getting up every day as if it could not be otherwise; we become accustomed to see violence in the news as something inevitable; we get used to the usual landscape of poverty and misery while walking the streets
of our city.

We get up, we check out email, our twitter/facebook/newest social media feed and go on. We listen to the news, we fet in our cars and go about our day. It doesn’t matter what form of music we listen to, rock, emo, country, edm – the lyrics are anything but positive. And even if they are encouraing our overcoming, whose cost is it at?

Is it any wonder we become pessimistic? Is it any wonder we become anxious?

Pope Francis notes how accustomed we are to conflict and violence. It becomes what we expect. The stories talk of bigotry and racism, greed and hatred, sexual and sensual perversion, so we don’t think anything else exists in the heart of man.

We become acclimatized to these things – they become our norm, and we don’t expect anything else.

For an option to getting beat down by what we see, what if we were DeLigouri’s hermit – looking here, there and everywhere, but expecting to find God? What if we were, with St. Paul, willing to press on, to focus on, to even stalk God, for He has called us, and Jesus pressed on with everything we are…

How different would our outlook be in life?

How different would it be, if our focus was on the God who we depend on for life, and we knew all His promises that fill our lives? If we looked for His touch in every part of each day?

There is part of my daily prayers that helps…. especially if I slow down and hear the words, rather than just saying them. It is a modificaiton of a old Celtic prayer, that helps me realize I will see God at work today.

Here it is, ( the link is at the boottom)

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;

Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right
.

This day, realize the Lord is all around you – and stalk Him. Look for His work in others, and in your actions. See even the hard times as a blessing – as you reach out to Him, even in desperation.

God is with you…

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 376–377.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 246.

https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/

The Vision of Joy! A sermon on Isaiah

The Vision of Joy
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11


Jesus, Son, and Savior

May you enjoy the grace and glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

What was Going Through His Mind?

The Old Testament Reading this morning was the basis for a sermon before. In fact, the sermon was one of the shortest sermons in history.

It is recording in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4.  And after reading the first two verses from Isaiah, the preacher said this,

“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:17-21 (NLT2)

I would have thought this would have caused great joy… but it did not that day.  They decided to kill the person who read the passage from Isaiah….who dared to give them a Vision of Joy…

I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as He looked forward to that sermon, knowing the joy that He set before Him. Was there a massive smile on His face, knowing He came to do was now, finally going to happen?

Imagine if a scientist had to break the news that he had discovered a simple, easy cure for COVID.  Imagine the smile he would have on his face as he approached the microphone that all the challenges it has caused were over!

Yeah, what Jesus had come to do… was a billion times better.

And I get to show you that today!

What He Had Observed

Consider what God looked down upon, that Isiah describes,

There were the poor,
There were those whose hearts were shattered
There were people who could not leave the horrid situation they found themselves in…
There were people who lived, prisoners of their own choices, of their own sin, which was crushing them.
There were people mourning,
There were people in despair,
There were people living in lives lived in ruins

Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

One of the points we have to understand is that when we are crushed like in this time, by what is going on around us and what is going on inside us, God knows…

That is why the Apostle Paul says,

8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)

Been there, done that.

And then I forget it and start the process all over.

I need to hear Jesus calling; I need to hear Him describe what He will do again.

The Vision of what was coming

Usually, I focus on the bringing good news, the comforting the brokenhearted, the release of those locked in and the freeing for those imprisoned, and the other ways our salvation is shown.

But today, I want to look at a specific one of the changes that happen because Jesus said that this prophecy is full.

Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10  I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.


This is the greatest thing ever.

To realize that we are the people the Lord has blessed! What an incredible realization –  we are the people the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has blessed! 

Even more than that – look at the excitement of Jesus’s words,


He’s overwhelmed with joy because of what God the Father has caused to happen.


Jesus is as happy as the groom; he awaits the wedding and life that is to come with his bride.

Kevin – you are the most recent groom around here… how did you feel in the moments before the doors opened, and you saw Susan there? 

That is how Jesus felt as He preached that day… as the relationship that He had been waiting for since the worlds were created through Him finally was here.

No wonder Jesus was looking forward to the crucifixion for the joy set before him

As he was handed the scroll..the anticipation began to build, as He red the words, oh my the joy that began to spread, and continued to, until that point, when nailed to the cross, Jesus would say…

It is done… it is finished …..

the same thing that he said that day in Galilee….will be said at the cross. 

And He says that to us today… today hear the good news, you are free from whatever crushes you, for you can see God, and you are free and blessed, for He is your God. It is done this day – to you.

Rejoice! He is your God, the God who blesses you… Today, He has done this… AMEN!

Encounter God… and See! A Sermon on John 9 during the pandemic

Encounter God… and See
John 9

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see Him, and see Him at work in your life!

DO you believe

Towards the end of the encounter of the Blind man and Jesus, Jesus asks a question to the man that was formerly blind.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

What Jesus is asking him is whether he believes in the Messiah and whether He believes He has come.  It is one of the titles a Jewish person would have known referred to the Messiah,

Do you believe in the Messiah?  Jesus asks.

The man encountering Jesus replies, “Who is he, sir?  I want to believe in Him!”

The encounter then takes a new direction – as Jesus reveals to the one born blind he is the Messiah.

Before we deal with that, I want to ask another question, an interesting one.

Did he only believe because he saw Him?

Did the Blind man only believe in Jesus because he saw Him?

Or another way to phrase the same question, if the man had encountered Jesus, but Jesus did not give him the ability to see, would he have believed in Jesus?

It is an important question and one we need to face….

Will we only believe and trust in God, if He does what we desire most?

Will we only turn to Him if He keeps us safe from the flu or the coronavirus?  Will we only trust in Him if He heals our broken land, and ends the isolation that is so affecting all of us?

Will we only believe if God does things our way?

And if He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, will we reject Him?  Will we refuse to believe in Him? Trust in Him?

Depend on Him?

There is our question for the day… and a hard one.

The Dark Question

It’s one, if we are honest, we are afraid to ask.  Even if we aren’t sure of the answer.

Matter of fact, that is why we need to ask this!

Because we need to come face to face with the question.

Is our faith in God, is our being a Christian based on God doing what we desire?

Is it based on God caring for us the way we want?

If I am honest, the answer would be yes, at times. My faith wavers, it struggles, and I have to be able to admit that. I get frustrated when things don’t go my way, and I hurt in times like this.

And this passage gives me the comfort to admit this… and then reach out to God… and say where are you?

Why I can

The first is this – Jesus was working in the man’s life way before he asked the question. He was giving the blind man the ability to see and doing things that though the guy didn’t know who Jesus was, he knew something was happening that could only be accountable to God.

Back in verse 17 the man stated, “I think He must be a prophet!”  And then in verse 33 he said, “If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it!”

He saw God at work – even before he truly understood Jesus was the Messiah before Jesus was the Savior. He recognized something out of the ordinary was happening, something that couldn’t be normal, or just a coincidence.

While for us that may not be healing, God is still going to be at work in our lives way before we recognize that the Holy Spirit is carefully opening us up, and calling us into that place where we begin to heal, where we see God at work

Where we can then hear the question asking us whether we believe and as we go… uhhh… or ask this question or that one, we see Jesus revealed to us. And as He is revealed the Holy Spirit grants us both faith and repentance.

The Holy Spirit does that as well, working in us, revealing to us Jesus’s work through the gospel and then sacramentally, as God cleanses us from Sin and sets us up in a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Then, the Spirit has worked in us, we are no longer blind to the work of God, we can say with the man in today’s gospel, “Yes, Lord, I believe!”

How can we behold Jesus today?

You see that is the key, not saying I believe because of this argument, or that apologetic.  We believe because God is at work, and we, even as limited as our vision is, begin to see Him at work. We encounter Him doing something in our lives.

I am not saying our salvation is based on our experience or our emotion. I am saying that as God is at work, it becomes hard to deny it.

So how do we “see” Jesus at work today?

I mean he’s not down at the hospital, or the Braille institute, opening the eyes of the blind. My eyesight isn’t that bad, so where is He? Where can see that He has worked?

I see Him in the eyes of those who commune, I heard Him in the words of those who respond to me, “and also with you!” and “he is risen indeed! And therefore, we are risen indeed!” In the voices of those singing His praises.

But I see Him the most as His word and sacraments breathe life and power into the lives of the people around me. As I see people reconcile with those they have offended and forgive those who have offended them.  I see it in the eyes of those I tell that God has forgiven them of all their sin, and as people ask the hard questions, the ones that cause us to have no other option but to trust in God, and in the midst of that trauma, find peace and serenity that goes beyond anything we can logically explain.

The Spirit is at work within you – because He has promised to be, and God always keeps those promises.  This is our encounter today – wherever we are.

So be still… and know and see, He is God!  AMEN!

Sometimes it is so good, you have to share

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him…..

The scripture passage above was one I included in a blog a few days ago. It is something I am dealing with, something I, to be honest, am struggling with, as I observe some disconcerting things in the Church, and as I observe some stress and pain, and as I see people who are immune to seeing that stress and pain.

I know that desperation, and the fire burning in the guy. (Jeremiah knew it too – check out Jeremiah 20:7)

There is a tendency to fight or flee. TO argue till they see our side, until they follow our holy rules and acknowledge our superior wisdom, or to take the ball, our ball, and walk away. We don’t see a third option, and to be honest, we often do not want to see that option.

Because it means we lose, that our agenda is set aside, that we have to humble ourselves and work with our adversaries, not only do we have to work with them, we have to listen to them… and instead of winning or losing, instead of compromising, we have to seek God together.

Tony Campolo used to tell the story of walking from a parking structure in Philadelphia to a big meeting, some major players were going to donate a large sum of money to back some mission efforts he was developing. Important stuff, millions of dollars on the line. He was late, and as he walked down the street, he noticed a homeless guy walking toward him. He did what most of us would do, he tried not to make eye-contact with him. After all, he was in a hurry, to do something incredible for God!

Every once in a while he would look up – and the guy had zeroed in on him. I think he used the word, “crap” or perhaps something stronger. He realized he only had a $20 in his pocket, and didn’t want to waste it. The guy approached, Tony got anxious, nercous, tried to think of something to say.

“mister, I want to give you something”

“HUH????”

“Here, you need this, as he tries to hand Tony the cup in his hand”

Tony accepts it, he can feel the heat through the cup. Then he looks and it is a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. He’s like “how much do I owe you”

The guy explains, “Nothing Mister, someone gave me enough for two cups this morning, and mine was so good, I had to give the other to someone else. You looked so stressed out, I had to give it to you. Haven’t you had something so good that you needed to share it with someone else?

I’ve heard Tony tell that story, of that horrible cold, wet Philadelphia day probably 5 or 6 times. Each time he does it with a tear in his eye, as he remembers the swirling feelings of guilt and joy.

Back to my original point.

Paul describes us too well,

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Here is the cup of coffee we need to savor,

Look back u to the words of Spurgeon in purple.

Go ahead…

no really – and if you did ,,, think about it again. really work through it.

Now that is your cup of coffee, and you and your adversary, you and the person in the church who is causing you pain, the one you think you struggle with, that is inconvenient, needs to know this.

Now go and share you cup of coffee…

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

A Way to Deal With Stress…

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Where there is no vision the people get out of hand; happy are they who keep the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NJB)

2  Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)

958         You have a big problem; but if such things are approached properly, that is to say, with calm and responsible supernatural vision, the solution is always to be found.

Yesterday I attended a class on the relationship between stress and weight loss/gain. Some of the things in the course were quite interesting. others were, hmmm, more challenging to hear, as they led down different paths.

But the first words were about the inavoidability of stress, of problems that we will encounter. It’s there, and there are natural bio-chemical, hormonal reactions to stress. ANd the natural reactions to stress are fight or flee, both kicked into high gear by the rushing hormones that fill our blood stream and affect every muscle and organ in our body.

Stress is unavoidable, brokenness, grief, guilt, shame, worry, all cause this, and more besides. And the toll of such stress over the years is an horrific list of thigns from heart disease and cancer, to forms of mental illness.

Techniques were offered. Breathing, mediation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Visioning. Lacking was anything about prayer, meditative on scripture or on the sacraments. ( Which is odd considering the weight loos program is under the asupices of a Roman Catholic Hospital, administered by an order of nuns. )

For I have found that in the presence of God, when I realize that He is my fortress, the protesction from the trauma of the world (and my own internal trauma as well), that I can begin to relax, that I can begin to hand over the causes of my anxiety.

It is as the Proverb says above, that without that vision, we get out of hand. In other translations, we cast off all restraint, and then, we perish. But when we treasure (for that is what heep means) this revelation of God’s love, of His mercy and healing, we know a joy that is only found in the most perfect peace.

But how do we get there?

It was odd, at the end of the presentation, the last slide included the presenter’s fvorite word. Metanoia a word she knew as change, the change of our mindsets, our way of processing life. You could see her light up as she talked about it.

So I asked if she knew the “other” translation of the word. And then shared with her the word often it is translated into in scripture.

Repentance.

Not the repentance seen in movies, the guilt and shame producing feeling that comes from someone pointing out your guilt and shortcomings. But the kind of transformation seen in Romans 12 above, the very work of God renewing our minds. The work of Holy Spirit in our lives, brinign comfort and healing to our broken hearts and souls. Reminding us that there is no need to beat ourselves up over our sin, rather as 1 John 1:9 says, confessing ti to God, knowing He will cleanse us of all of it, and all injustice.

All of it.

The end of this, the end of seeing/envisioning God, revealed in all his love and mercy in scripture finds us at peace, at home in the presence of God, a place where the anxieities and stress of life may exist, but are so dimiished as we know GOd will bring us through them.

As He has for all who depend, who trust in Him.

Heavenly Father, help us be aware of the Holy Spirit’s work within those who have faith in You, and depend on what You have promised to do and provide for us. Grant us, repentence, the renewing of our hearts and minds and souls, so that we can dwell in the peace You intend for us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who made this all possible at the cross. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3886-3888). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Be Full of Joy: A sermon and service based on Phil. 4:4-7

Be Full of Joy
Philippians 4:4-7


† In JesusName †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine!  AMEN!

Irritating tunes…

There are in life some very irritating tunes.

You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?

A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…

“It’s” (a small world after all…

There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.

Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..”   (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to rejoicealways

and sometimes we are not in the mood!

Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging.  (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)

And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.

One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
 
Things that joy needs to replace.

But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be.  Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.

The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress.  Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.

Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives.  Those too take a lot of room in our hearts and minds.  And even if we get them, we aren’t always satisfied.  And chasing after, or hyper-focusing on these things takes up room that should be allocated for joy!

Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us.. And when it does, it steals the place for joy.

I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.

For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree.  For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.

9 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 him;  1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)

And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.

How did I come up with the list?
          Our conversation with God revolves around these important things

So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?

From the passage of course.  Though I changed the words slightly.

Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other.  Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.

Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.

He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need.  We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.

We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do so, and to fill us with joy, This is the comfortingwork of the Holy Spirit!  As He cleanses us,and fills us with God’s joy!

For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do.  You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it. 

His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…

That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Let Nothing You Dismay: And Advent Prayer for the Day of Delight is Coming!

https://concordia.org/worship-services%2Fsermons

Let Nothing You Dismay! – An Advent Prayer
Week 3 – The Day of Delight is Coming!
Zephaniah 3:14-20

IN JESUS NAME

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed to you, that the idea of dismay or disillusion be simply impossible, as you experience the dimensions of His love.

The Announcement Will Be
 
As we consider the old hymn’s line, God rest you merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay, as we look at the advent readings out of the prophets about the day of Christ, we’ve see something incredible so far.  These prophecies were all about a day that was to come, the day that Jeremiah described as the day of promise.  Last week Malachi described it as the day of returning, and next week, Micah will talk about the day of peace.

But tonight we’ve heard from Zephaniah, and we will explore the day he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write about….

The Day of Delight!

Delight, the greatest of joys.  The kind of joy that leaves us unable to speak.

A video is circulating on the internet, of this kind of joy.  People born color blind are given these new special glasses, that enable them to see color for the first time in their lives.  And these people’s body language and the tears of amazement are something to see. 

So I think I will show you…

(video?)

That’s the kind of joy, the kind of delight the prophet says God has promised on that day.

This is Amazing… 

But what we really need to realize, is that he didn’t promise this delight to you and I.  We aren’t the primary ones to know this joy, this delight.

He is.

Hear the passage again,

17  For the LORD your God is living among you. He isa mighty savior. He the greatest delight in you with gladness.

God will beoverjoyed, He will know the greatest delight with gladness, as He comes anddwells with you, and me.

He will take delight in you, Al, and you Tom, He will take delight in you therein the back, yes you Doug and Frank, and you over hiding there behind thepulpit and the music stand, yeah you Missy and Kay.

God will, on that day, take delight in you! Think back to the joy of the color blind man… can you imagine Godlooking at your with that kind of joy? That is His promise to you!

I mean I get the idea that with all of our burdens we will know a delightbeyond all imagination when we are welcomed into the presence of God.

God finding that kind of joy, joy inexpressible, when we show up?

That’s what the prophet promises!  He even says it again, hear this! 

With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

The Hand of Judgement is removed

This is the incredible promise we have to understand, that as much as we findGod’s mercy incredible, as much as we are amazed when we hear our sin is completely forgiven, as much joy we find as we experience the width and breadth, the height and depth of God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus…

He finds the greatest joy in restoring us to Himself, reconciling us, cleansing us from all sin.

All of it.

Zephaniah tells us that God will remove his hand of judgment, he ends all ourtroubles, and we will never have to fear His wrath.  We will never be disgraced or live in shame,or be oppressed, and He will gather us together, and on that day bring us home.

Where we will see God rejoice and sing and be delighted, as He makes His homein our presence.

Not yet?  Or Now?

Now the really mind blowing part of this… this day when God finds such delight in our presence, the day when He rejoices over us with songs of joy…

While this will definitely be something that we see completely revealed on the day of Christ’s advent, this time has already happened, for John’s gospel tells us,

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT2)

And in Luke’s gospel

19  and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” 20  He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21  Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:19-21 (NLT2)


In Christ’s incarnation, the thing we celebrate at Christmas, as Christ came, this truth became real, God again found great delight in His people, in dwelling with them.  Even through the suffering, the death on the cross, we find that Hebrews tells us it was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross, and in the resurrection, and at the day of Pentecost and every day someone is baptized since, this promise becomes true,

God delights in His people, in you’re and I,, and He rejoices over us with songs of joy!

So let Him cleanse you once again, as we gather together and share in the Lord’s Supper… AMEN!

The unusual strength we need…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
38  And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 (TEV)

56    Spiritual childhood demands submission of the mind, which is harder than submission of the will. In order to subject our mind we need not only God’s grace, but a continual exercise of our will as well, denying the intellect over and over again, just as it says “no” to the flesh. And so we have the paradox that whoever wants to follow this “little way” in order to become a child, needs to add strength and manliness to his will.

We live a life that is challenging, that is complicated, and when we are doing right in one person’s eyes, we are doing wrong in another’s view.  If we forgo the former, we are criticized, if we play by the latter’s rules, we are judged and perhaps even condemned.

Very few are wise enough to navigate these harsh waters that we find ourselves in, yet our minds tell us we must.  And so we screw up, sometimes critically, unable to balance all the things in the adult world.

We aren’t the first with this problem, see the writings of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul.

I’ve always thought the answer would be found in wisdom, the application of the intelligence God has given us. Now into my 50’s, I wonder if that is achievable,  As St. Mark records of Jesus, we desire to do what is right (just and fair, ) Our spirit resonates with what is right, we are so willing to do it, but we fail.

I find some help here in the words of St Josemaria this morning, that it is not our mind that provides us with the answer, Our mind, our wisdom, and intellect, has to be humbled and broken.  It must submit to Christ, be entrusted to His guidance.  And it is in this discipline that the fruit comes forth, as our faith becomes the childlike dependence on God that will always sustain us.

This isn’t easy, it requires strength and a focus that needs to be crafted, It requires that our souls learn patience, so as to temper the mind.  It requires our hearts be comforted, that the anxiety which often compromises our intellect be stilled.

This is not possible by our own strength and merit.

We need the Spirit, we need the loving, strong guidance of the Spirit who cleanses us of sin, revives and renews us.  The Holy Spirit causes us to look with awe at Jesus, our savior, and Lord.  And as we do, we become more childlike in our faith.  more willing to accept God’s directions, more willing to depend upon Him.

This is our hope, this work the Spirit is doing in us, this hard work that is truly a blessing, for it testifies that God is at work in our lives and that He cares for us.

Heavenly Father, please help us become childlike in our dependence on You!  Continue to pour our your Spirit upon us, disciplining us, that our heart, soul, and mind would be Yours, and reflect the glory of Your love ot our lost and broken world.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1975-1979). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is it worth it?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)

12  Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13  Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, 14  I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15  So this is the way in which all of us who are mature should be thinking, and if you are still thinking differently in any way, then God has yet to make this matter clear to you. 16  Meanwhile, let us go forward from the point we have each attained. Philippians 3:12-16 (NJB)

708    The world, the devil, and the flesh are a band of adventurers who take advantage of the weakness of that savage you have within you. In exchange for the poor bauble of pleasure, which is worth nothing, they want you to hand over to them the pure gold and the pearls, the diamonds and the rubies, drenched in the living and redeeming blood of your God—the price and the treasure of your eternity.

There are days when I ask myself the question that is the title of this blog.

The problem is that I ask it at the wrong times, or perhaps with the wrong attitude.  

I ask it on rough days when I am weary, broken by the events I endured, the pain and suffering encountered. I ask it with the attitude of trying to find a way out, a way to alleviate the stress that ll of the trauma and drama causes. I ask because, in the moment of the struggle, doubt creeps in and temptations arise.

The answer is that walking with Christ is always worth it, usually, somewhere between my heart, mind, and soul, I know this. Yet I also know Satan and the sinful nature that I still have to fight (see that described in Romans 7).  It doesn’t have to be the poor bauble of pleasure, it could even be the illusion that suffering and drama doesn’t exist. 

In those times, I need to remember the suffering He endured, and that He thought I was worth it!  I have to breathe, allowing the Holy Spirit to quiet and comfort me, allowing the Spirit to work deep within, reminding me of who God is, of where God is. 

This is why passing the peace and the Lord’s Supper are such important times in my life,  For there I am driven to remember He is with me, that His peace is where I am kept, I just have to remember it. As person after person shakes my hand, or grips me in a bear hug, I am reminded of where I am.  As they say, “peace be with you,” I realize that they know this because they have seen it in their own lives, as I tell them. I dwell in His peace.

That message is even more reinforced as I take in my hand body of Christ, and the cup containing His precious blood.   What a gift!  What a reminder that from the pain of the cross comes my hope, and the joy that is unspeakable.

Is it worth it?  This life lived, walking with people who struggling, each carrying his own burden? This carrying of burdens?  Of course.

God is with us!

So hang on to this hope, and know He is hanging on to you, as He walks with you.

AMEN. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1656-1659). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What are you looking for today? What are you chasing?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV)

1   As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2  I thirst for you, the living God. When can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 (TEV)

316    You tell me: “Yes, I want to!” Good. But do you “want to” as a miser wants his gold, as a mother wants her child, as a worldling wants honors, or as a poor sensualist wants his pleasure? No? Then you don’t “want to”!

I look at St Josemaria’s words this morning, and they hit me with a lot of conviction

As I look at a very busy week, as I anticipate the struggles and the hard work, I wonder how I am going to make it through it all, and do everything well.  The temptation is to expedite things, and the really big temptation is to cut short my time with God.

After all, I will be studying scripture, I will be praying with others, do I really need my own time with God.

Abso-freaking-lutely.   (pardon the Bostonese)

And I know I need it, and I want it.  But the question is how much I want it.  Do I want it like the deer wants water, like a mom protecting her child, like those that crave attention or pleasure want it?

I need to, I need to seek first God’s kingdom, I need to seek first those times in His presence, where I am so aware of Him that I naturally respond in worship and adoration.

I know in the midst of this, this is where I have to be, this is where I find healing and life and comfort and peace.   It is where I know I am loved, and so loved that I am cleansed, and my sin cut away from me with even more precision than a heart surgeon, or a rabbi/mohel doing a circumcision.

For what draws me to God is not my own strength, if so, as much as I desire it, I might desire other things more.  What draws me to God is the Holy Spirit, lovingly, caringly, bringing me back,  back to the word that reveals God’s love, back to the sacraments which demonstrate it in my life, back into prayer where I release all my burdens to the Lord who loves me.

Yeah, it’s Monday, and I have a huge week of appointments, tasks, work, ministry, to see accomplished…

But I need to seek Him first, otherwise, the rest is in vain, and the week will be a giant pain in the ass.  But with Him, at His side, the week, the very same actions, thoughts, words… will be glorious.

and so we cry out… Lord have mercy on us, and on our week!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 818-820). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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