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The Real Spiritual War We Must Fight…

Life is painDevotional Thought for our days…
24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (TEV)

13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.

60      Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.

Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders.  Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy.  Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.

Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation.  And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection.  (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_

The struggle is real.

The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives.  Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,

But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it?  Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it?  Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle?  A different sort of discipline?

There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing.  I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.

So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it?  Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries?  Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?

I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us.  Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God.  These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.

That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple.  Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.

In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it!  We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us.  FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far… 

And still, He is here…

 


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

God? Don’t You Care? A sermon from Mark 4

God, Don’t You Care?
Mark 4:35-41

May this sermon help you search out the richness of God the Father’s love you, show in Jesus, confirmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!

What Should They Do Next Time?

This morning we are going to try and walk a mile in the apostles sandals.

Or maybe it would be better to say we are going to take a turn at the oars of their boat.

I want you to think through the storm again, to feel the panic of the apostles, to be up to you waste in cold water, to feel the 80-knot wind. The time in our gospel is now a distant memory, a couple of months back, and yet you find yourself in the middle of another storm.

You heard Jesus’s words, echoing through your brain, as you again battle the elements,

“Why are you afraid?”

“Do you still have no faith?”

And as another wave crashes over the bow of the boat… what are you going to do?

What would a person who has faith in God do differently?

Or, What should they do the next time?

Don’t answer yet…

Or let’s make this personal.  What is your trust in God going to cause you to “do” the next time you encounter such a storm?

At the Right time….

Before we decide on how we and the apostles should act during the next storm, I want to switch from the gospel to Paul’s letter to the church in 2 Corinthians 6.  There, Paul continues the theme of our pleading with people to “come back to God.”  Indeed, he says there,

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.

I suggest that this is the same concept as we find Jesus talking in the gospels about. He challenges the apostles, questioning their faith, and here, Paul says, why are you ignoring the gift from God?  The letter to the Hebrews asks the same question in another way,

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Hebrews 2:3-4 (NLT)
Here are these guys in the boat, and the one person who can do something, whom they have seen do all sorts of miracles, is left asleep.

Here are these guys in the boat, and the one person who can do something, whom they have seen do all sorts of miracles, is left asleep.

Whoops!!

(The same thing happens to Job, the one thing his friends never did – was actually ask God why everything was going on!)

They had forgot the mission of Christ! Why he came!  To establish the Kingdom of God, to create for God the Father a people that would be His.  All the miracles were done, not to maximize Jesus reputation, but to convince people that the Father was there, in their midst, ready to bless and save them!

And, they left Him asleep!

They didn’t trust him enough to even bother waking Jesus up, they forgot about His love, His presence, His desire to reconcile them to the Father.  They saw the waves, and got scared.  Someone probably even said, “don’t worry, God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”  Of course they were wrong.

God didn’t say that He promised something different,

“At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

But they didn’t think of that, and their cry to Jesus was even worse,

Lord, don’t you care about us?  Are you going to let us be destroyed?

Imagine saying that?  Actually, I don’t have to, I’ve said it.  Eventually, usually through another believer, but sometime as we study God’s word, or in a prayer or vision, we hear Him…

This question is a hard one to face, because we struggle to see God, not just physically, but actively in our lives.  We wonder if he is asleep, or on vacation, because sometimes we don’t hear His voice.  We don’t feel His comfort.

We need to stop, and breath… and be still and know He is God.  TO be still enough to hear His voice. That is hard to do, but that is why we are a church.  So if I am struggling, Al or Chuck or Wanda is there to help, if you are struggling, we all are there for you.  To remind you to listen, to help bring you to calm waters, So that you can hear God’s voice.

“Trust me,” God tells us, “I love you, I am here, I will help….  I CARE!”

Which leads us back to the question…

What do you do the next time…

The next time the storm is attacking, and that may be right now, How should you handle it?  Given Jesus’ loving correction to those whom He loved, what should we do?

Should we

1)  Try to command the storm to stop on our own, using our great faith?

2.) Let fear overrule our trust in God, our knowledge of His love, and become so confused that we forget the presence of God?

3.  Or Should we remember that Jesus is here, that He loves us, and then put everything we are into His hands?

The lesson of faith is not to try and calm the storms, but to trust the One who is Lord over everything.  Faith doesn’t try to manage things on our own, faith runs to the one whom is our shelter in the storm, our refuge in battle, our deliverer, our salvation,

Our goal is to remember He cares, to remember He’s promised to never leave us or forsake us,

He cares, He really cares, and in our baptism, He gives us His Spirit, the Comforter.  He is the God who lifts up – that is the very meaning of His name, the paraclete.

That is our ministry together, as we remind each other that He is here, as we call others to experience that grace.  That’s Paul’s discussion as well. It is the very presence of Christ that keeps him moving, despite opposition, despite bodyaches, despite those who would physically assault him, as he preached the gospel.
He can go on through these storms, because of God’s presence, …..

So once again, in the storms of life, don’t bother trying to have enough faith to endure them by yourself, and don’t forget in whose presence you dwell, but continually encourage each other to know this….

The Lord is with you, and He cares for you….

Knowing that, dwell in the indescribable peace of God, for there you are safe, your hearts and minds guarded by Christ Jesus.

AMEN.

February 26: My Anniversary of Facing Death….. twice…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:11-13 (TEV)

1035      Do not fear death. Death is your friend! Try to get used to the fact of death: peer into your grave often, looking at and smelling, and touching your own rotting corpse there, a week, no more, after your death. Remember this especially when you are troubled by the impulses of the flesh.  (1) 

Twice on this day, February 26th, I have faced death and found life.

The second time was in 1998, as I lay on a gurney in West Hills, California.  I was about to have surgery to replace two heart valves, damaged by a genetic connective tissue disorder. The surgery was supposed to last 4 hours, and was very risky.  The surgeon explained it was as challenging as sewing two wet pieces of toilet paper together. He would later ask me how many people were praying, not that he believed in it, but that the surgery was so easy.

That ended an anxiety I had struggled with since childhood, the threat of death because of the genetic issues.  Yes, there are still heart issues, yes, I am still on medicine and undergo tests.  But the threat of aortic dissection is minimal. For six years prior to the surgery, I had been concerned – with the heart issues had already tried to kill me once, causing a cardiac arrest.

Life changed a little that time I faced death. There was a new freedom, a new life.  Yes, it had restrictions and changes, but it was also free of  my fears about death that was…. I can’t even explain how overwhelming it could be.

It had even more the other time, thirty-three years before that.  I was only a few weeks old and at a church.  I faced a different form of death, one with the promise far greater, in fact; that was the reason I had to face death, in order to gain the promise.

On February 26, in the year of our Lord 1965, I was baptized. As the passage above discusses, in baptism we die. ( Romans 6:1-8, Titus 3, my favorite, Ezekiel 36:25-27 and 37:1-12 speak of this as well) It is there, in our baptism, that we die with Christ.  It is there as well, that we are quickened, that we come alive in faith.  That we enter a relationship that is amazing, with God.

The picture of baptism and being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, is not just symbolism. It is not just an act of our obedience.  It is God at work.  It is a promise God has made, to all those who believe in Him.  It is how He brings us through Christ’s death and resurrection that enables us to be freed from our sin, and the debt it causes.  It is a wonderful, miraculous promise of eternity, a promise God is willing to sign, to guarantee, to stake His name to, that we would know His love.

His promise, given to us in a Covenant, a Testament, an unbreakable contract.  His work, cleansing us,

This time, facing death has eternal implications.  It enables us to look death in the face, and not be afraid.  To realize the glory of God, which He desires to share with us, will be our eternity. For something awaits us, which scripture describes this way.

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3664-3668). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Christianity is More That Just Spiritual Anti-depressant

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day….
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. Colossians 1:27-28 (TEV) 

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

573      When you are with someone, you have to see a soul: a soul who has to be helped, who has to be understood, with whom you have to live in harmony, and who has to be saved.

I’ve seen a number of blogs that would have you believe that a good Christian, is one who never feels depression or grief during Christmas season.  Who because they know Christ, because the Holy Spirit dwells within them, there is no longer any darkness that attempts to consume them, no more doubts, no more pains…..no more tears.  As if this world is utopia…
Just happiness, and smiles,

It is as if they believe that Christianity is some kind of spiritual anti-depressant, that allows us to balance out, and that the balance is somewhere on the upside of life. Please hear me – there is a great need for psychiatric medicine, and the balance it can provide to life, it is just that Christianity doesn’t work like that….

This week I am living proof of that.

Between planning 6 services this week, writing sermons that were… emotionally challenging, doing a memorial service, and then having two very good friends in the hospital with potentially life threatening issues (both are dong better now) I am emotionally a wreck.  I am not “happy” but very challenged emotionally and spiritually.  I am still grieving over some significant losses in my life, and the losses and struggles my friends are enduring.  Let’s add into it some physical back pain.

There is a lot of grief, a lot of weariness, a lot of “why God?!!!?  (matter of fact, one of my sermons had that name as well!)

Reading someone’s words that say that all good Christians are full of cheer and joy and don’t struggle?   Part of me wants to laugh at the silliness/ignorance of such a statement, part of me wants to take the writer through a few hospital wards or skilled nursing facilities I know of, to a mortuary or two, or the homes of people whose family members are in harms way in the military.  There are many people of great faith who are suffering, bravely suffering, but are wearing down.

So where does Christianity, where does being a Christian help in such times, if not to provide a lift of emotions, or at least the illusion of such a lift?

It is better than that…. it allows for honesty, and therefore allows for hope.

As you read through the scriptures, there are people with real problems, real trauma, real issues.  Some things are external, some are internal like the ravage that sin can do to a soul.

God doesn’t cut them off… he doesn’t tell them to get their act straight. He doesn’t give them some placebo of hope.

He comes and makes His home among us.  He dwells with us, in us.  He helps us to embrace Him so that we can embrace the hard times with Him. No longer alone, those traumas are one’s we don’t have to hide. We know that we are with Him, and that there is a future.. because He dwells with us, we dwell with Him.

That doesn’t change the situation, but the scars… are that.  They hurt badly, they sting, but even so… there is healing on the way….

He is with us,,,,

He is comforting us….

He is providing us peace… even in the midst of the depressing times, in the midst of grief and anxiety and pain….for we dwell in Him.

That is what

This is God, with us…

If you aren’t the one struggling, look around, there are people that are, souls weary and tired, laden with anxiety and fear, and grief….. you can’t change their situation, but you can be there with them… and remind them Christ is present with both of you.  That is Christianity as Paul describes it:

12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone.  Romans 12:12-16a (TEV)

Know He walks with you… and therefore would meet all you encounter… and share His love with them as well.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2134-2136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The One Who Journeyed for a Promise!

What Child Is This?SAMSUNG

The One Who Journeyed for a Promise!

Genesis 12:1-9

In Jesus Name

 

May you realize how the grace of God our Father, the mercy, love and peace revealed to us as we are united to Christ, may you realize how it sustains you on this journey.

 Journeys…..

I wonder if there were children among Abraham’s people, if during the journey from UR to Bethel, he heard the ever present phrases emanating from the back of the caravan….

“Are we there yet?”

“Fr. Abraham, cousin Michael is hitting me!”

“Honey, is there a bathroom ahead of us soon?  I didn’t have to go at the last Oasis, but now…”

During the journey, there must have been times when Abraham raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Yahweh, you said this journey would be worth it….well – when does it get to be worth it?”

And about that time, someone gets sick…..or there is a flat tire or someone wonders whether the driver is lost, or…or..

Journeys do not always go as we plan.  Sometimes they are fun, sometimes not so much.  Especially when we forget why we are on the journey, when we forget our destiny.

Ultimately, that is what it is all about…knowing your destiny, and knowing that you aren’t alone on the journey….

Abraham’s Journey

So let’s look at Abraham’s journey first.  Imagine the conversations he had with his father, his family and friends.

You are going where?

Who is this God again?  How does He speak with you?  How are you going to manage there, no friends, no help?  Imagine the questions that Sarah had, and Lot.

It’s not easy to pick up everything and go to a destination you don’t know much about, to not even know when you are there!  Take my word for it, Kay and I have done this once or twice….

One of the things about Abraham’s life, that fascinates me, is trust in God, when he had no idea of the depth of the plan. The plan was revealed slowly, and the fulfilment of it was always off in the distance.  Eventually the promise would be seen fulfilled – but how many years?  He knew his descendants would spend time in captivity.  He struggled with how an old man would have heirs.  Like us, he sinned often, doing things like giving into his fears, and letting his wife be taken by a king.  He wrestled with God over the fate of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, He moved here and there, never really settling in one place in the Promised Land.   He may not have known hardly any of the points in the journey, but he had a promise, and he knew well the Lord who promised him.

CLICK  There is one thing he did, (well besides sinning) that we see here.  He set up places where he could worship, places set aside to interact with God.  Places to pray, places where Abraham could call on the name of the Lord the passage tells us.

It was a regular part of his life, even before the church, even before the Temple and the tabernacle.  Even as his life wasn’t easy, even as he was betrayed and hurt by his nephew, even though he would face small wars… there was a constant.

God’s presence, interaction with God.  What we call a relationship, or abiding with Christ.

A relationship where Abraham knew God well enough to trust Him at His word, and to call upon God often. God was part of his life, that’s why Abraham could trust Him.

Even when the trusting in God meant a long hard journey, with a bare visible promise.
Christ’s Journey

We are in Lent, a time to consider Christ’s journey, to understand our need for Him to take that journey, and to wonder at a love so complete for us.

His journey was different.  He wasn’t able to take his wealth, or a wife, or anything.  He came as a babe, the babe we were singing about 3 months back, asking what child was this.

He probably the only one who chose to go on a long, long journey?

Definitely, He was the only one who took a journey knowing that a destination on the journey was death.  A hard, bitterly cruel death, on a wicked, torturous cross,

He knew the promise. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when he was inspired to write.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

He endured it, he endured the journey, because the cross wasn’t His final destination point.  It was simply a place where He did what the Father wanted, a midpoint, a place to take care of things, and put everything to right. 

The joy was the destination, not even the resurrection, but 40 days later, as He ascended to the Father.  He obeyed, like Abraham finding the strength through prayer, through interaction with the Father.  Knowing that the cross wasn’t the end of the promise, but a waypoint. A part of the journey, but not the end.

His focus was what was the promise.  The Promise.  The Same Promise given to Adam and Eve, and to Abraham, and to Judah, and David, to Isaiah and Jeremiah.  His journey was the beginning of the promise.  Hear Hebrews again,

39  Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. 40  God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. Hebrews 11:39-40 (MSG)

His journey was a “there and back again” journey. He had a pick-up to make. That pick-up – are those who would join Him in the journey.  Those who would find life in Him, and start their journey, even as we have.

Our Journey

Back to that quote from Hebrews.  The one that talked of Jesus’ focus on the destination the end of the final leg of journey that we call the Ascension.  Hebrews tells us:

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.   Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

You see His journey was to come and get us, and return us to the Father’s presence.  That’s the promise of Abraham’s journey, that every nation would be blessed because of Jesus, the seed of Abraham (his descendant see Mt. 1)

His journey and the promise is about our journey!  His destination is ours!

Ours may seem more like Abraham’s at times, and that’s because it is, and well, isn’t.  It is because we will sin, and struggle, there will be times of war, and times where others walk away to places like Sodom (Hopefully we don’t forget to rescue them when needed, and intercede and wrestle with God for them as well!)

There will be times where we wonder – “why aren’t we there yet?” and times where we might get lost for the moment.  We may still sin and struggle, we may still not find a permanent home, for the destination is still some way off.

The promise is still the promise – we can keep our eyes on Jesus, our champion, the one who brings us into a relationship where we grow in trusting God, in hearing His voice.

For that is where we can be most like Abraham, as we establish our times and places to hear God, to praise Him, to let Him nourish and strengthen Him, even as we look to the promise of His presence.

For He will never leave us or forsake us.

That too is His promise, on this journey of life.

What Child is this?  The One who undertook a journey to come and take us on the journey of our lives… the one where the destination is found where we abide in the Father’s glory, the journey where Jesus Christ will guard our hearts and minds, for the journey is taken in His peace… amen?

 

Use our scars to build Your Church O Lord…

Devotional thought of the day:

Listening randomly to the music on my computer, the last couple of days a song has played, and stuck in my brain.  The chorus includes these words,

use our hands to build your church o Lord, use our hands to build Your church.”

A very good friend recorded the song, and like me, went to a Bible College where we were taught to lead and minister in a manner consistent with Christ’s model.  We were called to serve, to sacrifice, not for our own glory, but simply to point people to Jesus.  It was held out to us as the way to build God’s church, to do as ROmans 12:1-9 talks so beautifully concerning.  Because of God’s incredible living kindness and mercy, present to Him your bodies, to be sacrificed spiritually – for this is the logical way to worship (parker’s paraphrase)

Last night, as Chris and I were side by side, facilitating the worship of our people, I was struggling.  A dear friend in our congregation received news that she would have to undergo chemotherapy, not just a course of treatment, but a long haul, to keep at bay cancer.  My childhood friend’s dad was in the hospital, possibly having a heart attack (his mom passed away recently) my dad had been taken to the ER. Another friend’s dad, extremely influential in helping me and so many other minister,  responded positively despite what most would see as a major setback.  As the evening progressed, I found out about others in crisis, and it began to become, well overwhelming.

It is hard to preach on Isaiah 40 when you are crushed. It is hard to preach on casting your cares on Christ, when you almost don’t have a chance for a breath as they come flooding in.  Then again, you can’t really know how much God will strengthen you, how much His power is displayed in our weakness, until you really need to know it.

So how does Chris’ song, and all of the suffering work into on theme in this blog?

I was thinking about his song, and our lessons on servant ministry/leadership and about a phrase the influential pastor wrote.  God can turn your scars into stars. When all of a sudden, the two morphed into one thought.

Use our scars to build YOUR church o Lord, use your scars to build Your church!

Use our scars to build YOUR church o Lord, use your scars to build Your church!

If we, in presenting our bodies to God to be living sacrifices, to serve and use our talents and abilities to accomplish His will (  2 Pet 3:9) then He can as well use  our anxieties, our illnesss, our setbacks, our crosses our scars.

It takes trust to lay those things down, far more trust than to volunteer to serve a dinner, or sing in the choir, or become a pastor or missionary, or even that incredible sacrifice – a children’s Sunday school teacher  ( I am not joking with that btw- I think they are among the greatest of God’s servants)   I hate my scars, I even hate more the scars and potential scars I see my people bearing.  I would do anything to see them freed from such burdens, and it bothers me when I cannot.

But I see something else at work, for I am seeing God using those scars.  I saw my friend, on the day she received such news, come to church and stay for the potluck, her strength an example of the very words from Isaiah.  Her husband was one of the men who served that meal, working besides others and encouraging them.  I see others, also dealing with issues and anxieties sharing in the same meal.  I see a church of broken people, whom God has brought together and lifted up as His church….

And I realized, what I was praying for in my morphing a song and a thought and a phrase, it was already happening…. here.. in our midst.  In a glorious-yet tragic-yet inspring-yet full of tears-yet beyond imagination way.

Lord – have mercy on us- bring healing to these lives… and help our unbelief…even as you give us strength, and cause us to rise up on wings as eagles..

AMEN

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