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Where is the Church, When it Matters?

The Church, stands as darkness is shattered

Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13:18-23 (NLT2)

Ambrose: “There is the church of God in which God reveals Himself and speaks with His servants”

We place a piece of iron in a fire and blow up the coals. At first we have two distinct substances, iron and fire. When we insert the iron in the fire we achieve the penetration of the iron and we have not only the iron in the fire but the fire in the iron as well.… Two distinct substances … have co-mingled and interpenetrated to a point where the two have become one.
In some such manner does the Holy Spirit penetrate our spirits. In the whole experience we remain our very selves. There is no destruction of substance. Each remains a separate being as before; the difference is that now the Spirit penetrates and fills our personalities and we are experientially one with God.

This is precisely what Jesus does when he comes to a soul in the Holy Communion. He sees that she is a wall too weak to be able to resist the assaults of hell; therefore, by the virtue of the sacrament, he fortifies her with bulwarks of silver, that is, with his divine light. He sees that she is a door inclined easily to be corrupted, and he renews it, adjusting her with planks of strength and perseverance, as is signified by cedar, which is a strong and incorruptible wood; that is, with the gifts of holy fear, with detachment from creatures, with the love of prayer, with supplications, with holy desires, and still more with the gift of divine love, which are the support of holy perseverance: Bread strengthens man’s heart

As I’ve looked at the events of not just the last few days, but the last year, I keep on struggling with a question. “Where is the church in all of this?”

I know God’s there; if I didn’t, the little hope that remains would be gone, and life would be without any meaning.

But where is the church? Where are the people that are focused on God?  Where are the people to whom He reveals Himself? Where are the ones who hear His voice and are in dialogue with Him?

I hear many monologues from pastors and other Christians.  They speak from both sides of the political spectrum, eager to cast judgment on those whose sins are simply more visible than their own. Some of them have even “switched sides,” echoing the word they challenged 6 months ago and cast judgment on their former ways. The amount of angst they are dealing with leads them to speak out of that pain, that emptiness, and I do not fault them for it.

The answer will come in the way Tozer pictures when we are iron glow as the fire of the Holy Spirit penetrates our spirit. When the Holy Spirit tempers and forges, purifies, and marks us.

de Ligouri uses the illustrations of the wall and the door. We are too weak to resist the assaults of hell; we are even challenged by the assaults of our times. This is where we are at, this brokenness that only God can address.

We need to become like the ground prepared for the seed, that has seen enough fertilizer that has been tilled and turned over, that the word of God can dwell in us richly. That will allow us to detach from that which offers no support and cling to Christ and the hope offered by Him. That seeks Him out, finding how He reveals Himself through His word and through the Sacraments. This is how He has always revealed Himself to His people. God always speaks to them. He always infuses them and prepared them, even as He has prepared us and walks in us through these days.

And at this time, we need to encourage that to happen. We need to pray for each other, as Paul did…

19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)

Here is the answer to where the church is, where it must be in these times. The church, you and I, must be in the presence of God, in awe of His love and mercy, for then it will bear fruit from its broken, tilled and fertilized ground.

Lord, in this time, before we speak our peace, before we react, help us return to You, and find refuge and sanctuary there. Help us see You revealed, and give us the patience ot hear Your voice. Even as we do Lord, be at work in us, healing those who are likewise broken, and drawing them to dwell with us, in Your glory. AMEN!

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 75.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

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), 96–97.

What Did the Apostles Do Today…?

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

Just like we do at times.

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

What did they do?

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

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

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

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

Then You Will Know that… A Lenten Sermon on Ezekiel 37

dscf1215-copy-copyThen You Will Know

Ezekiel 37:1-14

 In Jesus Name

 As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!

In the midst of the miraculous

There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…

It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….

And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!

What a wonder it would be!

A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!

What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!

And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…

The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,

“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”

“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?

Yea – those are our bones…

The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.

Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out.  We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.

It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on.  Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved.  Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.

It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.

Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.

And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.

But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell.  Can our dried bones live?  Can we, despite our sin and shame find life?  The LORD knows…

It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history

Yea – that is the Quickening

Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.

It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross.  Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.

This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.

But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…

But here is what you need to know.

Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:

We may skip over that far too quickly.   For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.

But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM.  To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden.  Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.

We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.

This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul.  Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it.  Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.

This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.

For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God.  AMEN!

 

Why there is no “them”

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10  Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11  Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12  cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13  Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14  Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15  Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. 16  Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17  Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.
Romans 12:9-17 (MSG)

Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.

Union with God, what a concept laid out for us in this quote in blue.  Union with God. 

I hear in the background two voices, one saying we can’t be buddy buddy with God, the other where Jesus tells us that we are not his servants, but his friends.   One that cries out for reverent submission, one which sees God the Father running faster than anyone else to welcome us home.

I struggle with this because I have seen the extreme where Jesus being our friend mutates to the idea that He is a good ole boy who understands our sinful nature and simply turns a blind eye to it.  I have seen the other extreme as well, where we are so terrified of being caught in sin that our reaction is to try to run and hide from Him, rather than run to Him.

The balance isn’t even on the radar of the extremes, for the balance is found as God draws us in and in His cultivation of our relationship with Him.

Even as we do this, we need, we must realize when we talk of God loving us this way, we are talking about a larger group than you and I.  We are talking about all the people that Christ died for, really we are talking about all people.

You aren’t just a bunch of dirt, and neither am I.  Our value is that our lives don’t just matter to God – they are previous, we are precious – priceless in His evaluation.  So are those we discount, those we struggle with, those we fear.  Their lives are just as precious, they are people that God has in His heart.

This is why Paul calls us to love people, to recognize God’s Spirit in them, and to see God’s desire that all would be His family.  Just as we are. To realize our enemies have the same God who cares for them, the God who doesn’t dismiss or write them off, or consider them lower that dirt. He discovers the beauty in each of us, or rather, He created us with that beauty, and reveals it more and more as we know HIs love.

This no “them” for a Christian, no dividing line, even that label enemy cannot divide people from us, for it didn’t divide us from Jesus.  He draws us into himself anyway, loving us, cherishing us, healing our souls, and helping us to see others whose souls He would heal as well.

Lord have mercy on us all… AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Do I Need to…. go to church, pray, confess my sins…etc

Devotional Thought of the Day:

41  Many of them believed his message and were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the group that day. 42  They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. 43  Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. 44  All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45  They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46  Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, 47  praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
Acts 2:41-47 (TEV)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1)

“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever. (2)

Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my readers’ devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth hath said, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us (3)

The question is asked less of me now than in was in the 80’s or 90’s, and I am not sure whether that is a good thing or as I fear a bad thing.

In the 90’s I heard it more from college students and young couples, perhaps because their children asked it, “do I have to go church?”, “why do I havvvveee to gooo to chhhhhurch?”  Or the “can’t I just worship God in the forest, or at the beach, or playing my music?”

Somewhere along the line I think the answer was changed from the real “why” to simply, “you have to”, and as we often do, we find excuses.   The same of course goes for prayer, or for confessing our sins, or reading the scriptures.  Even for pastors.  Ask yours what he was reading this week, that wasn’t done for preparing for church or a Bible Study. (If you don’t want to embarrass them I have a friend named Rich that would be more than willing to!

Some say that we go to church/pray/commune/confess for God’s sake – that we go to serve.  That is a crappy reason! It’s been seen as a crappy answer for a long time!  It has a partner in crime, the reason that says we go to be served!  (since it is all about us you know!)  I would use a more guttural term for that one.

We don’t go to church so that someone “gets something” or is benefitted,  Neither do we pray or study the scripture for its benefit.  When we use them, we set ourselves up to fail, for often, if we get anything out of church, it is subtle, and takes a while to process and see the effects of going?  We see ourselves struggling with the same thing, fighting the same anxieties.  And who really believes that God is somehow “helped” by our presence, as if church wouldn’t be as glorious without our presence?

So then why do we go?

If it’s not because we HAVE to?
If it’s not because we benefit?
If it doesn’t benefit God?

It is because church, like prayer and communion is about the encounter.  Any benefit is secondary to that encounter.  God and His people, those being reconciled and healed, coming together as one body.   It is that encounter that is life, it is, in every sense, a foretaste of our eternal life WITH God, and the angels, archangels, and all the community of heaven. That’s why the early church met, not just on Sunday and for a special few on Wednesday nights, but daily in the temple.  They prayed together, they ate together, the worshiped and celebrated the Eucharist, and in doing so, encountered God and they encountered His people, even as they were being added daily….

That is why the sermon isn’t the best point, the gathering that begins in the passing of the peace, and flows through communion is.  That is where we come face to face with the God who draws us to Himself.  Note, I said draws US.  Not the individual, not you and I.  He draws US, and gives us a serenity that allows us to drop everything as we encounter God, and His people.

It is this encounter we need, it is this moment that transcends everything,  God, and man, this is the life.

This is why… this encounter… this being with God.

This is what it means to be His church, the one’s whom the Father calls, by lifting Christ high, and drawing us to Him.

AMEN!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  The Small Catechism -: Article III

(3)  Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

An Introduction to Spiritual Warfare…..

devotional thought of the day;

Featured image We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to really hearing (obeying) Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (adapted from the NLT)

3  Long ago the LORD said to His People   I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3 (adapted from the NLT) 

764      Now, when the Cross has become a serious and weighty matter, Jesus will see to it that we are filled with peace. He will become our Simon of Cyrene, to lighten the load for us. Then say to him, trustingly: “Lord, what kind of a Cross is this? A Cross which is no cross. Now I know the trick. It is to abandon myself in you; and from now on, with your help, all my crosses will always be like this.”  (1)

I see a lot of talk on line, and indeed, I’ve probably got 50 -75 books on Spiritual Warfare.

Some dismissing it, some exhaustive guides on what to do when you face this, face that.  Books on praying for those who are spiritually oppressed, even a couple of odd guides on exorcism.  ( Having read them, and knowing about the sons of Sceva… I wonder why those without experience dare write such!)

Ultimately, spiritual warfare is a fight to trust in God.  To abandon ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our souls, in Christ.  To realize the cross we bear… the anxieties, pains (yes physical/emotional/spiritual) we endure, are endured differently, because we are united to Jesus.  That they can’t separate us from Him, that He has promised these things will be a blessing.

When I replaced the word “obeying” with “really hearing” Jesus in the quote above, I do so because that is what the Greek means. Hyper – which translates as…well “hyper”; and the work akou, which simply means to hear.   We need to hear Him, we need to hear of His love, of His mercy.  We need to understand that He became man, suffered under pilate, was crucified, died and was buried – not for His own personal gain, but to gain us… His people.

That is where spiritual warfare begins, at the baptismal font where we are claimed by Jesus, and joined to His cross.   Where we are made His people – as He desires, as He and the Father planned from before the foundation of the world. Where the promises are sealed to us, guaranteed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. (see Titus 3:1-8)

Yeah – there are spiritual battles, there are demons, and Satan, but they cannot steal someone from God.  Knowing that our burdens, our battles, the things that cause our anxieties, worries, fears… they were defeated at Jesus death.

All spiritual warfare is, including exorcism (and yes, in some cases that is a necessity) , is a battle to make that known…. that we may find refuge, sanctuary, peace.

We must know our cry, “Lord, have mercy” is heard……

And we must hear, as Jesus heard at baptism, “You are my child, and in you I find great joy”

AMEN
(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is a Soul worth it?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4  We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) 

881 Sacrifice yourself, give yourself, and work at souls one by one, as the jeweller works on precious stones: one by one. Indeed you should exercise even more care, because you are dealing with something of incomparable value. The purpose of that spiritual attention you give is to prepare good instruments for the service of God: and they, each one of them, have cost Christ all of his Blood.

In 2 Corinthians, indeed in several of Paul’s works (and the OT Prophets) we see passages like the one above, where spiritual warfare and pastoral care are challenged, and answered.

The reason that Paul and the prophets, and even Jesus was challenged is simple, someone who cares for a soul will challenge that which enters a life and obscures the work of Holy Spirit, that denies the presence of Christ and our unity in Him, that which would try to convince us that something other than being God’s beloved is what defines life.   Simply put, if some sin, or some belief that would pull your focus away from God’s love for you exists, the word of God will challenge it, and those of us tasked with shepherding you will bring scripture to bear on life, their lives – and yours.

The reason is your soul is worth it.  Your life, lived distracted from God by obstacles, needs to be encouraged back to Him, and the obstacle?  Will you let us destroy it?  Even as Gideon destroyed the Ba;alite altar and image in his dad’s back yard?  Will you let the Holy Spirit perform surgery on your soul, skillfully using the word of God to remove that which holds you back from knowing you love?  Will you trust God to do that, trusting Him to leave you, and eradicate that which isn’t you?

It’s a scary thought. Especially for those who know some of their weaknessness well.  It might be pride, it might be resentment, it might be clinging to a sin that you think defines you, because it has been there so long.

Paul thought the souls of the people in Corinth were worth it, your soul is worth it.  Christ died to heal you from the damage of those obstacles…that is how much your soul is worth to Him.

Maybe its time to confess that sin… and trust in God  – knowing His promise to forgive you, and clease you from all unrighteousness….

Come – talk to a pastor who would love to point you to Christ, and do battle – by God’s strength – with the obstacles that would deny you knowing how much God loves you…

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3110-3113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Celtic Advent III: The Trinity Looks at the Incarnation

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross (Photo credit: Nick Corble)

The Holy Spirit’s View: Looking forward to Jesus Being Born of Mary

Luke 1:26-38 & Joel 2:27-32

 In Jesus Name

 

May you know the presence of the Holy Spirit, given to you in your baptism, by whose power you bring Christ into other’s lives!

 

Understanding the Holy Spirit?

         

As we’ve journey this advent, we’ve seen passages that we could see the Father’s vision for Christ’s coming, and the incredible desire He has for people to become His children.  Then last week, we saw this same desire in Christ, who set aside every right, every privilege and all the glory of heaven to come down into our mess, and die on the cross to cleanse us and bring us peace.

This week is more of a challenge, as we look at the Holy Spirit.  For in scripture, we don’t directly hear the Spirit.  We see it in action, in Genesis, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, guiding people’s lives, inspiring apostles and prophets and those who penned the scriptures.

So this night, our lesson is a little harder to hear, but we can take a look of the Holy Spirit in action – to see a model of how God works, and then understand how He has planned to work in our lives.

it was for this reason that the early church often spoke of Mary, and held her up as an example of faithfulness, but as well, they held her up as an example of God’s relationship with His people, the church.
Mary on whom the Holy Spirit would come upon, who would bring the Savior into a broken world.

How did the Holy Spirit work with Mary    

In our gospel reading, we see some insights into the young lady.  Our scriptures tell us that she was confused and disturbed, by the words of the Angel, who informed her that she would be blessed.

Over and over scripture tells us she pondered the things that were happening, the things that were said in her heart.  Can you imagine?  How will this all work out?  Finding it not a dream, but finding herself pregnant, having to explain this to parents and to Joseph. Then undertaking journeys, first to Elizabeth, then with Joseph to Nazareth.

This last song describes, I think, some of what she could have been thinking.

Frightened, not only by being pregnant, but knowing her child was the hope of Israel, the one through whom all peoples would be bless… and her cry for God’s mercy.  Imagine trying to figure out why God chose her, and relying on God for the strength to endure.

These aren’t things normal to us, for fear of what God would have us do, how to step out in faith and obey His call isn’t something we do easily. Nor is depending on Him when the road is strange.

She was able to, and to ponder and treasure all that happened in her heart….

Because the Spirit of the Lord was with her…

These are the Ancient promises

You know, we hear these Christmas stories, we know who is who in the nativity figurines, we can hear Linus repeating the Christmas Story almost by memory.  But do we see them as models of God’s handiwork?  A model that is replicated in each one of us?

Of course, none of you are going to give birth literally to the Messiah, but God has called each one of you into a relationship – by which Christ does involve Himself in our world, and the world of those around us.  These Ancient Words, these promises, what theologians call types – Mary is no different than any of us, someone who struggled with questions, and fears, and yet heard the voice of God.  As such, she is a good example for us to look at – to realize how God works.

In our baptism – the same Spirit that came upon her, came upon us.  The Holy Spirit – the Breath of Heaven, is given to us, dwells with in us, and bring the light of Christ into a world just as desperate, just as broken, as the world Mary lived in.

That is what Peter was talking about when he quoted Joel on Pentecost.

 Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced. 28  “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29  In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

God is among us, God is here.

Because He is here, we know we will never be disgraced, never again be shamed.  He is here, to bind our brokenness, to restore us, to bring us life and joy, to give us the vision of our abiding with Him always.  He destroys our fears with His love and light of His glory, with the love that we know is here, that we see in each others eyes, that we hear as we tell each other that God is Immanuel, that God is with us.

Such are the words of the Holy Spirit, given to us,

For that is His role, according to Paul, to empower us, to bring us to life that we can rejoice in the Father’s love, demonstrated to us.

It is what He inspired prophets of old to prophecy about – as the Spirit dwelt in them, and the apostles as well. It is why he would come upon this young lady named Mary, and why she would give birth to God.

And why we are here…ready to know God is with us, and bear Christ to a world that so needs Him to take their burdens…

Even as we place ours in His hands again…

And live in a peace we can’t describe, secure and safe because God is guarding us… AMEN?

Monday and The Priorities of Work

Devotional Thought for a Monday:

 23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24  We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25  But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:23-27 (NLT)

449         Prayer, more prayer! It may seem odd to say that now when you are taking examinations and working harder… But you need prayer, and not only the habitual prayer as an exercise of devotion; you also need to pray during odd moments, to pray between times, instead of allowing your mind to wander on silly things. It does not matter if, in spite of your effort, you do not manage to concentrate and be recollected. That meditation may be of greater value than the one you made, with all ease, in the oratory. (and oratory is like a chapel or small church that is for a specific group)

450         Here is an effective custom for achieving presence of God: your first audience every day should be with Jesus Christ. (1)

It’s a Monday, and I got to the office nearly 2 hours ago.  There was a situation or two (I hate to use the term emergency) that had to be dealt with, there is a call I need to make this afternoon, a friend starting checmotherapy.

I am tempted to put aside my devotional time, and my prayer time, and get craking on my studying the passage for next Sunday’s sermon. I have to have all the research done by 6:30 tonight, to share with the group of guys who study it together, to prepare to pray for another week in the pulpit. My heart sceams not to overlook this time of devotiona and prayer, for then my research will be dry, done as a matter of duty, not as a matter of loving God’s revelation to us, the revealtion of His love.  I need to spend this time thinking of He and I, of laying burdens down, of spending a few moments, completely aware of God’s presence.

Yet my mind urdes me onto the tasks of the day.

I think that if this is my struggle, it must be your struggle as well. Heck I work with the word of God and forget I work in His Presence.  How much more so for those of you who sit behind desks looking at paperwork or terminals, or those of you serving others in industry. Or those of you in class, or in a doctor’s office.  How can you “afford” to take the time to spend a large amount of time on this?  Do you neglect what you are paid for?  I realize we must take time for Jesus, to revel and rest in His presence, but how when the times are so minimal?

We rely on God… we pray what we can – we lay our heart before Him and we trust in His faithfulness, in His love, in the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilling what we are unable to come up for the words to describe.  Romans tells of this, and we count on His promise, His presence, and in doing so, we might find ourselves more refreshed than when we spend great lengths of time in His presence serving Him in prayer and study.  (Please do not use that as an excuse for not spending appointed times in prayer! )  But there is something special, when throughout our day, as we work at being our best,, for us to hold a running conversation with Him, to lay before Him our burdens, and our work, and to realize we do it, strengthened by God.

So make your prioirities, set your days in order… but remember the first priority that each priority is part of, to realize God’s presence with you, through every part of every day.

AMEN

Text of "Our Father" prayer with Tri...

Text of “Our Father” prayer with Trinity in central column (God the Father, dove of the Holy Spirit, Jesus) and Biblical and symbolic scenes in left and right columns. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1998-1999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What’s in you?

 14  Then Jesus called the crowd to him once more and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15  There is nothing that goes into you from the outside which can make you ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of you that makes you unclean.”  Mark 7:14-15 (TEV)

It is necessary that you be a “man of God,” a man of interior life, a man of prayer and of sacrifice. Your apostolate must be the overflow of your life “within.”  (1)

In the last couple of days, I have heard a lot of people talking about the threats to Christianity, and indeed to Christians.  I’ve heard talk of teaching pastors to defend the faith ( using a very misguided translation of St Peter’s words about being ready to give the reason for the hope we have).  It’s as if these challenges to a Christian could possibly remove their faith, or break them.

That attitude is not unlike the attitude of the Pharisees in Mark 7.  They spent all the time working on the outside appearance of their faith. They want it to appear perfect, with no cracks, no gaps, not even with the slightest hint of guilt.  Except of course, we are all dirty, and whether we want to admit it or not – we are all weak and broken and needing to be cleansed – from the inside out, not the outside in.

The outside isn’t our threat – the inside is.

But just like that – it is not the inside that is the source of our holiness, even though we are called to a pure interior life.  It’s not something we can do on our own, but it is something that is done to us.   Hear the prophetic words of Ezekiel,

 25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you! Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

This is what it is all about – this interior life that St. Josemaria speaks of so clearly.  It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is the promise of His incarnation in us – as we are united to His death and resurrection.  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit – dwelling in us, and the communion that occurs.  That is the spring of a life from which no longer comes that which perverts us, but proof of God’s work in us – the fount of holiness.

So look within – not to see your own internal clock – not to see your own desires – but to see the love of the One who desires that you are transformed, repentant, made alive… and works in you……

and find that His mission, HIs apostolate – that even as the Father sent Jesus – so we are sent – to bring life and a walk with God to those he died to save.!

Lord Have mercy on us!

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2226-2228). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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