Our Lenten Journey: Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph
Part 7: The Mind for the Walk
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause your hearts to burn, as His love for you is revealed!
Do we walk unaware?
This morning we finish a journey we started some 46 days ago, on Valentines Day.
We’ve walked with Jesus through trials, we talked about the different things we’ve encountered, and today we cover the last bit. It is a hard journey, as we walk in the steps of men who are in a steep decline; both physically as they walk down the steep decline to their home in Emmaus, and spiritually, as they struggle with despair, as they lost their hope, and descend into depression, and despair, oblivious to God’s work.
But it is only from their that they can finish the journey,
It’s a journey each of us makes, that each of us endures, unaware of the fact we don’t make it alone…..
Even though we think we do…
The Struggle of our minds
As I look at the story of the two men, what amazes me is how oblivious they were.
First, they made the typical mistake that men make, they heard but didn’t listen to the women in their lives. They heard that they came back with an amazing report, that Jesus was gone. Did they listen?
Did they really hear what was being said?
Luke tells us as they were struggling with everything, as they tried to toss around answers to all the question ripping them apart they stopped and sadness and gloom were written across their face.
That gloom wouldn’t leave, even while Jesus took them through all of scripture, as Jesus explained to them every scripture that testified about Him.
We have days like that, when all the knowledge we have about Jesus, when all the information passed onto us doesn’t compute when we remain oblivious of God’s presence, and all the while there He is, teaching us, guiding us, walking with us.
Yet we remain oblivious, too worried about how we interpret what’s going on around us. Just like these two guys who followed Jesus were oblivious.
At least their minds were. Their hearts were a different story…. The hearts were on fire!
The Heart and Soul Knew Better.
Here’s a question to consider. If they were still struggling if they still didn’t understand, then why did they beg him to stay the night?
It wasn’t until a little later that their eyes would be open, so why was it so important to stay with this person they had just met? What made them want to do this?
Again, we go back to their hearts afire, the work of the Holy Spirit bringing them comfort and peace through the word of God that was being explained to them. They couldn’t let Him go, they needed Him there in their lives, they needed the Holy Spirit working through the word!
They couldn’t let God go, even though they didn’t know it was Him
And some days, we need to do that, and knowing this story, we see that God is still with us, that He still is guiding us, just as He promised. Even when we are struggling in a downward slide. The Lord who is Risen, is with you indeed!
As He broke the bread!
As they hit bottom, as they get to their home, something happens that changes their mind about where they belong. Enough so that they climb back up the mountain without thinking.
I mean, what kind of attitude do you have to have to run 8 miles, uphill, in less than an hour. I don’t know about you, but I can’t run that fast, anymore.!
He broke bread with them, He blessed it, he consecrated, just as He had in the upper room, and He gave it to them… and they recognized him the scripture tells us.
But recognized doesn’t tell us the entire picture. The word there is epiginosko – they knew Him. They deeply and completely knew Him. This is the word for the level of intimacy a couple has for each other, not just the physical stuff we think of as intimacy, but the level intimacy when people can finish each other’s sentences, where they can communicate with just looks, without words, where they know what each other is thinking.
This is what happens when God opens their minds, their hearts as He gave thanks to God and broke the bread. What they knew in their hearts becomes revealed in their mind, and the road they traveled in despair becomes somehow different, less challenging as they know He is with them, as they know they can trust Him, depend on Him
That’s why the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper means so much to so many of us, as we realize that God has not left us alone, that He who is risen, is risen indeed, Praise God!
And because He is… we are risen indeed, ALLELUIA!
And because we are risen, because He has opened our minds, we intimately and completely know Him, and we are loved. AMEN!
Walking with Jesus through Trials to The Triumph
EnJOYing the Walk!
† In Jesus Name †
As you walk with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may the gift of their love and mercy sustain us, and bring us great joy!
Where is the joy?
Verse 11 in our epistle reading often leaves me wondering. Specifically, the part that says, “so NOW we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God.”
Did you guys get this memo? That because of your wonderful new relationship with God we should be rejoicing, that we should be overwhelmed with joy? I think somedays I need to be strongly reminded of that, and somehow, I don’t think I am the only one.
As we walk through this season of Lent, as we walk through these trials to The Triumph, we need to experience this joy, not just because it will prevent us from burning out, but rather because the joy is the basis for where we live..
We, who dwell in the presence and glory of God, are to live joy-filled lives. It is the fruit of the Spirit Paull will tell the church in Galatia, and the Thessalonian church will hear “rejoice always!’
What an odd paradox for Lent, to preach on the fact that we should rejoice, that we should live our lives full of joy, even as we grieve over our sin. To talk about the joy we should be experiencing is far greater than the joy experienced by winning a gold medal in the Olympics, yet which at times seems as unlikely as me winning said gold medal.
Then again, if we were all full of joy, why would I need to preach about it, or why would St. Paul need to write about it?
A Paradox indeed, this idea of joy!
Endurance leads to confident hope…. For we know
Then again, this passage is full of challenging things to understand, like the fact that when we encounter problems and trials, we can rejoice as well!
As if the problems and trials are the sources of that joy.
They aren’t, and it doesn’t say they are the source of the joy. They just say joy should be expected, that the result of problems and trials results eventually in our confident hope of salvation being strengthened, being made sure, as we realize the breadth and width, their height and depth of God’s love.
We need to get that, for I think most of us look at these problems trials and at points wonder where God is, or why He would allow such a thing to exist? We stagger in the doubt and anxiety that such problems and trials, these oppressive times, and at times fall into sin, looking for relief from how they dominate the landscape.
Luther noted this challenge in dealing with problems and trials when he discussed the first commandment and what a God was,
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
It is all too easy to take refuge in something, especially in those things that are powerfully addictive, from drugs and alcohol to work, sex, politics, technology, social media and even security. It moves from temptation to sin when those things become our primary refuge, the place we go to first always. Where do we run when life is challenged, when life is difficult? That is our god, and far too often, that is not Jesus. These refuges will draw us in, more and more until we realize them for the trap they are. By that time, we are helpless.
Then we need to be saved more from our refuge far more than we need to be saved from the problems and trials that assault us.
But when we were helpless!
We aren’t without hope though, and that is part of the process. For enduring these challenges can only be accomplished as we are drawn to Christ. When we realize that when we didn’t deserve the privilege of having peace with God, when we realize that when we were utterly helpless Christ came and died for us.
That is where the spiraling into the refuges of idolatry ends, when Jesus comes and rescues us, an unbelievable action, considering he is rescuing us from betraying him!
This is where the joy is found, in that while we were still in rebellion, while we didn’t give a rip about God, and sought out sin rather than depending and listening to Him, He still loved us, He still died for us. He still cleaned up the mess we’ve out of our lives.
That is amazing! That is something to be astounded by! That is something to be thankful for!
He loves us. God really loves us!
And even more, because Christ’s blood cleanses and paid for all our sins, we have the promise of sharing in the glory of God!
That is what we rejoice in, this incredible, mind-blowing idea that because of Jesus, because of His love, we have this relationship with God, where He calls us His friends.
A relationship that is revealed when we can’t make it through these problems and trials when we realize that relationship is called a friendship. A relationship that is full of peace, and in that peace, we can rejoice in what Jesus has done, and what God has prepared for us, a place for eternity, dwelling and sharing in His glory.
This is worth rejoicing in, even in Lent, Yes? AMEN
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” Luke 4:27 (NLT)
15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 (NLT)
7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. 11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:7-16 (NLT)
“In the stillness of the little room the bishop sighed deeply. His eyes saw the bejeweled crucifix that hung at his chest.He prayed silently. Then he sent for his secretary and ordered the searcht o begin. Then, alone once more, he split himself into the three persons that all generals of the Church must simultaneously be. First, the anointed Peter, first bishop of the Christ, with all that spiritually implied. Second the militant guardian of the Church temporal with all that implied. And last, just a simple man who believed the teachings of a simple man who the Son of God.
He settled back in his chair and let these facets of himself argue one with another. And He listened to them. (from Tai-Pan by James Clavell – emphasis mine.)
One of my favorite authors is James Clavell, and his saga of Asia. The way he shows all of his characters, in both their best light and in their darkest moments, make the stories seem so life like, so realistic. This is especially true about the clergy in the books, especially this Bishop in Tai-pan, who has to make a decision, a hard decision, whether to respond to the needs of an unrepentant sinner and an enemy of the Church of Rome.
While I am no bishop, I understand the dilemma, the argument the bishop hears from his “three” persons are real. I’ve been there as well, involved in the pastoral version of the Kobayashi Maru.
Do I make my decision based on what I perceive as is best for the church at large, a lesson for the encouragement of others, who might see my work as representing what I approve? Would my helping out the sinner lead others into sin? Would the work compromise my ability to minister spiritually to others?
Do I make my decision based on my responsibility for the material nature of the church? In this case, the Bishop was offered anything in the sinners power to provide a small portion of a rare medication to his mistress, who was pregnant with child. Should he make the decision to deny this, the hero would certainly use his power and influence to gain revenge on the church. If he helped, the advantage would be enormous,not just financially, but SStruanhad promised to visibly “convert”, even if he couldn’t in his heart.
The last possible decision, responding to Straun as simply a man to another man in need. To respond in unconditional love, to help out just because he felt Christ would.
I would normally say, go for door number three, that is the obvious answer. Or at least it is the one I expect, even as first two personas kick and screw about the lack of logic in that decision.
Yet, in my heart, I know it is not accurate to make the decision based on the third option. For my only responsibility is not to the third situation. As a pastor, I must consider the impact to the entire church, both spiritually and physically. And like the fabled Star Trek officers test, I must understand the implications, the challenges, and own them.
I love what the Bishop, this leader of the church did, in the scene. He first prayed, and then he allowed himself to argue the situation out, listening, hearing each of the voices. I won’t give the story away, but I can say this:
His answer would satisfy in the end, all three concerns.
He sweated it out, he worked through the dilemma, and because he prayed and listened, and was patient, he came to a conclusion.
It would cost him, and yet the cost would be having an enormous teaching moment, a moment to catechize Struan, and his community, and wait for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those involved. It doesn’t resolve perfectly, in the end, yet, mercy was known, love was accepted, healing happened.
And peace was known, not just by those to whom he served, but amazingly, in his own life. The kind of peace that is not of this world, nor would seem logical, but is the peace of Christ, the peace Christ gives to all those He treasures.
(BTW – this is applicable to more than pastors and priests. )
Devotional Thought of the Day
4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. . Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NLT)
999 And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave Him!
it is the last thought listed in the book, “The Way”
It is one I needed to hear, especially given the last few weeks. Full of things that I am praising God for, and things that challenge my faith. Other things which are simply irritating, like that rock in your shoe that keeps rubbing and rubbing.
How we survive, how we endure, how we persevere is to keep our eyes on God.
To trust in Him to get us through, whether it is to a green pasture, or through the valley of the shadow of death, or just a meeting we didn’t anticipate going the way it did.
That is what this is all about. He is our God, we are His.
Know He loves you and love Him… and He will ensure you endure.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 2320). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)
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. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
18 And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NJB)
692 You suffer in this present life, which is only a dream, and a short one at that. Rejoice, because your Father God loves you so much, and if you put no obstacles in his way, after this bad dream he will give you a good awakening.
A friend tweeted that we should follow our passion when it comes to ministry.
I have o admit I struggle more than a little with that line of reasoning. Not because I think that following our passions is a way to justify doing what we want to do. Rather there are times where we have to embrace that which we aren’t passionate about, because we are following the call of God, and because we realize what He is passionate about. And our passions and His? Well, they don’t always line up as clearly as we would hope.
That’s okay, we aren’t expected to turn instantly into the Messiah, in fact, the transformation isn’t complete until Christ returns.
That means we can embrace what we are not passionate about, with the same dedication and drive. We can turn our back on what we desire, and embrace that which will incur suffering. Even if suffering is only giving up a dream.
But to embrace suffering takes something, something even more than character. It takes faith, it takes hope that isn’t based on a guess. It takes knowing God’s promise of eternity with Him, sharing in His glory, is our reality.
Some say that a person can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. If that statement is true, it is a different heaven than we are promised. It is not the reality of walking with God, of sharing in His glory. It is not the heaven that we have a foretaste of as we feast with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our down-payment on that place where we dwell. On the place where reality surrounds us, the reality of God’s peace, His provision, and His life. It is clinging to the hope, the expectation of God’s promise being fulfilled that enables us to keep going, and keep focused on Jesus. It enables us to go beyond, as we serve, as we live, as we share the love of Christ.
Keep your eyes on Him, be drawn to Him, revel and dance in HIs love. Remember, bring a few people with you!
Lord have mercy on us!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1613-1615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
15 Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. 16 They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness. 17 You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong. 18 Yes, our protection comes from the LORD, and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king. Psalm 89:15-18 (NLT)
“In the periods expressly reserved for this rendezvous with our Lord, the heart is broadened, the will is strengthened, the mind, helped by grace, fills the world of human reality with supernatural content. The results come in the form of clear, practical resolutions to improve your conduct, to deal more charitably with all men, to spare no efforts—like good athletes—in this Christian struggle of love and peace. Prayer then becomes continuous, like the beating of our heart, like our pulse. Without this presence of God, there is no contemplative life. And without contemplative life, our working for Christ is worth very little, for vain is the builder’s toil if the house is not of the Lord’s building. (1).
It is Monday morning, a morning that is filled with groans, with near despair. We return to our work, our normal daily life. We leave behind, or so we think, what philosophers call the sacred, and we are forced to embrace the profane, the secular, the world.
I write that sentence and I am already tired, discouraged, weary, waiting for the time when the people that are my brothers and sisters in Christ will gather, when I will hear their voices praising God, and yes pleading with Him. Crying out in awe at His love, and crying out “Lord, Have mercy!”, as they give him that which causes anxiety, that which causes heartbreak, that which pains them. As they come before the altar and I am able to give them something tangible, a treasure beyond any belief. As they take the bread, His body broken for them, as they drink the wine, His blood shed for the forgiveness of sin, there is a visible manifestation of relief, of joy, of peace that floods over them. Their body language changes dramatically, it is amazing.
I long for those moments, and for the times we spend in scripture together, asking the tough questions. Not tough questions as in the doctrines that we study in seminaries, amonst academics and theologians. The questions of why God allows evil, or pain or illness. Or the questions about how do I love that neighbor/coworker/family member who said “that”, or always acts like a jackass. The questions of living daily, as children of God. THe questions that haunt them at night. ( I don’t know anyone who spends all night contemplating the “communication of magisterial attributes” or even the how the Trinity’s interaction can be explained – okay maybe one or two ….) But to deal with them, to struggle through them, to realize that the answer is sometimes simply greater than we can comprehend, but God is still in charge….
I long for these Sundays, and Wednesday Nights ( and every other thursday, and the tuesday once a month where our area pastors gather together)
Yet if it wasn’t for the roughly 160-164 hours a week I am not being gathered with other believers…there would be a hole in my life as well. I wouldn’t understand how the God we are gathered to praise sustains us, even at the point where our endurance is measured by inches. Yes, I long for those moments of God revealing Himself among us, sustaining us, holding us.
I need the time where we aren’t gathered, it stretches my faith (which like working out isn’t always “fun”) but is necessary. I need to see the impact of our gatherings on us when the chips are down, when the road seems lonely, where the world threatens… for there our trust in God is forged, where it is tempered, where we find out He is as He promised, He is present, merciful, forgiving, loving……ours.
There is a relationship between our times, our appointments with God and HIs people, and the peace we have in the world. I love how St Josemaria says it, this time of strengthening, this time of our heart be broadened. These words resonate so deeply, it is these times, that remind us of the presence of God, that “synchronize” our lives with the breath of God, that remind us of the cleansing work of God, of how He is crafting us together, as His people, as a masterpiece of incomparable worth……
And these short hours, they do something more, they infect the rest of our lives, as we realize more and more His presence….
How I long to celebrate that with those that God gathers together here… for while this world is not our home…the church, the people of God that are gathered in His name… yeah – that is home.
Have a great Monday, knowing God is with you… and soon, we shall sing His praises together!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 550-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Today’s devotional though”
“Allow God to lead you. He will lead you along “his path”, making use of innumerable adversities… possibly including your own sluggishness, so that it may clearly be seen that your work is being carried out by him.” (1)
It’s only Tuesday, my mind tells me as I enter the office. Maybe a ten hour day today, interrupted by a quick check in at the ophthalmologist. Lots of things to do on the to do list, planning services for the next three weeks, framing up plans for Advent series, maybe squeezing in a visit or two, and some fun with the couple I am doing pre-marital counseling with this evening. (that’s always kinda fun for me.. for them) Already four more names added to the prayer list- including a cousin back east who was in a accident when a tree fell on his car while he was driving by, another parishioner’s recovery from surgery, and a coupe of serous things that are serious, but cannot discuss.
Sometimes I feel like life is one adversity after another – and sometimes they come in pairs and trios. It is as if everyday is like another Monday, that there is little time to rest, and too many things that cannot get done.
I used to think it was about depending on God when I felt overwhelmed – at some point I would finally realize that He is there, and that I need to depend on Him if I am to survive. It’s like the footprints in the sand poem, and I get too proud of the times where I didn’t need to be carried, where I could walk on my own.
If I am honest, though, I can’t walk on my own strength. I need Him to not just walk with me, but to let me lean on him constantly, to let Him carry me, to know His support, His presence, His love.
Paul explain it this way: “2:19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT)
I fear I am not phrasing this well, but the idea is simple – it is not just when I am weak that I require His strength… it is constantly. He’s there – He’s promised to get us though for being united to Him, we find our lives take a shift in meaning. The sooner we realize that, the more we can enjoy the trials we endure.
Lord, may our lives cry out for, and receive Your mercy..
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1339-1341). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.