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I love it when a plan comes together! (a plan… not mine)

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

O LORD, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever. 2 I know that your love will last for all time, that your faithfulness is as permanent as the sky.  Psalm 89:1-2  GNT

 

345         What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity.

The contemplation of God, of his person, creation, incarnation, and re-creation of the world, is a different kind of knowledge. It is a contemplation on the mysteries, namely, the mystery of God creating, the mystery of God incarnate, the mystery of the cross and empty tomb, the mystery of God’s presence in the church, and the mystery of Christ’s return to claim his lordship over creation. The contemplation of these mysteries moves us to live into these mysteries, participating in God’s life for the world.

This week has not gone as I planned, I had a number of things to accomplish to get ready for vacation, also plans to celebrate my 28th anniversary tomorrow.

Let’s just say those things I planned to get done were often interrupted, as hours were spent in crisis moments, and in a meeting, a very necessary meeting, that took out most of a day.  And then, of course, the implementation of a new phone system.  Yeah, my plan?  Long days and nights, and some of the things are off the checklist… but I am leaving for “home” in a little more than 48 hours…

Yet with the esteemed Colonel on the old A-team, I can look back and say, somehow, “I love it when a plan comes together!”  Even if I haven’t seen it come to its fulfillment.

More and more I realize that Escriva’s idea that those who serve as the church are like blinded donkeys, walking around, supplying the work that God uses to bless others is true.  We love it when a plan comes together, but we are equally sure that it cannot be our plan. At least if we want it to come together!  There must be a greater planner who is able to not just plan well, but execute and carry us to where the plan “comes together”

One in whom we can trust, one who we can depend on, not just for the plan, but for the result. And then we can go back to our trodding through life, content to let the Spirit lead, flexible enough to simply follow that Spirit when the need occurs, even when we think we are a round peg being placed into a square hole.

That is where Webber’s words this morning make so much sense to me.  That as we contemplate the very mysteries of God, as we try, not to understand as much as observe in awe, and accept we cannot have all the answers, but we can have Him, the need for all the answers, the need to see all of our agendas come to pass fades.  Simply put, knowing Him, living in His glorious peace is….. more than sufficient.

We learn to sing with the psalmist about God’s love, about His faithfulness.  Which feeds on itself.  For the more aware of this, the more we explore the breadth, width, depth, and height of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ, revealed at the cross, and at the table, the more we desire to simply know that….

And we are assured of the living water that our lives help distribute to fields will see them ready to harvest, as the world comes to know the love of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

God, We NEED to Talk! A sermon on Jeremiah 20:7-13

Combined 4God, We need to Talk!

Jeremiah 20:7-13

 In Jesus Name

 Our prayer for you is that you grow in your experience and knowledge of the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to where you can trust Him and be completely honest with God!  AMEN!

God, We have to Talk!

The Old Testament passage this morning one that describes a prophet of incredible faith, one who knows His God.

He is also very frustrated, and perhaps even a bit paranoid.  Definitely, Jeremiah is a bit tired and weary, and part of this is that people don’t always hear everything he has said, and their criticism and threats he takes personally.

He doesn’t just complain, he doesn’t just whine, he wants to talk to God, and let God have it!

Our English translation uses the word deceived, other translations use misled, tricked, fooled me.  What kind of prophet is this, that thinks he can talk to God like that!  To accuse God the Father of deceiving him?

He is a man of great faith.

Yes, I said he is man of great faith, and I pray that our faith grows enough to be that open and honest with God.  Let me explain.

Can We Be honest with God? (Can we whine/complain to Him?)

Can we be honest with God?  Can we accuse Him of deceiving us or misleading us? Can questioning God, even challenging Him, be an act of faith?

For Jeremiah this wasn’t about God promising him a nice house, a new car and a easy good paying job.  This was about ministry and care, about Jeremiah trying to shepherd God’s people back to him.   God called him to this work, much like God calls Timothy and myself to be pastors and prepare to ministry.  Just as God calls people to serve as church musicians, or on boards and teams, even as God calls us all to be involved in making disciples of people from every ethnicity, every culture, every language.

This work God has given His people isn’t easy, and there are times where the people God would have us minister to are challenging.  There are times people who don’t know about God think what they know is the truth, and don’t listen to all the story.  For while we are here to tell them about God’s love, they also must know that His love cannot leave them broken in sin.  They often don’t like to hear that, and neither do we.

Jeremiah was trying to do that, and they wouldn’t listen long enough to hear about God’s mercy, and God’s desire to cleanse them of their sin and heal them of their brokenness.  They only heard that they needed to repent and be forgiven.

They didn’t like that, and they attacked and threatened Jeremiah over his life time many times.

So Jeremiah says, “Hey God, we need to talk, I thought serving you would be easier.  You didn’t tell me about the rejection, the pain of watching people continue to struggle in their brokenness.  You didn’t tell me when I went to them they would attack, yet you still want me to do this? You still want me to reach out to people – to call them back to you, Lord?”

Jeremiah will go on to try and quit, to say he will never talk about God in verse 9, even that he will try to forget about God.  He is that tired, that frustrated, that burnt out from caring and trying to call people back into their relationship with God. To call unbelievers to the cross, to call believers back there.

But Jeremiah can’t do that, he can’t keep the message of God inside himself, it is too powerful, to incredible, to glorious.  His people need to know God’s love and that God will stand by them, and stand by us during our struggle.

God stands by us?

We start to see that in verse 11, “11  But you, LORD, are on my side, strong and mighty”. Jeremiah 20:11 (TEV)

and again in verse 13, ” 13  Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD! He rescues the oppressed from the power of evil people. Jeremiah 20:13 (TEV)

When we are honest with God, when we don’t hide our hurts, we see Him at work. Then our faith, our trust grows stronger in Him, we become more aware of His presence, His guiding us, His listening to our prayers, and yes, even our complaints and our whining.  He’s willing to remind us He is here, and this is His work.  The Holy Spirit guides us all to Jesus, who died and rose so that our sins would be forgiven, that we could be God’s children. That we could know He has rescued us, and stands with us.

Jeremiah’s message resonates with the future, and the hope that the people of God have, a hope we know, when at the end of the day we remember He cleanses us from sin, He rescues us, and He stands by our side.  For He loves us, and is patient with us, not wanting any to perish, but that all of us come to repentance.  Even when we are tired, even when they are stubborn.  God is still at work.

Standing by us, strengthening our faith, our awareness of Him.  Even as we serve and minister to each other and the world.  Even when we struggle doing it.

Knowing this, we realize we dwell in His peace, peace the world cannot understand, but  the peace in which we are guarded in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

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

24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.    Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.

King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer.  St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! )  We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression.  We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.

That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.

St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better.  I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.

Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?

Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.

The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin.  It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.

Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us.  Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.

This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful.  As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.

May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.

For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Can’t Grow Up… I fall too much!

Will new camera 12 2008 167Devotional Thought of the Day:
13  Then some little children were brought to Him (Jesus), so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples frowned on the parents’ action but Jesus said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them. The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!” Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way.    Matthew 19:13 (Phillips NT)

870    Don’t try to be older. A child, always a child, even when you are dying of old age. When a child stumbles and falls, nobody is surprised, and his father promptly picks him up. When the person who stumbles and falls is older, the immediate reaction is one of laughter. Sometimes, after this first impulse, the laughter gives way to pity. But older people have to get up by themselves. Your sad experience is that each day is full of stumbles and falls. What would become of you if you were not continually more of a child? Don’t try to be older. Be a child, and when you stumble, may your Father God pick you up by the hand.

Of all the spiritual writers I have read, and there have been a lot, from every little corner of Christianity, St Josemaria Escriva has had the most profound impact, because of the practical way he sees our faith, our dependence on God.   I would recommend his book “The Way,” to anyone seeking a faith that is more than Sunday morning, or 5 minutes reading a devotion the size of a postcard.  It is no different today, my 52nd birthday, as his words hit home, and hit home hard.

There is a part of me that wants to know more, be wiser, have words of wisdom and maturity that are profound.  To be able to preach words that inspire those who are down, which call people to repentance in a way that they run like mad into the waiting arms of God, trusting in His mercy.  I want to help people explore the height and depth, the width and breadth of God’s love for them.

This has been my dream since I was an awkwardly tall 8-year-old with untied sneakers, telling a family friend, Fr. Alex, that I wanted to be a priest, I wanted to tell people about Jesus and give them His body in communion.

At 52, I am still awkward, my sneakers are still often untied, and though my falls aren’t physical, they are still there.  I understand Paul’s words in Romans 7 all too; clearly, I am not the mature, wise, holy person I know I should be.  In fact, like most pastors and priests, there are days I wonder why I am here.  Can’t God do better?  Can’t He make me the kind of shepherd these people need?  Can’t Jesus find someone who does better with temptation, and able to deal wisely with the evil that is so oppressive?

St. Josemaria snaps me out of this spiritual downward spiral with his words this morning  (odd they show up on my birthday, isn’t it?)  The best thing I can do is not astound people with wisdom, it is to let them see God pick me up.  To let them see the joy in my eyes when He does.  To be the child that runs and desires to be in His presence, even if the foolish disciples try to bar my way, I am going to see Him, I am going to hear His blessing.

Hopefully, along the way, I will drag some of my friends with me, and maybe even an enemy or 2….000?

If I pretend to be something other than a child, as I’ve tried, I will still fall. But I will try, as an adult, to excuse the fall, to justify it, to make it out to be less painful.  I will force myself to try and get up on my own, only to fall again, and perhaps even harder, or take others with me. But as a child, as one who is confident of God’s presence, who knows His love and mercy, then I know He will pick me up, that He will run to my side, that He will care for me.

Not that I want to fall, I want to make Him proud.  But as a child, when I do, I can cry out for help, and He will come.

And if I can teach my people that, and they confidently cry out (knowing His love and mercy)  when they fall as well… I’ve done my job as a brother in Christ, and as their pastor. For they have learned about His love… and have experienced it.

A simple cry, “Lord Have mercy on me, a sinner….Papa, help!” 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2005-2010). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Heresy of “my Faith Alone Saves”

devotional/discussion thought of the day:

22  You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23  And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24  So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (NLT)

7  This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8  Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9  not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)

It was one of the cries of the men who tried to reform, to re-focus the Catholic Church.  Faith Alone, Sola Fide in Latin. It is still the point of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and a few of the protestant denominations. Even as I pray that the Church would be visibly one, hole, catholic, and apostolic; I struggle to see that this issue would be ever resolved.

There is a twist to this issue now, one that might be distinctly American, or perhaps it simply originated here. It cuts across all of the church, and it may be more destructive than anything the Great Schism or Reformation/Counter Reformation has spawned.

It is the addition of the little pronoun “my” to either “saved by faith”, or “saved by faith alone”.  To add that skirts the border of heresy, and it bows to the idol of narcissus.  It puts the glory and the credit for salvation, not in the God in whom we trust, but in the “me”.  As if in some way, faith originated in me, by my own reason, by my own intellectual/spiritual/holy prowess.

Perhaps this is why we take every attack on Christianity so personally, as if ISIS, or the atheists, or whomever, is attacking us directly.  Perhaps it is why we avoid martyrdom and suffering, instead finding our shields up, our notions of self defense well exercised.  It is why we can justify missing church, despite what scripture says, because after all, this religion, this belief, this faith is mine.   Such a personal faith focuses on our knowledge, or our work, on what we have gained or achieved.  It can then grow into Gnosticism, or Agnosticism, for as long as faith is “my faith”, as long as it focuses one me, it will lead to emptiness, and more searching out for that arcane bit of knowledge that will justify me. At least it will justify me in my own sight.

Which is what really matters today, at least in the our own view.

Self-righteousness, self-justification, as if in “my faith” it is also “my judgement” that needs to be appeased.

I mentioned that this idea borders on heresy, but I didn’t say which side of the border.  It is across the border, I believe, from both historic Catholic and Protestant perspectives. Because it ignites that faith is more than a doctrinal statement, more than a set of core beliefs.  It is more than knowledge.

For you can’t have faith without having faith “in” someone/something.  It is a verb, not a noun, and it requires an object.  Going back to the Latin, we see the root of the word “confidence” (that is with faith)  My confidence doesn’t save me, it is that we have confidence in the love and mercy of Christ which saves us. Not the confidence, but the love and mercy is what saves us.   We see this in the Creeds, the “I believe IN”, I have faith IN”.  Faith is simply the reception, the trust, the dependence upon the God who is revealed to us, revealed to be working in/on/upon and through us. That faith, trust, dependence radically changes us, not just how we think bu how we live.  For that transformation is the promise.

That is why faith can never be “my” faith, it must focus on the object, the Lord whom we trust in to do what He promised, to do what He has done.  To have faith in God means we abide in Him, we find refuge in Him, we recognize His work in making us His children, His people.

He has had mercy, He loves.  Trust Him, have faith in Him, and know He saves you!

AMEN!

Dare We Pray, THY Will Be Done?

Featured imageDo we Dare Pray:
Thy Will Be Done On Earth?

 

May you be so aware of the grace and mercy of God our Father that you desire and to see His will revealed in your life!

A Picture of God’s Will, made Complete in heaven:

I want to re-read the Revelation passage, that describe what God’s will looks like, when revealed in Heaven:

9  When this was done I looked again, and before my eyes appeared a vast crowd beyond man’s power to number. They came from every nation and tribe and people and language, and they stood before the throne of the Lamb, dressed in white robes with palm-branches in their hands. With a great voice they shouted these words: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!”
11  Then all the angels stood encircling the throne, the elders and the four living creatures, and prostrated themselves with heads bowed before the throne and worshipped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength be given to our God for timeless ages!”     
Revelation 7:9-14 (Phillips NT)

It is the vision of the Nunc Dimitis, the incredible song Simeon spoke as he held Jesus. The song we will sing, having been given Christ’s body and blood…

29  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30  I have seen your salvation, 31  which you have prepared for all people. 32  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Luke 2:29-32 (NLT)

When we pray for God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, we are asking Him to save the world, to bring us all into a relationship with God the father, through Christ.  To see the love of God revealed, to and in the people we know, to see them join the name of those whose names are written in the book of life.

What a thing to celebrate.

For every time a sinner is welcome home, cleansed and made a child of God, the heavens rejoice, and so should we!

Every time they learn to pray and trust to lay everything in God’s hands, including their very lives, the joy of heaven is inexpressible.  God’s will had been revealed in our midst.  Every time we approach this altar and share in His feast…. His will is seen again, for we take His body and blood into us, even as we have been joined to His death, and the resurrection, and added to the number whose voices will thunder His praises!

But Why Would We Hesitate?

       To see this happen, what needs to happen to us?
Do we dare pray this happen?

Do we realize what we are asking God to do?  How He will change us?

What will it take, for Jesus to be that well known here by people here, in our little corner of Cerritos?

it is the same question that Chris asked a couple of weeks ago, when He asked what it meant for God’s name to be Holy in this place.   We are going to have to let God, not Chris or Albert or I, meddle in our lives.

We will have to embrace being uncomfortable, as we have to make sure our traditions and practices work to draw people to Jesus, that what we do and say and think reveal that our lives have been changed by God, and that we are eternally grateful.

We will have to embrace change, as God cleans us up, ridding our lives of our desires, our words and actions that aren’t consistent with His will, strengthening us against the temptation, ridding our hearts of anything that isn’t loving towards anyone.

We are asking God to invade our lives, and rip out anything that isn’t loving, that isn’t reflecting His love and mercy.

Because if His will is to be seen in our midst, it has to be seen in our lives.

You resent others?  That has to go.
You hold on to things people have done and said to you?  Those feelings and thoughts have to go.
You are jealous and envious of others things or relationships or roles because you deserve better – that attitude has to go.
You would rather be safe and secure, rather than be willing to give up all, that some would know Jesus?  Time for that to change as well.
Frustrations, Anxieties, Lust, unrighteous anger, desire for revenge?

They all go, because they will stop you from realizing the will of God, and seeing what God desires happening in your life, in our life together.

Do you still want to pray this prayer?

Are you ready to?

Why We Pray this may be done among us.

So why do we pray this?

Go back to the vision, of people from every place and time, from every culture, from every language coming together in the presence of God – all of gathered as His people, as His family.

To a place where tears no longer flow, where there are no enemies, no adversaries.  Where we gather to celebrate His love, to see the miracle that we are, when we have been saved, and realize that God wanted to do this very thing.

To realize that when we pray this, that God’s will be done, it is being done in our lives, personally, and as a community.  Right now!  When see someone baptized, and united to Christ means they are united to us as well, they become part of that crowd that will be there in heaven, with each of us. This service is a foretaste of that To kneel at this altar with people, to be part of the great company of heaven singing His praises.

You and I, despite our selfishness, despite our sin, welcome into His kingdom, and not just welcome, but welcome as His children, His blessed children He wants to share His glory with.  His greatest desire, His will is that we would be with Him.
May it happen in heaven… and may it happen here and now….

For the Lord is with us, and we know we need to know His will, will be done here in our lives.  So let us spend the rest of this service talking in prayer with our Father…. Amen!

The Benefit of Endurance Part 1

 

The Benefit of Endurance

James 1:12-18
I.H.S.

May you recognize the presence of God so clearly, and His attitude toward you, which you simply endure with patience all that is on your journey towards home.
How do you?

Her words, words of one who endured the greatest of hardships, echo through our souls.  Hear them, as reported in an interview with her son.

Asked by host Maher Fayez what he would say if he were asked to forgive ISIS, he related what his mother said she would do if she saw one of the men who killed her son. “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.”  (1)

There is a lady who knows how to endure, because of her faith in Christ.

Her desire is not revenge, it is not to cause pain, it is to see the mercy of God be revealed as clearly as it was at the cross.  A mother of a martyr, inviting her son’s murderer’s to come into her house?  An invitation of hospitality that guaranteed them of her love, and that no harm would come to them.

How could she endure the pain, the suffering and relive it with ISIS militants in her home?

She knew the benefit that endurance brings.  She could revel in it, knowing the goodness of God.  She would have no problems with the words from our epistle today.  She would understand well verse 12,

12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!

The Temptation

There is no way to compare the lives we endure to hers.  But the testing we endure has the similar out, the similar temptation.

To cry out to God, with pain and doubt, “God, why did You allow this to happen?  Why would You allow evil to flourish on this day?”

Hear the words of James again,

13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

 

These trials, these temptations to abandon God are not His work.  These sins committed against us, as well as the sins we commit, are not His fault, nor His work.

They develop from our own desire, our inability to look past what benefits us and our own.  It is easy to see in the violence of groups like ISIS, or the groups in our country who promote death as a solution to inconveniences like pregnancy or old age.

It is that same narcissism, that same self-centeredness that is at the heart of all sin.  Whether it be envy, gossip, disobedience and disrespect to parents and authorities or the sexual sins, that seem to head often up such lists.
Sin is sin, whether in thought, word or deed, originates in the desire to serve ourselves, to put ourselves in God’s place.  In order to get that which we think we would like, we would have to be in charge. Such is the nature of revenge, which Paul says in Romans 13 belongs to God alone.  Desire to make our lives something, to value them, lies at the heart of all sin.
Sin, which takes hold of our life, and snuffs it out.  Sin that suffocates us, destroying relationships, eventually crushing us and leaving us in hell.

So  where does a lady find the strength to endure, to entrust not only her son to God, but to embrace his killers, with the hope they would see God’s love revealed to them?

Really?  His Prized Possession?

it is trusting words like these, 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

There is our key, understanding that what God does give us is good.  Trusting Him to know what is perfect for us, not just for the moment, not just to satisfy a desire, but to give us far more than we could ever desire.

That uneducated Coptic lady, she was able to endure because she knew the good and perfect gift of God, something so incredible, she wanted it even for those who killed her son.

She trusted God, and the answer is how?

She knew His heart, His love, His mercy, from the gift He had given her, of His Son. The Son who would die that we could be born again in baptism.  The Son, who was the Word of God made flesh and living with us.  A God who  comes to people, imperfect, sinful people and transforms them into saints.

Who would become His prized possession.

Think of that – out of all of creation, what God prizes most is His relationship with His people, you and I and those who died, and maybe, those who killed them, who were touched by the faith of martyrs, and those who respond with God’s love.

What an incredible miracle, what a blessing.

This message, like the series that follows, is all about the benefits of endurance.  The benefit of endurance is not just our heavenly crowns that God has promised.  The benefit of endurance is found in the only way we can find the way to endure.

In being found in Christ, in knowing His forgiving mercy, in knowing His love, in living in the peace of Christ that is yours…..

The benefit of endurance is found in our relationship with Him being revealed.  For in Him we live and breath and endure…

AMEN

  • “Brother of slain Coptic Christians thanks ISIS for including …” ttp://christiantoday.com/article/brother.of.slain.coptic.christians.thanks.isis.for.including.their.words.of.faith.in.murder.video/48412.htm_br

When Will Hand Over the Reins of our Lives?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2  Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3  O Israel, put your hope in the LORD— now and always. Psalm 131:1-3 (NLT)

323      Jesus knows very well what is best… and I love his Will and will do so always. He it is who controls “the puppets” and so, provided it is a means to achieving our end, even if there are godless men who are determined to put obstacles in the way, he will grant what I am asking.  (1)

every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.
“Then how does one speak of God?”

“Through silence”
“Why then, do you speak in words?”
“At that, the Abba laughed uproariously.  He said, “when I speak, you must not listen to the words my dear.  Listen to the Silence.” (2)

It is the unspoken idol in all of our lives, it is idea that we must be working, we must be cleaning, we must be the sole defenders of the faith.  We want to be the heroes, we want our way to be the right way, and then be put in charge of correcting all who are wrong. ( and make them agree with our wisdom)  We een justify our Machiavellianism as being faithful to our call, being faithful to doctrine.    I am as guilty of it as any other, this idea that it is our responsibility to make life work, to make our denominations work.

As a result, we’ve forgotten God’s desire, we’ve forgotten the work we’ve been given, to proclaim the Kingdom of God is here, that God is in charge, and desires to reconcile all to Himself, to bring all to repentance, to bring all home.

The challenge is one of faith, one of trust.  Do I trust God enough to let HIm handle the big stuff, to move the church, and The Church, in the direction it needs to go.  Will I allow myself to be quiet, listening to Him speak.  Will I put my hope in Him, and not in the princes and leaders of the world. Will I allow Him to deal with those who put obstacles to grace in the way?

Will I encourage others to as well, to seek His face, to find rest in Jesus?

Will I find it myself?

Psalm 103 is a great prayer, may it be our desire to make it ours….

Lord Have Mercy…. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1287-1290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  FInian Reading for 11/15 from The Celtic Daily Prayer

“Daddy, even my stuffed animals?”

Devotional Thought of the Day:DSCF1394 - Copy

17  As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19  But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother. 20  “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21  Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. There is still one thing you haven’t done, he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. 22  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:17-22 (NLT)

11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:11 (NLT)

299      If there is sacrifice when you sow Love, you will also reap Love.

The other night my 7 year old son and I were doing our devotions and came to the reading above. It was a defining moment for him I think. As we talked about the rich young man, I asked my son what he would be asked to sell.

He thought for a moment, and tears began to fall from his eyes, as he included his beloved stuffed animals, his “friends”.

Three of them, “brown bear”, “blue bear” and “galoshes” have been with him since the day he was born.  Others he’s picked up along the way.  He even asked me to teach him microsoft access, so he could create his own database to record all of them, nearly 100 at this point in time.

They are his treasures, what makes him quite rich in his mind.  They are even more important to him than his electronics, for those are fun, these friends thought, provide great comfort, and a sense of peace.

But he quickly, even through the tears,  realized God was worth more to him than his stuffed friends.  Through the tears, and yet with a smile showing as well he said he would choose Jesus over his friends.   We talked about what idols are, and how things like riches got in the way of the rich young ruler’s relationship with God – given a choice he took them over walking with Jesus.

As a father, I couldn’t be more proud, and as a pastor the same thing is true, I am quite proud of a seven year old, who could process this concept, that the God who he cannot physically see is far more important that what He counts on in life.

I wonder about my own life, would I be as quick to decide to give up what hinders my life from God?  Would the people I pastor?  Can we find the strength to walk away, even with tears, and yet a smile breaking forth as we realize the glory that God has called us into, to be His kids?  Could we commit to giving up what brings us comfort and peace?  Can we give up the things that we run to when the world is too rough?

it is the lesson of Christ as well, who sacrificed for the love He had for us, and for the Father..To bring together that which was separated by sin. In the end, the satisfaction is far greater than any scar, any suffering, and sacrifice.

Can we learn a lesson from a seven year old, and treasure the Lord who sees us as His treasure?

Lord, have mercy upon us, and give us the faith of a child!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1219-1220). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven: #4 Hand Me All Your Trash!

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:Concordia Lutheran Church

#4 Hand Me all Your Trash

Philippians 3:4b-14

† IHS †

 

May you always be quick to remember the grace, the mercy, love and peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, as we journey to seeing them face to face!

 A Pleasant Journey!

We have been looking at the largest Pastor Parker Parable.  That the Journey Home to Heaven is like one of those long journeys of our youth, when we were crowded into the backseat of the family car.

We’ve overheard some of those conversations, remembering when we were urged “to get along back there,” and “That’s Not fair!’.  And last week Deacon Michael urged us to consider what happens on those journeys, as we grow up, and eventually get to ride in the front seat.

Today, as we look at Paul describing His life in Christ, I want you to think back to those trips in the car. To remember pulling into the gas stations, where men would pump your gas, clean your windows, check your oil.

When that happened on our trips, as we stopped and Ray Child’s Esso, there was something my dad would always say to us……

No, not, “who has to go to the bathroom”  No one would ever want kids or ladies to go into the restroom at that place….

What dad said was….

“Hand Me All your trash!”

It was time to clean the car, getting rid of all the trash, all the candy-wrappers, all the napkins, all the masterpieces colored in crayon, all the broken cheap toys,

Stopping for gas was the time to get the car taken care of, and for us, that meant emptying the backseat of all our trash.

The question is, when our Heavenly Father asks us to hand to Him all our trash…. Will we?
in order to answer that, we have to understand two things…what the trash is, and why it is a benefit to get all that crap out of our lives….

What’s in the Backseat!

It is amazing what we thought were treasures as children.  Remember the little 2 piece balsa wood gliders?  Or those growing up after me, the happy meal toys that would break before you ever made it home?  The baseball cards and the gum that came in the packages.  The Pez dispensers with the heads broken off them…

They would end up on the floor, forgotten, smashed, even cried over.

Until Dad asked for them, because they were trash.

Then they were worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox.  And we would make a fuss and a fit when our dad’s wanted to throw them out.  We counted them as our treasures, irreplaceable things that just cluttered up the backseat.

In today’s epistle, Paul reveals that he saw things that he once thought were invaluable as the trash he needed to stop carrying around.  Things that he would understand were trash, which needed to be tossed to the side.

Looking at the list, they don’t really seem all that trashy.

Wait, I need to clarify something.  The translators got to the back seat before we did.  It wasn’t trash that Paul considered this stuff.   Anybody remember the old cloth diapers and what they would be filled with, when they were in the dirty diaper bag?  Anybody remember what that bag was like, kept in the back seat on a hot day like we’ve been having?   Yeah – that is what Paul called these things he had been so attached to in life

The translators use nicer words, refuse, trash, the old KJV had it more accurate when it said dung.

If I told you the stuff God would take away from you in life, most of you would come up with the idea of sin, or with the old Catechism answer, God removed “sin, satan and death” from our lives.

I am not sure we understand that Paul is talking about sin, when he mentioned that used to count on being born into the right family, into the right race.  That he had all the boxes checked off that would see the community think he was a perfect kid.  He went to the right schools, go incredible grades.  Paul thought, without boasting, that he was living the perfect life.  That he did what he was supposed to, even religiously did it.

Sounds like good stuff to me.

Then again, so did the now in 8 pieces balsa wood glider!

The reason these things were trash, or the filling of a diaper, wasn’t because they had no value.  It is that they have absolutely no value if you trust in them.  They are worthless to trust in, and too often, we do. When we say we can’t do without them, or that these things make us who we are, we have turned them into an idol.

Luther said it this way,

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,     The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

All Paul was doing in counting these things as trash, was confessing that they had become idols, things in his life he trusted in, especially that he was good enough.  He swore he was going to get to heaven because he was a good person, because he had all the boxes checked off, and he trusted in his own work.

Which is why, when Paul heard the gospel from Stephen, it was hard.  All that he believed in, all that he trusted in,

We do the same thing.  We find our value in all sorts of things.  It might be in our bank account, or our financial status.  We find our meaning in our job, the awards and diplomas and certificates we receive.  We find what defines becoming our roles as parents, or grandparents, even our citizenship. These are the equivalents to what Paul found to be trash, because we allow them to define us, rather than God defining us.

That’s the key, we aren’t who we think we are,…..

We are who God knows we are.

Nothing in our Way!

Getting rid of the trash in our lives is about learning to see each other, and indeed ourselves, as God sees us.

As those who died with Jesus in baptism, and have been raised from the dead with Him.   This is what Paul talks about, when he says,
For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 

He goes on to say,

10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Paul is crying out for a level of intimacy with God that leaves everything in the dust.  To be so united with Christ that we become indistinguishable from HimHe lives in us, He shines through us, we are one with Him, as He promised we would be!  Paul says this again, when he says,

“But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”

Compared to knowing Jesus, well, the other stuff belongs in the used diaper bag.  Our relationship with Jesus defines everything we are, and what we can be.  It has eternal value, there is nothing that will make life better now, and nothing else, no one else gives us a future and hope that is eternal.

He is the one in whom we find hope, it is in Him we find life, it is in Him we find the peace that passes all understanding, as He guards and protects our Hearts and Minds….

So when you come up, and feast with Him, let go of everything else, and realize that He holds on to you… so hold on to Him.

Amen?

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