devotional thought of the day:
8 Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. 9 You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. 10 You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. Psalm 65:8-10 (NLT2)
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honor of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22 No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23 Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:21-23 GNT
For as soon as the word of God rises up within you, the devil will track you down and afflict you. [This will] make a real doctor of you and, by making you suffer such devilish assaults, will teach you to look for and love God’s word. For I myself (if I, mouse dirt that I am, might mingle myself with pepper) have a great deal to thank my papists for, because they beat, belted, pressed, and frightened me so through the rampaging of the devil that they made a rather good theologian out of me, which I otherwise would not have become.
They had lost their vision.
But not a corporate vision with mission statements, and measurable goals and strategies. Not a vision created in board meetings and through surveys of congregations. Not a vision of the future, or of the goal they wanted to aim at.
They lost the vision that scripture says the absence of leads to death. (Proverbs 29:18a (King James Version) The kind of vision that Paul tells the Corinthian church transforms them. The king of vision that changes a sinner into the saint he was designed to be –
The vision of Christ crucified, and risen, revealing the love of the Father. It when we see that when it dominates our vision, that everything else we encounter we find ourselves in awe of, knowing that God created this to bless us. That is what the Psalmist is so amazed at, as he looks out at the world.
He realizes this is all God’s provision.
The same thing happens as King Josiah and his people find the Books of Scripture in the temple, and understand the glory that had been lost for two generations. The incredible story of God saving His people, so He could dwell among them
As the Holy Spirit makes the word of God come alive in them, the celebration is greater than any in Israel’s history, going all the way back to the Judges. (which would therefore include Solomon’s time!)
When we become in awe of God’s work in our midst, when we realize it is God at work, and it is proof of His love, the joy is amazing! Even in the midst of the trials and afflications of Satan! (he has a vested interest in you not seeing what is revealed in scripture, and will throw everything at you to prevent it!) This struggle, also known as Tentatio works against Satan’s purpose, for when we recognize it as such it can drive us deeper into scripture. It can, and does deepen our dependence on God
Luther said it was this that gave him such and understanding of Grace, for the pressure focused his vision of a God who was merciful, loving and present, blessing us through His word, and through the Sacraments.
Again, from the Apostle Paul,
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)
(James gives voice to this as well, in the first chapter)
So how in the middle of the struggle, do we find this endurance? It is through prayer and meditation on the word of God. It is found in the awe that comes from see Him keep the promises He has made, of His the devotion He has for His people, and the way He wants to relate, to interact with us. It is found as the Spirit reveals His love to us, and adoring Him, the Spirit consoles, comforts and changes us.
Without a vision of God, without realizing that, “the Lord is with you!” we perish. But as we realize that love, as He becomes our vision, not even the power of Satan can separate us from His love. In fact, realizing Satan’s attempt to distract us and separate us from the Love of God, will kindle the fire to help it grow.
Lord Jesus, help us to stay focused on You, to experience the dimensions of Your love, even though we can’t understand it fully. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 123). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9-10
Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.
In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”
In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.
In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.
Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.
One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.
I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.
Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.
Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…
Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.
So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought for our day:
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15-17 (NLT)
612 Wherever you may happen to be, remember that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Be sure that anyone who wants to follow him cannot attempt to act in any other way.
I suppose, like many good ideas, the selling of animals for sacrifice and the money-changers in the temple area started for the right reasons. Pilgrims came from all over the world, and they didn’t have the temple coin, and bringing livestock and pigeons would have made the journey e
ven more difficult.
Perhaps the inhabitants of Jerusalem entered into these services in order to be hospitable to help out those who had come from longs ways away. But over time it became a commercial venture, a way to make money, and the ministry to others faded in into the background, as profit and costs took over the ministry.
We see this in the church today, as ministries that once developed to serve people now are affected by significant costs. From the tuition of Christian preschools, schools, and universities, to music and books, industries have been formed, including those which support the other industries that directly “serve” our members. Oftentimes, membership becomes confused with the idea of clientele, where the ministry exists to serve them, rather than to equip them to serve others.
And in the meantime, prayer and worship, the adoration of God and giving as freely as we are given disappear, because prayer doesn’t have to line that can be analyzed in black and red terms. These things are the results of people having access to God, and giving them that access is what ministry has to be about. It is why we are called to serve.
We have to find the balance between stewardship and true ministry. We have to run things well, so that prayer and worship aren’t interrupted, that those needed encouragement and discipleship are provided it. Part of that discipleship is helping people learn to serve others, to care for others, to put others needs before their own.
This too is challenging, because many will hear it as a requirement of being a Christian. As the law which they must fulfill or face God’s wrath. It isn’t, for to do something as impossible as being a servant who leads requires only one thing. It requires us to know the Lord is with you! Knowing His presence, knowing His grace and mercy, dwelling in His love, this doesn’t just enable us to serve, it causes us to, as the Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness.
This is our call, this is who we are, leading people into the presence of Christ, and enabling them to know He will hear their prayers
May we serve well, diligently keeping what should be first, first. Lord, Have Mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2268-2270). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.“ Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
617 You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task. (1)
Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)
Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.
I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work. For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason. Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.
I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field. Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)
So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future. SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.
But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.
See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water. See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..
And God has appointed you and I to be there for them. This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, 18 as one sings at festivals. I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 19 Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you; I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts; I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration. 20 At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, When I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:17-20 (NAB)
“Would it be a bad thing for the church to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to the spring. The tradition of Christmas and Christ’s birth could be seperate. Just a thought.” ( my friend Mark B. )
“When I hear the phrase Merry Christmas I think of decorated trees, presents and good food. Christ’s birth is the last thing that comes to mind.” ( also from Mark B )
A few days ago, one of my friends responded to one of my wild ideas about a sermon concept, as you see above. My basic idea, well – you can read the sermon, I posted it a little while ago. ( Or listen to it on Itunes at Concordia Radio)
Mark has a very valid point. We’ve allowed Christmas and its traditions to be redefined. To the point where celebrating Christmas is a completely separate idea from celebrating God’s invasion into our lives, as the baby laid in a manger, who would die on the cross.
I’ve seen this in the lament of some, as churches cancel midnight services/masses, once “the” service that all went to on Christmas Eve. You see it in the multitude of Meme’s talking about keeping Christ in Christmas, and how to do so. You see it in the willingness of people to beleive “modern” scholarship which will claim Jesus’ birth happened at some other point in the year, but the one day it couldn’t have happened was 12/25.
I think many would go along with Mark’s thought, out of frustration, out of a sense of hopelessness. Let’s just start all over again! Let’s just celebrate Christ-birth at some other point that on Christ-mas Day.
I asked Mark if I could share this, and what his vocation is. He saw the connection, and agreed.
So here it goes.
Mark is in the furniture restoration business, so I am going to suggest we use some of his techniques in restoring Christmas, and then re-use the same concepts in restoring our congregations, our parishes, His Church.
The first thing to know is that you don’t restore something based on your vision. You didn’t create it, and as you begin to carefully work at it, the vision that has been muddled, covered over, damaged will be restored!
In restoring something, you have to be aware that it survived because it had value. Maybe it is pragmatic, maybe it is artistic, maybe it is both. If it was simply sentimental, it wouldn’t have survived and taken all the abuse, neglect and paint that it has. (Example – having everyone over to feast…. there is something about gathering together to celebrate Christ’s birth hidden under all of it!) Sure, it’s often about gluttony and to see which part of the family has bragging rights now… but once… it was to celebrate God’s faithfulness!
Because the value and vision are often so muddled, so hidden, so broken, we may not perceive it accurately. That’s okay, be willing to adapt to what is revealed. After all, no Christian at baptism knows everything… we grow and mature. So will the revelations as you see more and more what you do points to Jesus.
You also have to realize that what you thought was the valuable part, may be that which obscurs the most, and the part you originally were doing to toss aside.. is a critical component.
in order to have the patience, the ability to make this happen, you have to learn to love what you are restoring. It’s the only way you will take the years and maybe a decade it take to see the job towards completion. There will be interruptions, distractions, days of frustration, that’s okay.There might even be people who question, you wisdom, your integrity, your sanity – they do this to me all the time!
The goal is worth it – a beautiful restoration that is a double piece of work of art…..that of the Creator, and that where the Creator’s vision was once again visible to mankind… and the hopelessness became hope.
I said in the beginning that this works with churches and parishes as well with the simple idea of making Christmas about Christ’s coming to us. The Mission and concepts are the same, and the goal is the same. To preach Christ crucified, whom is our hope of Glory. It’s what we do here at my church, when Christmas Day was first 10-12 people, now is 50, (Our Christmas Eve services have also grown) where once it was a bother, now people are excited to come. It can happen
It is what God promised, look above at the scripture, dive deeply into those promises… and rejoice… for God is restoring you… that started that very first Christmas morning.
He is with us. Immanuel.
Focus on that…. and all comes into place.
For no one does restoration work like God our Father!
(and if you need restoration work done on furniture – go talk to Mark at http://www.bausmanandfather.com/ or
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
2 People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2 (NLT)
“A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and of the faith that enshrines them. One such is….” Celtic Prayer Book, Reading for 8/11)
For the last couple of months, I have been praying about my congregations, the church that gathers here in Cerritos.
As a entity, there are necessary complications to ministry. How do we deal with an aging facility, how do we accomplish evangelistic outreach and meet the needs of people in our community. How do we make disciples of all peoples – of those young and old, of the stranger, of our own people. How do we effectively use all the talents God gives us. Big questions for sure, and we are working through them as a people.
But the biggest answer for my dream for our church is seen, not in our future plans, but in the green words above.
It doesn’t matter if we have a sanctuary that sits 500. Or if we have a school. Or even if there are 50000 people that attend our services and watch them on television, hear them on radio or live-feed them from the internet.
What matters to me is that where Concordia meets, becomes known as a place of holiness, a place where the love of God is known, a place where people’s trust in God’s faithfulness sees them through their lives. Where people are devoted to God, where His vision compels them to act in others lives, bringing that holiness there. What disciples become crafted, not just through intellectual stimuli, but by worship, by adoring God, by the thoughts about His love.
I think that was what the prophet Micah is referring to, the ways we are taught by God, to walk His way, That is the change that God’s word makes in our lives, it opens up a relationship defined by words like cHesed, agape, phileo, charis… love, mercy, grace.
If the people of Concordia (or your church, or any church) grow in these things, then we have succeeded as a church. We are a place where disciples are made, where God’s ways are treasured, where people live the life of those cleansed by God, and are immersed in His life. Where they are sure He will be with them, even until the end of the earth!
16 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17 He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19 and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ 21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” Luke 12:16-21 (MSG)
People engaged in worldly business say that time is money. That means little to me. For us who are engaged in the business of souls, time is glory! (1)
It seems we live in a world that concentrates on the here and now, and that now is imitated by the church. Back in the ’80’s,w e called this the Tyranny of the Urgent.
I think it has gotten worse, and we rarely, if ever, look to the long run, whether in how we invest our money, or something even more precious, our time. We want thee quickest turn around The quickest route to healing and recovery, and we will settle for far less than God has promised. Heck – do we even bother to consider the long range outcomes anymore, or do we just react to everything that is happening, to focused on “this moment” and what has to be accomplished?
What would happen if we did pay attention to our future? How would it change how we spend our time, our money, our lives? Would we give more time spent in God’s presence? Would we spnd time – not questioning those mysteries He hasn’t revealed to us, but simply being amazed by the truth of them? Would we consider our careers differently? Would we see what we do with our spare time differently?
Josemaria Escriva said, “time is glory”. The more I read that, the more I realize it is true. Because time, our time, has been revealed to be spent in the presence of God. God promises to never leave s, has promised to be very patient with us. Do we realize the time spent in His presence is spent in His glory – even if we cannot see it revealed clearly as it will be in heaven?
I think this is the biggest difference maker, to know God’s presence, to revel in it – to value and cherish it. To even be a little defensive of those times – until we realize how to integrate them into our blessed lives and walk with God.
So take a afternoon – find a quiet place – and think it through – what takes your time, how is it invested..
Then figure out how to spend it, knowing that you are in the presence of God!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 904-906). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- VIP Concert Passes, Surgical Nurses and Divine Appointments.. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- What Do We Choose to Invite into our Lives? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Meditating on God’s Love (justifiedandsinner.com)