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Are You Talkin t’ me? Are YOU Talkin t’ME?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for our days…

“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates m his life n in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant o also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.  John 12:24-26

When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

We, who are so often unable to put up with one another; we, who are not fit to appear before God, are received by Jesus. He wears, so to speak, the garment of our wretchedness and, by taking us with him, makes us fit to stand in the presence of God; we have gained access to God. We are washed by letting ourselves be drawn into his love. This love means that God receives us unconditionally even when we are not capable and are not worthy of it, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes our Brother.

In the middle of Jesus prophecy about His imminent crucifixion and resurrection, there is something we have to see, something we have to hear again.

6 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.

We have to bear the cross, we have to go with Him there, or more precisely we need to allow Him to draw us into Himself, to give up our lives so that we can live in Him, with Him, through Him. (yes the Eucharistic reference is intended)

For without the cross, His cross, we cannot truly be His disciples, we can’t be united to Him, for that is where our unity with God begins, it is where life is restored in the midst of death. 

And so Jesus calls us to die, even as He was sent to die.  We are drawn to the cross, not because of the pain, not because of the sacrifices required (those idols aren’t worth anything anyway) but because of the love we know there,  this incredible, unbelievable love that is poured out on us, the broken and sin-crushed.  Yet that love heals us, transforms us, judges us as those who are brothers and sisters of  Jesus, the Son of God.  

Without that death and resurrection, we are nothing.  And having died to sin, and been raised in Christ, we begin to realize life differently.

The crosses we have to bear, the sacrifices we make to serve others, the forgiveness that pours out from our hearts is not something that is more painful than the joy we find in the presence of Jesus Christ.  

In fact, as we get used to living in Christ, we may not even realize we are making sacrifices, bearing crosses, being patient with those who require the greatest patience. We just know what we do is what we are supposed to do…

It is just what we do, 

What He’s called us to do, for He has revealed His love, He has revealed His promise 

The cross..and the resurrection, He and us, united there, and forever.  AMEN! 

 

 

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

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

Are You Ready for this? Do you really want this revival/renewal?

20141022_100825 - Copy - Copy - CopyDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
5  A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6  Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7  The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” 8  Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9  Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, John 5:5-9 (TEV)

211      Lazarus rose because he heard the voice of God and immediately wanted to get out of the situation he was in. If he hadn’t wanted to move, he would just have died again. A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.

XI. CONFESSION
1 It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse. However, in confession it is not necessary to enumerate all trespasses and sins,2 for this is impossible. Ps. 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”

XIII. THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS
1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.  2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.

I often hear people saying they miss the way church used to be.  They may indicate the music or the preaching. Mostly what they long to see are the full sanctuaries on Sunday morning, and church campuses that were busy every day and night of the week.   In dact, for a couple decades we can see the phenomena of people moving from one church to another, looking for the one that is coming alive, that seems to have a new life about them.

We want revival, much like the man who was at the pool wanted to be made well, much like Lazarus, to his surprise, found himself alive at the command of Jesus.  ( I love St Josemaria’s idea that he could have decided to stay there, as I think it is descriptive of many of us!)   

But are we ready for it?  Do we really desire it?

For what it will take is the sureness of our absolution.  Revival and renewal, whether individual or parish wife, requires something.  The realization that every one of our sins are forgiven!  Revival, being brought to life in Christ means we know and depend on the promises that nothing, including that sin, can separate us from the love of God. 

What an incredible thing these sacraments are, these sacred times are, when we realize that God is at work as He desires to be, awakening and strengthening our faith, our dependence on Him. 

For that is what having a strong faith means, we depend on God more, not less.  We realize His presence in our lives more, not less.  We let Him guide our lives, much like a leaf caught up in a stream…drifts and goes where the current takes it.

This kind of reliance on God’s mercy and love, these things we call grace, is at the heart of every revival, every renewal in the history of the church.  It is the hope that underlies the Lutheran Reformation, and the Catholic councils we know as Vatican I and Vatican II.  This is Escriva’s “The Way” and what Luther preaches so clearly in his catechesis. 

So Jesus says to His church today and to you and I,  

“Do you want to be healed?” 

“Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?”

“Do you want to be renewed, and revived”

It starts with trusting in God enough to pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!” 

Holy Father, Lord Jesus, and Blessed Holy Spirit, in your mercy, help us to say yes, letting you in to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness, helping us not to fear coming clean as much as we fear to remain trapped in our sin, which drives us apart from you.  We pray this in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 922-926). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

The Most Precious Preaching Lesson…I have ever learned

Devotional THoguht of the Day:

20 But dear friends, use your most holy faith to build yourselves up, praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the Lord Jesus Christ with his mercy to give you life forever.
22 Show mercy to some people who have doubts. 23 Take others out of the fire, and save them. Show mercy mixed with fear to others, hating even their clothes which are dirty from sin.  Jude 20-22  NCV

 

“I noticed,” Pastor Crabtree told me, “that as I told the story of God’s identification with us, of the pain God himself experienced in the death of his son, that the weeping stopped, that people, including Rebecca’s mother and father and fourteen-year-old brother leaned forward in their seats and listened intently. God’s story was touching them where they hurt most and giving them hope.
“Many people in this small town were deeply touched by the story of God. A high school history teacher, for example, said to me, ‘What I took home from that funeral message was this: this world is turned upside down, and Jesus is the only one who can fix it.’
“ ‘You got it,’ I said, and he answered, ‘Yes I did!’ ”
What can I say? There is no story in this world that is more profound than the story of God’s embrace. My dinner companions heard the gospel in a new way. And each of them, in their own way, is growing in the life-changing embrace of God, as I am and I trust you are too. For there is no story but God’s; no God but the Father, Son and Spirit; and no life but the baptized life.

As I looked on FB this morning, to see who I should add to my prayer list, it revealed ot me that this is a special anniversary, the day I took my then 7-year-old son home for the first time.  Not home as in the place we live, but home as in the place that I consider my home.  Not a house, nor a place where the family gathered, but the place I want to be more often than not.  Not even a church, but a simple road.

It is the place where we could be still, or walk slowly, and just rest in God’s peace.

I mentioned it in a sermon once, a sermon delivered before other pastors, a sermon that was to be critiqued, and shredded, but there were tears instead.  You can read about that time here: https://asimplechristian.org/2014/10/21/walking-with-god/

The reading from Dr. Weeber this morning also reminded me of this.  My job as a preacher, as a shepherd is not to dazzle people with my theological acumen, or grind them into the ground with guilt, only to let them up at the last second.  It isn’t to make statements about politics or drive them to give and support just causes.

That will happen, as I disciple, as I teach and counsel, as people realize what I am here to tell them.

That God’s story is their story, that their story completely involves God.  We don’t walk on deserted stretches of road alone, nor do we drive the freeways of Southern California unaccompanied.  Whether it is at the beach, or a party, or crying alone in a park, or even on our deathbed, He is here…. with us.

That’s what our people need to know, that God doesn’t leave us alone, and in order to be here, He does what is necessary, forgiving us, cleansing us, healing us, loving us, comforting us, welcoming us to share in His glory and peace.

He is here…in our story, we in His.  He is our God, we are His people…..

That’s what we need to tell them…and that is what we preachers need to hear.  AMEN!

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

 

 

Being Effective Is Not Always a Blessing!

clydes-cross-2Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:

20  He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? 21  It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”   Luke 13:20-21 (NLT)

5  In coming to the other side of the sea, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6  Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  ………11  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.    Matthew 16:5-6,11-12 (NAB)

397      Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that in order to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him.  (1)

The exquisite elites know how to pucker their noses when confronted with failure; they are scandalized. They prefer to set up models of the Church based on “common sense” rather than on the failure of the cross.

Being effective is not always a blessing.   In fact, some of the most effective things in the world are deadly, those viral and bacterial infections that can run amok and kill or gravely would everyone that comes in contact with them.

The scriptures above show this as well, as two different things are compared to the idea of yeast or leaven.   The Kingdom of God can be like that, as we see the church explode during the time of the apostles, and in certain parts of the world today.  Growth that goes beyond anything pragmatic, that causes us to scramble to try and adjust our plans to compensate for the growth.  Yet the other passage shows a negative form of leaven, that of the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, groups that promoted a very pragmatic approach to being the people of God.

Yet their very approach was an obstacle to grace, a way that blocked people from identifying themselves as God’s children,  And they were very effective – so effective that they were able to kill God, even as they nailed Jesus to a cross.

St. Josemaria talks about effectiveness that arises out of faith, not of reason.  That the leaven we need to become is found in our holiness, in our being set apart to God,  It is found, as Francis says,, not in models set up in common sense, but in the failure of the cross.  For drawn to the cross we find Jesus, that is where the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus, binds us to His death and resurrection.  That is where we are given gifts like repentance and faith, where we are declared God’s people, where we are cleansed. At the cross, we are infected/affected by His great love and mercy, and find ourselves set apart to Him. It is here we become infectious and spread the gospel simply by being in people’s lives.

Not a very pragmatic or reasoned approach, this dying and rising to life, this admitting our failure and our desperate need for God.

Yet it is how God would affect us, infect us, and see our effectiveness, as the Kingdom of God testifies not only to our presence but His presence in us.

Lord, help us see you on the cross, and know the depths of your mercy, and know you have risen, as it testifies to Your immeasurable love, and may our lives be effective, as we are united to You. Amen!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Hope Generated in His Promised Plans: A sermon on Psalm 138…

The Simple Christian Life – Love, HOPE, FAITH

Hope Generated in His Promised Plans

Psalm 138

  † I.H.S.

May this message about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ increase your hope and expectation of God’s role in your life!

 Abraham:  Blinded

Even though the sermon is based on the Psalm – I want to start with the Old Testament reading about Abraham.  God is talking about hiding His plans from Abraham, and there are days I wonder if the Trinity hasn’t had the same conversations about us.

Not that God is going to do something like he did through Abraham with us. I mean, having a kid at 100, or when Kay is 90?  Maybe that is Al and Shirley’s task?  Carol and Chuck’s?

But what about this idea that we don’t know the plans God has for us.  TO be honest, I am personally struggling with that one right now.  God, I don’t understand what You are doing, it doesn’t make sense!

You see that in the psalm as well – when at the end of praising God, when at that end of realizing that God has saved us while realizing that God will work out His plans for our life because His love is faithful.  The psalmist then pleads…

“Don’t abandon me. (remember) you made me.”

I get that… and yet.. the entire Psalm speaks to the fact He will not.

There, we can find the truth that helps us, when we don’t have a clue about what God has planned for our lives.

The answer is profound, and it will give a profound hope, an incredible expectation of what God can and will do in our lives.

Even after the praise – Even after the climb

I am going to shift for the moment, to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, to a seen that didn’t make sense to me when I first realized what it says:

16  Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:16-18 (NLT)

They had seen him crucified, they spent significant time with him after the resurrection, and it said that some of them still doubted.

Just like the Psalmist.

Just like me when I am at a convention, or when I am struggling with not knowing which way life will twist next. When I don’t know the plans He has for me, and to be honest; I wonder if the plans are truly good and right.

Because of the sin of the world, because of my sin, because of the brokenness of everything, trusting, expecting, depending on everything to turn out right is a challenge at times. Sometimes it isn’t even about sin; it may be that we are simply tired.

Like the 11, some of us doubt,

It’s not new; it’s not something that will result in your condemnation, or in God abandoning you, even though it seems at times like He has, or He might or He should.

Just because you don’t know his plans, doesn’t mean that what He has planned for us is horrid or evil.

So how do we cope when we don’t know his plans, and this leads to doubt?

Back to the basics – He rescued us -why would he waste us?

We go back to what we do know, what we count on.

God.

Who He is.

Seven times his name, His personal name is used in this passage.  Eight more times David uses pronouns directly talking to or about Him.  2 more times he references the name of God.

We have to hear these things for ourselves.  Let’s read them together

  • You answer me
  • Your unfailing love and faithfulness
  • Your praises (backed by your name – who you are!)
  • You answer me
  • You encourage by giving strength
  • You will protect me
  • You reach out your hands
  • Your right-hand saves me
  • Your faithful love endures forever.
    and,
  • You made me.

 

The very reason we praise Him, along with Kings from all over the earth is that we Hear His words, we understand His care for all – especially those of us who are broken and humbled by life. They need to hear Him, and they shall, for this is His desire.

This is the reason we have hope in life, why we expect that at the end of our days there is life everlasting.  This is why we know that as we walk through this life – we hear Him.  For we are people who are people who are His priests and kings.

Behind the plans, God has made His nature, the very same nature we see backing up the promises He made and kept in the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Like Abraham, and even more closely, we walk with God, His Spirit dwells within us, His voice resonates in us because He is with you.

Which is why we do what he did,

Hear the words again,

I have singled you out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord, by doing what is right and just.

Does that sound like this?

19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

We, those who God has made plans for, who are blind to them, and sometimes doubt, have the same call – to help all of Abraham’s children of faith, not matter Jew or Gentile, to hear His voice, including the answer to the last cry of the Psalmist

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)


He won’t abandon us; He is with us… This is most certainly true.  AMEN

Socrates and the Paradox of Spiritual Maturity

Devotional thought of the day:
25  Brothers, pray for us!       1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ESV)

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

An oracle once identified the smartest man of his time, the philosopher Socrates.  When asked about this Socrates thought and said the statement is not based on how much Socrates knew, but that Socrates realized how much he didn’t know.

Spiritual maturity is like that,  the more mature we become, the more we need to pray, the more we need others to pray for us. 

I think society has become confused as to what maturity is, about what it looks like.  I think the problem has to do when we consider independence a necessary part of maturity. It is as if we measure maturity based on how much we can do for ourselves.  That is because our ability to be independent parallels our physical and emotional growth, but that doesn’t mean being independent is an aspect of maturity, or for that matter is good.

I would tie interdependence to physical and even emotional maturity before I would think about independence.Being part of a community, being a part of family, being married, these things require interdependence.  Maturity can require a giving up of self.  A sense of sacrifice, a sense of commitment.

If that is true in regards to physical maturity, I would suggest that it is even more true in regards to spiritual maturity.   That we don’t become independent of God, but that we see our life more connected to Him, as well we become more connected to the family of God!

Like Socrates view of his intelligence, a spiritually mature person will run to God in prayer, will not hesitate to ask others to pray for them.

That is the paradox, you become spiritually mature by becoming more dependent on God, more aware of His work in your life, more content and at peace, knowing the Spirit is here, and that this life is not all there is, there is something far more… The more spiritually mature we are, the more we end up appreciating the sacraments, the time where God’s grace is showered upon us. Likewise our time in meditation on God’s love, that marks as us His in baptism, and our time laying in His hands all our burdens, all the things that cause anxiety.

It’s not easy though, to take such time.  Hence, the request for pray, even as Paul did. Please pray for me!  And for all who minister to others.

Lord help us all to take the time, to know and to ponder this basic truth.

There is God, and we are His.

Knowing that, may we cry out for the mercy that will enable us to see you!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1273-1276). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Glory of God and Human Worth

The Glory of God and Human Worth

Psalm 8

†  IN the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit †


May the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus Christ, causing us to reflect His glory into our broken world.

 A precious lesson to remember

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking since I realized that this summer will make it 30 years since I was a pastoral intern.    Some of that pondering has been in awe of what God has done, other moments have brought tears.  It has been especially rough as this year has seen some dear people pass away at each of the churches I’ve served at.  Nor does it help that in my devotions I’ve read Job recently, and presently am reading Ecclesiastes, where Solomon’s chorus seems to be,

All is meaning-less.

And there are days that I hear this!

Over the thirty years I’ve also learned to disregard that attitude, to know that even when I don’t see how everything will work out, that I am assured of God’s promises, and can rest secure knowing He is faithful.

That’s not where this sermon on Psalm 8 is going, well, not directly, but that is part of the background.  Thirty years ago, actually thirty-three years ago, a phrase was drummed into my mind.  It took 3 years to make sense, and a lifetime to implement.  It is a great guideline for theologians and preachers, and it helps those who listen to sermons and try to apply it to their lives.

These are those words,

You cannot fully understand any Biblical truth until you have reduced it to a corollary of the idea of Covenant.

or to put it in the way I came to understand it,
You can’t clearly understand any doctrine, in Christianity until you understand it in view of the relationship God calls us into with Himself, as described in the New Covenant.

Which includes the incredible glorious mystery we celebrate today, that God is One, and God is, simultaneously three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What we call the Trinity the merger of the words Tri and Unity.   Until we understand that in view of God’s relationship with us, His relationship that He calls us into, the result is meaningless.
Failure to Understand the Relationship

So how does this work?  Why can’t we understand the idea of the Trinity, the doctrine that God is Triune, if we don’t include our relationship with God in contemplating it?  Why is understanding the Covenant necessary to understanding this?

The answer is somewhat simple, we can’t understand the Trinity until we are actively involved with it.  To understand the Trinity, we must move and live in unison with God, in sympathy with God.  It is as if we are dancing with Him, moving as His partner.

And if we don’t understand this, it is as if we are standing in the corner of life, just observing His glory, yet not able to understand it.

We end up with a partial picture of Psalm 8,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

From a distance, this is how we see God, all the incredible beauty he creates, the skies, the mountains, a smile a joy filled laugh. It is glorious for sure, it is beyond the scope of our ability to describe, but we still don’t understand God, we still don’t know Him.  We think we know all about Him, but we do not know Him, and we cannot see the fullness of His glory, His majesty, His love.

It is as if we are a high school freshman, at his first dance, looking at an incredibly beautiful girl.  He can describe her dress, her beauty, but until he is dancing with her, looking in her eyes, he really doesn’t understand her beauty.

Neither can we understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until we are moving with God.  Our lives lived in Him, and He dwelling in us.  Until that point it is an academic exercise, one were we put ourselves in the place of judgment, as if we are the experts in judging His glory, because of our great understanding.  The understanding that is merely theological, that is merely from a distance.

Which means we read this psalm and say -God doesn’t think about us, He couldn’t care about us!  He has a universe to run!  Like desists we think that God is far off, that He isn’t involved, and that it is up to us to run our own lives.

That gives us freedom, to go after what we want, to do what seems good to us. It means we can justify our sin, thinking it doesn’t really matter to God, that He doesn’t really care, and that we should just enjoy life.

Ultimately, sin is nothing more than choosing to remain in the corner, distant from God, unengaged with Him.  We refuse to walk with God, preferring to stay at a great distance, able to describe Him, and creating explanations for what we do not understand.  Explanations that encourage sin, and encourage living life to what we think is the fullest.

That separation leaves us unfulfilled it doesn’t satisfy the hunger, it just makes it greater, and it enslaves us.  And once enslaved, with sin pulling us further and further away, our “expert” view of God becomes more blurred, and often more hostile.

Until we agree with Solomon, that all is simply meaningless.

Sure, God is three, and He is One, but what does that matter if my life is spent against the wall, alone with my speculation and philosophy and theology books?
Trinity understood through Covenant.

When we reduce the doctrine of the Trinity (not the Trinity itself) to a corollary of covenant, when we see this incredible mystery of Three in One from the point where we engage God, when we see it defining who we are, we begin to understand this,

This is my God, and I am His child!

It is like looking into the eyes of your beloved as you dance together.  You may not be able to describe what you see, heck, you may not be able to speak.  Eloquence evades you, but you know your beloved at a level that transcends truth.  This is when we begin to understand how much God does think of us, how much He truly cares.

It is when the Psalmist begins to understand the answer to his question,

what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

You made them only a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.  You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.

The answer is simply understanding the Trinity in view of our relationship with God.

For we see the Trinity involved with us from the beginning, as God makes us just a little lower than Himself, making us in His very image.  In our creeds, as we describe this glorious Trinity, we see God the Father, the Creator at work,

And then God crowns us with glory and honor.  This is the work of Jesus, the Son. of the Father, and our Lord.  It is His redeeming us, pulling us out of the corner, bringing us to dance with God.  This is Jesus, our righteousness, whom we are untied to in baptism, made one with, as He cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. His very birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension affect s our lives, from redeeming us to being our advocate, proclaiming us Holy and deserving of the crown and righteousness.

And then the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart, conforming us to the image of God’s son. We are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us the role of God’s trusted children, trusted enough that He puts all things under our authority, our responsibility, as we walk with Jesus.   This is what it means to be holy, to be sanctified, to walk with God,

And so we see God, in all of His glory, working in our lives.  Creating us.  Redeeming us, Sanctifying us.  Making us His people.  That is what the creeds describe the Trinity doing, simply engaged with us, thinking about us, caring about us so much that God invests Himself fully in our lives. His is what we confess; it is what we believe.  It is our Credo – why we depend on upon God.

It is a description of our faith in God who reveals Himself in this way to us,

This is why Paul can preach as the He describes in Colossians,

 

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too.  And this is the secret:  Christ lives in you.  This gives you assurance of sharing in His glory.  Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

This is how we are to understand God, not with high minded philosophy from afar, but moving in unison with God as our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and the Holy Spirit who will bring to completion our transformation into the children of God.  He thinks about us, He cares for us, HE LOVES US!.

As we come to know the Trinity this way they share with us the peace that surpasses all understanding and will share the glory of eternity.  For this is true!
We are His people; He is our God… AMEN!

The Reason the Church is Here….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  When they saw him, they fell at his feet in worship, even though some of them struggled to trust Him. 18  Jesus went to them and said, “I have been given all responsibility in heaven and on earth. 19  You area going disciple people of all cultures: by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and instructing them to treasure this covenant relationship I committed to with you! And I am with you ever day, for forever.”   Matthew 28:17-20 (parker’s paraphrase)

To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.

I have to start with a disclaimer.  I want to write nothing about this post, save what you see above.  The charge for us to disciple the world, by helping people enter into a relationship as part of the people of God, and then to teach them to treasure this covenant relationship, this relationship based on God’s plan, on His terms, for Hs is God.  That is the work of the church that is how we are to love our neighbor; that is the work of God, or as my favorite pastor/author noted, the Opus Dei.

These words of Cardinal Ratzinger in blue (later Pope Benedict XVI)  are an incredible description of that relationship, this discipling process.  Go back and read them again.  Go ahead, go do it.  And again, savor the words describing your relationship with God, as you are pulled into this incredible.

But is this what we are about in the church?

Is this what we value in our own lives personally? Do we understand this incredible, blessed fellowship we have been brought into with the Father, Sona nd Holy Spirit?

We need to, and we need to get that this is far more than obeying laws and commandments (though that is part of it).  It is, to use the Old Testament prophecies, the very “being” that is knowing that we God has made us HIs people, and He is our God.

This is what is revealed, from the very beginning to creation to each time someone is baptized or is revived as their sins are forgiven, or are renewed as they take and eat the Body broken for them, the bloodshed to bring them into this covenant relationship.

This is what we treasure; this is what we guard, (which is what tereo means – not just obey/observe) This is what we reveal to the world, it is how we disciple, this is how we live.

Even when we struggle, or doubt, for Jesus is our Lord. And He is with us.

AMEN!

(1)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Theological K.I.S.S. Principal for Preachers/Pastors/Priests

A Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

8  No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
Micah 6:8 (TEV)

The simple faith of simple souls merits the respect, the reverence of the preacher, who has no right simply to pit his intellectual superiority against a faith which has remained simple and which, by its simple and intuitive comprehension of the Faith as a whole, can, in some cases, understand the essence of that Faith more profoundly than is possible for a reflective faith that is fragmented by division into systems and theories . (1)

Whether I agree with him completely or not, Pope Benedict XVI has to be counted as one of the most brilliant theologian-pastors in the last 100 years.   He wrote documents and letters that are stunning in how profound they are, and yet they are intimately pastoral, a look into the life of an introvert who pastored a billion people.

Seeing writings like that in blue above, perhaps it would be better phrased to call him a pastor-theologian, a man who kept his priorities straight, and recognizes it is the faith in Christ, our trust, and dependence on God, that matters more than our meager intellectual pontifications. That is why those of us who would count ourselves as theologians, as professionals in the world of religion, need to respect and honor the simple and deep faith of the simple soul.

It is that Jesus points us to in the Beatitudes, that Micah calls us to, to realize that God’s silliness is far greater than our wisdom, and to live our lives in recollection of this.

For, in the end, it is not the stimulating blogs, our journal articles we write, or the great tomes on doctrine, or our understanding of the great theologians and philosophers in the past that matters.

Rather, as the former pope, who before was responsible for all the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church wrote, the understanding of the essence of our faith.

The joy we take in hearing and responding to phrases like this:

“He is Risen!”

and

“The Lord is with you!”

and finally, knowing that God will hear and answer our cry,

“Lord have mercy!”

So keep it simple my brothers, reveal to them the height and breadth, the depth and width, of God’s love for them, seen in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 94–95). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

Was She a Victim or a Hero, a Sinner or Saint; and her Overlooked Encounter with God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

7  The angel of the LORD met Hagar at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur 8  and said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress.” 9  He said, “Go back to her and be her slave.” 10  Then he said, “I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them. 11  You are going to have a son, and you will name him Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your cry of distress. 12  But your son will live like a wild donkey; he will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him. He will live apart from all his relatives.” 13  Hagar asked herself, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So she called the LORD, who had spoken to her, “A God Who Sees.” 14  That is why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” 15  Hagar bore Abram a son, and he named him Ishmael. 16  Abram was eighty-six years old at the time. Genesis 16:7-16 (TEV)

Her story struck me far different this morning that it ever had before.  Usually, she is just an aside, we acknowledge she is there and quickly pass her by.

She slept with another man’s wife, (even if at the wife’s direction).  She didn’t have a good attitude to either afterward, and they didn’t have a good attitude toward her either.  She tried to escape her situation and that is where the story gets interesting. 

God chased after her.

Even as I type that, I think, this is increible.

God chased after her. 

He chased after her, blessed her, made her promises and restored her.

Despite all the drama in her life.  Despite all the pain. 

As she so perfectly puts it –  He is the God who sees.  God saw her, in the midst of her brokenness, in the midst of her trauma, in the midst of running away, trying to escape the drama.  He saw her, and blessed her, and gave her the strength to go back, to return to the midst of the brokenness, 

And we have this encounter, with the one who was not favored with the one who would struggle, with the one whose descendants would constantly battle God’s people, until one of the descendants of Issac would be born, and die, and become the ultimately blessing to all peoples.  

Including Hagar’s descendants.

I asked in the title if she was a victim, or a hero, a sinner or a saint.  I also wonder what the relationship between Sarah and her was like upon her return.  The questions are interesting and I honestly don’t know.

But what is important. what I do know about Hagar is this.  She was the lady whom God saw, and she lived. 

May we as well, in our mixed up, broken lives, know the love of God who sees even those of us whom others overlook.  For we too are a part of Christ’s story… for He saw us, and died, and rose again, for us.  May we too, encounter Hagar’s along the road, and watch God minister to them, through us.

God’s peace my friend.

AMEN!

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