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Knowing He Hears You: A sermon on Luke 20

Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus Means Knowing He Hears You!
Luke 20:1-8

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ lead you to understand that God is present in your life, listening…

Is the lesson that we are to be a pain in the neck?

When I read the gospel story about the widow who consistently stood before the self-centered judge, I think I should make the case for a different sermon title. That one would simply be,

Walking with Jesus? Get what you want by BEING A PAIN IN THE NECK!

At first glance, that is what the passage seems to be saying, isn’t it? Jesus is teaching us to pray and never give up, so just keep on bugging God till we get what we want, right?

You want a new car?  Bug him.

You want the bills paid, just keep on bugging him, and never give up.
You want to stop people from making stupid decisions, and then watch them as they

You want to feel better, be less tired, have less back pain, stop feeling old. just keep praying and never give up making a pain in the…. neck of yourself.

That seems to be what Jesus is talking about, when he tells us about the lady, isn’t it?

If it is that, then I think that the lesson in the story is simply.  And most of us, have no problem in making ourselves a pain in the neck, when we want to be!

Ready for communion?

O wait, the story isn’t about the widow… .

So back to the beginning, or maybe to the end.

What about the question… Will God find people trusting in Him?

At the end of the passage, Jesus asks a great question:

“when the Son of Man* returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Will God find people who trust in Him, will he find people who will depend on Him, who will find in Him the hope they need to live in this broken life?

Will we, in the midst of the good times or the bad find the ability to cling to God, knowing that only in Him do we find hope?

Or will we walk away, like all but the apostles did, when He talked of His body and blood being their true food and drink?

Will we count on Him listening to us, or will we give up?

I’ll be honest, there are times where giving up seems like the option. As we get tired of being broken, and we look round and see that the world is more broken. And oh boy, this week, did it appear broken!

In those times, I am not sure I want to hear Jesus say – Just always pray and never give up!

There is a tendency to want to fight or flee, to struggle or simply walk away. Those reactions, whether choices of not, are sinful, and we need to hear once again that our sin is forgiven. We need to hear that though we didn’t move toward God, that we didn’t put everything in His hands, we can now… including our weak faith…

The example in the story isn’t the lady…. But the judge!I mentioned earlier that Jesus focus wasn’t on the nagging widow. The story isn’t about her. It is about the unrighteous judge, and the fact that even someone like him would eventually hear the person calling for justice, calling for righteousness.

If an unrighteous judge would listen, how much more likely is it that a good, loving merciful God listen to those whom he dwells with?

That’s the point of this parable, this story Jesus tells. When we cry out to Jesus to make us righteous, to make the situation we struggle in something good, He does.  The challenge is seeing it, something we can’t do if we are trying to fix it ourselves.

Our confidence needs to be in the fact that God does exist, is present in our lives, that He loves us and is acting to defeat our enemies, Sin, Satan and the fear that death brings. He’s taken care of it all, as He has cleansed us of all sin, as the Holy Spirit dwells with us, as we are never alone, as our cry never goes unheard.

Prayer, as odd as it sounds, benefits us more than we can ever imagine.  Not because of how well we pray, and its not about the burdens we lay down. 

The key is that as we pray, as we reach out to God, we remember His promises, we remember all He is done to make this relationship happen, and we begin to realize that “the Lord is with you” is not just a polite greeting, it is the truth we have to depend upon. HE is with you and He hears your cry to for righteousness, for justice, and Christ died to give you that justice! To bring you back to the Father, to make everything right!
The more we do pray, the more we seek His face, the more we will trust Him, for we will experience His love, we will see Him at work in our lives, making our lives a masterpiece. The more we will treasure the hope we have. 

That is what this passage is teaching us, that to walk with Jesus means we know He hears us, and makes our lives righteous.

Who am I? Know Thyself? How?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

12† Any who love knowledge want to be told when they are wrong. It is stupid to hate being corrected. Pr 12:1 GNT

Man wants to be himself the instrument by which history achieves its goal. Because he does not believe in God, he feels obliged to guide the course of history himself and, in doing so, acts as he imagines a God would act.

One of the biggest challenges in my life is discerning between intelligence and wisdom. The difference between being able to recall tons of trivial data, and actually being able to help someone else endure the challenges of life.

And as someone who has a bit of intelligence, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that knowing “it all” is equivelant to being able to use what I know.

But what I have to know, well, that is a challenge. Know thyself was the cry of Socrates, a man that would run circles around the intellectuals of our day, just as he did in his own. ( Side note, I highly recommend Peter Kreeft’s series “Socrates meets ….” books that use a dialoge between Socrates and Jesus, Machiavelly, Jean Paul Satre – etc)

To “know thyself” is a challenge, to be both the observer and the observed, to be able to judge yourself, who you are, who you really are, is challenging.

For you are more than the biological material, you are more than your gifts, abilities, sins, and weaknesses. To know those things, that is good, and yet they still do not define you. And if you focus on them as your identity, you will never allow God to correct you.

To know thyself is only possible in knowing Jesus. Then, correction is simply cutting away what isn’t you. It is freeing you to be you, a child of God, someone who dances in HIS presence.

By defining ourselves in relationship to God, we stop playing God, sitting in judgment over our lives (as well as the lives of others). We stop seeing life as we think, in all our imperfection, He sees it. We end the self-deception! What ends up defining us is God, who has made it that He sees us as holy and righteous as Jesus. Jesus, who died on the cross to free us from sin, and who rose, giving us life in this relationship with God.

Relax, know God is here, and find our who you are… His beloved.

AMEN!

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. 85). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Don’t Ask, “What’s Important,” Ask, “Who should be Important!”

Devotional Thought of the Day:

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors—for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did. 13 When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; 14 and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.” Luke 14:12-14 GNT

656         It is through Love rather than study that one comes to understand the things of God. That is why you have to work, you have to study, you have to accept illness, you have to be sober—lovingly!

Far too often we define our faith by the set of doctrines we believe. As if we could ever completely understand the mysteries of God. As if our logic, through enough study, could transcend the gap between the human and the divine.

That isn’t how we were saved in the first place, (our small catechism reminds us that it isn’t “by our own reason or strength”) so why do we think it is the proper process for our growth in our dependence on God, on growing in our awe at the love of God.

Please here me, meditating on the word of God is important! Studying it with other believers is important as well. But it is not enough on its own, we simply cannot know enough.

We have to experience that love, we have ot come to know it, as Jesus does exactly what He tells us to do. He invites us to feast with Him. Not the angels and archangels, but the broken sinners, the ones who are not holy (yet), who are not just in how they deal with others, the ones who are weak, the spiritually blind, the ones everyone else writes off. He invites us to share in His body and blood, showing us the love, bringing us the experience that fills in all of the gaps where we simply can’t understand the mysteries of God.

It is that love as well, extended through us to others who are just as broken, just as blind, who also struggle with sin and its constant partners, guilt and shame. As we are conduits of that grace, as we reveal their need for God and God’s response to that need, we find our understanding of God’s mysteries growing. It is an amazing thing to witness the glory of God at work, to see the Holy Spirit bring to life the one who was spiritually dead.

That is why St. Josemaria says that understanding comes from love, not just from the study (though he mentions study again). It is seeing God’s care for the broken that we were to understand what we can’t, the incredible love, that is beyond our ability to understand but not to experience.

May Paul;’s prayer for the Epesians come to pass in our lives as well,

17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundationin love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.
Ephesians 3:17-19 (TEV)

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2753-2755). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What does it mean when God says, “you are Mine’

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. Isaiah 43:1-2 (TEV)

The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ (Col 2:12). Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).

A couple of decades ago, I took a class from UC Berkely’s online program in Shakespearean Literature. One of the essays we had to pen was a reaction to the play, “The Taming of the Shrew” and the query we had to respond to was, “Is there a relationship today where respect and obedience are demanded?”

My paper indicated this was so, that there was a relationship where respect and obedience was required and that a negative consequence was automatic if that obedience wasn’t fulfilled. That relationship was the relationship between a teacher and a student. From there I could extrapolate forward to both governments and contracts, and backward to the parent/child relationship as well.

To be honest, we spend most of our lives struggling for freedom. As students, we are encouraged to “be ourselves” and discover “ourselves”. TO cast off the restraints our parents laid upon us.

As we get older, as our bodies and minds fail, as our finances are challenged, we again find ourselves desiring freedom from that which restrains us, from that which hampers life.

Between our youth and old age, we find that we are not really free. Our employers control our work, the government controls many aspects of our lives, and family obligations remind us that freedom is… not a reality.

Given that, as the great philosopher, Bob Dylan wrote, “you gotta serve somebody”, we might look for the most benevolent master we can find. For rare is it a master who desires the best for those that are “His”.

One such Master, one such Lord is found in scripture. He is described in the words of Isaiah above, and His love pours out on all He claims responsibility for, as He claims them as His. A Master who would give His life for those He calls His own, for those He calls His finest work (Eph. 2:10)

Knowing He is our Master, our Lord, is different than thinking He is just our boss, He is only interested in us for how our work benefits Him. Knowing Him, and His attitude toward us, we understand why it is a blessing for Him to be our Master.

Which is why it doesn’t make sense to dismiss Him work, to dismiss our belonging to Him. We need to rejoice in that He is responsible for us, cares for us, and yes, guides us. Being ashamed of Him makes little sense, adn turning our back on Him becomes unimaginable.

Not to mention, it leaves you in hell, a slave to your appetites, and never, ever, fulfilled.

In the end, consider these words,

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; 20  he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 (TEV)


Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 57). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

My Struggles with “Devotions”, “Spiritual Disciplines”, “Prayer”. Maybe its time to take a walk!

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day

11  I will live among you, and I will not despise you. 12  I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12 (NLT2)

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
2 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Men are not the result of chance or of a struggle for existence that brings victory to the practical and the strong. No, man is the product of God’s creative love. God is. That means that he can act, and that he truly does act—now—in this world and in our lives.… Do we trust him? Do we regard him as a reality when we assess our lives, our day-to-day experiences?

Some time back I was telling you: come out of the caves! Today I repeat: come out of the sacristy, of the parish’s offices, of the VIP rooms! Get out! Engage in the pastoral of the atrium, of the doors, of the houses, of the street.
Don’t wait; get out!

“I want more the Sundays and Wednesday nights!  Because if you can’t come to me every day, then don’t bother coming at all!”

I remember those words of Keith Green playing from my radio, and from the old cassette tapes I had while I was in high school.  And I thought they were God’s words, backed up by scripture and the Holy Spirit, for they caused great conviction, great guilt and shame when I missed my devotions when I struggled with times of prayer.

I had to spend time in the word, I had to spend time in prayer, I must, or God would refuse to talk to me, after all, we know He is a jealous God!

Yet the despair, the guilt, and the shame… easily I could have thought, maybe I am just not one of those called to follow God.  I thought often that I am not holy enough, spiritual enough, good enough for God. How could he love one as weak, and as full of coubts as I am?

Even today, I tend to define my time with God as Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights with God’s people, and the hour or so of prayer and reading I do.  Corporate and Individual.  Times that I truly treasure. times that sustains me.  Times that I wish I could instill in my son how precious they are, that I could help him and my church family see how much a treasure they have waiting for them.

Have to admit, that is frustrating!  How can they not see how much they need this time?  How can they not see how it will benefit them? Why can’t they see how much they need to know what scripture will show them.  Others who writings told the story struggled and found strength in knowing what God would reveal to them are precious as well!  ALl these blessings, that simply get overlooked, and put on the shelf, or the Bible App relegated to the back page of our phones/Tablets, etc)

You can’t force people to spend time with God, you can’t manipulate it, you can’t threaten hell.  So how can I help people find the blessings that are so necessary in my life?  THat I depend upon, given the brokenness that I have to encounter.

As I read the readings above this morning, perhaps I have found something that I knew but didn’t appreciate recently.  The reason that all these things I set apart time to do helps is because it helps me realize that God is there 24/7/365.   That we are His people, that He loves to not just meet us in the “designated” place and the “appointed” times, but He wants to walk through life with us, pointing out the ways He provides and sustains us.

That is why I need my devotional times, my time in prayer, my time reading scripture and those who went before.  Because I need to know that God is with me in the rest of the day, in the walks we take, in the people we encounter (and He is with them as well) In every aspect of life.

He is there.

He created us to be His people.  And so He loves us, sustains us, provides for us, and wipes away our tears when needed.  It is encountering these truths in my “special times” that sustains me in the broken times…and in the good times, and in the routine times.  That is why I treasure them, and that is why my son, and my church family, need ot know.

God is with you…. when you need Him. Everywhere, walking with you. He is your God…your Creator, Sustainer, Comforter,  AMEN!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 344–345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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. 163). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 165). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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

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